It is slowly occurring to everyone how much of an adjustment we have to life without Grandpa in our home. Grandpa has been away from our home before: a week to visit other family or a weekend church activity. But we always expected his return. One night this week we came to the dinner table and realized our seating arrangement could change. Family meals have always been an important part of our day and with Grandpa's seat empty, we felt a need to squeeze in tighter. We did. Everyone has a new place to sit now. Closer. With no empty spaces.
What happened at the table is happening through out the day. We are drawing together, diminishing the gap, and desiring to connect to one another. Ben, Nathaniel and I spent Monday at Missouri Botanical Gardens doing just that. Walking. Talking. Taking time together in the sunshine. Our conversation jumped from the adjustments we are making as a family to the benefits of Tall Fescue over Zoysia grass. It felt good.
At one point we realized Nathaniel was reaching toward the bushes we were passing and signing 'want.' I have been signing 'want' for about a month when Nathaniel has something he should not have. "Mommy wants that," I say as I sign 'want.' Ben steered to the side of the path, and Nathaniel enjoyed touching the bushes.
I instantly remembered his hesitancy in a pumpkin patch last fall. He was very uncomfortable coming in contact with leaves and the ground. He looked fearful. It is good for me to see this contrast and the progress he has made in six months.
When we walked through the Japanese Garden area, beautiful pink flower petals showered down on us. Ben asked, "Can I take Nathaniel out of the stroller and show him where the petals are coming from?" I love this photo and what it shows about how Ben loves. Time. I learn so much from watching my children. One way we show love is by taking time.
The bridge in the Japanese Garden offered the boys an opportunity to feed fish. Nathaniel was intrigued as Ben threw bits of fish food over the side. He caught on quickly and purposefully threw one piece at a time, then followed each with a look below to see the fish come to the surface.
We watched the fish for a long time. When I suggested leaving, Nathaniel shook his head no and signed 'more' as if asking to stay and watch longer. I am enjoying how Nathaniel participates in our family conversations and decision making.
In speech therapy on Tuesday the therapist had a flash card with a picture of a fish. She also brought a tub of toys and happened to have two different wind-up fish. Nathaniel took to these immediately, and therapy focused for a long time on the topic of fish. I enjoyed watching the therapist blend a natural interest of Nathaniel's with a bit of directed structure. She was encouraging him to sign 'fish' by withholding the wind-up toy until he asked for it with a sign. We are starting to see him mimic our gestures in song and finger play, so it is not unreasonable that he would pick up a new sign right away by mimicking. Out of the blue he offered two signs: 'more fish.' His first two word utterance!