Monthly Archives: December 2013

Buckets

Walking home from school today we passed a house under renovation. Miles excitedly proclaimed, “Look, Charlie, a Honey Bucket!” (Something I never thought I’d need to google, in this case to confirm that it’s not a compound word.) Charlie replied, “Speaking of Honey Buckets, I need to get home!” “Why?” “I need to go potty.” Then Miles tells us in all seriousness, “Honey Buckets aren’t for going potty, they’re for pouring honey on top of the houses that are being built.”

Charlie and I busted up laughing, hurting Miles’ feelings. He laughed with us a bit at first, but he remains steadfast in his opinion. I imagine he won’t be swayed until he sets foot in one and becomes sorely disappointed, joining the rest of us in wondering about that name. And have they no respect for Winnie the Pooh?

Now, off to cook some dinner that does not include honey.

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Giggle therapy

This morning I enjoyed time with a friend and her absolutely scrumptious ten-month-old girl. That’s a dangerous age. If “we” weren’t “fixed”, we just might’ve made an impulse baby tonight. I received those precious uninhibited smiles, chubby hands repeatedly hit my hat off my head, and about every five minutes she let me hold her for two seconds.

I find it sadly ironic that we can summon our creative, silly side best when we’re refreshed, yet parenting young children almost guarantees you’re rarely not exhausted. Parents desperately need humor after a night of hourly wake-up calls. We are far more likely to resemble Frankenstein than Barney. Well, maybe that’s not sad after all. At least not for us.

Anyways, this post is dedicated to those of you who are bone tired and in need of some inspiration for connecting with your baby. A few giggles just might help you remember how fun and cute they are (or will be soon!) even if they’re not allowing you an ounce of shut-eye.

Peek-a-boo, with yourself or toys, probably works so well since babies don’t have object permanence in the early months. (When penguin is gone, she’s gone. Oh no. But, look! She magically appeared again!) You can shake it up by not being predictable with your actions. Babies love suspense! Make them anticipate with your pauses, eye contact and body movements. Next, pair silly noises and you’ve hit baby giggle jackpot. By the time both boys reached toddlerhood, we probably accumulated fifty versions of peek-a-boo games.

While you watch the clips below, you may notice that my husband and I often wait for the (incredibly adorable) baby to make eye contact. We’re checking in for interest and fatigue level, but also allowing him to control the routine a bit. If we wait until he looks, we’re ensuring he’s interested. He can give himself breaks, too. Or completely call it off.

These links all take you to videos on vimeo. (I wish they could be embedded, but I’d have to pay extra for that, which isn’t happening at the moment.) The videos presented show forms of peek-a-boo and building suspense with eye contact. Since I’m done having babies, if you have one that needs a laugh or your back is tired, I have open arms! This ranks up there with spotting orcas for me.

Hiding, ball-spitting hand

Tummy time peek-a-boo

The crazy disappearing cow

Squeaky thighs

Suspenseful leg eating

A most wonderful, frigid adrenaline rush

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This morning, while sipping my morning coffee, I jumped over to the Orca Network facebook page to see if anyone posted orca sightings. If that sentence doesn’t tell you enough, yes, I may have a slight obsession with the ability to see orcas from shore. Despite zero opportunity to see them in landlocked Colorado, I pursued whales in all other possible ways. I purchased videos that I watched after school. I listened to music with whale calls in the background. I wrote history, physics, and english papers on marine mammals in junior high and high school. I worked in research on them in very creative ways and my teachers succumbed. For years I thought I would be a marine biologist.

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Now, I am making up for decades of lost sightings. Fall’s chum runs often lure the endangered Southern Resident orcas into Puget Sound. Transient orcas are also frequently spotted this time of year, though they also munch on seals and sea lions.

When I read that they indeed had been spotted relatively close-by, I told Harry and he gave me the green light to chase ’em down. He’d stay with the boys (it was too cold for them given how long I’d want to be outside). It’s official. I need an “Orcas have been sighted!” type of flag on my car, some orca bumper stickers, and maybe even an orca ugly Christmas sweater. I am nutty about these creatures.

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At my first stop a woman with binoculars was already staking out the situation. I recognized her from the aforementioned page, because she often posts beautiful photos and videos, so I introduced myself. (See, I wasn’t kidding about this passion. I may not recognize pop stars or actors, but I know the orca lovers!) We watched together as the whales porpoised and swam swiftly south. I met up with her at two other watch spots, too. I told many hearty beachwalkers about them, who then also got to watch. So fun!

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Three times now, maybe four, I’ve jumped in my car to try to spot whales after seeing someone post that they were nearby. If I didn’t have obligations, like, oh, taking care of my children, I could see them much more frequently this time of year. I watched them a few weeks ago, only through binoculars and quite distant at that, and my family and I enjoyed them once last fall. All thanks to the Orca Network.

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Every time, I get an adrenaline rush on the drive. I wonder if I’ve chosen a good beach. I wonder if I’ve predicted their timing right. I wonder if they’ve turned. I wonder if my binoculars will be effective enough or if I’ll be lucky enough to see them close to shore. I quickly park my car, dash to the viewpoint, and begin scanning. I look for dorsal fins and spray. Sometimes a breech is a first notification- which is completely breathtaking.

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My wish list now includes better binoculars and a better zoom lens. These pictures were zoomed in as far as possible, and often cropped. Quality suffers, but I wanted to share them here anyway. All of these pictures were taken from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. My earlier stops were in Richmond Beach and I didn’t take pictures. I was still in shock that I was actually seeing them again, so I just soaked it in. My fingers and toes are still numb, but my heart is beating happily after a few wonderful hours on the shore.
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Wrong turns

One of my baby showers for Charlie included a time for sharing stories and advice. A very soulful, quiet woman, whose daughter was well into high school, looked me steady in the eye and said, “Just savor the beautiful moments. Form pictures in your mind to make sure you soak up how precious it is.” She was a little tearful, so I sensed the weight behind her words. Years of gorgeous memories, possibly some regret, and the obvious keen awareness of how swiftly years pass.

When Charlie was a newborn, particularly while he was nursing, I heeded her advice and often felt completely present. I smelled his downy hair, marveled at his milky puckering lips, gazed into his huge blue eyes, delighted in his latest coo or emerging smiles. I can still close my eyes and transport myself to that time. It runs deep, to my soul.

As the years passed, distractions grew. Miles was born, for starters. It was rare that I completely focused on just him or Charlie. I certainly tried, but when you’re nursing a baby and your three-year-old is peeing on the floor, it can be a wee bit challenging. When Harry was at work I had no help yet constant demands. The times I actually consciously savored special moments were less frequent. They were also typically noisier, busier bits of beauty. Of course, these memories are just as precious to me, but they are definitely less romantic.

Now, as the boys get older, it is changing form again. These moments often have to be intentionally sought. Reading together. Playing a board game. Coloring side by side. Planting seeds. Pretending to be kitty-cats. Building with Legos. It is my undivided attention and presence, when no longer necessary, that typically invites the sacred.

A few weekends ago, Harry was sick so the boys and I headed out without him to our church retreat, which required a ferry ride and a short drive. I had chosen a ferry time that would land us prior to the retreat’s first service at ten and was trying to exit the house with plenty of wiggle room. Weekend ferries can fill up quickly. Harry slept in, so I fed the boys, got Miles dressed, and gathered our gear as quickly as I could. I was not calm. Nor peaceful. I was stressed and rude, barking out orders. After Harry woke up, rather than checking in on him to see how he was feeling, I yelled, “Cut apples! Make coffee!” before running to get in a quick shower. Such a lovely way to set the tone for a retreat, don’t you think?

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Despite arriving at the terminal later than I’d hoped, the attendant confirmed we’d make the desired departure. I cheered in front of her, “Yay, boys! We made it!” We parked in our loading line, ready to board. Remembering from, oh a decade or so ago, that the camp was just a few turns off the ferry, I pulled out my phone to confirm the street names so I wouldn’t need to check later. But, wouldn’t you know, the camp didn’t show up where I had remembered it. A few stunned seconds later, I realized we were at the wrong ferry. The Seattle area has at least four ferries up and down the Sound that end at different islands and the Kitsap Peninsula. We were parked in line for a boat that would drop us off at a wrong city, on a peninsula instead of an island.

I started to cry. It had already been a long three weeks of a cold traveling from one person to the next in our family. I was also crampy. This was my tipping point. We were stuck in our line, surrounded by parked cars. I texted Harry and a friend to confirm I was in the incorrect spot and I wasn’t going crazy, wrong about being wrong. Then we waited. The ferry boarded and we exited the line.

I returned to the same ferry attendant, transformed from cheers to tears, requesting a refund. She kindly assured me we’d make it to our destination, maybe even by ten. Full speed ahead, I drove to the next ferry terminal north of us. Behold! We made it! But, of course, I also missed the turn to the camp and couldn’t find a parking spot. We were late, but not by much, and thankfully I had regained enough perspective at this point to just be glad we were arriving prior to lunch.

After some singing time, kids were excused to their designated activities. True to form, Miles wasn’t comfortable with me leaving him. I sat and played with him a little while, but he wasn’t finding anything that interested him and he was clingy and anxious. Most of the kids were significantly younger than him and the environment wasn’t adequately distracting him. Other kids were on edge, too, but their parents had already left. I knew if I left a screaming Miles, he would be the first domino to fall. Since this wasn’t a situation in which I felt it was crucial for him to get comfortable, I said, “You can stay with me if you’re quiet.” He agreed. The retreat had a couple hours for adults to quietly meditate and pray at stations, including a labyrinth, candle lighting, walking outside, and reading quotes. I wasn’t convinced he’d keep his end of the deal, but I was, somewhat begrugingly, willing to try.

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We walked into the chapel, I found a sunny spot on the floor and Miles plopped into my lap. Letting myself slowly surrender to the change of plans, I started to take it all in. I was surrounded by gorgeous music, surrounded by a sea of people I treasure, surrounded by light. While surrounding my boy. My head on his head, my legs around his legs. Tears streaming down my face, I knew this was one of those sacred times for me. And that Voice, the Quiet Whisper, reminded me to savor. It is fleeting.

We sat together, we even laid down for a bit, and Miles remained quiet. He snuggled with me in my lap, he laid on my belly. Eventually I stood to walk the labyrinth. Meant to provoke thoughts about life’s path, the unexpected twists and turns, my trip through the labyrinth couldn’t have been more fitting. Miles tugged at me, pulling me out of the lines I wanted to stay in. He forced me ways I didn’t want to go. But we held hands, journeyed together, and exited via a much less traveled path.

I desperately needed these reminders to refocus. To seek more times to savor. To not let my determination to get to a destination keep me from missing the view. The beauty of the wrong turn. The comedy of errors. The unexpected.

May I be present. May I be attentive and open enough to not to miss the sacred.

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