Monday, March 30, 2009

A Covey of Cousins!

*I have a kagillion-googleplex pictures from the visit. I only included a few here, but here's a link to the Shutterfly album to view more:

n early March, my brother Adam and his family came for a visit! Because a 16+ hour car ride separates us - they live in St. Louis - we do not get to see each other as much as we would like. This was our first chance to meet their son, Julian, born this past June, and their chance to meet Leo, who missed meeting them two years ago by about a week and a half!

The "stair step cousins" are Aidan, 4; Hugo, 3; Leo, 2; and Julian, 8 months. (See how nicely our September baby will fit into this pattern?!) The boys had an absolutely wonderful time together, and it was so much fun to be able to see my children with my brother's children. We have a very small family, and although Adam (7 years my senior) has memories of time spent with our cousins, I do not. My uncle and his wife had separated by the time I came along, and I only vaguely know my cousins. Jeff, on the other hand, has a huge family with tons of cousins his own age. When we visited California last summer, I was so happy to see Jeff with his cousins and to know that my own children had the potential for such happiness, too....

Most of our time was spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house, who seemed positively delighted to have all four grandsons under the same roof. Highlights of our time with them included...

*Tractor rides! Grandpa cleared several paths through their windy 2+ acre lot and gave each trail a name like "Lake Loop," "Lower Woods Trail," and "Hawk's Point Extension." He bought a pull-behind for the tractor - ostensibly for hauling extra dirt and sticks or whatnot, but we know the truth - the padded carpet he throws in for comfort gives away his secret. The boys, sans Julian, usually sat in the back wagon all together, but sometimes one would join Grandpa to help him drive. Once, when no one was looking, I even jumped in the wagon for a ride! After being banged and bumped around, I marveled at how the kids could possibly enjoy this so much. Oh, but anything that is with Grandpa is the penultimate fun time, and what's a bruise or two?
*Dinner at Mellow Mushroom. This is something of a tradition, I guess, dating back to when Adam and Linsey visited when Aidan was a mere two months old. At that visit, Adam fed Aidan a bottle, and I later found out that Aidan was the newest baby either of them had ever held. Two-ish years later, we returned, now with Hugo, and again on this visit with Leo and Julian! The food was great, the beer, even better (from what I hear, at least) and the time we spent as a whole family was so much fun.
*Hiking at our nearby Rivanna trail. Our original plan was to head to Shenandoah, but bouts of stomach bugs and injured backs, plus pretty tired kids led us to revise our plan and stick a little closer to home. We were so, so lucky with the weather that week, and our hiking day was no exception. All of the kids are terrific hikers and clearly love to be outside exploring. Linsey helped us find arugula to eat, which Aidan thought was SO cool, and Adam and Jeff took turns impressing us with their rock skipping abilities. We had a delicious picnic lunch after the hike; it's amazing how much better food tastes when eaten outside and with those you love.
*We shared many great meals together, and I enjoyed hosting a dinner at our house. The kids all wore their "Covey of Cousins" t-shirts that they had decorated earlier in the week, and we even managed to get a picture or two without someone crying in it! Good food, good family, good fun.

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." -George Eliot

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

My husband and my son are two of the only people I know who truly rejoice and find the sunshine in a rainy day.

In college, before Jeff and I had started dating but when we were close friends, I was lamenting about yet another rainy, dreary, chilly spring day. My mood always seems to be affected by gloomy weather, and that day was no exception. He and I were walking through campus in the drizzle; I was complaining bitterly about the rain. Jeff stopped in his tracks, looked at me and said, "Today's a great day if you're a plant." I'll never forget that attitude, that perspective, that moment when I realized Jeff has a gift for seeing the bright side of a gloomy day.

Fast forward 8 years or so and I find myself in another rainy, dreary, chilly spring day. I am especially grouchy because it is a Saturday, a day that is notorious because of the promise of fun and adventure it holds. It's supposed to be warm, it's supposed to be sunny, why can't the weather cooperate for once? Aidan, on the other hand, is dancing in his pants from excitement. "I get to wear my yellow rain coat today! And my frog boots! And can we go look for worms? And can we make a worm house for them? And it is so good that it is raining because it makes the plants so happy."

And so they set out, Jeff, Aidan, and Leo, outfitted in their brightest rain gear for an hour's worth of worm collecting and rain exploring. Leo did not seem to mind if his "worm" was actually a "stick;" both boys thought that maybe some careful tending could revive a dead worm; and all three of them returned from their expedition rosy-cheeked and exhilirated from their time in the rain. Aidan collected coffee grounds and orange peels for his worms and insisted we bring them to Grandma and Grandpa's house to show them off. Leo demonstrated for me how he held the worm in his hand and proclaimed, "Ew. Dirty!" And Jeff passed on to them tangible evidence, proof that there is sunshine and happiness in a dreary and wet day. (As for me, well.... I still hate the rain. But I saw the sunshine that day, seeing my sons... positively shining in their happiness.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pregnancy Ticker

More posts coming soon! A relentless stomach bug has kept us all pretty busy on the Farm these days, but everyone is feeling terrific now...

Here's a cool pregnancy ticker (that seems to be going agonizingly slowly) - it would be even cooler if it showed up automatically like it's supposed to! Ah, technology.

The photographs are usually quite amazing - this week, not as breathtaking - and it updates automatically, so check it whenever!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

See you in September...

(The answer to the anagram: Be teenier mouse spy)

... our new baby, that is! I am almost 12 weeks pregnant, and the baby's due date is September 24. We are very excited. We are so very thankful.

....and yet of course we are also very anxious during these long weeks. On Friday when we went for my appointment with my midwife, Donna, she was unable to find the heartbeat using the Doppler. I fought hard to control my emotions as the timing of every part of the experience was uncannily similar to when we lost a baby in February 2006. We had to wait two hours until we were able to have an ultrasound, during which we quickly saw and heard the baby's healthy heart beating, watched him or her move around and suck its thumb, and were reassured that the baby is growing just as s/he should. We sobbed our relief, our gratitude, our subsiding fears.

I am full of gratitude and thanksgiving; I know truly what a miracle it is to grow a baby and to nurture a life. I thank God, again and again. And yet my heart still feels heavy, still feels the acute pain of a friend who has recently lost her baby halfway through her pregnancy, of the woman who saw Donna earlier on Friday and shared a due date close to mine, but whose baby had died. My heart is heavy with the pain and grief of so many mothers and fathers who have loved and lost.

In American culture, there is no ritual, no ceremony, little acknowledgment of the death of an unborn baby. Cold medical terms are used to describe the death: it was a "missed abortion;" the pregnancy "was not viable;" a woman might have a "blighted ovum" or a "chemical pregnancy." A death certificate is only issued after the fetus has reached 20 gestational weeks. Even the word "miscarriage" is inadequate, fails to describe the individual loss the way "car crash" or "heart attack" or "cancer" is used. A few years ago, a writer named Peggy Orenstein was being interviewed on NPR. Her story immediately caught my attention; she was speaking about how she finally worked through the grief of her miscarriage, and how she found a channel through which to direct her pain. While traveling in Japan, she learned that women there make an offering to Jizo, an "enlightened being who... watches over miscarried and aborted fetuses."

I thought to myself, finally. Here is a culture that ritualizes, creates a ceremony for, acknowledges the acute pain and loss of a lost baby. I truly hope our American culture changes in such a way that women (and the people who love them) are met head-on with validation, support, acknowledgment, and acceptance of their loss, of the death of their child and of a dream that they held. I think about other ways in which we support each other as strangers in this troubling world. We wear pink ribbons to show our support of people fighting breast cancer. We display yellow ribbons to show our loyalty to our soldiers fighting for our country. We put out black ribbons for prisoners of war, multicolored ribbons for support of people with autism, red ribbons for people fighting AIDS, and on and on. While I do not necessarily think that there should be a ribbon for those who have suffered a miscarriage, I certainly see the parallels - the life changing event; the need for support and encouragement; the unfortunate sisterhood one finds herself in; the reminder that we are not alone.

Monday, March 2, 2009

In like a lion!

I did not want it to snow. I am utterly tired of winter: chills, bleak landscapes, endless indoor play, dry air and gray skies. But, true to her word, Mother Nature brought March in like a lion!

It snowed about 8 or 9 inches and transformed every surface. The snow made the cars and roads, houses and trees ephemeral, magical, new. Leo was shocked to see the snow when he first caught a glimpse outside his window, and Aidan, all prepared to dive into the "Machines" and "The Way Things Work" books that are his latest obsession, dropped the books at his feet and shouted, "I FORGOT THERE WAS A SNOWSTORM!!"

By 8:00, we were bundled from head to toe and ready to brace the elements. (8:00? How is that possible? We can barely get out the door on time at 8:40 for preschool!!!) I'll admit it - I was very tempted to keep the home fire burning, curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. But the white powder called to me, lured me out..... okay, fine, and the terrific photo opportunity is what really sealed the deal.

We romped around the yard, made snow angels, coaxed the powder into snowballs, adventured out for a walk, played with the neighbors. Later, we found the perfect sledding hill. We delighted in the speed in which Aidan sledded, the gleeful shouts of "Oh no!" from Leo after tumbling out of the "big boy" sled he insisted on riding; we vicariously lived out the many sled rides of our own childhoods as we watched our children discover Snow Day.

I made myself go out into the snow today because I remember the wonderful days of my own childhood, and I owe it to my children to create those days for them. But along the snowy route, I forgot my "agenda" and got so caught up in the fun of the day, realizing all over again the joy of watching your children experience something unforgettable for the first time. Just as the snow transforms old into new, my old snow memories have been transformed into something new - my childhood's delights and the delight of my children.

Cost of hats, mittens, winter coats? $100. Sled? $10. Hot cocoa and marshmellows? $5. Memories of our Snow Day together? Priceless.