Wild and Precious Life – End of 2019/New Year

Since posting last, we celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s–a first as our family of three. Bruce and I were so ready for the winter months so that we would have more time to focus inward and accomplish projects around home that we had previously ignored. We didn’t realize how quickly winter would come to us in the Finger Lakes, but arrive it did.

Halloween itself was unique to us. We trick or treated downtown and at a retirement home one Friday, attending the local Wizarding Weekend and marveled at all the costumes and booths, then trick or treated in the Fall Creek neighborhood on the big night itself. For Halloween, Ryland dressed up as a classic little pumpkin and we carried him from house to house. Fall Creek is the hub for Halloween activity for any child who wants to get the most excellent Trick-or-Treating experience they can obtain. Homes were decorated to the max with cartfuls of pumpkins. Spiderwebs, purple and orange lights, blow up monsters, and music filled the air as did the drips and drops of rain.

All of Halloween day the sky was threatening and near sundown the sky opened up. There was a lull just as Bruce ended his work day so we decided to chance it and drive to Fall Creek to really enjoy the holiday. With umbrellas in hand, we made it only to a few houses before the sky truly opened up and the downpour that proceeded was so intense that we were pouring water out of our shoes and the pumpkin filled with the candy we had gotten.

We ran through the rain–our umbrellas were useless as it came down sideways and the wind turned them inside out and the sidewalks and roads began to flood–and we found a church to take cover in. They welcomed us, gave us candy, and offered us the nursery in which we could change our soaked and bewildered child.

Ryland stared with giant eyes all the while, not at all sure what was going on, and we quickly discovered as he lay on the changing table in just a diaper that all of his clothing in his diaper bag had been soaked through as well. With no warm clothing, we left him in his diaper, covered him with a borrowed blanket, and whisked him home.

It had been a warm 70-something degree day on Halloween so it was quite confusing when three days later we drove through snow to Syracuse so that Ryland could have his first photos with Santa Claus.

Ryland cried through the entire thing, looking with desperation at Bruce as if to say “Why are you leaving me here on this strange man’s lap? Why aren’t you getting me?” We rescued him as soon as we had gotten the pictures we paid for and he was quickly comforted but still gave a look of distaste and distrust to Santa from over my shoulder. We had intended to see Santa so obscenely early in the year for a few reasons. One, that Ryland wouldn’t know that it was early in the year. Two, that very few if any other people would be there hopefully allowing for a more calm experience (we were in fact the only ones there). Three, all of this effort would be a way to avoid germs.

Otherwise, we spent the rest of the time in the mall getting a little bit of Christmas shopping done which was wonderful to see our to do list already begin to be picked away.

On November 5th, the first Tuesday of the month, we voted for the first time in New York before spending the day in downtown Ithaca to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Last year we traveled to Shenandoah and stayed in a cabin. It was a lazy and cold weekend and I adored it. This year, traveling and staying anywhere wasn’t necessarily in the cards but being able to go out during a workday to enjoy shopping without the weekend crowds was incredibly pleasurable. We attended the local history museum and had yummy meals. Alas, with it being a work day we had to park on the top level of the parking garage where we were whipped by cold air and could see what appeared to be a snow squall up on the northern end of Cayuga Lake–something you can see quite clearly from the top of the garage.

All of this snow talk is to emphasize that we were in the first week of November. By November 7th, we had our first accumulating snowfall of a few inches (perhaps two, maybe three at most). While Ryland was born at the end of February and certainly saw some snowfall in his short life, he wasn’t aware of it before and was too busy snoozing as newborns do. But now, he looked at the falling flakes and smiled as they touched his nose. We dressed him up in his warm bear outfit and walked through the snow, the crunch of it under our boots and our happy laughter the only clear noise to be heard.

The complex put down salt for the night as the temperatures plummeted to 19 degrees that night. I may misremember colder first week Novembers, but I honestly don’t recall ever experiencing such frigid temperatures. It certainly placed emphasis on our need to get proper winter coats and boots for the entire family.

By November 14th, we had witnessed two snowfalls of significance (a few inches) followed by a day or two of lake effect snow. By snowfalls of significance, it’s worth defining. In Virginia, having a few inches of snow would call for school closures, but in Ithaca schools and businesses continued as usual. This is winter in the north, where anything under five inches isn’t considered true accumulation. For us, it was though, particularly when entertaining a small person who is only a handful of inches tall himself. We took Ryland out sledding for the first time in his snow suit and he was… completely and utterly unfazed.

He was a blend between Maggie Simpson in her star snowsuit and the little brother in A Christmas Story. He lay like a slug on the sled and the only movement he made was a twitch of his legs that sent him rolling off the side and into the few inches of snow. Even then, he made no reaction other than to blink as we wiped snow off his face.

We did get a smile at him as he sat on the sled with Bruce, prior to their first trip down the three foot tall hill we opted to sled down.

The thing with winter temperatures and snow as soon as November hits is that it utterly confused Bruce and I. We felt fully thrust into the embrace of the holiday season and by mid-November were halfway done with our Christmas shopping. This isn’t unusual for me but it is for Bruce. I didn’t mind, much preferring to get it all over with before Thanksgiving so we can better enjoy the actual holiday season, and I enjoyed the slow introduction of Christmas decorations around our home.

Meanwhile, Ryland was having a leap of development over the course of the first two weeks of November. He had his two bottom teeth break through in a matter of three days, he began to eat more finger food and also hold his own bottle while drinking it. He showed more strength and stability in standing up and began to crawl on his hands and knees–if only a few feet forward, as he preferred to Army crawl at an alarmingly fast rate. He is more entertained with his toys and self play than he ever used to be and is starting to show a little more of toddlerhood than simply babyhood. It’s beautiful, a marvel, bittersweet, and a little terrifying.

Thanksgiving came rapidly. It felt like November was dragging on and then all of a sudden we realized that Thanksgiving was in a matter of days. We purchased a turkey much too large for our tiny family (but it was cheaper than buying a breast that was more suitable for our 2.5 bellies to fill) and got all the Thanksgiving essentials a week before. And a week prior to Black Friday, we also completed Christmas shopping for our extended family.

I have always been an early Christmas shopper. Going to a store to buy specific items during the holiday season always is miserable for me. The crowds, the cranky people, others who are coughing and sneezing. I find the entire time I’m out I’m clenching my jaw to keep myself from snapping at strangers and cringing from the germs that are being airborne by the adult coughing beside me without covering their mouth. Why would I want to submit myself to that torture when I can get my shopping done beforehand? I’ve always felt that the holiday season is meant to be enjoyed, and I enjoy it so much more without the added pressure of getting all my Christmas shopping done before the hoards of germy people are out and about. And of course, if I’m struggling to find that last item for so-and-so, it gives me even more time if my goal is to be finished prior to Thanksgiving.

All in all, we got our Christmas shopping done early for slightly different reasons. The early snow and leaves off the trees truly messed with our perception of what time of year it was so we felt compelled to get shopping done all the faster. But when the weekend prior to Thanksgiving rolled around and we were done, I realized how relieved I was. Most of our gifts were being shipped off and out of state, so this gave us a solid month to get them to their final destinations.

Thanksgiving was lovely and quiet. Ryland enjoyed everything we ate, just cut into micro pieces and rubbed all over his face by his fat little hands. The following day, with our food hucked into the fridge and the remaining turkey in the freezer, we got on the road to my parents’ house in PA. We had a secondary Thanksgiving that Saturday. As my father is a truck driver, his company rarely allows their drivers to be home for Thanksgiving due to needing to ship out furniture for Black Friday sales, so Thanksgiving is often celebrated on the following Saturday. It was delicious and lovely, the weather nice and mild, so we decided it would be worth getting in the car after dinner and making the drive to Koziar’s Christmas Village–an attraction I’ve visited since I was a teen. Ryland truly enjoyed all the lights but all too soon fell asleep snuggled against Bruce’s chest.

The following day when we were planning to drive back to New York, we opted to remain. A winter storm had come over the area and while it was predominantly rain (later on freezing) at my parents’, it was ice and snow in Ithaca. Moving on to Monday, it was more of the same, except Ithaca traded their ice for a foot of snow. So we extended our stay even longer and drove back home on Tuesday with the sun showing brightly and the landscape looking like a perfect winter wonderland the whole drive north. On the way home, we stopped at a tree farm and found our Christmas tree, forgetting we would have to dig out a parking spot for ourselves at the apartment complex.

Still, we made it work and got indoors, got the tree situated and had dinner before decorating it. Ryland was once more entranced by the lights but we had to pause to put him to bed before we finished decorating the tree. He was extremely well behaved with it, even when he’d be crawling around the floor. He would look at it, bat at a few of the ornaments, but didn’t pay much more attention to it than that.

December flew by, only broken up with more snow and many Santa sightings. We went to a winter street fair in Trumansburg, a town on the other side of our lake, and saw Santa arrive by fire truck. We went to downtown Ithaca and saw Santa arrive again, this time by repelling down the side of one of the Common’s buildings while a brass band played Santa Claus is Coming to Town. We also meandered around an outdoor silent disco after sunset with club lights swaying through the night air and catching the falling snowflakes and families spun light prisms as part of a light festival the town had. Ithaca continued to prove to us that cold weather and snow was no reason to stay indoors.

Then Christmas itself snuck up on us. We felt we were in the holiday spirit for so long but then all of a sudden it was there. Christmas. Perhaps it snuck up because we were in the midst of training Ryland to sleep through the night–something that was a success although teething ensures we’re always toeing the edge to disaster.

Seemingly out of the blue the winter solstice arrived, cold and snowy and with ice everywhere. Just a week prior we had celebrated Sankta Lucia with saffron buns and hot chocolate, now on the solstice itself we found ourselves at the outdoor farmers market–the last one of the year–watching the infamous, local rutabaga tournament which is as strange as it sounds.

Bruce took Christmas Eve off and I did my tradition of making Swedish meatballs for dinner. We had a spread of snacks for lunch before getting ready and dressing up to attend a nearby Catholic church for Christmas Eve mass (family edition). The church was overflowing with people but a family kindly made room for Bruce, Ryland and I to sit huddled together at the end of a pew. We sang carols, listened to the jovial mass, and Ryland was blessed by the priest. It was one of the most loveliest services I’ve ever attended. Afterward, we drove through Ithaca while Ryland napped and searched for Christmas lights in the early darkness.

That evening, we ate Swedish meatballs, gave Ryland a bath, put him in his Christmas pjs, then read T’was the Night Before Christmas before tucking him into bed. Quickly, we made sure Santa arrived before playing a game together until we ourselves went to sleep.

Christmas day was warm and sunny. Ryland woke at the dark hour of 6:45 and we sat bleary eyed with coffee while he picked at wrapping paper and bows. We were blessed with many gifts, some that were requested and others that were a surprise. Ryland came away with toys that suddenly he played with, rather than trying to bite and toss. We picked at olives and cheeses and bread for lunch once more, then had lasagna for dinner. All in all, it was a wonderful first Christmas.

The following weekend, my parents arrived to visit. They stayed through to New Year’s Day and it was nice to have them here with Ryland. They each played with him in his play area and gifted him a zoo train which Ryland happily has been pushing around. They gifted us with babysitting so we were able to have a date of sushi and a viewing of Star Wars. Ryland was a gem the entire time they were here, beside one night of screaming and tears that produced a top tooth the morning after.

In these early weeks of January, we have hunkered down at home and focused inwardly. I have begun a low FODMAP dietary restriction to try and pinpoint what is causing my repetitive IBS attacks that have plagued me since Ryland’s birth and that has prevented us from doing too much outdoors, for fear of having to get dinner on the go and finding it too tricky and restrictive to my diet. It’s also caused for a lot of at-home meal preparations as I find alternatives to the expensive gluten-free products on the market and also relearn what has low FODMAP content and what does not.

Ryland continues to become more mobile, crawling quickly on all fours, creeping along on two feet with anything he can hold onto, and trying his best to get better balance on his feet. He is more sure of himself with every day that passes, finding he can hold onto something with one hand and point or grab with the other, but hasn’t quite figured out how to stand unaided (yet). He also had his second top tooth break through overnight and is finally, other than when experiencing tooth pain, sleeping through the night. He also has begun to play with toys in the way they are meant to be played and he is constantly focusing and trying to learn. He has a little dump truck of which you can feed “rocks” (plastic balls) and he has figured out first that they need to go into a specific hole, then that you have to push them down, and now that only these particular rocks fit into the hole and not his various toy animals. There are numerous cars and trains and trucks in his play area now-a-days and he happily pushes them back and forth. He continues to enjoy taking things apart but every once in awhile is starting to find interest in putting things back together. His tiny baby days are long beyond us as we inch towards toddlerhood and while it breaks my heart, I also find this age to be so fun.

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