two weeks at the ranch

A month ago now, we were all at the ranch, camping out with the Halls for a visit and some multi-generational caregiving as Bryan made his first work trip back to California. It was a doozy of a trip, woven through with the feeling that it was Something We Will Remember, and for that reason I’ve had a little trouble starting to write about it.

A picture’s worth 1000 words, though, right? And we have lots of those, so here:

Leslie walks with Paul, Annie


We were there because of Paul, but it was really Annie’s trip. She was old enough to enjoy for the first time┬ámany fine features of country living: mooing at cows, harvesting okra from the garden, riding in golf carts (“goff cah!”). She cuddled endlessly with Susu and read and re-read Brown Bear and Good Time to Eat. She sat in and pushed around her toddler-size chairs. During the last hot week of summer, she played in the lake, the sprinklers, and a washtub with the hose. She strolled around the grounds and lit off down the gravel drive like she was making an escape. She sampled new-to-her bread products: banana bread, cornbread, and scones. And a good thing, too, since bread is pretty much all she wanted to eat. She did a clog dance on the buffet while she mooed at cows, and decided that ceiling fans were stars.

Susu and Annie rock on the front porch.

Annie rarely wanted to let go of Susu.

She had the time of her life in this little wash basin with toys and a hose.

She had the time of her life in this little wash basin.


Late afternoons often found Annie cuddling on the couch with family and books.

Late afternoons often found her cuddling on the couch with family and books.


Like Sous, Annie was ever curious about what was beyond the front gate and sometimes required retrieval.

Like Sous, Annie was ever curious about what was beyond the front gate, and sometimes required retrieval.

At six weeks old, Paul’s greatest trick was falling asleep on people, but he was the cutest little lump when he did. I spent quite a bit of time rocking him in his bassinet in our room, trying to keep naps going. When we got home, we were happy to let the small motor in his swing take over that part of parenting.

Granddad's shoulder has sleep magic.

Granddad’s shoulder has sleep magic.

He's a pretty chill baby.

He’s a pretty chill baby, most of the time.

Paul and Sous conspired to foil our fabulous farewell dinner by screaming unconsolably and snatching steak off the counter, respectively. Fortunately, Aunt Camei's a mench.

Paul and Sous conspired to foil our fabulous farewell dinner by screaming unconsolably and snatching steak off the counter, respectively. Fortunately, Aunt Camei’s a mench.


Yep, a trip for the record books.

louie louie

Babies like singing, it’s a fact. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot to the tune of Louie Louie. Like:

Paul has ten toes
he’s got
toes on his feet.
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Paul’s got ten toes
like there should be.
toes toes toes toes toes toes
ten little toes
On his feet
Paul has got ten toes that I’d like you to meet.
Paul has ten toes
TEN toes
he’s got
toes on his feet.

It can go on like that indefinitely. It might be time for me to go back to work.


nine weeks

A lot of good shots to choose from this week, but I was happy to get a smiley one. We broke down and let him sleep in his swing last night, and he gave us a 6-hour stretch from 10-4. Everyone’s feeling refreshed and cheerful this morning.

Awesome onesie is locally made and a gift from Charly.


a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 months old.

Four hours after grudgingly agreeing to sleep, you wake at 1:30am for a first meal. Your Dad does transport and diaper changes; I provide the grub. You slip peacefully back to sleep after 20-30 minutes, and so do we. We see you again at about 4:45 for another meal, and eek out another hour or so of sleep after that. You wake for the day at 7:45, protesting loudly from your bassinet in the closet, where you’re cocooned in our sound-dampening clothes and comforting scents for the nights.

Halfway through your meal.

Here you are halfway through a meal. When I straighten you up to switch sides, you simultaneously growl-belch and poop. You are kind of disgusting.

I feed you your third breakfast in the armchair in the corner of our bedroom. Everyone visits: your sister climbs onto a footstool to pet your head; Sous stops by to give your face a quick swipe with her tongue, and Dad checks in to make sure we’ve got everything we need. After he and Annie leave for school, you and I coo at each other, wander around the house doing a few chores, and bounce along to Creedence Clearwater and the White Stripes. At 9, you’re in your swing, zipped up in your swaddle sack with a fresh diaper, and falling asleep.

After an unconscionably short nap (30 minutes), you pry your eyes open. I cower in the corner of the room, stuffing pads into your cloth diapers and hoping you’ll drift off again. When you don’t, I get you up and feed you breakfast #4 at 10, now to the tune of Charles Mingus and Willy Nelson. Our housecleaner Alicia arrives about half an hour later, so I take you out for a walk in hopes that you’ll nap again in the carrier. You do.

You are the pink lump.

You are the pink lump with the tiny toes.

At 11:45 I hand off your care to nanny Charly. She gives you a lunch bottle and hangs out with you for an hour. When it’s time for you to sleep again, she puts you back into your swing, and you nap peacefully in a dark room until a loud noise (Sous?) wakes you at 4. I change your diaper and feed you dinner #1 while entertaining you with tidbits about the presidential election (Hillary Clinton now has an 88% chance of winning, thank the stars).

hanging out in my lap

smiling in my lap

Annie gets home and immediately wants to visit you, so she and Charly join us on the bed for cuddles and romping. Then Charly hangs onto you for a bit while the rest of us work on dinner.

Charly and Paul

Charly shows off your chunks. You weighed in at 12 lbs 10 oz at your 2-month check up, a bit above average. Your head is still in the 96th percentile.

At 5:15 Dad takes you upstairs to start another nap, and you scream bloody murder at him for 15 minutes before nodding off. You wake up in time to say goodnight to your sister. Then you (surprise!) eat, and you and I hang out on the bed, cuddling and smiling, mainly. A few minutes after 8, you’re drifting off to dinner #3, so I set you up in your closet palace and rock the bassinet for 10 minutes until you’ve stopped squirming. Alas, you are not asleep, so Dad tags in and heads off fussing with 30 more minutes of rocking. At 8:45, we call it.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 18 months old.

You wake up at 7:30 and head downstairs for a typical breakfast of wheat bread, a banana, and a small wheel of cheese. Dad and I sit with you and chat over coffee and the paper, then Dad helps you dress while I get Paul up. You spot your cape from the Child Development Center’s open house a couple of weeks ago and decide to put it on.

You move fast these days.

You move fast these days.

You climb onto the little stool at my feet and cuddle up to the baby and I while he nurses. While the rest of us get dressed, you romp around on our bed and then tear around the upstairs with your toothbrush in one hand, a tube from my breast pump in the other, and your cape flying behind you.

We buckle Paul in his carseat (he is headed to the pediatrician this morning for his 2-month check up after we drop you off at school), and you squat down beside him and pet his head while you suck your thumb. Then we load up in two cars; you ride with me.


You do this all the time. You also enjoy pressing your forehead or cheek to his and kissing him on the mouth.

Your drop-off is more harrowing than usual. I’m not usually the one to take you to school, and I think the change upsets you. I leave you wailing in sweet Ms. Maricela’s arms. She loves that you’ve worn your cape, which I suspect she made.

You play on the playground in the beautiful cool weather and come inside for lunch and circle time, where you’ve been learning names for parts of the body, animals and the noises they make, and colors, which you’re not so good at yet. The afternoon is more playing, indoors and out, and Charly picks you up at 4:30. We’ve been sliding this later into the afternoon as she begins to help out more with Paul, and you are not a fan of the change. You used to be the first one picked up every day, and you’re distressed each time another kid leaves before you.

You like to run underneath the spray and get a little wet.

You like to run underneath the spray and get a little wet.

You and I hang out while Charly keeps an eye on Paul. In the backyard, you pick up the hose and suggest we water the bushes; then you swing in the hammock and play the wind chimes. Back inside, you remove both of my shoes and run around with them triumphantly.

You play these boisterously. The neighbors might hate us.

You play these boisterously. The neighbors might hate us.

Dad gets home, and I head out for a meeting. You watch dinner prep from your new stool, fire-engine red, that boosts you to counter-height, and tease Dad and Charly by putting the ends of markers into your mouth and then laughing about it. You think this is hilarious. Dinner is mushroom and goat cheese quesadilla, black beans, and vegetables; you eat all but the vegetables. At 6:30, Paul wakes up, and Charly gives him a bottle while Dad takes you up for your bath. You insist on staying in the tub now until all the water is drained, so you can smear the last bit around the bottom of the tub.

Clean and sleepy at 7, you accept a reading of Goodnight Moon. This selection has been problematic lately, probably because you associate it so strongly with bedtime, so I often read you something else—but Dad’s a purist. Then your lullaby, and goodnight.

P.S. This was one year ago:

celebrating 6 months with barbecue

I can’t believe this is real.

more cousin fun time

A happy Sunday morning with the Drehers. We enjoyed turning Annie loose to run with the pack of kiddos. Miles and Lyla are incredibly sweet and responsible with her.

Annie explores the jungle gym fort with Miles and Lyla.

Annie explores the jungle gym fort with Miles and Lyla.

Paul starts a nap on Aunt Lisa.

Paul starts a nap on Aunt Lisa.

Oh, that trampoline! She doesn’t quite know how to jump yet, but she loves being bounced by others. Running around and crashing to the ground also makes her shriek with joy.


annie’s tastes

Our brave baby who ate fistfuls of everything has turned into a picky toddler who would prefer to subsist on bread and bananas. She still has it in her to surprise us, though. Last night she disdained the buttery flakes of fish flesh but demanded the flabby skins off our plates and took big bites of them while I grimaced.