Monday, August 24, 2009

Twelve Months Old!


Dear Valerie,

You are 12 months old, now! One whole year. Wow. Just wow.

This month has been a very exciting one for us. The first, big, exciting thing that happened was that your dad finally found a job, after many, many months of looking. He started his new job the day before our big, family vacation, so you and I had to leave him behind, and go on our vacation without him. We had a fun vacation, even though we missed Daddy a lot, especially when it was bedtime, and I had to put you down without his help, and you were squirmy and fussy and didn't want to sleep.


We went to Vermont for your cousin Nick's second birthday, and we got to see Grandma, and your very pregnant Aunt Alana and not-very pregnant Uncle Eric. You cried for a large percentage of the long car trip there, though, and neither of us was too eager to get into the car again for the next leg of the journey. We managed it eventually, though, and spent a lovely week camping with mommy's friends from college. You had fun with Reggie, who is only a few months younger than you, and you got very, very dirty crawling around the campsite. It rained a lot, and mommy didn't get to play as many games as she usually does on the camping trip, but it was a fun trip nonetheless.


After camping, we spent a few days with Phil and Rachel visiting some friends in Western Massachusetts, and then came home, exhausted, to start getting ready for a visit from Grandma and your first birthday party. (I'm going to include your birthday party in this letter, even though it technically took place a few days into your thirteenth month, because it seems more relevant here.) Your birthday party was a lot of fun. There were about fifty people there, and lots of rubber duckies. My friend Erin made a really neat rubber ducky cake for you, and you absolutely loved it when we gave you a cupcake with a candle on it. You were mesmerized by the candle, and a little bit disappointed when we blew it out, but you got over your disappointment quickly when you realized that it was food.


Between Daddy going back to work, vacation, party preparations, a visit from Grandma, and Mommy switching her work schedule over to evenings so that you can stay with Daddy while she is working, it's been a pretty crazy month as far as routines are concerned. Not that we were ever really great about routines before, but we were starting to do a little better right about when everything went crazy. You're still not entirely sure what to make of it all, and you have become extra clingy and snuggly this month. I don't blame you, though, I'm feeling pretty out-of-control lately, too. Things should settle down soon, though. I hope.


Developmentally, you didn't have a lot of "firsts" this month, but your physical skills have been progressing quickly. You've become very adept at pulling yourself up on things, and you're proving to be quite the climber. You love climbing the stairs, and climbing over any person who is silly enough to lie down beside you. One day, you climbed up on top of the trunk that we use as a coffee table, and I realized that we were going to have to do a whole lot more baby-proofing to keep this house safe for you! You also love walking if someone holds your hands, and cruising around the pool in your floatie boat, where buoyancy removes your remaining barriers to mobility.


I'm stuck on one milestone for your baby book, though. You love to talk, and you babble all the time, and you repeat sounds we make and words we say. So how do I decide what your "first" word was? How do I decide when it wasn't just repetition, when it wasn't just a sound? You say "Dada", and "Mama", and "Nana", and you attribute them to the correct people. (Sorry PopPop and Grandma, your names just aren't easy enough to say, yet.) You love finding out what things are, and you often point at things in order for me to tell you the word for them, which you will then attempt to repeat. Sometimes you point and say "wuh" or "dat", which I think is your way of asking "what is that?", but I may be giving you too much credit. You don't repeat things perfectly, but you come pretty close, and you have even repeated complex phrases like "fuzzy d20s" with reasonable proximity. That's a pretty geeky first word, and awesome on so many levels.


When we were camping, you started to say "oof" when the dogs went by, and a few times, you even said "daw". You have figured out which of your books have pictures of dogs in them, and you will go searching for the dog pictures, then proclaim, "oof!" when you find them. When we were visiting friends with a cat, you learned to say "mao", although you still prefer to call every four legged creature "oof".


You definitely learned the word "no" this month. I told you several times not to put rocks in your mouth, and then one time, you were holding a rock to put in your mouth, and you told yourself "no". You say "no" a lot, mostly when you are about to do something that you know Mama would say "no" to as well. Sometimes, you say "no", then don't do it, which gets you lots of praise from Mama. Sometimes, though, you tell yourself "no" as you are doing the forbidden act, which just leads to more no's. (And I thought testing boundaries was supposed to be a two-year-old thing...) So maybe "no" was your first word, since it was the first one that you learned to use contextually that wasn't onomatopoetic or truncated. But then again, you started using the sign language word for "milk" contextually when you were nine months old, which is not only a much nicer word than "no", but it's in another language! That's much cooler. (Upon further thought, there are a few other words that you use in context. "Hi" and "yeah" come to mind, but I expect there are others, too.)


With your newfound mobility, you have become quite independent this month. You're always crawling away to get into something that I didn't quite manage to put away high enough. You love to pull all of your toys out of their boxes as soon as you are given the chance, but you frequently will go over to your bookshelf first and pull out half a dozen books, and then sit, with them all surrounding you, open to various pages, and babble to yourself contentedly for ages, moving back and forth between the books in some pattern known only to you. You love books, but you prefer to read them to yourself, and will hardly ever sit through an entire reading of a book if I am reading it to you. I guess the problem with Mommy reading books to you is that I read them only one at a time, from front to back. How frightfully dull of me.


You're starting to associate similar items with one another. You know that I talk into my cell phone, and one day, you handed me my cell phone, said something that sounded like "talk", then giggled happily when I pretended to talk on the phone. Later on, you did the same thing with a vaguely cell-phone-shaped block, then amused yourself for ten minutes by handing me more "phones" to talk on. You have also become fascinated with the idea of a comb. One day, you were holding your comb, and I showed you how to use it, and a light went on in your eyes. Since then, you take any comb-shaped object (small blocks, pieces of chicken, etc.) and rub it across your hair. It's adorable. Except maybe when I am cleaning the chicken out of your hair at bath-time.


You are usually a very happy baby (except when you are fighting sleep). It's easy to make you laugh, and when you laugh, it is with absolute abandon, the way only a baby can laugh. You're quite ticklish, like your mom, which is great fun. You love when I shake my hair in your face, and you will ask me to do this by shaking your head at me with a big smile on your face. You also love it when I pop out from behind doorways, and will shriek with terrified joy when I do. You love kisses, but you don't seem to have quite worked out how to give them yet. When you want to give me a kiss, you will open your mouth as wide as you can, then smash your face into mine. Cute, but perhaps not the best technique.


I love watching you grow, and even though I don't always have as much energy for you as I would like, I love to play with you and watch you learn. I love you very much, Valerie, and I know you love me too, even if you show your love with open-mouthed head-butt kisses. Every day, you teach me a little more about joy, love, patience, and gratitude. I'm a better person today than I was a year ago, thanks to you. More sleep-deprived, but better. I'd say that's a fair trade.




jon said...

love your writing, love the pictures. love you too :).

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that Valerie is already 1!!!! Your letter is beautiful!

jd said...

I loved it all, too. That's about the best picture of me in a LONG time!

christianlady said...

Such a beaut!

Jessie V. said...

Love it!!

Jessie V. said...

When I started to get nervous about Fiery ripping pages I replaced the shelves she could reach with our DVDs. That way I don't have to watch her. For the shelves that I can't do anything about I just pack the books in REALLY tight so she can't pull them out :-)