I recently read the biography of a most special person: Fred (aka Mr.) Rogers. I hope you know him well one day, as I know how much he impacted my own young life.
He shared many wise words, that Mr. Rogers, though a few in particular strike close to home these days:
“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.”
These words remind me to live life not only as a mother but also as a child beside you as you explore and learn and master the world in which we live every moment of every day.
As for you, these words speak for themselves – though you’re rarely still for very long. You’re a woman constantly on the go who knows what she wants and does everything in her power to get it. I often try to extrapolate who you’ll be in five years, as a pre-teen, as a teenager, as an adult, and I end up with some wild images to be sure. Still, I always return to the present and decide to hang out there, with you. Because you in the present is a constant marvel.
First of all, your palate is a wonder:
Tzatziki sauce, coconut aminos, ketchup – almost any sauce: “More, please!”
Most varieties of veggie burgers: “If I have to, but I’m eating them last – and only when you say, ‘Okay, guess you’re all done!’”
Potatoes – any kind, in any form, 90% of the time: “No thanks.”
Most cooked greens: “Yes, please!”
Brussels sprouts: Some nights “Yes!”, other nights “Nope.”
Lettuce leaves: “Yes, please!” (One night, we’re having romaine lettuce “tacos” and you ask for some. You proceed, in full bunny fashion, to eat nearly two entire leaves.)
Zucchini: “No thanks.”
Pasta: “More, please!”
Bread/muffins/grains: “Like, not love.”
Lemons and limes: “Yes, please!”
In other news…
You take your sweet time eating. You used to scarf it down prison-style, but you now often spend most of dinner playing more than consuming. Only when Papa and I get up to start cleaning do you buckle down because, well, guess this is your last chance.
Some nights you “surprise” me by wearing a hat. You put one on, Papa puts you in your high chair, and we laugh when I see you. You pat your head as if to say, “Mama, look! I’m wearing a hat!”
A recent development is you wanting the lid off your cup. You drink it like that, yes, but you also like to put food in it. And you can be a Sasquatch about it, too: you look right at me as you slowly lower food inside the cup, waiting for me to react.
Another recent development is you not wanting sleeves rolled up. I push them up after you pull them down, and you look right at me as you slowly pull them down again. (Seeing a pattern here?) So defiant!
You’ve learned (on your own?) how to blow bubbles.
I just don’t know…but it sure is fun to eat with you.
We’re in a good patch now. (I don’t think I’ll ever say, “We made it!” until you’re at least ten.) I made a note on April 21st: I put you in your crib, wide awake, and…zero fuss. I rub your back for a minute before whispering, “Goodnight. I love you…” and leaving. Zero fuss. You rustle a bit as you settle in, but very minimal.
Since then, bedtime has been pretty great. We enjoy a happy dinner, have a quick bath (you recently stopped fighting us when we attempt to rinse your hair, which is fantastic), pick out PJs and books and snuggle buddies (though you’re less interested in them lately), and read and rock for a few minutes before it’s crib time – where you settle yourself, usually quite quickly.
Naptimes are also quite steady – a rare 45-minute nap, but more often between 1 ½ and 2 hours. Praise BE.
You still like to start in the same sleep position – butt in the air, arms tucked under your belly – though you often move around that. How I will miss that.
Look at You
You seem to be filling in the tiniest bit – no longer just stretching taller. I catch glimpses of pudgy little ankles poking out the bottom of your hot pants and can’t stand it. They’re usually hard to see clearly because you’re running. Running, running, running! Arms flapping, legs pumping, feet all over the place…You are so fast. And you love to run with us. “Faster faster faster!” Such a speed demon!
Your hair is getting longer. You rock that top ponytail. You can also rock a back one, though it brings to mind a Revolutionary soldier. Toward the end of this month, you start looking like a member of a boy band with a straight, side-swiped shag on top.
And your facial expressions are award-worthy. The mischievous look you give me as you slowly defy me is 100% your Papa. But the coy smile with slightly pursed lips? I just realized that I used to make that same face. Genetics is a marvel.
I think V said it best:
“She is a little living piece of art of the most magnificent kind.”
You get a play kitchen! It’s a fun-filled hand-me-down, and I know you’ll spend a lot of time with it.
I make “memory” cards on Shutterfly: twelve of your furry friends. Marilla Gorilla, Lily Cat, Jellycat, Amy Poehler Bear, Dog Brown, etc. At one point, I see you holding the Wally the Whale card and looking for him. I realize he’s in the car and have the honor of presenting him to you. What joy!
BAREFEET! One of your sandals falls off in the Wolff yard and you don’t want us to put it back on. For the first time this year, it’s warm enough to go barefoot. I don’t think you’ll wear shoes there again until autumn.
Toy Library Goodies
A container of plastic dinosaurs: You sit down at the table and start naming them Mama, Papa, or Baby. At bedtime that night, you choose four of them as your snuggle buddies. I try to explain that they won’t be very snuggly, which you figure out when you can’t get comfortable with them.
A Lovevery wooden puzzle with three three-piece sections: circle, square, and triangle: You master this puzzle surprisingly quickly!
A Lovevery wooden box with three lids: one for carrots, one for coins, and one with tiny holes that nothing fit in: It’s big for two days. Then you lose interest.
Sign Language flashcards: One day, you’re looking at the cards (calling all the cartoon women “Mama”) and you find “swings.” You get all excited and start pointing to the door, clearly asking me if we can go to the playground and swing on the swings. I promise we’ll go after your nap and, miraculously, you seem satisfied.
I’m basically going to borrow any Lovevery toys I can so I don’t have to spend a bajillion dollars on that brilliant brand.
What’s Big This Month
Play-Doh: Every day, throughout the day. I spend a lot of time dust-busting tiny pieces that travel throughout the apartment.
Pipe cleaners: You mostly just carry them around like a bouquet, but you’re beside yourself when I bring out a new bundle one day.
You love to draw with crayons, though we put away the dot markers for the time being after you repeatedly dot your clothes and face. On more than one occasion, you run to me with green or purple smeared around your mouth.
Mema buys food-based finger paints. You’re not sure what to do – or if it’s okay to use your fingers – but you soon go to town. The green paint smells like spinach. That’s about as natural as it gets!
Playing with the water faucet during bath
Bird watching out the living room window: You love to “use” Papa’s monocular.
Organizing Mama’s tea bags and muffin cups: You take them out of the drawer and lay them on the floor or table, going back and forth for more, happily “Heh heh”ing.
FLOWERS! Here we are one year later and nothing has changed. Well, that’s not true: you’re more dexterous now. You’ll spend nearly a full minute carefully arranging the tiniest of stems in your fingers so you can hold all flowers in one hand in a cohesive way.
Separating dark corn kernels
Books, as always. A few favorites as of late:
In the Night Kitchen: Great library find!
This is a Gift For You: We love this author and her magical books.
Science of Parenting: We spend a long time looking at the photos of babies and kids and talking about emotions. You’re fascinated.
You’re always on a mission, sometimes running around the apartment frantically and panting and “Huh!”ing as you look for whatever it is you must find at that particular moment.
Adventures About Town
Smith Woods in Trumansburg! We don’t get very far, but you have a grand time gathering flowers (of course), exploring, well, everything: sticks, pinecones, fallen logs…Every few minutes or so, Papa tries to steer you back on the path, and you march along happily between us.
Taughannock! We walk by the lower falls, and nothing is close enough for you. You want to jump right in. We also discover an amazing play mecca. I have no idea how long it has been there, but it’s the best. You continually hug another toddler, who patiently obliges even though he’s clearly not on the same page.
The Little Village! This is a favorite spot in town.
Story Hour! You’re officially a fan and point and “Eh!” at the library whenever we walk past – or when I sing a song from Story Hour, or when we see a library in books…I love that you already recognize the library as a special place.
Playdates! We have some more playdates with your Story Hour friend and her Mama – the school playground, walks, and a kids’ pool in her backyard. You love your best life in that little pool - crawling in a circle to make a whirlpool, splashing, blowing bubbles…the epitome of joy.
Myer Farm! That’s right: we visit your Mama’s former homestead (fifteen minutes away) to see five (rather large) piglets. You stared. You just stared. We said, “It’s Wilbur!” And you just stared. So funny.
You are a Master of Play.
You are quite the brilliant communicator, m’dear – even with but a handful of decipherable words. You’re babbling a lot more, and you’re finally starting to say words unprompted. Though we understand very little verbally, your ability to get your point across is beyond impressive.
Here, in no particular order, are some of your common sounds these days:
Mama, Papa, Baby
These three words definitely get the most airtime. You say them often when we’re reading books. Many women are Mama, many men are Papa, and many younger folks are Baby.
I’ve been trying to teach you to get my attention by saying “Mama” versus “Eh!” It’s working, slowly but surely. Now I hear “Mama!” if you want me for something – and also in a steady agitated stream of “MAMAMAMAMA!” if you’re upset (e.g., when you’re frustrated by a toy or have to pause your play for a diaper change). I don’t mind hearing angry “Mama” at all. I love to hear your little voice say it, even if it’s whiny or otherwise grating in tone.
“Mama” is slow and quiet, musical. “Papa” (“BApa”) is faster and punchier. “Baby” is still said with a scrunched-up face similar to your “I see a bug” face and your goofy “Dohhh” face.
You use “babies” every time you see a kid – or anyone who you deem small enough to be a kid. You now associate V’s with your friends and are a broken record of “Babies” when I say it’s time to go see V. If it’s a day that’s just you, you point repeatedly to her step, where you like to sit with your friends. It’s so sad, yet so sweet. You love spending time with your friends.
“Mmmm”: This is my favorite. It has replaced the head nod as “Yes.” You can “Mm” for ten minutes straight, in response to a string of questions. One particularly adorable instance: “What did you dream?..Did you dream about…butterflies?” “Mmm…” “Blueberries?” “Mmmm…” and so forth.
“Heh!...”: Though I don’t think either me or your Papa will miss the loud whiny version of “Eh,” we will miss the quiet, reflective “Heh.” Like “Mmmm,” it’s used as a catch-all affirmation. It’s also often used when you recognize something in a book and often accompanied by pointing to either the picture or the door.
“Nen”: As well as “Next,” it can also be a catch-all answer for “Can you say ___?”
“Be!”: This is a new catch-all for questions, as in: “What would you like to make out of playdoh?” “Be!” You look right at me waiting for me to understand. It kills me.
“Uh!”/“Uh ah…”: A distressed “Uh oh” – for example, when something falls or spills in real life or in a book/on TV.
Distressed exhale of “Huh!” with your hand over your mouth: Same usage as above. You show concern more often lately.
Wagging your finger and yelling at objects when they “hurt” you (when you run into them, etc.): I actually taught you this one, because it seemed like a fun way to release. I shouldn’t be surprised by how quickly you caught on, as you clearly love admonishing. I’ve even caught you wagging your finger when I catch you doing something you know you’re not supposed to do!
Fake snoring: This one is hysterical, and you came to it all on your own. One morning, you’re lying on the floor as we do when we’re pretending to sleep and you start doing a “Sshhhh” exhale. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Best game ever.
Pointing at your palm: New mystery sign. No idea.
Screaming: Screaming when you’re being chased, screaming when you’re experimenting with your voice, screaming when you’re pumped full of energy. The high-pitched scream has appeared, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome.
“Happy”!!! This one appears mid-May, thanks to Mema, I’m sure. “HOP-peeee…” What a great word, right?
You must be so close to taking off on a full flight of language, which lends itself to frustration. For instance, you point to the floor adamantly, and I guess about ten different things that could mean. You wave your hand after each failed attempt as if sweeping away the wrong answers. You look at me with those big blue eyes, willing me to understand, and my heart breaks.
That brain continues to run a mile a minute, and your intelligence continues to astound us on a daily basis.
You recognize when an illustration in a book matches the cover, flipping back and forth to show me.
I ask you if you want to dry yourself with your towel after your bath, and you bend over and rub and pat your legs with it.
I give you a rare stew-type dinner that requires a spoon and, though you’ve barely had an interest in a spoon for a while, you demonstrate master-level spoon skills.
You hold the thermometer to your diaper area and tweezers to your nose. That’s right, Cookie: that’s where those belong in your world.
*What to Expect
Here’s how you stack up:
Like most toddlers, you:
bend over to pick something up without falling
play pretend games
feed yourself with spoon and fork (quite impressive in this realm!)
SAY 10-20 WORDS!! (about ten?)
Like half of all toddlers, you:
walk up steps (*holding a hand)
kick a ball (*some semblance of kicking)
draw a straight line
brush teeth with help
combine words (*very beginning stage of this!)
Like some toddlers, you:
balance on one foot while holding on
identify 4 pictures by naming (Mama, Papa, baby, ball, animal sounds…)
Like a few toddlers, you:
wash and dry hands (basically)
build a tower of six cubes
show signs of potty readiness (? You’ve started pointing to your diaper after you pee or poop – sometimes.)
Still working on:
taking off clothes (*I feel like you could if you were motivated to do so)
naming body parts
words: word combos and questions like “Why?” (I’m sure the amount we get later will more than make up for the delay here.)
Holidays & Celebrations
We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Natalie reunion! We haven’t seen her since last summer and, within minutes, you are beside yourself with glee. She’s pretty magical, full of life and love, and you can’t get enough of her. I know that, somehow, you know her on an intuitive level. You know that she’s literally the second person (after Papa and, you know, the hospital staff) to see you. She saw you before I saw you. And that’s pretty remarkable. Kindred spirits.
We celebrate Mother’s Day with a quiet day, just the three of us. I wake up to a table of goodies: a card made by you, a card made by Papa, a tiny pitcher of tiny blue wildflowers picked by you and Papa earlier that morning, and “Mama” and “Baby” dinosaur figurines. We have a picnic at Taughannock and go for a long walk in the afternoon. It’s the simplest yet most perfect day together.
Finally, we celebrate your “half birthday” with your pediatrician. Yet again, you’re so brave. You step up on the big-girl scale all by yourself. You lie still when the nurse measures how tall you are. When the nurse does a finger prick and collects blood in the tiniest vial, you watch silently and with the utmost curiosity.
Height: 34 inches (95th)
Weight: 24 lbs 13 oz (53rd)
Head: 47.6 cm (73rd)
You’re maintaining a steady trajectory, my pot-bellied string bean.
At the end of the month, you have a four-day Mema and Pops extravaganza while Papa and I journey to Denver. A few funny/sweet stories:
You carry a white dandelion into their house and run squealing to where Lily sits on her favorite chair. You offer it to her, she sniffs it, and you place it gently next to her face before scampering into your “playroom.”
You become obsessed with Pops’ belly button, pointing to his shirt so he can show it to you.
At bedtime, you point to the door. Mema asks if you want Pops, and you “Heh” to affirm. Pops rocks and sings for a few minutes, says it’s time to bed, and down you go. The following night, you gesture again for Pops. Five minutes later, you’re in your crib. When we return home, you and I rock for a bit before you gesture for Papa, as you sometimes do. He comes in and says, “You ready for bed?” You “Heh” and lie down. He emerges a few minutes later, easy peasy. Talk about consistent gender roles.
We have the sweetest reunion. You see us at the top of the stairs, and you smile – a blend of peaceful joy and overwhelm. I pick you up. We hug. You hug me with your little back pats. We just look at each other. You point to me and say “Mama.” You look at Papa and smile. You point to him and say “Papa.” The tears gather. You want me to sit on the floor, so I do. You get a book and nestle into my lap. We snuggle. You want me to lie down, so I do. We snuggle. You smile and laugh. It’s the first time we’ve had such a conscious and clear reunion.
Good Laughs, Heart Melts…Etc.
Where to begin?! Constant goofiness.
You love making faces: “O mouth” face, crinkle nose with that funny “Dohhh” sound (aka “bug face”), and a new “sass face”: chin pointed down, eyes looking up through furrowed eyebrows. We often make these faces together during dinner.
You’ve started clapping when you’re very excited about something, along with your “Eh he he he!” thrilled/urgent chuckle sound.
We’re walking in Smith Woods and arrive at two diverging paths. Papa says, “Which way, Lulu?” You walk straight through the middle, through the weeds. How’s THAT for symbolism?
We’re watching The Lion King and Mufasa falls to his death, to which you say, “Byeee!” You get it.
One day, I decide to very carefully use tweezers to get a ginormous boogie in your nose. It works like a charm: you’re shockingly still. So, I try it the next time as well. By the third time, I say, “You have a boogie!” and you point to the bathroom because you want me to get the TWEEZERS! (Seriously?) I hold you on my lap and you proceed to flip your head back so I can get a good angle. You are the funniest creature.
My belly growls, and I show you how to put your head on it to hear it. You think it’s the best thing ever and keep signing “More!” Unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever, and I try to explain that it’s not in my control…Talk about an abstract concept.
I mention a “boo-boo,” and you point to your cheek, where you had your first Band-Aid last month.
When you hug, you give pat-pats on my back. You often do a small lean-in hug – for example, when I pick you up after a nap – before going in for an all-encompassing, arms-squeezing-around-my-neck hug.
You call for Papa when we get home after an outing and climb up the stairs frantically to find him and hug him.
You try to hug any and all children in close proximity.
You are beside yourself with joy whenever we pull into the Wolff house.
You always run to Mema with open arms.
You call for Pops during lunch if he’s upstairs in his studio because you like him to sit with you during lunch.
As we rock before bed, I ask you if you’ll dream about a series of random people and things. After every item, you respond with a quiet, smiling “Mm.” My heart is pudding.
You are so passionate. So dramatic. You’ve started literally throwing yourself down on the ground into Child’s Pose and crying when upset. The other morning, you really wanted Papa to get up. I said, “He’s still sleeping. Let’s let him sleep” and you threw yourself down in front of our bedroom door and cried. It was sweet, I have to admit. You’ve been so snuggly with your Papa lately.
I already miss so many phases and mini-phases, like when you’d line up all your Sesame Street friends to watch the show with you, pointing to, grabbing, and holding each one when you saw them on screen. Luckily, you continually have new mini-phases – some of which I’ll miss more than others. Will not miss the current food-in-cup phase or the “Sometimes I respond to you when you say my name and sometimes I don’t” phase (though not sure if that one will ever go away, let’s be honest).
And, luckily, I take an absurd amount of notes and memorialize them in these letters to you so I can relive those phases time and time again and think either, “Oh, that was so precious!” or “RIP that shit show!” – either way, grateful for everything in our journey thus far.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama