Letters

maddi - month 9

Editor's note: Yes, I haven't posted one of these in a while. Don't worry, the unposted ones are all in relatively complete draft state. It's the pictures that I'm really lacking. So, I posted one without pictures. And yes, we are taking pictures. It's the post-processing that's the tough part to keep up with. Dear Maddi,

You are now nine months old, and it's a little overwhelming to thing that you've now spent as much time with us as it took for you to be ready to join us.

This month, you took your second car trip up to North Dakota, and I'm happy to report to you that it went much better than the first, for several reasons. You are a much better eater than the first time. At that point, you were terrible at burping, so the fact we did not find ourselves on the side of road to burp you was a big help.

Secondly, Mom climbed into the back seat to feed you and sit by you for a good portion of the trip. You like to see people, and having someone right there beside seemed to make being stuck in a car for 10 hours a little more bearable. The only drawback was the fact that you didn't like being put in the car for the drive to and from daycare without Mom back there with you.

You are tearing through pureed food about as fast as we can shovel it in your mouth, at least as long as it consists of meat and veggies. You have shown a distinct displeasure with fruit: applesauce, peaches, and pears. You make a grumpy face and stop eating. I'd say it's sweet that you don't like, but you seem to be ok with a little ice cream now and then, so I'm not sure what your hesitation is.

You may be eating a lot of food, but you are also moving around to burn off that energy. You crawl around with little regard for what might be in your way. A pile of clothes and stuffed animals - who needs to go around? Just crawl right through it.

You like to explore everything, especially the volume knob on the TV receiver and the dirt in the big pot by the steps. If we are sitting in the living room and you suddenly make a bee-line up front, chances are we will have to intercept you before you can get dirty. About halfway there, you will even stop to check if we are coming, and I imagine it's been frustrating to get so close before we grab you. Don't worry, you've managed to get dirty more times than we would like.

You are also pulling yourself up to standing now, so we expect that you will be starting to furniture walk sooner or later. I know that crawling is a great way to get around, but if you want to keep up with your sister, you're going to have to get up on your feet sooner or later. Let's just avoid going down the steps until you get a little more coordinated.

You fell off our bed for the first time (under my watch, as your mom would like me to point out) and landed on your forehead. Between your aunt who works as a neonatal intensive care nurse, a family friend who is a pediatric emergency doctor and the family physician, we called about everyone we could think of that night and no one seemed too worried. A little light bruise that went away was the worst of it, but we were pretty scared for a little bit.

You have also started to prefer Mom over Dad if given the option, so if you managed to associate me with falling, I'll take it. Making those connections at your age would be great. Either way, I still love you very much, just like your mom and sister do too.

Posing

And if you develop an unexplained fear of heights as you grow older, sorry.

Love, Dad

month 4

Yep, only a month late. Again, written around the right time and just waiting on photos. Dear Maddison,

You are now 4 months old. We would like to tell you that you that you are about the size of a four-month old, but you passed that a little while ago. Instead, we have a six month size kid. Don't worry - Mom is only a little dissapointed that you are completely outgrowing all the cute summer clothes that she had saved for you.

Monkey Butt

This month you took your first out of state trip and handled the bus, train, and plane like a champion. As long as you were fed and had a place to sleep, we had no issues. And you are not picky about sleeping locations.

On our trip you slept overnight and napped on the floor of hotel rooms, at a baseball game, in several restaurants, walking around downtown Minneapolis, and driving across the interstates of Minnesota. Yep, when we travel, we get around.

At the ballgame

We are happy to report that you are back to sleeping through the night much more consistently. You still don't sleep for 10 hours at a stretch, but we'll take 10 to 5 after the waking period that we went through. Both your mom and I would like to thank you for returning our sanity (especially your mom).

You're becoming more aware of the world around you all the time. Recently, you've discovered that your hand are those things on the ends of your arms that sometimes hit you in the face and you even have a little control over them. When you sit on my lap, you will gently feel my shirt, my face, and you are reaching out to your jungle gym animals more and more all the time.

This looks fun

And as you look and experience everything for the first time, you're also starting to let us know that your personality is in there as well. You've been smiling for a while, and recently you started to laugh. The first time we heard it was when Mom laid on the floor and lifted you up and down over her. We weren't sure if it was laughing or crying, but based on continued experience, it was indeed laughter.

You seem to be more of a "Hey, your antics are mildly entertaining to me" type of laugher, and we still do double check to see if you are unhappy. We should know better, because if your are scared or someone you don't know is a little too loud and in your face, your bottom lip comes out, your eyes get big, and let out a little whimper. Don't worry, it doesn't happen too often.

At the zoo

I have to admit, we don't approach each new stage of your development with quite the wonder and amazement that we had for Brooklynn. Up to this point, it's been more of a "Oh yeah, that's what babies do" reaction. But that's been great. We all enjoy watching you grow and develop, and the fact that it all seems to be going so smoothly is just icing on the cake.

And no, you didn't get any icing from your sister's birthday cake. Sorry, you're not quite big enough for that yet. Thanks for not minding too much.

I see you

Love, Dad

month 3

Editor's Note: Yes, this was written when she was actually about three months old. Yes, I know she'll be five months in a couple days. The pictures were a little behind. Dear Maddison,

You are now 3 months old. Congratulations on completing the first 25% of your first year with us. Just, think, do this about 71 more times and we will be asking you to leave the house.

I see you

Don't hurry too much, as we really like having around. Especially during the day. The night, that's a different story. We still like you, but I think we are seeing you just a little too frequently at oh-dark-hundred. We thought we were going to completely luck out with you and have a baby who started sleeping through the night at two-months old and carry on throughout her first year.

It lasted about three weeks, which was just long enough for us all to get used to sleeping. It hasn't impacted me nearly as much as it has your mom. She's the one who hears you first. She's typically the one who gets up with you as well. In fact, there are times that I wake up thinking that we had a good night only to find out that you were up.

Concerned

We'll get some combination of naps, food, and burping all figured out to help you get back to a consistent sleeper. We just discovered that you like a pacifier to help you drift off to sleep. This alone has been wonderful. I had been in charge of putting you down at night which involved bouncing and rocking. Two bounces for each rock in one direction. I counted the rocks just to pass the time. If you are really tired, sometimes you go down in less than 200 rocks, but if you are little restless, it has taken upwards of 750. On the plus side, my calf muscles have never looked better.

You are starting to become and excellent smiler and object tracker. If we cross your line of vision, your voice eyes light up and your mouth makes a big toothless grin that fights for space between your cheeks. And no one makes you smile quite like your sister.

I love my sister

She sits by you on the floor and plays with you. You don't play back with quite as much activity as she would like, so she will lay on top of you and put her face directly in front of yours. And invariably, your hands come up into her hair and latch on. She whines and tells on you that your were pulling her hair, but we haven't got it in us to put you in break.

She doesn't really mind, because, in her words, that's just what babies do. Your sister actually loves you very much and is a little protective of you. When you go to school with Brooklynn and mom for drop off in the mornings, Brooklynn will stand guard by your car seat to make sure the other kids and germs don't get you. And at your two-month doctor appointment when you got your first shots, Brooklynn informed us that the nurses you gave you the "pokes" were naughty.

Tiny hands

You only cried for a little while and short round of food made everything better. You are developing right on schedule and on the upper end of the growth curves. That just means you have plenty of rolls and wrinkles. Your mom would like to make sure you enjoy it now, because that type of physique is only adorable on a baby.

Just keep reminding us to wipe the milk from under your third chin, unless of course you are planning to save it for a midnight snack and sleep through the night.

Standing

Love, Dad

month 2

Editor's Note: This letter was actually written when she turned two months old. That was about two weeks ago. We've just been waiting on the graphics department to catch up a little[1. Shoot, that's me too...]. Dear Maddison,

You are now two months old and threatening to outgrow your 0-3 month clothes faster than we anticipated. At your doctor appointment, you tipped the scales closing in on 14 pounds, which is more than adequate for someone your age. I won't say you are too big, because your mother and I love your chubby cheeks and rolly-thighs.

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It really is amazing how much I forget from the last time we had a baby in the house. I thought that last month was really fun, balancing you in my hand when you fell asleep laying on my chest. That pales in comparison to the eye contact you are making right now. We talk to you while you lay on the floor and sit in our laps, and you look back. Your eyes track one way, then to the other side, and all of a sudden you find one of our faces. Your eyebrows shoot up, your eyes open up wide, and you look right at us.

I think your expression can best described as a "Hey, there's someone else here too!" type of feeling, and it's wonderful to know that your in there. And when you do find us, you smile when you see our faces, especially your big sister. Something about her makes you light up whenever she comes to sit by you, at least when she isn't trying to smother you with hugs and kisses.

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Maybe you know that every evening when she is going to bed, she asks that you be laid down beside her so she can kiss you goodnight. With your current schedule, you are typically crying for some food when this occurs, so I can't say for certain if it makes you happy or not.

You eat a lot, at least in your mom's opinion. I mean, you don't get to be your size right now without eating once in a while. She says that it sometimes feels like all she does during the day is feed you (which you need), talk to you so you smile at her (which she needs), and take a little break during your frequent short naps (which you both need). And poof, another day down.

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While it does seem like you eat a lot during the day, you just recently started to sleep through the night. One night last week you went for nine hours straight without waking up. Last night, your sister was in our room over 10 times while you slept all night long. Maybe you can give her some lessons at how to stay in bed.

I suppose it would help if we could wrap her up burrito style the way you enjoy. Your mom is getting pretty good at telling what is bothering you right now. The past weekend when you started to cry, I asked her what might be wrong and she said you were probably getting tired. I tried to bounce you to calm you down, and when that didn't work, I wrapped you up in your sleeping blanket. 5 seconds later and you were out.

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You like to be wrapped while sleeping, but when you're awake, you like to move. You kick your feet around, wave your arms, stick out your tongue, and just recently you've found that you have these wonderful things with you all the time that are perfect to nibble all the time. Those are called your hands. They are located at the ends of your arms, and I'm sure they'll come in useful for other things as you get older, but for right now, chewing is their number one function.

Don't think that just because you are immobile means that you are stuck at home all the time. Three days a week you drive over and help drop off your sister at daycare. Sometimes you go out shopping afterwards, and sometimes you come home for a snack. We get you out to the playground when it's nice. You don't seem to interested in the slides or climbing walls. You're more concerned if the wind is blowing in your face or the sun is shining in your eyes, but I imagine it will be all too soon that you will be trying to run after your sister.

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Just know that no matter how big you get and how much you try to run off and be independent, you'll always have two parents who love you very much and are very happy you've joined us.

We can probably work on not going through the diapers quite as fast though, right? You're back in the cloth diapers which means dad gets to make sure they're all clean every couple days and I'd appreciate it.

Love, Dad

month 1

Dear Maddison, You are now one month old. You've gone from a "small" 8 and half pounds at birth to closing in on 11 pounds. Your double chin is filling in nicely and you have the makings of a third down there. On the days when it's nice and you have been in dresses, your roly-poly thighs get to make an appearance.

DSC_6852

You're very strong for someone of your size. You are starting to hold on to your mom's hair and dad's shirt collars quite firmly, enough that we have to make sure to pull your hand away before we move you. When you lay on your tummy, you can lift up your head enough to look all around. You don't like it when we put you like this and eventually, if left there, you will put your head back down and sigh, as if you are accepting your fate until someone comes along and moves you again.

You like to be moved, to be held, to be bounced, but you also will lay down and go to sleep all on your own if you are tired and calm. And, like your older sister, being carried up and down the stairs is about the most reliable way we've found to calm you down when you're crying.

DSC_6659

I'll try to refrain from making comparisons to your sister on every topic. We haven't prepared for you in nearly the same way. We didn't read all the books. We didn't take the prenatal classes or make sure that everything was purchase and prepared months ahead of time. I barely made it to the hospital in time for your arrival.

You might conclude that we didn't care enough to do all the preparation and you are getting a lesser childhood because of it, but that is not the case. In fact, you probably have calmer and much better prepared parents than your sister every dreamed of. We know that you will cry from time to time and spit up and that you will manage to leak through the occasional diaper onto your clothes.

DSC_6551

This doesn't phase us. In fact, when you got both poop and spit-up on your mom in the span a few hours one afternoon, we thought it was more entertaining than anything else. (She did go shower after that, so it wasn't appreciated. Maybe in the future you'll refrain from that sort of behavior.) It's a good thing you like baths, because you tend to get a little dirty from time to time. We're doing our best to keep up with that, but please stop trying to drink the dirty bath water.

I said that I will do my best to not compare you to Brooklynn, but I can't tell you about your life without mentioning her. She loves her baby sister so much. When I pick her up from school each day, one of her first questions is "Where's Maddi?" and then she demands to hold you. We help her put a pillow on her lap and lay you down.

DSC_6586

She tries to hug you and kiss you and hold your hands and feet and shove her fingers in your mouth because you "like that" all at once, and you squawk a little bit and look over at us as if to ask why we are letting this monster treat you like this.

All I can say is get used to it. From what your mother tells me, sisters have to deal with each other for the rest of their lives. As much as it seems like Brooklynn is trying to harm you, we're pretty sure that she really just doesn't know how to handle a little person that doesn't talk to her yet. She gives you a hug and kiss every night before she goes to bed and of all the people in the house, she's probably the most concerned one when you are crying.

DSC_6715

In short, Maddison, you are very loved in this house. Probably more than you care for. There are times when you get fussy and angry and it turns out that all you really want to be is to be wrapped up, put down, and left alone for a little while so you can sleep in peace.

Let's hope that sort of problem is the worst of your issues as you get older. Thanks for joining us. It's good to have you here.

DSC_6963

Love, Dad

month twenty-four

Dear Brooklynn, Two years.

I'm going to let that one sit on its own line for just a little while. In fact, I might say it again: two years. Let's recap:

Early Times Climbing Stairs

And, back in the present:

Blue Reflection

Oh my, someone is getting all grown up.

Brooklynn, you talk to us now. You tell us to turn the radio in the car off and open the windows and to close them again when you get cold and the wind blows too hard. You tell me to stop singing so you can hear Mom and to go downstairs to catch your clothes when you drop them down from the balcony before a bath. When you are sitting right on the edge of the couch and you feel a little unstable, you say "I fall, I fall, nope, nope," just to let us know that you are ok there. And when you did roll off the couch, you announced "I fall!" and proceeded to do it several times because it was fun.

You are "silly" and things are "funny" which means we are supposed to laugh with you. You climb all over the playground equipment, you walk up and down stairs, and you have started using your mother and me as your own person jungle gym.

Balancing Act

You like to go for bike rides and walks in the stroller, and Mom even took you for a jog one day where you demanded to go fast whenever she would stop and walk. I'm not going to comment because I was not the one out running and pushing a large stroller and you, but I probably would have told you to get out and push it yourself. You certainly fly around the house fast enough to make me think that you hopefully you got your Mom's quickness.

This month, Mom and Dad went to Hawaii for a week with your aunts and left you at home. Don't worry, Grandma and Grandpa came to stay with you. They took you out to eat and bought you a water table to play with on the back deck and generally paid attention to you all the times that Mom and Dad might be busy doing our normal life stuff. You did wonderful staying with them and you only started to miss us a little bit right at the end. As great as it was to go lay on the beach and see new places, it was just as good to come home and see you and get a big hug from our little Brookers again.

Not You!

Since you're now two years old, we've started to do a few big girl things with you. A week ago, we took the side off of your crib and made it into a toddler bed. The first day you saw it, you were so excited that you requested to go take a nap just so you could climb in it yourself. Now, after a bath, you run in to your room and climb up on the bed for lotion, a diaper, and jammies. And after we finish our bedtime story, you climb up, lay on your pillow, and give us night-night kisses all on your own. Right away, you stayed in bed just like you did when it was a crib, but you are starting to figure out that you can now come out anytime you want.

Help Mom Up

The second morning after we made the switch, you woke Mom up by knocking on her door. Last night, we had a thunderstorm right around bedtime. I could tell you knew you weren't supposed to come out - you would open your door, see me sitting at the computer, close it, and run back in to bed. But I also knew that you were up and about because you were scared, so we let you stay up with for a little bit longer. And then, in the middle of night, we heard you up again. You don't know how to push open doors yet; you can only open them from the direction that you pull. You like to close doors behind yourself, so when you came out of your room and closed the door, you couldn't get in to our room and you couldn't get back in to your own room. Mom went to help you, but we wondered if you would have eventually gone to sleep on the futon if we wouldn't have been awake to help you out.

The other big girl thing that we're working on is learning how to use a potty. We have one in our living room, much like if we lived in a jungle hut and just used one side of the enclosure for a latrine. Think about it for a second - we live in a country that has had indoor plumbing as a technology for over 100 years, yet we still give our kids the equivalent of a padded bucket to learn on out in public. You've used it a couple of times, but mostly, you know that we will let you watch a little TV while you sit there. You've started hanging out long enough watching a kids show that the padded seat will stick to your butt when you finally do get up.

Strolling in Fashion

Your hair is getting long enough that Mom can do fun braids and styles with it. (Thank your aunt Lynn for introducing us to that stage in having a girl.) You request to have your fingernails and toenails painted, but you still lack the patience to let them dry all the way some times and then they get smeared. You are interested in babies and puppies and bugs and birds and planes. You point out things that Mom and Dad never notice and are completely oblivious to the things that we think are plain as day. You identify people in pictures and you know some of the kids on our street by name. You point out the animals in your books and you know what sounds they make: seals go "Arr arr arr", monkeys go "Ooh ooh aah aah", and there is an oddly colored pelican that you think looks like you. And you are very concerned about anyone who has there eyes closed and is sleeping. You know how to unlock and start a movie on the iPod Touch that has become your "phone".

You want to be cuddled and included and helped out and left alone to do your own thing so you can figure it out yourself - all at the same time.

I guess you really are two, aren't you?

Playing Catch

I know that you will keep getting older and bigger and smarter and more independent, but we'll always remember the wonderful little girl that you are right now.

Toward the Sun

Love, Dad

month 23 (and then some)

Dear Brooklynn, Yep, I skipped your last monthly letter and I’m going to cram two whole months into this one. I imagine that you’re thinking that it might be due to the fact that you’re getting older and changes aren’t quite as rapid as they used to be.

Hi!

You’d be wrong. These past two months, you’ve changed so much. You can run, and you do it quite a bit. Sometimes you high step around, sometimes you prance on your tip-toes, and sometimes, when you’re worried about where Mom is headed to, you flat out book it after her. You climb up hills and come flying down them, and even though I wait for you to tumble and fall just because of the breakneck speed you attain, you typically manage to remain upright.

You go down the big kid slide at the playground. You walk up and down stairs with the help of a hand rail – no more crawling around for you. You jump, and every fourth jump or so, you actually get off the ground. We’re teaching you to jump, stand up straight, throw your hands in the air and yell “TA DA!”

Measuring

You can catch a volleyball as long as it lands in your outstretched arms. You climb up and down off of your high chair. You climb up and down off of chairs, and if you want to see what we’re doing on the kitchen counter, you push a chair over and stand on it next to us. You blow on your food to cool it down when it’s hot and when the wind blows outside and you don’t have a jacket on, you tell us that you’re cold.

You know dogs, cats, bunnies, and fish, and you look up in the sky to find the planes flying overhead. You identify trucks by sound when they drive by the house, and you find cows in pastures when we’re driving in the car. You know the names of your friends at daycare, your family members (including aunts, uncles, and cousins), and you can correctly identify who plays saxophone in the basement at your grandparent’s house. (Yep, it’s Uncle Mike.)

Crazy with Grandpa

During the past two months, we took two long road trips, one to Lincoln and the other to North Dakota. Your mom and I finally got an iPad and a holder so you can watch movies in the car. While we don’t believe in a lot of screen time for someone your age, passing several hours with you happy and occupied in the back seat is a wonderful experience.

You give hugs and kisses, sometimes you cuddle in bed with us, and you say love you over the phone to me. You come to have your owies kissed all better and you like to show off your belly button.

In the Pool

We still refer to you as our baby, but in reality, you are anything but. We took some parent-tot swim lessons over the course of four weekends. The first time we got in the water, I had fingernail marks in my shoulders from how tightly you clung to me. By the end, you would jump in off the side into my arms and walk all by yourself in the shallow end of the kiddie pool. Now, when you see a big building anywhere, you assume that it’s like our rec center and ask to go swimming at the pool.

You like to shop and push the cart by yourself. If we let you, you would also fill it up with anything that shakes, crinkles, or catches your eye. At least you don’t mind that we always take everything back out before we leave. You don’t understand the concept of buying stuff to take home. It’s still more of a game just to collect neat stuff.

Good Eater

Your favorite words are snack (Nack!), cake (which you can say spot on), and Mama. You like to cover up with blankets and pretend to go "night night", and you really like to see babies. When the babies leave, it's probably because they are "seeping" (sleeping).

You can reach a few light switches around the house. (Please remember to turn the lights off after you turn them on.) Just last week while we were visiting your grandparents, you managed to climb out of a pack'n'play all by yourself and start coming up the stairs after a nap. We think you had a little help from the bed right next to it, but still, pretty impressive. Your mom say that potty training and converting your crib to a toddler bed is just around the corner. You're growing up so fast.

Poser

It's wonderful to watch you become such a little person. And when I get home from work and you yell Dada and run over, give me a hug, and tell me you love me - well, that's about the best feeling in the world.

Love, Dad

month twenty-one

Dear Brooklynn, You are now 21 months old, which means just a short quarter year more until your are two. I've long heard that age referred to as the "terrible twos" and I think I'm starting to find out why. It isn't because a formerly sweet and wonderful child suddenly becomes a monster with the sole purpose of destroying any last thread of sanity her parents may be so precariously clinging to. No, it's because she's growing up and becoming independent and capable of doing everything herself. Except she's not, because, well, she's two.

And you are getting to that stage all too quickly.

Digging the Dirt

We read parenting websites that talk about milestones your child should be at, and I hate to inform you that you're a little behind on speech development. But your vocabulary is increasing all the time. I was going to list all of the words that you know, and last weekend, your mom and I tried to come up with them all. We thought we had a pretty good summary, but then every five minutes or so it seemed we would think of another word that you say. And then the next morning, we remembered even more. So, you might not talk in short sentences, and you've never said your own name that we know of, but the words are there.

You are a very polite child. "Please" and "Thanks" are words we hear often around our house, although coming from you, they sound more like "Peas" and "Tanks". You picked up on please in a matter of hours when you realized it was a way for you to get what you want. I'm not sure that we have remained true to the spirit of the word, because there are times when it is used more as a demand, as in "Look, people. I am saying 'peas' already like you taught me. Politeness and etiquette at it's finest. Now, GIVE ME A SNACK!"

More

You know all of your major body parts and can point to them on demand. You can put on your own pants and shoes, open doors, and climb up and down off the couches. You also figured out that you can take your stool from your kitchen and use it to climb up to places you couldn't otherwise get to. Thankfully, you haven't figured out that you could go from your stool to a regular chair to reach things up on the counter top and this is a skill that we have no intention of showing you. Somethings are butter left undiscovered.

This month was Mom's spring break which meant that she was home with your for a whole nine days. One of those nights (on a weeknight no less) you even went over to your cousin Emma's house and played while Mom and Dad went to our volleyball game. When we came to get you at almost 10pm, you were still up playing. And so, for the next couple of nights, you thought that each night after your bath you should probably run around the house and play. Who needs to sit quietly, read a book, and go to bed when there is fun stuff to explore?

After the bath

Actually, it turned out that you do, and when you refused to sit quietly for story time, you got dumped in your crib, crying, and we said goodnight, kissed you on the forehead, and turned out the lights. You cried so hard for about 90 seconds before you fell asleep because you were really that tired. That's called parenting and it's on our job description, so get used to it. Hopefully, everything that we do that makes you mad will be resolved in 90 seconds or less for a little while.

Spring break brought nice weather to go with it and we spend a lot of time at the park. You request walks in the stroller all the time regardless of the actual weather conditions, and if we walk by the park, you make sure that we are going to stop and play for a little while. You're much more coordinated than you were last fall. You can go down the slides all by yourself as long as someone is standing at the bottom. One morning, there was another boy a little older than you that you played with. You would run around chasing each other, and when he went down the big kid tube slide, you followed him down.

Crossing the Bridge

You didn't really enjoy it, and the next time he went down it, you turned around and went down the smaller slide, but by golly, you were going to do what he was doing. Because your a big kid, too! (Remember the reference to terrible twos I made earlier?) You put on your own shoes, often on the wrong feet. You buckle yourself in to your high chair and your carseat, and you always take the longest to do the buckle when we are in a hurry, but you have to do it, just because you can.

And you will attempt to imitate almost anything we do. In your quest to be a big girl, our house really is monkey see, monkey do. One weekend, we were working on perfecting our Rice Krispy Bar recipe which involved melting the mini marshmallows slowly on the stove. You like marshmallows, and so, when you requested a few, I gave them to you. And when you got out a small bowl, I figured you wanted some for a snack, so I gave you some more. It wasn't until I was done that I found you had put one of your small pots on your play kitchen stove, dumped in your collection of marshmallows, and were stirring them just like I was.

In the tube

Our little helper. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

Love, Dad

month twenty

Dear Brooklynn, February has to be the hardest month to actually remember when you get another month older. Since you were born on the 29th, we weren't really sure if we should say you are another month older on the last day of February or the first day of March. Throw in the fact that we had some family visiting and your completion of the first two decades (in months) of your life just passed us by.

w/ the Grandparents

This month, we had two visits from family on both sides. Each time, you freaked out right when they arrived. There was much hiding behind legs and clinging to shoulders and shyly smiling from behind Mom or Dad, but both times, within 15 minutes, you were starting to play with the newcomers. And then, an hour later, it was like they lived with us the entire time. I think we can handle the cautiously social stage you are in right now. I don't worry about you running off with strangers, but I know that even if you are crying when we leave you at home with the babysitter, you'll get it over it in a few minutes.

A couple weeks ago, we happened to be at the library during story time. You were one of the youngest kids there and you still sat through eveything for a full half-hour. I don't know that you were really hanging on every word and you certainly didn't get all of the actions down for the songs, but we did find out that you enjoy the Eensy-Weensy Spider song tremendously. You also like to sit in the library chairs and pick out books to take home and look through.

Reading with Mom

Mom organized your toy corner by the fireplace so there would be a space you could actually get to all your books and I finally installed the periscope on your treehouse and suddenly it was like having a whole new set of toys in the living room. You still haven't really grasped the concept of how the periscope works. I think that you notice you can look through it, but it still gets used as something to talk into more than anything else. Soon enough I will teach you the physics behind light reflection. Trust me, your mom can hardly wait. Now I just need for you to start talking a little more so I can teach you to say things relating to transforming wave functions in the time domain to frequency domain and analyzing the impulse function response. I'll explain it all later.

Little Chef

Speaking of talking, we're ready for you to start anytime. Yes, people have warned us to be careful what we wish for, implying that once you start talking, we will never get you to be quiet again. Apparently you have decided to take after your mom develop the grunting/screaming system of communication. You will answer yes and no at appropriate times, signifying that, for the most part, you do understand what we are telling you. I do wonder how it affects you when we ask if you want to do something (take a bath, for instance) and we tell you too bad and throw you in the water anyway.

Bottoms up

At least you manage to communicate your desires to people. It is easier to deal with than just listening to you yell "No!" all the time. Really, we've settled in to enough of a routine with you, we can pretty much guess what you want to do without you having to say anything. Get up in the morning - choose between a banana and a Nutrigrain bar. Refuse to sit in high chair while eating. Go to daycare. I don't know what you do all day there, but you always seem to be having a good time whenever I've picked you up.

Come home. Play for a little bit. Eat dinner, as long as there is some sort of condiment to dip your food into. Ketchup is the best, but don't worry, ranch, mustard, sour cream, plain yogurt, anything will do. You've even displayed a liking for medium salsa, using tortilla chips as a spoon to eat whole mouthfuls. I guess you do have a little bit of me in you as well.

Playing with Dad

After dinner, we play a little bit more. Then it's off to take a bath, brush your teeth, read a story, kiss Piglet goodnight, and go to sleep. On the weekends, we have to be very careful to correctly phrase any possibility of going outside with what we are going to do once we head out there. If left up to you, we would go out for a walkevery day regardless of the weather, so we have to tell you if it's going to be a drive before we start. Otherwise, we get to tear a crying toddler away from the stroller and wrangler her in to her car seat. Unless of course there is snow on the ground. You and the white stuff do not agree.

Yes Brooklynn, you still manage to make our routine days an adventure. Just think, only 196 months until you are 18 and we send you off into the world. Actually, when I think about it that way, it doesn't really sound like that long. Especially when we pull your ever longer hair back into ponytails and it seems like you are closer to 10 years than 10 months old.

Stylish

Go ahead and stay little for a tiny bit more.

Love, Dad

month nineteen

Dear Brooklynn, I realize that this letter is a little late, but in my defense, we just had the coldest few days of the winter. It was cold enough that your mom got her second snow day off this year just because the weather outside was a little nippy. It's the coldest it has been in Denver since well before I started living here. I know that you don't understand what a high in the negatives means right now other than the fact that we aren't going to take you to the park to play, but trust me. For our home, it means it's pretty cold outside. Your grandparents might tell you differently, but don't listen to them. They're just jealous of the mountains we see everyday and 300 plus days of sunshine we enjoy every year.

Let's Go!

Anyway, it's been cold enough that your mom is back to baking, so we try to make things that you can share in once in a while. We made cheesecake truffles, which you really liked, chicken alfredo pizza, which you didn't care for as much as you have in the past, and rice pudding with raisins, which is pretty much the greatest food ever invented. Maybe the banana and honey stuffed French toast might have been close. Or the cake pops (crumbled cake mixed with frosting formed into a ball and dipped in chocolate). And you'd probably like the butter-finger bars, except that we still aren't giving you nuts of any kind.

This month, you have really taken to bananas for breakfast and the noises you make when you see one kind of remind us of a monkey. Draw your own conclusions from that. Even though I talk about all the good food you've been enjoying, you still stop eating when you get full, we make sure you get your fruits and veggies in, and you actually haven't gained any weight since just before Thanksgiving. Yes, you made it through the holidays without putting on a pound. All across America, Brooklynn, people wish they could be like you.

Hanging Out

Maybe your lack of weight gain can be attributed to how much you run around. From the kitchen to the living room and back, up and down the stairs, you get around. You typically don't wander too far away from where we're at, but we know if we are on the move, you won't be too far behind. You just want to be part of the family, as in, include me in whatever you are doing part of the family.

We got you a play kitchen for Christmas which has been fun. You play with it pretty much every day, and it has been a little bit of a gateway to the real kitchen. You like demand to stand on a chair in the kitchen and watch what we cook and do what we do. There have been several evenings that you have stood beside me with a pan and wooden spoon and "cooked" just like me while I make supper. We have to watch and make sure you aren't too close to the hot stove or the knives, but other than that, I'm pretty sure you will make a great helper.

Kitchen Helper

You already run errands for us, carry things around the house and throw garbage away. We can ask you to pick up your toys, put away your blocks, and clean up your kitchen and it all usually gets taken care of. You especially like to take things like towels or bowls or balls back and forth between your mother and me. "Take this to Mom" will set you cruising around the house to deliver whatever the latest parcel may be.

As you can tell, you are starting to understand words and phrases. Take off your boots and coat, Go find Mom, and Time for a bath are very well understood. You will blow your own nose, find shoes for us when you are ready to go outside, and once in a while, you even lay down all on your own for a diaper change. You blow on your food to cool it off (even when it isn't hot) and you make sure your baby and stuffed animals are never wanting for food or water from your cup.

Homework

Along with understanding a lot of what we say, you are starting to use more words. Up, down, yes, yuck, hot, baby, hi, bye-bye, ball, Mommy, Daddy, please, thanks, sorry, and of course, uh-oh and no. Your pronunciation could use some work, as could your singing, but I guess there is a little bit of time to develop those skills. You know who you are, pointing to yourself when asked "Where's Brooklynn?". You know how to clap, wave, blow kisses, give high fives, and bump knuckles. You know your hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, belly, butt, legs, and toes. I mean, wow. Are you really the same kid who could barely move around just a year ago?

Polka Dot Coat

You've had a couple of colds this month, but no trips to the hospital. You have 12 teeth with two more on the way. (You're missing your canines and second molars on all sides, just in case you're curious.) If you get your finger caught somewhere or bump your head, you come to us for kisses to make it better. You like to go down the slide at the playground (but you still need someone to hold your hand and go down next to you).

I know, I say it every month. We don't have a baby anymore. And each month, it seems impossible that you could keep growing and learning and developing at the rate you do. And each month, you seem to speed up. Now, three word phrases, sentences, reasoning. Then, calculus. And maybe in somewhere in there, we'll work on not being scared of the noise the garage door makes when it opens.

Flower Power

Love, Dad

month eighteen

Dear Brooklynn, You are now 18 months old, and you have been for several days. Some people may think that I've just been too lazy to write your monthly letter, but I will say that I was merely waiting to write your 18 month letter on the day that your Aunt Sarah turns 18. (Happy birthday, Sarah.) See, everything works out and I don't look like such a slacker. If there is one important lesson that I could teach you, it would be to enjoy your time as a child. No one expects things like letters or website updates out of you.

Wash up

We are heading into your third calendar year of life, and just as I seem to say every time I write one of these, you are becoming such a little person. You have an opinion on what shoes you would like to wear and when you would like to wear them. You will tell us when you want your diaper changed and when you don't. You know what yucky stuff is and how to throw things away in the garbage. You are starting to be interested in clothes and hair clips and putting socks on your stuffed animals.

Yesterday morning, I was up in the morning with you. We were having a wonderful breakfast of a banana and some dry cereal when all of a sudden, you looked at me, said Mommy, and took off around the corner. I finished putting away some of the dishes I was working on and went looking for you to find out where you thought she was. I found you almost at the top of stairs and watched you finish climbing and walk over to the bedroom door. Very impressive indeed. Now if you could just figure out that doors need to be pushed to be opened as well as pulled, you would be able to access the entire house.

Watching the Game

This month was Christmas, which so far for you has meant a trip to North Dakota to spend some time with your cousins. Your mom and I enjoy watching you interact with other kids. We know that you actually spend most of your time during the week playing with small people, but we don't often get to see it. You aren't talking in full sentences, but you do manage to get your point across. Mostly by saying No often and repeatedly.

If Grace wanted to pick you up: No! If Jacoby tried to say hi and put his face right by yours: No! If Bennett wanted to use you to stand up and then tried to grab your hair: No! If all of your extended cousins chased you around your great-grandma's house on Christmas Eve: No! No! Nnnooooo!

The best part is when I ask you if you want a treat like a cookie or cracker and you respond No without even looking at me. And then you glance over, see what I have, and hold out your hand. Sometimes I don't know if you understand everything you say in response to questions or if you just automatically answer in the negative and then consider what was actually asked.

Boots Off

Last year at Christmas you started sitting up and we were all very impressed. This year, you learned how to give a fist bump, or knuckles as we call it. Now we say Knuckles! and you smile, hold out your hand balled up in a fist and wait for us to bump it. Several times. If both Mom and I are around, both of us must fist bump you.

Another part of family gatherings is taking baths with the cousins. You don't like to get water in your face or lay down in the water or do too much splashing. This is fine with us because it keeps us and our bathroom pretty dry and requires little cleanup, but it also means that you get more than a little upset when it comes time to rinse out your hair. You won't let us lay you back and you hate to have water dumped on your head.

Pensive

When you were in the tub with Grace and Jacoby, you watched both of them repeatedly dump water over their head and face with cups. This kind of freaked you out and you spent the majority of the bath slid against one side of the tub to stay away from the crazy people sharing the water with you. But a couple of days later, after they had gone, you took a full cup of bath water and dumped it over your head all by yourself. You didn't like it. You gasped and sputtered and dropped the cup to wipe your face and eyes like you thought you might be dying.

And after you recovered, you picked up the cup and did it again. Because the big kids did it. And now, when we ask you to dump water on your head, you will. You still don't like it. We'll take the progress.

Faster, Grandpa!

Being in North Dakota finally gave you your first good taste of snow and cold now that you are old enough to actually get outside and play and you did not like it one bit. It has been unusually warm in Denver this year with a complete lack of snow, so seeing white all over was a bit of a shock. One afternoon, the whole family bundled up and headed out to do some sledding. We didn't go to a hill - instead the adults just pulled the kids around out in the alley. Yes, this type of afternoon is something you miss out on not growing up in a small town.

You were ok riding on a toboggan with your cousins, but you strongly protested when we tried to get you to stand on the snow yourself. It crunched and moved and didn't really seem like a surface you had much interest in playing with. Mom ended up sitting in a sled with you while I pulled both of you around. A few days later, we tried again. We managed to get you alone in a sled only after Aunt Sarah rode with you for a while. Brooklynn, if you think I need the workout of pulling around an adult in a sled along with you, you don't have to be so coy about it. Just go ahead and enjoy the snow. I'll start working out on my own.

Cold Outside

Christmas also ended with you having a few more toys than a couple months ago. You have a tree house and slide, a kitchen complete with a set of pots and pans and so much plastic food, a cat piano, a couple sets of blocks and an electronic stuffed dog that knows your name and says it loves you. So far, you play with all of them, especially the kitchen. The other day Mom was making chili in a big pot on the stove. You demanded to be picked up so you could see what was happening and when you were back on your own two feet, you wasted no time in loading up your pot with lots of food and stirring it all up to make your own concoction. If I remember, you mixed bread, chocolate, some chips and french fries, grape juice, peas and a drumstick.

No offense, but we're going to let the adults do the real cooking for just a little bit longer. Regardless, we still love you very much and we can't wait until you're old enough to really start helping do some food prep.

Browsing Victoria Secret

Ok, we can wait just a little bit. Don't grow up too fast.

Love, Dad

month seventeen

Dear Brooklynn, As you pass 17 months in age, it is getting harder and harder to continue to call you our little baby. For one, you aren't really all that little anymore. You can't walk under the tables without banging your head, but since they are still just above eye level, it seems like you walk into them a little more than you should. You run and stomp and dance and spin and climb, all things that babies aren't very good at doing. You are definitely the third full-fledged member of our family.

We're are the grown up costumes?

You sit at the table with us for meals and use your silverware. I won't try to estimate how much of your food makes it into your mouth on the first try, but I'd say you're well over fifty percent. Scooping with a fork is still harder than stabbing, and even now, stabbing sometimes devolves into banging and then giving up and using your hands. It's ok. Mom and Dad use our hands to eat sometimes too.

I like pie

You like to have snacks, and if you know we're cutting up grapes or a banana or finding some crackers for you to munch on, you will open the cupboard door, get out a small plastic bowl, and hand it to us so we can put your food in it. Sometimes, you assume that we're making a snack for you when we aren't, but we know what you want when we see the bowl come out.

One of your favorite places eat your food or just to hang out over the past few weeks has been the pack of water bottles sitting beside the garbage in the kitchen. We bought them to replenish the supply in the house and made the mistake of leaving them on the floor where you could find them. Ever since then, that pack of bottles has been a seat, a bed, a chair, a desk, and a table for you. I think that we have to find a stool or something to take their place before we can think about using the water for its intended purpose.

Bright Belly

Much like you have claimed the water bottles as your own, you are starting to get the idea that some of things in the house are yours. Your stuffed animals and toys are things that can be shared, but, ultimately, you would like them back, thank you very much. You also seem to think that our computers, iPods, and cell phones all belong to you as well, so we still have some work on defining age appropriate items in the house. Don't worry, though. Mom and Dad are pretty good at sharing with you.

PJs and Animals

You like to play with things, but you are also starting to enjoy playing with people. The latest game in the house is for you to run back and forth on one side of the butler's pantry while someone else runs back and forth on the other side. It's like an extended game of peekaboo, but one that you are never quite sure when we will pop out at you during. And you squeal with excitement, jump a little with shock, put both hands up to cover your wide open mouth, and laugh as if to say, "I can't believe you were there again! For the seventeenth time!!"

You still don't talk with very many words, but the communication is there. Uh-oh means you dropped something. Ow means you are hitting yourself in the head (and no, we don't know where that started). Arms apart at the dinner table means all done, and you are almost always willing to gives hugs and kisses upon request. If you want either me or Mom to come with you, you will come over to us, grab our hand, and lead us to wherever you think we should be. You will run away screaming no if we request you do something that you don't like. Notice the inequality there? Trust me, I'm filing this information away for when you are a teenager.

All done!

Don't feel bad, though. Most of the time, you are a very good listener. After you bath, if I tell you it's time to put your diaper on, you will lay down and lift your legs up for me. You know how to help get dressed, raising your feet for socks on request. You can throw things away in the trash, you know how to go looking for Mommy and Daddy, you know how to "Close it!", and the it can be anything from the garbage to doors to cupboards to the washing machine. You know how to rub lotion in your hands and how to scrub your tummy with soap in the bath. We know that you understand so much.

You dance on command, and your dancing has evolved from simple head bobbing to full on butt shaking and circle spinning. The circle spinning only goes one way and you will turn until you are stumbling. Then you pause for a minute, get your bearings again, and start spinning some more. You will dance when you hear music, even if we don't ask you to. You throw things overhand (apparently, that's a milestone) and you give fives all the time.

Reading with Mom

When you were little, we would cuddle with you on the couch or sitting in your chair. You loved it, or at least, you were incapable of moving away under your own power, so you tolerated it. And then that went away for a while. You were too busy with the moving and exploring and thanks, but no thanks, you didn't really have time get cozy with us. But know, it's coming back. You will sit on our laps to read stories, to have your shoes put on, and just to have a snack. Sometimes you lay on the couch or on the bed with us, and when you start to get tired, you request to be held just so you can put your head down on someone's shoulder.

We don't have a stationary chubby baby anymore. We have ourselves a wild haired, strong willed, outspoken, bonafide toddler.

View from Above

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Love, Dad

month sixteen

Dear Brooklynn, You are now 16 months old. It's a big enough number that sometimes I feel like I should start telling people you are one and a half when they ask me. At the same time, you are still our little girl and keeping your age firmly planted in the month status seems to enforce the fact that we aren't all getting (in your case) grown up and (in our case) old too fast.

Breakfast

A lot of the milestones that people typically refer to have come and gone. First tooth, first steps, first words. First time grabbing a toy and running away from Mom when it was time to put it away. You know, those things that, as they happen, you think you'll always remember. Then, when a new parent asks you a year later when your kid first started to sit up on their own, you realize you have no idea, because sitting up? Don't kids come with that feature enabled, because I'm really struggling to remember a time when running wasn't the preferred method of transportation.

And so, rather than focusing on waiting for the big, life changing developments, we are in the mode of enjoying your daily growth as the little person in our family of three. I am sometimes surprised at how much you pay attention to what we say and do. You have a small plastic laptop that plays music; the other day, when you and Mom were dancing, she used her toe to hit a button to restart a song from your toy on the floor. It didn't seem like something you would necessarily pay attention to, but sure enough, a minute later you were stepping on the buttons to be just like us.

Laptops

You want the food that's on our plates and you want to the look at the computers and remotes and keys that we use. You want to push your stroller around like we push you. This past weekend, we were outside planting some flower bulbs while it was still warm and you needed to be right with us on the kneeling pad making sure everything was still going according to schedule.

And then, just when we think that we're home free, that all we have to do in order to get you cooperate is model the behavior ourselves, you go and form your own opinions. You don't want to go in the car, you'd rather go for a stroller ride. You don't want to stay in the house, you'd rather go outside and play even though it's almost dark and cold outside. And even if Mom or Dad gets down on the floor to play blocks with you, it sure doesn't mean that a laptop isn't the most tempting thing in the room at any given moment.

Up High

We know that you have your own ideas and understanding of the world. You empty the silverware rack of the dishwasher for us, taking each spoon and fork out, one at a time, and handing them to us to put in the drawer. You also get a little upset when the spatulas don't go in the same drawer as the silverware, enough that sometimes we put them in there temporarily just to appease you.

This past weekend, we were cutting up some grapes for you for a snack. I handed a couple pieces to you before I finished all of them. When you realized what I was doing, you opened the cupboard that has our tupperware and got out the small bowl we use to hold your pieces of fruit. It seems like such a simple thing, but trust me, it's amazing to watch you figure things out.

Cuddled in the Towel

You are becoming quite the little socialite. You spent a good portion of your time in the airport and plane looking at other people, smiling, and waving. You are always a little shy with new people right away, but it doesn’t take much to get you to smile and soon you are much more interested in walking over to see what they might be doing than in anything Mom or Dad might have. And don't even mention other kids, because really, who would need an adult when you can hang with people your own size?

Cousins Kisses So many kids

I hope that we are nurturing your development like we should be. I hope that you will be excited to see snow for the first time that you are old enough to enjoy playing in it. I hope that our Christmas tree and ornaments will make it through the holiday season in one piece. (We did switch to plastic decorations last year, with you in mind.)

Most of all, I hope you feel safe and loved in our house. Your mom and I have had a few conversations recently that it's almost impossible to remember what our daily life was like before you were in it. And trust me, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Pooh Hat

Love,
Dad

month 15

Dear Brooklynn, A week ago, you turned 15 months old. Yes, your dad has been slacking. I considered not writing a monthly letter this time around, but then, it seems like there is still so much to talk about. You are by far the most demanding and opinionated person that I know, especially considering the fact that you are under three feet tall and your grasp of the english language is tenous at best.

A little wet

You learned how to shake your head "no" a few months ago and have been doing it ever since to answer questions. Brooklynn, do you want to leave and go home now? *shaking no* Brooklynn, it's getting late. Do you want to go take a bath? *shaking no* Brooklynn, do you want to have a bite of my cookie with frosting on it? *shaking no while reaching for cookie*

So, you know that we're asking questions and that you should have some sort of response. That much is clear. Your understanding of the appropriate response is still up in the air. Just in the past week, you have started occasionally shaking your head yes. You're still a little uncoordinated in this motion, and it's really more of an upper body movement involving shoulders, back, neck, and head. So, you're either signalling yes or suffering from small siezures. Either way, I'm glad we get something besides no all the time.

Fun Brushing

Head movement isn't the only way you communicate. Sometimes there is pointing and shrieking. We see occasional foot stomping of the quick feet variety. And you always try to tell us about dogs. When we are out for walks, you will point, squeal, and look back at us to make sure we see that there is in fact a dog. We even think you say dog. It's more of a "Dou! Dou!" and you also have a "Gah Gah" sound. Once, I think you combined both of them in a hybrid "DouGah" sound, and your mother and I got excited until we realized that you were looking at a rabbit.

Anyway, we know that it's only a matter of time until the words come. Last night in the bath, you and I spent a good five minutes saying Uh-Oh together about nothing in particular. And last week, you mumbled MaMaMaMa as you chased her across a shoe store.

Bottom Teeth

Yes, you were running across a store, so rest assured that we take you out in public on occasion. You are starting to get a little shy around people but only if they pay attention to you. In that very same shoe store you chased Mom across, you were watching three ladies trying on shoes. Slowly you inched closer to them, intent on watching, until one of them commented that even the baby liked the lasted pair she had tried on and all three of them turned to look at you. Realizing you had been noticed, you came running back to my legs to play shy and bashful.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised that you didn't attempt to try on shoes with them. You love to try on our shoes in the house and you are getting much better at inserting your own foot into the openings in my works shoes. It's cute and adorable, of course, but it isn't quite as amusing when I have to locate my shoes in the morning from wherever you hid them the night before, only to discover that I also need to re-lace them. I guess that you see us tie shoes and just can't resist playing with the laces, pretending to tie them too.

Sharing

In fact, you mimic a lot of the things we do. You like help with the cleaning. When Mom wipes off the table, you need your won paper towel to wipe the walls, table and chairs. We won't even mention how terrifying the fact that you are tall enough to reach your hand to the kitchen counters is. We also have you help pick up your toys and clean up after the bath. You like to stand on the bathroom scale and I assume that we're only a matter of weeks away from you figuring out how to open up the doors in the house. Heaven help us all.

The last time Tyler visited us, he taught you how to give hi fives, and so far, it's a habit that has stuck. Your hugging and kissing comes and goes, but hi fives must be cool enough to do with your parents all the time. At least until you figure out how to use a cell phone to message to your friends how completely unhip we are. Just remember, we have pictures and stories of you when you were little and they can be used to embarrass a teenager if needed.

Picking Rocks

I don't think there has been a time recently that more than a couple of days go by without either your mom or I commenting on the fact that you are doing something new or different that we didn't even realize you had learned. I know that you want to be big so fast and do everything we do, but it's ok to stay our little baby for just a while longer.

Love, Dad

month fourteen

Dear Brooklynn, Yesterday, you turned 14 months old. Before we had you, I never realized how much of a difference one month can make in the life a person your size. I used to think that people who said ages in months were a little snobbish, but I now I realize that so much happens between one year and 18 months.

Splash in the Pool

For instance, you seem to think that once you have demonstrated sufficient mastery of a skill, you no longer have any need to perform said skill again. Say for instance kisses and waving bye-bye. A month ago, you would do both, almost on command. And now: nothing. No kisses. No waves.

It almost feels like you dismiss our requests with a miniature eye-roll and a sigh that seems to say, honestly guys, that was so last month. Get with the times, will you? Since when did an under-two-year-old come with the attitude of a teenager?

How Do I Open This?

(And since this file-and-forget behavior dominates almost all of your actions, why do still play in the potted plant dirt? Trust me, you have it down.)

Your inquisitiveness is growing faster than you can explore. If either your mother or I have any sort of item that you catch sight of, you would like to hold it and have it, please. Only, you don’t say please. No, you reach your tiny hand up, pull on our legs, and whimper until you get what you want. Sometimes, if it is very serious, you will squeal and stomp your little feet on the ground to show your displeasure at being denied such a simple request as give me that.

I can’t wait to see what a full blown tantrum looks like.

Don't drop me

You know your way around the house very well and you also know when we head upstairs without you. Yesterday, you were in the kitchen and I walked by to go upstairs with a load of clothes from the dryer. I paused halfway up and could hear the tiny stomping of your footsteps coming around the corner on your way to follow me up.

This insistence on being where we are is charming, but you also tend to get underfoot and in the way. You like to help unload the dishwasher regardless if the dishes are clean or dirty, especially the silverware. We do our best to steer you more toward the spoon and rubber spatulas and away from the forks and paring knives.

Maybe drinking it will work

You also are a more than willing participant in sorting clothes. While I prefer to sort into whites, colors, and darks, you trend more toward in the basket and out of the basket. I know you’re new at doing laundry, but if I’m really honest about it, you’re a little indecisive. You will take one item out, study it, put it on the floor, pick it back up and decide it should really go in the basket after all.

One of your latest favorite pastimes is walking around with your purse on your shoulder. Or, really, anything that you can drape over your shoulder. You walk around with your arm straight up in the air to keep the strap up and march around the house.

Not a Purse

In case you haven’t picked up on the trend, you love to pick things up and carry/drag them around with you. And that’s fine. We like it when you play with your toys and even when you play with things that aren’t your toys. But maybe we could work on putting things back in some semblance of order. I know that you aren’t up late at night, but our house is actually getting to be a fairly dangerous place to walk around in the dark.

The days are getting shorter. The sun is down by the time you go to bed and it’s still dark when we roust you in the morning. We try to get you to sleep early, but there is just so much to do with you, like go on walks and bike rides and explore the yard. The mornings when we are working come far to soon for all our liking; just last week, I could have sworn you mumbled, Five more minutes, as I came into your room to get you dressed.

Happy with Mom

Speaking of speaking, you are doing very little of that. You still have no real words that you use in any sort of context. And that’s fine. You talk a lot, and when I say talking, I mean use many different sounds and inflections and cadences. You talk to us, you talk to your toys, and you talk to yourself. You are very earnest in your efforts to communicate. I often wonder if we still sound as strange to you as you do to us most of the time. Perhaps you already have your own language all developed and you’re just waiting for us to catch on so we can hold a decent conversation.

Crouching Baby

I know this is a recurring theme, but you are growing up so fast. Your hair is long enough to put into pigtails. You like to feed yourself with your spoon and you don’t need us to cut up all of your food anymore. (You could probably do with more chewing and less swallowing whole.)

We brush your teeth every night after that bath and this is now one of your favorite parts of the bedtime routine. You help put your clothes on in the morning and take them off at night. Sometimes, it feels like at the rate you’re growing, we’ll be handing you the keys to the car by Christmas.

Smile

Just remember Brooklynn, no matter how big and mature you get, you’ll still be our little girl. (And give your mom a kiss once a while. She’d really like that.)

Love, Dad

month thirteen

Dear Brooklynn, A year ago, we had a one-month old living with us. Your mother was still getting up in the middle of the night, every night, to care for said child. And in between going back to work, having some family visit, and basically figuring out how to be parents, we both agreed that sometimes it felt like we were just watching some one else’s baby. And feeding someone else’s baby. And bathing someone else’s baby.

How do I get in?

Of course we loved that baby like nothing else in our lives, even on the day’s when it felt as if someone really should come and take the child from us, if just for one day, to let us catch our breath. Life rarely comes with do-overs, and, when there wasn’t a reset button to be found, we forged ahead.

Brooklynn, we are overjoyed that we did. A year ago, we were happy if you would look at us with uncrossed eyes and maybe, just for one split second, acknowledge our presence. Now, when I come home from work, I am typically greeted with a shriek, a smile, and the sound of tiny feet toddling over to me to be picked up. Crawling is so for babies.

Don't Fall

We do not have a baby in the house anymore. Since you have turned one, I don’t think you’ve crawled more than 15 feet in total. Everywhere is walking: around the house, in the backyard, up and down the driveway, and out in to the street.

A very common phrase in the house has become, “Where’s Brooklynn?”, often followed by the askee glancing around the room in an attempt to imagine where you might have wandered off to now. You have an uncanny ability to meander away when we’d like you to stay close and to suddenly become clingy when all we really want is for you to show some independence.

Into the Sunset

You are very interested in other people from a distance and then prefer to hide behind a leg or look away when they get close. I’m sure you’ll get over it. I think I started becoming more comfortable around strangers when I was about 22, so you might have a little ways to go.

With the Cousin

Our life has settled into a bit of a routine over these past few weeks that we’ve been home, and if you happen to be looking at the dates of how often I’ve been writing, you’ll notice that routine rarely involves actually posting anything. We are in the middle of summer, and that means it’s time to be outside. You go on walks with Mom in the mornings, and in the evenings we head out into the yard to explore.

Sprinkler!

You prefer the stone path to walking on grass. You would very much like it if we would let you climb into the gardens. You enjoy digging bark and stones out of the landscaping, and you like to get up a little speed on the downward slope of the driveway. We worry that you will stumble and fall and, this past weekend, you took your first major tumble of your young life. You stepped a little too close the edge of the deck steps, and when your foot found only air, a look of panic spread across your face and you rolled down the steps head first.

Your mother likes to give me a hard time about my slow reaction time, but I did manage to get to you before just your head met the flagstone of the walkway. (She maintains that she would have caught you at least a step earlier.) But it's ok. You survived, and you also went to be right after your bath that night with no bottle. And you haven't had a nighttime bottle since.

So much fun

This is the last week that you get to spend with Mom at home since she goes back to work next week; I imagine that you will be happy to get out of the house and see some other kids on a regular basis, but you will also miss spending time with your favorite person in the world. There's no one who comforts tears or makes you smile quite like your mother. You certainly give her far more kisses than you give me, but maybe that's because I don't shave quite as often as I should.

Walking with Mom

We know you won't stop growing and learning new things every day, but we might pause you right here if we could, just for a little while.

Love, Dad

month twelve

Dear Brooklynn, Today you are one year old. Just step back and consider that for a moment. One year ago today, your mother and I were gearing up for a long night in what would be the first of many long nights. I heard a statistic that new parents lose over 700 hours of sleep the first year of having a baby. I believe it.

Do you remember when you were little and brand new?

Resting Baby Feet

It's ok. Neither do we. We have pictures that seems to indicate at one time you were tiny, immobile, and generally unresponsive to the world, but it gets a little hazy after those 700 hours of not sleeping.

Now, you are walking around. You have teeth (four of them). You are are still little and cute and you now have a whole lot of attitude for someone of your size. There are times when we ask you politely not to play in the big potted plant by the stairs or to stop attempting to pull our TV down on top of yourself, and you look at us, smile, and go back to doing whatever we just kindly asked you to stop. It's like you think your cuteness and baby-status will get you out of whatever trouble you might be in.

It was like this, I swear

The hard part is that you know better. I've personally watched you crawl past the plant, stop, look around to see if anyone is watching, and then start to grab handfuls of dirt. (Hint for the future: if you're going to be sneaky, you also have to check the upstairs balcony to make sure we're not standing there.) When I said your name, you looked startled for a second and then a little guilty, like you were just caught with your hand in the cookie jar, assuming we had one of those.

You smiled your little two-tooth grin, looked at me with an aw-shucks, you got me expression, and reached back for another handful. I was forced to use my voice of authority to tell you no (something your mother doesn't believe I posses), and you proceeded to stick out your bottom lip, let it quiver, wait for the tears to well up in your eyes, and then collapse in a sobbing puddle on the floor. I probably feel worse about the whole experience than you do, because a minute and a couple yogurt snacks later, you were happily playing with some blocks like the whole thing never happened.

Looking Down the Stairs

Each day, we seem to find a little bit more of the person you are becoming. You like to wave bye-bye, typically 10 seconds after someone has completely left the room. You will give hugs and kisses but only when you are in the mood. Sometimes I'm not sure if you are giving me a kiss or tasting my cheek, but I choose to believe that I am not raising a cannibal, so I go with the kiss. You are also becoming a little shy around people you don't know, hiding behind our legs or burying your face in our shoulder when strangers get a little too close.

Mom has been staying at home with you during her summer break, and the two of you are becoming very close. There are times that you cry when she tries to hand you over to me to hold and, while I know it's more that you still want her more than you don't want me, I have to admit it's a little hard for me sometimes. Don't worry; I forgive. She assures me that someday, I will be the favorite parent (and then she mumbles something about how I don't have the authoritative voice or disposition so she will be the disciplinarian in the house).

Happy with Dad

You like both of us equally well when we are helping you to get around, and oh how you get around. You are walking on your own as long as you have somewhere to go. Like, OUTSIDE! You love to walk OUTSIDE, especially in the street because the street has much better texture than the boring old sidewalk. Why would we want to go inside when we could be OUTSIDE in the street or in a swing or attempting to climb into the garden? Silly parents, wanting to go inside.

Helping pull grass

Sometimes, it seems like we have to lure you back inside with the promise of food. Cheerios, yogurt bites, fruit bits. Your basic baby food groups really. You like hamburgers and pulled pork and chicken. You'll eat peas and carrots and bits of bread and pancakes. And then, even when you are refusing all food, if we happen to have some of treat for dessert, we will feel a small hand on an arm and find you looking at us as if to say, I see you have something tasty that I would also like to partake in. Like ice cream. You love ice cream. I think if we could just figure out some way to make eating ice cream OUTSIDE all day long an ok activity, we would never hear you cry.

Rocks!

Not that you cry alot. Right now, your top two teeth are coming in and we can tell they bother you because you have been unusually fussy. Somedays, we really wish you could talk to us and tell us what's wrong. Somedays, it seems like you really wish you could talk to us, too. While we haven't heard any consistent uses of a first word, there are times when you look at us and repeat the same sequence of babble three time in a row, each time pausing to see if maybe we might be intelligent enough to comprehend. Sadly, we aren't. It becomes harder to learn new languages the older you are, so your best chance at reliable communication is to learn English.

It isn't to say that your parents just wildly guess at what you want. We can tell when you're tired, and all we have to do is hand you your blanket and set you in the crib. You cuddle up, put a corner of the blanket in your mouth, and go to sleep all on your own. For that, I think you deserve all the ice cream and outside you can handle.

Birthday Dress Birthday Cake and Plate First Cake 2 So excited

One year old. In the grand scheme of what I hope is a long and happy life for you, it's pretty insignificant. In fact, by the time another few years have passed, you won't remember any of what happened this past year. Maybe you'll look at some of the pictures we have and watch some of the videos. Maybe you'll even read some of these words that I have written and try to imagine yourself as a tiny baby. But trust me, even though you won't remember any of this, your mother and I will never forget. And no matter how big and mature you get, you'll always be our baby girl.

I love my mom

Love, Dad

month eleven

Dear Brooklynn- Yesterday, you turned 11 months old, which means that we can now round up and start telling people you're a year. But we probably won't do that, because it would mean we have a one year old. As in, what happened to our little baby and where did this tiny human who lives in our house come from? Your mom already thinks that you have started "talking back" to her on a few occasions and you are prone to collapsing on the floor in a crying puddle if we tell you no, you can't do something. The terrible twos seems like they just might be around the corner already.

Crouching Brooklynn

Last month, you had just learned how to crawl. This mostly involved going across the living room to hit the TV. Now, with your newfound independence increasing every day, you have learned that there is a life beyond the room that Mom and Dad are in. This is an exciting development, but it also means that we really do turn around and wonder where you went.

If we lose track of you for too long, it seems that we can probably find you heading toward the big potted plant near the front door. Last week, your mom accused me of feeding you brownies after she saw brown crumbs on your face. It turns out that you were just trying to scarf down the dirt before someone caught on to your little hijinks.

More?

Speaking of scarfing down food, your ability to gum up all kinds of food is rapidly increasing. For many meals, we don't prepare special food for you as much as tear up the food we are eating into small little bits and watch you smear those tiny pieces all over our glass table. And you usually manage to get some of it into your mouth as well.

Even though you aren't really supposed to have much in the way of dairy products yet, we gave you some vanilla ice cream after you stared at us so intently while we had our own sweet treats. The first bite you had was sort of one of shock at the temperature, and you scrunched your brows and glared at us like we tricked you into thinking that it should have been something good. And then, once you got past the shock of the cold and discovered the sweet, you were 100% on board. Ice cream, now and repeatedly please. If we got to talking and didn't give you another bite as soon as the previous one was gone, well, that was just not acceptable.

Who you gonna call?

After you polished off the little cup we dished up, you started looking around for more. And because we are your parents and we love you very much, we didn't give you any. Ice cream is a desert and a once in a while food (until you are adult like Mom and Dad and can decide what unhealthy foods to eat whenever you want. Then you can also complain after a really big meal about how you shouldn't have eaten so much. That's one of the privileges of being all grown up.)

Even with the ice cream, Oreo cookies, and other sweet things we give you in addition to your normal daily diet, you haven't gain so much as a pound in the past two months. Both your mother and I are ready to start your diet and daily activity plan. I never knew just crawling around and trying to screw up expensive electronic items could burn so many calories. We just looked back at some pictures of you when you were only six months old. Just between you and me, you look better a little more mobile and a little less round.

Follow the Trail

Maybe the biggest change of all this month is the fact that we are not actually home with you right now. We will be gone for six whole nights without seeing you. The morning that we left was harder than either of us anticipated, and we hope that you understood when we said we would be gone for a little while but that we would come back soon to be with you again. We're having a good time on our vacation to the northwest, but we still don't go very long in between times that you are mentioned or thought about. If the pictures that your grandparents are sending us are any indication, you're getting along just fine. Apparently, you already have a two piece swimsuit which is something that we had decided wouldn't happen until you were old enough to go a mall and buy one yourself.

What's in there?

Brooklynn, even though we aren't with you right now and you are starting to display an attitude to go along with your inheritance of your mother's stubborn streak, we wouldn't change anything about you. Take advantage of this time when you can get away with bad behavior because you "don't know any better". Just between you and me, I'm well aware of the fact that you know more than you let on and you do in fact know exactly what you're doing.

With Mom

But don't worry, your secret's safe with me.

Love, Dad

month ten

Dear Brooklynn, You are now ten months old, which means we can start having long philosophical conversations about double-digit numbers, the decimal numbering system, and multi-variable calculus. Ok, we'll skip the first to and go straight to the calculus. Really though, with the speed that you seem to learn new things every day, I wouldn't be surprised if linear algebra was just around the corner.

Here, let me show you how

This month has seem rapid changes in your mobility. Just a few weeks ago, you started walking around with one of us holding your hands. And when we didn't walk around with you all the time, you cried, because walking was so much better than being carried. Within a couple of days, you moved on from us to pushing around your scooter. Yes, you get stuck from time to time after running to walls, but you can stop and grab anything you might pass by on the way.

We assumed that you would be walking before too long, and you quickly started to cruise around using the living room furniture. And the walls. And curtains. And the expensive electronics on the TV stand. Soon, if you were sitting close enough to a couch or end table, you could pull yourself up and take off without any parental help. This lead to the expression, "How did she get over there?" becoming over-used in our household.

Brooklynn - M9-34

And from there, we assumed that you would be walking by now. You'd really think that we would have learned not to assume anything when it comes to babies. Last week Friday, you learned how to crawl. By Sunday, nothing was really safe unless it was high enough to be completely out of reach. It really has been exciting to watch you go from seeing something across a room and walking all the way around the edge to get there to sitting down and crawling in a straight line across the floor.

Now, this isn't to say that you are uncontainable. Wood floors still give you problems, especially when you are wearing socks. Stairs haven't been attempted yet (which is a good thing), and we have finally done the bare minimum of childproofing around the house. Your crib mattress was dropped to a lower level, and now some mornings I walk into your room to find you standing up waiting for me.

Childproofing?

Standing is fine, but you seem to think that you need to stand anytime you're not sleeping, like when we are trying to get a diaper on you or attempting to get you dressed for the day. If only you could understand it would all go so much faster if you would just lay still and let us do what we need to for a few minutes.

We put locks on the cabinets containing some of the harmful stuff in the house, but we chose not to baton down the hatches on everything. We still left some of the tupperware drawers and cupboards open because those are one of the most exciting areas in the entire house. Tupperware and mail. Whenever we let you at either of those two items (normally you throw everything around before playing with any of it), you look at us as if to say, "You mean to tell me you've had this here the WHOLE TIME and didn't tell me about it?!?!"

Don't need this one

Because, really, after you've seen a toy a few times, it's old news. But something fresh and exciting, like sales fliers - those never get stale since they keep sending new ones with new sales all the time. I'm already dreading the time I hear your mother say that she's taking you shopping and they'll be back in a little while.

So, in an effort to keep you entertained, we've started spending more time outdoors. We just had some work done in the backyard and you really seem to enjoy sitting out on your blanket and taking in the fresh air. And nature. And eating the dead leaves that are still blowing around. Or grass that you pull out of the ground.

In the backyard

Really, Brooklynn, you eat just about anything that you can put in your mouth with the exception of some of the food that we'd like you to try. A few weeks ago I made a couple of dishes for you with squash, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and apples, and even some chicken. Your first reaction to some of the food that I have actually considered making for us because it smelled so good: you spit it out. And then looked at me like you wanted to know why I WAS TRYING TO POISON YOU!

It's better now. You eat different types of food, and we are starting to feed you small portions of our own meals - things like meatloaf, hamburger, and bread. You still love your freeze-dried yogurt, but we try to make it more a desert than a meal. You're also starting to feed yourself more and more, and I'd say you're well above a 75% success rate of getting food from your hand to your mouth as long as we don't give you too much at once. It's when we set 10 or more pieces in front of you that you get a little careless because, hey, there's more where that piece came from, and you'll just grab another one from the table, thank you very much.

a little excited

I know people told us that you one day, we would look at you and wonder what happened to our little baby, that we would be amazed how fast the time goes by. And back then, we said, yeah, we suppose that will happen, but really, we see you every day. How fast could things change?

Brooklynn, things change very vast, and we look at you and wonder what happened to our little baby. And then we wonder how did we survive this long before we got to experience the little, amazing, independent person you are becoming.

Bath Time

Love, Dad

month nine

Dear Brooklynn- This month, I'm glad to tell you that we can finally stop talking about you being sick all the time. (Even though you did spread the stomach flu to your mom, me, your cousins, grandpa, aunt and uncle, and as of this morning you have a runny nose.) No oxygen. No hospital. Just a few outstanding bills that you really don't have to worry about.

Brooklynn - M9-13

No, this month you've been much more interested in starting to stand, move, eat, and anything else that can be done on your own. Crawling hasn't been high on the priority list, but you have managed to become proficient and sliding backwards with no idea of where you are headed. We are prepared for you to be walking well before you ever crawl, which makes it easy to childproof. We'll just put everything on the floor.

You can stand next to couches and holding on to hands, but actually reaching the floor is another matter entirely. You don't know how to crouch or bend at your knees which leads to a lot of bending at the waist and slowly spreading your feet wider and wider so you can actually grab things off the ground.

Brooklynn - M9-6

Very ladylike indeed. We'll have a little work to do before you are allowed out of the house in a skirt.

In addition to your cereal and soft foods, you have also started to eat small puffs that dissolve with a little bit of saliva. Even a toothless wonder such as yourself can enjoy gumming up that type of food. You're just starting to feed yourself, mostly by getting enough slobber on your hand that the puffs will stick to it and then get sucked into your waiting mouth. Less than a 50% success rate right now, but I give you about a week until we turn our back for a minute and wonder where the pile of food in front of you went.

Brooklynn - M9-34

One night this past month, you flipped on to your stomach and fell asleep that way. And then you cried for a little while and fell back asleep. And fell back asleep again. And you've been sleeping on your stomach ever since. For the past two weeks, this has meant you've been sleeping mostly through the night in your own bed. Yes, I from time to time I miss having you come cuddle during the night, but I don't miss having a small person who wiggles and kicks me in the chest next to me every night.

Over the past few weeks, you seem to have found your sense of humor. I wouldn't say that the things that make you laugh make much sense to us at times, but you do seem to enjoy yourself. I never expected the question of "What are you doing?" to be the highlight of the day, but that is exactly what happened. Your mom even taught you how to fake laugh, which I think you use to get a reaction out of us. Already trying to manipulate your parents; I don't like where this is going.

Brooklynn - M9-36

Your mom had her three week spring break this month which meant that you were always home and waiting when I got home from work. Not only would you be waiting, but I would always get a big smile and laugh. And that is a wonderful thing, to come home to a daughter so happy to see me. I can hardly wait to see what the coming months will bring.

But don't worry about growing up too fast. We still haven't child proofed the house. Let's hold off on the whole walking thing for a couple weeks, ok? Maybe think about working a tooth or something instead. Your mom and I would appreciate it.

Brooklynn - M9-12

Love, Dad