Hazel, our little wild Iris, turned 6 months old. At dinner, we pass her back and forth like a football and lately, especially, I have been all, This time next year, we won't have a baby to juggle while we cook. I'm going to miss this. I have been acutely aware of the quickly passing baby-ness of our youngest, trying to soak it in while I can, memorizing every square inch of her very being. Her sweet smelling head, the feel of her tiny fingerbones loosely gloved with soft, translucent skin; the place where her bald head meets the back of her neck, the fan of fat-creases in her Popeye arms, the way she tucks her chin and throws her arms above her head when we tickle her, laughing and inviting more.
I'm going to miss this. I love having a lap-baby.Look at her hands....Look at her feet.... Did you hear her laughing at Juniper? I love her laugh....
I am trying so hard to lock Baby Hazel away in my brain, it hurts. And I know it's futile. I know because it's so hard to bring up a memory of Juniper as a baby, it's like trying to grasp water. I am better off to enjoy the flow and stop wishing for a freeze.
^Baby-in-the-chair idea from this blog. 1 week, 1 month, 1 1/2 months...I only missed February.^
6 months is a big deal for me. This is the beginning of a shift. Our pure, sweet-smelling baby will ingest something more than breastmilk, her poops will smell like something more than European cheese, she will soon crawl on the ground and shove all kinds of who-knows-what in her mouth. Our littlest angle is slowly coming down to earth. Once the weather warms up again, we'll likely do another ground-touching ceremony.
First Food (besides the smidgeon of avocado last week): mashed banana. She likes it. I've learned a few things the second time around.
On Hazel Iris' half birthday she: waved bye-bye, or attempted to, as in, Did she just WAVE? And, she sucked on my finger (common) after just having crushed some hot red peppers (uncommon). The poor girl whimpered then developed a rash around her mouth in two seconds flat. Guess we'll stick to bananas for now. Also, I made her some 6-month trousers.
^My first attempt at this "quick change trouser" reversible pattern (which, despite being led to believe otherwise, does not accommodate bulky cloth diapers. So even though I made a 9-12 month size, I'll need to throw in some side panels soon and make the next pair significantly wider.)^
Six months already. Holy shit. The smell of our bathroom still reminds me of our labor and birth. We did it together, girl. And now, you will be extending yourself farther and farther from my embrace. Your wings are sprouting.
Juniper has always had a fantastic relationship with her dad, but since Hazel was born she has become a daddy's girl cum laude. On Mother's Day, my man had to leave at the crack of dawn, working away from home for a week. The night before, he put her to bed and told her how much he loved her and that he'd be waking up early and gone for a week. Juniper NEVER wakes early. She's an 8:30am on-the-dot type of kid. On Mother's Day, she awoke crying and came into our room *just* before my husband's alarm went off. She asked to sleep in our bed, but when he got up she patted the pillow and whined, Noooo, daddy not go to work. Daddy sleep right here. And patted the pillow some more. It was a rough morning.
I've been thinking a lot about my relationship with Juniper Autumn lately. I feel like something is missing. I know Hazel is an obvious kink in the chain, but it seems bigger. I tell myself we put her through so many HUGE life changes in a short period of time: moved to a new house, started sleeping in her own bed, in her very own room, and then ta da! there's a baby in the house, suddenly dad puts her to bed every night, there's lots of fun loving relatives around, but then poof! they're gone.
This week I realized this one little fact: I wish Juniper was still nursing. Maybe just once a day, or once a week, or something. I wish I could still give her that simple, instant, primal comfort. I wish I was still her rock. We nap together at home. All three of us hunker down on my bed. Hazel snuggles into my chest and nurses. Juniper spoons my back and sleeps. We seem to need that touch time. But all Juniper gets is a bony back, like leftovers.
Hmmm. This isn't at all what I sat down intending to write about tonight. This wasn't on the to-do list. I am processing out-loud, so to speak.
:: I've been single-mom'in it this week, which always gives me enormous respect for single moms. Dude. I have four loads of laundry swallowing the couch and a sink full of crusty dishes. To be fair, this is in large part due to the fact that we've been out far more than we've been in. We've been swimming, visiting friends, running errands, stopping at parks. The weather has been unseasonably hot. We've spent too much time in the car (the problem with rural living). Aside from watering, I have been purposefully ignoring the garden until my better half returns and I can work on it for real.
:: Our garden! My super-stud husband whipped out these raised beds, salvaging the lumber from our collapsed animal shelter. Under the white row cover: peas, spinach, cilantro, lettuce, easter egg radishes, golden beets, four shades of carrot. Under the grass mulch: mountain rose and viking purple potatoes. The garlic was planted willy-nilly last fall and we're just trying to work around it. Beyond that: asparagus, onions and strawberries. We have more beds to make, a green house to build and already plan a garden extension undertaking either this fall or next spring. The neighbors, I am sure, think we're crazy. We have no fence--yet--and elk don't always stick to the hills.
:: We've been hearing robins singing their sweet, cheerful song and flitting about our house for weeks. We've seen their blue eggshells deposited here and there. I figured they had a nest nearby but silly me, I was looking in the trees.
Our garage roof extends into a lean-to on the west side. This nest is under the roof and overlooking our garden. And, yes, we've peeked at the babies--but only twice.
When I was pregnant with Juniper and living in Montana, we had a robin nest on our porch light. We taped the switch so we wouldn't accidentally flip the light and catch the nest on fire. She was a first-time mother, we believed. I thought it was a good omen to have these babies growing up outside my window while another baby grew in my belly. And I happen to be there the day each fledgling took flight and left the nest for the first time. The first bird seemed to take off on a dare, feet quivering at the edge of the nest, then flying and trying to land hither and thither--on the window glass, on a blade of grass--like a teenager behind the wheel for the first time. Each successive adolescent seemed to learn from the one before so that by the time the last bird left the nest, she coasted in a graceful arc to the lilac bushes, like she'd been doing it her whole life. I should have known a robin wouldn't build a nest in a tree.
:: Shortly before he left, my stud-with-tools put together a picnic table. We've been dining outside all week and I'm loving it.
:: Meanwhile, young Hazel Iris kicks her legs like a jockey trying to spur a dead horse into action. The dead horse is usually my thigh. She is grabby, like those flinging sticky hands you get in gumball machines. No thing is safe. Her arm always extends further than you thought. Most things land instantly in her drooly mouth. But some things are first worthy of a cross-eyed inspection.
I am wound so tight right now, my To-Do list would empty a pen's ink cartridge. When it seems I couldn't get any tighter, I crank it up a notch. Any day now, the dam will bust and everything will go flinging into summer. Oh, summer. I feel like a maple leaf bud just before it unfolds, all wound tight with several fingers getting ready to spread in every direction. (The Mr. just read this and said, No, you're more like a firecracker about to explode.)
We've been home for over a week (a week and a half? two weeks?), we were sick and moving slow but now, now! Plant fruit trees, order chicks, buy plane tickets, reserve llamas, finish building garden beds, hand-fork garden beds, plant garden beds, build fence, set up watering system, build chicken coup, fence chickens out of garden, set up trampoline, build sand box, build green house, build green house beds, potty train Juniper, move dirt, find chicken sitter, re-read Hemingway before next book club, get a dog.... This summer already feels like a pre-planned Choose Your Own Adventure, the chapters are already written, we just have to choose. Right now, we choose garden beds over clean bathrooms. We choose hand-forking dirt over folded laundry. It's spring. Summer is within arm's reach.
The only photos I took this week:
I hate to post so many photos from our vacation because in the end, home is where the real magic happens. But I will anyway because, you know, this is my blog and how often do we get to see our Montana family? While it may seem that we were vacationing for several weeks, it was only one. We turkey hunted the first half, then found cool stuff to do with the kids the second half. A perfect balance.
We left turkey camp to stay in a nearby state park, complete with playground and fishing ponds. The wind was torrential, grey skies ominous and the robotic weather service guy kept saying, "Extreme weather warning. No unnecessary travel. Underground shelter advised." That didn't stop us from taking the kids fishing, even though Sam couldn't stand up in the wind. My man dug up worms, the kids hunkered down on a dock and actually got to catch fish, over and over and over again, then toss them back. It gave new meaning to Juniper's current favorite mother goose rhyme: One, two, three, four, five...
Once I caught a fish alive...
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten...
Then I let it go again...
Why did you let it go?
Because it bit my finger so...
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on the right.
As my husband--the fish biologist--said, little bluegills are the best kid's fish. They're easy to catch and tough as nails. Juniper actually got to catch and reel with her own fishing pole. She was ecstatic. (Owen was trying to get over his fear of the hook, which really did bite him in the finger last time he went fishing.)
:: The great thing about tempestuous weather and tick season: we had the campground entirely to ourselves. Lots of hardtop loops for the kids to bike.
Despite five members of our family trying to show her otherwise, Juniper insists on holding the handlebars like this:
Which may or may not be related to her first face-plant:
Owen's tumbles were more closely associated to the container of pink bubble gum he was trying to carry around.
:: Our last day and night, we headed up to Hot Springs, South Dakota to visit the mammoth dig site.
The theory is, this site was a big sinkhole where mammoth's were lured to drink, fell in, couldn't get out, then suffocated or starved to death. (Fun!)
Lately, Juniper has been in a more aggressive stage. (She frequently says things like, I wanna STOMP on it! Or, I wanna EAT it! Or, I wanna SMASH it!) When she saw one of the big mammoth skeletons she said, "I wanna RIDE it!"
Can't wait to see what next year brings.
P.S. My head's not there yet, but Happy Mother's Day! You know who you are.
Oh, the contradictions of this American life: Yes, we hang Buddhist prayer flags at hunting camp.
Last year at this time I was puking sick and exhausted with a baby the size of a walnut in my belly. We went turkey hunting, returned home, slept, awoke to Osa unable to stand up, suffered a deep loss, and then life just kept on spinning. I never did get that turkey post done. This year, we were back at it--our annual wild turkey hunt--meeting up once again with our Montana family. First, a peek back...
^Juniper 18 months; Owen a bit over 2 years.^
Now that I have kids, I date their growth according to events and likewise, date events according to my kids' growth. 6 critical things happened that mark Turkey Camp 2011:
1) Juniper and her cousin Owen played together really, really well--like, really, had fun--for the first time.
2) Juniper became an ornery toddler which left us scratching our heads and mumbling something about "discipline".
^Oh, I miss that top-knot!^
3) My man and I got to spend time together sans kid...for the first time ever (I KNOW). So grandparents, if you want to move closer, that's okay with us.
4) Osa couldn't get up to pee one morning, but then did, and for the first time we thought the end could really be coming soon.
5) It was the last time Juniper would nurse almost constantly (a few months later, she didn't nurse at all).
^Tiny, kid-sized stream behind camp. And yes, Owen's naked.^
6) This chica went hunting. Thanks to some 4:00 am nursings and my step-mom who stayed in camp to watch Juniper. Is it too late to say thank you?
^Nothing like a face-mask, full camo and your grandfather's 16 gauge shot-gun to make you look like a bad ass.^
One really awesome late-morning hunt landed me a sharp-spurred gobbler. Turkey hunting--when done well--takes skill, patience and a knack for steadying your arm while your heart is about to leap right out of your chest. It is so much like bow-hunting elk--stepping in on that mating dance, getting close--except they are smaller, can't smell worth a damn but could spot a tick on the tip of your nose. And, they are extravagant birds. They take a simple, pragmatic life and overflow it into the realm of art. Always, we are grateful for these lives that feed our own. ^My dad's photo. Wing feathers.^
^My dad's photo. Body feathers.^ And, their meat is a delicacy in our home; a diversion from our usual game.
Did I mention the grandparents? They were the ticket last year. They even tent-camped, remembering why they tent-camped for most of their lives.
1) Juniper and Owen still play really well together, but when "MINE!" games got serious, adult mitigation was necessary. I'll be happy when the MINE stage is over.
2) Weather was HOT. It felt wonderful. Deer ticks were out in droves. Everyone got a tick check at least twice a day. (Hazel was easiest.)
3) My little walnut grew and doesn't take a bottle. So this year, the hubby got to hunt sans wife. I have the rest of my life to hunt wild turkeys, but only this year will I have this:
4) And she found her feet.
5) Juniper, suddenly, is into riding toys. And now she's infatuated with her two-wheeled "big girl bike."
6) I didn't hunt, but all other adults did.
^Aunt D returning to camp with a fine gobbler on her back.^
7) First-ever turkey camp without a tent of any kind. I officially love our camper trailer; it's perfect for us at this time. However, in my head, I endearingly refer to it as, The Effing Trailer. It's a love-hate relationship, you see. But I sang its praises nearly every day out there. My man joked, "You may have been some hot-shot wilderness ranger when we met, but deep down, I knew you were a closet RV-er." Ha.
In 2011 Juniper was on the tail-end of her baby stage. She was uncomplicated, happy. She loved blueberries and spaghetti and tugging on my pant leg asking for "juice."
In 2012, Juniper is 2 1/2 years old, holds conversations with her aunt and uncle, feeds Baby Sam (who is now walking and nearly talking), and rides bikes with cousin Owen. She dances unabashedly, is nearly always singing a rhyme, frequently asks, "What's this about?" in reference to a book, or, "Whatchya talkin about?" in reference to a conversation. She is fascinated with "owies"--what they look like, what did it, and all the attached emotion. In 2012 Juniper is complicated. She is human.