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!

Cincinnati with (surprise) Family

David played the Findlay Market Saturday morning which was simultaneously hopping and crawling with Cincinnatians:

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When who should approach me but family I didn’t even realize we had!  Buffy’s brother is married to David’s Aunt Holly and way back when I was new in this family, and Ada was new in this world, we had a family brunch at Buffy and Mark’s house at which time I was barely keeping aunts and uncles straight , much less aunt and uncle in-laws, and I honestly wasn’t very clear on who Buffy even was!

After a pleasant exchange of how-do-ye-do, and when David had finished his show, we said goodbye and Buffy turned to leave, then came back and offered to let us stay in their driveway while we were in town!  This was the most wonderful offer as we had not figured out where to stay in town and the prospect of a Cincinnati Walmart appealed to us even less than others.  And Buffy’s offer was rich with generous extras: we could plug Benny into their house for electricity, we could luxuriate in their gorgeous swimming pool, enjoy their huge yard, swing from their trees, draw on their driveway and help ourselves to their many amenities including toilets, showers and a 24 hour laundryroom. It was like a resort vacation.

We accepted and Buffy proceeded to make us a great summer dinner of gazpacho soup (choice of regular tomato OR watermelon) with a delicious berry and fancy yogurt desert, which we ate with Buffy, Mark, and their youngest daughter, Colleen, on the patio.  Mmmm! Oh, and beets, which Annabelle immediately learned how to say so she could request it again and again with her insatiable appetite.  Colleen was so sweet with the kids and they loved her (and so did we)!

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Cincinnati with Family

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The beautiful home that Jeff and Reda have made in Alexandria Kentucky is an oasis of peace, lovliness, and blooming flowers, conveniently located real darn close to our destination of Cincinnati Ohio.

After a series of Walmart hotels over the prior week, then a couple of hours driving through the serene bluegrass hills, we reached their house where we were so glad to see family and spend a most pleasant couple of nights and mornings, interspersed with days in the more hectic world of Cincinnati.

The first night was the best, when Jeff brought out his gigantic homemade telescope and a little step ladder so Ada could climb up to see what she could see: the rings of Saturn, for one, as well as stars and maybe solar systems.

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Ada peers into space.

The next day and even occasionally now, a month later, she was overheard singing a song she wrote about the relative heat of various stars and informed me matter-of-factly that if our sun was the size of Beetlejuice, the Earth would be inside the sun!  And a few days after the telescoping session she drew this picture in chalk on driveway:
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Here she is learning how a telescope works:
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Thanks for having us, and feeding us, and keeping such a pretty place to be a rest stop on our travels!

Jeff and grand-neph (that rhymes)

West Virginia – Grand View

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We had the best time with Robby over several days.  The West Virginia woods were beautiful and astonishing, the company was jovial, the skies clear and the sun bright.  The girls were loving it, Cassidy was still too little to tell us what he thought about it, and the caves were amazing.  The grass was green, the forest shady and dappled, and there was almost no one else around.  Just thinking of it makes me sigh a peaceful sigh.

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Boston Public Gardens

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Today we parked on Beacon Hill, crossed Charles Avenue, and waddled right on into the Public Garden, where Ada and Annabelle met Mrs Mallard and her eight well brought up ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, and Quack!

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The Public Gardens were enormously lovely and we had the nicest time!

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We strayed off script long enough to dunk our two little frogs and one tadpole in the frog pond:

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Berry Picking in New York

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Between Buffalo and Schenectady, the lovely couple who own Abbot Farms let us spend the night on their beautiful farm, complete with farm animals, apple and cherry orchards, and U-Pick raspberries and blueberries!  After a french toast breakfast made with today’s eggs, provided by the chickens we fed last night, we went berry picking.  That was a mistake.  We should have gone on an empty stomach because there’s no charge for the ones you eat off the bush!

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Peaceful Interlude

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After a whirlwind of travel and transition, our first peaceful day hit us a couple of weeks ago in Ohio and reminded us to slow down once and a while:

We woke up in the parking lot of an AAMCO in a tiny town, got our transmission looked over, then drove to the nearest supermarket and on the way saw a sign for a free drive in movie at the rec center that evening.  We did some errands, then went to the rec center and parked in the area where the drive-in would be.  Walked to the lake and David and Ada worked on skipping stones and making whistles out of grass.  Ada and Annabelle climbed up one side of a big boulder and slid down the other…again and again.  Then to the rec center playground which was the nicest I’ve ever seen and where we played for a long time.  Then back to Benny in the parking lot to make noodles and yeast for dinner and sit down to watch Despicable Me on the big screen.  The local police gave us the go ahead to spend the night in the rec center parking lot so as each child nodded off, we laid them in bed and continued the movie, after which we tucked ourselves into bed.

And in the morning, back to the playground for David and the girls while Cassidy and I trotted down a hill to the library to print out some documents that had been emailed to us.  Perfect!

Rec Center Playground

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West Virginia with Robby

We reached the beautiful mountain state and, more pertinently, our beautiful friend Robby.  Yay!

Robby is smiles and sunshine that claim to have moods, he talks with his hands, and his hands speak in mixed media.  His house looks like the Metropolitan and an antique store had babies, and then those babies exploded.  His yard looks like his dad keeps it well manicured, and Robby lovingly waters and beers and otherwise coaxes curling green tendrils up and out and into bloom in the shadow of a good climbing tree and by the light of a good bonfire.  Shiny objects dot his garden like lint, but prettier.

Robby in his Yarden

And, Robby has kittens! The girls were enchanted!

Kittens!

And Robby had a mother and father who were very nice, and fed us home-cooked meals, let us use their laundryroom, supplied us with swings and slides, gave us gifts, and otherwise spoiled us.  He has a mother and a father, but I only captured the one of them on camera:


At Robby’s house we saw my friend Chris, had a bonfire, introduced the girls to their first smores (we talked Ada into trying them even though she protested that they were unhealthy–Annabelle was willing from the start), had a party and met some folks, climbed a tree, toured Tamarack and saw a bunch of art.  Most of that happened in the dark though, so all I have is this picture of the girls discovering crab apples from Robby’s tree (Annabelle was cuckoo for the crab apples):

The girls pick crab apples.

Robby found us a horse so Annabelle could meet one in person–she was much impressed and one happy girl!

David and Annabelle meet a horse

Annabelle looking for daddy:

Looking for Daddy

Robby and David trot over to the local pub looking for work–here’s David playing at Fosters in Beckley:

David at Fosters

West Virginia – Fayetteville

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We took Robby with us to Fayetteville to see my friend Darlene and check out her store, Swirl.  “It’s like you’re a grown up,” I told Darlene.  “You won’t say that when you see it,” she answered.  Swirl is a vivid, tiny, swirly, colorful, place like a room in Willy Wonka’s factory.  Swirl has followed in the tradition of all those combo Pizza Hut/Taco Bells by combining some of America’s traditional favorites into a one stop ice cream parlor, old-style candy shop and vintage toy store.  Swirl is astonishing and fun for all ages, much like Darlene, who treated us all to ice cream cones and gave Ada too much free candy.  I haven’t seen her daughter, Alexis, since she was five years old, and now she’s sixteen!  And Darlene’s son Jackson is brand new to me and good company for Ada!

Ada and Jackson show off their slap bracelets.

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Carly finally shows up and shares with us the packages of junk mail her friend in Seattle sent her.  Good times!

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