Sunday, August 14, 2016

Maine

Right now, I'm spending a week in Maine with my family, while Sam is working. It's sneaky of me, getting an extra holiday in after we already had one. We took our first family holiday back in late June, the three of us, for the first time, spurred on by my friend's wedding in Scotland. So now Sam is working, Oliver and I are spending time with my parents and siblings, and hoping that Maine is a bit cooler than Boston.

It has been so hot this last week that everything just feels like too much effort. You get hot and sweaty just stepping outside. The only escape is swimming, something that luckily Oliver has decided to love, as long as it isn't in an indoor pool. We've had so much fun visiting our local lake and playing in the water and sand. If tomorrow is hot, we're off to the beach, and I'm excited to show Oliver the Atlantic ocean again. I think he might be a bit more interested in it now.

We're renting this strange little house in the middle of the woods. It is pretty cool; tiny, but full of interesting arts-and-crafts details. My room leads on to the back porch that looks out into the woods and then off to the ocean. It's gorgeous. There's a fire pit outside and lots of sticks and room to run. Perfect for Oliver.

This afternoon we visited a local fair, and Oliver was in heaven. There were horses and sheep and cows and trucks and tractors. All his favorite things in one spot. We watched several hitching competitions, where people drive their horses hitched up in various ways (unicorn and four horses and other things) and he loved it. I grew up riding horses and I miss it. It made me want to start again. We even watched what they called the Redneck Truck Pull, which is when people have their trucks pull heavy things, or something. It got a bit boring, especially when the first competitor we saw was unable to hitch their truck up to the weights, and then kept failing to put the truck into four-wheel drive.

Back at the house, we've had delicious food, and lots of time for reading. I just started the Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble. I always find time to read, but it's even easier here, with Oliver surrounded by people who love nothing more than getting a chance to take him to look at the water, or play with his trains. The porch wraps around the house, and it's long and perfect for a toddler to run down, especially after three hours in the car. There's an outdoor fireplace on it, perfect for fires when it gets just slightly chilly at night (like it did last night; so far, tonight doesn't seem so cold, sadly). We're surrounded by trees and quiet and nature.


















Tuesday, June 14, 2016

upcoming

We've never had a real family vacation, just the three of us. In fact, Sam and I have never had a vacation just the two of us (except right after we got married, I guess). But next week we're actually doing our first real, proper, actual vacation and going back to the UK for two weeks. My friend from uni is getting married in Scotland, so we'll be visiting Scotland (for the very first time for Sam and Oliver).

Lately we've enjoying the summery weather, especially the days that aren't too hot, making lists of things to do and see while we're away, and what we need to bring, and wondering how we're going to survive a 7 hour flight with a not-quite-two-year-old. What are the chances that he sleeps through the whole thing? (Slim to none, I'd say.)


Summer in Massachusetts means lots of bug spray and sunscreen, fans on all day and shorts and t-shirts and trying to make Oliver keep his hat on. We love going to our local pond and playing in the sand, though we haven't gone into the water that many times, so far.



 We love our peonies and teaching Oliver to smell the flowers, and visiting Grandma and Grandpa so that Oliver can ride his tricycle. His legs don't quite reach, so dad has to push him if he's ever going to go anyway. See below, also entitled, the benefits to a house on a dead-end street.



 
We love our sandbox and swings and Oliver would be happiest if we could spend all day, every day outside, regardless of the weather. It turns out that weather in Massachusetts can be a bit crap. I kept saying it would be hard winter, spending so much time inside, but it turns out that it's only early June, and I keep saying, "it's too hot to play outside". But we do it anyway, and then complain. (At least, I do.) The most important part is keeping out of the sun in the middle of the day, but that lines up nicely with Oliver's nap.

Most evenings, when Sam gets home from work, we walk to the park and play. Oliver has learned to love it all, even the slide, which he used to be a little unsure of. If one of us goes down with him, though, he's overjoyed. Sometimes he'll even do it alone.



He loves to have us walk to the park in his wagon. It's the wagon my siblings and I had growing up, and my dad fixed it up so that now we can use it with Oliver. It's so much fun, except sometimes he gets too excited to stay sitting down. He's in a major toddler vehicle craze right now, so he loves waving to trucks and cars and buses that go past. He runs to the window to look whenever we're inside and he hears a particularly loud one. I'm so excited to take him on a plane (for a little bit, at least), and see how he likes it. Plus the long train rides we have planned. Yeah, I'm sure it's all going to go so smoothly.



He's just so happy and sweet, still. He's still stubborn and bossy, and knows what he wants, but lately he's been so much fun. He's eating all kinds of new things, sleeping better, and having so much fun playing with his trains, stuffed fox, books, trucks, and all the things outside. I love the age he's at right now.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

spring spring spring

Just last week the days were rainy and cold, and I wore wore all the layers I could. Then suddenly we turned a corner and bam, the sun was out, the leaves were out, and things here in Massachusetts are just a few weeks from full-on summertime (jungly, overgrown, way too hot).

So, from last week, when I introduced Oliver to splashing in puddles and created a dangerous new obsession with him, as he proceeded to spot every single puddle we ever passed from then until the end of time.





And above, on Mother's Day, when we went for a long walk to our favorite park. The only problem with this park is that there aren't any baby swings, but on Sunday we discovered it doesn't matter, because look who is grown up enough to sit and swing all by himself? You can't tell, but he really did hold on and not fall off even as we pushed him.

My husband freely admits that newborns and infants aren't his favorite, and he definitely dreaded it when I was pregnant. I used to dread the toddler stage. I know we're just beginning, but so far, it's pretty great. Tantrums and whining included. He's just so much fun when he's playing with trucks, making spice jars fly around like airplanes, or playing outside and finding all the sticks.

And now, from the sunny, perfect weather. Time for sand boxes, shorts, sandals, sunscreen and sweaty hair. Look at those brand new leaves. The gorgeous blossoms, huge flowers. So much beauty and change and maybe I'm already sick of applying sunscreen three days in, but I think it's worth it.











Oh and please note that playground picture, where he's pointing at the sky. Every time he hears a train or truck or airplane, he has to let me know. I can't wait to blow his mind when we actually get to ride an airplane ourselves (for the first time in his life! help!) next month.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

january

This part of winter always feels the longest, the coldest, the bleakest. I was dreading it for months: how Oliver would beg to go outside, but there would be mountains of snow in our way, not that he would understand that. But instead, we find ourselves in the middle of a week where the high is almost 50 (one day, at least) and the low is still around 40. I can work with that.


 (sunrise one morning) 








With skies like this, I think I can put up with January for a bit longer, snow or no snow. And I'll take more days in the 40s, too, thank you. Nothing like running around in the muddy grass, clutching sticks and dead leaves, to make Oliver's day.

Friday, January 15, 2016

new again

Time keeps going, Oliver keeps growing, things change and stay the same and I try to picture what our lives might look like a year from now, but without much successful.  We could be living anywhere, doing so many different things. 2015 was a strange year, without anything big happening to us, just lots of little things that we try our best to enjoy as they come. We hoped to be in a different place by now, but again, that's okay... I like to think that we're learning to be happy where we are, no matter the circumstances, because there will always be things outside of your control.


I always love that time between October and January, but why not love January, too? We had a fun Christmas, full of family and eating and even a little bit of snow. Christmas Day was so warm that we went for a hike wearing only sweaters, and felt almost too warm, but since then it's been feeling more wintery. We got some more snow this week, the light and powdery kind, and Oliver is learning to love it.


My sister-in-law had a baby in early December, but since they live in Alaska, we've yet to meet Oliver's very first cousin in person yet. But he's finally got competition for one set of grandparents' attention, and I'm really excited for the day when we can meet our new niece.


Oliver is almost 16 months old now, and turning more and more into his own person, with all his traits we recognize and obsess over, wondering which ones will stick around. He's grown slightly more fond of books, and his current favorites are Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Where's Spot? which we have read approximately one hundred times in the past two days. He loves music and hitting things with sticks, he loves the outdoors, swinging, and any game that involves chasing, being thrown in the air, or put on someone's shoulders. He recently discovered how to 'hide' from us behind his hands, and that's a big favorite with him right now, too. He also loves a little game my dad invented, where Oliver fake coughs and the person watching him says "ooh," and he laughs uproariously and then coughs again. And repeat.

There's a lot I could say about him - he still hates naps, runs to investigate the tiniest of noises across the house, and squeals with excitement when his dad comes home from work - but there will always be too much to write it all down. He loved having my siblings around for Christmas, and getting all of their attention, too, especially when my brother would put him on his shoulders and skip around the kitchen. My brother also introduced him to sledding, after the first snowfall this winter; we put Oliver into a plastic tub, tied a rope on the end, and slid him around the backyard. He wasn't quite sure what to think, but it was fun to watch. Oliver is so lucky to have all these people in his life who adore him, and I'm so lucky to have him.

Friday, October 30, 2015

then and now

I keep thinking back to a year ago, when Oliver was brand new and tiny.  There are so many differences between him then and now.  Something about the first year of life is pretty incredible, with all the changes we go through in that time.  And there's a pretty big difference between one month old Oliver and 13 month old Oliver. I thought I'd mind more that he was growing up and turning into a toddler, but I actually just love this age.  He's so cute and fun and silly.  He enjoys playing games and making us laugh, and even when he doesn't sleep, he's always so cheerful and interested in the world.



A year ago, he basically slept all the time.  My mom actually got a bit concerned about this and at one point asked me if I thought he knew he could be awake and not eating, instead of just alternating between eating and sleeping 24 hours a day.  Now I look back and laugh, because shouldn't she have remembered what newborns are like?  And now eating and sleeping seem to be his two least favorite activities at the moment.  He'll do them, but he'd always prefer to be up and exploring.



I used to be covered in spit up, and I gave up on even changing my clothes when Oliver would spit up on me because it happened all the time.  I was always carrying a rag or two to wipe him down with, or to mop up the floor, especially if we had left the house.

Although, to be honest, a year ago, I was still getting used to leaving the house with him.  Now, he get that full-body wriggle of excitement when we go to the door, because outside is his favorite place.  It's going to be rough once the freezing cold and snow hits, because he has learned how to point, and makes a beeline for the door to tell me that he wants to go outside, please, right now.



Now I spend my days wiping down his high chair, and wiping sticky fingerprints off windows and doors and my shoulder.  He's still getting the hang of swallowing all his food, so even when he's put plenty into his mouth, he stores it in his cheeks for hours.  So that is my life right now, sticky hands and slobber, wiping his nose from the near-constant cold he keeps catching, holding his hand as we walk outside, pushing him in the swings over and over, watching him start to play with toys and enjoy books.  Wiping down his highchair.  Cleaning up toys and building him towers, so he can knock them over again and dump out his box of toys (because that is the best bit, isn't it?)



Last year, he was a tiny little thing that I carried with my everywhere I went.  I'd sort of do my own thing, meeting friends or reading books or watching Netflix, and he would sleep through 90 per cent of it.  Now, my days revolve around him: his nap schedule, walks to the park, reading books together, playing with toys, feeding him.  It's true that it doesn't really get easier (and probably big kids are harder than babies or toddlers), but it really gets so much better (and I say that as a baby person who loved having a newborn).  My husband especially comments continually on how much fun Oliver is now.  I mean, I used to spend my entire day cuddling him, but now he can cuddle me back, and that's worth all the sticky fingers and messy diapers and cold trips outside in the world.

Friday, October 23, 2015

the smartphone age

The other day, my husband called me to tell me to listen to the radio, because he was listening to an interview with Sherry Turkle and it was blowing his mind.  For years, we've had conversations about how much screen time etc is appropriate for a kid, and what we will do with Oliver as he gets up, with me usually advocating for much less compared to my husband.  But listening to her, he suddenly decided it was time to cut back on screen time for us as we played with Oliver.

Turkle talks about the way conversation and communication changes, just by having a smartphone out (even if you're not using it).  There's this idea that people pick it up in awkward moments, or even to do something helpful (like double-check a fact), but that we rely on our phones so much that we've forgotten how to spend quality time together, and even how to be bored.

One of the main points that stood out to us, as parents to a one-year-old, is her comments about how smartphones make us forget things we should know, like that babies need interaction and parents talking to them.  She talks about a father who got used to using his smartphone when his 2-year-old daughter was taking a bath, instead of talking to her and playing with her.  This was sort of uncomfortably true for us, because sometimes when Oliver is happily playing on his own, I might pull out my phone, and I don't want him to have this picture of us, always sitting on our phones or laptops while he does his own thing.

Anyway, I don't think phones or computers are inherently evil, and having a smartphone makes a lot of things in life so much easier, but for us, it has been helpful to start setting some rules.  I try to keep my phone plugged in or put away when I'm spending time with Oliver, and if we go somewhere, I keep it zipped up in my bag so I'm actually enjoying interacting with Oliver instead of checking my phone when he shows me the same puzzle piece for the tenth time in a row.  I don't even think I was that bad, but it can't hurt to be more aware of how much time we spend online.  My husband doesn't actually have a smartphone, but he likes to come home and get out his laptop to unwind, and he's trying to keep his laptop put away until after Oliver goes to bed.

(Read what Turkle says here and here if you're interested in her studies and opinions.)