Ada’s Birthday

Birthday girl with seven candles

Ada is seven years old and we had such an amazing time celebrating her birthday last night with family and this morning with friends!

This is what we love about being back and what we missed when we were away. It is what makes us continue to call Clearwater home even when we don’t mean to.

Boston

David Rosenfield in Boston MA

Boston was fantastic. The city has a strong and endearing personality and we quite fancied each other. Firstly, these New England cities are not really built for Rvs. The lanes are skinny, the quarters cramped, little parking, few lots, low clearance underpasses, one way streets up and down steep hills with the parked cars on either side threatening at every moment to encroach upon the bit of pavement in between which calls itself a driving lane. Side mirrors beware!

Yet do-able. David drove us to Cambridge the first day and we found a parking spot on the street right away. But after a dead battery, the discovery that AAA in Massachuesetts does not cover Recreational Vehicles (and what’s the point of having a membership that doesn’t cover an RV if an RV is your only vehicle?), paying out of our very slim pocket for a jump start, hurrying up and waiting for the tow truck to arrive to do the jump start so we can then drive Benny to an AutoZone to charge up our batteries before they close in—yikes, 12 minutes!

After all that, and nightfall, David was soured on Boston. Please, I say, we have to at least see where the police and the traffic made way for ducklings! And, sucker for good literature that he is, David agreed and drove us to the Boston Public Gardens and we loved Boston!

Again, we found street parking. It took driving up and down the streets for a few minutes but when we found it, it was just across the street from the entrance with the ducklings—the very corner illustrated in the book. So we enjoyed our day, and drove quite a ways out to find a Kmart we could park in that night because Boston is not the sort of place to have stores with big parking lots and when we did pause in the big parking lot of the grocery store we patronized, signs were posted limiting our stay to two hours, and only because we were customers.

And, while Boston was do-able, we decided to take a bus the next day. We left Benny at Kmart in the prestigious company of Rihanna’s tourbus which had also found refuge in this outskirt of Boston after her performance in the city the night before. And the rest of us hopped a bus into Boston and hopped off in the historical district. It may be worth noting that this was our first family bus ride.

parking with Rihanna
parking with Rihanna

We gave ourselves a tour of sites with historical significance, listened in on some tour guides, read some gravestones, and ate lunch on the grass. A well dressed, older couple were full and gave their last piece of pizza to us and we took it (David and Annabelle split it). How is this different, David wondered, from when the scuzzy guy at a concert offered us the rest of his popcorn and we declined? It just was different, that’s all.

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Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep
Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep

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Old North Church
Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere

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Balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was Read
Boston first heard the Declaration of Independence read from this balcony. Can you imagine the chills running up and down their spines?
lunch on the grass in Boston
Ada took our picture

And after all that history, we were ready for the Boston Public Gardens again so we walked to the Gardens and David whisked out his guitar and busked in a thoroughfare while the rest of us played on the adjacent playground and a drizzle joined us. Then we made our way through the drizzle back to the bus stop where we rode the bus the wrong way to the end of the line and back again, safe and sound, to Benny. Rhianna was gone, but we spent a second night, hit Trader Joe’s in the morning, and bid adieu to Boston.

David Rosenfield busking at the Boston Public Gardens
David busking at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

Coast of Maine

David wearing Annabelle, with Ada in Maine
We loved Maine, and the Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park was all we had hoped Maine would be:

A trail through the woods is dotted with wild berry bushes but you have to keep a sharp eye out to spot the tiny raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It isn’t a feast, but it is a sweet taste, and Annabelle learns a lot about which berries we eat and which are “not for picking.”

I tell her that some of the berries “aren’t good for us, they’re for the birds to eat.” Reliable Ada pipes up with “And the fairies!”

As we get closer to the beach (but don’t yet know it), wild rose bushes become abundant with plump and healthy rosehips mimicking the form of your local innkeeper’s shy but buxom daughter. The bushes are everywhere, as are their hips, and the remaining roses nestle in their leafy nests like pink jewels in a wildwood crown.

And suddenly the woods fall back and you’re on a pebbly beach and the pebbles grow until they are flat slabs and round boulders couching sparkling pools that each forms a whole universe to the seaweed and snails and coral growing there…

Ada builds stone alters while Annabelle climbs, sometimes two-legged, sometimes four-legged, and peers into the pools Pooh Bear style: knees bent, bottom stuck out, leaning too far forward until inevitably becoming a part of the wet landscapes she is observing with a splash and cute red lips making the letter “o” with surprise.  This happens enough times that her clothes are soaking wet and we lay them out on the rocks to dry.

My shoes and socks become equally soggy after the third time ending up in the ocean up to my ankles to snatch at the naked and speedy little imp whose mission has become losing herself in the untamed ocean waves.  So Ada and I take off our shoes and socks, leaving them high enough up on the beach to dry out, only when we come back for them, we’re lucky they haven’t floated away in the rising tide.

David and Cassidy are far off on the rocks that jutt out into the ocean.  I send the girls after them and we’re lucky when our speed reaches snail pace in a forwardly direction, but whenever we’re close enough to shout, David urges me to come see the tremendously beautiful view just around the next bend that outdoes the one I’ve just accomplished.  So we press onward, careful on the wet rocks, and the girls don’t care what’s ahead because they’re loving it where we are.

Plenty of rocks to choose from when I sit down to nurse and when David takes Cassidy out of the wrap, Annabelle is suddenly done exploring and wants to be wrapped up and since we only brought one wrap, we’re just as happy to have the heavy one wrapped, and she stays that way all the way back along the rocks, through the woods, and right into our livingroom parked in the parking lot that is really just a wide shoulder of the road.

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beautiful Maine coast

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nursing on a rock in Maine

my family on the rocks in Maine

Up With the Sun

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We wanted to be on Cadillac Mountain at 5:32am when the sun would rise and hit that point before any other place in the US. Cadillac Mountain is in Acadia National Park in Maine. We, however, were outside Acadia National Park, spending the night in a Walmart 45 minutes away.

So, we woke at 4am, moved the children out of their bed and into ours so that we could dis-assemble their bed to install car seats.

We used the bathroom, nursed the baby, and took down the curtains that cover the windshield at night.

We placed the children in their two carseats and one booster seat, and started the engine before their peeps could become wails.

45 minutes to the park and15 minutes up the mountain, throw on socks and layers and pull our hoods over our ears, everybody grab a child or two and wrap them in your warm arms and out Benny’s door to climb the rocks that jutted toward the rosy sky.

Silhouettes before sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Maine

If you’d told me there would be 200 people there, I probably would have skipped it. I had pictured a remote and personal moment communing with the wilder, less reasonable elements of nature. Just my family, and maybe a few others, champions facing the goliath of the rising sun, ambassadors representing our species in the greater arena of our solar system.

Instead, as Benny pulled in we saw a rocky mountainside lined with human silhouettes and instead of feeling let down, the sight was welcoming: like coming home to your family, like discovering travelers speaking your mother tongue in a foreign land, or discovering unexpected company at a remote oasis on a wide and empty desert.

And we weren’t champions or ambassadors, but pilgrims, both deserving of and privileged to witness what was both miraculous and mundane and to do so in the company of others who might be making the same discoveries or totally different ones, and without the presence of whom we might not have recognized the magic in the moment. Some stumbled out of cars, some jogged up the mountain. Someone sat on a rocky wall making reverent chords on a guitar, and we could have been gathered on a beach around a bonfire, but we were on a mountain at morning twilight.

So we saw the day begin, and there were families, like us, clutching each other for warmth, and many people were in pajamas, several with blankets wrapped around them, forming peaks over their heads and transforming them into unspecified native people, all natives of earth, all stardust (million year old carbon).

Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain twilight

First Sun, Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise!

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Cincinnati with Friends

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Amanda and Gwydion are two of my closest and dearest friends from college, and now they have spawned a third to create a lovely triumvirate who I wish I could hug daily, but currently don’t.  I was, however, thrilled to get to hug them for a few days, to slip into the old familiarity, banter and laughter, and our families are perfect for each other.  They should get married.  And have children.

Speaking of which, Amanda is going to do that soon, which makes me wonder what the four person version of a triumvirate is?

We were there over the Fourth of July, so of course we did that:

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And the park and playground:

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And best of all the creek, and our friends Becky and Steve joined us, too:

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Cincinnati Zoo

Thank you, John and Christal for the wonderful gift: tickets to the zoo!  Annabelle hasn’t been to a zoo since she was a baby and she LOVED it! We all loved it, but it was Annabelle’s first time seeing animals bigger that a pet–can you say rhinoceros?

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And the best part? Ada found flowers named Serena (her best friend)!

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I Know Why the Gypsies Dance

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This morning I stepped out of Benny to sunshine sparkling on the line of energetic automobiles motoring along the highway and behind them, the less energetic treeline of a Northern Forest. We played outside on the grass at the Saturday parking lot of the Warren County Municipal Center where the police let us overnight.

When Cassidy fell asleep, I brought out my washing: a small blue bucket of water, my equally blue rapid washer (which is the general size and shape of a plunger), and a small satchet of dried soapnut berries. Laundry was pleasant with all the sunshine and the air was neither warm nor cool, and the girls collected acorns and dandelions and fashioned acorn cap bowls and plates from wide leaves for their fairy picnic.

I washed every wet diaper we had, and then the three shirts in our laundry bag, laying the articles on the sunny grass and hanging some on our side mirrors to blow gently and effortlessly dry.

And as I enjoyed my morning activity, I realized that we are gypsies. Without contrivance, we have assumed the role. And I feel like I understand something about gypsies now. We are nomadic because we want to be. We have few possessions for the freedom of it. We don’t want your jobs or your storage units. We don’t want a place to call home because we have a family to call home and everywhere we go we set out our things and make that spot our home.

I hope we don’t look like a bigger version of every city’s shopping cart ladies, because we’re not down on our luck or homeless. We are so lucky that the whole world is our home. We’re not in a laundromat because we prefer it this way, where the sunshine sparkles and recent rains have left mushrooms. I’m enjoying washing diapers in the parking lot of the New York State Supreme Court. Everywhere we go, our dashboard is lined with drying diapers because it works perfectly, and if we change our minds, we’ll quick get a job and a mortgage and a high efficiency dryer.

Some might not want us stopping on the side of their road, hanging clothes to dry in front of God and everybody. They might think we’re dirty, or uneducated but I’ve memorized my formulae, my As, and Bs and Cs, but what I learned came long ago and not from such as these…(Buffy St Marie) and the Western habit of daily showering is slightly ridiculous anyway.

So if you stumble upon our camp in a living or paved forest, and peek at us doing our washing to the beat of our tambourines, you can tiptoe past for fear of being cursed, or you can come say hello and we’ll become temporary friends as we have with others who stop to admire our vintage rig and regale us with their own tales of travels, frugality, self-sufficiency, music, camping and searching through this country.

Ada

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She’ll be seven years old in just one month and she is the most kind, thoughtful, sweet and caring girl I could have hoped for. When I ask her if she will get my sandals, hold my purse, or hold her brother, she responds with a sweet, “Of course!”

Annabelle adores her sister and chats with her and calls to her constantly, and Ada is nearly always willing to answer her, play with her, or read to her. In fact, she loves having Annabelle as a playmate and spends a lot of her time describing to me the very detailed make-believe that the two of them are engaged in, what roles they are playing, how their outfits are appropriate, etc.

Ada’s world is better than ours because it is so heavily decorated with imagination. Her fantasies are charming and important to her. They came with her when we left the home for the motorhome.

You know how noteworthy people, when they relate their childhood stories, always say of their extraordinary childhoods that they just thought it was normal because it was all they knew? Well, I have a new theory that kids will think what they are doing is normal, even if they have known something else. Ada lived in the same house her whole life until now, but this fulltime RV business hasn’t tripped her up in the least. I think that at her age, she is still living in the NOW. Whatever is happening now is normal, even if it never happened before and it’s not happening to anyone else.

Maybe it’s because a young child’s world is so often out of their control. What is a mundane trip to the bank for me, comes out of the blue when I announce we’re going, and suddenly she’s swept up in putting away books, putting on shoes, and getting in her booster seat. Just like when I announce it’s time to get out and see Niagara Falls. What seemed obvious and predictable to me isn’t to her because I don’t always remember to share my plans and thoughts with her. So in a way, unpredictable is normal.

Ada has been looking forward to our getting on the road, and now she is enjoying the millions of stars in the black night on the Catskills, the Tansies on a Vermont roadside, the people we are visiting and those we are meeting everywhere, and every yellow car we see on the way. She is writing letters to friends and family about the highlights, which are never the ones I expect, and she is planning with eager anticipation a reunion with her best friend again when we go through Florida.

Cassidy

Ah child of countless trees, ah child of boundless seas…

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Cassidy always struck me as a little Buddah baby and that impression remains now that he’s growing up. I can’t pinpoint what it is. It’s not that he doesn’t cry, because he does. But his general disposition is jolly and easy going and he seems to have such a peaceful center. We could use a little peace around here after high-strung number one, and dictator-of-the-universe number two.

Cassidy does not enjoy his carseat. None of our babies have. I hate them myself. Something about strapping down a helpless, crying person just doesn’t set well with me, call me a hippie though you will.

But he usually falls asleep quickly once we are underway, so there is a relief from the awfulness of not going to your crying baby. In fact, he’s an all around quick going-to-sleeper. He’s found his fingers and sucking them soothes him. I was big on ecological breastfeeding with Annabelle, but in my current life I can only appreciate a self-soother.

He’s also my first baby who recognizes nighttime. It always made sense to me that a baby might not be naturally predisposed to recognize nighttime as any different than daytime (especially in our indoor and electric light culture), so I was surprised when Cassidy fell into a pattern of sleep around 9pm, and persisted in sleep so deeply that he didn’t mind my putting him down (a rarity in his early days), but continued to sleep soundly for many hours. This was very handy at home when I was the only parent trying to parent three kids to sleep at once!

He wakes less at night than my prior babies, and when he’s done nursing he just goes back to sleep, though during daylight hours he is a very light sleeper (unless the engine is running and we’re speeding down the interstate). But somehow I don’t live in fear of his waking like I sometimes have of other babies, because he often wakes to a pleasantly quiet alert state and if he does need more sleep, he slips back into it easily.

He does like being held, which you can hardly resent when he’s such a pleasure to hold and beams joyously at you when you pick him up. And besides it is his right as an infant to be in arms as often as we can manage. So after waking, he chills a bit, then starts complaining and if you don’t hop to, you get a real wail to pick him up.

Cassidy particularly enjoys lying outside naked and wiggling all his parts joyfully up at the sun and the trees.

Ada often goes to be with Cassidy when I’ve left him wiggling on the bed, and I find her holding or hugging him, or telling him the names of his toes. When he cries she picks him up and sings to him. Sometimes I catch Annabelle’s having climbed onto him without anyone’s noticing, and she pokes and prods and grabs with real hearty affection, and I pull her off in anticipation of screams of pain only to find that he is grinning widely in enjoyment. I can count on one hand the number of times he has laughed out loud and the most recent time was when his sisters both congregated around him on the bed to take turns blowing raspberries on his tiny tummy, and then Annabelle threw a cotton wipe onto his face and Ada pulled it off and he laughed, and both of the girls did, too. I delight in their delight of each other.

And for him, there hasn’t been much adjustment to make to our nomadic life…he’s living in the same arms he was back home, surrounded by all the same voices, and really, we’ve been living in this motorhome since before he was born, even if it was in one spot.

Annabelle

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Annabelle was eighteen months old when we left, was adjusting to being a big sister, and starting to talk. A couple of weeks into our adventure I decided to wean her. She was having a really rough time sharing nursing with our new baby and there was a lot of screaming and thrashing involved when I wanted to finish nursing Cassidy before nursing her. It seemed to me that it would be easier for her to accept never nursing, rather than sometimes nursing with no prediction of when she would be allowed to and when the baby would bump her from that esteemed position.

So the next time she asked to nurse I told her that our baby only eats mommy’s milk, but Annabelle gets to eat all sorts of delicious things, naming several of her favorites. So, I told her, we were going to let the baby do the nursing, and instead of nursing she and I would do hugs, and kisses, cuddling, and this little piggy. We’d read books and tickle each other.

I didn’t expect this to have much affect right away, but I wanted to start the discussion and gradually distract her more and more away from nursing. Instead, she accepted what I told her and turned her attention to something else. So we didn’t nurse that time, and the next time she asked, we had the same conversation, and she accepted it, and we haven’t nursed since.

That’s right, cold turkey, tear free weaning! I was shocked.

She was already not nursing to sleep at night—she had taken to nursing almost to sleep, then suddenly shaking herself wide awake and ready to play. So removing nursing from our night time routine was actually helpful. It was like cutting out her midnight caffeine drink.

She wasn’t nursing down for naps either because she had developed the habit of falling asleep while driving.  So that wasn’t a problem.

Nursing as a heal-all is always nice, but Annabelle had become accustomed to going to David when she was hurt or upset, as I usually had a baby in my arms and on my breast. Or else she would let me hug her against me and the nursing baby. We had already stopped using nursing to heal all.

Annabelle is extremely hale and strong and eats a large and varied diet, so while my milk has beneficial qualities that cannot be replaced by anything else on earth, I was not concerned with her nutritional needs being met, and I felt happy with the benefits she had already gleaned from our nursing relationship.

Maybe because I already have another nursling, I did not mourn the end of this part of our relationship at all. The only twinge of regret I may have felt was for the tandem nursing relationship I had expected Annabelle and Cassidy to have as tandem nurslings. However, their relationship is already strong and adorable and full of love, so I can let that go.

Annabelle is a complete daddy’s girl, in part due to the fact of having become a big sister at so young an age (although she and her daddy were close from the beginning). The timing was not ideal in many ways, but at the same time, I cannot believe it is anything but perfect because it is what it is, and we all have so much love and gain so much joy from the fact of each other member in our family that there can be no concern that our situation or any of our decisions is less than exactly what they should be, even if they are different from the choices my peers would make in a similar situation.

And here I want to give a shout out to my peers without whose love I might not be so comfortable in myself and my choices and instincts (waves to peers).

The only time when Annabelle’s having weaned was inconvenient was several weeks later when she was sick for the first time since weaning. Cassidy got a very mild cold that didn’t bother him, and I think that it was the breastmilk that got him through it so easily. Annabelle was sick for a whole week and felt miserable with a high fever, cough, and vomiting. But she got through and is back to her all-too-energetic self!

Energetically dissassembling all our pens (and sometimes dropping them down the AC vents in the dashboard, I finally figured out), emptying every wipe out of the drawer of wipes, spooning yogurt into her mouth, and other places, emptying the glove compartment, ripping the toilet paper holder from the wall (screws and all)…Annabelle is a handful!

She accepts each new place matter of factly and without apparent surprise and with the same eagerness to get out and go. She enjoys playing with Ada in the RV, or gong on excursions in all the new places. She mostly wants to be put down to get into mischief and resists getting picked up, unless it’s inconvenient, and then she needs to be in arms right away.

She is quick to protest, and loud, and can be quite dramatic, but she is secretly easy going and reasonable and relatively easy to sooth and restore to good spirits or to gain cooperation from.

She sleeps head to foot with Ada in their bed, but usually wakes at some point in the night and one of us (David) has to get up and cuddle her back to sleep, or else we’re too tired to get up and she climbs into our bed which is way too crowded. It’s full size, and so are we, with two adults and a baby already!

So how is she adjusting to fulltime RVing?  She is happy and thriving, and getting more attention from her parents than they had at “home” so for Annabelle, life is good!