Saturday, October 4, 2014

Catching up with myself

On Monday, I will begin publishing quite a few posts that have somehow managed to live quietly on my computer for months, even years. I’ve apparently been writing far more than I’ve been publishing so, in an effort to bring the blog up-to-date before getting it printed in book format, anyone still paying attention to this online space gets to take a little trip down memory lane with me. Just a heads up on the randomness headed your way. Hugs!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This is the Picture I Didn’t Take | August 2014

Charlotte, NC

This is the picture I didn’t take | Anna, Bee, and Aidan playing, reenacting the Three Little Pigs story with Auntie Bean...over and over and over. Taking turns being the "woof", chasing each other around the kitchen, giggling hysterically, before returning to the couch where the next "howuse" was being built (using blankets). Aidan deciding he wanted to be a dinosaur (of course) and promptly inserting the role into the story. Pillows scattered everywhere but the couch. Everyone is pjs with mussy hair and huge smiles. 

This is the picture I didn’t take | Aidan, embracing the role of helper at bedtime: going potty right away and then, on his own initiative, emptying the little girls' potties into the big toilet, rinsing the bowls and replacing them; washing his hands; wiping his face and arms; putting toothpaste on all three toothbrushes; and making sure that each of the girls had what they needed to prepare for bed. 

This is the picture I didn’t take | Eating asparagus at dinner. C doesn't like the tops, Aidan does. Aidan ate the tops off of C's 4 pieces and handed over the stems before announcing the next 2 were all his. Aidan helping Anna decide that she did like "gus" and offering to eat her tops too. All of them eating way more asparagus together than they ever would have individually. The beauty of positive peer pressure (and helpful cousins).

This is the picture I didn’t take | Walking with Bean. Talking and laughing then stopping suddenly to witness the awesomeness of lightening bugs floating through an evening sky. It has been years since I've seen them. I am immediately transported to the back door of our NC house, watching breathlessly through the screen while glowing bugs saturate the trees, like nature's Christmas lights.

This is the picture I didn’t take | Girl time with Bean. Spending a good portion of our kid-free time on the floor of a toy store, digging through an open stock bin of Safari Ltd. Toob animals, searching for objects for the sound baskets. Continued bonding over our shared love of all things Montessori.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Right Now: Aidan

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Watching Dinosaur Train, Wild Kratts, Frozen, and Walking with Dinosaurs

Loving Dada. Mama is still pretty cool but Dada has the added benefit of being a boy. "Two boys, Mama! Two boys and one girl. Dada and me are going to play upstairs. You stay down here by yourself."

Wanting to be taller, faster, bigger, and 4. "When I'm 4 I'll be able to..."

Eating baked dairy! Hooray, we are making headway on the allergy front.

Playing with magnetic tiles, dinosaurs, wild animal figurines, and in the water table. His sharks, hippo, and platypus are getting lots of love these days.

Singing a lot. Little ditties he learns at school. Random passages/thoughts he makes into songs. Nonsensical words sung in familiar tunes. In the car he wants to listen to "songs I can sing". That usually involves the Charlie Hope CD and 50 Silly Songs. Song #8 on Disc 1, "She Sailed Away", is his current favorite. He just can't get enough of the crocodile eating the lady.

Asking Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Ugh! We are working on making his questions a little more specific.

Negotiating bedtime, number of stories read, playtime (when, where, and for how long), dessert...pretty much anything he thinks has any wiggle room.

Wearing at least one article of clothing backwards on any given day. He likes it that way. :)

Looking taller. And older. And less blonde. There is less baby and more boy every day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Around Here | March 2014

 

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Around here | We’ve been studying the life cycle of butterflies. Some caterpillars took up residence on my Cara Cara orange tree. By the time I noticed them they were a vibrant green, too beautiful to kill. My orange tree hasn’t done a thing since I planted it 7 months ago so I figured feeding future butterflies was as good a use as any for the leaves. We started with 4 caterpillars; one disappeared, one made it to the cocoon phase and then shriveled, the other two are quietly working their transformative magic. If I have seen this process before, I have no memory of it. I’m fascinated. I check on the pupas several times a days.

Around here | Aidan still calls headphones “ear muffs”. I find myself doing it too.

Around here | It is spring break. Reagan took the week off, I minimized my calendar, Aidan thinks he should get non-stop videos all day, every day.

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Around here | We are back to acting like tourists. Today’s stop was Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm. Great tour! The area is used extensively for movie and TV show filming but our favorite former set was the building used as the Hukilau CafĂ© in 50 First Dates, one of our favorite movies.

Around here | We are getting ready to build raised garden beds. We are jumping on the bandwagon of growing our own food.

Around here | The breeze has allowed for some long pants and sweater-wearing days. The temperature still shows as 73 but it feels like the low-60’s. I know sweltering days are coming so I am enjoying the cool ones while we have them.

Around here | We are preparing for more visitors. Aidan is going to be inundated with big-girl cousins. Lauren is home for a few weeks. Shannon arrives for a visit on Friday. Larissa and Desiree fly in Sunday night (along with Cindy and Len). We are going to have a full house, over-flowing with laughter and fun. Aidan is beside himself with anticipation.

Around here | I am back to drinking tea and doing it in the heirloom teacups I’ve moved around with me for years. It makes me smile every time I take a sip knowing these cups have been passed from one generation of strong women to the next.  I feel wrapped in Macleod/Bachtel love and strength with every sip.

Around here | I want to create things that are tangible. I love writing and photography but so much of that takes place in the digital realm. I want to physically experience the steps of bringing something from idea to fruition. To that end, I have been baking from scratch, rearranging the house, and even pulling out my sewing machine.

Around here | I’ve decided to homeschool Aidan beginning next year. Many things led to that decision but now that the shock to my system has passed, I am energized by the idea. The majority of my reading time has been spent researching the how-tos and wherefores of the process. I know it can be a take-it-one-day/year-at-a-time kind of thing but the more I read, the more I feel, in a visceral way,that this is the right path for our family on a permanent basis.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Half-baked Moo

(Originally written early-March 2014)

Last week presented Aidan and I with one of our most traumatic moments as a mother-son duo. In the ongoing battle against his allergies, we were finally able to get a skin test done, confirming or clarifying some of my long-held suspicions, but not without many tears shed by both of us.

Originally diagnosed with a dairy allergy in May 2011, Aidan has been consuming a dairy-free diet for almost 3 years now. Although we’ve been able to keep a pretty good lid on dairy consumption over the years, he continues to be plagued by hives. At one point or another I’ve eliminated soy, orange and yellow veggies, cooked tomatoes, strawberries, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, peanuts, and Cheerios from his diet after an outbreak (or several) of hives post-consumption. I’d mostly resigned myself to a life of selective cooking, but a recent visit with an allergist changed all that.

In a moment that rocked my world, the allergist hypothesized that, rather than being allergic to a bunch of different things, Aidan merely suffers from chronic hives. What? Are you kidding me? He went on to tell me that the blood test for allergies has an almost 50% false-positive result ratio so it was possible the milk thing was all just a bad joke. I was both elated and skeptical. I wanted to buy into the theory lock, stock, and barrel (visions of cheesy enchiladas and pizza night instantly started dancing through my head) but I’ve seen the results of accidental dairy exposure one too many times to be convinced it wasn’t the real deal.

We scheduled a skin test to sort out the matter once and for all. That brings us to last Thursday when I found myself pinning Aidan’s body to mine while a technician covered my baby’s exposed little back with 23 injections. Aidan was pleading with me to protect him, sobbing, “Mama, make them stop hurting me. Please, Mama!”, crying hysterically and trying to thrash out. I could only bury my head in his neck while my hands clamped his shoulders down and my thighs anchored his hips to my stomach, knowing it would be worse if he moved. We sat in the test room this way for 15 minutes while the extracts battled with Aidan’s immune system: Aidan begging me to put his shirt back on and go home, me trying to bite back tears while simultaneously reassuring my tiny little boy that the hurting part was all done.

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The results, making themselves clear in the shape of swollen mounds around the injection sites, were interesting. The milk allergy was confirmed. No allergies were detected with other food items, reinforcing the doctor’s theory on chronic hives. And, in a crushing blow to Reagan’s appeal for a four-legged friend of the canine variety, Aidan is apparently allergic to dogs. That one caught me totally by surprise since I’ve suspected cats for years now.

Nothing about allergies is straight-forward, particularly the food ones. In a true allergy (which Aidan has) each exposure to the trigger food will lead to a progressively worse reaction. Here’s the tricky part for us: Aidan’s reactions have become less severe recently (finally) allowing us a little flexibility in the food department. However, it is still an allergy and could reverse course at any time. Fortunately, almost everyone eventually outgrows a dairy allergy to some degree. Initially we hoped he would grow out of it by age 1, a good sign for a future life filled with ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches, but with each passing birthday the pediatricians were less enthusiastic and more focused on coming up with a long-term plan for management. We had a turning point a few months ago though. I remembered talking with a woman whose son, several years after being diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, was able to start eating small quantities of baked goods without a negative reaction. During the holiday baking season, I decided to do a similar test with Aidan.

I started by giving him a piece of cookie, about the size of a quarter. No reaction. The next day, I did it again. No reaction. I wasn’t convinced. We’d been down that road before, thinking the allergy was getting better only to have it flare back to full strength within a couple instances of exposure. I did it again and again and again. Each time, no reaction. I tested other baked items. No reaction. And just like that, we were in business. My joy knew no bounds as I watched him inhale a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party last week without any concern at all. He is so used to having his “special” whatever that when presented with the opportunity to have what all the other kids were having, his eyes danced with glee and he literally hopped back to his seat bursting with merriment. Better than Christmas.

Milk is still an issue. Ice cream, cheese, milk, yogurt, butter, and the like in their whole, unbaked state still cause instant hives and present a very real risk to Aidan’s health with continual exposure, but the prognosis is looking brighter. Since Aidan and I were already traumatized by the skin test, I agreed to a follow-up blood test to check the current severity and nuances of the dairy allergy (Aidan was NOT impressed). This will help us zero in on exactly what he can and can’t eat, and illuminate a path forward. We’ll have those results in a month or so. In the meantime, we are celebrating small victories (an unlikely classification for chronic hives) and keeping our fingers crossed for continued improvement on the allergy front.

Oh, and Daddy has been assigned to shot duty for the foreseeable future. Mama’s out.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Friends who make you happy

Friends of ours are moving away on Friday. While my first instinct in these situations is to cross my arms, dig in my heals, stick out my lower lip, and refuse to enable yet another departure of people we like and haven’t had nearly enough time with, the adult in me eventually regains control, offering assistance in whatever way I can provide it.

This week that means lots of extra playtime for Aidan with his bestest of best friends, Charlotte. Her little brother will be joining us this afternoon as well, while Van, the harried mom who is one wrong look away from losing it (a PCS state of being I am all too familiar with), gets her house clean, suitcases organized, and finds a new place to stay after a surprise hotel cancellation left them sleeping on a borrowed air mattress in the middle of their empty house last night.

I am well-practiced in the art of saying goodbye. I have to be with this highly-transient lifestyle. Sometimes, it isn’t goodbye so much as, see you at another base somewhere down the line, as is the case with several of my friends in Hawaii, originally met during different assignments. Mostly though, the personal relationships I develop are carried forward through Facebook, Christmas cards, and the occasional email or text, just checking in.

As Aidan gets older, he is developing friendships on his own, outside of the playdates I set up for him with moms I like who happen to have kids his age. He established connections in Charlottesville that I’m still hearing about (Will the real “My Corey” please stand up?) but not necessarily local friends solely of his own choosing. Hawaii has been different.

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While riding to school earlier this week, Aidan announced, in a sad little voice from the backseat : Mama, Charlotte moves on Friday. Mama, when Charlottes leaves I’m going to be sad. I’d been expecting this and replied in my most sympathetic voice: I know, Honey. It’s okay to sad. I’m going to be sad too. We can be sad together. What I wasn’t expecting was his response: Mama, I’m not going to have any friends ever again.

And with that, the mundanity of our morning commute became a minefield to navigate, simultaneously trying to safely traverse the road while reassuring my 3-year-old son that life was not over. That there would be other friends, now and later. That different friends make us happy in different ways. That it is okay to be sad when parting with one friend, just as it is okay to delight in a new friendship made.

I wanted, more than anything, to pull that car over and gather Aidan to me in the most giant of giant bear hugs. I would have too,if there had been a good place to do it. Instead, I had to wait seven agonizing minutes until we pulled into the school’s parking lot. Seven minutes that tore me up. Seven minutes during which I silently cursed the military, Reagan’s job, the general unfairness of life, the specific unfairness of Aidan suffering needlessly. I mourned the friends I’ve had to leave, wallowed in self-pity, cried a few tiny tears, wished things could be another way, and, then, looked around, first in accusation, then in wonder.

We live in an amazing place, surround by friends and friends we have not met yet. We live here because of the military, because of Reagan’s job, because of the general unfairness of life. And while it is true neither Aidan or I will ever be able to point to someone and say, I’ve spent my whole life growing up next to this friend, what we lack in depth, we make up for in breadth.

I am so thankful for the friends I’ve met and the ones I’ve yet to meet. I am thankful for this beautiful, challenging life we lead. I’m thankful that, even though Aidan is experiencing his first real loss with the departure of Charlotte, he has a mama who is uniquely qualified to help him with his grief. Whose arms and body are just the right size to wrap around him and tuck him in tight. Who can hold him, comfort him, kiss him, and, when he’s ready, will let him jump back down to the pavement to race off in search of his friends. And there they will be, different friends who make him happy in different ways, but friends all the same.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Little Boy Lives Here

It’s quiet. Aidan is in bed. Reagan is working at the desk. I stand up from the couch to take my empty mug into the kitchen tripping over a stray ball that has clearly wandered from its basket. Regaining my balance, I deposit my dish in the kitchen and move to the bathroom, my original goal for disrupting the exhaustion-induced coma I’d been enjoying a moment before.

Still not fully aware of my surroundings, I am surprised when my hand encounters a small truck, lined up with precision along the corner of the stool, instead of the tissue I’d been searching for. I laugh. Aidan.

Even while he sleeps, his presence permeates the house. I stop to think about it for a minute, sighing, knowing that one day I will miss this. I will miss his littleness. I grab my camera and start walking.

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I find the multi-story airplane hanger Aidan and Grandpa Frank built earlier in the day. Matching planes—one little, one big—just like the two boys playing with them--are tucked inside.

Farther beyond, the Christmas tree is still surrounded by wrapped presents, although on this eve of December 27 Christmas has already come and gone. Each present has been a delight for Aidan. He opens one and immediately starts using it. Suggestions to continue opening more presents are met with loud protests or flat out refusal. He just wants to enjoy what he has right now. We’ll make it through all of them eventually. I appreciate the generosity of family and friends but right now, in this moment, I am thankful that my son is so content to be. To play. To truly embrace a gift instead of glancing at it and tossing it aside for whatever is coming next. I imagine that Christmas will be a different story next year so I savor this for a moment and then continue my stroll.

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Piles have accumulated on the dining room table. Aidan’s yellow sun hat rests below the child-sized Santa hat he has been sporting off and on for the past few days. A bag full of tropical ocean figurines sits on the edge, abandoned there after a Skype call with the Baxters. Aidan was so excited that he and the girls all have fish and scuba divers now.

Model dinosaurs join us for meals.  A spot-on gift from Auntie Bean and Co., Aidan can’t get enough of Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring or Triceratops stomping (not pictured). Thanks to PBS’s Dinosaur Train, Aidan can list off an impressive number of dinosaurs and their notable features when he is in the mood to share such information with me. Which isn’t always.

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Books are everywhere. He loves reading cuddled up on the couch most of all. The loft reading nook in his bedroom is a close second. He is showing all the signs of a budding reader. His interests are varied. Soon we will step into the magical world of chapter books. While I have encouraged a love of reading from the very beginning, my heart gets all pitter-pattery when I think of what literary adventures are coming next.

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I find vehicles and musical instruments in the bathrooms. Objects no doubt carried in, clutched in a tiny hand, to be held while he goes potty or brushes his teeth, only to be abandoned when a more enticing distraction takes the reins. Sometimes they get cleaned up. Sometimes they sit there, little forgotten treasures, to be rediscovered later.

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Walking on, I find pieces of toys tucked into corners of the hallway and my bedroom. A Lego from an earlier project sits, waiting to be reunited with the rest of the set; a train track piece and a hammer, used together to help a stubborn piece set into place, also forgotten when the baskets were refilled. Some nights I am surprised by books or bath toys that have somehow migrated from their rightful places to the covers on my bed. Little treasures layered between sheets and blankets, no doubt during a boisterous game of hide-and-go-seek. It elicits a smile every time. A reminder that my son was here, playing, enjoying life, in a place he finds safe and comforting.

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The candles on the bathtub ledge share space with wind-up water toys and other little boy bathing paraphernalia. He has his own bathtub but there is something magical about Mama and Daddy’s space. I wonder when he will be too big for us to take baths together. He is not aware of anatomy differences in any meaningful way yet. He enjoys making bubble beards, hanging foam letter ornaments on his make-believe Christmas tree, and motoring his submarine through the deep cave created by my or Reagan’s bent knees. He’s playful and lovable and happy. I love being happy with him.

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And then here, my final destination. A place I come to every night before retreating to my own bedroom.

Aidan’s days are filled with imagination. His nights are too. The hallway light is on, his door open wide—our compromise in an ongoing challenge to get him to fall asleep on his own when he would rather cling to us claiming he is “sca-wood.” Mike and Sully, lovingly painted by Auntie Em, guard the entrance to his bed. An array of stuffed animals stand at the ready if he needs them. His bedtime books rest on the floor, waiting to be put away or paged through in the morning.

And he sleeps. The deep, restful sleep of a contented, thoroughly exhausted child, recharging for another day of exploration. I can hear his little boy snores, muffled by the blanket, and see his long eyelashes resting gently against his sun-kissed cheeks. I end every day like this, standing or kneeling by his bed, just watching him sleep. No matter how hard the days has been or how ready I was for him to just-go-to-bed-already a few hours earlier, I am overcome by the urge to crawl in bed alongside him and snuggle in. To hold him tight, kiss his head, and just cherish these quiet moments, these crazy days.

A little boy lives here. A little boy who is loved so very, very much.