Letter to Bella: month twenty-two

Dear Bella,

I blink and you are another month older. I already know I'll be the home sobbing at her baby girl's high school graduation who wails to everyone around her, "I feel like she was just a baby yesterday!"

But it's the truth. This morning I put a shirt on you that swallowed you up less than six months ago. Today it barely fit over your toddler belly. Of course, you're still a mini-baby. An at-home weigh in clocked you at a health 23 pounds even. We then whipped out Daddy's measuring tape to figure out if you've gotten any taller. Lo and behold - you've grown a full half inch since December.

I'm not sure how you're sprouting because you definitely aren't interested in fuel. We've tried every trick in the book -- including singing Party In My Tummy! like morons -- to convince you to eat. But you won't. Not a bite. I even have to pack your lunch for school because you turn your nose up at everything they offer you unless it comes with a natural wrapper and starts with a "b" and ends with "anana." You're still a fruit junkie, but no gladiator was built on grapes and bananas alone. I'm sure I'll be kicking myself if you turn around tomorrow and start eating me out of house and home ... but at this point I think I'd faint if you consumed a vegetable.

Nutrition aside, you're a much more happy-go-lucky girl than you've ever been before. Last month, if someone came to visit, you'd hide on the stairs or bury your face in someone's shoulder rather than face speaking to the new person. Now, you put on The Bella Show, which might include climbing in their laps, saying their names, bringing them your toys, and/or pulling up their shirts. I've tried to explain to her that people don't want her finger in their belly button, but she's pretty insistent.

I'm not sure when the Stranger Danger fears wore off, but at least three separate people have commented that we should expose you to more people and places. Because you obviously need some human interaction. I try to tell them -- this "stage" is brand new to us too. I like it though. Your personality is one of the things I love most about you and I'm so proud that you've finally started showing it off in mixed company.

I think a major reason you've opened up to new people is your little brain has started making some important connections. For instance, your memory has really blossomed. I can tell you someone's coming to visit and you'll keep looking for her (and yelling her name out the window) for hours. Even if it turns out no one's coming -- you keep yelling. And you have a pretty detailed catalogue of names you'll yell. It started with Ashley (Yash-ee), but it's now turned into Grandma (Gah-ma), Nana (Nah-nah), Angela (An-ge-ah), Brook (booke), and Amy (Mimi 0r Ah-meeee). You'll ask for any of these people at any given time.

This improved memory means you're using more words in general. You repeat everything you hear, and when you're on a roll, you squawk full paragraphs. I can't help but laugh when you repeat bad words, which thankfully has only happened a couple times and none of the words were really bad. Your Daddy is to blame, too! Just the other day he was buckling you into your car seat and said "CRAP!" Ever one to copy, you said "HYAP!" right after him. I'm pretty sure you used your new word no less than 25 times in the next few minutes as we all tried not to laugh.

Yes, sweet pea, you're pretty cute. Sadly, life with you isn't always sunshine and roses. You've developed a spectacular new skill. You can throw a tantrum that would scare the most hardened criminal! Here's how it happens: We tell you no. You immediately start wailing -- tears and all. Your face gets red, you look around for support, and then you collapse under the weight of your horrible life. If no one gives in, you stay this way until something else grabs your attention. If someone does give in (DADDY!), you immediately switch on the smiles and prance your way on to victory.

But what's a toddler without a tantrum? We may complain, but we all love riding this roller coaster with you. Whether it's the high of watching you test out new words to the low of scraping you off the floor in the middle of a store, we can't imagine our lives without you. "Bruddah" can't sleep without hugging you good night, "Da da" spends his free time making you giggle, and Mama is never happier than when you grant her a kiss. One day we'll hope you "act your age," but for now, we hope you stay our baby forever.

Love, Mama


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