For all of you who like the pictures of Isaiah better than anything I have to write on this blog (you know who you are) - this is your lucky day! There were so many pictures that we took in the last week or two that I wanted to include, and I couldn't choose because they are all so cute. Also, Michael put an entire series of photos of Isaiah in a cute green outfit on http://www.flickr.com/photos
This past week, Michael and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary! We were married August 16th, 2003. We had a wonderful dinner at Olive Garden while Grandma and Grandpa Walz and Uncle James took care of Isaiah. We had a great time eating slowly and talking to each other leisurly. We both agreed that it was so It's amazing to think we have been married three entire years. Then again, we've gotten quite a bit accomplished in the past three years. Michael switched from one school to another, graduated, and got a job as a graphic designer; I graduated from the U, we have moved three times and, of course, we had a baby. I'm guessing we have packed ten years of living into our three wonderful years of marriage. Talk about life in the fast lane. (I'm pooped.)
Speaking of pooped, Isaiah sits on the toilet himself now. Michael and I bought an insert-type thing that sits on top of the regular toilet seat to make it small enough for toddlers to sit on. It has handles, which Isaiah holds onto for balance, and it also has a spash guard, which the box advertised as a "deflector shield." We had a good laugh at that. It's so nice to be able to sit him down on the toilet instead of hold him above it. He's heavy and squirmy, and I just knew I was going to drop him in sooner or later if we didn't come up with a better solution. It's also perfect for cute pictures because the "deflector shield" covers up any indecency. What a handy deflector shield.
Isaiah not only sits up on the toilet, he sits up on the floor and in his high-chair. The only time he tips over is when he wants to grab something tantalizing that is off to one side. Then he pitches one way or another with no regard whatsoever for the hard ground or his delicate head. The doctor was quite impressed with his sitting control when we brought him in for his checkup. He had to get another round of shots, which was terrible, but he's all done with immunizations for six months. Everybody hates it when Isaiah gets poked, though. The nurse looks like she's going to cry, I'm about to cry, Isaiah is crying, and poor Michael is left trying to hold everyone together. I'm very thankful he didn't have to go to work that day, because Isaiah and I both need a lot of moral support. We have recovered now, thankfully, although Isaiah did have a low-grade fever the day after shots. He took a four-and-a-half hour nap that day snuggled on my lap. It was incredibly sweet, but I really had to go to the bathroom by the time he woke up.
According to the growth charts, Isaiah is in the 50th percentile for height and 55th for weight. That's absolutely amazing to me because he looks huge. Even the doctor said he didn't look like a 50% baby. Other people who have had children look at Isaiah and guess that he's 9 or 10 months old, and they always laugh when I say he's only six and say "what a healthy baby." It's a very nice comment for them to make, but I wouldn't mind even if they just said "what a fat little guy." I know it, and I like it.
Michael and I have started trying baby signs with Isaiah. The basic principle is that babies are able to use sign language to communicate long before they have the coordination to speak vocally, so parents simply introduce a few signs that babies can use until they are able to form words. Some researchers say that babies who learn to use signs actually develop larger vocabularies in the long run because the neurons associated with language development are connected earlier. Whether Isaiah will actually have a larger vocabulary or not, Michael and I are just excited by the prospect that we could know what he wants more easily. We've introduced the signs, 'mommy,' 'daddy,' 'milk,' 'sleep,' 'potty,' 'juice,' book,' 'bath,' 'more,' 'all done,' please,' and 'thank you' so far, Isaiah hasn't really noticed that we are signing as we talk to him, and we don't really expect anything to come of it for another three to six months, but it's still fun.
Actually, Isaiah has decided that his new way to communicate is through humming. Michael and I can't figure out exactly what the appeal of humming is, but Isaiah loves to do it. He will sort of bite down on his lower lip and smile as he hums a single note (sometimes a variation of two) for several minutes. I have a theory that he might be imitating me saying "mmm" as I feed him. I don't know why I do it, it's not like saying "mmm" or "yum" will make him more interested in the food, but I feel like I'm being proactive about it. He's actually eating more and more these days, and he's willing to try so many different foods. He has decided that he loves plums now, and if it takes me more than half a second between bites to get more onto the little spoon and into his mouth, I get impatient hums of protest. He's also keen on pears, avocado and green beens, and he's beginning to accept peas. This morning I decided to feed him some homemade applesauce along with his cereal, and he was pretty apathetic toward the mixture. So, I decided what the heck - I would spice it up a little, and I added just a pinch of cinnamon. He made the most delighted hums for the rest of the meal. My little gourmet.
I continually find it difficult to explain how much I love Isaiah, or how it feels to be a mother. I know that countless other mothers have felt the same way, and I probably don't need to go to such pains to try to describe it, because other parents reading this already know. Still, though, I have a great desire to put my feelings into words, to make them clear and to remember them vividly. I just wanted to end with this excerpt from an article Peter sent me on large families. The author (a mother for six) describes the way I feel so well.
(W)hy do we have children at all? So much is against the whole enterprise. Children cost too much money. They cost too much of ourselves. Children undo us. They show us how much and how little we're made of. They come, it often seems, only to break our hearts. And we let them. We invite it all. We admit perfect strangers through our doors and decide before we even know who they are to love them wildly, without condition, for as long as we live.
How do we account for this behavior? In the end, it is possible that our desire for children is a longing not to benefit ourselves, but to sacrifice ourselves; not to replicate ourselves, but to escape ourselves. For me, this longing hit at 28, while I was tunneling into the heart of the Congo on the back of an expedition truck. Suddenly, I was unutterably weary with my own small life and my endless requirements for fulfillment. I wanted the freedom to give my life away. I wanted an intimate, lifelong, indissoluble relationship with others, the kind of life that simultaneously sucks you dry and sustains you. I guessed that it would take nothing less than an infant to pry open my death-grip on self-determination. I did not know when we started our family a few years later that each birth would deliver into my arms an immeasurable weight of vulnerability and terror, but I guessed that parenting would bring a profligate, extravagant, others-centered life. As it has. But there has been a kind of death involved, make no mistake. "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed," Jesus taught. "But if it dies, it produces many seeds." My ambitious dying life is far from over.