March 25, 2011

The View From 30 Inches

Some time last week, somewhere in the universe, a switch was thrown. That little baby toddler who was so hard to corral, who stared blankly (or smirked impirshly) when given commands, who did not bend to discipline, this little kid started to change. 

At first, it was the blank stares being replaced with actions that corresponded to the command (sometimes called "obedience"). You can't imagine my surprise when my sentence, "Levi, let's get your milk and then go back to your room," was followed by Levi getting his milk and going back to his room. I would say it was a fluke, but it has happened a lot lately. 

And then, just when I least expected it, Levi started signing "please." We've been consistently working on this sign since before Christmas, but nearly every tie we tried it, he growled at us and pulled his hand away. Sometime this week, we asked him to say "please", and his little hand went up to his chest, making the proper sign. We were unabashedly thrilled. 

This breakthrough, combined with his increased comprehension, has made communicating with Levi so much less stressful. He understands more easily, can tell us what he wants, and sweetly signs "please." Ah, such a relief. 

Every day he seems to increase his understanding by leaps and bounds. Here are some glimpses into Levi's world. 

Levi whole-heartedly adores his dog. He squeals with joy when he sees Nash and enjoys showing his dog affection by driving his cars on Nash's back, pulling Nash's tail, swatting Nash's snout, pulling 
Nash's fur, and - his personal favorite - sitting on Nash. Poor dog. Nash tolerates only so much before he gives us that look, imploring us to make it stop. We regularly run interference, and we are trying to teach Levi "gentle." He kind of gets it. When asked to be gentle, Levi will give Nash a few gentle rubs before he tries to stick his finger up the dog's nose or some other antagonizing gesture.

One of Levi's new ideas he likes to communicate is, "Let's go outside and take a walk." That's my translation. What you actually see is Levi pulling the stroller to the door, pointing at the door, and saying, "Daaaa? Daaaaaaa? DAAAAAAA??" Note, the question marks are in there because each of these noises has an upward inflection, as if he's asking a question. But they are really statements. And the longer you delay in accommodating his request, the louder and higher in pitch the question/statements get.

Last Friday it rained all day. So when Levi asked if he could go on a walk, I tried to explain to him that it was rainy and miserably and really awful weather for a walk. Unfortunately, Levi doesn't understand that yet. So, we donned our rain gear and went to play in mud puddles. It was a blast for both of us. Maybe one of my favorite Levi memories to date.

Rain jacket courtesy of Lindon's parents. It fits so well, and it really kept him dry!

Another favorite activity for Levi is looking at the local wildlife through the front door. Of course, in our neighborhood that means spotting squirrels and feral cats, and when he finds them, he squeals with happiness. Also, note that sunlight is indeed streaming through the storm door. I don't know how long it will last before Levi is able to force open that door beceause it's about as sturdy as an index card. Hopefully we can get a new door before that happens. 

Little sweet face. Even on his off days, this kid has a sweet, sweet disposition. He loves to laugh and to sing, and there is no end to the joy he brings us. 

March 15, 2011

The Things that Grow with You

In January I finished re-reading a book I first read during my junior year of college. At the time, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point was one of the most compelling books I had ever read as required reading. When I picked it up a second time back in October (yes, it took me 3 months to finish an easy read), it seemed even more compelling than when I had read it for class. I've heard that one of the hallmarks of a truly good book is that you learn something new from it every time you read it. To be sure, Gladwell is a strong writer, but his theory and real-life examples offered a way to make sense of the world that really resonated with me the first time and felt even more enlightening the second. Since he originally wrote the book in 2000, I really want him to release a new edition with an appendix about life post-Facebook. Yep, I'm a nerd.

Since before Christmas I have been immersed in hymns. The reason stems largely from a story I just finished about a documentary just released about Indelible Grace music. You can read the story here and find out more about Indelible Grace music here.

Hymns, in many ways, have been the soundtrack to my life. As a child my mother sang me several stanzas of a hymn ever night, and aside from a very brief hymns-are-too-old-fashioned phase in college, they have always been some of my favorite musical expressions of praise. And that anti-hymn spell had more to do with hymns (and all music in the church) done badly and less to do with the actual hymn. Anyway, it was quickly remedied by my discovering the work of Indelible Grace to take rich hymn texts and put them to fresh music.

In fact, for nearly 10 years I have been discovering new-to-me hymns through outlets like Indelible Grace. One of my perennial favorites is George Matheson's "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go." Find the full text here. I remember listening to that song during my sophomore year of college and thinking that my soul indeed felt weary and needed rest. "O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee." The strain of academic pressures at the end of a semester often felt like an unbearable burden, and finding a musical and spiritual outlet for these woes felt so freeing and encouraging.

Fast forward to 2009, and I recall introducing that song to the church we currently attend. At the time I was 4-ish months pregnant and in a far different place in life than my second year of college. Singing about "O cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from Thee," felt more profound when there was a small person being formed inside me. I felt as though singing those words allowed me to claim God's promises not only for myself, but also on behalf of the little worshiper inside me.

And when I finally held my little worshiper in my arms and heard him screaming, I thought of the Love that will not let me go, of the joy that sought me through life's profound pains, of the light to which I yield my flickering torch, and the cross that liftest up my head. Those words that first spoke to me during a rough time in the semester took on deeper, richer meaning with more life experiences. Like a great book, a great hymn becomes bigger, wider, deeper with time.

Hymns reiterate the truths of the Gospel in verse. The astonishing craftsmanship of a good hymn allows it to be both theologically accurate and breathtakingly beautiful. The texts ring true in the face of life's complexities and offer a picture of a God who can handle our questions and a church bigger than my oh-so-narrow slice of Christendom. When faced with discouragement and heartache, I see hymns as a place to remember whose I am and Who holds my future.

For more resources on hymns in corporate worship, check out the resources page of the Indelible Grace website. 

Do you have a favorite hymn that has grown with you?

March 11, 2011

Scenes from Florida

When we arrived at our hotel we were pleased to discover that our room overlooked the pool and had a lovely view of Lake Jackson in the distance. If you could ignore Highway 27 between us and the large body of water, it was practically lakefront! 

Levi found this positively thrilling, and he spent his first few minutes at the hotel looking survey the landscape and yelling at the top of his lungs. Every chance he got, he ran to the balcony to look around. Yes, dear reader, we made sure he was always supervised; and no, he could not fit through the rails of the balcony. But how he loved to launch his cheddar chickadees off the balcony.   

It was hard to snap good photos of Levi on the balcony because he found my camera lens much less interesting than the parking lot. 

Some good friends gave us this tunic before Levi was born, and the friends specifically said this was for the baby to wear when he or she made it to Florida. We somehow forgot to bring it when we went to the beach in October, but we remembered it this time. It was so cute!

Levi loved my grandmother's citrus trees, but this had little to do with the wonder of fresh produce picked right from the tree as much as the roundness of the fruit. The Meyer lemons were his favorite on account of their size and abundance. He would pull one off the tree and commence walking around saying, "Ba ba! Ba ba! Ba ba!" [This term is Levi for "ball" and "water," but we think he meant the former.] When he ventured over to the neighbors grapefruit tree he thought he had died and gone to heaven.

Let the record show I do allow my child to play in dirt. He even got to eat some.

Yup, we're the ultra-pale tourists in the pool in early March. This used to horrify me, but now I have made my peace with it. And really, it doesn't seem as important as my son's happy squeals while splashing in the warm-as-bathwater pool.

Levi attempting to destroy my grandmother's camera. 

When going out to the balcony was not an option, pulling back the curtains and looking out the window was Levi's fallback plan. He also used this tactic to avoid a few naps and to entertain himself in his crib on the mornings when he woke up far too early for my liking. 

And after the aforementioned nap avoidance strategy, this would undoubtedly follow a few hours later. Please note this was NOT staged.

Levi and a photo of Uncle Nathan at age 2 and a half.

I would be lying if I said this trip was not extremely challenging at times. Levi has so much energy, and working to keep up with him without being able to tag team with his father was quite hard. But it was worth it to see my family members who I rarely get to see, to be at my grandmother's house again (where I haven't been in nearly 8 years), and to eat amazing Cuban food. 

Ok, that last one was not as important as the first two. But the food was good. 

March 9, 2011

I did it again

Another Lent with no sweets for Meggo. My chemical dependence on sugar is really out of control, so I need this. If my posts seem overly ornery for the next 40 days, you'll know why.

Also, my sweet husband is not joining me in this endeavor, and I expect he will want to make cinnamon rolls Saturday morning or cookies in the afternoon.

Oh no! The orneriness has already started!

"Goodnight, Supermom"

Ah, Florida was nice. Levi and I had a great time hanging out with family and enjoying the sunshine. The pool was nice, too. And the fresh bananas we picked off a tree while we were walking. And the Cuban food.

As our trip approached, I was unbelievably anxious about traveling with Levi. My biggest concerns centered on getting through the airport without another adult to help with Levi and trying to keep Levi still (and maybe even get him to sleep) on the plane rides. I lost so much sleep thinking about these things. I envisioned the security officers making me dump out Levi's milk, us enduring the super-duper x-ray scans, and Levi run away from me in the airport and having major meltdowns on the plane. I asked everyone I knew to pray that these things would not happen.

As you are probably smart enough to know, these things did not happen. In fact, the security officers were extra generous with me and even opened the umbrella stroller for me after we passed through the (non x-ray) metal detectors. And my next door neighbors were on our flight heading to Orlando and were perfectly willing to watch my bags at the gate while I chased Levi through the airport (really, that kid bolted from me time and again). The trip home had a little more emotional turbulence, as we nearly missed our chance to board (thank you, rude lady who cut in front of me in the Southwest Customer Service line while I was trying to get a stroller ticket), and Levi had a major meltdown during the last 30 minutes of the flight. But instead of encountering the curmudgeonly passengers of my fears, I was met with sympathetic looks from people who felt sorry for Levi. "Poor little guy," one man said. "I know how much the descent hurt my ears, so I can only imagine how much it hurt his." Several woman said to me, "I have a grandson about his age. He's just such a sweet fellow." Frankly, the person on the plane most annoyed by Levi's meltdown was Levi's mother.

So now we are home, and it is so nice. We both missed Lindon terribly, and it's a comfort to be back to the usual routine. And while I am not eager to travel again with Levi (and never want to travel again without Lindon), I am proud of myself for doing it.

As we exited the plane Monday night, Levi was finishing his meltdown with some hiccups and the occasional cry. The kind flight attendants spoke encouraging words to me and applauded Levi for being so sweet. As we exited, the pilot said to me, "Goodnight, Supermom." It made me glad I had refrained from offering Levi to the flight attendants.

March 1, 2011

The post that got away

I had really hoped to eek in one more blog post before the end of February, but that did not happen. Really, that is a testimony to how quiet our lives have been lately. Other than snapping some great photos of Levi being Levi, I have not had much going on these days.

But Levi and I are heading out of town tomorrow. We are meeting my mom in Florida to spend some time with my family. This trip alternately excites and terrifies me. Navigating an airport and 2-hour plane ride with my little sidekick gives me butterflies. He's so active and independent that the prospect of trying to keep a hand or an eye on him at all times with no assistance seems daunting. We intentionally scheduled the flights around bedtime in hopes that he would be more mellow and prone to obey snuggle. Lindon keeps telling me the trip will require a little more patience on my part, which makes me wonder if he thinks I need more patience.

But once we get there and it is a balmy 80 degrees every day and we can spend time with lots of doting family members, it will be smooth sailing. We just need to get there. Foolish as it sounds when I actually say it, I have been helping Levi adjust to the concept of a plane ride by having him sit in my lap at bedtime for 15-30 minutes. Initially he balks, but in the end he submits to my snuggles and falls asleep. This gives me great hope that something similar will happen on the plane.

And while Lindon insists he will miss me while we are gone, he will be way too busy to notice much. He has made himself a long list of projects to complete at a variety of locations, and my guess is that before he realizes we are gone, we will be back.

Nash is looking forward to us being gone. He hopes Lindon will remember that Nash still exists and walk him accordingly. No telling if this will actually happen, given Lindon's previously-mentioned projects. But at least Nash will get to sleep on the bed, a luxury of which he will fully take advantage when one of the adults is gone. Or when the adults are around, but it's cold.

So this trip should be fun for all!