familyvalues: Owen at the park, December 20, 2011 - I made this from my own photo. (Owenninemonths)

So much love this year .... on the 24th, we visited Owen's "Nina," Casey's mother, where one end of the extended family was gathered for dinner and presents: Pat ("Nina"), her partner Gil, Casey's sister Lori, her husband Michael, and the blended family of cousins, Ben, Chandra, and Aidan. Ben and Chandra were raised in Michael's Jewish household when they were younger, so Pat made a hannukiyah for the mantel with lovey votives, and we had a Hannukah evening as well. Owen slept through most of it, but arrived to get some presents before Casey, Audrey, and I left for home with him again. Christmas morning, Pat and Gil came down to our house with Chandra and Ben, and Audrey's parents Michelle and Walter came up to us, and we served brunch for them, all living grandparents together. (My own parents are both dead.) Later we even attempted to contact Owen's great-grandmother (his "GrandMia") on Skype, but that didn't work well today, technology was being a bear. We'll do that later this week, though.

Then in the evening, our good friends Kimberly and Aidon showed up with a ginger-pear tarte tatin for us!

It's been so lovely this week, we have so much family love. I am sad for the people in polyamorous or other "alternative" families who have to stay closeted or otherwise hide what they have, when it's rare and lovely, who have to make sure their parents don't try to wrest custody of the children from them, who must not let coworkers know of their joy, who live in communities where their kids can't bring friends home because their families are weird or sinful. We are lucky, and we don't take this support, community, and love for granted.

Owen in a grandmother-sandwich
~~~The rest of our first Christmas with Owen~~~
Rocking Owen to sleep just now for his morning nap, I was briefly overwhelmed, while holding him as he drifted off to sleep, and I marvelled at his little face, at how welcomed this boy was.

News of Audrey's pregnancy was greeted with nearly unanimous joy, Owen's birth was celebrated by at least tens, if not hundreds of people, and he continues to be adored by family members and dear friends of whom I simply don't think to number.

He's just a baby, but I do not take for granted your support, our loved ones' support. In some (many?) families like ours, extended relatives shun us or at least think we're too weird to really trust, and there is no strong social group or community. Owen was born into a giant puddle of love. He was born into strong community, into a great tangle of arms that will keep him safe and sound. We might be the core of that tangle, but that tangle supports us too.

I hope I've expressed my thanks to you adequately. I'm not sure it's possible to express it completely.

Mary reads Freight Train to Owen

Now here's a little book review:

I first read Freight Train, by Donald Crews, in the early 80s, when I was first working with infants and toddlers. I have it memorized, of course. The illustrations are old-school airbrushing, and just perfect, simple and colorful and bright without being simplistic. Donald Crews illustrates motion perfectly, night perfectly. I have never known a child who disliked this book, I've known a lot who have enjoyed it, and even more who have adored it.

It is Owen's first-ever favorite book. He's now 7 1/2 months old, and he'll bring me Freight Train and sit on the ground in front of it, or ask to get into my lap. I read it once, or (so far) up to five times in a row with him. Three times in a row is about average. He turns the pages as I finish a line, and I watch his eyes scan left to right*.

If you are stuck on a baby shower or new baby or first birthday book, go find the board book version of Freight Train. For kids who aren't eating or mauling their books anymore, look for the hardbound paper-page copy, if you're pretty sure they don't own it yet.

I've got lots of ideas for Best Picture Books Ever, feel free to ask. That is the best first picture book ever, but there are a lot more out there to follow up with.

*Literacy takes awhile to develop, and is a continual and gradual process. It moves from nomming on board books to sitting with them to turning pages and scanning in the right direction; when I worked with quite a lot of kids who had recently immigrated to the US from Israel, it was fascinating to watch them figure out that some books scanned left to right, and some right to left, and which those were.

Originally uploaded by ljellis
This is all of us, and there are more pictures.

Last week, our friend Lisa invited us into her home, with its beautiful afternoon light, for a portrait session.

I love how happy we look. We are so happy, and so anticipatory. This baby can't come soon enough, and yet at the same time, we are so not ready. The reality of raising a child won't sink in for awhile yet, I think -- perhaps not until after he's passed through each stage. This is a good thing, it keeps people procreating.

We had an obstetrics appointment today. As usual, the doctor was happy to see all of us, and when she's done asking Audrey if she's fine, she moves on to both Casey and me: "Do either of you have any concerns or questions?" I am very happy, so far, with our medical care.

And so far, all signs point to a relatively easy birth within the next two weeks, as he's mostly dropped - but closer to the end of that time than the beginning. Probably.

Right now, Audrey's baking bread, Casey's at work, I'm about to run errands and do some grocery shopping. It feels so right and domestic, and I'm quite sure that the three of us will coparent relatively well -- perhaps surprisingly, for people who assume polyamorous parenting is a drama waiting to happen.

So much love is pouring in for us from all sides, including homemade gifts from people we have never met. (And I don't mean "not met face to face," I have long-time friends online I've never met face to face. These are from people we don't really know at all, friends of friends who wish us well.)

So. Much. Love. I can't even express it really.

I bought a scrapbook, and will make him a book so that later, he can know how loved he was before he was even born. (If you'd like to leave him notes in comments here, in fact, I'll print them for the book.)

I'm already tired, but the house is mostly decluttered, laundry is washed, sorted into his dresser. Car seat needs to be installed still. We're not making it a permanent fixture because we have dogs and things to haul, too, but we still want to get it installed and know we know how to do it, before we have to.

We're taking care of fussy little things we'll be too distracted for later.

I had intended to make meals for us to store, but our freezer isn't massive, and I'm just not that much of an urban homesteader, I guess. Fortunately, with three of us we can take turns cooking and cleaning, and I have no doubt Kimberly will cook us up some no-tomato meatless lasagna. ;)

I've got a long, philosophical post started in notepad, and will probably post it tomorrow, unless he shows up in the meantime!

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