We all returned from the lake early last evening.
We were able to enjoy eight full days at the lake this year—eight serene, peaceful days. We were surrounded by woods and water, and graced with fresh Northern breezes. It was very invigorating and very rejuvenating.
Joshua and I had not been up to the lake for exactly a year.
Last year, after we returned from our annual week at the lake, Josh and I had only three weeks to wrap things up at our old jobs and to move out of our old apartment. Once those tasks were completed, we were off to Britain for eighteen days. After we returned from Britain, we had only a couple of days at home before we had to set out for Boston. Consequently, the week of July 4 was our final visit to the lake last year.
This year, everyone in my family has been making use of the lake house since late May, spending alternate weekends at the lake. For everyone else, last week was just like another weekend at the lake, more or less (albeit a very long one), but for Josh and me last week was exceedingly welcome, even necessary. We were able to drop our guards completely and relax, fully, for the first time in a year.
And, more important, for the first time Josh and I were able to bond with my niece.
The first time we saw her, at Christmas, she was only three weeks old, and Josh and I were home only for four days. Given her infancy, and given our short time at home, there was no genuine opportunity for us to bond with her at Christmas.
The second time we saw her, in March, my niece was fourteen weeks old, and able to distinguish between different persons, but Josh and I were home only for three days, and those three days were not enough time for us to bond with her.
She had forgotten about us since March, I believe, but after a full week together she now knows who we are, and she can now sense that we are a permanent and integral part of her family. After a couple of days together, she reacted no differently to Josh and me than to my middle brother, whom she sees several times a week. She allowed Josh and me to hold her and feed her and play with her as freely and as often as we wanted.
She is now seven months old, and her mother says that she now knows us well enough that she will never again forget who we are, even if we don’t see her between the middle of August and Christmas (which is very likely).
Of course, we shall be seeing a great deal more of her over the next five weeks, so I hope my sister-in-law is correct: that my niece will know us so well by mid-August that she will easily remember who we are after the passage of several months.
She is a beautiful little girl. She has very bright and very alive eyes. She has a sweet disposition. She is very good-natured. She has a gentle smile that makes me weak-kneed.
She sits up now, generally on someone’s lap, and watches whatever is going on. Most of the time, she watches her brother, who is always in motion, playing with his toys or playing with the dog or running around or jumping up and down or chattering up a storm.
My nephew provides his sister with much of her entertainment, just as he provides us with much of our entertainment.
Of course, he loves spending time at the lake. He can play outside all day, doing lots of different things, with lots of people to play with.
Out on the lawn, in the shade of several large trees at one side of the house, he particularly likes to play a game of one-on-one kickball with his Granddad. This is one of his favorite activities at the lake—and he always wins the game of kickball, even though no one can quite figure out what his rules are.
He also has a small John Deere scooter (it looks exactly like a miniature John Deere tractor) he rides around the yard. He likes it when everyone watches him make his revolutions on the grass.
In the early evening, he played croquet with us, but he never bothered to use a mallet. He moved his ball by kicking it, or simply picking it up and taking it wherever it was supposed to go. He thought everyone else was very inefficient, using mallets.
When he was done sending his own ball through the wickets, he helped his grandmother finish her game—by picking up her ball and taking it wherever it was supposed to go.
Needless to say, my nephew and my mother placed first and second in every croquet game all week!
The weather was good enough all week for us to remain outdoors for the entire day. We had our breakfast in the kitchen, but afterwards we were outside all day and seldom went back into the house. The weather never turned cold, so even our lunch and dinner meals were taken on the deck overlooking the lake.
My niece eats foods now—very bland, pureed foods—and it was fun to feed her.
She likes fruit—pureed applesauce, pureed pears, pureed peaches, pureed apricots, pureed plums, pureed cranberries, pureed strawberries, pureed blueberries, all but the strawberries and blueberries poached and cooled before pureeing—and she likes a couple of vegetables, such as pureed cooked peas and pureed cooked butter beans. She will eat pureed cooked carrots, too, but only if a touch of maple flavoring is added.
She likes riced mashed potatoes, and riced candied sweet potatoes.
She likes my mother’s homemade chicken broth, and homemade beef broth, and she likes my mother’s homemade cream-tomato soup.
She likes baby apple juice, and baby orange juice, and baby apple-cranberry juice, and baby raspberry-cranberry juice.
She also likes strawberry jello, and vanilla pudding, and homemade ice cream. We had homemade ice cream every night while we were at the lake, and she ate a small bowl of the homemade ice cream each night.
She eats more and more different foods each week, and she very definitely enjoys eating, but her bottle will remain one of her most important sources of nourishment for a few months more.
Of course, her brother eats practically everything now (except for cauliflower and a couple of other vegetables—but, oddly, he very much likes lentils; he is also very particular about seafood, which in any case is not often served to him). He has become a veritable food machine.
He eats a big breakfast, a good lunch, a nice snack after his nap, a big dinner, and another snack before bedtime. He gets a hearty array of fruits and vegetables each day, but he has developed a special fondness for all things beef. He eats more chicken than any other meat, and more white pork than beef, but two or three times a week he wants to know if steak is for dinner. “Give that boy a steak!” is always my father’s response when my nephew asks if steak is for dinner (and he had steak for dinner three times last week, grilled outdoors).
Every afternoon last week, after his nap, he wanted to eat watermelon. For some reason, he has developed a special fondness for watermelon this summer. We had plenty of watermelons with us, and we accommodated him by cutting open a fresh watermelon each afternoon when he woke from his nap.
The minute he gets up every morning, he is ready to eat his breakfast. He wants cereal immediately, followed by some kind of fruit in cream (bananas, strawberries, peaches). After his cereal and fruit, he plays with his toys in the kitchen while his “real breakfast” is prepared, which on weekdays most often consists of scrambled eggs, bacon, some kind of breakfast potato, toast, orange juice and cranberry juice. On Saturday mornings, he is accustomed to ham-and-cheese omelets. On Sunday mornings, he is accustomed to pancakes and sausages.
Because he and my niece rise early (they generally wake up between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m.), my middle brother and Josh and I would be the first ones up each morning, ready to take care of them and ready to prepare their breakfasts. We had them to ourselves for the first hour or so of each day, and we cherished that time.
The week flew by in a flash—and, at the end of the week, Josh and I were rested and renewed.
We had four laptops with us, all set up on the deck, so that everyone could keep up with whatever endeavors they desired from the outside world. In past years, we had taken a single laptop to the lake, but this year we went hog-wild, going all-out on the technology front.
My brothers kept close tabs on markets, mostly, and my sister-in-law kept in close contact with her parents, who will visit Minneapolis next month. It will be the first time her parents will see their new granddaughter.
My parents kept up with the news online, while the dog perused the most recent scientific journals on the subject of cloning (a subject about which he is particularly unsettled).
It was a great week.
It’s good to be home.
The next five weeks will be glorious.
Josh and I, staying with my parents, are mirroring the summer of 2006, when we spent the month of July and part of the month of August living at my parents’ house while we were in the process of locating and preparing an apartment of our own.
I hope my parents can stand having us around again.
Rental arrangements are currently being negotiated—but at least Josh and I will not be required to sign a short-term lease.
To help us out, the dog went downtown this morning to consult with his attorney. The dog hopes to be able to include Josh and me as “incidentals” pursuant to the terms of his own lease.
He has yet to receive an opinion from his attorney—but he is already complaining about the anticipated bill.