Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where are you going, Baby Sally?

Sally is now well into her 8th month, and she is going places. This, in and of itself, is not particularly new.  She's been a squiggler since before she was born, and I'm sure the phrase she's heard most often in her life (tied, perhaps, with "I love you,") is "Where are you going?"
Sally: Where am I going? I am going to knock over this glass!

These days, Sally is going just about anywhere she wants to, usually with an adult close behind to redirect her away from danger.  She doesn't like to be redirected and gets a very determined look on her face as she resolutely heads back to the same spot.  She gets the same look when she's on the changing table, where she has decided that she does not have to lie still on her back for anything, ever. When she's thinking about doing something she knows she shouldn't be doing, she gets a little smile ... no teeth, just a little smirk. She moves quickly and very precisely.  She has
The Sally Smirk
beautiful form when crawling; it's very fun to watch, in part because she still looks too small to be moving so well. Then she stands up and starts cruising and we're like, "But the laws of physics, Sally!" And then she lets go of all supports and stands there, completely independently, and we're like, "What are you rebelling against, Sally?" And she's like, "Whaddya got?"* and then falls down.

She also climbs stairs.

Being an early adopter for all things mobility has its ups and downs. We are, of course, very proud, and it's amazing to see Sally standing up next to Walter, the two of them playing side-by-side. But she's not old enough to be careful, and she does a lot of learning-by-dramatic-fall.  I've noticed, though, that once
Standing next to Walter on Easter morning.
she's done with the terrifying devil-may-care stage of trying a movement, she gains mastery pretty quickly and does a lot of good, methodical practicing and exercising. Her favorite game is standing next to the coffee table, picking up a toy from the top of the table, dropping it on the ground, and then bending down, picking it up, and standing back up again.

At some point in the transition between seven and eight months Sally started to really play** with toys.  Before that she just played with things by putting them in her mouth and that was it.  Now she tries to put Walter's puzzles together, plays the musical instruments (music class has been a great help with this; she's very confident with all things percussion) and spends time holding and exploring and experimenting with objects. And then she puts them in her mouth.

Sally's mouth is quite a sight these days.  She got two front bottom teeth first, then the two top canines came in all baby vampire-like, and as of this morning both top front teeth are through. Six teeth for an eight-month-old seems like overkill, but she uses them judiciously and is not a biter. She's enjoying all kinds of foods, but prefers finger foods she can feed herself.  She's very enthusiastic about eating but needs to work on her aim.  She's also learning how to use a sippy cup and loves drinking water. With this, too, she makes an impressive amount of mess. A few nights ago she made a fountain of water spurting an impressive distance out of her mouth using her sippy cup and a gap between two teeth.  Either she needs more practice with the mechanics of eating and drinking or she knows exactly what she's doing and is just having a grand old time.  Hank the Dog is very pleased, either way.

She loves Cheerios.  Just this week, her immense love of Cheerios combined with our stinginess thereof compelled her to start using her first sign language. "More!" she signs.  "More, more, more!"  Sean and I have not been as good with using sign with her as we were with Walter, but she seems really primed and ready right now to pick it up. Walter helps tremendously, signing "Do you want more? Or all done" to her at dinner.  I've seen her try out the signs for "water" and "milk" (nursing) but she's definitely got "more" down pat.

Her verbal communication is taking off, too.  Walter was starting to despair, convinced she would only say "Da da da" forever.  Maybe I'm projecting. But then last week she added "Ba ba ba" and "Na na na" and, crucially, "Ma ma ma."  The "m" gives her trouble--you can see she really has to work at it to make that sound. So Sean thinks she says it to mean, "Mama," not just as babbling.  A few nights ago I handed her over to Sean, desperate for a break after much nursing and many attempts to coax her to sleep.  As Sean took her, she cried, and with great effort said, "Mama ma! Mama ma!" and signed "more." Could be a coincidence, but definitely feels like communication.

Late night/early morning is one of Sally's favorite times for communicating.  On good nights she'll wake up 3 or so times in the night, nurse and go right back to sleep. On other nights she'll do that AND have a period of cheerful wakefulness and wanting to play around 2 am.  She's still sleeping right next to me in her pack n' play, though not so much in bed with me anymore, which is good progress.  Her room is almost ready and when we make the big move, we will probably also initiate the method of Mr. Ferber.  I have mixed feelings about this. I'm sure Sally will, too.  But it will give us a chance to get her into a routine--brushing teeth, reading books, songs and prayers.  And, as Dr. L. always points out, being able to get to sleep independently is something we need to teach her and help her do.  This is when we start to move from basic care and feeding and into real parenting, and that transition is exciting and nervous-making, even (especially?) having done it once before.

Sally has really blossomed this month--even the last few days have been particularly momentous.  I'm feeling sad today because she seems to have caught my cold, and I think that means the next few days will slow her down and be hard and sad for her. She navigates illness pretty well, though. She had a stomach bug that manifested at 4 am on Easter morning (exciting times for the Pastor Mommy and her family) and the vomiting took us to Urgent Care where we discovered she also had a raging ear infection.  Her first antibiotics were by shot (Sean and Annie say, "There's a SHOT? One shot and that's IT? Why are we just learning about this now?!") and she cleared the infection with no troubles. So far, so good.

Sally has a beautiful smile and a sweet, funny laugh. Her eyes seem to know everything there is to know about the world, already. She seems very secure in our love; she trusts us and that seems to give her a sense of confidence in everything she does.  Sean noticed right after she was born that she really seems to love our kisses; this continues to be true. She has spirit and strength of character that remind me very much of both of her namesakes. She loves her name, too, you can tell by the way she responds to it, maybe because you can't really say "Sally" without smiling.  I call her, "Tika" or "Took" ... no idea why. Sean calls her "Munchkin."  Walter calls her, "Baby Sally" or "Sally Joan" or "My baby" or "My sister."  When Walter plays, with cars, for instance, he likes to assign each one a title: "This is the Mama one," "This is the Dada," "This is the brother," "This is the baby sister," (and also "This is the Hankee.")  All of us, Hank included, see our family this way.  To complete the thought we started with ... wherever you're going, Baby Sally, wait up!  We're coming with you.

*We have a tendency to speak on behalf of Sally. This morning, Walter called Sean out on it.  Sean said something like, "Baby Sally said, 'I want to play!'" and Walter said, "When? When was she talkin'?" =)
**This weekend Umma taught Sally how to play "beep my nose." So wonderful!! Her first real interactive game, I think. Next up: peek-a-boo.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A letter to my first born on Mother's Day

Dear Walter,

You are asleep now--it's been a busy day. This whole Mother's Day weekend has been busy for you, with lots of walking outside in the (finally!) beautiful weather, making me breakfast in bed (cinnamon rolls, scrapple and tea,) eating and dancing and listening intently to Spanish guitar at the cultural festival, procuring and playing and playing and playing with an ice cream bucketful of Hot Wheels (best garage sale purchase, ever,) blowing bubbles, playing with Umma and Baba, baking cupcakes (chocolate wacky cake,) and making frosting (the best vanilla buttercream I've ever tasted,) eating cupcakes, using the potty and wearing underpants, dancing to some Irish fiddle music on the folk show, learning how to spit when you brush your teeth ... whew.

You and me and Sally this morning
You had a lot of fun this weekend, and I had a lot of fun being with you. You are two-and-half-years-old and very handsome, with wavy blonde hair, big blue eyes and your Daddy's incredibly long eyelashes. You are thoughtful; sometimes pensive. You love to sing and will often just spontaneously break out into song. "Don't tell me that it's morning," you sang to me on Saturday morning, "Just keep the curtains drawn!" "If you keep the good times rolling, I'm your boy, I'm your boy!" "It's alright to cry, crying gets the sad out of you." "And the grand facade, so soon will burn. Without a noise. Without my pride. I reach out from the inside." "Take my hand, take my whole life, too. 'Cause I can't help, falling in love with you ..."

There is so much to love about you, Walter Paul.  I love your singing and your dancing. I love the way you are usually so gentle and sweet with your sister, and how you love to make her smile and laugh, and how you taught her how to sign "more" this weekend. She loves to learn from you! I love the way you talk to yourself when you're playing, imagining conversations between you and your King Friday puppet, or between Red and Mokey fraggle. I love watching you run and skip when you're happy. I love baking with you .... you are so good at measuring out the ingredients! Most of all, though, I just love you because you are you.  You are my Scooter, and my love for you goes way beyond the way you look, or the way you act, or the things you do.

And that's a really good thing, because sometimes the things you do, these days, put you and me at odds. I've struggled a lot with how much to write about this.  Most people don't have any real memories of their lives before age 4 or so, so I wonder how wise it is to record these "terrible twos" moments in detail.  It's not your behavior I'm hoping you'll forget, though; it's mine. I get pretty angry, sometimes. I don't think I'm angry in an unusual way ... I think it's pretty normal for parents to get angry and to show it more than they'd like to.  And someday, if you have kids of your own and I'm still living, I'd like to have some very real conversations with you about what it's like to be mad at your beloved little kids.  I want to tell this future-hypothetical-father version of you, "It's OK, Walter.  It'll be OK.  You're human, and you have feelings, and you're doing the best you can.  Keep trying to do better, and to let your kids know that you love them no matter what."

Here's how I know that you and I are OK and, further more, we are going to be OK:

... the way you lean against me, or easily take my hand, or give me a hug just because.
... the way you greet me at the end of the school/work day with a joyful "Mama!" and a hug.  The way we both look for each other and look forward to that moment.
... the way you study me, looking in my eyes, and then smile. Sometimes we make eye contact across a room and smile at each other, and I realize we communicate a lot without talking, you and me.

We communicate pretty well with talking, too, although sometimes words fail us. We're working on it--both of us are. About a month (or more?) ago you asked me to play Legos with you in your room and I said yes. You headed into your room and I followed, making a very quick stop in the kitchen to grab a can of selzer on my way. When you got to your Lego table and looked back, I wasn't right there. You let out a little scream of frustration. I was just coming through the door, saying, "I'm right here!" and you said, "Mama, sometimes I need you and you are not there."

And I said, "I just stopped to get a selzer!"

But I know what you meant, and I'm proud that you could put it into words like that. That's pretty remarkable communicating, Walter.  And it's true. There are times when you need me and I'm not there.  Sometimes it's because I mostly take care of your sister and your Daddy mostly takes care of you ... that's just how it works for us, especially because I'm still Sally's main source of food. We're trying to change that up as much as we can, your Daddy and I, but we've got into the habit of dividing things up that way, so it can be hard (and hard on you and Sally, too, because you've gotten used to it) to make those changes. Sometimes I'm not there because I'm at work.  Sometimes I'm not there because I'm too slow to react or to realize that you need me and what you need me to do. I'm still learning how to be a mom, and because you are my oldest, you are my main teacher.

I wish I could always be right there, the moment you need me, and do exactly what you need me to do. Every parent falls short of that, though.  I don't know that most kids realize that about their parents at two-and-a-half, but you have always been very advanced.

You and I are going to go through times of trouble in our relationship.  I am almost positive that this current troublesome time will not be the last. I promise you that I will always do my best to be there when you need me, to be gentle with you, to help you if I can. When I fall short and let you down in these ways, I hope you will still know and trust that I love you with all my heart.  And God, who is always there in your times of need, who will never let you down, will help us get through these rough patches, forgive each other, and forgive ourselves.

I love you, Walter.  I am so proud, and glad, and grateful to be,

Your Mama