Christmas with the crank

Who’s fat, jolly and loved the world over? Why, babies, of course!

Nothing is more delightful — or more anticipated — than baby’s first Christmas! The sweet keepsake ornaments! The carefully picked-out presents! The photo opportunities!

It’s potentially a lot of fun for the baby too. The crackly wrapping paper and inviting ribbons! The relatives to charm! Drink glasses and trays of snacks just out of reach! New, unsuspecting cats left completely unattended! It’s enough to keep a baby up four hours past bedtime!

Now between this, and the fact that our little doll both is cutting teeth and has a cold, you would think that this would be a recipe for disaster and that Maddi would have a complete meltdown at Christmastime.

But that is the thinking of the uninitiated. As Maddi’s keepers, Chris and I know that as long as there are people to shower our darling daughter with attention and play exciting games of tickle and peek-a-boo, she will be perfectly happy. So when — without her afternoon nap — our little reveler closed the party on Christmas Eve only to awaken before the adults on Christmas morning, we were not too terribly shocked when she again was in high spirits despite only eight hours of sleep and another full day with absolutely no napping.

Maddi frolicked in the wrapping paper. She buried herself in toys. She managed to trick new cats into being petted, Mommy into bringing beverages within reach and cousins into taking hundreds of photographs. (Thankfully, cousin Jennie managed to do some tricking of her own and got Maddi laughing hard enough to show her new lower incisors for her very first pictures with teeth!)

But what goes up must come down. On Christmas night, well after her usual bedtime, I foolishly attempted to put Maddi down for a few hours while the other grown-ups enjoyed a game of euchre and I attempted to catch a few winks after my second consecutive week of sleeping not more than five hours a night. But lo, less than an hour after I put the wee one down, I heard baby noises. And there was our little Energizer bunny, in her Nana’s arms, wide awake as you please.

After an hour’s drive, we got the baby home at a ridiculous hour and, for the first time in weeks, I laid her in her crib asleep. Alas! It was not to be! They say sleep begets sleep, and apparently the opposite is true as well: Crazy begets crazy.

Maddi was up at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., although she slept in until the unheard-of hour of 10 and napped again from 11 to 2. But, like a junkie after a weeklong binge, Maddi came crashing violently down today from her adrenaline bender. She hopped from toy to toy to toy, but took little joy in her playing. I couldn’t stray from within three feet of our poor little girl without her bursting into frantic tears. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted Daddy or Mommy and her afternoon nap stretched so long into the evening that I had to wake her up so I could bathe her for the first time in three days before putting her down for the night.

Our baby, who is usually quite jovial in the tub, cried her eyes out for the first half of her bath, barely held it together for the second, and cried piteously when she reached out for me and I took her out of the tub — because, apparently, she wanted both a bath AND Mommy (who knew?).

As a byproduct of teething and having a cold at once, Maddi has gone from enjoying bedtime to fighting it violently, burying her face in my shoulder when we near the crib, laughing and kicking when I put her down in an attempt to stall my exit, and wailing furiously when I head for the doorway. Thus, what once took five minutes now takes close to an hour, as I return time and time again to her room, rub her back and sing to her, and rinse and repeat as often as necessary. We can only hope that she goes back to her old self when the cold has run its course and her little top teeth have erupted.

Add to that the fact that she is thisclose to crawling and has suddenly realized that Mommy is an entirely separate entity from Maddi and can leave the room and, quite possibly, never come back, and you have a recipe for some really fun holiday times. No longer can she go in the playpen while I use the bathroom, run her bathwater or do a load of dishes or laundry. At least not while Daddy is on the phone doing business, because Maddi lets it be known that she does not approve of Mommy leaving her line of sight (or, today, an arm’s reach). This, along with wrapping and nighttime teething pain and coughing fits, is why every night for a few weeks I’ve been up until the wee hours of the morning.

We are hoping that Maddi will be in a better mood after having had a few good night’s sleeps and some semblance of her routine.

Otherwise, she may be fat and festively dressed, but she sure won’t be jolly — and neither will her keepers!

Strange attraction

Twice in the past week, Maddi has — quite uncharacteristically — made a scene while we dined out. Normally, we can take the baby anywhere and she will remain fairly jolly the whole time. Last month, we went to a steakhouse after her 8 p.m. bedtime and lingered over dinner until 11 or so. Maddi required absolutely no attention from us whatsoever and showered radiant toothless smiles at the surrounding tables.

Struggling to figure out why our darling daughter, during normal waking hours and after having been fed and changed, decided to shriek and attempt escape from the constraints of her high chair, Chris came to a startling conclusion:

Maddi thrives on the attention of complete strangers. Sure, Mommy and Daddy are great, but there’s nothing better than having random people come up and say, “Ohh, what big blue eyes you have. Aren’t you the cutest thing?” upon which you smile and flap and receive cheek pinches and bacteria-laden finger-shakes and more cooing. Well, there’s one thing better, but those mean ol’ parents have forbidden chewing on shopping carts.

And it’s not as though she doesn’t have throngs of worshippers. Everywhere we go, we get stopped every 20 seconds by people telling us she’s the cutest baby they’ve ever seen. Maddi, ham that she is, eats this all up and smiles extra big and bright when she sees a strange face coming her way. The past few months, she has been doing this for the camera as well (which, combined with her devoted fan base, makes me worry more than a little that our wee one is under the illusion she is some sort of Hollywood star).

Any stranger will do, even a fake one. Even a possibly murderous one. The other day, I was carrying her from the room after nursing her while watching the Biography Channel, and she grinned gummily at the television as we passed. I looked to see whose giant face she was beaming at, and lo and behold, our little princess was bestowing a beautiful, sunny smile on none other than O.J. Simpson.

So when we’re in an empty restaurant with not a strange face in sight (not even a televised one), what’s a baby to do? Try to wriggle out of the high chair and roll down the aisle in search of fresh meat, that’s what! Of course, given our pesky hangups over filthy restaurant floors and roaming small children, Maddi is not allowed to launch her quest for new people to charm. Thus, Chris has hypothesized, she becomes irate and begins yelling and trying to extract herself from her tiny wooden pillory.

It’s a pretty good theory. Both times she’s pitched a fit in a restaurant, it’s been during a “dead” time when there has been nobody for our little darling to smile at. And we’ve already established that, the noisier the place and the more strangers there are, the happier our cherub becomes.

We all know she’s a friendly baby, but her need for adoring fans is bordering on the ridiculous. At her age, stranger anxiety is supposed to kick in, but for now, as long as Mommy or Daddy is nearby, Maddi is happy — nay, eager — to meet and greet perfect strangers.

Even televised ones who probably killed a few people.

And here is a 32-week-old Maddi smiling especially for you, her charter fan club! (And waving to boot!)

And another two of Maddi’s first time in the snow.

Tooth and consequences

There’s nothing better than a gummy baby smile. Sadly, we will never see Maddi’s gummy little smile again.

That’s because, after months of slobbering, night-waking and biting, our little daughter has finally cut her first two teeth!

On Saturday while feeding her applesauce at Nana’s, I thought, just once, that I heard something scraping the spoon. But when she smiled later, I couldn’t see anything rising up from her wee pink gums. Tonight in the bath, however, as I was washing her little mouth, she bit me — and there was a little something extra, it seemed. I pulled back her lower lip and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw two teensy white ridges, barely visible but very easy to feel.

They won’t be showing up on camera for awhile yet because getting her to show her teeth is about as easy as getting her to allow us to suction her nose, but Maddi definitely has two sharp little lower incisors.

Coming someday soon: Pictures of the wee one’s little chompers.

Inching forward

Our house has never been babyproof. Oh, I’m sure that before he met me, Chris’ house was like a padded cell. Perhaps it is a man thing, an outcropping of that stereotypical (but true) fixation with gadgets, but he has a predisposition for buying more safety products than can ever be used. Furniture tethers, cabinet latches, outlet protectors, bath thermometers — he had them all. He even had tethers for bottom-heavy furniture, just in case.

However, on my arrival, the house descended into chaos. Now, glass-topped tables beckon in all their shiny, forbidden glory. Delicious-looking lipsticks lie unlocked in an easy-to-reach vanity drawer. Electrical cords have put out tentacles in every corner of the house. And, since we moved last year, the stairs have been sans gate.

We hardly dare mention the havoc of the kitchen — giant blue sacks of recyclables scattered hither and yon, filled with such exciting toys as glass bottles and plastic bags. Or the cat fur that has taken over every corner in the house owing to the fact that I rarely find time to vacuum while Maddi is awake, and for obvious reasons cannot do so while she is asleep.

For the past seven months, we have not really needed to do anything about rooms other than Maddi’s. Our baby has been happily ensconced in what Chris calls “The Pink Palace” and, until now, has sat contentedly in her room for hours busying herself with toys and games (OK, I busy her with the latter).

But all good things must come to an end. Maddi’s recent gains in the rolling department have tipped us perilously close to the brink of needing to babyproof, and she’s been practicing some new skills that have made our position all the more precarious.

Now that our little princess is an accomplished sitter of some two months, she has limitless confidence. Her balance is good enough for her to know exactly how far she can lean in any direction, and if she can’t reach far enough to get what she wants, she’s learned to fall without hurting herself (most of the time — just recently she got her very first bruises!) and roll toward her goal. But that won’t quite do. Playing in the tub, she’s made a discovery in the past several weeks. The buoyant water lifts her sizable tummy so Maddi can get up on all fours. She crawls from one end of the tub to the other, although she hasn’t the strength to travel this way on land. But her little gears have been turning, and she’s certainly trying.

On dry land, Maddi has discovered that if she tucks one leg inward and splays the other out, she can lean over the tucked leg and lurch into perfect crawling position. Unfortunately, since she still lacks the strength and coordination to get up and crawl, she ends up flat on her face every time she pushes off. So she has come up with a novel solution.

If a toy is resting two or three inches beyond Maddi’s farthest reach, she leans over her tucked-in leg as far as she can, until she is almost in position to crawl, save for that one leg. Then she will pull herself forward with her arms, but leave her leg tucked beneath her for balance. It’s not a very effective maneuver, as it only gains her a few inches at most and half the time she loses her balance and ends up lying down. But slowly and surely, our wee daughter is becoming mobile.

Which means that I will have to become more mobile as well and finally get down to babyproofing.

And here’s a pic of Maddi at 31 weeks, safely constrained in her brand-new convertible seat for the very first time!

Lucky number seven

Just when I’d gotten used to having a six-month-old, here she is, turning seven months old! Our little darling is constantly developing new skills (although I guess we’d need to worry if she wasn’t!) and is getting more and more personality by the day. I’m sure sometime in the next year or two I will have a moment in which I suddenly want to send her back from whence she came, but so far, being a mother to Maddi has been seven months of good times. (Yes, even those first few sleepless, gassy months!)

What’s new with the wee one, you ask? It’s hard to know where to begin.

In addition to all the funny noises I’ve chronicled in this blog, she also sings to herself in the car, and also when she’s falling asleep now. She also jabbers away in the cutest little voice to her bath ducky as she’s chasing him on her neverending crusades around the tub — I’m assuming this is partly because of the bathroom’s excellent acoustics.

She understands her name and a few words such as “Daddy,” “cat,” “food” and “milk” and gets very excited not only when someone is preparing a bowl or a Gerber jar, but also when she sees her bib.

She can sit all day long if she feels like it, but when she’s tired, she will dive headfirst at the nearest parent and bury her face in his or her chest. When she’s not tired, she (finally!) uses this lunging skill to go after toys or to get on the floor and practice rolling, pivoting and wiggling her fat little legs behind her.

At long last, she has finally taken to tummy time. Although this past few days, it’s tummy time ALL the time. She takes very little interest in her toys, being held, or even sleeping. It’s all about trying to crawl. She’s been making a little bit of progress every day and so far has begun to occasionally push herself a few inches, but seems to have no idea how she did it when it happens.

Speaking of sleeping, Maddi’s now sleeping in a much-lower crib, thanks to her new mobility. Seems she figured out how to scoot directly underneath her mobile and frolic among the animals. It took three people and several hours to get the crib lowered, so Chris made the executive decision to lower it ALL the way and be done with it forever. (Well, until the next baby, anyway. Either the mattress goes back up then, or someone else with really long arms lifts the floppy newborn out for me!)

Those of you who met Maddi when she was a little newborn with bright peepers that took in everything and who witnessed the scary direct-eye-contact smile she developed at two weeks know that she has always been a very sociable baby. This now extends to playing with other babies (or at least manhandling their hands and faces) and loving on her favorite adults. She does have a bit of separation anxiety when I leave the room, especially when she’s overtired, but so far she still enjoys smiling gummily at strangers everywhere we go. In fact, we’ve been at restaurants and Maddi will wiggle and strain until she has a perch sufficient to allow her to beam warmly at the nearest table full of new faces. She is fairly indiscriminate, smiling at hoboes and salespeople along with grandmothers and small children. Thus, we have mixed feelings about her friendliness.

While she is a very jolly and friendly baby, our daughter does have her serious moments. Smiles are bestowed generously while she’s eating and while we’re out and about, and during personal interaction, but when Maddi is playing with her toys, it’s all business! Her little brow furrows in concentration while she bangs her stacking rings against each other, and scowls, cross-eyed, when gnawing on the soft blocks from her shape sorter. Our wee one looks very serious indeed when she shakes the living daylights out of her little velcro banana toy.

In addition to chewy, delicious toys, Maddi’s diet has expanded to include apples, sweet potatoes, avocadoes and wheat. (Rice gave her eczema, but strangely enough, wheat has been perfectly fine thus far.) The baby who used to spend 19 hours out of 24 nursing has pared her feedings down to fewer than 150 minutes a day. We are still waiting on teeth, despite months of drool and biting.

Here’s another interesting tidbit — Maddi’s finally getting more hair. After six months of the same old bald head, about a month ago, we noticed that her head was starting to “fill in” a little. Over the past several weeks, the short down has turned into a thatch of dark blonde fuzz and is really becoming obvious.

As she enters her next month, Maddi has hit another milestone — she’s outgrown her cute little infant carseat and will be moving up to a rear-facing convertible seat. It’s a good thing she is sitting so well, because, without her carrier, she will have to use that skill in shopping carts and restaurants.

There are some days when I wake up and have to remind myself that I have a baby, and here she is becoming such a very big baby already. (Sob!) If only I could freeze time, and keep my little seven-month-old forever!

And here is a photo of our little princess at seven months, competing with the kitties for treats!

See you on the flip side

Chris and I have opened up a can of worms, it seems, and there’s no closing it. Once our reluctant roller finally took a chance and started flipping over, it has been impossible to stop her.

Not only does she roll merrily on the floor, exploring her rapidly expanding ecosystem; she also motors around her crib like never before and cannot be trusted to stay put on a bed or, heaven forbid, a sofa. Give her a few feet of space and step back, and our little daughter gleefully tumbles about until something or someone stops her. The only thing that distracts her from flipping and flopping about is her occasional obsession with lying in a loose interpretation of the plank position, with her legs wiggling busily but (thus far) uselessly behind her.

Normally, her newfound mobility is an adorable thing, but unfortunately, one of her favorite opportunities to demonstrate her budding expertise arises at diaper-changing time. No longer do we have a baby who lies pliably on the change table whilst the hazmat team (aka Mommy) does its work. No, when it comes time to sanitize our wee biohazard’s blast zone, the little one delights in squirming and flailing and doing her very best impression of a flounder on a hook. Her insistence on flipping on her tummy is directly proportional to the severity of the diaper damage. Thus, if her Pampers and cute little velour sleeper contain a “spill” of FEMA-deserving severity, you can bet that Maddi will be twisting madly about on the change table, content only when she is lying on her front and the hazmat team is covered in, well, hazardous materials.

This is what you get when you wish for your baby to roll over like other babies. Somewhere, a mom who figured out how to neatly wipe poop off a wild, flopping baby three months ago is laughing.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In other news, Maddi has learned her very first cute baby trick. You know the kind — some babies give kisses, some slap high fives, others clap. Maddi is a waver. She doesn’t have a dainty princess wave like her cousin Emily just yet — hers is more of a full-body wave, much like a dog that wags its entire body along with its tail. We started teaching her how to wave a week or so ago when Emily did her princess wave and I suddenly realized that somehow, baby tricks (which I so anticipated before there was an actual baby to do them) had gotten lost in the shuffle of daily life.

But I am pleased to announce that, after an intensive one-week seminar in waving “hi” and “bye-bye,” Maddi’s got it all figured out and she will be delighted to show you next time she sees you.

And here’s a picture of our 30-WEEK-OLD baby!! I can’t believe she is this old. I also can’t believe she’s on her tummy and smiling.