Friday, July 11, 2014

The Walker

Sally is in the middle of her 10th month ... and she is walking!  Not just a step or two here and there anymore ... now she can travel short distances, up to 10 steps or so.  More and more she's choosing to walk instead of crawl.  She does best wearing her sneakers, which goes against everything I thought I knew about babies and walking and shoes (barefoot is best, soft shoes next best, hard soled shoes once they're established walkers, etc.)  Sean thinks the Nikes he bought her give her extra ankle support, and is very proud (of Sally, of course, but also) that the shoes he chose are working so well.  "Must be the shoes," he says, with a pleased little smile.

Hotel room mirrors are the best
Milestones and firsts abound these days.  Sally accompanied me, Umma and Baba on a trip out to Syracuse for my cousin Rachel's wedding.  And so: first airplane trips, first hotel stays, first swims, first visit to the extended family.  We realized that my first flight was to visit the Swifts (my dad's side of the family) when I was 9 months. old.  Walter's first flight was to visit the Swifts (for a wedding) when he was one year old. So Sally kept the tradition going, and she did beautifully on both flights. She showed no sign of ear pain, so she must have had a break in her semi-permanent ear infection (it's back. We had our first visit to Dr. S the ENT yesterday. Sigh. Milestones.)  She snoozed a little but was awake much of the time and pretty happy and interested in the experience.  On the flight home she made friends with a 20-month-old girl in the row behind her, which brought back great memories of Walter making friends with the baby in the row behind us on a flight back from Pennsylvania.  There's nothing quite as delightful for babies as finding each other on a plane like that.  They are so, so pleased.  The giggles! The kisses! The hand-holding!  They become friends faster in that exact context than in any other I've seen.

Dancing at the wedding
Sally approached the whole trip with an attitude of delight, and had a wonderful time, even with long stretches in the rental car, eating out and at odd times, and nap and bedtime all off schedule.  She slept quite well in the hotel rooms and was very charming and friendly with everyone she met.  Seeing her with my dear cousins and aunts and uncle made my heart very glad indeed, and I was very glad and grateful indeed that we were able to make the trip (Thank you, Umma and Baba!)  It was a beautiful wedding and a wonderful family adventure.

Sally and Walter both did some serious flourishing while they were only children for a week, but were also very relieved and happy and ready when we reunited at Umma and Baba's house.  We went to Ella's Deli in Madison and Sally got another first: her first carousel ride!  She clung to my shoulder, smiling and nervous.  Then she got braver and braver and soon she was holding onto the pole instead of me, looking all around in joy and wonder.  Walter, on the horse next to her, the old carousel veteran that he is, cheered her on and encouraged her.
On the carousel
It's good to be Sally, it really is.  Ear infections excluded, of course, but even that she manages pretty well.  We've started sleep-training her a little bit--she'll cry for five minutes or less and then go to sleep, and her sleeping has improved a lot with this change, but it makes her sad and that's hard on all of us.  Her life has many mundane aggravations: being put into her carseat, not being fed fast enough, not getting water fast enough, not getting (insert whatever Sally wants here) fast enough, having her diaper changed, having her toothbrush taken away when we're done brushing, not being allowed to imperil her life by going headfirst down the stairs, or eating small non-food objects she finds on the ground, or chewing on electrical cords, etc. She is very vocal in her displeasure and seems genuinely sad about it all. But overall I'd say she's a happy baby, who feels things very deeply, communicates well and has strong opinions and an above-average level of determination and stick-to-it-tivness.

Occasionally I'm tempted to compare my children to other children and this way lies madness.  But it's good, too, for me to observe that there are many babies and toddlers out there who are much more laid back and content than my kids and also just as bright, talented and interesting as my kids are. I've been tempted, you see, to explain Walter and Sally's intensity as a byproduct of their brilliance, but I don't think that's necessarily true.  My kids are intense and they are brilliant. Other kids are laid back and brilliant.  They're people, and people are different, with different personalities that are shaped by all kinds of factors, mostly beyond our control.

My thoughts when I'm trying to change Sally's diaper are not this calm and reasonable, I assure you.

Sally at 10 months old is sweet, funny, ornery, fiesty, joyful, adventurous, curious, communicative, musical, loving, friendly, smiley, stubborn, defiant, snuggly and proud.  She loves Walter best of all the people in the world.  She loves Hank the Dog, too.  She loves to play catch with me: I roll her a rubber ball, she grabs it and throws it at me with alarming accuracy.  She hates being left behind--if someone she loves leaves the room she cries real tears of real sadness. She continues to love our kisses and gives beautiful kisses in return.  She waves, she claps.  She maybe signs a little bit, mostly for water, but communicates clearly enough without it. I think she said "Ball" the other day, but I'm not sure. She definitely says, "Mama," "More" and "All done," though that last one requires a lot of
Look at those teeth!
adult interpretation to understand.  She has resolutely resisted all attempts at getting her into a bedtime routine and won't sit still for stories, so we let her run around while we read at her. She enjoys all kinds of food and has a very healthy appetite. She's got two more teeth poking through on the bottom, which will bring her total to 8. She's got an adorable gap between her two top front teeth and a smile that makes everyone in the world smile back.  She's beautiful.  I watched her sleep in my arms this morning and she was just so gorgeous I couldn't stand it.  I think I got a glimpse of what she's going to look like as a grown up--she doesn't look like me or Sean or Walter, she looks like Sally, and she is just lovely.  When she stretches and yawns my heart does somersaults.

"Hey Sally dear, hey Sally dear/ We are so very glad that you're here. Hey Sally dear, Hey Sally dear/ You're loved,  you're blessed, that much is clear!"

Monday, July 7, 2014

Too young to remember

Dear Walter and Sally,

We had quite an adventure this weekend! It was the 4th of July, but it was also the 40th anniversary celebration of A Prairie Home Companion, a radio show that has been very special to both Mommy and Daddy since we were little kids.  We knew we wanted to get there, if we could, and share it with the two of you.

On Thursday night, after you went to bed, Daddy and I packed and got ready for the trip.  We were pretty tired and wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into.  Traveling isn't easy--there are lots of things to remember, lots of things to figure out and take care of.  We would not have even attempted this particular trip if it weren't for the help we had from our amazing friends. (Friends make life so good, so good indeed.)

We got up early on Friday--got bagels, got breakfast to eat in the car, got everyone in the van and headed to John and Karen's house to drop off Hank. Hank was elated to spend time with John and Karen, their cats, and his best doggie pal, Sammie. From there we turned around and headed north and west.  We took many stops along the way for potty breaks and nursing.  Sally, you did some good sleeping. Walter, you did not, but you were very sweet and managed to have a good day even without a nap.  We did lots of snacking in the car (cheese curds from a dairy store we stopped at on the way ... yum) but held off on lunch until we arrived in St. Paul.

This is how we roll!
After 5 hours of driving we arrived: hungry and a little worse for wear but also very excited and so glad, so relieved to see our dear friends Uncle Ben, Aunt Arden and Greta again!  Walter, you were especially excited to see Greta, who you'd met when she was a little baby, and who is now walking.  Sally, you were excited to get out of your carseat and immediately got to work playing with Greta's toys.  She shared them very graciously with both of you.  We walked from their house to Macalester College, where the anniversary party was well underway.  After a delicious lunch (pasties and tacos from food trucks) we walked around the booths and settled in to play some more at the children's museum area.

The children's museum had set up a fence around a patch of grass and set out large blue foam blocks of various shapes and sizes.  There were colorful plastic balls, too--Sally, you and Greta played with those. Walter, you befriended two seven-year-old boys and engaged in some really fabulous imaginative building with them.  I was very impressed with you for keeping up with the older boys (and very impressed with the older boys for including you so beautifully.)

Soon it was time for the concert--40 Songs, 40 Years.  It was an outdoor concert; we weren't sure how long it was going to be, and we weren't sure how we were going to make it work.  You kids love music, but we weren't sure you'd be able to sit through a whole concert.  Again, our friends made it possible.  Ben and Arden packed an amazing picnic dinner for us, which we enjoyed while we sat on our picnic blanket as the concert got started. We feasted on chicken, hummus, carrots, pita chips, turkey sausage sticks, cheese sticks and graham crackers. As we ate, I sang along a bit with Garrison and his friends--musicians who had been with the show when it first started, and others who became regular favorites along the way.  We got to hear Robin and Linda Williams, Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch, Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele and Iris Dement. When Garrison joined Robin and Linda Williams to sing "Calling My Children Home" I held dancing Sally in my arms and cried happy tears.

There were a few times when all four of us were on the blanket together, but most of the time Daddy walked with one of you while the other one snuggled on the blanket with me.  Those one-on-one times with each of you were very special for and precious to me.  Sally, you climbed all over me, snacking happily on graham crackers and hummus and charming the bejeebus out of everyone sitting around us.  I sang to you and you smiled and smiled and smiled.  We nursed; we love nursing outside, with the wind in your hair and the warm sun setting all around us, surrounded by music and people and also entirely in our own world, too.

Walter, you spent most of the show walking with Daddy, mostly to check out the super duper fancy porta-potties. They were airconditioned, with wood floors, running water and artwork on the walls.  You and Daddy were both mystified and super impressed and made several trips. That probably would have been your favorite part of the concert ... if it weren't for the Wailin' Jennys.

Three beautiful young women (about my age ... I still call that young) took the stage and giggled with Garrison for awhile. And then they started to sing. Now, everything up to that point had been wonderful, truly.  But something changed when they sang.  They sang without musical accompaniment, they sang in close, perfect harmony.  The harmony hit the air and vibrated and hung there and then spread across the crowd like electricity.  Walter, you'd been snuggling, almost sleeping in my lap.  When they hit their first note, you stood straight up, electrified. You shot up and stood and leaned toward the stage, "What are they singing, Mama?" you asked.  You felt the difference in the air--you knew this was something special.

Kids, you are too young to remember any of this on your own.  That's part of the reason I try to write things down, so we're sure to share our memories of these times and give you a sense of who you were and what your life was like before you started collecting memories. Sometimes it's tempting to use your age as a reason not to do things, especially things that involve 5 hours of car travel! "They won't even remember it," I think to myself sometimes.  But seeing the two of you at this concert, the way you enjoyed yourselves so completely, the way you danced and sang along (even you, Sally) and basked in the glow of the moment and in our collective family happiness ... there is no reason to wait for this until you are older. Sharing the joy of our lives is something Daddy and I can do (and do, do) with you right now. We get to enjoy it with you in the moment, and add those moments to our own collection of memories. And we will help you remember it, for sure.

Right about the time the two of you started getting antsy and sleepy and needing to head out, Garrison announced an intermission.  Intermission!  The show had already gone on for two hours.  We decided to leave while everyone was happy and the leaving was good.   We walked around the booths one more time and did some very joyful dancing.  Sally, you almost levitated with happiness when you saw Walter dancing. The two of you brought so much joy to everyone around us. With the help of a security guard, we took a family picture and headed back to the house.

We stayed overnight at Uncle Ben's parents' house--you both woke up too early! Sally, you and I did some wonderful snuggling, while Walter and Daddy watched videos until it was time to get up, play and eat some delicious breakfast. One of my hopes for the two of you is that you have friends like Ben and Arden, friends
Sally and Greta: Babies who Brunch
who are so dear they are family. We had a wonderful, relaxing morning together. Walter, you did NOT want to leave. You wanted to stay forever. We all agreed with you, but got back on the road anyway and headed home. We stopped for lunch at a truckstop diner called Norske Kitchen which specializes in popovers. It was very yummy. We picked up Hank, who had been very happy where he was but was also happy to see us again (Walter, you said, "My puppy!! There's my puppy coming back to my house!") We ate some dinner and slept well.

This weekend was particularly adventurous, but every day things happen that make me think, "I should write that down, I want to remember that forever."  Sally, you are learning how to throw a ball, and the look on your face when we play catch together is so intensely beautiful I can barely stand it. Walter, you are in love with two songs right now, "Take Up Your Spade" by Sara Watkins and "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen. There's a line in "Let it Go" that you've rewritten ... the original goes "I'm never going back/the past is in the past," but you sing it, very earnestly, "I'm never going back/the past is in the bear!"  I don't know what it means, but it strikes me as very profound. And very funny.
The past is in the bear, kids.  The past is in the bear.

I love you,