Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Comprehensive List of Walter's Words*

Walter's vocabulary exploded over our Thanksgiving vacation and he's been talking up an increasingly coherent storm ever since. This morning he broke out a new word, "coat." Perfectly enunciated, too.  Tonight he whipped through the sounds of cat, dog, sheep, lion, pig, and car with stunning accuracy.  He varies his tone to ask questions and to exclaim.  He often speaks and signs in two word sentences--"Mama, Uppaday!" or *more water*--and also chatters delightful strings of words in his own language.

In no particular order at all, Walter's words are:

Beep Beep
(I want to) nurse
Vrroom vrroom
La La La
Row Row
Baa Baa (black sheep ...)
Bye, bye bye
Happy Birthday
A.B. (abc song)
Uh huh

I want to nurse (sign invented by Walter ... snaps fingers)
All Done
I want to brush my teeth (sign invented by Walter.)

*List is comprehensive as of 8:54 pm, Thursday, December 27, 2012.  We think.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Citing Sources

Shortly after Walter's arrival on the maternity ward, I thought to myself, "Man, this kid owns this place." Our latest visit, not his first trip there. His first appearance, literally, he was pulled like a magician's rabbit from an incision in Mama's stomach in a way that my brain is still unable to comprehend. He was long, robust, and grey, and I thought, "He doesn't look very happy," and said, "He doesn't look very happy."

So soon to change. Our most recent visit, he jogged briskly and gleefully around the halls, chattering a bit and smiling at nurses. It's partly the confidence that walking brings, and partly some charm that's inately Walter's.

His 12th month was a series of homecomings, of a sort. There was this return trip to the maternity ward, when we visited friends from church who'd just given birth to their own little boy. Then to the Albright ancestral manse on the moors of Drexel Hill, PA for Thanksgiving and presentation to the matriarchs for inspection. (Passed.) And along the way a little side jaunt to the Atlantic Ocean. (Elaborating metaphorically or philosophically on the ocean's role as point-of-origin is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Thanksgiving took me by surprise, really. Walter had been ripping through all those firsts, like steps and birthdays and tastes of the ocean, that this second Thanksgiving felt like maybe we'd finally run out of firsts. Second plane ride, second Christmas, second helping of crackers, plees. All out of first-year firsts, I guess. I recall someone cutting into an onion coincedent with this realization, for the record. But when I sum that first year up, I can only count it as a huge triumph for Walter.

Some days, not all the time, I don't think he really asks much of me directly, and some days, not all the time, I know I don't have much to give. Annie and I have worked hard to become Walter's framework for success, and I guess we'll never know exactly how successful we've been, but we'll always be the first to cheer for his successes. Like this year he was pulled into screaming, and walked out of smiling.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Letter to one-year-old Walter

This was your first snow: November 9, 2011
Dear Walter,

Today I held you up to the window to watch the snow falling and you smiled, laughed, and pointed.  Even though it was only snowing very lightly, you could easily see it, and you knew it was something wonderful.  You are something wonderful, too.

You've been one year old for two weeks, now. You celebrated both your birthday and your Great Aunts Jan and Kim's wedding in Courtland, NY with your Swiftie relatives, including your second cousin and birthday buddy, Monica.  You had a quiet celebration at home on the 22nd with me and Daddy and a red velvet cupcake.  And we had a big party for you in the gym at church this past weekend.  We are a family that believes in extended birthday celebrations!

You watched the snow on Feb 10, 2012, too
In the midst of all this celebrating we have all been pretty sick.  That started the weekend before your birthday with a case of pink eye, followed by a stomach virus, followed by a cold, followed by an ear infection.  Me, Daddy, Umma and Baba all got versions of this, too.  Even with all this sickness, you have been having an amazing series of adventures.  To give you just one example: on our way to a meeting in Door County, we stopped to get some lunch for Daddy and you threw up in the van. We did the best we could with clean up and took you into the restaurant while we tried to decide what to do.  I set you down and you took off, running straight toward the big kids' play area, doing a happy little dance as you shimmied along. We decided to continue on to Door County, where you rampaged around the Maritime Museum like a baby pirate. You are so resilient. You keep learning, growing, and having wonderful time, even when you are sick.  You had your first airplane trips while you were sick and did beautifully, sleeping through most of both flights.  You are unstoppable!

Watching the snow today, Nov. 06, 2012
You are a very good communicator: you say "Hi!" and "Bye!", "Uh oh!" and "Row! Row!" You are working on your animal noises.  You are very good at sign language: you use your own versions of ASL signs for "all done," "more," "food," and "water/drink."  You used to use the sign for "milk" for when you want to nurse, but lately you have been snapping your fingers, instead!  You watched your Daddy snap his fingers to some music one day and immediately you started to snap, too.  That is amazing, Walter. And it's pretty funny when you snap your fingers at me when you're hungry.  You also invented your own sign for when you want to brush your teeth, brushing the tips of your fingers over your lips.  You use that sign very consistently and I'm very proud of you for coming up with it and teaching it to Daddy and me.  I'm also very proud of how much you love to brush your teeth.  I think I saw two new ones on their way in tonight--your official count these days is 9, including a one year molar that came in while we were traveling in New York. At your one year check up your stats were: head circumference: 19 in; height: 31 1/4 inches; weight: 25 lbs 10 oz. 95th percentile all around!

You love: hot dogs, Hank the Dog, Henry (your best friend from day care,) anything that plays music, music of all kinds, dancing (to the beat!) every time you hear music, and your favorite songs: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Patty Cake," and "African Skies" (ta-oomba-oomba-oomba-whoa-oh-oh.)  You love day care and your wonderful teachers who sing and dance with you. You love video chatting with your Grandma and Grandpa Albright and visits with your Umma and Baba.  You continue to love Baba Paul best of all the people in the world.  You love me and Daddy very much, too, and you give us wonderful hugs, kisses and snuggles.  Every once and awhile you will reach up and hold my hand, or Daddy's hand, while we walk together.  We love it when you do that.

Not sure about cake.
You are not a fan of fruit of any kind. You don't really seem to like cake or frosting, either, although today you delighted us by twisting apart an Oreo cookie and eating it just like your Daddy does.  You still cry a lot at bedtime, frustrated with all of the things that need to be done before we get to nursing and going to bed.  You love baby Advil (white grape flavor ... and you seem to know that it helps with ear and teething pain) but don't like other medicines very much, although you're getting used to nose drops for congestion.  You don't like being slowed down by being sick ... or by baby safety gates ... or by anything or anyone that might slow you down!

I've been writing this letter while watching election night coverage--they just announced that President Obama was reelected.  You are fast asleep, but earlier this evening you enjoyed dancing to the trumpet-heavy election theme music on the radio.  You won't remember this election, but I will remember how you liked to steal our "I voted" stickers.  I'd like to think that shows an early interest in citizenship and democracy.

Walter, I can't begin to tell you what this year has meant and means to me.  I'm not sure I know how to explain it to myself yet, either.  Here's what I know: I love you with my whole heart, my whole self.  I feel like I've known you and loved you much longer than this one year, longer even than the ten months before you were born. I think I have always loved you, my whole life long.  This love isn't based on how smart you are, how handsome, how strong, or how funny, although you are all of those things and more.  This love is yours just because you are. It's the human equivalent of the much greater love that God, your Mother in heaven, has for you. It's a love that is all yours, always, no matter what.  That is something you can know without a doubt: I love you, your Daddy loves you, you are loved by family and friends around the world, God loves you ... you are loved!

Walter, Walter, you are loved
By friends on earth and friends above
Love surrounds you every day
And when you sleep, in love you stay

Goodnight, sweet one-year-old. Here's to all the years of adventures ahead of you!

Love love love,
You're on your way!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three stories

We are in a bit of a nightmare haze of sickness and busy-ness and lack of sleep at the moment ... rest assured, the big 1 year birthday has been, is now, and will be celebrated and documented!  Meantime, three stories.

First story:
This morning, Walter was running about being brilliant.  He's always brilliant in the morning (if you sang the line from the Jewel song, you are 31 years old.)  He's extra talkative and active and wants to practice all the new skills he's been dreaming about and working on in his sleep.  He was getting into a bit of mischief in the bathroom, so I said, "Walter, can you pick up your moisturizer and take it to your room?"  I didn't gesture or anything, just asked the question.  He stopped what he was doing, walked over to where, sometime yesterday, he'd dropped a tube of his Aveeno anti-eczema moisturizer, picked it up and headed for the bathroom door.  I opened it.  "Can you take that to your room?" He turned and walked straight to his room and knocked on the closed door.  I opened that door.  He walked into the room, turned and looked at me, still holding the moisturizer.  "Where should we put it?" He walked over to the single bed, which is kind of our default spot for piling things that we should be putting away. He reached up and very deliberately placed the moisturizer on the bed, and then was off and on to his next adventure.

Second story:
We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner tonight.  At one point during the meal, Walter stole Sean's chopsticks. First he said, "Daddy!" and then started to imitate Sean using chopsticks.  He made a serious face and stabbed at the table very assertively.   A little bit later, he said "Mommy!' and then imitated me using chopsticks: evidently I do a lot of dancing in my chair and singing while I swoop the chopsticks around on the table like I'm painting with them.

Third story:
Did you know it takes three cups of tea (at least) for me to make it through the day?  We are so sick.  So tired. This isn't really a story, but it's true.  In the midst of it all, Walter brings us beauty, joy, coughing, the occasional tantrum, ear pus, and surprising, amazing moments.  More about all of those ... later.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I can make the baby laugh

Today, during our post-daycare nursing, Walter rather insistently let me know all about his fingernails and how long they've gotten (too long! too fast!  We think he's in the middle of a growth spurt ... but does that make fingernails grow faster, too?) Finally I intercepted his hand with a high five, something we've been teaching Walter about lately. He stopped nursing for a second and looked up at me like, "Did you just do that?" "High five!" I said quietly. He cracked up.  We laughed together for a long time.

Teenager Walter, reading this some day, take note: at one point in your life, you thought your Mama was the funniest person in the world.

Well, maybe not as funny as Daddy:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Walter's favorite word ...

... is crocodile.

When he wakes up in the morning it is one of the first things he says--"ccchhhhroccckkkohdial"--like he's been dreaming about the word all night and practicing it in his sleep. He says it at home and at daycare; it's not his most-used word, but he says it at least once a day.

There are so many things every day that make me think "I have to write that down.  I have to remember this."  Tonight it was the crazy case of the giggles he got while nursing before bed, resulting in an unfortunate case of the wet hiccups. And the way he added in his two cents over the baby monitor while we watched the presidential debate.  And the way he walked all over the church during our Wednesday night activities, even walking right up to me while I led worship from the lectern ... a "first" my congregation has been predicting for awhile.

Walt and Henry the day that inspired us to get the boy some shoes
He got his first pair of shoes and took less than one day to adapt to walking in them. He went to his first birthday party, a one year celebration for his best friend, Henry. (Walter and Henry have been day care friends since 3 months; sometimes they'll make eye contact and start cracking up out of nowhere, sharing a joke that no one else is in on.) Walter likes eating stews and other complex, multi-layered, textured and flavored foods, making his daddy the cook very proud.  He likes to help Daddy cook, too, pushing his first pork roll around the pan with a pair of tongs.

There's no way I can possibly keep up with it all, remember it all, record it all.  But I am enjoying it all very, very much.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The 5 am Solution

We got Walt to bed pretty easily around 8 pm tonight.  Now it's 9:15 and he just woke up crying.  This does not bode well at all.

Last night he went to bed easy, woke up crying at 11 or so and fussed for awhile, then back to sleep and awake again at 2 am.  He was completely inconsolable from about 2 am to 5 am.  What changed at 5 am, you might ask?

5 am is when I gave up.  I went into his room, picked him up and cuddled him close.  He stopped crying immediately.  I put him back down in his crib.  He started to cry but calmed down when I kept a hand on his back.  When I removed my hand and lay down on the bed next to his crib, he started crying again, and crawled to the side of the crib that adjoins the bed, stuck his hand through the slats and patted me firmly on the shoulder, still crying. 

I got up again and picked him up, holding him close while climbing back into bed. We don't usually sleep in bed with Walter.  When he was a little baby, we worried about our big, heavy sleeping selves rolling onto him. As he got bigger and more able to fight us off, he didn't seem to like being in bed with us very much ... he wanted his own space.

This morning was different.  As we settled in he immediately relaxed and draped himself with great dramatic flourish across my chest, heaving a relieved and happy sigh. Every minute or so he'd pop his little head up, make sure I was still there, and give me a big smile. (I tried not to encourage this, but it was pretty cute.) As he relaxed even more he settled into a comfy spot with his arms around me and his head on my shoulder, and as he truly fell asleep he rolled gently onto the bed, still close to me but claiming a space of his own, and I wrapped an arm around his legs.

I am hoping he sleeps so much better tonight, hoping the ibuprofen holds and this new course of antibiotic ear drops begins working its magic right away. I do not plan on a repeat of my 5 am solution ... it's just not sustainable.  But I get the appeal of co-sleeping.  When he finally stopped twitching and squirming (sleeping babies aren't all that peaceful, really, or at least mine isn't) and fell into deep, still sleep all I had to do was move my hand gently to his chest and I was instantly reassured by the rise and fall, the sweet baby breaths.   

I didn't sleep.  But it was the best rest I've gotten in weeks. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The 11th Hour, er, Month

Walter is 11 months old today! And what a day it has been.

It started early. Too early. With lots of tears, lots of croup-y whoop-y sobs, and many excellent efforts at comfort given to no avail.  We took Walter into the bathroom and steamed it up real good; I nursed him there and we sat in the dark in the steam for awhile, sweating and breathing deeply.  After some more nursing back in his room, Walt (still reluctant) went back to sleep for another hour or so.

We played a bit and got dressed for a chilly day at the farmer's market. The market was full of good things, especially peppers, which Sean is turning into goulash tonight. Walter enjoyed a HUGE breakfast of Hmong-style veggie egg roll, sweet sesame ball with red bean filling and a little bit of chicken wing. By this time he'd perked up considerably and was starting to really enjoy himself.  The enjoyment continued as we went from the farmer's market to Copps, our grocery store, where we walked in and there was a marching band playing right inside the door, seemingly there to welcome Walter on his birthday (that's how the three of us reacted, anyway.)  It was a homecoming celebration, and the whole store was very festive and free sample-filled.  All three of us got enough food via samples to constitute a lunch, which is always a cheerful thing.  Walter giggled and sang and flirted his way through the store.  On the way home he fell asleep, and even though he woke up when we got him out of the car seat, he went right back to sleep in his crib, grateful for a nap after an exciting morning.

Sean and I put away food, did some dishes that have needed doing for days, and got dinner going in the crock pot (country ribs, sauerkraut, apple and onion cooked to perfect tender goodness.  Ahhhhhhh.) We even got to nap ourselves for 30 minutes before Walt woke up again.  This time he woke up happy, and we nursed and played for a bit before I had to get ready to go officiate at a wedding.  While I was getting dressed I listened to Sean teach Walter "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" which has now joined the ranks of songs that Walter knows, asks for by name, and participates in (he nods emphatically during the "yes, sir, yes, sir" part of the song.)

Shortly after I left for the wedding, Walter and Sean headed out to the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum, where Walter played and played and tried to keep up with/learn how to be a rapscallion from some big kids.

Sean and Walt got home not too long before I did. As I came in the door Sean let me know that Walter was F-U-S-S-Y and very tired and very nap-resistant.  We nursed and I put him back down in his crib, where he wailed so loudly that Hank had to come check in on us.  One of my favorite moments of the day, even right there in the middle of an awful time getting Walt to sleep, was looking down and seeing Hank's nose poking through the crib slats.  The baby must have smelled safe, because Hank felt OK leaving the room and I followed close behind, leaving a still-crying-but-less-frantic Walt, who fell asleep after a quick pat-pat from Daddy about 15 minutes later.

He didn't nap for very long at all, maybe half an hour. He woke up screaming.  Usually when Walter wakes up sad he calms down right away when we pick him up and take him out of his room, but this time he was inconsolable.  Like, too upset to nurse.  That's unheard of for Walter, so we got pretty worried.  I noticed there was pus coming out of his right ear ... lots of it, all down the side of his face. He was also rubbing and tugging that ear in a way I'd hoped never to see again post-tubes.  We walked around with him until he started to calm down a little, then I called the on-call ENT.  After getting up to speed on the story of the past two weeks (started oral antibiotic on Monday before surgery; tubes in a week ago Friday; added aural antibiotic drops after the surgery; finished oral antibiotic on Monday; broke out in hives all over his body on Tuesday; continued antibiotic ear drops and finished those on Wednesday; croup symptoms started on Wednesday; hives stuck around until Friday) the doc decided that prescribing anything else would be too much of a shot in the dark, and asked us to go into urgent care to get Walt's ear pus cultured.  As we got ready to go we realized that the stains from his ears on the crib linens were bloody, which we found out later is normal for infected ear drainage but which alarmed us even further at the time.

Before we left for urgent care we gave Walter some Ibuprofen and he started feeling better right away. By the time we got to the hospital he was giggling and smiling and singing again and no one believed us that he was sick and in terrible pain.  His ears were still full of grossness, though, so they were able to get a culture and we'll hopefully find out more on Monday afternoon.

Walter's good mood continued as we headed home, singing patty cake, black sheep, and row row all the way.  Sean showed me another new development from this afternoon: if you snap your fingers, Walter tries to imitate the movement and snap his fingers, too.  He's pretty close to getting it, actually. We all had delicious dinner and then Walter did quite a bit of walking/running around the kitchen, moving very fast and with great confidence and joy in this incredible new skill.  It's amazing to watch him, and unbelievable how good he's gotten at it in such a short time.

Then Sean poked a small hole in caramel apple for this month's candle-holder.  Before we sang and took pictures for Walt's birthday we made a video of us singing for my Aunt Fran's 50th birthday.  We told Walter what we were going to do and he repeated back a word that was a recognizable approximation of "birthday."  I think that, when his ears are finally free and clear, this boy is going to talk and talk and talk.

After blowing out the candle (no caramel apple for the baby. Only for the nursing mommy) we shifted into bedtime gear: quick scrub down with a wash cloth, nighttime diaper, tooth brushing, lotion, jammies, nursing, lullaby/prayer, bed.

Walter still usually cries when I put him down awake in his crib.  Tonight, though, when I picked him up and kissed his belly on our way to the crib, he giggled and smiled at me. I put him down and he stretch and sighed and smiled some more, snuggling his face into his Easter lamb's arm, and looking right at me in a loving way, even as I started to move toward the door.  It was almost more difficult to leave the room with him smiling like that than it usually is to leave the room when he's crying.

Who knows what the rest of this night will bring ... Sean's already had to go in once for a pat-pat, and the Ibuprofen will wear off around 2 am.  We may be steaming up the bathroom again, too, if his breathing gets croupy.  But right now, at this very moment, all is well.  I'm the happy, proud Mama of a remarkable 11 month old.  What a day, what a month, what an almost-year it's been!
Happy 11 Month Birthday, Walter!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Today is Tubesday

When we got back from our Michigan road trip/vacation, the day after Walter finished a course of antibiotics for an ear infection (his fourth) he started getting sick again.  As we geared up for the fifth ear infection and another round of antibiotics, we started talking tubes.  Our pediatrician was all for it, as was the ENT.  Even when he was ostensibly healthy in the few days he had between infections, Walter's ears did not look good. We scheduled the surgery to happen right away, a week after our appointment with the ENT (today.)

And then ... Walter got sick again. We called the ENT and got another course of antibiotics prescribed, hoping to head the inevitable infection off at the (very small, not very well-draining) pass. We spent four days nervously (and goopily) awaiting today ... and it all went really, really well.

Walt's Easter lamb assisted with surgery
Sure, there were rough spots. Walt had to fast after 2:30 am, which is kind of hard to explain to a 10 month old who loves to nurse upon waking.  Getting him up at 2:15 to nurse actually went really well, and getting him up again at 5:30 to go to the hospital was bad but not too too bad. He listened to his beloved magic lullaby cd from Aunt Audrey and Uncle Curtis and clung to my hand and arm which got us through the ride there.  Curiosity and stranger anxiety kept him occupied for a little while during the pre-op check in, but soon he started getting insistent about breakfast, which was after all right there in front of him.  After an hour or so he started to angrily pinch and claw at the skin on my neck and chest, at which point Sean pried him away and took him on a tour of the pre-surgery area.  We'd arrived at the hospital at 6 and surgery was supposed to start at 7 ... but the ENT was late.  He'd slept in/forgotten/thought it started at 7:30 (kind of depended on which nurse was delivering the news).  It was just 30 minutes but that makes a difference for everybody: hungry hungry Walter and his increasingly desperate parents, the four year old who was scheduled to go into surgery after us and had to wait even longer, the surgical staff who were then running late all day ... no good.

But for us, it was mostly OK.  As we walked down the hall with him to the OR we worried about the handoff at the door ... until the door opened and there was an especially pretty nurse standing there, smiling at Walter and holding out her arms.  He practically leaped.

We were in the family waiting room long enough for me to drink a small decaf coffee and not long enough to finish a sudoku. The ENT came in and told us Walt's ears were full of pus and really inflamed.  Four days of antibiotics, started right when he was first getting sick, and he still got a raging ear infection. The tubes, they were a good idea.  They drained the pus and put the tubes in with no trouble.  The ENT prescribed antibiotic ear drops to keep the tubes from getting clogged up.  4 drops in each ear twice a day ... he's done that twice now and has been incredibly brave and good both times.

Speaking of brave ... Sean and I did great.  The only point where I started to lose my cool was when they told us he would meet us back at the pre-op room and when we got there he hadn't arrived yet.  I knew he was fine, but I wanted him right then and no later.  A nurse came into view wheeling a bed with his things on it ... I completely ignored that nurse's friendly smile and wave and strained to see the nurse coming in after him, the one holding Walter.  The friendly nurse turned out to be one of our neighbors, and once I had Walt in my arms and registered that I was very grateful indeed to know that a kind neighbor had been taking care of Walter.

After nursing and some vitals checks we got to take him home, arriving around 9:30, greeted by a rather worried dog.  We gave him his medicines, nursed some more, and got him (and us) to bed until he woke up at noon, famished again.  We'd been warned about crabbiness, but for most of the day he's been very happy and chatty and active (and hungry.)  He got a little sad around 4 ... we figured his pain killers wore off about then, gave him some Advil, and he perked right back up in time for dinner and a polka or two at the Polish festival.

Our boy loves, loves a good polka.  For the rest of the night, he'd start dancing again randomly, keeping time to a polka beat I can only assume was stuck in his head.  On the way home from the festival I gave him a serious case of the giggles/snorts/hiccups and kept making him laugh until I realized it might make him lose his cabbage roll.  As strange and sometimes difficult as this day was, it was pretty wonderful to spend it together, and pretty wonderful to think of all the laughing, learning and growing he'll do more fully now with fewer ear infections.

Look out, world.  Here comes Walter.  He walks, he sings, he polkas, and his ears are draining.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Village People

So ... it really does take a village to raise a child. For reals.

Today when Sean picked Walter up from day care they demonstrated something new: Walter sings along to "Row, row, row your boat."  Sean practiced it with Walt all the way home and then showed me when I got home, too.  We sang it for Grandma and Grandpa Albright, we sang it for Umma and Baba, we sang it during dinner and while we were playing after dinner and with special gusto right before bed (perhaps as a clever tactic to delay bedtime.)

The day care version:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile
Don't forget to scream (Ahhhhh!)

Walter's version:
Raow raow raow raow
Raow raow raow raow
(whispered) B-oh-ttt
(with delight) Ahhhhhhhhh!!

But most of the time he just says "raow raow," which is our cue to sing the song, while he listens and dances and waits for his favorite part (the scream, of course) to jump in.  Then, as soon as we're done, he says "raow raow" and we sing it again.

We are, as you might imagine, immensely proud and excited about this.

It makes me remember a time, about 5 years ago, when our niece C was little, maybe about Walter's age.  She came home from day care and proudly exclaimed, "Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, choo choo!" Her mom said, "I love day care. They teach her things!"

I love day care.  I love that they sing with him, and teach him verses I don't know, in ways I would never have thought of myself.  I love that they've been practicing walking with him, and when he's tried out a few tentative steps every evening this week I know he's been doing that at day care, too.

There's no question that Sean and I are Walt's primary caregivers.  We are clearly Mom and Dad; we teach him in big and small ways all the time, we make sure he has safe places to explore, interesting experiences, and absolutely no doubt of our love. To use the current favorite political phrase, we totally built that.  But not alone, not by a long shot.  Our village is building Walter.  And our village is doing an excellent job.

Did I mention that our son is walking?
As Walter would say (with delight): Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Dear friends asked us for advice on baby-related issues, and a rather overwhelming flood of advice issued forth from us, like a dam breaking and releasing a torrent of opinions on everything from diaper disposal (we prefer the diaper champ to the diaper genie) to nail clipping (best done while nursing, with safety scissors.) It turns out we have a lot of opinions about babies and baby-having and baby-tending.  How did that happen? Sheesh. 

I think I can narrow it all down to these two:

1. You can never have too many burp rags, wash cloths or other things to wipe up with.
2. The kind of parent you are isn't defined by your worst moment or your best moment. It's cumulative.  There is so much grace in that, so much relief.  Really, that's all you need to know. 

And that part about the burp rags, that's important, too. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Breath of life

My favorite moments in videos we have of Walter is when we happen to capture him sighing or yawning.  Since he's been a little baby I've been very taken with his breath ... not just the comforting up and down of his breathing, but the actual feeling of it when he happens do a big dramatic exhale right into my face.  When he was a little little baby, his breath was kind of oddly cold and very sweet smelling.  It's warmer now, and it smells more like graham crackers, but it's still so sweet.  It fills my heart to the breaking point and takes my own breath right away.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do the Slide

Walter likes to use whatever object is handy (books work well, and stacking rings) to slide his upper body forward while crawling with his knees.  It seems to be easier on his wrists and allow him to go faster.  It's pretty brilliant and it looks like fun. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On to the 10th month!

Dear Walter,

You were pretty sick, but you liked your birthday peach.
You have another ear infection, or maybe it's the same ear infection you had before our big trip to Michigan. You are a sad beeba, but today after church you took a little nap, then climbed up all the stairs from the living room to the bedroom to the bathroom and asked to take a tub. After playing in the bath, you took another nap, and then woke up right in time for Simply Folk and a wonderful family dance party.  You were all smiles, and you danced and danced with me and Daddy.  You do this wonderful thing where you lean in and put your forehead against my forehead and lean in for kisses and to rub noses.

You are ten months old and even colds and ear infections don't seem to slow you down too much. (Don't get me wrong ... it's no fun to be sick.  But you are a trooper, little Scooter.)

These are some of the things you like:
**Corn on the cob, an (empty) ice cream cone, graham crackers ... any "grown up food" you can eat, too.  You also want to drink from grown up cups and eat or drink whatever we're having (and we do share with you, within reason.)
You love your Uncle Josh. 
**New friends and familiar faces.  You are a little shy with new people at first, but you warm up pretty quickly.
**Dancing.  You have a new dance where you do a little twist with your upper body (like a doozer.)
**Exploring, mostly by crawling and cruising, but you are taking a few little steps here and there.
**Swings. Feeling the wind in your hair.
**Opening and closing the garage door.
**Interesting noises, especially mechanical noises
**Shopping carts, walks, drives, outings
**Percussion.  The whole world is your drum!
**Fountains (also, going outside when it's raining a little bit.)
**Day care, especially your teachers and your best friend, H.
**Books, especially with Umma.  You're starting to have a little more patience for stories, now, and you do all the pages in Pat the Bunny.

Things you don't like:
**Lying down to get your diaper or clothes changed
**Being sick (also: having your nose wiped and nose drops)
**Getting redirected away from danger
**Fruit and other slimy foods

Things that make us so, so proud of you:
**Opening your mouth and enjoying it when we brush your teeth
**Cooperating so nicely when we give you medicine
**Taking your first steps
**Climbing up the stairs (with Mama or Dada spotting you.)
**Singing yourself to sleep
**Going to sleep on your own, and sleeping through the night
**Trying new things, exploring
**Being so good with people; spreading joy wherever you go
**Sharing (your food, your toys, everything)
**just being YOU

You are persistent, joyful, focused, brave, curious, strong, communicative, boisterous, brilliant, funny, and loving.

You are Walter Paul, you are 10 months old, and we love you so, so much.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh, Ferber!

Oh! the Ferber method. I've been months trying the James Thurber method on the kid. His sleeping is terrible, but the daydreams are out of this world.

We hadn’t really planned on employing any of the “cry it out” strategies to get Walter to sleep.  Despite so many blasé, confident endorsements from friends, it just seemed a bit…cruel.  His clear sense of object permanence was no comfort – rather than leaving an amnesiac alone in a dark, barren world, we could now burden him with the memory of his abandonment as well. Besides, all the literature recommending the approach was very careful to leave those loopholes:  Not right for every family. Do what seems best for your baby.  Weren’t they obviously speaking to us? Who better than the Edison-Albrights to thread that needle?  Even if it took years of sleepless nights, rocking and singing and re-rocking and re-singing, we would be that loophole family!

We took another look at the Ferber method a couple weeks ago when the pediatrician suggested it was time we helped Walter learn to put himself to sleep. We’d never considered it that way before. Walter was (obviously, blatantly, assuredly) not born knowing how to do that, and teaching him was our job. “In the process,” Doc added, “he’ll be building skills to cope with stress.”

In retrospect, if we hadn’t been so sick and tired, we might not have bought that rationale, essentially “it’ll build character.”  That ranks right up there with “it’ll put hair on his chest.” (For the record, he’s already quite a character, and I can pretty much guarantee the hairy chest is only a matter of time.) He seemed ready, though: one of his recent developments was asking to be put in his crib when we’d rocked him longer than he wanted.  It felt like time to give it a try.

Plenty of character
So, the first night we followed his usual bedtime routine – tub, toiletries,  teat, uhm, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral (that’s an Irish lullaby) – but stopped short of (t)rocking him to sleep. We laid him in his crib, covered him up with his blanket, wished him good night, covered him up with his blanket, gave him a kiss, covered him up with his blanket and left, closing the door behind him. “This is a fun game!” he called after us. Once he got the idea, though, things proceeded pretty quickly. The crying was… persuasive, but we stuck to the plan – gradually increasing periods of him alone in his crib, punctuated by short visits from us for comfort and reassurance.  I’m intellectually comfortable with the idea that crying, as his only means of voicing an objection, can sometimes give a false sense of urgency, but it really helped that he did a lot of happy talking to himself in between. He never went more than about 10 minutes without us, never crying for more than 5 at a time, and he was asleep, on his own, within half an hour. What’s more, he slept through the night, waking once at sunrise to nurse. All told, he did less crying and more sleeping that night of our callous, self-interested neglect than almost any night we’d spent rocking and shushing and cajoling. The nights that followed were just as successful, with even less intervention from us.

Week one seemed to be a rousing success sleeper hit. Obviously, we decided to take the show on the road. The first night of our road trip vacation, at Umma and Baba’s, we all slept in the same room and it was catastrophic. Up every two hours, wailing. “I can see you! You’re right there! Rock me, Amadeus!” Back to our old routine.  Eventually Annie had to decamp to the living room and I had to hide behind the bed until dawn. The rest of the trip, we made sure he had some privacy, either his own room or Annie’s cleverly erected partition, and all was well in slumberland.

That was what cemented it for me.  After all, what’s more natural than a kid’s parents cramping his style?

"Now I am a certified sleep expert."
This was one of those really tough parenting decisions.  The stakes seem so high, the arguments for both sides are so compelling, and the repercussions are completely unpredictable.  We made the right call this time; Walter’s instant success really convinced me.  But it was the right decision for our baby, and our family, and we made it together.  Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

He climbs!

Today, Walter learned how to climb stairs.  Seriously.

The video is a little dim, but you get the idea. 

My favorite part is where he sticks his little head out through the rails ... ohhhhh boy.  We definitely have to get that fixed, and soon!

Tonight Walter also cheerfully opened his mouth and took his Ibuprofen (I may have been a little premature in declaring tooth #8 trauma-free.)  We tried brushing his teeth for the first time and he was incredibly into it ... opening his mouth up wide, letting me brush his tops and bottoms ... he liked it!  He also put himself to sleep without crying for the first time.  

Our little boy is growing up!  And climbing.  But that's OK.  I'm going to call the carpenter tomorrow. =) 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Walter Walk Watch

Evidently Walter took a couple steps at day care on Friday! No steps at home, yet, but he seems pretty close to either taking off like a rocket or falling spectacularly and deciding to crawl from now on.  Hank has taken to very gently knocking Walter down when it looks like he's going to try walking.  Hank probably has the right idea, safety-wise, but I'm pretty excited to see this next developmental step! (And all the steps that follow!)

In other news, tooth #8 has emerged. We've had a couple nights of crankiness/extra wake up, but not nearly the drama and trauma we experienced with tooth #7.  But there's still a lot of gum to get through.  You can do it, Walter!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Hank Tail

We've been Ferberizing the baby (Sean is working on a post on the subject) and that means more crying from Walt and more consternation from Hank.  He worries about that baby.  When Walter cries, he comes to us and gives us a very clear "What are you DOING? Go comfort my baby!" kind of look.  Sometimes he goes to Walt's door and tries to get in and do it himself.

Tonight, I nursed Walt in his darkened room and could barely make out a dark, vaguely canine shape push the door open and come in.  The dark shape walked over to the crib, flattened itself in an impressively feline-like way, and gradually disappeared under the crib until only a wagging tail was visible and then, with a swish, also gone.  I called out to Sean to get him to come in and see it (or rather, not see it) for himself, but that alerted the puppy and he reappeared, leaving the room as quickly and quietly as he came.

I'm not sure exactly what he's planning, but I'm pretty sure it's not compatible with the Ferber method.  Sorry, Hank.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Two more ...

... things I love about Walter.  Not teeth.  Just the one new one, so far.  One new tooth and so, so much pain.  And coughing.  And waking up sad.  And general sadness.

But!  Umma and Baba are here, so everything is better already.

1. Walter loves the garage door.  When it opens and closes he watches intently, happy shimmying away.  He especially likes to watch it close from inside the garage, watching the door and the motor and the chains, figuring out how it all works.

2. Walter has a favorite toy.  It's a fishing pole from a really awesome bathtime set that was a gift from the B. family.  He swings it around, hooks onto various things (Hank's crate, the baby gate, Daddy's toes, etc.) and crawls around with it in his hand.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Emerging Teethers Institute

Tooth #7 emerged today, preceded by four straight nights of almost no sleep and almost constant misery.  Sir Crankington Pants of the Stevens Point Cranky Pantses is asleep now ... sort of ... we'll see for how long ... and I want to take a minute to record some of his recent endearing traits to keep my spirits up through the long night ahead.

He plays a game where he grabs a toy, turns around, offers it to you, and keeps offering it to you until you kiss it, pretend to eat it, or try to take it from his hand (sometimes he takes it back when you try to take it, but sometimes he gives it to you ... you have to pay attention to the cues.)  This game makes even a Cranky Pants Walter and his Sleepy Pants parents very happy.

He makes this new noise ... I'm not sure I can describe it.  It's like the noise we used to make as kids when we pretended to be Indians ... the one where you say "oh" and then cover and uncover your mouth with your hand?  Like that, except not all stereotypey.  He covers and uncovers his moth with his hand or our shoulder or whatever's handy, going "bahbahbahbahbah"  We'll have to get video of it.

He is so, so handsome.  I think when he grows up he's going to look like the actor who plays Peeta in The Hunger Games.  I had a hard time finding a picture of him in Peeta make up and hair AND smiling, other than this one from a pretty funny wiki with lots of baking-related puns:

Heh. Hunger Games humor.  Also, you can see it, right?
Total heartthrob.

His favorite solid food right now, by far, is artichoke heart.  Loves it.

He's a brilliant conversationalist and a truly excellent dancer.

And he's still asleep.  Time for Mama to grab some shut-eye while she can.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Adventures with Walter, Month 8

Tomorrow, Walter will be 9 months old.  We don't have as many photos of month 8 as we do of previous months, and most of them are cell phone photos rather than real camera photos. Many of them are a little blurry. There's a good reason for that: we are having a tremendous amount of fun.

I think 8 months is my favorite Walter age so far.  Yes, he's kind of a dickens.  He uses every ounce of his increasingly daunting strength to resist diaper changes, which is no fun for anyone.  But he's also genuinely enjoyable company, game for adventures, taking in and taking on the world with a "ba-BAH! Ba-BAAAAAAAAH!"

We go to fairs and festivals and markets and stores.  We go out to eat in restaurants.  We can be fairly spontaneous.  It's amazing.

Here's a list of just some of the foods Walter has eaten and enjoyed this month:

Scrambled eggs
Pasta salad
Rice (white, brown, fried, Spanish)
Belgian waffle
French toast
Breakfast sausage
Sweet potato fries
Pulled Pork (no sauce)
BBQ beans (saucy!)
Rotisserie chicken
Mashed potatoes
Mexican-style black beans
Amy's roasted vegetable vegan pizza (onions, mushrooms, artichokes, red pepper.)
Canned artichoke hearts
Corn dog

... and that's not even including the foods he's eaten at day care. Or the foods he's tried and not enjoyed (those are pretty much all in the fruit category.)  It's a whole new world of eating, people.  I'm a little surprised by the shortness of the strained food phase.  In Room 2, though, there's no baby food.  It's the same breakfast and lunch the big kids get, just cut up into baby-sized pieces.

Speaking of Room 2, here are my two favorite "Today I enjoyed ..." messages from his teachers so far, reproduced verbatim:

Today I enjoyed ... dancing to Chinese folk music and hiding under the colorful scarves.
Today I enjoyed ... chasing Chelsea around the table while roaring like a lion.

The second one was from Friday.  Sean said, "Yup! That's our boy."

At an Albright family gathering a few years ago, I watched as Matt and Kate caught each other's eyes over their kids' heads and cracked up ... a moment that struck me as distinctly, beautifully parental.  I think of that sometimes when I catch Sean's eye over Walter's head.  We've got a very funny little boy.

Sometimes Walter and I share jokes, too.  Like today, when we both took a break from nursing to eat some pretzels.

You had to be there, I think.

The highlight of the month was definitely our adventure in Red Wing, MN this week.  I talked myself into and and out of applying for the Emerging Leaders Institute about 100 times before I shared my worries with Sean, who said, "Just apply!  If you're accepted, we'll make it work.  It's Parker Palmer!" Indeed.  Making it work meant Sean had to use a pretty significant chunk of PTO, we had to unsettle Walter's routines (he's pretty game for adventure until bedtime rolls around, and then he says, "OK ... time to go home!") and Sean and Walter had to brave the ridiculous heat and find ways to fill their time while I was at the retreat.

Somehow, they managed.
I'll let Sean fill in stories from their time together when he's able to grab some computer time. But, to give you a glimpse, here's a video of Walter enjoying the mirror in our hotel room:

Some more things I want to remember about Walter at 8 months:

**His hair is reddish blonde, and very curly in the back. It's extra curly when he's sweaty, which is often these hot hot days.
**If someone says "Bye!" he says, "Bah!"
**He loves balls: chasing them, catching them, rolling them, watching other people throw them in the air and catch them.
**His ears lengthened out this week--they look more like Sean's, now.
**He's very interested in women.  We're trying not to read anything into that--his interest could be purely academic.  Or culinary.  Whatever it is, it's pretty funny to watch.
**On a somewhat related note, we have no idea whether Walt is left or right handed.  Lately, he seems to favor the right hand. But there was a long stretch of lefty-ness, too.

Bedtime for Pastor Mama.  As Walter would say, "Bah!"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life's Work

Yesterday I went to a funeral.  It was an opportunity to get some comfort and closure after the sudden death of a colleague who I liked and admired, and even more to be present with dear Heidi as she mourned the loss of her dear cousin.

The first time I met the Rev. Dr. Todd Murken I was nervous, in part, because I knew there were several issues we disagreed completely on.  Instead of getting into that at our first meeting, we focused on what we had in common: Heidi, how amazing she is, and how much we love her. On that, we could unequivocally agree. 

joked in previous posts that my most recent blog post--the 7 month round-up epic--was my "life's work."  I've been thinking about that phrase a lot since then.

In so many ways, it feels like his life's work was cut short.  It feels unreal, unfair, and just plain wrong. 

But I've also been thinking about baptism--we had two at Redeemer on Sunday.  Baptism means that every day we die to sin and rise to new life with Christ.  That's our life's work.  And Todd put his heart and soul into that life's work every day.  When I went to his casket and saw the sign of the cross marked on his forehead, it struck me that his life's work continues into his new life, his eternal life.

I got home from the funeral around 7 pm and Walter latched with the joy and fervor of a thousand hungry babies. When he finished, he looked up at me with a mischievous little smile and slowly opened his fist.  There was a single piece of Kix cereal in there.  He held it up and beamed proudly as he popped it in his mouth, giving a pleased little giggle as he chewed.  Cereal and milk.  What a smart baby!  And it made me remember: when I told him that Sean and I were expecting a baby, Todd was so pleased and so glad for us.  "These will be the happiest days of your life," he said. 

I unequivocally agree.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Looking back on month 7

When I sit down to write these monthly Walter roundups, I ask Sean to help me make a list of topics, which I then rearrange and expand on to write the post. So much happens every month that it can be hard to remember it all.  This time I transcribed the list using Sean's exact words and emphasis, and I rather like it just as it.

Feedin' myself!
Fruits and veggies and meats
New car seat
Romantic week with grandparents
Starting to baby proof
Playing ball
gentle, gentle
sitting down and sitting up
... let's get you a new diaper.

That last one wasn't actually part of the list.

Caught napping.
The months have been going by very fast, and this month was no exception, but it also felt exceptionally full. Lots of people asked me this month, "Can you imagine what you did with your time before Walter?" And the honest answer I gave was, "I slept!" Certainly there was more spontaneous napping, and certainly our lives were meaningful and full.  But since Walter arrived life is full-to-overflowing; life is not just life, it is life abundantly.  This month was overflowing, abundantly full of love, firsts, tears, coughing, exploring, laughing, growing and joy. And also the occasional nap.

And now (over the course of two weeks) I'll take a crack at writing the narrative version of Sean's list ...

It felt like we'd all been better for about a week from the pink eye/ear infection/sinus infection/bronchitis saga when Walter started getting sick again. He was OK during the day but very sick and very sad at night, and one night he made a kind of whooping sound in between body-racking sobs, so back to the doctor we went. We were very relieved to hear that his coughing sounded like a classic case of croup, which sounds awful but isn't so bad in the grand scheme of baby sickness. We gave him a short course of steroids to help open his airways and imperil his major league baseball career.  The medicine made him 'roid-rage-cranky on top of sick-cranky, so when that was done and he started getting better he seemed extra sweet to us.  Of course, it was difficult to appreciate the sweetness through all that mucus.  Sean and I got terribly sick. The high point of this low point time was taking the day off from work together and gazing at each other miserably across delicious, steaming hot bowls of pho.

Somewhere in that haze of illness, Walter learned how to crawl. It happened gradually and also all at once ... he went from scooting and backwards crawling to learning how to maneuver into a sitting position by himself to a series of yoga/pilates moves that turned into real, genuine, one knee in front of another crawling.  At first he crawled pretty slowly, but soon he began motoring at an alarming pace, inevitably and determinedly toward the most dangerous places and objects he can find. When he's crawling and there's no one in-between him and a danger zone (the stairs, the dog's food and water bowls, the kitchen, etc.) Walter lets out a cackle of joy and crawls extra super fast toward his goal. He also likes to play "go find Mommy/Daddy."  For example, if I'm in the kitchen and the boys are in the living room I'll hear little hands and knees hitting the floor and Sean say, "Are you going to find Mommy? You are, aren't you?"  Shortly after that, Walter comes around the corner, closely followed by Sean, sees me, smiles, and doubles his speed.

I think this means he is very, very smart.

Walter in his "freedom enclosure"
Soon after the crawling came the pulling himself up to standing, and soon after the standing came the cruising using furniture for support and practicing getting up and down from the standing position, bending down to pick up a toy, etc. without falling.  These days, Walter is experimenting more and more with standing without any support at all--staying close to objects he can use to steady himself again. (Yesterday he evidently steadied himself using a nearby baby at day care, which reportedly was pretty funny and turned out OK for both of them.)  He did have his first "incident report" at day care during month 7, when he fell and got a little bruise above his eye.  The word "Bonk!" has entered our daily vocabulary as Walter and gravity get acquainted.  He also hears a lot of "gentle, gentle" ... you should have seen Hank's face when he realized that Walter can now chase after him. The perfect doggy expression of "Oh no.  It moves." That said, Walter and Hank the Dog are still good friends and interacting well with each other.  They check in with each other, look for each other, and look out for each other, too. When Walter heads for the open stair case, Hank goes ahead of him and gently blocks his path.

On Sunday, June 10, Sean and Walt went to urgent care (Sean had a badly infected throat, Walt had two badly infected ears,) Walt started a new course of antibiotics (the much easier-to-administer Z-Pack), Sean headed to Florida for a week of training for work and Walter and I headed to Johnson Creek for a wonderful week of vacation with Umma Sue and Grandpa Paul.

Sean called this a "romantic" week in his list, which I should probably explain.  Walter is a very affectionate boy; we're very affectionate people.  This week though, he was especially affectionate ... approaching us with half-closed eyes and open mouth and planting big wet kisses right on our lips with endearing frequency. Even with the ear infections and terrible sleep schedule and raging case of eczema (complicated, we found out later, by a yeast infection on his skin. yick.) even with all that he had such a good week.  He nursed and nursed and nursed, he cuddled and snuggled and cuddled, he explored and crawled and played and played. We didn't try to pack too much into each day, but we did do some pretty wonderful things: ate out at restaurants and sat in restaurant high chairs for the first time, swinging on the baby swings at the neighborhood park for the first time, first trip to the zoo (Henry Villas, in Madison,) first carousel, first petting zoo, first back yard baby pool.  He got to meet Maureen, a dear friend since way back in the days when we lived in Middleton circa 1984 or so, and he got to visit with Heidi and Bennett, my soul sister and his soul brother, again.  He went 6 days straight (GAH!) without pooping, which was exciting for all of us.  He had a growth spurt and moved up to 24 month sized clothes. He moved up into a big boy car seat.  Sean joined us on Friday night and we went down to my old hometown on Saturday, worshiping at our old home congregation on Sunday and celebrating Father's Day with great worship, a lovely family photo shoot and delicious Indian buffet.

I'm pretty happy, on the whole, with our weekly family routine and the time we get to spend together.  But it was a remarkable experience for me to get to be with Walter all day and all night, in a way we just haven't done since I started back at work.  I believe it is in all our best interests that I continue to work in this job, this calling, that I love so much, and that Walter spend significant time every day with other adults that he trusts and other kids that he's growing to know and love and learn from and with.  But it was good for us to have that week of intense, "romantic" time together.  He got some amazing bonding time with Umma Sue and Grandpa Paul, too, which makes all of us very happy indeed.

We took lots of pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  You should go look at the pictures, now. I'll wait. They are really, really good.

The happy glow from vacation stayed with us for awhile.  When we got Walt home to his crib (and away from the temptation of constantly nursing with Mama) he started sleeping better, even sleeping all the way through the night for almost a whole week. He started weekly swimming lessons at the YMCA, where we realized that "95th percentile" really does mean Walter is much much much bigger than other babies his age (and most babies several months older than him, too.)  He loves swimming and we love being in the water with him.  It was neat for me to back in the water at the Y with Walt for the first time since my last water aerobics class when I was pregnant.  Other than his skin problems, the transition from 7-8 months found Walter quite healthy.

Of course, now he has another ear infection and I'm sick, too, but that's what happens when I take two weeks to write a blog post.  Life continues and brings bugs our way!

Walter's diet expanded dramatically in his 7th month, but variety hasn't really led to greater enjoyment on his part.  He makes fantastic "YUCK!" faces when we give him applesauce or any other kind of fruit to eat.  He purses his little mouth and looks accusingly at each person at the table, one by one, saying "How could you do this to me?" He loves oatmeal, corn, and Cheerios.  He's extra interested in nursing, even as my milk supply is noticeably slowing down. Walter's first and most often and consistently used sign language is the sign for "milk," which he uses when he wants to nurse.  Lots of mixed feelings for Mama, knowing that this chapter of our life together is changing significantly--even if I'm able to nurse him beyond age one, very soon I won't be his main source of nourishment anymore.  It's a good thing, it's progress, but it's an adjustment for both of us.

Things are changing.  They're changing much faster than I can document them, clearly.  I don't want to slow time down, I don't want to stop the changes, but I do want to notice them and note them as they come and before they go.

At 7 months, Walter's favorite babbling syllable shifted from "dada" to "mama." That's a pretty standard progression--he's doing a lot of experimenting with "baba" these days. Babbling is how babies practice talking--working on their talking muscles, working on different tones of voice, listening to the way their voices sound and engaging in "conversations" with anyone who will repeat their sounds back to them.  The baby books point out that babies don't associate meaning with the babbling syllables the way we do ... "dada" doesn't mean Daddy, for example, or "mama," Mommy.

Right from the start, though, Sean insisted that Walter was using "mama" differently from other syllables--he was using it to refer to me. I was skeptical, but then I started noticing it, too.  Sometimes he looks right at me and lets out an emphatic "MOM!" He says it when he's sad or scared or has had a recent run-in with gravity and then reaches for me, crawling into my lap and burrowing into my arms.  This morning, when I said, "Are you ready to go to Daddy?" he smiled, turned his head to look at Sean, and put out his arms for Sean to take him from me.

I think Walter knows who we are in a different way, these days, and in a way that's changing and deepening every day.  And I think he knows we love him, too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Celebrate Hank Day!

Our plan was to walk as a family in the Stevens Point 4th of July parade.  Red white and blue outfits and stroller decorating paraphernalia were purchased.  The threat of super hot weather loomed ominously and led to the purchase of a red white and blue water bottle/fan/mist-maker.

Walt's report on his second day in room 2 tipped us off that something was wrong: he spent the day sitting and quietly observing everything.  Not very Walt-like.  That night his longest stretch of sleep was maybe 2 hours.  Usually much less than that. He had trouble nursing and cried while eating, a bad sign.

So, on the morning of July 4, the day we celebrate our Independence as a nation as well as the day that Hank the Dog joined the Edison-Albright family, we prepared Walter for a trip to the urgent care clinic. As Sean headed out the door with Walter, Hank followed ... unleashed.  He went straight for our densely woodsy (or really, weedy.  Densely weedy and tick-infested) back yard.  As he made his way around the side of the house I noticed some truly motivated bunnies running just ahead of him.  He turned around and headed for the back again, where Sean caught up with him and picked him up--holding him like a baby, just like he always loved as a puppy.  He was the picture of doggy happiness.  Sean got him back into the house and we headed off to urgent care.

Walt charmed everyone at the clinic as usual, and has an ear infection, also as usual. We got the usual antibiotic prescription and headed out, now definitely for certain not going to make it to the parade. But it was OK. We went to Ranchito, our favorite Mexican restaurant, for brunch while we waited for the prescription to get filled, which is something we've wanted to do for some time. It was delicious and felt like a holiday meal, with Walter gamely trying out nibbles of rice, beans and tortilla while he flirted with the other restaurant patrons and showed off his much-improved Cheerio-eating skills. We picked up the prescription and spent the rest of the day inside, with brief outings for Sean and Hank to take care of doggy needs, and for Sean to grill us some hotdogs. And that was probably a smart way to go on such a hot day, anyway. We all took an almost two hour nap in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day playing.  Hank got his Celebrate Hank Day toy, a new nylabone which he immediately set to chewing. Walter was sick and sad and snugly but also started looking better right away and did some more "no hands!" standing, staying up without support for longer and longer intervals.  I only cried twice: once when I heard a story on the radio about active duty soldiers taking the oath of citizenship, because it was quite moving, and once when Walter looked up at me with his sad face, the one with the extended lower lip that he's made since he was a little baby, because that was pretty moving, too.

I got the baby to bed about an hour ago and have been lying on the couch with Hank on my feet since then, tired and glad and grateful for my family, furry and otherwise. It's not the day we planned, but it was a pretty good day, all things considered. Happy Celebrate Hank Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Room 2! And other stories!

Another quick update because I may never get a chance to finish the 7 month round up post, which I've come to think of as my life's work. We're doing a lot of living these days and not a lot of documenting that living, which is fine, but documenting is an important part of living, too.

Walter loves the garage door.  When he hears it he cranes around to watch it go up (or down) and he does his happy shimmy as it goes.  Never fails to get a smile.

Walter loves the swings at the park so much that we now need to come up with an alternate evening walk route.  As we approach the park, he shimmies with anticipation.  As we walk right by the park, he screams in dismay.  If we stop and swing, he is elated.  If, after much time has passed and much swing has been swung, we decide we need to eventually leave the swing and go home, he is devastated.  "Just leave me here," he seems to say. "I want to swing FOREVER."

Being a baby is kind of dramatic. The highs! The lows! The highs! The lows! (Get it ... he likes the swing ... and he's having mood swings ... OK, it's not that funny.)

The big news of the day is that Walter moved up to Room 2 at day care. Room 2!  Mobile babies!  There are walking babies in Room 2.  Babies who wear SHOES.  I didn't put him in shoes today, but I did send him in a pair of khaki shorts and a super cool orange Avengers t-shirt.  I realized as I was picking out his outfit that I didn't want to send him in baby clothes because I was worried about what his new peers might think and I want the kids at school to like him.  Oh man.  Mama's a little silly.  But from all reports he did have a very good day. He excelled at dancing, shunning solid foods, expressing himself grandiosely in a confident baritone, and looking at things.

Sean is singing "Rainbow Connection" to Walt, who just had his routine 10:30 angry wake up.  We're not sure what's up with the 10:30 wake up, but it's pretty predictable.  And now I see that Sean has been successful, so we'll head upstairs and sleep sleep sleep.  My magnum opus will wait for another night.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Walter: funny, smart, single

I'm writing kind of a ridiculous magnum opus entry for Walt's 7 to 8 month transition, but I have a few quick stories I've got to share before I lose them.

Walter is hilarious. Usually when he gets home from day care he sees me and gets kinda frantic about wanting to nurse ... very serious about it.  But the other day Sean handed Walt to me and he was simultaneously hungry and jovial and kinda feisty.  He grabbed my shirt by the collar with his teeth and pulled it away from my chest a bit, then looked up at me with a funny smile and a gleam in his eye, totally amused with himself.  We laughed and laughed.

Yesterday he was gesturing wildly with a teething ring while on the changing table.  The changing table is also often a place of heartfelt, desperate crying ... so serious.  So while Sean changed him, put lotion on his eczema and got him into his pjs, I tried to distract him.  When the teething ring flew by my face I pretended to try and bite it.  Baby giggles.  I continued to try to catch the teether with my teeth while he gestured with it in his hand, and after a short time he started offering the teether to me, putting it right up to my mouth.  I'd pretend to gnaw on it and he'd laugh hysterically, and then put it in his mouth.  Then offer it to me and repeat.

He got a mouthful of my hair and made this great "Blech!" face, and then leaned back to see if I'd seen what happened.  More hysterical laughter.  The greatness of a laugh fest is always slightly diminished by the inevitable hiccups, but only slightly.

Tonight, Walter meticulously stacked his (soft, cloth) blocks in the corner of his play yard, pulled himself up to standing, lifted his foot and attempted to climb out. The blocks didn't work, so he rearranged them and tried again. Then he leaned down, grabbed a block in each hand and stood up again ... no hands holding on to the sides of the play yard! He didn't stay up for very long, but it was pretty great.  And, you know, terrifying. 

Sean took Walt to his first swimming lesson at the Y last week, and reported that Walter stared and stared at the girls and women at the pool.  "He's either interested in girls or interested in girls' swimsuits," Sean said. I got to go with them this week (AMAZING! Swim swim swim little baby!) and saw for myself that Walter oggles, I mean absolutely oggles, the women and girls at the pool.  Shameless!  Or maybe just hungry. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Named and Claimed

We have our Easter card from Grandma Sue and Grandpa Paul up on the refrigerator.  On the front is this family picture, taken when Walt was four months old. Last night I showed Walter the picture and named everyone in it, one by one. He watched intently and followed along with his eyes. He gave a happy shimmy for Grandpa Paul and a little smile for Hank the Dog. When I finished naming everyone, he put his hand on Grandma Sue and gave her a little pat with his palm. "Umma," he said.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Letter to Walt on Father's Day

Dear Walter,

Happy Father's Day!

Let me back up a little bit. Walter, you are so blessed.  One of the ways you are especially blessed is with male role models: men who love you, pray for you, and take great joy and pride in you as you grow. You have a wonderful Daddy; two wonderful Grandpas; three wonderful uncles (Jimmy, Brian and Matthew) and  many wonderful "appended" uncles (Ben, Curtis, John and Josh come to mind.) But, as I think about Father's Day, I'm thinking especially much about two of the most important men in your life and mine: your daddy, who is my husband, and my daddy, who is your Grandpa Paul.

Sometimes when you're getting a little rowdy with me--pulling hair is a new favorite, as is stealing glasses and engaging in high intensity zumba moves while nursing--your daddy will talk to you in a soothing voice, reminding you to be gentle with your mommy.  He started doing that even before you were born, during those last months of pregnancy when you seemed to be aiming your feet right at my kidney.  He would put his hand on my belly, get really close to you and say, "Walter, Walter.  Settle down.  Be nice to Mommy," and you'd feel the warmth and weight of his hand, and hear his voice, and you'd settle down.

Sleeping soundly on Daddy
Daddy rocks you and walks with you at night; when you're sick or teething or just can't sleep.  You hold onto him very close and tight like a little baby monkey, hanging on with your hands and feet and whole little self.  He sings to you--all sorts of songs, but especially "Rainbow Connection."  He makes up games to make you laugh and smile at times when you're sad or scared or nervous.  When you were very little you didn't like having your diaper changed and you'd scream and cry like the world was about to end.  Then Daddy started playing the "blast off" game.  He'd say "One ... two ... three ... blast off!" and hit a button that made the changing table vibrate.  You'd stop crying and smile; soon you would start anticipating the game and get happy as soon as he said the word "One ..."  When you had a new diaper and were all dressed again he'd lift you up high in the air and say, "Good job, little astronaut!"

More recently, Daddy invented a game we play while we're feeding you.  We choose one letter of the alphabet and come up with a new word for each spoonful you eat, repeating the first sound until you open your mouth. For example: (Spoon approaching your mouth) Ah-ah-ah-ah (spoon enters your mouth) alternator! This game is a lot of fun for us, and we think you like it, too.

Daddy loves to pick you up and hug you. "My boy!" he says, "Oh, I love my boy!" Walter, I've said this before and I'm going to say it again and again: you are loved.  And your Daddy loves you so much: not just when you two are playing and hugging and having fun, but also when he's putting saline in your nose when you're all stuffed up, when he's changing your massively poopy diapers, when you're pulling out his chest hair, when you're fighting sleep and when you're mad at the world. He loves you then, too, and he sticks with you and holds you and says in that soothing voice you've known since you could hear your first sounds, "Walter ... Walter .... It's OK, buddy. It's OK."

So happy with Grandpa Paul!
You love Grandpa Paul's voice, too.  You love to put your head on his chest and listen to his heartbeat and his voice.  You've been doing that since you were born, and you always get this faraway look in your eyes, like you are being transported to a calm, happy place.  You look up at him with this pure look of awe and adoration--it's a look you really only give to him, a special loving gaze just for Grandpa Paul. When he leaves the room, you're distraught (we came up with a new rule during this week of vacation together: Grandpa Paul  never leaves the room.)  When he enters the room, you giggle and grin with pure joy and raise your arms up into the air, asking him to pick you up and snuggle you.

I remember it took me a long time to realize and understand that my Umma was my mom's mom, so this concept might be a little advanced for you, but it's true: your Grandpa Paul is my daddy.  He held me up to his chest when I was a baby, and I felt (and feel, still) safe and happy there just like you do.  When I see you and Grandpa Paul together it makes me appreciate my daddy more than ever, and seeing the way he loves you makes me realize how much he loves me, too.*

Dropper feeding
Your first week of life was so hard.  Daddy and Grandma Sue had to go back to work and I was very sick and couldn't do much to help you.  Your Grandpa Paul took care of both of us. One of the things he did a lot of was dropper feed you a couple ounces of formula or expressed breast milk so I could have a break and get some rest.  Dropper feeding is really slow, difficult work.  It takes a long time and a lot of patience.

This Father's Day, I'm thinking of your Grandpa Paul, operating on very little sleep himself, leaning over you with his pinky in your mouth, patiently feeding you drop by drop.  That image communicates a lot of what you and I both love so much about him, and also how lucky we are to have him in our lives.  Grandpa Paul is so generous--a wonderful trait that my daddy and your daddy have in common.

Walter, you and I have a lot in common.  We have the same mouth and the same dimpled chin.  We have big, enthusiastic personalities and we never do anything halfway. But what we're celebrating today is something else we have in common: we have generous, loving, devoted, funny, creative, wonderful wonderful fathers. So, a happy Father's Day to your daddy and to my daddy, and to you and me, too.  We are so lucky, we are so blessed.

Happy Father's Day!
Your mommy, your daddy's wife and your Grandpa Paul's daughter
Father's Day 2011

Father's Day 2012

*I need to mention, here, that your Grandma Sue is pretty incredible, too, and in fact while I was writing this she coaxed a very cranky baby (you) to sleep with nothing but her beautiful voice, her comforting arms and her incredible love for you.  But I missed my chance to write a proper Mother's Day post this year, so that blogged appreciation will have to be spread out across other posts on other days. Kind of an extended Mother's Day, where we can make it last extra long. =)