Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Letter To My Daughters

My darling Livia and Lucy,

Yesterday we visited your grave. It was a visit containing three "firsts". Though this is your second Christmas season in Heaven, it is the first Christmas we could visit your grave. It was the first time your daddy got to see your headstone in person. And it's the first time we brought your little brother to visit.

Sean was fussing as I got him out of the car seat, but as he settled into my arms and we came to stand under your tree in front of your headstone, he calmed down. He watched quietly as your father laid the two roses in front of your headstone– one dark pink, one creamy white. Then I brought him nearer and we crouched down so that his little baby hand could touch the rose granite of your stone. His little fingers, so eager to explore all different kinds of textures, gently caressed your stone. And I wept.


There has been an ache in my heart this whole season of Christmas, the ache of missing you, the ache of incompleteness, the ache of your absence. You both should be here– we ought to be a family of five all together for the holidays.

I watch your little brother and I wonder about both of you. He is so strong-willed, so stubborn; he can be so utterly charming one minute and then flat out screaming the next. He gazes at me with smoky dark eyes filled with delight as I tickle his tummy while I change his diaper, and his infectious giggles kiss my ears. I wonder if those giggles contain the echoes of your laughter. I wonder what you look like, growing up in Heaven, and if your eyes are smoky dark grey like Sean's, or brown like your daddy's, or greeny-blue like mine. I wonder what things make you laugh. I wonder who takes care of you and loves on you and sweeps you up for kisses and hugs and cuddles. And I ache for it to be me who does all of that.




A few times in the past month I have been asked how I am enjoying motherhood since Sean's arrival. I answer politely, because I know that the speakers mean well, but I declare here and for everyone that my motherhood did not begin with Sean's arrival. It began nearly two years ago, with your conception, with your tiny lives growing within me, that changed my identity forever. And though I love your brother fiercely and delight in his life, you are no less real than he is
. You are just as much our daughters as he is our son, and he will grow up always knowing your names and knowing you are his big sisters.


My Lucy, my Livia. I miss you so much. And I know that Christmas in Heaven, whatever it is like in the particulars, is full of more joy than I can possibly imagine and that you, having seen our reigning Savior Jesus face-to-face, live that joy in a way that I can only experience the echoes of here on this broken earth. And that brokenness is evident in our separation from you, and it means that all Christmases in our family, no matter how joyous, will always have a bittersweet taste for missing you.

I love you, my beautiful, precious girls. And I rejoice in how alive you are in Heaven and I wait in eager anticipation of the day I will get to see you once again.

Always your Mama.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

It doesn't feel much like Christmas, here in this hundred-and-twenty year old neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama. The Spanish moss that cascades from the trees in front of our rented house drifts languidly in the warm air and when I take early afternoon walks I wish for the hundredth time I hadn't left my flip-flops at home (and why-oh-why didn't I bring any t-shirts?) It feels like the very Indian summeriest-of Indian summers and the gaudy leaves are still showering gently down and fall flowers bloom in the gardens of these quaint southern homes.

Still, lighted Christmas trees appear in the big front windows all around the neighborhood, and lights twinkle after dark. We have our own tiny little tree-in-a-pot with a strand of lights and a star on top– Sean's first Christmas tree, a tiny prelude to the trees he will see at his grandparents' houses this gypsying Christmas-all-over-the-country. I packed all our Christmas cds so that strains of Perry Como and Mannheim Steamroller and the Cambridge Singers come from the boombox which our landlady thoughtfully placed in the living room.

And thought, how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

I could do a bit less, I will grant you, with "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (the "Santa Is My Stalker" song, I call it) and while Sean is only five months old and rather oblivious to all that, I wonder how as a family we will foster the magic and whimsy of Christmas while avoiding as much as possible the legalism and materialism, the cold stark business transaction of "behave to earn stuff". Let our gift-giving reflect the Giver and let it be free and joy-filled! And may we cultivate wonder and whimsy and magic in the midst of the dry dust of this materialistic culture. One of my favorite Christmas books has always been J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters From Father Christmas– a collection of all the letters which Father Christmas wrote to the Tolkien children over a span of twenty-some years. Nate and I have discussed that perhaps in our family, the presents under the tree will be from us but the stockings are filled by Father Christmas– whom I prefer to Santa Claus (and the North Polar Bear is certainly a more engaging character than Rudolph!) I have long loved Beatrix Potter's Christmas tale The Tailor of Gloucester and have been enchanted to find that the "old story" that animals can talk on the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning shows up in other British books. I wish American history had its own set of tales of that sort, but I will happily borrow what I can from older cultures. I will teach my children that in a world fashioned by such a wildly creative God, not all that is true can be proved by the scientific method and that there is a place for magic and mystery, especially at Christmas when we celebrate the most wondrous Truth: God becoming Man!

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Each year, it seems to me, a certain Christmas carol will take up lodgings in my heart and brain and I will find the words echoing over and over in my mind throughout the Advent days. This Christmas bell carol chimes peace, goodwill– and the news of the world is a harsh, discordant note, jarring and threatening the melody.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, goodwill to men."

We can't escape it. Evil erupts out of the human heart and every time I get online there is death, disease, hunger, anger, hatred spilling over. Those made imago Dei seek to destroy their fellow image-bearers through weapons, through words. I am sheltered from the violence but I know the pain of death as I cuddle my son and remember his older sisters in this, their second Christmas in Heaven. I dream of the idyllic Christmas but I know that it will ever be out of reach in this sin-stricken world. 

If the idyl were possible, we wouldn't need Christmas. 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Christ came because of disease, hunger, anger, hatred, and violence. He came to defeat death. The angels heralding his birth were sounding death's own death-knell. He died but He is risen, and every twinkling Christmas tree is a defiant declaration that darkness shall not have the last word. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, Isaiah prophesied, on those that walk in the land of the shadow of death, on them light has dawned. In the snarling face of death we can stand in hope and sing of Jesus. In the despair of darkness we will light our trees and proclaim the Light of the World. 

Over all the tragic clamor of this groaning world: stop, be still, and hear the bells on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sean 4.6

I realize I never posted a "four-month" blog post with Sean, mostly because we were getting ready to leave for seven weeks for a combination of Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery for Nate (basically the training all captains in the Air Force have to go to so they can eventually be promoted to majors), Thanksgiving in Tennessee, and Christmas in Colorado. Now we are safely in Montgomery, in an "historical house" we rented on Airbnb that has ripply, creaky wood floors and mirrors everywhere, and I present you with this rambling "Sean at four and 2/3 months old" post. :-)

Just last night, as I was giving Sean his pre-bed bottle (I have taken to pumping in the mornings so that we can basically stuff him right before bed; it helps him sleep longer!) I looked over at Nate and said mournfully, "What happened to my teeny tiny baby?" So far no one has said to me, "Enjoy it because they grow up so fast!" but if someone did, I would affirm the statement heartily. No one has to tell me to enjoy it. Somebody just needs to tell me the magic formula for slowing down the growth!

Because really, how perfect is Sean right now! The can't-crawl-but-sure-trying-hard stage, the can-almost-sit-up-on-his-own stage, the experimenting-with-his-voice stage so that some days he squeaks and squawks like a mouse-parakeet combination, and some days, like today, he growls and roars like an asthmatic jaguar or a guttural gorilla. Lately he's been waking up around 5am and I nurse him in bed with me and then we both fall back to sleep. He wakes up before I do and starts chattering and cooing to himself, and when I finally manage to unglue my eyelids, there he is, beaming benevolently at me and babbling "good morning" in his own special language. His personality reveals itself more and more every day, and my stars but this child is as stubborn as both his parents! He's been fighting naps the past couple of days– utterly determined not to fall asleep in his pack'n'play, to the point of passing out on his blanket on the floor, and, yesterday, nodding off while sitting on my lap as we Skyped with Grammy in Colorado. The good news is that he has finally decided that being in his carseat is no longer the worst affliction known to man, which is good timing since he's spent quite a bit of time in it in the travels of the past week.

The past month and a half have contained a number of "firsts"– the first time I left Sean with someone other than a family member (thanks Heidi!!), the first time, just shy of four months old, when he rolled from his back to his tummy (we could see the determination on his face as he stubbornly tried over and over until he finally mastered it!), and the first bachelor weekend that he and Nate had together back in October. I had managed to pump and freeze enough milk to make it possible for me to go on the squadron wives' getaway to Wilmington, NC, and after being reassured by my husband, my mother, my sister, and my friends that I was not a terrible mother for wanting a weekend away, I went! I didn't cry when I left, either, but I think I only managed to get through the weekend by not thinking about Sean. Nate was forbidden to call me unless it was a real emergency, and since three poopy diapers in one day didn't constitute an emergency, so we merely texted so that I could reassure myself that both husband and son were alive and well. And they were! I think it was good for me to get away and be reminded that Sean's existence doesn't absolutely depend on me– while obviously it's best that I take care of him, he isn't going to shrivel up and die if I'm not there.

The pictures will tell the rest of the story of the past month and a half:


Is it terrible of me that when I see this picture
I hear, "Damn it feels good to be a gangster"
in my head?!
Emperor Cheerfullus Maximus


Breaking all kinds of safety regulations, no doubt!

Super Baby!




A mini Mozart?
I tried to explain to him that in polite society
it is not quite The Thing to try to eat the tablecloth.
He disagreed.

Oh, do stop boring me, all of you.
The loves of my life!
Selfie with Mama!
Trying on hats just for fun!



















Finally getting to meet Auntie Maggie and Uncle
Ben leads to giggles all round!
"Hey Mom, watch this!"
Being shown around Auburn by Auntie Maggie. 
This is what happens when he fights naptime.

He quite enjoys his tongue.


He has taken to practicing the skydiving posture.

He wasn't particularly impressed by the flamingos.
There are anteaters back there somewhere!
Watching the goats with Daddy!

I am so in love with this little man, and so incredibly thankful for life with him and his daddy.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Safety vs. Freedom

Last night I read A Pocketful of Cricket (by Rebecca Caudill) to Sean as a bedtime story. For the most part he does a fantastic job of paying attention, though he tends to be more interested in watching my face than in looking at the pictures. Which is very flattering to me!

Anyway, A Pocketful of Cricket is a very sweet story about a little boy named Jay who finds a cricket on his way home from bringing in the cows, and makes it his friend, and ends up bringing it with him on his first day of school. In his dark pocket, Cricket starts fiddling ("Chee, chee," fiddled Cricket!) and when Teacher realizes that Jay is the one with the cricket, she asks him to put it outside. Jay just sits and looks at his desk, finally pleading that he wouldn't be able to find Cricket again. "You could find another cricket, couldn't you?" asked Teacher. Jay shook his head. "It wouldn't be this one," he said. Teacher realizes that Cricket is not just any old cricket, he is Jay's friend, so she asks Jay to bring Cricket up and talk about him for Show-and-Tell.


I remember my mom reading A Pocketful of Cricket to my brother and sister and me, so of course there's special memories attached to reading it now to Sean. But I couldn't help thinking about several things about the story after we were through: Jay is six years old. And in the story, it's his job to walk down a lane, wade across a creek, walk through a cornfield, and climb over a rail fence into the cow pasture to bring home the cows every evening. The story also mentions that he can whittle, which means he has a pocket knife. He puts himself to bed at night. On his first day of school, he meets the bus by himself at the mailbox at the end of the road. When he gets to school, the driver tells him where to go. He introduces himself to the teacher.

And he's six years old. Given the media and CPS frenzy that ensued when a ten year old and his six year old sister walked home from the park, I wondered if anyone who freaks out at the idea has ever read classic children's books. Remember Henry Huggins and Beezus and Ramona? Those kids were out walking and riding their bicycles all over town. They were building clubhouses (with real hammers and nails and old boards!!) and earning money by having paper routes. One of my favorite series, by Elizabeth Enright, features the Melendy family. It's set during World War II, and in the first book thirteen year old Mona, twelve year old Rush, and ten-and-a-half year old Randy individually traipse around New York City. When their six-year-old brother Oliver imitates them and goes by himself to the circus and gets lost, of course everyone panics a bit, but a policeman finds him and brings him home, none the worse for wear. There is no Child Protective Service investigation.

When I was growing up and scribbling stories in my notebooks, the elder members of my family would tease me for being morbid because, so often, the children who were the main characters were orphans. What I've realized now is that it wasn't morbidity, but rather the only way I could think of for allowing my children to be independent enough to go out and have adventures. My black-and-white conscience couldn't square with letting my characters disobey orders from well-meaning adults to stay put. So I neatly solved the moral dilemma by killing the parents off, thus freeing the children to have adventures with a clear conscience.

I have lots of dreams for Sean's childhood. One of them is that Sean will be able to experience a lot more freedom and independence than what is now socially the norm. I want him to be confident and ready to engage with the world around him, not hanging back fearfully. I want him to talk to strangers. I want him to know that yes, there are dragons in the world, but those dragons can be killed!  I want him to know that his father and I love him so, so much, and that while of course we want him to be safe, physical safety isn't the ultimate goal of existence. I want him to know we long for him to be capable and smart and use the brain that God gave him to do fun and interesting and yes, sometimes, risky things. I want to ruthlessly kill that part of my spirit that would selfishly smother Sean with my own fears and prevent him from learning how to be his own person. I want to slay that part of me that prizes my own peace-of-mind above my son's actual well being. I want to remember that most things worth doing carry elements of challenge or risk. I want to raise a son who is ready by the time he is a young man to get out and have adventures and do what he feels God is calling him to do, even if it might seem risky.

And who knows what that will look like? I don't know exactly, but I have ideas. The first step will probably be letting him go for a boat ride with his Grandaddy next year, once he's big enough to fit into a life jacket. Honestly, that idea is not attractive to me. But Sean's life isn't about my peace of mind, is it?

Right now, he's four months old. He's dependent on Nate and me for everything. But I see that glint of determination in his eye as he practices sitting up, and I watched the triumphant expression on his little face when he finally mastered rolling from his back to his tummy. I can already see the grit and the stubbornness in his little personality, and all I can think is, Watch out, world! Sean is coming!




Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tracing Rainbows

Last Saturday, we found out our next assignment. We have really really been hoping for Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is where they've moved the F-16 B-course. I had it all planned out: we were going to live on base, and have built-in community in the other military families surrounding us. There is a PCA church in Alamogordo (with the same name as the one we attend here in Sumter!) It's an eight-hour drive to Colorado Springs, which means we could see a lot more of my family. Nate's parents would come out and visit us and Nate and his dad could finally take their years-in-the-works hunting trip. Alamagordo is another tiny town, but at least it is in the west and there are 9,000 foot mountains within a 30-minute drive, and we were told, lots of outdoorsy stuff to do. Nate would be a wonderful instructor to all the fledgling F-16 pilots. And best of all, we had been told on the information sheet for this particular assignment bloc that AFPC really needs pilots at Holloman and that no one wants to go there. Our hope were high.

Saturday morning, I was getting dressed when I saw that Nate's squadron commander had texted him. "Give me a call, I have your assignment." I ran out of our bedroom holding his phone, and sat in tense silence with Sean on my lap while Nate went into his office to make the call. I thought I'd be able to tell from his side of the conversation, but it was just a lot of "yes sirs" and "okay" and "sounds good" which didn't really mean a thing.

Nate came out of his office and I mutely questioned him with a look.

"Kunsan," he said.

I started to cry. And they weren't tears of joy.

Kunsan, South Korea: the assignment we really, really, really didn't want. The one that means either insane amounts of wrangling and finagling and money and brain power and energy to bring Sean and me along to a base that the Air Force has labelled "remote" (which is a polite term for "we don't want your family here")– or else a year-long separation with Nate going alone.

My first reaction: I thought we were going to get a break. These past two years have been so hard. God, why aren't You giving us a break?

Holloman would have given us a break. Life in the B-course isn't the insane tempo of twelve hour days, weeks and weeks of TDYs, and the ever-looming possibility of deployment. Nate has a teacher streak in him. We would get to see my family. We would get to visit Livia and Lucy's grave on a regular basis. We would be near mountains again. It would have made so much sense.

And yet: Kunsan.

I had my meltdown. And then I flexed my underdeveloped Air Force wife "keep calm and carry on" muscle, and we started trying to figure out what to do.

We pretty quickly came back to what we had said we would do if we ever got Kunsan (which, the reality is, most fighter pilots do get Kunsan at one point or another.) Nate will go alone, and Sean and I will move back to Colorado Springs. If we didn't have Sean, I would go to Korea and find an apartment off-base like many wives do, but Sean changes lots of things. The tempo of work will be just as busy if not busier there than it is here, meaning that even if Nate was allowed to live off-base with us, we would still see little of him, and I would be left to parent Sean without a close community and support network. We would be last in line for medical care at the on-base clinic and if Sean had something seriously wrong with him I'd have to take him to a Korean hospital. And, as my older sister wisely put it, "Better to be apart and be able to focus on doing well the tasks before each of you, than to be together and feel like you're constantly failing the other person." It sounds terrible to say that it might be better for our marriage to be apart for a year than together, but really in our specific circumstances we think it is true.

So this is where we are at. We don't have a report date yet, and I'm making a long list of all the questions I have and the things we have to do and find out and take care of before Nate goes. And I'm trying, pretty much relentlessly, to trace the rainbows through the rain. At least it's only a year. At least he won't be deployed and in the line of danger (at least not in any more danger than the entire country of South Korea is in with the wackjobs in North Korea). At least we'll get to Skype all the time. At least Sean and I will be able to go over and visit him at least a couple of times. At least when it's finished he should never have to do it again. At least it's not a remote tour in the Middle East (not unheard of.) At least Sean is so young that he'll have no memories of it– it will be way harder on us than him. At least I have family and community and a church in Colorado Springs that we can go home to. At least at least at least.

And it still sucks. I'm still not happy about it (though I can't be totally devastated at the prospect of spending a year back in my beloved Colorado.) I still wish we were going to New Mexico. A year apart is going to be really hard, and I know there will be many more meltdowns in the future.

But– I'm not trying to sound cliché or trite– God is faithful. I really do believe that. I really do believe that He knows what is best for Nate, for me, for Sean, for us as a family, and that if that means a year long separation, somehow it's more for our good than New Mexico would be. I'm reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to Sean (almost) every day, and just a couple days ago we reached the Crucifixion. Sally Lloyd-Jones tells it very simply so that a child can understand, and yet her words pack an emotional wallop. My voice broke:

"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. "Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"
And for the first time– and the last– when he spoke, nothing happened. God didn't answer. He turned away from his Boy.

I know that Sean is too young to understand, but still when the chapter was over I whispered to him, "Jesus did that for us– for me, for you. He did it to save us from our sin, because he loves us, because he wants us to be with him always."

He was abandoned by his Father so that I would never have to endure abandonment. He went through hell to take away the hell that I deserve.

That's why I trust God in this next assignment. It's not easy and I'm not pretending that it will be. But I need look no further than the Cross to see the naked, bloody proof of just how far God is willing to go to love me and save me and be with me. Jesus went to hell and back for our sake. I can trust him with Kunsan.

The title of this post comes from the third verse of one of my favorite hymns, "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go":
O Joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.


Photo credit: Greg McCown
http://www.grindtv.com/nature/lightning-rainbow-and-cactus-align-perfectly-for-photographer/#jKqOx7y1YUz8lZxR.97

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Three months!

When my mom went home after two weeks of cooking, cleaning, holding Sean while I napped or showered, and generally taking care of all of us, I cried. Nate was back at work and I genuinely didn't think that I was going to be able to survive with just Sean and me. What would we eat once the freezer meals were used up? How would I take showers without someone there to hold him? How would I sleep during the day to make up for the lost hours at night? I didn't think we were going to survive. And now Sean is three months old, and somehow we're here, and we haven't starved and I haven't gone more than two or three days without showering, and somehow we haven't perished of sleep-deprivation either!

Selfie with Mama!
Month three was full of exciting "firsts"– first trip to Gran and Grandaddy's house in Atlanta, first time meeting Uncle Dan and Aunt Heather, first chiropractor appointment (chiro adjustments for babies are nothing like adult adjustments, don't worry!) first squadron event (a picnic up at Lake Wateree) and first trip to the beach at Edisto! Sean also graduated to the next size up in diapers, began drooling and spitting up so much that he now spends most of the day in bibs, and gave us an enchanting week where he slept through the night every night (alas, it didn't last! He will usually give us one or two nights a week of no getting up between 10pm and 6am, and I am grateful for that at least!) He grabbed his toes for the first time a couple weeks ago, and while we were at the beach he learned how to hold onto his green worm rattle. He was not particularly impressed with the beach– he screamed almost the whole short stroller-walk there, and though he tolerated me putting his toes in the damp sand, when the surf came swishing up over our feet he immediately began to cry.

I'm miserable, Mom! I hate the beach!
 



Friends of ours gave us a little bouncing chair that their baby had outgrown, and it immediately became Sean's favorite place to hang out. He sits next to my chair while we're eating and babbles and coos and screeches and kicks as though he's treading water or sprinting. He is still the most active and expressive baby I've ever seen– he kicks, he wiggles, he squirms, he practices sitting up on my lap. He grins, he pouts, he frowns, he smirks, he flirts; he looks suspicious, or coy, or surprised. He does fish and chipmunk impressions. He enjoys having the undivided attention of a grown-up (and therefore had the time of his life at the beach house where there were four extra adults to hold him and talk to him!) and he gets bored and whines if I leave him to amuse himself for too long. Much to my chagrin he will already stare at the television if I happen to be watching Netflix– if he's on his tummy on the floor he looks up at it and I have to rotate his blanket so he can't see it. On the other hand, he's very attentive when I read to him, and when I make up silly songs to sing to him he'll babble along sometimes.

Just chillin'

Going commando
I spiked his hair with coconut oil after his bath!


Saddest poochy-lip ever!!
I think he looks like a Keebler Elf.


Holding his worm!

On the one hand, it's unfathomable to me that Sean is already three months old, and on the other hand, I feel as though he has always been part of our lives. Sometimes if he gets up at 6 am to nurse I bring him in bed with us, and then we'll both fall asleep while he's nursing and wake up an hour later. When I lean over to him and whisper "good morning" he grins his charming, eye-sparkling grin, and I can't believe that we ever lived without him.

Birth

One month

Two months

Three months!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two Months with Sean

Life in Sean's second month: it all depends on perspective. From one angle (the cynical angle?) you could say that from August 3 to September 3 was a very uneventful month, in the sense that day-to-day life with a small baby is uneventful. There's no partying, in fact very little leaving the house even, and the days are a general (if somewhat fluctuating) pattern of Sean nursing, being awake, pooping, fussing, nursing again, sleeping, waking up, and OH YEAH nursing again. That's the cynical angle. But I don't think cynics really have babies very much, or at least I don't think they can stay cynics once they do, because there's nothing like living with a baby at close quarters to open up one's eyes to wonder.

This second month, for example, is the one in which Sean decided he likes his play mat. The play mat is a hand-me-down from my friend Laura, and when she gave it to me I thought it probably wouldn't be used for a number of months. I remember putting Sean on it once when he was just a few weeks old, and he promptly burst into tears– frightened, perhaps, of the dangling elephants, or perhaps just annoyed with being flat on his back. But lo and behold, at six weeks he decided that the elephants are kind of cool, and every day since then he spends a substantial amount of his awake time on the mat, kicking and wriggling and holding long cooing conversations with the blue elephants (I think they're telling each other their life stories.)


The second month has also marked the beginning of regular evening walks in the stroller around the little loop of our subdivision– so far Sean seems generally more interested in reading the warning label on the inside edge of the stroller than in looking out at the scenery. Perhaps he's just concerned about all the ways he could die as the result of parental incompetence. Seriously, I have thanked the Lord so many times that Sean will not remember being a baby (and therefore not remember just how much I didn't know what I was doing!)

He laughed for the first and second times this past month– real chuckling laughs, too. I dare any cynic to look at a laughing baby and not melt like butter on a hot day. Since then Sean has developed his own particular kind of squeak in the back of his throat that is his signal of amusement, and that is very adorable too. He can keep me up half the night or refuse to nap during the day (we've endured several nap strikes, fearsome things!)  and be clingy or cranky till I feel like a quivering gelatinous mass of desperation and exhaustion, and then all he has to do is grin up at me with his sparkling eyes (just like his daddy's) and coo and squeak at me as if it's all very funny, and I melt and start to laugh too. It's going to be scary when this kid figures out how easy it is to twist me round his finger with just a grin and a giggle! 


I've started reading out loud to him (no sense in delaying or leaving his future as a bookworm up to chance, right?!) and every afternoon when he's nursed and happy I sit him on my lap, propped to the side with his head against a pillow so that we can look at each other, and read him a chapter of The Jesus Storybook Bible. He listens with a wise expression on his face. He loves to make eye contact with me so I try to glance at the page quickly and then look at him as I say the words. I've thought how fun it would be to memorize poems and stories and be able to tell them to him at the drop of a hat, no book necessary. (So few children are read to, nowadays; I can only imagine how much rarer it is for a child to be told a story without a book. Maybe I can become that cool story-telling mom. "I want to go play at Sean's house. Maybe Sean's mom will tell us a story!" Or would that make me the weird mom?)


This little boy is so alert, so aware, and he moves so much– the only time he's really still is when he's in deep sleep. In the first part of his sleep cycle, he's still twitching and startling. Sometimes when he startles both his arms will raise as if by strings, and he looks like a tiny conductor leading his orchestra into a crashing crescendo.  He's not at all a placid child, far from the laid back baby that his father was. Sean has definite ideas of how his life ought to proceed, and he is very vocal in his displeasure when Mama or Daddy fails to conform. Sometimes, when I bring him close to nurse (the one-and-only sure-fire method of comforting away his fussing) he will continue to grumble even after he's latched on, or he'll pull off with a melodramatic cry before greedily getting back to business, as if he's wanting me to know JUST HOW MISERABLE he was before! He's active and busy, rolling over, lifting up his head, kicking and boxing, doing Pilates moves, pretending to crawl or swim on his blanket. He thinks he should be able to stand up, and when he's lying face-forward on my chest he'll tense his legs and shove off as if by sheer force and will power he can catapult himself forward through several more months' development. 

He loves bath time now, thanks to the Angel Care bath seat that was worth every bit of the twenty bucks I paid for it on Amazon. I'm not sure if it's the warm water, or being naked, or the seat itself, but bathtime is sure to make him cheerful even if he was fussy before. Sometimes I wish that I believed in bathing him every night just because he likes it so much, but he doesn't really get dirty and I don't want to dry out his little baby skin.

Also zits. Baby zits. Has any other mama had to resist the temptation to pop their baby's zits? He had one on his earlobe once that I couldn't resist– he was nursing and didn't seem to notice, and I realized my own earlobe doesn't really have much in the way of nerve endings so his probably doesn't either. But I secretly wondered if I was a horrible mother for not leaving him alone.

There's still no sleep pattern– every so often he'll give us a seven or eight hour stretch at night and I wake up feeling like Superwoman. I actually get dressed before lunch and do dishes and things! It's amazing! But then the next night he'll get up three times, or be awake from four to six, and I know that those magical eight hour stretches are just to tantalize me, a mirage of how easy and productive life could be. And then I remember that he's only going to be two months old for a little while and before I know it these glorious impossible newborn days will be over, and I hug him and kiss him and fearfully eye the growing stack of onesies that he's already too big to wear.

I thought before he was born I might have difficulty in bonding. I wondered how I would be able to love him the way I love his sisters. But loving him has turned out to be another rhythm as instinctive as breathing.



Birth

1 month

2 months