be still my thankful heart

Okay.  Time for an update on our adorable three year old girl.  Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell……

This was the summer of new things for Ginny.  She rode a horse for the first time, flew on a plane and was aware of it (she has flown 15 times already, but she was under two at the time so she wasn’t aware of flying as such), went from diapers to potty trained in under two months, and swam away from her papa’s arms  (okay, she was using floating thingies on her arms, but she swam away from him instead of clinging.)   She sleeps in a big bed now and she is taking ice skating lessons. She can climb into a swing all by herself and does NOT want a starting push.

the horse's name was Pancho

Ginny used the speakerphone to call her birth-mommy Mel on Mel’s birthday and is showing more awareness of the idea of having two mommies and two daddies.  She knows these two people are important, but doesn’t really grasp why yet.

She loves her school and enjoys her teachers and she sings all the time.  If you ask her to play high notes on the piano she goes to the right end of the instrument, low notes, she goes to the left.   If left alone for more than two seconds she can pick a video, open it, put it in the VCR and play it.  She has lost her fear of cameras and turns into a total ham during family photo shoots.

Russells, Weltons and one Merrell in Boulder

But the accomplishment we are proudest of doesn’t show physically.  It can’t be measured on a growth chart.  Something has clicked within just the last week for Ginny.  She is showing a greater awareness of others. Their hurts, their needs and their impact on her world.   In short she is grasping the edges of the concept of compassion (a topic fairly dear to my heart)

One example of this can be seen in her prayers.  We pray with Ginny every night. Most nights Martin and I go through a list of her closest people and some far away relatives and just pray for God to bless each one and keep them safe.  Three weeks ago when her skating coach, Deena, was going in for elbow surgery we added her to the list and Ginny made an interesting connection.  She interrupted the prayer to say “pray for my elbow too”  “what?”  I asked.  Ginny repeated it “Pray for my elbow too.  It hurts like Deena’s does”  I found out later that Ginny had fallen in nursery that morning and bruised her right elbow.  To me it is interesting that Ginny had enough empathy to connect the two unrelated items.

Ginny's skating coach Deena

Then about two weeks ago, Ginny added “pray for Granddaddy.  He hurts.  He hurts all the time.  Pray for him.”  Which makes perfect sense when you know what my dad is facing these days.  But the thing is that none of us had discussed it with Ginny yet.  Clearly she is picking up on the conversations around her and we are going to have to discuss the particulars with her soon.  Again the level of concern for another human being surprised me.  She is only three after all.

Taking turns.  This is a tough concept to grasp….even for some adults.  We have started really making it plain that other people have rights too.  So in the car we each get one song at a time.  Ginny’s turn to pick will usually result in ‘Bob the Tomato’ singing “This is the Day that the Lord has made”  or something from SEEDS family worship, mama’s turn normally involves Travis Cottrell, Josh Groban or the Indigo Girls, and Papa’s turn defaults to Amy Grant alot.  Sunday morning we got in the car and I asked Ginny what song she wanted for her turn…she said “Mama’s song first.  Let’s do mama’s turn first.”  to say I was stunned would be grossly understating the case.  (however it took me scant seconds to recover from shock and cue up Travis Cottrells’ new CD, song #2 )

Another way Ginny is relating better to those around her is in what most people consider to be “polite behavior.”  The normal “Please and Thank You” routine.

What Martin and I are aiming for here is more than just parroting of please and thank you though.  We have tried everything we know to instill the idea of real gratitude into Ginny.  She’s had the outward trappings for quite a while now.  Mostly when prompted, she will say “thank you”    But recently she stepped it up a notch…..she gives a full description of what she is saying “thanks” for.   And she uses (mostly) full, grammatically correct sentences.

  • After breakfast Sunday morning – “Thank you for breakfast Grammy!  For the waffles, and fruit and milk!”
  • After her ice skating lesson- “Thank you Miss Deena for skate with me!”
  • When her friend Annabelle helped Ginny up after Ginny fell down – “Thank you Annabelle.  Look Mama, Annabelle helped me up!”  And she helps her friend Annabelle up when Annabelle falls.  They fell alot that day because they were running races across the grass and jumping into leaf piles.
  • When any guest leaves our house Ginny knows to go to the porch and wait for the person to drive away so she can wave and say “thank you for coming!”
  • After a ride on the carousel – “Thank you for the ride horse!”
  • And to the operator of the carousel – “Thank you!  Bye bye!”
  • She stunned a waitress the other day, Ginny was out of rice and she asked “May I have some more rice please?”  and when the rice arrived at our table she said “Thank you for the rice!”…oh and Ginny eats with chopsticks too, but that really should be saved for another brag session on some other day.

Now all this may be because Martin and I have drilled it into her to say “thank you”  and we try to model what we ask of her by thanking Ginny for things and actions.  But we never specified that she had to give detailed descriptions of what exactly she was thanking the person for.  She added that all on her own.

All of which may give the impression that we are raising either an angel in disguise or some kind of repressed child with rigid controls set all around her.  Thank goodness Ginny is NOT an angel.  She can still be selfish and rude and demanding and throw fits like any self respecting toddler.  She even was rude Saturday to one of her favorite people on the planet – her coach.  Yes, we know we can’t control her.  She is one long lesson in self control to both mama and papa actually.

But clearly, at least in this one area, something has just clicked into place with the whole ‘thankful heart’ concept.

Ginny achieved new heights in politeness this past Saturday.  We had been shopping at Fry’s Electronics store and stopped for lunch at their cafe.  They didn’t really carry any children’s sandwiches, so I got a ham and cheese on rye for us to split  (yes, my child eats real adult sandwiches.  She’s a foodie).  FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER we were done with lunch, paid out, and had gotten almost to the car when, unprompted,  this clear little voice pipes up from the stroller

“Thank you for coming and for sharing your lunch with me mama”

Be still my thankful heart!

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