Life is moving so quickly and Thora is growing up at the speed of light. Every few days I turn around and catch a whole new child and am struck almost dumb (almost. there's very little that shuts me up for long) at how she is picking things up and incorporating everything she learns into the person she is becoming.
Today she made a fishy face for the first time. Ever the comedian.
In the same vein, if you ask her what a werewolf says, she replies "Ah-wooo!" and if you ask her what the Count says, she says "Ah! Ah! Ah!" That's thanks to her dad.
She also dances passionately, even while sitting in the car with Daddy waiting for a spot to open up.
Sometimes she is solemn and serious, her big eyes taking in the world around her while she stands quietly at my side. She is so alive. Every moment she is learning, feeling, doing, being. And becoming. It's overwhelming to me and makes my heart soar.
It's fascinating to observe as her language skills develop to include plurals, adjectives, verbs. It was just a few months ago that she spoke only in singular nouns. Now we feel like we are really communicating with her. This evening when I got home from work I sat on the floor and asked for kisses. Instead she picked two balls up off the floor, tossed them my way and said "balls?" I am not commenting on her choice of words here but the fact that she now understands and appropriately uses plurals. She also says "shoe" and "other shoe," "milk" and "other milk" (milk is her word for nursing/my boobs) and other things that come in more than one or sets of more than one. When I'm carrying her and she doesn't like it, she will demand to "walk! walk!" When she's feeling affectionate, she will insist on "kiss! kiss!" She can pick our car out of the lineup parked on the street.
Now she squeals "again, again!" when she wants to jump off the side of the pool into your arms in the water over and over. She says "more" when she wants a refill of juice or a second bowl of Os. She knows her sister is in my belly, and says there is a baby in her belly too. She waves hello and goodbye to our cactus every day and asks to visit it randomly. "Cactus?" she will call. How odd! When Shiva or Rayna walk by she points and yells "cat!" (her first word) but now when they are together she knows they are "cats." She learned boy and girl but trying to explain the difference between the two isn't so easy!
Her pronunciation does not seem as developed as her brain would like it to be. The way she says "toes," "shoes" and "juice" all sound the same. She struggles with "ch" and "ks" sounds, so "beach," "peach," "brush" and "six" and the letters "H" and "X" all sound very funny. Multiple syllables make her struggle, so her Aunt Hilary is now "Ih-ree" at best, and just "Uh-ee" at worst, and flowers are still "ows." She gets B, D and P mixed up too. Bs and Ms are often interchanged: cows say "booo" and "more" sounds like "bore." Also "kiss" and the old standby "this" sound virtually the same. I imagine her speech will become clearer with time. After all, she's not even 18 months old yet. But she does know most of her letters and numbers. It may be hard to believe this, but you can show her almost any letter and she will usually identify it correctly. Numbers too. Again, her pronunciation still needs work, but there's no question that she recognizes and can repeat to you literally any letter you show her. She's even recognizing capital and lower-case letters now. She trips over N because it looks or sounds so much like M, and she couldn't say W to save her life, but the rest is unmistakably clear. This morning over her bowl of Os and her peach, we watched an episode of "old school" Sesame Street that had one of a million different alphabet vignettes. As one letter morphed into the next, she recited them along with the program and I, getting dressed and drying my hair, was once again struck nearly dumb as my not-quite-18-month-old-baby said "Q!" "R!" "S!" and so on.
Recently, we spent a week at the beach with family. On the first day she was scared of the hot sand between her toes. As she stood at the edge of the water she shrieked with what seemed like genuine anxiety as the waves crashed and the water ran over her feet, sinking her toes into the wet sand. We didn't push but invited her to return day after day to see what she would do. Before long, she was enjoying playing in the sand, having her feet buried, destroying sand castles like a baby Godzilla, but if you asked her if she wanted to go in the water she would shake her head and exclaim "no! no!" very firmly.
But halfway through the week she changed her mind abruptly. One particularly hot and sunny day, we were taking refuge in the shade under a tent and I'd plunked her down at my feet with a sun hat and a variety of buckets and shovels thinking I could read or just relax a little. But no. After five minutes of tossing hot sand at me she just stood up and started walking to the water herself. There were enough aunties, cousins and others to keep her well entertained and supervised in the ocean when I was too hot and swollen to run after her, but I think we were all surprised that she insisted on going back in the water every time we took her out. She got used to the waves and at one point just sat down at the surf edge with me and her aunt and let the waves wash all over her and even pull her into the water.
She is fearless in other ways too. If I'm in the pool and she wants in, she will yell "two!" and plunge right in, whether I am ready to catch her or not. This is because the first time we did this I said "one, two, three, jump!" She has a memory like an elephant. Here she is in her swim class:
At the beach she was sharing a space with upwards of 20 people, most of whom she did not know. After two or three days, she was kissing everyone, even the teenage boys. She went from being shy and reserved to taking people by the hand and leading them to the pool, to the beach, to snacks, to Big Bird, to the deck, to whatever she wanted. She was very concerned about her Poppa, calling to him whenever he left the room and running over to him at regular intervals just to reassure herself that he was there and okay. She would call to me across the living room full of chatty people, yelling "Maaaaaaammaaaaa!" in a singsong voice, just to make sure I knew she was there.
An elitist, she abandoned my Droid and Blackberry (both of which she calls "Baby" since to her all they're good for is looking at pictures of the baby), stealing people's iPhones at random instead and refusing to return them:
And I think about 75% of what she did that week was eat:
Sleep was an issue on this vacation as it is anytime we are away from home. The first night in a new place is always tough, but here there was so much excitement with so many people to play with and so many things to do that even when we did finally get her down, she'd wake up in the middle of the night and point to the door and ask, "Beach?" I'd laugh and say, "Thora, it's 3 in the morning! Go back to sleep." She would consider this and then try again. "Pool?" she'd ask thoughtfully, as though that were a compromise. Naps were irregular and always with Johnny or me, never alone, and always in a quiet, darkened space, meaning Johnny and I were rarely in the same place at the same time during the day and didn't get much R & R together.
By the end of the week she was sleeping easily and regularly and was completely comfortable with this new, large crowd. She was sad to leave, cuddling with her aunt and asking for the pool and the beach up until the moment we buckled her into her car seat for the long ride home.
That's when she melted down. For the first time in her short life, I barely recognized my kid. I was terrified that I'd have to start all over, parenting a clingy crier. For nearly three days after we left the beach she cried "Mama!" and wailed and continued to be inconsolable unless she was in her Mama's arms. I responded with hugs, validation and far more patience than this deserved. I am not sure it was always right to let her sit in my arms for hours at a time, because it seemed to fuel her fire and enable her to cling harder. Johnny eventually cut in like a jealous dance partner, scooped her up and distracted her by looking for buses, counting dogs, singing or dancing. Moments later she was laughing and singing too. Until she saw me, that is, and then she was back to whining and clinging to the hair at the nape of my neck, murmuring "mama mama mama" like a weird mantra. She tripped and crumpled to the floor in her exhaustion more than once and each time, instead of standing up, she sat and pointed. "Knee... knee" she kept saying. I was convinced she'd broken a bone. I was so freaked out by her behavior that even though I knew deep down it was just re-entry into the real world, we made a pediatrician appointment and I emailed everyone I knew asking about toddler behavior and what the hell was going on.
The day after we came back, we had plans with friends to go to the movies to see Harry Potter. They'd arranged for us to leave Thora with their kids and their two babysitters. I knew she'd be in good hands. But she clung to my neck and wailed, which made me wail too and I could not bring myself to leave her - for the first time ever - with a babysitter, someone I didn't know. So I sent Johnny along with our friends, and I cuddled and napped with Thora while the babysitters hung with our friends' kids. Even though I felt I was making the right decision, my heart sunk thinking that I would never be able to leave her ever again. Suddenly I was afraid to go back to work, afraid to have this new baby, afraid to do anything other than be available to hug Thora and wear her like a thirty pound millstone round my neck.
Luckily, that night we both slept well. She woke up happy and back to normal, and I woke up grateful that I had my regular kid back, comfortable again with being pregnant and thrilled to be getting ready to leave for the office. We cancelled the doctor appointment, I emailed my friends back to tell them the phase had passed, and life went back to normal. Now I know this is just part and parcel of travel with this small child, so in the future I will pick and choose her overnights away from home more carefully than I have in the past.
And look how she's napping now, right in the middle of the living room floor:
If you ask her if she needs a new diaper she will automatically say no, even if you know she's lying. She's taken to saying "poop" very quietly before she goes now, and if we don't hear that, the fact that she now hides behind a chair or a table or some other piece of furniture in order to have some privacy is a dead giveaway. Still, if you put the kid on the potty (which she will ask you to do regularly) she will happily sit there and sit there and sit there and then pee all over the floor as soon as you take her off. So we're not quite ready for the potty, though she says potty clearly and still says bye to Mama's or Daddy's pee, which makes strangers in adjacent stalls in public bathrooms laugh out loud.
As Thora grows, so does my belly. We are doing our best to prepare her for the arrival of her sister. But how can we do this well when we can barely prepare ourselves? I love both my daughters to the moon already and think of us as a family of four. For months now we've been talking about "the girls" and calling Newbee by her name. She wiggles, I giggle. Johnny keeps his hand on my belly to feel her kicks and it's as exciting as it was with Thora. Still the idea of another newborn in the house is terrifying. The thought of having to deny Thora something because her sister needs me instead breaks my heart. I am nervous. I am scared. Yet I know it is what we want, so I project confidence and encourage Thora to kiss her sister (which she does, right on my disgusting, pregnancy-induced outie belly button), call her by name, and generally get used to her presence before she's even out.
We are now at 32 weeks. My platelets are normal this time, my vitamin D level is back up, and my midwives are 99% certain my placenta previa has gone away. I don't have gestational diabetes and because I have type O- blood, I got my Rhogam shot. The midwives are monitoring the baby's position to avoid another sunnyside up labor and with every visit they reassure me that everything is progressing as it should. Ultrasound in two weeks will confirm the location of my placenta and determine if I should or should not purchase the homebirth kit. This time I am not scared, I am not in a rush. I am in good hands. We are full steam ahead for birthing at home this time but prepared for the possibility that we might not. I am trying to embrace all the options.
At this point I am definitely waddling. It is hard to walk, to breathe, to eat full meals. You don't want to know the effects of third trimester pregnancy on my GI tract. I am exhausted all day but can barely sleep at night. Yet I still work, I still carry Thora everywhere, I still nurse. We are a family that gets things done, are we not? This new kid will be here in no time, so stay tuned.