The future Johnny Knoxville?

MZ's new favorite thing is chucking all her toys down the stairs. And since our housekeeping method is organized around what we charitably call "staging areas," she chucks our toys down the stairs, too. Shoes were first, but our big shoes tend to get stuck on a step about half-way down, which is a real buzz kill.

Ever-resourceful, she's discovered that the stars and circles in her blocks set get better speed than the squares or triangles. Her stacking cups are usually good for the whole trip to the next landing, with a satisfying bounce at the end. And nothing beats the knobbly balls we have all over the house.

We fear that with a little more hoisting strength and attention span, we're on our way to a baby segment on Jackass.


Thirteen Months: Words are multiplying

Dear MZ,

You're all about talking these days. Walking is starting to cross your radar, but talking is key, and we finally have to modulate our truckdrivers' mouths, since there's no telling what you'll decide to repeat.

We marvel at the seeming randomness of your word choice. We've been saying Cheers and clinking glasses with you ever since you started on a sippy cup, but although you clearly know the drill, you do not say Cheers. You do say Ball, Bear, Baby, and Happy. You snatched the last two out of nowhere, suddenly these were your words. You flirt with Daddy and Mommy, almost always waking with a Hi, Daddy and resorting to Mommy, mommy, mommy when you really want me or something I'm holding. You say Hi to anyone who crosses your path, especially in restaurants at high volume. Yesterday as we were walking, I'd grab the toy that hangs from your carrier and say, "I got it!" And you started to exclaim right back I got! Last week you were working on Open, Close and No, and would say Again at the end of a book if you wanted Round 2. But this week we've returned to Up, Down and a vigorous head nod for all commands. It's fascinating to see the importance of repetition in making a word your own.

Eating is also totally random right now. You devoured pizza at playgroup, but turned up your nose when we went out with some other families on Saturday night. You go days without trying anything new, then surprise us by tearing into lamb patties and pita with minted yogurt sauce. Especially since you mostly eschew white food, which means dairy is pretty much out of the question. And you seem to get a kick out of putting too much in your mouth and spitting it back out again. At the end of meals, you take enormous gulps of water, then let it flow back down your chin. It's disgusting, but hilarious, and you laugh and laugh, and we can't help laughing, too. We realize that good discipline is all about consistency, and early reports find that we do not excel.

We all suffered through a nasty head cold in the last month, and you took the opportunity to self-wean. You pushed me away at nap time, and decided you'd rather have a sippy cup and be part of the action for main meals. We're down to first thing in the morning, which you show no sign of giving up, and last thing at night, which I am oddly afraid to give up. I keep thinking, "But what if I need some?" Breastfeeding has been the easiest way to nourish and comfort you for the last year, and although I'm enjoying wearing adult bras again, I'm going to miss this time with you when it finally draws to a close.

You also started putting yourself to sleep this month, which is a huge and strangely bittersweet development. For a few weeks, you seemed unable to settle down for naps and we assumed that you were transitioning to one nap per day. But it became clear that we were distracting you, silently offering to play Up/Down or "Hi!" just by being there, waiting targets for the toys you would toss from your crib. We tried leaving, and lo, you were asleep within minutes, sometimes without a whimper. People look at us like we're bonkers, but we miss rocking you to sleep, the read-a-few-books-kiss-kiss-close-the-door routine leaves us a little lonely. Not that we're complaining, we are grateful that the last we saw of Cry it Out was four months of trying to get you to take a bottle.

The one habit you show no sign of giving up is grabbing my nipples in public. You are swift and persistant, and when I gave up trying to keep you off the other day while trying to pay the guy at REI, he shook his finger and said, "No, no." I wasn't sure whether to laugh or to slug him, but was much closer to the latter. I've begun wearing turtle necks during the day, which does indeed slow you down, but isn't the most comfortable solution as we head into Spring.

You're starting to cruise more and more, and we're seeing signs of petulant frustration when you want to move from place to place. You shriek angrily, then shift to a crawl position to make your move. This is different from the shear anguish you displayed when learning to crawl, there's a note of toddler pissed-offedness that's totally new, and frankly, a bit disagreeable. I'm acutely aware, as I watch the toddlers snatch and hit and scream, that you are developing a will, and that my days with a mostly compliant companion are nearing an end. I remind myself that we wish a strong will for you as you move into a developmental stage that requires a lot more pushing of buttons.

So I'm enjoying these days with a bit of homesickness, as you race into a toddler mindset. At 13 months you're not such a baby anymore. But MZ, you're still good fun.



Clone Mamas

I read a post recently that really stuck with me. It was written by a newly returned San Franciscan who is obviously a little homesick right now (and who seems to be spending time in a neighborhood that makes me grumpy, too). In reading further, it looks like she's caught some flak for this post, and my immediate reaction was also pretty negative. But that's just defensiveness; I saw myself in so many of her itemized uniform elements, and had to stop and consider why.

Not the Bugaboo; although people love theirs, it didn't make sense for us. And not the designer water, which I really don't get, especially when it comes in a glass container. But the elements that make up the uniform? That's been me for, well, about 12 months now.

Her reaction was that we San Franciscans can't deviate from the norm in our mode of dress, but I think that's a pretty myopic assessment. Like NYers and Chicago-ans who complain that there's no culture here, no bar scene here (and comparatively, there isn't), that's missing the point of what people feel is important. I think people have better things to do than spend a lot of time thinking about clothes, just as bars close here because most people start thinking about how tonight is going to cut into tomorrow at about 11:30 PM. Are you really entertaining me? If the answer is no, then I'm going home to sleep, thank you because I plan to ride/hike/insert-outdoor-verb-here tomorrow. Well, at least that used to be me, pre-MZ. Now it's straight up I can't control when the baby wakes, and the babysitter will be long-gone by then.

As for the uniform, I have to say that Fashion with a capital F just doesn't interest me that much. I am highly responsive to colors and textures, but day to day, I can't be bothered to compose a visual image of style and originality. Heck, I can't be bothered to blow my hair out most days, or alternatively make the appointment to get it all chopped off so I don't feel like I need to. So, the ponytail may seem de rigueur, but mostly it's a functional way to prevent it from being pulled and to get out the door quickly during that too-brief window between Nap 1 and Nap 2.

It wasn't much different when I worked. I loved my job, but it was demanding, and like most people, I craved balance. Only so much time in the day, and shopping wasn't that stimulating to me. So a uniform of black pants, reasonably stylish but not ground-breaking shoes and a black jacket ensured that I looked professional enough for whatever came up that day but wasn't likely to find myself out in the cold in a dramatic weather change, or worse, at the gym with two different shoes, or even earrings. When is the last time I even changed my earrings? Oh, there were those great Amazonite danglies, but those got put away shortly after MZ almost yanked them out of my earlobes.

So the diamond studs do now what the black pants and shoes did pre-MZ: they ensure I don't look like the shaggy slobmama I feel like when there's not enough time for all the things I'd like to do. And if I look like I don't deviate from the norm? Consider it Garanimals for adults. We've got better things to do.


What we're reading

MZ is now fully engaged in books. Not just chewing on them, but choosing them and listening to them and exploring them on her own. According to reports from our playgroup, all the 1-year-olds love books. So I think it's worth noting what she loves these days, and to update the list from time to time. I like the idea of having a record of her reading preferences over time.

We mostly read to her when we're putting her to sleep, or when quiet time is called for. These days, we offer her two books, and let her choose. If she really likes it, when we're all done, she'll say Again. If not, she'll take it and huck it on the floor. Pretty clear.

So, her current favorites:
Peek a Who? She will choose this book over any other, almost every time. It also gets the most reliable Again vote. Good that it's short.

The Owl and the Pussycat. This is one of the first books she responded to, and none of us tire of Jan Brett's amazing tropical paradise. It's glider travel, a whole new genre.

Bear and Ball. So simple, with beautiful classic illustrations. Now that she's getting the concept of opposites and she recognizes the title subjects, this book always makes her giggle.

Good Night Moon. Maybe this is no big surprise to you, but I didn't grow up with this one and don't particularly like it (the word choice drives me nuts), so I'm surprised that she does. But there it is.

Hush Little Baby. This book is so great, it throws out the "Mama's going to buy you" concept, replacing it with "Mama's going to show you." And she likes it! Almost as much as Goodnight Moon.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider board book by Lamaze. Robert picked this up for her on his first business trip after she was born. She loves the spider that hangs off the cover, and the flaps with colorful pictures underneath.

Snugglepuppy. I thought I'd hate this, it's so cutesy. But I love to read it to her, I'm always a little disappointed now that she often chooses something else, but this used to top the list. I whisper the last page and then put her to bed. Whoever gave this to us, thank you!

Run Mouse Run. She loves the cut outs in the pages, so much better at this age than pop-up books, which she keeps ripping. And she is positively fascinated with the picture of the cat at the end (did I give away the ending?).

Moo Baa La La La. Silly fun. Surprisingly, she likes the duck more than the cat.

Peekaboo Kisses. She loves touch-and-feel books, and this is her hands-down favorite. Maybe because it starts with a cat?

Baby Touch and Feel: Quack! Quack! Her second favorite in the tactile category. Starts with a duck, ends with a cat. What more can you ask for?

So what are your babies reading these days?


Now THIS is Communication

I titled a post "Joining the conversation" several months ago, when MZ began to make sentence-like babbling, with all kinds of intonations. At the time, it really felt like she was talking with us, the way she'd interject and respond with appropriately modulated noises. None of this prepared us for the excitement we'd feel when she really started using words in context.

The girl is talking. She says Cat all the time, in addition to cats being cats, we are Cats, Grandpa is Cat, anything that deserves her approval also joins the
Family Felidae. But now she says Hi, and has transformed peek-a-boo into the "Hi" game. And she says All Done when she's finished eating or drinking. And if you don't get it, if you dare doubt that she knows what All Done means, she will take one more bite, and masticate, and then slowly dribble it down her chin with a Mona Lisa smile that makes us fight laughter while wanting to throw something while secretely cheering her on. Shy, sure maybe, but shy and crafty.

She also says bear, with no R in sight, bea-ah, so sweetly that I can't resist prompting her to say it over and over again. And ball, and okay, and on Sunday at the park, when we all came off quarantine and into the sunshine, as she was going down the steps, oh so carefully, remembering to go down backwards, she quietly told herself, Good Girl.

I'm carrying my heart in her sippy cup again.
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Denial or just plain stupid?

I was just forwarding the great "How to monitor a baby after a hard knock to the head," instructions we received in the ER after MZ took her noggin knock, when I realized why we had been sent up for a CT scan: the doc had just run through the list of stimuli and gotten no response.

Some level of shock must have prevented me from making that connection in the hours and days after her accident. I'm pretty happy I didn't make the connection right there in the room or I never could have remained calm for the scan. But oh my, the realization itself had a physical effect beyond this head cold: a visceral feeling of relief that it was not as he must have feared, that MZ is okay.

The Family that Drips Together

We interrupt our regular programming with a really bad head cold. We will resume when the squatters leave our ears, noses and throats