Saturday, March 31, 2012

Flashback! the thirteenth.

hi mrs. reyes! (HA! WHOA!)
of COURSE I'm excited with you, silly . . . . I’d like to think that you and Manny wouldn’t be together if it weren’t for me (this may not be true, but give me my moment of feeling important), and I love you both so it’s way exciting to see you being married!  Are you guys thinking big or small or in between sized wedding?  I like your idea of influential older couples dedicating songs to you for your wedding – that would be very special and memorable.  Also, my suggestion is that you do a few things to make the actual ceremony fun that way people aren’t bored and you don’t get too overwhelmed with emotion.  Nothing tacky, just something fun
emily pyg pyg pyg

ha ha - wow. ok - the email program i use at work shows you the first three
lines of each email when its new, so all i saw was the "hi mrs. reyes!" and it
made me laugh.
right now, i'm writing you while sitting by my big window where the rain is
pattering outside, with norah jones humming on my computer. do you remember
thanksgiving weekend at you house when we listened to her so much? i was
picturing that so vividly when we were at the concert!! How many hours did I spend in front of my laptop staring at that picture of Manny and steeping in Norah Jones songs over and over and over – I probably forced your parents to stare at that picture multiple times.  What a great weekend, dreaming of Manny, making lefse with all the generations of women in your family – one big mess altogether in the kitchen, it was like an initiation into your world!   i miss your mom's Propels and watching tv and movies for hours on end in your living room.  i get to watch so much tv now - we'd have so much fun together if you were here!!  also - you'd probably help me do more than tv like ping-pong (as much as I suck) or random hikes (remember the time we walked all the way down to Blenders and I nearly died but you were so patient with my pathetic-out-of-shape-self anyway?), or mad dashes around courtyards (remember the night we ran around screaming in our shorts and tank tops to distract ourselves from the unbearable heat?) all of which would be healthy.  but i do i guess, my schedule is super packed really - well, packed enough that i see manny only like one night a week. 
ummm . . . i think i'm out of things to say.  


-zoe faith

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gardening Together

As I mentioned lately, I'm confused about what season we're supposed to be in right now. Is it still Winter? Have we suddenly jumped to Summer? Is it Spring, or should I say, "Mud Season"? Whatever this season, it's got me excited to start thinking about planting. 

When I stepped outside to survey possible planting areas and began to remove dead leaves and pine needles, there are bright green fragrant creatures making their way forth. Sofia must have sensed my excitement, because she eagerly wanted to join in and help me uncover unknown treasures beneath the debris. 

So now I've changed my plan to wait patiently and see what this house's former residents left for us to enjoy. Not only am I gardening with Sofia, it is as if I am gardening along side this house's former tenants. So far, I've sniffed out what I think are some green onions, parsley, and peppers. In various spots, springing up from the grass, I've discovered these gorgeous flowers:

I can't wait to see what all will spring up in the next few months! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sofia Visits Vermont

In about 90% of our first introductions to people who live here in Maine, they advise us to plan a getaway for Spring Break so that we can escape the snow that will by that point in the year be driving us crazy. So naturally, for our Spring Break, I arranged a visit to Vermont.

It sounds unintelligent I'm sure, but after we had so much trouble traveling around Christmas, I was not excited about getting back on a plane with a toddler. In a more positive light, it seemed to me that what would bother me most about winter was how insular the community becomes because of how much trouble it is to get out of your house. It seemed that as much as the sunlight, what I would be needing was time with friends.

Once upon a time, when we lived in Berkeley, we were being friendly greeter types at church and met a couple named Erick and Faith. Being that my legal name is Erica Faith, I was able to overcome my chronic name forgetting disease when it came to these two, and we were able to become friends.

Over the years, these two have become five (they have had three beautiful girls) and our paths have found even more overlaps. Faith and I were both Executive Officers of Project Peace. Granted, my role was merely to satisfy a blank for a 501c3 application form, and she actually did lead the organization for real. Faith and I are both into photography too, though again, she actually has an MA and I just dabble. Manny and Erick were PhD students at Berkeley at the same time. Our youngest children first met at my baby shower when they were still in our bellies. Manny and Erick both got their first positions as professors in the Northeast in the same year. And Faith has also been getting more into writing for her own blog, The Pickle Patch. (We've decided it has something to do with the effect of snowy winters.) So now that we're basically neighbors, we couldn't pass up a chance to reconnect with these long distance friends and compare notes about our parallel journeys.

I can't say that the travel was all smooth sailing. Over the several hours in the car, Sofia expressed a wide range of emotions:

But after driving, literally, over the river(s) and through the woods, we made it there and back in one piece. And most importantly, we had a great time while we were there. Vermont is like one big idyllic photo opportunity: green mountains, old barns with stallions rustling their mane, rivers trickling down rocks and through mossy banks, old historic steeples piercing the sky line. It is so close to Maine, and yet it feels so distinct in topography that it seems to have its own shape of character. And as for escaping the snow, it was in the 70's-80's the whole time we were there. We even got uncomfortably hot playing at a playground. So as illogical as my plan was, it totally worked out on all counts!

It was great to catch up with friends from what seems like a previous life. Renewing those bonds and digging them deeper feels good for the soul in growing those relationships, but it also brought to memory other old friends from that season, how much they meant to us, how much we miss them, who and how we are because of how they've impacted us. It becomes a full fledged renewing of the love of a whole community. Dear other-old-Berkeley friends, I miss you! 

Furthermore, Sofia got a taste of what life would be like with a gaggle of sisters. This family is raising three daughters with a sparkling sense of imagination that is integrated into every moment of their day. It made me think of the book, Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik [a Berkeley professor incidentally], which speaks of the importance of imaginary friends/play as a child's beginning abilities to conceive of other possible universes (a bit of what we adults were also experiencing as our journeys are so similar, and yet so different), which is a key building block to skills like problem solving. It is a phase ahead of where Sofia and I are right now, but it was precious to witness and so sweet of her girls to do their best to include Sofia in this play. 

In addition to fun with friends, the time away gave us opportunity to have some time as a family, which was particularly appreciated after Manny had been away for a week for work. I can't ever seem to get enough of the site of my husband with my child, happy in play together. 

As you can see in that final shot, this was all so much fun that it even maxed out Sofia's seemingly endless supply of energy. Perhaps that might have also had a little something to do with the one night when Sofia was up for three hours? Sorry again, friends! But despite the challenge of hosting a family with a toddler in the midst of mid-terms and preschool and a very full life, these friends were amazingly gracious, thoughtful, and warm hosts. We are looking forward to spending time with them in Maine someday soon. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

and now it's time for another good idea, bad idea.

I've realized recently that maybe we're not always the most conventionally good parents in the world. Evidence!

Good idea: Letting baby chew on an appropriate baby toy, like Sophia the Giraffe from Babies R Us.
Bad idea: Letting baby chew on an appropriate dog toy, like a giant red rubber bone.
We do take it away as quickly as possible,
but this child has a future in ninjary.
Good idea: Using the stroller or car seat for storage when shopping.
Bad idea: Using the stroller or car seat for storage when shopping for wine. 
She's never been soused. So that's a point for us, right?
Good idea: Inviting baby to a party.
Bad idea: Keeping baby at a party well past her bedtime.
Come on, though. How freaking cute.

Good idea: Kissing baby sweetly on the cheek.
Bad idea: Trying to eat the baby. 
Good idea: Bringing baby along to a busy restaurant.
Bad idea: Spinning baby around on the giant Lazy Susan on the table at a busy restaurant.

The good news is that Miss Eiley is fiercely loved. And it seems like that can make all those bad ideas still pretty okay. 

Except eating her. I never condone eating babies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Growing up in Texas, we basically had one season, Summer. Then in California, we had one season, Spring. Moving to Maine, I was warned that we had two seasons, "Winter and August." Fortunately, I have found this not to be the case. I've been documenting each of the four seasons evolve out my window:



"Spring" you say? Certainly that's what I would have thought. But I've been told that here, it is called "Mud Season." This is even posted around state signs at parks, "During Mud Season, . . . " Mud Season being the time when the snow is melting and over-saturating the ground, so that everything is squishy and a bit unstable. 

I have found this squishiness to be true, but I have also felt some days lately that have felt like summer. I even saw 88 degree temperatures the other day. And yet, it has dropped back down to the 30's, and as I'm writing this, I see snow flurries out my window. Basically, I'm confused. Now I understand why people in this part of the country spend a great deal of time paying attention to weather reports, because you can't just trust today as an indicator of what things will be like tomorrow. I'll let you infer your own profound metaphors from that observation.  

Whatever this season is supposed to be, it is beautiful. And it inspires Sofia and I to dance for joy. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

And we have a winner!

Congratulations to Cambria! 

Whether she knew we were having a contest or not, Cambria has WON our Second Ever Lobster Contest by posting the 555th comment on our blog. Cambria, please email me at  claws [at] longdistancelobsters [dot] com with your address so I can send you your brand new Bugs Life dvd. You are my newest long distance friend. :)

Thanks to everyone for playing, and stay tuned for future contests where you can win MORE goodies Emily and I find around our homes. 

Movie Review Monday #43: The Hunger Games

Some of you may remember that I jumped on the Hunger Games bandwagon last August. I loved the books. I got to see the film on Friday night, thanks to my sister who watched Eiley. Thoughts, which I will attempt to keep spoiler-free:

1. This was one of the best adaptations I have ever seen. Yes, there were some changes made, but I don't think I'd want to sit through a perfect adaptation since it would probably take about ten hours to include every minute detail. There was only one moment that was not included that disappointed me - I was looking forward to a beautiful symphony of mockingjays after the death of one of the characters. There was no such moment, but that's such a minor complaint. I remember wondering how the filmmakers planned to pass on the information that Katniss, the main character, gives the reader through her inner monologue in the book - they did so mostly with game commentators, one of whom was Cesar Flickerman who was played by Stanley Tucci who I adore. I approved. They also stayed away from turning the film into a love story, which was a concern of mine. There's an aspect of romance to the books, but it's definitely not the focus. Same with the film.
2. Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss, is amazing. She had the perfect balance of strength and realistic fear, I'm impressed with how well she shot the bow and arrow, and she looks very similar to my mental image of Katniss. Good job, Casting Director!

3. A large portion of the film was shot with a shaky cam. I understand that it gave District 12 a gritty, realistic feel, but wow. I could have done with significantly less of that. I felt a bit seasick at times.
4. So I'm already going to take back my compliment to the Casting Director. I can't get over how short and cartoonish Peeta is in the film (my apologies, Josh Hutcherson). In my head, he's tall and strong, with puppy dog eyes and a kind smile. My top three better choices for Peeta: Adam Hicks (though they'd need to make him blonde), Austin Butler (though they'd need to make him less pretty), or Chord Overstreet (who would also need to be deprettified). Full disclosure: I just put way too much imdb effort into that short list, folks. 
5. Here's my big point: I enjoyed the books and the film, but not because they had children killing children. I wish that thought never crossed anyone's mind. I joked about that on facebook (Let's kick off spring by sitting in a dark theater watching teenagers murder each other!), but obviously that's not why I jumped on this bandwagon. Instead, I enjoy this story because it's about a girl who sacrifices her life for her sister, who survives even though the odds are ever not in her favor, who has two boys in love with her but remains humbly oblivious to both, who feeds and cares for her smaller opponent, who stands up for what she believes is right in the only ways she knows how. She's no Jesus, but she's a pretty darn solid literary hero in my opinion. Also, I realize that there are all sorts of socio-political parallels to our world that can be drawn from this series, but I choose to simply place it in the fantasy genre and enjoy it. Call me vapid, I don't care.

In conclusion, three claws up. Solemnly. You know, like they do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sabbath Sunday

This Sunday, we will be saying farewell to Spring Break, but a welcome hello to Spring [with a few more spots of snow here and there perhaps?]. We'll also be getting together with a family from church we've been eager to get to know. How will you be Sabbathing this week, Lobsters?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

More, Peas

We had a blessed break from teething for a few days there, but it is back. I simply can not remember who suggested this to me, but feeding Sofia frozen peas is really doing the trick to provide some relief. Thank you, kind soul, for this great suggestion. Here is Sofia "eating" her peas:


P.S. here's a handy resource on baby teeth my mom found for me. What I like best is that it tells me this is the last tooth to come in until her second year molars! Woo hoo!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

emily and eiley's guide to good sleep

Jeff went on a trip to Florida, and I got to take him to the airport at 4:45 this morning. Knowing that I was going to have to wake up that early filled me with unspeakable amounts of dread (#firstworldproblems), so I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep last night. I had to use my various methods of helping myself drift off, and I decided I should share this vast wisdom with the lobster world.

Three Steps to Get to Sleep - Emily Edition
1. Find a comfortable position, and play a game called "DON'T MOVE" with yourself. If you move, you lose.  If you don't move, you will most likely eventually fall asleep.
2. If that doesn't work, visualize boring shapes. I'm talking squares, circles, triangles - pretty much anything you learned before age five. Don't try to get complicated. Octagons will start to wake you up, and anything three dimensional will give you nightmares.
3. If that doesn't work, play six degrees of separation with yourself. Choose two actors at random, and connect them by their film work, by their TV work, or even by that one time they were on the same talk show on the same day. Kevin Bacon is not required for this game to work. Last night I linked my friend Queen Latifah to Billy Crystal. I think I had one too many links, but I eventually got there. And then I tried to link Daniel Radcliffe to The Rock and I fell asleep. (I have since figured it out, thanks.) 

I don't want to brag, but I can sleep on a couch in broad daylight.
Three Steps to Get to Sleep - Eiley Edition
1. Drink some warm milk, turn on the glow seahorse, and drift off peacefully.
2. Drink some warm milk, sit up in the crib, scream face off, and eventually pass out from exhaustion. Face planting on the sheet is optional.
3. Drink some warm milk, pull up a Grandma, and let her rock you both to sleep.
This is a favorite option.
Bonus tip: If you wake up from a nightmare and can't get those scary pictures and dark thoughts out of your head, I recommend picturing a cheesy, cartoonish Jesus standing behind a table eating chocolate pudding with a rainbow in the background. I have employed this technique countless times, and it hasn't failed me yet.  

In conclusion, you're welcome. Sleep tight. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Coming and Going

Last week, Manny took advantage of his spring break to head back to San Diego to do some research and collaboration. I'm still too scared to go that long solo, so my parents kindly flew in the rescue me. The allure of time with Sofia sure doesn't hurt my negotiations. 

My parents decided while I was pregnant that they would be called "Big Mama" and "Big Papa." This may not make a ton of sense if you don't know them, so here's a good shot of them, relative to Sofia to give you a sense of where the name might come from:

very very tall Grandfather, very very little grandaughter.
The great thing about these names is Sofia can already sign and say "big," she even knows to associate it with my sister [who is also very very tall!], so it is like "Big" has become our last name, instead of Stewart. 

Weather was all over the map, so we got to enjoy all sorts of Maine activities. Visits to rivers, oceans, ponds, towns, shops, lighthouses. Mostly, we had lots of opportunities for grandparently bonding to successfully occur. Sweet memories were made like:
  • Sofia finally assuaging my father's urgent need for her to love clam chowder, downing about half a cup on her own
  • Playing ball in the yard
  • Reading lots of books, old and new
  • Video chatting with Dad [she kept trying to look at the back of the computer screen to see if he was hiding back there]
  • Learning and expressing lots of animal sounds
  • Meeting some of Sofia's little friends, including some that brought over a brand new birthday gift toy bird. My father very sweetly bonded with this little 4 year old boy by flying his bird with him, flying it right over our neighbors' fence and even up onto our roof. I'm just hoping Sofia didn't get any ideas watching my dad crawl our my bedroom window onto said roof to fetch and fly down the bird. 
  • Sofia's first instance of convincing people to buy her toys she takes to in shops [meet "Bah" below]

#blessedmamaproblems : The horrible part of course is that at the end of the week they had to leave. I just can't seem to resign myself to this long distance grandparenting business. So spoiled I am to still feel so close to all four of my living grandparents, who lived in the same town as me as I grew up. It's just so hard for Sofia to be so far from my parents. She loves them and enjoys them so very much. It just stinks that we have to keep saying goodbye. 

Time was well spent, my love tank was refilled. I dare say Sofia's love tank is more than running over. And in the end, we got to say hello again to Daddy, and that was sweet and precious and good.