Power of babble

It seems like yesterday that Maddi did nothing but eat, sleep, poop and offer up the occasional smile. Much to my ever-increasing dismay, our wee girl just grows up more and more quickly. In recent weeks, she’s been sitting with minimal support, working on her one-handed motor skills, and grabbing and attempting to drink from the cup we use to rinse her in the bath.

And most importantly, she’s honing her verbal proficiency. Chris and I were so excited when (in addition to bleating like a lamb while passing gas) Maddi started saying “ah-goo” at barely a month old — a skill “What to Expect” told us not to expect until she was four months old. Alas, as with most parents who fancy themselves the progenitors of genii, our early hopes were quickly dashed when Maddi failed to begin uttering grammatically impeccable sentences full of five-syllable words by her third month. Week after week went by, and still Maddi failed to tire of “ah-goo,” “glurhh,” “ah-ba” and the ever-popular raspberry.

But finally, our little prodigy has tired of these childish utterings and has moved on to bigger and better things (proving once and for all that our baby, is as we suspected, a future prizewinner of the Pulitzer or Nobel variety — we’re not picky!).

First there was “ahh-oooh,” right on time sometime between months two and three. And we’re not sure when she’s supposed to say them, because they’re not in any infant-development literature I’ve read so far, but our exceptional offspring is now coming forth with such verbal gems as, “moo-moo,” “boo-boo,” “doo-doo” and “doo-boo.” And just when you think she’s going to say “moo-moo” or “boo-boo” again, she comes up with “lala,” “momo” and “bobo.” Brilliant! Brilliant, I say!

Some babies her age may be inadvertently saying the names of their parents, but not Maddi! Our wee one is telling us what the cow says, pointing out injuries and dirty diapers, and telling us in Korean that she would like some tofu. Yes, it is certain that we have a great mind in our midst.

But being a renaissance baby doesn’t come easy. Little Mozart had to learn to play the piano before composing his operas and concertos. Little Da Vinci had to hit the sketchbook long and hard before conceiving “The Last Supper” and immortalising “Mona Lisa.” In order to attain her amazing verbal feats, wee Maddux spends hours practicing her oratorial skills. From the crib, late at night, we can hear our wee one saying “moo-moo-moo.” While eating, she often pauses, wide-eyed, to utter a thankful “boo-boo-boo.”

And today, while riding in the car, Chris and I were treated to a performance of … well, we’re not sure what it was. The closest thing to which we could approximate it was a tiny, high-pitched bear growling contentedly. Still, what parents can boast that their baby, just shy of five months, has approximated not one but TWO animal noises?

So far, she hasn’t yet asked for her dinner in a complete, well-composed sentence. But, clearly, it is only a matter of time!

And here she is: Our 21-week old wunderkind, who is clearly (and we’re not just saying this because we’re her proud parents) the most intelligent baby on the planet. (So smart is our wee one, in fact, that she quickly tired of her shiny new high chair when she realized that, unlike the others at the table, she had nothing to eat.) Her newest trick, which we noticed tonight, is smiling whenever we pull out the camera, no matter how tired and crabby she was 2 seconds earlier. I think she realizes that when the shiny box comes out, Mommy will soon be making silly faces and saying “Boogie-boogie-boo!” — and it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that is high comedy right there.

Growing Pains

One of the great joys of having a baby is picking out his or her tiny clothes. Some of the fondest memories I’ve ever forged were those of Chris and myself giddily shopping for all things pink the week we found out we were having a little girl. There is something so exciting about choosing tiny shoes and wee sleepers and postage stamp-size blankets for one’s highly anticipated baby.

Of course, shopping for a baby once it’s arrived is fun too, but it’s usually done on a minimum of sleep — and often while the baby is clad in her last clean onesie because your estimate of how many outfits a baby needs was made without factoring in that baby’s ability to have 12 diaper explosions per day. The bliss of wandering about with one’s partner, filled with hope and love and an aching desire to do something — anything — to feel nearer to that baby who’s nestled so close and yet so far away, is impossible to completely recapture once that baby has entered the world.

But however wonderful it is to bring that baby home and dress him or her in all the tiny, wonderful outfits you and your beloved have chosen, the day will come when those outfits start to fit your baby like sausage casings. Soon, those adorable little togs will unsnap at the crotch when the wee one kicks or rolls over. And eventually, as we found out the other day, the straps on the tiny overalls — in which baby once swam — will no longer reach the buttons.

It was sad, to be sure, when Maddi’s tiny Gerber newborn sleepers grew too small. But they’re meant, after all, to be worn home from the hospital. Now, however, much of her 0-3 month wardrobe is ready for storage.

To accommodate her growing cache of 6-9 month clothing, I finally (and reluctantly) culled all the outgrown clothing from her dresser, closet and diaper bag. Little sleepers that strain at the snaps, pants that end at her knees and onesies that fit like a second skin — so many clothes, and so many memories. Some were worn once or twice; others — like the little chick outfit Chris bought me for my birthday (just a week before Maddi arrived) or her pink-and-white striped OshKosh overalls we bought before we knew for sure she was even a girl — were worn whenever they were clean and we had something bearing the faintest resemblance of an “occasion” to dress her up for (yes, that would be grocery shopping!).

It’s bad enough that our newborn is gone forever; now I have to pack up all those sweet memories for good, as well. Although I’ve got all those tiny clothes washed and set aside, I haven’t found a box or bin in which to put them. To be quite frank, I’m not looking forward to the task. I know there’s no way our little girl will fit in her pink-and-white polka-dotted sleeper, but it’s so hard to say goodbye after spending so many days holding my warm sleeping newborn who just happened to be wearing those cute little pajamas.

Hate it as I may, at some point I’ve got to put all those tiny outfits in storage. And soon enough, the same fate will befall Maddi’s 3-6 month clothes, which grow more snug by the day.

I try to tell myself that she will wear new outfits and make new memories, but that was cold comfort this afternoon as I packed her old clothes into the closet and made a mental note to find a wee bin in which to store them for the next baby. There are a lot of things that get lost in the chaos of everyday life with a young baby, the least of which is the fact that those days are oh-so-fleeting. As much as I try to live every day enjoying Maddi to the fullest, when I pack up my memories of a younger baby, I wind up feeling that I’ve let those days fly by without savoring them quite as much as I should have.

And here’s a picture of little Maddi, who, at 20 weeks old, no longer wears wee precious newborn clothes but instead wears pony shirts, like her daddy (you can just imagine the tears I will shed when this number goes into storage!):

Food for thought

One of Maddi’s first “life lessons” apparently will be delayed gratification. You see, while Maddi is intensely interested in food, she will not be getting any until she is six months old.

Of course, we can’t stop the baby from dreaming.

In the past few weeks, I’ve observed Maddi staring in wonderment at whatever tasty treats I manage to consume with her in tow. For awhile, she’s been eying such diverse foodstuffs as burritos, granola, tortellini and barbecued chicken, but only with the vague interest that she might afford a dog or a stranger at the mall.

But a few days ago, I poured myself a glass of bright-orange V8 Splash and downed it in front of her. Maybe it was the bright color, or maybe it’s just Maddi’s time to become interested in food. Either way, our wee one was riveted. Her eyes followed the cup as I brought it to my mouth and back down. “Mommy is eating,” I told her, just as I tell her when she’s about to eat, or when the cats are eating. Maddi looked at me wide-eyed, then burst into gales of uproarious laughter. As I finished my drink, she continued to stare at the glass and laugh.

Ever since that day, Maddi has stared obsessively at me every time I ingest food or drink. She ogles cinnamon rolls and gazes in rapture at brightly-colored salmon maki. She smiles knowingly as I shovel in pasta. Occasionally, as she is intently eyeballing a drink, she will reach out and pat the cup.

She loves being at the dinner table. If she’s taken her naps, she will sit in someone’s lap smiling at everyone as they eat this amazing stuff they call food. She hasn’t tried to swipe any food — yet. It is just a matter of time, however, before food ogling escalates into food grabbing and, perhaps, even food mouthing.

Alas, it is not to be, sweet Maddi. Not until November 6.

This next two months may prove very frustrating indeed for our little gourmand, who never met a food source she didn’t like. It’s not like we can even tell her “It’s for your own good,” because, frankly, we’re not even sure she understands “Hi” yet (although that doesn’t stop her from trying to say it!).

No, our darling daughter will have to figure out for herself that good things come to those who wait. (Let’s just hope she thinks strained squash is good.)

And here is Maddi at 19 weeks old, clearly getting quite enough nourishment without sushi or V8:

The cutie that never sleeps

Ever since we’ve incorporated a routine, Maddi’s schedule has become very predictable.

At 7 a.m., you can count on her waking up. Sometime in the 9 p.m. hour, Maddi will be laid in her crib and, within minutes, fall into blissful slumber. She has regular meals — if you come calling around 10 a.m., for instance, our daughter will be indisposed. You can even count on a dirty diaper every day about noon (unfortunately, you can also count on several random “bonus” diapers).

And each day from 2:30 to 3:30 and 5:30 to 6:30, you can rely on Maddi to NOT be napping.

Now, these are her scheduled nap times. In fact, they were scheduled by Maddi herself. At approximately 3 and 6 every afternoon, Maddi becomes cranky and her little eyes begin to grow red with sleep. So I pre-emtively begin rocking and singing while she is still happy, to avoid having to put an overtired baby to sleep. Alas, whether she is tired or not when the naptime ritual begins, there is one thing Maddi also wants to avoid at all costs, and that is her nap.

You see, Maddi is a very social baby. She would much rather be part of the excitement, even if the part she contributes is the screaming.

Clawing furiously at her purple-rimmed eyes all the while, Maddi routinely manages to stay completely awake through not one but both of her naps, assuring that she misses not one moment of fun. And what fun it is!

Because whatever oh-so-thrilling activity we may be doing, within five minutes it becomes familiar enough to cause boredom, and the boredom leads to sleepiness. And the sleepiness leads to the intense need to not fall asleep (this is VERY important to her), and that means that she must go on to a new activity.

Rocking with Mommy won’t do, so she takes a ride in the sling. Pretty soon, that threatens to lull her to sleep, so she arches her back in an attempt to propel herself out of the pouch and into something that will keep her more alert — like her floor gym. Alas, the floor gym involves lying down, which is also done during — you guessed it! — sleep. Such a nice comfy position … we can’t have that!

At this point, Mommy is probably hungry and losing it, so on to the table, where Maddi will sit in a lap just long enough for the lap’s owner to settle down for dinner. Then, it’s too comfortable. Time to stand and bounce! Perhaps some maniacal screeches will liven things up! Wheeeeee! MUST … NOT … SLEEP!

This goes on and on, all night, until our purple-eyed baby is shrieking and bouncing from activity to activity like a chimpanzee on crack. Finally, it is time for her bath, massage and story. These are Maddi’s cues that she is about to get her nighttime sleep, which for some reason is acceptable to her.

After nine hours, she is ready to begin the day anew. New places to go. New people to see. New things to explore. New ways to avoid napping.

You can count on it!

And here, for your viewing enjoyment, is an 18-week picture of our wee somniphobe attempting to savor all the joy life has to offer … even if it makes her miserable.

Bouncing big baby

It’s hard to believe that, as of yesterday, our tiny daughter is four months old. This weekend, we went to the Festival of the Tomato in Oliver, a few miles down the road from Nana’s farm. It occurred to me suddenly, as we strolled through the farmyard fest with our little one, that last year’s Tomato Festival occurred on the very last day of ignorant bliss before that fateful pregnancy test that heralded Maddi’s existence.

This year, she’s so much more than a little pink line on a stick; so much more than all of the photos of fetuses I gazed at nearly every day of my pregnancy, trying fruitlessly to imagine what our little daughter might look like; so much more than the helpless, uncoordinated little cone head we brought home from the hospital May 6.

Now we’ve got a giggling, floor-gym-playing, toe-grabbing, “a-ba”-saying, raspberry-loving bundle of sunshine. She seems to hit new milestones every week. Some, like waking at 3 a.m. to practice new skills and trying to help with her diaper, we could do without. Others, such as laughing at silly faces and patting the chests and faces of her loved ones, I can’t imagine life without.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a third of a year already. I still cling to my image of Maddi as brand-new, even as she’s nearly doubled her weight. Conceivably, the reason we’ve had to buy new clothes COULD be because the old ones have all shrunk (enormously) in the wash.

A few weeks ago, we met a tiny new baby who looked like she was rattling around in her giant infant carrier. “She’s so small!” I exclaimed, certain in my belief that Maddi had never been so tiny. Alas, the baby I thought was a preemie weighed a full pound more than our little 15-and-a-half-pound piglet did when she was born. Somehow, my mental image of a wee little thing grows to accommodate Maddi’s ever-chubbier form.

Our constantly changing baby has presented us with so many new things to deal with — first sleeplessness, then gas, and later, rolling over and trying to escape from swings, car seats and laps. While not prepared for these things, I could at least convince myself that they were typical of a baby who was practically a newborn. This week, she’s apparently begun the joyous journey of teething — definitely not newborn territory.

This past year has been full of the unexpected. Not only did I not expect to have a baby — I never expected to have such an OLD baby!

And here’s a picture of our gigantic four-month-old — in a decidedly big-girl-like pose — enjoying the sights and sounds of the Tomato Festival from outside my body.

Something’s afoot

It seems like just a few weeks ago that our wee daughter discovered her hands. In fact, it was just a few weeks ago. In the time since, she has played with her fingers as if counting them, tented her hands like a small, chubby C. Montgomery Burns, used her new tools to insert pacifiers and grab toys (first, quite comically, with closed fists and later with a mitten-like grasp), and, as I may have mentioned, she has spent quite a lot of time stuffing her hands in her slobbery little mouth.

But now, the bloom is off the rose, and Maddi has gone on to bigger and better things. Namely, her feet. At any given time, Maddi is either gazing adoringly at her toes as she holds them high and proud, or she has one foot firmly grasped in a little fist. In the past week, she has been waking in the night to play with her newest toys (and then wail piteously while still clutching her pajama footies) and has even managed to pull off a few pairs of socks.

I’m not really sure why she finds feet so fascinating, but there it is.

She plays with her own feet constantly, and then stares in awe (followed by uproarious laughter) when I put on my own shoes and socks. In a 40-year-old man I would find this more than a little weird, but luckily for Maddux, she’s an exceptionally cute 17-week-old girl and this behavior is more adorable than creepy.

However, it’s not all fun and games. As her neck and shoulders have become stronger and she’s developed this new-found interest in feet, corralling Maddux into a car seat or her swing has become more difficult. Either she will bend forward to grab her toes as I’m trying to secure her, or she will arch her back in refusal — knowing that once she’s buckled in, she won’t be able to reach her favorite playthings.

Apparently, for our little princess to be a happy girl, she must have easy access to — and good visibility of — the all-important feet.

Tonight, I introduced a new variable into her nightly bath and was stymied, in part by her foot fixation. Instead of putting Maddi in her infant tub, which now requires grease and a shoehorn, I assembled her new bath seat and tested its popularity.

Unfortunately, Maddi a) is not yet 5-10 months old, which means she is lost in the giant bath seat; b) cannot sit for more than 2 seconds on her own, which means that without my help, she eventually either slumps over the front or crumples toward the back; and, most importantly, c) cannot see her feet when positioned in the bath seat, which means that her entire time in the bath seat was spent contorting herself into positions in which she thought she might get a better vantage point. Her favorite position to optimize pedal visibility was standing straight up (another new fixation), which meant that the bath seat was hard-put-upon to contain our slippery, naked, too-small baby.

Needless to say, I decided to retire all baby-bath gizmos, large and small, for a few months and just bathe her in the big tub. Unused to bathing in more than a cup of water poured into her sardine tin of a baby tub, she regarded this new “floating” thing with a measure of trepidation at first. However, Maddux soon realized that she had GREAT toe access and was mollified.

And here’s a picture of Maddi at 17 weeks, entertaining herself in her new favorite way: