Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dear Cadence, Month 18

Dear Cadence,

Mama. Baba. kitty cat. dog. duck. more. out. back. this. what is this? I did it! yes. eye. I. ay ay, ai, Hi! Nana. Papa. Apple pie. bye. ouch. oh. um. that. arf. miao. moo. baa. xie xie. vroom vroom vroom! 'P!' o'clock. dining room. mom. that. quack, oink, neigh, ball, ear, hat, book, bear, puppy, penguin, baby...

I know I'm forgetting a lot, but these are all words you have in your repertoire, words used correctly on multiple occasions, and then often returned to cold storage. I get the distinct impression that you're saving them up for one day when you'll just bust out in full sentences. My belief is furthered by the fact that you've started stringing together some basic, simple sentences. Some as gentle as, "mom, what is this?" and "this is a bear," others, created entirely in sign language, expressing desires mixed with social niceties, such as "more drink, please."

You've learned to give us puppy dog eyes and say please when you want something, and then to try the other parent when one of us says "No." You've also created a word all your own for referring to both of us at once; "Maba!" Maba, you demand, must pay attention, and come here.

Earlier this month your shoes finally wore out from all the running, dancing, and jumping you do in them. They wouldn't have lasted half as long if we let you wear them at home, but you only wore them when we went out and about. So, we stopped in a shoe store just to take a look at the options. For the first time, you seemed genuinely interested in the possibility of new shoes for yourself. You took shoes you liked off the shelf, and indicated which ones you wanted to try on-and try them on you did. Baba found a brown shoe with three tasteful little pink flowers on the toe, and your eyes lit up and that was your shoe. You tried it on, and the sales lady fetched you the other one. A big gleeful smile stole across your face and you marched around the store on your heels, staring at you feet, and admiring them in the mirror. I asked if you'd like to try on any others, but you were done. You'd found your shoes. We paid and left the store, but before we left you ran over and gave the saleswoman a big hug. And we've been hard pressed to get you to take them off since. You don't like to take them off when we get home, and will often bring them to us, asking us to help you put them on, even we have just taken them off.

You're developing quite the sense of humor, these days, one of your favorite games involves faking out Baba. You also found it particularly hilarious when I caught you picking the Rody's nose...and then repeated it, howling with laughter, for anyone who would watch. Hiding in the closet with the doors closed, waiting for someone to walk by so you can pop out and surprise them is another big favorite. (So is making the rhino you inherited from Baba charge after you so you can run away shrieking and giggling.) And you've since figured out the concept of getting someone's attention to show them something funny. Your silly phase has begun!

You love reading the boynton books, and you seem to particularly love Moo, Baa, La La La since you can now make all of the animal noises required, and Blue Hat, Green Hat because you can understand why the turkey is silly. Granted, you gaffawed at that book the very first time we read it to you a few months ago, but now you can point out why it's so silly.

You continue to do a little dance (you expect us to provide the correct soundtrack) every time you point to your belly button. You want us to sing the belly button song from the boynton CD Philadelphia Chickens. This works well enough unless you point and request the song from someone other than Maba, since most folks don't get the reference or know the song. You are never satisfied without the belly button dance!

You are getting much more aware of your body and your self as you become more aware and comfortable in the world. I hesitate a little to put the following into this letter, but only because I do publish these letters online and I don't want you to be embarrassed, even if it isn't for many years. But it is, I believe, a positive thing, and I want you to be able to look back and be proud of what a healthy, well adjusted little girl you are.

The other day, mid diaper change, as I turned to get a clean diaper from the drawer, you sat up and contemplated yourself for a moment, and then patted my arm to get my attention. "Mom, what is this?" you asked, pointing to what is usually hidden beneath layers of cotton. Of course it was nothing new, but that particular day you felt motivated to learn more, and so, you asked. "That's your vulva, sweetheart. It's a part of your body, just like your knee is a part of your body." "oh" you said, and then you [very genuinely and sweetly] waved to it, and declared; "HI!!" I sincerely hope that you will always be able to keep this level of comfort, this genuinely accepting relationship with - and appreciation for - your own body.

This past month saw your second christmas, and what a day that was!! You made out like a bandit, and seemed to have an amazing time. I don't know why I was so surprised by how awed you were when you walked into the living room on christmas morning o find a herd of sheep for you to hug and love, but I was, it seemed like just one more notch in the stake, saying "this baby isn't a baby anymore, she's a full fledged little girl." you savored every moment, every unwrapping, every toy, book, smell...I had so much fun just watching you...I think this may have been my best christmas ever. I had my parents and sister, you and your baba, all five cats and both dogs with me to celebrate, which is something I've always wanted, and to top it all off, (and bowl it right over,) I got to experience this christmas through your wonder. I was through the roof.

But that isn't the only thing that made this christmas great. Starting with your very first christmas, last year, I wanted to show you the joy of giving, just as much as receiving. Last year I had gifts to give everyone from you, which I explained and tried to engage you in...and you did, as much as a five and a half month old can. (probably more, honestly.) But this year, much to my astonishment, delight, and a slight sense of "well, of course, that's my Cadence!", you totally go it and took over. Being on a very tight budget this year, we'd made several trips to the mall to comparison and window shop before we made any decisions. I guess I didn't realize how much attention you paid during these forays, until the day Baba, Kelly, you and I went to do our annual its-closer-than-it-should-be-to-the-holiday-christmas-shopping-run. Baba and Kelly went off on their own (we always end up shopping for each other on these trips, which adds to the oddity of them) and I decided to use the time to get stuff for them. I asked you what you wanted to give Kelly for christmas, and you directed me to a very specific store, and directly to a necklace we had looked at during an earlier trip. "you want to get this for Kelly?" I asked. Yes, you nodded. Did you want to look for anything else? No. You're sure? Yes. For Kelly. Yes. Ok. BIIIG SMILES!!

So, I paid for that, and returned to the main hallway of the mall. Content with and proud of your performance on the first question, I wasn't expecting a repeat performance when I asked you what you wanted to get for Baba, but that is what I got. You once again directed me to a very specific store [a different one, mind you] and to a little piggy bank you had admired once before. (Containing the change from his pockets was an ongoing issue in your early life...I insisted that he put it in a container to avoid the risk of coins falling within your everything-goes-in-the-mouth-baby-reach, but he could never find a satisfactory receptacle. He'd been using a disposable tupperware container without a lid for about a year by this time.) There were lots of piggy bans, big and small, with hand painted decorations on them. You chose a small one with no decoration or frill whatsoever. I tried to turn your attention to some of the painted ones, but you insisted on the blank Piggy bank. So, wishing to respect your very clear choice, I took it up to pay, but that's when I got my biggest surprise of the day. The woman running the shop asked if I wanted anything written on it...I hadn't realized they were all customizable (in fact, I realized, belatedly, that was the whole point of the chose and ornament, statue, frame-whatever- and they would decorate or write whatever you wanted on it. I guess you just didn't want anyone else's designs infringing upon your message.) "Um, I guess," I stammered, and then, not expecting an answer so much as buying time to think, I turned to you and asked "what should we write on it, Cadence?" You responded, without missing a single beat, by emphatically pointing to yourself, then shouting "Baba!" very loud. "Oh!" I said, "You want it to say, "to Baba, from Cadence?" Yes yes yes! you nodded, gleefully grinning and leaking happy bouncy energy all over the floor. "Ok!" I said, affirming your answer to the artist. But then, it seemed a little too formal for the amount of optimism you were bringing to the table, so I asked if you wanted to say 'to baba, love cadence' instead of from, and you looked relieved and jumped into my arms, giving a satisfied grunt and excited kick to launch yourself upward as you nodded 'yes, yes, yes!!' By this point the artist knew that you were calling the shots, so she consulted with you about color and size and all that, while I merely provided the proper spellings. It was wonderful. And I was SO. GLAD. to be able to share this with you. To see how much you were into the whole gift giving thing was incredible.

After that, I had confidence in your ability to think about others, but you're still a kid, and I don't expect you to perform spot on every time, so I was still surprised when, on a separate trip, you picked out items for Nanna Marianna and Papa Scott entirely on your own, and Baba tells me you even screened my gifts. And even then, it's one thing to pick things out, its another to understand on christmas morning that those things you bought aren't for you. But, once again, you seemed to catch on faster than anyone else could have-you were interested in the items you chose, but ultimately, you seemed really glad to be giving them to their respective receivers-sometimes again and again throughout the day. You're an amazing little girl, Cadence.

Giving is a wonderful thing. You delight in giving now, alway distributing whatever snack you get to anyone else within range, sharing toys, even at peak-a-book, where most of the other kids can't figure out how to relate to their own hands much less another small person, you will often run back and forth from the toy box to the others, giving them toys and books. You've started spontaneously offering hugs and kisses, too!

You'll come to a family member and tip your head up slightly and purse your lips just a bit and wait for a kiss. You've also started saying "bye bye" if you know that you are about to leave someone's presence, and often you will include a kiss with that, without being asked. It's incredibly sweet and cute, and melts my brain every time.

Another giant sign of Your Grown-Up-Ness is that you've begun to lose yourself in your imagination. You've always been able to self entertain for brief periods of time, but recently, you'll start playing with something and I'll look over 15 minutes later, and there you'll be, talking to those dutch barbies I have left over from a theater piece I did in Amsterdam [that strange ken doll with black skin, blond hair, and joints everywhere but his knees, and his round faced, inexplicably old world dutch counterparts in mom jeans and abba tops...]and having them talk to each other, or making two sheep kiss, or building wondrous creations out of blocks, chairs, animals, boxes, and wagons...playing string hoping to catch a cat...You have discovered your imagination in earnest, and its fascinating to watch. Although, I do try to give you your space...goodness knows I don't want to stifle that creative play and energy. You'll need that to fly!
Take wing, Amazin' B. I have nothing but confidence that you're gonna soar.
but no matter what, you'll always be my Baby.

I love you, Cadence.

Love Always,