Thursday, June 20, 2013

18 Months: Abundant Joy

Oh my, Gracie. What a month this has been! You have simply blossomed, turning further and further away from your recent days of babyhood and charging headlong into toddlerhood....smiling, grinning, and being silly the whole way.
At almost exactly 18 months to the day, you began repeating most words we would say to you.  Sometimes they sound like what we said, and sometimes they don't.  But, it's clear you are listening closely and repeating them back to us. 

Your little (or not so little) personality is continuing to develop too.  Gracie is NOT to be left behind!  You smile, flirt, hold your hands up be picked up and held.  There are simply so many ways you bring joy to each and every moment.  And you are so very loved by your brothers and sister.

Though you love your brothers and sissy, if you are not in the mood to be picked up, flung around, or talked to within inches of your face, you have begun to give them your frown, loudly say, "No!" and push them away.  This has also started with a little friend, about 5 months younger than you, if he infringes upon my attention when his own Mama isn't nearby.  You literally position yourself between him and me and push him down if he begins to stand up as if coming towards me.  I've also seen you take a bite out of sissy a couple of times when she hasn't heeded your push and loud warning.  Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be a far, at least!  

You LOVE to dance.  Love, love, love it!  It's as if you can't even control yourself when music starts to play, and the first thing you do is raise up your left elbow and cock your head to the side with a sparkle in your eye and an open mouthed smile on your face. 

When you are approaching your brothers and sisters as a group, you will sometimes put your arms both behind you and bend forward a bit. It's as if it is your natural response to wanting to be part of a group.  You'll also throw both arms back and bend over when you are being stubborn too

The little words and phrases we are hearing constantly are "Papa?", "No!" "No?" or a playful and musical "Nooooo." "Mama.  I need you." is still a big one, and "Bye!" is becoming super clear. "Cheeeeeese" is what you know to say for the camera.  "Than kyow" (Thank You) and "Cheese" (Please) and " Men" (Amen) is coming around more frequently after our prayer times. And given your propensity to eat, and eat a lot I might add, you really love the word "Moe!" (More) On a good day, it is "Moe Cheese"! We see you pointing on saying "Dat one" (That one)or "Dis" (This) a lot.  Many of your words are becoming recognizable, "Shoe?" "Boo?" (boot). You, like your brothers and sister, seem to use a question for every word, as if you're checking to see that you got it right.  You'll attempt all of your brothers and Sissy's name, "Eh met", "Aa Ooh" "Cay eh" but there still unclear enough that I'm not sure I have them quite right....especially late at night, hours after I've heard you say it last.  When you pick up a piece of garbage or old food to eat, or when we're changing your diaper, we always say "No, don't touch, Gracie.  Yuckies!"  You repeat back, "Yuckies?" then sometimes repeat "Yuckies" and nod your head knowingly. 

And speaking of yucky, your favorite past time seems to be playing in the toilet, or fishing things out of the trash!  You also like to help Mama clean things, and seem to like to combine all of these activities.  Just last week, while in a public restroom, I was helping Anna Ruth to wash her hands.  In the moment I was distracted, you had taken a paper towel, dipped it in a (thankfully flushed) toilet and were washing your face with it. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  The day before, you had reached into a public toilet (again, thankfully flushed) with your thumb, and instantly shoved it in your mouth! Again last week, I was upstairs cleaning a potty accident of your sister, while you were downstairs using a cup from the kitchen to scoop water out of the (yep, you guessed it)....toilet and were flinging it out and into the bathroom.  Some days I simply want to pay someone to pressure wash the inside of our house with bleach. Or, perhaps we'll wait out this beautiful (yet challenging) stage of parenting, and then move....leaving all of our possessions behind. :-)  Knowing how sentimental I am, however, I don't think either of those options will be as easy for me as I know jokingly proclaim.

One of my all time favorite things is still when you shake your head yes. You now shake it from side to side for no, so now an up and down shake most definitely means "Yes."  Sometimes, you'll accompany it with a "Yeah"...but oftentimes still, you respond immediately but silently to my questions with a simple head shake. 

Now that you are crawling up and down stairs with ease, you have this cute little habit of turning around and backing up towards the top of the stairs on your hands and knees.....dangling one leg over the top.  It's adorable!

One of the excitements of your month has been the addition of a beautiful red play kitchen to our living room / kitchen area.  A couple of years back, I was blessed to encounter a woman who was selling the very children's kitchen I had only dreamed about for a reasonable price.....the vintage Pottery Barn red set. In our small house, with my current shelves and décor, we didn't have room for the whole set, so it was out in my craft building, collecting dust and flies.  One day recently, it dawned on me that both of my girls were at a point where they would love to play in this kitchen and would enjoy it very much, but only for the next few years. Would I leave this kitchen in the outbuilding? Or, would I sacrifice my home décor, perhaps inviting some extra mess into the living area by bringing in the toy kitchen.  The latter idea won out, for my heart couldn't stand to not have you girls using your beautiful kitchen!  And, I'm so very glad I did. 

You are absolutely thrilled with the kitchen, and are over there making food and treats for everyone much of the time you are downstairs!  And, this is no great surprise considering how much you love to eat!  The other day, you ate 6 bowls (SIX) of black bean soup, and second and third helpings are commonplace with your favorite foods.  I'm starting to find a few things you don't like, such as cantaloupe and watermelon, but they are few and far between.  Your all time favorite treat seems to remain chocolate, and you recently had another "incident" of getting into a bag of chocolate chips.  (This is becoming a pattern....despite the precautions we have taken.) 

You have a new fascination with the strawberries that are coming from our garden, though you don't seem to mind if they are green or red.  But, oh, when Papa points out a red are on it like a duck on a June bug.  Ah....Mama's good girl.  :-) 

On the last day of school for Caleb, we went to Luke's Legocy Carnival to honor the memory of Luke Jensen, a little boy who died of Leukemia, and to raise money for the Children's Cancer Association.  We had a great evening of fun as a family. One of the things your siblings and I did last year was to get our faces painted.   I had assumed that we wouldn't get yours done this year, thinking you wouldn't sit still and would immediately wipe off your face. However, at the last minute, I decided to go for it. 

It was definitely one of those turning points for me in my assumptions of where you are at in your little mind.  As soon as I put you on the stool, you sat perfectly still and allowed the lady to paint your face, almost leaning into her as if you were very much enjoying the experience of being trusted to be a big girl.  When she gave you a mirror to see yourself, and you looked and looked at it.  Not once all evening did you touch it or try to rub it off in the way that you often instantly remove barrettes from your hair.  (Though, even these you are beginning to leave in if I allow you to choose it, then show you how it looks in a mirror.)  You are growing up, Gracie!  So quickly!!! Before long, we won't even remember you as being a baby anymore.  You'll just be a little person.

This month you and I said goodbye to our beloved "Nursey-Nurse", or "Na na" as you sometimes called it. I've said that phrase now with four children.  Wow....that was hard.  I knew it was coming, as we were down to one feeding each day, but as I had hoped, I didn't know the last time was my last until the next day. I had fed you as usual for our morning feeding in my bed.  Afterwards, you sat up to play.  The next day, I was sick in bed and hoped that the children wouldn't bring you down to me to nurse.  When you did come in the room with Caleb, instead of lifting your arms up and starting to whimper for me to lift you up in bed, you happily held up a half graham cracker your brothers had given you and offered to share it with me.  Then, you happily toddled out of the room.....coming in from time to time to offer me another bite.  I pondered in my heart that day, the previous day might have been the last, and that perhaps it was time - especially since we had had a pleasant experience the day before and didn't know the end.  The next morning, I hopped out of bed before your brother brought you in......the following day we babysat for a friend and had left the house early in the morning, and then, it was over.  For a week or so, it was hard for me, as my body was still prepared to feed you and it was a little uncomfortable.  Then there were a couple of mornings when you asked to snuggle, then pointed and pulled at my nightshirt.  Those times were hard. I simply had to redirect her, saying "No, no, Gracie.  All finished." She understood that, but wasn't very happy about it.  Me neither. 

 It's been two weeks since Tuesday June 4th.....our last day of nursing, and we're doing ok.  I try not to let myself think about it, though sometimes if somebody asks, it makes me choke up a bit.  The emotions I have experienced as a mother have been surprising sometimes. Before having children, I didn't think would ever be so emotionally attached to things.  I had it all planned out based on good reason.  I would, of course, nurse my babies until they were exactly one year, but then I would be done.  I didn't realize how much that special snuggle time would come to mean to deep that bond was between symbolic the act of nursing is to the attachment between mother and child - the dependence, the trust, the tenderness. I could go on. 

For me, saying goodbye this time, was even more significant.  I had held on for a few months longer than I had in the past for the mere fact that this was to be the very last time I would ever nurse a child. This season of my life, that of being a mother of young children, is passing.....the baby stage is now past for us.  Intellectually, and even in my heart, I know that beautiful and new stages lie ahead for our family.  Yet, letting go is always hard....regardless of how much you know or trust the future. 

Your new little security is your blanket, which you call "Baby" and also your stuffed giraffe, also called "Baby".  If we only pick up one or the other, you will turn and point and say "Baby!!" until we get them both.  At this point, both items can be subbed out for replacements, though if it is up to you, you will choose those.   It will be interesting to see how this progresses over time.  Your thumb is still your ultimate comfort and pops in when you are getting really sleepy, when we rock in the rocking chair, and when we lay you down in bed.  It's looking pretty battle weary, but it's hanging in there! :-)

My Little G,  I could write about you for hours, and have already done so!  You are growing and changing before our very eyes, and we love you so.  You are truly our joy.  We love you, Gracie!