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Journal Key:

Green = Steve | George = navy | Janet = Purple | Evelyn = Black

11/23/06 (Thursday)

Cara wanted to start our holiday early yesterday--at quarter to 5! Evie got up with her and told me to sleep. I remember giving up and joining them around 6. Cara and Mommy were reading books and having a fine time, though Mommy was hardly awake.

In the morning we watched some of the Macy's Parade, and Cara may have reacted a bit to the more prominent balloons. Also Evie conscientiously cleaned out Cara's closet and drawers so that we have much less clutter and much less chances of a hyped-up Cara going through her stuff late at night when she should be going to bed. As a result of this cleaning Cara ended up in a very interesting outfit consisting of snowboots, her crazy winter hat from last Christmas, and a swimsuit which she hung around her neck. She was also wearing a lovely choker (whose original function was as an infant headband). I have pictures.

While Steve was in the shower, Cara went into her closet and took about thirty diapers out of their box and spread them on the floor. She was happily heading out for new adventures when I asked her to help clean up. She went back into the closet and I sat in the doorway. I picked up a diaper and put it back in the box. I handed her one. She put it away. Would she do another one? No. I slowly and gradually handed them to her and slowly but surely she cleaned up all the diapers. It's a good thing Cara's going to Susan, because otherwise I think I'd still be cleaning up after her all the time!

Before the parade was even over, Cara was clearly exhausted. We put her down and heard hardly a peep. She woke up two hours later, very unhappy. She just wanted to be cuddled and cry. We tried everything else, and then we applied Curious George. He was very helpful, because he kept her happy while we changed her clothes. We put Cara into a very cute red dress that we would never have remembered if I hadn't cleaned out the closet; it fit perfectly!

For Thanksgiving dinner, we went to my aunt Theresa's house. Cara was happy to see her grandma and her great-grandma. There were dishes of chips out at just the right height for her and for the dog; Cara spent most of her time trying to feed people. She got her grandma, her aunt Claire, and me to pull her around and around the house in the little red wagon Grandma brought. Her other favorite game, it turned out, was to chase the dog's ball when we tossed it down the hall. (Max also really enjoys chasing his ball when someone tosses it down the hall, but he was in the basement.) She must have run after that thing fifty times! I am considering going to the pet store and buying her a ball just like it.

This was Cara's first Thanksgiving as a person who would actually eat, and she did her best at the table. She liked the turkey and she enjoyed the green beans, and I think she ate some stuffing. She horrified her grandparents, who had made the mistake of watching her adoringly as she ate. Green beans came back out of her mouth, and I think my folks got just what they had coming to them: anyone who makes the mistake of watching a toddler eat deserves what they get. When Cara was done I was very relieved that my mom took her away to play ball and I could finally eat. She had decided that what she wanted to eat was my turkey from my plate and my fork.

We watched the California Raisin Christmas Special from 1987, and Cara spent much of it cuddled up on my lap; it was late! She would get up and run around for a few minutes and then come back and snuggle up with me. Around this time, Grandpapa realized that he had not gotten to hold Cara all day! He called, he begged, he held out his arms, but, no, she wasn't budging. She wouldn't even go to him when I carried her near. She wanted her mommy.

Max was finally released, and he was Cara's best friend: she was at just the right height and she had a potato chip in her hand. He followed her loyally, after he finished cleaning up the crumbs she had left on the rug. Poor Max! After a little while, Cara started treating him the way she's been treating the cats at home. "No!" she told him, sometimes swiping out her little hand at his nose. That's basically what she'd heard everyone else saying to him, but it still wasn't nice. Certainly none of us were hitting him. I don't like her new cruelty-to-animals campaign. We're taking her to south Jersey today, and I wonder how she'll deal with Rusty!

Though I was fighting sleep for all I was worth while Steve drove home through the rain and the traffic, Cara stayed awake in the back seat! We got home around nine thirty, and Cara climbed up into her chair. I made her some chicken fingers, which she gobbled up. We skipped the bath and went right to pajamas and bed. By ten, we had put her down. I think she was still awake when I got into bed twenty minutes later. Crazy.

11/24/06 (Friday)

Two things happened this morning that I consider to be small language breakthroughs. Cara was having fun with her laundry baskets upstairs, and I thought I'd try an experiment. I got into a laundry basket and called her into the hallway. Cara ran out. "Push . . . Mommy," she said. I consider that to be an original sentence. It's certainly not a concept she'd been introduced to. Later we went downstairs for a snack. Cara had some apple treats. The bag sat on the table. Cara looked at it meaningfully. I asked whether she wanted more. She put her hands together, signing "more." She has never done this before, and we hadn't done it in months. It wasn't a fluke, either; she kept doing it through at least four more helpings before she was done!

Cara took a while to do it, but eventually she fell asleep in the car on the way to see her grandmom and grandpop. We had to wake her up to take her out of the car, and I didn't know how she would react. The first thing she did was to reach out for her grandmom!

We ate and ran around the house for a little while, and then we headed for the park. We took Cara there before, months ago; she was barely walking! This time, she climbed all over everything without hesitation. She went down three different slides and swung in two or three different swings. She climbed stairs and ladders and platforms. We had brought her carriage, so we were able to all go for a walk along a trail near the lake. Cara was pushing her sippy cup and toy dog in a very emphatic way, charging along. She was upset when we had to go down some stairs and she couldn't push her stroller. Janet and I each took a hand, but Cara really wanted to be the one to get the stroller down the stairs. She mainly stayed on the path and mostly went in the right direction. All day, whenever she was not where I wanted her to be, I could just ask her "Where's grandma?" or "Where's grandpa?" She would go right over to where they were, pointing and telling me "eh-e-es," her version of "there he/she/it is."

We had a long walk. Cara got to be carried by her grandparents, she got to chase squirrels, she got to point out airplanes, and she got to clown around with her daddy. We found some exercise equipment and Steve and Cara performed some interesting maneuvers. Fortunately, some were documented for posterity. Unfortunately, the rear view was funnier than the front view.

Finally, we were all tired. Back at the house, I think Cara had all four of us read to her at different times. She was somewhat nicer to Rusty than she's been to other animals lately. She ended up really playing ball with him, at one point. She really can't throw, so she holds out the ball and he takes it gently from her hand, without scaring her (or me). I think they both had a good time.

It took Cara a while to get to sleep on the way home, and she was mad when she woke up. She spent a tough two hours, mainly watching Curious George, snacking, or screaming (the latter includes her time in the bath). She finally perked up around nine thirty, and then we popped her into bed.

11/25/06 (Saturday)

After a nice breakfast of bread pudding, we bundled that little girl into the car and went out to do errands. Our first stop was the Home Depot. Cara didn't really like it, but we kept her in the cart for most of the time. Finally we took her out, but she didn't run around getting into trouble; she had to push that cart! She did this by bending in half and holding onto the metal rungs that form a low shelf at the bottom. With Steve and me holding the cart back and Cara pushing with all her might, this went quite well and we walked from the back to the front of the store, steering all the way to the cash register. To our surprise, Cara did not show any rear cleavage! For a few minutes Cara fell to her knees and considered crawling with the cart, but she thought better of this.

Our next destination was the mall. At the Apple store, Cara and I played with the computers set out for children. It turns out that I am quite adept at selecting items that belong together, like forks and spoons. We got to show Daddy the fun rides to climb on, and Cara got to point out to us several posters advertising the Charlotte's Web movie. Cara rose on a few escalators and did a lot of running. We hit the Barnes and Noble and Cara played with the train set again. When another girl came along, Cara shared nicely. Back in the mall, Cara finally did something I've been silently hoping to delay; she discovered the Build-a-Bear Workshop. She hugged and carried around several stuffed animals, but she was very good about putting them back and leaving.

Cara was tired, so we headed home and had lunch. I gave Cara some chicken and went to the sink to wash dishes. When I turned around to speak to Steve, there was Cara, looking up at me, signing "more"! She did it again tonight, and Steve finally got to see it!

We put Cara down for her nap, but she never actually went to sleep. She sat quietly, she sang, she talked, and then she cried. She was up there for about an hour when we gave up and took her out. There was no good reason, and she's always napped before, so we're quite surprised. Cara played with her daddy while I worked in the basement. "Mommy down," Cara helpfully pointed out. Actually, she says "noun" for "down." Then we got in the car to go and see Grandmama and Grandpapa, with whom Cara stayed while Mommy, Daddy, and Aunt Claire went out.

A few highlights of Cara's evening at our house:

It is astonishing just how much fun it can be to run around on an empty basketball court, giggling. We also got to the playground, where Cara enjoyed looking at us through bars or spaces when she was up high and saying, "Hi!" In the swing she tilted her head back to look up at the tree tops; gazing up like that she said "honey." It took me a moment to make the connection: Winnie the Pooh goes up to get honey out of a tree. "Who eats honey?" I asked, and she said "po."

Back at the house, she examined a very large plush dog we have acquired. She touched its nose and said "nose," then looked at his face and said "no eyes." She was right; his eyes were completely hidden under the plush. She played happily, read books and ate some supper, but eventually fatigue began to show. She looked through our DVDs and, once again, pulled out the Baby Einstein animals DVD; George put it on and she settled in my lap. Tired as she was, she still had to respond to the music by bouncing and nodding her head in time. Other times she let her head rest on my shoulder, but laughed aloud at the funny parts.

As soon as her mommy and daddy showed up, that sleepy little girl ran to them joyfully. Then, in a classic toddler manipulation maneuver, she busied herself with toys - see, she seemed to be saying, I'm much too busy to have to leave. Her parents were patient but firm, and the little girl made a graceful exit, calling "bye!" as she was carried out the door.

11/26/06 (Sunday)

This morning Mommy went to work out, so Cara and Daddy had a nice morning together. We were looking at a book when Mommy came back with groceries to bring in. There was a traffic jam at the door as Mommy tried to put the shopping bags on the floor, the kitties tried to sniff them and thought about jumping out the door, and Cara insisted on running outside with no shoes on (but with socks). It was a very dewy morning.

But we got over that and in a little while Cara's grandparents arrived for work on the basement. Grandma got to read books to Cara, and I watched her a little, then went to get lunch. Cara got to have spaghetti with one meatball (no red sauce--not because she doesn't like it, but to save her parents some clean-up headaches). She ate the entire meatball, with ketchup, and some of the spaghetti (which she also tried to dip in her ketchup). Then she got dropped into her crib.

When she awoke in the afternoon, Cara was treated to just about her favorite thing: four people standing around her and watching her play. She was all smiles and chatter.

All too soon it was time for grandparents to leave: Cara helpfully said "bye!" to them about two dozen times on their way out the door.

In the evening we decided to jump into the car and out to our local video store to rent Curious George, the motion picture. The animated movie came out a while ago, but we'd only seen the TV series. The movie might possibly be a big treat for Cara, and a possible Christmas/Hannukah gift, so we gave it a try. Also while there we went a few stores over into a very nice chocolate/gelato store and Cara got a nice cookie given to her by the woman behind the counter. Little did Cara or I know (though I should have, probably) that this was the same store where Cara's famous first birthday chocolate lollipop had come from!

We got home and had some dinner. Cara had some hot dog--there were pieces on her tray, but she continued to sign for "more." This was probably because there were still other pieces of hot dog in her field of vision that were not on her tray, and Cara wanted to hoard them all.

Curious George was a good movie--Cara and I particularly enjoyed the opening, with George running around happily in the jungle and playing with his animal friends--but the TV show is better. Still, it was an enjoyable evening, and when it was over it was definitely time to get Cara into her bath. She did not want to be in her bath at first, but a large number of bath toys were applied and she was soon happily playing with her family of rubber ducks. There were two small duckies and one big duck. During an earlier bath I had referred to the large one as the Mommy duck, but Cara made it clear to me that it was in fact the Daddy, so that's how I've been referring to him ever since. The Daddy duck and his two ducklings had some amazing adventures this evening. They were out of the tub and in the tub, they kissed each other, they swam, they were thrown, and were counted repeatedly (without any prompting by me). The "there he is" phrase was used a lot, as were many of her other words. Often now Cara will just go on chattering about something or other, with every appearance of narrative cohesiveness, but with no understandable words. Other times she will simply start stringing together some of her known words: "Kitty house mommy honey." Cara can say "George" for Curious George, though it's very hard to recognize unless you play close attention to context. For instance she once looked at her basket of books in the game room, said her own equivalent for "George!" and started pulling out the Curious George books.

PJ came over at some point this afternoon, bringing Ron with him. He knocked on the door politely and was let in. Cara and he wandered about for a while, had a small altercation with Cara yelling "no no no!" at PJ, and then Evie managed to terrify PJ by trying our dog hand puppet on him. Cara tried to show him that the puppet was harmless and in fact quite lovable by walking over and hugging and kissing the puppet. PJ was not convinced. He happily waved goodbye to us and left.

Cara did not look excited about being read to tonight, but managed to wave goodbye to me as she was wailing in protest. She tried to slip away from Mommy by pointedly saying "Bye!" and going to the door of her room, but Mommy convinced her to come back. Now Cara is complaining in her crib, but tiredness is sure to take over in a little while...

11/27/06 (Monday)

When I pulled up in front of the house this afternoon, I met PJ, Em, and Casey out for a walk. They came in to say hello to Cara, who was actually a little bit distressed. I think she really values those first few minutes when I get home and she gets some hello-Mommy time. It isn't anything all that special, but there's usually a little bit of hugging and often a book or a snack. Cara usually gets a little bit of undivided attention, and today it was divided. She was a little bit needy and cuddly for the rest of the day. I understand that Grandpapa reported some crankiness, though, so maybe she was like that all day.

We went to the gym, and then we went to the grocery store. I carried Cara and got a basket. I put them both down, and Cara ran off dragging the basket behind her. She got pretty far. Eventually I got her to compromise. We carried it together. We carried it together up and down two aisles.

Daddy got home late, so he stayed home to eat and then clean the kitchen while Cara and I attended Casey's four-month cupcake party. Cara aggressively tells PJ "No!" whenever he tries to take something from her. I liked it better when she shared more! The kids had fun running around and roughhousing for an hour or so. I sat on the floor and felt like I was some sort of home base. Either of them would just come up to me and climb into my lap for a few moments and then move on. A funny moment: Cara and PJ were in the kitchen. Cara fell down and made dramatic crying noises. I told her she was okay and called her to me, holding out my arms. PJ ran into them. Cara got up and went on with whatever she was doing. The kids are both very good at saying "Bye." I'm sure we've exchanged good-byes fifteen times today!

I can think of lots of possible explanations, but for whatever reason Cara was up at three in the morning. We pretty much put her right back down, but now I think we're all tired.

11/28/06 (Tuesday)

For two nights in a row, now, Cara has been up. Last night, she woke us around two thirty. She was also up until well after ten, crying in her bed. Oy! There's nothing wrong, she just doesn't want to go to sleep! She may be overtired, and she may just be ornery. Steve and I got really bad over the break and Cara began staying up later and later, but we've reformed. We are getting back to routine and sticking to it. We started her bath around seven thirty, and we've speeded things up. We'll see how it goes.

Cara had a good day with Susan. She was cheerful and bubbly, her normal self. When I got there today, somewhat early, Cara was still asleep downstairs. Susan brought her up and changed her diaper and we were off. Cara and I went to Target to pick up two electric pencil sharpeners for school. We had to walk the entire circumference of the store, because I didn't know where to find them. Cara got to play with luggage and point at interesting advertisements. She got to help carry the basket. She did not get a basket of her own. Cara really enjoyed kicking a football around; it was nice and wobbly. She later found a nice little soccer ball and kicked that right through the nearby clothing displays.

At long last we found and purchased our goal. We left--or did we? The Target has several large round things outside which Cara identified as balls. She wriggled until she got to go and pat one and try to push it. "Big ball!" She ran to another one and then another one. Out of ideas, she looked around for something to do. She ran among some dried leaves. She found the bike rack and pulled on it with great drama and effort, encouraging herself by grunting "pu-u-u-lll!" She wandered back into the store. She climbed on some kiddie seats hooked up behind shopping carts. Eventually I just hoisted her up and hauled her off, against her will.

Cara really likes her books that have built-in puzzles. She has one with farm animals, and she's pretty good at it. With minimal direction, she can place the babies with the mommies. She also has one with a boat, a car, a train, and a plane. Those pieces are harder to orient, but she made me look at it with her three times tonight.

In the bath, Cara has been having a good time with her rubber duck family, the daddy and his several children. Some of them said hi to each other tonight, and they have all been counted several times. Steve has discovered a new word Cara says: "done." It sounds like "none." I'm going to have to keep my ears open!

11/29/06 (Wednesday)

Oh, what a busy day!

Grandpapa and I arranged a rendezvous in the Linwood parking lot in which Cara changed hands. My girl and I went over to the twins' house, where we hadn't been in weeks! It was a good playdate. Everyone shared with everyone else, though everyone also had at least one episode of being upset that someone else wanted something. Lina had a toy elephant, which she shared with Cara. It turned out that she hadn't really thought Cara would take it. Cara was very happy with the elephant. Lina got another elephant and gave that to Cara, who then was distracted enough to release the original, identical elephant.

At home, Cara wanted a snack. I offered her some oranges, and she wanted more and more and more. I had to go down to the basement to bring up another can. Finally I stopped her because I didn't think she would eat any dinner if she kept it up!

We headed right out for PJ's house. Cara can say "PJ's house." The PJ sounds sort of like "paa-jee." She's definitely doing it, though. We got a hand-me-down from the twins: hobby horses! They are purported to have outgrown them, but I do not understand how that is possible, since the horses are taller than the twins themselves. I brought them both with us to Paa-Jee's house. Fortunately, Uncle Ron was able to show us how to operate them correctly. (I am ashamed to admit that I was not able to demonstrate for Cara with sufficient skill to give her any idea what was going on. Please, don't ask for details.) PJ is sort of trying to ride his hobby horse, but Cara doesn't have it together yet. I did give a better demonstration, which she enjoyed, when we got home.

The kids were cute. Cara and PJ danced to the Wiggles, while I sat with Casey. Cara wasn't mean to PJ, though she was mean to BJ a little bit. PJ pushed Cara a couple of times, but he was swiftly disciplined and made to apologize and asked to kiss her. It hasn't worked. At dinner Cara demonstrated how she signs "more." PJ got down from his seat first and helped take care of the girls while we adults ate. He gave Casey her binkie (yeah, it's really called a popper) a couple of times. Cara, turning around to watch, dropped her fork. "Uh-oh!" PJ came and picked it up for her. There were cookies for dessert. The kids spent a lot of time dropping pieces of theirs, but Cara managed to get quite a bit because she picked up her own pieces and PJ's and ate them all. PJ had no idea.

For the second night in a row, Cara has been put down before nine. Last night she chatted to herself until nine thirty, which is fine with me. She still has fun in the getting-ready-for-bed phase. She said "Mommy shirt" while she played with my pajama top on the bed. Steve pointed out the sheep on it, and she gave it a kiss. She may have gotten to climb the stepladder. She said "mommy, daddy, house, kitty, birdie, PJ," and "book" when I asked her to. She and the duck family had a good time in the bath.

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