Despite the enormous focus she brought to bear on them, I can’t really consider nursing, sleeping, or pooing as real hobbies for Mica. But our little girl is growing up (four months old already!) and has started to develop interests outside her digestive tract.
All our babies have started experimenting with their feet before their hands, so Mica’s primary exploration at first included kicking, stomping (especially when I hold her over her brothers’ heads in the morning for our ritual Good Morning Stomp), and of course The Walking Game. She seems more human the more she plays, even at something as simple as kicking over plastic blocks. But already we are fast leaving behind the foot-centric world of her youth, as she struggles to master her hands.
They’re tricky little devils. Dave and I like to refer to our newborns’ hands as “Lefty” and “Righty” in acknowledgment of the fact that they often seem like tiny independent entities, and not always helpful ones at that. “That isn’t me! It’s Lefty!” I would say after she yowled in indignation at the thing grabbing her ear. (She still tended to look reproachfully at me. I don’t think she believed me.) Early attempts at grabbing something can reasonably be misinterpreted as attempts to bat it away instead, and her hands have a secondary function as “nursing decoys.” When she’s particularly frantic I sometimes need to pin one of her arms under my elbow and the other in my hand in order to let her latch on.
But she’s making progress. She has become adept enough at grabbing bowls, for example, to require me to keep my oatmeal a foot away from the table’s edge or risk getting it in my lap. “Wow! Good job!” I said the first time she dumped oat milk all over me. “No it wasn’t,” said Ryan, who knows the rules of the household fairly well by now. “That was a bad job.” This led to a quick discussion of the concept of a double standard. And when she really, really wants to nurse she’ll now grab my shirt while she butts her head against my chest and yells in frustration. This doesn’t actually help anything, but I appreciate that she’s trying to take charge of the situation. (Subtlety, thy name is baby.)
Better hand-work means that she’ll occasionally spend time on her belly fiddling with things, or allow a toy to distract her in the car, although she still tends to lose her toys pretty quickly. That’s ok; she hasn’t mastered object persistence yet, so once it disappears, it’s gone from her world and she doesn’t complain. She also likes to play the “Can This Fit in My Head?” game, a baby classic.
The Portland Children’s Museum recently added a large outdoor area. With a sand pit, and a huge meandering maze-like house made of entwined sticks. And fountains. We love that place anyway, but this has pushed it right back to the top of my boys’ “Can we please go there?” list.
I just need to add towels to my list of supplies…
Recently while Dave and I were working in the backyard, doing a little of the ever-present cleanup, the idea of an outside fire pit came up. We both liked the idea; it would be fairly simple, we thought, and although we probably wouldn’t use it often, the onset of fall made it sound like an enjoyable addition. We even had a good gravel area near the back patio to use for it.
I was picturing something simple, just a gentle scoop out of the earth lined with stones. But Dave, the one doing the digging, had slightly different ideas. It would be a bit deeper, with fairly vertical walls. And most importantly, he chose to run a pipe (actually a long tube designed for dryer vents) from nearby and feed it under the bottom of the pit, covering the end loosely with a stone. This would allow air to flow (or if we chose, be pumped) to the base of the fire.
He did a beautiful job, and it’s true that being able to blow air into the tube using our shop vac does a remarkable job of stoking that fire up. Within a few days of floating the idea we set it to use roasting marshmallows. The top is also narrow enough that we can set a grate over it to conveniently cook hot dogs.
However, it does turn out that this is only version 1 of the fire pit. Dave was a bit worried that the stones we had might not be suitable for high temperatures, and his fears turned out to be well founded. Under the heat of fire, they tend to break, sending off small splinters. If he turns the shop vac on, the cracking can become truly impressive, with shards of hot stone occasionally flying out of the pit. While that’s certainly exciting, we think it would be a neat feature if our fire pit didn’t spit hot bits of rock out.
Last year when we went up for apple cider making, we spent about two hours at the job and all agreed afterwards that, except for the sheer joy of the experience, it was questionable whether it had been worth the effort. There was so little fruit that we came away with only about twelve gallons of juice to split between us, and most of the job was the setup and clean up.
This year was the opposite. This year the trees seemed to be sneakily generating new apples while our backs were turned. Even with the help of neighbors, and the compliance of a baby who spent the majority of her time either sleeping or watching calmly from her car seat, the job took over six solid hours of work. We came out with fifty-eight gallons of juice, a new family record.
Mica might not be much of a helper yet, but the boys continue to astonish me with their capability. They helped hold the sheet while apples were shaken down; they helped crank the press; Nathan proved himself adept with our long-handled picker; and they were, naturally, excellent juice tasters. What impressed me most was that they both climbed into one of the trees and picked a few apples there, and then spent a long time hanging out. Ryan at one point came to find me and told me that he’d fallen out but not gotten hurt. He looked sad about it, but ten minutes later asked for my help in getting back up into the branches.