Newsletter: month fourteen

Today you turned 14 months old.

You continue to grow and develop into a funny, smart, and beautiful little girl. You’ve sprouted two more top teeth, bringing the grand total up to six, and you show them off all the time with your big happy smile. You continue to sign, to the point now of inventing your own signs (such as “brushing your teeth,” which you indicate by twisting your index finger inside your mouth). You like to play and laugh. It’s hard to believe that just over six months ago we’d never met; now I don’t know what I’d do without you.

Your fourteenth month started off with a bang — or rather, a crack — as your fractured your left collarbone. You were climbing up onto the couch but slipped and landed hard on the place where the carpet meets the tile. At the time you walked it off with a couple of tears, but over the next few days it became obvious you were favoring your right side, so I took you into the doctor yet again, where a quick X-ray showed the fracture. The doctor said there wasn’t anything to do for it but let it heal on its own and to keep you from climbing up on things until then. “Doc,” I explained, “if I could keep her from climbing up on stuff to begin with, she would have less fractured bones and I would have a lot more hair.”

On one hand, I felt so terrible about your busted bone. While both the doctor and your mom assured me it wasn’t anybody’s fault, I felt rotten that I first was unable to keep you from falling and now unable to fix your hurt. On the other hand, a fractured collarbone was just the ticket to keep you further pursuing your arboreal existence, which was such a blissful relief for my nerves. I think doctors should provide humane collarbone-cracks for those children, like you, who posses a dangerous lack of both acrophobia and common sense.

Fortunately for everyone, within a week you showed no signs of injury, and were back to happily scaling the fridge and juggling steak knives with your toes in no time. It occurred to me that if you were going to be this hell-bent on breaking your bones, you at least ought to do it away from our expensive appliances and cutlery and whatnot, so you and I have played outside just about every day this month. You just love it. Perhaps it’s your sub-tropical Guizhou genetics, but you adore the sun and sky and clouds and grass and rocks and mud. I frequently plunk you out in the backyard, where you wander through the grass looking for rocks and dogs and, when you assume no one is watching, eating dirt.

As the squalid confines of your home are not enough to contain you, we also play at some of the parks around the house, where you marvel at the massive plastic play areas with unabashed glee. You’re a big fan of playground “rocking horses,” those plastic saddled animal effigies mounted to big springs. You climb up on them and then impatiently wait for me to saddle up behind you and rock them, since you’re still a little too short to rock on the thing yourself. The first time we did this, I hummed out the theme to Bonanza! as you rode to add some excitement; now I am required to do so, lest you throw a fit at the pointlessness of an oscillatory experience without a soundtrack.

However, your absolute favorite thing at the park are the slides, which has revealed to me that you are either exceptionally brave or exceptionally stupid, or some suicidal combination of the two. You like nothing more than to find the highest, most rickety plastic deathtrap at the playground, and then to climb to the top of it and throw yourself off with reckless abandon. At one park, the slide lies at the end of some kind of MXC obstacle course — a ramp to climb, a wall to scale, a wobbly bridge to cross — as if the playground was designed less by Ronald McDonald and more by Indiana Jones. Without fail, you race to the top of the slide and then leap face-first down it, operating under the assumption that I will catch you before you fly off the end of the slide and break some other part of your endoskeleton. This assumption has proven false on a few occasions, resulting in some wicked faceplants on your part. (Of course, given your dirt-eating proclivities, perhaps was the point all along.)

This month you discovered that books, rather than being the high-fiber snack food you’ve been munching away on previously, can actually be read to produce stories, and this must be my favorite new activity with you. You will bring me a book to me and, once I’m suitably sitting on the ground, will turn around a walk backwards into my lap to sit and read with me, like the world’s cutest sixteen-wheeler backing in for a delivery. Reading stories is a two-person job: I sound out the words and narrate the plot; you turn the pages and point out all the pictures you know signs for.

As a side note, after many books I’ve discovered that you divide the animal kingdom into four distinct subclasses of creatures. There are birds, which includes any feathered, avian animal. There are fish, which includes any scaly, gilled aquatic animal. There are bears, which includes any largish ursine mammal. And then there are dogs, which includes pretty much anything else: cats, horses, cows, sea lions, turtles, and (of course) the occasional canine. The upshot of this is that signing Old McDonald’s Farm with you is exceedingly boring.

In fact, you’ve very much become Daddy’s little girl. In the morning, we sit together and watch non-Dora cartoons on Nickelodeon; in the evening, we play in the bath with your toy turtles and ladybugs. When I go outside to take out the trash or turn water the yard, you wait at the back doorway for me to return, peeking your pig-tailed head through the screen and waving at me when you see me. We crawl all over the house playing, clanking away with blocks or playing tag or having tickling wars. You will never know how much I love playing with you, little Ladybug. I love giving you kisses and tickling your sides till you explode in your little cackles of laughter, or lying down with you resting on my tummy. When we were in China, things were much different — you were so much Mommy’s little baby that you’d chew through your own arm rather than be held by me — so this has been a welcome change for me.

Well, almost. In addition to lots of playing and reading together, you’ve taken a fascination to hanging out when I’m on the toilet. Your doctor said it was about time we start letting you watch us “go potty” to help ease your eventual toilet training, so, while I haven’t exactly invited you in, I’ve left the bathroom door open when I need to go. I’m not exactly sure what you’re supposed to learn by it, but having someone watch me intently while mimicking my every grunt or deep breath has been a such humbling learning experience for me that I’m currently considering keeping you in diapers forever just to bypass it.

This month also marked the six-month anniversary of Gotcha Day, the day we finally became a family. (In fact, this day coincided with Mother’s Day, so while your mom complains that I get all your lovin’ lately, the universe is still apparently rooting for her.) We celebrated by heading over to the park to take some family pictures. In point of fact, the pictures were actually for your big six-month visit with the social worker on Monday, who, assuming all goes well and she doesn’t discover the infant-powered textile mill we run from our basement, will give us the A-OK to re-adopt you.

Yes, we get the option to adopt you again. Where by “option” I mean “are required to by the state of South Dakota, since the previous two years of persistence and paperwork filed with two different adoption agencies in two different countries is insufficient to prove we love you,” and by “get” I mean “pay an assload of money to have a lawyer to do it.”

You enjoyed taking family pictures slightly less than having your face eaten off by a swarm of fire ants, and so you cried and squirmed and whined through just about every picture. If a third-party were to see only pictures of you taken today, they might reasonably I adopted a giant whining mouth topped with a bow. Heck, the only way we could keep your head from exploding with frustration was to blow bubbles at you all day, which delighted you as you tried to eat them and delighted me at the realization that, like it or not, you were getting your mouth washed out with soap. Sucker!

We also fished through our many older pictures of you for the social worker, and we marveled about how much you’ve grown and changed in just half a year. Your mother, who is much better at Photoshop than I’ll ever be, put together some comparison pictures that she posted on her blog but which I will steal and post here to:

I love you, Ladybug. Then, and now.

Ba ba

Photo album

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

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