Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's almost Christmas!

Man, we are totally parents now.  For the first time, we're up late on Christmas Eve, getting everything ready for the kids for tomorrow. Crazy.  I love it.

Some things that happened tonight that I don't want to forget:


  • Sally was totally into church tonight, really engaged for the first time with the music and the people and everything going on around her. She also chattered during the words of institution exactly the same way Walter did when he was her age.
  • Walter and I smiled at each other during Silent Night.  It was really special.  I love seeing Christmas through his eyes this year. I'm loving this holiday much more than I ever have before. 
  • Both services tonight featured children of the congregation (ages 11-30 something) singing, playing marimba, dancing, showing up as "unexpected" angels, serving communion, ushering, and just generally being leaders up front and all around. It was awesome.
  • We had a fabulous dinner at church in between services: Italian wedding soup, grilled turkey breast sandwiches, all the fixins ala Sean.   
  • Sally had a huge blow out during the service, and Walter threw up in the gym when I was running around with him too soon after dinner.  Keepin' it real. After the second service, a young mom said she was initially worried when her son was doing a lot of running around during worship. "But then I figured, Walter has run this way many times before." It's true.  



For your Christmas viewing pleasure

Videos!

First the new instant classic, "Christmas Bagel." Duet by Umma and Walter with embodied percussion.



Also, the slightly less catchy but still pretty fun "CHRISTMAS SONG!!!!" Solo with ukulele by Walter.


Finally, Baby Sally giggling, and Mama being amazed and pleased.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Because we need a little cuteness, right this very minute

This year, Walter is very intrigued by holidays. He watches with great interest as decorations in our neighborhood go up and down. He asks lots of questions and pays close attention to everything going on around him.

Saddest little robot since Marvin
He hated Halloween.  The only thing that saved it from being a total disaster was that we got to spend the day with best friend Henry and his family.  That part, he loved.  But really, he would have been happier if it had just been a normal day of visiting and playing at Henry's house.  Sure, he liked the candy eating aspect of it.  But the decorations and the costumes were way, way too scary. He still won't go to Walgreens because of a decoration he saw there. Our line to reassure him was, "It's just a toy."  Every time we pass Walgreens, now, Walter says, "Just a toy at the pharmacy? It all gone now?"

Christmas, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.  He was suspicious when the stuffed snowman replaced the scarecrow at daycare, and thought maybe he'd be scared of it.  But very soon he realized that this season is not a scary one, and he has embraced everything to do with Christmas--religious and secular--wholeheartedly. This has led to some really delightful moments and quotable quotes.

"Hi, Magi!"
Umma and Baba got Walter an Advent Calendar with magnetic pieces to put together into a Nativity Scene. He loves it.  The Advent Calendar one-piece-a-day aspect was a little advanced for him and quickly abandoned.  But he loves playing with the pieces and changing the scene around (he's especially fond of putting sheep up on the roof of the stable.)  My heart melted when he went to play with it recently and greeted his favorite characters with a very fond, "Oh hi, Magi!"  He knows all the key players and names them every time a creche crosses his path. He saw a picture of Curious George wearing a blue towel on his head the other day and gleefully proclaimed: "Mary!"

"Is there a LEGO in Santa's bag for me?" 
Walter's understanding of Santa is terrifyingly advanced.  One day he went to daycare with no knowledge of the jolly one; that afternoon he came home with just enough information to make him dangerous and hungry for more.  I'm being a little dramatic, but Walter's interest in Santa surprised me and Sean ... we hadn't figured out our Santa strategy, yet, and still haven't really codified it or anything. We think we'll encourage him to enjoy the Santa tradition and all the fun aspects of it without ever insisting that Santa is real.  Walter is great at imaginative play, so I think he'll understand that Santa falls into that category, too.

He hasn't directly asked for anything for Christmas, but he did ask Sean if Santa had a LEGO for him in his bag. Pretty brilliant, I'd say.  My plan was that Santa would just bring pajamas this year.  Obviously, Santa will be bringing pajamas and a very small DUPLO set.

What I was really unprepared for was this question: "Mommy, are you Santa Claus?" That one came during a time out.  I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly at first but when I didn't respond he asked again, clear as day. My response: "Walter, you're on a timeout.  We'll talk when it's over."  He didn't ask again. The question itself doesn't worry me too much, because I have several good answers in mind. But I have no idea where the question came from.  I'm in awe of Walter's thought process.  I took a few moments of that time out to appreciate it, while simultaneously trying to figure out how I was going to survive another minute of the awful defiance and total lack of listening that led to the timeout.

"Walter get a present for Baby Sally?"
Something else I probably should have expected but that totally took me by surprise: Walter told us one afternoon that he wanted to get a present for Sally. Oh. Oh yeah.  Getting presents, we'd expected he'd be into that. Giving presents, presents that he got to choose and that really came from him ... that part we hadn't considered.  Since then, he's mentioned wanting to do it a couple of times, but he never wants to go to the store. I think I ruined it by suggesting Sean take him to Walgreens to shop. But they'll go to Fleet Farm tomorrow after daycare and brave the crowds to pick out some little things for Walter to give to us all.

"LOOK! Ribbons! Look! Our Christmas tree over there! Look, more pretty lights! They're bright a little bit! Look, a STARRRRR!"
Walter loves, loves, loves Christmas decorations. The patter of observation and appreciation is almost constant and always adorable. When he saw our tiny Christmas tree, at first he seemed unsure, maybe even disappointed.  "It's a little Christmas tree," he observed. After a minute or so of thought, he said, "I like it!" Since then, he's decided he really likes it, and he's let us know that, too.

Sean and I were talking today about how wonderful it is when Walter is really enthusiastic about things.  First thing Saturday morning Sean took Walter out on a bagel run, and handed him a fresh, still warm sesame seed bagel to eat in his car seat on the way home. "This is really, really good." Walter said. "This is so good! Did they make this for me?"  It makes me so happy every time Walter looks up at me and says, "I like it, Mama!" Last week he said it about the Cream of Wheat I microwaved for him, and I was like, yeah, I'm an awesome cook.  Rock on, Mama.

"OH! Jingle bells ..."
You will not be surprised to hear that singing composes a large part of Walter's Christmas enjoyment. He knows all the words to the chorus and first verse of Jingle Bells; two-year-old versions of the words, but they're all there and it's clear he's got most of it right.  He also does a beautiful "Away in A Manger" and "Silent Night," as well as many delightful Walter originals. The files are still cooking, but as soon as they're processed I'm going to post two new holiday favorites: "CHRISTMAS SONG!!" and "The Christmas Bagel."

I also hope to post a video of Sally giggling.  It's not the biggest baby giggle you can watch via the Internets, that's for sure.  But it's a sweet sound indeed to my ears.  Walter started giggling at just shy of three months, so I've been on the lookout for Sally giggles.  Last week I got her to give me a solitary "ha!" now and then, but on her actual four month birthday she bust out the actual guffaws.  Beautiful. We got a video of the second half of the first ever giggle fest ... mostly we managed to capture the sound of my laughter and raspberry-making-on-the-tummy which pretty much obscures Sally's little laughs, but it's a fun video if only for the look of pure parental pride and joy on my face, and the good-natured, patient little smile on hers.

So, stayed tuned. =)

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's been a rough week

Earlier this week, Sally and Walter started competing to see who could get the least amount of sleep.

Sally blinked. Or rather, slept.  Her worst night was Tuesday and it has been steadily getting better since then, though not back to the ridiculously wonderful 9-11 hours straight she was sleeping last week. She likes to kick Daddy out of bed in the morning and sleep for an hour or so in bed with Mama, taking up the majority of the queen-size bed for her little princess self.

So, Walter was like: "You lightweight! Greenhorn! Newbie! I could not-sleep you under the table. See? I've gotten so little sleep, I'm SICK. Take that! Ha ha ha haaaaacck cough vomit whimper sneeze cough cough."

Walter seems to have entered the eternal feedback loop of lousy sleeping (lousy sleep leads to sickness leads to more lousy sleep.) We're trying to get him to bed earlier (he is successfully resisting this) and taking him into the bathroom for steam treatments as needed.  But it looks like it might be a very goopy Christmas.

Sally turns four months old tomorrow; Walter 26 months the day after.  I don't know if she's really an easy baby or if being 4 months old is just that much easier than being 26 months old.  She gives us beautiful smiles and, very rarely, the hints of a funny little laugh.  While she's still finding her laughing voice, her yelling at us voice is quite developed, as is her pleasant chatting and her espresso machine imitation.  She is strong enough to ride front-facing in the baby bjorn and she's been using the exersaucer at daycare (spoiler alert: we're breaking out the exersaucer for her for Christmas.)  She's been doing pretty well at daycare. At first she wouldn't take a bottle, but now she does, though she still doesn't drink from the bottle as much or as well as Walter did at this age.  But she's growing: she's wearing 6 month clothes and I think she probably needs to move up to size two diapers.  Her face is filling out and she has a pleasant, solid heft to her that is very satisfying.  One of the highlights of my work days is going into Room 1 to nurse her at lunchtime.  

Sally seems to have gotten over her very strong aversion to hats. She likes touching our faces (as gently and lovingly as she is able with her developing muscle control.) She likes gnawing on our fingers, and we're pretty sure the first teeth are on their way in.  She likes books and toys and anything new ... most of all she likes watching and, more and more, directly interacting with Walter.  We're letting him play with her a little more, now, and she loves it.  Everything he does, she watches with great interest.

Walter "feeding" Sally. They love playing together! 
I expected that Sally would adore Walter.  Babies love older kids; they're fascinating.  What I didn't expect and what constantly takes me by surprise is how much Walter loves Sally.  It doesn't make any sense to me.  I mean, sure, she's completely wonderful and adorable and cute and cuddly, but I figured a two year old would be largely immune to that, especially since he doesn't really get to snuggle her as much as Sean and I do. And I would have thought the crying and the fussing and the taking Mama's attention would have been major strikes against her. (Walter did confide in Sean that Baby Sally's crying hurts his ears sometimes. Or, as Walt likes to put it these days, "Just a little bit.")  I guess I expect a toddler's love to be mostly conditional and entirely self-centered: love based on what others do for him.  But it's not.  Walter loves Sally just for being Sally, just for being part of the family.  I love the way he always includes her (and Hank) in his list of family members. "Walter and Mama and Dada and Baby Sally and Hankie!"

On a related note, tonight Sean offered to take Walter to the store to go Christmas shopping.  At first, Walter was excited, but then the tired sickies started to get him down.  "You and Mama and Baby Sally go to the store," he told Sean.  "Walter stay home. With Hankie."  Heh.

Walter loves to bake with me; we've made cookies twice this past week, it being Christmastime and all, and he's absolutely brilliant at it.  He can do everything: stir, mix, beat, crack eggs, measure, dump, fold, portion ... pretty much everything except put it in and take it out of the oven.  I am proud beyond words.  These days Walter also enjoys watching and reading Curious George (the same videos over and over and over ... gahhhhhhh) and building really awesome elaborate structures with blocks. He plays with my old Fisher Price doctor kit and does this great singing doctor routine: "This is gonna hurt a little bit ... You gonna feel betteerrrrrrr!" He loves to sing and play his ukulele, or any other instrument he can get ahold of.  Tonight he played the bongos using his maracas as drumsticks.

Walter kind of vacillates between being astoundingly mature for his age and genuinely fun to be with and being really typically difficult for his age and exhausting to be with.  The difficult days tend to coincide with lack of sleep. Recent studies show that consistent bedtime is the key to better behavior. In other news: duh. Breaking headline: Bite me, researchers. You get my kids to bed.

It's possible that I, too, would be better behaved with a consistent bedtime and more sleep.

Also, this happened. Least accurate depiction of the Holy Family, ever. But pretty fun, nonetheless.

 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Names and other news

Here's a short list of Sally's nicknames:
Princess (I know, I know. Don't judge me.  The name Sally means princess. And she is the princess of my heart. So there.)
Principessa (see above. I like to greet her every morning with "Buongiorno, principessa!")
Precious (as in, "my precious." Yup.  Also, "My precious princess.")
Bright eyes
Bug
Sally Bug
Little Girl
Sneaka (yeah, I don't know what that is. It just comes out of my mouth.)
Sweetheart
Googie (this one is Sean's. He says it while tickling her, and she smiles and smiles.)
And, most often, Baby Sally

The nickname "Bug", along with her Halloween ladybug costume, led Walter to ask this hilarious question: "Baby Sally is ... a bug?"

Walter's current nicknames:
Walty (he made this one up for himself.)
Waldo
Dadu
Buddy
Walter Paul

Walter has realized that his family members all have names, too.  He loves going through the list with us. "Mama's name is ..." "Annie!" Daddy's name is ..." "Sean!" etc.  My favorite is Baba's: "Baba's name is Paul," Walter says. "Like Walter Paul."

Tonight, he used the word sister for the first time. Sally was crying and Sean took her away from the dinner table to change her diaper. "My sister!" said Walter. "That's my sister!"

Sally just started laughing out loud yesterday. She's been smiley for a long time, and she makes a little sound in her throat like she's laughing like Ernie from Sesame Street. But yesterday and today I got a few real giggles.  I think the sudden loudness of her own laughing startles her.

Finally, Walter and I had a pretty hilarious exchange while we played together before dinner tonight:

Walter packed his toy bus full of various little people and drove it "to church."
Me: (pretending to be one of the people) "Here we are! What can we do at church?"
Walter: "Eat cookies!"
Me: "Hooray! What else can we do at church?"
Walter: "Eat more cookies!"
Me: "Mmmm. Those cookies were good. Now I'm full. What else can we do at church?"
Walter: "Another cookies!"
Me: "Can we sing songs?"
Walter: "Yes!"
Me: "What song should we sing?"
Walter: "Cookie song!"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In it together.

We had a wonderful experience at a Suzuki early childhood music and movement class tonight.  Sally and Walter both jumped right in and took part in all the activities. At one point, Walter was feeling overwhelmed. He turned to Sally and rested his head gently against hers for a few seconds.  Then the two of them shared a smile and returned their attention to the class. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dateventure!

Walter and I had a wonderful dateventure yesterday.  It started with picking him up from daycare. This in itself is unusual, because generally Sean does the daycare drop offs and pick ups, or I just get Sally and he gets Walter. Walter is in Room 5, the 2-3 year-old room. When combined with Room 6 (the 3-4 year old room) at the end of the day, it has a real Lord of the Flies kind of vibe.  That's probably a bit of an exaggeration.  The teacher is there and well in control of the situation, but I'm just sayin' ... it's a situation.  It's amazing how big kids' personalities get when they hit 2.

Walter is a bit of a personality himself, of course.  But he was on especially good behavior last night, or maybe he's always this polite at daycare? It was neat to see him interacting with his classmates and his teacher.  He was just finishing his snack when I came in.  He greeted me warmly, showed me his graham cracker crumbs (neatly placed on his napkin) and finished drinking his milk (regular cup, not a sippy.) He then got up from the table and cleaned and cleared his space.  After throwing away his trash he went over to the sink to wash his hands.  There was an older girl there kind of playing in the sink and he very politely said, "Excuse me, please." After she moved away he turned on the water, got soap from the dispenser, washed his hands, got a towel, dried his hands, and then threw the towel away.  He did all of this by himself, with no one telling him what to do. Impressive!

His teacher asked if I wanted her to change his diaper; definitely, yes. She took him to the bathroom (it has stalls! And kid sized toilets!) and he peed in the potty, standing up.  After washing his hands again I helped him with his coat, and just when I thought I couldn't get any more proud, he called out to his teacher, "Bye bye!  Thank you for the crackers!"

We went out into the cold, clear night (it was 5 pm.  But winter is here, and it is ridiculously dark all the time.) Walter likes to spot the moon, and I showed him Venus, nice and bright in the sky. I told him to look for it while we were driving, which meant he spent most of the 30 minute drive to Waupaca asking me where the moon was (it was behind us.) I was a little nervous about driving in the dark with all the deer and ice and whatnot, but we made it to Culver's just fine.

Walter associates Culver's very strongly with the word "date." I think he might think a date is a trip to Culver's, actually.  This started when I was pregnant and an outing to get some custard was often my answer to good mom-son time.  No custard this time, but he did get a chocolate milk, chicken tenders, and fries. I didn't get fries with my fish sandwich, so he shared his fries with me ... dipping each one in ketchup before giving it to me.  I gave him a two minute warning when it was time for us to start getting ready to go; he thought about resisting (I can pretty much see his thoughts, especially when he's thinking about doing something two-ish) but then changed his mind and asked me to set a two-minute timer on my watch instead.  He prefers that his transitions happen with beeps.

We got to the church just as the concert was starting.  It was a Christmas concert for a band that our friend E. plays drums in.  Our friend J. was handing out programs, and our friend D. had saved us the perfect seats: in the back, where Walter could stand on a chair and easily move in and out of the sanctuary.  For the first 30 minutes of the concert, though, he just snuggled in my lap, listening to the music.  I thought he might fall asleep (the concert started at 6:30, so it was a definite possibility.)

When the banjo came out, though, he sat up and took notice.  He stood on the chair to see and did some squirming around.  I took him out to to the narthex to get some water and exercise. We spent a good bit of time looking at their big nativity scene and talking about the different people in the scene (he likes calling baby Jesus "angel" ... I think he's conflating Jesus with a winged garden cherub that sits outside one of our neighbor's houses.) He watched with interest as the church's kids choir lined up and got ready to join the band for the last two numbers.  He did some great dancing, including a move that looked a lot like yoga and which, I found out during a conversation with Walter on the ride home, was, in fact, yoga (evidently one of his teachers is teaching the kids yoga ... this, my friends, is how you deal with an island full of wild two-year-olds.)

He waited very patiently until the last note was sung to pick out a cookie.  I got him some punch, too, and he was delighted to find it carbonated.  "That's soda, Mama!" We chatted with some friends, finished our cookies and soda punch, and headed back out into the cold, dark night.  No deer were harmed in the making of this dateventure, but boy oh boy did I white knuckle it all the way home.

When we got home it was quite late (9 pm) but Walter was hungry so he ate his leftover Culvers chicken and fries while I got reacquainted with Sally.  As he and Sean headed toward his room to start his bedtime ritual, I gave Walter a kiss and said, "Thank you for a great date."  "Thank you, Mama," he said. "Thank you for the chocolate milk.  Thank you for church.  Thank you for dancing.  Thank you for the cookie.  Thank you for soda!"  Just like that.  Putting aside my child's deep and abiding love of sugar and junk food, you gotta admit, that's pretty sweet.

It was an awesome dateventure.  And everything went really, really well.  But even if it hadn't, it would have been Mama/Walter time, just the two of us.  And we both need that; it's clear we do.  Tonight Walter asked me to play with him after dinner, and I can tell he's starting to see me as more available to him again.  He's seen and touched my "owie" (the gallbladder incision that's finally healed) and is satisfied that I'm OK.  And it's true.

I'm looking forward to the next dateventure, wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Baba would like me to add ...

... that Sally is also industrious and focused.  When she's looking intently at what she wants she'll often reach and try very hard to get it, all with a serious look of concentration.
I. want. my. toes!
I had such a nice time with Sally last night.  She played and played with her Eric Carle sensory overload ladybug.  A couple times I tried to help her hold it and she gave me this perfect, "I've got this, Mom," look.  After playing very hard and with great effort, she demanded nursing (lot's of her little indignant "Eh!" noises until I figured out what she wanted.)  Then she fell fast asleep, almost comically fast. I enjoyed holding her for awhile. I took her up to the bassinet in our room and she woke up gently, happily.  Sean was putting Walter to bed and I saw an opportunity for a bath, which she definitely needed.  It has been a few weeks since I've been able to get in the bath with her, because of my open incision, so this was a treat for both of us.  I marveled at how strong she was: sitting straight up the whole time, with just a little gentle balancing from me. We had a very nice time.  While I was drying her off, she started to fuss (it was when I put the little hood of the towel on her head.) "It's not a hat!" I said, and did a silly dance.  She smiled and stopped fussing. I got her dry and lotioned and diapered and dressed.  We nursed and she fought sleep a bit.  She had an inexplicable crying fit, which happens sometimes.  I held her and after some serious crying she calmed down, nursed some more, and snuggled in my arms for awhile. She gave me the most wonderful little smiles.  She wanted to go to sleep, so I put her in the bassinet (still a little awake) and she went to sleep pretty quickly.  She slept through the night (about 9 hours straight) and woke up slowly, happy and calm.   More smiling and nursing this morning, and a happy baby off to daycare.  I'll go and nurse her in an hour before heading into work.  

It wasn't unusual, this evening, night and morning with Sally.  This is pretty much how it goes. But it's worth writing down, because I want to remember!  Seeing her sit up so well during our bath reminded me that she is changing so fast.  I'm savoring her babyhood as much and for as long as I can. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

3 month retrospective


Sally Sleeping, 1 day
Sally Sleeping, 1 month
Sally Sleeping, 2 months
Sally Sleeping, 3 months



Sweet, smiley Sally. 3 months old!

No such thing as a complete list

A couple more ...

  • Walter is obsessed with Curious George, in all forms, but particularly the TV series. We're still trying to limit his screen time, but sometimes it really does help to have him stationary while we're getting meals ready, etc. Today he and I watched a short video on the pbs.org website meant to reassure parents that watching Curious George is actually good for kids and their science/engineering learning. I'm not super convinced, but Walter has been showing more curiosity-driven, George-like initiative lately.  For example, he was playing in the kitchen and found the potato masher.  He studied it for awhile and decided he'd like to make some apple sauce.  He spotted some apples up high on the pass through to the kitchen.  He'd climbed up on the pew and was on his tiptoes reaching for the apples (still holding the masher) when Sean noticed what he was doing.  Kind of scary, but also pretty awesome. 
  • Re: Sally's personality, I'd add that she's patient and trusting.  When she wants something she looks for signs that she's going to get what she wants, and if she sees those signs, she doesn't cry.  She's also started indicating what she wants by looking in the direction of the object desired.  She'll look pointedly over my shoulder at a book until I pick it up and show it to her.  Today, while we were nursing at daycare, she saw the kids from the adjoining room come in from a walk in their super stroller.  She sighed and then turned and looked longingly at the stroller in her room.  When she's hungry and I pick her up to nurse, she "looks" so intently that it's more like a headfirst dive in a bosom-ward direction. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lists and Nonlists

In spite of having two children who sleep reasonably well, I am unreasonably exhausted.  But my children are also wonderful and deserve to be documented, so here we go:

Walter


  • The other night, he sang a "Daddy, I love you!" song, while flailing his arms and legs and poking Sean with a fork. This is pretty much what being two is all about.
  • He says "Sally" now instead of "Tally." 
  • Last week he started asking "Why?" He's been asking "Why not?" for quite a while.  I don't think he's entirely clear on either of those concepts, though.  Still, it feels like a milestone. 
  • The day after Thanksgiving we broke out the play dough and he played for two hours straight.  He would have played longer if we hadn't stopped him and made him go to bed.  It was amazing.
  • He loves to cook and bake with us.  He loves to dance and sing (at daycare he evidently spends a lot of time dancing and singing in front of the mirror) but he's also still quite shy (and, annoyingly, camera shy ... not a lot of good video lately.) He loves books and blocks.  He's kind of off puzzles, for the moment. His imaginative play is getting more and more creative; lately, he's been imagining all sorts of interesting scenarios involving cookies (cookies stuck on the ceiling. cookies being baked by spinning on the ceiling fan, etc.)
    Walter's amazing playdough flower
  • He's constantly singing, either real songs or songs he's making up or fabulous itsy bitsy wheels on a happy birthday bus mashups.   He likes speaking nonsense language and making funny noises.  One of our favorite games is when I say, "Baby Sally says ..." and Walter imitates one of her noises (usually "Ah!")
  • I spend a lot of time with Sally, so we're always on the lookout for ways Walter and I can have time together, just the two of us.  Walter calls this a "date-venture."
  • Walter is incredibly bonded with Sean.  When he leaves the room, Walter runs after him saying, "Daddy, where are you?" 
  • We decided to go low key on the potty training for now, because of all the transitions and upheaval in Walter's life (new sister, Mama who's been recovering from surgeries, etc.)  He's wearing pull-ups during the day and pees in the potty quite often at school and at home.  Not sure when or how we'll make the jump to big-boy undies.
  • We've all had colds, off and on, the last few weeks.  Walter's had the worst of it, with very bad coughing fits at night.  But when I took him to see Dr. L, both tubes were out of his ears and both ears looked great ... no tubes and no infections.  This could mean he's grown out of his chronic ear infections and won't need tubes put back in.  Moreover, Dr. L said "You're doing an amazing job with him.  What a sweet boy!" He is indeed. 
Sally

Sally with her Aunt Nicole, standing 
The list format doesn't work well for Sally ... she just doesn't "do" as much as Walter does. But she does everything a three month old should do, and then some. She holds her head up, sits up (with some propping, of course) and jumps and stands while we hold her (she has amazingly strong legs.)  She rolls from her belly to her back and from her back to her side. 

She doesn't spend much time at all in the bouncer, so last night I tried putting her in it to see what she'd do.  She immediately figured out that she needed to kick the monkey or the toucan to make the lights and sounds turn on.  Tonight, while Sean was holding her, he made a whistling sound through his nose and she reached up and grabbed his nose.  She also reaches for her toes, and for my watch and my wristband, and most especially and fervently, my hair.  She does a lot of grabbing and pulling of my hair. It's wonderful. I love feeling how strong and persistent she is. 

I worry that we're not actively working with her on milestone type-things the way we did with Walter. But she seems to be progressing pretty normally and well.  What we lack in age-appropriate stimulation I think we make up for in adventures (more toddler than baby appropriate, usually, but she seems to really enjoy looking around and seeing new places and people) and lots and lots of face time.  She gets held and talked to a lot.  And cuddled a tremendous amount.  Any baby that gets cuddled this much is going to be just fine. 

She gets cuddled a lot at day care, in part because she doesn't eat while she's there.  They've made some progress on getting her to like and want the bottle, but still no actual drinking yet. I've been going in midday to nurse her and/or leaving work early so we can start the evening nursing early.  It makes me crazy with worry but everything seems to be fine: she's reportedly quite happy at day care, she's growing, she fills diapers.  She even sleeps through the night.  So we're OK, but I'm hoping she starts taking a bottle soon.

A friend asked recently about Sally's personality.  Again, it's hard to say, because hers is definitely evolving on a different level than Walter's.  She's very, very sweet.  She's snuggly and overall very happy.  She gives big smiles (no giggles yet, but I think that's coming next.) She's talkative and has a huge range of incredibly expressive sounds.  She startles easily when she's awake but can sleep through just about anything (this is a very good skill for a baby in our house to have.) She's curious and doesn't mind being held by new people, though she still has a preference for me (I'm the only one who can feed her, currently, so this preference makes a lot of sense.)  I feel very deeply connected to Sally, like she's still doing handstands on my left hipbone. 

The rest of us
  • Hank is doing well.  He's mostly with us now after staying for quite awhile with my parents after Sally was born. His quality of life is much better when he's staying with them: more walks, more dog park, more on-time meals, fewer small children to fret over.  But he seems to love us, and God knows we love him.  Our house is sad and lonesome when he's not here, and Walter asks about him all the time, missing him.  He's a good dog. 
  • Sean is tired, stressed out about our finances (two kids in daycare ... it is not a good thing, friends) and still managing to be the most wonderful parent and husband the world has ever seen.  Tonight I played with Walter so he got to hold Sally for awhile, which I think helped with the stress. 
  • I am tired. I'm stressed, too, but more about having clothes to wear to work and less about finances. I'm surrounded by bins of clothes, hand-me-downs from my mom, which I could potentially wear if I ever have the time and energy to go through them.  I need to go shopping for some basic things and haven't had a chance to, yet.  And I'm not on great terms with my body.  I had a terrible gallbladder attack a month ago that sent me (and Sally, and a good friend from church) to the emergency room late at night.  That was followed by gallbladder surgery, which took place right after Sean's parents came to visit, we threw a big 2 year birthday party for Walter, and hosted a big celebration for Sally's baptism.  I found out that narcotic pain killers make me depressed (a fairly common thing, I'd imagine, for a depressant to do) and also that having an infected incision which then becomes an open wound in the middle of my chest does not help with the depression.  Today the wound is mostly healed and I am mostly feeling better. Depression is an odd thing for me, these days. I am full of happy hormones from nursing and general happiness from my interactions with my wonderful family and congregation and friends.  I laugh a lot, I genuinely enjoy myself.  But I can't shake the tired feeling, even when I get a good night's sleep.  And I feel ... frumpy.  Physical activity is probably the answer, and now that my incision is healing up, I'm thinking about ways to work on feeling better.
Key to the feeling better plan: spend as much time as possible with these goofballs


Monday, November 25, 2013

More for the baby book

Tonight Walter "read" his first book cover-to-cover. He wasn't actually reading, but he figured out the whole thing from memory and from the pictures. It was Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It's got a great rhythm to it, which helps with the toddler reading skills. "Brown bear, brown bear what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me." Etc. When he got to the black sheep page he took a little break to sing "Baa baa black sheep" in its entirety, before returning to the book.

Also, yesterday I held Walter and Sally in my lap and read to them.  After we'd been sitting together for a long time I looked down and noticed that Walter had, at some point, very quietly and gently taken baby Sally's hand in his. I didn't say anything about it, because it wasn't for me that he was doing it.  He loves his little sister even when I'm not looking.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Watching Walter, watching me


Sean caught a moment on camera tonight that calls for longer captioning. The photo is of Walter and my dearest Audrey.  They're dancing and singing along to Great Big Sea, "Donkey Riding." In the following frames Walter is looking at Auds and fully engaged with her.  Here, though, he's looking at me.

A couple of times this weekend I watched Walter watching me, and I could see from the look on his face that he was watching me be happy. I've been depressed lately ... it's a long story involving my gallbladder, of all things, and I'll write it out some other time.

I didn't realize how sad I'd been, and how good and remarkable it is to be happy. Not until I saw him see me. It made my heart ache for my sensitive little boy, and it made me glad for shared moments of joy and for friends like Auds and Curt who make those moments possible.

Tomorrow is Sally's first day at day care and I'm dreading it. But having this wonderful weekend helps. Tomorrow is a new adventure in a series of recent adventures, some of which have not been particularly fun (again, gallbladder.) Tonight, though, I'm going to bed feeling glad.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Officially two

Walter has been seeming rather two-ish to me for a long time: lots of bouncing between stunning brilliance, direct defiance, overwhelming sweetness and even more overwhelming whining.  But today is the day he is officially two.  We're going to celebrate with a party in a week and half, the weekend of Sally's baptism when family and friends are in town, but we marked the actual date quite well, I think.

We knew we wanted the box of little Sesame Street books to be on the kitchen table when he came out for breakfast.  Beyond that we had no plan, but very quickly ended up with an unspoken agreement that we'd do our best to honor Walter's reasonable requests--we'd try to say yes whenever we could. Here's what Walter asked for today:

  • Doot Doot cake for breakfast.  It has zucchini in it.  And antioxidants from the chocolate. Request: approved. 
  • Reading his new books during breakfast: done and done. 
  • Orange coat: denied. It's too cold out for the orange coat.  Choo choo train hat? Approved. 
  • *I don't know if this agreement to agree carried over to his teachers at day care, but Walter reportedly had a good day and the pretzels he brought in for snack were a big hit*
  • Hold baby Sally. He asked for this in the morning but the timing wasn't right.  When I offered it to him as an option after day care he was thrilled. I was worried because it was Sally's crabby time and she'd just fallen into an uneasy snooze.  Walter climbed into the green chair, the one I nested and nursed him in when he was a little baby, and with nervous excitement held out his arms as we reminded him not to try to hold her around her neck or face. I leaned Sally up against him and held onto her head; he wrapped his arms around her torso. She woke up immediately ... and smiled. Huge smile. Walter rubbed his cheek on her fuzzy noggin and sighed with contentment.  All he wants is what we all want: to hold a warm, snuggly baby.  And, more importantly, to be allowed to hold his sister.  I picked her up at the first sign of crankiness emerging on her part, and Walter was sad for the moment to end but moved on quickly.
  • At first he asked for "I've got everything that I need" (meaning he wanted to watch The Muppets.) But then he changed his mind and went on a Woody Guthrie kick.  We denied the weird animated "Take You Riding in My Car Car" but watched many other good folksy favorites on YouTube.
  • Leftover Culver's chicken tenders and fries instead of casserole? Sure. Ketchup? Absolutely.
  • After watching several versions of "This Land is Your Land," Walter asked for a guitar. Sean brought out his guitar and cut through the packing tape that held his beat up old case together through our last three moves. After some brief tuning, he handed it over to an over-the-moon Walter. So happy.  And tuneful!  He played it like an upright bass, singing and strumming with great enthusiasm ... too much enthusiasm.  It should probably go without saying that sensitive baby skin and metal guitar strings don't mix, but we both figured if it hurt he'd yell "owie!" and stop.  He did eventually yell "owie," but by then he had blisters on three of his fingers on one hand and an open blister on the other ... and he still wouldn't stop. When Sean realized Walter was hurt he made him stop playing and went into First Aid mode. Walter was more upset by this than by the owies on his fingers.
  • Walter then started in on a series of very reasonable requests that we nonetheless had to deny because they were attempts to delay bedtime or attempts to do more damage to his strumming fingers. The unspoken agreement to agree with our toddler was finally breaking down.
  • After a tearful bedtime ritual, Walter told Sean that there was a dinosaur in his room trying to bite his fingers.  He asked if Hank would chase the dinosaur away.  Yes.  Approved.  
Sean feels bad about the guitar, but while I wish we'd stopped him sooner and he hadn't hurt his fingers on the strings, I am still very glad he got to play the guitar today.  And while I think we all wish bedtime had been earlier and less tearful, I don't think that changes the fact that today was a happy birthday and a good day indeed.

Two years ago, Walter Paul Edison-Albright came into the world wearing the exact same sad/angry face he made tonight when we put away the guitar. When I see that face I feel all sorts of things--sad that my boy is sad, certainly, but also filled with love, and filled with joy that he is my Walter and he is here in my life. Walter is officially two today ... Halle halle hallelujah! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Twos

Today was Sally's 2 month birthday. Tomorrow, Walter turns two.  And something wonderful and new happened between the two of them today.

I was in the bathroom, getting ready for work. Sally was in her small swing, the one we affectionately call "the bucket." She used to hate it, but now she's doing well with it in small doses. Sally very patiently tolerates almost everything--diaper changes, nose drops, Vitamin D drops, me picking boogers out of her nose, me trimming her nails by biting them--everything except for hats. She LOATHES hats. It's going to be a long winter.

So Sally was in her bucket being awake, alert, and interested in the world in a very mature, two-month-old kind of way. Walter came in to join us, playing a game where he brought me cards from his wallet. He decided to give Sally cards, too, by putting them in the swing with her. I am pretty on-edge when Walter interacts with Sally.  Most of the time he's perfectly gentle and wonderful with her, but every now and then he's accidentally or intentionally rough.  But I'm trying not to be too anxious about it, and I'm trying not to overcorrect him.  So I kept an eye on them and continued to put my make up on.  Walter gave Sally's swing a little, gentle rock. Then a less gentle rock. "Be gentle," I said.

And then I looked at Sally.  She was grinning ear to ear, gazing adoringly at her big brother.

"You made her smile," I said. Walter was pleased. I'm pleased, too.  I don't know much about siblings, but I have a feeling I witnessed the start of a beautiful sibling relationship today that will keep me on-edge for many, many years to come.  

Happy birthdays, you two.

And then he read her a magazine. =)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More big news!

Sally rolled over! I put her down on her tummy and she rolled onto her back.  The best part was that Umma, Baba, and Walter we're all there watching and saw it, too.  I said, "She's going over, she's going over!" and over she went. She'd be getting close these last couple of days, but I think today she was extra hungry, angry and otherwise motivated.  When she rolled we all cheered and Walter smiled a huge smile. Sally cried indignantly and I scooped her up to nurse her.  Well done, Sally bug!

The Edison-Albright kids are extra accomplished this week.  The Edison-Albright parents are extra exhausted. There may be a correlation.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Big news from daycare today

Usually these posts are for the outside world, but sometimes I just need a place to write something down that I can be sure I won't leave in my pocket and put through the washer.  And the internet never forgets, so here goes -- Walter's first successful use of the potty today at daycare!  Way to go!

(Oh, and class of 2029, if you're reading this... go easy on him.  You had to learn to do it, too, you know.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Randoms

It's hard to blog these days ... Sally changes so fast that I keep starting posts and abandoning them because my observations no longer apply. Also, now that everyone but me is back at work my hands-are-free time is limited and at a premium. Mostly, I use that time for eating, posting photos on flickr and facebook, and, if I'm smart and really lucky, napping.

A couple things, though, that I don't want to forget.  In no order at all:

**When Sally was first learning how to nurse and would get very frustrated, all of a sudden she'd stop, form a perfect "o" with her little mouth, and fall fast asleep. She still makes that face when she's falling asleep sometimes.
**On a recent car ride down to Umma and Baba's, Walter woke up Sally with his very loud whining/moaning/fake toddler crying. Sally started to cry.  Walter stopped, looked at her, and very annoyed, said, "No no baby Sally. MY cryin'."
**On the same car ride, Walter very enthusiastically sang this lullaby to Sally: "Gave my love a chicken! No cryin'." Over and over and over again at super high volume. It was wonderful.
**Sally is giving real smiles now and crying real tears. She smiles at me when Sean gives her to me to nurse. We do a lot of nursing. At four weeks she was 9 lbs. 1 oz, which means she gained more than two pounds in two weeks.  Her cheeks are filling out beautifully.
**Also, her cheeks are covered with baby acne. Her whole face, including her ears, and her neck and the top of chest are covered as well. It looks like cradle cap might be starting a little bit, too. When we're out and about, people aren't sure what to say.  The correct thing to say is this: "What a beautiful baby!" Because it's true. Sally continues to look quite a lot like Walter and also entirely like her own unique self. She has dark blue bright eyes, fuzzy downy duckling hair, and have I mentioned the smile?
Beautiful baby, acne included.
**Sally's vocabulary of noises continues to amaze and amuse us. Walter and I like to imitate her. Once, she made a cat-like sound and Walter excitedly exclaimed "Meow!!" He was like, finally this baby has a trick! Attempts to get Sally to repeat this sound and make other animal sounds have so far failed.
**Sally's legs are very strong. When I put her down for tummy time she propels herself around the mat, basically crawling but without much help from her arms. She also plants her feet and walks around when I'm trying to get her down on her tummy. Her arms and neck are pretty strong and getting stronger every day, too.
**Sally cries sometimes in a way that makes me think she's gassy or colicky, but it's not long and persistent enough to be colic, I think. She's still relatively easy to soothe.  She seems to like me very much in particular, which is nice. The only way I can think of to describe it is this: freshman year in high school I was on the phone with my recently-ex boyfriend and he was describing how it felt to be in the same room as the girl he had a crush on. "I got goosebumps and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I looked around to try to figure out what was causing it, and there she was. And I was like, 'Oh ... it's YOU!'" Putting aside how awkward and inappropriate it was for him to be telling his recent ex about his new crush (I forgive you, Andy. Mostly.) that phrase--oh, it's YOU--really struck me and has always stuck with me. And now, when I hold baby Sally, I'm suddenly relaxed and happy and content and I think, what could be causing this? Oh, it's YOU! And that seems to be what she's thinking about me, too.

There's a lot more I'd like to write, but I'm going to publish this while I can. For now, suffice to say that we've been having amazing adventures out in the wide world, our family health is improving but Walter is still quite goopy and antibiotic ear drops are involved, Sally spits up a lot, I'm pretty much all healed from the c-section, the house is a mess, I haven't had the courage to even look at the front yard, toddler meltdowns are rivaled only by toddler sweetness ... we are living life very fully indeed.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Tally teepin?" "Yes, Sally is still sleeping."

Today is Sally's one month birthday. She slept through it. Pretty much all of it. A good deal of that sleeping was outside in her stroller, so I'm counting that as a birthday adventure.  Mostly, though, she slept and woke up occasionally with a cheerful stretch, yawn, and smile as if to say, "Oh, hello! Nice to see you. Nursing? Yes, please. Nom nom nom. ZZzzzzzzzzz."

Tonight might be a little rough. This blog post is going to have to be short.

Anyway, we didn't put a candle into anything or sing or take pictures with something to show her size or a special shirt decal or any of the things you're supposed to do (but which I suspect are much more commonly done for first born children than for subsequent children) ... and I felt like a failure until I realized that the 21st isn't over ... I could still take a picture!

1-month-old Sally pictured, as Walt would say, "Teepin."
It's not a great picture.  It's pretty grainy from the low light.  But it is Sally, at one month old. And it got me thinking: this could be our new tradition, a tradition especially for Sally.  I will take a picture of her every month on her birthday ... asleep.  Then, when she's one year old, I can take the sleeping picture once a year on her birthday. As she gets older I imagine this will get more difficult. But it could be kind of awesome, like this Russian photographer who snuck (with permission) into the bedrooms of couples expecting a child, set up a ladder, and took pictures of them sleeping. An artistic commentary on the beauty and banality of everyday life.

Perhaps. But next weekend when Umma and Baba visit we are going to arrange for a cake, a candle, and some singing.  We believe in extended birthday celebrations, anyway.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The low point

We've reached what I'm going to call the low point. Claiming a low point is a hopeful, optimistic thing, because it means you think that things are about to get better. And I do.

This happened at exactly this point with Walter, too, right around the 4 week/one month mark. (Documented here.) It must be a thing.  The thing this time around, in brief: I have bronchitis; Sally and Walter seem to be catching it, too; Sean's had to work from home the past couple of days because I've been so sick, but that's not sustainable; so tomorrow it's probably a feverish, coughing Mama and her sweet, coughing, somewhat cranky baby in the house. Yo.

Also, moments after we got home from our visit to Umma and Baba's house, Walter (who, to be fair, was up way past his bedtime and exhausted from the long ride home) grabbed at Sally's face and inadvertabtly scratched her on her cheek. It was a teeny tiny scratch, but it bled a lot. Sean immediately put Walter in his room for a time out and I worked on getting Sally out of her carseat, getting a clean wet washcloth and applying some gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. I make it sound like we were a calm, collected, parenting machine, and we kind of were, but we were also kind of terrified by the whole thing.  I kept repeating to Sally, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" and Sean kept repeating to me "What am I going to say to him? What am I going to say?" While we panicked verbally we acted efficiently: Sean got the Neosporin and I got to nursing, which is all Sally was interested in, anyway. (Sally: "What are you two mumbling about? I haven't nursed in almost 4 hours! I'M HUNGRY! STOP MESSING WITH MY FACE!")

Sean went in to talk with Walter, and the conversation was good and heartening in some ways and frustrating in others, because even our brilliant, unusually empathetic, kindhearted boy has some developmental limits to what he can understand at this point. And there are limits to his self control, even though, for his age, his self control is very good. For every 100 or so perfectly gentle kisses and hugs there seems to be one incident of being too rough.

What can we do? (Seriously ... I'm asking ... What can we do?!?) I think we'll keep doing what we're doing: making sure to give Walter lots of positive attention for all the good things he does, making sure he gets time with each of us everyday without Sally right there, making sure he keeps his routines and some sense of normalcy and also gets to do fun, active things with us.  And we practically overwhelm him with love, too: unconditional and abundant and clearly communicated as can be.

For the vast majority of the time, that's working out really well. And it's apparent in Walter, whose mood is generally good, whose capacity for joy is greater than ever, and who is progressing in his verbal and comprehension skills in ways that are, frankly, mind-blowing.  And he dances! Oh, how he dances. And he loves his family, including "Baby Tally," and lets us know in countless sweet, wonderful ways.

Still, I can't help but reflect on the fact that "first injury caused by sibling" is a milestone I didn't have growing up, and that I wish Sally and Walter didn't have to have, either. I don't want them to be only children.  I just want them to never, never hurt each other. Or anyone else. Ever. Is that too much to ask?

It is. I was an only child; I don't get into many fistfights. But I hurt plenty of people, and got hurt plenty, too. And I was a brilliant, unusually empathetic, kind-hearted kid.

And that's not even taking into account the many bumps, bruises and mishaps that come our way via completely well-meaning hands.  The morning after the scratch incident I was giving Sally her Vitamin D and mis-aimed the dropper, sending it straight down the wrong tube and initiating a fairly terrifying coughing fit. As I called the pediatrician ("Don't worry about it; she's fine.") I reflected that while I'm worried about protecting my infant from my toddler I might also worry about protecting her from me. And those awful liquid vitamins. I'm still working up the courage to try them again.

I don't know if Walter meant well when he scratched Sally (he might have been trying to gently tickle her) or if he meant ill, or if he didn't mean anything by it at all (this last one seems the most likely.)  I do know that my hope is that, when my kids get hurt, they know that they're still safe.  And I hope that, when my kids hurt each other or other kids, they know that they can and should do better than that. And that they're still safe, too ... secure in our love and God's love most of all.

Anyway ... it's been a rough couple of days, and I'm calling it: Low. Point. We're starting the upswing tomorrow, I can feel it.  Here's some recent evidence I've collected:

Walter: Umma is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Baba is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Hankee is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Walter is?
Sean: Where is Walter?
Walter (dramatic flourish): Right here!


Also:  God Bless prayers tonight included "bugs" and "Mama's car." Sean sang the Fozzie casino song from The Muppets and Walter did the back up vocals, including "not RV's" and "no marriage certificate is needed."

When Sean fell asleep in the middle of praying with Walter, Walter pointed it out, and Sean said: "I'm pretty sleepy." Walter said, "I'm pretty sleepy, too" and laid his head down next to his Dad's. 

At the moment that I am writing this, Sean is using an over-sized beach towel as a burp rag, which is not a great thing (it means Sally is spitting up a lot tonight) but it is a very, very funny thing to see.

I just took another dose of Mucinex. 

Things are looking up.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fresh Air

Baba had been pestering and pestering me to take Sally outside; I was sure it was too hot, but, being a dutiful daughter, I finally relented and decided to try sitting out on the glider for a few minutes.  Sally was awake, alert, and chill. Baba was right: it wasn't too hot, and there was a nice breeze.  We sat in the shade on the glider, listening to the marsh insects hum and feeling the wind in our hair. After a nice long time of low key interaction with Mama, Sally started giving hopeful motions with her tongue, as if saying, "What a lovely opportunity to nurse al fresco!" So we did, discretely tucked behind the screen of Umma's herb garden and the welcome fact of no traffic on the street out front. Hank pestered Baba until he finally relented and brought Hank outside to sit with us.  Hank relaxed enough to lie down for awhile but mostly guarded us with noble courage.  We three sat quietly, enjoying the moment.

Thank you, God, for moments like this! (And thank you, Baba, for the pestering. =).)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Affirmation

Today Walter asked me to attached Sally's welcome home balloon to a small toy lion.  I did this by clipping the balloon to the lion's mane and he was delighted. "Nice, Mama!" Walter said warmly, "Thank you, Mama! Yay, Mama!"

It's kind of fun to hear all the affirmation we give him come back to us. I like being affirmed, too.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two week check up

I had my two week check up with Dr. M. today.  It was about 5 minutes long.  He was super pleased with my incision: "Wow! What a great incision! Who's your surgeon ... ah, yes ... me." Classic Dr. M. He sent me home with basic instructions: still no lifting, careful with driving, bleeding will continue but should be slowing down, enjoy that baby.

At two weeks old, Sally is quite enjoyable indeed. She no longer skootches into her little bug spot on my chest, preferring instead to throw herself to the side and edge out as far as she can without falling, stretching out to her full (still rather slight) height.  Tonight I talked her into the spot on my chest, though, because it's good for blogging.

She's still our little bug, but she's spending less time scrunched up and sleeping and more time alert and awake and taking in the world around her.  She continues to be quite good natured and easy going, very easy to soothe and seemingly very pleased with life.  I reminded Baba that I was that way for my first two weeks, too, so we're not out of the woods yet.  But we are definitely enjoying this time.

Sally spends her day being held and at night she sleeps, swaddled, in her bassinet between feedings.  She has a "long" stretch of sleep each night, about 4-5 hours, and other than that keeps to a pretty standard every 3 hour eating schedule.  She's a pretty efficient eater, so nursing doesn't take too long, but I tend to let her stay on longer than is strictly necessary, because it's a nice time for both of us.  The nursing is going well, mostly.  Haven't needed to pump, which is nice, and haven't needed to dropper feed her, either, this week.  It just takes a couple tries to get started, still.  There's nothing as funny and as frustrating as the way she eagerly cranes her little neck, mouth open beautifully wide, tongue out ... in entirely the wrong direction.  Walter did it, too, so I'm starting to think I am unknowingly throwing my scent, like a milky ventriloquist of pheromones.  I'd say we're not quite ready to take this show on the road, except we have done just that several times and she's nursed perfectly in all less-than-ideal situations (the doctor's office, during our newborn photo shoot, etc.)  So, who knows.  It'll probably get better as her neck control improves, or she'll just get stronger and better at resisting my gentle prods and nudges.

Some observations of Sally, 2 Weeks Old:

**She still looks a little jaundiced to me, but she's clearly getting better.
**No serious baby acne, yet, just a few little pimples here and there. No sign of cradle cap, either. (All in good time?)
**She makes fantastic squeaks, snorts, sighs and other extremely expressive, communicative noises.  I never have any doubt as to what she's feeling at any given moment.  It's amazing. My favorite is the series of stretching sounds she makes when I pick her up to burp her after nursing, combined with the funny, lip-puckered, eyebrows up face she makes at that time, too.  Her facial expressions continue to be very informative, as well, and she's even done some smiling while she's awake (in addition to the smiling she's been doing all along while asleep.)
**She's essentially self-burping.  Convenient! Unless she's asleep.
**Even though she's not super scrunched up and heat-seeking anymore, Sally is still very snuggly, and seems to actively cuddle us when we cuddle her.

Writing it out like this makes me realize that, at this age, there's not a whole lot to report ... and yet, I find I'm pretty fascinated by our Sally bug. A baby of substance and character, surely. And fun to be with.

Walter is also fun to be with, although this has been a tough week in a series of tough weeks for him.  He and Dada have been having especially good bedtime bonding time together. He seems glad when I'm up and about and interacting in a more active way with him, and worried and scared any time it becomes clear that I still "have an owie."  We are doing our best to put his mind at ease, and today he seemed less exhausted and more happy Walter-like again.

These days, Walter:

**Enjoys praying at the dinner table, but still isn't a huge fan of saying the Lord's Prayer at bedtime.  He does a good job listing people for the "God bless" prayer. He loves singing the "Amen" song.
**Is very sweet about everything related to Baby Sally, but draws the line at sharing his potty.  "No, no Baby Sally," he says very seriously to the sleeping newborn on my shoulder. "MY potty." We all agree that this is a reasonable thing for him not to share.
**Has an ongoing obsession with chocolate milk. Only two months until he's allowed to get it at day care! The wait must seem endless to a toddler. We allow an occasional chocolate milk on the weekends, and he's learned to associate weekends and chocolate milk, as well as Umma and Baba and chocolate milk, so he knows when to ask and who to ask, as well.

Remember what I wrote about Sally being easy to soothe?  Why do I write things like that down? Sean's been breaking out more and more of the "happiest baby" techniques as I write this.  I'd better see if I can help.

*Update* Sean changed her into a better swaddler and she immediately calmed down.  Eerie.  After a very short nursing to help with her parched-from-yelling throat, Sally is fast asleep. And I will be soon, too!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Singing family

Walter is doing OK these days ... still a little tired, a little fragile.  But he's singing all the time, which means he's his normal self, and able to have good and happy times in the midst of all this change.

Tonight I joined Walter and Sean for a story while Baba held Sally.  She was a little fussy ... she's just now started spending more time awake, and some of that awake time is fussy time. From Walter's room we heard loud crying and then ... silence.

Baba had gotten up from the rocker in the living room and taken Sally into the kitchen to listen to us reading and singing together.  When Sally heard us singing, she calmed down and went to sleep.

I think she's going to fit in just fine.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First ( week) Impressions

Sally had her first appointment with Dr. L this morning! He's a rather important person in the life of our little ear-infection-prone family, so this one-week-old well-visit was a special milestone indeed.

Getting there was a bit of an adventure: Sean and I were up with Sally from 2-5 am while she got increasingly hungry and exhausted and decreasingly able to latch and nurse. She managed a fairly inadequate meal and we all collapsed, waking up a little later than we'd hoped when Walter started stirring at 7 am.  Sean got Walter set up with some peanut butter toast while the two of us scurried around trying to get both kids and all our kid-related accouterments ready to go as quickly as possible to get Sally to her 8:15 appointment on time.

I came out of the bathroom and the sight of Walter sitting in his booster seat (contentedly) eating his peanut butter toast all alone made me lose my mind with weeping.  So, that took up a little time, too, though I mostly held it together until later this morning so my crying wouldn't alarm Walter.  When we talked about it later, Sean made many very reasonable observations, including the fact that this was far from the first time Walter has eaten breakfast while we've been in and out of the room getting things ready, and having a sibling means more people who love Walter and whom Walter loves, not less. I am not entirely reasonable these days, but I appreciate that Sean's observations on this are correct, and well-informed by his experience with having siblings.  I'm just feeling a little extra protective of my first born, these days.  My baby.

We got both babies dressed and in the car, and even though Walter's breakfast was cut a little short and Sally's was put off until we could get her to the doctor's office, both settled in quite well in their carseats.  Walter was incredibly pleased to be sitting next to Baby Sally. He went to day care and we made it pretty much on time for our appointment.  I was desperate to nurse Sally and it felt like it took forever to get checked in, taken back to the exam room, and get Sally measured and weighed before we could try to nurse. It did not, in fact, take forever, and as usual the folks who work with Dr. L. were awesome about getting us settled in as quickly as possible.  Thankfully, Sally latched immediately, even though we were nursing without a boppy pillow in a strange position in a strange place and she was crazy hungry, which often makes it hard for her to latch right when she needs it most.  But this time it worked, and we were nursing quite well when Dr. L. came in and were done in time for him to look her over after we talked for a short while.

Sally's one week stats: weight, 6 lbs 15 oz (before eating breakfast, Sean notes); length, 19.5 inches; head circumference 13. 6 inches. Pretty much right on the median curve for all things--slightly lower than average for weight and height, right at 50% for noggin size.  We are quite skeptical of her height measurement ... it seems unlikely that she would grow an inch and half in a week, especially considering that she's not back up to her birth weight, yet.  I was disappointed, but not surprised, to hear her weight, but Dr. L. said that her weight is on its way up and that's all that matters.  Same thing for the bilirubin--it's on it's way down, and it's not going to start climbing again.  We're headed in the right direction on all counts.

It's funny ... I got very used to seeing Walter's extraordinary measurements as a measurement of (or maybe a helpful shorthand for) his overall extraordinary-ness. Sally's measurements aren't extraordinary, but clearly she is. Some first impressions of our bug:

**Sally is extraordinarily sweet and snuggly. She seems to love snuggling with us, and actively snuggles herself in to whoever's arms she's in.  She seems to enjoy being in my arms, especially.  I'm holding her right now, in fact ... she's in her favorite spot on my chest again.

**Sally makes a wonderful and very wide range of expressive noises and facial expressions.  A recent example: after a rough start, Sally latched and started to nurse well.  Right at the start, though, she unlatched and re-latched twice to look up at me and give an indignant, "EH!"  Commentary, just to let me know she was not pleased with recent goings-on.  She's not shy about stating her opinion.

**On a related note: though small, Sally is very very strong. When she's angry and I put her on my shoulder she climbs up my torso at an alarming speed and tries to make a break for it. She is rather persistent in pursuing what she wants, including nursing on my fingers instead of my breasts, or kicking to avoid getting a new diaper (she prefers to pee in freedom.)

**Sean says that Sally is so alive, and has been right from the start. The way she immediately started crying, before she was even fully out my womb, has been consistent with the way she seems to approach life: fully engaged.  We're seeing more and more of that as the jaundice wears off and Sally has more awake and alert time.  When she opens her eyes she seems really pleased by everything she sees. Unless it's 2 am and the first thing she sees is Mama trying to get her to nurse.

**On the subject of nursing, I am maybe being overdramatic.  It's going well, all things considered.  She's pretty new, still, and it makes sense that we wouldn't have all the bugs worked out.  And when it goes well, it goes spectacularly well.  I hopeful and grateful for being able to connect with Sally this way.  For as many mutually frustrating moments we've had nursing so far, there have been far more tender, loving moments.

**Sally is beautiful. She seems to look a lot like me as a baby, but she also looks quite a lot like Walter (which was very disorienting for me, at first ... in my post-surgical haze I was pretty convinced that I was nursing newborn Walter again.) She's got a nice amount of hair--same brown/blonde color as Walter, but not my hairline (which Walter did have.) She has the same stork bite birthmark on the back of her head/neck that Walter has.  Her eyes seem darker than Walter's, and I'm thinking they might end up being hazel/brown like Sean's.  I love her mouth best of all ... so expressive.

As Dr. L. says: "She's perfect."  That's his official medical opinion, and it seems right to me.

   

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Baby Sally Here!"

So, here I am again, one week later, all cozied up in my bed in the living room, blogging. Here's the big difference:
Sally on the outside!
Sally's snuggled in on her favorite spot, all balled up right in the middle of my chest.  After we nurse, I put her on my shoulder to burp her, and she usually falls asleep.  As she does, though, she squirms her way over to the middle and settles herself into her spot.  I can't even begin to express how happy this little ritual makes me. 

I'd hoped to get some sleep on Tuesday night before the surgery, but nerves, reflux, and frequent trips to the bathroom conspired to keep me up until the wee hours.  At the rather wee hour of 3:30 my alarm went off and Sally's birthday began in earnest.  Sean, Umma and I left the house at 4:30; Baba stayed home with a sleeping Walter.  It was a quiet ride to the hospital, lit by the full, blue moon.

A little girl like Sally comes once in a blue moon.
We arrived at 5:30 and immediately started getting ready for the c-section. Item #1 on my birth plan came up before we could even get the birth plan unpacked.  My nurse insisted on trying to place the IV and was unsuccessful, with lots of painful pushing the needle around before she gave up.  I did my best to keep it together while also communicating that I really, really didn't want another painful, poorly placed IV for this c-section. The charge nurse came in and put me at ease right away.  She explained that they could call up someone from anesthesia or a paramedic if needed, but that they'd certainly place the IV in the inner forearm, right where it was and gave me such trouble when Walter was born.  She asked me to let her give it another try in a spot that would be good for breast feeding and recovery; I did, and she got it in easily on the first try.  My whole body flooded with relief (and IV fluids.)  

Sally was hard to find on the monitor at first, but then her heartbeat came through as strong as ever, and during the many pre-op visits that morning I loved listening to her moving around so vigorously, and enjoying feeling her movements in my womb one last time. After she was born I allowed myself a little sadness about the loss of that feeling--there's nothing quite like it. 

Everyone agreed that my plan of having Sean with me for the first part of the surgery and then having Umma come in when Sean left the OR with Sally was a very good plan indeed, so both of them got gowned up and ready to go. 

The blue scrubs were especially cute on blue-eyed Umma
Before I knew it I was being wheeled down the hall to the OR.  I was alone--they brought Sean in after the spinal block and other pre-op preparations were done.  At first I was worried about that, because he'd held my hand and helped me through the epidural with Walter. But the OR was full of really warm, wonderful women--nurses and anesthesiologists--who immediately put me at ease and literally surrounded me with comfort and encouragement. I rested my head on one of the nurse's shoulders and she hugged me during the whole spinal block procedure, calmly narrating everything that happened and patting my arm affectionately.  I think the spinal block took two tries to get right, but I felt so calm and cared for I barely registered the delay.  It reminded me of day two after Walter was born, how in the middle of everything falling apart Dr. Y. comforted me while I cried and gave me a kiss on my forehead.  There is something about women caring for women in these moments that is precious indeed. 

Dr. M. is not a woman, but he is my dear doc and I was glad indeed to see him in the OR.  He and his team worked very well together and you could tell that they were all engaged and really present, even though it's a routine procedure. It was very different than the feeling in the room when Walter was born.  When that surgery was over, the doc started gossiping with the nurses about office politics.  I'd also made the anesthesiologist hold my hand when Sean left with Walter, so he wasn't monitoring my blood pressure as well as he should have been (which lead to the big blood pressure drop, vomiting, and other complications.) This time the anesthesiologist was on top of my blood pressure the whole time, giving me medicine to raise my blood pressure every time I started feeling a little nauseous.  It was good she was ready and able to do that, because my blood pressure dipped a lot throughout the surgery.  With her proactive help, I was able to get through the whole thing without throwing up (recovery was a different story ... lots of throwing up that first day and night.  But that was, relatively, fine.)

I'd had no idea how different a spinal block is from an epidural.  I couldn't feel anything at all, not even the pain-free tugging and pushing I clearly felt throughout Walter's c-section. I couldn't move my lower body at all, either. Our anesthesiologist narrated the surgery and gave kind and caring encouragement throughout, while Sean held my hand and occasionally peeked at Dr. M.'s progress.  Our anesthesiologist took some rather graphic pictures of the surgery which I've kind of looked at but not very closely.

"Now you'll feel a big tug," she said, and I did feel that one, the tug that brought Sally out into the air right at 8 am.  The second that the air hit her she started to scream.  It was wonderful.  It took a little time and intervention from the pediatrician to get Walter to cry.  Everyone was very impressed with how quickly Sally started crying. Lots of joyful crying and laughing and words of welcome filled the room.  The anesthesiologist confirmed that we did, indeed, have a little girl, which I needed to hear because I wasn't completely convinced until that moment. "I can't tell you for sure until she's measured," she said, "But I think she's quite petite."

That was my impression, too, when Dr. M. held Sally up for me to see.  A very little baby, very angry, looking very very much like me when I was a little, angry baby.  I was relieved to hear her weight-- 7 lbs, 5 oz--which is small but not too small at all.  She's not a very long baby, either ... only 18 inches tall.  And she loves being all scrunched up into a ball, which makes her seem even smaller.  The "Sally Bug" nickname fits very well indeed.  

So angry!
Sally passed her first tests and exams with flying colors at the warming station in the OR.  When the pediatrician was done with the initial assessment, they wrapped her up and handed her to Sean who put her right next to me for our first snuggle.  She was still crying like a champ, and blowing little amniotic fluid bubbles.  I kissed and kissed her head and as Sean and I snuggled her she started to calm down, which surprised me.  Sally continues to respond very well to being comforted--we've only had to break out one of the "5 S's" from happiest baby on the block ("Shhhhhhh.")

Snuggle bug, right from the start
Sean followed Sally to the nursery where they got her a little more cleaned up, poked her heel, got her footprints, etc. Umma came in and held my hand while Dr. M. put me back together. Baba, having had breakfast with Walter and dropped him off at daycare, arrived at the hospital during the surgery and joined Sean in the nursery.   He told me later that Sean was completely focused on Sally--it was like there was no one else in the room, no one else in the world.  Clear symptoms of a dad in love.

Far from office gossip, Dr. M. was giving instructions and narrating his work throughout the surgery, totally focused.  I heard him describe the stitch he was using, and the nurse say quietly, admiringly, "Beautiful." Always a nice thing to overhear.  Everyone involved in the surgery was very pleased and relieved. Very quickly I found myself being wheeled back to my room, settled back in and given my sweet Sally to nurse.  

Nursing Sally for the first time

I don't remember how that first nursing went, honestly. It's a blur ... I think we had some trouble with her tongue pushing my nipple away, but when she latched she latched surprisingly well, and I knew I wouldn't have the same nipple damage I had after my first attempts to nurse Walter. We got lots of great visits from the lactation consultant (another benefit of the planned c-section and being in the hospital during the week rather than over the weekend.)  She admired Sally's perfect latch and my calm approach when faced with getting-started problems.  She helped me remember how to do a football hold, which is shockingly easy to do with a petite baby and it felt great to have some options for varying her position.  

I am pretty good at being calm during nursing, and even keeping perspective when things aren't going well.  But it's also something I worry about a lot, because it's hard not to jump from whatever the current problem is to the possibility that I won't be able to nurse or will have to stop nursing early, and even though I know that's not the end of the world, it's a possibility that makes me sad.  There have been a number of those worrisome moments with Sally; great latch notwithstanding, it's been hard and it continues to be hard. Sally is jaundiced and the bilirubin makes her very, very sleepy.  When she wakes up (or when we wake her up) to nurse she is usually very tired, very hungry, and very angry. Once we get started, it's great, but getting started is a real struggle.

But there's already been a lot to celebrate, too.  My milk came in with very little fanfare on the evening of the second day, which is very early for a c-section (my milk came in on day 4 with Walter.)  I seem to have more than enough for her but not so much that I'm particularly engorged.  I have to pump a very little bit at times to get soft enough for her to latch, and we've used eyedroppers of expressed breast milk to encourage Sally and give her hope when she's having trouble and frustrated. No need to supplement with formula--her weight loss has been significant, but not enough to make anyone worried. Today her poop is yellow and seedy, which means she's getting good, high fat hindmilk.  So many things going well ... I am still worried, but feeling good about our chances.

We stayed at the hospital for three days; we could have chosen to stay for a fourth, but we were ready to go home. Low points included a bad choice on my part regarding pain medication (I chose not to take it when I should have ... and then remembered how important it is to stay ahead of the pain rather than treat it "as needed.")  There was also an almost hilariously bad personality mismatch with one of our nurses ... I say "almost" because it made those seven hours pretty awful for me and Sally, but even while it was happening it was kind of funny.  She was very high strung, very anxious, with non-stop unhelpful 2am talking and prone to making kind of dramatic disparaging statements regarding the temperament of our precious newborn daughter in response to trivial setbacks.  Sean does a pretty great impression of this.    

Highlights include all of our other nurses, who were absolutely wonderful, especially a nurse who had a very similar birth experience as I had with Walter.  She understood both my worries and my joy coming into Sally's birth, and she seemed to really love Sally, too, putting extra time and effort into getting good pictures of her and taking her to the nursery so I could get a nap and then Sean and I could have a romantic dinner together. 

The bug's first photo shoot, with photos by very patient nurse

The greatest highlight of all, by far, was Walter's visit on Thursday afternoon. He's always happy to be with Umma and Baba, but he was starting to get a little desperate for Mama and Dada.  "Mama car!" he said, weeping, when he saw my car on Thursday morning and no Mama to drive it.  We talked to him on the phone, including a call to him at day care shortly after Sally was born.  He was so excited and happy on the phone: "Love you, Mama! Love you, Dada! Love you, Baby Sally!!!" We'd originally planned to wait until day 3 for his visit, thinking I might not be well enough before then, but by Thursday afternoon the catheter and the IV were out and I was looking and feeling pretty good.  And Sean and I were both feeling very anxious and desperate to see Walter, too.

We got some good advice from the lactation consultant about Walter's visit: when we knew they were close to the hospital, we took Sally to the nursery. That way, Walter got to see and visit with Mama and Dada without the new baby, first. Walter was happy to see us, but immediately asked for baby Sally.  Walter and Baba went with Sean to get Sally from the nursery. Walter was nervous and excited.

Walter sees his sister for the first time.
Back at the room, we took some family pictures. Sally started to cry and want to nurse, and since getting her going on nursing is kind of a production, things got a little frantic for a short time.  Walter was overjoyed to meet his sister.  He likes to whisper "Baby Sally Baby Sally" and tell her secrets in what sounds like parseltongue.  We watched him trying to figure out the best way to interact with her physically. He errs on the side of gentle caution (but occasionally needs reminding to hug with less force, stroke her ears with one finger and not pinch, etc.) He sat with me on the hospital bed and was very gentle with me, too.  

While restrained and careful, Walter also radiated joy and giddy energy.  He danced and sang around the room, occasionally very cheerfully calling out for more crackers (Daddy shared his Cheez-Its.) He clapped and beamed at us.  Sean helped him to hold Sally in his lap and it was amazing to watch him process the moment: feeling so happy and excited, and at the same time nervous and wanting desperately to do it right.
"I can't believe I'm holding my sister!"
Walter presented Sally with a birthday card from his day care classroom (complete with classmate handprints.)  He also gave her a little monkey Umma helped him pick out.  Sally gave Walter a Curious George doll, which he was delighted with at first, but then he turned introspective.  After a minute of careful thought he offered to give the George doll to Sally.  He was quite relieved when we explained that George really was a gift for him.  Then he offered Sally some of his Cheese-Its, and was confused (but also a little relieved) when we explained that she couldn't have any.

We decided to end the visit while everyone was still happy (and before Walter could somehow trigger a code blue by pressing all the buttons in the room.)  It was short but it was amazing.  I wish I could better articulate what it felt like to have my whole family together that way.  It was something like this:

Totally geeking out
We're so proud of Walter.  He's navigating this huge transition with a great deal of joy, patience and a positive outlook. It's clearly wearing him out--he's exhausted at the end of the day.  But he manages all the same to bring the best of himself to all these new situations.  And the best of Walter is astoundingly loving and good.  

Tonight Walter was so tired he just kept self-destructing.  He threw his plate of food on the floor, then helped clean it up, then said "I'm sorry" so sadly we felt like maybe we should be apologizing to him. He just seemed borderline miserable all night. But he also sang his new "Baby Sally" song and included her name with great joy in his "God bless" prayer list. After dinner I held Walter in my lap for the first time in months, wrapped my arms around him and cried and cried.  He was not alarmed by this at all, just snuggled in, stroked my arm, and watched The Muppets. 

Lots of feelings these days.  But we are weathering them together. 

The rest of our hospital stay was pretty uneventful: my healing and progress started strong and continued to be good throughout.  The vomiting and nausea was annoying but wore off with the anesthetic. The catheter gave me flashbacks and worries but it wasn't in very long at all. The IV was perfectly placed and gone very quickly, too.  I was up and walking just a few hours after the surgery.  I got my appetite back and heartily enjoyed any and all food that came my way, although the hospital's definition of "burrito" was pretty amusing:

This is NOT a burrito
I left the hospital looking about five months pregnant (I estimate that's about 2 months less pregnant than I looked on the day we took Walter home.)  And I felt ... good.  Like walking down the hall and out to the car was probably not going to kill me. Sally cried getting into her carseat for the first time and then fell asleep, and then woke up and regarded us and her situation calmly and with interest. 


 Umma and Baba took Walter and Hank out for a walk so that we could get settled in.  When they got back from their walk we all greeted each other with great joy. Hank the Dog was as happy and relieved as I've ever seen him, and gave me very loving, gentle licks on my arm, clearly communicating the dog equivalent of "Thank God you're alright.  You had me worried."

"Another baby for me to fret over.  I think I love her."
Umma and Baba headed home on Monday, taking Hank with them for the week.  Sean is home with me and Sally this week. Baba will be back next week when Sean returns to work. Then Sally and I will head down to Crick for a week with Umma and Baba and then ... a few weeks of just me and Sally (and Hank) together during the day. I think I'll be in great shape and ready for the challenge by then. I feel almost well enough, but not quite, to manage it now.  My feet are still super swollen and I'm feeling more abdominal pain as I ween myself of the narcotics  But I'm getting there. Tonight I changed her diaper for the first time and it only took 4 tries to get it right (to be fair, a certain baby kept peeing as soon as I got the new diaper on.) 

This post has taken me all day to write, which means I didn't sleep while the baby slept, so I'd better try to do that, now.  It was a good day.  One blog post, lots of poopy diapers (take that, jaundice!), a visit from members of the congregation, a shower for Mama, a bath for Sally, lots of nursing, lots of snuggling.  

Welcome to the family, Sally Bug! As Walter says, "Baby Sally here!" And we are glad, indeed.

Proud Mama, beautiful children
Bonus photo to blow your mind:

Look at the picture on the screen and witness a quantum singularity in the space time continuum.