This month I started to wonder whether you are actually the daughter of some circus performer somewhere and perhaps I took you home from the hospital by mistake.
Because sometime in the last few weeks you summoned your inner daredevil.
Walking is becoming less and less of a challenge for you, so you've decided to tackle new physical feats. Like trying to get to a lamp by using the coffee table to boost you high enough to wriggle onto the couch, toss your body over the arm of the couch, straddle the empty space between that and the end table to reach with all your might until either a) I stupidly realize I can't take my eyes off you for even 3 seconds and swoop in and scoop you up, or b) you toss the lamp to the floor and laugh uncontrollably at what fun games await at higher altitudes.
Then there's the high chair. Even though eating is your second-favorite activity behind making your parents crazy, you are no longer interested in food while sitting down. Not when you could be standing up!
And because your father and I are idiots and couldn't figure out how to strap you in correctly until just this morning, all of our meals up until then consisted of holding down your legs so you couldn't wriggle them underneath the seat and stand up, grinning with gooey chunks of peanut butter toast in each fist.
Other chairs have proven just as irresistible. Like the rocking chair in your bedroom. You were smart enough to shove over my footstool and climb aboard. You looked so happy to be sitting in a big-girl chair that I showed you how it rocked back and fourth. Then you stood up, put your hands on each side, pumped your arms and squealed as it shook.
Then there's the little antique wooden seat just for you that has always been stationed by the window. Now you can climb on top, stand up and slam your hands against the glass. Unfortunately, your father was coming home from work at that exact moment, saw you, stopped the car and started waving.
Now you think if you pound hard enough, your dad will magically appear. Needless to say, much of our mornings are spent keeping you off that chair and away from the window.
And this is the part where I tell you you're lucky you're cute.
Your ability to move and climb, combined with your utter boredom with all of the things you've been inspecting for months at ground level has also prompted you to get into other things.
Like the toilets.
You have always been enamored with water, but now you know where to find it.
Meanwhile, I'm regretting teaching you how to open and close things. Who knew that showing you how to open the lid on your lion seat would translate to your hand splashing around in toilet water a few days later?
Fortunately, I outsmarted you and wedged your bathroom stool between the back of the tank and the lid. And the downstairs bathroom door is now permanently shut.
I suppose it should come as no surprise. You would spend all day in the bathtub if we allowed it. If life were up to you, people would spend the majority of their time in water and a few moments out of it to prevent major chapping.
In fact, when I was home from work one night earlier this month, your dad showed me a new part of your routine that had me laughing so hard, I nearly collapsed on the floor. To get you ready for your bath, he gets you undressed in your room then walks down the hall to the bathroom. As soon as you hear the water flowing, you take off in a naked crawling dash to the tub, panting and swishing your tiny butt the entire way.
It just won't be the same when you decide walking gets you there faster, so sometimes we pick you up and put you back in your room just to see you go crazy twice.
Hey, it makes up for the times we have to pull your sopping arm out of the toilet.
When you were born, you were showered with stuffed animals of all sizes and shapes. Now you have numerous bins crammed with cotton-filled elephants, a rooster, an owl, rabbits, lambs, various bugs, penguins, lions, tigers and bears.
When you became old enough to start taking naps without having milk first, I started a new routine to help you understand that it would soon be time to lay down and go to sleep. We would close your blinds, walk over to your bookshelf, and I would encourage you to choose a stuffy.
Each day it varied. You would reach for different toys, but they all made you gloriously happy. It was enough to get you to lay down with a smile so I could kiss you and scoot out of the room.
The fact that you didn't have a favorite didn't surprise me. You seem to like variety and haven't formed any habits like sucking your fingers or relying on a pacifier. Which, trust me, is a wonderful thing. Ask your grandma and great-grandma how they had to bribe me with expensive jewelry to get me to stop sucking my fingers. IN FIFTH GRADE.
But this month you finally settled on a favorite. Well, two favorites -- Bunny and Bear -- one for each arm. The most amazing thing is that although they are different shapes and colors and came from different people at different times, they are both made by Ty Company. That may not seem significant, but at one point, they were the makers of all things coveted -- Beanie Babies. And your favorites have the beans in their extremities, giving them a similar feel and heft.
I am amazed that you were able to differentiate between all of your toys and settle on the two that are most alike.
Now Bunny and Bear go everywhere with us and they show it. Bunny was starting to look less white and more gray. I was terrified of putting him in the washing machine, but fortunately I didn't have to make a frantic toy store shopping spree in the middle of the night because he came out just fine. And I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Every morning I awake to two thuds as they hit the floor, and I know your cries will soon follow. When I walk into your room, your face is covered in tears and you're desperately reaching toward your friends. I explain to you that you shouldn't throw them if you want them back right away, but you are too frantic to care. When I place them in your arms, you hold them tight and bury your face between them smiling.
It's good to have something soft to hold onto sometimes.
When you were much smaller, I was worried that you wouldn't develop any social skills because you don't have other children to play with on a regular basis. But thanks to your weekly play group at the library and dad taking you to Sunday school, you have become this amazingly outgoing little girl.
Just last week, the two oldest boys at the library started making a bunch of noise by rattling around some blocks in a bin on the other side of the room. The rest of the kids stopped what they were doing and watched, but you charged over, wedged yourself between them and joined in.
Then you crawled into the bin.And the boys grabbed two other bins and did the same.
I hope that is a lesson you never forget: Don't be afraid to play with the big boys. You are just as confident and capable as they are.
Your desire to interact with others was very apparent when we waited in line to see Santa this week. The line snaked around the Christmas display and you were not interested in staying put. Not when there were so many other kids around.
You walked around visiting everyone, chatting up a storm, waiving and nodding. Everyone was mostly keeping to themselves until you decided to spread your joy. It was tremendous to watch a line of adults who had been somewhat impatient, encourage their children to talk to the "baby." Everyone just kind of perked up.
Granted, you weren't too thrilled with Santa, but I'm sure you'll come around.
Call it a mother's instinct.
Your love of food hasn't waned one bit and it probably can be credited to the two giant molars that popped up out of your bottom gums. Now that you can actually chew things, EATING IS THAT MUCH BETTER.
After visiting Santa, Dad and I took you out for dinner. Knowing you'd probably be hungry before our food arrived, I had thought ahead and packed some snacks. I started by giving you a few sprinkles of the baby trail mix I create -- a combination of Cheerios and raisins -- and YOU ATE THE WHOLE CONTAINER.
Desperate, we started giving you the cheese off your father's French onion soup. Then spoonfuls of the broth. Then bites of the bread. Then, what the hell, some onions.
Thankfully, our waiter rounded the corner with our meal. Glorious real food so I didn't have to resort to ice cubes out of my water.
I diced chicken and broccoli from your kids meal. Then you reached for my plate. So I gave you shrimp. And mashed potatoes. And coleslaw. And Dad gave you some of his burger. And a fry. And before I knew it, you had eaten more of our meals than we had. You were just sitting there, kicking your legs with joy under the table, reaching for more.
So we thought we'd throw you a curve ball and handed you a lemon wedge.
Not only didn't you flinch at the bitter taste, you said "Mmm" and proceeded to EAT THE WHOLE THING. Every last juicy bite right down to the rind. Then you handed the carcass back to me as if I could somehow replenish it for you.
Next we'll try curry.
Lady, you are so much fun to be around these days. Even when you're defying gravity and trashing the place, you remind me what it's like just being a kid. Exploring. Testing limits. Learning new things.
Now that you've been in our lives for more than a year, I'm able to look back and remember what life was like with you last holiday season. I remember saying things like, "Next year she'll probably like shaking the snow globe." Or, "Next year she'll be able to open her presents."
The transformation is nothing short of mind-blowing.
And although it's easy to jump ahead and think about what you'll be doing next year at this time, I'm trying so hard to stay in the moment. To cherish your babble as you toddle around the living room carrying the stuffed ballerina lamb ornament in your hand, gnawing on its little tail butt puff.
I'm so thankful for your health and your strength that it has encouraged me to do a lot more giving this year than I ever have before. Because of you, I know how important it is that other kids have a warm coat and access to books and good doctors.
You inspire me to be a better person every day.