Just this little guy being his usual goofy self
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.
Last year's Mother's Day was a little silly. In some ways, these holidays in which we pause and share some extra love to a parent can be a little bit of a set-up. Maybe it is just me, but I imagine a day of laying in bed late (like 9AM-10AM late) followed by everyone getting along, no messes, no fuss, and lots of indulgences. And while much of this could in theory happen you cannot take the Mother out of Mother's day. And there is the set-up. I love my kiddos and husband with every ounce of my being but no day will ever go by without a little fiasco on the spectrum of silly, family drama. When you have a 2 year old and a 3 year old, it is inevitable and the more you can embrace it, the more likely you will laugh when it unravels. Ironically, this year's Mother's Day came pretty close to perfection and awesome-sauce. David made my favorite Dutch pancakes with homemade whipped cream, we enjoyed a stroll through Cambridge to a little coffee shop for a latte, ate too much for second breakfast including chicken and waffles at Tupelo, and then headed home for nap time for the boys and pottery for me. Tantrums were at a minimum and family time was a delightful maximum. But last year's Mother's Day was definitely more "eventful." Brunch is my favorite. Breakfast at an in-between hour full of delicious decadences like ricotta cream pancakes and honey lattes and I am ready to go! Last year, Henry was two and Owen just turned one. I thought I was in the "sweet spot" of motherhood. No more breast-feeding and two independent kiddos to dine out with. Today, I can look back and say that was a good time but this current situation is even sweeter. But anyway, back to last year:
Owen was a gaggy kiddo. Seriously, every single meal Owen would eat some random thing and begin to epically choke. He would purse his lips out, make a growl, and look as though a second more he would pass out. Typically, I would panic, grab him, flip him upside down, and bang on his back. There was a 50% chance that he would dislodge the the item (be it a morsel of chicken or a crumb of bread or a spoon of applesauce) and continue enjoying his dinner as though nothing had just occurred. The other 50% of the time he would vomit his dinner up and then continue to enjoy his dinner as though nothing had occurred. Either situation left me sweating and exhausted from the roller coaster of panic to disgust to confusion over what I should clean first. We never made it through a single meal for months on end without this kid having a good ole choke.
So why did we think brunch on Mother's Day would be any different? Well, I held out hope that the stars would align and Mother's Day would be special and therefore if he only ate truly soft items or stuck to purely liquid foods we would make it through brunch at the cottage in Wellesley without an issue. We sat at the table amidst a crowded dining area filled with loads and loads of moms and children of all ages. We ordered and chatted and mostly maintained a state of calm with the kids and a handful of little table toys. Owen was to eat some scrambled eggs and I was ready to sip my latte and have some crab cake Benedict. The meal went on like this for maybe 30 or 40 minutes and I remember sighing and thinking: Wow, this is amazing.
And then it happened. Owen's breath caught in his throat, he was choking on barely a finger-nail sized piece of mushy scrambled egg! HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING?!?!? I tried not to panic. This was routine and like a well-practiced, first-responder I hoisted him out of his chair, tipped his head toward the floor and administered a solid thud thud to his back. The egg flopped out and placing him back in his seat, it seemed like the crisis was averted. Taking the napkin to the egg bit on the floor, I sat back up in my chair just in time for it. Owen's choke was the 50% in which he lost his breakfast contents. He spued the contents of his baby breakfast which somehow multiplied on the way out all over himself and the plate in front of him. I WAS THAT MOM! How could I have come to a fancy-ish brunch with a sick kid? Except everyone at my table KNEW he wasn't sick, this was standard non-sick behavior. I did the only thing I could think of. I sacrificed every clothe napkin on the table to cover his spillage and then stripped him naked to his diaper. I took his clothes and asked David to throw them in the garbage in the bathroom. As though a Navy Seal on a covert Op, David snuck off to complete his assignment. No use saving that little shirt and pant if our dignity was also gone! The waiter came back to the table and you could see he was pausing. You could almost read his mind saying, "Something happened here." The baby was naked but everyone else was dressed in button-downs or sun-dresses, everyone was nervously laughing and in unison we asked for the check!
We walked out into the sunny parking lot like we had just sprung from jail and raced to the car as though anyone from the restaurant would follow us. Buckling the kids into the car, we turned on the ignition and looked at each other the only way parents do when you are simultaneously thinking: this is nuts, WTF, and I love this family.
Does this happen in your house? The weather gets a touch warmer, the sun shines a bit brighter, and the general consensus becomes....It's Spring! You cannot ever say this too loudly in New England of course, because surely if Mother Nature sees the rejoicing, she will inevitably throw one last April snow storm your way. But, this is not about the slow slide into Spring. In our house, we have a problem. A serious one. Well not so serious, but hilariously annoying. Henry and Owen have plum forgotten how to deal with short sleeves. After over 150 days of cold temperatures and a commitment to cozy long sleeves, jackets, sweaters, gloves, hats, long john's, and heavy socks, this weekend I pulled out a short sleeved shirt and their world melted. Really though! It all started like a normal morning. We cuddled in bed as a family and laughed and talked about our day. We ate some breakfast slowly and I drank a cup of coffee. Then we headed upstairs to shift into our attire for the day. They slipped on their pants, one leg at a time and chatted about their interests and ideas. No issue when it came to the socks either. Then it was time for the shirt. This item had drastically changed in their 24 hour cycle. With predictions in the mid-60s, it was time to try a short sleeve. Naively, I thought nothing of this moment. It was just part of the normalcy of my own Spring transition. A time of year, that is exciting and much anticipated.
But, for the boys is was HARD and devastating! What the heck are short-sleeves? Why are my arms suddenly exposed? What do I do in the breeze? They fussed quite a bit as I tried to wrestle them into one. THEN once on, they were not impressed. Bottom lips all the way out, it was clear they were not happy with this new development. Each tried harder than the other to pull the little sleeves down their arms. Unfortunately, this only made the shoulder become exposed as it popped out the neck opening! Then came the arm slapping as though that would generate some sort of warmth or coverage. Finally they pulled their arms inside and down their shirts to stick alongside their torsos. And there we were, my armless boys unwilling to give Spring a try and I a tired and sweaty parent not sure how to get them outside to run and enjoy the shift in weather. They won the battle. Donning long sleeve shirts and demanding jackets and gloves too, we headed out. Slowly they shed the gloves, then the jackets. They did not budge on the shirts though. By Sunday, we got Henry into the short sleeves as long as they were batman. Now we wait the little one out. The temperatures will eventually convince them, no?
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.