Friday, December 30, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: 15 months

14 month and 15 month picture
Dear Brennan,

You are now 15 months old - I didn't exactly mean to go two months without writing, but it's been hard to find the time (one of these days I'm going to learn I should start writing before the 15th, and then I might actually have it posted on time.

In early November, Daddy described you by writing the following: "Brennan has become Wile E. Coyote: she's able to defy gravity (i.e., stand unaided) just so long as she's not aware that she's doing so. Once she realizes she's standing, she has to either grab on to something for support or else sit down."

Since then, you've spent most of your time cruising around rooms while holding onto tables, furniture, walls, and walkers, but you gradually got more confident at standing on your own. A couple weeks ago, you took your first individual steps for me (I admit I may have gotten close to tears).

And after a week, you were again standing on your own, so I backed away from you and encouraged you to come to me, and you did ever so cautiously. When you reached me, I grabbed you up in a big hug and showered you with kisses. And that set the tone from then on out; you'd walk to us, provided we got super excited and wrapped you in our arms once you arrived (no complaints here!).

Since coming to Iowa for the holidays, it's been very apparent the strides that you've made (literally). Now you are more comfortable on your feet and will toddle around and each day we're seeing less and less crawling.

In a way I'm amused that I'm so taken with these accomplishments. After all, for thousands of years, millions of babies have been popping out new teeth, learning to roll over, sit, stand, and walk, but there's just an awe I experience when I watch you do these things that are so natural and yet extraordinary at the same time.

For Christmas, your daddy decided to upgrade my iPod Touch and even gave it to me early - my old one had trouble holding a charge for an entire day, and, in addition, I had the misfortune of dropping it and cracking the screen this fall. The advantage of this new toy is that this version comes with a camera/video feature (the video quality is great, but the camera images are a bit grainy). I often have it near me, which means when I would have normally missed a shot because the camera was on another floor or in another room, now I have a better chance of capturing it, including this bath shot where you decided you would imagine that the spout protector contained tasty snacks (I love the slurpy bite and your belly laughs!).

You also love mimicking our actions as you will wipe your face and nose with napkins. I've enjoyed introducing you to dried foods to play around in so you could mimic cooking as well.

We gave you a small kitchen for Christmas, and you've enjoyed banging around the toys and serving us your creations.

You spend a lot of time talking on "phones," which are made up of rectangular blocks or the decoy remotes (the remote to the VCR, for instance, that we don't need and whose batteries have been removed). Over the holidays, you've also added the toy loaf of bread and ear of corn as acceptable "phones." I like catching your pretend conversations, especially when you giggle in reaction to the imaginary caller.

At our church, babies only move out of the nursery when they can confidently stand or, preferably, walk. I believe you have been the oldest child in the nursery for a while now, but you seem to enjoy yourself there. The volunteers call you the Little Mother since you are concerned that each baby has a toy to play with and will hand them out. We love hearing the volunteers comment on your "sweet spirit," and I'm grateful you are generous. It sounds like in January you get to move up to the toddler room, joining many friends who have already been there for a time. And I just learned another baby will join you - Ella's mom has held her back in the nursery since you two are good friends, but now she's willing to let her move up with you (Ella is 3 months your junior but has been comfortably walking for at least a couple months already).

Sharing at the library

With your mobility comes a destructive force - you're at that stage where you are immensely curious but don't yet know boundaries. You are quick to find things that catch your eye and you want to examine or manipulate them. Your daddy was home with you one day when he said you were happily playing with your toy train in the hallway outside the bathroom. He stepped in the kitchen to rinse off your breakfast tray, and not 30 seconds later, he found you in the bathroom covered in toilet paper.

You are also very adept at transforming a room. I took a before and after shot recently to show how quickly you can pull out toys and books and toss them everywhere.

Before and after (notice in the background B crawling to destroy another room since her work here is finished

We began weaning you at 12 months, starting with only a morning and evening nursing session and giving you blended bottles at other feedings. After a week or two, we were down to only the morning session, and by 13 months you were entirely weaned. It was pretty anticlimactic - you were apparently ready and didn't make a fuss. We also eliminated bottles at that time and you're none the worse for wear. Until our Christmas trip to Iowa, we still needed to briefly warm your whole milk to take the edge off the cold, but we went cold turkey here, and you seem to have adjusted swimmingly.

Kickin' it old school

You're also enjoying scribbling with crayons, so a gift from your great grandmother was a Magna Doodle - it was a big hit.

You love to lean in close to draw and color - very detail-oriented

In an effort to distract your hands during diaper changes, I would sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider with you and help you do the hand motions while Daddy changed you. Now, you will do it yourself, and you'll even initiate it at other times. I haven't been able to catch it on video yet, but here's your beginning climbing-spider motion, your signal that it's time to sing.

You love to sit in various baskets, and after your grandparents brought you a sled and you kept climbing in with books and toys, they asked if you had a tiny seat all your own. You didn't, so they decided that you deserved a little rocker and ottoman like your cousin.

When we arrived at their place, several days before you got to open your chair, you discovered a little wooden rocking chair and enjoyed climbing in and out for the rest of our visit.

You seemed to enjoy your new gift, but you haven't been able to play in it much since it didn't fit in our car - don't worry, as they're going to make a trip out to deliver it soon.

Your hair is slowly growing, and several people have commented on the slight curls in the back, as well as the red tint that's sometimes visible. There are pictures of your Aunt Heather with reddish curly hair as a toddler, and I think there was actually one of my mom I saw the other day, so it looks like it's not very unusual in my family.

You are not picky when it comes to food, and you're getting better at feeding yourself. Food dropping is at a minimum - I think being able to communicate to us via sign language the "All done!" sign has helped us know when you're finished, thus keeping you from thinking you need to throw everything on the floor. Over Christmas you tried black olives for the first time. You showed an interest, so I gave you a small section of one. After shoving it in your mouth, you adamently communicated the "All done!" sign, arms flailing, but in fact you actually wanted me to give you more (this is where you're inconsistent signs for "More", one of which is very similar to "All done!", gets confusing). Your daddy doesn't like black olives, and I only like them as a part of pizza or dip, but I'm glad you're curious and excited to eat various foods.

Sleeping is pretty great right now - bedtime is typically around 7 PM, and you'll quietly put yourself to sleep within 5 - 10 minutes. You will sleep about 12 hours, whereupon you'll happily awaken. You're still taking a morning and an afternoon nap, both around 45 minutes long. Over Christmas, you've been getting to bed a couple hours later at night but waking at the same time in the morning, so your naps have adjusted accordingly, typically in the 90-minute range.

You still have only six teeth, but I can especially feel the bottom one-year molars about to burst out. Babbling has increased, but specific words are doubtful. I think you have said "kitty," and a couple family members heard "hello" while playing on a toy phone. Daddy was feeding you animal crackers when you clearly said "cracker." So they're few so far, but they're increasing. I liken this stage to when I was pregnant and I wasn't sure whether or not I was feeling you move yet. In hindsight, it was clear what had been flutters and movements, but in the moment it's difficult to decipher when it's the first time. This goes for words, too - we think we might be hearing something, but we're not always confident. You certainly have comprehension, though. You can understand what we're talking about - I've asked a couple times if you'd get your shoes, or grab a certain toy, or I'll start reciting words from a book and you'll disappear to retrieve it.

Being your cute self

Motherhood continues to remind me that I still have a ways to go. When I was in college, I thought I was pretty mature and selfless. Then I got married and realized there were areas of my life that I was still selfish over. Give us seven years of marriage, and I think I've reached a self-denying character, and then I have a child. My day is no longer mine. Instead, I'm devoted to you and your needs - diaper changes, meals, water, milk, snacks, books, toys, stimulation, picking up toys, washing, folding laundry, cleaning, sleeping. I am in this place of not knowing exactly what my life holds for me now and I have to submit to these daily tasks. The floor - both upstairs and down - is routinely covered with toys that need to be picked up. And as you're not quite old enough to be responsible for this, I'm faced with tidying messes I didn't cause all day long. I admit my heart isn't always in the right place and I have to remind myself to deny myself and submit to time not being my own. It's one of my absolute favorite times of life, but I still have areas of my character that need to be shaped. So stay patient with me, and I'll keep working at it, too.