Hello, my sweet.
I could write a book on this month alone. It feels like we’re in some warped reality where time stretches to hold more and, at the same time, it’s shrink-wrapped. I feel like we just measured your height – you grew ¾ of an inch in three months! – but that was already a month ago.
How to sum you up in a word? Well, your name means whole, entire, universal. That about does it. Though not one for rollercoasters, I’m honored to keep riding this one with you. You astound me on a daily basis, and you constantly fluctuate between giving me a run for my money and melting me on a cellular level.
Welcome to month 22!
In the food world, we often finish meals with some spoon-feeding, as you’re prone to distraction. You are quite a skilled eater though. You learned how to hold one hand under your spoon as you feed yourself messy foods to catch wayward pieces! We didn’t teach you that, but it fits your generally clean approach.
You’ve learned that ice cream is delicious and shift into full excitement mode when I ask if you want to get some. We’ve been to three different stands, and I always have to ask Papa to finish yours without you noticing because you’d eat the entire ginormous “toddler” portion. You’ve tried vanilla and strawberry at this point – and always with rainbow sprinkles.
You continue to mostly shun any form of any type of potato. One night, you eat every scrap of food on your plate: salmon, Brussels sprouts, kale chips (BIG hit the first time), tomatoes, and butternut squash ravioli. The only thing like? Sweet potatoes.
One late July bedtime, you signal to your belly. I ask you if it hurts, and you “Heh” in concerned affirmation. You want to get out of the bath ASAP, which is definitely not the norm. We get in PJs and sing some songs from the sing-a-long book you choose. After three or four songs, you start saying, “Ssss…” – your “sleep” sound. I ask if you want to go to sleep, or snuggle, and you “Heh.” I ask if you want to turn out the light and turn on the music. “Heh.” I carry you to your light, and you flip the switch. When I put you down, you run to your dresser, open your PJ drawer, and pull out a sleepsack. You’ve never done this before. In fact, you’ve been shunning sleepsacks lately. But, for whatever reason (maybe your tummy is a bit off after all), you want to be cozy. We rock for a few minutes before you “Bye-za-za-za-za…” and I put you in your crib. Way to communicate, my love.
By August, we barely even rock anymore, and I miss it. We read books, and you seem ready for bed with your posse and books. However, bedtime becomes a bit more of a process and we return to some rocking after Papa and I return from our trip (more on that later). We also add back rubbing, otherwise known as “BaT!”
A few sweet snapshots:
You rub Paca’s fuzzy fur on your lips as we rock.
We share laughs, and you smile up at me with that soul-lighting open-mouthed dimpled grin.
You say, “Nooo!” when I leave, but I drape the blanket over you, and you say, “Mama, go.”
I don’t understand the “BaT!” request, so you finally reach around to my back to demonstrate. Beautiful.
I rub your back and see your palm, face-up, by your side. I start stroking that deliciously soft palm as I sing Moon River – the song I walked down the aisle to – and feel tears gather in the corners of my eyes. I have the world.
You try to tell me that your sleep sack needs some adjustment and “Heh heh” in appreciation when I “fix” it. I see a snapshot of myself as a wee one, lying in the same position (on my belly, arms tucked under me) and asking my Mama to pull down my PJs so they’re not crumpled.
You get really into your glow-in-the-dark pjs. We stumbled upon this surprise feature by accident one evening. Now, whenever you wear them, you run into the bathroom as many times as I’ll permit before bed and close the door to see the moon and stars and clouds glow.
You often call me after I bid adieu. Sometimes you need a blanket adjustment, other times you simply want to show me a book picture – like the picture showing that Little Pea ate all his “dessert” spinach. You often try one more round of “wocka” (rocking) or “BaT! BaT!” (back rubs), but you usually give in when I refuse (after multiple rounds of each).
Bedtime rocking fills with open-mouthed glee-filled smiles and goofiness. I want to suspend those moments in time.
I surprise you with pink "polka DOT reebow" pjs. BIG hit. As if they were designed just for you.
I love that sometimes you want me, and sometimes you want Papa. I wonder what you associate each of us with at this point…We agree that, on nights when you call to us time and time again, we just want to be done – but that, every time we go in, we fall in love with you all over again.
As for naps, well, by mid-August, it's not uncommon for you to start exclaiming "Nap! Nap!...Paca! Nap!" when it's about that time. Now THAT is a gift.
Look at You
Your hair looks as though it can’t decide how to be, so it embodies everything. Waves on top. Straight hairs intermingling here and there. Ringlets in the back, a few on the sides, like a character out of a Jane Austen story. And it is getting so long! I can make a ponytail by gathering both the top and bottom hairs. One night after bath, I comb it and braid the finest little braid down your back. This hair is no longer that of a babe: it’s that of a little girl. One evening, Mema braids your hair, just as she used to braid mine. The most precious wispy French braid imaginable with a halo of flyaways. Pops cries in the background.
You’ve grown ¾ of an inch since month 18, and you now wear size 7 shoes. Boat feet for my tall, lanky lady. Sorry, kid. Better get used to shopping for shoes in the “Size 10 and up” aisle…
What’s Big This Month
Lie-kee: The Lion King! Yup, back to that. We’ve watched the 30 minutes beginning with Hakuna Matata about 20 times this month.
Wanna: Moana. We add this to the very small current repertoire, but only the “beebee” part – the first seven or so minutes when she’s a baby and grows up.
PACA!! First real connection
“Reebo”: Rainbow Connection
“Peelo/Peedy”: Distant Melody from Peter Pan
“Moreebo”: Moon River
“No!” You have two primary versions of this now-central word: the sassy, smiley version with your nose scrunched up and the passionate downward squeal. In your most passionate moments, it's accompanied by an ear-piercing scream.
Books are big, as always. You have a few favorites that involve props. The Squiggle, for which we use a string to demonstrate what the girl makes with the string she finds on the ground, and silverware for Spoon.
Bird loving is in your DNA, so it’s extra special when you go in that direction. You learn several bird names and calls: crow emerged a month or so ago (“coh coh”), but Mema teaches you Mourning Dove (“monee” → “monee dah”), which makes an “oo oo” sound, and hawk (“haw”), which apparently goes “Ee eeee….” We look/listen for and name them on every walk.
What’s No Longer Big
flowers (It makes walks much easier, I have to say, as adorable as it was.)
looking for spiders/bugs (The bug voice is still going strong though.)
You are such an adventurer. Our summer remains relatively quiet, though we certainly have a grand time wherever we are. Here are some snapshots:
You experience your second Grassroots! You have a grand time dancing with Andy and everyone else.
We lose power one evening, which means you take a bath in the dark. I explain that the electricians – the “people” – have to fix it. You repeat, “Peepo…” over and over again and name pretty much everyone you know in the hopes that they can fix it.
Ava visits, and you have so much special time with her. You love when she sings Hakuna Matata.
The last week of July, you catch something that lingers for nearly two weeks. You experience your first “throw up in bed,” which, I agree, is no fun at all. You ask to go to nap because you’re so exhausted, and you fall asleep in my arms every time we rock.
Zaza visits!! Where to begin!
“Zaza deep!” She dips you low and swings you high at your blessed reunion.
The first evening together, you wave me and Mema away so you can sit alone with Zaza. (“Mama…no.” with a princess/”all done” wave.) Interestingly, at bedtime, Zaza gets the wave. Guess I’m still good for something.
You push me away violently and SOB when we have to go home after dinner at the Wolff house. It’s your most traumatic goodbye so far.
You pick your first blueberries!! I pick as much as possible in 20 minutes, knowing you will continue to eat constantly until I finish. You also enjoy hiding in the bushes.
You meet my friend, Shauna, and eat silently for about 20 minutes while we catch up.
You meet Zia Summer and your cousins Gioah and Ettore. You immediately go and stand right next to Ettore, who’s sitting shyly on a chair. A few minutes later, you go in for the pokes and hair and face touches. You run around with them like you’re one of the boys, so incredibly social, and they’re so sweet with you.
We plan, for the third time, to see the Perl family: Jen, Josh, and your three yet-to-meet-you cousins. Halfway into our 3.5-hour drive, we learn of potential COVID exposure...and have to head home. Talk about a kick to the pants. You only nap for about 25 minutes, and you have your moments, but you are astoundingly fabulous, I have to say. A real trooper. On our way home, we stop at Wegmans, where you finally get to ride in the "kid car" shopping cart. You spend the entire grocery trip turning that wheel. If that's not worth five hours in the car to nowhere, I don't know what is.
We decide to make the best of it by having a family weekend. We spend Saturday morning showing the magic of Papa Stewart Park: impressive playground, carousel, picnic. We go on bouncy rides. We go on swings and slides. We even stumble into a firefighter event (the first time they've done it since COVID), complete with a purple balloon and a pink firefighter hat. Though we missed the fair in NJ, we basically found one of our own. How beautiful is that?
We walk three in a row with you in the middle, your hands in ours. This is the vision I held as we journeyed to you.
You continue to explode, expelling more and more words without any prompting.
Some new words and phrases this month, in general order of appearance:
zeeba: zebra (One night, you repeat “zeeba” and pull out your black and white striped sleep sack!)
mowee: mower (as in lawn – when you heard it outside the window)
Lie Kee: Lion King
Nemo: Timon (took me awhile to get this one)
Peela/Peedy: Peter Pan
“book” is often “ah BOOK!”
“milk” is often “ah MOUK!” with your mouth in the most precious pursed “o.”
eat: You now use this whenever you’re hungry
pokey (as in pokey plants, grass, rocks, etc.)
bucko: buckle (as in seatbelt)
nano: rhino (as in Zazu Lion King)
eemoh: animal (as in your animal sleep sack)
em: Elm (the street we live on)
keeoh…Ba: kale…from Pops’ garden
monee: money (You say this as you point to come coins embedded in a playground structure, and I’m absolutely stunned.)
meeT: mint (from garden)
Woah! and WowEE!
Some new names:
Lika and Reek: Lisa and Frank (Mama’s aunt and uncle)
Eemy: (as in your stuffed Amy Poehler Bear friend :)
You also learn the word “Home.” You say it every time we get close, and you start telling me you’re ready to go home by saying, "Home" and sometimes "Cah" (car).
And, sneaking in right at the end of the month: please (quick quip of a “pea”). When I say, “What do you say?” you respond “Mama,” then “Help,” which both work as well. But I try to get please in there, and you catch on.
More language fun:
Mema gets a kick out of playing games with you, like: “Who’s the cutest?” At first, you always answer, “Emmy!” Then you switch it up depending on who’s with you at that particular moment. You’ve named Mema, Zaza, Mama, and Veronica (“Weewa”) so far.
You can tell me which song you want to listen to on repeat for naps and bedtime: Edelweiss, Distant Melody from Peter Pan (Peela/Peedy), or Rainbow Connection (“reebo”). We only have three songs of understanding, but what a gift to have that!
You’ve started mimicking more: “nope” after Mema and a short “Hm” when I say that in ponderous thought. But that excited giggle – “He-he!!”, often with your fists shaking in expectation – is all you.
By the end of month 22, the twofers start coming in hot:
wah too: one, two…and wahtooweetoo: one, two, three, four!
“No ____”...as in “No nap.”
Moh mouk!” More milk!
Hewp pea: Help please! (*You break this out for the first time on August 11th. It’s the first time you tack on “help” without assistance. Way to woo me, kid.)
We have our own language. A mere month or so ago, every day was one long charades game. Now it's a string of single words, with more and two-word phrases, that form your first versions of sentences. On August 10th, you start going, “Book!…Hoot!…Gur…hoot…coh…” I realize you’re describing THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL! (Yes, I take that book down several notches in terms of trauma factor, but we do discuss how her feet are cold because she has no shoes.) A week later, you tell me you want to watch the song Just Can't Wait To Be King from The Lion King by saying “Kee!” (king) and "Zazos!" (Zazu) and placing your finger on your lips to denote the funny faces Simba and Nala make to Zazu.
On August 13th, we play our usual game where I say, "Guess what..." This time, you finish it for me: "Yiyo." I love you. The following night, Mema prompts you to say "I love you," and you repeat back, "Ayayouh." We all weep.
A few poignant moments we share this month:
On July 20th, you pee on the toilet for the very first time. You are the cutest little bean, sitting there, staring into my eyes, pushing, trying so hard! I can’t stand it. Your face beams with pride when I excitedly exclaim, “You did it!! You peed on the toilet!!” It’s the tiniest little dribble, but it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. A minute later, you want to try again. You pee a bit more. Repeat the excited praise and beaming pride. You want to go sans-diaper, so I agree – for a few minutes. In those few minutes, you succeed in peeing all over your playmat. Baby steps. Who knows when you’ll show more interest, but I’ll follow your lead! When you’re ready, you’ll go for it.
We teach you how “blow your nose,” and Mema teaches you how to put tissues in your pockets and throw them away when they’re dirty. Adulting.
We make muffins, and I let you lick the spoon (no raw eggs) while sitting on the counter. That is childhood in all its glory.
You replace toilet paper when I ask you to: you get a roll from the closet and hang it on the holder.
We spill water on your playmat, and you run over, grab the duster off your Lulu-sized cleaning rack, and start mopping it up.
You carry your bathtub into the bathroom when it’s time for a bath, even though it’s as big as you are.
You feed Lily! Such a special job…Mema hands you the cup of food, and you dump it into her bowl.
We're outside in the sun, and I point to our shadows. You start exclaiming, "Peedy! Toe!" Because Peter Pan's shadow sticks to his toe. YES.
You wear your first mask, in Wegmans. I try it on you in our driveway, and you wear it for the entire car ride, not wanting to take it off. Seeing you in that mask is every emotion I’ve ever felt all rolled into one big heap.
You need less and less help on stairs, and you go down slides all by yourself.
The associations continue to blow our minds. We meet a girl named Nina once at the playground, and, on every future visit there this month, you say, “Nina! Nina!” and make your spin motion to illustrate how Nina spun on one of the discs there.
You also continue to learn important facts, such as:
People sometimes leave litter on the street. (Whenever you see a manmade product on the ground, you exclaim, "Peepo!"
Anything broken can be fixed with tape ("Teep!").
Holidays & Celebrations
Papa and I celebrate our fifth anniversary in Portsmouth, NH. Mema and Pops take care of you. By Day 3, you seem to be ready for us to return, but I’m sure you had the time of your life. When you see me crawling around the corner of the island, you start giggling with excitement and run over to give me a big hug. My heart falls out of my chest. That night, you and I sit in the “wocka” for longer than we have in a long time. Such a sweet reunion.
Papa and I talked about how, on our 10th anniversary, you’ll be nearly seven years old.
Drama and Sensitivity
You are constantly hilarious, energy-zapping, and heartbreaking. Putting on clothes is often a battle of wills. I play along – “finding” you when you hide (every time I come close to you, you wave me away with a, “No no no!”), getting silly when you whine dramatically, and so forth – until I reach my limit. Some mornings, distraction works. Other mornings, it’s more of a, well, wrestling match. We do the best we can.
Your passionate flair is a symptom of your strong, beautiful heart. You might say “No” and wave your hand when you want to skip a page in a book where someone gets hurt – if you don’t do your precious hand-patting-mouth-with-concerned-expression-and-sad “Huh huh…!” We’ve learned to be very careful with language around illness. Whenever you hear that someone is sick, real tears flow. It’s the saddest and sweetest expression for such a little bean. You also erupt like a geyser when someone you love has to goodbye. We all try to keep a straight face, but it’s rather remarkable!
And those SNUGGLES! They continue to grow exponentially. You spend minutes at a time snuggling and hugging and nuzzling and touching my face and kissing me. At the lake, at the park, on the playmat...You are the SWEETEST little muffin.
Yes, every day is an adventure. We have thousands of videos, yet there’s so much I’m missing. I want to record every expression, every “Heh,” every love pat and snuggle. May it all remain imprinted somewhere, somehow.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama