Natalie Coughlin and her husband William Butler have a beautiful baby boy.
Like she often does, while I was mooning over the pictures Natalie and William were texting us daily and pondering what to send them as a present, Alexe said, "you know what they're really going to need? Sleep." Which may seem bleeding obvious to anyone, but the next thing she said was, "Why don't you go up and help out for a week?"
Alexe is the self identified "Ideas Girl." She has good ideas that are sometimes more obvious than others, and almost always include, "and Kagan can do it."
Anyhoo, it was a great idea, and a few weeks into the life and unrelenting baby schedule of Hazel I hopped a plane and headed to Northern Vermont for a week.
After a couple stops for provisions, (Burlington has a Trader Joe's now!) I got to meet my first nephew.
He's precious. And a very good baby. Even though I've never met another child as difficult as our dear Annaliese, she set all my benchmarks for sleep depravation and angry, petulant screaming. Hazel is sweetness and light in comparison.
A.Caitlin brought dinner by on two different occasions. Her homemade pizzas were delicious. The homage to the nursing mother was only a little distracting.
A very tired, and proud, papa. This guy manages a large dairy farm, has a large sugarwood and sugar house of his own, and now has a newborn. Which all seems like plenty to keep a fellow tired. I didn't realize it was also hunting season. He was leaving the house at 3 am to be able to finish the morning milking and be out in the woods to hunt before sun-up. I wish I had a hobby I liked enough to make me do that. It blew my mind.
My little sister. And her son.
It snowed a couple days into the visit. I had to go out and feel the crunch under my boots.
And I managed to get Natalie out of the house and hiking up the road.
He's adorable, and other pleasant descriptors. Even in the endless cycle of feeding and changing and cooking and housekeeping and cold Vermont rain and feeling housebound, every now and again he would wake up and make contact just enough to melt my heart.
Our second walk.
Smile. Caught on film. (On memory? Funny how times and language keep changing.)
This is the real story of new motherhood. After the first couple nights Natalie and I split the night shift, but I came in fresh, and knew I was leaving in a week. This girl is in it for the long haul. She's doing great.
Me, I barely made it out alive.
A week later, I kissed my sister and nephew goodbye and drove into Burlington for a nostalgic morning on Church Street.
A little visit to the waterfront of Lake Champlain.
A couple flights back to Memphis and a late night drive home.
Where Alexe had been holding all the forts down, solo-parenting, farm-girl-ing, and shop-keeping, for several days without water at the house. This was my first chore after arriving home, repairing the water main that had been severed by a large root 3 ft below the driveway. The root pressure had been building for a decade maybe, (you can see the root on the left,) and the pipe snapped in two (sheared straight across,) from the pressure at the opportune moment that I was out of town.
Despite the challenges, (her car had also died, and the goats started breaking through the fences and eating her rose bushes,) Alexe rocked it, and the kids were glowing. They showed me all through their new fort in the woods, and we played a long series of family games out there, including homemade pin the tail on the mermaid and donkey.
I missed them terribly.
I brought the Vermont Country Store home with me.
Caspian is hoping that his cousin Hazel will marry our neighbor's daughter, Hazel-Sue. He grins every time he thinks of Hazel and Hazel being married.