Heading north

Today we drove north, stopping in Butte, Montana, for lunch and reaching Missoula in the afternoon. Butte is a shabbily picturesque town on a hill. Apparently its airport code is BTM.

It is encroached upon by an enormous retired copper mine, which has been the cause of numerous local environmental disasters. The abandoned mine-shafts are everywhere:

We were pleased to reach Missoula, a groovy little city in the hills, where we danced the night away.

Our next port of call is a cabin without electricity, so I’ll have to report on that after the event.

Swimming

My last ditch effort at procrastinating about writing (after housework, internet, chocolate, and cups of tea), is a desire to write about the writing process, rather than to get on with the particular writing I am supposed to be doing. So I will make this short and sweet.

The first time I went swimming after Felix was born felt really strange. It was only a couple of months ago, and the last time I had been swimming I had been pregnant. Now it was just me in the water, and my body was different – my muscles responded more directly, I cut the water more sleekly. The cool water surrounded me completely. For the first time in a very long time, I was alone.

I am currently working on some article revisions. It feels a bit the same.

Felix goes grocery shopping

Felix had his first ride in the front of a shopping trolley today. There are so many unanticipated firsts. He looks very big and brave in the photo but he really did look so tiny there, clinging on and looking around. I was so excited I told the Walmart greeter that it was his first time, and he gave her a big smile. He liked the new angle it gave him on things but he’d had enough after about half an hour (even in the stroller he can only survive for half an hour in Walmart and I can’t blame him). It felt like a big deal. And it was much much easier than pushing the stroller with one hand and trying to balance a basket in the other. Afterwards, he was exhausted.

Sorry for the one dimensional nature of the blog at the moment. There are other things I want to write about and show you, but this feels like the most important one right now.

Earlier in the day we went to storytime. At the moment he just wants to sit at my feet and untie my shoelaces. He got quite annoyed when I tried to lift him onto my lap to join in with the songs!

This evening for the first time he managed to finish his bowl of mashed banana and baby oatmeal.

This past week, sometimes strangers make him cry.

He is getting more and more interested in his board books – he loves to scratch the pictures and whack the pages, and sometimes he tries to turn them.

When he sits and plays with his toys, he likes to put them down as far away as he can reach, leave them for a minute, and pick them up again.

When he’s hungry he lunges at my breast, or munches enthusiastically on my shoulder. If we’re out and about, though, the feed will only last for two minutes max, because the world is far too exciting.

Today he almost almost managed to roll from his tummy to his back, about three times. (He has been able to roll the other way with ease for ages, but noisily demands to be rescued every time.)

Last night just before bedtime he was sitting up in my bed absorbed in a private game. It looked for all the world like he was pretending to pick things up and put them in his mouth, over and over again.

Felix sits up!

I am absurdly proud of him. He’s been practicing for two weeks but totally mastered it today. I go around with a look of soppy adoration plastered over my face.  I am surprised when passers by do not burst into spontaneous applause.

Unlike me, Felix is matter-of-fact about his new skill.

This evening he enjoyed watching the motorbikes drive into the car-park, and he is working hard to master all the new playing potential that sitting up affords. And still toppling now and then.

Six months

Well, my dear sweet boy, it seems tonight you have forgotten how to sleep (or, more precisely, sleep without me by your side), which means composing this post is taking longer than I had anticipated. We do however persist in lugging you all over the country, so it’s perfectly understandable if it takes you a couple of days to get back to normal. I’ve left you snoozing in my bed, which you’ve made abundantly clear is more palatable than your crib this evening. It is your half-birthday, after all.

You were weighed and measured two weeks ago, and you are a very tall and healthy guy. You were 8.4 kilos and 71cm, which puts you at the 99th percentile for height and 78th percentile for weight, and means you’ve grown on average three centimetres a month! At six months, you love water bottles, paper cups, and, most of all, plastic cups with icy drinks inside.

You also love cameras, the TV remote, and our computers. You would quite like to eat them all. You will also happily gnaw away on a stick of sweet potato or a pizza crust. You are not so keen on any form of goo.

You really are a charming little fellow, and whenever we are out and about (which is often, as you insist upon it), you are constantly scanning the environment for new people to entrance. When we were out at a pizza restaurant in Boise, the waitress was trying to tell us the specials, but you kept interrupting with your own monologue: ‘aha! aha! aha!’ You looked very pleased with yourself and had the rest of us in stitches.

Your hair is getting fairer and thicker. Your eyes are going greyish in the middle – I don’t know if they’ll end up grey-green like mine or grey-blue like you father’s. You are learning to sit up and can manage it for a couple of seconds at a time. You’ve discovered you can rest your feet on the tray on your stroller.

You are very clear about what you want, and if we suggest you might like to chew on one of your toys instead of the TV remote, for example, you are not easily convinced. You have also just worked out that if you throw something on the floor we will pick it up for you. You think this highly entertaining.

You love your baths. You especially want to eat the flannel. You look for it as soon as we get in. I do not encourage this. You love getting dried off after your baths by your father. He’s invented a game where he drops a little towel on top of your face, saying ‘where’s my baby?’ and you pull it off and you laugh at each other.

You are still a snuggly little guy. When you are tired you cling to my shoulders and bury your face in my neck.

Today we walked with you along the river, hung out with you in the coffee shop, and played with trains for the first time in the Barnes and Noble. We didn’t buy you a train yet but we bought you some farm animals to play with in the bath. We celebrated with cupcakes after you went to bed (six months is quite an achievement for us, too).

You are the sweetest and funniest person we know. You’ve changed everything. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Boise butterflies

I had intended to go to the Basque museum today (there is apparently a lot of Basque culture here in Idaho), but due to a glitch in my map-reading (not unprecedented), we ended up at the zoo instead. A very good thing as it turns out because the zoo is absolutely gorgeous, especially the butterfly house.

Just the most beautiful place. I wasn’t quite coordinated enough to snap a picture of a butterfly sitting on Felix’s hat, but he seemed to enjoy all the flowers and fluttering things.

Boise day 2

Yesterday I fell in love with Boise even a little bit more when I discovered this place by the river. It’s the Log Cabin Literary Center, and they host literary events and writing camps for kids. Awesome.

It’s situated on the greenbelt, right near the art gallery and natural history museum and the zoo, and miles and miles of walking tracks by the river. As Felix is a bit young for writers’ camps yet, we headed on.

We strolled along the river for a bit and then test-drove our new picnic blanket.

Good for rolling and for reading.

It’s actually quite hard to get pictures of Felix doing anything but grinning manically at the camera, because he can be entertaining himself quite nicely but as soon as you pull the camera out he gets a huge glint in his eye and decides he wants to eat it, declaring enthusiastically ‘aha! aha! aha!’

Then we were all tuckered out.

Boise

This morning we drove for four hours past nothing much to get to Boise, the capital of Idaho. At one point we stopped to give Felix a cuddle and a little yellow plane flew past to say hello.

Boise (pronounced Boy-zee) is gorgeous. One of the most livable cities I have ever seen. It reminds us a little of Christchurch. We feel like civilized people again (Idaho Falls is a bit of a scrap-heap in comparison). 

There are coffee shops and interesting shops and buildings and restaurants at every turn, and one of the loveliest things is that the streets are fairly narrow and the blocks really quite small, so walking around is easy and pleasurable.

Felix had a fabulous afternoon lolling around in his stroller and chilling with his parents in various coffee shops. When we stopped for pizza for dinner, he had a great time chewing on a crust. Michael has a conference here for three days and I am so so excited about exploring the place.

It’s all happening at the zoo

Idaho Falls has a lovely small and shady zoo, perfect for sunny mornings. We liked the giant tortoise the best. (This photo is courtesy of my Dad and his telephoto lens.)

We visited with my parents two weeks ago, and Felix and I went back last week. Felix led the way (until he ate the map).

We felt a bit sad for the big animals in the small enclosures, but they seemed happy enough, and the zoo was filled with baby animals, so they must be doing something right. (Michael speculates that the animals get so bored over the winter that all they can do is breed.) There was a baby zebra, a (nearly grown-up) baby snow leopard, various baby mini monkeys, a baby camel with crazy hair, and two beautiful wild cat kittens. They traipsed after their mother hassling for a feed, and when she gave in and flopped down, licking their heads while they ate, I felt quite a connection with her. It was hard to get good photos, but Michael got some nice shots of the lions.

There’s even an Australian enclosure. When I went back this week I watched a black swan chase two emus around, which was a sight I’ve never seen before.

This guy was more Felix’s size.

Breathing

As Felix tumbles closer and closer to his six month birthday, I’m feeling more than usually reflective. Last night I read over some of the posts I wrote during his earliest days. I’m so glad I wrote them. Some of it I would have already forgotten, and even the photographs wouldn’t have brought it all back. It seems I am a hoarder of moments.

Things have been a wee bit stressful around here of late, as I’ve battled through a couple of ‘oh-my-parents-have-gone-back-to-Australia’ and ‘can-I-really-do-this-for-another-four-months’ slumps. The little guy is so constant, and sometimes when he wakes up from his midday nap, I think – how will I get through the afternoon? And I wish I had some family or some old friends I could call in on, but I pull myself together and walk back to the Barnes and Noble.

But after looking at those posts, I felt such a deep sense of calm and reassurance. They were such a lovely time – his first weeks in the world. Together, we had such purpose and focus, such wonder and joy. The house and the snowy landscape curled around us. (Of course, the photos of the snow are so beautiful that the memory edits out how utterly frustrated we were with the treacherous ice.)

The calm came back to me like breathing. Like the breathing I practiced before and during the birth, and during the first painful weeks of breastfeeding. Reminding me to just be present. For my little guy is truly lovely. We are here for four more months and I don’t want to wish this time away.

I can’t believe how small he was and what a different creature he was in the posts in February. And I know in six months time I will be amazed at how small he is now. Very soon I will write another post with everything I want to remember about him right now.

The other thing keeping me afloat is the ‘mom’s meetup group’ here. This week we met in a park one day, and went to the zoo another day, and last night we met in a Mexican restaurant in the evening for a baby shower. It was the first time I’d been out of the house in the evening without Felix. Walking out the door with just a handbag was a ridiculously exciting thing to do, and it was very nice indeed to talk to the other women without also constantly attending to our little ones. Some of us even wore dangly earrings.

Today I bought a new picnic rug with a waterproof back, which will make it much easier to sit under the tree outside our apartment when the grass is wet. And we walked to the park and sat on the new rug, and I read my book and Felix ate his, and the tree above us wriggled all its leaves.