Yesterday we snuck off to a little carnival in the next town over. We had driven by it for two days and the boys looked longingly at the lights and spinning metal. It was a really good choice to go! They loved it. While most rides were geared toward the older, more adventurous, and less prone to nauseous rider, there were 6 the little boys could do. They bounced and twirled along happily, although the little roller coaster gave them a bit of a scare. But their favorite ride of all was zooming down the super slider on a burlap sack. They both surprised me so much with what they were willing to try. They had both had their eye on that slide and I hesitated thinking there was no way they would climb the tall ladder let alone go down the slide itself. They proved to me that as a parent my job may be to keep them safe but it is also important to get out of their way so they can step out of their comfort zones all on their own! The night ended in ice cream and those are the best nights.
Tracing my finger lightly around Henry's chin, cheeks, and forehead and down his nose and across his lips, he giggles and I remember doing this with my Nanny. It is a silly little game and, at the time, I thought it was the most luxurious thing to get your face tickled endlessly. And it is. I used to think, how did my Nanny have the stamina to tickle my face for what seemed like hours while I laid in her lap and laughed and relaxed. Then sitting there with Henry and Owen, it dawned on me. Here I was with her endless stamina to tickle their little faces because I love them so darn much and they were clearly enjoying the little "spa" treatment and because I was SO DARN tired from the day, days, and weeks of the past month that I would have tickled those peanut faces for the whole day if it meant I too could rest a little.
Exactly 30 days ago, we packed up the family and went to LA to join in my father's retirement flight from Unite Airlines. After working for 35 years in aviation, it was time to hang up his wings. The FAA regulates that at 65 years old, captains and co-pilots must step down from the flight deck and this legislation pained my father. A truly passionate and gifted captain, he was not exactly ready spiritually to comply. We spent a few days in SoCal with family celebrating this momentous event. As a chief pilot said to my father, "The sign of a great career in this industry is an uneventful one, thank you for for having a great career." While there together as a family, we tackled jet lag, a desire to really go all out and all in for this special lifetime event, and a spectrum of emotions as we watched our dad come in to LAX for the last time at the helm and prepare for his return to his base in EWR. The morning of, our dad saw a number of friends in the terminal who came to shake his hand and clap him on the back. He boarded the plane and took control of the ship for 5 hours. The landing greased into New York and he received a round of applause not only from the passengers who each shook his hand but also when he came up out of the jetway. More family came to celebrate and it was a really good time. It was such a beautiful and incredibly proud moment for him and for us. One day, and not in the proverbial way, my dad and I will have to sit down and write his stories of flight down. I imagine something titled "Confessions from the Flight Deck," in which we curate his hilarious tales from 35,000 feet because my dad was not only the epitome of professionalism in flight but also a character and a truly a humorous raconteur!
Once we got back to Boston, it was time to close out the school year. The last week and a half of school is obviously incredibly exciting because summer vacation is so close BUT standing in between a teacher and a much needed break is a mountain of grading, a pile of finals, a heap of comments to write, and way too many meetings to sit through. The workload always feels insurmountable and the pressure of the final due dates makes me grow "Bertha." Who is Bertha? Well she is more of a what. Bertha is my shoulder knot. David has often commented after an encounter with Bertha that I have a lump of cement in my shoulder blade. Every end of the school year, I sit at my desk with clamped shoulders while grading furiously. This position and those stress levels form Bertha who causes me literal sleepless nights and takes away my ability to turn my head from side to side. As the graduates of the class of 2018 threw their caps off, some tears fell down my cheeks, and I pushed "submit" on all the grades and finals, only then can Bertha slowly dissipate. Goodbye Bertha, goodbye this school year, and hello to the next 11 weeks!
And then summer started!
10 days into summer and this feels like such a good one. Obviously summer vacation is always a good thing and time off with family is truly a gift that this profession gives in exchange for the high stakes and demands of the academic year. Jessie, Avery, and Smith arrived minutes after my final faculty meeting and stayed with us for 5 days. My underlining goal of their visit: Convince them that one day they should move to Boston because the city rocks, the people rock, and because we love them so much and just wish we had more family closer. Of course, leaving beautiful SoCal (or Florida for David's side of the family) makes moving north a bit of a hard sell. Neither of our families' current locations have snow or what I like to call wintry wonderlands, but Boston does have us and you can't find that anywhere else, right? In wanting to show them the best of Boston we bit off a lot: Fenway Park, duck boats, Boston visits, Strawberry picking, late nights, 6 bottles of wine, lots of eating, even more snacking, and even more laughing making it hard to say good-bye to them. It almost felt like we just live together now.
After teary goodbyes, the boys and I headed into our first 4 days of "Mom is at home season!" This year a bucket list of fun and breezy summer activities will guide our time. And we already ticked off two items: a trip to the Roger Williams zoo and a morning at the lake. The beauty of this year's summer bucket list is that it is short. Potentially only 10 line items but most of them will definitely be repeated especially if they involve the oceanside. So stay posted because now that I have returned to this page, I am planning on documenting more effectively this summer's shenanigans and my next pottery class starts in two weeks so there will be more updates from the "artist's" studio as well as some really cool new pieces I am trimming and glazing right now.
But back to face tracing. Sometimes when you do a lot in a short amount of time or when you are transitioning from the fast-paced, routine-based school year into summer you need a little buffer time to slow down, kick your feet up, and trace your babies' faces. Maybe if I do this I can commit to memory their lines and curves more deeply and slow down this season.
This past weekend we took a family trip to Salem. It was so great!! Spring is definitely about to hit Boston and Henry is in such a playful stage of his toddlerhood that running around and watching him explore is truly the best. He is such a little toddler who is invested in deep discovery and tactile experiences. Picking up rocks, splashing in puddles, and running in the wind help him learn about his world and remind me to take a pause and pay attention to things. I go through each day too fast and I love that Henry is slowing me down because when was the last time you explored the under side of a clam shell and really took in its beauty?
A lot of mommies will tell you to eat what you crave, it's a way of your body "telling" you want it wants while growing that little human. I like this idea although I am not entirely sure it is true. Those times when I was craving Sour Patch Kids did my body really want sugar to compensate for a deficiency, or was I just being a hungry mom-to-be in that moment? Gray area, perhaps? Truthfully though most of my cravings have not been for "junk" food which has been helpful. And right now, I cannot seem to get enough eggs. So on this rainy Boston day, while Henry naps, I cooked up a delicious cheddar, broccoli, potato frittata by Sarah Waldman. It hit the spot and I am not sure if I can care it with anyone else!
SoCal is SO far from Boston! And this makes me sad because it means we cannot see my brother and his family as often as we would like. Ah, if only they would move to the east coast! But, of course the weather is too nice out there and the winters of Boston are not tempting enough. So instead of seeing each other every week and growing tired of one another, we savor our short visits. This visit may have been the shortest. A mere 4 hours was our window. My brother flew in Friday night and had to catch a 5PM flight back on Saturday. But when your sibling comes to town, you drop everything and race in to see him. We packed up Henry and squeezed my parents into the car and into town we went.
The weather was amazing! Typically it would be in the 30s and miserable to walk around but today (because my bro was in town) Boston held firm at 60! We had lunch, walked through the North End and along the sea wall, checked out the new Boston Public Market, watched the harbor seals at the aquarium, and window shopped in Faneuil Hall. Henry thoroughly enjoyed laughing with his uncle and sneaking bites of cannoli.
It hurt to say goodbye after such a short visit, but I am so thankful we got to see my brother today. It truly was a special!
Why? But, what about last summer when you had a baby!?!
Yes, yes last summer was AMAZING! I got to meet my tiny human and it was beyond incredible. BUT I spent a lot of that summer inside recovering physically and being an emotional wreck because I had a TINY HUMAN!?!? And I was just so clueless on how to feed him, comfort him, and everything else. So last summer was tremendous but it was also very very intense.
This summer though has been truly the very best. Henry has SO much personality. I LOVE this kid (you may have noticed based on my Facebook and Instagram accounts which are entirely consumed by the little dude). He is just so darn playful and funny. We have little "inside jokes" now too. When we are upstairs in his room, he will flash me that mischievous smile and dart around the glider, then he pops his head out from behind and wants to play hide and seek. When I "find" him (which is so hard, where ever could he be?), he laughs and laughs. My little boy is a little fish and can hardly stay out of the water. From the lake to the baby pool, he wants nothing more than to dunk his head, splash, and stay in there ALL DAY long. He speed walks through the house and even likes to sit on the potty and pretend his is using it. But mostly he just wants to laugh and flush the toilet or pull all the toilet paper off the roll. I remember thinking before I had a child that I would never be able to tolerate messes and play that "destroyed" my things. And, what is hilarious is that I love watching Henry explore so if that means pulling out an entire box of kleenex because it is just magic. I will watch him laugh his way through the box. They all fit back in anyway, right?
When I went back to school after maternity leave (summer vacation), I was a mix of emotions. I was scared to leave my son primarily and angry that I had to return after 8 weeks and overwhelmed by the daunting school year ahead. I felt alone, isolated, and sad mostly. But, looking at this approaching school year, I am sadder but in a different way. This summer has been so great exploring New England with my little boy and having so much mommy-son time that it is going to be very hard to say good-bye to our routine. The mornings in the park and afternoons playing and evenings picking up David from the train and being completely carefree together before bed have been just awesome. I guess having the best summer makes the end of summer quite bittersweet. These August days will have to be savored then. Henry is going to get lots of kisses, hugs, and trips out and about because I am just not ready yet to say good bye to this.
It feels like just yesterday this little guy was born and now we are staring straight ahead to his first birthday in just sixty days. Madness; this is just utter madness. How is Henry already ten months old?!? It is funny how the school year's end stills seems so long away and yet Henry's birthday seems too soon. I remember a year ago at this time my belly was swollen with baby and I was nervously anticipating the labor and delivery to come. We were attending birth classes and installing our car seat and imagining what it would be like to have our baby boy join us. We hypothesized and theorized this future. Our expectations were wrong. I never knew just how much life would flip like a switch and how much I would come to love this truly blessed existence of motherhood. Our little family is the best part of every moment of every day for me. But enough of this, I will have a chance to write more about my reflections once we get to that finish line of one year! For now, what is important is to share everything that this little dude has be up to and into.
This month was all about visiting family and friends! It kicked off with Henry's first Easter celebration. At brunch with family and friends, H dined on an assortment of yummy delights from eggs to scones to pancakes and bacon. He ate heartily while enjoying the company around him. It was then off to California for an extended weekend with my brother and his family. I noted in my previous gushing post that we had the BEST time and are eagerly awaiting our return to that West Coast kind of living. This month Henry also visited with some new faces in New York. We drove down to see my extended family at a little party and topped off the visit with a chance to hang out with Colleen and to meet baby Marcella (my oldest friend's newest addition). If that were not enough, we are soaking up as much time with our friend Amelie and her parents before they become expats this summer. Their current location near Jamaica Pond makes strolls in the fantastic weather descending on Boston ideal. This full month ended with our first birthday party for Annabelle and it was such a fantastic event! It really made me a bit sappy to think about how all of our baby friends are growing up so fast!
Henry has also been super chatty this month. His repertoire of sounds is constantly evolving. While he is a bit reticent with new people, he is quickly starting to warm up and babble away. When he sits in his highchair for dinner he loves to have long conversations. He babbles to his daddy or me and then pauses for us to respond and then babbles again. He changes his tone and cadence and is really imitating dialogue. It makes me so excited for the next few months. Some of his new sounds include (but are not limited to): dada, mama, hi, ta ta, pa pa, ha ha, doh doh, dog, ga ga, goo goo. What makes this all even more exciting is that he can also identify people now. When we ask, "Where is Mommy," "Where is Daddy, " or "Where are the doggies," he looks right to the person or pups in question. Each morning when he wakes up he immediately starts calling "dog dog dog" and wants to see his pups and pet their heads. In practicing his sounds he has either intentionally or accidentally begun to whistle. With lips pursed, the little whistle sound comes forth and is so surprising. When we first started to hear it, we both thought, "Who is whistling?" or "Do you hear that whistling sound?" and there he was crawling about and whistling his way through the house.
After a long hiatus development has begun again on the smile project! Henry's three bottom teeth have now been joined by his top front teeth. Despite the teething concerns that inevitably come with the arrival of each new chomper, these came in with little pomp and circumstance. After two nights of mild discomfort, his little teeth broke the surface and are working their way down. He is now eating more and more thanks to this development! He has not shied away from a single meal or delicacy we have shared with him. This month's new foods and food experiences included: Indian buffet, pizza, bacon egg sandwiches, steak, almond butter, fish and chips, blackberries, pineapple, thai fried rice, ice cream, and brussel sprouts. Henry is a brussel-sprout monster! He can devour a full plate of these baby cabbages before you can blink your eyes! Dining al fresco has been such a new treat as well. Since the snows have melted, Bostonians have eagerly spent sunrise to sunset out of doors. And we are no different in our desire to be soaking up the fresh air and sun!
While he hasn't taken that first solo step yet, Henry is definitely inching closer to that day. Some of his favorite activities include walking by pushing either his elephant toy or his little activity cart. He walks his cautious little self around and around the downstairs. It is one of my favorite things these days. The little elephant push ride sings this silly song that goes, "I love to go a walkin' with my best friend every day," and around the corner here comes Henry with the biggest grin! He stands with the tiniest bit of assistance and can walk barely holding onto your hands, but he is not quite ready for his solo step. David and I are really excited for that moment though...whenever it happens.
Henry is really into:
- Imitating everything you do. If he sees you kissing, he opens his mouth for a sloppy kiss. If he sees you doing raspberries on someone's belly, he leans over and tries to do it too. If he sees you eating, you better have food for him. If he sees you turn a stacking toy into a trumpet, he grabs it and babbles into the "trumpet" too.
- Sleeping through the night!! Sleeping through the night is no longer the rare chance night time experience but it is now the standard. From 7PM to 7AM, Henry is far away in slumberland.
- Drinking water. From cups or with straws, Henry has mastered drinking water sans bottle. He even prefers to avoid his bottle at baby school and drink his milk via cup. We have found both the munchkin 360 cup and munchkin straw super helpful. Both of these cups have helped him practice this skill to transition from bottle to cup and straw.
- Waving and clapping. Henry loves loves loves to wave and clap. He cannot contain himself! It is especially sweet and apparent when I bring him to the commuter rail to pick up Daddy and he waves and claps for each passenger disembarking the train.
- Tucking in. Henry has a "tell" for when he is ready to sleep. When you give him a hug, he puts his head on your shoulder and then tucks his arms in underneath himself. This tucking-in is so darn sweet. I cannot take it! My heart melts each time as he presses close, tucks in, and nods off.
- Sucker fish. It is hard to wrap your little baby mind around kissing. What exactly is kissing? To H right now, kissing is opening your mouth super wide and then sealing it onto mommy or daddy's cheek, chin, or mouth and then sucking hard. It is reminiscent of the bottom sucker in a fish tank. He loves to give his sucker fish kisses and even though it might sound gross or weird, I sort of love getting them!
- Playing with toys. I say this because now he no longer immediately puts every toy in his mouth. Instead of playing being another name for salivating on toys, playing now means playing. H pushes his cars around his room, stacks bowls, and passes toys back and forth to you.
- Towel Cuddles. After a splash in the tub, Henry loves to laugh and squeal as he is wrapped in his towel. Then we hug and hug and hug while he belly laughs and my heart melts every time.
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on this coldest day
Auntie K was an excellent auntie. H loved singing his repertoire of baby tunes with her, rolling around on the floor with her (showing off his new move of sitting independently), and snuggling and laughing with her. After a week of us, I am sure K is excited to be back to life without baby chaos but she definitely enjoyed the chaos while here! I am really looking forward to our next visit and restarting the series: 'Drinking with Baby.' No one mixes into our life here in Boston as seamlessly as Auntie K, but every time she goes, it breaks our hearts!
2 days, or 48 hours, or 2,880 minutes, or 172,800 seconds until I arrive at the baby's official due date. The 39 weeks leading to this moment went by in a blink, but these last few hours feel like slow, grinding years.
Everything on the to-do list is complete (seriously, I have no list for the first time in my life!). And, yes, these last quiet hours before the arrival should be relished and cherished as this kind of solitude will probably not be revisited for another let's say 5 or 10 years! Yet, I feel nothing but restless energy. So many of the mommies I have spoken with describe a similar emotion when it was their time. They shared that now that the finish line is completely in sight the waiting becomes unbearable. When I try to describe this to the non-pregnant around me, they tell me to relax and to rest my aching body. The thing is my body doesn't ache. I am very lucky that despite my large belly full of baby, I do not have any aches or pains to complain of and could theoretically continue on in this fashion for quite a bit longer. The only "ache" I have is in my emotional center. I am ready to meet this little guy, I am ready to face labor head on, and I am ready to endure the birth process. And this waiting, this daily waiting around, goes against every fiber of my busybody being!
So what happens to one's mind under these conditions? Delusions start.
Delusion number 1: I am not pregnant. Despite the protruding stomach, I have begun to rationalize that there is not a baby in there after all.
Delusion number 2: If delusion number 1 is not true and I am indeed pregnant, then at this point my body has begun to reabsorb the baby.
Delusion number 3: I don't look pregnant in the mirror.
Delusion number 4: If I wake up in the morning and have not already started labor than that day is "lost" and won't turn into a labor day.
Delusion number 5: I will be waiting forever.
Obviously, I know that these thoughts are nothing but frivolous notions that fill the lagging time until the baby's ultimate arrival but with each passing day they become a little more vivid and I have to check in and remind myself, "Melissa, you know this is just your boredom talking." To counter the boredom, I have tried to at least venture outside once a day. David doesn't want us to go too far in case my water breaks but, "See delusion 4," I sometimes say to him. We have gone on walks in the park, the mall, and the arboretum. We have spent some time shopping around Whole Foods and lounging in our backyard. These have all eased my spirit a bit but inevitably the restlessness returns. I know I am on "his time" and I know the closer we get to the due date the better for the wee man but I also know that this is hard for me and I am trying my best to stay relaxed while I wait incessantly for the inevitable.
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No explanation. Just a moment captured.
Saturday was a gorgeous day in Boston. We ran some errands in the morning and then came home to play with the pups outside and enjoy a lazy weekend with each other. When it finally approached dinner time, David started this delicious dish. Unfortunately, just as he had finished off the steak, I called my midwife a little concerned that during our lazy day I had not felt the little man moving around. As a precaution for low fetal activity, the midwife suggested I head into the hospital for monitoring. So David turned the stove off, slid the steak onto a plate and we dashed off to the hospital both worried and a bit hungry. We drove in nervous silence punctuated with questions like, "Are you feeling okay?", "Have you felt him yet?", and "Do you think you could be going into labor?" When we arrived at the hospital, the staff was incredibly efficient and kind. We were rushed into a room and I was hooked to a fetal monitor. They asked us some questions about our day, brought us some water, and we waited for the heart monitor to "tell" us something about the little guy. Of course, as soon as they placed the monitor on my belly, the little man started to have a dance party. It was quickly established that despite his silence all day, he was perfectly fine. We were dispatched and hurried home feeling much more assured and definitely ready to eat some dinner. David headed straight for the kitchen and went back to whipping up this delicious meal! Thankfully, it still tasted AMAZING despite the delay.
1lb hangar steak
salt and pepper
1tbsp canola oil
3tbsp unsalted butter
4 slices of thick bacon diced
10 fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 red onion thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic
5tbsp balsamic vinegar
Place a cast iron skillet on high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper, add oil to skillet. When it almost smokes, sear the steak for 4 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium-low and add butter and thyme (4-6 spring). Using a spoon, bast the steak for 2-3 minutes flipping once to coat other side. Remove steak from heat and set aside.
Discard all the fat and thyme from the skillet. Over medium heat cook the bacon until crispy about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes cut side down to the skillet and cook until crisp and golden about 4-5 minutes. Turn the potatoes and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are caramelized 10-15 minutes. Lower heat and add garlic. When you can smell the aroma of the garlic add the balsamic vinegar and reduce for about 3 minutes.
Carve the steak into strips and return to skillet and serve!
It is such an amazing dish. Flavorful, simple, and satisfying it was perfect after our hectic evening.
Thankfully our friends recommended a fence distributor who very quickly and easily provided a reasonable quote, set up time to install the fence, and then installed the fence. It is the small things like doing one's job which now greatly impresses us!! Who knew a house project could be so simple. Whew! With the baby just a few weeks away, it feels so good to have this yard project complete. Now Buster and Bella can enjoy the yard fully. I was SO scared opening the back door to the house this afternoon to just "let them out." A part of me wanted to still have them on the leash despite the fence. But, David assured me that the whole point of the fence was to give the pups the freedom to run and play in the yard uninhibited. They raced out of the door (I was surprised they didn't hesitate at all, clearly they would just run away from us in general!), and immediately started barking and chasing each other. It was so great seeing them instantly excited about their new yard experience. I can just see us all now sitting out back for a cookout and just relaxing together as a family. This will definitely change how we all experience the summer and I am just so excited to be outside more with the pups! We even bought two new zero gravity chairs to "christen" the new space.
Phase III of the "never ending" yard remodel will be to plant arborvitae trees along the back of our property to increase some of our privacy and to plant hydrangea bushes in front of these trees to add some color and depth to our backyard garden. Ah! After this successful phase, I am REALLY looking forward to phase III next Spring.
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No explanation. Just a moment captured.
On Saturday, David, Heather, Alyza, Zachary, and I piled into our car and drove from Boston to New York for our Baby Shower. My mom and dad planned this special afternoon back in December and we were very excited to finally be able to see all of our family and friends and share in this truly great moment. In some ways, it wasn't until this moment that the upcoming arrival of the little one became real. Being surrounded by the love, support, and laughter of the strong and beautiful women in my family felt like the "official" initiation into the "mom club." Sharing stories about their pregnancies, births, and parenting adventures helped provide calm and perspective to the luncheon. It was inspiring to see these women and to share in the good, the bad, the ugly, and the miraculous of motherhood. David and I felt truly loved and the generosity of our loved ones was overwhelming. Our little guy is so lucky to be joining this tremendous family and to have a nursery that is stocked with all we could imagine and need to help his transition into the world go smoothly. It was quite a special weekend for all of us.
After the meal, David joined us and we unwrapped the gifts for the little one together.
Baby clothes are so darn cute and tiny!
Even David received a special gift just for him. The Daddy Doo Doo Emergency kit was a hilarious gift filled with all he could need for a poop disaster!
We had the very special help of Zachary and Alyza (our niece and nephew) throughout the party.
Can you believe this cake! I was so surprised when it arrived and could not have imagined a cuter more delicious dessert. Our friends Maryanne and Amanda were so wonderful in finding this treat. And, yes the baby's nursery "theme" is elephants!
Our visit to New York was short but it is amazing to think that our next trip down to our family in July will include the little one!
No explanation. Just a moment captured.