My daughter is only 14 months old, but it’s already starting to happen. Days are bleeding into weeks that are blurring into months. This blog has gone stagnant while Maddie’s development has accelerated, leaving me to recognize milestones and new skills in passing, but eventually almost unable to remember a time before she was in the stage in which she currently resides.
So let’s take stock of where she is right now. At 14 months, Maddie has become increasingly verbal, increasingly mobile, increasingly intelligent, increasingly playful and increasingly fun to be around. Everything is increasing!
Oh the Places You’ll Go
Maddie has been crawling around in earnest for a while now, mostly using her peg-leg pirate method but also doing more full-on crawling. She’s also learned to pull herself up on couches, ottomans, chairs, coffee tables, and pretty much anything else that exceeds her height and allows for climbing and leverage. When she was first learning to do this on the ottoman in the living room, she was usually seeking the forbidden TV remote or the even more enticing silver Apple TV remote. These prizes provided the necessary motivation for reaching over the top of the ottoman with her hands, pulling herself up from her knees and sinking her teeth into the ottoman to give her the necessary staying power to rise up the rest of the way. The process used to take a couple minutes with a lot of grunting, a few wails of frustration and sometimes aborted attempts, but she has improved drastically and can now get on her feet at will with ease— usually without the aid of her mouth.
Once standing, she’s just starting to scoot herself along the furniture with more frequency and loves to walk around the house while I hold her hands above her head. She still has the gait of a drunkard, but she certainly enjoys the mobility and has begun beckoning to go on these short “walks,” touring the house from her bedroom to the living room or from the living room to the kitchen. Sometimes she will sit down to take a break and then demand to be pulled up again and continue along her journey.
We are also able to divert her journeys. If I’m in another room, I can call to her and she will actually come crawling over to me. Sometimes I will leave her room in the morning and tell her to follow me, and she will crawl behind me as I walk down the hallway.
She’s also very open to copying our movements and learning new ones. My father-in-law always seems to teach her a new trick, and on our last visit, he tried to get her to make a wolf sound. She couldn’t quite make the sound, so she just does a “wolf snout” instead. Now if you ask her to be a wolf, she will scrunch up her eyes and nose and sniff loudly. It’s even cuter than it sounds.
While continuing to teach her to point out her body parts—we’ve successfully covered eyes, nose, ears, hair, belly and feet—she can also be commanded to act like a monkey by trying to put her hands under her armpits. She still dances with abandon almost any time she hears music, and now she dances while standing up as well. She’s workshopping a new dance move where she bends her arms and does the Twist while seated and keeping her head facing forward. It’s hilarious!
Her motor skills are undeniably improving these days, and yesterday she further impressed us by correctly holding a pen while scribbling on a big easel pad of paper that we put on the floor for her. When I see her doing things like that, it’s hard to believe that she’s the same baby who was breaking out of her swaddle in the middle of the night back when she was just the length of my forearm. I guess she had some motor skills back then, too…
Overall, she seems to be completely obsessed with music, which is partially an intentional plot by my family and partially just her nature. Her toy boxes overflow with toy musical instruments and annoying musical toys. As I stare over at her pile of toys right now, I can see a piano, maracas, a plastic drum, a light-up drum set, a toy saxophone, and a xylophone. And that’s just what’s on top at the moment. Every day she gains a greater understanding of how to use these toys, and if you show her how something works once or twice, she will immediately try to do it for herself and usually gets the hang of it. If she can’t, she motions for you to help her do it again.
We recently had a fun experience at my parents’ house, where there is a full size drum set, when Maddie sat behind them on her uncle’s lap and instantly started beating each drum in turn with the drumstick. As my brother pointed out yet another drum, she would look over at it and expertly hit it with the stick. Then she’d move back around the set, hitting each of them in turn!
Make Some Noise
As usual, Maddie’s verbal skills are improving even more rapidly than her mobile skills. As I’ve mentioned before, she now makes an urgent “eh, eh, eh” noise and motions in the direction of a desired toy, food or object of her interest to prod us into fulfilling her wishes and satisfying her needs. It’s actually pretty convenient for her to finally be able to communicate in this way.
Her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. We have gotten her to adopt the sign language motion for “more,” which is far preferable to her previous tactic of screaming at us when she wanted another bite.
She doesn’t say a lot of distinct words yet, but she makes many different sounds and has definitely started calling bananas “na-na.” If I ask her if she wants to go find some toys, I hear her whisper, “tah, tah” under her breath. When we offer other foods to her and she wants them, she makes a certain lip smacking sound to indicate her interest—especially for cheese. She makes the same sound if we ask her if she wants some food or dinner.
When it’s not completely clear what she wants, she works with us until we figure it out. If we ask her if she wants water, she smacks her lips in yet another way. She has a third form of smacking for milk, which is now strictly toddler formula, as we weaned her in late August. Her palate has grown significantly, and now she frequently eats bites of whatever we’re having for dinner. She had her first bite of Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza recently and obviously loved it. That’s genetic.
When she’s done eating, she will make the “eh eh” noise, grab her bib and start pulling it up over her head, if not removing it completely. If she’s not wearing a bib, she will just pull at her shirt in the same way.
She also loves going outside and will sometimes gesture toward the door until we make the offer. It’s incredible how much she understands of what she overhears us saying. It’s hard to think of all the examples of this, but she will frequently hear us say a word that she knows (like “knows” or “nose,” which gets her to touch her nose) and respond in a way that shows she is listening and comprehending.
She is a blur of motion and sounds these days, and since she can’t really talk yet, sometimes it’s hard to catch everything that she’s trying to tell us. One evening she was grabbing at her pants while looking at me and making the “I need something sound.” Turned out she was alerting me to her full diaper! I don’t think this was a coincidence, because I will frequently ask “Do I need to change your diaper?” and she will do the same motion when she hears that. She’s smarter than a raptor!
One of her cutest speech-to-action evolutions has been her ability to hug us when we ask her to—which started with hugs for her baby doll and her beloved Cookie Monster puppet. A few days ago, Theresa taught her to start giving kisses as well, which consists of her smacking her lips and moving her head closer to yours. We’ve been waiting months for her to show us such affection. It’s glorious!
No Means No…Maybe
Maddie has developed a bit of a mischievous streak, too. Sometimes she will get into something that she knows she shouldn’t be touching—like a safely covered electrical outlet or my laptop bag—and will approach the object while knowingly looking at me. When I tell her “no,” she will back off, look at me again, look at the object, and then move closer for a second attempt. I tell her no and we repeat this process until she either touches it and I move her away or she decides to move away herself. I can almost see the angel and devil perched on her shoulders.
When she is crying and yelling (or screaming), sometimes I will make a shushing noise and ask her what she wants. Sometimes she will stop her yelping and make the shushing noise back at me, which usually just gets her obsessed with touching her nose. Hey, whatever stops the yelling.
The other day, I sneezed really loudly and looked over to see Maddie shushing me. The girl’s got jokes!
Learning the Routine
Maddie’s socialization has made her very familiar with some day-to-day routines, and she likes to play along with them. Most notably, we have had Daddy-Daughter Pajama Parties for as far back as I can remember, where I would change her one last time and put her in her PJs before putting her down in her crib for the night. Those parties have evolved as Maddie has gotten older, but these days they start with me asking her if she wants milk—which she smackingly agrees to—and then feeding her a bottle—which she downs at an alarming pace—while we sit on the living room glider. When she finishes the bottle, she will wave good night at Theresa, a tradition that she largely started on her own after hearing me say “Good night, Mommy!” every night.
Once we get into her room, I put her down in her crib and I tell her I’m going to change her diaper. She immediately starts motioning toward the diapers because she knows that I let her hold the new diaper while I change her. Before I start changing her, we play a game where she repeatedly holds the diaper up in front of me and I snatch it out of her hands yelling “Thank you!”, which always manages to break her up.
Changing her is a process these days, as she really needs something to distract her—in this case, the new diaper—or she will just try to squirm away, which can be very detrimental to her bed sheets depending on the dirty diaper situation.
After she’s changed, I sit her up and tell her to put her arms up so I can pull off her shirt. She obliges, and then I put her into her pajamas. At that point, she asks to be picked up and looks over at the image of Mary on her wall, trying to touch it while I say a Hail Mary. Oh, she’s also starting to try to bless herself when we pray! She sees us do the Sign of the Cross and starts tapping her chest wth her fingers. Do we get bonus points for that one, God?
After we pray, she points at her white noise machine and I turn it on. Then I walk over to the light switch, she waves good night to the door and the photos on the wall, I turn off the light and carry her over to her crib. For the past several weeks, she has not required the usual rocking, and just squirms to be put down into her bed immediately. I happily do so and scurry out of the room, sometimes to the sounds of her disgruntled cries when she realizes what she just agreed to, but other times she will just drift right off to sleep. She’s sleeping through the night as a norm now, which is a far cry from the horrific experiences of the first few months of her life, which the passage of time has largely wiped from my memory.
This was a very long post, but I’m also very glad that I was able to get all of this down for posterity. I’m sure that in a month or so she’ll be walking and everything will have changed again, leaving me forgetful about what it was like before we were chasing her everywhere. Every moment seems so precious these days, as I realize just how fleeting each glorious stage really is.