Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Seven-Month-Old Sally

Dear Sally!

Sleepy, introspective, 7 months old
You are seven months old today. The day started almost exactly the same way your 6 month birthday began: you woke up (too) early, spit up on my bed, played very cheerfully in the guest room while Daddy and Walter slept, got sleepy right as everyone else was waking up, nursed and fell asleep right in time to head to day care.  I dressed you in the same cute birthday outfit you wore a month ago: your red Osh Kosh overalls and red turtleneck, size 9 months.

So, much is the same, but also, so much is different. You are clearly taller than you were a month ago, and you look like you're filling out and gearing up for another growth spurt.  You have two teeth and you are crawling. Much like your brother at this age, you like to pick a goal and crawl toward it at alarming speed. Your goal is very rarely something safe and appropriate, like a family member or a toy.  You prefer goals like electrical chords, buttons and knobs, the dog, the dog's food, etc. This, I believe, is the natural way of baby curiosity. You are almost always on the move, squirming out of our arms and onto your next adventure.

NOW you sleep. Sigh.
I watched you play with the stacking rings this morning. You still explore the world primarily by tasting things, but you also like to put things where they're supposed to go (you like unstacking and stacking the rings, dumping out Walter's dump truck of plastic blocks and then putting the blocks back into the truck, etc.)  You pay very close attention to everything I do, and everything the other people around you are doing (especially your brother.)  You are clearly watching us and learning, learning, learning.
You are getting sleeeeeeeeepy.

What you are not doing very much of is sleeping.  It's been a tough week for Mama and Dada--both you and Walter have had bad sleep problems for about 8 days straight.  We're not sure what's going on with you guys, though of course we have a lot of theories about it. One thing that's been kind of nice is that, even though you've been very wakeful all night, you've been very cheerful about it. It's hard to despair when you smile at me so beautifully, when you giggle and make your throaty growly noise.  You love to say, "Hi, Dada!" to all of us. Dada, in particular, loves it when you say that.

You are eating: rice cereal, peas, sweet potato, squash, apple, banana, avocado and beans.  I got you to taste a little bit of raspberry and it was the first time I've seen you make the "ewwwwww" face. For the most part, you are interested in eating and tolerant of all the foods we try with you.  You LOVE eating anything we give you in this neat little mesh pacifier thing that allows you to feed yourself whole pieces of banana, avocado, apple, etc. The apple slice was very satisfying for you to crunch on with your new (and upcoming) teeth. Avocado is your favorite taste, so far. As long as we have your food quickly ready to go and don't make you wait too long, family meal times go well.  You like to watch me get the food ready--this reassures you that food is, in fact, on its way.  You are also nursing with great gusto these days.  I love feeding you in general, and nursing you in particular. You are so snuggly, you are so sweet!

Walter lets you pull his hair. Your brother loves you!
Words I'd use to describe you these days: snuggly, sweet, ferocious, voracious, cheerful, dramatic, focused, brilliant, charismatic, funny and loving.

This month you had your first big illness: a case of RSV that brought with it a persistent fever, a nasty cough and lots and lots of goopiness. It coincided with the arrival of your teeth.  You spent 6 days at home with me, and it was a hard time, but I'm glad I was able to nurse and care for you through it.  You didn't get an ear infection or pink eye or pneumonia or anything else, so we feel like we were lucky and got off relatively easy.  That's the way to do it, Sally!

Giving Umma a passionate kiss
I love to watch your relationships with your family members grow as you grow.  You are very bonded with Umma and Baba, giving them big smiles and loving looks of adoration.  You love your teachers at daycare--they will miss you when you move up to Room 2, soon.  You reach for your Daddy and smile wide to see him. And, of course, you are still my attached-at-the-hip girl ... you and I have a very special bond. You are very curious about Hank the Dog and incredibly gentle with him, always petting him with an open hand and never grabbing or pulling his fur. You grab your big brother's hair, though, and I'm amazed at how well he tolerates it!  I think you get away with a lot with him because he's so fond of you (and because you are clearly so fond of him.)

This morning you fell asleep on my lap after nursing just as Walter was waking up.  He came out to the living room and talked quietly to me for awhile--eventually you heard his voice, blinked, sat up (you can almost sit up on your own, now) and smiled at him.  You love waking up and seeing Walter there, with you.  Your biggest smiles and laughs are always for him. Walter doesn't like having his picture taken, but this morning he asked Dada, "Can you take a camera of us, Daddy?"  He didn't want the flash, so most of the pictures didn't turn out ...
Your brother makes you smile and smile!
too blurry, with Walter moving around, making you smile, and you moving around, smiling and laughing at Walter.  After a bit, Walter asked to climb up on my lap alongside you, and asked Daddy to put the camera away. He wanted to just enjoy being with you.  Daddy looked at the three of us together and said, "Hello, family."  It was one of those moments we don't have any pictures of, but will remember anyway, because we hold it in our hearts. You are always in our hearts, dear Sally!

Love you, and proud to be your

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From Dadu to Wahbah

Very rough night for both kids (and thus, parents.) But this morning, Sally discovered her shadow and investigated it with great zeal. Then Walter came and snuggled with us ... when she started grabbing his ear, I picked her up and moved her away from him. "Wah-Bah!" she said, reaching for her brother.

No repeat performance of this naming as of yet, but we were all pretty pleased with it in the moment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Terrifying and True

Walter: Baby Sally has no teeth?
Me: Actually, Baby Sally has TWO teeth, now.
Walter (incredibly alarmed): Baby Sally has teeth right now?!?

A letter to the Fred Rogers Company

I just sent this letter to the Fred Rogers Company through the Contact Us form on their website. I hope they write back!

Last night, my 2-year-old son, Walter, was melting down as bedtime approached (in Peg + Cat terms, TOTALLY freaking out.) He's started growling like Daniel Tiger when he's mad and not able to find words to talk to us about it, yet. We counted backward from 5, we gave a squeeze, nice and slow, took a deep breath and let it go.  I could tell something was still bothering him, but he calmed down enough to have a pretty good bedtime ritual and go to sleep.
This morning he came out of his room and met me with a serious, determined look on his face. "Good morning!" I said. "Baby Sally can't read my book," he said. "No?" "No. Baby Sally can read Baby Sally's book. Not my book. Because it is mine." Sometimes Walter sits in bed for awhile in the morning just quietly thinking--this speech sounded like it was planned during that time.
Sally with Walter's book, Walter with Sally's rattle
"The animal book is mine," he clarified. "Oh ... the book I was reading to Sally in your room last night.  You're right, that is yours." It's a very simple board book with pictures and some textures for babies to feel--he's into Maurice Sendak and the longer Dr. Seuss books, so we figured Baby Touch and Feel Animals could be safely given to his 6-month-old sister. Daddy chimed in, "Can Baby Sally look at the book when you're not using it?" "No," he said. "She can look at her book." Daddy suggested Walter head to his room to get dressed for the day; Walter agreed, but only because he wanted to find the book in question. He'd hidden it in his hamper. He ran back out to the living room, where I was sitting with Sally, to show us the book. "This is where my book is," he said, and then furrowed his brow. "But ... but I don't know where Baby Sally's book is." By a stroke of extreme luck, this book is one we have two of, and my husband knew where the other copy was.  He ran upstairs, retrieved the book, and brought it down to us.
Walter's eyebrows hit the ceiling with surprise and relief. "Oh! There it is, Baby Sally! And it's the same book! Here you go, Baby Sally!" I opened it up to the page with the baby monkey and she scratched her fingers over the soft furry part of the page. "What does the monkey say, Walter?" "Ooooh oooh, ah ah!" "Can you find this page in your book, too!" "I can. I can try!"
We went back and forth a couple of times, picking out pages to look at and talking about them. At one point he looked at his sister and his face went soft and thoughtful.  "You can look at the pictures in my book, Baby Sally," he said.  It's difficult to keep a hard line with her for very long.
Our family loves your shows, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood especially, because we need strategies to get through the day without totally, totally freaking out. Walter encounters so many difficult situations--sharing, having strong feelings he's not sure how to name, frustrations with his environment and the people around him--and you can just see the wheels turn as he tries to figure out what to do.  He sings constantly, and Daniel Tiger songs clearly help him through his days.  My husband and I watch with just as much interest as Walter does, and we all learn and practice the songs together.  I feel like Mister Rogers is teaching me how to be a better parent, and at least once a day I thank God for him and for you guys for keeping his ideas, methods, and general gentleness alive.
There's only one problem. Sometimes I watch my son watching Daniel, and I can see the wheels turning, and it's not about water safety or saying thank you. He's watching Daniel interact with his parents, and it makes him sad. I'm not sure if Walter really remembers what his life was like before Sally was born, but I know that, as much as he loves his sister, he feels sad when he sees that family of three holding hands and being so ... complete.  He looks at that loving family and he tries to make it match with his loving family and it just doesn't.
For awhile he thought about whether Tigey might be a suitable equivalent to Sally.  One day at dinner he told his dad, "When Baby Sally grows up, she's going to sit right here, and I'm going to sit right here, and we're going to sing like Daniel and little Tigey on the farm." But a little sister, as you know, is not the same as a beloved stuffed animal.  She loves being with him, sure, but she also loves chewing on his blocks.
I think it's awesome that there are so many different family configurations on Daniel Tiger--a single mom, an uncle as main guardian, etc.--and I'm not saying the main character's family has to look like my family.  Daniel's family is actually quite a lot like mine growing up--one child, two very loving, involved parents.  But I do wish one of the main kids--if not Daniel then maybe another kid in his preschool class--could go through the experience of having a younger sibling born.  So many new strategies needed! So many emotions. So much love combined with the irresistible urge to throw things. Maybe you're working up to it for an upcoming season?  It would definitely complicate things, and one of the good things about the show is that it focuses in and makes big, complicated things like feelings and social interactions concrete and clear enough for preschoolers (and their tired parents) to think through.
You've obviously thought through everything in the show with extreme care and considerable early childhood expertise. I'm hoping your plans for the show include a Baby Sally-type character--and for the sake of Walter and his tired parents, maybe sometime soon? Our family would be happy to provide sample scenarios for episodes if needed. =)
Thank you for reading this long letter, and even more, thank you for Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat.  The shows are so smart, so loving, so fun ... and so singable! Thank you for teaching us and helping us teach our kids.
With thanks (and hope ... Baby Sally Tiger?)
Annie, Sean, Walter and Sally Edison-Albright