We just sit around and watch her, with eyes too focused, as if honing in on 11 tiny grunting football players on a too-small television set. We don't blink, we don't look away. Our glass of wine or water or juice remains untouched on the up-high counter until long after the performance is over.
We utter a continuous stream of adjectives that land in the air like blow-horn emissions, vague and grossly inaccurate in describing the scene—brilliant! incredible!—and we eventually, inevitably land at a place where we have nothing left but rhetoricals. Is this what other parents do?
We then complete the process by sliding lithely into simple exchanges such as the following:
Me: Hey honey, did you just see her do that? (Even though he is sitting right next to me.)
Jesse: I did. That was awesome.
A bit later...
Jesse: Hey honey, did you catch what she just said?
Me: I did. She is just outrageous.
And so on.
We watch her, we play with her, we watch her some more—how did she figure that one out all by herself ?—and then we discuss it over dinner after we put her to bed.
And so concludes a well-aimed sketch of our lives at present.
I keep a journal handy for those moments when documenting something notable that Opal has done, said, accomplished or discovered is needed. (It could be argued that it's not so much me needing to document it as the world simply requiring such divinity to be documented—like a human-almanac—and I am simply doing my part by stringing together a line of gorgeous beads that I've found.)
The least threatening way to share some of her most recent gems is in list form.
Let's dive right on in:
When I go and get Opal from her morning nap, it's tradition to launch immediately into a game of peek-a-boo, no discussions, no questions asked. There is a quilt hanging over the front of her crib which serves as the perfect prop as I drop to the floor and say "wheeeere'smommy?" a question that is quickly responded to by her dropping to hands-and-knees, crawling to one side of the crib and lifting a corner of the quilt (in proper voila' fashion) where mama's mug is exposed before her very eyes. A predictable surprise which never fails to be a satisfying crack-up.
To take it a step further and inspire uncontrollable explosions of laughter (only intended for very short stints) I then emerge over the side of the crib as octopus-mama with arms flailing as if under water, lapping over like car-wash strips.
So many customs contained in a day. This one is so established that now all I have to do is crack open the door to her sacred naptime-cranny to inspire a little girl—brilliantly beautiful with shiny eyes and slanted bedhead—to spring her head jack-in-the-box style over the side of the crib and announce boo!
Peek-a-boo is a treasured activity hardly limited to post-naptime, though. Yesterday, she walked into the living room, stood in front of Jesse and I, squatted at the knees, paused, and hopped up declaring boo! She basked in the wake of her independent display of entertainment, a totally conspicuous grin, then repeated the entire thing.
2. Body and music.
She loves the song "Skip to My Lou" as sung by Elizabeth Mitchell from my I-tunes. When the song is over and shifts to the next song (which happens to be the timeless classic "12 ladybugs") she immediate chimes in LOU-LOU-LOU-LOU. We cannot currently listen to any other music while the little one is in our midst. We have it on continuous-repeat and, believe-you-me, the moment she is strolling down the hall for nap or bedtime both Jesse and I dive at the I-pod like flag football to change it up.
But there is nothing cuter than her dance moves: a slight bend at the knee, hands-fisted and arms pulled tight to the body, a slight rotation left to right, hinging at the hips, stomping and marching when on the hardwood floor or a piece of cardboard. Movements that have nothing to do with the music that accompanies her, aligning with only the pulse that metronomes in her own temples and wrists and chest, utterly free of self-consciousnesses or need for approval. It's hopeless for either Jesse or I to try and match her on the dance floor.
She pulled a plastic bag from the pocket of my backpack this morning and said poo-poo and it was indeed one of the bags we used to pick up Olive's poop.
Daddy was wearing a shirt that said Boston, which he pointed out to her once in passing. Many days—weeks?—later, she pointed to it and said Oston.
I made the mistake at some point of picking up a piece of trash and calling it 'dirty' while shaking my head to convey that being dirty was not something to be proud of. (Or put in your mouth, for that matter.) Now, she is obsessed with pointing out all things dirty and, if possible, bringing them to mama. It took a long while to convey that toys on the floor were not dirty but food on the floor definitely was.
Lately when I sing our daily songs to Opal, she chimes in. Just recently it happened twice—I sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. How I wonder what you are." And Opal stepped in by singing UP-A-BA!—"Up above the world so high..." She hit her cue perfectly. Then again while I sang "3 little monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell off and bonked his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said..." and Opal looked up at me from the changing table, and as she rubbed pretend lotion into her belly, said NO-MO—"No more monkeys jumping on the bed."
One of her favorite pastimes is delivering random objects to the people in her space.
She puts the knobby puzzle pieces in the correct spots and even figured out that this is one of the rare occasions where the the circle does indeed fit in the square opening.
She plays beautifully, often surprising me with her creativity and ingenuity. I never quite know what I'll find when I peek my head out of the kitchen into the living room, with sudsy hands or food in mid-prep. Oh! She figured out how to put the finger puppets on her teeny fingers. Wow! She's dragging the monkey and the doggie around the room on the make-shift leashes we tied on earlier. Hurray! She stacked the cups all by herself.
More often than not, she'll march into the kitchen and join me, with an armful of objects to line up on the open dishwasher door. The dishwasher is a no-touch apparatus (because of easy accessibility of knives) but there is no law against putting plastic cups and B on the open door as I load up plates, sippies and myriad mugs. The moment is concluded by clearing all the toys with a sweep of the arm and yelling CLO! as we shut the door together.
Or she may appear with something in her clutches, repeating OPA-PEEZ. Translation: Open, please. A purse or satchel or eyeglass cases or a box of cards. She occasionally carries with her an item that will, bless it's heart, never open. Keys or a piece of crumbled paper, for example. But for the most part, she seems to understand exactly what it is she's requesting.
She picks out the books she wants to read. Gone are the days when we, as parents, get to pick out a small stack of our personal favorites. She currently wants to choose from a small selection of books about birdies, dadas (dogs), books with peek-a-boo flaps, books with animals, specifically gollas (gorillas), or the Achoo book (the one where the hibernating bear is awoken by a pepper fleck from the stew his friends were making in his cave while he slept. An excellent book with rhymes like layers of flavor and a twist at the end that never lets me down). Though occasionally she does mix it up, like tonight when she asked for mymore, mymore.
???—Sorry kiddo, no compute. Until she reached over the side of the rocker to grab the book "My World." What, you can read now? Have mercy.
She loves to have tea parties which is a splendid opportunity to include the people around her in her affairs. She loves to help mama water the plants by pouring water from her empty cup while making the sound sshhhh. The likeness she conveys of water-pouring is uncanny. She also periodically snags a diaper wipe and spot cleans the entire house.
5. Did she really just say that?
Opal's language—the actual forming of the words, the sounds and enunciations— improves on a daily basis, along with the ability to form entire words now instead of simply fragments. The letter L used to come out like a playful guppy in her mouth: blue was bla-la-la-lue for weeks until the guppy settled and now it's a precious two-syllable BA-LUE. Milk was mil until recently. Ball, book, car and many others have also recently regained there proper consonant-endings.
Knuckles used to exist as a one-syllable utterance that we only understood contextually (which, come to think of it, was the case for many words) Now it is knuckles, plain as day and pleasingly paradoxical to hear passing through her tiny mouth. Not only can she pronounce the word, but her placement along with the lack of it's overuse, is impressive and skillful. She knows that knuckles follows some variation of "good job" and is quick to follow up praise that is given with a simple "knuckles." However, she refuses to simply go around and "do knuckles," simply giving it away to impress the masses. It needs to be preceded by appropriate and authentic measures.
She calls her beloved stuffed gorilla golla.
She says BESSU when we sneeze. She said TANKA this morning when I handed her a toy she was looking for. No joke, TANKA. Last night, she called Jesse HOMIE. We had used the word in jest and she gobbled it right up. (Ahem, yet another reinforcement for us to continue to spell-out swear words.)
Her favorite sentence is still one of a hundred bye-bye fill-in-the-blank variations. Bye-bye mama, bye-bye dada, bye-bye dippy (diaper—see the earlier blog "Bye-Bye Dada and Other Language Variations.") and so on. A very resourceful phrase if you consider it.
Gompa, gompa, lu-lu (grandma, grandpa, Lucy the dog) is the mantra for heading over to grandma and grandpa's house, which is ever the anticipated outing.
6. More play.
Many of her stuffed animals are on leashes, including but not limited to the fuzzy shitzu bound by a necktie, chi chi the yapping chihuahua that is lassoed by a curtain-tie and the Velcro-pawed monkey that has the distinct privilege of wearing the actual dog-leash which is hooked on a collar that was fashioned by a ribbon. The monkey is her favorite creature to walk, an activity that travels with the accompanying mantra: Waka-moki! She recently realized that it's much less cumbersome to 'walk the monkey' by actually carrying the monkey versus dragging it behind you, vulnerable to get caught on furniture corners and trip you up. She blasted from behind the loveseat just last week, holding the monkey above her head like a flag of glory.
7. Developments and understanding.
A few days ago, Opal walked up to me, tugged on my pants (an action fully associated with toddler-hood, one of many examples throughout the day where it's declared before my very eyes just how much she is growing up!) and said poo-poo. Once she realized she had my attention, she turned tail and led me down the hall to her bedroom to stand purposefully in front of her changing table.
TODAY was her very first day of feeding herself with her own spoon from her own bowl! She's been eating off-and-on for months from a spoon that I fill and hand to her. But today she had her own spoon and her own bowl of chunky soup and she went to town. Let's just say it was wise to robe her in a food-smock and head-cover beforehand and that I was cleaning up soup (from lunch) from inside her nose tonight before putting her jammies on for bed. What a thrill.
She points out when mom is wearing a necklace or buttons, necka and butta, respectively, and when mom or dad have on a hat. She loves to wear necklaces, buttons and hats of her own. She has a lovely amber necklace that she requests on a regular basis and also holds beads and scarves to her neck to make it appear as if she's adorned in neckwear.
There is much much more, but I'm on the other end of tired and desperately wanting to post this before it grows big enough to rival the world's largest rubber band collection.
But if you need anything, you know where to find us.
Front row, center.
Shouting bravo! from behind our 3-d glasses, with un-hinged jaws and hands made raw from clapping.