A brief look at yesterday’s Remy-Anselm Hour.
We’re still waiting to jump onto the mobility train (and I thought he’d be an early mover!) though he’s getting quite proficient at pulling himself along when he has Mama’s hands to hold onto. He’s also started holding himself up on all fours for (very) very short periods of time. I’m just hoping something clicks in the next four weeks so I don’t have to go to another twelve-month appointment with an immobile one-year-old.
While Big Brothers Ephraim chose his eleventh month to decide he didn’t like bananas anymore, Anselm used his to make peace with the fruit, deciding that they weren’t so bad after all; he has added them to his very, very long list of Foods That Are Delicious (which included essentially everything except bananas and most baby food.) The boy is an eater. We haven’t really had one of those, yet. Anselm will be the one to eat us out of house and home.
He still enjoys squeaking and squealing. “Squeaky Mo” is a persistent nickname.
He’s learned he can make his brothers laugh by making farting noises with his mouth and the arm of his highchair. He can also get a good giggle out of everyone by making a few other silly vocalizations. (They are hard to describe.) He observes these interactions with the scrutiny of an anthropologist, and only laughs if someone else does. If not, he stops and moves on to something else, no doubt making a mental note about the exchange for future reference.
He’s stuck for the moment at two teeth, which are perfectly displayed in his favorite facial expression: the Scrunchy Face, of which there are no pictures presently but surely will be soon as he does it All The Time.
One more month to go, then we aren’t really a baby anymore, are we?
Each December for the past five years, we’ve been blessed with the use of a veritable Cabin In The Woods for a weekend getaway. The first year it was just us, then the second I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Ephraim. Each visit has seen our family expand and grow. It’s been an eventful five years.
Usually we spend the weekend enjoying the winter feel of the place–sitting by the fire, watching Christmas films, cooking and eating an embarrassing amount of food, and watching HGTV while the kids nap (hey, I only get to do that twice a year, so it’s a real treat.) This year, the freezing overnight temperatures gave way to afternoons in the 60s, so we made our way down to the river for a while.
GrandMaggie stayed in the cabin while Anselm napped, but the rest of us climbed the winding staircase down the hill and to the water.
From a photography standpoint, it was sort of a nightmare (full sun next to water) and from a mother’s standpoint, it was nerve-wracking (two small children on slippery rocks next to moving water). Despite all that, it really was a beautiful spot and the temperature was perfect.
These are old pictures. As I mentioned before, my only editing computer is in the (unfinished) basement–which means the kids can’t go down there–which also means that I can only edit before they wake up in the morning, while they’re napping, or after they’ve gone to bed for the night.
It’s why I’m not booking anymore sessions for this year, though it’s Christmas Card Season–I’ve only so much time to devote to pictures, and I want to make sure the sessions that are already booked don’t suffer from my overextending myself. A quick turnaround time on galleries is something I take pride in, and I don’t want to compromise that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about excellence–our call to it, our striving for it, our grace for when we miss the mark. When you say “no” to something you know you can’t do with excellence, is that wisdom or perfectionism? How does striving for excellence differ from clamoring for perfection? Are they different?
I have answers in my head; I’m just not posting them now.
Anyway, the pictures: one of Ephraim’s favorite pastimes is to “play tools”. He doesn’t really accomplish anything in adult terms, but for a three-year-old he is doing the very best he can do in the very best way he can do it. “This is Ephraim’s work,” he tells me proudly. And he does it well.
Am I also doing my work well?
I set up my camera and tripod and set the timer for ten seconds. I brought the kids in to look at the red blinky light (which they loved) and got a few pics of all of us, them looking lovely and smiling at the camera (or the red blinky light on the camera) and me looking like I’m trying not to think about how the sun just went behind clouds and now the light is gone and the room is too dark. It was just a practice run, and I’ll try again.
I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t like to share things that haven’t passed my rigorous examination of “worth revealing to the general public.” (On a related note, even things that pass this exam almost immediately fail the same exam after their having been revealed–it’s just part of the cycle. There’s always next time and I’ll do better, then. I hope.) I don’t want to put motives in God’s mind, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that perfectionism is the reason why I have three strong-willed boys three-and-under.
To show that I’m learning, I’m sharing a fragment of a photo from a practice run, where the room suddenly went dark as the sun ducked behind clouds, and the two-year-old suddenly dashed out of the picture, and I have a comical look on my face because the baby started crying just as the red blinky light started pulsating and I’m holding his pacifier in his mouth and saying, “Don’t start crying now!” And he did, anyway.
What I like about it is that my hands look somehow weathered and older than they really are. They are the hands of a persevering, semi-recovering perfectionist. It’s not a very good photograph, but it’s a very real one.
We moved out to the farm when I was two; I have been in awe of that house for as long as I can remember. It was well-worn, then, but not run-down. It had a large front porch with a flat roof that you could go out and stand on.
We called it “The-House-Across-The-Street,” a sensible name, as we were in the habit of giving most things. The market at the crossroads was called “The Little Store”; the white structure catty-corner to it was called “The Ugly House”; the room in our house with the green carpet was “The Green Room,” and the one with gold carpet, “The Yellow Room.”
As I got older, I spent a lot of time imagining what it was like inside. Huge stone fireplaces, a sweeping, grand staircase. “Beautiful” decor as only an eight, nine, ten-year-old girl can dream up. It was almost always devoid of inhabitants, though people did live there from time to time. It had been built, I believe, by the grandparents of the man who owned the property and the fields surrounding it.
Our yard was fenced to keep the dogs and sheep away from the road, and we were not to cross over to that house. At least I assumed we weren’t, as I never did. It wasn’t our property and it wasn’t our house, and I never so much as peeked through the windows to see if what I imagined about the inside was true. Not until I was twelve, and the cat we’d had since before I was born went missing. I was asked (or it was suggested, and I obliged) to go over to the house and see if she had somehow managed to get trapped inside. So it was at twelve that I was able to do what I had been longing to do–go through the gate, cross the street, and look into that great House-Across-The-Street.
Seventeen years later I still recall that moment as one of the greatest disappointments of my life. What I saw was devastating to my dream-filled, girlish head.
There was a staircase, but not sweeping. Fireplaces, but not grand. Wallpaper peeled off the walls in great hanging sheets. Holes in the walls left the planking underneath exposed. It was filthy and falling apart. I didn’t look very long before going back across the road to our house.
I was twenty-one and a newlywed before I ever actually went inside. During a visit to my childhood home, I followed my adventurous husband across the street and into the house, almost bailing at the door when he said, ponderously, “This is just like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Inside we found nothing but a stop sign, some trash, and one solitary armchair in an upstairs bedroom, seated in front of a window. The stairs looked ready to collapse at any moment, and I’m still wondering at why we ever climbed them and how someone didn’t get hurt.
Over the years it has continued to deteriorate. The porch was torn down, and in the process, the foundation was compromised. The paint on the front doors faded even further. The chimneys began to crumble, and a family of vultures has moved into one of them. Despite its eerie aura and silent misery, I’ve never found the place to be ominous. At least, not that I remember. But I can’t help but feel an intense sorrow when I see it–even though it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. I stick the lense of my camera through a broken window to capture the interior, and I feel sick to my stomach.
When I’m done taking pictures, Jeremy asks if I want to go look inside.
“No,” I say. “It’s just too sad.”