Our girl is 21 months old today and I’ve accepted that I will probably stop counting her age in months and start saying, “almost two,” because, well, that’s where we are. At almost two, Ava is the most amazing little toddler. She is resilient and strong and smart and sweet and funny and the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen (I’m sure I’m not biased). She has all the teeth except the two year molars and she probably weighs 23 pounds (not including her constant companion, the cast, of course).
Ava continues to be a champion sleeper overall. We were really worried about how the cast would affect her ability to sleep comfortably through the night because she would move a lot in her crib and sleep on her belly and side, but we have been pleasantly surprised (KNOCK WOOD). It sometimes takes a bit for her to fall asleep because she’s trapped on her back, on the crib wedge, rather than being able to roll around and move to settle herself in for the night like she formerly could. We try to be in her room, winding down for the night by around 7:15 PM. Kevin is the bedtime parent and he’s so sweet and patient. He walks around holding her for a bit, singing to her, and then puts her in the crib and continues to sing. Eventually he tells her that mama and daddy love her and to sleep well and he leaves the room. Sometimes she’s fine from the get-go, sometimes she cries for a few minutes and then gets quiet, sometimes she cries for a long time (long being 10 minutes or so) and he’ll go back in to sing to her some more. Once she’s asleep she usually sleeps through the night very well, waking up – on average – at 6:30 AM. Some nights she’ll cry out but she’s very good at soothing herself back to sleep. We know that she CAN flip herself over in the cast so that makes me a little nervous. We’ve never dealt with a video monitor but I’m tempted to get one, just so I’ll be able to see if she has turned herself over. There are a variety of favorite stuffed animals and dolls that stay in the crib with Ava – Elmo doll, Shawna doll, Oregon duck, Portland duck, Nancy the lamb, and Kitten. Each morning when Kevin goes to get her out she’ll tell him who she’s carrying and who he’s carrying and who they need to pass to me so I can help cart around the friends.
Naps (again – KNOCK WOOD) have actually been easier and more consistent in the cast. I think it’s because she knows she can’t be running around and her brain is working overtime since her body is stationary, so maybe she’s ready for the little break? Whatever it is, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth and will continue to give her lunch at about 11:50, then walk around with her beginning at around 12:15, singing, until she falls asleep. I place her in the crib (becoming more difficult to maneuver the cast clad toddler up and over and down into the crib with the ever growing belly), keep singing for a bit to be sure she’s asleep, then creep like a ninja – avoiding the squeaky boards as best I can – out of her room. She’ll nap for an hour and a half to two and half hours and USUALLY – but not always – wakes up cheerful.
Since she can’t run around right now, her playing involves a lot of sensory and fine motor skill games and activities. She will sit for long periods of time – longer than some adults could, I’m certain! – in her “chair-chair”. It has a handy little desk and she can play very easily there. We also have an infant-to-toddler rocker/chair that is great for when she wants to watch TV (she’s into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and a bean bag near the TV as well. There’s a bean bag in her room too so we’ll occasionally read books and play briefly from that one. She loves taking things out of boxes, bags, etc. and putting things in boxes, bags, etc. She also continues to love music. She likes to draw and has a few options of paper size, utensil type, etc. for that. Her favorite toys are probably her Leap Frog picnic basket, her blocks (stacking them and making them go “BOOM” is a favorite), her xylophone, and interestingly, really simple activities. I punched holes in the bottom of the egg stations in an egg carton and she’ll sit for 30 minutes with that – taking clothes pins in and out of the holes and opening and closing the egg carton. My cousin Lori brought us a plethora of other activities, including a Huggies wipes box and some different textured pieces to put in and take out. That wipes box has also been great for putting in and taking out her animal magnets that usually are on the fridge.
In order to break up the day and the monotony for Ava, we try to get her involved in what we’re doing as much as possible. She and Kevin used the manual nut chopper to chop up some walnuts for me when I was baking muffins. I’ll carry her to the washer and dryer and have her push the buttons to turn it on and start it (something she loved to do when she could run around). I’ll let her play with my makeup in the chair-chair while I’m getting ready. That kind of thing.
We’ll read a few books through the day too. I’ve enjoyed turning on classical music or the James Taylor or 90’s country Pandora stations to have some background music and she likes that too – requesting to hear some songs “Again!”. I’ve tried to set up at least one play date each week, just to keep her engaged with other kids. They usually come to us since she has more options of places to sit when she’s at home. It has been interesting to see her interact with other kids when they can move around and play with HER stuff and she’s stuck in the chair-chair or on my lap. I think that’s really frustrating to her, and I can understand how it would be!
Ava is still a good eater – for a toddler. I continue to be disappointed that she doesn’t request a veggie omelet for breakfast, but I’ll make my peace with that right around the time that she decides she likes veggie omelets. She does tend to eat a favorite item incessantly and then get burnt out on it, so it keeps us on our toes, trying to think of replacements that she’ll try and like for the stuff that she couldn’t get enough of yesterday but shuns today. She’s getting a bit more adventurous about trying new stuff, which is a step in the right direction. We have tried to emphasize that something will make her strong if we want her to try it and she’ll “flex” her little arms and say, “Grrr!”
We did our usual grocery store run over the weekend and none of the stores (we checked three) had our Stonyfield yogurt pouches with a cat (jaguar) or Baby Beluga (whale) on the package so we tried Chobani pouches with Spider-Man. It has posed quite a disruption to our morning routine, and I hope we are back to our regularly scheduled programming next week, but she has begrudgingly tried the new yogurt and I think we’re all stronger for the experience. ;-)
Right now her favorite foods are beef, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, plums, apples, chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, deli turkey, and perhaps the ultimate favorite – cheese. She’ll drink small amounts of “almond juice” (almond milk) and even smaller amounts of regular milk, but that’s better than the none that she was drinking of those things, so we’ll take it. When Kevin or I am eating or drinking something that she has learned is not for her, she’ll shake her head and say, “Blegh!” and we’ll agree with her assessment that it is a yucky Dad or Mama drink/food.
We all miss baths in the bathtub, but we have figured out a system for washing her hair in the kitchen sink and doing a sponge bath on the kitchen counter. It gets the job done. She’s so patient with us as we fumble our way through figuring out how to make lifestyle adjustments such as that and it makes me want to weep because it is so humbling to have this little person put their trust wholly and fully in you. Ah, parenthood.
Ava loves touching Kevin’s face to gauge how long ago he shaved. He’ll say, “Is Daddy’s face rough?” and she’ll giggle and then he’ll feel her face and say, “Is Ava’s face smooth?” and she’ll laugh. No one makes her laugh like Kevin does. It’s the sweetest sound in the world. She likes to put her hands over her eyes and say, “Clown,” or “Ava,” or “Cat,” or something/something else and we have to sing a little song from music class (“We know you’re hiding in there, we know you’re crouching down, we really want to see you…come out! Little clown (or Ava, Cat, etc.)!”. She’ll uncover her eyes and laugh laugh laugh.
It is too hot during the day to be outside much while she is in the cast, so we have been going on morning walks at around 7:00 and we have a great routine going. She eats a yogurt and some puffs and we keep our eyes peeled for cats and birds and bunnies and hot air balloons and sprinklers. We go “bump bump bump” down a little dirt path that leads to the Bosque and then we stop on a little bridge to look at the water (and occasionally see fish jumping up to catch bugs, ducks floating by, and a bullfrog gazing out and croaking). The fresh air is great for all of us – especially her since she’s pretty housebound during the day.
We have people over a couple times a week (with kids or without) and we’re going to start a developmental therapy and a music therapy lesson each week through Early Intervention, just to break up the day and engage Ava’s mind while she’s immobilized. She loves music and has a little xylophone that she dismantles and assembles and plays. Sue also bought her a little ukulele that Ava enjoys “tuning” and “playing” and insisting we play for her.
I know that 19-21 months is when verbal development typically takes off anyway, so maybe it’s coincidental or would have happened this way anyway, but Ava’s verbal communication is astounding. Every day she rolls out a new word or puts a few words together to explain something to us in a phrase. She can mimic any word or sound we ask her to repeat. She knows that Mama is Amy and Daddy is Kevin and her pronunciation of each is so sweet. I’m waiting for the day when she’ll call out, “Kevin!” instead of Dada, or “Amy!” instead of Mama to summon us to her. We have dialogue conversations with her, which are so cute and repetitive and it’s just really fun to interact at that level. Her favorite word is probably “awesome”. Or “yellow”. She knows her colors well but often declares non-yellow things to be yellow simply because it is fun to say, I think. Or “helllllllooooooo” which she says in a very exaggerated tone that is sooooo cute. My favorite, which she said yesterday, is “privacy”. As in when people go to the bathroom, we give them privacy. :) I also love when she says “exactly”. It’s just adorable to hear such formal words coming from such a little lady. She has learned “stop” and “go” and has hand gestures to match. This morning on our walk she would randomly call out, “Stop!” and put her palm up. We’d stop the stroller and wait a few seconds for her to say, “Go!” and point her finger forward. She’s amazing.
Or, as she would say, awesome.
We love you so much, Ava, and we’re inspired by your strength and sweet spirit every single day!
(I chose photos that spanned the 18 month – 21 month range, so that’s why we jump around from no cast to cast to no cast in the photos. :))