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?

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