Monday, March 29, 2010

100 days old

Miles is one hundred days old today! I only know this because some friends gave us a great book, Baby's First Year Journal; A Day-to-day Guide to Your Baby's Development During the First Twelve Months, that allows us to learn about his progress daily. It is the companion to The Pregnancy Journal; A Day-to-day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy (also a very thoughtful gift) that we loved reading each day to learn about what our baby was doing in utero. Now it is fun to know who this person is that we were learning about, and along with the typical baby benchmarks we love to look for all those special things that make him uniquely Miles. He is changing daily and sometimes I just find myself staring at him, waiting to see what he will do next.

Just as quickly as he changes in front of our eyes the world outside is bursting with life and changing too. This is the same Silver Maple branch I photographed on our walk three weeks ago. The buds have exploded, blossomed, and even begun to wilt already. This epic tree is right outside the Blandford School where I spent last year student teaching.

Last week I had the pleasure of working with this years BEEPS (Blandford Environmental Education Program Students). These students spend a very special year learning how to observe and appreciate the wonders of the world around them. We were rewarded with a beautiful treat as we lined up before school last Tuesday. A rare, low flying, solo Sandhill Crane blew past blaring it's distinct woody cackle! If you are not familiar with this sound I suggest you take a listen at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology - All About Birds website. I think that Janine Benyus, in her book Northwoods Wildlife, describes this bird perfectly. "The sandhill crane - wildness incarnate - looks and sounds for all the world like a pterodactyl come to life."

The bird we saw flew by way too fast, and I did not have a camera with me, so to capture the event I "borrowed" this photo taken by Sally King from the website.

Wonders like this, and many more, are the kinds of things I hope to share with this little man! Soon his carrot rattle will be replaced by the real thing as we begin our garden here at home. Just as our garden grows, I can't wait to watch him grow before our eyes.

This little person that we love so much will inevitably teach us more than we know. The world he is destined to inherit is sometimes unimaginable to me. He will hear the same call of this ancient crane as it appears on the horizon each spring, and at the same time he will have the awesome ability to recall this sound, no matter the season, on a computer (or phone) whenever he wants to. As much as this technology astounds and bewilders me, occasionally there are moments that I am eternally grateful for it!
Such as moments like this one - when Miles got to meet his "Aunt Vanessa" in South Africa via Skype this weekend. Vanessa was surfing the cool green waves of Muizenberg when Miles was born and has been busy on safari ever since. I must admit it was terribly strange to introduce such a dear friend to our newest family member on a computer screen, but given the distance it was a delightful alternative to the real thing. There was a moment as "V" made silly faces that Miles smiled, and I believe they even made eye contact for a second. I cannot wait for the real thing... when they can hold on to each other and laugh like old friends! Anyone for a reunion in Santa Fe?

By the way - the book that Vanessa gave us on animal guides says that when a crane appears in your life "This is a time of great abundance and plenty, one in which you won't want for anything." I must say this has certainly been true of the last one hundred days with Miles in our lives.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Busy Bees

Last Friday (3/19) Miles and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and we went to see my dad while he was working in his garden. When we drove up we were greeted by the most beautiful display of yellow crocuses filling the garden beside the woods. They were the most brilliant sign that spring is here that I have seen so far. In contrast to the still barren tree limbs and brown leaves covering the forest floor they were so vibrant they took my breath away. My immediate reaction was to get closer! And as I did I noticed one at first, them two, then two more. All over there were bees busily scurrying about dotting from flower to flower. I could tell that many had been hard at work for awhile as evidenced by their "knees" already covered in electric yellow pollen grains.

That made it official for me! If the workhorses of pollen transfer are back on the job then the stuff of springtime has truly begun! Now the business of seed making can start, and so will the promise of the future generations of plants. (I know, I am waxing philosophic about pollen transfer and seed heritages, but it was just that kind of day!)

It felt so perfect to sit in the long awaited sunshine with my son and watch my father get a jump start planting seeds in the garden. He planted peas, and beets, and even a hearty lettuce. The garlic shoots have emerged from last fall's planting; tall green spires in the brown soil. All around us the pulse of spring could be felt and the buzzing of busy bees could be heard. In the skies above us a large flock of Sandhill Cranes flew over, and so did the resident Red Tailed Hawk that has taken to eating koi out my father's pond.
Back at home the sun set over downtown and the weather threatened to turn cold again. We will have to wait and see if the cold snap that followed last week damaged the seeds that were planted. That's OK though because in addition to the seeds we put in the ground, I also hope we planted a seed for the love of the outdoors in Miles. I imagine that more experiences like this one will also start the seeds of patience and hope and wonder in his heart. At least these are all the things that spending time observing nature inspires in me. I am sure that he has many many more years in the garden with Paw Paw in his future to learn these lessons and more!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vernal Equinox

Today the sun is shining directly over the equator and we will experience a day and night of equal length - then from here on out the days will get longer! We decided to celebrate by dressing Miles in some springtime garb. Our little sprout is getting really good at grabbing things, and then trying to shove them in his mouth. I am sure this will only become more common when teething begins, but for now it is fun to watch as he aims and occasionally hits the intended target.

Spring has also been marked by the return of the House Finch to our front porch. I am continually amazed when birds return to their nests in the springtime. For many this means the end of the very long journey from their wintering grounds. I am in awe that something so small can fly so far and return to the very same nest! The more I learn about the natural world the more I understand how delicate and complicated the whole thing really is. I think that is why every spring I feel like a child again myself as I watch with wonder while the world seems to come back to life.

I eavesdropped as the male and female finches seemed to clean out the nest from last years brood and then began to spiff it up with some new twigs and grasses. This reminded me that it is probably about time to do the same in our own home. I do love to spring clean and make everything feel new again.

I am finally recovering from a terrible bout with laryngitis and this is why I have not updated the blog with all of the happenings. Probably the biggest highlight recently was when Miles got to meet his Papou Jim on March 9th! I was so great to see these two hanging out. I know Miles is looking forward to many afternoons on the golf course with Papou, as soon as he can get this hand eye coordination thing, oh and learn to walk :-)

While I was without my voice Miles seemed to find his. While I took this picture of him in Michael's baby outfit he just laughed and smiled. He has taken to making the most delightful squealing noises when he is happy. He loves to try to take part in conversations and will interject his own opinion when you are talking. I look forward to when these sounds become words because I would love to know what he is thinking, but for now we are enjoying the babbling.

This week was also eventful because I returned back to the classroom, and Miles got to spend his first full day at his grandparents house! I feel so blessed to have my parents so close to take such good care of him as I return to my other love of teaching.

Our boy is growing so fast! It is hard to believe that he is already three months old. He is so strong, and loves to stretch his legs out and stand up. Each little milestone seems so great as we watch him take in the world around him and learn to interact with it. We are so looking forward to longer days and more sunshine as we begin our first spring as a family!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blue Skies

Beautiful blue skies finally broke through the winter gray here in West Michigan! In fact the sheer quantity of sunshine for this time of year has been making news. The local weatherman exclaimed that in the first seven days of March we saw 94.3% of available sunlight. WOW!

This is what an unusually clear winter day over the Great Lakes looks like from a satellite. (This and many more cool images can be found at NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch.)

This is what the day looked like to us as we wandered through the woods again. The pulse of springtime could be heard when we walked the Sugarbush Trail as the sounds of dripping sap filled the air marking each drop as it fell into the buckets below. If you have never taken part in the magic of sugarbush I encourage you to visit the Blandford Nature Center. It is truly awe inspiring to follow a drop of sap from a Sugar Maple tree to your plate. Last year I helped my students empty buckets each afternoon and we were all giddy with excitement knowing that our hard work would pay off in the form of sweet golden syrup!

Miles experiences his first sugarbush!

I love this time of year when the white canvas of winter is quietly replaced with the subtle signs of spring. The change happens gently at first, and if you are not watching you might miss it. Something as small as the buds on the tips of branches swelling means that the inevitable has happened. It is finally our hemispheres turn to bask in the sunshine!

The Silver Maple near the school already seemed ready to burst! It won't be long now until the trees are leafing out and canopies of shade will cover the trails.

We wandered the West Loop trail to end our hike by taking a family photo. Remember the photo that began the blog many months ago?

Here we are "patiently waiting" last November,

and here we are with Miles!

When we took the picture in November we had no idea who this child was, only that we already loved him or her immeasurably! It has been such a wonderful winter and I will always remember it as the season we became parents. We have appreciated this "restful" time to take on the task of caring for a baby. Now we look forward to a spring filled with activities like teaching Miles about the outdoors, and growing our garden!

We hope to go on many adventures and camping trips with Miles in my faithful "Suby." So it seems inevitable that he will have many more "plein air" diapering experiences like this one in his future. :-)

As Papa worked a red tailed hawk circled overhead.

The Texan in me couldn't help but hear the voice of Willie Nelson begin to sing in my head.

"Blue skies smilin' at me,
Nothin' but blue skies do I see.
Blue birds singin' a song.
Nothin' but blue skies from now on.

I never saw the sun shinin' so bright, never saw things goin' so right
Noticing the days hurrying by, when you're in love, my how they fly!
Blue days all of them gone,
Nothin' but blue skies from now on!

The gift of eggs left on our car after our hike made the perfect ending to our day. Thanks Mr. Lende for sharing the bounty of the sixth grade chicken business with us. It was wonderful to see you again out on the trails doing what you do best - inspiring the minds of future generations!

As silly as it sounds we have truly never been happier than we are right now! It is almost impossible to describe the hope that fills you as you watch the new life of another person unfold before your eyes. All I really want for Miles right now is for him to feel safe and loved... and I think he does. I also want to provide for him a life that encourages him to explore the wonders of our world, and discover the possibility and potential that we all hold inside of us. Right now I think he is content to be carried along the trails, but I imagine that one day he will be out there blazing his own! Michael and I just feel blessed to be along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


The much anticipated night finally arrived! One by one babies began to appear at our front door. Before we knew it we had four car seats lined up, and it was time to celebrate the fact that all of our children were meeting for the first time on the "outside."
Miles sat in his chair looking a bit bewildered as four beautiful baby girls showed up to party at his house! We soon found out that when you get five infants together there are lots of logistics to consider. Someone was always needing to be fed, there was inevitably a line at the changing table, and if they weren't eating they were sleeping. Eventually we managed to get all five awake at the same time to take a "class photo." I still cannot believe that Miles was the only boy, born first, and by far the biggest one of the bunch!

Really is there anything cuter than five babies lined up together? From left to right Sofia, Elouise, Miles, Josie, and Chloe. I only wish I had snapped a photo of the ten parents on the other side of the lens cheering them on!

The night was full of proud parents passing their children around and sharing hilarious stories.
For dinner we made our own our own pizzas. While it was a lot of work it really was fun to do. Each couple took turns making their pies in the kitchen with an assortment of at least 15 different toppings that were compiled to choose from. The artist/chef in me loved to see what everyone came up with. Then as each couple completed their pizza I thought they looked great side by side on the baking sheets. Perhaps something of a self portrait? (I know - strange! - what can I say?)
Here we have Nate and Sarah.

Todd and Monica

Sally and Michael

Bethany and Aaron (the only couple that chose to make one really large pizza) - good thinking!

Paul and Cassie

Dinner was delicious - with thanks to Cassie and Paul for the salad, Sarah and Nate for the pizza dough, Bethany and Aaron for yummy toppings, and Todd and Monica for the cheesecake! I realized I did not manage to take any pictures of the cheesecake - probably because it was gone too soon!

By the end of the night there were babies sleeping all over the living room. My favorite part was the fact that every time I looked up parents were passing kids around and taking turns holding different babies.
We are all first time parents and so all of this is new, exciting, and at times overwhelming. Michael and I feel so blessed to have all of these friends to share this chapter of our lives with. Our children will always be experiencing similar benchmarks in their lives, so I know I have at least four other families to poll when Miles does something I cannot find an answer to in all the books. Which judging from our experience so far will be often.

For a reminder - here we are again in our Bradley class lined up in order of our due dates. From right to left Sarah (Dec. 6th), Sally (Dec. 9th), Monica (Jan. 24th), Bethany (Feb. 1st), and Cassie (Feb. 10th).
Here were are lined up in actual birth order. From right to left Sally with Miles born Dec. 19th, Sarah with Josie born December 29th, Cassie with Chloe born January 24th and Monica with Sofia also born on the 24th (her due date!), and Bethany with Elouise born on February 2nd. Cassie was by far the biggest "line jumper" moving from last to third! Sharing this experience has already been so amazing - I can only imagine what the future holds. Aren't we glad we just happened to be in the same class last fall! If we hadn't I am sure my life would not feel this complete!