Thursday, October 30, 2008

Even though an arctic blast chilled the evening, there's something a bit odd about a pumpkin patch that is surrounded by palm trees. But that's the way of our world here in Southwest Florida
This was what I did last year for Hallowe'en. And this year:
Zane was not very fond of climbing around on the pumpkins, to my disappointment. We visited the patch during his usual catnap time.

The upside-down Jack-o-Lantern.

Baby It's Cold Outside!


This week we reached a record low temperarture for October in Fort Myers. 43 degrees. That's pretty chilly for Southwest Florida. This is what Zane chose to wear for school that day.

Third Generation Baby Gator

College football, Gator football, has always been part of my life. On the night that my mother went into labor with me, my father was with my Uncle Lenny in Jacksonville for the Florida-Duke football game. The story goes that my dad and Uncle Lenny made it home to Clearwater in 3-1/2 hours and, as soon as he arrived, I was born at 7:16am. That was in 1970.
By the 1971 season, my dad and mom had season tickets - three to be exact - and our Saturday afternoons were spent in Section 15, Row 71, Seats 10, 11 and 12 at Florida Field. That was well before Ben Hill Griffin gave the UAA a boatload of cash for upgrades and naming rights. It was also well before the first Glory Years of Gator Football (1983-1985), before Emmitt Smith, before the second coming of Steve Spurrier, and before most everything that now defines Gator Football.
Back then, we sat through day games, in dress clothes, and suffered 0-10-1 and 0-11 seasons. We ate Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, cole slaw and rolls for lunch before the games; parked on campus, no pricey parking permits required. The north and south endzones were not built high, the stadium was not closed in, and fans were invited to exit the stadium across the playing field after each game. We often got to meet cheerleaders and football players as they joined their families after the games, which was really cool. We listened to "Dial-a-Score" as we sat in traffic on our way out of town.
I went to my first football game at 11 months old. My sister, having been born in May, attended her first game at 4 months old. Even when our family of three became four, there was no need to purchase another season ticket. Back then, children did not require a ticket for admission; and there were plenty of empty seats in the stadium. My dad would always carry Ashley through the gate - Gate 4 - and the same ticket collector (he was an old, old man and I think his name was Charlie...) took our tickets at every game. Even when the UAA changed the rules to require tickets for admitting children, our ticket collector never questioned my dad carrying Ashley into the stadium. We did it that way until she was at least 10 years old, maybe even older.
Once inside the stadium, we sat next to Betty & Gordon Grant of Ocala, and behind their friends Evelyn & Ruel, also of Ocala. Betty and Evelyn smoked those super-skinny ladies' cigarettes and always left fascinating lipstick marks on the butts. Dressed to the nines, they also spiked their water with bourbon they had brought into the stadium in a small, round cooler festooned with the Fightin' Gator logo. It mattered not how much they drank during the game...the entire Ocala crew rode "Lolly the Trolley" to and from the games.
Betty & Gordon sort of adopted Ashley and me as "grandchildren." At halftime in the games, Betty would take us downstairs to the concession stand for treats - usually M&Ms or Cracker Jacks.
Also in front of us sat Bill & Ronna Davis of Gainesville. And behind us sat Keith Gilles, and eventually his wife Leslie, a converted Seminole. And next to our left were Ken & Martha Eilermann of Jacksonville.
So much about Gainesville and Gator Football has changed in the last 38 years: the Gators have won two national football championships; UF now boasts three Heisman Trophy winners; winning seasons are the norm; the stadium is massive and "fans are reminded to stay off the playing field following [the] game"; parking on campus is nil, unless you own a pricey parking permit; halftime pass-outs for re-entry (the coolest tradition we ever had...) are a thing of past, as is the halftime Kamikaze Party at the Purple Porpoise (R.I.P.)
But, probably the biggest change in my Gator world is that my dad is not there. After he died in 1997, it took a while to regain the zeal for anything, much less a silly game. But as I took Zane to his first Gator game last weekend, all of those childhood memories came flooding back to me and I realized that my dad was there. He was the foundation of all those memories, and the reason I have such a wonderful family tradition to share with my son.
I also realized that so much about Gator Football is still the same, all these years later. For one, Gator fan loyalty is unmatched. Say what you will about Alabama, Michigan, Penn State and others with legions of loyal fans; I submit Gator Nation is the most loyal of all, simply based on the fact that we really didn't start winning - at least not with any frequency or consistency - until the early 1990s. That's a long time to adore a team without a strong winning record. I think that's why Gator Nation is so strong.
Also, we still sit in the same seats my dad bought all those years ago; and our seat mates have passed their tickets down through their families, too. We now sit next to Betty & Gordon's daughter, Henrietta, and her husband, Mike. And, Keith & Leslie still sit behind us, and Miss Martha (her dear husband Ken died shortly after my dad...) still sits to our left. In many ways, a Gator game is like a family reunion, and I was so proud to introduce Zane to so many "extended family" last Saturday.
And the traditions, Oh! the traditions..."HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRE Come the Gators..."; "We Are the Boys..." after the third quarter; the "orange & blue" cheer; Gator jaws; baby Gator jaws; and so many others. Mostly, though, it's another Saturday spent as a family in Section 15, Row 71, Seats 10, 11 and 12.
Toddles, Zane & Paige

My, what pretty pearlies you have...

With Pappi at the "tailgate."

Silly Auntie Ashley with Toddles

Makin' friends with Joe, Joe Jr., Keith and Frank

Laughing with Auntie Ashley

The SWAMP...only Gators get out alive.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

175 Years

What do you get when you add one 85th birthday, one 65th wedding anniversary and one 90th birthday?...

A GREAT BIG OLE' PARTY!

Ever since I can remember, summertime meant "Grandmama's house." Ashley and I didn't go to camp; we spent six weeks at Grandmama's in rural Alabama. Our grandparents hail from large, tight-knit families - as do most folks their age, in that part of the country - and they created a large, tight-knit family with six children. When grandchildren started arriving, close relationships with the new members of the clan were forgone conclusions. The challenge was creating those close relationships, since all of the Top 5 Grands lived far away from Fort Deposit.

My grandmama is a strong woman, and she loves her grandchilden, and she wanted us for the summer. Think about that statement for a moment: she wanted us - all five of us - for the summer. There was no question of where would we all sleep, or bathe, or what would we eat, or however would she corral five children and still maintain her sanity, much less continue to run her household. She just did it. And she loved it, and so did Grandaddy - who (to our parents' surprise...) was way more involved with us than he was with our parents.

To say that our summers were fun would be a tremendous understatement. In a word, those summers were magical, and the memories are too personal, too precious and too abundant to share with the internets. My grandparents succeeded in creating close relationships with all of their grandchildren and, still, when we go back to visit it seems like no time has passed. The fact they have enjoyed such long and healthy lives means that our relationships with them have continued to evolve and change and strengthen. For me, personally, being grounded with so much love from a large, extended family is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

On October 18th, the "siblings" threw a party celebrating the milestones Grandaddy and Grandmama reached in 2008: Grandmama turned 85 in May, their 65th wedding anniversary was in June, and Grandaddy turned 90 on October 16th. The siblings outdid themselves, and it is fair to say a great time was enjoyed by all.


Grandaddy and Grandmama

Some of the grandkids...the two girls next to Grandaddy are part of the Top 5, and I have the distinction of being the first grandchild!

Still crazy in love (and totally best friends!) after 65 Years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes...

In one of my recent posts here, I said I wished that time would just STOP for a while so I can memorize every small, changing detail of my sweet and beautiful baby as he careens toward the one-year-old mark. In much the same way that time moves faster in the fourth quarter of a football game, it seems like time is moving at warp speed in these last two months before Zane turns one whole year old. Where monthly updates were sufficient during the first seven months of his life, it seems weekly - or even daily - updates are not only warranted but necessary. So, here's what is new in the last week:

  • He has five teeth now. Desi has joined Lucy & Ricky on the top choppers. Fred & Ethel are still enjoying their alone time on the bottom choppers.
  • Zane has been officially crawling for about three weeks. Until last week, however, he was content to "crawl in place," never leaving one room for adventures in the great beyond. Now he CRUISES! He may start in the office with Papa, but he soon ventures into the kitchen or bathroom or den to find Mama, guided only by the sound of encouraging voices beckoning him to come "get" us. When he finds us, it's a riot of smiles and laughter. This is truly one of the most fun things about parenthood.
  • Baby babbling is so sweet - especially when the sounds resemble words that bear meaning for Mama and Papa. Zane says "ma-ma-ma-ma" indiscriminately, but it warms my heart just the same.
  • We took him to the doctor yesterday for a quick check of cold-like symptoms (he's fine...just a cold...no fever...just give it time...) and the nurse did a weight-check. The baby who was "underweight" at the six-month check-up now weighs...drum roll...19 pounds, 12 ounces. Solid!
  • I think we may have a climber. Z regularly pulls himself to a standing position and, once he's there, continues reaching for the next highest point (usually a Mama or a Papa)
  • I now understand the term "ankle biter." Enough said.
  • Zane definitely understands "kisses." He will give us smooches on our lips, and he just loves when I give him "Eskimo kisses."
  • Yesterday, while grocery shopping, Zane was riding shotgun in the grocery cart. As we finished our shopping, I stopped along one aisle to find a particular item. Zane sighed loudly and put his hand on my arm. When I leaned down to give him a smooch and reassure him that we were almost done and would be home soon, he reached up, put his arms around my neck and nuzzled his face into my shoulder. Make of that what you will, but I choose to believe my darling son gave his Mama a sweet hug.

Can you tell we are just in love with our sweet baby boy?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Months to One

Three months ago I posted the Seven Month Update about our Zane. Three months! It is a truism that infants change by the minute; but it is also true that, as time passes, and if you pay close attention, babies become less a mystery. The more things change, the more they stay the same... So, here is what is still true about our little man - three months later:
  • He is still the happiest and smiliest child I have ever known.
  • He still LOVES people.
  • He still has 100 different variations of his smile, and I love that his face is so expressive.
  • His fingernails still grow faster than mine.
  • Blowing raspberries still cracks him up.
  • He is still a very good eater. He will eat most anything we prepare for him, but his favorites are lentils/brown rice, yogurt, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, pears, peaches, applesauce, bananas and apples with any other mix-in. We have not tried the prunes again (no need) and we do not push the green beans (there is plenty of time for him to learn to love them...)
  • We still call him "baby bean", "stinker bean", "lovebug", "little buddy", "Ziggy Zane", "Peter Z.", "little man", and "punkin-head." I've added "bunny" to the mix...it is shorthand for "hunny bunny" (which becomes "funny bunny" when he is being silly...) and that just becomes "bunny."
  • He still feeds himself, and he still loves the Gerber stars. But his new favorite thing is the Gerber Yogurt Melts.
  • He still loves his crib.
  • His still has his Papa's legs, and his Mama's cheeks.
  • He still hasn't had a fever.
  • He is still a very content, secure and confident little baby.

Now, the big changes:

  • He is on formula exclusively now. We breastfed for a full nine months, and I'm really proud of both of us. At nine months, Zane was giving me all the classic "I'm ready to wean, Mama" signs and it was time. Plus, he had cut two teeth by then. Nursing a distracted baby with two teeth equals OUCH!
  • We are EXTREMELY lucky that Zane will drink the store-brand formula (small rant: I spent 30 minutes comparing ingredients. It's the SAME stuff, 1/2 the price.)
  • He is sitting unsupported, crawling, and pulling up.
  • He is now in full-time daycare, and he loves it!
  • He has four teeth: Fred & Ethel (bottom teeth) and Lucy & Ricky (top teeth)
  • His babbling is starting to make more sense: "ma ma ma," "ba ba ba," "pa pa pa"
  • He loves to hang upside down - he just laughs and laughs and laughs when we hold him upside down
  • He goes to sleep at 9:00pm and sleeps until 7:00am-ish...(God never gives us more than we can handle...)
  • To his Mama's GREAT delight, he is a blanket boy! Woot!
  • To his Pop's great delight, he LOVES the pool!
  • He understands "Mama" and "Papa" and will look for us when our name is mentioned. We both love that he will crawl to us - always with a smile on his sweet face.
  • His parents are his favorite people, but he also loves his Pappi, his Auntie Ashley, his Uncle Kevin, and especially Kyle and Todd.
  • He also loves Miss Diana at school and his buddies Landon, Kai and Griffin. Little Megan loves Zane, and Z indulges her by holding her hand on the buggy rides.
  • "Lookout" (the teddy bear), his "drumsticks" (two wooden spoons), and his plastic alphabet links are his favorite toys.
  • Oh, and Zane is now bi-coastal and international: he enjoyed a wonderful vacay in British Columbia with his main peeps back in August, and he's heading to Hope Town for Thanksgiving with PopBoot and Kent. He doesn't mind that his passport photo was taken when he was only 6 weeks old...see note above about "content, secure and confident" little guy...

PG and I are still having the time of our lives. Parenthood...who knew?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Status Report - Friday

One of my favorite bloggers used a very clever device to update her blog on Monday. Joy explains that her writer's block is a result of lack of time to express herself, or at least lack of time to express it well. I feel the same way. So often I will compose a witty, cogent, topical blog entry in my head and then, before I can either commit the words to paper or reach my keyboard, poof! it's gone. And I'm back to the mundane. One thing I've learned during my foray into blogging is, internet thievery is sort of okay as long as you properly attribute the source. So here, now, is what's current in my world:

I'm:

Sitting...at my desk at work, spending the last 20 minutes of the work week composing a blog entry. This week has been tough because I've had to carry 90% of the parenthood load - including the entire morning routine - all week, AND still arrive at work at a reasonable time, ready to give my "110%," only to re-trace my steps in the afternoon and do it all over again. Plus, we received some not-so-welcome news about PG's "job" yesterday, so Thursday was my tipping point (read: the day I opened a bottle of wine.) Things are better today...except for a protracted tour of wastewater treatment facilities in 90-degree heat, oh, and wearing heels...

Smelling...a cinnamon-scented votive candle burning on my desk.

Listening...to the ridiculous nonsense that is The Rachel Zoe Project on BravoTV. I love Bravo, but I think they are hitting new lows with Rachel Zoe and the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Drinking...water. I've already had two Diet Cokes today. However, I will be enjoying a glass of chilled pinot noir when I get home.

Reading...Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Also reading...Your Baby's First Year: Week by Week by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler. I love this book. Good, common sense advice.

Loving...that today is Friday and tomorrow I can take a morning nap with Zane after giving him the 7:30am bottle.

Dreading... the elections. Life gets crazy busy for me at work after the elections. So much enthusiam, so many BIG IDEAS, so many plans...SO. MUCH. WORK. Sigh.

Eagerly anticipating...a trip to see my Grandparents & extended family in October; making caramel apples; Hallowe'en; our Thanksgiving trip to Hope Town to see PopBoot and Kent; and Zane's First Birthday!

Worrying...about the economy and wondering if there will ever come a time when I don't feel so panicked about money being tight.

Wishing...that time would just STOP for a while so I can memorize every small, changing detail of my sweet and beautiful baby as he careens toward the one-year-old mark.

Praying...a lot. God is always good.

Grateful...for so MANY things in my wonderful life: my beautiful, healthy, happy, joyful and super-content baby; my caring and committed best friend and partner; our awesome family; my health; the fact that I am not in debt; that today is Friday; that there is chilled pinot in my wine fridge; that Happy Hour at home is more fun than going to a bar (and there's no cab necessary!); that Zane sleeps through the night and never gives us a moment of trouble (I'm sure that will change...); and sooooooooooooooooooooooo many other things.

Sharing...positive energy with everyone for a great weekend.