Saturday, February 22, 2014

Always, RIGHT after I write a super long post ...

This morning, Sally grabbed a fistful of my hair (this is normal.) Then, she looked at me very thoughtfully and offered me my own hair, putting it up to my mouth as if suggesting that I should eat it.  I declined.  Satisfied that she'd made an honest attempt at sharing, Sally brought my hair to her mouth and chewed happily.

We are clearly raising extraordinarily giving and thoughtful children.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Baby Sally Q&A, Six Month Edition

Sally started the morning of her six month birthday at six am with breast milk breakfast, followed by an enormous burp, followed by projectile vomit over my shoulder and all over my bed.  She's a little congested, and when that happens she spits up a lot with very little provocation (burps, sneezes, meaningful eye contact ... all of these can be catalysts for spew.)  Sean got out of bed and took her over to the changing table while I stripped off the sheets. As he picked her up, Sally looked at me, smiled, and gave a cheerful little "Good morning" coo.

Hand me that toy, please? Thanks!
We went down to the guest room in the basement so we could play without waking up Walter. She sat up on her own for quite a long time playing with the stacking rings (and then hurled herself to the ground so she could play at her leisure while lying down.)  She's very good at rolling from belly to back, but can't really get from back to belly. She rolls onto her side, reaches, looks up at Mama, looks at the object she wants to reach, coos and smiles, looks back at Mama, another winning smile and voila! The object of desire is suddenly in her hands. So, core strength needs working on, but communication is stellar, and Mama is very well-trained.

As we played, I thought about this blog post and how impossible it is to keep up with family documentation the way I'd like to.  I know it's baseline impossible to convey through words, pictures, videos, or anything the essence of Sally Joan at six months old.  This incredibly persistent, intense, loving, cheerful, serious, strong little girl can't be contained by anything, much less my feeble attempts at regular blogging.

But I remember, vividly, what it felt like to find the binder of letters that my mom wrote to friends and family as I was growing up.  There were stories, there were funny quotes, there were glimpses of what I was like beyond the (many) pictures and (endless hours of) home video.  More important than the content itself, though, was the feeling it gave me, like I'd discovered a shoebox full of old love letters ... to me. I think of this blog very much as love letters to my kids, and I hope they'll find them someday (better think about backing up with a print version, soon) and be delighted, like I was.

For Sally's 5 month birthday update, I was going to remake Walter's 5 month update using side-by-side comparison photos.  I staged photos carefully in the same locations, tried to get the same angles, etc.  This is why there was no 5 month birthday update post.

So, that structure was too complicated.  Also, setting up a comparison like that sets bad precedent. Walter and Sally are their own people.

It was Walter who gave me the idea for the structure I'm going to use.  Walter is quite pleased with his little sister these days, especially because she is so clearly over-the-moon for him.  Sally doesn't laugh easily, but Walter makes her completely crack up at least once a day.  Still, Walter had just gotten used to Sally as being small, fragile, and somewhat lump-like.  Now, she is bigger, stronger, and she likes to grab and pull his hair.  So, this worries him a little.  When Walter is worried, he talks it out and he asks us questions. Like ...

Baby Sally has no teeth?
No teeth! Hooray!
It's true, Baby Sally still has no teeth. This is a relief to both Walter and Mama (more profoundly: Mama.) At this age, Walter had 4 razor sharp teeth, two on top and two on bottom.  Babies this age don't need teeth. Sadly, I think Sally's first two (in front, on bottom) are on their way in.  Lots of drooling, lots of gumming on everything in sight and a goopy nose are all current signs and symptoms.  Doesn't mean the teeth are imminent, but they could be.  When Sally reaches for Walter's food (all the time, these days) Walter says in his best authoritative big brother voice, "No, baby Sally!  You. Have. No. Teeth!"

Baby Sally eats Mama milk?
Mama milk is indeed Sally's main source of nutrition.  She's also a little better these days about taking bottles of expressed breast milk at day care, though she'll still go most days with just 5 ounces or so during the day.  She nurses a lot in the evening and at night and does well unless she's congested.  This week we introduced her to rice cereal and, later, applesauce. No big, funny reactions: just a little grimace and then a reach for more. She's quite good at eating, I think, and excited less by the taste and more by the experience.
Mama also says "Ahhh!" when Walter asks!
The best is when Walter feeds her. He does a beautiful job with it (very careful not to get too much on the spoon, to give it to her gently, etc.) and when he says, "Say Ahhhhhh!" she opens her mouth right up.  Dr. L. says we can go ahead and introduce her to any pureed grains, fruits and veggies she's interested in this month.  Break out the food processor!

Baby Sally can't talk?
Not like Walter can talk, certainly, but she's very vocal.  She's started in on the "da da da" syllable with some fun variations that sound quite a lot like "Daddy." Sean is pleased. Her best noise is a throaty gargle/growl that Sean and Walter actually can't do at all but has always been one of my go-to funny noises.  I think she learned it in utero.  Sally is a great communicator, as I mentioned above.  We haven't been doing baby sign with her but I think we're going to try now that she's eating ("more," "all done" etc.) and sitting where she can see our hands and use her hands more often. We'll enlist Walter's help. In addition to babbling, growling and cooing, Sally also loves to sing.  During music class, or when we're singing with her at home, she makes very melodic noises that are clearly not talking or anything else ... she's singing along.  It's wonderful!

Baby Sally can't walk?
"Where are you trying to go, Sally?"
Sally wants to crawl very badly, and gets frustrated sometimes that she can't. She manages a pretty good belly crawl but often ends up going backwards.  She can travel rather alarming distances in the amount of time it takes for her parents to refocus after getting distracted while watching her.  She's not very good at sitting up on her own because she's not very good at sitting still.  She's very strong and squirmy and difficult to hold at times. That said, she's not crazy in love with the exersaucer, so we end up holding her pretty often.  She wants to be right in the middle of things, with us. She just also wants to arch her back and squirm out of our arms. Her hand/eye coordination is excellent--when she grabs for something, she usually gets it on the first try, much to our horror. (Ahhh! Not the steak knife, Baby Sally!)

Baby Sally is little?
OK ... just ONE side-by-side comparison ...
They look almost the same size in the side-by-side above, but Sally's actually much smaller than Walter was at this age. She almost two inches shorter than he was at his 6 month check up, and he weighed 22 lbs while she weighs 15 lbs.  Walter moved up to 18 month size clothes at 6 months; Sally's fitting well into 9 month size clothes. So, she seems little to us, but she's really about average according to the charts. Just slightly below average for height and weight, well above-average for head circumference.  Like Walter, she's well-proportioned and consistently on the same curve she's been on since birth.  She's had a couple nice growth spurts and seems to be in another one, now.  An average-size baby has advantages, including less back and arm fatigue for her handlers. She's still our little bug, but she's definitely getting bigger! And I'm dressing her in real clothes more often, too.  She likes that. Dr. L says she's growing wonderfully and "lights up the room" with her smile.  He's very pleased with Sally and Walter and with us as parents, which is always so good to hear. He says, "You're lucky: you got two good kids. And you're doing a great job with them."  We are fond of Dr. L.

Baby Sally sleeps in Mama's bed?
The sleeping arrangements in our house are a little rough and hopefully temporary, though we've been saying that for awhile now. Sally's still upstairs with me and Sean--her room isn't ready for her, yet.  Needs painting, decorating, and general ready-ing. When she grew out of her bassinet, Sally kicked Sean out of our bed and started sleeping with me.  We moved her pack-in-play upstairs, and now that she has more room to stretch out and scoot around (she likes sleeping sideways) she's sleeping better and spending less time in bed with me.  But there are lots of signs pointing to the need for her to be in her own room, not the least of which is that Walter now refers to the couch in the living room as "Dada's bed."

I do love a teepin' baby.
Baby Sally is awake?
Sally sleeps well at night sometimes; other times, she does not.  But she's definitely awake and alert for long stretches of day time hours, which is very fun.

Baby Sally is very, very sad?
Sally is pretty intense. When she's sad, she's often very very sad.  She's not really colicky anymore (crying for no apparent reason) but she does sometimes cry inconsolably right before she falls asleep.  Most of the time, though, she's in a pretty good mood. Even when she's not feeling well, she's curious about the world and interested in seeing new things (and putting them in her mouth) and has a generally cheerful, serious, industrious disposition.

Pic of Sally reading on a poster at daycare
Baby Sally is in Room One?
At daycare, Sally is still in the first room, the littlest baby room.  She won't move up to Room 2 until she gets more mobile, but she's definitely on her way.  It'll be hard, I think, for her to leave her teachers in Room 1, even though I know from Walter's experience that the teachers in Room 2 are amazing as well.  Ms. M and Ms. S. have worked so diligently and lovingly with her to make her comfortable and happy and teach her how to use a bottle.  Sally is my attached-at-the-hip baby and doesn't tolerate being away from Mama for very long, but she's truly happy at daycare. That is a good and beautiful thing.  

Baby Sally is my sister? She's ours?
Behind all of Walter's questions is this question, I think: Now that she's getting older, is Baby Sally still our baby? She is. She's definitely still a baby, though her body and her skills are growing every day, moving her so quickly (too quickly, for us!) into the next phase and the next. We know that such growth brings regression (in her and in the rest of us!) it brings nostalgia, it brings new worries. And such growth brings new joys, too! What I keep telling Walter, and myself, is this: Sally will always be ours, even when she's not a baby anymore. She will change, but she will always be herself.  And we will always love her, just for being Sally.                                      
"She can rest on me, Mama!"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I am lifted

I have a lot of catching up to do, but here's what happened today:

Sean brought Walter and Sally home from daycare.  He transferred Walter to my arms and I got a great hug. Walter held on and I did, too, so he didn't get down right away.  We chatted a little about his day ... it was good, he played with Legos and the dollhouse. He was pleased that he'd gotten to listen to Great Big Sea in the car on the ride home. Then he said something that I didn't quite catch.  I asked him to repeat it and he got embarrassed, but said it again. "I am lifted," he said.  It's a line from a Great Big Sea song, and it also happened to be literally true at that moment.

Sally was happy to see me, too, and in a very pleasant mood. She's finally starting to really get better after being sick with terrible cough, congestion, fever and general mucus-y icky-ness for a week and a half. Tonight I picked her up and she gave me and actual, honest-to-goodness, hug. It's a remarkable feeling the first time your baby intentionally hugs you. She's always been snuggly, but this was something different.  She also gives real kisses, and has been doing that for awhile.  As with Walter, I thought it was probably just a hunger cue at first. But she does it now when she's clearly not hungry: grabbing my face with both hands and pulling me to her face for a big, open-mouthed smooch.  It's goopy and wonderful.

I don't know how they knew I needed hugs and kisses today, but I did and I'm glad I got them.  Walter demanded dancing during dinner--Mama, you want to dance with Dada right now--and we did a polka.  Both kids watched us with big eyes, smiling a little.

Remembering Great Aunt Sally

My Great Aunt Sally, baby Sally's namesake, died on Friday, January 24, at the age of 84. Her pastor very graciously allowed me to share some memories and even co-officiate on some of the prayers at her funeral. In the regular print below is the text of the stories I shared. I know baby Sally won't remember her namesake directly, but she will surely know her through the stories we'll keep telling. 

My name is Annie Edison-Albright, I’m a Lutheran pastor and one of Sally’s great nieces. At John's funeral last year Sally asked me to speak at her funeral.  I wish I'd thought to ask her what she wanted me to say. Mostly, I just wish I could ask her, now, and listen to her stories one more time. But, if we all go to lunch after this and share our stories about Sally, I believe we will all have done right by her. She would like that.

As Pastor Lee mentioned, Sally had two siblings: a sister 10 years older than her, Norma, and a brother 7 years younger, Charlie. Norma was my grandma, my Umma. She died in 1992 at the age of 72, and Sally arranged for a basket of 72 daffodils to brighten up the funeral home on that snowy March day, a day just like this one.  You can see that there are 84 daffodils next to Sally's casket; those are given by Sally's nieces and nephews, but really, they come from her sister. The story behind the daffodils is a beautiful one, and it’s a very Sally kind of story.

When Norma turned 25, Sally wanted to do something really special for her big sister’s birthday. The process of “wiring” flowers to someone was new, then, and Sally used her own money to wire a dozen daffodils to Norma at her office. Norma was delighted. Spring flowers in February. What could be more wonderful? Their frugal mother, however, was not delighted. Sally caught the dickens from her mom, who was shocked by the waste and extravagance of the flowers. She said it showed a terrible lack of common sense to spend so much money on cut flowers that were just going to die in a couple of days.  

The next time Norma came home, she met Sally at the door and said “that was the best birthday gift, ever.” Sally said, “I’m glad you liked them, but I’m not sending you flowers again until you’re 50!”

On Norma’s fiftieth birthday she received daffodils from Sally with a note: “that was a fast 25 years.”

Arrangement of 72 daffodils at Umma's funeral

At Norma’s visitation, Sister Rosemary Rombalski saw the basket of 72 daffodils and knew there was a story. She sat and talked to Sally and then gave a devotion connecting Sally’s extravagant gift with the extravagant love of Jesus Christ, connecting Sally’s best birthday gift ever and the gift of eternal life. I was 11 years old and I'll never forget it: "This is Norma's best birthday, ever," she said. There’s a daffodil etched on Norma’s tombstone as a reminder both of her little sister’s love and the love of God. Now, Sally has joined Norma, and Charlie, and Blitz and John, in receiving the gift of eternal life. The love of God is like daffodils in winter, like the joy we have when we talk about Sally today, even though we miss her.

When I think of Sally, I think of the bright beauty of daffodils, and I think of joy. My first impressions of her were very much formed by my grandma, who was completely smitten with her little sister. “Sally was the most beautiful child any of us had ever seen,” she’d say. “She looked like Shirley Temple.”

One of the stories Norma liked to tell was about Sally’s first day at the one room schoolhouse. Norma worked with Sally to get her ready for the big day and taught her how to spell her name. S-A-L-L-Y. When Sally got to school, the teacher had everyone’s name written on the blackboard. “Can anyone come up and show me their name?” asked the teacher. One by one each student went up to the board and pointed. Sally stayed in her seat. “Don’t you see your name?” asked the teacher. Sally said, confidently, “No. My name is not up there.” “Yes it is!” said the teacher, pointing.

Sally came home for lunch and was very upset. “What’s wrong?” asked her sister. “I don’t think I’m going to learn anything from that teacher,” said Sally. “She thinks my name is Eleanor.”

That moment was the source of Sally’s often-quoted advice: Name your children what you intend to call them!

Me, Mom, Sally and Baby Sally
Sally has two great great nieces named after her: my cousin Craig’s daughter, Eleanor, and my five month old daughter, Sally. Her response and advice to us was the same that she gave everyone else. “That’s nice, but you promise me you’re going to call that baby by the name you gave her!”

The name Sally means “princess,” but to me it’s always meant “beloved little sister.” When my husband and I found out our second child would be a girl there was no question what her name would be. We named her Sally, hoping that our little girl would take after my smart, funny, loving Aunt Sally, and also that our baby Sally would be as loved by her big brother as Aunt Sally was by her big sister.

To us, “Sally” means beloved sister, beloved aunt. It means beloved wife, mom, grandma, great grandma. It means beloved colleague, classmate and friend. But Sally’s real name was this: Beloved Child of God. She received that name at her baptism. She lived out that name every day of her life, in all the ways she cared for others and embodied God’s love. And when she died, that’s the name God used to welcome her into eternal life. It’s a name she shares with all of us, a name that connects us as God’s big family, both on earth and in heaven. 

The prophet Isaiah writes: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.

Sally was named and claimed a beloved child of God. Thanks be to God for a life lived in love. Amen.

Some memories of the day: just like when my Umma died in 1992, there was a snowstorm. The snow came down sideways outside the church windows and people were nervous about getting home. Even though the worst of the weather came right at the time for us to gather for the service, the church was full of family and friends, including many members of Sally's high school class who she'd kept in touch with over the years. Baby Sally was still struggling with her first real illness, a bug we think was RSV, and had trouble nursing but was very good and sweet through the long day. Umma Sue sang "In The Garden." Baba Paul took care of baby Sally and walked and played with her during the service.  Sally's children and grandchildren were glad to meet baby Sally, and took turns holding her and telling her to be entirely and unapologetically herself, just like her namesake. To be just as feisty and funny and independent as she could be. It was hard to be there without Sally's son, John, who died last April. The Edisons were there, including baby Sally's godfather, Craig. It was good to be together. 
Sally holding me.