Cleo wakes up at 5:30, sometimes even six. This is much better than 4:30, and it's all thanks to one of those ridiculous gadgets that Parents These Days rely on, and without which generations of children grew and thrived. It is this silly thing, and it has saved us. Saved Cleo from being a tired, out-of-sortsy kid, and saved her parents from being grouchy about experiencing hours of pre-dawn darkness (mostly experienced by her dad, it must be said, but if Dada ain't happy, ain't nobody happy).
So now, the first thing we hear most days is, "The green light is green! Mama! Dada! The green light is green! It's morning!" And so we begin. The morning routine is what it's been for a while: oatmeal, milk, waking Mama at seven o'clock, and sending Dada off to work in the attic at 7:30.
Once the urgent items (clothing, food, etc) have been taken care of, the first question is, "What day to is?" Which means, in toddler-ese, "What day is it and how shall we amuse ourselves?" Monday is Mama and Cleo Day, Tuesday and Thursday are school days, Wednesday is Dada and Cleo go to the library, and Friday is usually Have Someone Over Day.
Her friends and their parents are an endless source of fascination. She declares several times a day. "I'm named [some friend], you're named [that friend's mother]." Or she'll pick up a rock and declare that it is named Layla (always, always Layla). And she and her dad make up collaborative stories, usually featuring people we know in some kind of conflict or peril. The themes of these stories ebb and flow, persist and change, until they're nearly incomprehensible to people who haven't seen the whole evolution.
"Once upon a time, there was a..."
"A little girl named Hazel, and she was crying!"
"Why was she crying?"
"Because monkeys stole her mama!"
"And what did Hazel do?"
"Pauline was there!"
"Did Pauline help her find her mama?"
"Yes! And they had pacifiers!"
And so on. Some other recurring themes this month are bears who live in caves, the macaroni monster, brushing one's teeth, eating one's clothes, the monkey-catching kit, robot mechanics who fix garbage trucks, frogs who are experts in animal sounds, going to the doctor's office, and a honeybee who can't buzz.
She has an insatiable appetite for this, and as soon as one story is all wrapped up, she says, "Tell me anonner 'tory!" This can get tedious sometimes, but the power of a story to immediately captivate and distract her is a useful tool.
Another thing she loves is going for walks. At any hour of the day-- dark, light, or raining, she'll ask to go for "a yiddle walk" Sometimes she walks happily, but other times we'll get ten feet down the sidewalk, and she'll stop, turn, throw her arms in the air, and say dramatically, "Carry me!" I think her perfect day would be to be carried around the neighborhood, being told story after story after story, with stops at the bakery, the toy store, and the library just to break things up a bit. One new attraction of the library is the bathroom, which is a thrilling destination for a recently potty-trained girl. Part of the appeal there is the automatic flush, which is the height of excitement. Every time we use an unfamiliar public bathroom, it gets the question, "Does it fush automatit-yee?" and there's a moment of disappointment if the answer is no.
Meals are always good for some entertainment, too. Luckily, she still likes sitting in her high chair and watching me cook. There are a few things she can do to help, like stir, grind pepper, dump measuring cups into mixing bowls, and poke the egg yolks with a fork before the serious scrambling begins (sometimes I think she requests eggs for breakfast just because she looks forward to the yolk-poking). She's a good eater, and has recently been parroting our food policy back to us
"I don't want it!"
"Well, you don't have to eat anything you don't want to eat, but..."
"...but dat's what's for dinner"
And three minutes later, if I carefully don't pay too much attention to what she's doing, she'll usually be munching happily. The only consistent refusals tend to be texture-related: big pieces of cooked onion, cooked mushrooms, fresh chopped herbs, and any kind of greens, cooked or raw. She has enjoyed lemon slices, raw onions, spicy Indian lime pickle, stinky goat cheese, and kim chee. I know this is the age that many kids start resisting foods, so I'm trying to stay grateful and happy for each good meal, and hope I won't despair if she takes a turn for the pickier. The result of all this cheerful eating (or maybe the cause) is that she's grown like a weed. I was so used to having a baby who was slight and small, hovering around the tenth percentile for height and weight. But now, she's beautifully average! I was so surprised the first time I realized that she was bigger than some of her peers. And she's so sturdy, with strong, fast arms and legs (that get a lot of exercise doing laps around the kitchen island).
In the last few months, I've noticed that the baby that used to live with us is now really, really gone. Cleo is a kid with a developed personality, preferences, habits, and interests. Sometimes I miss my cuddly little baby, but I'm loving this kid who I can hold hands and have a chat with as we walk down the street. In some ways it's harder now, in more ways it's easier, but mostly it's impossible to completely realize that this is a short, fleeting stage too, and before long we'll be on to a whole new kid yet again.