Maddi, vidi, vici

In recent months, Maddi has developed quite a knack for getting into mischief as quick as lightning. At first, it was spying the tiniest piece of lint or cat hair and cramming it in her mouth. Last month, it was climbing anything and everything. Last week it was doorknobs and light switches. But this week, Maddi has taken her impish inclinations to a whole new level.

On Monday, I put Maddi down for her afternoon nap and, as usual, watched her for awhile on our closed-circuit camera. As usual, ignoring her bleary eyes and the fact that she’d been awake for six or seven hours, she monkeyed around in her crib for a good 30 to 45 minutes rather than commencing with the dreaded nap. I watched her racing around trying to fit various body parts through the slats for awhile, and then went on to check email and keep abreast of world news (OK, really I just played “The Sims 2”).

After Maddi’s nap, I went in to fetch my wee one and was stymied to find that, although her crib has already been pulled away from the window (adjacent by about 6 inches when the crib was in its old spot), our little daughter was now frolicking in about four feet of tulle. After I got over my heart attack, I removed the curtains only to discover the mattress pad and half the bottom sheet bunched up underneath the tulle. It seems that zip-top mattresses are not so foolproof after all. The wee one apparently grabbed the zipper pull and unizipped around the top corner and all the way down to the bottom corner before deciding her time was better spent conquering those pesky elastic things that hold mattress pads onto mattresses.

I tucked the pull into the gap between the beginning and end of the zipper after remaking her bed, and wouldn’t you know it, after her next nap, the zipper was again gaping for a good one-quarter of its length.

But lest you presume that zippers are the only thing Maddi has conquered this week, let me assure you that she has been quite busy indeed.

In addition to dismantling bedding, she has also discovered a new thing to do in the hallway. Once upon a time, all we had to worry about was dust-bunny consumption and outlet-fiddling (they’re still prohibited, as just because ours are babyproofed doesn’t mean she won’t encounter exposed electrical outlets elsewhere). This, however, was before Maddi started developing her fine motor skills in earnest. Now that she had mastered switch-flipping and zipper-zipping, our little angel has moved on to vanquish the outlets for the central vacuum. These are quite the challenge for the wee one, as they require some serious finger-wedging and use of the opposable thumb, but Tuesday, while I ran into the bedroom for literally 30 seconds to change my shirt, our darling doll of a daughter managed to pry one of these outlets open (a difficult task even for me!) and stick her chubby little hand in the incredibly filthy hole. After much panicking and scolding and hand-scrubbing, I put Maddi back down in the hallway to grab the diaper bag and head down to the car, and what do you think she did? She went straight for the vacuum outlet again — and has at every opportunity since.

And that’s not all. Last week she discovered that, with enough muscle thrown into the task, she could pull our floor vents out of the floor, which means one more thing to look out for in “babyproofed” rooms.

And yesterday, Maddi’s months of climbing culminated in the most exhilarating ascent of her mountaineering career — the taming of the sofa. Yes, the baby has finally climbed up onto the sofa all by herself, albeit with the cushions off. Let me just tell you that the cats were absolutely delighted by this development. As Maddi stood proudly at Camp I and headed for the summit, Deva registered her appreciation by baring her claws and Selkie celebrated by bolting from the room.

The first time Maddi made the ascent, it took her about five minutes of grunting and leg-flailing. Her second trek was completed in a mere 30 seconds or so, with our daughter giddily jabbering “Up, up, up!” all the while. Her third climb, with Daddy observing, took six seconds flat.

Who knows what will be next? She’s been trying to lift herself onto the seat of the glider (of all things!) using her arms as if emerging from a pool, and doing quite well at pulling herself up a bit, so anything is possible!

As always, there’s more news on the word front. Maddi had previously called every form of seating a “hi-ta” (that’s Maddish for “high chair”). This week, after my saying, “Yes, that’s a chair,” whenever this happened, she has begun saying “chair” (or, rather, “tjha”) while pulling herself up on the glider and other adult chairs. She has also begun occasionally using the appropriate sign for “food” rather than using the “milk” sign indiscriminately for all sources of nutrition. And I’m 99 percent sure, based on context, that sometimes when she’s saying things that sound sort of like “dadj” and “ut-dadj,” she’s actually saying “that” and “what’s that?” She just needs to work on her enunciation so we can be sure. So the official count is 20 words now (if you count “chair” and “high chair” as separate words) and possibly quite a few more (we’re still not counting “again,” “I love you,” “bath,” “light,” “that” or “what’s that?” just yet, and even though she said “Isuzu” just as clearly as you please last week, we’re afraid we can’t include that either).

Unfortunately, it seems like she’s been working a little harder on her mischief-making than she is on her talking. For instance, we’re still not sure if she can say “bath” or not, but we know for certain that she can drain the bath because that’s the way about 25 percent of them end these days.

Tune in next week for more tales of tomfoolery.

Coming soon: Pictures of our zipper-manipulating, outlet-opening couch climber! (Update — during her Friday afternoon nap, Maddi somehow managed to completely remove her jeans! And she just did it again for the second day in a row.)

Lightbulb moments

Our little daughter doesn’t seem to go a week without learning a new trick or two, and this past week was no exception. Maddi has been a busy girl, figuring out all kinds of new stuff, from things mechanical to using her toys as tools to a new word or two.

First and foremost, our wee one, who until this week absolutely refused to do any assisted walking outside of rapidly cruising along furniture and walls, and when held up by a parent would make faces and go completely limp rather than take baby steps while holding onto helping hands, has finally decided that a little assisted toddling isn’t such a bad thing. But only, it appears, when Daddy’s around to watch. Although we’re happy with any cooperation we may get, inside we are just a little worried since she can do quite a lot of damage in quite a short time without walking.

But on to even scarier things!

As you may recall, Maddi has an open-door policy and has, of late, been trying to grab doorknobs and open doors if they happen to be closed. This week, realizing that she just was not going to be tall enough to reach that pesky doorknob in a timely manner, our wee one took things into her own hands (and feet). Last Saturday, she dragged her Drop ‘N’ Roar Dinosaur (which, as she still preferred Mommy to put the balls in the chutes, was of little use anyway) over to the door and then proceeded to climb up it. Unluckily for her, but luckily for the rest of the household, the toy was a bit too slippery and she was unable to make it atop Dino and reach the doorknob. But, much like the door-opening velociraptors in Jurassic Park, she’s tenacious and she’s (cue scary music) getting smarter. Pretty soon she’ll be opening those doors and terrorizing our kitchen.

Speaking of the dinosaur, as of today she’s finally putting the balls in the chutes. I’m not sure what took her so long, but if she’s in the mood, she’ll do it on command now. Mostly, though, she still uses the dinosaur as a makeshift walker, pushing it around her room as she gleefully walks upright. There’s a good 10 minutes a day when Maddi will actually play with her toys, but most of the time she’s too busy testing boundaries and trying to climb everything in sight.

One thing she will play with consistently, however, is a light switch. Every time we leave or enter a room, Maddi twists around to find the light switch and play with it. In fact, she’s gotten pretty proficient at turning lights off, although turning them on seems to be a little more tricky.

Back when we first brought her home, Maddi used to love staring at the lights — so much so that Chris and I worried that our little daughter would damage her eyes. She forgot about them for a few months while discovering her hands, feet and other toys, but she’s reconnected with her old “flame” and once more gazes up in adoration when I turn the light on. In fact, I’m almost sure she said “liyh” yesterday — but not quite enough to deem it an actual word. However, she knows what it means, because when we read “Goodnight Moon” she now points to the lamp when I say, “goodnight, light.”

On a related note, Maddi’s been making more progress on the word front. This week, she started saying “down” (although the couple years I lived in Pittsburgh must have rubbed off, because she pronounces it “dahn”), she’s said “moo” twice in reference to her “Goodnight Moon” book, she’s begun calling “Nana” by her name, and there was also a possible instance of Maddi saying “bath” as she was being carried to the tub (but the water was running loudly and we will never know for sure!). You may recall that last week I said she was due for an animal-related word. Well, it’s not technically a word so much as an animal sound, but Maddi now says “Meow.” If she’s in a good mood and I ask her what the cat says, she says, in the sweetest high-pitched voice, “Maaaw.”

So, if you count “meow” (it’s in Webster’s as a word, so I am counting it!), Maddi now says 19 words plus a few possibles, and in the past month she’s been steadily building her vocabulary at 2 to 3 words a week.

No word on what she’ll say next, but my money’s on “light.” (And since she’s run out of cat-related words now, I’d say it’s as good a bet as any!)

And here’s a picture of Maddi at 45 weeks:

Animal House

We’ve long suspected that Maddi might like the cats better than she likes us. The fact that she went out of her way to say her very first word, “cat,” at barely six months, was our first clue, but certainly not our last.

She also has figured out how to call the cats with kissing noises, and has uttered the phrase “Hi, kittycat,” and if she happens to be on the kitchen floor, she’ll go straight for the bag of cat treats and shake it (although she also wants to partake of the kitties’ snacks, so this is really not encouraged). When she’s set down on the floor of her room, more often than not she’ll race on all fours to her little stuffed cat and affectionately butt its head and give its ear a slobbery baby kiss before moving on to her other toys. And while you can forget about her waving hello or ‘bye to humans anymore, she’s always eager to flap an ecstatic hello to any feline friend.

But lately, our little cat fancier has begun to notice other animals, too. First it was birds — for whatever reason, Maddi has taken a liking to her Nana’s attack parrot, Billy. Whenever we pass Billy’s cage and he gives us his usual malevolent once-over and begins chirping unintelligible threats at us, Maddi’s eyes light up at the sight of her feathered fiend. As he hops around on his perch trying to figure out how to fly free and peck our eyes out, Maddi giggles with glee. She has a few stuffed birds in her room, on which she lavishes her usual toothy attentions. When she bites their heads, instead of telling her to be nice to the birdie, it’s difficult not to think, “Good girl! You never know when that skill might come in handy!”

Maddi has recently discovered dogs, as well. The last few visits, she’s followed Nana’s ancient, longsuffering spaniel around the house, even to the exclusion of the cats. She’s also begun gazing intently at the dogs in her books, and about a month ago at the chiropractor’s office, we noticed that Maddi was staring over our heads. Lo and behold, high atop a cabinet was a stuffed husky dog. The very next day, we were off to Toys ‘R’ Us to get her kittie a little canine companion.

The cutest manifestation of our little animal lover’s affection for things furry and feathered is her delight in mice. The week she was born, a public health nurse came out to our house to weigh our new baby, answer questions, and shower us with educational books and pamphlets on everything from colic to vaccinations to sibling rivalry. Along with all the information, they gave Maddi her very first book, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. The soothing cadence of “Busy Little Mouse” soon became the only thing that would soothe our wailing baby absent the presence of food. She still will sit still far longer for this book for any other, save her beloved “Goodnight Moon.”

She got “Goodnight Moon” in September and it quickly became a favorite. It’s not hard to see why, when you watch how intently she focuses on the cow, the bears, the kittens and the little mouse. Two times out of three, when I ask her to pick out her bedtime story, it’s “Goodnight Moon.” And this past week, when we get to the page that reads “Goodnight, little house, and goodnight, mouse,” Maddi has begun leaning over the book, pointing at the mouse excitedly and giving the little rodent a sloppy, open-mouth kiss. Occasionally, after she does this, she will try to catapult herself over the side of the glider to fetch “Busy Little Mouse” in the most serious manner imaginable, almost as if she’s researching mice.

She hasn’t said “bird” or “mouse” just yet, but this past week she has started saying “high chair” (“hi-ta”), “Nana” and “milk” (that’s “mil” in Maddish) — the latter two being confirmed by people other than crazy Mommy. That’s a grand total of 15 words so far — not too shabby we daresay! I’m sure she’s due for a new animal-related word anytime now.

Coming soon: Pictures of our little animal lover at 44 weeks.

Top 10

Maddi turned 10 months old today, meaning Chris and I have but a scant two months left to enjoy our little girl’s first year of life (and plan a birthday party befitting our wee one).

Maddi has had quite a busy month, adding four new foods to her diet, sprouting two more teeth, expanding her vocabulary almost exponentially, perfecting climbing and commencing cruising, and becoming more independent and assertive by the day. She’s grown 10 ounces and three-fourths of an inch, putting her just a few ounces shy of 20 pounds and just over an inch short of 30. At seven months, Maddi was in the 75th percentile for weight and the 50th for height, but she’s burned a lot of baby fat crawling and those numbers have flipflopped. Last month our little princess became longer than she is wide, at 50th for weight and 60th-ish for height, and this month saw the gap widen.

Now one would think that it is normal for babies to fall into different percentiles when they begin crawling, climbing and cruising, but consider this: most babies at her age are at the very least crawling, which would be reflected accordingly in the percentiles. But I have an explanation for this, backed up by the employees at the gym’s day care and the mothers of Maddi’s victims little friends in playgroup: Maddi is a very. Active. Baby. Oh yes! Turn your head for a second and she is not only across the room, but has climbed up the bookshelf and overturned several bins of toys.

While the other babies at the gym sit around contentedly playing with toys and munching on snacks, Maddi will grab a handful of Cheerios, crawl off, and eat them while she’s climbing the furniture and cruising from chair to chair. The general consensus is that she is a sweet and wonderful baby who just happens to be part tasmanian devil. She’s never content to sit and watch anything. Maddi must be an active participant. It’s go, go, go, 24/7 for this one. In fact, there are days when she’s up at 6 a.m. and doesn’t get any sleep until 8:30 at night or later. More days than a person might imagine, really. And since she won’t tolerate a playpen or activity center for more than a few minutes, most of these 14-odd hours are spent racing around the house and climbing various items of furniture. Is it any wonder why she’s thinned out so much?

Not that she’s not eating. This month, Maddi began dining on squash, egg yolk, cheese and beef (hmm, all together like that, it sounds like a pretty yummy quiche!). In addition to her beloved Cheerios and diced bananas, things she gets to occasionally eat by herself include bits of mozzarella, peas, small chunks of soft bread and, this past Sunday, little pieces of a pancake at Nana’s. So far, the hands-down favorite is cheese. No surprise there, since Chris and I certainly eat enough of it. Luckily, unlike last month’s rice and broccoli incidents, we got through this month’s introductions without any allergies to or hatred of the new food.

Our wee one’s new incisors are all the better to eat with. The sound of crunching Cheerios now resounds through our kitchen, and Maddi has discovered the joy of biting (and the agony of being scolded in gleeful mid-chomp). She now eats Cheerios about five at a time and gobbles up cheese as quickly as she gets it. As we suspected, once the long-suffering gums finally gave out, her teeth came in and looked enormous overnight. I still do a double-take every time I see our darling daughter’s no-longer-gummy grin.

Last month, I could list about four words Maddi said regularly. This month, in addition to “cat,” “Mama,” “Dada” and “more,” we have “kittycat,” “hi,” “ball,” “book,” “up,” “dog,” and her personal favorite, “no,” for a grand total of 11 words our wee one uses consistently, plus one instance of “bye-bye” and the ASL sign for milk. She’s put two words together on multiple occasions, saying things such as “Hi, kittycat,” “Hi, Dada,” and “Hi, Mama,” more times than I can count, screaming “No, no, Mama,” virtually every time I try to suction her nose or wipe her bottom, and uttering the phrases “Mama book” and “Bye-bye, Dada” once each. One of these days, her words may even be intelligible by someone other than crazy Mommy.

Intellectually, other than all her various words, she’s working hard at figuring out the world. She knows, for the most part, how to open the baby gate, if only she were tall enough. I attribute this mainly to my hubris in saying she’d take at least six months to work out how the gate is operated. Her knowledge of things that open and close is not limited to the gate. If the door to her room is almost shut, but not latched, Maddi will grasp the edge with her fingers, pull it out a few inches, and then swing it open and scramble out into the hallway. If the door happens to be latched, she will actually pull herself up and reach for the handle, apparently hoping each time that she has grown the required 6 inches or so needed to actually grasp and turn said handle. If she is being carried and happens to be near a door handle, she will actually attempt to operate it.

Maddi began this month to make kissing noises to call the cats to her, although it hasn’t worked yet because she’s still having trouble with the concept of “If you hit them and pull their fur, they won’t want to play with you anymore.” She also knows how to spin the turntable on her Roll-Arounds turtle without using the lever — which, I suppose, is so very two months ago. She simply gives the floor of the turtle toy a flip of her finger (very coordinated, we think, for a wee thing) and off it goes. Our daughter has figured out how to unsnap and remove her bib when she’s finished with her meal — and understands that it stays on while she’s eating. Unfortunately, she’s also figured out how to remove her clothing and has been caught more than once in her crib with either her upper body or lower body completely out of her unsnapped jammies. Clearly, somebody got her daddy’s personal thermostat!

It’s been a busy month, all right — not just for Maddi, but for everyone who watches her.

And here’s a shot of our 10-month-old tornado!

Terrible twos, er, zeros

When I was pregnant, if I’d been asked to imagine my baby at 10 months, I might have foreseen her saying a few words. I might even have envisioned her cruising around on furniture. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a baby who was not only talking and climbing, but whose favorite words were rapidly becoming an angry “Nah nah nuh!” and whose latest physical skills included hitting and deliberately yanking hair. Those are things most moms imagine encountering when their babies are two, or maybe 18 months.

Alas, babyhood has come and gone for Maddi. Oh, she is still a sweet little thing most of the time, but mobility has given her some grand ideas regarding her autonomy and, apparently, her place in the family hierarchy. And woe is me, for I discovered all too late that the idea of “terrible twos” is a BIG FAT LIE! Apparently, toddlerhood begins a bit earlier in some respects.

In addition to her many words, Maddi has a choice form of nonverbal communication to indicate that she would like more food. Is it, you ask, the ASL sign for “more” which her mommy has been using faithfully for months? Why no, dear reader, it is not. How funny you should ask. Apparently our dear daughter has decided to improve upon centuries of sign language by introducing a new sign, which is made by banging angrily on one’s high chair and (on the off chance that the sign’s recipient is a hearing person) screeching like an enraged little monkey.

In fairness, I haven’t taught our little princess any signs for “I would like to get out of this backpack now if you aren’t going to be moving around, O Mother most beloved.” However, I am not particularly fond of her way of communicating this sentiment either, as it usually consists of her grabbing handsful of hair and pulling hard on the “reins” while kicking my back. All I need to hear is a “giddyap” to know that our wee one considers me nothing more than a dumb beast of burden which must be beaten to perform tasks satisfactorily. Oddly, none of the words in the sentence, “We don’t pull hair; pulling hair is not nice,” seem to be in her vocabulary. Even “No hair, Maddi,” fails in its efficacy if our little charioteer has, say, missed a nap.

Then there is the hitting. In previous months, Maddi expressed her displeasure by crying, but she has recently discovered that hitting is a “no-no.” Perhaps she has also noticed (after months of injuring herself with them) that hands make nifty weapons. Whatever the reason, Maddi has begun smacking me when I try to change her diaper, put her in the crib, detach the beloved bright-purple nasal aspirator from her iron grip, or do anything else to annoy or irk the little princess. Half the time, when I tell her that hitting is a no-no, she hits me some more or yanks the nearest clump of hair.

Having realized at some point recently that “no” might be negotiable — and apparently hoping desperately to make it so — Maddi now will crawl up to forbidden electrical cords and then look at me while slowly putting out a hand as if to touch them. Only, of course, to quickly retract the hand when confronted by a firm “No” and find something else to do, as if she’d never planned on playing with wires in the first place. She’s a crafty one!

And we haven’t even gotten to the biting. Ah, the biting! Last week, when her top teeth came in, she clamped down on my hand while I was washing her little pearly whites. I told her, “No biting,” but instead of filing it away under “Things not to do to Mommy, for any reason,” our silly girl mistakenly filed it under “Tricks to remember when playing with Mommy.” Thus, three times this week, Maddi has found my bare wrist while climbing the Mommy Gym and chomped down. Three times she has been told, “No biting.” We shall see if this trick makes it into her repertoire of diaper-change aversion tactics.

With Maddi’s magnetic attraction to anything forbidden, and with all the things she’s told not to do, it’s no surprise that she loves to yell, “No!” She hasn’t quite figured it out yet, though. She says it at the right times, such as during diaper changes and when I’m removing naughty objects from her grasping hands or pulling her out of the bath, but she also says it after I’ve put her down for a nap and left the room or when I’m stirring up food for her instead of paying her the kind of constant, direct attention she’d prefer. Even though she uses it for broader protests than its intended meaning, she’s got the general idea of “No” as an objection to having someone’s will imposed on her.

Of course, Maddi’s transition from babyhood to near-toddlerhood isn’t without its benefits. When she sees me lying on the floor of her bedroom, she crawls over and gives me sweet, sloppy baby kisses. She stands at the top of the stairs calling for Dada, and she brings me books to read to her and occasionally includes the word “Mama” in her soliloquies about kittycats. She gives sweet snuggles at bedtime, and often just for the asking. And most of the time when I tell her, “No,” she crawls into my lap for a hug (just to make sure we’re cool) before scrambling off to climb the walls.

Even if someone had told me when I was pregnant that my little one’s babyhood would be all too short — and her toddlerhood, more likely than not, all too long — I still would have been overjoyed to be having such a sweet wee bundle. At the end of the day, fiery temper and all, Maddi is a very well-behaved and loving little girl who I’m sure will quit hitting and biting. Preferably sometime very soon.

And here’s our little toddler-in-training at 43 weeks: