Already it’s been almost a month and a half, since I’ve written your newsletter. Yet, in some ways it seems to me like I just wrote your month 14 newsletter. I’ll be fascinated to see how both of us have a changing perception of time as we both mature. I remember as a child ((I was about to write ‘kid’ here, but then remembered that as a kid, I wouldn’t let anyone refer to me as ‘kid’ because it (also) meant ‘baby goat.’)) it seems like such a huge time from one birthday to the next. And seven years of bad luck? An eternity! For me, this has clearly changed. While you can’t yet communicate your thoughts about time, your communication skills have continued to improve markedly. You love to talk, and you have simply the most adorable babble as you spit out what seems like a completely arbitrary arrangements of consonants and vowels.
During your most recent pediatrician visit, Dr. Karen Kruger said that your “verbal skills are phenomenal.” While your mom and I occasionally manage to practice non-attachment, I think we both swelled with pride when we heard that. In addition to new vocalizations this month, you’ve also added new signs. Your mom and I are still quite glad we’ve been doing signing with you, not just because it exercises part of your brain that may otherwise lie fallow, but your signing has helped us understand you better.
We had a small Christmas tree on the dining room table this Christmas, so you picked up a vocalization for ‘tree’ (daah) and a sign. Your sign doesn’t exactly match, the official version — you hold your right arm up and make a grasping motion, but it’s close enough that along with “daah” we know what you are referring to. Similarly, you’ve been noticing, talking about and signing about airplanes (“baah” with flappy arms), and you love asking for and dancing to music (“gaah” with your right hand stroking your left arm).
As “dancing” might imply above, you spent most of this month on your feet (or seated.) You’ve abandoned crawling all together except for the rare occasion where you’re already on the floor and the object of your desire is out of reach, but within a couple of feet. You seem to just love movement generally. One of our favorite games consists of me walking backward around the central loop of our house, with you toddling along hot on my heels (er, well, toes). I’ll round a corner, out of your sight, and dash to the next corner. You’ll round the corner, see me at the far end and cackle with delight. We repeat that all the way around the loop, then we do it again. And again. And again. Your squeals diminish somewhat, but I tire of this well before you do.
In our outdoor walking, I’ve taken to nicknaming you “all-terrain baby” because if there’s a nice smooth surface for you to walk along, you don’t mind starting out on it, but you really want to walk across everything. Your mom was helping Penn State interview for her replacement in downtown Philadelphia, so I took you to Ridley Creek State Park near Mom-mom and Granddaddy’s. There you were toddling about, and you paused to pick up a small stick along the edge of the paved trail. A little bit later, you wandered off the edge of the trail and replaced the stick in your hand with a rock. Then you added a second rock to your growing collection, and a third. Finally, you decided to sit down in a gravel driveway and “sort” the pebbles in the driveway. Apparently, this sorting behavior is widespread in babies; as a baby, your mom sorted tupperware and clothespins on the floor in Mom-mom’s kitchen, and I sorted 10-penny nails in and out of large coffee cans.
One of your movements comes from imitative play. In an attempt to distract you while mom fed you (still a far-too-arduous task), I shook my head, eyes wide and tongue dangling. You loved it so much, you imitated. And imitated. And imitated. We now call it “crazy baby”, and pretty much any time you hear the word “crazy” you hold your fists up to your shoulders and waggle your head back and forth.
In a similar vein, you do imitative play with phones. We give you Mom’s aging cell phone or my broken ipod to play with and you tuck it to your ear, usually backwards or upside down, and name it (“go”), then say “yah, yah, yah.” It’s one of the cutest things. Mom was reading you the ABC bath book you got for Christmas when she got to “xylo_phone_” you tilted your head to the side and said “Ya, ya, ya”.
Of course, it being Christmas, you again flew across country back to Pennsylvania where we spent most of 10 days with Mom-mom and Granddaddy. You still needed help opening presents, but you certainly enjoyed this Christmas more than last which you mostly slept through. We also started a Christmas ritual where each night before dinner, we’d ring an “abundance” bell provided by “aunt skip”, light a candle, and read a verse. The verses ranged from Poe to the Dali Lama with stops at authors like Maya Angelou and Douglas Adams in between. Mom really enjoyed her childhood rituals around Christmas, but as our current spirituality cannot be defined as Christian, most seemed inappropriate to continue. So, we’re making new rituals to give you a pattern and structure to enjoy.
Christmas was not without its own stresses though. The day before we were to fly back east, your mom took you to the pediatrician worried over what seemed like a persistent cold. The pediatrician was concerned that you might have pneumonia, so you got chest x-rays for the second time in your short life, which, as before, came up clean. However, we still had a 10-day course of antibiotics to give you; a process you hated until about the 8th day at which point you were calmly resigned about it.
This month also saw you taking displeasure in food on your face and hands. Before, if we missed your mouth during a feeding, or if your hand successfully intercepted an in-bound spoon, it mattered little if at all to you. Now, you’ll often wipe food off the surface in question with your hands and then put them into your mouth. It’s still not what we would call a neat process, but it was certainly noteworthy given previous behavior.
You’ve been on more play dates this month, but you still tend to be quite shy during times of potential interaction with others. You and Mom and I stopped by the Barnes and Nobles after dinner one evening, where we went to the train table they have in the kid’s children’s section. Normally, now when I set you down, you land on your feet, get your balance and toddle forward. When I set you down in front of the train set, where there were already a couple of children playing, you landed on my feet (with your butt) and there you stayed, leaning back against me like a sack of flour.
Speaking of feet, I may have mentioned in previous months that you can identify your feet. You now call both socks and shoes “chew”, but you have a couple of two-word phrases, including whatever passes for “big toe” as you and I both have fairly pronounced primary digits on our feet. One of our little games (sometimes) is for me to work my way in from your pinky-toe, touching each one and saying “toe” only to pause dramatically before pronouncing (with much glee for each of us) that this one is your “BIG TOE!” You have another two-word phrase that is actually a one-word phrase repeated. It’s “choo choo”, pronounced the same as the things you wear on your feet, but you clearly know the difference. We often get to hear trains in the distance where we are, and you proudly mention the “chew chew” every time. Finally, because you must hear it a lot, you have one more two-word phrase: “Good girl” (guh gihr)
You, do have your fussy moments. You get tired and irritable (as do your parents — just differently). But I find you a delight to be around and to interact with, and it’s exciting to me because this is still “just the beginning.” The day is coming where I’ll explain to you how something in the world works, and some time later we’ll have debates on abstract ideas and other “big” things, and soon enough you’ll be explaining to me how something in the world works. I look forward to all of it.
One last note that I have to sneak in here, even though this newsletter is already too long by half, is your meowing. There’s a picture early in your first year where the two of us are lying in a sunbeam on the floor, and I captioned it that you and I were “pretending we were cats.” Well, these days, you know lots of animal sounds, but meowing is by far your favorite. You’ll come up to a parent, say and sign “cat” (“gaack”), and then meow. If that parent is me, you can bet I’ll meow back. We can go back and forth for quite some time, pretending we are cats. It’s so fun, and you’re so excited to be communicating meaningfully, it’s a treat for both of us. I hope I capture some audio of it before you tire of it and move on to ever new joys of communication.
(ps pictures are coming, I was just didn’t want to (further) hold up this newsletter for them. I’ll erase this PS once I’ve got the pictures in place.)