October 26, 2011

8 Months Baby

Bearboy.  Has it really been 8 months?  Impossible.  In these months, I have learned what people mean when they say "It goes so fast!" and "Time flies when they're that little."  It means right when I think things are a certain way - your sleep, your favorite songs, what time of day you'll want food - it changes.  And suddenly you are a whole new baby.  It's wild.  I used to plunk you on my chest and you would just lay there for as long as I would hold you, like this.

You don't do that anymore.  Now when I go to get you after a good long sleep, you stiffen up and grin, kick your legs and do your excited gasp-for-air thing. When I pick you up, you turn in every direction and do the Water Spider - the move so frequent we had to give it a name - in which you pump your arms straight out and your legs too, with this manic face.  All kinds of things make you do the Water Spider: my cell phone, the crinkle of a bag, and seeing your Papa at the end of his workday.

I've been looking at pictures of you tiny.

You had a wobbly-shaped ear and a patch of long hair in the back that I cut as soon as I got you home.  Your cheek felt like leather and your little feet and hands were scaly for days.  I thought you were so beautiful.  You were...eventually.

Every time I take your picture and upload it, and survey the little timeline of your life from eight months ago 'til now, I can't ever imagine you being any bigger or stronger or more aware than you are in this moment.  Always I am surprised when I see pictures from just a few weeks ago. Your legs were skinny and you were more bald and your face didn't light up with understanding the way it does now.  Still, I can't fathom that you will keep growing and be a toddler asking for Goldfish.

Sometimes I wish I could start all over.  Not with another baby, with you. You have been so squishy, so sweet, so drowsy, so giddy.  When I see headlines about babies found in dumpsters or stolen from their parents or just left in a bed with no blanket, I have to turn my mind away and put my face in your face.  How could I miss a second of you, on purpose?  I utter sweeping, childlike prayers.  I pray for all the babies, everywhere, to be loved well and treated right.

It has been such a trip watching you figure things out.


Your all-time favorite toy is your pie plate.

You also love to crush water bottles, crinkle the Subway paper, and bury your face in a magazine.  Toys are pretty much wasted on you, so I'm thinking Christmas is gonna be easy.  You're getting a cardboard box and a Sunchips bag made from recycled material.

You would be completely lost without your beep, your backup beep, and your Lambers.

I'm so glad I got you.  That's something your Papa and I say to each other from time to time, and I will always tell you that.  Nursing is one of the best things I've ever done in my life, something I really didn't see coming.  And now that you're sleeping more and more in your crib like an independent boy, I hate it - something else I didn't expect.  Sometimes I come get you and stuff you into bed with us anyway, and watch you throw your hands over your head and find Dustan's face in your sleep.  When you wake up, before your eyes even open, you are smiling.  It killllls me!

You are my favorite thing.  I'm gonna put duct tape over the tooth you're sprouting, and I'm gonna push you down when you start walking.  Don't learn words, or grow anymore.  Okay?


October 14, 2011

Food on the Trail, Part 3 (there will be 4)

The best meal of the day was lunch. We piled Camembert and Brie on bagels and topped it with apples.

Or with mayo, mustard, tomatoes and avocado. 

This is me at my Aunt JJ's house, jamming down on a spring roll.  Next up was probably some kind of cake...

Longshot is eating a Pro Bar, a $14 granola bar that includes something from every food group.  These things will make you skip up mountains.
Ah, town food.

More town food.  I was committed to the most ridiculously fragile foods, as you can see.  Some people liked to pack out six-packs from town for the first night back on the trail, others liked to bring shiraz and dark chocolate.  I went for the foods that hold up horribly under backpacking conditions, stopping just shy of eggs.

Post-half-gallon challenge. :)

Boiling Springs, PA.  We got to town and found this house.  They were this odd mix of people that kinda sorta welcomed us, but also pretty much ignored us. It was like, we're having a folksy jam session on our porch, and serving up angel food cake and peaches with or without you.  So I guess you can have a piece. 

We did, and then we went into town and ate the best pizza of our life.  Then we came back and slept in the Doll House.  It's a tiny house in their backyard that looks just like a doll house.  I know that sounds so made up.

(The pizza I was talking about).

On the trail out of Boiling Springs we walked miles and miles of flat land.  It was incredible.  And I'm talking flat, as in "flat." Not flat as in "not exactly flat, more like only four steep climbs."  This term, flat, was very fluid and debatable on the trail.  We learned - ohdidwelearn - not to ask people walking south what kind of stretch of trail we were about to encounter.  Because it's almost impossible to gauge how bad an uphill will be when you've just come down it.  

Anyway, during that flat walking we picked blackberries.

Brahma made us blackberry pancakes.  I can't remember how we pulled this off, but it must have been planned.  Maybe I did pack out eggs!

Definitely more than sandwiches here!  I can tell from this picture we're further north because Brahma's beard is getting out of control, and because the food got so good.  Delis in the New England area did not disappoint, and we were constantly finding amazing grub every time the trail met a road crossing.

Canolis sold at a nursery.  It was always the unlikely place!  Ice cream at a greenhouse, killer burgers at a gas station hole-in-the-wall, and Italian delicacies in the middle of a bunch of plants.  How did we find these places?  We just looked for the telltale row of backpacks outside any given establishment, the equivalent of 5-star rating.

Parting shot:  Food on the Trail, gone wrong.  Dusty's discount Halloween Reese's Pieces bit the dust somewhere in New Jersey and it took forever to pick them all up.

October 11, 2011

Food on the Trail, Part 2

I almost forgot to include The Bearbag in these pics!  This system of hanging our food in the air to keep it away from squirrels, coons, critters and the occasional bear, soon became obsolete.  I guess because we just got lazy.  Even though some hikers around us actually had their tents ripped and their food bags rifled through by a real live Snickers-addicted black bear, and one kid "Bearpack" had his pack stolen altogether, as the days of hiking piled on one another it became increasingly more important to just collapse into our sleeping bags after dinner than to spend time gazing upwards for that perfect bearbag branch.

Not only was bearbagging a camp chore that cut into our bedtime routine, it also would've seriously hindered the Poptart system that made mornings so much better.  For weeks we would get up in the morning and hop around in the cold morning air, fire up the stove, boil water, make oatmeal and instant coffee (with sugar and tiny shots of creamer that I would pocket from diners and gas stations) and then have to get back in the tent to change into our funky hiking clothes.  In retrospect it was insanely elaborate once we discovered that we could go to sleep with Poptarts in the mesh pocket of our tent, then wake up and eat breakfast together in our cozy warm camp clothes while checking the elevation map for that day's hike.

All that to say, we started with good intentions of directing bears elsewhere and ended by turning our yellow tent into a junk food beacon in the wild.

Happy demonstrates how if he was a bear, he would have no trouble reaching the foodbag of some section hikers at a campsite in Tennessee, a mother-daughter combo who spent their camp time braiding each other's hair.

Camping on Watauga Dam, and still faithful to bearbag.

I decided to feed peanut butter to a worm (or whatever this thing is), and it totally ate it!

One day we were hiking and this Hiker Feed sign sprang from among the bushes.  Someone named...Captain Dan, maybe? opened his home and his kitchen and his lawn to all the hikers passing through.  We sprawled our tents on his yard and feasted on biscuits and gravy the next morning.

This spontaneous, go-with-the-flow way of life is something that is addictive.  I understand why people come off the trail and crave these small departures that stack up to one massive adventure.  Most days you wake up and know you're going to hit however many summits, you need to find cell service on one of them to say hi to your mom, there will be a shelter with a privy in 7.2 miles, and you want to camp that night by a stream the guidebook shows as a good water source.  But what you can't plan are things like hiker feeds and trail magic, in which your predictable day of hiking is disrupted by hot pizza or cold beer or a ride to a movie theatre or a backyard full of burgers and a chance to stretch your soggy feet in the sun.

Brahma's idea of bringing his melted Snickers back to life in a cold stream.

Another great example of an unforeseen oasis in the middle of a "normal" day of hiking: stumbling upon a gas station that also has a grill and just so happens to churn out some killer burgers.

That's right.

This is me in a motel lobby in Daleville, VA, but it could be anywhere on the trail because we did this a hundred times.  Buy a bunch of groceries for however many days til the next town stop, yardsale them on a table somewhere and then try to pack them down into our foodbag.  The foodbag is so heavy you want to cry, so you pull the chocolate-covered pretzels out and start snacking...

Max Patch, North Carolina was a surreal day for us.  Not only did a former thru-hiker camp out on top of the bald and hand out pizza, set up a drum circle and offer organic produce to us '08 hikers, my sister and her husband also showed up and surprised us with a little visit since the trail runs not far from where they live.  We sat in their car and ate oranges.  Or...I should say - I ate the orange in their car and Brahma watched.

Our time in Buena Vista with Mary Lynn was one long series of amazing food, made even more amazing by the scarceness of such things on the trail as bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, pot roast and veggies, and fresh, unpasteurized cow's milk.  

Then there was this lavish spread of food put on by Carl and Scottie, some more friends that took an interest in blessing us with a feast and a hot shower.  Only they also had 600,000-thread count sheets on the guest bed.