Archive for July, 2011

Stretch and Sage

In late February, Ryan and I moved in with my parents in their luxury townhouse.  We brought with us our pets, including our orange cat, Stench.  Now Stench is fourteen years old… and for fourteen years he has gone by his name… “Stench”.


Shortly after we moved in, my mother decided she didn’t like the name “Stench”.  She started calling him “Stretch”.  Not only that, she started enforcing her new nomenclature on everyone else.  So we would have conversations such as this one:

Vicky: Is Stench outside?
Mom: You mean Stretch!
Vicky: Stench.
Mom: Stretch!

This irked me. I didn’t name the cat, so I’m not particularly vested in “Stench”.  It has no emotional significance to me.  But the cat has had his name for fourteen years…nearly a decade and a half.  For goodness sake, he already has an established Flickr tag. Do we really need to rename him this late in the game? 

Laid-back Ryan wasn’t phased by the name change one bit… which prompted this conversation:

Vicky: Oh yeah? Well what if she doesn’t like the baby’s name?!?  Is she just going to rename him too?
Ryan: Don’t be ridiculous, sweetie.

At our twenty week ultrasound, Ryan and I found out the sex of our baby and shortly afterwards we decided on the name.  We were diligently keeping the name to ourselves, but one day driving to my grandmother’s, my mother implored us to share our secret with her.   “I really want to know the name,” she said.  So we told her… and guess what!  She didn’t hate it!!! I was so relieved.

Vicky: Oh good!  There were people on the Internet who said they would never name their baby Sagan because it is only one letter away from Satan.

Gah!  I said that!  Me! I planted that seed.

All seemed well and then a week or so later I was eating breakfast in the kitchen when my mother dropped this line on me:

Mom: I’ve been telling everyone that I’m going to call him “Sage”.  The more I think about it the more I don’t like “Sagan”.

Two things stuck out to me. First off, I noted she started with “I’ve been telling everyone” which indicated our secret wasn’t so secret anymore. Secondly, I noted that she did in fact, change the name of our unborn son.

What turned my mother’s opinion of “Sagan”?  One of the reasons she cited was “It is too close to Satan.”  Me and my big mouth!

Luckily now Sagan is born and the birth certificate has been filled out, we are seeing a great deal more acceptance of his name.

There doesn’t seem to be any hope for “Stench” though. 🙂

July 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

Sagan Bath Time

With his umbilical cord gone and his belly button healed, Sagan had the go ahead from his pediatrician to get a bath. This pleased his maternal grandmother greatly. She very much looked forward to bathing him. Sagan didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as her.

Sagan - Day Sixteen - Grandma Gives Him A Bath
Miserable Sagan Gets a Bath (Photo by Ryan Somma)

On the package of bath tub, there is a picture of a baby that looks so incredibly happy and bubbly to be involved in the process of getting clean. Sagan, meanwhile, looked like he wanted to flick us off. 🙂

Sagan - Day Sixteen - Bath Time
Contrast of Sagan and the Package Baby (Photo by Ryan Somma)

He pepped up in the end though and Grandma was right– he did smell quite a bit better. 🙂

Sagan - Day Sixteen - As Monkey
Calmer and Cleaner Sagan

July 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm 1 comment

Bull Run Occoquan Trail – Miles Four Through Six

The Last B.S. (Before Sagan) Hike

On Sunday July 10th, Ryan and I went out for another hike.  We decided to continue our progress on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  For National Walk in the Woods Day, we had started at Fountainhead Regional Park and did the first four miles of the trail.  This time we parked at the Bull Run Marina, hiked to where we left off last time and then returned back to the car.

Originally, a couple we know were going to join us on this hike.  The male was full of jokes about me being delivering on the trail.  “Should I bring water and towels?” he kept asking.  Ryan and I laughed at his silliness.

When Ryan and I finished the hike, I tweeted how “We only went 4.3 miles…but I think we get extra credit because it was so freaking hot out! :)”.  A friend replied that I should get also get extra credit because I was “super pregnant”.  I’m not super pregnant I thought.

Little did Ryan and I know, our son would be born just TWO days later.  I guess I was “super pregnant” afterall…and we were a lot closer to delivering on trail than either of us ever expected!

Miles 4 through 6 of the Bull Run Occoquan Trail is a beautiful section. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has done a great job maintaining the trail which was particularly lovely skating the waterline.  I would rank this section more scenic than the first four miles we did in May.  

Although at the time, I didn’t classify myself as “super pregnant”, I did notice pregnancy more this trip on the downhills.  So that day pregnancy is like hiking in Vibrams— the downhills are more unpleasant than the uphills.  : )

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Trail and Greenery
Part of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Maintained Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Return View From Trail
View From Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Ryan and Henry
Ryan and Henry on the Water

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Ryan and Carved American Beech
Ryan and Carved American Beech (No Poop Message On This Tree)

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Bull Run Marina - Jimmie Still Likes to Wade
Fourteen Year Old Jimmie Still Likes to Wade

More pictures of our Bull Run Occoquan Trail Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

July 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm 1 comment

On Daddy’s Stares

My first encounter with labor was a brief one– about 7 1/2 hours from start to finish.  For the last 4 1/2 of those hours, my eyes were almost exclusively shut.  Once Sagan was born, however, I opened my eyes and made up for lost time. 

It was then I was able to take in a view that trumps the best overlooks of the Appalachians– Ryan staring at his newborn son.  There was a telling intensity to Ryan’s brown eyes.  Of all the women on this good earth (billions of them!), it is I who is lucky enough to have seen that look before and to know what it means.

“You are so in love with him,” I said.

Sagan - Day Eight - Ryan and Sagan
Day Eight – Still Smitten

After a while, Sagan and Ryan went up to the newborn nursery for some tests and observations.  As soon as they left the room, our Labor and Delivery Nurse, Heidi, started to commend Ryan for being such a great childbirth coach. Heidi shared some horror stories of indifferent fathers or fathers who couldn’t deal with their partner’s pain and contrasted them with Ryan’s involvement. To drill her point home, Heidi shared a piece of information I wasn’t privy to with my closed eyes.

“The way he was looking at that baby,” she said, “That is how he was looking at you… the entire time!” 

Of all the women on this good earth…

July 25, 2011 at 11:36 am 3 comments

Sagan and the Dogs

Someone asked me yesterday how the dogs were adjusting to our new arrival. Our first night home, the dogs slept with my mother and father. Since then we’ve introduced them back into our bedroom. I was pleasantly, pleasantly, pleasantly surprised with how easily the dogs accepted having to share a dog bed instead of sleeping with us. I really thought that adjustment was going to be a frustrating ordeal filled with beligerent barks and entitled yipes, but they caught on right away.

One time Jimmie ran into a Timber Rattlesnake on a hike. When I heard the rattle and called him back, there was no hesistation and he immediately pulled back from the snake. I didn’t have to call him repeatedly with escalating intensity like normal and he didn’t try to play with it like he had in the past with Black Rat Snakes. I suspect the dogs can tell when something is really important.

Henry the Beagle seems completely indifferent, maybe even oblivious, to the baby. He’s been going about life as normal, arooing at nothing and spending a lot of time in the kitchen in hopes that someone drops or forgets food.

Jimmie, meanwhile, is definitely curious about the new critter. When he’s permitted, he lays down near Sagan and stares.

Sagan - Day Four - New Baby, Old Baby
Aww— Poor Jimmie Overshadowed by New Baby

Sagan - Day Six - Jimmie Meet Sagan, Sagan Meet Jimmie
Jimmie and Sagan Size Each Other Up

Sagan - One Week - Jimmie Stalks Bassinette (Close)
Jimmie Stares

Jimmie has always been really attached to me, but this week I learned even he has his limits. Late one night, Sagan was crying. Jimmie got up off his dog bed and without fanfare, silently moseyed downstairs. He curled up all by himself two floors down on the living room couch and he spent the rest of the night there. This marks the very first time in our fourteen years together that Jimmie WILLINGLY chose to sleep in a different room than me. 🙂

July 23, 2011 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Introducing Sagan Charles

On Tuesday, July 12th, Ryan and I were quite surprised by the early arrival of our first child. He was born at Alexandria INOVA hospital at 12:02 PM which means he actually shares the birthday of his maternal grandfather, Lowell. Even though he was born in the hospital instead of our planned birth center, he was born medication free! And even though he was just short of 36 Weeks and was only 4 pounds 13 ounces, he was born healthy!!! 🙂

Sagan Pseudo Smile Day 4
Our Son!

We named him Sagan Charles.

Sagan is a Slavic name that means “Wise One”, but that is a merely a happy coincidence. We selected Sagan as a homage to Carl Sagan, a great exponent of science and a man talented at communicating and sharing his passions. The landing site of the Mars Pathfinder is named “Carl Sagan Memorial Station”. Perhaps in our little Sagan’s lifetime, humans will step foot at that distant site.

Our son’s middle name, Charles, was selected for my Great Uncle Chuck. Well into his nineties, Great Uncle Chuck continues to set a wonderful example of being physically active. He bikes, works on his farm and once instructed *me* to “pick up the pace” on a hike. And although he is a World War II vet, an accomplished bridge engineer and has been to every state in the union (including Hawaii four times and Alaska twice), it is Uncle Chuck’s favorite accomplishment in life that will stick with me. My first visit to Great Uncle Chuck’s farm, he took me to a section where he planted White Pine trees roughly five decades earlier. “I made my own forest,” he said, “I think that is what I’m most proud of.”

Sagan and Charles
Carl Sagan (Source: NASA) and Charles Nichol

It’s not a given that little Sagan will share Ryan’s affection of science or my love of nature and trees. And it’s not mandatory. What we do hope for him is this– whereever his interests may lie, we hope he does find his passions in life, the things that invigorate him and inspire him and make him thirst for more.

The things that make one happy to live.

July 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm 15 comments

Memorial Day Kayaking on the Occoquan

On Memorial Day, Ryan and I broke out the kayaks and did a small outing on the Occoquan River.

We put in at Occoquan Regional Park and headed Northwest past the historic town of Occoquan. After we passed where the Ellicott Mill used to be (near Rockledge), we passed under the footbridge and paddled up towards the resevoir. Then we turned around and passed under the 123 Bridge, the I-95 Bridge and finally the Route 1 Bridge. We had a small snack, then turned around and headed back to Occoquan Regional Park.

Kayaking Occoquan River - Route - Marked Up and Cropped
Our Route (In Yellow)

Kayaking Occoquan River - River with Osprey Nest (By Ryan Somma)
View Southeast of Occoquan Regional Park (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking Occoquan River - Vicky and Rocks (By Ryan Somma)
Northwest of the Footbridge (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Our trip that day was a story of birds. We saw two osprey nests, a number of Canadian Geese and a Blue Heron near the resevoir.

Kayaking Occoquan River - Osprey Profile (By Ryan Somma)
Nesting Osprey (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking Occoquan River - Canadian Goose 2 (By Ryan Somma)
Canadian Goose (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking Occoquan River - Blue Heron (By Ryan Somma)
Blue Heron (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Erasing a Pregnancy Belly Kayaking-Style!
Just like our visit to the Pacific Science Center, I found an instant way to erase the pregnancy belly. Just wear a life jacket! My 29 Week belly was so obscured, that Ryan and I paddled by some boaters that asked if we were training for an event.

Kayaking Occoquan River - Vicky With Life Jacket (By Ryan Somma)
Life Jacket – No Belly (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking Occoquan River - Vicky Without Life Jacket (By Ryan Somma)
No Life Jacket – Belly! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

More pictures of our Memorial Day Kayaking Trip on the Occoquan can be found on my Flickr site.

July 11, 2011 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Leaving Your Mark on American Beech

A popular tree along the Bull Run Occoquan Trail is the American Beech.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - American Beech by Creek
An American Beech Along the Trail

Because of its thin bark, this type of tree often finds itself host to carvings. The average lifespan of an American Beech is 150 – 200 years, so whatever message one may carve will likely outlast the author. What pressure! How do you choose what small tidbit of wisdom to share for decades to come? If you are going to walk all the way into the woods and go to the trouble of etching your thought, it’s probably a concept pretty near and dear to your heart.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Poop
An American Beech Carving From the Bull Run Occoquan Trail – POOP

Or not.

July 8, 2011 at 1:00 am 6 comments

National Walk in the Woods Day and the Bull Run Occoquan Trail

One of the advantages of following The Year of Living Unofficially on Facebook is you can have a dialogue with Britt and Chris about upcoming unofficials. When I heard that May 21 was National Walk in the Woods Day, I suggested it and they decided to put it on their agenda!!!

Trail Selection
I researched local hikes and discovered the 18 mile Bull Run Occoquan Trail nearby. It came with rave reviews:

“Every once in a while you can get surprised by a trail. The Bull Run/Occoquan Trail falls into the category of being a BIG surprise. Right in the midst of the urban sprawl of Fairfax/Prince William Counties is a small piece of paradise. ”

“Hikers going from the Hemlock Overlook Regional Park to the Bull Run Marina may pinch themselves to make sure they haven’t been transported to a stream somewhere in West Virginia – it’s that kind of experience. ”

“It is a truly amazing resource in the heart of Northern Virginia ”

Originally we were planning on doing a 6.45 one way hike between Fountainhead Regional Park and the Bull Run Marina. Alas, I was running late with shuttling the vehicles, so we did a round trip from Fountainhead Regional Park. We went four miles up and then four miles back.

The Hikers!
The Year of Living Unofficially‘s Brittany had to attend a bridal shower that day, but Chris hiked along with us. My mother joined us and did a three mile outing with her two dogs Sunny and Willie. Ryan, of course, came and even though the dogs are getting up there in age, both 14 year old Jimmie and 11 year old Henry finished all eight miles.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Mom and Sunny
My Mom– Still Tried and True!

Section Overview
Our section was the first four miles of the trail. There were enough hills to get your heartrate up, but not too many to exhaust you. Much of the trail skirted creeks and offshots of the Occoquan River. It was pleasant and peaceful.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Still Waters
Water Off the Trail

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Scenery From Trail
View From Trail

We didn’t see any deer, but we did see deer tracks. As far as actual animals, we saw a toad, a millipede and we got to be introduced to two new species. We spotted a Scarlet Tanager (Sadly no pictures). The most interesting newcomer was a group of Ichneumon Wasps busy using their long tails to bore holes into a dead tree to deposit their eggs.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Deer Tracks in Mud
Deer Tracks in Mud

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Toad (Without Flash)

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Millipede

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Ichneumon Wasp Profile
Icheneumon Wasp

May 21st was a good day to hike this trail to see some flowers. We got to see blooming Azaleas, blooming Mountain Laurel and various wildflowers along the way.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Blooming Azaleas
Blooming Azalea

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Mountain Laurel
Blooming Mountain Laurel

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Yellow Wildflowers
Yellow Wildflowers

Although it’s not the Appalachian Trail, I’m thrilled to have such a wonderful trail so close by. The Year of Living Unofficially has a recap of this hike as well. Acknowledging that I am biased, I share my favorite line:

Vicky was an inspiration — she just entered her third trimester but with her energy and perseverance you would never know she was carrying around the extra weight of a baby in her belly.


More pictures of our Bull Run Occoquan Trail hike can by found on my Flickr site.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail – First Four Miles
Trail Map

Length: 8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 400 – 700 feet?

Directions from Occoquan, Virginia

1) Take 123 North for about 5 miles to Hampton Road. (Look for the brown sign for “Fountainhead Regional Park.”)

2) Turn left on Hampton and go 3.2 miles to the park entrance on the left. (Look for another brown sign.)

July 7, 2011 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Occoquan Baby Shower

I’ve attended a number of baby showers in my day, but I have never had the priviledge to attend my own… until June 18th! My family threw Ryan and I a shower. And by family– I mean my whole immediate family. My sister, Carolyn, coordinated the invitations and parking communications. My mother prepared the venue. My brother managed all the food which was catered by his work. My father paid for said food (and forfeited the giant dining room table that doubles as his work area). And then there is my brother’s girlfriend, Jacklyn. Jacklyn did all the decorations, coordinated the games, put together prize bags and favor bags and then on top of it all— made some decadent and absolutely adorable cupcakes.

Occoquan Baby Shower - Upstair Decorations
Some of Jacklyn’s Decorations

Occoquan Baby Shower - Cupcakes by Jacklyn
Cupcakes by Jacklyn – They Were DELICIOUS!!!!

Jacklyn did such an amazing job that after the party was over, Mom, Carolyn and I had a terrifying realization. One day, we may be throwing a shower for Jacklyn. How will we ever match her party throwing prowess?!?! It’s impossible!

This shower was a co-ed affair! My family was in attendence, including my 96 year old grandmother. Grandma got to have a reunion with her sister– my Great Aunt Carolyn came up from her home in Richmond. Ryan’s Mom came up from Virginia Beach, which means we had both future [first-time] grandmothers there!

Occoquan Baby Shower - Grandma and Aunt Carolyn
My Grandma and Her Sister

I got to see my godparents. Although we swap letters, I don’t think I had seen them in person since 2000. A number of friends local to Northern Virginia attended and then we had a surprise guest. Ryan’s brother, Darin, tagged along with his wife Emily. We knew Emily would be attending, but we had no idea that Darin was even on the East Coast!

We played three games.

  • The B Word
    Each guest was given a clothespin and if he/she used the word “Baby”, their clothespin could be confiscated. We had two women in attendence who teach labor delivery nursing. I strategically stood by them and it was only a matter of time before I sported three clothespins. Alas, I managed to lose all three during the gift opening. Tip to future mommys playing this same game– don’t read the cards aloud. Two men ended up tying for win for this one– Vic and The Year of Living Unofficially‘s Chris.
  • How Big Is Mommy?
    We also played the game where guests take streamers and cut it to the size of the mother’s belly. Most everyone guessed too large, which was nice. But my 96 year old grandmother NAILED it. Her streamer was almost perfect. She won that game with ease and seemed to appreciate her prize.

    Occoquan Baby Shower - How Big is Mommy - Linda's Guess
    My Mother-In-Law Checks Her Streamer On My Belly

  • Pin the Sperm on the Egg
    This take off on pin the tail on the donkey was pretty fun. The Year of Living Unofficially‘s Britt and Chris tied for the win on this one. Luckily, they’re married, so they were able to share their prize. : )

    Occoquan Baby Shower - Pin the Sperm on the Egg - Carolyn's Attempt
    Carolyn’s Try

Goodness, Ryan and I were struck by everyone’s generosity. Our guests hooked us up with a lot of the items we needed and my father’s cousin crocheted a blanket and a hat. They also seemed to recall Ryan’s love of science and my love of nature. Example science gift— a NASA onesie and bib. Example nature gift– baby hiking boots!

The most sentimental gifts came from Ryan’s Mom. She gave us the outfit little, tiny baby Ryan came home from the hospital in, his teething ring, a baby quilt made by his maternal grandmother and a baby afghan made by his mommy.

I was on this good Earth for 36 years before I had a baby shower, but boy– it certainly was a darn good one!

More pictures of our Occoquan Baby Shower are on my Flickr site.

July 6, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

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