|Mommy and baby selfie|
AJ continues to expand her vocabulary. The words we hear lately: Mama, Dada (it can mean daddy but also seems to mean other things she likes), ba (usually means lights or pictures, which she's kind of obsessed with), ba-ga-ba (banana), cookie, cracker, book, kittee cat, good girl, bye bye, car (which she pronounces as "cah," like she's from Boston), bwah (bread, a current favourite), orange, hi, book, and dirt. The last is AJ's new favourite. She likes to crawl about on the floor and pick up gunk and try to eat it (yeah, I should probably vacuum more often. I'm trying, OK.). I chase after her and take the dirt out of her hand or sometimes mouth, if she's been really fast. AJ thinks this is hilarious and will do it on purpose for laughs. I will usually say "No eating dirt!" A couple of weeks ago AJ make the connection between the word and item and proceeded to crawl about saying, "Dirt, dirt!" This was the most fun ever until she sort of fell off the step (more on that below). Lately, AJ seems to have decided that it's almost as fun to give the dirt to mommy or daddy instead of eating it, which we appreciate a lot.
In addition to the words with recognizable meaning, AJ is saying a whole lot of other baby words and syllables. A favourite is bukka-bukka-bukka. She knows the letter "S" and the sound it makes. I guess reading all those alphabet books over and over again (at her insistence, not mine!) caused something to stick. She also makes what are obviously requests or questions, although they are not exactly in English. But there are right and wrong answers because if she doesn't get the response she wants she lets us know.
AJ continues to form and express her preferences, which increasing conviction and sometimes drama. She will now choose between two foods (e.g. orange and banana). If she puts something in her mouth she doesn't like, she'll spit it out. If it passes the first test, she'll make what we call her "food critic face." This is a small frown combined with a slow chew. If she approves, the frown goes away and she chews and swallows with a smile while muttering "nom nom nom".
When AJ sees something she wants, she will wave, clap her hands, squeal and giggle with excitement. This is insanely cute, and means she mostly gets what she wants when she wants it. She continues to eat pretty well, although is more choosy now and will go through phases of liking something for several days, and then not caring about it anymore. AJ is more aware of what foods we have in the house: if she spots bread or a muffin in the fridge or on the table, then forget about offering anything else until she has some of that. At least we can bribe her to sit in the highchair with a bit of bread, and then she might consent to eat something else as well.
We have finally mastered the art of banana pancakes: one egg, one banana, mush together and fry. Doesn't sound complicated, but I made all kinds of messes until discovering the secret: not too much banana, vegetable oil not olive oil (less smoke in the kitchen), and low-ish heat. Because the pancakes are sweet and have the bready texture which is what AJ prefers, she just gobbles them up, getting protein along with the carbs she adores. I make them baby-sized so she can eat them like a cookie.
I am still breastfeeding, but only before bedtime now. Over the last two weeks AJ started losing interest in her morning breastfeeds. I already knew we could cut them out and she'd be fine, but it's only for the past week or two that we've left them out. She's perfectly happy now with regular food for breakfast. One less thing to worry about for our morning routine.
AJ is also more physical in expressing her likes and dislikes. She's started arching her back and howling if she doesn't want to sit in highchair or car seat and you know.....there's really no way to get her into either if she's doing that. The other day she arched her back in the car seat and we kinda sat there, staring while she made like a bridge.
Luckily for our plans, she did eventually consent to sit in the car seat, and then was perfectly happy. But, well, we are at the end of the easy just-pick-up-baby-and-go phase. Can't really complain; I'm sure it's lasted longer for us than many families as AJ is not in a rush to walk.
AJ is starting to understand "Yes" and "No," though it's still mostly a game to her. We nod and shake our heads at each other, saying "Yes yes yes yes yes?" and "No no no no no!" (playful, not in a disciplinary context). If AJ is doing something that is not safe or desired (e.g. playing with an electrical cord, banging on glass) I try "No no no no no" with her and head shaking. She actually will often stop doing the thing to play the "no no no no no" game, and if she doesn't crawl away herself and start doing something else, will usually allow herself to be redirected. Or she will look to a parent to play the "no no no" game. So it's not something she takes really seriously, but she is getting the concept. Of course, there are times when she is thwarted and she knows it, and then she howls in protest, but not usually for more than half a minute.
AJ hands toys and food items food back and forth. She will play alone but is also increasingly interactive in her play. She likes to choose a book and hold it out to us to read to her. She got a ton of new books for Christmas which is a secret relief for her parents. I tucked some of her old favourites that we are thoroughly sick of reading away in a drawer and stocked her boxes with new books. AJ's favourite toys are little ones she can hold in her hands, and she likes to crawl while holding items in her hands. The Kittees are still favourites, but she also likes the dolls from her Little People dollhouse and the animals from her new Little People Noah's Ark (thanks grandparents!) She also likes her Mega Bloks and is able to stick them together and pull them apart. She even made a two colour pattern the other day.
AJ crawls with speed and energy. Until Christmastime she didn't show much interest in walking or even pulling up to her feet, though she "walks" short distances on her knees. She had even started refusing to walk while being held under the armpits, which she used to love. However, AJ has developed an interest in climbing on things. Our basement stairs have two steps up to a landing, and she started by climbing these two steps onto the landing, and quickly learning to climb back down. AJ would climb up the stairs and down the stairs over and over for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, looking for dirt on the floor in between (see above). Of course we are always there to catch her if she takes a tumble, which happens surprisingly rarely. She had to extend her legs fully to climb a step, and in doing started to realize that she can stand.
|Hmmm, let's stretch these legs|
|Playing under the Christmas tree|
AJ thrived on the new environment and all the attention. Her accomplishments included adding more words to her vocabulary, increasing her social interaction, and getting better at stair climbing and standing. She actually pull/pushed up to standing at furniture at few times which is something she has not been interested in previously. Of course it didn't take her long to discover the stairs, and after a lot of up and down the first three steps, she got confident enough to go almost to the top (always with a spotter, of course). She also pulled herself to standing several times on the steps; of course she had to choose the most dangerous place possible to practice that skill.
|Brief though memorable meeting|
AJ also met "Santa" this Christmas. Since I am ambivalent about Santa Claus and adverse to crowds and chaos, taking AJ to "meet Santa" has not been at the top of our priority list. "Santa" came to her daycare party but AJ was having none of him. She refused to leave my arms, screaming even when Mr. Turtle tried to hold her (very unusual). None of the other babies or toddlers wanted to sit with Santa either; every single one screamed or cried, which I think is proof that babies have good survival instincts. The city in Michigan where we visited has a "Santa House" that is a huge attraction (it's where Santa Clauses in training go, and it's fully of sparkly things from what I could see through the windows). However, there was a line around the block to get in. Not. Happening. I had given up on the idea of having a picture with Santa, without much regret.
However, on Christmas Eve my MIL made a point of setting out "milk and cookies for Santa". I thought they'd be stale by midnight, and what a waste of good cookies. But lo and behold, a few minutes later the doorbell rings and it is.....Santa and Mrs. Claus! Ho ho ho, in they come. Mr. Turtle and I grabbed cameras and stood around awkwardly, almost as nonplussed as AJ. Santa and Mrs. Claus made small talk about reindeer and his sled, which was having some difficulty due to the complete lack of snow. AJ was very quiet and cautious, but she consented to sit on Santa's knee, and stared at the present he brought her like it might blow up at any second.
|Meeting Santa. He's not a kittee, so I'm really not sure how I feel about this.|
Anyway, there you go, we have the customary photos after all, and taken in the most relaxed and accommodating manner possible. And the story behind Santa and Mrs. Claus is very sweet. They are an older couple who are patients at my MIL's acupuncture clinic. They have no children, but were always very involved with their nieces and nephews, and started playing Santa and Mrs. Claus some years back at a local shopping centre. The nieces and nephews are now starting to have kids, so they get to be the Clauses for them. After hearing that AJ was coming to visit, Santa offered to make a house call. This is just one example of the great relationship my MIL has with her patients: among the presents for AJ that filled an entire suitcase, many were made or bought by patients for their acupuncturist's granddaughter.
In summary, it has been a Christmas of mixed emotions, and a bitterly painful one for my mom and dad, in particular. As for me, I feel the sorrow and fear, but it also opens my heart to the joy and blessings that animate our lives. I try to live in a state of radical acceptance, being open to everything and every feeling, trying not to filter or judge or rationalize. I won't say I succeed all the time, and sometimes everything just seems....hard. But I don't think I would have been capable of such acceptance before becoming a mom to AJ. If there is one question that echoes in my thoughts each and every day, it's the one posed by Mary Oliver:
what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”