Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: 13 Months

13 months, or her Serious Phase
Dear Brennan,

Long before you were born, I remember reading how someone secretly wrote annual letters to their daughter, and then when the child graduated high school, presented them all to her. I loved the idea of recording some of the highlights of each year and vowed to do the same for my children.

You were born, and I was mentally cataloging the things I wanted to remember to record in your annual letter. There are so many experiences and changes in the first year, though, that once you hit three months, I knew I wanted to begin writing you monthly letters so I had a chance of preserving these memories. I knew I'd do so for your first year, but it was a big question how often I'd continue once you turned one. At the least, I'll continue annual letters, but as you continue to change markedly, I think I may just play this second year by ear - perhaps there will be quarterly or biannual letters.

You have made some leaps in the two weeks since I last wrote, though, so there's going to be this 13th month letter in the mix.

One of my favorite changes has been how quickly you pick up on cause and effect after I show you something. For instance, you've been accustomed to playing with your mailbox toy, but you were unaware that you could drop the letters through the top slot. I showed you, and then you took over from there, dropping letters in, one after another with a fair measure of success. This similar skill has transferred to your ring toy; you love to whip those rings off, but until I showed you and you began to mimic me, it never occurred to you to return them.

In a less glamorous development, you've learned your finger fits perfectly into your nostrils. You might do this once a day, and I haven't yet captured it with a picture. Eric laughed heartily when he saw, but I'm trying to discourage you from this display.

You seem to be drawn to pairs of items. I've long known children hit a stage where they want to hold something in each hand (during eating, for instance). But I've observed that you love to hold two like items: two similar Notre Dame stuffed animals (monkey and bear), two stacking rings, two plastic people, two letters. Sometimes you surprise me by two same-colored items (the orange letter and orange person, for instance), and I'm not sure if you did this deliberately, or whether it's just a coincidence.

Running around with two rings

You're still good at independent play; near your toy box in the basement is a corner of stuffed animals, and sometimes you'll crawl back there to play with them, all the while hugging them, dragging them around, and "talking" to them.

"Why are you invading my space, Mom?! We're having a moment!"

You're getting more vocal with babbling, but I still don't think you've said your first word yet. You soak it all in, though. We frequently have people comment how attentive you are and how nothing gets by you. Some speculate that you'll begin with phrases or sentences and skip the single-word stage, but time will tell. Since I see so much going on in your head, though, I'm not concerned at the delay.

Analyzing a balloon

A week and a half ago, you spent Tuesday being sick - it was quite sad. When you woke up, one of your eyes was pretty red. I had to go to work, but I told Eric he should call the doctor about it. The doctor's office said unless you were showing discomfort or there was discharge, it wouldn't be diagnosed as pink eye; they speculated that it could be a reaction to food or in response to a well-placed bump. As the day progressed, you were exhibiting symptoms of a cold. I took you home at 3, and as you'd only taken two short naps for your dad and were drifting off in the short car ride, I laid you down for an additional nap. About 90 minutes later you woke up with a fever. You felt very hot, and the doctor's office had just closed. I needed to get an accurate temperature reading, and while our thermometer takes all of a second to measure, you often toss your head around and won't let me get in your ear. Knowing that you're observant, I decided I'd let you watch while I took my temperature, and then I pretended to take the temperature of several of your stuffed animals; I'd put it in their ear, say "beep," then remove. After letting you watch me do this to three of your toys, I tried it on you, and I was so grateful you were still.

And then I saw the temp: 103.1.

My mommy heart was pounding. I knew that was high, and I didn't know the cut-off for when I should take you to the hospital. Your daddy was in class, so my first move was to grab a baby-care book from our shelf. It discussed that temps over 103 were worthy of at least discussing with our doctor. I called the doctor's office. Fortunately, they have an urgent-care nurse on duty for a few hours in the evening, so I was able to speak with her.

She said that unless you showed signs of dehydration or your temperature reached 105, we could keep you at home. I gave you some Tylenol and tried to encourage fluids. Eric came home, and we took turns cuddling you and trying to comfort you any way possible.

Snuggling against Daddy during Sesame Street (allowed because you were sick)

We offered you a pureed jar of baby food (chicken noodle, naturally!), figuring that while you do eat table foods now, pureed food would be easy to digest and offered extra fluids. You gobbled it down, but it was within an hour that we encountered another first: your first big-girl vomit. Suffice it to say that we quickly cleaned you (and Daddy, and the other inanimate casualties) up and set you in a bath. After your bath, upon noticing you weren't as hot to the touch, I checked your temperature again, and it had decreased to 99.3. You were splashing around happily with your toys and babbling excitedly, so I think the Tylenol (and vomiting) went a long ways to helping you feel better. We still elevated your mattress and ran the vaporizer to further aid in your recovery, but you were yourself the next day.

Your parents are both avid readers, and so it was only a matter of time before you were bound to follow suit. Your love of books is very evident now. In the mornings, you will happily crawl to one of your baskets of books and pull them out, splitting your time among your favorites. It's not unusual for you to open one and hand it to us, your cue that it's time for us to read aloud. This past week, there have been a handful of days where I've read books with you in the morning for over an hour, and that only satiates you for a time. You're surprisingly gently with lift-the-flap books (and you'll gently press the flap back in place if I lifted it while reading aloud). However, pop-up books do not always fare so well; they've become special books, the ones you "read" while under supervision.

Your favorite book at the moment is Where Is Baby's Mommy?  I find you happily flipping pages and lifting flaps for long stretches of time, until you spot me watching, wherein you hand it over to me to read about a dozen times in a row. But there are a pretty large number that you're drawn to over and over again, and I'm grateful we've been able to pick up nice used copies of books at a Better World Books outlet for $0.49/each. We may be on a tight budget, but we can afford that!

Again with two similar toys

I let you play with a crayon to see what you'd do. There was a lot of hitting it against the paper. You wanted to keep holding the crayon while playing elsewhere and cried when I took it away; sorry, honey, but I could visualize purple streaks on our floors and walls!

You like to dance, so I try to play some dance-worthy music that you can rock to. I don't always know what will catch your fancy, but it's fun to watch you stop everything to bop. Sometimes you'll crawl to the stereo and try to push the buttons (and, um, increase the volume...).

Possible dancing pose (and a frilly skirt to frighten Daddy)

Stranger anxiety has set in full force. Typically Daddy or Mommy is with you most of the time, but when I attend MOPS (a mom's group) or when we're at church, we place you in the nursery. It's gotten to the point where you whimper while we sign you in, but you settle down in the first minute we're gone, and you know some of the other children pretty well and you'll happily seek comfort in playing with them.

Watching Daddy rake

The last time we had a playdate, and this weekend at a birthday party, you sat by yourself or stayed with a parent until you warmed up to the surroundings, and then you were comfortable exploring and interacting. Looks like you might be an introvert after all!

A friend who has a daughter just a little younger than you hopes you will end up being friends with her daughter in the teenage years, since she is sure her daughter needs you to temper her with reminders of, "Ella, I'm not so sure that's a good idea." Already her daughter will shovel fistfuls of food in her mouth, which earned her the nickname of Cookie Monster, and you are still pretty dainty with the finger foods.

So that's where you are at 13 months. You aren't standing unsupported or walking yet, but you navigate around without any trouble. We're migrating more to indoor activities, although we've enjoyed the stretches of warm weather this fall.

I've really enjoyed time with you, especially switching down to only two days in the office instead of three. While I still work 12 hours, it's a huge difference to only have to go in twice a week, and I'm loving your goofy turns. It's fun knowing what will make you laugh: sneaking up on you, "running" away while you chase excitedly, playing peekaboo through the crib slats after you wake up from a nap. You're just a really fun daughter, and I love (nearly) everything about you -- eliminate the food tossing and the finger up the nose, and you'd be perfect!


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