Doing Things

Trio

Sometimes life gets in the way of things you intend to do. In this case, I intended to write blog posts a lot more frequently than has happened lately. Happily, life only got in the way in the best ways, so I let it.

Snuggling with Mama's mama

Some of the things have been social. After my sister’s lovely visit a few weeks ago, my mom came to stay for a few days. My family is so geographically scattered that M (let alone Little Bear) hasn’t even met them all yet, so these two occasions were unusual and precious.

We also recently took a quick road trip to Maine for M’s cousin’s graduation. That was eventful, as everything seemed to be scheduled for Bear’s nap times, but it was so nice to see family. (And to hear bagpipes. Oh, Scotland.)

Graduation party

Pond and a wisp of cloud

Some of the things have been experiential. We have, at the ides of May, finally emerged from the dull weight of endless winter to remember that spring still happens. M in particular has taken to outdoor excursions with a vengeance. He walks with LB every day, and I join them on weekends for trips to the beach or the woods. The Japanese term shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) has become a mantra for us, though we do need an equivalent for time spent with sand and salty air.

Moon over dunes

Ham and mushroom quiche

Finally, some of the things have been actions.

I’ve always been more of a dreamer than a doer. I mean, I want to do all the things, but first I want to read all about the history and procedure of each thing, figure out the best tools for doing the thing, and get inspiration on different approaches. It’s unfortunately rare for me to progress to the actual doing of said thing, but it has become easier to follow through the last few years as I’ve settled into a few certain areas of interest.

Baby lettuces

One of those is cooking and baking. One is writing, both the intellectual creation of works and the physical act involving paper and ink and pen or brush. One is gardening, or maybe just attempting to keep plants alive. And one is needlework.

Specifically, I like to sew (including embroidery, if we’re getting specific). I love needles, thread, and fabric. I do not love my sewing machine. I bought one an embarrassingly long time ago and remained terrified of and baffled by it until my mom’s visit brought a chance to move past the fear stage. So I hauled out the machine, set it up per the manual (this was more complicated than it should have been; do manual-writers not sit in front of the machines about which they are writing?), and let my mom guide me.

This episode was an important turnabout in our educational relationship. When my mother has a tech problem, she calls me. Trying to get my brain to step back to the point of pure computer basics is difficult and often frustrating. But I had to sympathize when she was trying to teach me how to sew with a machine. I finally had to remind her: “Mom, you know how I sometimes have to explain the difference between a file and folder? Take this back to a similar level.” We got there in the end, and I got a new handmade napkin out of the process.

Trying my hand at machine sewing

After the flush of that first triumph, I set aside the other three napkins to finish on my own. Several weeks later, I finally picked them up again, and it didn’t start all that well. I recognized one issue, called my mom regarding another, and had a minor frustration fit when it still stuttered. In my younger years, I would’ve flown into a full temper at this point, blamed my sewing machine, and left it alone to rot. But I am older now and (somewhat) wiser and recognize that tantrum-ing is not going to accomplish my goal. Also, it will feel so good when I work over the hurdles and achieve what I want through effort.

Though age 32 is kinda late to be learning these lessons, it’s better late than never. And when I eventually finished those napkins? It really did feel great, and I still grin when I see them on the kitchen table.

This one's for you, Mom

The First Year

Shades

Our Little Bear recently turned one.

Funny on the feet

His birthday was on a Wednesday, so the lucky little man had a family party the weekend before, a dinner out on the day proper, and a party with (our) friends the weekend after. The first party was quiet, just the three of us and M’s immediate family. Bear received a bunch of new toys, chowed down on dinner and a whole nectarine, and enjoyed his first run through a sprinkler. It was sweet and lovely and Bear had a great time.

Sushi

The midweek dinner was, honestly, more for M and me. We were craving Japanese food, and we wanted to celebrate our first year as parents. For once, I actually got sushi instead of noodles, and M donated one of his tuna maki to the cause of my continued training in raw fish tolerance. I had a salmon skin roll and tamago nigiri, both of which were fantastic. The restaurant had a wish tree set up for Tanabata, so I wrote a wish in hopes of continued happy, healthy family life. The baby slept through the entire dinner.

Balance

The second party was more rambunctious. One is still pretty young for a party with other children, so we didn’t bother. Instead, we invited some of our close friends over to eat good food and play video games. Watching LB scramble around was part of the entertainment, and he always had willing hands to stroll him up and down the apartment. (All that hunching gets really exhausting when you’re tall!) M and I got to breathe and sit and interact with other (non-work colleague) adults. I made the first of many birthday cakes (from this recipe). Only Bear’s developing pinkeye put a slight damper on the day. But even I managed to avoid catching it, so all in all, the birthday was a success.

Checkup

It’s true, of course, what they say about children. They grow so fast! The time just flies! But it hasn’t entirely. A steady progression marches along the center of the rushing current. His development seems accelerated lately, but it still shows the linear advancement of time. A month ago, he was a crawling fiend. Last week, he cruised the furniture (a new phrase learned from the pediatrician) adeptly. Maybe next week, he’ll let go and walk alone. Maybe he’ll refer to us by name. He’s very close to saying “Batman”. And that would be fine, too! Sometimes you have to let his priorities take precedence. We certainly won’t discourage the proper growth of his geek cred.

Day 001

We’ve been doing a lot of marveling lately, looking at old photographs. Despite knowing that it’s happening, you don’t easily notice, day-to-day, how much babies change. I’m sure there are individuals who simply become increasingly larger versions of the same newborn. But Little Bear has changed so much! He was so round and had much darker hair (and less of it). Now he’s tall and skinny and has a surprising amount of pale gold hair that I always brush upward for maximum fluff. He looks completely different and exactly the same.

It’s easy to remember that Little Bear has completed his first year of life. I have to remind myself that the flip side of that is the first year of parenting for M and me. That achievement needs noting, too.

Issues of partnership timing and marital status aside, I always knew that I’d rather have kids later than my mid-twenties. I just figured I’d be better prepared by then. I think that panned out nicely. Of course, I certainly haven’t had all the answers (impossible without having the experience). But I know I’ve gone about it with a strong foundation, a touch of maturity that would have been missing earlier.

Day 189

That being said, I’m still surprised by how well we’ve dealt with some aspects of parenting. I have changed some horrifying diapers, been thrown up on, held the baby down for needle sticks and up for chest x-rays, and put him in a headlock to administer eye drops. Truly, I was surprised by my ability to handle the more disgusting, bodily function-related aspects of raising a child. If you’d asked me pre-LB, I would’ve sworn that I would run out of the room when faced with such things. But hey, guess what? It turns out that I have an ironclad gag reflex.

I am also amazed at how well we’ve coped when none of us are feeling well. It is incredibly difficult to parent a sick child while sick yourself. Sometimes it feels impossible, until you realize that it has to be possible. The past weekend, Bear has had an MMR-given fever, so he’s been home from daycare, perfectly coinciding with my bout of food poisoning. All I want to do is curl up in bed with absolutely no distractions or demands whatsoever, but that is not an option. And you know, I am just dealing with it. I think I might have been much more selfish about that a few years ago.

Day 137

One thing that has helped immensely is the partnership I share with M. He has been a staunch support from the beginning, and we make a great team. I know he felt a little helpless in the newborn days, when so much of the baby’s interaction was with me out of necessity. But I think it is because of that early distinction that he and Little Bear share a special bond now. We’re parenting equals, but, without discussing it particularly, we’ve evolved certain separate roles in our son’s life. Mama is for comfort, and Daddy soothes big hurts. Mama is there for the early morning, Daddy when we get home from our days. We didn’t have to arrange for things to balance. I know not every parent gets this equilibrium, so I am grateful for it every single day. Especially these days, when LB is increasingly mischievous and M finally took the next step of instituting “tiny time-outs” for major infractions. I am still a bit too much of a sucker for Bear’s big blue eyes.

Day 363

So we made it through three hundred sixty-five days and the next year is well underway. We are so excited for what it’s going to bring. If he changed this much in one year, imagine how the next will be!

Travels and Firsts

Crossing the Hudson 20140627

Blogging has taken a backseat during this busy month. July started off with a flurry of travel.

My uncle, a distinguished professor of botany, retired after a long career, and we traveled to upstate New York to wish him well. This was Little Bear’s first big road trip. From the North Shore, it’s a seven-hour drive at best. With a baby in tow, I expected to add at least an hour. That expectation ended up being quite close to the reality, but for the trip out, at least, we were in no rush. Western Massachusetts and upstate New York are both beautiful areas, so we just enjoyed ourselves.

LB naps en route to New York

The visit itself was quite a whirlwind. We arrived too late on Friday evening to do more than check into the hotel. LB’s relief at being out of the carseat was palpable. He spent a good twenty minutes just tumbling around on the bed, burning off energy. The retirement party was midday Saturday. It was wonderful to see my family. M’s is mostly close to our home in Massachusetts, so we see them frequently. Mine, however, is scattered, and Bear had only met three of my family members to date. In one fell swoop, he was introduced to my uncle, aunt, two cousins, and their families. M and I met new additions, too. Since the last time we were all together, five babies have arrived. For a little guy with no first cousins, LB suddenly encountered a bunch of related children. It was fun to see them all try to figure each other out.

After the party, and a brief stop at my uncle’s former classroom and laboratory, we went our separate ways, which was sad. My cousins are several years older than me, which was a bit of an obstacle when I was a kid. Now that we’re all grown, we’re discovering new connections through parenting and life, and I wish we had more time together. Now that we know Little Bear can handle the trip, we’re going to have to drive over more often.

Shotgun 20140627

Two good college friends of mine also live in the area, as one of them coincidentally joined my uncle’s department awhile ago. We spent the evening with them, and it was so nice. I’ve made great friends and have wonderful colleagues in New England. But sometimes, I really miss my friends and family from the Midwest. There is no good way to reunite with them all, as very few of us remained in the same place. All I can do is occasionally visit and make a better effort to stay in touch. Thank goodness for video chatting.

We made our way home on Sunday in time to do a quick load of laundry, repack our bags, and get some sleep. We had a normal work/daycare day on Monday. On Tuesday, we drove to Logan and whisked Little Bear off on his first airplane flight. We held our breath, but it was as close to a flawless trip as we’ve ever had. Security that early was empty, TSA and airline staffers were helpful and friendly, and Bear just took it all in with wide blue eyes. He was completely unfazed by the flight itself, napping for the first half and climbing all over his seat for the second.

Little Bear naps 20140701

One of my earliest memories (the first being knocking out my front teeth on a playground slide at the age of 2) was a flight to visit my grandparents. What I mostly remember is crying outside the gate because my dad wasn’t coming with us, not the actual flight itself, but watching LB reminded me of my much-younger self. I am so glad that he had a good time with it all. And I am very glad the women in the row behind us were charmed by his reaching through to them, rather than annoyed.

Hide and seek 20140707

To avoid having to change planes during our first trip with a baby, we opted to fly direct to Minneapolis, then drive south. It made for a long trip, but it was an easy drive through beautiful country. Sometimes I forget how big the sky is in the Midwest.

Big sky 20140701

Peeking 20140705

What can I say about the week at my mom’s house? It was relaxing, rejuvenating, and filled with just enough activities. We went to the zoo, went out to eat a few times, watched fireworks, and visited with old friends. One afternoon, we sat down with family photos and my Ancestry app, and my mom filled in some gaps.

Family history 20140704

I’ve been working steadily, if less frequently than I’d like, on genealogy the last few years. Most of my facts are in order, but my mom’s details fleshed out the stories. I only wish we’d had more time, and that I hadn’t now truly hit a wall. I need to find a way to take the next steps to confirm shaky details and forge a more solid connection to the older names. My dad’s family arrived only about a hundred years ago, but my mom’s earliest North American ancestor landed in the early 1600s. That far back, “facts” take on a hazier quality, and it can be frustrating for a librarian like me.

Anyway. That’s another post entirely.

Storms at sunset 20140706

One major relief of the trip was the beautiful weather. Having lived in Iowa most of my life, I was apprehensive about that horrible summer visitor, the tornado. We missed all the terrible weather but some very strong rain. Shortly before we left, big storms hit to the southeast, providing us dramatic sunset skies. M got a chance to test his camera with lightning, and I got a reminder of how beautiful the Midwest (and nature) can be.

Mom and me 20140707

Sadly, the visit came to an end, and we headed back north to fly east. We took a last couple of selfies and hit the road. The trip back was uneventful, Little Bear had a ball on the plane again, and we made good time.

No NIMBY here 20140707

Nearly home 20140707

And then we headed out of Boston under a tornado warning. Figures. But hey, the rest of the trip was a breeze!

Après Iowa les tornades 20140707

Little Bear reaches for the camera

PAX East with a Baby, and Other Recent Events

I confess to being lax in the blogging department lately. After a solid month or so of health, Little Bear and I both succumbed to a bad cold and conjunctivitis. We’re on the mend, though my sinuses seem to be moving smoothly from cold congestion to allergies. My left ear has been deaf for almost three days now, and it is making me crazy. I’m trying decongestants for now, but the experience has convinced me to finally buy a neti pot. I look forward to an awkward, choking learning period with that.

So while I haven’t been blogging, what have I been up to besides feeling ragged? Well, we went to PAX East again. And we dared to take the baby. To our relief, he had a great time!

Little Bear reaches for the camera

PAX East, if you are unaware, is a game convention held yearly in Boston. I’m by no means as experienced in that area as M is, but I have sufficient geek cred to enjoy myself. This year seemed a little lackluster compared to last year’s exciting announcements and many gorgeous games, but we still had a good time. Given that we don’t live in the city anymore, and we had a baby in tow, we drove for the first time. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. And it was very nice to see beautiful Boston again.

South Boston at dusk

PAX East attracts tens of thousands of people each year, and I’m always reminded of this when walking through the cavernous convention hall.

The now-empty line area

So many Starcraft players

Expo Hall from above

Despite the attendance, the size of the place means you can almost always find a little quiet corner if you need a breather. That was one reason I wasn’t too concerned about bringing Little Bear. He was a great sport about the Expo Hall, and when he got tired, I carried him off and we tucked ourselves away for some peace.

LB taking in the Expo Hall

LB watches his daddy try a game

LB encounters a glass wall

Really, the biggest lingering thought I had was that for a baby, there probably isn’t anything strange about cosplay. LB doesn’t realize yet that people don’t usually dress that way.

Sesame Street cosplay

The weekend after PAX, we eased back toward home life by spending Easter in Maine with family. It was a lovely short trip, with good food, good conversation, good company, and even a little sleep. Bear was a charmer, adjusting quickly to relatives he hadn’t seen in awhile (and his first cat!). He even delighted his admirers by standing up for the first time that I’ve seen outside of daycare.

LB standing

The fact that he biffed it shortly after this picture was taken probably explains why I didn’t see him stand up again for over a week. You’ll get there, little man. For now, enjoy your newfound mobility.

LB crawling

Other than those two big weekends, things have been relatively quiet. Since illness is running high in our household lately, that’s been a blessing. And it matches the drizzly, cool grey weather that persists. I’m not complaining, though. Early spring rains bring about that day when everything green suddenly pops, and it is magical, even though it’s the cusp of May.

I hope everyone is healthier than we are, and that your spring is shaping up nicely. Now that I’m slowly emerging from the fog of my cold, I am so excited about all the fun warmer weather will bring. Spring seems like a great time to show a baby how beautiful his little world can be.

and favorite mug

Miscellany: In Like a Lion

March has arrived in a dismally chilly fashion here on the North Shore. But if the weather isn’t particularly encouraging, the calendar is. Just the word “March” has me optimistic. Spring, if only in name, is nigh! My imagination is sparking, and new things are on my mind.

Little Bear wants a concrete.

Many of them were rolled into yesterday. One of M’s birthday wishes was a day in Boston to eat and shop. Specifically, he wanted his favorite burrito. Before that, we finally tried Shake Shack. Honestly, this had me more excited than the dinner plans. I was excited for a burger and really excited for a concrete. It did not disappoint, especially as we actually managed to snag a table at lunchtime on a Saturday. Having a baby in tow probably helped. Unfortunately, now I just want to visit the Covent Garden location.

After lunch, we went to Wegmans, my first time. Going to stores like this and Whole Foods always makes me a little sad. The selection is a dream, but it’s too far away and far too expensive. We spent a stunning amount of money. They had green tea ice cream, Aspall, cha soba, Fentimans, and an expansive tea bar, where I got an ounce of gorgeous sakura sencha. I guess I am still in green tea mode.

and favorite mug

Best of all my Wegmans purchases, however, was a doughnut. For some reason, I have been very specifically craving a double chocolate doughnut. Not the overly-sweet, glazed-and-frosted Dunks version. I wanted smooth chocolate cake with a rich, almost ganache-like frosting, and Wegmans delivered. I held myself to two, but I could have brought home a dozen. And then probably never craved them again.

So anyway. After Wegmans, we went back to the city and had burritos. M was ecstatic and thoroughly satisfied. I finally tried horchata, and it was wonderful.

In other news, I miss rain. Rain that is accompanied by the scent of dirt and a slight warmth in the air. It might be just chilly enough to require liners in your wellies, but only just. I want rain that isn’t going to turn to ice.

My fountain pen cartridge ran dry the other day, and now I’m faced with the delightful dilemma of which color to refill it with. In deference to the imminent season, I’m thinking grey or green. Cloudy skies and little sprouts.

I’m also thinking of green gem jewelry. I’ve had my eye on this ring for a really long time. For grey, I want something iolite. Before settling on my sapphire wedding band, I tried a version with iolite. I think I’d rather have that color in this necklace, though.

I switched my Gmail theme at work, and, on a whim, I picked the Tea House theme. I am now quite preoccupied with watching the tea house’s resident fox go about his day. He tends his bonsai, practices calligraphy, and cooks on hibachi. I even (by finagling with location settings) caught the kyonshī in the garden. I find the theme incredibly charming and even calming.

Finally, on a more prosaic note, I added my Steam and PSN info to the social tab in the menu bar. I’ve been playing more games lately and thought it would be interesting to see what my friends are playing. Add me if you like.

Hang in there, all. Spring will show her face soon…

Miscellany

This week’s collection of preoccupations:

Games I can’t play for awhile (Sims 4, The Order: 1886).

Since I can’t play those (or Minecraft, or Skyrim, or most games requiring two hands), Sims 3.

The annoying way my student loan processing keeps bouncing between providers whether I like it or not. (Really, the system is broken. If I could do it all over again, I would seriously consider taking the apprenticeship route into a trade.)

Teaching Little Bear (eventually) how to argue. M, as the resident philosopher, is in charge of this. I first need to improve my ability to be wrong with good grace.

Finding an affordable alternative to custom engraved stationery. Right now, I’m thinking blank cards/envelopes and custom stamps.

After a peculiar late-pregnancy obsession with white nail polish, abruptly finding my perfect shade in Zoya’s Snow White. Now I just have to be patient until I have enough time to actually use it.

Etiquette. Maybe to an old-fashioned degree of formality, probably because I’ve been watching “Jeeves & Wooster” and reading a lot of Agatha Christie. I’m currently reading this book to indulge this interest. (Before anyone asks, yes, I have heard that “Downton Abbey” is a great show. No, I do not watch it.)

The new iPhone 5s. But since my current phone mostly works, and my current laptop works less and less, I’m keeping my eye on the ultimate costly goal.

Miscellany

A compilation of things on my mind:

This cardigan from J.Crew. (Autumn clothes are back!)

Finally finishing Little Bear’s quilt. (A modified version of this.)

LEGO for “grown-ups”. Though our healthy collection includes plenty made for “kids”.

Kindness, and raising my son to be courageous enough to practice it.

Coveting cashmere for babies, even though M forbids it.

Incorporating routines, such as candles and music in the evenings as we prepare LB for bed.

Cracking open this ice cider we just found.

Finally moving up from the trial version of Scrivener, to collect all the ideas in my head.

Catching up on thank you notes.

Minecraft.

21st Century Clutter

I think I’m going to leave Facebook.

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and though I’ve gone slowly to avoid rash action, I continue to feel compelled to shut down my account. It’s just in the way these days. I don’t interact with my closest friends on Facebook. I barely remember some of the people in my friends list. Sure, it’s the most efficient way to reach family and friends with news or event invitations. But how often do I need to issue blanket announcements? Isn’t it just as easy to send a blast email in those rare instances?

I still use Twitter. And Pinterest. And LinkedIn. And I’ve been trying a smaller social network called Path. But Facebook seems increasingly frustrating. I’m tired of seeing that an acquaintance I met twice just posted eighty-four pictures of their New Year’s Eve party, full of people I don’t know and never will. I’ve been slowly unfriending people on a case-by-case basis, but somehow there are still 371 people I apparently might want to see in my news feed. This seems implausible.

Perhaps it’s the spirit of the New Year: fresh start, clean slate, and all that. I can’t help feeling that I’ve let myself get overwhelmed with the digital life I was so desperate to live. I’ve signed up for too many services, had my email sold by too many unscrupulous retailers. I’ve followed Twitter feeds on a whim, “liked” pages I really don’t care that much about, and posted so many frivolous pictures taken on the spur of the moment, it’s almost embarrassing. I think I want a break, and the symbol of that break has become Facebook.

I feel a sense of relief when I think about it. Little by little, that relief is eroding the irrational panic I initially felt when I considered leaving a network I’d belonged to for nearly a decade. Before, I resigned myself to the fact that I could never go without that connection. But my relatives have email. Many friends use Twitter. We even occasionally talk on the phone! Surely I can find a middle ground between technologically inundated and total Luddite.

Am I alone in this? Are any other Millennials feeling overwhelmed by the ever-present social networking Goliath? I have to believe so. I can’t be the only one.

I’m nearly ready. I have to get my contacts in order, make sure I do know how to reach people outside of that blue-bordered site. But then, oh, I will leap. And how joyful that day will be…

Wow. When I put it like that, it sounds kind of pathetic.

UPDATE: Wait, no, it’s not pathetic. And I’m not alone. This article articulates my feelings perfectly.

UPDATE, 25 August 2013: So it turns out that the easiest way to share updates of our newborn is FB. Guess I won’t leave for awhile after all.