We’ve always tried to downplay presents around birthdays; instead we try to buy things for the kids whenever it makes sense through the year. Our theory on birthdays has always been that they involve a special dessert, with candles if possible (fire is apparently a big draw for my boys), and some special time together. (I won’t deny, however, that the cards they get from their grandparents are a big hit and help make the day special.)
This year for Ryan’s birthday we went back to Ape Cave. We visited it in fall last year, and he’s been asking to return pretty consistently since then — every few weeks it seemed like he would bring up the subject. So for his birthday we made it happen. It’s a great site; we stopped first at the Trail of Two Forests, which is right near the cave, to run around in the open air a bit. There are lots of lava rocks, small caves and crannies to explore, and of course the main path which lets you walk through a site where a forest was engulfed in lava. The trees left round pits, and fallen logs left tunnels that can be crawled through.
This was the third time we’d been through Ape Cave, and so far we’ve only done the easy, lower cave — in a couple of years the boys will undoubtedly be ready to tackle the trickier upper cave with Dave. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with an infant strapped to one’s chest (she fell asleep soon after we entered, apparently in the reasonable expectation that there was only more dark to come), or even if you’re a five-year-old. But it’s like no other walk; there’s no way to explain the unexpected appeal of being in a tunnel made only of cold, rough stone and darkness. The darkness is absolute, the silence is profound if you can separate from other hikers by even a single curve, and together with the cold it feels like entering another world.
We have a styrofoam cutter. People who don’t know Dave might wonder why, but those who do will see immediately that of course we need a nifty gadget which allows us to quickly and precisely cut styrofoam using a heated wire. Who doesn’t? We also have a ten foot high sheet of inch-thick styrofoam in the garage, but I’m sure there’s nothing unusual in that.
It seems irrelevant to discuss the use for which the styrofoam cutter was originally purchased. The point is that the kids love it, and every once in a while we pull it out and do some project time.
Cutting things is fun. But if you’re me, and you want to be involved in the project without taking up the scarce resource of the cutter itself, using the little weirdly shaped bits of styrofoam produced is even more fun. Think of them as tiny temporary stamps in abstract shapes.
I realize that lake post included very little of Mica, and of course this is inexcusable. Pictures of adults are desirable only if they’re very pertinent indeed; those of kids are good; but baby pictures are those little gems of cuteness that make any grandparent’s heart glad. So I went back to my folder of pictures from our vacation and came up with these:
Yep, that’s it. One picture of the side of her head while Nathan held her, and one with a somewhat distorted perspective of her staring vacantly at the lake.
I’ve been informed by a friend who was the second child that some children notice the discrepancy of baby picture counts later in life, and I just want to go on the record now to say that we do not love our third baby any less than our first one. We just tend to love her without a camera getting involved.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to Tom and Marybeth’s place on Coeur d’Alene again this year. In fact, thanks to showing up with a little baby, we were basically coddled the entire week, with nothing expected of us but to relax. Every night there was wonderful food to eat that I did not prepare, and one morning Marybeth fed us huckleberry pancakes. This was awesome.
We were there later in the year and jumping into the water was a noticeably chilly experience; it took some coaxing to get the kids into the water at all, even in my arms. Well, if we’re being honest here, it actually took a five dollar bribe to get them to jump that first time. They were hopeful that a further five dollars would be forthcoming for each jump, but did some more jumps even when that hope proved unfounded. Overall swimming was a much rarer and shorter experience this year, even for me.
Since it was colder and even cloudy some days, we took a couple excursions — one to a fantastic park up in town, and another to Wallace, Idaho, which as everyone knows is the center of the universe. Yep, we’ve now been there. That wasn’t our primary goal, though; we mainly went to do the Sierra Silver Mine Tour. The kids’ knowledge of mining comes primarily from a show called Ghost Mine, so naturally the first thing they wanted to know was whether anyone had ever died in the mine. (Answer: No.) But it was a great tour, with lots of cool equipment they demoed for us, and even the boys seemed to get over the disappointing lack of spirit activity.
Nathan caught his first fish on this trip — at least, I know he talked to Tom about the fishing, and he may have had his hand on the pole at one point, and someone certainly pulled a fish out of the water. Ok, it might be a stretch to say that he caught it, but there was definitely a fish on the dock, and Nathan was the one who picked it up and tossed it back in the water, which I was kind of surprised and impressed that he’d do. Last time someone offered to let my kids toss a fish back into the water, I ended up being the only thing between that fish and suffocation.
Also there were boat rides, one of which was to buy ice cream. There was then ice cream on a boat. This might have been the high point of the trip for the boys.
Thus far Mica’s life has, I think, been pretty good. There’s been between one and three adults around since she was born, all happy to hold her and snuggle her and basically attend to her every need. She has her moods, like any baby, but most of her cries are single, peremptory calls, which Dave and I like to interpret as her yelling “Service!”
If she were capable of more advanced cognitive modeling, I suspect she’d say that the accommodations here are adequate, the food pretty good, but the service somewhat lacking. She’s occasionally set down despite her explicit objections; the smaller servants are erratic and inefficient; and even the larger servants, although clearly trying, make obvious mistakes — one of them, for example, consistently fails to lactate.
At this stage she’s more of a human critter than a full-blown person. She seems to have two primary states: “Everything’s All Right” and “Something’s Wrong,” with perhaps a very, very narrow band of “Yellow Alert” in between the two. None of this keeps her parents from indulging in long periods of baby-gazing, or from melting into adoration every time one of those enigmatic proto-smiles flickers across her face.