Sunday, June 22, 2014

Marked

One of Walter's favorite books these days is Water Come Down.  He likes very much that it's by a Walter, and Walter Jr. at that (Walter Jr. is a character in another favorite, Walter the Baker.) He likes the illustrations, especially the page with the cows, and the page where some of the trees are dead but others are watered and green. He likes the kind of odd poetry of it, I think.  But most of all, he likes the way I make the sign of the cross on his forehead as we read, recreating the moment of his baptism.  I trace the cross on his forehead with my thumb, and say the words I said when I anointed him with oil: "Walter Paul Edison-Albright, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever."  Tonight he reciprocated, touching my forehead gently and saying: "Mama Paul Edison-Albright, you have been marked with the God of Christ forever."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Walter and the Wonderful Evening

He even smiled for a selfie!
When an evening with a two-and-a-half year old goes really, really well, it's worth documenting.  We've been having lots of good nights recently, but tonight was especially wonderful.

I got home before the rest of the family and did some kitchen cleaning.  When Sean and the kids got home, I got a big hug from Walter.  Sally slept in her carseat while the three of us made dinner together: chicken tortellini and escarole soup. Walter smelled and touched and explored different shapes, colors and textures while we cooked.  Sally woke up right in time for nursing and dinner.  During dinner we had a very nice video chat with Grandma and Pop Pop.  Walter was lovely during the call and also told Sean, as he has been lately, "This is a very nice dinner, Dada. Thank you!"

Everyone ate well and Sean, Walter and Sally retired to the living room to play while I cleaned up.  Sally, who'd been a little cranky pants since waking up from her carseat nap, brightened up considerably and practiced both taking steps and launching herself at Sean with great glee.  She and Walter cracked each other up and played well, if not together, then at least in the general vicinity of each other with very few conflicts. Walter tries so hard. He gave her a bunch of toys to play with, and was confused when she still wanted the toys he was playing with. "But ... she has toys!" Big sigh. "Well, she's a baby.  She doesn't know."

Walter and the fancy car wash
I hung out with Sally for a bit while Walter and Sean did some impressive tunnel building with blocks.  Then Sean took Sally upstairs for a bath and Walter and I got to build together ... it's been awhile since we've built together and we fell right back into our routine, which is to construct a basic structure and then take turns placing blocks on top and around it as ornamentation.  Walter has a keen eye for symmetry, and the final product tonight was really beautiful.  He declared that it was "the perfect car wash for me" and sent his car through several times to get the "poop bird" off the windows.

When Sally and Daddy came down and discovered Sally was out of clean jammies, I asked him if we should help and he readily agreed.  He came downstairs with me (he walks down instead of going down on his bottom, and uses the railing so nicely) found a Sally jammie and came back upstairs, where he helped keep Sally happy while she got dressed and ready for bed.  She's always looking for him, and is so relieved and happy when he comes into view.

Sally was still pretty wakey, so I brought her into Walter's room for some stories. This morning Walter had read several of his little Sesame Street books to us, and he did it again tonight ... I asked him if we could get a video of it to show Umma and Baba, and he agreed (Hooray! He's finally warming up again to being photographed and video'd!) He read the Grover's Opposites book and was very, very proud. "I did it!"
video

I took Sally to bed and when I came out I found Sean and Walter in the bathroom: Walter was going poopy on the potty. It wasn't the first time, but every time it happens we are especially enthusiastic and celebratory.  The potty training is gradually but noticeably progressing, and we're quite excited about it. Sean made us some tea (Walter: "I like tea.  Can I have tea, too?") and we went to his room to enjoy it together.  Walter thanked Sean for the tea and gave me a sweet "Cheers!"  He made up a little song while he drank the tea that was kind of a mashup of "We Are Marching in the Light of God," "Down in the River to Pray," and "We are the Children of Tomorrow" from Fraggle Rock. "We are walking, we are walking one two three. We are walking by the river to pray. We are walking by the river, one in heart, one in voice, one in name (one in name!)" Sadly, no video of that ... but it was one of those moments you don't want to ruin by running to get a camera.  We just sat there, grinning at our boy and at each other.

I went upstairs and Sean finished up the bedtime routine--there was some resistance but it sounded like it went well.

It was a wonderful evening.

Friday, June 13, 2014

And all the people say ...

The ninth month of Sally has been eventful so far.   Walter has been maturing by leaps and bounds, too. It makes sense that the time and energy I have to document our lives decreases in proportion to the rising number of events I'd like to document. One of the constants has been very poor sleep, mostly on the part of Sally (and her parents.)  Walter has been sleeping better with the help of Claritin ... there's an allergist visit in our future, for sure.  Sally had a reasonable night's sleep last night with the help of a few days of antibiotic and some Tylenol--she's had an ear infection since April 20.  There's an ENT visit on the calendar for her.  Uff da.  

Next time, there will be video. We were too excited!
In other news, though, last night Sally did some amazing unassisted standing.  The first time it happened I was alone with her in the living room; Sean and Walter were cooking dinner.  It sounded something like this: "OhmyGod she's standing. OhmyGod she's standing. OhmyGod she's standing.  OhmyGod she's standing. Holy cats!" (I would like to submit that this was not taking our Lord's name in vain, but in fact a very fervent prayer.  I'm not sure what cats have to do with it, but there you go.)

The second time we were all playing together in the living room and she just stood there, looking at us, totally cool while we all tried not to freak out.  Walter wanted to go over and give her a congratulatory hug; we convinced him not to.  Hank went over to lick her face and tried to gently knock her over (this is what he did when Walter started walking, too.  Hank does not approve of his babies taking risks.)  We got Hank away from her and she was STILL standing with no sign of going down.  Sean ran into the kitchen and got his phone, which of course did not work as well as one would hope.  After several blurry pictures and one reasonably clear picture, Sally was still standing. Finally, she started to lose her balance a little bit, and as she did she took a full, unassisted step to the side, stood for a few seconds more, and then landed gently on her bottom.  Sally's first step!  I suspect that she took other steps during the day at daycare, too.  They worry about parents feeling bad when kids reach milestones at daycare. So, the report was carefully worded: "Sally was really interested in trying to walk!" Also: "Today, Sally licked EVERYONE!"

This morning, Sally threw herself around with great abandon--she's in the reckless stage of learning a new skill, something I've noticed with her before. She mostly threw herself in the direction of Walter and attempted to remove his bellybutton. Repeatedly.  Walter laughed about it but agreed that she wasn't being very gentle, and appreciated my (largely futile) attempts to dissuade her. A little later Walter lifted his shirt and presented his bellybutton to her.  "Here you go, Baby Sally."  He does this all the time, mostly when he's playing with a toy and she wants it (for the record, that's all toys, always.)  He's a sweet boy and a good brother.  My goal is to teach her to respect him, too.  This morning Walter said, "Can you be gentle, Sally?"  He also said, "I call her Ben sometimes." "Ben?" "Yes, Ben." "Why do you call her Ben?" "Because I love her."

I don't know where that came from, but it makes me happy. (Another recent nickname he's tried out for her recently  is "Buddy Girl.")

While we've always been affectionate and encouraging with Walter, lately we've been taking a page from Mr. Rogers and been extra intentional about telling Walter that we love being with him, that just being himself is a wonderful thing, and that he makes us very happy.  It took awhile, and it might be a phase, but Walter has gotten much more verbally and physically affectionate in the past week or so.  The other night, he and I had this exchange at bedtime: "Walter, you make me so happy." "Jah, I do. Mama, you make me very, very happy." "Thank you, Walter.  I love you." "I love you, Mama!"

That, as you can imagine, makes me very, very happy. 

Walter can still be a challenge, and I'm guessing that when the next growth spurt hits, or the next developmental milestone, or the next ear infection, or whatever it is that seems to turn the switch in his brain on to "defiant," we'll have some very tough days/weeks again.  But we are in a good, good stretch with him, and we're all enjoying it, Walter probably most of all.  He is effusively thankful.  A sample from last night: "Thank you, Dada. This is a very, very nice dinner. Thank you for making dinner with me, Dada." He's also starting to do some neat speaking/thinking/reasoning things, like the "When I was ..." construction I've noticed other kids (particularly older siblings) use. Two recent examples: "When I was a baby, I had to take that medicine." (He was referring to Sally's Amoxicillin. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he might have to have it again someday.) Also, "When I was a dog, I ate bones." Hee.  

Sally and John
John B. visited us last weekend, which was so wonderful for so many reasons.  I think watching the people I love fall in love with my kids, and watching my kids fall in love with them, too,  is one of the greatest things in the world.  Sally and Walter were both smitten with him. Walter even told Sean, "Dada, Uncle John is my favorite."  "Favorite" is a relatively new concept for Walter, and we were all pretty thrilled with this application of it. 
John said something that has really stuck with me.  I asked him what he thought of the kids, and he noted that they are wonderful at playing.  And it's true!  Walter is creative and imaginative when he plays, more and moreso every day, in ways that just blow me away.  Sally is inquisitive and determined and joyful when she plays, with lots of big, charming smiles. The way they play says so much about them as kids, and also about us as parents, I think. And it bodes well.

I needed John's perspective to realize that. I think it was something I needed to hear. 

Sean and I have been a little overwhelmed lately.  We finally got Sally into her room, and after two relatively good nights she came down with a terrible stomach bug (Walter had it earlier in the week, too.)  She ended up staying overnight in the hospital, receiving IV fluids for dehydration and IV antibiotics for her terrible ongoing ear infection (her third course ... she's now on her fourth.)  Sean also got the stomach bug and was sick for about a week.
Sally teepin', 9 months old, with IV and tiny hospital gown
Sally got better and then had a relapse: the solution was to nurse her for 15 seconds every 30 minutes. It was awful, but it worked--she got over the stomach bug with no more trips to the hospital. And that's good, because I didn't want to have to hold her down for blood draws anymore.  I would have done it if it was needed--because of my own medical history, I can be brave that way.  But I did not want to (of course, no one does.)

I've missed a lot of work and fallen terribly behind; Sean's been burning up vacation days, too.  We're not in a great place, financially. We're not getting very much sleep.  The house is a wreck, moreso than usual, and it feels like that's not going to change anytime soon. There is a chipmunk living in our workshop.  So much feels so very, very broken. 

Walter playing dress up. Joy!
Walter's favorite song these days is Matt Maher's "All the People Said Amen."  One of our worship bands introduced it to us at church and he's been hooked ever since.  It has a great beat, a fun "whoah-oh-oh" part, and it's just very enjoyable to sing.  I think Walter likes the message, too.  He likes the part about not being alone: "You are not alone, when you are lonely/If you feel afraid/you're not the only."  Walter gets that, and he sings it with great passion.  I like "We're all broken and we're all in this together/God knows we stumble and fall."  Last night Sally and Walter and I got out the percussion instruments and sang and played a pretty rockin' version together (Sally is brilliant with the tambourine and the kazoo.  Absolutely brilliant.)  And it all came together for me in that moment.  My kids who really know how to play, who put their whole hearts into playing and learning and exploring the world with joy.  My broken, messy, beautiful life. God's promise to be there, to love us, to sustain us no matter what. We are not alone in our brokenness or our fears. "We are all the same/in need of mercy/ to be forgiven and be free. It's all we've got to lean on and thank God it's all we need!"

Amen, amen, amen.