Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lazy summer afternoon

Aaaaaah, a lazy Saturday afternoon in the summer.

The boys are napping, and Michelle is taking a well-earned break, her head resting on a pillow. It's just me and the coffee for now.

We've seen some pretty big moments around here in the last week. First, Isaiah has learned to crawl. Well, mostly. He's figured out how to prop himself up on all fours, his little arms outstretched as if he's about to rip off some pushups. His legs are curled and tucked in, like a frog that's poised to leap. And he's rocking in that position, which generally means he's cuing up to crawl. It's that last step that's eluding him for the moment. But he is moving. He's doing it for now by dropping to his stomach and using his hands and arms to pull himself forward. The motion bears more than a passing resemblance to soldiers shimmying along the ground. Yet Isaiah's leg motion is not as coordinated; they're mostly just flailing around. That last bit of coordinated effort, of combining the leg motion with the arm motion, is just not there. Yet. It's only a matter of time.

And then the fun really starts.

Progress also has been made with Isaiah's older brother, Nathaniel, who's on the doorstep of turning 33 months. That is, he's getting ever closer to turning 3 years old, which would mean he could go to a more structured day care/school. To enroll, however, you need to be potty trained, and on that front our little guy has made amazing strides this week. With patient supervision, monitoring and cheerleading from his mommy, Nathaniel has been pooping and peeing regularly in the potty. The last couple of days, he's barely needed any prompting: Suddenly, he'll run upstairs, do his thing, come down and announce he either pooped or peed in the potty. Then, either Michelle or I will go for confirmation, dump the contents into the toilet and let Nathaniel do the honors of flushing it "down the tunnel."

For each potty pee, he gets two goldfish; for each potty poo, he gets a lollipop. Michelle had started out with giving him a piece of gum for each potty poo, but Natty kept swallowing them, no matter how many times we preached to him to throw the gum in the trash when he was done with it. He just didn't get it. You mean it's not food? Then what is it? he seemed to be thinking. I can't blame him for being confused. Gum is kind of weird that way.

Nathaniel has been on such a roll with the pee/poo potty that we've had him in his big boy pants (i.e. underwear) for the last few days. So far, so good, save for one especially messy mistake. We're all really proud of him. For a few months, we've had isolated incidents when he would pee or poo in the potty. But he's been really regular, so to speak, for the past week. It really appears as if the light bulb has gone off. There's more work to be done, and for all we know he may regress some. But we're sure happy he's on his way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


The heat has arrived in New England. For more than a week, I've watched and read news reports of the searing heat wave gripping much of our nation. My dad, who lives in Texas, has told me of the epic drought in the Lone Star State, a stretch of rainless days that's gone so long that mature oak trees may die, and neighbors around the lake are entertaining trucking in water, so they can get their boats in. We mercifully had been spared the heat; whenever I looked at the map, it showed this balloon of red that reached to the north, west, and east (and of course south) but never expanded enough to encircle New England.

That changed yesterday. According to the National Weather Service, the thermometer hit 100 degrees in Providence, and it was 103 in Boston. I was startled when around 3 p.m. I checked the temperature in our little bayside town, and it was 99 degrees. We're just not geared for this. Most homes, ours included, do not have central air conditioning. Instead, we have window units interspersed throughout the house. They don't get used too often. But they're sure getting a workout now. It's amazing what a difference there is between 90 degrees and 100. Maybe it's perception, but I don't think so. I can function at 90. I'm a blob at 100, a torpid mass, chugging water, normally robust appetite way down. Welcome to global warming, my friends; this is just a foretaste of the misery to come.

OK, consider all that a preamble. The main story for today had to do with my first foray into clamming. Ta da! After more than a decade of living in the Ocean State, I finally did what most Rhode Islanders would consider a requirement for living here. Last Sunday, after church, Nathaniel and I headed over to T.J. and Maureen's house. (you can read more about them in the previous post.) We walked to the shore of the Kickemuit River (which locals call the "Kicky"), which was at low tide. That's the best time, as it turns out, to go clamming, because you want to go a ways out in the river – about two to three feet deep in water – to dig out the clams. To ferret them out, you dig your hand or toes into the sediment, which is a loamy mud. The clams, are nestled in there vertically, so you're feeling around for a pointy end, rather than the breadth of the shell. When you locate the pointy end, you dig around it and pull the clam out from the muck. Voila!

T.J. and I collected some three dozen clams in roughly an hour, a pretty good haul. And most of what we harvested were big clams, which locals call quahogs. Their shells are a black-silver, whereas regular clams, which locals call soft-shell, are whitish. In fact, I've been told that "clamming" is digging for clams near the shore, where the soft shells hang out, while "quahogging" is digging for clams in the water, where the quahogs burrow in. I don't know why.

On Tuesday, I took my batch, about a dozen in all, stuck them on the grill, and waited for the shells to pop open, which means the quahogs are cooked. I dipped them in butter and soy sauce and let them slide right on down. Now, that's good eatin'!

Thanks, quahogs. Thanks, Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Family Times

It's a sun-filled summer weekend in Rhode Island. This morning, we trekked over to an arts & crafts fair in Tiverton. A beautiful day to stroll amidst the artists' booths, gnosh on some cookies and listen to a (presumably) father-son guitar duo. They played very rootsy, folksy music, the kind I imagine people heard at the Newport Folk Festival in the 1960s and 1970s, right after musicians first began plugging in. The boy looked like he was 12, and man could he play! Nathaniel was smitten by the music; he nodded his head up and down, ever so slightly, in rhythm to the music and swiveled his hips to some of the up-tempo songs. He really loves music, and it was a nice treat for him (and us) to see it live.

Our neighbors and us are heading over to a former neighbor's house for a steak and margarita extravaganza. I'm mixing the Mexican candy, and T.J. is in charge of marinating and grilling the steaks. It's church tomorrow morning, as usual, and playtime of some sort in the afternoon. For us, that's a jam-packed weekend!

Michelle has faithfully uploaded photos, and so, without further adieu, here are some:

This is from the carnival that comes to town every Independence Day weekend. Daddy pushed off from the top, thinking he needed the extra momentum to make it down the slide. We almost got more than we wanted, as we went airborne!

Our families streamed in from six states to witness Isaiah's baptism. Here's his first bite of his baptism cake.

Michelle's brother, Matt, and our neighbor, Bob, give the July 4th sign.

The crew at the Independence Day parade.

Lighting sparklers at our neighbor's annual backyard extravaganza

What a weekend with the family! Next year, again?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Celebration Week

Whew, what a week!

Our house played host to myriad activities revolving around Isaiah's baptism and our nation's 235th year of independence. Hooray! (Go USA!)

When you have family strewn all over the country like Michelle and I, it's a rarity to get everyone together in one place at one time. Save for two individuals (Rob and Kate Niccolini), we were blessed and grateful that everyone from our families came into our humble little town to witness Isaiah's entrance into the Lord's kingdom and to take part in the host of events and parties thrown around Independence Day.

I won't give a detailed accounting of everything that happened. I'll post a slew of pictures soon to illustrate that. The best I can say it just how rewarding it is to see family and friends and to be together. At some point, you realize that the best times to be had are with those closest to you – by blood, extended family or by friendship. And the best thing you can offer is yourself. Strip away all the events, fireworks, parades and other stuff, and what you have is people being together, talking, laughing, playing, joking, deepening the bonds that keep us bound.

We are blessed that through some unfathomable luck of the draw, we were born into the richest country on Earth. We want fir little, and we have a lot. We have the ability and the means to conquer distance and see each other. We can congregate for special occasions, such as Isaiah's big day.

How lucky we are. God bless America.