lulu letters: month 23

Dear Lulu,


There are many aspects of parenting I’ve always looked forward to, and we live many of them in these magical days of ours. Walking hand in hand. Playing with each other’s hair. Making bubble beards in the tub. Understanding my child’s verbal nuances…That’s a common one these days.


Welcome to month 23!


 

Fundamentals


Food


You continue to eat pretty well, though veggies are a little tougher overall, and you can be quick to say “No” to new foods. You can also be quick to say “No” when I say, “Maybe try some more _____!” You know what you like – cheese, nuts, figs, and bread are among the current top contenders – and let me know with words.


In other news, we’re bumping cow’s milk in favor of other milk varieties, such as “amee muhk” (almond milk) and “omee muhk” (oat milk). They’ll take some getting used to, but the transition has been relatively easy.


You ask for nuts almost every day. At your first baseball game with Geepa/Peepaw, your Papa nosh on fried chicken fingers. You try a few bites before reaching for the nut-raisin trail mix I brought for you. That’s my girl!


Papa nicknames you Coconut, which seems fitting.



Sleep


Sleep is a relative dream. When you’re tired, you say, “Nap! Nap!” Sometimes you don’t even want to read books. You just want to go in your “keeb.”


We’ve been flipping lately: I do bath, Papa does bedtime. I often read books with you two, as I cherish that time, but the process is usually faster with Papa, and I usually end up checking on you when you call for me later (to get yet another friend, fix your blankets, etc.). We sometimes go back and forth about six or so times, but you seem to get it when we say, “Okay, this is the last time I’m coming in. Time to sleep!” We say, “Bye zazaza…” and you eventually drift off.


You have quite the crib posse, which might include any or all of the following:

  • “Paca whut” (white/BF alpaca)

  • “Paca bow” (brown alpaca)

  • Orly (Orly the giraffe)

  • “Beebee, Minamina, Mama” (Baby Jellycat, Lily Cat, and Mama/OG Jellycat)

  • “Bur Dee” (Bert & Ernie figures)

  • “Mema, Ba, Zaza, Beebee” wooden figures

  • “Fiki, Naki, Seeba, Puba” (Rafiki, baby Nala, Simba, Pumbaa figures)


Throw in a few books and your purple and pink blankets, and it’s a jungle in there.



Look at You


I finally see a true blend of us, though I can’t quite put my finger on who’s in what. Papa is definitely in those adorable puffy morning eyes, and the lips are precious tulip lips, which I assume are Dutch. The crinkly nose when you smile is all me, as is, I believe, your cute little nose. The hair is all over the place, everyone all at once. The funky big toe is Papa’s, while the funky pinky toe is mine. Sorry, kid. Luckily, at this point, those funky toes are puffy perfection.


I think you go through a growth spurt in early September: you sleep until closer to 6:30 and your appetite is pretty constant. All of a sudden, the leggings that fit you a month ago are all too small, and I can see you quickly outgrowing size 7 shoes. Again: sorry, kid. Those feet are just all kinds of apologies.


 

Play & Independence


All Grown Up


You are truly your father’s daughter. As he used to say, “Me do!” As you say, “Emmy!” You want to do everything yourself from brushing your teeth to essentially rock climbing into your car seat.


I finally buy you a learning tower, which I’ve wanted for many months now. Just as I’d hoped, you often (not always) want to help me make a meal or snack. This is how we discover your affinity for raw carrots as you munched on them and celery as we made split pea soup. You help me with every step (minus the onions)! You also love to wash dishes. I put a plastic bin in the sink with water and soap and you spend up to ten minutes with that activity. You’re such a helpful (re)washer.


Other tastes of independence:

  • carrying your plate to the table

  • climbing in your booster chair, stroller, and car seat all by yourself

  • peeling and slicing bananas

  • pouring water or milk into your cup from a pitcher

  • turning lights on and off

  • throwing trash in the garbage can

  • helping wash your body during bathtime

  • “blowing” your nose

  • restocking toilet paper

  • Feeding your BFF Lily

  • brushing your teeth at the sink (aka standing on your stool and repeatedly dipping your brush into the dribble of water/sucking on the toothbrush)

  • finding the photo app icon on a phone, then scrolling through the thumbnails and tapping the one you want to look at

  • Cooking!

  • Helping “meek” (mix) muffin and pancake batter – including adding the quintessential blueberries…THE CUTEST

  • Helping Mema make blueberry pancakes – and getting upset when you see the blueberries “disappear” when you mix them into the batter


Every so often, you like to (push out) pee on the toilet, and you laugh as you wipe. Ah, the simple joys. Still not much interest in independence in the realm of clothing, but we continue to work toward that.


Oh! I also buy a timer – a big mechanical timer with a purple-colored countdown that we use for such things as, “Okay, 30 minutes of Moana!” (our current morning norm) or “Five more minutes of playing before we have to brush our teeth!” Pretty useful so far, and also useful for your Papa, I have to say.



What’s Big This Month

  • MOANA. It’s basically all you watch these days, 30 minutes every morning, usually while Mama exercises. We add the “beebee” song – the beautiful song that accompanies baby Moana saving the baby turtle and exploring the ocean – to our lullaby repertoire…but then you become obsessed with You’re Welcome (which you communicate with the “thank you” sign). This soundtrack is also a new dinner music choice. One evening, we’re listening to the How Far I’ll Go reprise, and you start saying, “Mama! Bye zazazaza…..Mama! Eat!” because that’s the song where Moana says goodbye to her Mama and her Mama gives her food for her adventure trip.

  • Pretend play!! We’re entering the phase, coined by toddler Zaza as “Make ‘em talk.” You astound me with your play themes. One morning, we’re playing with the Lion King friends and the dollhouse. At one point, “Papa” lion is lying down, and Baby Nala says, “Hewp! Hewp!” (“Help”). She grunts as she tries to pick him up. Rafiki also tries to pick him up, but to no avail. I say, “Does he get up?” and you reply, “...No.” After that somber piece, we reenact our bathtime rituals. You call out things like, “Cohd!” and “Hot!” – aka the water temperature needs adjusting – and “Bubbows!” (bubbles). Mama and Papa lions help wash Baby Nala. Afterward, Mama rubs Nala’s “baT” (back) as she goes to sleep.

  • New art mediums!

  • Mema splurges and gets you an easel with a blackboard, paint/paper, and a whiteboard. Donning your smock, you try out the paintbrushes…and then start painting with your hands. Mema turns to me and says, “Ah, yes…It’s all coming back to me…” Lucky for her, you’re a pretty clean kid overall, and you soon want to wash your hands.

  • I go a simpler route and pull out my colored pencils and washable markers.

  • On the other hand, I go all out and make my own glue with flour and milk for a five-minute collage project.

  • We also try contact paper art: a tissue paper tree with leaves and tiny puff balls. So fun!

  • For lack of a better description, bristle blocks: plastic blocks that stick together via bristles. We spend a lot of time with these, usually making “teebo” (table) and “chee-o” (chairs) for figure friends. As with other figures, you often act out “scenes” – eating, napping, etc. Apparently, these friends really like blueberries for breakfast.

  • When the Sun Rose, aka “reebow” (the rainbow book) is big again. We read this often.

  • Driving the car up the driveway after checking the “Mee-o!” (mail) together

  • Looking at photos on phones

  • Blankets. We finally start using them regularly for sleep, and you can be particular (just like your Mama). On the way back from Peepaw’s house, you can’t quite get comfy for your nap. I make a pillow with your blanket and drape the rest of it around you. When you wiggle and expose a knee or foot, you cry, “Beenky!” so I fix it.

  • Buckles. Carseat, stroller, booster seat: you buckle and unbuckle any buckle you can find.

  • Hugging. You love to hug your three (real) baby friends at Veronica's.

  • PACA. As your core comfort friend, Paca goes almost everywhere you go.


Snapshots

  • getting your crayons and paper off the shelf and carrying them to your little table to color

  • drawing “eyes” (two small patches of color) and a “rainbow” (an arc across the paper)

  • reading the “beebee” book (On the Night You Were Born) and whispering your name together: “Emmy….”

  • struggling to pick up and carry a small pile of friends (Paca, Orly, Lily Cat, and Baby Nala) from your bedroom to the couch as Papa waits on the floor to read the book you requested…only to decide that, no, they need to be closer to you, which means struggling to pick them up and carry them to the floor…and, finally, to your lap

  • your go-to “song” move: singing “La la la!” with chicken dance arms

  • thoughtfully tapping your fingers – at the dinner table, while you watch TV, while you watch us demonstrate something…

  • randomly holding my hand during dinner, sometimes stroking it or bringing it to your lips for the sweetest kiss

  • making your concerned face and worried sounds when you accidentally hurt me (head bonk, kicking me in the nose, etc.)

  • rocking (out) on Peepaw’s recliner: “Lulu, rock!”...and you start violently flinging your little body back and forth, your rockstar hair swinging every which way

  • dancing…trying to jump with all your might, arms jiving…Mema peeing her pants (“Does she see me laughing?”)

  • wearing your mask for an entire Story Hour…along with your tutu, black tights, and new shiny silver sneaks…What a vision.


As we listen to…you guessed it: Moana…at the dinner table one evening, you suddenly put your hands on your heart and say softly, “Haht.” It’s the song where Moana returns the heart to Te Fiti, and your Papa says, “I think that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”



Adventures


Ah, so many adventures! For example…


I rope you, Papa, and Mema into a big adventure to the Rochester Zoo! We drive for 90 minutes to see a large handful of exotic animals and try to enjoy the experience of your first viewings rather than be too sad at the very idea of zoos. Your favorites include the sea lions (“Ar! Ar! Ar!”) and giraffes. When you see the polar bear, you wave your hand and say, “No no no…Home.” Guess they can’t all be winners. You do acquire a new fuzzy friend: a baby giraffe named Orly, in honor of the baby giraffe we saw.


We continue to enjoy Story Time. One morning, we visit Ella beforehand, and you and she walk to the library from her house – holding hands. Too much too much!


We have a few more lake visits, though never enough. You don’t show a whole lot of interest in the water, but you love playing with the clacky stones.


We brave the Trumansburg Fair, lasting about an hour and a half before we all need to make our escape. You’re a bit too small for most of the rides, but you enjoy the carousel a few times (choosing Pops as your partner the first time, which is so sweet as he’s the only one yet to ride on a carousel with you) and we go through the “House of Mirrors.” I take Pops’ advice and squat down to view the fair from your POV (in your stroller), and WOW! Terrifying. No wonder you’re silent most of the time.


We enjoy brunch at Boundary Breaks, and you’re a champion, as always.


Mema takes you to the Cayuga Nature Center.


We attend a music night at Wagner Winery and hear our friends, The Dart Brothers.


We visit Grandpa Bill (Geepa/Peepaw) and go to your first baseball game, lasting about 90 minutes. Papa keeps telling you to sit still, but I think you do very well climbing in and out of your seat over and over and over again, releasing that fireball of energy within a very limited space. We also spend time at a local park, where you fully enjoy the playground and sandy beach.


 

Communication


Just one big WOWA! You repeat so many words now, and you continue to pull new ones out of your big purple word hat. You tell stories and make requests one word (usually a noun) at a time, and you’re not afraid to try complex combinations. I don't always understand on the first try, you often resort to gestures. Thank you for that.


What’s happening this month? Well, you say your first four-syllable word: avocado. Or, as you put it so elegantly, “Ago…cahko.”


Other fun newbies/moments, in general order of appearance:


  • “Mo patta!”: More pasta!

  • youp: soup

  • beh: bread

  • cocoNUT

  • papapika: paprika

  • omee: oatmeal

  • peekee: pancake

  • bocky: broccoli

  • yogo: yogurt

  • teepee: tempeh

  • peesa: pretzels

  • wah-meh: watermelon

  • omee muhk: oat milk

  • adahDAH: all done


  • yayo and peeK: yellow and pink

  • mote: remote (as in “TB”/TV)

  • tuh-tuh: turtle (and tutu)

  • boat

  • keeb: crib

  • yaht: light

  • peet: pants

  • yuht: shirt

  • butt: button

  • beenky: blanket

  • ho: hold (with your hand out and slightly cupped)

  • wowo/wower: flower

  • hamee: hammock

  • wihbee: wildebeest (as in The Lion King)

  • Birds:

  • oweo: oriole

  • eagow: eagle/seagull

  • minaminamina: catbird

  • peeder: picture (as in, “I want to look at pictures of Mema and Pops on your phone.”)

  • Booby Eye: Blueberry Eyes (one of your new nicknames – the same one we had for Zaza as a toddler)

  • ahgeeca: exercise

  • taber top: tater tot

  • hee-o: hair

  • pehsoh: pencil

  • rubby: bunny [one of my personal faves at this moment in time]

  • meek: mix

  • cahka: cracker

  • riri: raisins [love this one]

  • ehvee: elephant

  • yum...cock: alarm clock [just fantastic]

  • do-do: stroller [designated by patting your stroller]

  • tee-o: tear [said when you felt tears on your face...so sad]

  • hug!


  • “Honey…” (repeated after I call you or Papa, “Honey.”)

  • “Hey!”

  • “Yeah.”

  • “Oh no..”


And, finally, some inadvertent homonyms (I know there are more…):

  • haht: hot, hat, heart

  • burr: blue, bird, Bert

  • peet: pants, paint

  • puh: pool, pull, push [designated by a pushing motion]

  • ee-o: ear, oil


Whenever you’re looking for something, you walk around with your hands out, palms up – in other words, the classic question pose. You’ve also started softly smacking your lips when you try new food, sometimes after you take a drink…Hilarious.


Here’s a common phenomenon: “Emmy! Emmy!” as you pat your chest. This means any of the following: I want to hold it! I have that! That’s me! I want to do it! I want to look at photos/videos of myself on your phone! etc…This has been going on for a few months now, but I’ll miss it when it’s gone.


You have such smarts, Coconut. And you’re endlessly entertaining:

  • “What’s Papa doing?”...“Wuhk.” (working)

  • We’re in the garden and I spot you picking and eating parsley. You say, to no one in particular, “Pahsee.”

  • I try to limit the water use during your teeth-brushing time by saying, “We have to save some for the fishes!” This actually works, and you catch on quickly. When I turn off the water the following morning, you say, “Tafidi!” (“The fishes!”)

  • We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear with the accompanying homemade animals and you name all the animals including the colors as I pull them out of the bag. (WHA?)

  • Me: “Oh, did you bump your chin?”

You (in tears): “Nope!...Ehbow! [elbow]!”

You stumble over a pillow on the floor and exclaim, “Peedoh!”

You walk into the living room and see some pretend food on your doll high chair: “Fuhd!”

In short, constant communication these days!

  • You start naming the letters in the “Emmylou” wall hanging. Papa joins in and asks you to identify each one…and you do. (WHA?) (This is right after you leave a poop on your stool as you brush your teeth, so, ya know.

  • You fill in the last word of sentences in well-loved books and songs:

  • The rainbow song from Story Time:

  • Red like an…appa [apple]

  • Green like a…tee [tree]

  • Yellow like the…suh [sun]

  • And blue like the…sea

  • When the Sun Rose (“And my house is full of…roe [roses]”)

  • And the Biggest Kiss (“But the very best kiss is a kiss from…you”

  • etc…

  • You find a small brown spot on a tomato and make a face. I say, “Oh yeah…that’s a little funky.” You repeat “fuhkee” throughout that meal – and say it again the following few nights whenever you find a tiny speck of brown on a tomato.

  • You point to the numbers on the side of a diaper box and say, “Nahmo.”


My new favorite game: I say, “Guess what…?” and you reply, “Ayayo.” (I love you.)


And, last but not least, the funniest word goes to…FOX! We’re at Peepaw’s house, and you hear a fox. You start calling, “F&*! F&*!...F&*!...” I think it’s the funniest video yet.


 

Spirit, Sass, & Science


We have a new pattern: the 5 pm Crazies. It’s a rather regular occurrence these days. You go wild – running, spinning, jumping, grunting like the Hulk…It’s such a quintessential toddler experience. Here we are.


I did indeed birth a…spirited…child. It certainly makes life all the more entertaining, but yikes. Getting out in the morning can feel either relatively easy, or Sisyphean. Getting you dressed and getting you in the bath are two of the roughest moments of many days. One evening, I’m trying to get you in the tub, and you say, “Mote!” You want the A/C remote, which you get to play with since we never use it. You already have multiple furry friends piled in the bathroom, but you apparently need that remote. I get the remote. Then: “Bat!” You want your pretend black phone and TV remote. I draw a line and try to wrangle you in the bathroom, saying, “We don’t need those.” You squirm and writhe and shout, “NO NO NO NO NO!” Not worth the battle. I let you get the two black devices, and you lay them carefully on the toilet seat lid, rearranging them so they don’t overlap at all. At that point, you calmly get in the tub.


Yet with other things – putting on sunscreen and clipping nails to name two standouts – you’re remarkably patient and calm.


You can offer a sly sideways look that absolutely floors me. It’s one of my favorite facial expression games to play with you. I make it, you make it, and we both crumble in giggles. I say, “Emmylou, make your sass face” and you go for it. It’s quite the crowd pleaser.


As for science, you’ve always been a scientist, more interested in how a thing works than its function or entertainment appeal. One day, Pops shows you his metal toy car collection. After trying to roll a truck on the grass, he watches with confusion as you carry it to the deck. When you start rolling it on the deck, he thinks, “Of course! Much easier to roll on that surface.”


Emmylou, you are hilarious. As your Papa said recently, "That's the best part of being a kid. You get to be silly all the time." You constantly boost the silliness of everyone around you. What a gift.


 

Mama Returns to (9-5) Work


In other news, Mama starts a new job. It isn’t a complete shock to the system as far as you’re concerned, but you’re gone longer days – including our special Wednesday. How I already miss those Mama-Lulu days with you, including Story Time. But I know you have the time of your life every day with Veronica and Mema.


Not even a week into this job, I hope I’m giving you enough attention. Mornings feel hurried as I try to get both you and me ready for the day ahead, and evenings feel at once like days in and of themselves (because Papa and I are both whipped) and not nearly long enough. It will continue to be an adjustment, but we’ll find our groove. And my guilt will diminish.


 

Sweetums, you are extraordinary – though, yes, it’s true that most new parents think their first child is the child of Christ. But still…the way you can stare at a New Yorker illustration while Mema tells you all about it or the way you recognize the cover image of a book within the illustrations, or your memory?! Your memory is out of this world. Every time you have white rice, you say, “Zaza!” because you remember that one time, months ago when you sat on Zaza’s lap and ate white rice together. That’s just one example. Maybe you were an elephant in your previous life. It would explain not only the memory but also the empathy.


In short, you’re as miraculous as ever.


I love you.


Love, Your Mama