This is Gianna, my little sugar dumpling. She’s currently going through a phase of trying to put everything into my mouth (including her fingers, earning her the most recent moniker of my “little dentist”) as well as her own. Toys, books, her sunglasses, my camera strap, her toes…And she has the curious habit of picking up a toy, extending her arm behind her back, and dropping it, turning to look at where it ended up. She’ll hold herself upright at the bookshelf, pulling each stuffed animal from the shelf and dropping it behind her until either the shelf is bare or she’s become distracted by, likely, some other form of mischief. Since she’s learned to crawl, my living room is in an utterly constant state of disaster. Stuffed animals, rattles, teethers, books scattered all over the floor in piles that she simply crawls over or sits on like a queen atop her throne, my sweet, silly croquembouche.
She pulls herself up with anything and everything–the coffee table, couch, entertainment center (we had to buy a new one to safely hide Billy’s video game consoles and strangle-hazard cords!), the kitchen shelving unit (where she has perfect access to all my beautiful produce, onions for her to peel, apples and pears for her to bruise), my pants…You know those film scenes in which children are always depicted hugging their mother’s legs and pushing their faces between them? That’s how we spend our mornings as I stand in the bathroom attempting to blow dry my lifeless hair and fix my tired mom face. She pulls herself up with my jeans, grabs hold of either leg and plunges her face down the middle, letting go every once in a while to try to open the cabinet doors, which I hold shut with my knees. I feel I could turn out to be quite the skilled acrobat with the ways I must manipulate my body to keep her out of things or multitask or set her into the crib without waking her up. At the least, I could be a contortionist.
She loves to taunt me, too. As she likes to get into things she’s not supposed to, I’m constantly telling her “no, no,” to which she laughs as if it’s a game. “No, no, Gianna! We don’t bite Momma,” *grins and scrapes her teeth along my skin.* Lately, she’s taken a great interest in the dog door. I let her crawl fairly close to it, asking repeatedly for her to come back to me (which is a regular practice in hopes of teaching her to listen and behave). Sometimes she will, other times she’ll stop, sit, and smile at me, then turn back around and head closer to the door. By the time she starts to poke at it with her tiny hands, I rush over to scoop her up before she can actually head out the door, falling flat on her face where the patio drops. I think she must be plotting her escape. She sees the dog can retreat outside and must figure that’s the quickest exit for the next time she hears the words “diaper change.”
I love to let her have this independence, though–allowing her to crawl to the threshold before requesting she “come to Momma” or before telling her “no, no” and pulling her away. She needs to test her limits and needs some independence! It’s wonderful to watch her play on her own, too–exploring, investigating, passing a new discovery from hand to hand, looking closely at it, touching it with careful caution, taking a little taste. I try to discourage the latter when appropriate, though. She’ll put anything in her mouth from grass to dog hair and I would prefer certain items simply stayed out. “No, no,” I say, and usually she listens. She spent ten minutes on a stroller ride examining a pine cone before discarding it on the ground and only tried to place it in her mouth once!
Her favorite activity, though, is reading. Eager to turn the pages or open flaps to find hidden animals or babies playing “peek-a-boo,” she’ll yank book after book off the shelf, holding it in the air and babbling or waving it about and yelling until you take it from her to start reading. And then she’ll want to read it over, and over…and over…turning the pages faster and faster, more and more furiously like she needs to quickly get through with the book so we can start all over again.
One of the books she chooses most often is “Where’s Spot?” which I remember as a childhood favorite of my own, back in 90’s (oh my, how old!). It’s no wonder considering her utter fascination with dogs. They completely mesmerize her; if she spots one, she won’t take her eyes off of him, looking all about the room, twisting her head and body in all directions so she can look at him. She’ll flap her arms fervently and yell, like she’s calling the dog over to her. I always screech, “Do you see the puppy!? Where’s the puppy, Gianna!?” She likes to follow ours (Dookie, named by my fiance, of course) up the stairs and steal his dog toys, seemingly to taunt him. She giggles when he tries to lick her face or when his thick, fluffy fur brushes against her; though, he’s skiddish and retreats when she tries to pet him. “Gentle, gentle,” I show her how to stroke his hair, lest she yank it like she does mine. “No, no! We don’t pull Momma’s hair. Gentle,” and she yanks again…
She’s the sweetest when she’s asleep, of course. I adore my loud, energetic, active near-toddler, but when she becomes soft and quiet, her eyes gently shut, her cheeks puffed out like little cream puffs, her body snuggled up into a little ball pressed up against mine for a snuggle or a drink of milk, she turns back into the tiny infant I knew only months ago. Unlike most, though, I’m not saddened by her fast growth and development; I’m excited. Each day, even each minute is a new beginning, a new memory, and I can’t wait to capture them all.