As Maddie settles into her second year of life, her brain seems to be turned up to 11. The number of new skills she has acquired in the last three weeks is astounding. She has improved her ability to move and communicate by leaps and bounds. Every day is more fun than the last! Let’s catch up…
She Learned to Move It, Move It
After months of bowing to her younger peers who had already mastered the ability to crawl many moons ago, Maddie finally joined their ranks. While I had been anticipating this skill for a long time (and wondering if we should worry that she hadn’t acquired it yet), I now realize why everyone said we should just relax and enjoy her immobility.
With her new ability, we have stepped up her training, now frequently putting desirable objects out of reach and forcing her to travel for them. Sometimes we will move the cheese a bit farther away after the mouse has already begun chasing it, which usually elicits an annoyed cry. Oh, yes, she’s very smart, and still would like to put in the minimum amount of effort possible. Her crawling currently resembles a peg-leg pirate, as she drags one foot underneath her as she motors around the room. I know that sounds horribly inefficient, but she can actually move pretty quickly.
We’ve also been holding her up on her feet and while she still has no idea how to use them for actually taking steps, she is starting to get the hang of pulling herself up onto her feet using her crib’s side wall.1 If I’m sitting on the floor next to her, she has started pulling herself up by grabbing on to my legs, and yesterday she even looked like she wanted to take a step away from me and walk over to the ottoman! Right now her mind is writing checks that her legs can’t cash.
Choosing Her Own Adventure
When we’re not training Maddie to crawl toward desirable objects, she is crawling toward desirable objects of her own choosing–usually objects that we would rather she not desire. If she isn’t in her crib or a thoroughly baby-proofed area, Maddie basically can’t be left alone for more than about 30 seconds now. This is a whole new world of supervision for us, as her stationary ways had lulled us into a wonderful phase of being able to put her down somewhere with a few non-choking hazard toys, confident in the knowledge that no harm would come to her if we had to leave the room for a minute. Those days are gone! Every bookshelf is now an opportunity to pull all the books onto the floor and start rifling through them with careless one-year-old grasps that leave pages cowering for fear of being torn. Our coffee table has a shelf filled with several months’ issues of Time magazine that are finally getting some attention…from Maddie.
Within a day of starting to crawl, she had already pulled herself toward the nearest book shelf and ripped to the floor every book within reach with the frenzied passion of a more literate Godzilla. While I was at work, Theresa left her on the floor in the living room by her toys. Minutes later, she returned to find that Maddie had scooted over to a low ledge near our front door that contains a decorative candle. It was of course already in Maddie’s curious hands, no doubt headed for her mouth. Commence baby-proofing!
Making Her Demands Clear
Along with improved mobility, Maddie is also making her wants and needs more obvious to those around her. She has learned to point, which sometimes is just the way she leaves her hand for a while, but other times is actually used to indicate what she wants. When she wakes up in the morning, she groans and points at the white noise machine until you turn it off–signaling that she doesn’t want to go back to sleep and is ready to start the day. She also points at it at bedtime, but that’s usually accompanied by her “wait, why are you putting me to bed?!” complaints. While playing with her on the floor in her bedroom one Saturday morning, she crawled over to the closed door and started making her new signature “I need something” noise: a short, pleading “eeeeh” sound, frequently accompanied by a finger pointing at the offending object or situation. I opened the bedroom door and she proceeded to crawl into the hallway, where she encountered her new toy shopping cart and made the sound again so that I would put her inside of it and push her around.
For quite a while now, she has raised her arms up when she wants to be picked up or removed from her crib or high chair. She has recently extended the meaning of that motion to indicate that she wants you to keep doing whatever it is you are doing. This is usually on display when one of her uncles is making a funny face at her, or playing peek-a-boo or some other game, and she doesn’t want the fun to stop.
Overall, these social developments have been very useful to her parents, as we now have a better idea of what she wants or needs, and can respond quicker, which makes all of us happier!
Playtime Gets Real
Maddie’s ability to play with toys has evolved significantly in the past few weeks. After she received a boatload of new toys for her birthday, we put away a lot of the more babyish toys that had previously been occupying her time. Rather than just putting every toy in her mouth now, she will attempt to see how she can combine her toys or use several at the same time. The aforementioned shopping cart–when not a mode of transportation–serves as a great basket to put other toys into.
When I get home from work, Maddie and I have started developing a new playtime routine. Her smiles, now often accompanied by squeals of excitement, at seeing me walk through the door truly never get old. Usually I’ll swoop her up from whatever she’s doing and take her into our bedroom while I change out of my work clothes. We’ve done this so frequently that she now knows exactly what conditions to expect. As soon as I put her down, she starts motioning and pleading for a shoebox full of toys that sits on a dresser in our room. Seconds after I give it to her, she makes her next demand for a Cookie Monster puppet that is on another dresser. After giving her that, she makes her final request for a sloth puppet that is also on the dresser.2 I put the puppets on my hands and perform for her, getting her to wave at them. When I make them talk, she looks at me instead of at the puppets, but she still seems to associate the voices with the puppets and knows that I am in control of them. When they’re not on my hand, she will pick them up and give them to me, making her pleading noise until I bring Cookie Monster back to life. It’s really fun to watch her interact with the puppets, whether it’s putting something in their mouths when I make them say “aah” or giving them a hug.3
Odds and Ends
She is beginning to have a longer attention span for books—and by “longer” I mean that she will let you read a page, then turn the page once and start to read the next one before closing the book on you mid-sentence. Happily, she seems to really like books, and she opens every single one that she pulls on to the floor. Maybe she’s a speed reader.
She’s also understanding an increasing number of words. We’ve started the requisite “Where’s your nose?” routine and have thrown ears, nose and hair into the mix as well. She’s pretty good at it sometimes, but other times she hears “Where’s your…” and immediately touches her nose. She also sometimes just touches her nose for no particular reason. The one part she can always identify is her ever-increasing belly. She loves to grab it, especially when being changed. She’s beginning to understand “change your diaper,” and will start to grab at her diaper or her clothes if I say that she needs to be changed. She understands “Do you want to get up?” and will raise her arms accordingly. She’s starting to understand “all done” after eating and waves her arms when we say that. I would love to be in her brain and know what our talking sounds like to her now. I imagine it’s a lot of white noise punctuated by recognizable sounds that trigger some thought for her.
It’s interesting to see her reaction to photos and reflections, too. I still don’t think she knows who she is in the mirror, but she often stops to look in mirrors and will wave at herself. She is also quite taken with photos of me and Theresa, which get even more waves. When we are taking her to her bedroom, she frequently makes us pause to stare at the wedding photos that line our hallway, stopping in particular to venerate a photo of me holding a bouquet and wearing purple sunglasses.
In recent weeks, Maddie has become a lot more playful and affectionate. I think I’ve previously mentioned her affinity for tickling, which now extends to both being tickled and tickling other people. For a while, she couldn’t see bare feet without making her signature “tick-a-tick-a-tick-a” sound. If feet are ever in reach, she is probably about to tickle them. If someone next to her leans across her to reach something, she will often try to tickle their body as well.
She’s also getting better at interactive and repetitive games, many of which are just made up incidentally, but which she plays along with wonderfully. You can teach her an action and she will repeat it ad nauseam, until she moves on to something else. The other day, she accidentally got a giant ring toy around her foot. She laughed at that and then proceeded to pull it off and put it back on her foot a few more times.
When something gets her attention, she wants to explore it and understand why it is the way that it is. One morning we were playing in her room and she crawled over to her closet. She found a box full of baby clothes and managed to pull off the top of the box. Then she pulled out a bunch of the clothes. Then she found a ziplock bag full of socks. She tried to open it until she realized that she couldn’t do it by herself. She pleaded for my help and I opened it a tiny bit. She finished pulling it open and then systematically pulled the socks out. She would grab a pair out of the bag, put it in her mouth, then hand it to me. After all the socks were out, we repeated the process to put the socks back into the bag. She continues to build her resume with problem-solving skills.
This was a long post to basically say that life with Maddie is just so much fun these days. It was wonderful having a cute little baby, but it’s honestly a lot more fun to have a little girl who is incredibly curious, learning new skills every day, getting more mobile and independent, and able to give feedback to express some of her thoughts and emotions. I am so excited to see her every day and help her discover something new!