Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The One About Summer 2010

MUSICAL GUEST: Metallica performing “Master of Puppets

So, here’s what I’ve determined is hard…blogging. Now, I don’t think it’s as hard as raising a child (even one as full of awesomeness as the mighty, mighty Oliver) nor is it as “easy” as clearing “Hell’s Ravine” off the appropriately numbered 13th tee at the West Seattle Golf Course (the hole measures 165 yards and with the Puget Sound breeze in your face it plays a firm 185 yards) ”but blogging? That’s a hard thing. It gives me a deep rooted respect for anyone that works against a daily writing deadline. And then there’s the quality control…oh sure, anyone with a heartbeat and a laptop these days can blog but the trick is writing frequently enough to hold your audience whilst also providing quality content. Most blogs do one or the other…here’s two family-centric blogs that in my view, get it done in both areas. and Heck, these two Moms are so talented they conduct an annual Blogfest! It’s like Woodstock without the acid or the hippies.

And that finds us, the 51st State, closing in on the end of summer 2010. I like to think that Oliver is 9 months old now because we are past the 17th of the month, but then I’m reminded that according to the Mayan Calendar one has to make a few allowances for the fact that not all the months are the same length so you don’t just draw a line each month on the 17th and just call that a month. For me, this is approximately 7 months now that I have been a stay at home Dad and it has been unquestionably the most rewarding 7 months of my life.

I think the most significant changes to my life have been my perspective of the time of day from the time the sun comes up until about 12 noon. Evidently, this is called “morning”? (I’ve been battling chronic late sleeping most of my life…) The reason this is worth mentioning is because since Oliver has entered our lives I have come to respect the morning as Oliver’s best time of the day, which in turn, is beginning to become MY best time of the day. When we first brought Oliver home, we really didn’t even need the baby monitor to let us know he was up. For starters, he slept in our room and further, our home is such a quiet place that the mere coo of a newborn brought us (and by “us” I mean Jasmine) to immediate red alert status as they used to say on the original Star Trek television show. Admittedly, I was a little more Montgomery Scott to Jasmine’s James Tiberius Kirk but hey…if photon torpedoes need firing? Trust me...the tubes’ll be loaded. (Sidebar: Oliver’s name was *almost* Anakin Tiberius but I had to tell Jasmine no because it was a little too nerdy…)

So, we’ve definitely evolved a bit in our running of the proverbial “U.S.S. Enterprise” masquerading as our home. Ollie sleeps in his crib in his room while we eye and ear the baby monitor. And through the months, we’ve become very adept in the morning of determining when he is just waking up and content to entertain himself with his faux aquarium, when he needs to be hauled out for some nursing and when he needs a diaper change, a Marlboro and a shot of Jameson.

The way Oliver has made mornings special in our house is that even with a full night’s sleep and the promise of a day at say…Disney World, it takes me a shower and breakfast before I can even consider what the day holds. With Oliver in the fold? Erm yeah…I can get 4 hours of sleep, hear him on the monitor at 6-ish (and by “hear” I mean Jasmine pokes me and says “the baby is awake”), climb out of bed, throw open the door to his room with a flourish and stare down in the pale, morning light and never fail to be amazed at the wonder of our son…smiling back at me with a look that says, “Yeesh! You look like crap, Dad…let’s have a fun day together!” And with that, the two of us are off on another day full of adventure together. (Jasmine’s usually been up for an hour and nursed him if it’s a workday…if it’s not a workday, after nursing Oliver and I start the day together anyway so Momma can catch up on her sleep a bit.)

I know every parent says this about their child or children and we’re no different but…he is simply the most remarkable and pleasant child I’ve ever known. How long this will last is, of course anybody’s guess (especially given who his Father is…) but it’s clear that he loves learning about the world around him and interacting with smiles and laughs at all the interesting things and people that he meets.

In our family, since both Jasmine and I were little, summertime has always meant travel. And this summer was no exception…except of course there’s now a car seat and baby gear to pack and a little less Led Zeppelin and a little more Raffi on the car stereo. First up on our itinerary was Buffalo, NY for the 4th of July weekend. This was our first long drive with our new Honda Pilot whom we affectionately call Tink. Jasmine’s sister was also along for the drive, having wisely spent some quality “nephew time” with us in the 51st State BEFORE having to timeshare Oliver over the holiday weekend. We love having people stay with us too as an extra pair of hands is always welcomed with a child in the mix now.

In addition to celebrating Oliver’s first 4th of July, we were also invited to attend Jasmine’s cousin’s wedding. There’s an expression in Western New York…they have 3 seasons there. Winter, 4th of July and construction…so, after what has been an incredibly harsh year of weather in the 51st State, it was refreshing to travel to a place in the heat of summer that didn’t entail schvitzing like an Airedale just to go out and get the newspaper at 7am. The wedding was a wonderful occasion with lots of family and friends present and of course, Oliver was the toast of the evening as he met many of his cousins, second cousins, and Great Aunts and Great Uncles for the first time. Additionally, on this trip Jasmine’s Grandfather celebrated his 90th Birthday. Papa Delicious as he has come to be called by the current generation enjoyed a leisurely summer, soiree complete with a chocolate-raspberry birthday cake, which his son, my father-in-law reminded us is properly called “blicky-cake”. Finally, no summer trip to Buffalo is complete (since I have recently taken up golf again) without a round at Bob-O-Link Golf Club. The 1st Annual Greater Buffalo Open was a huge success with Aunt Carol, Uncle John, my father in-law, “Uncle” Jake, Uncle John and his friend Skip thrashing that beloved par 54 course. I don’t recall who won, but those 2 oil cans of Foster’s Lager deserve an honorable mention. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Burke Lake Golf Course and Bob-O-Link Golf Club…that’s it, that’s the list.
Meanwhile, Oliver discovered that the proper way to while away a summer afternoon in Western New York is to lie on his back on the front lawn of his Great Grandmother’s house and look, listen and smell all of the wonderful summer delights.

Upon returning to the 51st State for several weeks of local revelry, we found ourselves on an airplane bound for the Pacific Northwest. Jasmine’s brother invited us to his wedding and we looked forward to another respite from the heat. This was also Oliver’s first opportunity to fly the not so friendly skies. And so, after swallowing a great deal of nerves and trepidation…reviewing with my mother-in-law all of the necessary infrastructure (to include but not be limited to a gently used, lime-green B.O.B. stroller for off-road use purchased on EBay!) we boldly climbed onboard Alaska Airlines (our fav carrier) Flight #1 bound from DCA to SEA.

So, apparently, there is a third Wright Brother? Only, he was caught in some strange space-time-family continuum and has the initials O.F.F. To put it simply, Oliver enjoyed his flight! He caught 2 naps and even found a comfortable way to sit on his Mom’s lap and enjoy some baby food and continue his nursing regimen. All things considered, I was just pleased he didn’t pull a Steven Slater, grab 2 bottles of milk and jump down the emergency slide, ya’ know? The wedding was held at Wellspring Spa located near the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. As my sister in law’s boyfriend put it, we all went “glamping”. Wellspring has existed for over 25 years and has grown exponentially in those years while still retaining all of its intimate privacy and soul-cleansing quiet tranquility. The log cabins are all expertly crafted and each one is unique in its accommodations. We stayed in “Tamarack” cabin with my in-laws. “Tamarack” features a queen bed in the master bedroom where we slept and a loft with 2 double beds where my in-laws slept. Glancing at the guest books, I read repeatedly of a hammock there at “Tamarack” located in the loft. So, one afternoon, when everyone was out, I climbed into the loft, found the hammock, strung it up and immersed myself in the literary world of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”.

Wellspring Spa also offers picnic, banquet and event facilities. We enjoyed a rehearsal dinner BBQ with my father-in-law and my brother-in-law’s father-in-law manning the grills and all the guests enjoyed a lovely evening in the wilderness of Washington. The following afternoon was the wedding featuring intimate vows written by the happy couple. The weather was simply perfect and we again enjoyed another fine meal at the hands of the Dads of salmon or steak…or as was my plate, salmon AND steak. The culinary highlight of the weekend was chocolate cake from a local bakery the likes of which I haven’t tasted since my Mom last baked a cake from scratch. The week concluded with trips to the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Zoo, lunch at The Edgewater Inn (where The Beatles famously fished out their guestroom window), the Butterfly House and musical fountain at Seattle Center, and a ride on the Bremerton ferry to yet another fountain (I think Ollie’s going to be a plumber…). As mentioned at the top of our show, I also enjoyed not 1 but 2 rounds at the West Seattle Golf Course. This humbling, championship par 72 course was where Fred Couples honed his game.

Returning home once again, we have been continuing to search out as many day trips as Oliver can handle anytime we have a break in the weather. As we found out on our trip to VA Beach earlier this year, Oliver loves the water so we take him to our swimming pool as often as possible.
Last week found us at Burke Lake Park where I spent many summer days during my youth. So, it was with great nostalgia that we pulled into the parking lot by the marina and loaded Oliver into his new Chicco brand infant/toddler backback. (Red, of course, to match his stroller of the same make…) I had taken Oliver on some short walks in the backpack around our neighborhood first to make sure everything was adjusted properly and to see how comfortable he was as well as a trip with his Great Aunts to the Arlington County Fair, too! So, with full confidence, the three of us headed out onto the trail. We didn’t get far when Jasmine heard the park’s mini-train’s whistle and suggested we check it out.

Burke Lake Park is in and of itself a powerful touchstone of my childhood. But, the train is really something else all together. The ride is only a few minutes long but it features a tunnel, a wooden trestle bridge, elevation changes through the woods and an acceleration run through a meadow. (Editor's note: Due to data space limitations here on, a short video of Oliver on his first Burke Lake Park Train ride has instead been uploaded to Facebook.) The last time I had ridden the train was maybe 15 years ago and it had fallen into a bit of neglect. I was very pleased to see that appropriate funding had recently been approved as it was now restored to the glory of my 5 year-old. Oliver really loved his first train ride. He sat on his Momma’s lap, with the wind in his hair and his eyes wide through all of the twists, turns and hills. We were a little disappointed to learn that the snack bar is a cash only operation, but we served Ollie his lunch there in the picnic area and talked about returning to maybe play mini-golf and take a whirl on the carousel, too. The trail around the Lake is 4.3 miles and I’m looking forward to conquering it together with Ollie on my back as we explore nature and hopefully, take more pictures, too!

All in all, no doubt... an action-packed summer for sure and the first of many more to come. In closing, Oliver had his 9 month pediatric appointment and we are pleased to report he is now 20lbs. and 28 inches. He is in the 50th percentile on his weight, height and head size. After a few obligatory vaccinations, he was on his way once again into the bright, big world. Adventure…it’s OUT THERE! Tune in next time as you’ll read all about Oliver’s participation in the Chinqua Babies infant swim program at nearby Chinquapin Rec Center. From all of us here at the 51st State…I’m the Governor…good night.