Newsletter: month fifteen

Dear Ladybug,

Today you turned fifteen months old.

We spent the day celebrating your year-and-a-quarter milestone in your grandparents’ pool in Hawaii. We’ve only been in the state for three days, but you’ve already spent so much time in there that you’ve evolved gills and flippers. I assume by the time we return to South Dakota that we’ll have to keep you in a big glass bowl and feed you fish flakes. You don’t know how to swim, of course, so your mom and I have been there to help keep you afloat and to work you through the motions of kick-kick-kick your legs and don’t-don’t-don’t breathe water. The floating part is actually pretty easy, since your mom bought you a bathing suit with blocks of foam sewn into it, a hot pink affair that resembles a WWII flak jacket for the 134th Fabulously Gay division.

The pool is shaped like giant kidney, which is fitting since everything you do in the pool scares the pee out of me. You jump off the sides, you slip off the stairs, you giggle and splash and capsize yourself on a regular basis. In fact, the only thing that seems to faze you much is the sudden sting of chlorine in your eyes. I’m doing my best to keep this from happening, because I enjoy the heavenly sound of your laughter and the twinkle in your happy eyes. Your mother, on the other hand, seems insistent on dunking you under the water every chance she gets; she claims she’s trying to get you ready to swim and snorkel in the ocean, but I suspect she just likes the eardrum-shattering shriek of your cries and the twinkle in the tears from your freshly chlorinated eyes.

You actually cry a lot anymore. Not because your frustrated that you can’t communicate with us — you can through signing — but rather because we will not acquiesce to your every whim and desire. You are prone to temperamental tantrums if, for example, your morning juice isn’t chilled to exactly 38 degrees, or your banana is one-quarter of an inch too long, or the sky is just the wrong shade of blue. (As if!) You are now in full-fledged boundary-testing mode, seeing just how many times we’ll say “No!” before there are consequences. “Consequences” currently consist of either a smart rap on the hand or a “time-out” in your crib (sans toys, sans bottle, sans parents) for two minutes. Unfortunately, neither of these seem to have any deterring effect, so I’m thinking of changing to military school or a cattle prod.

Yes, my little Ladybug, you’ve definitely got personality. At fifteen months old, you act much more like a fifteen year old instead: perpetually flirty, constantly chattering, always on the phone, and (as indicated) prone to hissy-fits. Both your mother and I agree that you are no longer a baby, but now a little girl. Heck, we even had to switch both your car seats to the “forward” orientation, so you can look out all the windows and give “backseat driver” directions with authority. Wherever you go, you are constantly the center of attention, waving hellos and blowing kisses at strangers and then, when they come to see you, playfully hiding and smiling or batting your eyelashes. You’ve mastered “coy peek-a-boo,” whereby you smile, bury your face in your hands and then, pow, explode with outstretched arms and big grin. Yes Mr. DeMille, she is ready for her close-up.

You’ve also learned to give real kisses — well, more like wet lips puckered into a silent “ooooooo” — on the cheeks of family and friends as well, to everyone’s delight. This is precisely the kind of behavior that, should it continue until you are actually fifteen years old, that will lead to me to requiring any boy you bring home to sign something like this before I chase him off my lawn with a shotgun.

You’ve started to talk this month. It happened very suddenly: you, your mom, and I were huddled in the house, looking out the window at the onslaught of a sudden thunderstorm. Heavy drops spattered loudly against the glass, to which your mom and I, by way of explanation, said “Rain.” Your stared for a second and then, clear as a bell, repeated the word, very precisely and very slowly: “Raaaiiiinnn.” Ever since then, you’ve been a linguistic mimic, doing your best to repeat everything you hear (much to the concern of your frequently potty-mouthed parents). Some words you have mastered very well, such as “hat” and “purple;” other words are a work in progress, such as pronouncing “stop” as “bop” or “Would you pick me up please?” as “AAAIIIIHHHH!

Going hand-in-hand with your new fondness for talking is your fondness for things that talk, like the radio or the television. Or the phone. Especially the phone. Nothing fascinates you more than the magic of the telephone. My God, you love the cell phones. You love to flip them open, press the buttons, and hold on extended imaginary conversations as you walk through the house in a miniature parody of multitasking. You can’t yet say the word “phone“, so you instead invented your own sign for it because OH MY GOD YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE A PHONE! You sign phone by placing your open hand against one of your ears, like a cellphone to a stockbroker. You’re not even 2 years old, but your bond with the telephone is cemented more strongly than barnacle to a ship’s hull. Your teenage years are going to be bitch.

So, you talk and make up your own signs; as an interesting sidebar, “phone” wasn’t the first sign you invented, although that sign also involved your your nonstop motormouth. Your first sign was this: you insert your index finger deep into your throat and then rotate your hand back and forth. My initial interpretation was “I’m bulimic,” which I hoped might lead to a lucrative career in modelling, but it turns out this means “brush teeth.” It’s an activity you delight in, signing brush teeth upwards of EIGHT-HUNDRED TIMES PER MINUTE. You’ve got seven teeth now (four up front on top, two on bottom, and one lone molar way in the back), and I started brushing them for you using this plastic bristled thimble thing I insert over my finger. Unfortunately, your natural response to someone thrusting their finger in your face is to bite it off, and after the third digital amputation I decided to get you your own toothbrush. You adore the thing, but whenever I give it to you, you simply insert it in the side of your mouth and spin it over and over again. Your teeth are a mess, but the inside of your cheeks are the envy of the neighborhood.

Thankfully, you’re not all grown up yet. You still cuddle in the morning when I rouse you from the crib, and sit snuggled in my lap to watch morning cartoons. You’ve discovered the fun of playing with toys, especially your Hawaiian “Humpty Dumpty” doll your Nana gave you at Christmas. You still act like Daddy’s little girl, whining for me to pick you up, and then giggly and burrowing yourself into my shoulder when I do. I love that you seem to be so happy and joyful and just a little bit rebellious. I love that, even though you use them everyday, you still can’t figure out how to get food onto a spoon and then into your mouth. I love that, even though you run and walk everywhere you go, you’re still a little wobbly and pigeon-toed. I love that you are my little daughter.

Good night, little Ladybug. Sweet dreams, pumpkin.

— Ba ba

Photo album

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

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