This morning we watched snow fall gently outside our big picture window. You stared in wonder as the magic of the season danced before our eyes. Just you wait, my love. Just you wait...
Thought I’d try a new format this month. Not sure if I’m in love with it, but variety is the spice of life. If you actually read all these letters someday, you might appreciate mixing it up a bit.
We’re already a week into our next month of adventures. I can’t keep up with the daily novelties, but this is you right now, on November 23rd:
You’re smart as a whip. You know most of the animals on the refrigerator magnets: you identified them for the first time last week. “Where’s the pig?” You chose it without hesitation. Same for the monkey. You looked and thought hard about the elephant and zebra, but after I helped you the first time, you studied for a few seconds before getting those right as well.
While reading with Papa in the living room a few days ago, you found the triangle puzzle piece. You carried it into your room and put it right where it belongs in the shape puzzle. Papa was floored. He had never seen you put any pieces in that puzzle, let alone do that. I bet you were biding your time in order to wow us.
You are all about putting things in things and taking things out of things and putting things together and taking them apart. Lids and containers, books in book holders, watching Mema tie and untie strings (getting frustrated when you can’t tie them yourself)...The other morning, you successfully put together the tiny syringe we use for your vitamins. That takes serious dexterity! You stared at the two pieces in your hands and slowly brought them together into perfect alignment.
Watching you run is like watching Kermit the Frog. One arm swings out the side like a dangling appendage that’s about to break free. That swinging arm denotes either excitement or irritation – like when, for example, that bigger cup refuses to fit inside the smaller cup.
Baby Beluga is HUGE right now. You carry over the book, then point to Alexa because you want to hear the song. We read the book along with the song, and you’re beside yourself with joy. We play the song over and over and over again.
When we’re home, you glom onto me. When we’re with anyone else you know well, you want nothing to do with me. It’s okay. I get it.
Your face when you look up at me, your mouth in a slight “O,” your eyes like a sad, wide-eyed cartoon animal baby...I could get lost in that look.
The happy little exhale and smile when you’re satisfied is pure gold. As is the way you put your arms down straight in front of you, tucking into yourself when you’re happy in someone’s arms.
We celebrated your first real Thanksgiving! (Last year was more of a symbolic experience.) You had your first turkey, gravy, and canned cranberry sauce. (I’ve made fresh cranberry relish for many years, and peeps always prefer the canned anyway, so I didn’t bother.) You cleaned your plate(s), including mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels, and stuffing. For dessert: Pops’ homemade applesauce with apples from their tree, topped with Mema’s homemade whipped cream. You were in Heaven, your little bird mouth continually opening for more spoonfuls from Mema.
You sat at the head of the table and, other than that, walked laps around the giant room, flirting here and there with the tall, strapping men in the VB family.
You are a ham bone. You know when you have the floor, and you ramp right up. At our Friday Thanksgiving meal with the Russells, you ate contentedly, as always – then commanded the room with funny faces, loud sounds, and “How big is Lulu?” arms up to the sky. We then experimented:
“How much do we love Lulu?” (arms to the sky)
“How...big is this candle?” (arms to the sky)
You apparently know the cadence of the question and the word, “How.” That’s somehow even more impressive than just responding to the original question! Way to use those powers of induction.
In other news:
Your second molar popped! Your hands have been glued to your mouth, you chew frantically on anything and everything, your cheeks are a bit rosier than usual, you have a mean diaper rash, and you sometimes burst into tears for no apparent reason – all signs of serious teething. chewing on anything and everything. But those are the only signs. You remain in great spirits, my brave champion. Poor thing. Two down, six to go!...Oy.
You’ve been a bit more discerning with food. Current favorites include beets and cheese.
You started saying “Mama”!!!!! I think it’s intentional. You clearly know our names – Mama, Papa, Mema, Pops, Zia Leah – but you had yet to make the “Mama” sound. Until now. Hail, Baby Gods!!!! Papa says it’s officially your first word. I’m not 100% certain of that, but, since I can’t speak to what any other first words might have been, let’s just go with this.
One great moment this week: You were reading a book upside down, and your Uncle Mike said, “Hey, it’s upside down, Smarty Pants.” So what did you do? You turned it right side up. I would attribute this to random chance, but we repeated this pattern several times throughout the week.
You sleep from about 7 pm - 5:30 am most nights. Sometimes you sleep a little later.
You nap rather like clockwork around 1 pm – for about two hours, most days.
One night, you quickly rolled to the “sleep position” in my arms (on your side, facing me) but didn’t fall asleep. Perfectly content, you smiled and gabbed and stuck your hand down my shirt, as you do. After about ten minutes of this, I tried putting you in your crib. You were clearly awake. You rolled onto your belly. When I turned off Alexa, you called out, “Eh!” I saw your dark silhouette sitting up, and I gently guided you back down and put my hand on your back for all of 20 seconds before leaving. You put yourself to sleep.
A week later, I put you to sleep after just one song of rocking. You literally cooed – happy little “Heh heh heh…” as you nestled in. Like you were simply ready for bed.
Yes, sleep is pretty darn good these days. (Holding my breath.)
Other aspects of you:
You love to read books, all day long. I sit on the floor, and you carry a book over. You stand in front of me for a few seconds, expectantly, before turning around to sit on my lap. I can’t stand the adorable factor in that simple sequence.
We removed the block on your highchair footrest because your feet nearly touch it. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown! I remember when your little chubby legs stuck straight out. Now you casually cross your long legs as you eat or push your toes against the table.
You’re finally outgrowing some clothes. The same pants you’ve worn for months on end are suddenly a bit snug, and the pajamas that fit you a few weeks ago are no longer a viable option. I was ready for some new clothes, that’s for sure. On the other hand, you finally fit into the precious red sweater that Mema made for me, and I’m not sure there’s anything sweeter than that.
Lily Cat is your bestie these days. She goes everywhere with you, and your face lights up like a Christmas tree whenever she pops up. We named her Lily after the Lily you love – and the Lily that loves you – at the Wolff house. You and Lily have a very special relationship. You love to sit on the chair next to her and snuggle. She tolerates you literally lying on top of her, or even pulling hard on her tail. It’s incredible.
Recent funny moments:
“Where are Lulu’s socks?”...An hour later, I find them floating in the toilet bowl. Mystery solved.
At the Wolff house, I say, “Okay, time to go home!” You run away, into the living room, and, with your back to me, wave bye-bye. That wave is still hilarious: a floppy wrist and elbow.
I try to mix it up by shuffling our nightly playlist Lulu’s Lullabies. Halfway into the first song, you point to Alexa as if to say, “Mama, that’s not the right song.” I shift to “Alexa, play Lulu’s Lullabies,” and the familiar song – the one we listen to every single night and every single nap – comes on. Problem solved, you listen contentedly to the book we read.
You let Mema know when the “childproof” rubber bands aren’t on her cabinet doors. How nice of you.
*You and your Papa bonded over the weekend I was at Zia Leah’s 30th birthday celebration. I see the two of you even more bonded now, and it fills me up.
Mornings shifted from a solid “at least 5:30 am” to 5/5:15 am again...Not awesome, but not terrible. A week later, you slept until 6:15 am two mornings in a row. I sang for joy. As your Papa said recently, “How our lives have changed…”
Bedtimes have regressed a little, as you are a fidgetmeister, but you never scream. We seem to have reached an agreement of some kind – an agreement that bedtime has arrived. And you finally have sleep buddies! I think that helps. Lily Cat and/or baby monkey (still without an official name, which is absurd, I apologize) are the only contenders. You are loyal!
Naps are a cakewalk compared to our first year together. What a blessed chapter. You still go down almost like clockwork around 1 pm and nap anywhere from 1-2+ hours – usually at least 75 minutes – with very minimal fuss. You’re usually so exhausted by naptime that you fall asleep quickly. The fact that this trend has continued for more than a month now is promising.
Your happy “Heh”s or babbles as you lie on the edge of sleep in my arms...I hope you know such joy someday.
What’s big these days:
FURRY FRIENDS. Lily Cat is still your bestie, but Jellycat has made a recent comeback, and you have a host of other contenders in the mix. We borrowed a push toy from the library, and you like to put your friends in it and push them around. I can’t handle it.
Raffi is still, by far, your number one. Really, he’s an obsession. You point to Alexa throughout the day, and you only want Raffi. I ask if you want to listen to him, or you hear his voice, and the biggest grin slides across your face, accompanied by your happy, “Hehhh….” You wait with an expectant half-smile for the music to start, you bounce-dance at the beginning of almost every song (Raffi or not), and you point to Alexa with an urgent “Heh!” when a song is nearly over – because you recognize that it’s almost over, and you want to make sure that another song will follow. You recently learned that Raffi can also play from a record. We found my old Raffi record at the Wolff house, and you were floored. You sat stone-still in my arms, staring at the record turning around and around, transfixed, your busting brain baffled and trying to wrap itself around this new reality. You almost seemed afraid of it! You also didn’t like that the music was in another room – the library, which we try to keep you out of because of the hot woodstove. You wanted the music in the same room, as it is otherwise.
Besides the quintessential Raffi – and Lulu's Lullabies playlist, as well as many nursery rhymes and the like – certain songs put you in a more sleepy mood. For example, Edelweiss ("Emmylou") remains a hit. And Out of My Dreams from Oklahoma! has put you to sleep on multiple occasions. Be still my heart.
Lemons! This is not super surprising, because I drink lemon water every single morning – including during pregnancy. Still, the sight of you sucking on a lemon, without even puckering, is a sight to behold.
Brushing teeth! We brush our teeth together every morning. I sit you on the closed toilet, and you rotate the toothbrush in your mouth. You used to just suck on it, and you still do a lot of sucking, but you just started emulating my movements. Wow.
Baby doll! We went to the toy library, and you saw her sitting in a high chair. You ran to her and carried her all around. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. For whatever reason, you’re suddenly a Baby’s Mommy – just like your Mama.
ACCESSORIES. Accessories are serious business. You’re learning about the magic of what they can add to an ensemble, and you walk around with your belly out, so proud and happy.
Necklaces: I brought home a bowl full from Zia Leah’s birthday party, and you can now put them on and take them off all by yourself. You drape up to six at a time around your neck and walk around, all bedazzled.
Tree skirt: We have a white fuzzy tree skirt with sparkly snowflakes, and you like us to drape it around your shoulders like the Queen. Too much.
“Purses”: I loop the strings of drawstring bags around your shoulder, and you carry toys around. You also enjoyed wearing my real purse.
Sunglasses: Rather than whip them off, you enjoy wearing them for a few minutes, stumbling around the house because you can’t see quite as well. (Hey, accessories aren’t always practical.)
GABBING! Here we are celebrating 14 months, and you are all gabs and babbles, babbles and gabs.
You try to blow bath bubbles (?) with “Pah! Pah” or “Pleh.”. “Bah-bah” might be “Bubbles”...Your bend over the water and whisper these babbles like you’re sharing secrets.
You “blub” your finger up and down your lips to make a raspberry sound.
You let loose an ear-splitting shriek when you can’t have something you want. One evening, you stood over the bathtub, so ready to climb in, holding baby monkey. I told you that we couldn’t bring baby monkey into the tub, and you didn’t know what to do with that information. You stood there for a full minute, vacillating: “I want to take a bath! But I also want baby monkey! AHHH!! WHAT DO I DO?!?!” I eventually had to bite the bullet and gently release baby monkey from your kung-fu grip. You deafened me.
You grunt and flap your hands – kind of like the floss dance? – when you’re frustrated or don’t want something offered. You’ve been known to throw shape blocks when you can’t fit them into a hole.
You shout-babble and point at Lily Cat when she’s on the chair. (You apparently got the biggest kick out of Lily being “in trouble,” and you cracked up when Mema raised her voice and told her to get off the table. A few days later, you shouted excitedly and pointed at Lily to let Mema know Lily was being naughty again.)
You say “Mamama” or purse your lips together tightly and release a forceful “Mmmmm-a,” smiling when we recognize it as “Mama.” I can’t tell if you’re excited or if you’re teasing us because you know how much we want you to say it. I wouldn’t put it past you, my little imp!
You communicate contentment with a happy “Heh” or an audible little inhale and exhale through your nose.
You “dibble dibble” and “blah balah balah” and otherwise contribute your voice to our soundscape. I can’t wait until language really clicks for you. I’m sure you will entertain us to no end.
READING! We read books on books on books.
“I want.” We decoded the sign that you invented: putting your finger to the side of your nose. It means “I want.” It took us a while to figure that one out, but we did it. I give Mema full credit.
Pooping in the tub. Not sure why this is suddenly happening, but we’ve had a messy streak of late. You also like to play in your tub when it’s stored in your bedroom. You sit in it with your furry friends and we sing Row Your Boat as we push and pull you back and forth. Needless to say, we deep-clean it post-poop. Papa calls it the Ship of Poo.
Everything is happening. You’re so incredibly smart and such a fast learner.
You clearly understand words like “upside down,” which seems rather…nuanced, no? Is that normal?
By December 3rd, you understood “advent calendar.” I said, “We have to do the advent calendar!” and you turned around and pointed to it.
You heard Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and ran to your bookshelf to get the book that has that song in it (and is, in fact, called Twinkle Twinkle).
We were looking at a book about animals. You walked to the refrigerator, pulled off the pig magnet, and put it on the book next to the pig photo.
London Bridge played and you pulled your nursery rhyme book off the shelf – the one with that song in it – and turn to the right page, running your fingers over the picture of the bridge.
I sang, “Open, shut them” to distract you on your changing table, and you closed your hands into fists so tight they shook.
I nodded and said, “Yes” and you nodded right along with me. First nod!
You heard me say we were going to see Mema and Pops soon, and you got your hat and tried to put it on your head. A few minutes later, you tried to put on your coat. Way to be clear with your wants!
You can identify so many body parts: nose, eyes, mouth, toes, arms, belly, belly button, hair (really nailing that one)...
You understand phrases like “Put your hand on it!” and follow directions.
I say, “Are you hungry? Let’s go to your chair!” and you run to your highchair and hold your hands still so I can wash them with a washcloth. On several occasions, you found your bib and tried to put it on. I guess you were ready to eat.
After meals, I hand you your tiny sponge and say, “Wipe your tray!” and you happily do about three swipes before putting it in your mouth. Still, quite impressive.
You’re essentially a brown belt in walking. Still a few random wipeouts here and there, but you’re learning the art of maneuvering. You side-step around objects on the floor like it ain’t no thang.
You have a constant look of wonder on your face. You love when we point to things in books, or outside, or wherever we are and say, “Look, Lulu!”
We ask, “Can you do that?” and you hesitate, thinking about it, almost afraid to try it. More and more, you try it.
You continue to bloom more and more beautiful. Your face is perfection. Those angel-shaped eyes, that perfect nose, those tulip lips, those expressive eyebrows…Your legs are so skinny in comparison to your round Buddha belly, especially when you don leggings and a big sweater. And your HAIR! You’ve had this funny “monk” look for a while now: your hairline cuts straight across your forehead, and your hair is shorter on the sides and significantly longer on top – as if your hair hasn’t quite yet figured out how it’s supposed to work together as one unit of being.
I have so many images of you from the past few weeks, and I left out so many things, I know. How to describe you at this age? Feisty. Independent: you like to do things yourself! Curious. Goofy. Joyful. Passionate. Determined. Snuggly, especially when you're tired. Wonder-filled. Always dance-ready. Loyal (to your fuzzy friends, to Raffi, to us). Obsessed with Mema. Somewhat discerning, with a preference to have things just so. (For example, you spent a long time trying to get Lily Cat's tail fully in the push toy, and you rearranged all your fuzzy friends until it seemed to be "just right.") Hungry, literally and figuratively. Ready to take on anything and everything.
In short, some serious earthshaking happened this month, and you’re suddenly a little woman.
My little woman.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama