These photos are from about three weeks ago, and I'm posting them for a specific reason (not just because they're so cute and I need to post them somewhere!) Tonight, I stood QQ up against the doorframe where we measure her, and she has grown an inch since the last time we measured...which was January 13th! I was so impressed that I was talking out loud to myself about it as I walked away...until I noticed that she was trailing after me wailing and tugging at my clothes. "What is it?" I asked, bending down to see what had troubled her so. She kept pointing back toward the door we'd just come from, and I wondered if she'd seen something scary in the darkened bedroom beyond.
But that didn't make sense because she's even shut herself in that bedroom, in the dark, several times without any fear.
"Show me," I said, and let her take me by the hand and lead me back to the doorframe, where she backed up against it, patted the top of her head, and babbled at me some more. I could not understand what she wanted until she stepped away, and drew her finger repeatedly across the previous line we had drawn on the door.
She wanted me to mark her growth!
This is a 17-month-old child, people!!
She was not happy until I'd fetched a marker, stood her up against the door again, and marked her new height.
How does she put these things together, at her age? I ask you? I beg of you????
Our little heavy-machinery operator. She still just loves that CAT.
QQ has been a busy girl lately, and I can't even keep track of the number of new developments. It's truly amazing. She puts things together so quickly, and communicates so well, even without words. For instance, this morning, we were sitting on the couch while she ate her pre-nap snack. She has a doll that's Toody (sp?) from Yo Gabba-Gabba, and it sings and dances if you press its...uhm...paw? Suddenly, she put down her bottle, pointed to the Toody toy, and did her little "dance" move. I figured she wanted me to press the paw and make it dance. So I did. But she frowned at me and shook her head. After thinking for a moment, she looked at the doll again, pantomimed her dance again, and then pointed at the computer screen that we use as a TV. That was when I realized that Daddy usually turns on an episode of Yo Gabba-Gabba (we get them on iTunes) for her before her nap. She was asking me to turn on her show!
Here, Daddy is telling her to open her mouth so we can search inside for stray pieces of paper that might make her choke. This is the one and only serious problem we have with the Q. She has been a paper-eater since she came home, and the problem got considerably worse after her teeth started coming in thick and fast. Now, she can bite off (and chew) much bigger pieces of paper - bits of menus, junk mail, museum tickets, business cards, even cardboard tags...you name it, she'll eat it. I don't know what the attraction is, but it's far more appealing to her than any of the teething toys we gotten for her. She has now gotten a piece stuck in her throat twice, choking a bit on it, which is a frightening enough experience to mark M. and I permanently. Each time, she has managed to puke up the little piece of detritus that's gagging her - but the fear will never leave us now. Here's the thing though: it's easy enough to put locks on cabinets, weed out toys that are "choking hazards", and that sort of thing. But do you have any idea how hard it is to keep paper away from your child's reach? We're both journalists, so there are newpapers, magazines, and books galore. M's studies require stashes of post-it notes and flash cards. Then there is mail, photo albums (yes, she eats photos, too), toilet paper, paper towel, greeting cards, envelopes, dryer sheets that get stuck in the clean laundry. Grocery receipts are one of her favorite chew-toys, and they're insidious, drifting out of pockets and handbags and settling in corners of the car...the list is endless. It is simply impossible to remove all danger for a child who eats paper. I do not have a solution. Anyone else have a paper-eating child?
Since that first (albeit manipulative) kiss after the toilet incident, QQ has become quite the kisser. She now kisses on request, and sometimes when I go to kiss her on the forehead, she actually turns her face in to the kiss, instead of turning subtly away as she did when she was younger and more guarded. When I put her down for a nap, I usually ask for a kiss before I leave the room, but if I forget, she will actually stretch her neck and put her face out, lips slightly puckered, to remind me.
...Which brings me to another thought:
Do you suppose she wants to delay her babyhood a bit?
Here's why I ask. We learned in our attachment and bonding classes that it's recommended to regress an institutionalized child to babyhood in the first months at home so as to recreate the attachment and bonding processes in the child's brain, and create those processes that she would have gone through while nursing. QQ was still only 11 months old when we brought her home, so it was easy to hold her and bottle-feed her like a baby. She took to it right from the start, and would stare into our eyes while we fed her - we did not have to force her. It was such a wonderful way to connect with her that I still feed her in my arms at breakfast and sometimes at dinner - though she lately resists at dinnertime, since she's realized that her final bottle means bedtime, and she usually wants to stay up and play.
But I have noticed more than once that, when it comes to her big "steps" in life, she tends to hold off on each stage for a while. For instance, with walking, she took her first steps...and then nothing happened for a few weeks. She went back to crawling and refused to try walking again, until one day she just stood up and walked. This seems to apply to so many things. It happened with solid foods. She started eating cheese puffs one day, but refused to allow anything else in her mouth for several weeks, until the recent night when she ate an entire dinner (and then some) off our plates.
The thing that really set off bells in my head recently was her progress with speech. It is the one thing that is really seriously delayed. As a child with a cleft, and with her lip still not completely closed, speech delays are par for the course. Still, it concerns me that, as extraordinarily bright and communicative as she is, and as many words as she understands, she has not tried harder to pronounce any words. She started saying her word for "hungry" quite a long time ago, but it has never become any clearer. It still sounds like "ngyang-ngyang", although it has gotten louder.
There could very well be other issues (for instance in the back of her soft palate, or concerning the gap in her gumline) which could require more surgeries, and we won't know much about that until her next surgery and her speech therapy.
However, the first sound I really started working on with her was the "M" sound and the word "mama". I have been working on that with her for more than a month, and on and off she seems to get it. She will purse her lips in imitation, and at first the sound came out more like a "v", but occasionally she would come out with a good "m". She will, when in the right mood, say "mamamammmmaaaaa" in succession, but I wasn't sure she was getting that it was a single word, or that it meant me.
Then one night, as I was putting her to bed, I started to leave the room, and from her crib I heard her say "mama!" I stopped in my tracks, turned around and looked at her. She smiled and started babbling again.
But it happened again the next night, and the next. I told M. about it, and I could tell that he thought it was just wishful thinking on my part. But in the past few nights, it has become much more obvious. Then, last night, M had the night off and was walking past Q's bedroom as I put her down and left the room. As I began to close the door, she said, very loud and very clear, "Mama!"
"Oh, my, gosh!" he said. "I heard that lound and clear!"
The game was up, and somehow, she knew it. So today when I put her down for her nap, she tried it again, just as I was about to close the door, this time with a very sly little smirk on her face, as if to say "I know that YOU know that I'm manipulating you now. I know exactly how to say this word, and I know what it means. I'm just saving it for those moments when I most need to push your buttons."
After her nap, she'd apparently made a decision, because this afternoon she started using the clear word "mama" when she wants me to pick her up, or when she wants me to open something for her.
So, as you can see, I can't help thinking that, in various ways, she is actually more advanced than she's letting on. I feel like she has a good thing going with all the affection and coddling she gets, and maybe she feels like delaying the luxury a little. Maybe she still isn't sure that she has this family, this undivided attention, forever, and she's trying to stretch it as much as possible, just in case.
Also, I think that this is a child who has learned from an early age how to use her charm. She has a pretty face, and a lot of charisma, and (from what the orphanage told us) she has used that charm to gain attention from the start. I think that she holds onto "trump cards" (the word "mama" being one of those, the coveted kiss being another) for as long as she can, using them only when she knows she will get the most mileage out of them....like when she can delay bedtime by getting me to come back into the room.
Yes, it works. Smart girl.
Watching daddy eat an apple.
"No, I don't want to try this. You eat it."
Look how connected she is. This is a face-to-face child, a kid who makes eye contact.
This is interesting too. This was the first time that daddy tried to teach her the concept of "through". First, he put both his hand and hers "through" the ring.
Then he demonstrated, while saying the word "through".
You can see how closely she's watching. The funny thing is, ever since then (for a few weeks now) she has mimed "through" many times a day, not only with this ring, but with anything you can put your hand through: a bracelet, a cardboard tube, even the slats of a chair, each time looking at us for confirmation that she has identified the concept yet again.
Like I said, smart girl.