Letter to Bella, month nine

Dear Bella,

You are the cutest monkey ever! I've now been through every major holiday with you in tow and you've never failed to charm the pants (or bite-sized food) off of me.

Christmas was full of warm fuzzies. You loved the Christmas tree when it first went up. We all sat around it as Javi and I unwrapped ornaments and placed them haphazardly on the side of the tree facing the room in true Miller/Quinones style. Because you couldn't taste each ornament, you went for the low-lying fruit: the lights. Unfortunately they weren't too tasty so you quickly fell out of love with Christmas decorations and went back to your real favorite thing.

That would be the stairs. We have to gate them off because otherwise, you'd be sitting at the top of the long column ... and then you'd throw yourself back with excitement and come down like a slinky. However, you pull yourself up on the gate and yell at the stairs as if to let them know how much you love them. And heaven help us if we forget the gate - you shoot over there like a bullet, your chunky little body moving gracefully toward its target.

That body of yours just keeps right on growing. You no longer resort to the army crawl when you need to get somewhere quickly (hello, stairs!). Your body is coordinated and strong - helping you crawl with your belly off the floor. You also easily pull yourself up to standing - on the couch, the baby gate, your new walk along toy, the dog. And then? Then you MOVE.

For the past couple of weeks you've just creeped along edges, but now you will pull yourself up on one object and then turn your body to hold onto another object. You'll also use something low to the ground to get your body up, but then stand fully erect all by yourself. We all get excited by this, but no one more than you. You throw your hands up in the air and smile at whoever is nearest you - which throws off your balance and sends you crashing to the floor onto your well-padded bottom.

All this crazy going going going has earned you your newest nickname: Monkey. We can say Monkey, and you'll turn to us. Monkey, Bella, Sass - they're interchangeable and are the perfect descriptors for you at this stage in life.

Language hasn't come to you nearly as quickly as movement. You've got several consonant sounds down pat: dada, ditdit, baba, puhpuh. We only hear mama when you're really upset about something and it usually sounds like mehmeh or muhmuh. Every once in a while, you'll repeat a sound you've heard. For example, today you heard "go get him" and said guhguhguhguh. We'll hold whole conversations comprised of dada, ditdit, and baba, so those are your favorite consonants for right now. And I'm okay with that.

If I had to narrow down one aspect of your development that astounds me more than any other, it would have to be your appetite! You want to eat anything that gets in your line of vision - whether that's something you find yummy (like fresh fruit) or something you obviously find gross (like buttered grits). I tried to keep you on baby food, but the torture it caused you was too much for any of us to take.

So far, you've eaten raw apples, clementines, bananas, spaghetti with sauce, banana pancake, biscuit, shredded chicken, macaroni and cheese, blueberry muffin (on Christmas morning, of course), vegetable soup, grilled cheese sandwich, shredded cheese, black olives, pizza crust, oatmeal, oatmeal bites, poptart, french fries, and a chocolate chip cookie. Thankfully, only the olives caused us any trouble in the diaper department.

Though this month has been long and exhausting, you've got two sharp little chiclet teeth, darkening eyes and a much fuller head of hair to show for it. Sometimes I look at you and just have to gasp about how beautiful you are. I try to stop myself from thinking about how beautiful you are - because that's not what's important, right? - but there are times when I just have to say out loud: What a beautiful baby!

But you are so much more than a pretty face. You're funny and often make us all laugh out loud. You're smart and can get what you want with minimal effort - except for the stairs ... all the charms in the world can't convince us to let you on the stairs. You're loving and show it to your daddy, your brother and me every time you gaze sweetly into our eyes. These are the things I'll remember.

Love, Mama


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