Saturday, May 30, 2015

All this before we left the house today

Walter climbed into bed with us around 3:30 this morning. At around 8, he woke up with Umma and Baba's on his mind. "We need to go to Umma and Baba's house," were his first words to me upon waking, his little head nestled next to mine. When he saw that I was awake, too, he elaborated on his plan. We should make doot doot cake.  TWO doot doot cakes.  One for Walter to make, and one for Sally.  With white doots and brown doots. Enough for both of them to share.  I explained that we'd be going to visit Umma and Baba in two weeks, but he still spent most of the morning campaigning for going down there today.

Walter was mostly interested in playing this morning but when Sally woke up she made it clear that breakfast was the first order of business, so we settled in for some miniwheats. Sean made himself a taco with some smoked trout, and the kids wanted some, so he gave them some tortillas to eat, and some fish, too.  I watched Sally expertly wrap up her tortilla, burrito-style, and was delighted when she unwrapped it to see that she'd put her fish in there.  Sally is taco-proficient.

Walter and Sally were being sibling-y, and getting on each other's nerves a bit. Sally made a funny baby-dinosaur scream noise and then Walter did it too, prompting Sally to say, "Too loud, Walter." And Walter said, "But you did it first, Sally." And she explained, "Too LOUD, Walter," and he reiterated, "But you did it FIRST, Sally," and so on.  Sally dumped some of Walter's milk out of his bowl at one point, reaching in to see if he had any more miniwheats. When that got a reaction, she tried to do it again.  At one point, though, Walter ran out of fish and Sally gave him some of hers.

"Thank you, Salla Balla," he said, lovingly.
"Otay, Walla Walla," she shot right back, without missing a beat.

I think improvising terms of endearment must be some kind of major developmental milestone, right? Because ... so wonderful!

After breakfast Sean got himself and the kids dressed while I did some dishes so we could get out of the house and start our day. This was the plan. This is always the plan.  But it is really hard to do.  It's been made more difficult, lately, by the fact that Sally has decided I should not clean the kitchen after meals.

Cleaning the kitchen after meals is kind of my happy place, honestly. I should find ways to include the kids in the process, and I've tried to do that now and then, but really ... I just love having the kitchen to myself and a little time to get something accomplished on my own. I like pouring myself a big glass of selzer and drinking it while I work.  Sometimes I'll eat a little chocolate. I listen in on Sean and the kids playing in the living room and join them when I can ... but I enjoy that time by myself.

It's hard to say no to Sally, though, when she looks up at me and says, "C'mon, Mommy! Play! Living room! Toys, Mommy!" This morning she added, "Take my hand!" and gave me her hand, which of course I took.  She led me into the living room, to her purple chair from Santa, and commanded, "Sit down. Right here! Play, Mommy!  Toys! Read a book!"

We left the house around 10, which meant we didn't end up with much out-and-about time before we had to come home so I could eat and get ready for a wedding I officiated this afternoon. But I don't think I would have wanted to rush it any more than we did.  Some things can't be rushed: dreams about doot doot cake, miniwheats and trout tacos for breakfast, endearments and playing in the living room ... all good things.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Walter, philosopher; Sally, backseat driver

Two recent conversations with the kids worth documenting:

There's kind of a tough left turn to get from our house to everywhere we go. We were at that intersection, waiting.  I was driving. From her carseat, Sally voiced her opinion. "Go now, Mommy." It wasn't clear, so I stayed put. When I did make the turn, Sally noticed there were some cars headed our way (a safe distance away, I assure you.) "Cars coming, Mommy," she said, helpfully.

The deer in our backyard. Looking right at us. 

Yesterday there was a big doe in our backyard. She would have stayed there longer, I think, but she was a little spooked by all of us, gathered at the window, gazing at her.  Today, the deer was still on our minds.

(Hank walks past us in the living room)
Walter, joking: Look! A deer!
Me: A dog deer!
Sean: A dear dog!
Me: That's true. Hank is our dear dog.
Walter: Yes, he is. Forever and ever.

Friday, May 22, 2015

That time I thought Sally was a month older than she really is ...

Yesterday I proudly announced on facebook that Sally was 22 months old, the same age that Walter was when she was born.  Pretty wild/crazy/neat, except that she's actually 21 months old.  Whew.

Still my baby!
I've been anticipating that milestone, of course. As it approaches, I can't help but draw comparisons, and wonder and feel wistful about how little Walter was, really, when Sally joined our family. I don't think many people say this out loud, unless they are saying it to their pastor, but while there are benefits to spacing babies close together, there are some things worth feeling sad about, too.  Walter lost a little bit of babyhood, no doubt about it.  And my relationship with Walter changed, too ... we started having, as he would put it, "some troubles."  We're still sorting these troubles out, Walter and I.  I anticipate ... going out on a limb, here ... that there may still be more troubles to come.

My sweet boy, with pink flowers
But I'm not sure "totally conflict free" was ever a good goal for me to have in terms of relating to my children, especially Walter who is so much like me. I might need to let that goal go, and go for "mostly appropriate, healthy response to conflict" instead.  To that end, Walter and I have been practicing our calming breaths and our "I" statements.  He's really, really good at "I" statements.

Walter's coming out of a rough time of acting out at school, we think due to transitions (older kids moving up into a different classroom.) We helped him with strategies for staying calm, alternatives to hitting and biting, and incentives for good days and good choices.  But, mostly, I think he came through it and out of it on his own.  He was ready to start listening and self-regulating again.  After more than a week of co-sleeping, he's back to spending most of the night in his own bed, just joining us in our bed in the morning when he wakes up.  He's smiling more, laughing more, brightening all around.

Little kids have big feelings. I remember feeling like my emotions were much larger and more powerful than I was when I was a kid. I truly, truly enjoyed growing up and leaving each stage behind (life got easier as I got older.)  I wonder if Walter will feel the same way?

We'll see ... in the meantime, I'll do my best not to rush him, or Sally, months or years ahead of where they actually should be!

A celebration of Walter, exactly as he is now (3 and half-ish ... I'm not counting months anymore ... I'm clearly not very good at it ... )
She seems like a good role model

  • Walter has a new favorite color: green.  Pink and purple are also still favorites. He is excited to start gardening soon. 
  • Walter is excited for outdoor farmer's market season to begin, and enjoys reading the latest (summery) issue of Everyday with Rachel Ray. He enjoys watching cooking shows in Create, too. 
  • He loves shrimp, all kinds.
  • He got to choose new bedding for his room, and chose Doc McStuffins. which I don't think he's ever seen, but we were pleased with the choice. 
  • He is tremendously sweet and snuggly.  I love going on walks with him, holding his hand. 
  • With Walter, you can really relax and enjoy the good things in life: a nice walk, a snuggle in the morning,
    Walter, with blocks
    eating popcorn and watching a movie, a beautiful bluegrass song. Our favorite thing to do  continues to be breakfast together once a week ... a very simple time apart from the rest of the world that we both really enjoy.
  • On our family walks, Walter likes to get out of the stroller and run (though never too far, and never so I'm too nervous about it.) He also likes to pick dandelions. He was horrified when I told him that, once he'd picked a yellow dandelion, it would never continue on to the white stage. He's a pretty sensitive kid, and interrupting the dandelion life cycle was a serious issue for him, no matter how hard I tried to reassure him. Now he only picks white dandelions, and always blows the seeds and scatters them, to help them. Sometimes he plants the seeds in Sally's hair because, in addition to being a sensitive soul, Walter is also a sibling. 
  • He is brilliant and HILARIOUS. His word play is really getting very good.  The other night, Sean made mu shu pork.  Suddenly, in the middle of enjoying his dinner Walter stopped and said, "This is no good ... IT COMES FROM COWS." As he waited for the pun to sink in, he realized there was another pun to be had. "It comes from the FEET of cows!!" He added, to our great delight. 
  • Walter loves books of all kinds. He loves Fraggle Rock and Curious George.  He's not into anything right now (not like the Frozen or Peter Pan hey days) ... lately he wants to be outside, or he wants to rediscover his inside toys, like his blocks or his workbench. 
  • His greatest sources of delight: visits from Umma and Baba, outings or other time outside school spent with Henry and family, sweets, especially chocolate (he got my sweet tooth,) breakfast or other dates with Mama, reading to us (counting books and others he has memorized or can figure out from pictures,) and snuggles especially with Daddy. 

A celebration of Sally, 21 months old (NOT 22!)

  • While she occasionally tests our limits/patience/the laws of physics, Sally is almost entirely a delight. I was listening to her talk over the monitor, before she fell asleep, which is one of my favorite things, and I asked Sean, "Is she always going to be this delightful?" "No," he said, "Definitely not."  It's not that we think she'll be less delightful as she gets older, it's just that there's nothing in the world as delightful as listening to a toddler sing a medley of "itsy bitsy spider," "twinkle twinkle little star," and "my purple balloon goes sailing," to the dolls in her crib.  That's pretty delightful.
    Playing/working hard. Gave me a smile when she saw the camera.
  • What we're mostly listening for over the monitor these days is bad coughing/asthma-like symptoms (we haven't gotten an official diagnosis, or anything, but Dr. L. is treating her like she's got allergy-induced asthma, and that seems to be the case.) What I'm celebrating about that is that she's really good at taking her medicine, including her albuterol inhaler. Walter helps her with her medicine, too, which is wonderful (and he recently learned how to swallow pills, which is amazing. Sean and I, allergy-having kids though we were, didn't learn to do that until we were seven or so.)
  • Sally loves her lullabies, including the one I wrote for her, but she insists that I insert the names of other people into it. Tonight we sang to "Jaysa bug," "Jackson dear," "Chelsea girl," and "Emily boo," all at her request. Other favorites include Mommy, Daddy, Walter, Jesus and Matt (Henry's dad.) I think it's her way of praying for other people, kind of a "God bless..." prayer. It's an odd experience for me, sometimes, to sing something so personal and tender to classmates of hers I barely know.  She's taking that "your family is the whole wide world" stuff to heart, that girl. 
  • Sally loves all food.  Sometimes she'll try something and not like it.  No big deal ... she'll just move on with the meal and not eat that thing, but usually she'll try it again later and like it.  She's been dairy-free for a few weeks to help with some GI issues, and has managed that quite well.  She's the eating champ of the world.  She prefers salty things to sweet ... she and I polished off a bag of black olives the other night and I was pretty proud. 
  • Sally can count, reliably, to five.  She loves counting, especially because it's something Walter teaches her to do. 
  • It goes without saying, I think, that Sally is a brilliant communicator (that's kind of a funny sentence, when you think about it.)  She has a huge vocabulary and puts together sentences very well.  Two favorites: "Read the book, Mama." "_____ right there" (informing us of something that is happening and the fact that it is happening ... right there. 
  • Sally calls me "Mommy." I'm not sure why ... we usually use "Mama" in this house. Maybe they taught it to her at school? Regardless, Sally is pretty clear on her use of "Mommy" and "Daddy."  It's nice ... it feels like being named. 
A celebration of the two of them, Walter and Sally
  • The way they love Dr. Suess books that feature Sally and her big brother (who we assume is Walter.)
  • The way they love to brush their teeth and read books.
  • The way Walter always wants to read books in Sally's room, and Sally always wants to read book in Walter's room. 
  • The way they are in this picture (the one I took just before the one posted above, before Sally realized I was taking pictures and gave me that big smile.)  They went to the living room after dinner and immediately got to work.  Sally brought the stool over to the easel, got herself a marker, put her drink in one of the paint cup holders and set to work.  Walter went over to his work bench, got out a board and various screws, nuts and bolts and a screw driver, and set to work.  I came in and sat down behind them, and they were just so beautiful, so industrious, so focused, so at peace with themselves and the world. Some people would probably look at this photo and see the opposite of peace... they'd see the clutter, the mess, the chaos. But truly truly I tell you, it is a picture of peace. And it is, and they are, beautiful. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Yuri's Night to Mother's Day

Sean and I have been trying, lately, to go out for a date at least once a month.  When I saw that Yuri's Night, April 12th, fell on a Sunday, I arranged for our wonderful babysitter to take the kids and started plotting a dinner date. I searched the area for a Russian restaurant.  Nothing. I searched the area for a Polish restaurant.  We live in a very Polish part of Wisconsin, which means there are no Polish restaurants, because you go to your grandma's house for Polish food.  Maybe German food? That's kind of stretch. We went with fusion/eclectic pub food, because it's yummy and reasonably priced and because there are no visible borders from space. We had a wonderful meal and capped it off with some local soft serve before going to get the kids. It was a great night.

Sally had thrown up while we were out, though, and continued to throw up into the night and the next day, heralding the beginning of The Family Stomach Virus From Hell, 2015 Edition.  Life since then has been a bit of a blur. Somewhere in there we decided, rather definitively, not to have any more kids. It wasn't the stomach virus that did it ... we've been pretty much decided on it for awhile. And there are all sorts of good reasons for that decision, the biggest one being that we don't want to risk my health/life in another pregnancy. Dr. M., who was very supportive and excited about our decision to try for a second baby, was equally definitive in his opinion that we should not try for a third. "Take precautions," he said, sternly. "EVERY time.  It's been wonderful knowing you. Enjoy those two beautiful children."

I'm not particularly sad about this decision, but maybe that's because we've been giving away baby gear and clothes for months, now, and I did a lot of my nostalgic crying about it when Sally was first born.  I felt very sad, for example, feeling the absence of her in my womb, knowing that I'd never feel those kicks and flutters again.  I felt sad weaning her, knowing that I'd never breastfeed another baby. But on a day like today, on this particular day even, which is Mother's Day, when everyone is napping and we are just us four, I do not feel an absence or an ache.  This is my family.

There is an absence, of course, but I don't really feel it or think about it unless I'm observing the anniversaries, mindful of the dates, or reflecting on The Bean and loss for other reasons.

The first time we celebrated Yuri's Night, I was pregnant for the first time and we were so, so excited. We wanted to celebrate. Sean said, "Let's go out for Yuri's Night," and made a reservation at a fancy Russian restaurant in downtown Chicago. I took the train downtown and we we walked together from the station.  I was surprised at how tired I was as I walked, and delighted by that tiredness--a symptom of my pregnancy.  We ate lots of dishes with beets that night, we beamed at each other.  A few days later, my miscarriage began.  On Mother's Day, not long after the miscarriage was over, I decided to write about my experience, so that people would stop saying things like, "When are you going to have a baby? You're going to be a great Mom!" without realizing what had just happened to me.

The space between Yuri's Night and Mother's Day isn't much, really. But it's a significant span of time for us, and we mark it.  We decided to keep celebrating Yuri's Night, as much as we are able, every year. We want to celebrate and remember the joy of that night--its promise and hope. We give thanks for The Bean's short life and for the family we've been able to have since then.

This, all of this, is my family.
(And I love them. Very much!)