Newsletter: month thirtheen

Dear Ladybug,

Yesterday you turned thirteen months old!

I know, I know… Last month I pontificated on how fabulous your life was now that it could be measured by whole years, but when push comes to shove, an age of “thirteen months” has far more aesthetic appeal than equally true “1.083” years, so you’re back to months again sweetie. Sorry.

You continue to grow and develop at a frightening rate. Not only has your walking improved, but you’ve been honing your ability to scale sheer vertical walls and dismantle all of our childproofing equipment. It’s like we adopted the offspring of Spider-Man and Lex Luthor. Your current favorite activity involves climbing up onto the couch and then flinging yourself from its arm to either your high chair on one side or the recliner on the other, a feat demonstrating your abilities to both command complex motor movements and flagrantly ignore my panic-stricken voice (“No! Stop! Stopstopstopstop!“).

This isn’t to say that conversations with you are always so one-sided. You are becoming more conversant with your sign-language vocabulary, frequently making specific eating or drinking requests, and demonstrating new signs each week. On the one hand, it is wonderful that you can tell me exactly what you want, without resorting to tantrums; on the other hand, it is maddening that you can tell me exactly what you want, since every conversation I have with you follows the exact same lines:

Me: Hi baby girl! What would you like to do?

You: Bananas. [Taps her two upright index fingers together repeatedly.]

Me: No bananas. You just ate a whole banana, like, a half hour ago.

You: Crackers. [Raps her right fist onto her left forearm.]

Me: No crackers either. You just ate. No more food.

You: Cheese. [Rubs her two palms together.]

Me: No cheese. No food. You just ate.

You: Cookies. [Taps her left palm with her right index finger.]

Me: No cookies. No food. All done. Finished. No more food, okay?

You: [Giggles.]

Me: Good. So what would you like to do?

You: Bananas.

…and so on.

Your total number of teeth doubled this month, so that you now have a whopping four of ’em in your head: two mammoth ones up top, and two skinny ones on the bottom. You still have your adorable lop-sided smile, although I realize now that it’s caused less by the cute asymmetry of your first two teeth and more by a charming misalignment of your jaw that promises to deplete your college fund in a future effort to fix.

Your doctor says that since you’re a year old and have teeth, we need to start weaning you off of your bottle, a suggestion to which you haven’t responded very well yet:

Being the first month you were officially older than 1 year, your mom decided that it was high time we enacted upon the parental rite of annual photographic documentation of the brood (viz. you), so we headed down to the Sears Portrait Center with high hopes and fourteen different costume changes for your first professional portraits. Here are three of my favorites.

(1) You as The Ladybug, sporting both the dress you wore in China and the plastic bling you picked up stateside:

(2) You covered in ladybugs and sporting a prosthetic leg made out of stone:

(3) You shrunk down to the size of a ladybug, despite the scientific impossibility such dimunization implies:

You experienced your first Easter this month. The highlight for me was your first Easter egg hunt. We signed you up for an infants-only affair held at Storybook Island, a local park perpetually decorated with life-sized sculptures of nursery rhyme characters and the minions of Satan. Your mom spent the week prior obsessively drilling you on graciously teaching you about the finer skills of plastic-egg detection and storage, including various techniques to incapacitate other infants should they interfere, since nothing demonstrates Christlike love more than the willingness to clothesline other kids for their stockpile of sour tarts and peanut-butter eggs.

The hunt itself was a little surreal. The entire park was still covered in winter snow, with the Easter eggs, in a strange South Dakota definition of the word “hidden” with which I was previously unaware, placed conspicuously in plain sight in a large flat field directly on top of the snow. At the blast of an airhorn, hundreds of children carrying ridiculously large baskets converged on it in what I can only describe as (ironically enough for a Christian holiday) a full-on pint-sized demonstration of Darwinian natural selection. Fortunately for you, mom’s combat training paid off: not only did you make out on candy like it was Halloween, one of your eggs had prize ticket that we redeemed for, in an homage to the imminent onset of spring, ginormous replica of hollyhock pollen.

You also started daycare this month. Your mom and I figured it was about time to expose you to other children, to help develop both your social skills and immunological responses; plus, her “parental leave” expired and she had to go back to work. You go to the little “Clubhouse” at my campus, which is convenient for me, since I can now visit you any time during the day, and convenient for mommy, since she doesn’t have to endure the guilt of leaving you there.

And man, do you ooze guilt. Getting you up and ready for daycare isn’t too troubling: at six in the morning, you’re still too tired and sufficiently unmilkified to determine what’s happening. However, by the time we walk through the doors of the Clubhouse, you’ve grabbed on to my leg with vice-grip hands and have cemented yourself there like a barnacle to a ship’s hull. When it invariably comes time for me to leave, the staff pries you off with a tire iron as you sob and cry, the end result of which is that I leave with nothing but guilt and little hand shaped bruises on my calves.

Daycare has been a learning experience for both of us. For example, you’ve learned how to interact with your new friends in the One-Year-Old Room (such as Boy-Who-Can-Only-Say-“Car” and Girl-With-A-Hagfish-Up-Her-Nose) and the basic functionality of a spoon, although the finer mechanics of the food-onto-spoon or spoon-into-mouth operations still elude you.

I, on the other hand, have learned that daycare is perhaps not the best place to wear new clothes, a lesson impressed when I dressed you in a pair of brand new jumpers the very same day that you had chocolate cupcakes for snack and played outside in the dirt. (Coincidentally, that very same day I also discovered that your mother can, in moments of anger, shoot laser beams from her eyes and rip the heads off of small animals.) On a related note, I now send you to daycare wrapped in a burlap sack.

One of the other things you picked up from daycare was the plague. Shortly after you started daycare, you would wake up oozing with boogers and running a fever so high it melted your bedding and set your crib on fire. We took you to the doctor, who decided to test for virus in your boogers. She hooked you up to the booger-sucking-machine, a device that looked and sounded an awful lot like the truck from The Duel; and then it all went downhill. Before this, you would smile and play with the doctor and the nurses as they took your temperature and felt up your lymph nodes; since this, you break down in tears when someone remotely resembling a nurse comes into your line of sight. Unfortunately for us, the test came back inconclusive, which began a week’s worth of experiments, blood draws, shots, and lab work as they tried (unsuccessfully) to diagnose the cause; it was like an episode of House, except without the witty dialog and 60-minute resolution.

Finally the doctors were able to diagnose you with a “walking pneumonia,” a strain so ornery that it resisted every antibiotic they spent the previous week shooting you up with. They finally gave you a shot of a something they called “Rocephin” but I would have mistaken for “Battery Acid,” which apparently kills bacterial infections by chemically incinerating one’s internal organs. Fortunately, the hollowed-out shell of you they gave me back is slowly recovering, thanks partly to TLC from mommy and me, but mostly from daily dosages of chocolate-covered eggs from your Easter stockpile.

Get better soon, Lovebug.

Ba ba

Photo album

See more pictures from your thirteenth month of existence over at Flickr.

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