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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
There have been no Alex sightings since Saturday, July 8. No sightings, no phone calls, not even a post card.
But really, I’m not worried.
Maybe they struck gold in Yukon Territory and are busy panning and weighing nuggets the size of your head. Maybe they found an awesomely beautiful piece of country and decided to hang out for a couple extra days to explore. Maybe they met up with some Tlingits and are learning how to make boots from walrus skins. Maybe my brother’s truck broke down and they’re wandering across the frozen tundra breathing their last breath . . . .
But really, I’m not worried.
I’m pretty sure their travel route did not cross any tundra. But the truck breaking down is a distinct possibility. My brother bought a new truck just for this trip. “New? is defined by him with anything less than 125,000 miles on it. This one had 124,468.
But really, I•m not worried.
In fact, I’m so not worried that I watched an entire Animal Planet special last night on Alaskan Wildlife. I was hoping I might catch a glimpse of my son but he was nowhere to be seen. Plenty of cuddly little polar bear cubs watching their mamas rip the heads off baby seals, lots of Trumpeter swans treading water to avoid becoming lunch, and a wolf pack of starving females being pursued by males in heat. But no Alex.
I’ve left several voice mails for my brother on his cell phone, with no return calls. I’ve decided I’m going to quit calling. What the heck. They’re either having a great time, or they’re miserable, or they’re dead. Whatever. They’re big boys and can take care of themselves, right?
Who, me? Worry?
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, July 17, 2006
The first time I heard the expression “high needs baby? was from the well-baby nurse who dropped by two weeks after Soren•s birth to see how our little family was coming along. I described to her a typical day in baby’s life: crying uncontrollably between 6 and 8 p.m., up every two hours, refused to sleep anywhere but in mommy’s arms, screaming in the bathtub, nursing around the clock. I told her I was exhausted and hardly wanted to play with the baby when he was happy. I was just content to sit on the couch and admire him from afar while my tired arms rested. I told her all this with tears brimming.
When she said “I think he is a bit of a high needs baby,? I was totally offended. In my crazed postpartum mind I thought, •What the hell? There’s nothing wrong with him…my brain shouted….he’s perfect…Now Get Out!? What I actually said was •What does that mean?? She said it meant he just needed extra attention. Hummmppff!
But, as the weeks wore on I realized that perhaps she was probably right. I compared notes with every mother I knew to see if their children behaved the same way. Apparently, not all babies are quite as demanding as mine. And some are even more needy. Oh, how sorry I am for those mothers and how I loathe those who have nice hair that brag about how their angel has slept through the night since day one.
My baby fits a lot of the 12 signs of a high needs baby
. He needs held a lot; he still hasn•t slept through the night; he’s vocal; he’s serious; he clings to a routine; and he’s in constant motion. He moves so much it has actually alarmed members of our family. His temperment has earned him the nickname the Evil Dark Lord or EDL for short.
Luckily, I fully went into motherhood expecting it to be just like this because I really thought all babies were this way. I’ve tried not to make a big deal out it as I’m not altogether convinced there even is such a thing. But I finally took a look at what the oracle Google had to say.
Most websites make it seem like these babies are just evil. One article is titled “Loving the High Need Baby
? . Come on! Get over it already! When my baby isn•t being the EDL he’s the most sweetest, cutest little booger you’ve ever seen. And nobody on God’s green earth could help but fall in love with him.
Perhaps he's a handful and will continue to be as a toddler. But my "Book of Lies" also says that high need babies walk and talk earlier, are leaders, and have higher IQ's. It's probably a lie, but I like to think he needs all of this attention because he's smart.
By Robin Dearing
Friday, July 14, 2006
I know it sounds like I’m bragging when I talk about how bright my kid is — and I am, I’m very proud of my girl — but I can honestly say that having an overly smart kid isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
I’ve joked before that if I got to choose, I just might pick a kid that is a little less bright, if it meant that she was easier to manage. I mean, nothing strikes fear in the heart of a parent quicker than having a well-seasoned and much-respected kindergarten teacher tell us that if we didn’t keep our child properly challenged and hold her to high expectations that we’d likely end up with an unruly discipline case.
And not only is Margaret bright, but she’s funny, too.
This is a lethal combination for us … especially me. She quickly realized that her dad does not embarrass easily. I, however, am very awkward and tend to embarrass very easily.
Margaret preys on this weakness in an unrelenting manner.
She started making a certain request of me. She only asks when we are surrounded by a group of people.
She asks for milk.
She dons a mischievous grin that strikes fear into my heart. To those unaware, it seems like a benign request.
She doesn’t want a glass of milk from the fridge. Nope, she wants milk from … um, me. Milk that I haven’t had for 5 years. But she doesn’t believe me. She thinks I’m holding out on her, that she could be slurping from the mom milk dispenser if only I weren’t so selfish.
She’ll implore, “Come on, let me just try.?
Meanwhile, everyone in earshot had dissolved into fits of giggles and I•m left trying to convince my kid that this well is dry.
I try to act casually and not be embarrassed. She knows she used to nurse and that it’s a healthy thing for babies. I try to act like an adult about it. But my feeling is that once Margaret was weaned, my bosom — though now much more droopy for wear — became mine again. The suggestion that she has some kind of claim to it … well, it just doesn’t jibe.
I just can’t seem to explain that to my overly bright little girl.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
It’s been four days since I last heard from my son. I knew this would be likely but for crying out loud – it’s the 21st century! No cell phone service? Across 895 miles of the Alaskan Highway and British Columbia? They could have put a tower or two out there.
Really, I’m not worried. I guess since nobody has shown up at the front door with a telegram, I can assume all is well.
While Alex is off on his summer vacation adventure, I’m sure you’re wondering if I’m lonesome, and how I’m passing the time. Well, here’s the short list so far:
1. I’m perfecting the art of cooking beets. They look so old-fashioned and appealing at the farmer’s markets I can’t resist. So far, I’ve baked them (really easy); sliced them into a dressing of OJ, olive oil, shallots and rice vinegar (yum!); sautéed the greens with garlic and fresh lemon juice (tastes like swiss chard); and boiled little baby beets and made a salad with feta cheese, capers and balsamic vinegar. Trust me, these are not your grandma’s beets!
2. I’m practicing blowing smoke rings. Seriously. I have developed this odd desire for Swisher Sweets in the last year or so. Not in a Clintonesque way, and like Bill, I definitely do not inhale. I guess there are worse vices to have. I only ever light one up when my son is at least 250 miles away, generally on the privacy of my back deck. But I have always admired the skill of smoke ring blowing, so I figured what the hell? But, duh, it leaves the nastiest taste in your mouth for hours.
3. I’m borrowing my sister’s kids. My little nephews are 5 and 8 and they absolutely kill me! They are good for laughs and they’re a constant source of entertainment. Sammy plays a mean game of tic-tac-toe. Max is a great story teller who can not wait for the fire ban to lift so he can set off the $400 worth of fireworks he’s been hoarding. My sister rarely says no when I ask to take her kids off her hands for a few hours. Usually I can hear her squealing into my driveway before I hang up the phone.
4. I’m not shopping. Nope, not even at Wal-Mart. It’s unusual for me to have spare time and not spend it doing a little retail therapy. Maybe I’m at a point where I just don’t need or want any more “stuff?. More likely, I•m waiting for the retail season to change.
Okay – not a real exciting list I know. But it’s been less than a week that I’ve had the house to myself. When your life is so generally focused on your kid, there’s bound to be an adjustment period during which you realize you can do whatever you want!
I’d love to know what’s on your “if I had four weeks to myself this is what I’d do?
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Warning: I’m cranky today and you shouldn’t talk to me.
I have a post-vacation hangover I guess.
I wish I were still lying on Shipwreck Beach. It was among the nicest beaches I’ve ever been on.
I’m sporting a little sand rash on my knees and my head from a particular gnarly wave that planted my face in the sand and then pushed me several feet face first. (Microdermabrasion!) It was awesome! The waves were nice once my body went numb. The Pacific is COLD in July in the Northwest! There were pelicans flying so low over the water I thought I could touch them and tried.
Babycakes smooshed sand between his baby toes and tasted the salty sea. Mostly he slept because he didn’t like to subject his eyes to such brightness. He still has leftover sand in his ears that I can’t get out.
Notice the actual ship carcass in the right hand corner. Aaarrgh! That’s the Peter Iredale
, now home to barnacles and mussels. It is a favorite plaything of young children who like to climb on her hull and pretend to fight pirates. It also makes a nice landmark when you are trying to find bearings after pulling your face out of the sand and choking on seawater.
This is what it used to look like:
A tourist kiosk in Astoria informed me that guiding ships in the mouth of the Columbia is one of the hardest of sailing feats. Something about opposing currents. Unsuccessful navigation brought the Peter Iredale where it rests today mostly buried by sand and odd looking tourists.
The first family vacation was a roaring success. The baby slept for a good chunk of the way; waking for food or a diaper change. We quickly learned to slow down, relax, and resign ourselves to slow travel. I learned my husband has a remarkable ability to quickly find the city park in any town in the USA. Most of them were really nice especially the one in Boise.
Knowing that my family can travel so well gets the wheels a turning about future trips. I can’t wait.
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Check it, Soren. Jack has your back!
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
We all made it back from our road trip to California, not really worse for the wear.
The 800-mile drive went well, thanks to the portable DVD player that streamed episode after episode of the Simpsons directly into the impressionable brain of my 6-year-old.
In the past, we split the drive up into two days, staying at the lovely resort town (insert sarcasm here) of Wendover, Nevada, which marks the half-way point for the drive.
This time we decided to try to drive straight through. It was the right decision. Margaret is old enough now that she's content to color, solve problems in her math workbook and play with her beloved stuffed animals for hours on end.
But really the success of the trip is firmly pinned on that DVD player.
Being able to watch her favorite movies or TV shows staved off the boredom and kept her giggling — and sometimes even laughing out loud — for the majority of the trip.
The concept of television as babysitter has been discussed in terms of infants here
before, but what about for older kids?
I wonder at the damage I am inflicting upon my daughter as I let her watch TV and movies. Her favorite shows are the ones on PBS Kids, but she also loves the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs
— for those unfamiliar with Dirty Jobs, the host, Mike Rowe, joins the average Joe on the site of jobs that are considered for one reason or another to be dirtier than most, often involving the ickiest forms of grease, dirt and poop.
Margaret is an incredibly bright girl. She’s a great reader and sometimes can be found curled up with no less than 18 stuffed animals and a stack of books.
But the question remains, am I ruining her chance at an Ivy League education by letting her spend some of her time watching a guy shovel poop out of a flooded basement? … I wonder.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Three days into the great Alaska adventure and so far, so good! Alex called Saturday evening from Butte, Montana, although he pronounced it as if the “e? was not there. I suspect it will be the last I•ll hear for a while, since cell phone service will be spotty at best as they head into the Yukon Territory.
On Friday they made it as far as Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah. Since my brother is a retired military officer, he can stay at pretty much any military base for cheap. Hill AFB happens to be where my sister was stationed about 18 years ago, and where she met her husband. Alex is having second thoughts about life as a Navy SEAL after spending an evening on an Air Force base.
“Mom, this place is unbelievable! They have two swimming pools, an arcade and a bowling alley! Plus, we were there all night and all morning and never saw or heard a single jet! Forget the Navy, I’m joining the Air Force.?
So far, they•re having a great adventure. Alex told me how some couple along the way locked their keys in their car and Uncle Mark had to smash out their car window to get their keys. Why they couldn’t use a coat hanger to jimmy open the lock was not clear to me, but smashing out a window is far more memorable.
Cheena the dog is proving to be a great traveling companion. Cheena (named after one of Alaska’s rivers) is half Alaskan husky and half yellow lab. She is the coolest, most tolerant dog I know. She was abandoned by her mother at birth and literally left on my brother’s doorstep in Juneau - by her mother, who apparently didn’t want to be tied down with a litter of pups. Hey, even the best mother has toyed with the idea of leaving her kids on someone’s doorstep!
Cheena rides in the back of the truck and sticks her head and paws through the cab window, wondering how her place on the front seat was confiscated by my son. Hopefully she’ll forgive him and keep him warm on the nights they’ll be camping out in the Yukon Territory, where the highs are only going to be in the 50’s the next few days.
I’m looking forward to the next communication from the traveling duo, however, and whenever, that may come. I know Alex is having a great time, but I miss him.
Friday, July 7, 2006
Ya’ll know I was struggling with what my son would write about in his What I Did Over Summer Vacation
essay. If not, you can refresh your memory here
Sometimes opportunities come out of nowhere.
My brother Mark called a couple weeks ago and asked if Alex would like to drive with him to Alaska. My bro moved to Grand Junction a couple years ago from Juneau where he spent his last tour of duty before retiring as an officer in the US Coast Guard. He owns some property there and is in the midst of building a lodge he’ll eventually use as an outfitter’s post, or cabin, or whatever they call it in Alaska. Anyway, he drives back there every summer to get away from his family, I mean the heat, and this year he invited Alex to go along.
The only catch is that Mark's planning to stay well past August 21, the start of the new school year, only 46 days from now (yes, I counted, again). So Alex would have to fly home solo. No problem. Alaska Air has relatively cheap flights from Juneau to Denver with only one stop in Seattle. My child has traveled almost more than I have, so I’m not worried about him getting home safely. In theory.
In reality, I’m totally freaked out!
First, there’s the whole 9/11 thing when personally we were one flight away from losing three family members. I’m guessing not too many knife-wielding-Allah-crazed
-American-hating-Muslims are flying out of Juneau, but you never know! Next, there’s relying on Alex and Mark to actually make it to the airport on the right day at the right time. Apparently time tables and schedules don’t mean much in the Alaskan outback. Their departure has already been delayed a week while my bro got new tires and some other stuff for the truck so I had to change the return flight. (It’s only money.) Then there’s the whole relying on his dad to fetch him on time from D.I.A., an airport which has the potential to become a vast wasteland of lost or abandoned children wandering around for months like Tom Hanks in Terminal
, a great movie you oughta watch if you haven’t already.
These are just the fears I harbor about the travel arrangements over which I have some ability to monitor. What about all the inherent dangers lurking around each of the 2,779 miles of treacherous highways, snow covered roads and ice-packed byways between here and there? And don’t think I haven’t considered the reality of grizzly bear attacks, capsized fishing boats, avalanches and rock slides, falls into a bottomless glacial crevasse, and eating virtually no fruits or vegetables for an entire month!
What kind of mother would let her son go on a trip like that?
The kind whose kid will have an awesome What I Did Over Summer Vacation
essay. The kind who really wishes there was room for her in the truck!
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, July 6, 2006
I'm 36 and I still call my dad, "daddy." He is, always has been.
I wonder how long Margaret will call Bill "daddy"?
She calls me "mama" and "mom" interchangeably. I'm sure she has special names — unprintable here — that she saves for special occasions, which she mutters under her breath.
I am definitely my father's daughter. We share the same high cheeks bones, blue eyes and we’re both pretty excitable.
I’d like to think that Margaret is a blend of both her dad and I. However, her quick temper is definitely a Dearing trait, as is her fair skin.
But, there is a bond between Margaret and her dad that is undeniable.
I can’t count how many times I’ve found him snuggled up next to her in her twin bed after she’s had a bad dream.
I’m more of a tuck-and-run mom — I’ll sleepily accompany her to the bathroom in the middle of the night and tuck her back into bed. But I never hang around long enough to fall asleep.
And really neither of them wants me to deprive myself of sleep, because a tired mama is a surly mama.
When she gets hurt, she runs to her dad. I’m the one with the washcloth and hydrogen peroxide; he’s the one with the hugs and sympathy.
When she wants to tell a silly joke, have someone wrestle or feed her … yep, Bill’s the guy for the job. There are times when they break out the potty humor and giggle themselves to the point of exhaustion.
And I’m glad of it. She’s a lucky girl to have a dad that is not only present, but also ready for duty. He’s the parent that volunteered in her kindergarten class and bakes cookies with her.
I’m the one who makes sure she’s wearing clean underwear and is dressed in some sort of reasonable manner (Bill’s taste in children’s clothes leans more toward the bizarre than the practical) with hair combed and teeth brushed.
I like the division of duties involved in rearing this child. It works for us and as with all things parenting, what works is always going to be the most successful.