This is 18 months

Let’s just accept that I have permanently dropped the ball on writing monthly letters to P. (poor second child). I have a lot of notes in her journal, but I can really see the difference in how much I observed/wrote down before I went back to work compared with after. 18 months feels like a milestone, however, so I wanted to make sure I wrote something down. I’ve heavily borrowed from Non Sequitur Chica’s format as I always enjoy her updates!

Vital Stats:

I never weigh or measure P. myself. At her 15 month appointment she was 81.5 cm (32”) (95th percentile) and 9.53 kg (21 lb 0.5 oz) (25th percentile). Three months later she was 84.5 cm (33.25”) (95th percentile) and 10.22 kg (22 lb, 9 oz) (25th percentile). She has been on that weight curve since she was 9 months old and has been gradually creeping back with the height (she was off the charts for most of her first year).

P. has twelve teeth (all four molars came through in her seventeenth month). No sign of the canines yet.

P. still has very little hair. It is thickest at the back but it’s still baby fine and quite wispy. It will be some time before she will need a haircut.

P. usually wears cloth diapers during the day and size 6 diapers overnight. When she wears disposables in the day she is in size 4 but she really needs to be in size 5 (we’re slowly using up our last package).

P. was in 12-18 month clothing (with the exception of 18-24 month sleepers) but mid-way through this month I dug out the rest of the 18-24 month clothing and discovered I probably should have put her in the new size earlier. I think her winter boots are a size 6 (they’re hand-me-down Bogs) and they fit well.

Development (Gross/Fine Motor):

P. walks with a lot of confidence and is starting to attempt something that resembles a run (usually accompanied by a drunken stagger and arms akimbo). Her default speed is “beetling”, where she walks with great purpose and some speed. She can move very quickly when she is excited to see someone arriving at the door or when she’s trying to do something without me noticing (she is also very fast and very sneaky at going up the stairs if we leave the gate open). She can walk from our house down to the main road and then back again with a rest stop in the swing at the park on the way (a distance of one kilometre).

She loved the “sleeping bunnies” song this month and would try desperately to jump at the critical “wake up, sleeping bunnies and hop, hop, hop!” moment. She could either bob up and down at the knees with her feet firmly planted on the ground or march in place. She was clearly deeply frustrated that E. could jump and she couldn’t.

P. sometimes chooses to walk up the stairs, holding on either to our hands or to the railing. Most of the time she still crawls up. She is starting to come down the stairs on her bottom, again holding on to a hand or the railing. She remains a confident climber and has now mastered the art of pushing E’s kitchen step stool or one of their little chairs to a particular spot and then climbing up on top of it. This has greatly extended her reach and has resulted in yet another round of baby-proofing.

P. is a pint-sized tornado, cheerfully destructive. I have to assume that her fine motor skills are improving because she has absolutely zero interest in doing anything that requires precision and patience. I know she can stack up to eight blocks because I once managed to convince her to do so, but her preferred method is to knock blocks over the minute she stacks one on top of the next. She expresses an interest in colouring but then eats the crayons (which she absolutely knows she’s not supposed to do and she’s largely stopped mouthing anything else, so I can only assume she is doing it on purpose for attention). She isn’t interested in Megabloks or Duplo and cares not a whit for puzzles. One of her favourite words is “dump”, accompanied by her emptying whatever bag or basket she has found. The number of small animals and cars we keep in our living room has dropped significantly as a result (although she is pretty good at helping to clean everything up again before bedtime).

Like E. at this age she absolutely loves cleaning and helping out. She has the apron he used when he was a toddler and she will ask for it and put it on independently. She likes to help with sweeping and the dishes, but her favourite activity is cleaning up messes. A frequent sight in our household these days is P. trundling off somewhere clutching a cloth saying very seriously to herself, “Oh dear, oh no, oh boy.”

P. can put on her own boots, neck-warmer, and hat, can unzip and take off a hoodie, and will help get her arms and legs into the rest of her clothes. She has very firm ideas about what she wants to wear. Her favourite colour (which she can clearly identify) is purple (most other colours are also identified as purple in books but when she says “purple” in her room she always follows up by choosing the purple items of clothing). She likes to wear both socks and tights, and frequently negotiates to wear both at the same time. She has clear preferences for her pjs, her pants, and her hoodies. This has come as a bit of a shock to me (and to Q.) as E. really couldn’t have cared less about his clothes at this age and has remained largely disinterested in what he wears ever since (with the exception of the red hoodie phase when he was two and three).

She likes to find items of clothing for the other members of the family and will sometimes follow E. around in the morning holding one of his mittens or one of his boots (with E. inevitably saying, in a tone of exasperation, “No thank you, P.! I don’t need those yet!”). She can turn the light switch in her room off (but has trouble with on). She is getting very good at opening and closing doors. We now keep bag clips on our cereal after one too many incidents where P. tried to help herself to Cheerios (she did try to pour them into a bowl she’d fetched for the occasion but it didn’t quite work out as planned).

P. wanted to sit on the toilet, just like the rest of us, so I got the potty out and put it in the bathroom. She’s happy to sit on it for a few seconds and then wants toilet paper to wipe herself. Nothing thus far has appeared in the potty, but I’m not the least bit fussed about it. She tells us when she has a dirty diaper (although she will always deny it when asked), and she likes to suggest that her dolls need a change as well.

Development (Language/Social):

We have been blown away by P.’s language development. At 15 months, when her paediatrician asked if she had any words, I reported that she had “Mummy” and “no” and then we both agreed that those were two very effective words! When P. turned 18 months she had over 100 words. She now (closing in on 19 months) has too many to count and is starting to string them together to make little phrases: “Mummy lap”, “green sheep”, “more snack”, “thank you, Mummy” (her “thank you” sounds like “dee-dee-oh” and is adorable), “play outside” and “Daddy play more”. On Skype, when we asked P. to explain to her Australian Granny why it was that we’d just spent 30 minutes adjusting the Christmas tree, she replied “Pippa touch lights” (“Peppa tah yigh”). When I was on the phone with her Canadian Grannie after the stomach flu incident I asked P. to tell Grannie what had happened. She gleefully reported that she had thrown up “doh up!” and then, unprompted, added “bowl” (we have a designated vomit bowl) and “bath” (she needed a few of those). She is starting to very clearly enunciate the final consonant in some words, so eat is no longer “ee”, snack is no longer “snah”, and sleep is now “seep” rather than “si-si”.

Her vocabulary has a huge range. Lots of very useful words: help, eat, water, milk, snack, all down, up, down, outside, more, play, bath, door, gate, potty, other side, etc. Words for what she wants to play with: boat, car, tractor, ball, Colleen (my old Cabbage Patch doll), tea party, animals (sounds like “ammo” or “Elmo”). Words for the other members of the family: Daddy, Mummy, E. (“Eeee”), brother, auntie, uncle, Grandpa (“Dam-pa!”), Grannie, cat, tail, cat’s name (“ee-ee”). She has picked up that we call ourselves boas after E.’s long-standing snake obsession, so she often calls Q. “Da-dee bo-a!” and when E. first gets up in the morning she runs for the stairs chanting “Eee! Ee! Bo-a! Bo-a!”. The first beginnings of what will hopefully one day be good manners: please (“pea”), thank you (“dee dee oh”), bye-bye, and sorry. Her “no” is very clear and can be said in many different ways (including a long, drawn out “nooooo”). Her yes is a head bob and a happy “hmm” sound, exactly like E’s was. She also has a bunch of words to help tell us how she is feeling: happy, sad, cold, fall (used more generally to mean “scared”), sleepy. Her “oops” words (oh dear, oh no, oh boy, uh oh) are adorable. She reduced my mother to helpless laughter when she was eating dinner and carefully poured her milk all over her plate, then examined it and said “oh deeee-aaar” in a tone of astonished dismay.

I don’t know if this is just reflective of the difference between how boys develop and how girls develop, or if this is a second child who has realized she has to get talking quick smart if she will ever be able to get a word in around her brother, but it has been quite something to witness. She’s going to really be able to express herself as she gets closer to two and the desire for autonomy increases (she already says her name firmly if she wants to do it herself and I’m convinced she’s started saying “me too”).

P. thinks her big brother is the best thing in the entire world. She wants to do everything that he’s doing. If he’s reading a book under a blanket, she needs a blanket too (preferably the same one he has). If he’s reading a book while eating snack, she needs a book to read too. She knows she’s not allowed in his room unless invited and when he does let her come in to watch him driving his Lego train she stands so carefully in the middle of the floor and doesn’t touch anything (if she sneaks in when he’s at school it’s a totally different story). She has a special cackle of glee that she reserves for when she’s driving him crazy (and she knows that’s exactly what she’s doing). If he’s trying to read quietly on the couch her favourite activity is climbing up onto the couch and then rolling around on top of him. When we had our living room furniture moved around to accommodate the Christmas tree, P. quickly figured out that meant she could climb on top of the coffee table and reach the basket with E.’s library readers. If she felt no one was paying enough attention to her, she would climb onto the table, stand up, and start throwing the books on the floor one at a time.

I had a hilarious exchange with E. before Christmas after I’d run down the street to catch our neighbours who had a baby girl in September. I told E. I was asking them whether they wanted any of our clothes since we were done having babies.
“I’m so glad we’re not having any more babies,” E. announced as we went inside.
“You know, when P. was little you were very upset that she was our last baby,” I told him. “You said you weren’t done being a big brother yet.”
“Yes,” said E., “but that was before I realized just how annoying a little sister can be! Although I guess if you did have another baby when I was older, like maybe seven, and P. was big enough to look after herself a bit more, when that baby got bigger and was very annoying to P., I could say to P., ‘Yes, P., this is just what it was like when you were a toddler.’ Because otherwise P. won’t get to know what it is like to have someone that annoying.”
I agreed that the baby of the family never had the experience of the younger sibling always getting into their stuff, but then pointed out that P. would always have to wait to be old enough to do the things that E. could do.

P. mimics everything that he does (and everything that we do too). She uses remote controls as telephones (along with blocks and anything else that seems remotely suitable) when she can’t get her hands on my actual phone. I have to keep it well hidden because she can push the button to turn it on and can swipe the screen. I didn’t have a smartphone with E. so this is an entirely new experience.

Play:

P. likes to play with small vehicles, especially tractors, and our collection of Schleich animals. Mostly this play involves carrying them around, putting them in bags and baskets and then taking them out again, and dumping them all over the floor, but she does occasionally push the vehicles along the carpet. She still loves balls, although not as much as she did when she was closer to the year mark. She is almost ready to play trains with her brother as she is getting the idea of pushing the train along the track, but she also likes to take the track apart, so that’s still an exercise in frustration rather than a fun group activity.

Without a doubt, her favourite toy is my old Cabbage Patch Kid. I have been having a really hard time with this. I loathed dolls as a child (I thought they were creepy and pointless) and spent years collecting and playing with model horses (I had hundreds of them- no exaggeration). When E. showed absolutely no interest in playing with dolls as a child, gravitating instead immediately towards vehicles, trains, and building toys, I was disappointed. Now I’m disappointed that P. doesn’t care much for those toys but will carry the doll around all day long. This is my own problem, not theirs; there is nothing inherently gendered or wrong with any of these toys and they should be allowed to explore and enjoy their own interests.

In an effort to combat this, I made sure that Santa brought P. her own baby (one of the Corelle infant dolls with the bean bag bodies) because my Cabbage Patch Kid is a big doll for her to be lugging around. On Christmas morning, when the kids came downstairs, I put P. down and she looked at the tree before announcing “baby!” in a tone of joyful surprise and then toddled straight off to take the doll out of its carry bag. She does like to look after the baby (it spends a lot of time sleeping and needing food and diaper changes) but I think she still prefers the Cabbage Patch Kid, largely because my doll came with its own bag of clothes (most made by my mother thirty years ago) and P. loves to request a wardrobe change. Interestingly, P. interprets the bunting bag my mum made for the doll, which is supposed to be a snowsuit, as a sleep sack. P. makes some interesting dress choices and has a distressing tendency to choose socks, shoes, and underwear/shorts for the doll, but not much else.

She also received a tea set for Christmas from one of her aunties and she loves to have tea parties with the Cabbage Patch Kid (and sometimes some of the Schleich animals as well). She will set Colleen up on one of the little chairs at their table in the kitchen and arrange some assortment of cups and plates and spoons (she never forgets the spoons- I think they’re her favourite). Inevitably she ends up pushing Colleen off the chair as she decides she wants to try sitting on that one herself, leaving Q. to intone seriously, “I’m a bit concerned about what she’s serving at these tea parties” after one too many afternoons of him arriving home from work to find Colleen face-down on the floor near the table, only half-dressed.

P. loves to play outside but hates playing in the snow, so the last month has been hard on her. She’s just a year too little to really enjoy the snow. She’s basically spherical in her snowsuit, she can’t properly see her feet, and wrestling her thumbs into the appropriates holes in her waterproof mittens is a real challenge. Outdoor play with the two of them usually results in E. happily romping around engaged in a building project of some sort with the snow while P. pokes morosely at a ball, falls over, and requests to go back inside for snack. We took her sliding for the first time on Christmas Day. E. at this age loved it. P. went down twice and then refused to go down again, preferring instead to sit in the snow looking resigned and miserable, chanting “all done, snow” over and over again.

Books:

P. is very interested in having a book near her, especially when eating snack, something she’s most certainly copied from her big brother (he is the best possible role model for encouraging a love of reading). We’ve fallen into a pattern of going to the library on Saturdays at least a couple of times a month. E. immediately finds a few new chapter books and starts reading them. P. used to spend the time climbing off and on the chairs, running amok, and pulling books off the shelves but in the last couple of visits she’s started to more carefully choose a book or two and bring them to me so I can read them with her.

P. likes books with flaps (although she can’t have those unsupervised in her crib because she also likes to pull the flaps off and then frantically request “tay tay!” (tape) to fix them). She still loves the Priddy Baby 100 First Words board book and will gleefully turn the pages to find anything you ask her to identify. She knows she’s not allowed to touch E.’s books with paper pages and she’s pretty respectful of his shelves. I did get Cars and Trucks and Things That Go out this month as that was E.’s favourite at this age, but P. got bored with it very quickly. She definitely does not have the same attention span for books that E. did.

At bedtime we read three stories. Perennial favourites have included the BabyLit Dracula and Frankenstein, Eric Carle’s Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and Mr. Seahorse (flipped through and summarized more than read), Where is the Green Sheep?, and It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. I Say, You Say, Feelings! turned up at Christmas and has been very popular as is the 100 Flaps Things That Go large board book.

Sleep:

P. goes to bed somewhere between 7 and 7:30 p.m. (7:15 is probably ‘normal’ bedtime) and falls asleep almost immediately. We never hear her chatting to herself like her brother did (and still does). She still gets up once to nurse but we are getting very close to that feed becoming the first of the morning as most of the time she sleeps until 5:30 a.m. or a bit later before nursing. I think we could fairly easily persuade her to drop that feed but then she’d get up for the day at 6. If she nurses and goes back to sleep she often sleeps until 7:30, so I’m not in a rush to change things.

P. naps around 12/12:30 p.m. and sleeps for two or two-and-a-half hours. A 90 minute nap is noticeably too short by the end of the day. Sometimes she’ll sleep for three hours but usually there’s a reason to explain it- a poor sleep the night before, or a lingering illness, etc. She still uses sleep sacks and a white noise machine. I dropped the white noise machine on our return from visiting grandparents over the holidays and thought I had broken it but it turned out it was just too cold from being in the car to function properly. I’m planning to wean her from it in the summer, like we did with E. She’s better at sleeping through noises in the night and the morning, but I’m not ready to lose that support.

Eating:

P. is still a great eater, despite what her place on the weight percentiles might suggest. Our nanny comments all the time about how much food P. eats and all the different kinds of food she likes. I think this is another case where E. is acting as an excellent role model. He was much fussier when he was little but he’s been a pretty consistent eater for a couple of years now and he’ll try things even when he already knows from previous experience that he doesn’t like them. P. will sometimes refuse to try something (head shaking and “no!”) and other times will give anything that looks suspicious a bit of a lick before she’ll put it in her mouth.

She is good with a spoon and getting better with a fork (I think sometimes she is stymied by the blunt tines of the baby forks). She is perfectly capable of drinking out of a regular cup but likes to drink very nicely for quite some time and then unexpectedly turn the cup upside down (or throw it) when we let our guard down. She also needs someone to hold her cereal bowl while she eats or she’ll dump it over the side when she gets bored.

She likes to make her own decisions about breakfast (again copying her brother) and can choose between muesli (“mew-ee”), oatmeal (“oh-mea”), Cheerios (“chee-chee-oh”) and toast (“tow”). She doesn’t usually eat a big breakfast (probably because of the nursing overnight) but will put a lot away at lunch and supper. She still doesn’t like drinking milk very much but is getting better with cheese and yoghurt. She has no sweet tooth whatsoever and doesn’t like ice cream, chocolate, cake, cookies, or basically any sort of dessert (is she really my child?).

Interestingly, P.’s favourite food is still avocado (my number one craving when I was pregnant with her). She would eat two a day if we let her and “a-cah-o” was a clear word before her eighteenth month was finished. Other favourites are cucumber, crackers (especially Goldfish), strawberries (and most fruit in general), pasta, mashed potatoes, and any sort of stew or vegetarian dish mixed with rice (dahl, chili, chana masala, etc.). She notices immediately if we’re eating something that she isn’t (whole nuts are a big issue), and she frequently requests to drink our wine or my tea (although she will cheerfully follow up the latter request with “Noooo, hot!”).

She is still nursing. She nurses before bed and before nap if I’m the one home with her, once overnight, and sometimes first thing in the morning (depends on when the night feed was). She associates nursing now with comfort and connection rather than with food, and she can very clearly ask for it (“Mummy!” complete with hitting her own chest, or just lifting up my shirt/sticking a hand down my shirt if I’m within reach). She wants to nurse as soon as I get in the door after work and would prefer to spend the hour between me getting home and eating dinner attached to a boob. On days when I’m home with her she nurses a lot, but these are usually quick cuddles. I don’t really have any sense of how much she’s actually drinking these days, which is why I’d like her to be a bit more keen on dairy products. I no longer get over full on work days after the weekend at home with her, and I can miss both the nap and the bedtime feed on nights when I teach without becoming uncomfortable. It’s clear that how much she’s drinking is decreasing, but it’s also clear that she’s still very attached to nursing, and I’m in no rush to encourage her to give it up, especially since she is able to go down for a nap or at night without me. She is my last baby and I am very glad to have such a positive nursing relationship after the way things ended with E.

Miscellaneous:

P. is a great traveller. She really enjoys playing with toys and looking at books in the car (a mystery bag filled with vehicles and animals is always a hit), and she almost never complains if E. is in the backseat with her. They often invent silly games (usually involving throwing stuffed animals at each other), and if E.’s back there it’s easy for her to eat a snack as he will carefully hand her things and pick up her water bottle if she drops it. She drove with me when I went to see my Dad during his medical scare in mid-December (and coped admirably with the eight-hour epic that was our return home when we were caught in a snowstorm) and then again between Christmas and New Year with Q. and E. as well.

P. had her first ever stomach bug (at least in terms of vomiting) right after the New Year. She threw up nine times in eighteen hours but was generally cheerful when she wasn’t puking (and was very frustrated and confused that I wouldn’t let her eat anything other than Cheerios). She also unfortunately caught HFM from her cousin at the end of November (although she escaped much more lightly than either Spud or poor labmonkey).

She is prone to serious bouts of Mummyitis. It is still generally impossible for me to cook dinner if it is anything more complicated than defrosting something Q.’s already made and cooking rice or potatoes or pasta to go alongside it. P. either demands to be held on my hip (and clings like a monkey if I try to put her down), wants to nurse, or holds on to my leg and cries. The other day Q. came home and I was running late because P. had had a massive diaper blow out that had required a full wardrobe change and a bath. When he walked in the door, I was trying to get pasta in the boiling water while P. held on to my leg and cried.

“I don’t know why you’re never able to have beef Wellington ready for me when I get home,” Q. quipped. “It would be so easy for you to make it.” (When Q. cooks, P. happily plays with her toys.)

At this age, E. loved standing on a chair helping me with dinner, but P. is not trustworthy enough to stand on a chair. We decided to get one of the learning towers (or a smaller knock off) as her present for Christmas but the one I want has gone out of stock most places online. Hopefully I can order it soon as I feel like it would make a world of difference if she could safely help me. It is unfair that so much of the cooking is resting on Q.’s shoulders right now, even if he understands why this is the case.

Q. and I have always felt that around 18 months was the golden age when E. was little. He was walking, sleeping well, eating well, communicating with us, able to amuse himself with toys, keen to help and/or participate, and still generally very agreeable (the autonomy seemed to emerge overnight when he turned two). We have been getting noticeably more resistance from P. in the last week than had been the case earlier, but she’s still very obviously in this sweet spot as well. It’s a really wonderful age, and she is a great deal of fun to be around.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the seventh year, Letters to P., P.- the second year

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