The fast and the furious

For months and months, our little girl was the same baby. She had the same skills, the same habits and the same mannerisms. She didn’t really develop a lot of new tricks over several months’ time, and I guess we assumed that she would stay that way forever. Over the past few weeks, however, Maddi has gone from being a calm, quiet baby who sat around playing and went down for occasional naps to a mercurial, jabbering baby who crawls and climbs and screams bloody murder as soon as she sees me going for the light switch.

In the past week or so, Maddi has decided that, since she can crawl and climb, it is she — not we — who should be deciding what she does and when she does it. If, say, I arrive at the top of the stairs around dinnertime and head right (toward her room) rather than left (into the kitchen), she immediately swings her body around and begins desperately trying to escape my arms and crawl there herself. When she realizes that I am still holding her and walking, she gently prods, “What is going on here? Are you trying to starve me to DEATH? I distinctly told you I would like to be given Cheerios and a spoon to bang on my tray with.” Of course, her verbal skills being what they are, this is all uttered in a most ear-piercing shriek. Similar conversations are had at nap time (especially nap time), when she wants to feed herself, and when she would prefer floor play over diaper changing (or when she is happily submitting to a diaper change, but only on the condition that she be allowed to suck on her nasal aspirator, and the diaper changer is unaware of this unspoken compact).

One of the most evident ways in which our wee one has grown recently is her mobility. She not only crawls; she races through the hallway like an excited puppy, panting and grinning. An avid explorer, she fancies herself a cross between Sir Edmund Hillary and Elvis Presley during his later years; she climbs — and devours — everything in her path and goes out of her way for those particularly juicy challenges. Her Everest is the glider in her bedroom. For one thing, it glides, so she can never get a good hold on it. For another, I pull her away from it before she can hurt herself. Naturally, this only means she wants it more. Ditto for the sides of the bathtub and empty laundry baskets. On one hand, it is the most wonderful thing to watch her race down the hallway as fast as her chubby thighs can pump. On the other, she is extremely fast and, 90 percent of the time, she has managed to suss out the one thing in the room that is most likely to harm her and is heading right after it at full throttle.

Unfortunately, Maddi has not yet been appraised of the laws of physics and is always shocked beyond words when she falls on her bottom. Worse yet, she tries to head-butt her way through crib bars, heating grates and playgroup pals, having no idea that two objects of matter cannot simultaneously occupy the same space.

Her exploring is not limited to land. Maddi has been going to “swimming classes” for the past several weeks — basically just playgroup in the water, submersions optional. While Chris and I aren’t ready to dunk the baby just yet, our fearless adventuress has no problem trying to dive headlong into the water while we are sitting poolside waiting for the instructor to show up. Today, it was all I could do to keep Maddi from leaping off the edge into the warm pool before her turn. And during tonight’s bath, while I tried to stop her, a slippery and determined Maddi stuck her face directly in the bathwater. The only reason she cried at all was because mean Mommy held her in the recovery position while checking to see if the smiling baby was still breathing (hey, it could happen!).

As for eating things, one night last week I had just finished vacuuming the floor when Chris asked what Maddi had just put in her mouth. Lo and behold, the only piece of cat fur anywhere in the house had made its way into our daughter’s voracious maw a mere five seconds after she hit the floor. She also enjoys chasing down lint, stale cheerios that fall out from the folds of her legs 10 minutes after a high chair session, and any other microscopic minutiae the vacuum cleaner fails to pick up.

With all this scooting around the house, standing up on furniture and her latest trick — pulling up on her playyard and cruising along it while trying to lure passers-by into picking her up — you would think Maddi would be way too busy to polish those verbal skills. But as is her wont, Maddi is doing things in clusters.

Long gone are the days when our little girl uttered nary a babble or a jabber, choosing instead to occasionally blurt out the word “cat” to her favorite members of our household. Now, Maddi can be heard over the monitor at naptime yelling “Mom! Mom! Muh-muh!” And the other evening, as I was putting her down for her nap and she was crying “Muh-muh” to me as I patted her, she realized that I wasn’t going to pick her up and stall naptime with fun and exciting diversions. But she knew someone who she could count on to do just that. In the midst of her tearful “Mama”ing, I swear our little daughter looked accusingly into my eyes and wailed “Dad!”

She also has begun occasionally saying “Mo!” when I’m not shoveling food into her mouth quickly enough for her tastes. I taught her the ASL sign for “more” long ago and expected that would come first, but Maddi’s one and only instance of signing occurred when I was feeding her broccoli for the first time and, between gaggy, spitty mouthfuls, she signed “Milk.” Since then, I have diluted her broccoli with cereal and she hasn’t signed since. But she consistently says “mo” in the high chair. Things she may or may not have also said recently include “ball,” another instance of “Daddy,” some “No-no-no”ing on the diaper change, and a very suspect hearing of “again” while being tickled in her crib (did I mention that thing about stalling bedtime with exciting diversions?).

Now this next one you aren’t going to believe. Not even Chris believes it, even though he should have been able to hear it from the next room but is apparently as deaf as a stone (or maybe I’m as crazy as a loon). I swear on a stack of baby books that our little daughter has said — on multiple occasions — “Hi, kittycat.” Now I’ll grant you that it comes out sounding more like “Hey, giggykaa.” But, as everyone who has listened to an excited toddler tell a story can attest, just because the child needs a translator doesn’t mean she isn’t verbal. Maddi has flapped hello and said “Hi, giggykaa” to her newest stuffed animal about four or five times and a couple of times to her living, breathing co-rulers of the house. She has not, as yet, said “Hi” to anyone else (except possibly Nana), let alone “Hi, giggykaa.” Disbelieve if you will — it’s hard to catch her talking since she’s quieter when lots of people are around, and goodness knows it’s not very clear — but I’m convinced that she’s begun greeting her feline companions.

Needless to say it has been a busy week for all of us, not least Maddi. Crawling, climbing, feeding oneself, asserting one’s autonomy, and practicing talking can wear a baby out. Especially a baby who would rather crawl and head-butt her crib than nap. (Did I mention the day she woke at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t nap until after 5 p.m.? That was interesting.) Maddi is sleeping a good heavy sleep right now, as her next two milestones (maybe?) continue pushing their brutal way through her tender little gums. She’ll be up bright and early tomorrow, ready for another day of racing down hallways, conquering furniture and jabbering at the kitties.

Who knows what will be next?

And here’s a shot of our 39-week-old, the taking of which was no easy feat because of her cheetahlike alacrity:

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