Wednesday, October 10, 2018

On Turning Two and Missing Birthdays

Well, this little man turned two on the very day that I ended up having to take to my bed with a post-birth uterine infection.  I held it together long enough to see him blow out his candles and then disappeared into my room for almost a week thus missing all other festivities.  Admittedly, all other festivities only included eating said cake and opening his presents but still, major mom guilt was experienced.  You know, after the antibiotics kicked in.

I did manage to deliver him a brother that he won't have to share a birthday with, so at least there's that.  Also no one gave him the present that I had bought and hidden in the closet so I guess that's one child's Christmas gift taken care of :)

It's always surprising how gigantic your toddler seems when you bring home a new baby and this time was no exception.  Of course my toddlers tend to be legitimately oversized, but still, he seems much larger than he was before I left for the hospital.  I love looking at these pictures of my giant, no-longer baby and the smile on his face when he saw the cake.  Chris says it was the whole "baking a cake when not even a week out from delivering a baby" that precipitated my illness, and while he may be right, I'm going to go ahead and believe that it was the homemade nature of the thing that brought that special sparkle to his eyes and that he most certainly would not have shown the same level of excitement over blowing out two candles had they been stuck in pretty much any other store bought confection. 

Hopefully next year I will manage not to be desperately ill on his big day and won't miss out on all the fun again.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

It's A(nother) Boy!

Timothy Scott joined us last Friday after a very short labor and a wonderful birth experience that really highlighted the difference between military hospitals and private birthing centers.  He is the tiniest of all our babies at just seven pounds and appears to have black hair, which is obviously the answer to all my prayers for anything but a red head.  I mean, I love my red heads but you can only have so many of them under five before you need a break.

We are all doing great, meals have magically been showing up at my door despite the fact that we know hardly anyone in our new town, and our biggest current problem is dealing with the screaming toddler who wants him or no one to be holding the baby at any given time. 

It's hard enough to be turning two and getting a new baby brother in one week without the added burden of flaming red hair.  Poor little dear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

On Apple Picking and Matching Outfits

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This year I decided to take a different tack with our nature studies.  In the past we followed the Ambleside Online schedule and attempted to do a different topic each term, but I was never really on top of it so by the time we finished each term we hadn't really studied that topic at all and it was time to move on to the next thing.  Well, no more. 

This year I decided that we were going to study trees.  All year long.  This way the kids are bound to learn something new, maybe even something I intentionally taught them and not just what they read in the random assortment of on-topic books I brought home from the library for their browsing pleasure.  I made a whole week by week plan and everything combing resources from (mostly) the Handbook of Nature Study, The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups, and Arabella Buckley's Trees and Shrubs, and John Muir Laws free nature journaling curriculum. I organized our studies based on the seasons and what would be most interesting to study at any given time so naturally September meant apple trees. 

Fridays are for nature study walks here so last Friday we went to an apple orchard to pick apples and make observations.  We successfully sketched our observations, with some taking more pains than others, and some running away crying because there were too many flies buzzing around the fallen apples.  I'm really honing my skills on five minute water color tree paintings, since that's about all the kids will give me.  I should be a complete expert by the end of the year :)

In that five minutes the children also loaded up on twenty pounds of not quite ripe Honeycrisps while I was otherwise occupied which I'm hoping will ripen on the counter?  Or should I just turn the tart things into apple crumbles and call it a day?

Also, is it not the cutest that David picks out matching outfits for him and his mini-me? 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

On Thirty Six and Ten

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We had our first yearly birthday cluster this week with Chris and David's back to back birthdays.  Chris is a bit of a birthday scrooge, always saying that he doesn't want a fuss, or a cake, or much celebrating at all, but as usual we ignored his wishes and made him his annual birthday banana pudding.  He got lots of gift cards from all of our family which he used to buy some much needed civilian clothes for this year-of-not-being-able-to-wear-his-uniform and a new wedding ring to replace the one he lost.  Again.

The gift he declared to be the best one ever in the history of birthday gifts though was his new bug-a-salt gun.  I'm pretty certain he also loved the wool socks I picked out, but they couldn't really compete with a salt shooting gun that allows you to stalk and take out every pesky fly in sight.  He'll appreciate them more come winter I'm sure.

Now, to my knowledge David has never asked anyone to ignore or not make a fuss over his birthday and he basked in all of his birthday celebrations.  I've been finding that older children are fun to shop for because they start wanting tools instead of just more toys and who doesn't feel good about their children taking up new science-y hobbies?  He desperately wanted both a rock tumbler and a chemistry kit and his aunts and grandparents did not disappoint. 

Ever since I first let him step into a Maine rock shop on our vacation he's been begging to not only collect and polish all the rocks but also to open his own rock shop--if I would only buy him a shed to use for his premises which he would keep in the backyard.  At first I thought this idea was ridiculous and told him that obviously if he wanted his own shed he would need to acquire all of his merchandise and then sell enough to purchase his own, but then I remembered that in Little Men, Jo had given her boys exactly that--a shed on their property that housed all of their collections and animals.  I realized that obviously what my little men need is a shed in the backyard to hold every random bit of nature/stray animals that they bring home so that I don't have to store them inside of my house.

I mean to foster their independent and creative spirits.

And if they want to charge admission for their curiosity shop all the better.  Clearly I'm going to need to get Chris on board with this plan at our next house.  I think it would significantly improve our lives.

In addition to opening presents and having his first experience with tricky relighting candles, as seen in the above candle blowing out montage, we saved his biggest surprise for last.  After dinner, Chris took him out to have his first experience with a real live horseback riding session.  He's been dropping many not-so-subtle hints over the past year that he would like horseback riding lessons which we haven't done because, expensive, so he was completely surprised when he and Chris pulled up to the stable.  Of course Chris took zero pictures of them on their trail ride, but David was absolutely glowing when he came home.  And it takes a lot to make David glow :)

With Chris and David sharing back to back birthdays, we don't really need reminders of how old we are getting, but seriously--how do we already have a ten year old child?  I can still vividly remember that first labor day weekend when I so fittingly went into labor myself and it just doesn't seem possible that it's been ten years--or that that same little boy, who has requested that I never call him Davy again, but always David which is more befitting his new mature status, could be closer to leaving the nest than entering it.  Ah, time goes so quickly--and children's birthdays can be so bittersweet.

At least we have the bug-a-salt gun to keep up our spirits. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

On Prince Edward Island and the Importance of Vacationing

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This summer we planned our first real family vacation.  Living so far from all of our family means that in general our trips revolve around visiting them, so since we've had children we've never actually taken a long trip just for the fun of it.  It felt awfully extravagant but I'm so glad we did it. 

We began the trip by camping in Maine on the way up to the island to break up the car ride.  I know what you are thinking--"Cristina, why did you sleep in a tent when you are so very, very pregnant?  How did you even get back up once you got in there?"  To which I can only reply that it wasn't that bad and really I can do anything for just one night--even rustic tent camping with no running water to be seen.  And the kids have been begging to go camping all summer and we haven't done it so I felt a bit guilty.  It was a gorgeous little spot on a tiny homestead with animals and a blueberry patch and homemade jam for sale so that helped.   We want to go back to Maine and do some more exploring soon, but this trip was all about getting up to Prince Edward Island and fulfilling the dreams of my youth so we couldn't linger. 

Also, I wanted a hot shower.

Ever since the first time I read Anne of Green Gables I've wanted to go to PEI and see the places that inspired it for myself.  I was a little nervous because there is always the risk that the place you're imagining won't quite live up to your expectations but in this case my worries were unfounded.  PEI is beautiful.  It's everything L.M. Montgomery described and more.  As she put it in her journals, it's a "colorful little land of ruby and emerald and sapphire." 

I found a house to rent that was well away from all of the touristy nonsense that has sprung up around the Anne of Green Gables spots.  Think Myrtle Beach, but worse because it's all so out of place when you are searching for picturesque beauty and peaceful vistas not mini golf and bumper boats and an "Avonlea" themed village full of chain restaurants.  I felt a little guilty touristing there at all after reading a biography of L.M. Montgomery's life and how her family ending up tearing down her old homestead to stop the tourists from overrunning the place.  Admittedly that particular family member wasn't the most pleasant of men, but still, I can understand the sentiment.  We went to the Green Gables Heritage site and toured the home that inspired the book, walked down Lover's Lane, took pictures with Anne, and drank raspberry cordial.  It was really crowded there which is not my favorite but it was worth it.  My favorite part was going around to the remains of her childhood home as which was very quiet and much more my speed.  There was an adorable bookstore there where I bought a collection of her short stories that I had never seen before, passed on buying the boxed set of Anne books that I really wanted but probably didn't need, and got into a discussion of the horrors of the Anne with an E series with the girls behind the counter.  All in all, a lovely morning. 

That was the extent of the L.M. Montgomery sightseeing since we only had three full days on the island and for some reason the boys didn't want to only visit sights Anne sights.  To keep everyone happy we did general sightseeing in the mornings and then spent our afternoons at the beaches.  Our first day there was a Sunday so we drove over to Charlottetown and went to mass at the beautiful basilica there, had lunch on the water and ate ice cream. The second day we did our Anne sightseeing on the north of the island and the third day we went all the way up to the eastern tip of the island and visited a railway museum at what was once the end of the line before they pulled out all the train tracks on the island.  I would have dearly loved to have been able to ride a train all over the island, but no one seems to care about the romance of a thing when cold hard economic facts are involved.  Oh well. 

We spent the rest of the time at the beaches and there are so many different types of beaches on the island!  The children and I all agreed that the red clay beach on the south of the island was our favorite.  The kids spent the whole time there gathering up hermit crabs and putting them together in a "house" they dug out and decorated with things a hermit crab might enjoy.  Chris on the other hand, preferred the white sand beach on the east side of the island that had the biggest waves and, I believe not coincidentally, was the most like his beloved North Carolina beaches.  The sand there allegedly sings, but it was so loud and crowded that I never heard it though the kids swear that they could. 

It was kind of glorious to get away and putz around little seaside towns, not worrying about the chores and unfinished projects awaiting us at home.  I had grabbed a book to take with me on the trip and it ended up being the perfect vacation read--but then I firmly believe that books find you right when you need them.  I had found this one in the free bin outside of a local thrift shop and it it's all about an Episcopal priest who is in desperate need of a vacation--At Home in Mitford.  One part in particular was speaking right to me: 
"Bodily fatigue, which nearly always accompanies this hateful malady, can wear down the spirit.  And how can the Holy Spirit work with a vessel that's leaking as fast as he can fill it?"
It's been a difficult year and I didn't realize how worn out I was until Chris got up to Vermont and pretty much took over everything.  Turns out I was in desperate need of a vacation too, I just hadn't realized it until I was on one.  We probably shouldn't wait another ten years before we take a real family trip again :) 

PS If you want a good biography of L.M. Montgomery, may I suggest this one?  It's long but I couldn't put it down. 
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