Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Longest Solstice (or Happy Sixteen Month birthday, Sally!)

"This day, Sean ... I mean ... this day.  I have to write it down."
"Just start with the popsicle story."


Sally shivered gleefully in her highchair, stripped down to her diaper, sucking on a popsicle.  Walter and I sat with our feet up on each other's chairs, lounging a little, luxuriating in popsicles of our own.  Sean stood by the microwave, waiting for his dinner to be done. Hank sat like a sphinx in the middle of the kitchen floor. Riffing on a favorite Daniel Tiger tune, Walter sang: "When you're sick, you can get a red popsicle!"  Sean cracked up, and then Walter and I did, too.  Sally clapped, and to our delight, he sang it again.

Here's how we got there:

This morning I woke up with an undeniable lingering head cold, which in my profession is known as "the thing that happens every Christmas."  I lingered in bed a little longer than I meant to, but got up when I heard Sally waking over the monitor.  Umma (holding Sally,) Walter and I converged in the little hallway between the kids' rooms.  Walter got out a few bars of the "good morning song" before I turned everyone's attention to the situation at hand: Sally had pink eye.

The sight of her eyes all gooped shut made me angry.  When is this baby going to catch a break?  She just finished an awful round of croup, and was starting to get back to her sweet, sassy Sally self.  Now this. Ugh.  I hugged her close and gently wiped the goop out of her eyes ... where it stayed, firmly ensconced in her long lashes.  "OK, maybe I need to be slightly less gentle with the next cotton ball."  Sally stayed still and leaned her face toward me to help me get a better angle ... she wanted the goop out, too.  "Eyes, eyes," she said, smiling at me.

Sean took Sally to urgent care while Umma, Baba, Walter and I headed to church.  It was a beautiful service.  I always look forward to the Sunday we read the annunciation story, but I look forward to it with some trepidation, because those verses in Luke about Mary are so dear to me, so close to my heart, that I worry I won't do them justice in my preaching.  Fortunately, my preaching isn't the only means of grace in worship, and today everything came together: the incense burning on the altar, the service we put together using music from Holden Evening prayer, the solos sung by teenage girls, bringing Mary's song to life.  "Holy is Your Name," which always gets me.  And the sermon turned out to be a good one, too.  We didn't get it recorded, which is fine.  Sometimes a good sermon should be ephemeral, like incense.

After worship, we all got into Baba's car and Walter was completely delighted to find me sitting next to him.  He held my hand and we snuggled under blankets together, and he smiled and smiled.  I wonder if he remembers how I used to sit next to him in the car when he was a baby, before we added that second carseat?  I was very grateful to have that moment next to him, too, and his hand in mine.

The four of us had a very nice lunch and headed home to rejoin Sally and Sean.  They'd had a nice morning together, too, even with the sickness and urgent care visit.  Sally was hungry and in a good mood. Umma and Baba headed home. Sally did a great job with her eye drops.  I nursed her and she fell asleep; after putting her down all cozy in her crib I joined Sean in his efforts to get Walter down for his nap.  As we left Walter's room, we heard Sally throwing up in hers.  In the manner of people who have done this countless times before, I took care of cleaning up Sally while Sean took care of cleaning up her crib.  Walter left his room and ran around singing and laughing at our requests that he return to his bed.  We got Sally back to sleep ... I don't remember how ... and it took a very long time for Walter to go down for his nap, but he eventually did.  I didn't sleep; too congested.  But I got a nice little rest.

Walter woke up about an hour too early, climbed into bed with me and watched some cooking shows until we decided it was time to wake Sally up and start working on dinner. Sean worked on a beautiful stuffed pork roast while I played with the kids.  Sally did some truly amazing dancing--I have never seen such moves on one so young.  When Sean went to bind the roast together, he realized the string mesh the roast had come in was gone.  He also couldn't find his ball of kitchen twine.  But, more pressing, where was that mesh?

There are times in adult life when it's not entirely clear which emergency you should attend to first.  As we looked around for the mesh and realized it wasn't there, the "we need to get that roast in the oven and feed our children" emergency took a serious second to the "maybe our dog ate something that could really hurt him" emergency.  The way we decided who got to take Hank to the emergency animal hospital and who got to feed and entertain the kids was by having one of those brief, but meaningful, check-ins that spouses do.  We checked in with each other, and it was clear: Sean would take Hank, I would stay with the kids.  Sean and Hank headed out into the dark night. (Sean: "I was imagining so many deer all the way to Kronenwetter.")

I got Sally in her chair and started heating up leftovers for dinner.  We ate.  I sent Walter to the potty ... where he peed all over the floor.  I mean, puddles.  I gave him a roll of paper towels and went back to helping Sally finish up dinner.  Walter got the bathroom clean enough that Sally and I could come in, and I gathered up the paper towels and got him out of his clothes.  By this time, Sally had pooped, so getting them both into the tub seemed like the obvious course of action.  They were delighted, and co-existed in the tub very well (for the most part.)  They took great delight in washing my right arm with great vigor and thoroughness (Sally: "Arm! Arm!")   I got them both out of the tub before they wanted to get out but also, crucially, before they stopped having fun and started really bugging each other.

I got Sally dried and dressed, and Walter, too.  Two clean kids, ready for books.  Sean blooped to update us on Hank: a dog his size could probably pass the mesh with no trouble, but the vet decided to induce vomiting just to be safe. The mesh came up right away, and they followed up with some anti-nausea medicine, and Sean and Hank started the thirty minute drive home.

In that time, Sally demonstrated a very limited capacity to sit and read books, as well as a tenacious desire to stand precariously on Walter's rocking chair, bringing all of his books down off of the shelves (and onto her head.)  I looked up from our book and said to Walter, "She's making me nervous.  You?" "Yes," he said, somberly.  We decided to call Umma and Baba.  Sally did some more energetic dancing, was very happy to see Umma and Baba, and then cheerfully headed back to the bookshelf for more wanton destruction. She happened to step on one of Walter's favorite old birthday cards, and it played a few bars of the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  Both kids were enchanted.  Walter took the card and looked at it, pointed to the writing at the bottom and said, "This is from Henry."  "Did you read that, Walter?" "Yup!" he said, and smiled.  I think he probably just remembered, because it is a favorite card and Henry is a favorite friend, but still.  We looked up the song on youtube and watched several versions together, while Sally continued to squirm around and climb all over the world.

Then I heard her poop again ... and again with the assuredness of one who has years of experience with such things, I knew that it was diarrhea this time, and that my window of non-blow out opportunity was small, if any.  Sally did not want to have her diaper changed and so the window closed, and so I cleaned up a very messy baby.  (Me: "That tub might have been premature.") I got her clean and diapered and then thought ... what the hey ... she's naked, she's sick ... let's get her rehydrated.  Popsicles for everyone! (Regular for me and Walter; pedialyte for Sally.)  That's when Sean and Hank got home.  "Hey, naked baby!" Sean said to Sally, who looked up from her popsicle and smiled winningly at him.  I wanted to say, "They were clean. They were in their pajamas." But then Sean hugged me so tenderly ... I knew he was just relieved, and glad to be home.  And very tickled by the comedic brilliance of our son, who can make a Daniel Tiger song his own with the best of them.

After the popsicles, there were wash cloths ("Maybe another tub?" I mused, but dismissed it. It was getting late.) After the wash cloths, there was Walter draping a knit blanket over his head and proclaiming, "I am the king! I am the king!" Soon he clarified that he was a king bringing presents for Jesus.  He brought some shoe boxes and race car tracks to Sally (Jesus.)  "Jesus, some tracks for you!" he said.  "Jesus, some tracts for you!" Sean added.  When Sally slid off my lap and went off to make mischief (again) Walter informed me that I needed to fill in. "You are a baby named Jesus!" I obliged.

I sat on the couch next to Hank while Walter and Sally piled up more and more presents for me (Jesus.)  Hank watched the kids with what looked like great tenderness, or possibly the remnants of some nausea.  He seemed (and still seems) a little extra tired.  While the kids played, I got to pet him gently for awhile, which did us both some good.

Eventually, we got the kids to bed.

Today is Sally's 16-month-birthday.  It's also the winter solstice; the Longest Night.  Friends, I have to tell you: it was a long day.  Also, the only picture we took today was this one, sent to my email from Sean's phone, with the subject line: "It's out!"
We didn't get a picture of Walter with his royal blanket.  We didn't get a video of Sally's amazing dance moves.  I didn't even snap a quick shot of my two beautiful kids in the bathtub ... that classic picture that parents cherish (and kids too, secretly, right?) for years to come.  And that's OK.  Some of these long days should be ephemeral, like incense.

But you can see why I had to write it down, right?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let's talk about Sally

Just by looking at her, you can tell a lot about what kind of 15-month-old Sally is.  She's always got a bruise or two on her noggin. She's not particularly clumsy, she just has no concern for her own safety. The big bruise in these pictures happened at daycare when she dove headfirst over the back of a toddler-sized couch.  She also recently dove headfirst out of Sean's arms, and would have hit the floor, but (fortunately?) hit the wall instead, with such force that she bounced right back into Sean's arms.  She's never been disoriented, no signs of concussion or serious injury.  But she scares us, routinely. When we're able to stop her before an accident happens, she insistently goes right back and tries to do it again.

We gave a penguin-shaped icepack to Sally after she hit the wall, and tried to convince her to put it on her owie by having the penguin kiss her forehead.  She decided the penguin's name was Owie, and will now, with great delight and desire, ask for him by name, saying, "Owie! Owie!" and pointing and gesturing emphatically.

When she has a close call--almost hurting herself, but managing to stop or minimize the damage--Sally says, with the perfect cadence, "Whoa!"

If I'd managed to write a 14 month round up, I probably could have made a decently accurate list of Sally's first words.  Now, it just feels futile ... the girl talks all the time, breaking out new words without breaking a sweat every day.  She repeats words back to us, too, which makes the list almost limitless. She's still mostly communicating at Curious George level, I'd say.  We're big fans of the animated Curious George series on PBS, and George doesn't speak, per se, but imitates speech in a way that's very communicative and easy to interpret, with some of the words ("Ok"and "uh huh" for example) being almost perfectly formed, and the rest a very intelligible mix of monkey and English.  We understand our little monkey perfectly much of the time, and some things anyone meeting her would be able to understand, while others would require a bilingual interpreter (me, Sean or Walter, usually.)

Some of the things Sally likes to say (not a comprehensive list!):
Bubble (one of her first words ... she loves washing her hands)
Thank you
More (this is her word for nursing, too, but sounds more like "Mo" when she's using it to mean nursing and not just more of something else.)
All done
Waba (Walter)
Pop Pop (still working on "Grandma")
Please (she uses sign for this one, along with the word)
Moo (What does the cow say?)
Baa (What does the sheep say?)
Woof woof (What does the dog say?)
*sniff sniff* (What does the bunny say?)
Ball (this was also one of her first words)
Row row
Diaper (she tells us sometimes when she needs a new one, and signs diaper, too.)
Fishy (she uses this to mean fish and shoes, too.  It sounds like, "Ishies!")
No (a fan favorite.)
Uh huh
Here you go (said as all one word.)
Uh uh
And almost anything else you prompt or ask her to say.  She will try it! She's game.

Sally's game for most new things, in fact, which makes her a lot of fun to be with.  She loves all kinds of foods and eats cheerfully and heartily in a totally undiscriminating manner.  She likes meeting new people and going to new places; she's almost always up for an adventure, even if she's tired or not feeling well.

It's (not quite, technically) winter in Wisconsin, so of course she's not feeling well.  She got tubes in her ears a little over a month ago, and that seems to have ended the endless ear infections.  She's been sick since then, but hasn't needed antibiotics.  We're currently monitoring a nasty cough.  Her upper molars are almost all the way in, and her bottom molars are close behind.  She's got canines peeking through her top gums, too.  It's kind of remarkable how cheerful she is given all of this, and the frequent head injuries, too.

And Sally is very cheerful ... and very, very sad.  Oh, the sad.  I was explaining to our friend J., who's expecting his first baby in February, that the sadness of toddlers is real.  She cries real tears, and she means it when her face crumples and she starts to wail.  But, if you give her a little space and not a lot of direct attention, she gets over it just as quickly as it comes on. The trouble comes when you have to intervene and pay attention, because she's doing something naughty or dangerous.  The will is strong with this one.  Very strong. And she's not open to being reasoned with at all, or being distracted or redirected. It makes a person tired, sometimes.  Other times it's kind of funny and cute ... the way she rolls her eyes and sticks her chin up in the air, shaking her tiny butt and singing, "No! No no no!" as she walks away from me and toward whatever gaping chasm she's interested in at the time. She's very charming, Sally.  But we try not to let on too much when her defiance strikes us as especially cute, looking ahead to days when it might not come in such adorable, relatively safe, forms.

Sally and I were having a serious disagreement about markers the other day... a disagreement that is actually ongoing (she keeps testing, giving me the look, to see if I'm going to stop her from writing on non-paper surfaces again.  Persistence over the course of days, weeks ... that's Sally.)  The disagreement made both of us crabby with each other.  I have a strong will, too.  Walter observed all this, and eventually said, "Mama, do you still love Sally?"

"Of course I do!  With my whole heart, just like I love you!  No matter what, right?"

Walter nodded, looking thoughtful.  He's still not entirely convinced.  So, we keep telling him, and her, and trying to show them in every way we can.  The truth is, they are easy to love.  Even when they are at their most difficult.

I pick Sally up and cover her in kisses. Walter makes funny faces and makes up silly words.  Sean calls her "Salamander" and gazes lovingly into her eyes.  She rolls her eyes at us, but, obligingly, smiles.

She knows.

Ok, so immediately after I posted this I thought of like a million more favorite Sally words (or rather, I heard her say them after she woke up from her nap.) So:
Bye bye
Hello (Hi-Oh!)
Nose ("no")
Snow (also "no."  Context is all.)
Agua (we kept correcting her and saying "wawa," until I heard her daycare teacher repeat it back to her as "agua." Bilingual baby. Noted!)
Hat (usually said while patting her head. "Hat hat!")
Arm, leg, hand, toes ... great at identifying and saying the body parts
On! ("On on on!" This can mean she wants something on, or that she wants something off, something open, something closed, etc.)

With all these actual words to choose from, she also still really likes chatting to herself saying, "dibbadibbadee."

Great example of Sally's persistence and planning and Walter's advances in Executive Function from tonight: Sally wanted to play in the "bags and wraps" drawer, full of expensive bags and sharp edges for tearing plastic wrap.  After a struggle, I diverted her by opening the rag drawer and asking her to clean the floor, which she did.  Walter joined in and they were very industrious together.  Walter even disappeared for a few seconds and came back with a damp rag he'd taken to the bathroom, wet, and wrung out himself.  They got lots of rags dirty and had a good time. Walter didn't even want to stop for Advent wreath and cake time. As soon as we all had cake in front of us, Sally told Sean she was all done and wanted to get down ... and immediately went back to the forbidden drawer. Her plan all along had been to wait until we were distracted, and the cake provided the perfect opportunity.  When Sean stood and ate his cake in front of the doors, Sally relented.  And asked for some cake.  As soon as Walter was done with his cake, he went over to the drawers, and I watched him think about which one he was going to open.  He chose the rag drawer, and resumed his task, very pleased with his good decision.

I was pretty impressed with both of them!  Sally's learning how to hatch plots, and Walter's learning how to delay gratification.  I watched him stare at a spoonful of whipped cream at Thanksgiving, waiting for the coffee to be ready so he could put it in the coffee, wanting to eat it right away but willing himself to wait. And he did it.  He got his hand painted when we went to see Santa this weekend, and stayed perfectly still and did not touch the painting until it was dry.  It was amazing to watch.  And even though I don't like the contest of wills that often comes with it, I love watching Sally persist, and plan, and come up with all kinds of different problem-solving strategies in her quest to get whatever she's after.

Proud mama.  Headed to bed before I think of any more words to add!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Walter's conversation with Santa

Last year, Walter was excited to go see Santa, but too shy to say anything to him.  Since then, he's been preparing.

Santa: What's your name?
Walter: (very quietly) Walter
Santa: ?
Sean: Walter!
Santa: Hello, Walter! How old are you?
Walter: I'm three. (slight pause.) My birthday was in October.
(Santa and Walter chat quietly, and I can't quite make it out.  Santa must ask Walter what he wants for Christmas, because the next thing I hear is ...)
Santa: A candy cane?  Anything else?
Walter: Yes. A candy cane. (makes a pinching gesture with his fingers, just like I do when I say I want a snack.)
Santa: A big one?
Me: I think he's talking about the candy canes in the basket next to you.  He'd like one of those.  Can he have one?
Santa: Oh, of course!  Is there anything else you'd like for Christmas?
Walter: A purple blanket, soft, with my name on it. (This is what he's consistently been saying for weeks and weeks. I kept asking him thinking it would change, and it hasn't.  When we told Heidi today, she said, "Oh! Anna has one of those. A purple blanket with her name on it."  So maybe he saw it during our weekend in Osh Kosh in August?  Whatever the reason ... Santa is taken aback.)
Santa: I will get my elves working on that right away!  Do you ... want anything else? Are you sure?
(I break in, now, getting Sally into the picture and talking about how good both kids have been. Through all of this, I never noticed that Walter was very gently holding Santa's hand, the way he does with people he loves and trusts.) ***

Walter was disappointed that he didn't immediately get his blanket from Santa today, so we explained that it's going to take some time for the elves to make it.  On our way to the activity room, I said to Santa, "Pretty great request, huh?" Santa said, "That was definitely a first for me, yes!"

The blanket the elves were able to make turned out to be a little maroon, more than traditional purple, with violet letters for his name. I hope he likes it! Now ... to wait for Christmas!

***Edited later to add: Watching Baba's video of this, I remembered that at one point, Walter tried to reach past his sweater into his shirt pocket and said, "I have a gift for you, Santa."  I realized he was looking for a little jingle bell he'd found earlier the day and decided to bring to Santa as a gift.  I went to help him get it out but Baba shook his head and said the bell had been left at home. We promised Santa, and Walter, we'd put the jingle bell out with Walter's letter on Christmas Eve.