Sunday, August 31, 2008

River News: Month Seventeen

Can you believe this is on time for once?!

Dear River,

Today is the 17 month anniversary of your birth. It also happens to be your mommy and daddy's 5 year anniversary. I wanted to mention this because so little of these letters (and my blog in general) is dedicated to your dad, which is kind of strange when you consider how towering his presence is in both of our lives. I don't often write about him because I know it embarrasses him (something you won't be able to tell me for a few years--and when you do, I will grudgingly stop recording the finest details of your life), and--as much as I may put my own psychological flotsam and jetsam out there for the world to see--I try to respect his privacy. But mostly, I like to have something that is special, something just my own, something the intarwubs doesn't get to touch.

But he deserves recognition and, though it will make him blush and feel frightfully exposed, this is it:

Your dad is the best thing that could have happened to either one of us. He is kind, generous, thoughtful, curious, irreverent, fun, and so unbelievably smart. Every morning (at a ridiculous hour!) he is the first face you see. After he brings you to bed for a little snack, the two of you jaunt off together while I get a few minutes rest or a chance to shower. Then, with only enough time to clean up and barely gather his thoughts, he goes off to work where people, ideas, and meetings demand every second of his time. Without fail, he is home by dinnertime, and he swoops back into daddy-mode with nary a breath nor a chance to sit.

He gives so much time and energy to making sure we are happy, healthy, and well cared for. He takes on so much, never complains, and still finds a way to be light and full of love every single day. We are so lucky to have him in our life. We both know this, and now a whole bunch of other people do too.

It is so easy for me to see your father and I changing and growing together, sharing our lives and building a family, and walking down that winding and beautiful road known as old age. I hope our lives can look something like your great-grandparents' Gordon and Frankey, who we recently visited in Nebraska to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Can you imagine? Sixty years spent wandering this earth together! It is such a beautiful and awe-inspiring thing.

To sum up their marriage I could tell you about the time that grandpa Gordon was in a terrible car accident and unconscious for months, how grandma Frankey (19 years old and a mother of two) made her way to Chicago to be by his side with $22 in her pocket ($20 for the train and $2 to get by on), how they raised a family of four boys with little money but so much love. But I think this says it nicely:

After watching a video commemorating the family they had created and the years they had spent together, grandpa said--so quietly it was almost to himself--"Every day is a surprise." Your dad or I commented that it was such an accomplishment to spend sixty years together, and grandpa paused thoughtfully before replying, "All you need is love."

Yes, indeed. I hope that is a lesson you can learn every day of your life.

Your grandpa Terry's family gathered for the family reunion and you got to meet so many people: great-aunts and uncles, mommy's cousins and their kids. There were kids galore to play with--five girls to be exact--and you followed them around like a wide-eyed puppy. You were so eager to play their games and mimic them--you were like a funhouse mirror reflecting their every move: short and wobbly, but determined to follow along.

During the first day of our visit we went to the Omaha Zoo and had an unbelievable time. You loved seeing all the animals up close--monkeys and crazy-colored birds, snakes and huge fish, butterflies and zebras. The stand-out moment of this day for me, however, had nothing to do with critters. While we were riding the zoo train on a tour of the grounds, you started to get fussy, overheated, and hungry. You demanded to nurse, and while I've said we won't do that in public anymore, for the sake of everyone's happiness, I relented. Your cousin Sydney was sitting next to us and after a few minutes she looked over uncomfortably and said, "Don't you think he's a little old for that?" After months of avoiding this situation in front of adults, it took a six year old girl to state exactly what I had feared hearing from her elders.

I've never had to defend nursing you before (part of the reason I keep it private is because I don't want to), so I didn't have a ready or intelligent response for her. I muttered something about, "Mothers in Europe often nurse until their kids are two..." Lame and inadequate to say the least.

What I should have said is this: I know that it isn't considered socially acceptable by most Americans to be nursing a toddler, but just like every other decision I've made as a mother--Hello? WATER BIRTH!--I don't do things because society says I should. I do them because I truly believe it's what's best for you and for us as a family. And while I know that the end is coming soon, something in me is just not ready to let nursing go. The fact that you tug at my shirt and give "milk" sign way more often than I can perform tells me that you are not ready to let it go either.

I've used the unpredictability of these past two months (the travel and the move) to justify going on a bit longer than I intended. Withholding the familiarity and security that nursing provides seems cruel and unnecessary while everything else in your life is so uncertain. So on we march. Sometimes I'm tired of giving and giving. Often I worry that we have worked this grove so deeply into the record of your life it will be impossible to fill it in. But always I am so touched by how easy it is to connect with you while you nurse, how calm and happy it makes you, how it seems to make the world right for you. And it breaks my heart a little to think that I will have to say goodbye to that soon.

You're becoming more and more like a little boy every day. Your vocabulary is expanding (bubble, juice, ball), and you are getting more sophisticated in the way you play (pretend cooking and driving trucks). But so much of you is still undeniably my BABY, and I will protect that with all of my power until you no longer need me to.

I love you my darling boy,

Monday, August 25, 2008

River News: Month Sixteen

Dear River,

These past two months have been a little crazy for us. We spent all of July traveling or hosting company, and all of August getting ready to move. I started writing this post weeks ago, but the pile of boxes and endless errands have kept me from my computer. Still, I really want to let you know about your 16th month (so much happened!), so I am plowing ahead and finishing this TODAY.

If all goes as planned, five days from now we will have a new home. We will be sharing pancakes in a new kitchen, snuggling together under a new roof, playing trains on a new floor, and doing it all while wading through a sea of boxes. It's this last part that gives me cold sweats in the middle of the night. I imagine the unsorted, untamed, uncontained jungle that will be our new home, and I want to crawl under something warm and well-organized (a pile of alphabetized kitties? a flaming card catalogue?).

I should probably be much more worried about what the move will do to you. But however much I know this will be a huge transition for you, I'm not too concerned about your ability to adjust to a new space. This past month has shown just how adaptable you can be.

We have spent every weekend of July on the road, and while it wasn't easy per se, you were just such an amazing trooper. From wedding in New Jersey to condo in Vermont to ski resort in the Berkshires to family reunion in Nebraska you (mostly) went with the flow and enjoyed yourself in the moment.

I think our first journey was the hardest on you. The trip to New Jersey for your auntie Ama's wedding was a nightmare. It was the longest drive we'd attempted with you and it was way worse than we had prepared ourselves for. You slept only 30 minutes of the 6 hour trip and needed almost constant entertainment (and lots of breaks to stretch your legs). The next day, at the beautiful outdoor wedding on The Farm in Ringoes, you got overheated and spent most of the event crying in Mommy or Daddy's arms. We put you in the pool (thank goodness for casual affairs!), we found a basement to sit in and nurse, we let you run around nearly naked (you insisted on keeping your shoes on), but nothing could turn that sour mood once you had it.

Still, in the face of difficult circumstances, we celebrated the union of friends, shared time with loved ones, and spent a beautiful evening under big stars and bigger fireworks (only one of them flew into the crowd--no casualties, and they finished the show!).

Your auntie Jenn flew out from California for the wedding and spent the rest of the week with us in Cambridge. You held it pretty close and didn't warm up to her much. She insists you're missing out on a great opportunity to be spoiled and fawned over, and I have to agree. It may take a while, but I think the day will come when you appreciate having a cool auntie who will get you hopped up on pixie sticks and take you to the arcade. Take advantage, my boy, because with mommy you're much more likely to get a wheat germ high and and a trip to the library.

After Auntie Jenn went home, you and I drove to Killington, Vermont to spend some time with Oma and Opa at their vacation condo. It was a much better drive this time around, and we had all kinds of fun adventures in the countryside. Your favorite, by far, was taking a ride on the gondola at Killington Peak. You didn't care about the hike to the top of the mountain afterword or the amazing view of five states from the peak, you only wanted to watch the gondolas swing up, around, and down. Once we were back at the foot of the mountain, you sat there next to Oma with rapped attention while the gondolas did their lazy turns, until, finally, they closed the machine down. I'm trying to figure out some way to get you your own personal gondola--not only because it's so much fun to say, but because I think you might explode from pure joy.

The next weekend your dad joined us on a trip to the Berkshires where Oma and Opa had another vacation spot reserved at a ski resort near Lanesboro, Massachusetts. This trip was marked by brushes with fame. On the drive out, we went to the Eric Carle Museum (author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and learned that the man himself would be there for a signing the following day. Librarian and superb grandma that she is, Oma Julie woke before six the next day to make the 1 1/2 hour drive back to the museum and stand in line with throngs of fans to get books signed for you and Finn.

The following night we drove to Tanglewood to hear John Williams conduct the Boston Pops in a night of movie music. Williams has scored countless films (including Indian Jones and all but one of Steven Spielberg's movies). The evening started with a torrential downpour and a picnic in the car, but by the time the musicians were tuning their strings, the skies had cleared and we'd found ourselves a nice spot on the grass. We were all surprised when Kate Capshaw came out to sing after the intermission. But when she was followed on stage by Steven Spielberg, who MCed the rest of the evening, we were all pinching ourselves (well, the grown-ups were; you were asleep). It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and though you were pretty unimpressed at the time, years from now I know we'll tell stories about the time you slept through a live appearance by Steven Spielberg.

I know all the travel wasn't easy on you--you were fussier and clingier than I have seen you in a long time--but it also provided some really amazing opportunities for you. You were so lucky to spend time with your grandparents, to see mountains and farms, museums and playgrounds, adorable towns and historical ones. You jumped and ran and climbed; you ate amazing food and touched sweet animals and played with new toys; you laughed and cried and snuggled and hugged.

In years to come, you may not remember any of these experiences, but I hope you will read this and know that you have had a truly blessed childhood from the start. You are surrounded by so much love, and that at least, will never change.

To the moon and back,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

on hold

As these things go, the new house isn't done yet (we're literally waiting for the paint to dry), and our closing has been delayed by at least a week. If all goes well (permits come in, inspectors get there in a timely manner), we'll be calling the new house "home" by Friday.

Until then, we're staying at a hotel and trying to keep some modicum of a normal life. River is handling the change well (though he seems to have decided he doesn't want to eat past 4pm anymore). He's sleeping through the night, enjoying the time he's had with mommy and daddy this weekend, and generally seems like his normal, happy self.

After working for months to design the finishes and fixtures of the new house, getting the old house ready for sale, packing up our possessions, and moving to a temporary home, I am just tired.

I wish I could sleep and sleep; hibernation sounds unbelievable right now.

I hope I can find some energy to get back into a more regular writing routine, but I really need to just focus on staying healthy and sane right now. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

saying goodbye

Tonight is the last night I will sleep in this house.

I have nurtured friendships under this roof, built a marriage, created a family, and raised a son. I have decorated every room of this home, sewn curtains, hung pictures, built shelves, and created spaces fantastical and comforting. My hand has touch every nook and cranny of this space. I have cooked countless meals in this kitchen. I have been happier than I have ever known, more taxed and challenged, and more blessed than I could have ever wished under this roof. I have seen my child grow from sesame seed to toddler within these walls. I have given birth in this home.

I don't think I realized how much I would miss it.

Thank you for the shelter you have given, the love you have fostered, and the memories you have helped create.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

there are no words...

River news will be forthcoming. Until then, enjoy this piece of brilliance:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

some favorite photos from this month

Christopher Columbus Park, Boston

Jenn and Summer eating cherries, Pittstown, NJ

Ama and Joan just married, The Farm, Ringoes, NJ

Nearly naked River, The Farm, Ringoes, NJ

Sheep, Sugarbush Farm, Woodstock, VT

River and Thom, Uncle Don's Barnyard, Lanesboro, MA

Julie and goat, Uncle Don's Barnyard, Lanesboro, MA

Spool art by Devora Sperber, Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA

Thom and River, Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA

Turkeys, Shaker Village, Hancock, MA

Sydney and River, Omaha, NE

Zoo Train, Omaha Zoo, NE

Okapi, Omaha Zoo, NE

River and Grandpa, Omaha Zoo, NE

Parrot, Omaha Zoo, NE

Butterfly, Omaha Zoo, NE