Tall

Early on in my parenting career I was surprised to find that many people seemed impressed by large babies. “What a nice big boy!” other parents sometimes said; one mother would laugh about her peanut-sized babies. I think it’s partly those charts that the doctors keep insisting on showing me at every well-baby check-up — “She’s in the 90th percentile for height,” they tell me, “and the 75th for weight, and her head circumference is…” Somehow those charts trigger a competitive instinct in parents, already gearing up for being proud of future SAT scores.

Even with Nathan I didn’t care much about those numbers, but with my third baby I find them absolutely irrelevant. Sure, keep track so that if her weight drops suddenly we can have a clue that something might be wrong, but as long as she’s somewhere within the range of normal, I don’t care how she compares to other babies.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. With this much parenting experience under my belt, I do sometimes wish I had smaller babies.

Smaller babies are easier to carry around, for one thing, and I need only compare the strength of my left and right arms to prove that I spend a lot of time carrying a baby around. Smaller babies don’t outgrow their carseats long before they’re supposed to move on to the next step up. And, given the uncanny ability of any baby to maneuver, while asleep, to a sideways position on the bed, I have to imagine that smaller babies would have a harder time performing the trick that I like to think of as The Wedge (head against one parent, feet against the other, and push!).

And a smaller baby would not, at barely over a year old, already be able to grab things off the kitchen counter.

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Now, a certain amount of chaos is inevitable in a baby-containing household, and of course we don’t expect things to stay where we put them, and we know to always check our shoes before putting them on (Mica loves the Putting Things In game right now). But what keeps the system working is that, while the baby is still too young to exercise appropriate “please don’t touch that” self-control, they should be short enough that most horizontal surfaces in the household are out of reach.

Should be.

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Her absolute favorite horizontal surfaces are the computer tables, where there are keyboards to pound on, and doing so sometimes Makes Things Happen. Also there’s the convenience of wireless mice, which means that any unattended mouse can be filched right off and carried around the house, to be set down in a random location once interest fades. A random location like the living room couch, for example. Or under her high chair, where she was distracted by the remains of lunch (also known in Mica-world as a “buffet”). Or in a closed bathroom drawer. Did I mention she likes the Putting Things In game right now?

I know that in future her height will serve her well — I really enjoy being tall, outside of occasional situations like airplanes. But couldn’t she start putting on those inches later? Like, maybe when she’s five?

The Coast

Last week, as we sat at breakfast, Ryan asked me “What are we doing today?”

“We’re going to the coast!” I told him.

“Aw, man!” said Nathan, and Ryan added, “I don’t want to go to the coast!”

Some months ago I discovered that the kids thought they didn’t like the coast. This was so much at odds with our past experiences, not to mention all common sense, that I’ve been unable to do much more than file the notion away in my “crazy things kids believe” file and move on with my life. Getting in at least one day at the coast each year is one of my tacit goals, and even though they both resisted the end-of-school Free School trip to the coast, there was no way they were getting out of our family day.

Accordingly they shortly found themselves bundled, protesting, into the car, and off we went.

We headed for our favorite spot on the coast, Smuggler Cove, just north of Manzanita. It has everything — a short but beautiful hike to the beach, wonderful sand, tide pools when the tide is low, a couple of streams (one of which had spread into a wide, warm pool), and all the usual rocks and driftwood and such to play with, all surrounded by the incredible beauty that is the Oregon Coast. And it may not surprise you to learn that, in spite of their dire predictions, both boys actually managed a modicum of enjoyment.

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In fact any disinterested observer, noting the amount of running, splashing and digging that commenced, might have thought they were loving it. In the late afternoon, when we herded three hungry and very grubby children back to the car, their tune had markedly changed. “I want to come back to the coast again,” Nathan told me, multiple times. And then, for emphasis, “Soon.”

Totally Necessary

One might argue that, given the infrequency of my visits to fabric stores compared to, say, grocery stores, a special fabric bag for carrying out my purchases from said fabric stores should not be on the top of my list of things to make. All I can say is that, once I got this idea, it seemed completely, totally necessary to make it.

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Dave pointed out that it’s big, and asked if I was planning to fill it up on a regular basis. It is big, and if I did it again I’d make it smaller and with longer handles. And no, I don’t have to fill it completely every time…

On Death

For some time now the boys have been interested in visiting a cemetery. I rather suspect this comes from some media exposure, but I can’t pinpoint an exact source — it might also be part of the normal childhood interest in death. I vaguely remember thinking on death myself when young: What did it mean? Where did people go? I had a vague awareness of something enormous and impossible which it was, thankfully, usually easy to ignore.

There is only one cemetery in the area with which I’m familiar, and as it turns out it is a historical cemetery as well as an active one, with graves dating from the late 1800’s. (Not impressive for those living almost anywhere else in the world, but for this area, that’s pretty old.) The appellation of “historical” assuaged some of the discomfort I’d felt about taking the kids there — we weren’t just popping into a cemetery to disrespectfully ogle graves, you see. This could, if necessary, be considered under the umbrella of homeschooling.

The cemetery is large, with a wide variety of stones. Some are older, elaborately carved, rough with age and lichen. Some families lie together (“Herbert,” “Charles,” “Alfred,” and “Mother” in one case that I noticed); I explained the concept of family plots to the boys. They were very interested, especially at first. “Wait, are we actually standing on dead people?” Nathan asked eagerly. They wanted to look at all the stones, and although they were not much interested in the dates, which all must have seemed equally distant to them, they were interested in picking out names and quotations. I read them bits of Robert Frost and bible verses. (The former, about two roads diverging in a wood, caused Ryan to ask me if the guy in the poem was lost.)

The older graves remind me that the terrible inevitability of death is followed by the terrible inevitability of being forgotten. Most of the time I am as oblivious to this fact as Mica, and I suspect it’s a good thing not to carry around the weight of impending mortality. But I do remember a sunny fall day after Mom died, and a walk I took with Nathan (just a baby!) on my back — the crisp autumn blue of the sky and the air filled with the smell of weeks of rain. The sidewalk was covered with the prints of fallen leaves — some clear and new, atop layers of older ones fading into suggestions. I remember thinking how similar our lives are to this: clearly imprinted while we’re alive, and then fading, none too slowly, to a vague outline in the memories of those left behind, until the last marks are worn away.

On the other hand, although the details of our lives become blurred beyond recognition, it isn’t at all correct to say that we disappear — at least so quickly. The influence I have on the people around me, especially my children, will leave traces after I’m gone. I suppose walking in a cemetery encourages me to think for a moment beyond the chores and errands of the day, about what it is I leave behind me in a broader sense.

Mica, who loves sitting on anything at the correct height for little baby legs, gave me a delighted smile from the steps of a mausoleum; the boys peered through the grating and listened to the echoes of their voices from inside. “I think there are people buried in the walls,” Nathan said in amazement. We talked about how I knew one grave was for a soldier, which led to a discussion of officer’s ranks that very quickly reached the limit of my knowledge; on another monument I pointed out the Star Of David and tried to explain what Judaism was. That conversation didn’t get very far — the boys needed to battle an invisible horde of zombies.

Their interest was clearly waning. I focused on portioning out the snack I’d brought and keeping Mica from stealing a perfectly baby-sized flag planted by the soldier.

On our way back out we walked through a newer section, with more modern, polished stones, and here Nathan was more interested in dates, particularly the current year and the year of his birth. He also wanted to nail down the terminology: the implications of gravestone vs. tombstone vs. headstone occupied us for some time, despite my professed ignorance. He is in some ways very sophisticated. On the other hand he didn’t seem to understand my amusement at a beautifully polished stone with “bite me” carved in small letters in one corner.

Nathan told me near the entrance that when I die he’d like to bury me in a graveyard near his house, so he could visit me. I told him we intended to be cremated, but that he would still be welcome to create a memorial stone if he liked, and he seemed to think that solution acceptable. I hear in that a child’s desire to be near his mother; hopefully by the time I die he’ll have long since become accustomed to managing for himself.

Lake Traditions

When travelling one must of course be flexible. Mica, as a third baby, is by necessity extra flexible. Naps, for example, happened when and where they could — the car was frequently used, or a folded blanket on the floor, or even an inflatable raft in the shade.

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This last continued the time-honored tradition of lake naps. Witness my own “nap”, 30+ years ago, after I’d fallen down the patio steps and hurt my little finger:

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Big brothers are wonderful, aren’t they? I’m glad Mica has a couple of those as well.

Posted in Kids. 1 Comment »

Just A Picture

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At Last

Long, long ago, when Dave and I first started trying to have children, I went through a phase of making baby clothes. I knit baby socks, some of which worked decently well, and others of which mysteriously wiggled off those little feet as quickly as they were put on. I crocheted some baby booties, not yet realizing that a) I’m not the sort of parent who does booties, and b) as mentioned, baby feet have a mysterious foot-covering-repulsion field which only serious footwear can overcome. I sewed a hideously ugly flannel bodysuit which taught me not to make baby clothes out of old, ill-matched scraps of fabric that I hadn’t liked all that much to begin with. There were really a lot of good lessons to be had.

And I made a dress — a cute little blue dress with embroidered dragonflies. This was long before I understood that it’s simply cruel to put a crawling baby into a skirt, but fortunately I made it pretty big. Sometimes luck is on my side.

Soon after making this dress I got pregnant, and two boys later seriously considered not having any more children. But fortunately Dave voted for that third child, and this summer I was able to pull out that dress and actually put it on a baby — a walking baby, although her occasional efforts to crawl up stairs reinforced for me the downsides of putting dresses on babies. (I always wondered why store-bought clothes for this age had such short skirts. It’s because they’re made by people who have a clue.)

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Accustomed as she is to wearing shirts and pants, she is not actually excited about the dress — it’s too big, too loose, too easy to get under her knees. Maybe a taste for dresses will come later. That’s ok; I got the pictures I wanted.

Posted in Making. 1 Comment »
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