18 Months

Hey baby – you had your half-birthday last week, on May 4. A year-and-a-half old.. Not sure why this date seems like more of a milestone than 17 or 19 months, but it does, and here we are. I think I’ve finally gotten beyond feeling surprised that we have a baby, and now it’s just life.
Though you’re not really a baby anymore. You’re a full-blown toddler, a real boy, with a pretty awesome personality and a lot to say. Toddler isn’t even the right word, because it doesn’t show how fast you bounce when you zoom around (zoomtoddle?), or the shock on your face when you trip over your own feet and go splat, or the joy you find in being alive.
I look at pictures from the early days, and I’ve already forgotten what that’s like. So I want to try and capture a little bit of you who are now, even though I know I can’t get it all down. In theory I prefer living life to recording it, but I already regret not taking more pictures and (yipes) videos. So here’s something of a snapshot of this moment:
You are all about doing it for yourself these days, as you get stronger and taller and smarter every minute. You can reach those buttons on the washing machine now, and climb up onto the chairs, and you want to choose the shirt you wear. Or not wear, more often choosing to be as naked as possible.
Your latest obsession is with the car keys. You’ll stand at the car for 20 or 30 minutes, trying to get them into the lock on the door, pushing away my hand if I try to help guide the right key in. When you get a key stuck in far enough that it stays, you let out this wicked cackle, a burst of “ha!” as you stamp your feet and wave your arms. It’s hilarious, until we have to take the keys away, and then you let out an ungodly wail.
You’re learning new signs and words all the time. You say mama and dada and pop and ba (ball or bus). Dog, of course, your first real word and still a favorite. Ka is your car/go/keys word, almost always said together with the sign for keys, which you learned after seeing it only a couple times. Nyummy-nyummy is food, and you slurp for water, putting your hands to your mouth for both.
You’re a good eater, more interested in having what we’re having or drinking out of our glass than anything special for you. And you have strong opinions about what you want, and sometimes we can’t tell, and then we’re all frustrated. When in doubt, peanut butter seems to do the trick. Or tofu. Sometimes all you want to do is give your snacks to the dog. You know how to tell her to sit and lie down, and she’s always gentle taking treats from you.
Other signs: ball/more (fingerbabble makes it hard to tell, sometimes, but usually we can figure it out with context or by asking you), banana, dog, bird/duck/frog, gorilla (also an old fave). Flowers – you’re so cute: you’ll squat down to smell them, and pull us with you as you make the sign. Bath, cow, water, book. (some top hits these days include Mr. Brown Can Moo, Doggies, Goodnight Gorilla, One Little Duck, Go Dog Go, various baby sign books). I’m sure I’m leaving things out – oh, milk! - can’t forget that one. A sort of universal arm wave with various noises can mean airplane, elephant, truck, butterfly. Please and thank you charm everyone.
When we go to the Science Works garden, sometimes you run gleefully down the paths, but more often, you just stand at the gate, opening, closing. As you let people through and they say “thank you,” you'll sign it, and they always think you’re blowing them a kiss. At home, you’ll stand in the window, so excited to be able to get up on the ledge. You watch for bees and cats and wave to the neighbors when they walk by. It’s adorable.
You are super energetic and active when you’re awake, and you sleep well at night and at nap (except when your big teeth are coming in). You love to play with balls, kicking, tossing, watching us shoot hoops, sitting on the couch and throwing them for us to chase. Sound effects make you happy. As does dancing to music. Although you still ask for “Cows” sometimes, you’re more into the Barnyard Dance and especially the Tickle song. Snuffling like a pig always gets you giggling.
You love the bath – splish splash! Water in general: puddle jumping, throwing rocks into the lake, smacking at the tetherball base after it rains (dibble dibble dopp…). Pouring water from one cup into another, experimenting with amount and speed. Climbing! You can make it up the ladder on the play structure now. Slides are sometimes fun. You love to be outside, or out running errands. You’ve just started showing interest in the sandbox, and are figuring out that you don’t really want to eat the sand.
You are so observant, learning so quickly from watching us, watching older kids, trying things out yourself. You’re getting more social, too, with other babies, almost all a little or a lot older, so you have a lot to observe. You use tools well, turning over tupperware to step on, or grabbing my finger to push a button, or reaching for something under the couch with a long wooden spoon.
Bodies are fascinating for you, and you'll point out all the bits emphatically - head, ear, toes, teeth, belly button, nose. Tongues sticking out make you laugh, from the first time you noticed it in the Global Babies book to when the dog pants to anytime at all, and you'll stick yours out too to show how fun it is.
You like to be helpful, bringing us our shoes when we ask, and putting things back where they belong. Sweeping and vacuuming. Mopping up when you spill (or when Zola drools). You recognize us in pictures, and kiss yourself in the mirror. It’s amazing how much of what we say you understand, and how well you can communicate back.
There are so many smiles, giggles, snorts, grunts. Shrieks of joy and loud yawps as you talk back to the ducks and frogs. It’s a fabulous soundtrack to our days. And when we hug, and you say “Bobo” (from the book), it’s the best thing ever.
It takes a lot of energy to keep up with you, and it can be hard to get things done. But when we’re in the moment, we really have a good time. And it’s true: the days are long but the years are short, so we’re trying to be in the moment as much as possible. Turns out having a kid is really fun – at least when you’re the kid.
I’ve been writing this in bits and pieces, as I do so many things these days, and every time I come back to it I think of more (penguins!). It’s impossible to get it all down, and it's not as poetic as it might be, but it's better than nothing, so I’m going to stop here and let it be enough.
You are smart and strong and beautiful and funny and adventurous. May the fourth be with you, little man (yes, that’s a Star Wars reference). We love you, forever.