lulu letters: month 21

Dear Lulu,


Oh, my sweet bean, my pumpkin, my love…How to sum you up this month is beyond my comprehension. So much happened, and you are busting every which way.


For example, as of mid-June, you have a constant stream of new understandings and new…words!! AHHH!! Yes, words have hit full force – so much so that I might need to stop documenting so much. It’s already becoming quite tedious, what with you adding several new words a day and all.


I’ll go through the usual checkpoints, but here’s you in a nutshell at this moment in time:


You’re so observant. It seems as though you mimic after seeing something once, though I know you’ve been silently cataloging everything from your earliest days. Now it’s all clicking: you fully understand and you’re able to do it. From the way you “spray” the essential oil spray bottle by holding it up and shaking your wrist to the way you wipe the table and your face and your toys’ faces with a napkin…You do so many “person things.”


You’re so strong, so physical. You’ve branched out beyond swings and like to try a variety of things at the playground (with help). You love the sensation of spinning in circles, and you like to climb up onto things yourself. You’re not quite fearless, but close.


You’re such a snugglepuss! You really know your way to your Mama’s heart. You turn in circles trying to get as close as possible to Lily, or Andy…or anyone else whom you can never quite get close enough to. You look into my eyes and hold my face and pull it in for kisses. You often linger when I go in for a hug goodbye or hello. You break my heart on a daily basis.


You’re always thinking. You constantly associate, and you don’t forget anything: gesturing to the door every time you use the spoon our neighbor Kim gave you, saying “Amy” every time you see the jacket from her, that one time Bert’s head got caught under the rocking chair…About 90% of your associations are related to Mema, even if Mema wasn’t there, but she’s pretty darn special, so I understand why she’s always top of mind.


You have such a personality, and you’re so darn happy. Pops keeps remarking, “She’s so quick to smile, to laugh!” Your Papa recently asked me if toddlers typically smile as much as you do. You are a happy little bean and the laughs are endless. Not surprising coming from this family, but such a joy to witness. You constantly remind me of life’s fleetingness.


Papa says it best: “Wouldn’t it be great to live a day as Emmylou?” For example, “My parents are so stupid. They can never find me when we play hide-and-seek…I’m in the same place every time, guys!”

 

Fundamentals


Food


The big news on the food front is the transition to a booster seat! I look at you from across the room, eating yogurt or applesauce with a spoon, and you look like such a kid. Your little face peeking out from behind the huge dining room table, so small, so bright, so independent. And I love having you at the table with us.


In other news:

  • You try corn on the cob and eat 99% of the kernels. Such a country bumpkin.

  • You, surprisingly, enjoy munching on raw celery and carrots. You light up like a Christmas tree when I exclaim, “You want more celery?!” So excited and proud of yourself for enjoying big people food.

  • You take your sweet time eating, which is usually a blessing – unless it’s late and I’m ready for you to hit the hay, in which case I try to not rush you while “encouraging” you to finish up already.

  • You always say “Amen” after grace. One evening, I forget to say it and start eating, only to hear you say, “Amee!...Amee!” Whoops! Thanks for the reminder.


Sleep


Bedtime is consistently easier and easier. I finally have zero (okay 1%) fear that you will lose it for an extended period of time.


On June 23rd, a new event transpires: I put you in your crib, wide awake, with zero fuss, surrounded by Bert, Ernie, Jelly Baby, and Lily Cat – your bedtime battalion. I hear you fuss a minute later and wonder which friend fell out. I see a braceletted pipe cleaner on the floor and hand it back to you. You smile and “Heh heh” with contentment and return to your bedtime project. It’s the first of its kind, and it marks a new degree of maturity: “Don’t worry about me, Mama, I’ll just play in here until I’m ready for sleep.” I bust open with pride. By mid-July, I add a few books, and you look at them contentedly for up to about 30 minutes before lying down and slowly settling in.



Look at You


The sight of small shoes – your water shoes on edge of tub, your pink sandals at the bottom of the stairs – always brings me out of whatever useless thought stirs my brain and into the gift of the present: day after day with my beautiful, thriving girl.


That hair remains a wonder. It’s now long enough that I have to flip it under headbands. Truly momentous! I also add a back ponytail to keep the longer wavy hairs off the back of your sweaty neck.


Your thoughtful, radiant blue eyes…your halo of blonde wavy curls…your perfect button nose and Dutch lips…your smile with that one dimple…Veronica says you look like a child in a Renaissance painting, and one day at the Farmers’ Market, a complete stranger walks up to me and says, “Your daughter is a cherub.” That’s you, my girl.

 

Play


What’s Big This Month


Honestly, most things are big, as you’re always very interested in your world. However, a few things stand out:


  • morning and evening art

  • friends/figures:

  • Bert & Ernie, alpaca, Elmo and Cookie Monster, Lily Cat, and Baby Cat (These seven friends sleep in your crib with you every night, and you call out a name if you’re missing someone. The first night after Papa buys you alpaca, you say “Paca! Paca! Paca!” and run into the living room. It takes me a minute to realize you’re looking for alpaca because I think you only heard the word about twice before catching on!)

  • people figurines, including Pops, Mema, and “beebees”

  • lunching with Zaza over FaceTime (you’ve been known to shed tears when we have to say goodbye)

  • pools and hoses! Mema’s turtle pool, our pool…and watering the plants is serious

  • trying plants in Pops’ garden, eating mint leaves in our garden

  • Peter Pan: Mema introduces you to some songs, and you fall in love, just as I did.

  • feeding Lily from the cup that Mema gives you

  • driving the car: I move you to my lap at the bottom of the driveway, and you are beside yourself with glee as you “drive” us the rest of the way home

  • weekly Farmers’ Market: I ask if you want to go, and you get all excited and start singing “La la la!” because you love to listen to the live music there.

  • purple: Purple is still big, including new purple Crocs from Mema.


(I’m sure I’ll think of so many more things after I post this.)


Adventures About Town

  • You pick your first strawberries. You pick your first cherries. You pick your first blackcaps. At the end of all picking adventures, you emerge looking like the Joker. Nothing better than that, huh?

  • Amy and Andy babysit you, and your bond with them is even more solidified. You spend weeks afterward telling me how you read books with them under your fort, how you spun and danced…everything.

  • We spend the night at the Wolff house! Pops wants you to see your first fireflies, so you stay up until 9:30. It’s a most magical visit all around. Mema gives you the incredible Brown Bear, Brown Bear gift she made with Connie: crocheted/stuffed animals (all nine animals from the book) in a bag with your name on it. She also gives you a “popo” cardigan she knitted for you. You are truly the luckiest little lady.

 

Communication


Wowa. Where to begin.


You spout out new words like bubbles out of your bubble machine, and I jot down as many as possible. You try most words we ask you to try, and you’re positively thrilled when we guess what you’re trying to communicate. Your enunciation is constantly improving, and you make a very distinct t sound – just like your namesake (and your Mama).


I hope I never forget the soul-beaming smile and happy “Hehh…” when I figured out that “Ba/Bo” meant Pops. Or how that now-common smile shifts to a small prideful smirk when I exude praise because I just can’t help myself.


Some new words this month, in general order of appearance (and I know I missed some):

  • cock: chalk

  • whut: wet (just like white)

  • Dee-dah, dee-dah: Tick-tock, tick-tock (clock)

  • ba ba ba: chicken

  • boobee → bubbow: bubble

  • caco: crocodile

  • hop: help (!!!!)

  • owww!: wolf howl (with face to the sky!)

  • PAHca → aPAHca: alpaca

  • buhT (kind of like “boot”) → poop: poop

  • PAHco: popcorn

  • bow: bowl

  • put: plate

  • pahK: park (as in, “Mema…pahK” when remembering a park visit with Mema)

  • La la la: song or actual singing

  • woko: rocker

  • bow: brown/bear

  • code: cold

  • monee: morning

  • beeT: pink

  • hahT: hot/hat/heart

  • huht (foot)

  • wee/owee: swing!

  • bodee: Playdoh (This is one of my favorites.)

  • uhk: fork

  • muh: moon

  • ott: off

  • cah: car

  • moh: mole (as in the moles on Mama’s skin)

  • buhk: book

  • ohto: orange

  • peepo: people

  • hatta: hot dog (which you point out in a book one evening)

  • paypuh: paper

  • pit: pig

  • up, die: up, down…

  • hi: hide

  • TB: TV

  • Happy adoh: Happy Birthday (said whenever you see a balloon)

  • toht: toot (always followed by “Papa”...because, yes, Papa toots)

  • eye: on (as in the faucet)

  • mahkee: market (as in Farmers’)

  • bye: bye-za-za-za-zaaa...Every single time.


Foods:

  • muhk: milk

  • appa: apple

  • geep: grape

  • amah/ahmo: almond

  • wahno: walnut

  • tsee: cheese


You have the perfect pronunciation of some words, including:

  • cup

  • hot

  • cook

  • booger

  • nut

  • pea

  • toy

  • boy

  • walk

  • Hi!

  • tie (One day, you point to the drawstring on your shorts and say, “Tie.” CORRECT!)

  • Woah. (You often repeat after us when we say it.)

  • Toot (“toht”)/Papa!

  • toe

  • GNOCCHI! (This one floors me.)


New names (in order of appearance):

  • Dee, Emmo, Ahbee, Kika → Cokie: Ernie, Elmo, Abby, and Cookie Monster

  • Honnah and Inny: Hannah and Annie (Wally’s and Kit’s mamas)

  • Beebee Abo: baby Able

  • Eemy and Inny: Amy and Andy

  • Kick: Kait (as in Mama Kait)

  • Pupa and Zazo: Pumbaa and Zazu (from The Lion King)


Mystery words:

  • buckabucka

  • popo-ebo

  • dabbo…


You have a few new-ish signs/gestures, including:

  • the petting gesture (rubbing/patting your forearm), which usually illustrates how you like to pet Lily

  • the kiss gesture (same as your thank you sign, touching fingers to mouth), e.g., remembering kissing a baby or friend

  • the eat sign (stroking your tongue with your pointer finger)

  • the sign for when you want to touch/hold something (pinching with fingers), often used when seeing a picture in a book


You’re so darn expressive. (I can’t imagine where that came from.) You put your hands over your eyes and fuss when you’re upset…or when you’re overselling it a bit. You also put your hands over your eyes to indicate a desire to play hide-and-seek.


One fun game we play: “Can you make a ______ face?”

  • Angry is the funniest scowl with chin down and eyes peering up through furrowed brows.

  • Happy is a huge smile.

  • Sad is a remarkable representation of a rather nuanced emotion – very serious with the slightest hint of despair.

  • Surprised is an “O” mouth.

  • Excited is, by far, the best: big smile with fist hands, your entire body literally vibrating. Floors me.


Another favorite is your thinking face, e.g., when you're processing something I’m saying to you. Your eyes look far off into somewhere else and you blink slowly, every ounce of you trying desperately to meet your brain with mine.


What a gift to understand (most of the time) what you want! One morning, we’re watching a wildlife documentary, and you say, “Top! Top! Top!…Pupa.” In other words, “Stop this show. I want to watch Pumbaa (The Lion King).” If I guess wrong on a word you say, you might give me a sideways look, as if to say, “Umm…seriously?” You might also simply say your little French, “Noh.” And your powers of association! If I don’t understand a word you’re saying, you might offer another word to help me – for example, following “pur” with “minaminamina” so I know you’re making a purr sound like Lily does.


You imitate more and more – fire truck “woo woo” sounds, monkey sounds in a documentary, an animal in the distance as we stroll in the neighborhood…and you name colors when asked. (Red and yellow are still met with silence, but the rest are on the table.)


“Yes” still has yet to enter your (verbal) lexicon, but you already have several forms of “No.” “No no no no no!” with a hand wave means, quite clearly, “I DON’T WANT IT,” but the best is: “Uhhhh….noh!” I respect that: think first and make sure that’s what you want. Great life lesson.


And, finally, the most thrilling word of the month…(drum roll please)....


On June 25th, I ask, “What’s your name?”...and you reply, “EMmy!” By mid-July, you assert your independence by saying, “Emmy!” if I try to help you with something you want to do yourself. You also introduce yourself at Story Time for the first time! Every week, we go around the circle and clap for everyone. Up until this past week, I introduced you. This week, I asked you your name when it was your turn. You hesitated, but then you said shyly, “Emmy.” Wowa.

 

​​Leaps


A few examples, though there are endless: You learn how to blow into your wooden flute. You love to clean with tissues or napkins or towels or your Lulu-sized mop and broom. You show interest in trying the toilet! You indicate that you want to sit on it, so we try. Nothing happens, but it’s exciting. I realize we could still be months and months out from actually beginning any form of potty training, but you’re starting to let me know when you pee and poop, so that’s something.


The big news this month is your evaluation. Your pediatrician suggested this, as you had yet to demonstrate much verbal speech at your 18-month appointment. We spend an hour in a playroom with three specialists who observe you and ask me questions. We both have a fabulous time, I have to say. Not surprisingly, you’re on the higher end of the “average” range. True, it’s not exactly what parents like yours want to hear. After all, this is the Finger Lakes: where all the men are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. (Bonus points if you know that reference.) Good news is you’re thriving across the board.


As for What To Expect…in short, you’re above average – dare I say, even with verbal language. What leaps this month!

 

Holidays & Celebrations


We celebrate Father’s Day by wishing Papa “Happy Papa’s Day,” aka “HAHpy…Papa…Dee.”

You color one card for Papa and one for Pops – and you very clearly choose which is for whom. Girl’s got a vision.


We also celebrate July 4th with the Wolffs and Russells. Pops lights a few sparklers, which you think you enjoy. You smile, but you keep your arm tight around my neck and stand close, and I hear quick intakes of fear breath. You ask for more, but you’re good after three. That’s definite progress after last year’s tears.

 

Good Laughs, Heart Melts, Sensitivity


Good Laughs

  • I move your bag of Sesame Street friends to your bedroom to mix it up, and you carry them into the living room where they “belong.”

  • We have a family James Taylor singing moment. Papa and I sing along to Handy Man: “Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on…” and you join with “Cummacummacummacummacumma…” I cry with joy.

  • You make a loud, whiny “Huuhhhh!” noise whenever we turn onto our street. For the longest time, I think you’re disappointed to be almost home, but I finally realize it’s simply recognition.

  • When you first start walking down stairs holding my hand and the railing, you step a few times on each stair, as if adjusting your feet before continuing. It’s adorable and quite short-lived, but it happened.

  • Papa takes you running on a school track. He says, “Ready…set…GO!” You echo, “Go!” and start running away, your arms paddling by your sides as always.

  • You entertain us with an “old lady walk,” your torso bent over 90 degrees. (What?)

  • You learn how to walk on tiptoes!

  • You like to “hide” in the corner of your kitchen before bath, the cutest darn thing, standing there in your diaper with an expectant expression, exploding into giggles when Papa roars over to find you.

  • You name my moles Mama, Papa, and Beebee.

  • And, last but not least, a bedtime conversation with Papa:

“Do you want to dream about Mama?”

“Heh.”

“Do you want to dream about Mema?”

“Heh.”

“Do you want to dream about Papa?”

…“No.”



Heart Melts

  • Every Lily reunion is the sweetest. You run into the Wolff house shouting “Minaminaminamina!” and we help you find her. You crawl next to her, lie on top of her, pet her, hold her face in your hands, give her kisses…

  • We play hide-and-seek with Papa under your living room chair fort. You stand under the blanket, and we hear you squeal and see your little legs scramble up and down when you see us getting close to finding you.

  • We play hide-and-seek on our bed. You love to hide under our comforter. When I reach my hand under the blanket, you gently stroke my hand.

  • We practice “flying” in your bedroom as we listen to I’m Flying from Peter Pan, you on your tiptoes, arms flapping.

  • I sing you Distant Melody from Peter Pan, and you immediately calm down (after passionately pointing to the door to indicate that Mema sings you that song). I tell you that she sang that song to me when I was young, and I think you must understand on some level.

  • I ask you who Mema loves, and you reply, “Ba” [Pops].

  • We have so many sweet bedtimes that leave my heart a pile of mush I have to scrape off the floor before carrying you to your crib. One night in particular, I ask if I can have a kiss, and you quip your little French, “No.” I reply by giving you a hefty handful of quick kisses on your cheek and neck. You cackle with glee and ask for more. After a few more rounds of me asking/you refusing/me kissing you, you touch your pursed lips to signal that you want to give me a kiss. You give me a long kiss until we both start smiling – and add this to the repeating cycle. At several points, you gently stroke my face, my chest, my shoulder…I finally put you in your crib, and you settle in with a happy “Hm-hmm” before saying your “Byez-z-z-z-zzzzz.”

  • One night, I hear you calling "Mama! Mama!" I go back into your bedroom and your standing in your crib, purple blanket in hand. I start to hang it back on the railing, but you pat your chest.

I say, "Do you want me to put the blanket on you?"

"Heh!"

"Okay, lie down..." I lay the blanket on you.

"Paca!" I give you alpaca.

"Help!"

"Yes, Mama helped you with the blanket..."

"Bye-za-za-za-zaaa..."

My heart explodes.


Sensitivity


Your sensitivity continues to take my breath away. First of all, your kisses!!!! I can’t handle their sweetness. You hold my face and pull me in, or you walk toward me to say goodbye with slightly pursed lips…Sometimes you pull me in up to ten times for ten kisses, and I’m the only one who gets the long, very juicy ones. Where did you learn that?! From me? Maybe. But it’s unreal.


True, you’ve also been known to literally push my face away if you want me to go away and let you play alone with someone special. However, you already show signs of…guilt? Is that possible? I make a slightly sad face, and you stroke my face and kiss me with that concerned expression of yours.


You comfort your “crying” (you make the sound) baby doll by rocking her and giving her gentle kisses with a concerned expression. If a character in a book, say, drops an ice-cream cone or a bucket of toys, you comfort with gentle strokes and kisses after expressing your concern with your worried “Uh huhh….!”, hand patting your mouth. One day, we’re talking about how a friend wasn’t at Veronica’s because she was sick, and you literally start crying with your hands over your eyes! I’m stunned. And when you need comforting for whatever reason, you come to me and hug me and pat my back.


You are, as your Papa would say, a gem on the roof. I know the world can be a lot for any toddler (or human), but your awareness and sensitivity astound me.

 

Forget about shifts: this month birthed an earthquake! And we’re all doing our best to hold on as you shake and rattle our world.


I love you.


Love, Your Mama