June 30, 2011

Flying By

1 week
2 months
4 months

Babies grow.  Almost, if not more amazing, than birth itself.

You do new things every day, little Bear.  You hold your head far from my shoulder when I burp you, stretching to see what is new in the same corner you've been staring at since you were born.  Every day, it seems, you do find something new amidst all that sameness.  Or do you have a favorite thing you see?

Now your smiles are conversation.  You catch my eye and hold it, and smile like your Papa did when he was singling me out in a room.  We are old friends already, aren't we.

Let me always remember how you rest your hand on my hand, how you grab my wrist when I replace the fallen beep, how you flutter your eyelids with a secret smile when I tousle your glistening baby hair.

Sometimes you wake up bashful, blinking slow and grinning at the prospects of a new diaper.  Other times you cry so hard, and when you do I call you "Piggy" because that's exactly what you look like.  A tiny baby again - helpless, pink and hungry, with no faith that you will ever eat again.  Also, you are starting to understand that you are startled.  Ice into a cooler, the blender, the vacuum, and our deep, guttural laughs have all caused you to jerk around, wide-eyed, and then collapse into a wail with little lips curled down in the perfect pout.  Adults use that pout face to mock being sad, but you actually use it!  Who taught you that?

My first favorite is picking you up from a rosy-cheeked sleep, when you've been laying there in a happy zone.  Your hair is fuzzed up like a little ducky, and you will be more of a bobble-head than usual, until you re-find the control you've been working so hard on lately.  You feel so heavy after that good rest, and you land your bobbing cheek against mine.  I turn to the mirror to see you look at both of us, but smile only at me - the one you recognize.

My second favorite is when you're almost done nursing and you look up at me while your fingers find your mouth (also new, but quickly becoming common).  You look immediately fatter.  Your legs are curled up in my lap now, and I'm not thinking about position or latch or anything I was once supposed to.  You bounce your arm around languidly, no longer starving but not yet full.  Time out to smile at mama - just to be sure the world is still spinning and you're at the center, that I'm still here and happy to mimic all your new sounds back to you and return every lazy grin, like I have nothing better to do.

(Don't worry, baby.  I don't).

June 6, 2011

Whereby Summer, or at least a warm day or two, comes to Racine

Here's the thing with June in Wisconsin.  At some point you may be able to say "I could really use a sweatshirt."  In which case, it's not really summer.  But I will say, winter has most definitely lost its grip.  On my daily walks, I've watched the mammoth snow pile leftover from the blizzard turn to a sad gray lump, full of trash and pieces of road signs.  Just a few days ago it was a lousy puddle.  And now - it's gone.

I'm so grateful I threw my camera in the stroller a few weeks ago, because the combination of fog and blossoms and heat made this particular day feel straight up make-believe.  What can I say?  You've bewitched me, Racine, body and soul.  (But drive 5 blocks and there was a shooting at Tino's.  We stay near the lake). 

Can you believe these were all taken on the same day?

that's the lake out there, beyond the mist


And then, just like that, it was Memorial Day weekend.  We are really doing this, 2011?  Because yesterday I was cupping my gloved hands over the heat vents as my car warmed up in the snow, and my big pregnant belly got in the way of the steering wheel.  However, when this long weekend surfaced on the calendar unexpectedly and stretched out in front of us, we weren't complaining!  First we hit our favorite diner, The Blue Diamond Family Restaurant.  Paper placemats, white coffee mugs, a case full of pies by the door.  Buuuut, Bear didn't exactly feel like napping or staring into space (or being quiet) like he normally does in restaurants.  No biggie - we just took our omelets to go, ourselves, our boy, our dog, and our stroller to a nice patch of sun and tried to soak in the nothingness.

Only, babies don't like nothingness so much.  He was confused by the sunscreen, and he hated nursing under a blanket in the heat.  He had a meltdown that sent me running for the AC in the car, which only caused him to scream harder.  I guess he is growing to appreciate the feel of a cool sheet and dim room when nap time rolls around.  In the end, we forced him to nap half-naked in the shade while we lounged in the sun.

I lifted my shirt and exposed this silvery-white stomach to the searing sun and dipped my feet in a stream where Trail was nosing around.  We went home, feeling a little like beaten soldiers as our definition of spontaneous fun is morphing into some kind of happy-go-lucky flexibility.  Trail is totally along for the ride, in every sense of the word.

Now the official beginning-of-summer holiday has come and gone, and I find myself willing the time to slow down.  I want these days to sink in real good.  I want to savor this baby while he is a baby.  I like him how he is right now: semi-mute, immobile and really smiley.  One day soon enough, his legs will stretch with an independence that causes the whole apartment (and the water's edge!) to become fair game, but for now he is our little bobblehead chunky monk and all it takes is milk and a soft blanket (okay, and a dim room) to keep him smiling.


This past weekend we kept Olivia while her parents went away for the weekend, and more summer sun came looking for us by way of 80 degrees.  Aside from the parking police, everyone in the city square had their own personal hallelujahs going.  The fountains were in full-swing, sunscreen was necessary, and no one brought along a"just in case" fleece jacket for the windy walk home.

The day started warm, and got hotter and hotter.  It's impossible to stay away from the lake on a day like that. 

Litmus test for true summer: sandy baby toes.

June 1, 2011

Makin' the Rounds

Mid-May I held my boy up to the security scanner and walked through, without a beep.  First time in my life I didn't have to take off my earrings.  He gave everybody this wild look with his big blue eyes and bobbed his head around as I lugged him through the airports.  I'll omit the parts where I was hopelessly failing at retrieving my boarding pass + ID while juggling all that was in my hands, and (more than one time) had to offer to a nearby stranger Can you hold my baby?  Who knew that strangers are more than happy to hold cute babies!

The wind took us to Detroit, and then on to Knoxville where my sister lives.  My ears popped and my boy, thankfully, slept.  I looked out my tiny airplane portal as the emerald green hills rose up to meet me.  Tiny blue pools dotted the aerial view of neighborhoods and surely there were people swimming in them - because we weren't in Wisconsin any more.  I'd come home to introduce Bear to lots of cousins and more family and kindred friends, but secretly I was most excited to introduce him to the Sun.

Of course things didn't go as planned on this visit, which seems to be the fast hard rule when doing life with a baby.  His ears didn't pop, or he picked up some crud on the plane, or whatever (the diagnosis part kills me!) and left him with a hacking cough that sounded fierce.  He didn't appreciate nursing with a blanket over his head, didn't understand why we kept switching beds, couldn't agree with the supreme pizza I ate, and ended up trading his bubbly disposition in for a much more fragile one.  On top of that, there were emotions for me that I didn't see coming.  It hit me full-on the first night home at Mom's that Dad would never know my boy, and Bear would never know Dad.  I cried.  And honestly, I was grateful for the tears.  Sometimes I think I haven't done enough processing of Dad's death, and that moment of intense grief was a bit of a surprise for me. 

The next day I had a wedding to be at, and Bear woke up screaming in pizza pain, which has never happened before.  I had to give him gas drops (first time).  It rattled me and I jumped into a hot shower with him which he always loves but this time hated, and I prayed over him and shushed him and finally he laid across my belly and nursed and let the toots rollllll.  He turned a corner and got back to his normal self in time for us to get to the wedding and hang out with some of my favorite people.  That's another baby rule: everything can change really fast.  So as soon as Bear leveled out and looked around, he found a whole lot of love coming for him in every direction.  When we got to the reception, I didn't see my baby the whole time.  I found him on the dance floor, doing the Electric Slide with Cherie Akers.  Awesome.  It's so lame that I don't have a picture here of Merritt - the bride.  She's been a friend to me my whole life.  Other life-long friends..

Me and my childhood bests with their littles: Andrea and Caleb, Martha and Josie, and Toni with Cooper, Molly and Brody.  What a treat to be in the same place at the same time!

Bear met and loved Frank and Karen.

He met the huge nail-driving, chicken-feeding, coffee-brewing, belly-tickling hands of his Papaw Ron for the first time.  And he met all sorts of cousins, who will be his life-long friends - he just doesn't know it yet.


 Cousin Ryland, who knew just what to say to get some baby gurgles. 

Cousin Amryn, who knew just how hard to squeeze him to get a cry.  And Aunt Mingie, who has a killer track record at getting him to sleep.
It was the first time my sister and I were together with our babies.  It was so much fun! (Despite Bear's please-find-me-a-quiet-spot-to-lay-down gesture).

He first saw Sis at the airport and immediately burst out in big grins, like he knew her.  I think our voices are similar - or he was just really picking up on the cool-aunt vibe.  Cousin Clara managed to get her curious 9-month-old hellos on him a few times, which was great to see.  So crazy how different she was on this visit, compared to Christmas!  Being around Clara made me really excited for the coming months, when I get to watch Bear learn all sorts of new things (like looking around with utter dismay when I try to feed him something with a spoon).

The grandmothers!  Here's Bear with his Grammie, loving on his favorite blanket.  She made a big spread of food for us and we crashed out in the softest bed known to man.

And his first time at Mim's house in Hidden Valley.  Notice we aren't on the front porch, enjoying Mom's flowers and the view of the countryside underneath the Sun.  That's because the weather reverted to Wisconsin-style 40's and Mom actually built a fire in the fireplace for the days I was at her house.  Nonetheless, it was great food and conversation and baby-snuggling.  While I was at Mom's, I dug around in the attic and pulled out a bunch of old baby toys and books.  It made me feel so strange, like I had folded time over on itself, and I was as close to my Fisher Price school bus and those old familiar Golden Book illustrations as I am to changing the diapers of my own baby.  I can't wait to read him Richard Scarry, Amelia Bedelia, and The Berenstain Bears.

Bear kept that deer-in-the-headlights look allllll the way back to the plane ride home.

I told him "Look!  It's the gridded Midwest!  We're home."

That's when he fell asleep...

...and baaaarely opened his peepers when we got to the baggage claim.

When we got back to the apartment, Trail gave him a good sniff over, remembering and deciphering all her old east coast mysteries.  We gave that boy a bath, a rough-bearded kiss from his Papa, unlimited milk from the same spot on the couch, and I tried him out in a baby gift that was waiting for us.  Don't know if it was the fact that it was handmade and amazing, or the fact that he was among all his familiar sights and sounds.  Whatever it was, it finally knocked a good smile out of him.