Six to Nine Months
This day marks Lilly's first half-year of life. Her development, to no one's surprise, had continued apace in the last month. Now, in addition to standing up with the assistance of Momma and Poppa, Lilly can pretty well maintain a sitting position. She can make small balance corrections fairly effortlessly and stay sitting up for minutes at a time. A long reach or sudden movement, of course, sends her slowly toppling over and results in a giggle or laugh. Falling over isn't the only thing at which she giggles and laughs. She melts into paroxysms of laughter at the first signs of a tickle or a blow belly. Other vocalisms include growls and squeals. The growling can be quite frightening, even accompanied by her ever-present smile. Think a feral animal or possibly Linda Blair in the Exorcist. She does seem rather indiscriminant with the target of her growls though: toys, parents, animals... The dogs and cats are especially fascinating to her. When one of them is in the room, she's glued to them, following their every move. We have to be careful to prevent her from yanking ears or clumps of fur, but the dogs are very tolerant and sweet. Hank, of course, always wants to give her kisses and since his tongue covers her entire face, we try to intercede in most of these. Lilly's culinary repertoire now includes squash and peas as well as cereal. She doesn't seem to have a favorite though; she'll snarf down anything we give her. I wonder how long that will last. She does have favorite toys though. The early leader, Little Pal Al (stuff alligator) has been replaced by Clifford (stuffed red dog) and her solar system toy (concentric circles and balls all connected together). The main attraction for these (and all toys) is sticking them in her mouth. She's also learned how to retrieve remote toys without crawling. We've been letting her play on a blanket or sheet on the floor. Our little genius very quickly figured out how to drag toys to her by pulling on the sheet or blanket. And it's not just an accident; she does this over and over again. (She hasn't yet figured out how to open doors.)
I was out on this night performing at the Union. When I checked in, Lisa reported that Lilly had been crying since I left. I raced home as soon as our set was done and found Lilly burning up. We ascertained that the fever wasn't dangerous and after some baby Tylenol, she was able to drift off to sleep for a few hours. She was much recovered in the morning but still had a fever and did not get back to her normal, cheerful self for a few days.
Lilly had her six-month doctor's appointment today. The stats? A whopping 16 pounds, 13 oz. and an amazon-like 27 1/4 inches (maintaining her in the 90th percentile). Doctor Whalen pronounced Lilly to be very advanced developmentally. She was especially impressed with Lilly's manual dexterity. She also confirmed that Lilly has her first tooth -- a little nubbin on her bottom gum. (Our suspicions of last month were apparently correct; it just took a while.) Lilly got more shots today and we were warned that she would probably have a 2-to-4-day fever. We braced ourselves for a couple of sleepless nights, but our little girl seemed in fine spirits in the evening and went right down at her usual bedtime. Small blessings, I guess.
At 4:00 p.m. we went to our friends Jon and Marcia's house for dinner. Lilly was charming as usual though she refused to go to sleep in a strange, exciting place. I walked with her from 5:30 to 6:00 with little success. Finally, we bundled a red-eyed and tired little widget into her car seat at 7:00 and hit the road. She slept all the way home and barely stirred as I dressed her in her sleeper and put her into her crib.
I think we can finally say with some certainty that Lilly is now crawling. Not very efficiently, mind you, but definitely using her arms and legs to move. She can't really coordinate all her limbs at the same time but she does know that they do need to be moving. Often she gets so excited that she arches her back, rolls on her tummy, and flails her arms and legs wildly. When she concentrates a little more, she attempts some combination of lifting her butt, pushing with her knees and feet, and pulling with her forearms and hands. Sometimes she's able to move forward and other times she flops like beached flounder. Also on the list of "just-barely" accomplishments: Lilly seems to be starting to grasp the concept of waving bye-bye and sometimes flaps her hand in response to our waves and high-pitched squeals. Another new development has been the expansion of the Lilly Love Attack to include arms, shoulders, and legs in addition to the classic face-only Love Attack. Lilly's growling seems to have subsided in favor of a fascination with her tongue. We endure almost constant raspberry action these days.
Lilly's first Thanksgiving. For this special occasion, Momma dressed her in a fashionable plaid skirt, cream turtle neck, and tights. She slept for the entire two-hour trip to Aunt Ruth's house in Galena, IL. Lilly was, of course, a hit, even though she had to share the spotlight with her second cousin, four-month-old Paige Norkus. Cousins Jessica and Sarah took a special shine to baby Lilly and played with her for hours on the floor in front of the fire place. It wasn't all bliss though. During her first encounter with her one-year-old cousin Adam, Lilly jammed two fingers into his nostrils and yanked. (Adam, of course, gave a blood-curdling scream.) Later in the evening, the entire Hall clan moved back to our rooms at the nearby Eagle Ridge Resort. While great Auntie Ruth sat, we hung out in front of the fire.
Around lunch time, we strolled on the resort's extensive trail system and had a picnic lunch. Lilly really enjoys being outside; her eyes are all over the place trying to take it all in and make sense of it. In the afternoon, we joined the mob waiting for Santa on the golf course. At three o'clock he swooped out of the sky in a helicopter (there was no snow yet, don't you know?) and circle above the crowd, waving. I hefted Lilly up to catch a glimpse of St. Nick, but she was more interested in the roiling crowds. After cider and cookies and "The Night Before Christmas," we headed back to our rooms where we surmised that Lilly's bright-red cheeks were a result of wind burn. In addition, she seemed to have come down with a little cold: sneezes, snuffles, and a slight fever. Despite her ailment though, she soldiered on for dinner at Happy Joe's Family Restaurant in Galena with the rest of the family.
My niece, Sarah, has grown quite attached to Lilly. She hugs and kisses "Baby Lilly" and loves laying on the floor and staring at her. She even seems to have become accustomed to getting her hair pulled. My great Auntie Ruth has also taken quite a shine to her grand niece and on more than a few occasions extolled Lilly's intellect, temperament, and beauty. We had to agree. After lunch we went for a hay ride. Lilly's eyes grew as big as saucers when she saw animals bigger than her puppies and certainly bigger than her kitties. She enjoyed the expertly timed fifteen-minute ride, looking around and charming other passengers, even prompting one couple to remark, "Let's have a baby." We took off by two and were home before five, just in time for Lilly's carrot dinner and bed time.
Lilly now has her second tooth, right next to the first one. Her progress continues to amaze us. She can sit on her own and play with (read: chew on) her toys for upwards of ten minutes. Her crawling skills continue to improve, prompting us to think about baby proofing.
We bundled Lilly up for, what?, her fourth airplane trip. This time we were off to Lisa's company Christmas party in Pittsburgh. Lilly was an absolute angel for the entire trip, calmly sucking on a bottle as we took off and landed and sleeping in the cab ride to the hotel. By the time her bedtime rolled around though, it was a different story. The new surroundings and our movements in the room kept her up, stirring, and crying until after 11:00.
Momma left early for a staff meeting so it was just Poppa and Lilly on our own. After breakfast and just about every game and activity I could think of, I was sure that it was almost lunch time. In fact, it was only 9:10. This only reaffirmed my belief in women's superior baby-stamina. Finally, after lunch we bundled up and headed for Eide's Entertainment for a little record shopping. During most of my browsing, which revealed a Shellac bootleg and some missing Melvins records, Lilly's behavior was exemplary, toys constantly on the floor not withstanding. As I approached the checkout, she began to wail. After a quick exchange with the owner about her hair's likeness to that of Saturday Night Live's Ed Grimly, I beat a hasty retreat. Lilly was, of course, hungry. After a feed, she napped off and on during the afternoon including a record-breaking hour-long nap on my tummy. Rent-A-Mom Claire came to the room at 8:00. Lilly should have been asleep for two hours by then. She wasn't. Claire, a grandmotherish figure clad in sweats and a woodland-scene-emblazoned sweatshirt, didn't bat an eye at Lilly's fussing and shooed us out the door.
Lilly's eyes widened in awe as she looked around the Westin Hotel's ballroom. The Deloitte Consulting children's party was overwhelming for adult senses, so Lilly must have been floored. Decorations dripped from the balcony, balloons thrust up toward the ceiling, lights flashed, carols blared, children ran by laughing. At the end of the hall sat Saint Nick. We instructed the photographer to be ready to snap as soon as Lilly was placed in the fat man's lap. We were worried that stranger danger would get the best of her and dissolve her to tears. We thrust her at Santa and hoped for the best. She looked a little dazed and didn't smile but she didn't bawl either. When the Reader's-Digest-condensed version of the Nutcracker began, Lilly stared from her perch in the balcony fascinated. We were amazed at the fact that the dancers kept her attention for a good ten minutes. Claire called again to take charge of the Widget while we attended Lisa's party in the hotel. Like last night, Claire reported no problems and congratulated us on our precious progeny.
Lilly held up better than her parents during our endurance test at the Pittsburgh airport. Stranded for hours in Milwaukee though, she started to fuss. By the time our flight got delayed yet again, she was about to have a melt-down. We said, screw it and rented a car. We arrived home before our flight was scheduled to leave.
Lilly's crawling continues to make progress. She's adopted an army-man crawl (an under-the-wire-at-basic-training sort of thing) instead of her previous floundering. The time is soon coming for baby-proofing.
Over the past week we've imagined that we've heard our girl say "momma" and "poppa." These can't really be counted as her first words because the appear to have just come out by accident. This morning Lilly started what the experts call babbling. The repeating of consonant-vowel combinations is generally considered to be a prerequisite to real speech. Looking very proud of herself, she excitedly proclaimed "ah-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba." Maybe real utterances of "momma" and "poppa" aren't far away?
On Saturday we began to notice red spots on Lilly's face. As the weekend wore on, the spots became evident on her arms, chest, back and legs also. We began to worry about chicken pox and combed through our baby manuals and searched the web for information to help us decide definitively one way or the other. By Sunday night Lilly had a slight fever and was decidedly cranky; our concern escalated. On Monday, Lisa called the clinic and they agreed to see us Tuesday after hours. (Because Pediatrics is located right next to the OB clinic, they told us "not to check in; just go right back.") Doctor Whalen's diagnoses was not chicken pox but some other unnamed viral rash. Whew. By the next day, Lilly's spots were waning and she went back to day care for the rest of the week without incident.
When I picked up Lilly from daycare, I was informed that Lilly had been practicing her crawling. Sure enough, across the room, I spied her on her hands and knees wavering slightly with a self-satisfied gleam in her eyes. Back at home, Lilly alternated between getting around using her army-man crawl and pushing up on all fours and swaying back and forth. Signs of things to come, I expect.
Last weekend Lilly had her first non-relative babysitter when Momma and Poppa popped out for a couple of hours to make a cameo guest appearance at a Christmas party. Like last weekend, little Molly Roberts from two doors down sat again so that we could hit a couple more holiday parties. Lisa was fairly calm considering that when she checked in, Molly informed her that Lilly had been crying for 15 minutes. When we checked in fifteen minutes later, Molly had changed Lilly, fed her, and gotten her back to sleep. Lisa was impressed to no end and I think she'll feel much better in the future.
Okay, I won't recount yet another plane ride from hell... Suffice it to say that United screwed us again and we got into Rochester at 10:30 p.m. (six hours later than planned). Lilly was an absolute angel for most of this, her fifth, plane trip. She started to melt down at the tail end but overall fared better than her mother. Back home in Canandaigua, Lilly charmed everyone in front of the fire keeping Nanny, Grandpa, Uncle Eugene, and his significant other, Tracy, mesmerized for a couple of hours. And yeah, that was WAY past her bedtime.
Bundled in her pink snow suit, Lilly accompanied us to the Victor Tree Farm to obtain a Christmas tree. It was a quick trip there and back but she seemed to enjoy being out and sniffing the various trees despite my insistence that she not be allowed she to actually eat them. Noon brought a first as we introduced Lilly to the concept of lunch. Up to this point Lilly had been getting breakfast and dinner and only bottles in between. Now, not only does she get baby food at noon, she's been moved up to stage two food, which, I guess, means that the puree is slightly more granular. Part of the lunch ritual will likely be Cheerios chaser after a main course of vegetables. Once she nailed down the concept of chewing (or gumming, rather) and then swallowing, she stopped choking and enjoyed it. Admittedly, her technique lacked precision, but she more than made up for it with enthusiasm and grins. She ended up with most of the Cheerios in her lap as she grabbed a handful and mashed them into the general vicinity of her mouth. Even those that did make it into the maw often got soggy and spilled onto her chin, bib, and hands. Over the course of the week her technique continued to improve: more and more Cheerios actually stay in her mouth long enough to be swallowed. Another milestone today came when Nanny and Momma switched Lilly from size 2 to size 3 diapers. (I'll refrain from the easy gag about getting too big for her britches.)
Nanny and Lilly hung out at home while Momma and Poppa slipped out to finish (and start) our Christmas shopping. At bed time Lilly refused to go quietly. She screamed so loudly and so long (distressing Nanny greatly) that Lisa retrieved the little cherub. From around 9:30 until 11:30, Lilly smiled and charmed the house of relatives again leading Grandpa to term this aberration "Party Night." We theorized later that Lilly's fussiness may have been partially attributable to the fact that her bedroom was directly above the dining room, the location of our loud, late dinners.
The excitement surrounding the opening of Lilly's gifts was palpable Christmas morning. Armed with a battery of still and video cameras, the family converged on Lilly and her mound of presents. It came as no surprise that Lilly was enthusiastic about ripping wrapping paper but she was fascinated by some of her gifts as well, most notably her horsey hat from Bath, England, her rocking Shetland pony, her rubbery, bumpy-animal book, and her family of rubber bath ducks. There was more of course, including heaps of ultrastylish baby clothes. Lilly went down relatively easily tonight. Not even the screams of Christmas revelers running around the house in our bare feet disturbed her beauty sleep.
Great Aunt Shirley hosted an event for the extended Ford family this afternoon. Lilly was resplendent in her sleeveless pink wool dress complete with a fur collar. The dress was a recent gift from Aunt Sandra, who, along with Nanny, keeps Lilly in the latest fashions. Later, sixteen-year-old Chris Hartnett babysat while we all went out to dinner. The interesting thing about this choice of babysitter (other than Sandra's insistence that we grossly overpay him) was that Aunt Sandra used to babysit him.
Grandpa is absolutely head-over-heels in love with Lilly. He holds her every chance he gets and loves to walk her around the house showing her its many wonders. Of special interest to both Grandpa and Lilly are the hanging nutcracker ornaments and the old dimestore mistletoe chimes. I'm not sure who enjoys whacking at them more. When we arrived in Canandaigua, Lilly was rather shy -- even a bit unsure about Nanny and Grandpa. A week later, she relished being the center of attention, warming up to anyone who wanted to get some Lilly-hugs. Later on this night we all went out to eat at the baby-friendly Don Pablo's. Lilly was in such a good mood that she reeled off ear-piercing squeal after ear-piercing squeal.
Homeward bound. When the United ticket agent informed us of possible delays due to "flow-control problems" at O'Hare, Lisa jumped into action. Citing previous delays and our infant traveling companion, Momma convinced the harried agent to rebook us on Northwest through Detroit. It was a good choice. In Madison, as we bundled Lilly up in preparation for the drive home, we noticed that all flights in and out of Chicago were canceled. In fact United was busing a bunch of poor schmucks to O'Hare. We, on the other hand, were home safe and sound.
New Year's Eve may have been quiet for Momma and Poppa, but Lilly celebrated by pulling herself up for the first time. Sitting next to her Exersaucer, she grabbed its tray and dragged herself into a standing position. She almost immediately fell but was deftly caught by an ever-vigilant Momma. Lilly continues to rock from front to back on all fours. She knows something is supposed to happen but she hasn't quite figured out how to coordinate hands and knees to produce a true crawl. She can, however, go from sitting to stomach and back again. "Won't be long now," we keep telling ourselves. On another front, Lilly has discovered how to make a coughing noise at will and does so often. (We call this her "fake cough.") She also likes to suck Momma and Poppa into screaming contests: Lilly makes some outrageous noise and we try to imitate her; then she tries to top herself with a different noise; repeat ad nauseum. Lilly has also REdiscovered her tongue. She once again loves to stick it out, run it over her teeth, and of course, give us the raspberry.
Lilly celebrated New Year's Day by inventing a game where she knocks her blocks against those held by Poppa. In a solitaire variation, she bangs two blocks together on her own. She seems quite proud of this accomplishment, smiling and squealing with glee. We've noticed that Lilly is starting to pat things more and more. This seems to be taking the place of her some of her tactile scratching. Lilly is also beginning to show frustration. For example, she screams bloody murder if we take a toy away from her. She's not real happy about bedtime either. Because she wants to stay up and play with Momma and Poppa, even though she's dead tired, she starts screaming when I carry her upstairs for bed. She quiets down pretty quickly but she sure makes her displeasure known. On the other hand, she seems to be getting better about naps. She goes right down without too much fuss and sometimes even naps for half an hour!
As we were playing on the floor after dinner, Lilly forcefully vomited all over my chest. This unfamiliar sensation really frightened her and we had to try to settle her down. She didn't really seem sick though so we got her cleaned up and ready for bed and put her down without incident. When Lisa checked on her an hour later, she had thrown up again and was laying in puddle of vomit. We got her and her bed cleaned up and while she wasn't acting sick, she didn't go back to sleep. After I rocked her, wide awake, for an hour, she threw up again; this time there wasn't much in her stomach except bile. We began to get a little worried and checked on her frequently. After a restless night keeping our ears to the baby monitor, Lilly awoke apparently none the worse for wear. Last night's ordeal behind her, she forged ahead with her customary good cheer.
Lisa and I came down with whatever stomach ailment had been ailing Lilly. It was no fun entertaining our bouncing baby girl while feeling like death warmed over. The one bright spot of the day came when Lilly truly, and in earnest, crawled. Finally, on all fours and under her own steam she made her way across the floor to bang on some toys. On this day Lilly also caught on to the game of Peek-a-Boo. She held a teething blanket in front of her face and, upon pulling it away, squealed with delight when we clapped and called "peek-a-boo."
Lilly's word for anything she encounters in her world is "da-da." At first I thought she was talking to me (even though I prefer Poppa), but I soon realized that she used the term to refer to the dogs, the cats, toys, books, Momma, and food. She does vary the number of syllables though, ranging from a single, quiet "da" to an excited series of "DA-da-da-da." I suppose I'll look back at these days wistfully when she's telling me in no uncertain terms, "No."
On Thursday, Lilly was sent home early from daycare because she had a fever of 101°. Lisa took her to the doctor on Friday. She was found to be on the edge of an ear infection, but was only prescribed baby Tylenol. The fact that she obviously felt lousy meant that she was impossible all weekend. She cried a lot and was inconsolable. On top of that she wouldn't eat or take a bottle. We mustered our good humor and rode it out trying to comfort her as much as we could.
Lilly was much improved after her hellish weekend and was even doing well enough to accompany Lisa to the gym. Lisa reports that a crowd of kids descended on her and she ate up the attention, holding sway over her subjects until Momma finished with her workout. One of Lilly's little admirers told Lisa that purple really was Lilly's color: "She looks SOOO beautiful in purple."
Lisa called me at work this morning to report that Lilly had discovered the dogs' water dish. Lisa left her playing in the living room while she went to change a load of laundry and returned to discover that Lilly had crawled out into the kitchen and was splashing gleefully in the aluminum bowl in the pantry. With each passing day her crawling coordination and speed improve, at times making us long for the "bowling-ball phase" when she would stay put in her car seat or bouncy chair.
We visited our friends Tim and Julie Greenya and their four-week-old son,Connor. Connor slept most of the time we were there, so Lilly didn't take too much notice. When we introduced them though she did flail at him with her hands and babbled momentarily. She cruised around the house like a fiend and is starting to make bizarre clicking and clucking noises.
We went to a little going away party for Uncle Chris at Mother Fools Coffeehouse in the afternoon. Despite the fact that he's going away to India for eight months, Lilly shreiked and cried when Chris tried to hold her. In fact, the only person she wanted to deal with (other than Momma and Poppa) was our friend Tony Sellers. As usual, everyone was impressed by her alertness, her eyes, and her beauty.
After dinner while we were playing on the floor, Lisa was telling me about how Lilly was kneeling a lot. At that moment, Lilly knelt and then pulled her self up to a standing position using Momma's legs. She's not walking yet but it won't be long now.
Friends from the Indianapolis band Saraswati stayed with us Friday night after their show in Madison. Saturday was spent lazing around and playing with the baby. Matt Chandler was especially fascinated with Lilly and she played with him for hours prompting us to consider hiring him as a nanny.
Lisa had been encouraging me to do a photo shoot with Lilly for the last couple of months. The concept was to capture black-and-white images of Lilly naked in front of the fire place. I set up lights and got everything in place. Lisa plopped a butt-naked baby on the blanket in front of the fire and I tried to get a shot or two before she crawled out of the frame. It was most charming to see her little butt receding in the view finder but it made it difficult to get the good shots. And she didn't even pee.
When I got home from work, Lisa reported that Lilly had spoken her first word today. While she was holding her, Lilly spied a cat in the other room and quietly whispered, "Kitty." The interesting thing about that word is that it's the same first word uttered by Lilly's friend Finn who visited us this fall. And I thought all babies' first words were "Mama?"
When I arrived home form work, Lisa informed me that Lilly had learned to clap. Within days we had her trained to start flailing with her hands, often actually bringing her palms into contact, as soon as we begin to sing "Paddy Cake." We sometimes long for the "bowling-ball phase" of babyhood, when we could plop Lilly somewhere and she would stay put. Those days are long gone now. As soon as Lilly hits the floor, she tears off, exploring other rooms, splashing in the dog dish, pulling toys and magazines off of shelves, or slapping and biting her high chair from beneath. Her crawling has become quite efficient now as has her ability to climb over obstacles like Poppa's legs. She hasn't really said anything else after her initial word ("kitty," on 02.05.2001), at least nothing recognizable. She babbles non-stop though, interspersing her "dadadas" and "dwodwos" with shrieks, coos, growls, and raspberries. And she smiles. She melts my heart when she sees me, smiles, and squeals.