Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dear Cadence, Month 21

Dear Cadence,

The tea was delicious, and seemed to have magical nourishing and healing properties, but it was now gone, and worse, there was a vicious beast advancing for yet another attack, fierce growls accompanying the onset of the giant serpent and the fangs of the large and furry creature. I fought as hard as I could, holding them off just enough to leave you with a narrow avenue of escape out the back, which you bravely took and fled with the seemingly sacred vessel, returning quickly with more of the precious tea. You took a large drink, and offered it to me. Once I was sated, we turned our attentions once more to the growling howling beast and her serpentine companion...always the brave and intelligent heart you are, you were able to neutralize the threat by offering to share the tea with the beast! she accepted, and after drinking her fill, ceased to be the vicious threat she had been, and instead gave out kisses and joined our ongoing tea party.

The tea ran out once more, so off we went to get more...but alas! once we arrived, the tea machine was not working! you pushed buttons and tried resetting it, but it wouldn't work...so, you undertook a repair endeavor, and even enlisted my help to make the work go faster. It all paid off, and we returned once more with a full bucket of tea.

As you can see, little lady, your imagination has made itself known, in full force. You can communicate enough now that you can bring me along in elaborate games of pretend, getting lost in other worlds and exploring impulses adults will have long forgotten. That you created the above scenario out of sitting on the couch with a small bucket and running to the kitchen each time your 'tea' ran out, using the corner of the dishwasher as the dispenser...and then inventing a breakdown that required buttons (screws) pushed and the works fixed (knocking on the dishwasher in a specific manner for a specific amount of time)...just goes to show that when it looks to the outside world that you're just randomly running from point to point or petting a wall, chances are that you are actually off on some grand adventure that we can only see if we step out of our comfort zones and let ourselves dream on your level. It's dangerous and thrilling and totally wonderful.

(And as a sidenote: to be able to be so adaptable within that world is also a great skill. The fact that when pepper wanted to play and brought me her firehose snake for a tug of war match in the middle of your tea party, it just became part of the game, rather than ruining it, made me extremely relieved and happy.)

These tea parties - for lack of a better term, really, since the phrase "tea party" evokes images of young girls dressing up and having formal events around a table with their friends, stuffed animals, and parents in silly hats, but what you conduct are far less formal, usually consisting of climbing onto a couch/bed/table/some other tall surface with a small bucket or clay bowl of some sort, declaring that it is tea of some kind - good tea, blue tea, etc...I was particularly enamored of the day you served "wet tea"-and then providing running commentary on the state of the tea while insisting that we all take tastes, occasionally spilling it or pouring it into something else, and then declaring it all gone, at which point you'll climb down and run into the kitchen to the aforementioned 'more tea' mechanism on the dishwasher, occasionally repairing breakdowns and resorting to using a turkey baster if the dishwasher is closed (There was one day last week where you actually managed to open the dishwasher and arrange the racks in the proper way to get your tea. I hadn't realized that having the bottom rack halfway out was a requirement for the tea to work, but evidently it was!) - these tea parties have become a frequent part of our days, I dare say it's currently your favorite game.

What else have we learned this month? Ah yes...We learned that, the way to get you to potty train, is to stay in hotels. We took a trip to visit Duke University earlier this month, so we could decide if it was a good fit for our little family. It was your first time staying in a hotel, and you absolutely loved it. Of course you loved the pool (and frankly, just being out of the car!) but you also loved the room itself. We stayed in two different hotels over the course of our trip, and both of them seemed to be wins for you just for being the self-contained little apartments they were, (which, now that I think about it, means you might actually be excited to get a small apartment in the city, should we end up returning...which is heartening, since it's looking more and more like that is what's going to happen...though you were also so thrilled to come home to everything and everyone here) with the bed and little comfy chair and desk and the bathroom in proximity. Maybe this appeals to you because it reminds you of your first home, our little apartment in East Harlem, or maybe it was just novel, but whatever the case may be, you loved it- and because it was so cool, you wanted to use every part of it. The bed, the desk, the chair, the mini fridge...and the toilet. We've known for a while that you're prefectly capable of using the toilet (you've done it plenty) but you just don't want the responsibility yet (which I'll concede; you aren't even two) but this really shoved in my face that you know exactly what you're doing. Smart little imp.

You had a great time on that trip, meeting new people, seeing new things, going for walks on that gorgeous campus and seeing well fed and friendly squirrells and birds...but you also got to see your Yeye and Uncle Rob...something which never fails to delight you is seeing your family, and that's a wonderful thing. You played so hard...and then cried so hard when they had to leave...that part broke my heart a little. You're such a wonderful little lady. You're definitely a family oriented kid, you've even begun instigating family hugs, where you draw everyone in for a big tight squeeze, and you have big huge sweet smile on your face. Nothing beats waking up to the sweet smell of baby skin as you reach around my face and squish it into your cheek while you gather up Baba on the other side.

In terms of language, you've definitely been make familial distinctions in your speech. Whenever a family member comes into the room, you'll greet them with a cheerful "Hiya!" "Hiya, Mama! Hiya Baba! Hiya Kelly! Nana! Hiya!" though with my dad, you take a more gangsta approach, throwin' out a "Yo, Papa!" but for friends, you tend to use a more formal "Hi!" and strangers get a wave, and usually nothing beyond that other than a smile.

You certainly are a little lady, now, despite your newfound love of proclaiming that you are a baby. "I a baby!" you gleefully shout, "I mama baby! I baba baby! I a baby!!" Any kid is a baby, though, so I don't really take this as you trying to maintain your youth so much as revel in being loved. You've taken to reminding yourself when things aren't going your way that you're the baby, and then you smile and swoop in for hugs and then everything seems ok by you regardless.

Speaking of talking, there is no stopping your vocabulary at this point. You even sing your ABC's now (as opposed to just reciting them), granted you now miss the majority of the letters, but you sing the ones at the beginning or end of a phrase with such gusto there isn't room for any more. You also are getting your numbers down pretty well. Learning them in english and chinese simultaneously hasn't seemed to phase you, though I think it's a bit confusing for your friends and their parents when you switch seamlessly between the two languages mid-count. But it isn't always an issue, and you clearly know how to count in either language on its own, as well. The other day I thought you were totally zoned out and catatonic in front of sesame street, when suddenly Count Von Count began counting up to the number of the day, and you burst out counting right along with him. That is, until I burst out in a congratulatory excitement, and you looked at me like "what? I'm just counting. way to be weird, mom." I totally expect to see that look more and more often as you grow up, but bear with me little one, because, as I have told you numerous times now when you need me to confirm that you are, in fact, my baby, you will ALWAYS be my baby, even when you are a grown up girl with babies of your own.

You've also taken after your friend Colin and have begun to climb everything in sight. Although, you add your won flair to the routine by performing elaborate oratories from atop whatever you've scaled. The other day, Kelly was even feeding you lines of shakespeare as you performed atop an end-table in the living room. It was quite a sight to see. You explore a broad range of emotions and energies during these exercises, I wish all acting students could follow their impulses as well as you do. It makes for a thrillingly dynamic performance that rivals the greatest. Now we've just got to work on your enunciation...but that'll come with time. After all, you still refuse to pronounce your own name, responding to the question of who you are with "me" and "baby" instead.

Part of the terror I experience in this new phase of furniture-climbing is actually your ingenuity...you're amazingly adept at figuring out how to move this so you can get to that to get to that...and you're not entirely afraid of failure, which means that there is the occasional bump clunck and trip that sends my heart into my throat, but thankfully you are, generally, smart enough to know your limits and if you do get irreparably stuck, or even just scared enough to call it off, you calmly ask for my help and allow me to do so. You also know by now how to answer us when we ask you if you're ok. Often, you even preempt the question by declaring "I OK!" as you pick yourself up and run on as if nothing had happened. Other times we'll ask and you'll say "I fine, mama." And if not, you'll say "ow!" and point to where it hurts.

You've developed an aversion to being dirty or being in dirty environments, declaring "eeewwww!!!" whenever you see dust bunnies...which was actually endearingly embarrassing when we were at the Duke Law School. During the opening speeches we had gone in search of breakfast and you were hanging out on a platform under an open staircase at the back of the open hall, when you spotted a wad of dust bunnies under the stairs, and shouted, very loud, "eeeeewwwwww!! Mama, eeewww!!" and would not let it drop, continuing to voice your concern loudly, over the Dean's speech until I crawled under the stairs and got rid of it.

We're figuring out how to make this transition work, little by little. Though none of us like it, Baba's return to work has been helpful in creating routines that involve his absence, most notably is how excited you are whenever we get to go pick him up. Luckily he works close by, so we've been able to get him for lunch, too, which makes you resoundingly happy. It's not nearly as nice as getting to play all day, or even as working from home, but we're making it work.

You seem to be trying to compensate for Baba's absence by taking on more responsibilities yourself. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you can just about make Annie's shells on your own...it's mainly the whole dumping out the boiling water part that keeps you from that accomplishment...and that we're going to wait with until you've gained a bit of strength and dexterity in your arms. Being able to reach the stove and sink without a stepstool would help, too.) You're a very helpful little girl, you're great in the kitchen, you've begun to learn how to measure (I can point out a line on the measuring cup and you'll fill to that line. amazing.) and you follow instructions exceptionally well. You form the cookie dough into individual cookies and remind us what comes next.

You're also great with laundry, helping to separate the darks and lights, putting the clothes in the dryer or on the drying rack, and even folding them when they're done...though your idea of folding is still a bit more like rumpling in a pile...you do know where they all live though, and will put them away all by yourself, as long as you can reach the drawer.

You've grown more attached to the critters, now chasing them around so you can hug them. "huuuug!" you shout and then shriek with glee if you get a nudge, or your desired hug, or if a crazy cat zips by faster than you can see. You've also decided that tigers and lions say "mioroarow!"...miaoroaring whenever you see one, which is frequently since we still have the tiger scroll above your bed and several tiger and lion toys about.

You have a favorite movie, have I mentioned this? We watch Shrek several times a week. It would be every day if you had your way, but there are days where we just don't want to let you hang out in front of the TV. After Shrek, your next favorite adventure is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I can't really argue with either choice, so it's really just about portion control at this point.

I was going to talk about your discerning tastes, how you spent days looking for just the right pair of sandals and when you found them simply declared "all done" and moved on to the next thing, how you've come to delve into the world over ownership ("mine bed!") and your sweet ability to share even when you know something is yours, how you may not have incidental words but can communicate complicated ideas and thoughts nonetheless ("we go read books? Mama vroom vroom? sing?" = "Are we going to go to the library? Mama's going to drive? and we'll sing?") and how you've taken to somersaulting everywhere, and about a dozen (or a million!) other things, but you're currently crawling all over me and asking to blow bubbles (a new skill you picked up today after the library's easter egg hunt. "I got a eeeegg!" ) so I'm going to go now and start experiencing the next month of the awesomeness that is life with you, and as your mama.

So Hiya, Cadence! ...To reciprocate what you've taken to saying so genuinely, lately: "I love you, too!"

Love Always,