You continue to astound us, entertain us, and keep us on our toes. They say the personality of a baby sticks. If that’s the case, I have no doubt: you will shake and rattle the world, my love.
Welcome to month 16!
Chapter 1: Snow
First things first: Our world is, well, freezing. Even after we finally recover from COVID, we don’t spend much time outside, and I try to avoid taking you into any stores. Omicron is rampant. So, we spend a lot of time inside – going back and forth between our home, the Wolff home, and Veronica’s.
That said, we get out as much as possible because the world is full of SNOW! It’s the first real snow you’ve experienced, considering your itty-bitty status last year. Here are some highlights from our winter wonderland:
We sled to Veronica’s! Mema is half-joking when she proposes this, but we have an adventure on the snowiest day of the year. You haven’t been there in two weeks due to COVID, and we all need it. So, off we go, making the day of every neighbor we pass.
You build your first snowperson with Mema! It’s a snowbaby with a carrot nose and blueberry eyes. You love kissing it. Papa and I make an even tinier snowbaby in our backyard, but it looks like a character from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas: big rock eyes, scraggly arms, and a short stick nose. We improvise as you eat snow. Meanwhile, Mema makes a giant snowmama on their lawn, and we savor the big reveal when you spy it out the window.
You spend most of your time outside eating snow. You like to bring a snowball into the Wolff house and savor it. The distress on your face when it’s all gone is painful to witness.
You have your first downhill sledding adventure! We attend a sledding party, and you love riding down the hill. The social butterfly that you are, you spend a lot of time trying to hug children. One kid – around the age of four? – finally lets you, and you hug him several times. Doesn’t get much cuter than that: two snow bunnies with your poofy arms wrapped around each other.
Chapter 2: Food, Sleep, Routines
You’re still a great eater, though more stubborn with some foods. You usually end up eating almost everything if we leave you alone, but those leafy greens and potatoes and gnocchi…etc…often remain. You still go for the greens (especially broccoli) first.
Some favorites this month, in no particular order: chicken, broccoli, beets, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, tofu, fruit (any fruit, but blueberries still reign supreme), peas, tomatoes, avocado, and (usually) bread. I can always count on you to finish those foods. You could still happily exist as semi-keto, with the exception of fruit and bread.
A few other points of interest:
Our grace before dinner finally progresses from you slapping my hand away to giving me low-fives. Baby steps…
You suddenly want nothing to do with your bib, and you like to slap your hands on the side of your head, which means you’re a hot mess at the end of most meals.
You try to give me food you don’t like, or put it in the cup holder of your tray….or throw it on the floor.
You’re learning how to use a fork!
You learn “Cheers”! We say it and hold our glasses toward you and you smile as you “clink” with your sippy cup.
Our general routines work well for us. Here’s where we are now:
I get up with you on weekdays. You play alone quite contentedly while I prep morning drinks and food for the day. We play, read, and you have breakfast around 7 am. Some mornings we squeeze in about 20 minutes of Sesame Street. We brush our teeth together before we leave for the day’s adventures, often around 9:15 am. You go to Veronica’s on Mondays and Thursdays, we visit the Wolffs together on Tuesday mornings, and I drop you off at the Wolff house on Wednesday mornings.
Papa gets up with you on Saturdays and Sundays. I have no idea what the two of you do, but I’m sure you have a lot of fun playing and reading. Sometimes I’m up to give you breakfast at 7, but sometimes I emerge closer to 7:30, in which case Papa has already given you a mess-free breakfast (“No yogurt!”).
We enjoy family time and eat dinner together right around 6, followed by a bath and bedtime:
“Okay, which friends do you want to snuggle with tonight?” You choose one or two snuggly friends from your “small friend basket.”
“Find two books to read!” You choose a book. “Wonderful! Okay, find another one!” You choose another one.
*Note: These are usually very deliberate decisions unless you’re distracted by another mission, in which case you randomly grab some things just to appease me.
Will sleep always be an ongoing journey? Yikesarama, woman…
From about mid-December through January, things are easy breezy for the first time ever.
You wake around 6:30 am.
You go down for a nap easily, either in my arms, or transferred asleep from the car.
At bedtime, we snuggle for a mere few minutes. As soon as I move ever-so-slightly, you “Eh!” in case I’m trying to get up from the chair and put you in your crib. Sometimes you just need a few more minutes of rocking together, and you’re content. You usually go in your crib awake, often able to gab yourself to sleep. And if you fuss (which is rarer and rarer), you fall asleep within about two minutes 99% of the time.
Then something really, umm, special happens late January/early February.
You cycle back to waking around 5 am.
Every nap, you scream like a banshee in a new, inconsolable fashion, and you can’t calm yourself down. I’m back to holding you for most naps.
At bedtime, you can’t seem to put yourself to sleep. So, we’re back to rocking you and comforting you until you’re out cold. I usually try to rock you and then help you lie down in your crib, but you refuse to lie down for me – crying and grabbing frantically for me. Papa comes in and lies you down, no problem. No idea what that’s about. You’re also calmer when he stays there with me as I move through the “soothing release”: rub your back, then keep my hand still on your back, then hold your arm with my hand. I try to release your arm several times until you no longer reach back for it. Then we stay for a few minutes to make sure you’re far gone and tiptoe out, leaving Edelweiss on repeat for a while.
In a word, ugh. But, you know, it’s fine. Really, it’s fine! I’m not very frustrated, even as I long for the blissed-out days of later rising, easy napping, and easy bedtimes. Because I know we’ll get back there. You’re going through a lot right now. I know that you have multiple teeth erupting, you’re on the verge of talking, and I think you’re in the midst of new separation anxiety challenges.
Plus, I’ve enjoyed the precious moments we’ve shared. For example, this is the first time you seem to enjoy me rubbing your fuzzy head as we rock. I feel your head relax under my hand, if that’s possible. You look up at me through the darkness with your big beautiful eyes, and I look down into them. If I turn away to stretch my neck, you put your hand on my cheek and guide me back. I’ve waited my whole life for simple, beautiful moments like sitting on the floor next to you, my hand on your arm, Papa rubbing my back as we wait for our beautiful babe to fall asleep.
Chapter 3: Communication
You’re a talker, though we still mostly can’t make heads or tails of it. The letter “V” has arrived, along with the following:
“Up!” (though I don’t think it means “Up”)
“Bittebitte…” (the German in you?...)
Whispering “Shla shla shla…” or “Tsa tsa tsa…” with a smile on your face (this one’s my personal new favorite)
The sign for “more” has become your catch-all. You use it whenever you want more – more of a particular game, more music…and when you want to watch TV…You also have a mystery sign, which signifies some kind of question – where or what — or “I don’t know”…You hold your arms forward, pushed together, palms face up and fingers pointing downward and make an “Oo” shape with your mouth.
Other signs you started using this month:
Eat (tapping fingers on your mouth)
Hungry (rubbing your belly)
It takes you a while to settle into your first word. We continue to ask you to say Mama, and you still only say it randomly – mostly when we’re not asking you. It’s almost as if you can say it but don’t want to. Shyness? Obstinance? Not sure what’s going in there, but it’s rather fascinating.
However, two weeks into January something clicks, and “Mama” is officially your first word! I never thought that would actually happen. One morning, we read Everything is Mama. Every time I exclaim “Mama!” you repeat, in your precious little voice, “Mommom…” I weep inside.
The first week of February, a few more words emerge:
Baby – pronounced “Bebe” (how French of you)
Wow – pronounced “Wowah” (and with a little smile every time)
Snake – okay, just the “Sss” sound, but still
Ball (sans “L”)
Bug (but of course) – pronounced very much like “ball”
Then, on February 11th, you say “Papa.” We all cheer around the Wolff dinner table. Mema is teary. Papa is busting open.
Chapter 4: All Things You
You’re so quick to figure out how things work:
We pull out a yo-yo, and you start fiddling with the string. You get it after only seeing it once.
After watching us demonstrate, you hold a tube of lip balm and move it up and down on your lips (before trying to eat it).
You pour me some pretend tea from your tea set. I ask, “Do you think Fox would like some tea?” You walk right over to your basket of furry friends, pull out Fox, and hold the teacup to his face.
Downward dog: I demonstrate your first yoga pose and, after one two-minute practice session, you now do it on command.
By day 3 of pouring practice, you can do it with one hand.
You know that nodding means “Yes.” You take me by surprise one morning when I ask, “Would you like more banana? Yes?” and look at you to see you slowly nodding in your highchair. By the first week of February, you nod constantly.
You can choose an outfit. I hold up two pairs of pajamas and say, “Which one?” and you look at both before pointing to one. Mema is very impressed.
You let me know when it’s time to end a FaceTime by waving to the phone. Noted.
You can now climb up on our bed. (It’s a low bed, but still: this is huge for you.)
You’re growing like a weed, outbellying your shirts. Multiple shirts that fit fine a few weeks ago are now midriffs. I buy you 18-month-old duds, and they fit you perfectly. I also buy you some 2Ts. Unbelievable.
You definitely have an aggressive streak, m’dear. When you don’t want a book offered, you swat it away. When you’re done reading a particular book with someone, you swat it closed.
You’ve started wanting some privacy when you poop, standing or squatting in a semi-hidden place, away from everyone.
You’ve started to develop more of an interest in the piano, which melts your Mama’s heart. You sometimes like to watch me play piano and, at the end of a song, you quietly “Eh” (which means “Yes”) when I ask if you want me to play more. You seem to have favorite songs, as noted by the fact that you sit quietly and listen versus flipping the page.
As SOON as I pick you up after a nap, you “Eh!” and point.
You’re as curious as ever. I hold you as I prep food and you stare, taking it all in. On 1.24, you “help” me put a ¼ teaspoon of thyme into a beef bourguignon, and my heart leaps with anticipation of all to come.
You have a few new expressions:
A serious little eyebrow scowl, often accompanied by pursed lips
A coy smile with your lips parted
That coy smile with lips pursed and corners of your mouth just turned upward (That one has been around for a bit, but it’s more developed at this point.)
You have two waves, which is brilliant. We should all adopt these:
“Goodbye” is the floppy wrist/arm that you’ve had for a while.
“Hello” is what I call a Princess wave – palm forward, wrist rotating sideways. This is a new addition to your wave repertoire.
By mid-February, you wave to everything and everyone: bugs, characters in books and on TV, spider webs…
God help me with I come to pick you up from the Wolff house. One day, you lean toward me, and I think, “She’s finally happy to see me!” You put your hand on my face and firmly push it away. Ah well.
You officially have three friends: Wally, Kitty, and Faris. You see at least some of them about once a week at Veronica’s, and you love them. Veronica told me once that Faris hugged you and you kept signing, “More.” Oh, my heart.
You now have your own Lulu table and chair/s at our house and the Wolff house. I can tell you’re proud to sit on the big girl chair all by yourself, your feet dangling.
Most of the time, you want to be held so you have a better view of things – and you immediately point and “Eh!” However, sometimes I pick you up…and you don’t point or “Eh!” You simply want to be in my arms. In those moments – when we're dancing together or when I’m rubbing your head and singing to you or when we’re smiling under a blanket tent or any other myriad of smallest-of-small moments together – I am more at peace than I have ever been.
What’s Big This Month
Shadows: You love to use the light on your nail clippers to make shadows on the wall while I change you. You point around the room at the different shadows.
Birds: You peer out the window and watch the birds at the bird feeder, pointing and setting up your “baby” figurines so they can see, too.
Bugs: You’re an animal lover these days, which includes bugs.
You had your first “bug in a jar” experience (a stink bug we saw on the wall) and were beside yourself, smiling and even waving to him. The second time we found one, you ran to your bookshelf, pulled off the book with a photo of a bug in it, and carried it over to the table with the bug jar. Your brain is on fire.
You have a specific sound for “bug.” It’s kind of a mid-range, repetitive grunt.
The Lion King: Your first movie obsession was once the obsession of your Zia Leah. Mema even found a few figurines – Scar and Simba. Now, you frantically, “Heh heh heh!!!!” and point to the Wolff TV. You and Mema sit and watch 2-3 songs as you hold your figurines, holding them up when those characters come on screen, completely bewitched. Your favorite songs are "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" – particularly the part where, you guessed it, they eat bugs. You make faces with us at that part. Ewww! Mema and Zia Leah try to expand your jungle repertoire by offering such classics as Tarzan and The Jungle Book. Though transfixed, you express your firm disinterest by signing “All done” and waving goodbye to the screen.
Spiders: True story. We watch Charlotte’s Web – and, unbeknownst to me – you watch it at Mema’s. You become obsessed with spiders. We carry you around the house and you point to the ceiling. When we find a big spider web, or, the real jackpot, a spider, a smile creeps across your face and you point and babble, beside yourself. Soon enough, you start waving as soon as one of us says, “Hi, Charlotte!” Mema says, “I can never kill that spider in the shower now…” I say, “I can never vacuum away the cobwebs…” I suppose it’s for a good cause.
Twisting lids: This is one of your new dexterity challenges, and you’re quite good at it already.
Pops’ clock: We set the timer so we can make it to the clock in time to hear the ancient gong, gong, gong…
Blankets: You love to be wrapped in them like a burrito.
Playing “cat” with Mema: Mema crawls on all fours and you snuggle with her, just like you try to snuggle with Lily.
Hide and seek: One morning, we play Journey to Ernie (Sesame Street’s version of hide and seek) with the small Ernie figure you’ve clearly attached to. I hide it a few times – under the table, under your chair – and you find it. I go out on a limb and say, “You hide it!” while I pretend to close my eyes. You stand there holding it for a minute, but just as I open my eyes, I see you put it under the table!
Spinning: You spin and spin and spin, gabbing and laughing and cracking yourself up until you stumble and fall, only to resume spinning. I’m already seeing you on rollercoasters (with your Papa, because no thanks).
Sesame Street: Mama’s dream come true. I buy you a few figurines and you hold the characters you see onscreen and point. At lunch one day, you “share” your string cheese with Abby.
Art: We spend a lot of time “drawing” with beeswax crayons and dot markers. You spend even more time taking the caps on and off the markers, soon able to masterfully unscrew them yourself.
Potties: Dollhouse potties, that is. You carry them around and like to have the figurines sit on them.
SNUGGLES: That’s right. My snuggle monster. You are so much more snuggly these days, with both me and Papa. Snuggles in bed in the morning, leg hugs to everyone, and you always run to me and hug me when I emerge from my bedroom after exercising. You snuggle more and more as the month progresses, days filled with random kisses and hugs and cuddles. One car ride, I catch you hugging your new fuzzy puppy pal, Fudge, and looking out the window. You seem so mature — both wise and vulnerable — in that moment.
Some Good Laughs This Month
You meet Clementine (two months older than you) on FaceTime, and you stare each other down. The second time you see her, you both wave to each other. Too much cuteness.
Mema says you can’t do something you want to do, and you run over to me and try to bite me. Mema says it’s because I’m “the safe one.” I say it’s because you’re taking it out on me. Tomato tomahto, I guess.
1.23: Let it be known that, on this day, we reach a new low. I’m 99% sure I catch you eating your own poop. You sit, pooping, under your high chair, so I give you some space. A few minutes later, I think, “It’s way too quiet…” and walk over to see your diaper half-open and brown on your fingertips. Oy.
I hand you the head/ear thermometer while I change you, and you tap it to your forehead. I think you’ve seen us do that about twice.
You have a dinosaur sound. One day, you bring me the Goodnight, Seattle book and start growling: mouth closed, chin tucked. I realize it’s because there’s a dinosaur in that book (on the history museum page). Wow.
Veronica gives you an old defunct cell phone, and Papa and I catch you “talking” on it in the backseat. The next day, Zia Leah gives you a cellphone case, and you repeatedly hold it to the side of your head and say “Ado” before chucking it.
Papa says, “Where’s my coffee?” and he and I proceed to look for it. I hear your “Eh! Eh!” sound and see you pointing at his mug on the windowsill.
You start mimicking Zia Leah as she sings “Loo loo loo”: you purse your lips and your brow gets so furrowed. As Pops says, “Singing is serious business!”
You spend a very long time pointing to Paul, John, Ringo, and George on Zia Leah’s Beatles t-shirt. We name them as you point to them until you can identify them correctly. George is your least favorite, which seems fitting.
You learn how to smell by very audibly exhaling through your nose.
Chapter 5: Holidays & Celebrations
I turn 38, and we celebrate as we do. You and Papa greet me in bed, and you give me the best present. Papa says, “Can you say ‘Mama’?” And you DO. For the first time, you say the word with intention.
You love listening to us sing “Happy Birthday” and help me “blow” out the candles. You’re also much more into the cupcake than you were for your 1st birthday.
We have your 15-month appointment! You graduate to the “big kid” scale, which I’m not emotionally prepared for. You step up on it and stand in your diaper with your knees slightly bent, belly out, slightly unsure about it. I hope that image remains forever tattooed on my brain.
You get one shot, and you don’t even cry. You look at the nurse like, “What just happened?” but you’re absolutely fine. Wow, girl. Way to live up to your new nickname (which was also your Papa’s nickname in college): Vanbruiser.
Head: 46.5 cm (65th percentile)
Weight: 23lbs 6oz (56th percentile)
Height: 33 inches (97th percentile)
And so you continue on the “string bean” trajectory.
We celebrate your Mama’s second favorite holiday.
I give you a bag of pink yogurt melt puff things and Miss Rumphius. We make a card for Papa, consisting of a few crayon lines and purple dot marker smudges. Papa puts two roses and a sprig of Baby’s Breath (apt name, is it not?) in a vase for you, and you literally enjoy smelling the roses.
Veronica says you’re sensitive. I have to admit: I hadn’t quite put it that way, but I agree wholeheartedly. Your ongoing relationship with sleep is one clear indication, but there are other tidbits that fit that bill:
Papa spills his wine on your playmat and shouts, “I need paper towels – QUICKLY!” You point at the spreading wine and burst into tears. I’m sure it’s the frantic commotion more than the spilled wine itself, but it catches us off guard.
You used to be intrigued by the loud vacuum and NutriBullet. Now you are not a fan.
You’ve started pulling off your socks – a small aside, but still interesting.
My sweet, sensitive, fierce little lady, you continue to gather more and pieces of my heart. Thank you.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama