New Words

Adding to the list: Moe (Elmo), and ayah (later).

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The Escape Artist

Way back in the beginning of August, I left my little one in the care of my mother, known round these parts as Grandma (Ahma). When we said goodbye to little Bella on Thursday evening, she was a darling little baby girl who slept like a rock without much complaint in her pack & play.

Apparently Grandma fed her some type of evil chocolate because during the three nights she spent with Grandma, she morphed from our sweetheart baby into The Escape Artist. Every time Grandma put her down in the pack & play and left the room, Bella Wayne would run to the corner, hoist herself up (with much groaning and grunting), throw a leg over and shimmy out.

Since that fateful weekend, Bella has refused to remain constrained in a pack & play. This left us with only one solution: Naptime in the crib. She took naps in the crib during the winter and spring, but it gets too hot upstairs for the summer. However, had no choice - so we surrounded her with fans and laid her down in her crib. For the past 23 days, this strategy has worked perfectly.

And then today happened. I laid her down as usual, tucked her cribmates in with her (Tasha, Diego, Moe - which is what she calls Elmo), turned on her fans, said "night night Bella" and left the room. I was downstairs about three minutes when I heard the thud. Then a minute or so later, I heard the musical stylings of her number spinner.

I came up the stairs disbelieving that she could actually get out of the crib that fast without hurting herself. Lo and behold, she was standing in the middle of the floor trying to climb up into the doll stroller! Just having herself a grand ol' time. So, I put her back in the crib and went through the naptime routine again - only this time, instead of leaving for good, I ran for the camera. Here is what ensued:

I'd like to state that I am currently updating from the glider in Bella's room. I had to sit in here until she fell asleep because the minute I left her line of vision, she was at the corner of the crib, hoisting herself up. I had to tell her "night night Bella" at least five times ... but she's finally asleep.

What am I going to do with this girl?!

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That picture of Bella's cut looks a little deceiving. I didn't have any of her hair cut off the back ... only the fringe around her face. Here's my proof:

And, yes, my kids really do love each other. Hopefully they'll always be this sweet to each other. Bella's running a slight fever this afternoon so all she wants is her brother's cuddles and a juice cup.

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Bella's First Hair Cut!

Javier didn't have his first snip job until his second birthday. Kati and I took him to Hair Pros by the old Walmart in Sanford and his little curls (well, his afro basically) cut into a little boy 'doo.

Bella's first hair cut was similar in many ways - but also drastically different. Billy was at work and I had the itch to get my own hair cut, so I decided to bite the bullet and get Bella's mop under control. You can see why:

Kati is way out in California, so I enlisted Amber to help me. She kept Bella entertained until it was cuttin' time. I thought Bella would enjoy sitting up on the block, but we all know she's a baby who wants to be on the ground running wild. She sat quietly for the first half-minute ... after that, we were on borrowed time.

Ramona, her hair cutter, trimmed about an inch off her bang area but left the rest of her headful of curls intact. Unlike after Javi's first hair cut, Bella still looked very much like a little baby after it was over. I remember thinking Javi looked like a 6 year old after his first cut!

Doesn't she look happy? Her daddy hasn't seen it yet, so hopefully he won't think the bangs are too short. Now that several hours have passed, they've begun to curl again and blend in better with the rest of her hair. I think it's adorable - and that's what counts!

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Open House

Last night was Open House at Javi's school. He was a little less than enthusiastic about it and had to be forced to go through the motions ... until he saw the big bouncy houses and slides in the back field. Then he wanted to rush through meeting his new teacher and getting his new uniform so he could play.

His teacher's name is Mrs. Munsell and we're happy he's in her room because she taught in the exceptional children classroom for several years. I'm hopefull that this will give her the experience and patience to handle Javi's hyperactivity and distractedness without making him feel badly about himself.

He was much more interested in meeting up with old friends, such as Rush, Jesus, Miguel, Aaron and Camden. He played until he was soaked in sweat ... and then played some more. Here he is with comical little Miguel on the big slide:

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Informal Developmental Check In

I was thinking today about how Bella isn't as "advanced" as some of the babies on my iVillage messageboards. I decided to write out exactly what she does and how she does it so that I have a better grasp of where she's at developmentally. Turns out she's right on schedule for her age group. Here's the list (warning: it's lengthy!):

1) Knowing what things are - check. She definitely knows the controller is for turning on the tv. In fact, if we won't turn on the tv, she'll grab the controller and press the buttons. When the tv doesn't come on, she waltzes over and presses the power button. She does the same thing for the radio. We keep it programmed to a kids' station, so when she wants to listen to music, she turns the radio on. She's keen to keys, too - she grabs them and tries to unlock the front door. When I had to change her diaper in the front seat of my car the other day, I gave her the keys to occupy her. She tried to stick them in the ignition.

We have only recently begun using a real toothbrush. Before that, we were using the little finger condom they give you in some boxes of baby toothpaste. I've had to stop that because she tries to bite my finger off. I still use it sometimes so that I can feel around for teeth since she won't open her mouth for me. On those days, I let her "brush" her own teeth during bath time.

Telephones are her favorite electronic device. When my cell phone rings, she lunges for it and dances around. When the home phone rings, she holds her hand up to her ear and yells "YOOOLLLLOOOOO?" If we don't answer it, she runs to the answering machine and waits for the message. If it's someone she knows, she claps. If not, she loses interest.

She also understands that the fan cools her off. We run a fan in her room at naptimes bc our upstairs doesn't cool very well. I laid her down the other night for bedtime and she pointed at the fan and said "hhaaaaaad!" I asked her if she wanted the fan on and she clapped.

2) Eating manners - sort of check. She doesn't eat with her mouth open, but she does still throw food on the floor. We've tried to teach her to put what she doesn't want in the cup area of her tray but she only does it half of the time. When she doesn't want something, she'll drop it over the side of the tray. She'll look straight at you while she's doing it and then smile. When she's done, she'll wipe her own mouth, throw her hands up and say "ahdah" for all done.

3) Elimination understanding - no check. Just as she doesn't care about running around in a dirty diaper, she doesn't lead us to a designated changing place. However, when we tell her she needs a new diaper, she will trot over to the diaper bag and fish one out for us. After she hands it to us, she'll run back for the wipes. If she seemed to understand that she was pooping or peeing, I would probably buy her a little training potty and get started on that.

4) Gross motor skills - check. Bella can climb stairs and has now learned how to walk down them holding onto the rail. She began climbing stairs around 6 months, but she would come down on her butt. Now she thinks she's a big girl! When there is no rail, she opts to come down on her butt. She can also roll, kick, throw and bounce a ball. Balls are her absolute favorite toys. She'll play with one for hours and has several in various sizes. Since she began going to daycare, she has learned to push herself along an a big wheel, climb up a slide and come down it on her butt, and walk along a "balance beam" (a long 2x4 they laid down for her bc she was so into it).

5. Fine motor skills - check. She loves to sort shapes and those types of toys are her favorite when balls aren't available. She can also stack rings on a holder and stack blocks up to four or five blocks. After five blocks, her stack usually tumbles. Now, when she sees it getting wobbly at four blocks, she knocks it over, laughs and starts fresh. She likes to "thread" things. For example, she'll string her stacking rings an length of string she likes to carry around. She'll also hook her musical instruments on that pieces of string.

6. Favorite toys - check. Like I mentioned, her favorite toys are balls and things that stack. When those aren't available, she loves to read books and play her instruments. Her favorite is an electronic keyboard that started out as Javi's but he has given it to her. She also loves her xylophone and drum set. She'll play something, dance or rock side to side, and then play some more. When we play for her, she'll dance and then take her turn (which is when you're expected to dance). She has no interest in dolls, except for her Tasha and Diego dolls.

7. Finding things - check. Bella is an expert finder. If you ask her where her shoes or cups are, she will search until she finds them. She'll look under things, around things, inside of things. She'll go upstairs and look around there too. When she finds it, she expects LOTS of fanfare. She'll also look for her Tasha and Diego. With those, you can ask her "Where's Tasha?" and she'll track that thing down. For Diego, you can ask "Where's the rescue pack?" and she'll track down Diego and then turn him over to point at his rescue pack. She most enjoys finding people or herself! :)

8. Understanding of bedtime - no check. Bedtime is when we lay her down, and it has changed since she began going to daycare. We definitely have been slack on setting up a routine for her to help her transition from play/family time to quiet/night time. Most nights, she'll lay down without argument. We tuck her Tasha into the crook of one arm and her Diego into the crook of the other arm. We put her Tinky Bear (lovey) on the pillow and cover her with a sheet while saying "night night, bella." Often she'll smile sweetly until you leave the room. That's when things can go either very well or horribly wrong. Tonight they went wrong and she cried for a good hour despite our efforts to soothe her. I plan to set up a real routine after we get back from travelling this weekend.

9. Vocabulary - sort of check. Bella's language skills are not as developed as her motor skills. She doesn't have many words but she's getting more every day. Today she began calling her sitter "Gahn" and her sitter's husband "Pa" - because the other children there call them Granny and Papa. She also learned "tah" which means "stop" and is recognizable by her hand in your face. Who knows where she picked up that little gem. :) In total, she says (sometimes clearly, sometimes her own version of) mama, dada, uh oh, byebye, hi, night, brother, hello, all done, this, stop, grandma, granny, pa, no and yes.

See? She's our own little phenom. :)

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Kung Fu Fighting

Starring: Javier. And introducing: Miguel.

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Daycare: Week One

Bella spent three days last week at daycare. On the first day, I expected her to throw a tantrum, wail dramatically and throw herself against the door when I left.

I'm sure you can predict how this story ends: She acted as though I was never there. Rather than any melodrama, she trotted herself right into the playroom and got to work pulling everything out, examining the toys and books, and climbing onto anything within reach.

This is the real amazing part. Who cares that I have spent the past 450 days taking care of the child ... her daddy is the real star of the show. She cries when he leaves the room, follows him around like a puppy and tucks herself into his side whenever he sits down. So you would think that she'd lose her mind when he showed up to pick her up on her first day - like perhaps seeing him would clue her in that she wasn't at home ...

NOPE. She couldn't have cared less that he was there. From what I'm told, he had to remove her from daycare by force and she was not too happy about it. This pretty much how it went all week. On day 3, she cried a little in the morning, but it was more because her molars cut through the night before and she was feeling whiney - had nothing to do with me.

I suppose I should be happy that she is so independent. That's how I've raised her to be, and it worked. Now let's hope this isn't a sign that she'll pierce her nose at 10 or try to move out at 14!

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Letter to Bella, month fifteen

Dear Bella,

How does a little girl remember her first real summer? I think if you have any memories of the past month, they will be: bubbles, trips to the library and local park, your big brother chasing you around, and lots of independence (including some of the gates coming down and riding face-forward in the car).

Your pediatrician had it pegged: You're a big girl who's on the move! Your now 22-lbs body fits perfectly into size 12 month clothing (only 3 months too late) and your gross and fine motor skills are off the charts. You can walk a balance beam, propel yourself around on ride-on toys, climb anything in your path, kick or roll a ball, jump, stack blocks and sort shapes. And yesterday you learned to brush your own teeth - now, granted that was after I showed you that toothbrushes aren't meant for brushing your hair ... but you picked it up pretty quickly after the rough start.

You still don't have many words, but you find ways to communicate. When we're in the car, you constantly babble at me - and lord help us all if I don't have the rearview mirror pointed at you so that we can maintain somewhat constant eye contact. You smile, hide your eyes, wave, and squawk from the time we buckle in until it's time to get out. The same goes at home: You are a talker. You just haven't figured out the correct order for those pesky syllables.

You have begun referring to us by names, which is awesome. Of course Daddy is still Da!Da!, but now I get to be AhMa! and Javi is BruhBa! (Yes, always as an exclamation.) You've also learned to point at what you want in lieu of language ... only you do it with your nose as often as with your finger. You'll get right up on the object you want and poke your nose at it. As soon as we stop laughing, we retrieve whatever object Your Highness desires.

That aforementioned independence means we've changed a few things 'round the homestead. Now, all bathroom and bedroom doors (except yours) remain shut so that you can roam freely without fear that you'll stumble upon the motherload - also known as anything you aren't supposed to have. Right now your favorite toys are the baby-fist-sized pool balls from Javi's game tables. You like to have one in each hand at all times ... even if that means holding your sippy cup between your wrists. Hey! Where there's a will, there's a way.

This past month has been more of the same: cheese and fruit is your favorite meal; you find Backyardigans, Blues Clues and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse riveting; you climb the walls and everything else... you are even more that little person I've watched develop.

I asked myself today why I continue to write these letters. At first I thought I would only write them through your first year ... but it's not as though you've stopped growing or developing. It's not as though you no longer fill our lives with surprises. You are still an amazing little feat that your daddy and I can't take our eyes off of. You are still the miracle that your older brother proclaims you to be. But most of all, you are You. Richly, resonantly, completely You.

That's what these letters are about. Trying to capture the essence of who you are - how you blossomed into the fun-loving, smart, precious child I know you will be. When you are old enough to read these letters, perhaps they will shine a spotlight on these murky formative years. Perhaps one day you'll read them and murmur to yourself: So this is who I am. Yes, baby, this is who you are.

Love, Mama

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Home From Gatlinburg

Of course we had to buy some tacky stuff on our trip to Gatlinburg. Here's Bella Wayne wearing her gift:

Javi got a less tacky teeshirt, but he doesn't seem to think it's as fabulous as we thought he would. I also thought he'd go ape-poo over pictures and videos of the BEARS we encountered, but he really just wanted me to be quiet so he could watch SpongeBob in peace.

Good news: We had a great time on the trip. Bad news: Billy may have contracted MRSA from the raft or lifejacket he used. We'll know on Monday when he returns to the doctor after a weekend of antibiotics. Keep your fingers crossed!

I would like to state that both Javi and I pointed out that had Billy stayed where he belonged (in the house), he wouldn't have had the opportunity to contract any possibly fatal super viruses. But he didn't appreciate those statements, so don't rub it in if you see him!

Most of the photos from our Gatlinburg trip are posted here.

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