Tomorrow you will turn 16 months old. Back in Pennsylvania, a little groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil will stick his little brown nose out of his hole-in-the-dirt house and venture out into the air. Hundreds of people will watch to see if he sees his shadow. If he does, folklore has it that there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, there will be an early spring. I was saying to your Dad the other day that I doubt people in the San Francisco Bay area pay much attention to Groundhog Day. Six more weeks of winter here will be very much like six more weeks of spring. While I miss *just a wee bit* the anticipation of spring, I am more than happy that this past month of January, you and I have spent time outdoors nearly every day. And instead of looking forward to spring, I get to look forward to each day with you. You surprise me constantly with some new skill, word, sign, or hilarious behavior. I can’t even predict what you’ll be doing and saying by the time the daffodils bloom back east, and that’s just wonderful.
So what did you do this past month? Let’s see… there was the day you figured out how to work zippers and managed to open up your diaper backpack and empty its contents. There was the day you finally learned to flick the light switches up as well as down… the day you started to tell me which body parts of your to wash in which order during bathtime… the day you walked home from the neighborhood park without holding my hand… oh, and the day you repeatedly brought me my shoes to slip on my feet, at which point you would demand them back. I was washing dishes while you did this, and had to laugh because I felt like I was stuck in some sort of Cinderella loop.
This last activity is an example of your favorite kind of play at the moment: bringing me or your father sets of things, one at a time, and then removing them. After you deliver each object (a toy car, a stuffed animal, a piece of junk-mail, a band-aid that you managed to pilfer from the bathroom, etc.) you will ask us and sign “more?” We think it’s a question because of your rising intonation, although sometimes it feels like a command. “I will bring you more. STAY THERE.” What’s handy about this, is that I always know what you’ve gotten into, and can easily contain the possible mess. The other day I left clean laundry in a basket that you had access to. Instead of strewing the clean clothes all over our questionably clean floors (as you would have done in the past) you brought each item to me. You love being helpful in this way. Once you learn to fold the laundry, I’ll have it made.
This past month definitely falls under the sign of “more.” You say and sign “more” quite fluently now, applying it to many different contexts. You ask for more food, more music, more toys, more singing, more goofy noises, and more roughhousing from Dad. The other day you were riding on my back in the Ergo and I was talking to you in a funny voice and you howled with laughter, in between gulps gasping “more.” Sometimes, though, I can’t tell what you want more of. When we go out on walks, you usually point to various objects and say “gat?” You’ve been doing this for a while now. At first we thought you were talking about cats, but then we realized that you were trying to say “that?” (In our identification games we always ask you, Sammy, what’s that?") This month, you’ve been fascinated by cars. I’ve been talking to you about colors, and so now you point to cars and I tell you what color they are. You love this. But lately, as I point out cars and colors, you’ve been saying “more?” My guess is that you crave other identifications. So I’ve been showing you fences, and houses, and flowers, and grass, and leaves. Some days your “mores” are so frequent that I can barely catch my breath narrating the world to you.
If you love learning new terms, you adore demonstrating your knowledge. Often you don’t want us to read your storybooks to you, but rather prefer to point out the various objects that you know, or have us quiz you on them. Your receptive language skills amaze me. You can identify all of the appliances in the kitchen. And when you point to the stove, you also sign “hot.” You know many body parts and have lately learned “knee” and “back.” You also now know the difference between your nose and “Mommy’s” or “Daddy’s” nose. You can identify numerous animals in your big animal picture book, and know all 26 objects in your ABC bath book. I’ve read that the child’s brain is like a sponge, but still, your capacity for new information astounds me.
You are producing new words and signs too. You say “wow,” “wa” for “water,” “shhh” for “fish,” and “efff” for “woof.” You’ve started to work on the “r” sound, and say “ra” for “rabbit,” “red,” and “ride.” You pick up new signs more and more quickly, adding “orange,” “walk,” “hot,” “up,” and “car.” Probably the most exciting signing development is that you are starting to combine signs. You’ve repeated my signing “cat” and “eating” when I tell you to leave Camus alone while he dines, and as I mentioned, you use “more” with other signs. You also repeat my signing of “no touch” when I show you something hot on the stove. Now when you sign “hot” you often follow that with “no touch” while saying “no no.” Dad and I are thrilled that you can communicate more clearly with us through ASL. My favorite communication story from this past month? At your 15-month doctor’s appointment you became very frightened when the nurse came in to take your measurements and vitals. After she left, we were alone for a while in the exam room. While sobbing, you signed for “music,” so I sang to you. Instantly you calmed down, settled in my arms, and started to doze.
If only every crisis were so easy to fix… alas, the doctor’s office is not the only place where you cling to me and cry. You seem to be exhibiting some stranger anxiety again, especially around other children. Recently you appear to be scared of your little playmate Meredith who lives down the street. Meredith is a month and a half older than you, and we typically go play at her house for an hour or so every Wednesday morning. While you adore Meredith’s cat Nickel, and will smile at her parents, you tend to either ignore or stare at poor little Meredith herself. This past week, you cried every time she came near you. Now to be fair, Meredith is going through a shouting phase, so I can certainly understand why you might feel a bit intimidated. We’ll keep, going, though, Baby Girl, because we want you to learn how to interact with other kids. Perhaps one day you and Meredith will be real friends. Remember, she has a really cool cat!
Typically after your playdates, or any other morning outing, we come home and have lunch together. That’s right, this is the part of the newsletter where we talk about food. The good news this month is that you are much better at swallowing finger food, and you are expanding your palate quite a bit. Your current favorites are whole peas (like your father, only LeSuer brand), beans of any kind, especially spicy chili ones, yellow rice, lentil soup, and tomatoes. You LOVE tomatoes. Your Italian ancestors must be so proud. I have even spooned chunky tomato sauce right into your mouth and you love it. And speaking of spoons, you can now spoon feed yourself (including dipping the spoon into the bowl, getting food on it, and inserting the right side into your mouth)! Although you tend to get bored after 3 or 4 spoonfuls. This is where the bad news comes in. Sometimes you just don’t want to interrupt your busy day to eat. Sometimes you act as though the high chair is a torture device, and the food we want to serve you is a soul-sucking demonic sludge. (I assure you neither is true, although the peas might be, I don’t know, I don’t eat ‘em). Still, as I write this, I realize just how far you’ve come in self-feeding and I am very pleased. We’re also starting to give you milk in a cup with a straw, and you love to take sips of water from a regular cup.
But the biggest reminder of how much you’ve grown is your new car seat. Since you (finally!) weigh over 20 lbs and are a year old, you can face forward in the back seat. So we retired your old infant carrier and now you ride in style in a brand new toddler seat, complete with cup holder. Seeing Daddy take out the infant seat base and move your old seat down into the basement was surprisingly emotional for me. I remember so well how tiny you looked in that seat when we brought you home from the hospital. There was so much room around your floppy head that we had to cushion you with rolled up receiving blankets.
No, you’re not a little baby anymore. You’re a little person with her own ideas, desires, likes, and dislikes. Lately, when I turn around to look at you from the front seat of the car, you tell me “bye-bye” and wave your arm and shake your head. I thought it was just a game, but you’ve applied the bye-bye behavior to other situations. If you want to be done with a particular activity, or want to move on to something else, you “bye-bye” it. You even tell me “bye-bye” when you catch me observing you when you don’t want to be scrutinized! Already at 16-months old, you are developing a notion of private space. Sometimes I miss the little baby, Sammy, but I love watching you become a person. Thank you for letting us watch.