lulu letters: 18 months

Dear Lulu,


Each month goes by faster than the last, and it’s more and more challenging to keep up with every shift, every “first” – because they fall like steady rain these days.


You in but a few words right now…? Goofy. Brilliant. Sweet. Driven. Communicative. Curious. Joyful. Dynamic. Social. Attentive. Crafty.


A tiny-tall bundle of zesty spunk. A puddle of love and affection.


Nothing gets by you.


You’re like a cartoon toddler, or the toddler of my dreams, doing so many cliche things:


  • kissing animals and characters in books

  • choosing a few friends to snuggle with (upon my suggestion)

  • running into the living room to kiss Papa goodnight, then running into your bedroom in your crazy-and adorable-beyond-belief toddler-run way

You’re such a love and so stinking snuggly – except when you’re not. Ha.

Well, that’s at least a haphazard attempt to capture pieces of you at this moment in time.

Welcome to month 18!!

 

Chapter 1: Fundamentals


Let’s get these out of the way, shall we?


Food


Some new foods this month:


  • Lentil patties: A hit as long as they’re accompanied by a dip

  • Sesame soba noodles: Not a huge hit, but you finished them the first night. The second night, you threw them on the floor.

  • Roasted garbanzo beans: Surprisingly, a hit! You’re not usually a fan of beans.

  • Sardines: Yup, we went for it. You didn’t hate them.


We enjoy every dinner together, the three of us. If one of us gets up for whatever reason, you point to the empty chair, as if to say, “Umm…What are you doing? We sit together during dinner.”


One of your favorite games is “Head Tilt.” Pretty self-explanatory: you tilt your head about 90-degrees to one side and point at us until we follow suit. Why is this so fun (besides the whole control piece)? I’ll never know. You also start bobbing your head side to side when you like a song that plays during dinner. Yes, we have dinner music.


They say you can’t reason with a toddler, but you already seem to understand the idea, “Eat some ______ and you can have more _____.” We go back and forth a bit – me repeating, you pointing to your plate and signing “more,” but you eventually give in. When you eat, for example, some chicken and carrots, you point to your plate again ready for, say, pasta and pesto (one of your favorites these days). One night, you have three servings of pasta, chicken, a cheese stick, veggies, and an oat cracker. Impressive.



Sleep


Highlights:


  • We still play Edelweiss on repeat every bedtime and nap. You won’t settle for anything else.

  • For whatever reason, you refuse to lie down in your crib for me. For Papa, you surrender. To the point where one night, when I call for reinforcements, he walks into your room and you literally drop down into your sleep position like it’s a drill. Talk about Pavlovian response. Whether it’s “I love Papa” or “Papa means business,” we’ll never know. It at once bewilders and cracks me up.


Every night, I praise your developed sleep skills. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come. I feel more confident – which I’m sure helps you – and you easily settle yourself.


That said, we regress back to 5 am wake (or earlier) time for the first three or so weeks of Month 18. The final week, you wake up around 6:30 am two mornings in a row – but I will never let myself hope.


*Just to set the record straight, I’m not completely obsessed with trying to figure out why you do what you do – especially in terms of sleep. I simply try to justify things like ear pulling, severe diaper rashes, impressive fussiness, and sleep nightmares as possible teething or developmental work to remind myself: “This too shall pass.” It helps.



Look at You


You suddenly look so long lying in your crib. I don’t realize how tall you are until I see you with other heads. Your inches taller than an 18-month-old who seemed pretty tall to me, yet some people say you’re petite. I don’t know…you seem bigger and bigger to me, but you do have small features, and your belly is still the only really tubby part of you.


Your HAIR. I’m thinking of naming it based on its daily appearance. Need I say more? Toward the end of the month, I try a tiny top ponytail, and you love it. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Your hair is also (suddenly?!) long enough to do a tiny back ponytail. One pony at a time though.


Then there’s your budding fashion sense. One day, you choose black sparkly Mary Janes to wear with your also-self-chosen mismatched socks – and your Superman tee. You point to your shoes to show everyone we see at Thirsty Owl Winery.

 

Chapter 2: Play

Here are some excitements this month:

  • The Lion King in all its forms: New development…We play music on Alexa and you find the accompanying pictures in the piano book and multiple other books.

  • A sensory bin of corn kernels: You get frustrated when they stick to your sweaty palms, but you love to wiggle your toes when I “bury” your feet in them.

  • Running around the school playground

  • Exploring the Ithaca Children’s Garden

  • Weekly Story Time at the Trumansburg Library: You spend most of the time sitting on my lap staring at the librarian and running amongst the shelves.

  • Playdates! We meet someone almost exactly your age at Story Time, and we have a playdate at the “little village” – a children’s play area on Main Street comprised of three beautiful wooden buildings: a library, a firehouse, and a house.

  • Meeting your first bubble machine! You stick your face right over it and laugh, blinking your eyes, as the bubbles fly into your face and hair.

  • Water painting on the big stones at the Wolff house

  • Visiting the Sciencenter! By the second visit, you run around like you own the place.


What’s Big This Month

  • Chronicles of Narnia: You love to flip through these chapter books and look at the cover images. Cracks up right up.

  • Playing with Mama’s jewelry: You now put rings on your big toes.

  • Art: Drawing with crayons, dotting with dot markers, sticking stickers on things…

  • Wearing beads almost constantly. All the beads. Beads and pajamas, beads and jackets, beads and a hard hat…Such an accessorizer.

  • People and animal toys: Toward the end of this month, you become more interested in your play school bus and your dollhouse.

  • Putting things in things (boxes, bags) and taking things out of things

  • Putting on and taking off lids (this is probably your favorite aspect of “art” right now: unscrewing and screwing on marker lids)

  • Animal and people figures. You show real interest in your dollhouse this month, and you return to the school bus.

  • Being outside! You LOVE being outside. You discover the joy of mud and enjoy squashing it between your fingers, just like a quintessential toddler. You love running running running and rolling in the grass. You are what I’ve always dreamed of, in so many ways.

  • Counting! In the final week of this month, you start to enjoy pointing your finger as we count objects in books and anything else we can find.

  • Running: You run with your right arm swinging out to the side like you’re swatting away any potential barriers to your path. Is there anything better than a toddler running? You even get your first Band-Aid-worthy boo-boo after cheek-planting on the corner of a table leg.

And, of course, Sesame Street. Every morning viewing is like Christmas: we set up your chair at your table, you gather your friends, and you excitedly “Heh! Heh! Heh!” We know you’re ready to watch it because you point not to the TV, but to the floor – the spot where you want your chair so you can sit and watch.

 

Chapter 3: Montessori Babe

A few recent developments/attempts on my part:


  • We progress from me washing your hands with a washcloth to using a plastic “washbasin.” Before most meals and snacks, you “wash” your hands in soapy water and dry them with your personal towel.

  • I print, laminate, and velcro “routine cards” – Breakfast, Sing Songs, Wash Hands, etc. I divide them into morning, afternoon, bedtime, and “throughout the day.” I create a “chart” by adhering a strip of velcro to printing paper taped to the refrigerator. This is my attempt to help you visualize our little routines, more or less. You’re probably too young for it, but I don’t think it will be long before it clicks.

 

Chapter 4: Communication


Your Papa and I are trying to figure out how to describe/document all your different forms of “Eh” and “Heh.” For example, we have:


  • The quiet, almost pathetic sounding “Heh” of affirmation that you use for “Yes” (nodding has all but disappeared)

  • The guttural, elongated “Hehhhh” reserved for bug viewings only

  • And, of course, the urgent, slightly frustrated “Eh!” when you see something you want


I know there are more…


Some new words this month (with prompting):


  • “Up”: Often used in the morning, when you’re ready to get out of our bed post-snuggle time

  • “Bye”: Perfect inflection on this one at first, but it soon shifts to “Ba”...This might be your first foray into abbreviation. You “Ba!...Ba!...Ba!” like a broken record when it’s time to bid adieu.

  • “Nen”: What we say to Alexa when we’re ready for the next song

  • “Ff”: What a dog says

  • “Oo ah!”: What a monkey says

  • Low growl: What a cow – and dinosaur – says

  • “Buh” (book)


New signs:


  • Music

  • “I love you”: Mema is teaching you that one. You get the crossed arms part.


You babble like crazy and are a burst of energy any time we have dinner with someone – Mema and Pops, Amy and Andy – as if you clearly know it’s a party and want to be part of the energetic conversation. You can spend up to 15 minutes running circles around the kitchen island.

 

Chapter 5: Brain Leaps


You stay with Papa when I visit Zia Leah the first weekend of April. When I return, it seems as though your babbling has increased exponentially. Such a Chatty Cathy!


Some other brain leaps:

  • You can put on your hats!

  • The first weekend of April, I’m in the backseat of the car with you, and you point to the baby icon on your car seat and say, “Bebe.” This is the first time you point and label so clearly.

  • You are less frustrated with the shape sorter cube – able to find most of the shapes that go in their respective holes and put some of them in. Your favorite is the star.

  • You’re getting better at single-piece puzzles, including the shapes in your playmat.

  • We’re looking for pajamas, and I sing “Pajama time!” as I do for the Pajama Time book. You run to your bookshelf and pull out that book without any hesitation whatsoever as if you know exactly where it is.

  • You’re playing with the colored felt squares. I lay them out and say, “Put your hand on yellow…Put your foot on red…” You’re basically ready for Twister. A few days later, you’re holding a lavender-colored square. I say, “Lavender…light purple…” You hold up the dark purple square. Excuse me, you know different shades of colors?!

  • Whenever you see something in a book (things in nature, places, objects) – or see someone in a photo – you recognize, you point toward the door and “Heh!” You recognize everything.

  • One day, you find a napkin and “blow” your nose and wipe your mouth with it. You know everything.


*What to Expect


Here’s how you stack up to the “average” toddler – which you most definitely are NOT:


Like most toddlers, you:

  • run (clearly)

  • drink from a cup

  • point to something you want (You’re very good at this.)

  • pull off mittens, hats, socks

  • look at board books (and paper books, and chapter books…) independently

  • enjoy finger play (kind of)

  • play alone on the floor

  • recognize yourself in a mirror or in pictures

  • laugh at something silly


Like half of all toddlers, you:

  • dance to music

  • drag things around (my personal favorite: dragging your small chair into the bathroom because you want to be with me when I’m in there)

  • brush teeth with help

  • crawl backward down stairs? I have no doubt you can.

  • drink with a straw (You had this down around nine months.)

  • stack four blocks (Though you’re still not big on blocks.)

  • start showing a preference for one hand over the other (right)


Like some toddlers, you:

  • throw a ball overhand

  • sing?

  • remember where things belong

  • show off to get attention or repeat sounds(/faces) that make people laugh (That’s my girl!)

  • recognize emotion/show empathy (You get quiet if someone is upset.)


Like a few toddlers, you:

  • take toys apart and put them back together again

  • help put toys away (with prompting)

  • string large wooden beads


Still working on:


  • jumping (we tried, and you loved the game, making it as far as bending and straightening your knees)

  • blowing bubbles

  • taking off shirts and pants

  • drawing circles (What? Some 18-month-olds do this??)

  • words…

 

Chapter 6: Holidays & Celebrations


Easter


We celebrate Easter twice: once with Mema and Pops and once with Grandpa Bill and the Perls.


Easter 1: Mema gives you an Easter basket with crayons, dot markers, and a tiny mouse ballerina friend. We have a delicious brunch, and you eat like it’s your last meal. I hide six plastic eggs filled with fun treats and doodads. I help you find them and show you how to put them in your basket. You’re the cutest.


Easter 2: We visit Grandpa. The Easter Bunny brings you a basket with a two-piece animals puzzle (because you’re so sophisticated now), beads, Claire Hare (for festive spirit, of course), bubbles, and super fun crayons that Aunt Jen actually gave you for your birthday but that I stored away for an opportunity like this one. The Easter Bunny also left six more plastic eggs to find. You needed very little assistance this time!


Mama’s Aunt Lisa sent you some Sesame Street books, stickers, and puffballs. Papa’s Aunt Ann sent you an adorable bunny jumper. Those grandaunts of yours…



Chapter 7: Good Laughs, Heart Melts…and Tantrums…Oy My


Good Laughs


  • You see Papa’s empty breakfast plate on the coffee table and repeatedly point to it and “Eh!” until he brings it to the sink. You walk away satisfied.

  • You eat an entire corn muffin for dinner – along with other food. After dinner, you’re running around naked with your belly as big as a basketball. It’s crazy. Papa is a little disturbed by the size of it. I say, “Look at that beautiful belly!” and you look down. I realize after the fact that you’re not looking down at your belly: you’re looking down at the pee running down your legs.

  • You choose a hat to wear outside: my fake fur headband. Wearing it with your furry white coat and tan fake fur vest, you look straight out of Dr. Zhivago. Or something like that.

  • You run around the yard picking and carrying dead flowers. Just you wait, Flower Lady…just you wait.

  • We pick you up from Veronica’s and see you running around her yard wearing your white furry coat, five strings of beads, and a hard hat. Perfection.

  • You love to be pushed around in your doll stroller – and you love to sit in it while you watch Sesame Street.

  • I give you one of the paper snowflakes taped to your closet door. Later, I catch you babble-shouting and performing some kind of interpretive snowflake dance.

  • Your tiny soft Ernie figure gets his hair wet during water play. You run over to the towel hanging on the stove and “dry” his hair, then run back and check. Not quite dry yet. You repeat this four times, finally carrying the towel to your play area.

  • We’re eating dinner, and I realize I forgot to say grace. I quickly throw out a “Thank you for…” and you start slapping my hand. Nothing gets by you, Pavlov.

  • You pull your hat over your face and just sit there. Papa says, “Where’s Lulu?!” You sit there quietly for about 30 seconds before quickly pulling off the hat with a huge grin on your face.


Heart Melts


  • The characters on Sesame Street are showing each other their furry friends. I say, “You have furry friends, right?” You speed-run into your room and come out holding Lily Cat.

  • We’re heading out the door, and you’re carrying a bag of play-doh. I say, “Oh, we can’t bring that with us…” You hesitate, looking from me to the bag. You tear off a small piece of play-doh from the big ball in the bag, satisfied. You’ve offered a compromise. I can’t argue with that.

  • You see your first rainbow. It takes you a while to see where we’re pointing, but I know when you see it because you stare in wonder (for about ten seconds before you lose interest).

  • We’re rocking before bed, and you’re wide awake. Bedtime is easy these days, but I decide to try something. You’re wearing short-sleeved pajamas, and your soft little arm is just so precious. I start stroking it lightly. You smile and flinch because it tickles, but you sign “More” when I stop. I continue, and you lift your other arm toward me. I stroke from your wrist to the top of your fingers, across your palm. You half-close your eyes and smile, completely blissed out.

  • A few days later, Papa lightly tickles the bottom of your foot with his finger. You smile, loving it, and proceed to point and “Eh” to different parts of your legs, arms, and belly, and he tickles wherever you point. It’s the cutest darn thing.

  • A few weeks later, I watch on the monitor as Mema puts you to bed – rubbing your back and your arm, you looking up at her…

  • I lie on the floor, “sleeping” – which you love. I don’t realize what you’re doing until I open my eyes a crack and see you sitting and smiling, your face nearly touching mine. I do it again and watch through mostly-closed eyes as you quietly scooch closer and closer to my face.

  • We have our first bath together! You’re confused, but you love it. (How has this not happened until now?! Regrets.)

  • You walk around with your hands and mouth in the “Where is it?” position, and I ask, “What are you looking for?” You respond with “Bapa!” Papa. (He’s in the bathroom.)

  • We’re rocking, and I lean down and glue my lips to your cheek, inhaling and exhaling for a sustained kiss. I lift up to see your smile. I do it again. You sign “Again.” I give you so many more long kisses. Neither of us ever wants this moment to end.

  • You hear Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and follow my signing as per your corresponding sign language book: twinkle, wonder, you, up, and diamond (pointing to your forearm)...I’ve been waiting for this.

  • Mema shows you how to lie on Lily to hear her purr. You lie with your cheek pressed against her back, smiling and utterly at peace, your breath slowing. She is truly your first friend – since birth. What a bond the two of you have.

  • You and Pops walk hand in hand through the back field, you in your mud boots.

  • You always greet Mema with the biggest smile.

  • You snuggle with Papa more in the mornings, kissing him, crawling all over his head, and laughing with delight.

Oh – and your “kiss” has progressed to a slight lip pursing.


Sasquatch


This is my new nickname for you. You sure can be full of spice, m’dear! You show your “angry face” more and more – whether or not you’re really angry. Sometimes you do it just to be sassy.



Every time I watch you lying in your crib, I marvel at the journey we made to find each other. It is the most miraculous piece of my life thus far.


Our good friend and former neighbor shared a wise thought on a recent phone call:


Creative people don’t forget their past. They use it.

You are no longer simply my present and my future: you are also my past. Eighteen months, one and a half years of my past. Thanks for letting me use you...?


You know what I mean.



I love you.


Love, Your Mama