This month you’ve grown so much. I’ve put away most of your 6-9 month sizes and now you’re wearing a lot of 12-18s. It’s so fun and cute seeing you in all Jacob’s old clothes.
You’ve been great fun this month but also a lot of work. You finally mastered crawling and now you are quite purpose-driven about it, and you move pretty fast. And if that isn’t enough, you’re now working on pulling yourself up to standing. You practice this a lot at the bottom of the stairs and the other day you almost had your knee up onto the first stair. Not OK, baby boy.
We often find you standing up in your crib now, and it seems like when it’s dark in your room you lose track of how to get down from that position. You’re emerging into the stage of skipped naps, including the one you were supposed to take this morning but spent its entirety playing in your crib because it is no built-in fun to stand up and sit down.
Since you started crawling I spend a lot of time crouching at the top of the stairs with you saying “Joshua, No… No stairs… No, no, Joshua… Danger.” You always stop to look at me but you don’t seem to think this conversation matters in any way. I lift you back to the carpet to play and sometimes you get distracted or sometimes you swivel on your little butt and head right back for those fascinating stairs.
I’m torn about whether to gate them or not since I think the narrow doorway of the gate with its lip at the floor would result in multiple occasions of preschoolers (or mommies – let’s be perfectly honest) tumbling down those steep stairs, especially since we are up and down them all day long because of how our house is laid out. So at this point I’m opting for vigilance and training you and removing you from the location entirely when I can’t be constantly vigilant. I’d rather you learn to be competent on them very early anyway. But knowing me I’ll probably change my mind a dozen more times in the next couple weeks.
I also spend a lot of time trying to stay ahead of the tiny hair rubber bands and marbles and random pieces of bite-sized crap on the floor. We big Powells have gotten lazy in the years between Meredith and you and now we’re having to institute new practices about what we do with marbles. The other day I was teaching a piano lesson and you’d finally given up sitting under the piano looking at me and fussing and you were happily playing by the stair rail next to me, content with your pile of toys and the quilt you’d pulled off the rail. I stood up to go check on the big kids and as I turned to walk away from you I noticed you were gagging on something. That was the WORST feeling ever: realizing that I’d almost walked away from my “safe” baby, leaving him with an inexplicable piece of foil wrapper in his mouth.
Meanwhile your ability to grasp tiny objects and successfully bring them to your mouth when they are actual food like black beans or cheerios remains quite paltry, and I spend a lot of time inserting things for consumption with my thumb and finger while you glow approvingly. Go figure.
I love when you crawl to me. You aren’t quite reaching for me with arms yet, but I can see the feeling there in your body, the quiver of approval when you realize I’m going to pick you up. And most of the time now “Come here” makes sense to you and you come trailing behind me.
You spend most of your time playing on the rug next to the kitchen, but you also enjoy being down in the basement on the carpet, chasing balls around. And you play in your room a good bit or by the stair railing where you can watch the stairs without actually falling down them. Sometimes you get to play in Daddy’s office while he works and you have earned your stripes at the organ pedalboard already, though you have yet to actually climb onto it.
One of your favorite spots is at the open front door, where I put you to watch cars on hands and knees at the glass storm door. You live for passing cars, and one of my favorite things these days is the most-nights’ addition to our bedtime ritual, which involves standing out on the front porch snuggling and saying “Hi” and “Bye” to passing cars and listening to the birds in the tall trees overhead.
You really are the sunshine of our little world. Jacob lives for you and spends a large percentage of his time trying to make you laugh with completely unsophisticated and disorganized antics. Meredith is slowly swinging back to the affection end of the spectrum and now approaches you with tender interest sometimes instead of a jaw set with alarming passion. She likes to sit right behind you and put her arms around her waste, and sometimes if she’s feeling particularly playful she leans back to lie down, taking you with her, just like Daddy does to her sometimes. You usually think this is hilarious, and I’m glad for her sake that you’re getting big enough to play like this.
I am loving the first opportunities to get outside as winter melts away, especially when we get a chance to spend time on a blanket together on the lawn, which has happened on two separate Sundays this month. This pastime was one of my favorite things four years ago when Jacob was a baby and it was just the two of us for hours at a time outside. I’m enjoying your company now instead and it’s sweetly reminiscent, and so precious to have these moments with you.
It’s fun having such a gap between you and Jacob and Merry because you feel like your very own event to me. Bedtime is a separate thing, and your material needs are 100% different from theirs. I love snuggling with you and playing with you. I love how you get excited and open your mouth wide to hyper-ventilate just like Jacob used to do. I love how you kick your legs when I hold you in the air like you’re furiously trying to swim up through the atmosphere. I rather think you’re going to be stuck a baby in my heart for a long time thanks to birth order, and I hope you won’t mind all the attention.
You’re having a difficult week right now thanks to teeth. It’s not your first tough week, though you had a reprieve last week after the two right front teeth popped through on the top. Now you’re working on their left hand counterparts and they are giving us both a run for our money. Many nights you’re waking every 2-4 hours just like a newborn, and sometimes you wake only a couple hours after put you down between 6 and 7 and cry until we give you tylenol. But I’m not sure who’s experiencing the most discomfort here because you have turned out to be a biter. Yesterday was particularly bad and you just needed to chew. Every time you latched to nurse you bit me and I was pretty traumatized by the end of the day. So hopefully you sort that out pretty fast or maybe you aren’t going to be a baby for so long…
We’ve been trying to catch your post-bath quirkiness on video lately without much success. You love your bath, and I’m calling it a win that you, as a third child, are actually getting a bath at bedtime at least 2-4 times a week these days. It’s becoming increasingly needful because of your presence at the dinner table with us, and I can only imagine how important it’s going to be in a few more weeks when we start our landscaping projects outside. You love to play and splash (and stand up!) and smack the silver wall drain disc. But when it’s time to get out and get dressed all you can think about is how cold you feel. I think it’s Daddy’s favorite thing about you, how you pour forth this gurgle-shiver-lament while he dresses you. Usually when I try to video it you just degenerate to crying and fussing right away, probably because of the presence of your food source.
I think my favorite things you do right now are your two primary sound effects, rivaled only by babbling “Bah bah bah.” You make these sounds at your happiest, silliest moments and are almost always happy to imitate me if I coax you to. The first is blowing raspberries, which is always a very bubbly affair, and the second is a little “Pah” sound you make, also quite bubbly. I think you learned it by imitating me, since I often make you laugh with a little popping sound but it’s now evolving into a kiss, and whoever you do it I say “Kiss? Kiss?” and lean in hoping you’ll actually bestow one on me. I think we’re getting close to this monumental occasion…
Actually, my favorite is probably the middle of the night these days. I was so zealous to sleep train Jacob and so deeply sleep deprived with Meredith that I don’t remember their nights sweetly. I know the easy, convenient comfort of your nursery across the hall from my room has to be the biggest factor. But I love the middle of the night when I wake to your crying (more like calling) and nurse you in the dark. Lately these brief moments have ended with you falling halfway asleep again, upon which I stand up and cuddle close to your face and kiss you and lay you back in your crib. You don’t let out a single fuss, just gather your blanket into your fist and sink into sleep.
Saturday night as I sat in your dark, quiet nursery at bedtime I found myself singing “Savior, like a shepherd lead us. Much we need thy tender care.” It was an impulse and an urge, and it was less of a song than a cry. I didn’t get past those first two lines, actually. They were the ones in my heart.
Two of my sweetest sisters answered me with the same reply on Saturday when asked on separate occasions “How are you?” “I’m exhausted. Just completely emotionally exhausted.” There’s a lot going on in our various interwoven worlds that is emotionally exhausting and by Saturday it seemed that there were a lot of people who had exceeded capacity. In fact, only a few minutes after singing this and rocking you I was in the car driving home from a closed pharmacy without an antibiotic, coming home to vacuum up glitter, wondering why in the world I was involving myself in the lives of totally messed up people. (We are hosting a tiny newborn for Safe Families and it is not a simple, hopeful situation.) What good will it do anyway? Past my capacity, I used the confines of my car to say the things my children aren’t ready to hear, lamenting to God about how totally pointless it all feels, and how exhausting, and how I so often feel totally over it.
Our pastor preached on prayer a few weeks ago, preached about how our prayers interrupt the goings-on in heaven, like a little child with the audacity to go sit on her father’s lap, regardless of what he’s busy with. He preached on the reality that our prayers are God’s means (somehow!!) of working in the world, and on the reality that when we pray we are engaging spiritual forces of good and evil, entering into actual battle.
Some weeks that feels very easy to believe, and these have been those weeks. It’s not only my own life, though waiting on a broken (actually not broken anymore) foot and a follow-up to an inconclusive biopsy after an ultrasound…and waiting on things to not all feel broken anymore – Well, I’ve got enough brokenness (I use this term in its most mechanical sense) to go around. But then there is the friend with a husband in a wheelchair as he recovers from a car accident that almost left her a widow with two tiny girls. There are the broken relationships all around me and the attempted suicide and the dysfunctional families and the woman younger than my own mom with rapidly growing lymphoma taking over her brain and that’s before we start discussing the whole topic of foster care and Safe Families, which I’ve discussed a lot in the last couple weeks.
There are forces of evil at work in the world and even in our hearts. Of course we are exhausted and crying out “much we need thy tender care.” Of course we are sitting in Bible study, we women who love our town so much, discussing the sense we feel that there is spiritual darkness right here.
As I rocked you I thought of seeing again the new setting of Psalm 130 I’ve just finished, a lament on my lips all the times these days. But another song came to mind, a melody I wrote for my dear friends, for babies they never got to care for, a sad story of not-adopted-after-all twins. I didn’t tell them I’d written it for several months afterwards until their forever little boy was safe in their home finally. The text comes from hundreds of years ago in Germany, and this past Saturday the words were not at all hard for me to comprehend:
Lord Jesus, since you love me,
Now spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though evil would assail me
Your courage shall not fail me
I rest in your protecting arm.
My loved ones, rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may he send you
His angel hosts attend you
And through the night watch over your beds.
I love you, sweet boy, and Jesus does, too. We are resting in his protecting arm and he will keep us.