Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walter claims his name

Just a quick note to note that Walter started calling himself "Walter" this past Saturday.  I wish I'd written down the circumstances of the first time he did it.  He said it so clearly and precisely, and looked at me and Sean while he did to make sure he'd gotten it right.  Since then he's consistently and frequently referred to himself using his name, including his ongoing experiments with the possessive ("Walter shoe.")  My favorite so far: he likes to play with a puzzle piece of a bus and tell me who is on the bus.  This weekend when we got home from Umma and Baba's house he picked up the bus and said, "Mama!"
"Is Mama on the bus?" I said. "Who else is on the bus?"
"Who else?"
"Who else?"
"Who else?"

That is one great bus.

He's not calling himself "Dadu," anymore, but we still use it sometimes as an endearment, and he doesn't seem to mind that.

Other weekend highlights: a visit with my Soul Sister, Heidi, her mom, her new baby ("Baby Anna!" says Walter.) and Bennett, Walter's Soul Brother.  Walter was so very alarmed when I was holding Anna and she started to cry.  Big eyes.  "Uppaday!" he said, trying to climb up on my lap to save the baby from me.  Later, Walter picked out a baby doll at the store and has since been practicing giving her bottles, giving her a pacifier, singing and reading to her and putting her in a shoe box to sleep.  He wants to call her "Sally," of course, but we're encouraging the name "baby" to avoid confusion down the road.  The doll came with a small stuffed animal, a dog, which Walter also wanted to name Sally.  This, too, we gently discouraged.

We had a nice video call on Monday evening with some of Sean's family members who were gathered at the shore for the holiday weekend.  Walt is quite taken with his cousin, Casey, who is five.  A couple of times since that call he's said, "Love you, Casey!" Pretty sweet.

It's thunderstorming tonight, but so far all dogs and small children in this house have slept through the rumbling and the worst of it seems to have passed.  Time for Mamas and Dadas to hit the hay, too.  Sally, on the other hand, just woke up.  Time for some womb snuggling, I think.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I think this is a toddler thing, or maybe it's just a toddler Walter thing, but he's often all about the EXTREME JOY or EXTREME SORROW these days. (Sean: "make that 'screeching, wailing sorrow.'")  That's what makes this moment we had yesterday worth writing down, even though I've been documenting an awful lot lately.

We went for a family walk after dinner, even though Walter was super tired and already melting down.  Hank had a little meltdown of his own when Sean and Walter left the house first and he thought I might try to sneak out without him.  He came as close to putting his own harness on as a creature without thumbs can come.  But, once we were all outside together, we all calmed down and were able to really enjoy evening.

The best part came right at the end, when Hank and I sat down on the porch steps while Sean held Walt and clapped the daycare sand out of his shoes.  Walt indicated that he wanted to sit down, too, and he and Sean scooted in on the steps next to us.  Walt took off his socks, looked up at the still-warm sun, looked out at our crazy lawn, looked at Hank and Daddy and finally me.  Our eyes met and he smiled this perfect smile of complete contentment.  Quiet, not at all extreme, everything was just right.

"Nice?" I said.
"Nice," He said, nodding.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How's the family?

It's Edison-Albright family update time!
We are doing pretty well, all things considered. We still have our snow shovel sitting on the front porch, but I think that's less because of household upkeep neglect and more because Sean isn't convinced we won't get one more big snow. Being able to get out into the world and take walks together as a family has improved life for all of us.  We sing songs, we scout for bunnies, we name things ("tweet tweet!" "truck!" "Baba house?") we say "hi" to neighbors and neighbor dogs. The neighbors are mostly too busy to say "hi" back, being very focused on their yard work.  We are not nearly so busy and focused.  I like that about us.

Here's a little more on each of us and how we're doing these days.

Hank the Dog continues to be a good and faithful companion and member of the family.  The change in the weather and more frequent walks have put a spring in his step.  We had a good check up with the vet who was very pleased with Hank's beauty, gentleness, and good overall health.  The broken leg that brought him into our lives three years ago is starting to give him some trouble, which we knew was going to happen.  For now, a daily glucosamine cookie and keeping him a little underweight seems to do the trick, although Hank isn't a huge fan of our efforts to keep him thin and trim. In human years, Hank would be about the age of a college freshman, and he believes he has a right to the Freshman 15.  In dog years, Hank is still quite young but definitely not a puppy anymore.  He's pretty calm, he doesn't worry as much, he doesn't destroy and eat non-food items.  If we leave the kitchen garbage can out while he's home alone he still feels it's his duty to knock it over and eat all kinds of terrible things, but that's just a given.  He'll also steal crackers right out of Walter's hands, which encourages Walter to use his burgeoning verbal skills to say, "No, no Hankee." Walter and Hank love each other and it's funny how similar they are in some ways.  They both want everyone they love to be together, with them, all the time.  I guess that's not such an unusual thing to want, but Hank and Walt both take special notice of who is present and who is not present: Hank by "counting" (taking stock of all the members of his pack that he can see, then searching the house for anyone who might be missing) and Walter by naming, immediately asking for all the people he wants to see by name. As you can imagine, Hankee is frequently named, especially in the morning when Walter wakes up and sings and talks to himself in his crib.  Eventually Walt moves from practicing his favorite songs to calling for his favorite people. "Umma! Baba! Grandma! Pop Pop! Mama! Dada! Hankee!" Hank listens for this every morning and, when he's called, goes downstairs and sits outside Walter's door, sometimes bringing him a toy or a dog bone.  If we don't move fast enough to get Walt out of his crib in the morning, Hank comes and gets us, pressing his cold nose into our sleepy hands until we get up and follow him to Walt's room.

Walter wakes up between 5:45 and 6:30 every morning and usually he wakes up happy and chatty.  At 19 months old he's funny, communicative, shy/slow to warm when directly approached by strangers or in crowded places, increasingly confident and accurate in his singing, trying out three word sentences and experimenting with the possessive ("mine" "Mama ice cream" "Hankee ball.")   He loves bunnies.  Two of his favorite books are "I-am-a-Nummy" and "Mama Nummy.  Baby Nummy" (Runaway Bunny.) His favorite book is a collection of eight Curious George stories.  He likes flipping through the pages and looking at the pictures, naming everything he sees.  He especially likes the stories that include illustrations of bunnies. He'd read this book all night if we let him, so we've started giving him a two minute warning and telling him to choose a last picture to look at before we move on to another book. Expectation management is something we've had some really good success with and it feels like a big parenting win when we say, "One more and then all done" and he nods and repeats, with his pointer finger up to indicate "one": "One more. Ahhh-nahhh." Sometimes he still protests when we end an activity, but knowing the end is coming does cut down a lot on the angst and the whining.  There's a reasonable amount of both of those in our lives these days.  Sometimes it feels like we're really ramping up into some terrible two-ness, but we're guessing the worst of that is yet to come.  I sound fatalistic and doom-full, but really we're just trying to brace ourselves and keep perspective. Walter is strong in every way: his body, his mind, his will.  We are crazy proud and love this about him.  If the months to come are anything like these past few months, the joy and delight will outweigh the tantrums and meltdowns.  We'll figure it out together, whatever comes!

When it comes to figuring it out and making it work, the family prize goes to Sean.  I've done a lot of traveling the last two months, leaving Sean at home with Walt and Hank.  I'm also pregnant enough that I've had to give up some basic Walt care things.  For example, Walter doesn't fit on my lap during bedtime story time anymore. Sometimes he sits next to me to read together, but more often he sits with Dada while I sit nearby.  Walt and his Dada have always been close, but that bond has definitely grown in significant ways since we weaned and started preparing for Sally's arrival.  A dear friend from the congregation said that, when her second child arrived, her first child and husband became inseparable. "From that time on, they were a pair," she said. For a Mama, there's a little wistfulness in that changing relationship, but mostly joy. So far, it doesn't seem like my relationship with Walt has suffered at all ... I think he has a big heart, which expands to include more love without diminishing his love for anyone else.  Walt takes after his dad in this way, and in many other ways.

Sean is doing pretty well, although he seems to have reached the "aaghgahaghahh falling apart" phase of the pregnancy.  We've decided that strange health problems for the dad are just part of the way we do pregnancy in this family.  He's OK, but tired.  With any luck, he'll get some good sleep next week while he's away for his yearly training for work. [*Edit*: Sean just called to tell me his training was cancelled. Figuring out if he can get to the one a week later, now.  Life is exciting.]  We hope for that every year, but the training usually isn't particularly restful, what with the stress of travel and the exhaustion that only sitting and listening to people talk for hours can bring. Last time Sean went for training while I was pregnant, this happened.  This time, we're prepared: Baba is coming to stay and help me take care of Walt and Hank while Sean is gone.  I'm not quite resilient enough to parent solo these days.

That said, I'm doing pretty well.  I really look pregnant these days, but I'm not as swollen and huge as I was at this stage with Walt. The heartburn is bad but usually not unbearable and I have some coping techniques that are working pretty well.  My favorite of these is the ice cream, prescribed by Dr. M.  "You need to increase your intake of carbs," he said, "Specifically ice cream." I didn't think it was going to work, but it did.  I started gaining weight, staying hydrated, getting hungry, sleeping better and I stopped throwing up.  Ice cream is awesome.   My energy improved with the ice cream diet, too, but I'm starting to slow down as we transition into trimester three.  I have good, productive days and I have days where I move slowly and not very well.  I get hazy and my words get mixed up, which is always exciting for a pastor and her congregation.  But my congregation is familiar and comfortable with my humanity, so it's OK. I'm trying to live for today and not worry too much about the further pregnancy-related debilitation to come, but if you know me you know that I'm not very good at that.  Still, I have been pretty successful, especially during my travels, at taking time to enjoy this pregnancy, to sit and do nothing but pay attention to Sally and her movements, to talk to her and give her a gentle in-belly hug and rub.

Sally seems to be doing very well indeed. She's becoming a good mover, especially at night around 10:30 or so. I love her bumps and rolls, her rhythmic tap tap tapping.  I think she may be musical, already.  Dr. M. and Nurse B. are pleased with her growth and her strong heartbeat.  After our 7 month appointment coming up (complete with glucose test ... blech) we'll be moving to appointments every two weeks, which is exciting and nerve-wracking and wonderful.  I'm looking forward to getting to hear her heartbeat more often and to transitioning into the imminent arrival part of pregnancy.  Of course, we have a lot to do to get ready for our Sally bug.  But, at this point, even that is more exciting than stressful.  I'm starting to imagine our growing family in a new way, in a way that feels more real and close.

I felt like I knew a lot about Walter when he was in the womb.  I got a sense of his personality right away: I just knew that he was strong, and boisterous, and big in every way. I don't have as strong a sense of that with Sally, or rather, I think I might, but I'm second guessing myself much more than I did with Walter.  I'm unsure in part because I don't want to just compare her to her brother, and I don't want to make assumptions about her because she's a girl.  But I think it's fair to say that Sally is very sensitive to her womb-environment in ways that seem remarkable to me: during our ultrasounds, she's been tense and jumpy when I'm tense and jumpy, and then she calms down as soon as I calm down.  I've noticed this with her movements, too. It makes me anxious about exposing her to my anxiety (which is self-defeating, clearly.) It also makes me curious to see if this will continue after she's born, and I'm excited to watch her grow and see how she interacts with the world around her.

We're doing well these days, we Edison-Albrights.  Our yard is unruly, but the bunnies prefer it that way.  And we enjoy every bunny that hops our way!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Walter is always inventing games.  Once he's created a game, he focuses on it with a level and quantity of attention that far outstrips the attentions spans of his parents.

Sometimes, Mama and Dada aren't so crazy about these games.  The one where he throws his toys at us, says "ow" and laughs hysterically: not my favorite.  The one where he throws himself at me, full force, endangering both our noggins: not a fan.

But this morning offered two great examples of fantastic Walter games.  The first happened during breakfast.  He was playing with his food, which sometimes gets out of hand, so I was wary.  He took one of his pieces of peanut butter toast and moved it around his tray, making some sound effects I didn't recognize at first. Seeing my quizzical look, Walt stopped what he was doing, looked up and explained: "Car." Then he went back to his game, which ended with the peanut butter toast car driving into his mouth and a hearty "Ahhhhhhummm. Nom nom nom."

After breakfast, Walter went to one of his favorite spots to play: our drawer full of boxes of tea.  Many a delightful game has come to us courtesy of Celestial Seasonings.  Today, Walter played the game where he takes the tea bags out of the box and counts them.  Well, usually Mama and Dad count them.  But today, the counting was done by Walter.  "One. Two. Three. Five. O. X. P. Three. G."

Creative counting and imaginative play with toast: awesome.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This explains so much ...

OK, stay with me, here.  Walter's name for himself is Dadu. Dadu is also his word for "spider," as he demonstrated this morning by singing about the "itsy bitsy dadu."

My son is Spider Man.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My son, Dadu

There are things you should know about Walter.

First, he pronounces his own name as "Dadu." We're not entirely sure what to make of this, because he can make the "w" sound really well.  When we say "Walter" does he hear "Dadu"? Or has he given himself a new name?  We think probably the latter.  He responds to Walter, but he gives a special little smile when we call him "Dadu," and sometimes he seems to be correcting us. "Ahem.  I prefer 'Dadu.'"

I figured that, at some point in his life, Walt might wonder why we gave him such a funny old name.  I even thought he might choose a new name or nickname for himself. I didn't think it would happen at 18 months, though!

You should also know that Walter is putting words together. Some recent favorites: "Bye bye choo choo!" "Mama cornbread" and "New puzzle."

Ah, puzzles. "PUZZLES!" Walter loves them.  He recently mastered a five-piece jigsaw puzzle at day care.  We haven't been able to find anything like it to buy for him, yet, but we got a few new puzzles including an alphabet puzzle he's getting very good at.  His fondness for the word has led Sean to teach him this version of the famous How I Met Your Mother dialog:

Sean: "We should open a bar.  We should totally open a bar.  What should we call it?"
Walter: "Puzzles!"

This is one of the main reasons we decided to have children.

Walter has a huge vocabulary and we've totally lost count at this point.  One of his best words/phrases is "ahkaiday?" which means "what's that called?"  He uses that to gather new words all the time.

But his favorite word isn't new.  It's kind of a classic.  His favorite word is "no."  Now, I know what you're thinking.  "Uh oh," you're saying to yourself, "Terrible twos starting early!" And that's probably true, but Sean and I have both been surprised by how ... well, charmed we are by his use of the word.  He has an enormous range of expressiveness with his no's.  And most of the time it really is quite endearing.

"Uh oh," you're thinking. And you're right. We are in big trouble and we know it.

Walter sings entire songs by himself now, with impressive accuracy.  He continues to shut down completely in the presence of strangers (and even relatively familiar acquaintances) but on our evening walks he gives a hearty "Hi!" and "woof woof!" to every neighborhood dog. This seems to be helping him warm up to our human neighbors, too.  When he talks to himself in his crib at night and in the morning he either sings a little song or names everyone he knows, including Hank ("Hankee!") and all his daycare classmates.

This weekend Umma and Baba visited and we had wonderful Mother's Day celebrations together.  Walter debuted many Dadu-improved songs, including "Hankee-hankee-hankee-luuu-ia." and "Old MacDonald Had a Cookie." We went to the Portage County Cultural Festival, we played and played, we even napped a little.  Every once and awhile, though, he'd stop what he was doing, point to one or both of his ears, and say very clearly, "Ow!"  Walt's been a little congested (we suspect a pollen allergy) and there was a little bit of not-bad looking discharge in his right ear, but he seemed pretty healthy to us.  We wondered if maybe he was experimenting with the concept of "ow": trying to figure out what it means and how the word works. Still, it seemed like a communication breakthrough of sorts and we decided to follow up on it right away.

I took him in to see Dr. L Monday morning.  It turns out that the tube in his left ear is out of place and making its way out of his ear (not unexpected, we're in the time frame now when that usually happens.)  The right ear, with the discharge, is draining just fine and looks great.  The left ear isn't draining anymore and is infected. 10 days of oral antibiotics (so not fun, let me tell you) and then we've got an appointment to see the pediatric ENT to figure out what's next.

Being able to communicate this way with our son is pretty amazing.  When he's scared or uncertain of something, he wants to talk it through with us.  During dinner, he tells us about his day. ("Choo choo." "Bus." "Slide." "Aubriella." "Henry.") And, now, when he's hurting he can tell us and show us what hurts.

Whatever name you know him by, this kid is pretty awesome.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What if ...

I usually blog in the evening, in bed, with something on TV on mute (either reruns of How I Met Your Mother or whatever's on PBS ... I like to think I pose a demographic puzzle for marketers.) But lately evenings have been primetime for fears and worries of questionable rationality. So I sit in front of the silent TV, draft page open, miserably burping and paralyzed by "what if ..."

This has led to quite a backlog of stories-I-should-have-told-by-now.  I finally got one of them written at work this morning, a post for my congregation's blog full of reflections on paradox and the nature of humanity.  And the rather hilarious story of traveling while pregnant and how I threw up on a plane.  So, the writer's block seems to have lifted, and, as is the case with me and writer's block, in fairly long-form, epic fashion.

But I can't forget how I sat in bed two nights ago, terrified that something was wrong with our baby after a day of not feeling (or maybe just not noticing) any movement. "What if something's wrong," I thought as I stared at the blank page, waiting for a flutter or a bump or any sign of life from my womb. "What if she's dead, and I'm sitting here writing a blog post about her." (Even writing it down now feels awful and wrong ... that terrible "d" word.) I closed up the laptop, kept the TV on for company, and curled up into a ball.

Because I am writing this now, you can guess that later that night and the next day I was comforted by lots of baby movement.  Last night, Sean even got to feel a good solid series of kicks and rolls for the first time.  Even this solid, miraculous reassurance is fleeting, lasting me just until the next movement dry spell, the next late night worry session.

Our baby girl's name is Sally Joan.  She's named after my great aunt Sally and Sean's great aunt Joan: two brilliant, strong, feisty women.  Shortly after our 20 week ultrasound we started telling Walter about Sally, his little sister, the baby that he'd be meeting soon.  We didn't think he'd understand any of it, but we told him, anyway.

Later that night, we went to church.  When J. arrived with her sweet baby, V., Walter was incredibly excited. "Baby!" he cried, pointing.  He hadn't shown this kind of interest in babies at church before, so I wanted to encourage him. "Yes!" I cried, mirroring his enthusiasm. "Let's go see the baby!" We went over to where V. was sitting in his car seat and Walter got as close as he possibly could.  It became clear that he really, really wanted to hug the baby.  J. took V. out of his seat and held him up so Walter could hug him.  Walt's arms were shaking with nervousness and excitement: the classic Walter happy shimmy taken to its maximum potential.  He looked at me with wonder and joy in eyes.  "Tally!" he said.

Now, "Tally" is how Walter pronounces V's name, so at first I was impressed that he remembered the name of his baby friend from church.  But then, based on some other things Walt said and did that evening, I figured out that he was saying his sister's name.  Walt thought V. was Sally. This theory was confirmed the next day, when Walt brought me the dvd case for the first season of Modern Family, pointed at baby Lily and said, "Tally?" He was still looking for his sister, this baby we told him was coming soon.

Quickly, Sean and I set to work on clarifying the situation. "Sally is in Mama's belly," we said.  We continue to remind Walter of this, and he repeats it and seems to mostly accept it, though I think he's a little skeptical.  When he talks about his family, Walt talks about Mama, Dada, Umma, Baba, Grandma, PopPop, Hank and Sally. When he helped us with the laundry, he pointed to the new baby girl newborn clothes and said, "Tally!"  The other day while he was playing in his kitchen, Walt wanted his sister to come and play with him.  "Tally?" he called out.  "TALLY!"  After some explanation from Mama, he decided to call Hank over to play instead.

Walter doesn't fully understand what's going on, but he understands much more than I thought he would (and probably more than I realize, even now) and he's excited about Sally. During one of my late night worry sessions, I asked Sean if maybe we shouldn't have told Walter so much about Sally.  "What if something happens to her?" I said. "Walter will be so sad."

"If something happens to Sally, Walter will be sad," Sean said. "But he would be sad even if he didn't know her name, and even if we didn't tell him about her.  He would be sad because we would be sad."

All we can do is take it as it comes.  It doesn't mean we won't worry--we will worry, because that's what we do.  But the worry and the what ifs are tempered by faith, balanced by hope, softened by our gentleness and love for each other, and kept at bay by every kick, bump, flutter and roll we are lucky enough to feel.  Walter is confused and excited and happy about his little sister, Sally. How wonderful is that?