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.