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Dear Zella: Month Fourteen

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Dear Zella,

This was the month of walking. Over the course of just a few days, you finally synthesized everything you’d been working on: the move where you stand back up after sitting down, the way to swing your arm to keep your balance, the angle to project your feet in order to avoid careening into the wall…and you became a walker.

You are so small compared to Ezra (both now and in my memory of him at your age), that I still sometimes find myself surprised when you do big kid things like walking. It’s like a tiny infant just got up and marched down my hall, holding a toy or pushing a stroller. Adorable. Shocking.

You are now firmly established as a sleeper through the night. Unfortunately for me, sometimes those nights end at 5:30. Even worse, sometimes Ezra also wants to get up and play. The two of you sometimes play together nicely at that hour, despite my bleary eyes and total confusion.

You actually play together more and more this month. Ezra has learned that he can trade you when you take something he wants, and this has led to many moments of him giving you his second monkey lieutenant Haha when he needs Popo back, or finding you a baby doll. “Here, Zella,” he tells you, as he pushes something into your hands. Sometimes you protest, certain that the thing you’ve got is the thing you need, but if anyone can get you to let go, it’s Ezra. He’s got a way with you when he turns on the charm. I’ve started asking him to help you stop crying, and love finding you giggling as he tickles and smushes you to distraction.

You were a doll on the first night of Passover, following your older cousins around the house like a tiny polka-dotted duckling. By the second night, however, you were tired of all the noise and chaos and matzo. You are a bit more sensitive than Ezra was to disruptions in your routine, a bit more fearful of new faces, a bit more frightened of dogs. I have to attune myself to your needs in a different way, and I don’t always do the best job of it. I promise to keep working on it.

You’re working hard yourself on finding some words and signs to express yourself so we know what you need. You have picked up the sign for “more,” but you use it to mean one thing only: “more frozen blueberries.” You toddle over to the freezer, pull on it, and then turn your giant saucer eyes up to me and blink hopefully as you sign “more” over and over again waiting for your favorite purple treat. You also wave hi and bye (and blow kisses) and use nods and head shakes with vigor, though the associated words are still pretty indistinct.

But your receptive vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. You heard us talking about your hair and began pulling on it. You act out words from Ezra’s school songs. You can go pick up a specific item I ask for. Even more fun, you understand new roles we create for you, like when, at my wit’s end trying to help Ezra play train tracks without a constant battle with a destructive Godzella, I asked you to stand at the train bin and hand Ezra tracks. You did. You loved it.

Every morning, we have a new routine. I take you to the bathroom and turn on the water to clean the sheen of yogurt and blueberries off of your face and hands and hair. You stand on the step stool and crane your whole body as far over the sink as you possibly can. At the beginning of the month, you couldn’t reach the water at all. Now you can get one whole hand in there at a time, partly from growing taller, partly from sheer force of will. You demand things: soap, a toothbrush, a cup to dump water. Sometimes Ezra comes in and the two of you manage to find spots side by side on the narrow stool, leaning into one another as you play with the warm water and we get ready to start our day.

Every day a new adventure, little blueberry.


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