Little milestones

Riley girl, princess extraordinaire, favorite six-year-old, lost her first tooth last night.

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My baby’s baby is getting big.

She was eating dinner and out it came. Just like that! No tears, no trauma. No drama.

I was afraid a door and a string might be in her future.

Loosing baby teeth wasn’t easy for her mom.

She lost the first one eating a bowl of cereal. Never did find that tooth!

The second one came out with a fall when she was skiing. There was a little blood on the snow, but no tooth. Never did find it…well, white tooth, white snow…

The next few teeth came out in the dentist’s chair. The baby teeth were slow to loosen, and the permanent teeth were pushing their way in. The dentist said it would be best to pull them. I think he pulled four at once. The teeth, our first to present to the tooth fairy, were placed in a little plastic tooth holder on a little plastic necklace. Stephanie wanted to wear it home, she was so proud.

We stopped by the grocery to pick up something soft and appetizing for her…ice cream or yogurt…I can’t remember now, it’s been too long. But I vividly remember the next scene. Alex in the seat of the cart, food in the front of the cart, and Stephanie, suddenly in tears and inconsolable…the little cover on her plastic tooth had opened while we strolled through the store. It was a big store.

And now, no teeth. Again!

I back-tracked, trying to assure her we would find a tooth or two, at least, I was sure of that! We paraded back through the aisles, walking slow, trying to look for tiny white  baby teeth along the way. A kind clerk tried to help us, joining in the hunt.

We did find a couple of teeth…not quite the bounty we expected to present to the tooth fairy, but something.

Finally, after checking out, full cart, consoled child, I realized: no car keys.

Somehow, in all the uproar, I’d lost my keys as well.

I had to call Rob for rescue. He had to leave the hospital and bring his keys so we could get home before ice cream melted and the remaining teeth escaped.

I left word with the grocery customer service desk: if they found any baby teeth, or a set of car keys, please call this frantic mom.

Oh it was traumatic! But the tooth fairy did find her way to us that night, and paid on all the teeth. (As she had on the others that were lost. Tooth fairies understand: these things happen.)

I did eventually get my keys back.

Never did find those teeth!

So it’s with pleasure that I learn Riley’s first tooth adventure was simple, quick, painless, and she has a tooth to show for it.

Lucky girl! 🙂

 

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Happy birthday Jack!

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Blue eyes!

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The serious side of Jack!

Our Jack turns two tomorrow. What a boy he is! He’s the sunniest little fellow, almost always happy and smiling…at least when I see him! He sings to himself…a little personality trait I think he got from his dad…I often hear his dad humming…now that’s a sign of a contented heart! Little Jack is learning the alphabet, and his words are growing every day. He’s blossomed so quickly from baby/toddler to little boy. Love that little guy!

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Visits and birthdays, the good stuff

It’s a busy month for us. Stephanie, Riley, and Jack are up for a summer visit, so we’ve temporarily gone into kid-land. All the breakables and anything that looks likely to become a missile in the hands of 18 month old Jack have been moved to higher ground. He’s a climber, but there are still a few spaces out of his reach. Yesterday he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When I walked in, he was sitting in the middle of the breakfast table, and as soon as he saw me walking toward him, he stood up, quite proud of himself and reaching out his little arms for a lift down. Gave me a mini heart attack, but didn’t phase him at all. He’s fearless and fast, and a boy…always a dangerous combination! But he’s so stinking cute, we forgive him all the rest and just follow him around to protect him from himself.

 

Fearless Jack!

Fearless Jack!

Riley is in one of the golden ages of childhood. Four year olds are old enough to do a lot, still young enough to be funny without knowing why (endlessly amusing to the adults :). Her speech is clear as a bell, but she has a few Riley-isms that we can’t bear to correct…she’ll grow out of them soon enough. Princess doll gloves are “glubs,” and she asks if I “memember” something that happened yesterday.  Sometimes she notices that we’re laughing at her, which we always deny immediately, but can’t help. She’s just too funny, in the sweet little-kid way of being funny-when-serious.

Riley the First-born

Riley the First-born

She’s a talker. With her gene pool, she could hardly escape that. We have long and interesting conversations that are wide-ranging. We discuss everything from princess fashions to the dangers of zombie attack (thanks, older kid at day care, for introducing her to the concept) to playdough creations. She’s learning to write the alphabet, gearing up for pre-school in the fall. She’s also standard issue first-born, bossing Jack around and clearly expecting to be in charge of life. But the other side to her personality is sensitive and affectionate, so just when you think she’s verging on teenager, she’s a sweet little girl again, charming and disarming.

I never really stood a chance. The grands have planted their flag.

It’s also a month of birthdays. I counted up, and between immediate and extended family, we have seven people celebrating in June. Today is Alex’s birthday, number 27. We sent several gifts his way already. I wish we had the gift of his presence so we could enjoy a birthday dinner together. But not to be this year. Still, it’s a moment to mark and remember. In his honor we’ll eat some bacon (his favorite) and have a family pass-the-phone-around conversation tonight. I’m always fantasizing that we’ll spend more of our big days together, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that again. But for today, we’ll have to content ourselves with a digital connection.

Alex, happy 27!

Alex, happy 27!

Alaska is cooperating with some beautiful weather. The water is so blue when the sun is shining on it, and such a gun-metal gray when skies are overcast. We watched cruise ships yesterday, and float planes, kayakers, small boats, and fishing vessels, all from the front windows of the house. The Tongass Narrows is bustling this time of year, and my only complaint is the float planes start buzzing waaay too early in the morning. They’re out by 5:00 am, taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight this time of year. (Sunrise today was at 4:04, sunset tonight will be 9:31, with twilight lingering a little beyond.) And while float planes are noisy any time of day, they are particularly noticeable and obnoxious before coffee. That’s really my only complaint of summer here. Well, that, and the days that are summer on the calendar and fall by thermometer. But hey, as long as my heat isn’t kicking on, that’s a good day 🙂 (Not many places that statement defines a good summer day!)

Blue water!

Blue water and Ketchikan

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Pacific Airways, local transport

 

So, off to play, and rescue small people from high places, and feed, and strap into car seats, and make photos….lots of photos! We’re looking for bears, and fish, and a souvenir or two…because what kid ever visited grandparents and didn’t go home with a little something to show for it? Here’s hoping for blue water and clear skies!

 

Riley is two

Riley turns two today. We’ve already had this little joy in our lives for two years!

She’s been in the toddler stage for a while. She runs, she climbs, she’s a big girl. Tall for her age, she looks more like a three year old. But there are still some traces of babyhood, when she’s sleepy, or tired. She says a lot of words and phrases, but doesn’t quite pronounce all the consonants yet, so you have to do a little interpretive work to follow her conversation. Still, it’s obvious that she has the family gift of gab.

She’s a bit of a foodie, fascinated at her young age with life in the kitchen. She loves to explore in the pantry, and she knows where her favorite foods live in the fridge. And she likes to stir things.

She’s a modern child, she knows how to push buttons to get things…at least some things…that she wants. She watches babies and cartoon characters on You Tube. She likes to play little games on her parents’ Kindle Fire.

She knows the word “no.” She sometimes says, “No, Riley,” as if practicing on herself. She drops the “l” in Riley (one of those consonant things), but she gets the tone jussst right.

She rides a little trike, a “Dora the Explorer” trike that has lights, turn signals, and plays music. She has a few books. Just a few! The child has her own mini library, but I like that. Always a reader myself, I love to see that potential for children.

She has a bit of a temper. She’s explored the terrible twos, wandered in and out a bit already. But she’s a happy child most of the time, and is a cheerful little companion, singing in her car seat while out and about, chattering in her Riley-speak about whatever is on her mind at the moment.

She has nicknames…”Little,” or sometimes, “the Little,” and “Poo.” She knows them too. She hears them often enough, at least from me and Stephanie. I’m not sure if anyone else uses these. But they are names of affection and play. I am “Gram” to her, although I haven’t heard her say that yet. But she knows Rob’s name, “PB,” and she says it frequently, putting the emphasis on the “P,” “PeeeBe,” she says, calling him to come and see something, or identifying him in a photo.

This little girl has made a place in my heart, effortlessly climbing in and making herself at home. The child of my child is reminding me of the joys of discovery, the value of intangibles, and the strength of ties that bind. Happy birthday, Riley girl! Happy birthday, Little!

Theola Jane Kite Burton, 1921 ~ 2011

My grandmother died tonight. She was my last remaining grandparent, and at 90, was still going strong until just a few days ago. She was a product of a time that lives in grainy black and white photos, history books, and memory. She was a child of the depression, married at 14, raised five children with few resources, loved my grandfather, Grady Clyde.

She was “Mama” to her grandchildren, and spent countless days of her life gardening for the family, or sewing, or cooking. She was a gardener of vegetables from necessity, for most of her life, making ends meet with lady peas, butter beans, tomatoes, and whatever else she decided to plant. Her thumb was green. She grew flowers out of love, and knew how to graft, root, transplant, and do amazing things with bulbs. She collected daylilies, and roses. She loved browsing the latest catalogs of flowers. A visit to her house was never complete in the growing season without a tour of her plants, mostly moved outdoors to grow in the hot Mississippi summer.

She was a woman of faith. She believed, and she believed strongly. She was a pretty good preacher too, when the occasion and the grandchild required. Mama was no story book grandmother. Although she loved us all, she could scold when she saw the need. She was always ready to make some point, and I remember that she encouraged us as children to memorize the fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitudes.

She was a seamstress and a quilter, and her winter project was often a new quilt or two for someone in the family. Now her quilts will have a special meaning, because there will be no more from her. But the ones she left behind will be treasured.

She was a cook of country foods, southern foods, traditional foods. She made biscuits and cornbread, perfect every time, knew how to cook anything in a pressure cooker, was legendary for her fried peach pies. She made a creamed chicken dish that was pure comfort food, and knew how to make lady peas that were perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, served up with steam rising from the bowl.

She laughed at herself or whatever was funny till she couldn’t talk, a trait that I think I’ve inherited. She loved a joke, although she couldn’t really tell one. She wasn’t a successful tv watcher, except for the news. She couldn’t stay awake through most programs. I think she was too accustomed to getting up early to watch tv in the evenings.

She lived in same small town for most of her life. She knew pretty much everyone, and could tell you the history of families, events, all sorts of things from past doings in Winona, Mississippi.

She was salt and light in my life: salt as a good seasoning, light as a lamppost to guide the way.

As an adult, I’ve recognized that many things that are part of my life she would have no understanding of. She didn’t work outside her home. She didn’t move about, although she did travel a bit visiting her children in different parts of the world. But in many ways, her world was centered in her community, her family, her faith. I like to think that although our lives are very different externally, there is some of her goodness in me; that her influence and her faith are in my heart.

She believed she was going to a better place at the end of her life. She believed she would see my grandfather again. She believed.

And so do I. Thank you, Mama, for sharing your life with me, and with so many. Thank you for the conversations through the years. Thank you for your love. Thank you.

Little Girl

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I saw Riley at the end of May, and she had just taken a step or two, but wasn’t really walking yet. Now she’s running, full speed, tilted a little forward most of the time, in true toddler fashion, and occasionally her top half gets ahead of her feet and she goes tumbling. But she doesn’t stop for long.

She’s a friendly little thing, not really shy (how could she be, with her gene pool?), and she’s a talker, even though we can only understand a word or two. Never mind, the child speaks in paragraphs (how could she not, with her gene pool?). And she uses the same sounds repeatedly. She knows what she’s saying to us, we’re the ones who can’t quite get it. I’m just waiting for her to interpret herself. I’m sure she has something important to share.

Her hair has grown long enough to pull back with a little barrette, if only she would allow that. But she’s not fond of things in her hair, lovely though they be. She prefers a natural look. She likes to go barefoot, pulls her shoes off almost as soon as they’re on. She sings. She loves fruit, doesn’t like meat, calls all liquid “juice,” likes to stand in the bathtub. She snuggles after a nap, needs a few moments to wake up, lifts her hands to be picked up, plays happily in the pantry, emptying boxes and stirring in an empty container with a long-handled spoon. She loves books, although her primary interest is in pulling them off the shelf. She can be a one-child demolition crew.

She rides her rocking horse pony, tools around in her little Porsche. She’s become a little girl since I saw her last. There are a few baby remnants, but they’re fading quickly.

I watched the expressions on her face, saw the uninhibited display of emotion, the pureness of a little personality that doesn’t hide anything. She’s transparent and genuine. That’s one of the pleasures of this age. Whatever you get, it’s the real thing. She hasn’t yet learned to filter her responses, or to temper her reactions.

After a short time of togetherness, I feel my heart connecting, feel myself surrendering to the joy of belonging. Riley is a part of me, and I’m a part of her. We are not primary to each other. No, that’s the parent/child role. But we occupy unique positions in the heartland, just as it should be.

Monday, but Friday’s coming!

Yes, it’s Monday. Not a bad one at that, although it’s another cool and rainy day here in SE Alaska. I’m hoping August brings some consistent summer days, because July hasn’t come through with sun or warmth.

But don’t get me started on the weather!

As my grandmother would say, I’m wishing my life away this week, mentally hurrying the days on toward Friday. And though Friday is the beginning of the weekend, it’s not the weekend I’m waiting for. This Friday I’ll head to Phoenix to reconnect with Rob, who’s been out and about visiting family in California, and is spending this week with our son in Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Next week we’ll be in Sedona, AZ, soaking up some sun, doing a little hiking and eating, and enjoying vacation mode together.

And a bonus: we get to see little Riley, have a “Riley sighting” on our way to Sedona, and another short visit on our return trip. isn’t it lucky for us that she lives in the very state we’re visiting?! Stephanie gives me updates on her “firsts:” today she tried a French fry, and watched a few minutes of “The Lion King.” She is saying a word or two, and has a favorite stuffed animal now. She brings a book to be read, and likes toys that make animal sounds. I saw her at her first birthday in April. Now, three months later, I think she’s rapidly becoming a little girl and leaving her real baby days behind.

This is the joy of summer, anticipating luxurious days of leisure and relaxing, and time to connect, and reconnect; to move slowly, to drink it all in.

Whether you’re looking forward to a long awaited destination vacation or are planning a laid-back week with kids or grand-kids, I hope you’ll tune out work and worry and invest in the moment. Invest in the people, and the joy of days without pressure, without rush; with the fun of serendipity.

I’m looking forward to long talks and good dinners with Rob; lazy mornings and quiet nights; hiking in amazing red-rock canyons; to dividing my time between my reading list on my Kindle, and the little books on Riley’s shelf. We’re going to the park, going out for a Riley picnic, and looking for a little girl “happy” that will light up the face of a 15-month-old.

I’ll be the one with the big smile. I’m connecting on Friday. It’s going to be a good week!