Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer Recap: The Coast

When making New Year Resolutions for 2013, I has a long list, just like most people.  But honestly, there was really only one thing on that list I wanted to do.

Get my family to the ocean.

I grew up by the ocean or within a (long) day's drive of the ocean my entire life. Being landlocked in Iowa is hard for this ocean girl, as much as I love this corn growing, prairie covered state. Monkey had no recollection of the ocean, having only been 18 months the last time he was there. Bug's memories were not much better.

It took a substantial amount of planning and preparation, but we were able to get nearly my entire family out to the Oregon Coast this summer. My parents, my grandmother, and nearly all my siblings. It made for a very crowded beach house, but this is how vacations should be.

The Oregon Coast is near and dear to my heart.  It might not be a tropical get away. It might be gloomy and windy and misty and rainy a good proportion of the time (which it was).  But this is where I vacationed frequently as a child.

The entire trip out to Oregon, I kept up a rambling list of all the things that I had done on the coast when I was little, and how we were going to do the same things.  Body board in the frigid water! Find banana slugs!  Make a fire on the beach! Go to tide pools! Pick blackberries!  It was going to be the most magical, childhood defining week ever!

And do you know what?  It really was.  I wish I could share ever moment, all the hundreds of pictures that represent only a small portion of the memories we took away. 

My children's faces when they saw the ocean for (almost) the first time.  Their eagerness to feel the water.

Early morning outings to the tide pools to listen to the mussels click as the tide goes out and to gently poke at anemones.

Watching the sun set beyond the end of the earth and explaining the vastness of the ocean.  Falling asleep with our windows open, letting the sound of the waves lull us to sleep.

Huddling around a beach fire, singing and telling jokes and eating slightly sandy hotdogs and marshmallows.

Flying kites in the stiff breeze off the Pacific.  Running up and down the beaches in the soft, fine sand that we later find in every crease and fold of our bodies and clothes.

Exploring lighthouses and coves and pebble covered beaches. Seeing sea lions and pelicans and crabs.

In the end, we did everything we planned. There is a type of joy that comes from sharing your happiest childhood memories with your own children, a fierce, ecstatic joy that in almost beyond words.

It may have only been a week, but now I feel that at least a little of the salt water that has always been in my soul now also belongs to my children.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

10 Months

At 10 Months, Duck...

Has decided sleeping through the night isn't really his thing
Cruises around furniture
Is still working on standing
Shows first signs of separation anxiety
Has greatly increased his food repertoire to include yogurt, pasta, and everything on the floor
Has one tooth
Likes trying out his tooth
Gets into everything faster than humanly possible
Starting to say "Mama"
Has given up jabbering in favor of yelling
Loves bath time, being in the baby carrier, gnawing on apples, and the stairs
Dislikes getting his diaper changed, being removed from mischief, or being alone.

And Monkey would like everyone to know that Duck's sweet little baby feet smell like...well...feet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Artistic Reminiscings

When Hubster and I were dating, I remember this particular evening we were leaving a movie late at night, and walking through the parking garage to our car. I excitedly pointed out the pattern of shadows each light was casting over the cement ceiling, mentioning how Art Deco it appeared. At the time, pre-Hubster said that is was things like that that made him love me.

I'm not exactly sure that was true or if he was just trying to get me to marry him. He also said things like this when I dragged him all over down town on public transportation so that I could take abstract architectural photos for my photography class.

Now, even in my 30s, I get very excited and occasionally even emotional over seemingly small, random things.

I'll pull over on the side of the road to take pictures of colorful homes (trying desperately not to look like a creepy stalker while doing so.)  I have rushed home post-call and dragged my children out of bed at dawn to show them ice covered trees.

On a recent trip out west, I was connecting through Chicago's O'Hare Airport. On my quest to find Garrett Popcorn to take home to my boys, I passed through the airport's neon light tunnel, an underground connection between two terminals, the ceiling of which is covered in rainbow hued neon lights. Descending the escalator, I was transported back to middle school, when I had taken my first flight as part of a history trip to Washington, D. C.  We had also connected through O'Hare on that trip and walked through that same tunnel. Actually, we ran through the tunnel, because we were about to miss our connecting flight (and no chaperon wants to be stranded in the Midwest with 15 8th graders.) My deeply artistic 14 year old self loved that neon musical tunnel and I found that my 31 year old self was no different.

Except now I have a smart phone to capture images instead of a cheap 35 mm disposable camera that ended up having a scratch or some other defect that left a large orange streak across every photo.

Moments like this make me grateful that not every part of me has become jaded by the stack of bills on the kitchen counter, grim news on the radio, and unrealistic Pinterest expectations. I can still find moments to appreciate the beauty in our world.

The way the dew sparkles on the leaves during my morning run. The indent of Duck's ear on my arm after I have rocked him to sleep. My airplane rising above the rain storm to reveal an expanse of clouds appearing thick enough to fulfill that childhood wish of running across them.

I used to consider myself such an artist. During high school and parts of college, I took classes in photography, watercolor, pastels, writing, egg dyeing and felting. I carried about enormous art boards with charcoal still life's clipped to them. I wore paint splattered jeans and bohemian embroidered tops. I attended poetry readings and wore my hair in messy braids.

I don't paint anymore.  Not unless covering up stubborn smudges on the stair walls with left over Sherwin-Williams beige paint count. Which it doesn't. My photographs are of baby feet and silly faces instead of abstract angles of buildings.

But give me the chance and I'll gush over the pattern of the clouds in the evening or the roll of the corn covered land. The artist might be buried under loads of laundry and drowned out by pager beeps, but she's still there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer Recap: Berry Picking

It's no secret: Summer is my very favorite season. The long slow days, the muggy afternoons, and the evenings that stretch long past bedtime.  I do everything I can to make summer magical for my children.

But this summer, I started to feel that things were slipping away from me. Hubster's class schedule went full time until July. I spent all June and July frantically studied for my boards. We kept the Monkey and Bug in a day camp and Duck in daycare for longer than we wanted.

Now that the days are shortening and the sidewalks are starting to get their layer of fallen leaves, I'm looking back and realizing that despite the horrific busyness, despite the stress and deadlines, we still managed to have a glorious summer.

So even though the boys are back in school and the weather forecast predicts cool fall days, I'm going to be taking some time to look back and remember all the beautiful wonderful adventures of summer.


One of the best parts of summer is all the food. Farmer's markets start up, there are fruit stands in parking lots, and local farmers open their fields for picking.

There is a large strawberry farm east of us that I have been trying to get to ever since we moved here. Turns out, the strawberry season is a finicky, short season. The conditions have to be just perfect, and even then, it only last for a few weeks. The last two years, we missed it, once because our schedule didn't allow it and once because the weather made for a very limited crop.

This year, however, all the stars and planets and timetables aligned, and we found ourselves on the more pristine of Midwestern June days, picking strawberries.

(Full disclosure here: Bug only agreed to pick berries once he had been promised he didn't actually have to each them.  That boy despises fruit.)

The air was saturated with berry scent, there was a soft background hum of bees, and it was beautiful.

When the farmer gave us a crate and told it that it could hold 10 pounds of strawberries, we chuckled at each other.  10 pounds of strawberries? Who could ever pick 10 pounds of strawberries?  Turns out, we can. In about 30 minutes. We actually had to call off the boys from their berry picking mission, because we reached our self-set limit so quickly.

Our freezer is still filled with strawberries that I mix with lemonade or mash into syrup from Sunday waffles. Every time I pull the berries out, the boys ask if those are the berries they picked.  (Even though Bug still doesn't eat them.)

Sticky, berry stained, and happy. That's how we should remember summer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

7 Years Old

Dear Monkey,

Now you are 7!

7 quite becomes you. You are funnier, and more energetic, and more bubbly, and more you than ever before.

You are such a planner. From the moment you turned 6, you knew how you wanted to celebrate turning 7.

You wanted a Lego cake, Lego presents, and a big friend party.

So that's just what we did.

I made a Lego cake.

We had a Lego themed party at the local gymnastic club.

All your friends came.

It was loud and crazy and fun.  Just like you.

2 hours later, you said you wanted to go home, because you needed peace and quiet.  Anything that makes you, my rambunctious child, want peace and quiet is a win.

A few days later, on your actual birthday, we had a meal of mac and cheese, hot dogs, and cupcakes. Which apparently, is the perfect 7 year old food. Because that's what you said.

I'm sorry, I know I say this every year, that I'm incredibly nostalgic and sense the bittersweetness of you growing up so keenly, but I do.  However, 7 becomes you so much, is so perfect for your tree climbing, dancing in the car, ninja move practicing, Lego structure building self, that I think 7 is the perfect age for you.  And I love you at 7, almost more than ever.