It's been so long since I've been here, in this place. Kansas. Home.
The sky is huge. We drove in from KC on Friday, 3 hours of nearly empty highway (empty compared to the urban traffic we've grown used to). We travelled through the Flint Hills and pastures of grain-fed cattle, then past the wheat fields, all gold-burnished green. Clear clear clear blue sky, cotton puff clouds, brilliant hot sunlight -- there's no hiding from it. No forests to cut the horizon down to human proportions, or swales and valleys to break up the view. Imagine a shallow bowl, inverted so the edge curves away from you, driving towards the edge of the world. Vast and beautiful and more than a little terrifying.
No wonder I went off to do my own thing. Not so much that I wanted to leave here, but that I felt the world was a huge place that needed exploring. And what else are we on the prairie but pioneers and explorers? People here... well, there are fewer of them. We're more scattered, and in just minutes you can drive out of town and head down a gravel road and be not just in the country, but in the middle of massive wheat fields, out of sight of any other human habitation, no cars on the road, nothing but sky.
I have seen so many people, though. Family, friends, friends that count as family (lots and lots of the last). Saturday I actually went to a family reunion, one for my Grandma's family, my dad's mom. The Clark reunion. In McPherson, where my dad went to high school and I walked my grandparent's sweet Irish setter in the park. People were so surprised to see me, pleasantly so, and meet my little man. And Jon said "Oh my God, there are at least 2 or 3 women here who look like they could be your older sisters." And yes, I have the Clark nose/mouth/eyes combo that makes us so recognizable. One woman told me "I was walking down the street one day in McPherson and a person said to me, 'you must be a Clark.'" Yes, yes I am.
I've had lunch with the Fasts, the three kids I babysat growing up, all of them in college (or, in Luke's case, a new grad). I thanked their mom for letting me practice on her kids and she said "I'm just glad you had one!" She was worried that her three kids had ruined me for motherhood. Quite the opposite!
Linda and Brenda, sisters and good friends of my mom's, and friends of mine too.
Alisa, a friend from high school who has a little man of her own now.
And my little man... has had a wonderful time. He's adjusted to the whole not-sleeping-in-his-bed thing, but getting him to GO to sleep is a challenge. There's so much good stuff to do! Saturday we went to Sunset Park, a favorite when I was a kid. He went down the small tornado slide by himself several times, and the big tornado slide once with his dad. Tornado slides are the ones that spiral around, by the way. There's probably some other name for them, but that's what kids here used to call them.
Today we went to the mall and he played in the little play area, similar to ours at home, and ran around and got hot and sweaty. It felt a little strange to take him back to the mall where I shopped for prom dresses, but he had an excellent time.
Tomorrow morning we're going to the Rolling Hills zoo, and I think that'll be a lot of fun. If it's not too hot and windy tomorrow afternoon maybe we'll go to the little water/spray park they have now at Jerry Ivy, the park next to my old high school.
And then Tuesday we head home. Otto did extremely well on the plane, sleeping the first leg from Detroit to St. Louis, playing nicely with his toys on the second jump from St. Louis to KC. All the gear, though, is a pain, and going through security with a stroller and a car seat requires more hands than humans are normally equipped with. Carrying the child, shrugging out of the jacket, putting bags on the conveyer belt, getting them off, getting your shoes off, etc... I think it'll be easier at KC, which is smaller and nicer.
Excellent photos to post. And film! Film of the Otto, dancing to music like a miniature Dieter from Sprockets. He danced and danced for at least 15-20 minutes while I laughed. He's all the entertainment we need here!
Lord, I'd forgotten about Sonic. Darn that national advertising on DirecTV! I'll have to resist Sonic all weekend... well, maybe I can have a diet cherry limeade. Yum! That sounds really good, actually.
Otto and I had a nice evening. We made a Target run and I stocked up on Teddy Grahams (a special treat -- I don't buy them for home since he gets them at day care). He now has a new toy cell phone, a new small magna-doodle-type thing, DVDs to watch on the laptop (checked out from the library), and special snacks to help him get through the trip. I think we'll survive.
I visited our neighbors tonight to let them know we'd be out of town and that they shouldn't be alarmed to see our house sitter hanging out. I love our neighbors -- a cute young couple with two really cute kids. The mom and I were commiserating about how hard it is to lose weight, that weird thing that happens to your belly when you've had a c-section, and how, despite the fact that we're at pre-baby weights, the weight isn't where it used to be and things don't fit the way they did before. Perhaps in the future she and I can buddy up and force each other to go to Pilates classes or something.
When I picked up Otto today Jenny shared the secret for getting him to eat his veggies. Threaten him with a nap! I guess he usually pushes his veggies off to the side, and if he's not ready to go down for his nap he'll stall for time by eating them last.
I think I'll send extra green beans tomorrow. Heh!
Have I mentioned that we're flying to Kansas on Friday? Probably I have. Have I mentioned that it's going to be in the 90s while we're there? No? Well, it is. Have I mentioned that I'm feeling a little panicky right now because Jon's going to Oshawa today and I'll be home alone tonight and tomorrow with a toddler who doesn't want to be put down and that I haven't finished packing and don't even know if my shorts fit because who wears shorts in Michigan, it's never 90 here and I don't know if any of Otto's shorts fit either because he's not had a chance to wear them and I don't CARE if Jon's shorts fit (they'll probably fall off of him, he's all skinny now) because he's GOING TO CANADA and this means I have to finish getting everything ready for our trip and we have to leave the house at, like, 5:30 on Friday morning?
Plus work. I mean, I have work to do, too. Yeah, that.
Thanks for the heat, Kansas. I'm feeling the love -- and sweating already.
So what with the house cleaning, trying on everything I own, making Otto try on everthing HE owns, cramming everything into one suitcase (because we're traveling with a car seat, stroller, and carry-ons already and don't really need 3 suitcases too), and coming up with things for my carry on to keep the kiddo occupied while flying and laying over -- well, it's doubtful I'll find the USB cable for the camera, and I don't think we have the jump drive anymore for our memory sticks, so I probably won't be uploading photos during the trip. But I'll be taking them! And I'll upload them when I get back.
Right now, though, I'm going to put the iPod on shuffle, close my office door and go to work.
I got home tonight after 9:30 (late meeting). I came upstairs to find Jon sprawled across the bed in the dark, staring at the boob tube, almost comatose. I flicked on the lamp.
"So, did little man wear you out?"
"Mercy! Have mercy on me!"
"He was happy, he was sad, he was angry, he was happy... And I don't know what to feed him. He wouldn't eat supper. And then he didn't want me to read to him! He grabbed the books off the shelf and sat there and read to himself."
Welcome to Toddlerville.
This morning, after finally submitting to being strapped into his seat, Otto started wailing as I turned on the car. He was pointing towards me, crying and reaching with his chubby little hands, tears rolling down his cheeks. I finally deduced that he wanted my keys, which he played with briefly yesterday.
But it's pretty hard to drive while the toddler holds the keys. So he cried most of the way to day care. Thank goodness it's only a mile and a half. Then he carried my keys into the building while I carried his puppy, and cried again when I left. Not, of course, because I was leaving, but because I was taking my keys with me. Sigh!
We had a busy weekend. I still have lots to do to get ready for our trip, but laundry is mostly caught up, the suitcase is out, and I have a Plan for the rest. [Jon tells me I must now mention the fact that he picked up the living room, mowed the yard, cleaned the kitchen, cleared empty moving boxes out of the basement, etc. He worked!] Jake gets to spend the weekend being cared for by a young woman who's a student at nearby EMU, and I feel about 1,000,000,000 times better about everything knowing he'll be here instead of a kennel while we're gone. It'll be a vacation for him, too -- no baby to worry about!
Work's been busy lately. It's the end of our fiscal year, so I've been working out the numbers for next year and I'm starting to see spreadsheets everywhere I look. I keep finding problems with my Excel formulas so I have to triple-check everything. How hard can it be to figure out the impact of a 3% raise? Or total all the income categories? Honestly, I love Excel, but sometimes my right-brain-dominant creative-leaning mind has a hard time getting it to work properly.
Time to go in and check on Otto, make sure he's ok, has his puppy in reach, and has a blankie covering him. Once he's asleep he doesn't move much. But the getting to sleep part... well, let's just say he wiggles. A lot!
Last night was Parent's Night at Otto's day care.
Once a year, the staff at the day care get all the kids organized to sing songs, do skits, etc. This year they had each class pick a favorite story book to perform.
We didn't know that, though, until we arrived. The staff keep it a big secret. They just ask you to bring a white t-shirt to school early in the month, and want to know if you're going to make it to the program, and that's about it.
The infants and wobblers were carried in by their teachers (who must have arms of steel, carrying two babies at a time like that!) and lined up. Everyone was wearing a t-shirt with one of the animals from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Then they played a recording of someone singing "brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?" to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As each child's turn came, a teacher held them up while the child held a laminated picture of his/her animal. Otto, naturally, also held Puppy. Here he is waiting for his cue:
Can you see that he was Green Frog? Sorry about the photo, the room was a little dark and we were in the back. Trust me when I say he was very cute.
As I watched I had an ah hah! moment. Ah hah! That's why he's been picking Brown Bear Brown Bear to read lately! Ah hah! That's why his head whips around when he hears Twinkle Twinkle! They've been practicing this for awhile, I guess, and he's quite taken with the whole thing.
I'm pleased to report that there was no stage fright, no temper tantrums. They all did very well and seemed to take their performance quite seriously. After the grand finale we went outside for punch and cookies on the playground, and Otto and his buddy Kyle (Brown Bear) took off to check out the big kid equipment. In fact, Otto only ate about 5 bites of his cookie, he was so excited. Then he shoved the rest in my mouth and wiggled to get down.
We talked to other parents, which was fun. Kids climbed and shrieked and got muddy. We admired the teachers in their non-work clothes -- heels, skirts, dresses, pretty tops, hair done. I imagine it's nice to get to dress up for work for a change, when most days you dress to get spit up on. Miss Martha kept laughing at how the kids stared at her because she was wearing her glasses and a dress and just didn't look like she usually does.
All in all it was quite an event. And a milestone -- Little Man's first public performance! It's so sweet that the staff do this. They work hard at it and make it fun for everyone. And I stood with all the other parents last night and felt a part of that little community, each of us waiting anxiously for our child to appear and smiling at all the others as they performed. That was a gift in itself.
I'm waiting for Jon to get home.
He left for KC Monday afternoon, a work trip involving presentations and such. I will admit right now that since our move here, I've been slowly and steadily falling behind in understanding what the heck he does day to day. I did ok when he was expediting parts for Suburbans. Now he's doing something a bit more esoteric related to international shipments, special warehouse projects, etc. As I said, I DON'T KNOW anymore. Every time I ask him to explain, a weird buzzing noise fills my ears and I say "uh huh, uh huh, ok" without actually processing anything he's telling me. Perhaps it's a defensive measure all spouses of logisticians develop over time. You know you're in trouble when he gets a call at 7 a.m. and you practically shout from the other pillow, "You can TOO write a claim for that!" Maybe that's when the buzzing noise starts?
Anyway, new assignments = new travel. Last night and tonight it was just me, little man, and the furry one. Jake loves being the man of the house -- it means he gets to sleep next to me, practically on top of Jon's pillow. Otto wasn't too sure about it, though. He had a hard time going to bed. DAD makes supper! DAD gives him the bath, not mom! DAD puts his jammies on! DAD lets him have more naked time! We are very royally not pleased that DAD is not here to attend to our needs!
Tonight he charmed me, though, by running his tub-toy fire engine over the wall and making soft little doo doo doo noises, imitating the dee doo dee doo noises I make. Only Otto's fire engine is more polite.
This morning he knocked my socks off by waving to Jake as we headed out the door and saying something sounding a lot like "bye."
And yesterday? Yesterday he had chips and salsa for snack at day care, and liked it. I am amazed.
I'm trying to get photos from my phone's camera to Flickr, and it's proving rather tedious. Must find computer cable. Here's one from a few weeks ago -- lunch at Red Robin.
Yay! Jon has arrived! And I must go.
I got two great gifts for mother's day this year.
Gift #1, from my son, was nearly 12 hours of sleep. I spent all day Saturday at a table at the A2 Book Festival. It was the worst kind of day imaginable to be outside under a flimsy tent. It poured rain and never got warmer than about 50 degrees. By the time I finished up at 5:00 I was cold, damp, and miserable. I went home and we had a bit of supper. Otto fell asleep in his highchair at 7:30 and we tucked him into bed. I crawled into bed myself at 9, feeling feverish, and went straight to sleep. Otto woke up at 7, but when we brought him to bed with us he went back to sleep, and I had the luxury of sleeping until 8:30. Bliss!
Gift #2, from my hubby, was an alarm-clock/radio for my iPod. I love it. It sounds great and has a little remote. What Jon doesn't realize is that his sweet, thoughtful gift is going to inspire a complete redo of our bedroom. Because with a remote, it can go ANYWHERE! and my imagination goes into overdrive. I should be able to get away with a redo, though, if I wait until Ikea opens to buy stuff. Jon has a higher tolerance level for shopping if he thinks I'm shopping somewhere inexpensive. We had to go check out the new H&M store at the mall yesterday because he heard it's the Ikea of clothing stores. Seriously!
In other mom's-day-related news, fellow SLIS alum Angela S. had her first baby on May 5. Welcome to the world, Leon (ley-on) Mikel! He was 20 1/2" long, 7 lbs 8 oz and, naturally, VERY cute. Librarians have the cutest babies, don't we?
We had a lovely family-wide e-mail from Jon's brother this morning, telling us he's back in the States. He gets about 2 weeks off to relax and visit his fiancee, and the rest of us get about 2 weeks off to relax and not worry for/about him and his work in Iraq. It's good to know he's home, even if it's just for a little while. Hopefully the next 6 months will go fast for everybody.
The little person in our house has been sleeping a LOT this week. He's spending lots of time outside at day care, so when he gets home he's completely worn out. Last night he ate half a pb&j and fell asleep in his high chair around 6:30. Jon said he stuffed a quarter of the sandwich in his mouth and worked to chew it as his eyelids drooped shut. He swallowed and pretty much passed out for the night.
This evening he did a little better. He really loves being outside, so we went out in the backyard and played for awhile after supper. But when I said "jamma jamma jamma jamma PJ!" (a line from one of our favorite bedtime books), he headed inside on his own. One bath and three books later he was ready to crawl into bed. He gets all settled with his knees tucked up under his tummy, puppy under his chest, and favorite blankie tucked in by me, and he's out.
He does the hand sign for milk now, which is pretty cool. He does love his milk, so I guess it's no surprise he started using that one. And tonight we think he was saying Hi! It comes out more like Ee-eye!, but he waves at the same time. And grins. It's entirely too cute.
Jamie just called. The guys have been talking less than 5 minutes and I've already lost the train of the conversation. Brotherspeak -- it's hard to eavesdrop on them. But it's nice to hear -- it's been a long time since they talked.