Friday, June 16, 2017

Ellis Juliette, Age 2

Our sweet Ellis turned two last month. There was nothing sad or even bittersweet about it to me, surprisingly. She has just gotten more fun with age, and every milestone is really exciting right now.

We had so many celebrations! That Saturday we had her birthday party at Queens County Farm Museum. It's just five minutes from us, and somewhere she loves to go. She was absolutely overjoyed. She had her friends there, got to feed animals, go on a hay ride (she was obsessed with the tractor, wouldn't take her eyes off it to look out to the farm!), and just run wild in the wide open spaces. She had a Daniel Tiger cake and was a pro at blowing out candles. She has seen enough other birthdays by now (especially at day care) that she gets that it's a celebration of her, that we sing a song, that she gets to blow out candles and eat cake, and that she gets presents. She doesn't understand WHY we do all this, but she doesn't care - she just knows it's her turn! She was in heaven all day, so I was too.

Monday, her actual birthday, I took the day off work and we went to an indoor playspace together (it was raining). I had visions of baking a little cake together in the morning, and even measured out ingredients in advance to save myself from ruining the memories with frustration. But she just wasn't interested! She liked pouring in the eggs I had pre-cracked into individual cups, but nothing else. She dumped over a cup of sugar and then asked to go watch Daniel Tiger. I used the batter to make a small cake for that night, and a dozen cupcakes to send to day care the next day. We had my wife's family over for dinner and ordered in Thai; there is a chicken and broccoli dish that Ellis just loves. Then the next day she got to celebrate with her friends at day care.

Our little two year old. She is such a spitfire, and I am on an absolute high every day with her. I find that being at work actually increases my patience with her, because I have such a "break" away. I have a different type of appreciation for our time together now, and it's just so wonderful. She is so smart and funny and affectionate.

I need to note all the quirky things, because they change and/or disappear so fast. I need to freeze this moment, which is what journaling is for!

For a while she would say "more" to ANYTHING, even if she already had it! It's like she just couldn't get enough. Like she would point out the moon - "look, mama! moon! see?" and then ask, "more moon? more?"'s right there!

She has been experimenting with emotions. It started months ago with saying her trains (which have faces) were crying. She would ask me to kiss them, and then say "all better!" She would do this over and over again. Now she does it with me. She hits me lightly and says, "You sad, mama?" I'll say yes and pretend to cry, and she'll hug and kiss me and say, "all better now, mama? happy now?" And then do it again. She recently added "mad" into the mix. It's so fascinating to watch her rehearse these with me!

Her interaction with us is incredible to watch. "Wha' doing, mama? Where going? Wha' that?" Always wanting to know, and being able to ask.

She knows who is Mama and who is Mommy, and is quick to correct other people.

She can repeat anything we say to her, but some morph into a version that's easier to pronounce. For the longest time, she said "peepaste" and "peebrush" for toothpaste and toothbrush. In the past week, it has evolved to "fuffpaste" and "fuffbrush." (She still says "peepop" for lollipop!) Our favorite was "oofwun." It translates directly as "other one," and she would use it to indicate that one or this one as well. See also "oofway": other way/this way/that way. We started saying it that way too, in an effort to keep it around just a little bit longer, but we did eventually lose it a week ago. Every newly correct pronunciation requires a mourning period for us! Unlike other gains which all feel exciting, maturing language is just surprisingly heartbreaking.

Ellis has branched into more independent play, but not for long if I'm not in the room. It's still hard for me to get much done with her around unless she's watching TV, which I don't want to overuse. But in the morning she can watch Daniel Tiger while I shower, and that has been a HUGELY helpful change. I don't have to close her in the bathroom with me anymore. (Our shower is upstairs, so running/crawling freely wasn't really an option.)

Ellis has outgrown the hitting/pushing/kicking phase, thankfully. This makes public outings SO much easier! She's gotten a little less territorial, and is more likely to use her words, at least at first, giving me time to intervene if needed before it escalates. She has also had a dramatic reduction in tantrums. Tantrums peaked from about 15 to 18 months, when she started having so many feelings and needs that she struggled to express. Now she has enough words to get across what she needs, and can usually accept an explanation if it's not something she can do or have. She might protest, cry for 20 seconds, but rarely throws herself to the ground and never for more than a few seconds. She gets it even if she doesn't like it, and I think I'm fair enough about permitting what I can when I can that she's okay with the limits I have to set sometimes. I know this is very likely to change in the next year or two as she becomes more willful and is trying to assert her independence, but for now language has made things sooo much easier in this department.

Nicole and I have slightly differing views on things like discipline, but not enough to confuse her. As just one example, Ellis knows Mommy does time-outs (never isolating her, though) and that Mama sits with her for a "break" and explains what's going on. We've stopped battling on this because we see that she responds to both styles just fine, and she doesn't get confused; she knows what to expect with whom, and that the message is the same - "this is not acceptable behavior." We're finding our groove as parents with different personalities, one more rigid and one more flexible. Where it takes work is when we're together, making sure we are respecting one another's methods and not undermining each other in front of Ellis. We've gotten much better with that, and it shows when we are working with her together. I'm grateful that just one of us isn't the disciplinarian while the other one gets to be "fun," so I'll accept this happily!

Ellis is, and has been for a long time, very nurturing with her dolls and stuffies. She has Daniel Tiger figurines that she pats to sleep at LEAST once a day, and she'll pat dolls against her chest and say "shhh, relax, relax." She loves pushing them in the stroller, and having them take turns. She recreates much of what she sees happen with the couple of infants at day care, and it just melts me to see her being Mama.

I am so excited for this summer!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


There is an experience from my childbirth that I don't talk about much because I feel like it seems minor or even silly to anyone on the outside, but it was deeply scarring for me. I can go months without thinking about it, but when I do, I cry. Every time. Or I distract myself from thinking about it so that I don't cry.

Ellis was born with a periurethral cyst that no one seemed to be able to figure out while we were in the hospital When we saw the pediatrician at four days old, it was already gone, and he stated it's common due to the hormone fluctuations from the birthing parent. But while she was in the hospital, she had all kinds of residents and doctors waking her up from her sleep to undiaper her and check it out. The attending urologist said there could possibly be a urethral blockage, or if it was hurting her she wouldn't pee, and that would be a concern. So they ordered an ultrasound to check her bladder and kidneys. All of this we later learned was completely unnecessary, and they were overreacting to something they shouldn't have been alarmed by.

To transport her to the ultrasound room, she was put in an incubator. She was brand new and terrified and cried the whole way there. Trapped in this incubator that muffled her screams. Alone and helpless with no one holding her, comforting her, reassuring her. It felt like the longest walk of my life getting to the ultrasound room, down all kinds of hallways and up elevators (it wasn't in the maternity ward). I cried with her. I hated that the incubator was protecting everyone from her screams, so they could all ignore that this was happening. She was in a box for so long, confused and scared and not being responded to.

Neither parent is permitted to carry newborns in the hallway, even in the maternity ward. They have to be in the bassinet, so that they aren't accidentally dropped. I accepted this even as I thought it was absurd and even as every instinct screamed out that I needed to grab and comfort my baby, that she needed to be on my chest, against my skin, in my arms. My womb and my arms and my heart were empty and grieving as I dragged my newly postpartum self down those endless halls. My baby needed me, and I wasn't there.

I recently processed this with my wife and told her that I can't stop thinking how I should have been a pain in the ass to get what I needed for Ellis. That I should have refused the sonogram if I couldn't carry her myself. Roll me in a wheelchair if you need to. She assured me that that wouldn't have been possible, and they would have fought me back equally and just not permitted it because the fear of liability is that real.

But at least I would have known that I had tried everything I could.

As soon as we got to the room, I grabbed her right out and nursed her while they set up the machine. I remember the person saying, "Okay, you can hold her until the tech gets here," and myself thinking, "Oh thanks for your permission. Try to stop me."

I can't say why this was so deeply traumatic for me, except that it was such an early experience of already feeling I wasn't protecting my child from preventable anguish. After doing nothing but protecting her and having her near me, IN me, she was now ripped away from me and wailing and I felt like I let it happen. Or at least I didn't fight enough against it.

Yesterday began the healing for me, for the first time.

We took her to the dermatologist to check out this little spot on her chin that has been there for about six months without improvement. It looks like a tiny scab with a red bump underneath. Ellis hates going to the doctor, cries and wiggles away when they're looking in her ears, using the stethoscope on her back, etc. It's not just the shots that upset her, it's everything! I was so nervous about this appointment. I didn't tell her in advance we were going to the doctor's because I didn't think she could handle it that far ahead of time, and didn't want her to have a hard time getting into the car if she thought she was getting shots. I waited until we were in the waiting room, and while my wife was filling out the paperwork, I explained that a doctor was going to look at her chin and make sure it's okay. She knows there's a bump there, she's touched it before and we've commented on it. So she touched her chin and said, "Doctor. Chin." She did this off and on throughout our half hour wait, and I would reinforce it. "Yes, baby, the doctor is going to look at your chin."

We could see her getting nervous when we went into the exam room. It looked like her regular doctor's office, so she was starting to make connections in her brain. We tried to distract her and act regular and it seemed to ease her anxiety a little, but the long wait for the doctor wasn't helpful. However, when he came in, she immediately remembered what he was there for. She sat on my lap and let him tilt her face up and examine the spot. It took him some time, and he had to leave to get a light and come back to look at it more closely. She stayed still the whole time. I had her snuggled with her back against my chest and kept telling her what a good job she was doing letting the doctor look at her chin. We praised her generously afterward, and the whole way to the car she would point at passersby and ask, "Doctor?"

This one incident felt like such a triumph that it truly started some healing for me. In social work, we talk about trauma re-enactment: putting yourself in the same situation hoping for a different outcome. Generally this doesn't go well and refers more to people who, say, are sexually promiscuous after sexual assault in an unconscious effort to feel more in charge of the situation and to feel more empowered but then often don't, so they keep repeating it. Or people who were physically abused unconsciously choosing partners who end up being abusive, thinking this time they can avoid the violence by behaving differently or helping the person change. In this case, I wasn't creating the situation, it was brought to me. But I was truly able to do something different to feel more in control, more supportive, more helpful to Ellis, and I was able to see her feel calm and confident as a result. It was tremendously healing, and I can see now why people with deeper traumas sometimes spend their whole life trying to achieve that.

Maybe I can finally let go of that early experience, or at least have less emotional intensity when I think of it.

(Epilogue: The spot is a spitz nevus, benign, which the dermatologist recommends having removed because there is a new birth mark in it, which makes it more likely to become melanoma later in her life.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Spirited Child

My daughter is what is considered "high needs" or "spirited," which is one of three general baby temperaments, and only 10-12% of babies are in this category. I didn't learn this til she was maybe six months old, but it put everything into perspective. I read an article about it, and she exhibited every single characteristic but one, out of maybe eleven. It was remarkable. And suddenly I was able to see her as a certain temperament and personality type rather than just a fussy baby getting on my last nerve.

She craves security, and that plays out in so many ways. She doesn't let anyone steamroll her, expresses her needs loudly and clearly. She knows what she wants and she'll make sure you do too - but she can also be reasoned with if she can't have it. Her emotions run hot and strong, but this includes her affection. Two of my friends with very mellow babies envy us that. I told them once that I envied how chill their babies are, how they can just sit in a high chair or stroller without a fuss, don't lose their temper at the slightest frustration, can be totally at peace sleeping on their own or at least transitioned to it without too much difficulty. And both of them said to me, "but I don't get the all consuming hugs and cuddles that you do. I envy all the snuggly moments you have." I joked (but I also mean it) that this must be nature's way of ensuring these babies' survival. They have to work extra hard to stay in your good graces because you can get frustrated and overwhelmed with them so quickly. You can't stay in that place when she is literally bowling you over with hugs, and petting your skin, and nuzzling your chest.

This temperament may make her difficult to parent, but she has serious potential to be one hell of a go-getter as an adult. She's going to be passionate and confident and a leader. She's going to be a trailblazer. I was an easygoing baby, and I'm a pushover adult, haha - so I love the idea that this feistiness may mean a strong personality as an adult in a good way.

My job is not to extinguish her fire. My job is to help her channel it appropriately so it doesn't burn everything around her and take her down with it, but instead fuels her in a positive way. It's going to be quite a challenge, because it's not in my nature to be as firm as I'll have to be to help her do this. But at the same time, my soft, warm, compassionate nature helps me help her adjust to a world that can seem a bit much for her, whereas a more domineering personality would butt heads with her a lot. Nicole is more of a type A personality, and it can be so easy to engage in power struggles in her effort to guide Ellis down the right path. If we can balance each other out as parents, we could do a smash up job of parenting this amazing little person. It's going to be quite the undertaking, but I'm up for it! I have to be.

Ellis at 19 Months

Ellis's little quirks that I never want to forget, because they're all so fleeting:

  • She loves this book of sounds with farm animals. The farmer is looking for one of his piglets, and everywhere he goes to look for it, he just sees other animals, and you can press the buttons to hear their sounds. Ellis loves it because she knows the names of the animals and the sounds they make, so it makes her feel like she's mastered something. She knows what to expect. She responds in exactly the same way with every reading, which I find so endearing. One page ends with, "Uh oh! One of the pigs is missing!" and she repeats "missing." Just that word out of the whole page, and every time. Then when the farmer checks the barn, there's a barn owl at the top of the page. She squeals and points and says, "Owl!!! Hoo, hoo!" every time, as if she didn't know she'd find it there, despite having just read the book three times. She just gets so excited by owls and elephants, recognizing them everywhere and pointing them out in the smallest of places. Then when the farmer finds the pig, the book says, "There she is! She's resting in the shade of the apple tree," and Ellis says, "yeah!" I die.

  • At day care, the staff pat the babies on the backs to help them fall asleep. They say Ellis is one of the ones who needs that, but they start with the youngest/neediest and half the time she's asleep by the time they get to her. Anyway, Ellis has started doing this with dolls and even with us. She pats her stuffed animal on the back and then just walks away when she decides he's asleep. My wife, Nicole, sleeps on the couch many nights because bedsharing makes her very anxious but Ellis goes hysterical at being put in her own space, so she has a setup of sheets and a blanket down there. One of Ellis's games now is to pull the blanket over Nicole, pat her and say "shhhh" with a finger to her lips, and then wake Nicole up. She will push Nicole's face down if Nicole is supposed to be pretending to be asleep but isn't, and she wakes her up pretty roughly when it's time! It's the sweetest thing to see her do these little rituals. She also offers food to her toys and sometimes even lets them nurse with her!

  • Ellis's language is astonishing. She's learning multiple new words every day, and has started to pair them together to get a point across: "elephant sticker off," "shoe on," "mama, up." One time she wanted to go outside and had to string together a whole series of words. She started by saying, "Mama, hand," and walking me to the back door. Then, "coat on? shoe on? Door. Door!" This morning she wanted to play with her little Daniel Tiger figurine but couldn't find him. She knew where he was, but I didn't, because I had been working the night before when she played with him with Nicole. She said, "Dannel. Trolley. Dannel trolley. Attairs (upstairs)." She then took the trolley and went to the bottom of the stairs and waited for me. We went up, and sure enough he was next to the bed. Communication does much to ease everyone's frustrations. It's an incredible thing to watch develop! For AGES, she's been saying "na na" to indicate she needs or wants something - food, a toy, help doing something, etc. It was so constant that it was often annoying, and now we can go a whole day without hearing it sometimes. She just has so many words now that she doesn't often need this generic word to get our attention.

  • Some of her baby words are evolving, and it's actually a pretty sad loss! For apple, she used to say "bapple," then it became "appool," and now it's just "apple." She says "nan?" for "again" and I dread the day we lose that. It's been with us for so long, and was so refreshing when she was able to say it because it's something she needs to communicate frequently - when she wants a playful move repeated (like playing airplane), hear a song again in the car, read a book again. She says "epplane" for airplane and "effant" for elephant.

  • When Ellis asks for a song to be repeated in the car and I say, "Okay," she says back to me, "Okay, baby." It's absolutely hilarious because it's like holding a mirror up to myself. Like oh, I must really say that a lot to her!

  • The other day, Nicole was going to get a snack of Lucky Charms, thinking she was being sneaky but she wasn't, not nearly enough. Ellis caught sight of it and went nuts, so Nicole sat on the kitchen floor with her and traded off spoonfuls. Ellis sat right across from her, cross legged and with straight posture, like she was waiting for an organized activity to take place, and just waited patiently for her turn for a spoonful. Then she looked at me and said, "Mama, sit," and patted the floor next to her. I sat down, and she pointed at the cereal, waiting for me to take a spoonful too. I never want to forget that moment, the three of us sitting in a circle cross legged on the kitchen floor, taking turns eating Lucky Charms.
I've waited my whole life for this stage, and now that I'm in a place to better appreciate it, I'm just savoring every morsel. These little games, the interactions, the squeals and giggles, the full body tackle hugs. Her repeating the names of her friends over and over to herself in the stroller, singing to her music, clapping her doll's hands to a song or putting it to bed, saying "mama" and my whole heart just collapses into a puddle as I scoop her up and say "yes, baby?" and feel grateful that it doesn't yet bother her for me to do that.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Discovering her "Dibling"

Shortly after Ellis was born, we signed up with the Donor Sibling Registry. You create a profile and include your sperm bank and donor number, and matches are flagged for you. We were quite disappointed that there were none for us. Then in the spring, we got an email from a single mother by choice who had just registered her daughter, and we came up as a match. She asked if we wanted to meet up, and we said of course!

Since then we've emailed off and on, frequently sometimes and then long periods of time without. They live in central New Jersey, and we discussed possibly meeting at a playground or park midway over the summer. Life was busy as always, and plans never materialized. Ellis's first birthday went by in May, and the other baby's in August. We finally both got deliberate about making plans in November, and last weekend we met up at an indoor play space for toddlers in Hoboken, NJ.

I wasn't sure what to expect. When we first emailed, I mostly noted her lack of personable communication. She was very straightforward, not as exuberantly emotive as I was with exclamation points and smiley faces. I do read a lot from that kind of thing, and wondered if she would be warm, and how this relationship would look.

The meeting was wonderful! Conversation was natural for the most part, and it was fun to watch the girls together. They're only three months apart, so they were doing a lot of the same things. The other baby is more physical, walking at an earlier age than Ellis was crawling, but is saying only a handful of words whereas Ellis picks up three to four new words every day. Their personalities were also night and day. We have a spirited, high needs kid that has the two of us juggling and barely able to eat our own meals when we have her at a restaurant, because she does not want to be in the high chair for any longer than she has to to eat. You'd better be willing to have her on your lap and walk around while waiting for the food, and when she's done eating, you'd better be done too! At lunch, the other baby sat in her high chair completely content the whole meal. In their strollers, Ellis fussed loudly demanding to either be moving and going outside, or else let out. The other baby just sat and chilled in her stroller no matter where we went or how long we stopped, until she was taken out. I'm glad for her sake, as a single mom without family nearby, that her baby is so much more easygoing!

I appreciate that she lives just far enough away that we neither of us would have the expectation of frequent meetings. It took us this long just to organize one! I had looked her up on Facebook to see what she looked like (we had exchanged photos of the girls, but not of ourselves), but intentionally did not send her a friend request. We seem to have a mutual unspoken understanding that we don't want to get TOO friendly. For me, that's because of the fear that it could go sour, and what that would mean for our kids. Yes, it's nice for us as adults to connect over our experiences too - but we can do that with anyone in our situations. The fact that we used the same donor does not really enhance that. But our kids, this is their life. This is their chance to know other people with shared genes and similar conception stories. That is the focus and the priority. Being friendly and in touch but not too enmeshed is the perfect place to be. We had a great time, and we'll do it once or twice a year so the girls grow up knowing who they are, and can then make the choice to have more contact when they're older if they choose. I suggested exchanging holiday cards which they can kind of "collect" from each other as they grow up, and that idea was met with enthusiasm.

I'm so glad we're establishing this connection for Ellis!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Adjusting - Our New Normal

Oh how life has changed! If I could have the best of all possible worlds, I would be able to pick Ellis up from day care around 2:00 after her nap each day, and just have more time with her than I do now. But in the absence of that possibility, this is the next best. We are all so happy.

When I first started dropping Ellis at day care, she cried and clung to me a little. She would ask to nurse, presumably for the extra snuggles as well as trying to delay the inevitable. I gave her kisses and told her I would be back later, and then I left to sob on my way to the car.

In just over a week, she was no longer crying at drop-off. She would give a little sad look at me over the staff's shoulder, but she would reach for them as I handed her over, and she didn't cry. In less than a month, she was kicking her legs with excitement to see the other babies she recognizes (10 kids between the ages of 7 months and 2 years) and snuggle into me with a shy smile as a couple of them called her name excitedly.

All the mixed emotions! Mostly I felt (and feel) just so, so happy and relieved. I have seen her reach out for each of the three staff. She feels comforted when they hold her (she doesn't let just anyone hold her) and reacts with giggles and smiles when they get playful with her. She looks forward to seeing the other kids, and it's wild to me to hear them saying, "Ellis!!" and running up to hug her. (Most of the parents are teachers, so they've mostly been there an hour already when she arrives, and she is usually the last to be picked up.) She eats and naps really well for them - the power of routine!

Staff told me that the first couple of weeks, she would occasionally go to the door and fuss and sign to nurse, basically trying to find me or figure out when I would come back. Then she would start to go to the door saying "mama, mama" after other kids would start getting picked up. After a week or two, she didn't blink during the day, and now runs excitedly into my arms and asks to nurse, but then afterward wants me to put her down so she can keep playing! It's like she's excited to have me join her there, but kind of wants me to stay there with her, not take her away. I couldn't want anything more for her than that.

Mondays and Tuesdays I work from 1:00-9:00. We get the whole morning together, and it's amazing. We have music class at 10:30 on Tuesdays, and then Mondays are free for doctor's appointments or little fun activities, like the park or a botanical garden. My wife picks her up after work and we try to have an easy dinner setup for those nights, because I know from experience that nighttime can be so hard on your own, between dinner and bath and bed and feeling exhausted yourself. I try to make it as easy on my wife as I can, such as by setting out her pajamas and diaper and towel on the bed. My wife struggled at first to get her to bed, because Ellis was used to nursing to sleep and would keep crying for me. It took her a couple hours the first few times, until Ellis got used to it. Just like with day care itself, she had to learn what to expect. She soon learned that I would always come back, that she would wake up later in the night and I would be there and she could nurse. She now falls asleep for Nicole much faster than she does for me - this past Tuesday, it took ten minutes!

I'm impressed with Ellis's resiliency as much as my own. I'm kept very busy at work, and it's work that I'm enjoying. Being busy makes it easier, because the day speeds by and then I'm power walking to my car to get to her as fast as possible, and that reunion feels soooo good. Weekends and days off are like total treasures. I have so much more patience when she is fussy or clingy, because there is too much time where I'm not around to indulge that. I'm more attentive, more involved, more hands on. Less "biding the time" and more being fully present with her. She gets nurturing and attention and free play and reading and crafting during the day, and then she goes back to a mama with endless affection and doting and attention. I feel more exhausted in a lot of ways, working full-time and not getting to then come home and kick my feet up with Netflix like I used to before I was a parent, but I also feel more re-energized in others.

I have occasional guilt, which I try to work on even as I try to accept that it's normal and the maternal condition, whether employed outside the home or not. As explained on an episode of my favorite podcast One Bad Mother, we're all exhausted and fighting guilt and trying to find time. That's mothering, no matter what our differences.

We couldn't afford for me to stay home full-time. There weren't enough corners to cut to make up what we would lack once our renter inevitably moves out. (We've had a roommate, a close friend, for the past almost year, and she will be here probably another six months.) We were struggling even with that income, and without it, forget it. But the guilt comes in as far as the fact that I'm happy with this lifestyle, that it's not "just" because I "have to," but rather a family routine and situation that feels very comfortable and fulfilling. I miss Ellis every day, but I feel so lucky I got her first year home. I'm so grateful that I witnessed her first major milestones, and that I was there for round the clock one-on-one care that she couldn't have gotten in a day care setting. Not everyone has that luxury, and I may not a second time around. I'm so glad that she's there at an age where she can run around screeching with her little friends, play outside, do simple crafts. And I'm glad I get to enjoy a career that I love, where I feel helpful to people and have already seen rewarding outcomes with work I've done with clients, and which afford us the ability to breathe when it comes to basic necessities, and also a little bit extra.

We've adjusted and we've got a good thing going for ourselves. We're doing a good job with this family thing.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ellis at 14 Months

What a joy Ellis is! She's changing so fast that I feel an urgency to write about some of her quirks so I can remember them forever.

She is talking so much! Her first word was "hi" at 11 months, followed quickly by "baby." Now she also says ball, Momo (Elmo), bye, hello (when the phone rings!), mama, Nana, Papa, Baba (how she tries to say Gramma and Grampa), cart, no, gee (geese), got (goat), kack kack  (quack quack), and others. She is constantly babbling, sometimes saying things with such emphasis that I feel an urgency around trying to figure out what it is! She'll have her eyebrows lifted so high as she enunciates gibberish.

She is so active and wants to run everywhere. She took her first steps just after a year, by 13.5 months was doing the zombie walk, and by 14 just taking off. She's incredibly social, waving and saying "hi" to adults and children alike, even past the age where babies generally start to get a little more reserved. However, she only wants to be held by people she knows well.

She looooves reading. I waited so long for this! Peers would talk about their babies loving books and she just didn't. We could maybe get through a couple pages, but they didn't hold her attention. (Same for TV shows - I would hear about someone else's 6-month-old's favorite show, and I could barely distract Ellis with something long enough to trim her nails.) Then suddenly, just around her first birthday, she got so into them. She was able to focus for longer and just became interested. She brings us the same ones to read over and over, and it can be hard to introduce a new one now. She'll smack it aside and hand you a familiar one. I used to wonder if I had done something wrong. Maybe I didn't read to her enough early on and she just wasn't going to be into books. But she just had to grow into them, and that was at a different rate than other babies.

Ellis has gotten so smart. According to Wonder Weeks, one of her recent developmental leaps ended with her having the ability to think more into the future. So she could plan and manipulate. I don't mean that with a negative connotation, but rather that she can figure out how to get her needs met. Does Mom respond more favorably if I whine and nag, or if I act sweet and affectionate? What will a smile get me?

The first time I noticed it was when I was trying to transition her to the crib for naps again in preparation for day care. She would sign "more," which she does mostly when she wants food, and I took her downstairs for a snack. Putting her down hungry just seemed like it would sabotage my efforts. She ate almost all of her snack, but then signed it again when I put her back in the crib. That's when I knew she was trying to think of how to communicate to me to get me to take her out! "Hmmm, if I ask for food, she has to take me out of the crib to feed me." Smart little cookie. But I know she understands enough for me to tell her why I can't meet her demand. So I would say, "No, baby, it's all done. Sleepy time now." ("All done" and "sleepy time" are very familiar phrases.) And she would let out a loud cry, because she knew what I was telling her and did NOT like it! Being able to interact like this is incredible. For her to think that much into something and for us to figure out how to communicate that to each other. It's amazing to witness.

She's also been trying to figure out how things work around her. Stacking things, putting things together, playing with buckles and Velcro. She wants to push ALL the buttons around her, and gets absolutely ecstatic at the sight of an escalator. She says "Whoaaaaaa!" and "Wowwwwww!" very dramatically when something piques her interest. It's always in context and tends to make people around her crack up.

She's such a spitfire, wild and adventurous. But she's also clingy and affectionate. It's a high needs combination that fills my heart just as much as it drains my energy. I love this sweet girl more than life itself. There has never been anyone like her ever in the world.