Letter to Oscar–Months Seven and Eight

You are still not letting me sleep at night, but during the day you are so good I can’t complain. This morning as I watch you sit on the floor in my office, playing contentedly, I realize how lucky I am.  Just seeing seeing your straight little back and your head bent over your toys fills me with so much love and so much joy I feel like it’s going to spill out of my body.  I love watching you play and explore. The world is reduced to a bright color, an interesting texture, or a new sound. Everything that is nonessential falls away. I love your mischievous grin, and the fact that you will stop at nothing to get what you want.

These last two months have been full of changes. You are now sitting unassisted, crawling, pulling yourself up to standing, and getting into everything.  You’ve inherited your mother’s love of both talking and eating. You have two new teeth and cutest smile I’ve ever seen. Lately I see less of the baby you were and more of the boy you are becoming.  This makes me feel excited and sad at the same time. Last night when I swaddled you in a towel after your bath and held you like I used to when you were tiny, I realized just how much you’ve grown. I love to put you on my hip and carry you around, and I love the way you cling to me like I am the center of your little world. That won’t always be the case, and I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts. I love taking you places and watching you look around and absorb your surroundings. You are very curious about the world, and I’m so excited about all of the things I get to teach you and all of the adventures we’re going to have.

I love watching you with Papa. You look more and more like him every day, and I hope that you also inherited his kindness, creativity, and sense of humor. I love that we are now a family of three, our own little unit, sharing our lives together. Oscar, you have changed us for the better, and I can’t remember what life was like before you came.

Love, Mama

Fall Interlude

Before last year, fall was my least favorite season.  It’s always the busiest time of year for me, a crowded semester teaching and supervising student teachers, traveling for two conferences and Thanksgiving, and trying to get ready for the holidays. Plus, the nice long days begin to disappear and the weather turns cold. All of these things used to depress me. But last fall all of that changed. This time last year I was over twenty weeks pregnant, had just had a level II ultrasound showing that I was carrying a healthy baby, and felt for the first time that I might actually have a live baby.

This fall I have a seven-month-old who is energetic, eager to learn, and full of life. When I find myself getting caught up in the busyness and craziness of work and life, I try to find time to sink back down into the world of a small child. A child who lives in the moment, and a child who make me realize how lucky I am to be part of his life.

Oscar at Sea Part III–Debarkation is Not a Word

Getting off the ship is not a simple matter of walking down the gangplank. You have to “debark.” I found this term annoying. Isn’t it “disembark”? My 900-lb unabridged dictionary says that debark and disembark mean the same thing. Damn. Why wasn’t I consulted? “Debark” sounds like something I’d like to have done to my neighbor’s dog. “Disembark” is much more elegant; I’m picturing women with parasols.

Every morning our ship, after sailing all night, would stop at a new port. We stopped at St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Kitts. Despite the fact that our room had no windows (it’s a very strange sensation to have no idea what time of day it is outside) I always knew we were about to make port because the ship would start to shudder and vibrate. I loved this feeling. I would lay in bed and think, “Oh, I guess I better get up soon.” Sometimes I would hear Oscar chattering in his crib, or banging away at the metal bars. The crib they gave him to sleep in looked like something out of a Dickens novel.

We were usually up, dressed, organized, and at breakfast by around 9:00. My idea of a relaxing vacation is to loll around in bed until a more respectable hour, say, 10:00 A.M. or so. But we had Places to Go! and People to See! I have to admit, I’d probably rather be on a sun drenched beach than under the covers.


We got our share of sun drenched beaches on St. Thomas, Barbados, and Antigua. Darin and I got to go snorkeling at all three beaches and had three very different experiences. On Barbados we got to swim with and touch sea turtles  and on Antigua we saw beautiful coral and colored fish. As someone who loves the water but has never felt entirely comfortable swimming, I had mixed feelings about trying snorkeling, but was surprised to find that I love it. It’s relatively easy and relaxing.

One of the best parts of the cruise was the kindness and friendliness of the staff and the other guests on the ship toward our baby. In the dining room they never forgot to bring Oscar’s steamed vegetables (sweet potato was his favorite) or his dinner rolls (he liked to suck on these for awhile then throw them on the floor. We spent most of our time in the dining room retrieving rolls from under the table). I was nervous that people would make snarky remarks about babies, especially when Oscar fussed in the dining room or when I breastfed in public areas. We got nothing but smiles and questions about Oscar. He even made friends, and everywhere we went people would say, “Hey Oscar” when passing by.

One of the worst parts of the cruise were the cab rides on the islands. No car seat, no seat belts. They really cram you into the little (barely air-conditioned) vans, and I would have to hold Oscar on my lap while the drivers sped along narrow, two-lane highways. Thankfully nothing happened!

Overall, the trip was fun but exhausting. Would I do it again? Yes, but at a slightly slower pace, and with a few small changes (such as bringing along a nanny).  The inconvenience of traveling with an infant was rewarded by seeing Oscar’s face whenever we took him in the water.

Stay Tuned for Part IV: Stuff You Need When Taking a Baby on a Boat.

Oscar at Sea Part II: Caribbean Dreamin’

Our first port was St. Thomas. The plan was to meet our group on the dock to take a ferry to nearby St. John’s where we would attend a vow-renewal ceremony for some friends. Since it was our first time traveling with Oscar, however, we ended up taking twice as long to get ready as we thought we would and we were late. After discovering that we missed our group, we decided to take a cab to the ferry to try to catch up with everyone. In the rush of the morning and in our inexperience, we left the boat with little cash and no credit card, and when we got there, we realized that if we took the ferry we wouldn’t have enough for a cab ride back to the boat. So we stood there, far away from our ship, momentarily at a loss for what to do. Darin found a map and we saw that Sapphire Beach (which we had heard good things about) looked close by so we decided to try walking there. We headed off down the road: a narrow, winding, two-lane highway with no shoulder. In the middle of the Caribbean. With a seven-month-old.

I was wearing sandals and trying to push Oscar’s stroller through the rocky sand. It was hot and humid and cars went whizzing by every few seconds (on the wrong side of the road no less). Clearly we had lost our minds. After walking probably the better part of a mile, we finally came to a huge hill that didn’t allow us to see what was on the other side. Darin told me to wait with Oscar while he ran to the top to see if there was any point in going further. He came running back and said he could see the water. It was one of happiest moments of my life!

As we crested the hill, there in front of us was a sign for the Sapphire Beach Resort. We walked down the hill toward the gate and saw a guard booth. My heart sank. Surely they wouldn’t let riff-raff like us into their pristine resort. I braced myself for an imposing guard, but instead a large Caribbean woman stepped out and gave us a big grin. She looked at Oscar and said, “You got that baby all bent!” She asked us if we were going to the beach, we said yes, and she sent us in the right direction and welcomed us to the island. Just before we got to the beach we found a gaggle of cab drivers lounging under a tree. We asked them about a ride back to the ship, and they quoted a fare we could afford and said they would be available all day. We were set.

What can I say about this beach? It was the most beautiful, heavenly beach I have ever been to. Turquoise water stretching as far as the eye can see. Clean white sand. Trees for shade. The only beaches I’d ever been to before are in San Diego and Los Angeles, packed with tourists, teenagers, smokers, boom boxes, and beer. Here, it was so peaceful and quiet that a little flock of birds resting in the sand near us never moved.

We immediately stripped down to our bathing suits and plunged into the water. It was Oscar’s first time in the ocean and he had a ball. The water was the perfect temperature. We rented snorkeling equipment and took turns going out while one of us stayed with Oscar and watched him as he napped, made friends with a local iguana, and ate some sand.

For me it was the best day of the whole trip. Although we would see many wonderful sites and visit beautiful beaches on other islands, we wouldn’t find the same degree of beauty and tranquility again.  It was just the three of us, our little family, experiencing one of those serendipitous moments that can never be planned, and that can only happen when you least expect it.

Stay tuned for Oscar at Sea Part III: Debarkation is Not a Word