Monday, September 15, 2008

Month 10

Dear Alli,

How is it possible that you're 10 months old? You've hit the double-digits of babydom, which makes me wonder when you graduate to the toddler category. Dad and I were just having this conversation last week when we noticed a lot of your foods have bullet points like "Perfect for toddler hands!" on the packaging.

We decided to refuse to acknowledge you as a toddler until you actually toddle. What can I say, it's my fault. I'm an editor. I overanalyze words. And you're stuck with me, so get used to it. I promise it will pay off if you ever need help on grammar or punctuation homework.

Even still, this month has been a blur of moving and shaking. If I didn't know you so well, I'd be wondering why you aren't toddling yet. But we've gone through this with all of your major motor skills. You'll walk when you're damn well ready.

And that's just fine with me.

Because, frankly, I don't really want to encourage any more mobility. I can barely keep up with you now. When I needed to open the oven to check on the first apple pie I've baked in a century and you were on the kitchen floor, I had to carry you to the living room, stand you up at the coffee table and take off in a sprint knowing that you'd be at my feet pulling yourself up to inspect my culinary skills before I could say, "No, HOT."

I'm pretty sure that if they had Baby Olympics, you would win the gold in the 10-meter crawling dash.


The food experimentation has continued, and up until last week you hadn't rejected anything.

Then I decided to give you oatmeal for breakfast. Plain, no-nonsense, flavorless oatmeal. You know, the most bland, unoffensive substance on the planet.

To be honest, I've stopped anticipating any sort of reaction from you over new foods entirely. On occasion you'll pause and give me a bit of a quizzical look, but the second you swallow, your face lights up and you just open your mouth expecting the next spoonful.

So imagine my surprise when you contorted your face into a look of pure disgust when I gave you your first bite of oatmeal. OATMEAL. Especially because you don't seem to have any aversion whatsoever to dog food or grass or dirt or pine needles or even sucking on the side of the toilet lid if we don't stop you.

But oatmeal?

Apparently you found it so foul a substance that giving me a death glare didn't quite capture JUST HOW MUCH you hated it. No. You immediately used BOTH HANDS to reach into your mouth and scrape it off your tongue.

Then you flung it on the floor.

After laughing so hard I cried, I persisted. Even at the risk that my face would be the next target.

The second bite wasn't met with quite such abhorrence, although instead of opening your mouth wide, you cracked it a mere sliver, forcing me to work to wedge the spoon in there. That time you just rolled it around in your mouth and eventually dribbled it out on your high chair to inspect it.

The hesitation waned with each bite and before we both knew it, you had eaten the entire bowl, albeit a little begrudgingly.

I guess you just prefer pancakes.


Then there's the talking. Holy eardrums, the talking.

You start gabbing the moment you wake up as if you're informing me about all of the very important things on your to-do list for the day. Things like pulling all of electronic chargers out of the filing cabinet in the office. And slapping the nose on your lion so you can dance to the music. And avoiding oatmeal at all costs.

The babble is absolutely adorable. Sometimes it looks like you're carrying on entire conversations with your stuffed animals. It's mostly unidentifiable, but lately your favorite phrase sounds a lot like "gob, gobba, gobble."

It must be because you were born a few days before Thanksgiving.

But even better than all the random sounds is that you've definitely mastered "Mama" and "Dada," although it sounds more like "Mom Mom" and "DAahh."

A long time ago we decided not to count either of those as your first words because you had been babbling them long before you associated them with us. Instead, we waited patiently for the next word you'd utter, fully expecting it to be some version of "dog" or "puppy" or "Toby."

But no. We weren't even there to hear it. I've been told from a roomful of witnesses that you were cruising toward New York grandma's brick fireplace mantle and she yelled "STOP!"

Then you did. And thought about it. And blurted "DOP!"

Now it's all you say. Dad's mowing the lawn? DOP! I'm changing your diaper? DOP! Someone's at the door? DOP! Toby's running around the room? DOP! You're taking a bath? DOP!


Ironically, you won't.


After stumbling upon a baby sign language book on clearance while I was pregnant, I got it in my head that you and I would be communicating in complete sentences by the time you were old enough to make a fist.

I was completely overzealous and started when you were only a few months old, then I got frustrated and gave up when I didn't see any results.

But surprise, surprise, you retained some of it. You know the sign for "milk." Granted, you use it in the context of "more," but I'm too proud to get hung up on strict accuracy. Even the intro of the book advises parents to use what works rather than strive for perfection. You've adapted it to suit your needs, and I'm so thrilled I just might start working on expanding your signing vocabulary again.

I don't remember when I first started noticing it, but after awhile, it was impossible not to. You extend your right fist, mostly at mealtime when you're looking for more of something, and open and close it a few times. Because I comply and you get your desired result, you've continued doing it.

And you've started using it in other contexts too. Like if I'm using something that you'd like to have. Or if Dad is having too much fun with your toys and you want them back. The only one who doesn't understand is Toby. You just sit on the floor during play time, squeezing your fist with gusto, fully expecting Toby to pass over his rope bone. Then you throw a fit when he doesn't.

Sorry lady, getting you to sign is one thing. Teaching the dog to sign is quite another.


Speaking of Toby, he fostered a really fun milestone this month. Every afternoon, when Dad gets home from work, we all play together before lunch.

Mostly it means tossing a random toy for Toby, who has been very patient all morning while I'm tied up with you. Toby has always been pumped when Dad gets home, but now more than ever it means happy fun time.

So we sit and play fetch for awhile. And to engage you, we always make a big scene when Toby brings his toy back into the room. We yell "Yaaaayyy!" and clap and you smile and shake with joy like it's bursting out of you.

Eventually you started yelling along with us and then, without warning, one afternoon you started clapping. At the appropriate moment. In context.

Your father and I just sort of stared at each other like, "Woa, did that really just happen?" So we tested it out to see if you'd do it again.

Sure enough, when Toby brought the toy back into the room, without prompting, you started cheering and clapping and looked to us to back you up. We joined in, but I have to tell you, Alli, that time the cheering was mostly for you.

Thanks for giving us so many reasons.


Mom Mom


Its_just_ang said...

OMG!! She's so big! And she's getting more beautiful by the day!

the plainsman said...

Bet next time either of you hear the song on radio, it's going to be "DOP, in the name of love!"

And of course, it will be, too, when you think of her!

These monthly letters are simply great.

julie said...

Adorable. Give her kisses from Shobha and me.

jsi said...

Terrific use of the sign language opportunity. Sign language words, even just a few, helps relieve some of the communication frustration which can happen. It's striking how reduced the level of frustration a baby will feel when they can understand that someone understands what they want/need/expect.

Poor little one with trying to tell Toby. That train ain't reaching the station...bummer.

Exactly, "Dop! in the name of love!" You'll sing it to each other for the rest of your life.

She is a shining joy. Still praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, ive never liked oatmeal...I feel for her. What horrible stuff!!!

sarahhhh said...

oh man, she is stunning. what a smart and beautiful baby!

uh... this reminds me. i think i have developed sign language with my cat. yelling or talking to a cat is like being rejected by a wall... but once i started to sign (like opening and closing my fists) she actually comes to me! when i rub my hands together she gets excited and knows it's dinner time.

not too impressive or anything. it'd be way cooler if she actually signed her needs to me, BUT i'm workin on it. haha. we'll see. we can compare notes when that happens.

also, one day when i have money i need to write down the name of your camera. it rocks.

Anonymous said...

love the picture of the dog and baby. looks like hes dragging her by the ankle and she's LOVING IT!

Ray said...

So great to hear that things just keep getting better and better as Alli gets older. I can't wait to hear about her first birthday. And Alli will learn how to sign more as she get's older. It just takes time I suppose, as everything else does. I read another lady's online blog who taught her daughter to sign as well. It's cool to have your own secret language with her. Makes things more easier (since she can't talk yet).

Well, take care.

Timberly said...


Anonymous said...

i really didn't like oatmeal until college started. and even now, i'm not a big fan.


erica said...

Beautiful pictures! I can't believe she doesn't like Oatmeal! Brown sugar is a favorite of mine. Although it probably took me until I was at least 17 to actually like it, so she's farther along than I am. Alli is going to love these letters when she's older. They're beautiful. Just wait until she says her first sentence. My parents still tell me about mine. They were astounded. I just walked into the yard, looked at them, and said "grass tickles my toes". They don't remember my first word, but they sure know that sentence. Best to all of you!

samantha said...

Kelly - I've been a long time reader. Your wit and humor won me over when I started reading blogs and yours was one I couldn't put down. Thank you so much for writing yesterday about your struggle with depression. I have felt the same things and have agonized with how to verbalize it to my concerned family and friends as I am normally very bubbly and outgoing. I printed out what you wrote and showed it to them. My mom nodded and confided to me that this is something she struggles with as well. Thank you. Thank you for writing, thank you for living, thank you for having the courage to talk about things that not everyone is comfortable talking about.

I am not interested in taking medication, but already just having my loved ones have an idea about what I'm going through makes it a little easier.


Smart Baby Sign Language said...

You are an amazing writer.

And, I just have to let you know. Dogs can learn sign language. I taught my dogs to respond to hand signals or signs before I even really knew much about baby signing. And the dogs understood the signs better than the words.

Keep up signing with your daughter. If you think she's amazing now, just wait until she has multiple signs at her fingertips.