"Problems," she said again, starting to get frustrated that I wasn't getting it. Then I realized she was actually pointing at the photo albums on the top shelf. Pictures of Michelle as a newborn baby. I'd shown her a couple of times. "Oh," I said, finally understanding, "you mean PHOTO ALBUMS." She grinned from ear to ear. "PROBLEMS!" she shouted, as if I was a fool for not understanding her to begin with. Of course, Mama has lots of problems! Photography has always been a problem/addiction for me. I have this obsession with capturing every moment. For a while life has been so hectic that I haven't been able to take as many photos as usual but I definitely took a few (hundred!) at Christmas. I'm not sure why Michelle pronounces photo albums like "problems" though I guess it's pretty good for her first attempt. She does try to repeat almost everything she hears these days. And she comes up with words that astound me. I was trying to keep a list of the words she knows but I can't keep up. It seems to be 10 new words a day sometimes.
They say milk "does a body good" but I guess you can get too much of a good thing. Michelle was a milkaholic. She was drinking WAY too much. When I took her for her checkup and the doctor heard how much Michelle was actually consuming, she raised an eyebrow. My Mom was concerned Michelle might be diabetic. I didn't think babies could be diabetic. I asked the doctor about it. She said it's rare but she wanted to have Michelle checked out because she was drinking so much milk. She was drinking several bottles a day, including through the night and wetting through even the 12 hour overnight diapers. I was going through a 2 L carton of 3.25% milk every couple of days or so!
The doctor sent Michelle for a blood glucose test just to be sure. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was never a fan of needles but Michelle had a full scale MELTDOWN when they tried to give her one. She'd had her shots before (and they were no picnic either) but at least with them it's quick and they can stick the needle in her leg. Nothing like drawing blood from her arm. The first lab we went to, we waited an hour just to go in and have the nurse say that she refused to give Michelle a needle when she wouldn't sit still. She was screaming and squirming and you could not hold her arm steady. The nurse suggested another lab that was "really good with kids." I phoned ahead to tell the lab what I'd been through already so I wouldn't wait another hour. We still waited about 20-30 minutes before getting in. Even they were unable to get little Michelle's arm still enough to administer the needle. Two nurses and I couldn't hold her down. She screamed bloody murder and wriggled to get away. "Wow!" one of them said "She's really strong!" You'd think we were wrestling a small bear. They finally had to draw blood from her finger which is apparently a much more painful and lengthy process but it wasn't safe to use her arm. She screamed the entire time. It was breaking my heart. I was shaking and my eyes were welling up with tears. When we finally came out to the waiting room everyone was staring. "That just took at least two years off my life," I said. My Mom had been waiting for us and she said when they heard the screaming one person had remarked "Who would give a baby a needle?!" I was so afraid there would be something wrong with Michelle. God forbid if she had diabetes she'd have to get needles all the time! Thank Heaven when I called the doctor's office a few days later they said her blood was normal. There was nothing wrong with her. She just really liked milk. I think part of it was a comfort thing. She had given up nursing (which was her own choice) and I guess the bottle had become her comfort through the night. I tried watering down the milk to not give her as much and then I decided to make the transition to a sippy cup. One day in the car she threw her bottle (as she had a tendency to do.) I had been telling her to stop throwing it or she wouldn't get it back. Now I seized the opportunity to get rid of the bottle for good. She couldn't drink from it if it just wasn't there. "Your bottle is gone," I told her, "you threw it away. No more bottle." That night I expected a sleepless night with her begging for the bottle. She was a bit resistant to the sippy cup at first but by the next day she had adjusted to it and she didn't drink nearly as much. Not even a quarter as much milk as she used to from the bottle. Now she asked for her cup instead when she wanted milk. She didn't soak through her diapers anymore and I got a sippy cup that doesn't leak so I didn't have pillows soaked with milk anymore either. Great! At least one problem solved.
The transition to the cup went much more smoothly than I would have expected but there is still one transition I haven't been able to make and to be honest may never make unless absolutely necessary -- Michelle and I are still co-sleeping. Almost everyone has been on my case about sleep training and putting her in her crib and blah blah blah. I just can't bring myself to do it. Michelle and I have been through a lot, especially in the last while. She has lived through enough change and turmoil. I don't want to do that to her. Besides, I'm all she has and she's all I have. She's big enough now that she can climb in and out of bed so there's no danger of her falling. (I also removed the bed frame so it's right on the floor. It just made more sense.) Any time I have broken down and tried to put her in the crib she has screamed and I take her back out after a couple of minutes. People can lecture me all they want about her being too dependent etc but I think it's cruel to let a child scream all night. "Oh she wouldn't scream all night!" some of them try to say but they don't know Michelle. My Mom says she's just like me and I screamed all night in the crib.
I may not be a perfect parent but honestly I don't think anyone is. So how can anyone tell me what I'm doing is wrong? Every parent just does the best they can with what works for them. And considering that Michelle is happy, healthy and extremely bright, I think I must be doing OK at least. The doctor and everyone who's met her has said Michelle is very smart, far advanced for her age. She's 16 months about to turn 17 months. She says more than 500 words including speaking in sentences. She recites nursery rhymes and sings songs. She says the whole alphabet, counts from 1-20 and backwards from 10-1. She climbs the entire flight of stairs in seconds and knows enough not to try to go back down (well I put the gate up and don't let her.) She runs, dances and even walks on "tippytoe" and can say "tippytoe." She chatters away with gestures and everything. One man who saw/heard her asked how old she was and remarked "That's amazing. My grandson is 2 years old and can only say a couple of words." She's very sensitive and understands emotions -- happy, sad, mad, proud. She points to characters in books and says "happy" or "mad" depending on their expression. She still loves when I read to her and now she wants me to read longer books. She loves Dr. Seuss books -- "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat" (ones that she didn't have the patience to sit through before.) Sometimes she has me read a story over and over. I think she's trying to memorize it. A lot of the nursery rhymes she says right along with me. She used to rip the pages of paper books but now she can turn the pages nicely on her own. I think she likes to feel like she's reading herself. She's very independent and loves to do things for herself. She has started going on the potty (only pee so far and she keeps saying potty then sitting there and doing nothing half the time) and when she peed for the first time I said "Good girl! You make Mama so proud." She looked quite happy with herself and said "Proud!" Now she keeps asking me if I'm proud when she does something. "Proud Mama?" I am proud. When people try to put in their two cents and tell me what I'm doing wrong I just nod and smile. "Yeah, whatever." I think every parent has to do what feels right for them. Maybe if I had a partner there would have been more incentive to move her to a crib but as it stands now, she is my life. I've given up everything for her. It's my choice. I have to do what I feel is right for her. The first years of your life are crucial. I want Michelle to feel completely safe and loved. I never want her to feel like her needs aren't being met and I'm just ignoring her. The sleep training advocates claim it helps kids become more independent. I think if it toughens them up it just makes them cold and frankly there are enough cold, cruel people in the world with their hearts shut off. I want Michelle to stay the sweet, affectionate girl that she is.
Michelle enjoyed Christmas celebrations with the whole family and with just her and I. She was saying "Christmas" "Christmas presents" "Christmas tree" and even said "Jesus" and "Baby Jesus." She let me read her "The Christmas Story," a miniature golden book of Jesus' birth in the manger. She kept asking me to read it over and over. After the Santa debacle my Mom said maybe it's just as well. The true meaning of Christmas isn't Santa Claus anyway, it's the birth of Jesus. It's about peace and love and light. About hope and giving.
When I was showing Michelle her baby albums she was pointing at everyone and saying their names. She didn't point to herself though so I asked, "And who is that?" "Baby," she said at first as though it were someone else, just a baby. "What's her name?" "Michelle."
It's hard to believe she was that small not too long ago. Now she's becoming more a little girl and less a baby every day. I have a lot of catching up to do with her photo albums. I haven't had photos printed since she was very small. I want to have albums spanning her life, the way my Mom did for us. Of course now with digital photos you can look at them on the computer without printing them but there's something special about having them in a book that you can cherish and flip through.
This just in: I've been trying for almost a MONTH to catch Michelle on video saying the alphabet and counting and she has eluded me (she does things when she feels like, not on command, go figure)...until now! I finally got her saying her ABCs, almost entirely and counting backwards from 10-1. Happy New Year! :) Here are the videos on Youtube: