T minus one month

Yesterday marked the beginning of the final month of Maddi’s first year. Not only does that mean I have but a mere four weeks to plan a party, it also means that we have precious few days to enjoy with our baby before she becomes a toddler. (Hey, she may already be throwing tantrums, constantly saying “no,” and deliberately tormenting the cats to see their reactions, but technically she hasn’t begun toddling yet!)

This month, Maddi cut two more teeth, began eating four new foods, more than doubled her vocabulary, began routinely allowing us to help her “walk,” began climbing onto the sofa, and stood on her own for the very first time. She also celebrated a few less-delightful milestones, such as learning how to unzip zippers, remove pants and sleepers, dig around in her poopy diapers, and drop toys over the wall of her play yard onto sleeping cats. Once this month, I picked her up from the gym’s day care after 90 minutes and her caregiver pointed to a chaotic battlefield of dumped-out toy boxes and displaced furniture in the previously tidy room and told me wearily, “This was all Maddi.” And indeed, the only other child in the room was all of nine weeks old and completely incapable of laying waste to the daycare. A mere few months ago, Maddi just sat there, too, looking wide-eyed at a world full of things she couldn’t reach. Now that she can reach them, it’s everyone else who’s wide-eyed and helpless!

Now that she’s working on walking, I’m hoping it will temporarily slow her down. Currently, Maddi usually crawls about as quickly as an adult’s brisk walk, which — in case you’re not familiar with crawling speeds — is top speed for your more laid-back tot. At her top speed, employed when she is attempting to access wires, electronic equipment, the central vacuum outlet or a tempting hunk of cat hair, Maddi is nearly invisible, her extreme alacrity creating a vortex around her like that surrounding the Tasmanian Devil. In theory, Chris and I should be able to enjoy at least a week of slow toddling before Maddi figures out how to race around at lightning speed on two feet.

For now, however, she’s content to stand for a few seconds at a time. She can get down from a standing position with no support, which makes it all the easier for her to bend down from the edge of her play yard and grab new toys to drop on the cats. As with her couch-climbing skills (also new this month), the cats are predictably unenthusiastic about the fun and games.

This past week, I got to see what a normal baby is like — something I vaguely remembered from my long-distant babysitting days, but I had begun to doubt my recollections and suspect the mothers had tranquilized their children before handing them over to me. For the past 10 months, I’ve wondered what life is like for mothers of wee ones who take long naps and play with their toys. Last week, Maddi had the misfortune of getting her lateral incisors while she had some sort of yucky, snotty flu. Consequently, she took three naps a day (falling asleep within minutes of being put in the crib!) and actually sat down and played with her toys rather than trying to climb up this wall and that gate or stick limbs into the central vacuum outlet or pull things down on herself. I must tell you it was quite bizarre having all that time on my hands, and it would have been quite relaxing had I not been so worried about this shadow of my former baby. Happily, she spent this morning trying to use her ball as a stepping stone to escape the confines of her play yard and then spent much of the afternoon gnawing the paint off her crib rails and somehow wiggling free of half her overalls (yes, overalls!) rather than napping, so I’m glad to say Maddi is feeling like her old, energetic self once again. I can’t help hoping, though, that the next baby will just naturally be a little less energetic.

As much as keeping up with Maddi can wear a person out, one bonus of our active baby is that her energy spills over into the mental sphere. This month, she learned 12 new words — the latest three of which emerged just in the past few days. After months of enjoying a pull-string hippopotamus that speeds around her bathtub and being toweled off afterward with a hooded hippo towel, Maddi has begun saying “hippo” at bath time. At first it sounded as if she was saying “chuppah,” but now she’s got it down to a pretty recognizable pronunciation. I guess it was easier than “bath,” which remains on the suspected but unconfirmed list. We’ve also been working on stacking her little blocks, and our wee one now has been known to come up with such utterances as “blop” and “blob” while playing with her Peek-a-Blocks, and “shtad, shtad” while stacking them. While she hasn’t got the “ck” sound down just yet, I’m very proud to say that Maddi enunciates her Ls quite clearly. At 11 months, our loquacious little lady has a vocabulary of 23 definite words and a number of things we think she might be saying but aren’t sure about (such as “hungry, Dada,” which was used a few days ago in the proper context and fairly clearly, but only once). She also has kept up with her “sentences,” saying things such as “Hi, kittycat,” “Mama, mil(k),” and once, something that sounded an awful lot like “Down-down, see Dada,” said while standing at her bedroom door and banging on it after she heard Daddy downstairs.

In addition to her new words, Maddi finally has begun using the ASL sign for food rather than indiscriminately signing “milk” when she’s hungry. She still signs “milk” most of the time, but when asked if she wants food (accompanied by the appropriate sign) she will usually correct herself.

This month she got four new foods to enjoy — butternut squash, yogurt, blueberries and raspberries. She also was reintroduced uneventfully to green beans, which had previously been the prime suspect in a bad diaper rash. We discontinued most of these foods for the past 10 days when she got another diaper rash, but eventually it became apparent that it was a teething-related rash, probably from the copious drool since she had more redness under her chin. Sure enough, after the teeth poked through, the redness abated even as she dined happily on yogurt and raspberry cereal.

Alas, with her week of teething, our plans to eliminate the early-afternoon nap were foiled. But it is a new week, and with the wee one destroying her crib right now when she should be napping, it is time for a new attempt at scaling back nap times. If she’s tired enough before I put her down, the thinking is that there will be no energy left for her to remove pants or paint.

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