Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Whole Half Year

Tomorrow, Anna will mark six months on the "outside." She had her six-month check-up with the doctor this morning, and was called by Doctor Kathy "the most independent six-month-old I know." We know, too.

She is growing and thriving on all the measurements: height in the 75th percentile, weight in the 50th, head in the 95th. This percentile business is not particularly meaningful except as an explanation of why her feet reach the bottoms of her sleepers before her belly fills out their width, and why baby hats are laughably tiny on her huge noggin. It has its own atmosphere and satellites. (The atmosphere some days is mostly methane. The satellites, we suspect, are us.)

By all other measures, she's well beyond her age. At least we, her parents, aided and abetted by her adoring grandparents, assess her as extraordinary in every possible way.

She can sit up, unsupported, and play with toys all the live-long day. (Her mother even cavalierly leaves the room for whole minutes at a time and leaves her sitting up.) She figures out how new toys work in minutes. She eats her sweet potatoes and rice cereal and carrots as though she had a full set of teeth (except for the chewing part). She loves books, also to eat. She loves the phone -- to eat, to listen to, to push buttons on, to yank from her parents' hands.
She loves to pull blankets over her head until someone says "Where's Anna gone?" at which point she pulls down the blanket to show a big giggly smile and to hear a happy "Peekaboo." She loves her new sitting-up and looking-outwards point of view in the stroller without the infant car seat attachment. She gazes at the world with a frightening level of knowingness. And sometimes she (almost) catches the cat, who continues to be a careful playmate, strutting in front of the baby but keeping a safe distance.

Anna is still a striver. Desperate to crawl, she pulls herself onto her belly from a sitting position and then shrieks with unhappiness as she flails her arms and feet and scratches the floor with her fingernails, all to no avail in getting her forward. She reaches for whatever is in front of her and rocks on her belly and bends her knees, but she can't coordinate her actions. God help us when she can. Nothing will be safe from her. (Please, no one tell her about the rolling-across-the-floor option, or the bum-scooting option!)

Getting her dressed is a huge ordeal now, because she is so busy and so strong. She pulled a diaper out from under her bum one night and waved it in the air while her sleepy father was trying to change her. The fewer pieces the outfit comes in, the better. Pants and socks make her cry -- if you can get her into them at all. "I'm ready for the rodeo," Stephen laughed one day after wrastling her into something or other. If only her long legs and feet were better accommodated by one-piece suities . . . Grandma Carolyn might have the best idea -- she just yanks off the baby's outer clothing as soon as she gets near her and lets her eat her toes in peace.

Beyond clothes, Anna's "new look" this week is the nose-squinch, the first sign that she might be related to me and my family. Previously, she had two smiles, the close-lipped impish grin and the big toothless open-mouthed show-offy smile. This week, she added a brand-new smile with an open mouth and a squinched-up nose (and a little laugh created by inhaling and exhaling through a slightly stuffy squinched up baby nose). The nose-squinch was, of course, perfected by her aunt Emily when she was a baby. (Emily famously used her nose-squinch "ph-mile" to charm and distract grown-ups so she could put her arm into their whiskey glasses.)

What Anna loves best in the world is to be praised. "Yay" and "Hooray" are her favourite words. Applause is her favourite sound. What a little diva. The praise is obviously spurring her on to great accomplishments -- and, uh-oh maybe that's what swelling her head?!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary & Bonne Anniversaire

By luck or by design, I've managed to work a few major life milestones in before society-dictated "deadlines."

Friday, Stephen and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We got married three days before my 30th birthday -- not, as some suggested, because I was desperate to get married before I turned thirty but, instead, because I was desperate not to have to endure a thirtieth birthday party, so we had a wedding instead. It was a great day.

Our first year married was tough, with two miscarriages and the death of Stephen's ancient old hag of a cat, Neruda. The next two years, we celebrated the time we had together as a couple to enjoy each other's company, but we were saddened that no baby was on the way. Last year, we were at the trepidatious end of my last trimester, nervously hopeful of a happy ending.

We got our happy ending in September, and, as I said to Stephen on Friday (as we prepared for an evening out! with dinner! and a movie! and a wonderful sitter, in Auntie Cathy, for Anna to enjoy!), it was our fifth anni-versary but our first Anna-versary. Our beautiful, smart, funny girl.

As a gift, we bought ourselves (or, err, Anna) a ridiculous contraption of a play centre with literal bells and whistles. It takes up the entire of the available floor space in the living room. But when Anna tested the floor model at the store, she shrieked with delight, and we were sold. All our proclamations that we would not be materialistic parents distracting our baby with noisy contraptions melted away as she found first the bells and then the whistles and then sounded them all at once.

Today, on my thirty-fifth birthday, with a five-month-old unadjusted to an early change to Daylight Saving Time and brightly and noisily working the bells and whistles, I realized that I had met the other society-imposed deadline for having babies before you're 35.

Tune in another time, not my birthday, to hear me bristle and rail against arbitrary dates designed to put social pressure on women and to make us feel guilty and/or inadequate, too old or too young. Don't get me started on pregnancies being called "high-risk" the instant a mother turns 35. Just don't. It's my birthday, and I'm putting politics aside to read cookbooks and talk on the phone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Playing Catch and Playing Catch-Up

I keep checking this blog to see if there's anything new about Anna Sophia, and I am always disappointed there are no new posts until I remember that I'm the person supposed to be posting. I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who secretly hopes that someone else will have uncovered something shocking and thrilling and will have revealed it to the world (or to the audience of six interested family members) in a breezy and engaging literary style while no one else was looking.

At this stage in her growing up, everything Anna's world changes so fast, it is difficult to document - but at the same time, her growth and her learning are so constant and so incremental that they can slip past, day by day, until you one day realize that, gosh golly gee, she's five months old, and she's begun eating rice cereal and sipping from a sippy cup like an expert, and she's "talking" with new sounds every day, and she's growing like a thing that grows in both her length and her weight, and she can sit up without help (but with close supervision!) for a few more seconds every day.

We've had a few days of bright and warming weather and have been able to pop out of the house on unplanned, unscheduled adventures on a whim - tra la la - so today's return to the deep freeze and wind chill and to the ignominy of snowsuits and the indignity of car seats and cold drives in the car was disappointing and tiring for both Anna and her mom.

Restricted as she is to the indoors and her playmat, Anna is making the best of it. She rolls and kicks herself into circles so she can end up somewhere other than where she was put. She sits up and scrutinizes her surroundings. She rolls balls back and forth with her dad, playing "catch" and even kicks at the ball if it comes close to her foot while she's standing up (supported). She knocks over towers of blocks. She makes designs on the bookshelves that her body can't quite carry out - yet. She shrieks with absolute glee when she sees the cat and even has a special vocalization just for her furry friend. She hopes and hopes she will be allowed to pet the kitty, and once a day or so, kitty obliges by allowing a flank to be rubbed with a drool-covered mitt. Once this week, kitty miscalculated and got her tail good and grabbed, but both she and the baby were so surprised that they startled each other into quick extrication.

Man, are we going to be in trouble when this baby can move much farther than the inches she can manage now.

Every day, she is more reachy and more grabby and more stretchy and more strong. She wants to drink coffee, but her father says "she can't until she's two." She loves to wave around, tear up, or eat the flyers from the paper. She uses sweeping motions to clear off any surfaces she can reach (leaving us worried she might be the kind of neat freak that we are decidedly NOT). She initiates her own games of hide and seek and peekaboo by pulling a blanket over her head and then pulling them off with a sly grin and a giggle. She's all personality, our Anna.

But soon she will be all personality and action. God help us all.