After spending a relaxing week in Maine, it's back to reality for all of us. For Dave that means he has returned to work and will be spending much of his time in radiology reading rooms. Madeline is facing a dearth of "special treats." No more nibbling on toasted marshmallows or sampling GG's (Great Grandmother Jean, Dave's grandmother)home-baked goods like Cowboy Cookies or Exquisite Mint Sticks. For Rachel Marie being back home without a reserve of baby lovers hovering around means being held a little bit less and being stuffed into a baby carrier a little bit more. As for me, I have been tackling a Mount Everest-sized pile of laundry all daylong. Strangely, the mountain doesn't seem to be shrinking despite having done two gargantuan loads already.
Then there's the oppressive Georgia heat we've returned to after getting used to cooler weather. In Maine, we awoke to fall-like days where a light mist hung over the lake. At night it was cool enough to sit by the stone fireplace and read books while pitching back and forth in old rocking chairs.
The weather wasn't the only perk. We were lucky in the sleep department: Rachel Marie slumbered for long stretches - eight hours one night - and Dave and I both slept like rocks. Maybe it was the Maine air and all the sunlight we soaked in that allowed us to sleep more heavily. Then again, it probably had something to do with the fact that our insomnious Madeline spent most of her nights in a cot with her Nana in another room. Whatever the case, I came home feeling renewed.
But I think the one who enjoyed the trip the most was Madeline. She was a little wilderness girl who could not get enough of the great outdoors. Seeing her walk barefoot in the grass and wade in the lake's shallows, searching for minnows, slivers of silver flitting about, and tiny frogs she could easily cup in her hand, made me long to leave this urban life behind and retreat to a more bucolic place. Dave and I have both decided we'd rather live, in our life after residency, in a smaller town where there are more trees than skyscrapers and more fields than traffic-jammed highways.
At any rate, here are some highlights of our trip:
--Within minutes of arriving to camp, Madeline captured her first frog and proudly showed off her plunder to everyone. "'Ook!' A frog!"
--During one of our many nature walks, the Maine woods transformed into a veritable Candy Land in Maddy's hungry eyes. Plump, white mushrooms littering the forest floor were toasted marshmallows. Another form of fungi that sprouted from the ground in the form of lean, white stalks dappled with black were GG's Exquisite Mint Stinks. I was amazed by her imagination as well as her obsession with sweets.
--I told Madeline during another nature walk to keep her eyes peeled for chipmunks and other wildlife. Later, Dave told her to keep a sharp eye out for fish darting around a pier. Madeline told him, "No, Daddy. I'll peel my eyes."
--Before Pop (Dave's dad) sealed the unfortunate fate of a live Maine lobster, he showed the twitching, live crustacean to Madeline. Then an obnoxious former vegetarian who still doesn't eat lobster (me) lamented, "Poor lobster. They're going to boil you alive." Madeline then proceeded to say over and over to Dave's lobster-loving extended family, "Poor lobster." However, she soon became a true Wicker after she tasted the cooked flesh of the brilliant red lobster dripping with melted butter and said, "Poor lobster, but 'dey' taste good." Looks like we have a merciless carnivore on our hands. Her daddy is proud.
--On a particularly cool night, I was cuddling with Madeline when she asked, "Mommy cold?" I told her I was a little chilly, so she wrapped her arms tightly around me and said, "Sorry, Mommy. Sorry I don't have more arms."
--Madeline peed in the outhouse (also known as the Georgian House). She frequently wanted to follow me to the rustic, wooden port-a-potty and would always giggle, "Stinks, Mommy! Because people pee and poop in it." Then one day she said she wanted to pee in it and she did like a true nature girl. We also made up a little ditty in honor of using the Georgian House. "Over the river and through the woods [you actually cross a little bridge that hovers above a rocky dip in the ground where a stream sometimes flows] to the Georgian House we go. Our butt knows the way, but we stay away unless we have to go - oh!" This may seem a bit vulgar, but I grew up in a family where my uncles greeted me by saying, "Pull my finger." A little potty humor never hurt anyone...except perhaps in the dating circuit, but we don't want our girls to date, anyway. :)
--I had plenty of time to rock Baby Rae in my arms on the camp porch overlooking the lake. One morning Dave and I both got up around 6ish. We sipped coffee and watched the sun - a fiery, orange ball - slowly rise leaving a blazing trail of gold on the lake's still, glass-like surface. I held Rachel Marie in my arms, taking it all in while listening to the sound of water lapping on the shoreline.
--Madeline learned to identify the haunting call of the loon. After spending time with Pop, she also can recognize a carpenter ant, the largest species of ants in North America, and a Daddy Long Legs.
--At night I'd often sneak out at gaze at the sky and the thousands of stars winking at me like sparkling eyes. You don't see stars like that in the city.
--We ate lots of homegrown veggies with our meals - corn on the cob from GG's vast garden (she lives on nearly 52 acres with her husband John), red potatoes from Dave's Uncle John and Aunt Barret's hilltop land overlooking the lake, and apples hand-picked from Dave's Aunt Nettie's property in New Hampshire (she came to visit for a few days). I even had my first taste of Maine fiddleheads at GG's house. She handpicked them and then froze the spirally greens so she could savor them all yearlong. They were seasoned with salt and pepper and bit of butter and tasted like mild asparagus to me - delicious! Feasting on all of this fresh food has inspired me to one day grow our own fruit and vegetables. Hopefully, my black thumb will turn greener before I embark on this husbandry. I fortunately have a while to read up on it since we currently don't even have a backyard. That's city living for you.
--On the way back home, Madeline started crying in pain on the airplane. The girl who only cleans out her system once a week had already taken care of her business a few days earlier, so Dave and I wrongly assumed we were in the clear. Her GI track had a different idea, however, and Dave ended up having to change her in the claustrophobic airplane bathroom. Thankfully, she was wearing a diaper instead of underwear, but cleaning up after something that's as nuclear as the mercurial Kim Jong-il while in flight is not an experience we'd like to repeat.
Look for snapshots from our trip later this week...