As you can imagine, I haven’t had a great deal of time to sit down and write much for this post. I’ve been recovering from labor, we’ve had family and friends visiting, and we’re getting the hang of our new sleep “routine” — all thanks to this truly sweet baby boy that arrived exactly one week late on the afternoon of November 18th weighing in at a healthy 8 pounds 15 ounces. We named our son Oliver Stephen Schick (we simply liked the name Oliver, and Stephen is my Dad’s name) and for the first week or so after bringing him home, I couldn’t look at any of the photos our doula took without being truly overwhelmed with emotion. I think it’ll still take some time to process that day and the experience of labor, how incredibly supportive Sam was, and how incredibly hard it all was. I can look back at photos now and find myself doing so during Oliver’s late night feedings or when I have a spare moment to lie down on the couch. I can tell he’s changing already — his cheeks and arms not quite as chubby — and we’re spending lots of time snuggling and rocking him, and trying to notice it all.
The things people tell you when you’re pregnant about not being able to prepare for labor are, as it turns out, true. I still gave it a real go, packing a hospital bag with everything from a heating pad and ginger candies to birth books and energy bars. The day we were heading home and I was getting things ready for Sam to bring to the car, I chuckled as I stared into the bag — the thought of me taking a pause from pushing to consult some of my notes from birth class made me smile. I didn’t touch a thing in that bag, choosing instead to wear the ill-fitting hospital gown for our entire stay, and eating cottage cheese and breakfast burritos from the hospital cafeteria. Oh and that ice cold apple juice! But everyone was right: there is no way to tell what you’ll need, how you’ll feel, and how it will all turn out. I think I probably knew that deep down, but having those ginger candies and birth books made me feel as if I was doing something right.
Arriving home with Oliver for the first time was surprisingly emotional for me. The house wasn’t how we normally leave it, and staring at the living room brought back memories of the hours of painful contractions and moving furniture around to find a comfortable place to labor (it turns out I did a lot of the hard work at home, arriving to the hospital already 8 centimeters dilated). Once we unloaded the car and got settled in, Sam helped bring some order to things around the house and his sister Christa brought us over a hot dinner. We wanted to crack open a bottle of champagne but I think both realized we wouldn’t make much of a dent in it, so we made tea and cranked up the heat instead.
We all slept in our bedroom that night and woke early the next day (after many wakings that night), the first full day as a new family in our own house. I wish I could remember what we did that day, but time all seems to mash together into one long chunk peppered with meals from friends, Sam’s scrambled eggs, many cups of tea, hot showers, a trusty white noise machine, short naps, eggnog, and records in the living room. Sam is already a natural Dad — as I knew he would be. He’s been reading Phillip Larkin and The Odyssey to Oliver, singing him elaborate made up songs, and soothing him like a pro. I look at him and feel so lucky to be doing this together, and I look at Oliver realizing that right now he has no idea what a selfless, cool Dad he has.
When I said earlier that there’s really no way to prepare for labor or the experience of having your first child, that’s certainly true. So all you can do, really, is trust in yourself and the things you’ve put into place. I guess that’s all we can ever do with new endeavors or adventures, isn’t it? And once you do that, you settle into it, hope for the best, and try to envision it all. For Thanksgiving this year, we joined a big group of friends and all sat at a long, communal table sharing dishes we each contributed and turkey that our friend Natalie worked hard on. There was a true abundance of food, two other babies there besides Oliver, warmth and good conversation. I had a hard time eating my meal as I kept thinking about the occasion and what it meant: coming together and giving thanks. We had talked so much about baby Sprout for almost a year … and here he was. Here was Oliver. Here we were. We couldn’t have prepared for any of it, but we’d hoped so hard for it all.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.