I'm not sure what magic switch I flipped that made you become my sweet little girl again, but I am grateful each day I don't have to threaten a time out.
Which had been almost constant last month.
It's like you suddenly got it. You understood that life would be so much easier if you followed the rules once in awhile. Throw your crazy, well-intentioned parents a gimme on occasion because it's exhausting watching them rip their hair out all the time.
You stopped struggling with us every waking minute and instead only protest on occasion. You know, over really important things like continual access to your first cup of chocolate milk. Or keeping the giant bouncy ball you pulled from a bin at the grocery store.
And because you stopped hitting me in the face when you're mad or throwing whatever food your tiny fists contain at the moment, I'm more than happy to concede to an extra swig of chocolate milk or shell out a buck nineteen.
It's called give and take -- and I imagine we'll be doing a lot of it in the next couple of years.
Eventually, I'm hoping you'll mop the kitchen floor in exchange for a ride to the movies, although I'm not holding my breath.
Holy linguistics, your vocabulary exploded this month. It's like now that your body mastered everything there is do besides jumping rope and riding a bike, the part of your brain that controls speech took over.
I'm not exactly sure when it started, but at some point, I realized you were learning a new word every day, which significantly expanded on your constant uttering of Tob, baby, up and Mom -- in that order. Intermingled with "no" and "tickle" when the mood struck.
It all happened very naturally. One morning, as you were reaching for the spot where you had thrown Bear and Bunny from your crib, you said, "BEAR!" The next day, you extended your arm at the table and said, "CUP!" When I handed you an apple, you repeated the word. Then, when I smelled a funk in the air and asked if you had pooped, you took off running in the other direction yelling, "POOP! ... POOP! ... POOP!"
I was really proud of that one.
What's even more amazing is how you use the words in context. When you drop something, you say "uh oh." When you're having fun, you say "Wee!" When you walk around with my cell phone, you say "Hello." When your block tower crumbles, you say "crash."
You've also picked up "mine" from the kids at the library and like to use it when we withhold something dangerous like my shaving cream during bathtime.
Next I'd like to work on the phrase, "You're absolute perfection Mother."
You've become very good at occupying yourself, and I often find you sitting on the floor, flipping through the pages of one of your many books.
I love to stand back and watch as your eyes dart across the images, listening to you jabber while you attempt to read to yourself.
Books have become your favorite toys, next to Bunny and Bear of course, and there's one in particular you love. It's called "Just Me and My Mom" by Mercer Mayer. It's about a little boy who rides the train to the city to spend the day with his mom. You don't remember, but you got it for me as a Mother's Day gift before you were born. In fact, it's signed "Love Fetus" in Dad's writing inside the cover.
We read this book numerous times every day, and the pages are crinkled and worn from it. I have the text memorized, but you continue to find new and exciting things in the illustrations.
I think the reason you love it so much is because I turned the book into a game before you were patient enough to sit through the entire story. One of the best things about the Little Critter books is that there are, well, critters on each page. This particular book has a frog that ends up in the pocket of a hot dog vendor, on top of dinosaur bones at the museum, swimming with the fish at the aquarium and checking itself out in the mirror at the tailor.
I discovered that if I prompted you to find the frog on each page, I could read all of the words before you felt inclined to flip to the next one. Since then, we've gotten many more Critter books, but that one continues to be your favorite.
And even though I should be bored with it, I'm not because you're content sitting in my lap, and there isn't anyplace in the world I'd rather be.
A few weeks ago, it got warm enough that Dad and I were able to take you to the park near our house for the first time.
We had been planning to take a walk, but when you saw other kids running around and having fun as we attempted to pass by, you started lurching your body toward the giant plastic apparatuses and scrunching your face into a fit of rage when we didn't stop.
The walk didn't continue much after that for fear that the neighbors would think we were shoving toothpicks up your nailbeds.
We couldn't unhook you from your stroller fast enough. You arched your back, slid to the ground, stood underneath the kiddie swings and ordered, "UP." Incidentally, when you were born, someone sent us an e-card that declared you our new boss. At the time, while I was laughing, I don't think I realized how right it would be.
The swings were a hit, but the slide was even better. At first, I walked up the steps behind you, put you on my lap and we went down together. After a few rounds, I felt nauseous and my hair was so charged with static electricity that I could've powered our dishwasher through an entire sterilization cycle.
You, however, were just warming up, so we decided to let you attempt it on your own. It seemed crazy to let a 1-year-old tackle a slide by herself, but you continually surprise me, so Dad and I poised ourselves around the slide's twisty curves, ready to stop you if something went horribly wrong.
Much to our amazement, you climbed the steps on your own, walked to the edge, sat down, scooted closer on our prompting and wooshed past us wearing a huge grin. Then you did it again. And again. And again until your hair was standing straight up.
Gel users would kill for that type of hold. And most adults would kill for that type of unbridled joy.
I think that's why so many people have children. It's good to have a reason to go to the playground and just get silly.
Your bedtime routine has changed over the months, but the end result is always the same -- we put you in your crib wide awake, we close the door without any inkling of a protest and you fall asleep effortlessly.
If I could've picked one trait to bestow upon you during baby and toddlerdom, I'm pretty sure this would trump everything. And don't think for one second that I take it for granted because every time I walk away, the first thought in my head is how incredibly lucky I am -- for you and your love of naps.
Some parents read books to their children before bed, but since we read constantly, we opt for something a little different.
We high-five your stuffed animals.
Dad or I hold you up, and we work our way down the row of stuffies on your shelves. Sometimes you add sound effects like "Woa" for each slap, other times you make Bunny and Bear do the high-fiving for you. In the end, we walk to your crib, set you down where you high-five Bunny and Bear, then me, then Dad, then we hold up one of Toby's front paws and wait for the laughter to die down before we ask for kisses.
You usually squeeze in another high-five before we're able to close the door because, inevitably, your little hand will be cocked by your ear, waiting for just one more willing recipient.
You love this ritual so much that all I have to do is suggest it when I notice you're getting tired. Your cranky mood is instantly lifted as you smile and start chuckling to yourself while beelining to your room. When I catch up, I always find you at the base of your bookshelf, waiting to be picked up to commence Operation High-Five.
Sometimes the habit spills over to other aspects of life, like when we were waiting to pick up my glasses at the optometrist's office last week. Somehow you got on a high-five kick and walked the circumference of the room, taking turns slapping hands with me and the two other women in the room -- a stiff-looking administrator at a very affluent all-girls school and an 88-year-old woman whose daughter owns the floral shop Dad always buys me boquets from. I know all of this because nothing gets a room talking like a little girl who wants to share her sunshine.
Just wait until you get to football season, lady. In this area, Steelers fans are always poised to slap hands. You don't even have to know each other. If you're wearing black and gold, that's reason enough.
There have been a few tragic stories in the news this month that have affected me deeply at work and at home. Plus, I read a wonderful book called "The Secret Life of Bees" about a girl who grows up without her mother. It easily became one of my all-time favorites.
Although seemingly unrelated, they have reminded me just how much I love you. How in as little as 17 months, you have completely changed the course of my life and how I see the world and everything in it.
I'm thankful for every day we get to spend together. You instantly became my sun when you were born. Every decision, every move, every plan revolves around you -- much like when I married your father. We became a team. And that team became a family.
One that I will sacrifice myself for.
A fellow mommy blogger recently wrote a post about how she always wanted to be an expert in something, but eventually settled for being good at a lot of different things. Then she had her daughter, and she immediately knew what she was meant to be an expert at.
I might be good at writing. And designing newspaper pages. And decorating Christmas cookies. And painting stools. And taking pictures. And procrastinating.
But I am an expert at being your mother.
I don't need you to tell me what you want, I read your body language. I know when you're tired before you do. I know how to invoke a smile after you've bumped your head. I know which toy you want when you wildly gesture toward your toybox. I know you'll pull off your socks when you get frustrated. And wipe food in your hair just to clean off your fingers.
I'm not sure what I did to deserve being this blessed. Perhaps I paid my dues in another lifetime, if you believe in that sort of thing. Or maybe I just got lucky. Or made some good decisions in between all the bad ones.
At the risk of sounding pessimistic or morose, I know I can't be certain how many days we'll have to spend together, but I'm certain I'll do my best to appreciate every one.
Like one of your books says:
You're my star,
My moon, my sun.
Momma loves you,