Newsletter: month seventeen

Dear Ladybug,

Today you turned seventeen months old.

This month started off with a bang. Or rather, a plop. In a potty. Your potty. You’re potty-trained!

Well, no, not really. But you do have your own potty chair now, and you have used it correctly a couple of times.

I wasn’t planning on engaging in that particular activity with you for some time, but your mother figured that if you were so determined to sit it out with us whenever we visited the john, you ought to at least have a toilet to sit on. She went over to Target and bought you a little plastic potty chair and set it down in the bathroom next to the big potty. At first you simply sat on it and waited patiently as we went about our business, but after a couple of days you figured out the purpose of the big hole in the middle of the seat and — voila! — your mom and I were congratulating ourselves on another parenting mission accomplished.

Oddly enough, however, in the weeks since, you’ve decided that you like your little plastic potty throne so much that it would be a disgrace to deface it, and so, while you constantly demand to be de-diapered* and taken to your potty, you merely sit atop it, happily kicking your legs and lovingly patting the toilet seat as you beg its forgiveness for the nasty, ghastly thing you did to it earlier in the month. And after a few minutes, you signal that you’re finished, whereupon I re-diaper and clothe you and you reciprocate by signing “thank you” and promptly dumping a massive stinking turd in your diapers before walking out of the bathroom.

* You signify that you want to go potty by signing potty and, should I be too thick to get the hint, saying “Diaper” whiling tugging at your britches. Of course, you can’t quite say Diaper correctly yet; instead, it comes out Dah-dah. I merely bring this up to point out that your mother is now not the only female in the family to identify me with poo. Thanks.

Paradoxically, while you are becoming more daring with finding means to get food out of you, it has become progressively more difficult getting it in to you in the first place. You’ve become a particularly finicky eater this month. I blame it on grandparents — while we were in Hawaii, they catered to your every whim. Of course, at the time, your every whim was “french fries,” or fruh fruhs, as you call them. Chicken nuggets and french fries. Spaghetti and french fries. Pineapples and french fries. Ice cream topped with french fries. French fries dipped in french fries.

Indeed, for the first three days after we returned home home from Hawaii, you actually demanded to be served french fries with every meal, refusing to eat anything else presented to you. I should also point out that you went to bed pretty damn hungry for the first three days after we returned home from Hawaii, which is apparently the time it takes for you to realize that the influence of your grandparents does not extend past a time zone. But now at least you begrudgingly eat the persistently non-french-fried meals we prepare for you, and as an additional life skill, you have perfected quite the stink-eye.

Nevertheless, there is one meal to which you look forward each day despite its continual lack of greasy rectangular solids of starch and fat: breakfast. Every morning when you wake up and I come in to fetch you from your crib, the first thing you do is stand up and announce “Muh? Muh? Muh?” while making little grabby fists with your hand. Milk it is, little girl. So we go out to the fridge, pour you a sippy cup of milk, cuddle up together on the big red armchair, and proceed watch Nicktoons together while you down your beverage. And as soon as you down your last gulp of milk, you smile, sigh, look up at me with those beautiful big brown eyes, and ask “Fruh fruh?

If nothing else, you are the world’s cutest broken record.

Given the damage the last set of grandparents did to your culinary palette, you should thank you lucky stars we let you meet any others. But this month we once again packed our bags and boarded a plane to visit grandparents, this time your Nana and Papa Shoo out in California. You pretty much remembered both of them very quickly, which was both good and bad: Nana Shoo went with us to China to fetch you and also visited you for your birthday, so you were happy to see you; Papa Shoo still had his big mustache — Oh dear God no! Facial hair! — and so you were terrified of him again. (Well, there goes that inheritance. Say buh-bye to college, kiddo.)

Actually, you bonded pretty good with Papa once he showed you how to pluck grapes right off the grape vine. Food you can get for yourself? Right outside with the rocks and toys? Not in a pantry? Heaven! Papa sealed the deal a couple days later when he not only provided you french fries to eat, but actually showed you how to build things with them using ketchup as an adhesive. It’s worth noting that, while this did nothing to assuage your persistent desire for french fries, it is significantly more entertaining you watch you first build a small city out of them before proceeding to devour it all like a diminutive Godzilla ravaging a starchified Tokyo.

During your week in California, you developed this little, pre-royal-ball-Cinderella-like domestic goddess: you’d busy yourself with wiping down tables and counter tops, mopping the hardwood floors, sweeping the patio, hermetically sealing the living room, you name it. This sudden clean-freak behavior immediately endeared you even more to your nana, a woman who, when I grew up, was known to vacuum her carpets upwards of seventeen times a day, and would threaten great bodily harm to anyone careless enough to leave footprints through her freshly vacuumed floor. This behavior also eventually irritated your parents, in that it promptly ceased the microsecond you returned home. So, on developing impressive domestic skills (thereby impressing your grandmother and possibly re-establishing an inheritance): good job! On promptly dismissing said domestic skills: what the hell? You’re grounded till you’re… like… 30 or something. Ugh.

So, while you had fun playing with the Swiffer and the Hand-vac, the real jewel of Nana and Papa’s house was, of course, the trampoline. To you, blessed as you are with an abundance of ignorance, the trampoline was pure joy made physical and stretched tight across a large circle of pipe. To me, cursed with knowledge gained from years of watching AFV, the trampoline is nothing more than a mechanical concussion accelerator, and I tried to convince this to you. Yet despite my many prognostications of irreversible brain damage, every time you saw the trampoline, you would plead “Bow? Bow? Bow?” (which we quickly determined was Ladybuglish for Bounce) over and over until you passed out from sheer asphyxiation. When we would finally acquiesce to your hyperventilated request, you would proceed to run back and forth across the trampoline, giggling in blind delight as you hurled yourself with suicidal abandon towards the edge, only to have one of your parents or grandparents push you back towards the center at the last possible moment. I can safely say that you were the unique element in the set of people who thought “the Ladybug and the trampoline are a good idea together.”

In addition to your picky eating and acquisition of new ways to almost kill yourself at play, you’ve also become an avid reader of books. Everyday you disappear into your room, only to emerge again with an armload of books that you want to read. I love reading with you, because not only do you still want to sit in my lap and cuddle as we read, but you actually seem to care about the plot lines now, and even read along with some of the books. One of your favorite books is Goodnight Moon since, despite the metaphysical nightmare it implies, you love to whisper “Hush” at the two times in the book when the old lady whispers it too. Similarly, you enjoy your Are you my mother? book, not so much for the story, but for making the various sound effects of the egg popping or the dog panting ot the Snort, well, snorting. You absolute favorite book, though, is Shoey and Dot, a story about a ladybug who stays with a little Chinese baby as she is taken to an orphanage and eventually adopted by Westerners. You avidly flip through the pages one-by-one, soaking in the pictures and, upon completion, start all over again, bursting with delight and glee that, once again, the little girl is found, fed, bathed, and adopted! I’m not sure whether this speaks more of a deep empathy to the story of the little girl or a frighten lack of short-term memory, but either way it’s awful cute to watch.

Your new found appreciation of children’s literature is only one aspect of your burgeoning creativity. You’ve also become quite the little artist. You play with finger paints and markers, drawing technicolor works of art that would have made Jackson Pollack proud. At Nana Shoo’s you discovered the joy of chalk, and would spend hours alternately drawing at the chalkboard and then erasing everything away. I’m hoping to install a chalkboard in your room when you get a little older so that (1) you have a place to explore your creativity and (2) to give you space to work on your proof of the Goldbach Conjecture. I’m still waiting, missy.

You continue to grow and develop and change and become more and more remarkable with everyday. I sure do love you, baby girl. And no, you still can’t have any fries for dinner.

Ba ba

Photo album

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

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