It's like we have an honest-to-goodness little person around here. I mean, Adriana's only three feet tall and can't quite break 27 pounds, but the way she interacts with us, with the world, seems every day less babyish, less, toddlerish, almost more like a real kid.
Her vocabulary continues to grow, and her pronunciation is improving to the point that people other than her parents can understand her. She is shy at first with most people, but eventually she warms up and it's hard to stop her from talking. S sounds and K sounds still come out as Ds, Ls are replaced with Ws or Ys, and R is pretty much non-existent. She still often tries to use only one syllable for some words--"baby" is just "bee"--but she is attempting longer words. I am charmed by her pronunciation most of the time: "chey-ees" for cherries, "eh-deent" for elephant, and "wah-mey-on" for watermelon. I've been trying to get her to say her whole name, and she'll repeat it after me, syllable by syllable, but then when I ask her to say her whole name she grins and says "Ana Roof!" She does continue to sign a bit, but usually only for emphasis or when she thinks we don't understand what she is saying (I wasn't home one evening and when whining for Mom over and over didn't work, she tried signing it, to make sure Brian really understood what she was asking for). I do occasionally ask her to sign when I don't understand what she is saying, and even if it's not a sign we've used before, she'll attempt it. Sometimes that's useful, as when I didn't understand that she was saying "telephone" and she held a hand up to her ear. But sometimes she just wiggles both hands around in front of her and grins at me.
She is also starting to sing. She's always liked to listen to music and be sung to, but she has never attempting to sing along, either with me or with a recording. But about a month ago she started requesting particular songs more often, and while she still doesn't sing along with me, she does sometimes just begin singing on her own. Usually she just picks one or two lines of the song and belts them out at full volume with little attention to tune (she does have good rhythm, though). She also fills in lines to songs, so that whenever we sing her current favorite, "Little Red Wagon," she likes to pick who fixes the wagon and with what tool. Or food. That wagon gets fixed with a lot of french fries and ice cream, although maybe that's because her knowledge of tools is limited. After hammer, wrench, and duct tape have been used, it's clearly time to try something more creative. Along with the singing comes dancing, which she's always done a certain amount of, but now she makes up little dances to go up with little songs that she makes up. "Happy food dance! Happy food dance!" she sings, as she stands on her step stool to eat a meal (which she prefers to sitting in a chair, and I don't think it's worth a fight), bopping from side to side. Or she stands in the kitchen, bouncing up and down, making her sign for noodles with both hands and singing "Noo-oo, noo-oo, noo-oo," as I make ravioli for lunch. After using the potty at her friend Jacob's house the other day, he taught her the potty dance, and soon both of them were scampering their feet and punching the air with their fists, chanting "Adriana go potty!" over and over and over.
Her sleep and eating have improved immensely lately, much to Brian's and my relief. I think the eating in in part a growth spurt, and in part the fact that I have pushed her a little bit towards weaning, and that the sleep has improved as a result. I was tired of being asked to nurse for a few minutes every hour, especially in the afternoons, so one day when she asked, I told her that she could nurse this once, but after that, no more until bedtime. She accepted this deal, and when she asked a little later for some more and I reminded her of our bargain, she nodded and didn't ask again. Suddenly our pattern was nursing when she woke up in the morning, once more between that time and nap, and then again at nap. The same pattern followed in the afternoons, with wake-up and bedtime nursings, and one in between. And then she dropped the mid-morning nursing on her own within a week. The mid-afternoon one is still there a few times a week. I realized that while our mornings are pretty busy, with gymnastics and school and whatnot, in the afternoons I am busy tidying the house a bit and fixing dinner, and Adriana was often asking to nurse in order to get my attention. Once I started including her more in what I was doing, instead of trying to get her to play by herself, she stopped asking nearly as much. I do think she was getting a fair share of her calories from milk, because the weaning coincided with a much greater food intake--she eats three full meals every day now, plus snacks. And as a result, she wakes only once most nights now, usually sleeping from nine to four, and then going back to sleep until seven or eight. At first this seemed to limit her napping, but now she is back to regularly sleeping for at least any hour in the early afternoon, which is a relief. We can get her to bed earlier if she doesn't nap, but I'd rather have the break during the day while Brian's at work.
One of Adriana's favorite activities now is cooking. Now she helps cook dinner most nights, pulling her step stool into the kitchen to observe what I'm doing. I measure out rice and water, and she pours them into the rice cooker and then pushes the button to turn it on. As I cut up vegetables, I push the stems and peels aside, and she moves them into the trash for me. She picks the leaves of the herbs off of their stems so that I can mince them. She takes a turn mixing ingredients or whisking eggs, and I guide her hand as she grates cheese. She seems to feel proud when she helps, and when she isn't eating at dinner, just reminding her that it's something she helped prepare makes her more willing to eat a bit more. She loves to have treats--french fries, cake, and ice cream are favorites--but for the most part she is a very healthy eater. She eats lots of vegetables--chard, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, and bell peppers are gobbled up, but I think she would live on blueberries and cherries if I would let her. She already has broader tastes than I have, though; she has lost her willingness to eat spicy foods, but she does go for mushrooms, olives, and goat cheese--three foods that I have never been able to develop a taste for.
Adriana's imagination has just exploded in the past few weeks. She plays games of pretending, informing me that I am a baby, and she gives me a bath, puts me in pajamas, and tucks me into bed. Or, when she catches me reading on the couch, she wraps a throw around my waist, tells me I am a bird and she is a mom bird, and flies off to get me some bugs to eat. She began bring us a pictures of one of the little girls from play group and asking us to "Read Sam," so we would tell her stories about her adventures with Samantha. First I started with true stories: the picture was taken the day some of us took the kids to the Stanford Shopping Center to see Santa, so I told Adriana about all the children waiting to see Santa, playing ring-around-the-rosy together, and eating lunch at the Peninsula Creamery. Soon, though, the picture was a jumping off point for any number of adventures, with Adriana providing most of the details. "Once upon a time, there were two little girls, named--" I say, and she shouts "Ana and Sam!" and so it begins. "One day, Sam and Adriana decided to," I continue and pause, waiting. And Adriana picks whether the two girls go to the park or the beach, and continues to fill in details from there. They often climb trees and ride their bikes, and french fries and cupcakes make frequent appearances in the stories. In one of my favorites, the first one where Adriana totally took over the story and filled in all the details, she and Sam rode their bikes to the park where they climbed a tree. They climbed and climbed, and when they got hungry they ate apples in the tree. Finally they climbed so high they had reached the moon. My friend Mark was there, living in a sand castle, and he gave the girls french fries and ketchup, and then made a vanilla milkshake for them to take home to their moms. They flew home in a blue rocket. Sometimes I do try to take control of the story. Adriana began one recently in which she and several of her friends were digging a hole at the park and it was so deep they fell in when they tried to make it bigger. I took over, sending the children on an adventure through the tunnels until they reached a gigantic tropical cavern. I described birds and flowers and waterfalls, and a gigantic, ferocious looking beast that was playing a sweet melody on a flute, and just when I had another one of these beasts enter, Adriana decided she'd had enough. "The children turned when they heard a noise, and they saw another one of the beasts coming toward them," I said, and she interjected. "With plate of cupcakes!" Which wasn't exactly where I was going with the story, no, but who am I to argue?