lulu letters: now we are one

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

Dear Lulu,


Well, now we are one. I wanted to continue these letters until your first birthday (it seemed a reasonable goal), but now I can’t imagine not continuing them in some form or fashion. The thought of all these tiny moments slipping away is, to quote one of the greatest movies of all time, inconceivable. So, we’ll see where this goes.


. . . . .


LULU TURNS ONE!!


You wore a black crinoline velour dress with tiny pink and white flowers. The shoes lasted all of two minutes because you struggled to walk in them, and the stockings came off soon after. Later you donned a gray cardigan and looked just like an old schoolmarm.


You had the time of your life – insisted on carrying around the entire bundle of ten balloons that served a brief stint as decor. It was three times the size of you, and you were beside yourself.


You met your Aunt Jen.


You defied expectations of how a one-year-old eats birthday cake. I placed the carrot cake cupcake on your tray, and you slowly dipped your fingers into the frosting. I eventually broke it in half to help the process along. You ate most of the frosting and mostly played with the cake. You are clearly advanced...so I suppose your delicate approach wasn’t too surprising.


You received such thoughtful gifts:

  • books from Grandpa Bill

  • a portable “percussion” board, puzzles, and fluffy friend from the Perls

  • a tennis ball (signed) from Uncle Luke, who’s going to teach you someday

  • a pull toy, books, and a small Jellycat that looks like Lily from Mema and Pops

  • a beautiful framed artwork with your name surrounded by nautical creatures and stars from Zia Leah (which made me cry)


We gave you a Flintstones-style scooter that you’ll figure out soon enough, a monkey mama and baby, and your first cloth doll. I also gave you the tiniest bracelet I’ve ever seen with your name, Emmylou, and your birthstone. You sat patiently as I fastened it on your wrist, then held your arm up high to display it. What a ham.


**One-year visit stats and percentiles:


  • Height: 30.75 (92nd)

  • Weight: 21 lbs 4 oz (53rd

  • Head Circumference: 45.5 cm (62nd)


A relative string bean. Shocker.


. . . . .


PAPA TURNS 50!!


Your Papa turned 50 in October. I dressed you in the Superman t-shirt he bought you about three years before you were born. He bought it in Manhattan, along with Amy Poehler Bear.


On his birthday, your Papa read aloud some stories from the book I made for him. He’s not always the best out-loud reader, and he said, “I hope she gets your brain.”


I responded, “Your wires just get crossed sometimes. Like mine do when I speak sometimes!”


He appreciated that.


It’s true, bean sprout. We all get our wires crossed in different ways.


. . . . .


HALLOWEEN


I couldn't decide on your costume until it hit me: Holly Golightly. But of course. I bought you a black tutu-type dress, gold Mary Janes, a headband that looked tiara-like, and black sunglasses. I draped my pearls around your neck for the big reveal, and we were beside ourselves. You toddled out, fully knowing how amazing you looked, and whipped off the sunglasses.


We walked around the neighborhood, the five of us, and you stared in awe at all the kids, costumes, and decorations.


. . . . .


Let’s see...Here are some great moments from the past month:


  • One evening, during your brief post-bath “naked time,” you popped a squat...and peed all over the floor. (Do you always squat when you pee? Now I’m curious.)

  • One morning, Mema and I helped you pick an apple from their tree, and you got to eat it afterward. Farm to table, baby girl!

  • Mema and I took you to Iron Kettle Farm. It was technically your second visit, but you only heard the first visit from inside my belly. This time, you got to see it. Your two favorite parts:

  • 1. playing with string “fence” around the pumpkin character displays and trying to climb inside

  • 2. the super sketchy archaically-animatronic band that sang “When the Shit Hit the Fan…”

  • **OH WAIT! I just looked up the song, and it’s “When the SHIP Hit the SAND!” Wow. That makes me feel better. Maybe.

  • For the first time, you didn’t want to get out of the bath! I reached out my arms and said, “Are you all done?” and you turned away from me, trying to escape out the other side of your tiny tub.

  • I asked you if I could have a kiss, and you leaned toward me in the tub and planted the sweetest, slobberiest kisses on my cheek. My heart.

  • You sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, watching me make cornbread. I brought the bowl down to your level because you wanted to watch.

. . . . .


BODY POWER


You continue to grow steadier and steadier on your feet. You pop right back up to standing when you fall. You dismount furniture backward, and we feel more confident letting you lead unaided. By mid-November, you started climbing up on furniture.


You’re learning how to open doors. The doors in our apartment are levers, and you pushed the lever to open the bathroom door the other morning. We couldn’t believe it.


You officially use “more” and “all done” – the only signs we’ve used consistently for months now. Your “all done” is still a quiet Princess wave. The “more” just emerged. You signed it to me one morning as I prepped some cranberries for a future meal, looking up at me with those big Disney eyes. You also use it for other purposes. You sign it when I’m changing you, letting me know you’re done with that nonsense. You sign it when we’re all done watching our 10-15 minutes of morning TV. It's your first catch-all!


. . . . .


BRAIN POWER


You’re so stinking smart. You understand so much of what we say.


  • “Get your chair!” (Bumbo seat, to have a snack)...and you walk to your chair.

  • “Put the magnet on the refrigerator!”...and you walk right over to the fridge.

  • “There’s the window!” (in a book)...and you look to the living room window.

  • “How big is Lulu?!”...and your arms reach for the sky: “Soooo big!”

  • “Bring me [insert book title here] so we can read it together!”...and you toddle over to your shelf and find it.

  • You wanted to play with a small pumpkin on the dinner table, and I told you that you could play with it if were done with dinner. You fussed and tried again. I repeated my words. You fussed and tried again. I asked you several times if you were “all done,” and you took another bite of food. Then, miraculously, you quietly ate the rest of your dinner before clamoring for the pumpkin again!


I sense the beginnings of things like, “Would you like to rock first, or go right in your crib?” when you’re struggling to settle down for a nap. I tried that mid-November, and I swear it inspired you to conk out.


You know when you’re not supposed to have something. When we catch you, you chuck the object aside and run away as fast as your legs will carry you, arms flapping by your sides.


We can play funny games now. For example:


  • You’ve learned how to stick out your tongue (intentionally). You were doing it during bathtime one night, and I mimicked you. You thought that was the greatest and mimicked me right back.

  • Earlier that day, Mema showed you an LED tealight. She turned it off, then turned it on again – and you gasped. So dramatic! Already a ham...just like your Mama.


Your brain is exploding.


. . . . .


THE SLEEP SAGA


In short, we finally seem to have made peace with sleep. It only took us...about 13 months.


Naps are finally dependable. You fall asleep after lunch, between 12 and 1, and sleep for up to 2+ hours. You only have a morning catnap once in a while, and no afternoon catnaps at this point. This seems to be enough sleep for you, and it means that bedtime is a little easier than it might otherwise be if you weren’t exhausted by then. Naps are so much easier in general – with exceptions, of course!


You’re learning how to self-soothe...very slowly, but surely. Yes, we could have done more “sleep training” earlier on, but we didn’t have it in us. These days, I often let you cry/fuss yourself back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. Toward the end of October, it took you ten minutes or an hour, but you often succeeded. I watched you on the monitor as you move from standing to sitting to lying down, and I cheer you on. By mid-November, you very rarely fussed/cried for more than a few seconds at a time. It sounds crazy, but I put you to bed awake for the FIRST TIME in late October. After crying for eight minutes, you passed out. I’m so proud of you. And thank you.


Bedtimes are much smoother in general. It’s not uncommon for you to take just a few sips of milk before assuming the sleep position in my arms. You’ve started hugging me as I rock you to sleep (and throughout the day as well), wrapping your arms around my neck and shoulders. I can’t imagine anything better. I can put you down when you’re not sound asleep (just nearly asleep), and you’re often good to go.


You still wake early, but your internal clock is slowly shifting from 5 am to 5:30-6 am (in general). And even though we’ve had a few rough nights, you’re slowly learning how to self-soothe. One night recently, we let you semi-cry/fuss for over an HOUR in your crib, and you finally, finally, FINALLY passed out. A few nights later, you woke up crying and fell asleep about ten minutes later. What a beautiful moment!


In the morning, our snuggles are next level. You might only take a few sips of milk before cuddling into me silently and maybe falling asleep. You often don’t: you just lie there, breathing your little breaths, nuzzling your face into my neck. Heaven.


. . . . .


FOOD


As for eats and drinks, you eat like a horse. You had your first curry, and you joined the Clean Plate Club! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it was such a hit. You seem the least interested in food that has the least flavor (e.g., plain beans). Girl of my heart.


And, drum roll please...we are DONE WITH BOTTLES! That’s right. We phased out the bedtime bottle with a sippy cup, and you’re less and less interested in even that. I never imagined it would be so easy, but you put up zero fight. You must have been ready. So mature. I replaced morning nursing with a bottle, followed by a sippy cup. Again, zero fuss.


. . . . .


WHAT'S BIG THIS MONTH...


  • Pumpkins! They have replaced flowers as your pointing/“Eh eh eh!” targets. What will winter bring?...Huh.

  • Birthday hats! Mema has a few birthday-themed books, and you love to sit on her lap and read them whilst donning a birthday hat. In fact, you let Mema know that you want your hat before she reads. When I point out a hat in a book, you put your hand on your head.

  • Mittens! You put your little hands out with the fingers together so I can put them on you, and you actually leave them on. It seems like you know that your hands get cold otherwise, but maybe I won’t give you that much credit.

  • Tongue rolling! You try to grab my rolled tongue and stick your tongue out, trying to do roll it.

  • Aunt Renee’s wind-up piano music box. Like the monkey music box, we “look with our eyes” when I wind it up, and it plays in the background. She is with us always.

  • Waving bye! You still don’t wave hello, but you have bye down.

  • Raffi! You calm down whenever I play his CD in the car, more than any other music.

  • Lullabies:

  • I See the Moon


I see the moon and the moon sees me

Down through the leaves of the old oak tree

Please let the light that shines on me

Shine on the ones I love


Your Grand-Nana (Emmylou) used to sing that to your Pops.


  • The rainbow song, which Mema used to sing to me:


Red and yellow and pink and green

Purple and orange and blue

I can sing a rainbow

Sing a rainbow

Sing a rainbow, too


  • Out of My Dreams from Oklahoma! I’m going to start singing you more musical songs. Get them in your bones early.


So many things fill you with joy:


  • Dancing together...I pick you up and swing you around and your smile lights up the room.

  • Being silly...Playing hide and seek, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”, chase, riding on Papa’s shoulders...

  • Zia Leah...You clap every time you see her face on FaceTime. You don’t clap for anyone else.

  • “Getting” Pops on the floor...He lies on his belly, and you climb over him, pull his hair, snuggle him...

  • Giving “hugs”...This is one of the many “cartoon baby” things you do. You immediately hugged every new furry friend you received for your birthday. My heart ached.

  • Walking...You walk around the house, perfectly content, carrying random objects and exploring, exploring, exploring, for up to an hour at a time.

. . . . .


YOU SOUND LIKE...


Popular sounds this month:


  • the urgent giggle when we guess correctly what you want (the same sound that used to precede a bottle)

  • what Pops named “Precision Grunting and Pointing” – which is so much of life these days, with us always trying to guess what you want

  • the early morning babble that peeks out of the dark silence after I wonder if you just so happened to fall asleep in my arms

  • the lip smacks when I offer you lemon juice on my fingers or when you suck food off your own fingers

  • the new noise as you roll your tongue in the back of your throat

  • the new whiny-growl “Oo….” sound when you’re frustrated, accompanied by the cutest pursed monkey lips


You also have a new banshee scream – usually when you can’t have something you want. The other morning, you stood on your playmat, arms by your sides, screaming, with the angriest face I’ve ever seen on you. Woah.


The pointing and “eh eh eh” is nearly constant. Sometimes you don’t even see anything in particular, you just know that you probably want something. When I guess “correctly,” you smile and make your content-slash-excited “Ehh…” sound.


Your physical therapist (which you graduated from in early November) said at our last session: “She’s very clear about what she wants...Good luck!”


. . . . .


YOU LOOK LIKE…


You have changed so much. Your hair is longer and curlier in the back. Your hands and feet have grown. You look so tall. But those two dimples have stayed strong! You still have the happy dimple on your upper left cheek and the concentrating dimple on your forehead. And that big smile has somehow grown bigger. Sometimes you smile so fiercely that your nose crinkles like tissue paper and your eyes are nearly closed, giving the world a front-seat view of those pearly whites that look like actual teeth now (versus little nubbins).


You wear BIG GIRL PJs! Two pieces. The cutest muffin with your big belly peeking out here and there. We’re also pretty much done with onesies. Enough of those snaps. Pants on, pants off!


You have some new expressions. One is rather coy: you purse your lips together with an oh-so-slight smile...as if you’re trying not to smile.


Zia Leah pointed out that you look so much like me in a recent photo. I see it now. I see me in you. Every time I see your belly button on your perfectly round belly, the world fades around us. Such a sacred spot, that belly button. Where our connection began.


. . . . .


YOU ACT LIKE...


You are truly a mini-human with a personality all your own, and you are slightly different with each person. You are goofy with Pops. You seem to either really want Papa (e.g., at bedtime) or literally push him away. Your Mema way is wanting to be held – and reading books in the rocking chair. You love to read books with anyone, but there’s something special about reading with Mema. You sit for far longer than with anyone else, and you pretty much always want to read with her in that chair.


And with me? You are snuggly, or you seem to say, “Mama, enough kisses already!” Because this is the most difficulty I’ve ever had keeping my lips from being permanently glued to your cheeks, the back of your neck, your feet, your temples, those perfect arms...You are unexpectedly goofy, as when you thought me asking, “Kiwi?” was the funniest thing you’d ever heard. You love to wrestle on our bed. You love to dance, though your eyes constantly scan the room for something fun to play with.


. . . . .


Well, this letter is not much shorter than those previous. How can I consolidate all that you are in just a few pages? Even now, I know that you are so much more than these snapshots.


Papa and I had our first trip away from you this month. We flew to Seattle (our first flight in over two years) for four days, and you were basically a new little person when we returned. You are my beautiful, brilliant, affectionate, goofy, curious, determined, wild woman.


And you are only one.