Someone asked me recently how I’ve shifted since you.
I swear less. I still blurt out an obscenity here and there, usually when I’m reacting to, say, spilling a full glass of wine. Or when I’m so irate that no other word will suffice. Your Mama is not one to use variations like “Fiddlesticks!” or “Fudge nuggets!” Umm…no. Such phrases make me vomit in my mouth a little bit. Sorry, not sorry.
I repeat everything twice. I just realized this a few weeks ago, and I only do it with you, but I have a rather uncanny way of saying 90% of things to you twice in a row. Am I making sure you heard it? Am I thinking out loud/processing more slowly as a result of my shriveled brain capacity post-you? Is it a subconscious way of communicating effectively to you/helping you learn our needlessly complicated English language? Who’s to say. Will you repeat everything twice when you start talking? I sure hope not.
I know there are more meaningful shifts, but those two are currently top of mind. Anyway, enough about me.
You this month…
Well, first of all, my amazing girl, you are f-ing hilarious. Humor beyond your years. Well, I don’t know if that’s true. All I know is I’ve never met another toddler so goofy and sassy. Nothing gets by you. For example, you often try to not smile, as if letting us know one of the following:
“I know you want me to smile, but joke’s on you.”
“This is kinda fun, but not awesome. You can do better.”
“I’m in control here, and I want you to know it.”
Secondly, you are absolutely brilliant. Your brain is running on four cylinders, and we can see it happening via your facial expressions – as well as the nearly constant pointing and little “Mm mm mm!” I think I counted 58 during a book reading. And your powers of association! So many things remind you of someone.
You’re always taking it all in. Someone recently described you as “pensive.” So true, especially when in a group setting. You’re definitely an extrovert, but you spend so much time actively observing and smiling that “I’m not going to fully smile” smile when someone smiles at you.
Everything is just so darn fun. Less stress, more ease and flow. Have I changed so much, or is it you, or is it our way of being together that has changed? All of it. Even in our most difficult moments, I want to slow down time that already – a mere 20 months in – moves too quickly. I know that someday you won’t need me as you do now. You won’t need me to reach snacks and open containers that you’re not supposed to open and get you another vitamin (PSYCH! You know you only get one of those, even though you try to get more every morning.) You won’t need to hold my hand going up or down stairs, and you won’t need me to snuggle before sleep. So, I cherish the “Eh!” like never before.
Mysteries abound. For example, you used to lean back while I washed your hair, no problem at all. Then we went through several weeks of you fighting it passionately. Now we’re back to calm compliance. Is this journey merely a microcosm of development? Learning to follow directions, developing willfulness, and…learning that this is just how it is every single night so you might as well go along with it? Who knows. But shifts like this make every day an adventure.
Not too much to report. You go through phases of broccoli, green beans and carrots, etc. Who knows what you’ll like one day? I simply keep offering you a variety at every meal and see what happens. The tried-and-trues remain strong: blueberries, tomatoes, pesto, wheel-shaped pasta, cheese in any form... I’ve never met a mom who said, “She’ll eat anything with pesto!” but it’s always a backup for me. Hilarious. Pretty much everything else is a crapshoot.
Mealtime hats are still in, and you have impressive spoon skills.
Sleep feels pretty darn easy overall. You gab away with no clear intention of fading as long as I’m there, so bedtime often inspires some fuss when I leave the room. But, as Papa said recently, “You get it at this point” and usually settle down quickly. Papa’s magic power remains, and bedtime rocking with me remains sweet beyond belief.
We have a few “exorcism” experiences. You wake up from one nap and it takes the two of us 45 minutes to get you back to sleep. You scream and writhe like you’re in severe pain – or possessed. We have no idea. We think you’re asleep multiple times, but then you start up again. You finally fall asleep in Papa’s arms. The following night, you wake up around 4:30 am. I go in your room, pick you up, and take you to our bed. The exorcism begins again. I get up with you and walk around the apartment, sit in a chair, sit on the couch...Nothing helps. I try to look you right in the eyes and say, “Emmylou, it’s okay! Mama’s right here…Mama’s right here…” (*because I repeat everything twice) You look at me with almost vacant eyes, and I can’t tell if you’re awake or not. I think, “Night terrors???” I try lying down in bed with you again, and you only want to lie face-up on top of me. We stay that way for about 20 minutes until you calm down and start gabbing quietly.
I wait for it to happen again, but it doesn’t.
I’m at a loss.
Look at You
Well, those canines took their sweet time, but they have arrived! I will miss those top and bottom gaps.
Your hair is getting so long, and it’s the funniest combination of waves and curls. Such a precious collection of curls in the back and slight waves everywhere else.
You’re gross and fine motor skills are a wonder to behold. You’re so aware of your body in space and have endless near-misses every day as you somehow move Matrix-like around table edges and run – yes, run – over cobbly sidewalks and other uneven surfaces. You hold the tiniest things between your elegant fingers, stringing teeny beads on pipe cleaners. You are a magician.
I would make bank if I pursued baby modeling. You in your fedora and jean tank-top and checked shorts and jellies…the epitome of beauty and style. One evening at Lodi Point, you wear your sunglasses and tied polka-dot headband for hours. Such a scene-stealer, my mini-Audrey.
Toy Library Goodies
Toy library toys remain hit or miss. This month I tried:
a vegetable Lovery puzzle (Beautiful, but gathered dust.)
big cardboard blocks (You had a few block moments where you stayed very focused on moving them around and stacking them for ten minutes at a time, but they mostly gathered dust as well.)
a small collection of circus animal figurines (Other than you trying to figure out why the hats didn’t come off…dust.)
15 small wooden “profession people” labeled “CHEF,” “TEACHER,” etc (You spent a lot of time examining them and pointing to different ones and saying “Beebee.”)
What’s Big This Month
PURPLE! Everything is purple – or should I say, “popo.” You point it out, you hunt it down, you are obsessed:
purple crayons, purple paint markers, purple chalk
*The purple chalk breaks (“Uh uhhh…”) and I say “Now you have two!”
purple plastic grapes
any hint of purple or nearly-purple in a book or anywhere else
a purple shirt spotted across the Farmers’ Market
a purple dress from Mema: You see it in your drawer and start shouting with uncontainable excitement: “POPO! POPO!!” You must wear it to bed. You also refuse to take it off the following day. I show you a new purple sweater, you choose two mismatching socks – one purple, one dark pink – and your sandals with a tiny purple flower on them. You are a vision.
purple galore: I realize that you somehow have zero purple clothing and go on a thrifting spree to remedy the situation. Every time you see a new purple item in your dresser, you smile that coy smile and say slowly, “Popo…”
MEMA: Everything is Mema.
Looking for your Ernie figure, I say, “I wonder if Mema has it.” That entire week, as we continue to look for Ernie, you say, “Mema.” I say, “Yes, maybe it’s at her house…” and you “Heh” in agreement.
All morning long: “Mema.”... “Yes, we’re going to Mema’s house today.”
“What did you dream about?”...“Mema.”
I hear “Mema” about one-thousand times a day. Everything reminds you of her.
LILY: Like “Mema,” I hear “Numanumanuma” or “Muh-NUH-muh-nuh” (progressions from “Minaminamina”) about one-thousand times a day – usually after “Mema.” They often come as a pair.
Clementine and her Mama – or should I say “Beebee” and “Mama.” They often accompany Mema and Lily in your mind.
Swings! Swings are the bee’s knees as of late. We go to the playground and you spend the full hour plus on four different swings. You prefer the big-girl swings, and you’re surprisingly great about holding on. I stand next to you as I push, but you don’t need much spotting, I have to say. You can be possessive about swings. One day, we circle back to the “throne” swing and it’s occupied. You burst into fierce tears, positively beside yourself. Sharing is a tough lesson to learn.
Gummy vitamins: What a snazzy addition to breakfast, amiright? You always ask for more. I get it, kid. I used to want to eat the entire bottle of Flintstones. I think it was my first lesson in self-control. That and the divinely bubble-gum flavored amoxicillin.
Making the bed: I ask you if you want to help me change the sheets, and you run into the bedroom giggling. You love to rustle in the sheets and sit under the top sheet as a fling it up and down on top of you.
Coveting the last bite of vitamin, blueberry, piece of dried fig, etc.: You have been known to hold something throughout an entire bath because you just don’t want it to end. Totally understandable.
Beebees: Every child is a baby, and every baby is equally thrilling. You also refer to yourself as “Beebee.”
Labeling objects (drawings, etc.) “Mama,” “Papa,” or “Beebee” based on the size. This is huge.
Little Bunny Foo Foo: This song is right up your alley. You think it’s the greatest song ever, especially when the Good Fairy comes and you say, “Uh uhhh…” That’s right, little bean: You’d better listen or…uh oh.
Papa swinging you in a basket. He swings you high and you giggle away.
Band-Aids: You get a boo-boo on your pinky finger that requires a Band-Aid. You relish the process of swabbing on medicine and putting on a fresh one after a bath, during which you say, “Papa!” because you love to run and show him after we’re done. You wear that Band-Aid much longer than necessary. Weeks later, you continue to point to your pinky and say “Heh!” with a concerned expression.
Movies: Turning Red is a huge hit this month, and we manage to make it through the entire movie twice (three sittings each). What can I say? There's a giant red panda that looks like a cat. Also a big hit: The Good Dinosaur. We watched that months ago, but now you recognize the "beebee." We also have a pretty deep conversation about friends as a result – how friends help us, how we love them, etc. You get it.
Adventures About Town
Some recent highlights:
Taughannock Falls playground: Always a big hit – especially the swings.
Trumansburg Farmers’ Market: You spend a lot of time listening to the music and a lot of time running laps with a huge smile on your face. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Lodi Point: We have our first few lake moments. I’m thrilled that I don’t really need to worry about you eating stones. You’ve already discovered the magic of throwing them in the lake.
Your first carousel ride!! Mema and I take you to Stewart Park, which is basically an amusement park of playgrounds. Nonetheless, you only want to swing, quickly assuming your serious/zoned-out/silently observing expression the entire time. You agree to try the carousel, though we only get a few flashes of smile. You obviously aren’t sure about this whole thing, even with the “popo” horse we found. Yet, as we walk to the car later, I ask if you want to try it again, and you quietly “Heh.” This time, I sit with you. You’re so good about holding on.
*The memory lives on for a long time afterward: You make a spinning motion with your hands. “Yes, we went on a Carousel!” “Mema! Mema!” “Yes, Mema took pictures of us!” “Mama! Mama!” “Yes, I went on the carousel with you!” “Popo!” “Yes, we rode on a purple horse!” And so on.
You are finally beginning to explode, and it’s so. much. fun. You often try a word when prompted, and you also let free many words on your own.
Some new additions this month:
Signing is slowly disappearing, but you do use one self-created sign often – pointing to your palm – which roughly translates as, “I want to hold it/I want it/I want it in my hand now and I can’t wait another minute.” You also sign “spin” – as in, “I want to spin around together!” (you love to spin in my arms, you little thrill-seeker) or “We spun on the carousel!” or “I spun with Zia Leah and Clem and Kait that one time!”
ba (as in “bat”): black
dee: red, orange, yellow, any other colors you can’t quite pronounce yet
bee: berry (*First food word!)
beeboo → boobee → bobee (always with a sneaky smile): blueberry
“Whuh whuh whuh” (exhaling repeatedly through your mouth): the sound a dog makes
mo: more (*You officially switch from the sign to the word the first week of June!)
die: down (also used all the time – and, like “up,” very helpful)
me: mine (brilliant)
zzzeh-zz (something like that): zig-zag (Because, yes, you recognize zig-zag patterns now.)
dot: Originally used in reference to the book The Dot at Mema’s house. We have a few books by the same author, and you call them both “Dot.”
up: This is used all the time – especially for Mema: “Up! Up! Up! Up! Up!” as if the ground is boiling lava and you have to be lifted before it reaches your toes.
hop and bop: These appear while singing Little Bunny Foo Foo.
pop: This appears while singing the toast song from Story Hour.
hot: You point to the stove and cheep “Hot! Hot!” when you see me making pancakes one morning. Five stars.
Doh/Goh: As in “Ready, set…” when you’re on the swing.
HAH-pee: happy. This is simply the best.
Names (in order of appearance):
Beebee, followed by a squawk: Clementine
Zaza: Zia Leah (!!!!)
Wo → Wawa/Wawee: Wally
Viva: Veronica (I love this one. She is life in so many ways!)
Bzz-bzz: bee or your fuzzy friend Buzzbee
Beebee: your furry friend Baby Jelly
Um! Um! Um!: Ella (I think…She makes this sound when she wants something, kind of like your “Eh,” and you say an affirmative “Mm” when I guess Ella.
Buh: Bert (as in Ernie)
Other verbal excitements:
“No” arrives in early June – intermittently. One night in early June, I ask if you’re done with dinner. You look at me and say, “Nnnnuh!” and wait for my response. I stifle my laughter. Your “No” soon sounds adorably French – a quick and quiet little “Nuh!”
You say so many words when prompted. You try words like “help” and “toast.” One day, I say, “Tell Papa what you want him to do. Say, ‘Papa, toast!’” To which you reply, “Tote!” My heart.
Some two-word phrases appear out of nowhere, namely, “Bye, Mema” and “Bye, Zaza.”
One night, you grab your nail scissors from your changing table and say, “Sih-za.” I’m dumbstruck.
I hope I never forget your sounds: the happy “Hm-hmm, ”the excited “Hm-hm” and short “Heh!” the quiet affirmative “Hm”...Your “hm” is like a flipped version of how Eskimos have 50 words for “snow”: 50 versions of “Hm.”
Oh – and we can basically have a full conversation. We can sit there for minutes at a time understanding everything. It’s incredible.
Again I say, you’re absolutely brilliant.
We’re reading Good Night, New York City. We get to the library page where a boy is carrying a stack of Good Night books. You point to the green-spined Good Night, New York City book…because that’s the book we’re reading?! No way.
We’re reading Good Night, Central Park (because, yes, we have both of these books). We get to the page where the “Papa” and the “Baby” are painting outside the art museum, and you start pointing to your head. After some confusion, I take a wild guess and say, “You just see the backs of their heads?...” You “Heh” in affirmation. I say, “That’s right! We can’t see their faces, can we?” If that’s really what you’re getting at there, then wow. My mind is blown.
You see a tan corduroy shirt at the Wolff house and say, “Zaza! Zaza!” The shirt actually belongs to Pops, but it does look very much like Zaza’s shirt.
I re-introduce your funny Unipig/Punicorn stuffed animal thing, which you enjoy cuddling. That night, you choose – as you always do – your purple unicorn pajamas and make the connection, pointing back and forth between Unipig and the PJs. And that’s not even a very clear connection!
You call “Mama” and point to the floor. Then you put your hands over your eyes. This is the first time you’ve gestured so clearly that you want to play your game. That’s right: you’ve invented your first game. We call it “Sleep.” We lie down and “snore” until you pop up with an “Eh!” – which means it’s time to wake up. And repeat.
You’re eating cornbread and you point to a corn kernel on your plate. Yes, for some reason, you had two forms of corn that night. But, more importantly, WHAT?! That level of reasoning cannot be normal at your age…can it?! I feel like many adults still struggle with such concepts.
You see grapes in the fridge and want some, so I add some to the dinner plate I’m prepping for you. Papa comments, “Hey, those are my grapes!” At dinner, you point to the grapes and say “Papa.” “Yes, Papa said those are his, but he’s sharing them with you!” “Mama.” “Yes, Mama gave them to you.” In other words, you hear everything.
You want me to draw swirls like the ones you see in a few of your books. The next day, Papa asks you to draw a swirl, and you draw an almost perfect swirl. WHAT.
Bonus: I rarely worry about your putting anything non-food in your mouth. When you find a tiny speck of something on the floor, you either bring it to me or put it in the garbage. You’re an adult.
*What to Expect
It lumps months 18-20 together, so…see last month.
walking down stairs while holding on
new words all the time!!
More and more, I look at you and think, “Wow. You really and truly a kid.” I feel like that happened just this past month. Walking down stairs, arranging blocks just so, trying to put your hair in a ponytail all by yourself…I can’t stand it.
Holidays & Celebrations
We have very exciting visitors! Zaza visits with her friend Kait and Clementine, two months older than you. You spend most of the time observing Clem. I love watching the two of you together. Such different little humans. When Clem hears music, she gets giddy with excitement. She starts grooving and reaches out to hold her mama’s hands. You are much more…independent? Not quite sure of the word for: “I’m gonna do my own thing. Get away from me.” You’re not like this all the time. Sometimes I ask you if you want to dance, and you “Heh.” I pick you up, we sway and twirl, and you smile and hug me, enraptured. I treasure these moments, knowing it won’t be long before you squirm because you want to get down and go do something else.
My friend Brittany and her husband, Evan, visit that same weekend. When we all get ready to leave, you point to the chair Evan sat in, wanting him to sit back down. You love when there’s a group of people, don’t you, sweet thing? I know. You also love the men.
In the first week of June, we celebrate Mema’s birthday. You sit on her lap and help her open her presents. You gently stroke the tiny porcelain cat and mouse on top of a tiny porcelain box. You want to wear her (*purple) gardening gloves and walk around the deck with your giant hands held out because you’re not sure how to use hands so large. I’m pumped to give you ice cream, but you only want pretzel sticks. I offer you cherries, and you adamantly refuse. As always, you know what you want.
Good Laughs, Heart Melts, Sensitivity
Pretty much everything about your visit with Clem – for example:
The running theme: Clem runs around talking away. You periodically point to her and say, “Beebee.” then point to her mom and say, “Mama.”
You stare at her when she gets upset about something. (As Papa says, “Being a toddler is hard!”)
We visit one morning, and they’re upstairs. You walk around the house saying “Beebee” for fifteen minutes straight until she appears.
You spend most of your time with Mema saying “Up! Up! Up!” at her feet with your hands reaching toward her urgently.
After she leaves, I talk about Clem, and you squawk in response. I say, “Yes, she got upset sometimes.” You say, “Mama” and I say, “Yes, her Mama helped her.” Repeat.
You “read” (“Dabadahbadah…”) as you point to words in books.
You let Mema know you don’t want her to wear her reading glasses by pushing them up on her head.
You get a booboo on your pinky finger and get a Band-Aid. At the park that afternoon, you hold that hand out to the side as if you’re afraid to use it.
Me: “Would you like Cheerios or Corn Flakes?” You: “Boo!” (blueberries)
Papa: “Can you tell me a secret?” You whisper “Ps ps pss..” in his ear.
I get a book called Grumble Yawn from the library about a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed and grumbles until she passes out from exhaustion. You can’t get enough of it. You see the cover and make your low-rumble dinosaur noise in recognition.
Papa’s putting you to bed one night. He sits in his chair as he does until you fall asleep, but you happily gab and gab and gab like you have all the time in the world. He stands to leave, and your head pops up. He says, “It’s okay. I’m going to leave now. You’re fine.” You lie back down, calm as can be, as he bids you goodnight.
You ask me to draw Mema, Lily, “Beebee” (Clem), and “Mama” (Kait, Clem’s mama). I draw a ponytail on Clem and you point to your head, wanting to wear a ponytail just like Clem.
You want to do your own ponytail, so I hand you a microscopic hair tie. You put it on your finger – as I do – and try to tie it on your hair. Such concentration! You manage to put it on so it sticks to your fuzzy waves, but you know it’s not quite right. After a few more attempts, you give in and let me help you.
Every time you see Ernie in a book or on Sesame Street, you put your hands up in a question pose: Where’s Ernie? (We lost him…and then we lost his replacement.) “I don’t know where he is…” “Mema.” “Yes, maybe he’s at Mema’s house.” We do this most days. It’s like living with someone with Alzheimer’s. It’s so sad.
*Papa saves the day with an eBay purchase: two Ernies – just like the one we lost – and a bonus Bert. That night at bedtime, you’re looking for a dropped friend under your crib…and Papa finds the long-lost Ernie. He gives it to you, not knowing you had a new one in your hand. You stare, confused out of your mind, by the two Ernies you now hold, your universe knocked off-kilter. Later that night, Papa manages to snatch one of the Ernies. One at a time is about all we can handle.
You repeat “Mema Mema Mema Mama…” as we rock before bed. Throughout the month, this progresses to “Mama Papa Beebee…Mama Papa Beebee Mema…” and other variations on that theme.
We see Wally at the Farmers’ Market and you try to sit on his lap.
I offer you lotion and you hold out your little palm, face-up. It’s the cutest palm I’ve ever seen. I give you a tiny bit and you rub your hands together as I show you.
You greet me whenever I emerge from my room after exercising, or when I return from an errand, or other times of “reconnection”...You see me and shout “Mama! Mama! Mama!” and run toward me giving me the biggest hug, complete with pat-pats. I am home.
I start slowly stroking your arm and open hand as we rock. You love it, gently moving your arm and hand along with me in a beautiful dance. I stop and you smile and say, “Mo.” A few minutes later, I hear you whispering, “Mama, Papa, Beebee…” as we rock. Stop it.
You find the purple blanket from the hospital in the ottoman. I put it next to you in your crib and you settle in with a happy “Hm-hmm.” It’s the first time in weeks that you settle in without at least a minor fight.
You want me to draw swirls. Not sure how I know this, but here we are. You say “Zaza” and I remember that you drew swirls with Zaza.
I pull out a “doctor’s kit” that I bought a while ago and stored until I thought you might show interest. I show you how to use the otoscope and stethoscope and guide you through checking me. It’s maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The kit comes with four big felt stickers that you put on yourself, me, and Papa. We proudly wear them all morning.
I find your first beauty mark and hold back tears. It’s the most perfect tiny freckle on your inner ankle – the first star of what will undoubtedly be an entire night sky of constellations.
We're talking about friends, and I ask, "Who are your friends?" You think about it and reply with a shy smile: "Wawa." (Wally) I know you understand what that means. My heart falls out of my butt. (Yes, Zaza, got that line into this letter.)
My heart melts every time I see you with your Papa: playing parachute with sheets, swinging in his arms, laughing together. You are his best medicine.
Sometimes you randomly shift into ultra-tender mode. It happens at the changing table, or when you’re standing next to me. I never know when it will hit, but you suddenly look at me with a thoughtful expression and put your hands ever so lightly on my cheeks, stroking them and pulling me to your face. You give me a soft kiss on the mouth. Sometimes we do Eskimo kisses. I can never believe it’s happening.
You are truly a sensitive being, and I see it more and more.
You’re quick to be alarmed, though this is an interesting one. You initially seem scared by, say, cars zooming down the road at the Wolff house. Yet when you hear other loud noises – e.g., a man shouting hello at someone else on the street, an airplane passing overhead, even a car alarm – you say, “Mo!”
Still, you can be surprisingly quick to tears. Like when we’re at a store and you stumble a bit on the uneven floor and the male worker comments and you burst into tears, seemingly incredibly ashamed/terrified, and it takes you several minutes to gradually calm down, your face full of deep emotion and your breath catching in your throat, looking at me as if to say, “Mama, that was horrible! Please save me!” I want to hold you forever and save you from everything in those moments.
You can be more sweet and affectionate than any toddler I’ve ever known, snuggling and kissing and offering gifts to other children. I’m not sure how you got to be such a good sharer. You also offer things to animals: flowers for Lily, rocks and baby figurines to animals at the goat farm…You’re so attached to Lily. As if you and she are one spirit. It’s remarkable to witness, and I already dread the day when she leaves us. May she live forever.
You remind us of Little Women – sitting in a patch of field flowers, spending 15 minutes absorbed by fuzz fallen from the cottonwood tree…Our nature-loving scientist.
Then again, one morning you see me crying (we all have our moments), and you sign “more.” Huh. At those moments, I seriously wonder: Are you just curious…or are you a sociopath?
As usual, I know I barely scratched the surface, and it pains me to let that go. I want to remember every single thing, every single moment, every single angle of every single facial expression and gesture.
There are moments when I can’t breathe you in enough. I want to kiss you and feel you seep into my pores. I can’t stand the miracle and beauty of you, my sweet, gentle, passionate, independent, feisty, affectionate soul. I am in a constant state of awe.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama