Standing tall

On Monday, Maddi finished her ninth month having cranked out several accomplishments over the past 31 days. She’s perfected her crawl and is moving ever closer to taking her first steps; she’s expanded her vocabulary (although she still doesn’t speak on command, or when there’s a big audience); and she’s begun to realize that not only are she and Mommy entirely different people, but they also have entirely different desires — and Maddi is testing out ways to exert her agenda rather than be influenced by those of others.

Of course, it hasn’t all been progress. Remember when, a full month ago, I said Maddi was on the verge of cutting one of her top incisors? Well, that still hasn’t happened. Chris and I are continually amazed at how far one little strip of gum tissue can stretch. We swear, though, that the tooth will erupt sometime this month.

On the mouth-related front, Maddi (as always) started several foods this month. Our little girl is now eating broccoli (which prompted her very first use of sign language when the frantic sign for “milk” was employed between spits and gags), as well as oats, chickpeas and — once again — rice. Which once again gave her a rash, though she continues to eat wheat with no consequence.

When she was a wee tender thing of seven months, we tried finger foods per her baby-food manual, to poor reviews. Our little daughter, once so eager to swipe food from our hands, had become accustomed to being spoon-fed by accommodating parents. However, now that she is bigger — and consequently, has a bigger mouth and a quicker swallow — she has grown impatient with these laggardly handservants. Maddi has finally discovered the mantra, “If you want it done correctly, do it yourself.” Thus, she has finally allowed us to supply her with such delicacies as Cheerios and diced banana tidbits, which she crams in her mouth while I am preparing her food. Of course, her love of toasted oat cereal facilitates longer outings, too, which is a good thing for everyone involved.

Maddi has gone from “sort of” crawling to closely resembling a greased pig racing through the house. Only this greased pig pulls up on things and cruises, and has managed to open drawers and remove their contents, pull up on her laundry basket and fling things hither and yon, and stand casually rummaging through the basket on top of the bin at the foot of her crib and smacking the buttons on her little CD player so she can listen to “25 Classical Favorites” all the livelong day. Maddi no longer needs both hands to stand against furniture, so now everything must not only be off the floor, but about 5 feet off the floor or her roving fingers will discover and destroy. She has also figured out that there are many fun things downstairs and the baby gate is the one obstacle in the way of pulling the kitties’ fur and playing with Daddy’s many shiny remotes. Thus, she races down the hallway, pulls herself up on the baby gate at warp speed, and proceeds to fiddle with the part where she knows it opens. Luckily, Chris bought a baby gate that is capable of containing Houdini himself, so I give her at least another six months before she can unlatch her prison bars.

Not only does she pull up on the crib, climb the glider and attempt to scale the gate; all Maddi needs to get herself upright is a wall. That’s right — our daughter is literally climbing the walls. She simply crawls over to the wall, places her hands against it, and pushes up on her legs until she is standing.

All this physical activity has not come without a toll. Maddi went seven months before she got her first bruise, but now it’s hard to keep track of them. She has one big mystery bruise on her forehead that could have come from any one of a number of head-butting incidents (she doesn’t discriminate between people and baby gates — whatever’s in the way must go!), a smaller mystery bruise which I suspect came from one of her favorite toys, and two bruises on her leg from where I grabbed her just as she was about to exit our bed headfirst after I foolishly turned aside to reach for my nursing pillow. Luckily for Maddi, these bruises bother us much more than they do her. She has recently invented a new game in which she deliberately bashes her head into someone else’s and laughs uproariously. If you want to initiate it, simply say “Bump heads!” and Maddi will delightedly comply. (More often than not, though, she will “surprise” you with this most exciting diversion when you least expect it. The babies in our playgroup are not appreciative.)

As Paleolithic as her favorite game may seem, her sense of play is not entirely without sophistication. On the seventh, Maddi was playing with one of her favorite “toys,” an empty bottle of ginger ale, when she suddenly removed it from her mouth and offered it to her teddy bear. When I asked her to, she also shared her drink with her toy kitten. However, her generosity stops at humans. When I ask for a drink, she simply looks at me as if to say, “Maybe I’d give you some if you were more generous with your food and drink.”

Maddi has very eloquent facial expressions to be sure, but she’s working on a vocabulary to match. I know that she understands a lot of what we say because she follows all sorts of commands now. “Come here,” “Go get your ball,” and various forms of “No” in combination with the names of the object she’s being told not to touch, pull or climb on are all met with quick compliance (well, 80 percent of the time). Invitations to play, like “Bump heads” or “Where’s Maddi?” are eagerly accepted without so much as a slight physical cue. The mere suggestion of Daddy, Cheerios or a ride in the backpack are enough to drive Maddi into paroxysms of flapping glee. And if she thinks she’s going into her bedroom for a nap, the verbal reassurance that it’s just a diaper change swiftly quiets the inevitable earsplitting tantrum.

Words she has said include — in chronological order — “cat,” “mama,” “dad” and “mo” (“more”). Words she may be saying include “hi” (a suspected, but never verified, part of her vocabulary for months now) and “no” (pronounced “Nee-nee-nee” when we disagree over whether it is time for her diaper to be put on, or time to crawl) and “kitty,” which — if it actually is being said — is only said in reference to cats. Of course, it sounds like “giggy” or “gikky,” so it is still up for debate. Things she probably hasn’t said, but which sounded awfully convincing, are “Again” (uttered so “clearly” during a tickle that both Chris and I thought that’s what she said) and “I love you,” which she pronounces “Ah-lah-loo” and doesn’t even look at me while uttering, but which I choose to assume is her profession of adoration for her dear mama.

And if you choose to believe Maddi’s lunatic mother, she has already possibly uttered her first sentence — cat related, of course, in true Maddi form. It doesn’t sound much like “Hi, kittycat” … until you notice that she only says it when she has just noticed a cat.

Unfortunately, thanks to the child-minding service at the gym, she has enjoyed another (not so exciting) first. I picked her up one day last week and was cheerfully informed, “She was such a great baby. She just sat there the whole time watching ‘Teletubbies’ and smiling.” Yes, despite my best efforts, Maddi has been introduced to television — and horrid children’s programming at that! Given her fixation with the remote, I should have known it would be but a matter of time. Be that as it may, there will still be no Teletubbies in our house — nor any other cheerful animated or costumed characters dancing across the screen as the wee one vegetates happily.

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, pictures of our cruising, talking, tantrum-throwing, Cheerio-snarfing nine-month-old TV junkie:

Maddi laughs in the face of our attempts to keep things out of her reach by stacking them atop bins.

Toys aren’t toys — they’re things to climb on so you can reach the really good stuff.

Now this is what I call a toy!

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