26 September 2011

Exploration Abounds.

Franklin inspects our stash.
Another banner weekend--Last weekend was apple picking and this one was chock full of entertaining goodness.  The weather was reminiscent of summer and we were determined to make the most of it.  Saturday was free Maine museum day, so with the skies starting out rainy, we had thought about taking G to the Children's Museum in Portland.  Before that, we hit up our town library's book sale.  I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a word nerd.  I love books.  I love book sales.  Yesterday and today we managed to score quite a new collection to add to our already bursting shelves. 

The Children's Musuem was chaos.  And awesome.  We started out in the 'toddler park', a special spot just for little tots to explore, touch, bump, invade, and enjoy.  Everything's padded, squishy, or bouncy.  Perfect for our budding inspector. 

Next up after the toddler park was the second floor of delight. There was everything and anything you can imagine---a touch tank, tidal pool, giant globe on a spinner, fire engine, organic grocery store, fake atm, a vet's office, sports car, milking cow, riding tractor, and much more.  It was a joy to the senses.  The moment we set G down on his cushy sneakered feet, he was off, exploring every nook and cranny, and sometimes getting cranky if we didn't linger long enough at a spot he was interested in. Like for instance, climbing into the tidal pool to splash around instead of merely touching it.  It was exhausting, sometimes frustrating, and utterly fun.

Dr. Boo.

Fire engine bell.

So many buttons to push.

Boo has the world at his fingertips
The last stop at the museum was the ball park.  A room filled with brightly colored plastic balls that roll on ramps, into pits, up through suction hoses, and all around the room.  It delighted the Gman. 

After our adventure at the museum, it was time to find some sustenance.  A giant cruise ship was docked in the harbor, which made finding a parking spot slightly difficult. Once found however, we were off to one of our favorite Portland grub spots---the Porthole.  This place has been a favorite of ours since we moved to Maine years ago.  If you can get past the briny smell of the fish market across the way and maneuver down the crumbling sidewalk to its entrance, you'll find yourself in a foodie paradise.  It's an old time diner feel with some fantastic food.  On a nice day you can eat on the deck overlooking some of the boats that go in and out of the bay. 

We opened with an app of mussels, drenched in a succulent garlicky white wine broth, and crusty bread to sop up those juices.  So good. G had a fruit cup which he was less than enthusiastic about, despite it containing all of his favorites.  To accompany our meals, we opted for a beer each--Allagash for Terry, Pumpkinhead for me.  Ah tis the season!

Pumpkinhead in a mason mug. Aww yeah.
If Saturday was fun, then Sunday was spectacular.  It was as if summer had returned to envelop us in her warm and fragrant embrace one last time before the cold hits for good.  We hit the book sale again, and this time, with Gabby in tow, traveled north an hour to the Rockland/Camden area. A couple years ago we discovered the most fantastic toy shop, Planet Toys, in Rockland.  This was pre-G.  Now it's more fun to have him along and see the toys from his perspective.  Last year we thought this shop had closed and moved to a less inspiring location in Camden.  To our delight, it reopened, tho half its size, but still as awesome as ever.  Immediately G gravitated toward Tigger, who he dragged around the store with him.  Let's just say Tigger is now resting comfortably in G's crib.
 After Rockland, we mosey on to Camden--one of the most picturesque villages in Maine and though I say this often, another favorite spot for Terry and I.  It has a quaint Main Street area, lined with shops to suit any interested tourist. First stop had to be lunch.  Our go-to place is the Camden Deli. It has fabulous sandwiches, and best of all, we get everything to go and sit in the outdoor amphitheater that is just across the way, overlooking the dock and all the boats in their splendid glory.  

Gabs enjoyed being off leash, her nose leaving no rock, leaf, or blade of grass unturned.  We ate our sandwiches, enjoyed watching G climb the stone steps to hand Gabby her ball, and then hit the library for some much needed a/c time.  I was pleasantly surprised that not only were they open on a Sunday but that they had the most wonderful toddler room. 

A very quick trip to the top of Mount Battie rounded out our day. I love seeing all the little islands that dot the coast and try to find where we had just been having lunch down below.  Soon however, both G's had reached their end point and it was time to head home.  
I always feel slightly melancholy at the end of a really busy weekend because while it was fun to have it so jam packed with exciting things, and such great quality time with my family, it also makes it go by terribly fast and soon enough the dread of impending Monday morning settles in. This was also the last full weekend we have Terry with us.  Next weekend he heads off to Alabama for a full week of training with his new venture, Books a Million.  The G's and I will be fending for ourselves and remembering these past few Saturdays when we've had these lovely weekends to make plans and enjoy to the fullest. 

11 September 2011

Not just a blue sky.

This was one of those summer/fall hybrid weekends that would have anyone begging to last well into the chilly depths of October or November here in New England.   The air is fresh, clean, and vibrant.  The sky is an indescribable blue color.  I've never used to be able to liken or compare the blue sky to anything else. It was always just, well, blue.  Until 10 years ago.  Now I call it 9/11 blue.

Yesterday, G and I ventured to Popham Beach for the afternoon.  I realized somewhere along the half an hour or so drive that we really hadn't taken him there yet this summer.  A travesty since in summers past, we'd make it a point to go every single nice weekend in summer and fall.  I thought it was going to be much cooler at the coast, so I didn't bother to put him in his bathing suit and kept in long sleeves and shorts.  Mistake! Oh well.

Anyway, Popham Beach is my second favorite beach in Maine or really anywhere. Second only to Ogunquit Beach which, with its scenic views of the rocky coast, and village town, and velvet-soft sand,  really rivals no other. 

The moment I took his shoes off, G was off to the races.  While he's not yet running per se, he sure can walk fast.  Those chubby feet pattering their way to the water's edge.  Given the rain we've had this week from various hurricanes, the waves were rushing, the rip tide strong.  Did this deter or fear him? Not a chance. He barreled forward, not letting the icy frothy sting slow him down.

He cracked up as I held him tight agaist the rip tide that, while it made me slightly nauseous, made him only want more.  The beach itself wasn't too crowded, so there was plenty of great space for him to run around. 
As we played, I couldn't help but take notice of the sky.  That deep rich blue that spans across the horizon as far as one can see. And it got me remembering.  Hard to believe that 10 years ago today the landscape of our country changed so dramatically. 

Ten years ago, I was working on 15th and M Streets in downtown DC.  Right across the street from the Washington Post. In those days, I had an adorable city apartment that was only a 15 minute walk to work. I loved that walk.  I'd pass these swanky rowhouses, imagining the lives of the people who resided in them.  I'd pass ornate and ancient churches, that sat pristine and regal, yet inviting for anyone to explore.

This was a Tuesday morning.  The sky sparkled.  It was bluer than any I'd remembered seeing before.  It was going to be a great day.  I remember being in the office for 8am and around the time of the first plane striking, my boss and I were in his office finalizing an agenda for a meeting later that day.  Someone had gotten a phone call, and the conference room tv was turned on.   What was happening?  If I remember nothing else, I will always remember that my boss said to me, come on, we have to finish this agenda.  To be fair, I don't think we could comprehend to the extent of what was happening.  And so we kept working.  Until the second plane hit.  And then we stopped.

The rest of the morning is a blur.  Looking out from our 7th (I think?) floor window, we could see people in the streets. Something was happening.  Something big.  Something unforgettable. And for me, at the tender age of 24, something I'd never witnessed in my lifetime.

I remember emailing my mom, telling her we had been instructed to go home.  By now a third plane had hit the Pentagon.  This was too close to home.  How grateful I was to be able to walk home, as soon enough Metro shut down all its lines. I'd call her when I got home.

Walking home to my apartment on 11th and S, the atmosphere was nothing short of surreal. It seemed like everyone had taken to the streets.  Buildings emptied out, and people were frantic in all directions.  I tried repeatedly to call mom on my cell phone.  Circuits were jammed.  There was the distinguishable acrid scent of smoke in the air. After all, the Pentagon wasn't that far away.  The sky was still blue. 

Arriving home, immediately I turned on the tv, and probably like everyone else, stayed glued to the coverage for what seemed like the next 24 hours straight.  It was the first time in my 6 years or so living in the nation's capital that I felt afraid.  At some point I was finally able to reach my parents to let them know I was home and safe.

The weeks following are blurry. It was a brilliant fall. The smokey scent lingered in the air for days.  I'd come to think of DC as my home, with the Mall being my backyard to play in.  It now seemed tainted.  Weekend trips to the museum were off limits. The Mall had become a ghost town.  One thing I do remember clearly at some point after that Tuesday was how even as some semblance of normal was beginning to return to the city, one thing had changed.  There were now armed guards standing at what felt like every street corner.  

On the corner of 18th and L, where a Borders Bookstore was, there was a huge tanker sitting at the corner with a soldier standing guard-- stoic and ready, gripping his machine gun.  All around people walked by, going about their days, yet this stood out to me.  I remember thinking, this is an image I associated with war torn lands, not our bustling streets.  Eventually that stopped, but the image remains.

That was 2001.  In 2003, Terry and I made the decision to move to Maine and did in 2004.  I couldn't have been more ready to leave. It felt like my city had changed, and of course it had.  I was ready to go.

Now here we are 10 years later, and I find myself grateful that G is too young to know what this day represents, and that I can put off having to explain it to him for just a little bit longer.

Our day yesterday was full of the things we may take for granted every day---the freedom to run, play, laugh, explore.  To not deal with armed guards or threats or worries of bombs, planes, destruction, chaos, terror.    I need the time to think about how I will someday explain it all to him. But I know one thing--I'll start by telling him the sky was blue.

08 September 2011

Spring into Fall.

Labor Day came and went.  Hurricane season seems ramped up in full force.  Students are back at Bates, making the campus atmosphere feel like a contented cat after a sweet summer snooze--leisurely stretching and slowly awakening to see what awaits. Days are warm, nights are cool.  I guess it's safe to say that summer is officially over.

When I think about this summer, what comes to mind is how different this one was from the last.  Last summer, G was just an itty bitty guy, so dependent on me for everything, unable to appreciate much beyond his immediate needs of food, sleep and diaper changes.  Now our guy is 16 months old.  A walking chatterbox, he charges through the house to explore all the nooks and crannies.  The pitter-patter doesn't stop. He's into everything.  He closes doors. He opens doors.  He dances in front of the mirror and then laughs at himself.  He looks out the window. He taunts Gabby by stealing her rope toy and then holding it out for her to retrieve.  He races through the house with his arms behind him, imitating either an airplane or a really tiny mogul skier.  He climbs stairs.  He deftly shimmies over the barrier we set up to keep him in one room (guess we don't need the barrier anymore).  He nods when asked if he's ready for dinner.  We'll ask him if it's time for bed and he'll nod, make his way to the stairs, climb them, push aside the baby gate and enter his room, laying down on the floor.  The minor details of a diap change and pajama wearing escape him. He has, what seems to be, almost all of his baby teeth.  He is, by all accounts, a burgeoning toddler, complete with a toddler personality that can change in a flash.

When I started this blog, I noted that I wanted to capture all the highlights--this includes all the lowlights. Not only the exciting milestones, but also the frustrations, antics, tantrums, etc.  We've now reached that point.  The rollercoaster ride has begun.

With a blossoming toddler comes the testing of limits (and our patience), random meltdowns and tantrums, and the introduction of a personality that is frustrated by the minimal knowledge of how yet to fully express himself.   We've been spoiled this last year+ to having been blessed with a child who was very good-natured, easy to put to bed, easy to wake up, easy to get to nap, easy to deal with during teething, easy to take to restaurants, easy to travel in the car with, easy to travel in general with, easy to feed.  But with this new found independence that G's acquired and is still acquiring, comes a new host of challenges. 
Feeding times have become less than harmonious as of course he wants to be an independent eater and wield the spoon himself. One day he likes something, the next he hates it. While he's quite good at the spoon and plate, he still maintains the mischievous need to dip his entire fist into a cup of yogurt.  Sigh.

Playtime has its moments as well.  There are times when he just feels the need to break out into random bouts of crying, or sobbing, and almost nothing will appease him.  Except perhaps being held.  I am always ok to do this because let's face it, with his new-found freedom comes the desire to NOT snuggle much with mom anymore.  But then comes the battle of, well if I pick him up every single time, he's getting his way.  Yet why would I want to have him continue crying if by picking him up he stops?  See what I mean about testing the limits?

What needs to be remembered, I suppose, is that someday, I'll be wishing for him to need me as much as he does right this moment; when he's a moody, angsty teenager, and when I'm no longer cool to him.  So really, I should just cherish these moments; the good, the bad, the frustrating, the worrisome, the scream-worthy, etc, because like the first year that has so breezily gone by, these moments and these early years will continue to flash on without asking permission, without taking notes, without stopping to ask questions.  And while I'm not a fan of rollercoasters, I'll maintain my front row seat, hold on tight, and continue to enjoy the ride we embarked on 16 months ago. It may be scary, it may make me want to scream, but it'll never be dull.