Today isn't just a yearly milestone for Austen; it's also a monthly one. And this month, it's been all about the walking. It's hard to remember a time when Austen *wasn't* walking, but it was only at the end of October that he first put three or four steps in a row together, and the second week of November (the 11th, to be exact) when he really took off. I knew we had reached the point of no return when he crossed a Starbucks on the morning of the 12th to beg another patron for her baked goods.
This means, of course, that it's often a struggle to get him into the stroller now. I think some experience working with mental patients and straight jackets would be helpful at this stage, and unfortunately I have none. I have gotten rather deft at preventing Austen from slipping under the napper bar on the Zooper while strapping him in by using my arm as a center post, but the Maclaren, which has no napper bar, presents more of a problem. The good news is that once you get him in there, usually all it takes to keep him happy is a Starbucks cup or a cell phone.
The other night when we took Austen to the park (for the first time in a couple weeks), Austen didn't want to swing for very long, and he showed no interest at all in the slide. Instead he wanted to push the stroller—or at least, he wanted us to push the stroller so he could walk alongside it. We crossed from the far end of the park to 25th Street this way, and when we got to the crosswalk he seemed to understand when I said, "you have to hold Daddy's hand when you're crossing the street." I don't know whether he thought it was a one-time thing, whether he hadn't really understood the first time, or whether he really just wanted to DO IT HIMSELF, but at each subsequent crossing he would whimper, whine, struggle, and cry when we tried to hold his hand. And god forbid should we try to pick him up. It was after dark by the time he finally relented and let Al stuff him in the stroller just short of 19th Street. It was so cute to see him walking so determinedly that we probably would have waited all night for him to get tired enough to stop.
Fewer and fewer people have been asking me "how old is she?", but I still occasionally hear other parents admonish their children to "be nice to her, she's just a baby" or compliments that my daughter is very cute. The babysitter also remarked on this phenomenon today; apparently someone in the park also mistook Austen for a girl. Neither the babysitter nor I can figure out why; maybe it's just that we already know Austen so well and know him to be a boy, but we can't see anything girlish about him. That mullet is all boy for sure.
I mentioned in my last post that I don't have that many photos of Austen's twelfth month (or I didn't until very recently, anyway), mainly because it's hard to take pictures of an entirely-too-mobile toddler. Older children know to stop and pose for photos, and they know not to wander down a flight of stairs while you're focusing the camera. I learned this weekend, when I asked for Al's help in holding Austen still so I could take a Christmas card photo, that the trick to getting cute photos of a toddler is to have help. As long as someone's around to steer Austen away from the stairs, the street, the outlets, the VCR, the edge of the deck, the gas tank under the grill, the compost pots, the wet pile of leaves in front of the house, and any number of other things messy and dangerous, it's actually possible to get some reasonably cute photos—and even some not-too-blurry action shots.
I'm sure there's some major milestone I'm missing in this summary—like maybe that we're doing well with the weaning and are down to only one nursing session per day (the one he wakes up at 5:30am for)—but there are only two others that I have photos of to jog my memory. One is that Austen has finally learned how to use a sippy cup properly. Many months ago our pediatrician asked us if he could hold a bottle by himself, and we shrugged and said, "yeah, I guess"; we didn't know for sure because we never really gave him bottles. He either nursed, or he took sips from our glasses or water bottles. It was only when he started eating more and more solids and I wanted to give him water that I noticed that he didn't really know how to hold a bottle.
I got him a couple sippy cups last month because the bottles we have are for newborns, and he was making too much of a mess with regular glasses (he kept sticking his hands in them). He long ago mastered the use of a straw, so when he saw the spout on the sippy cup he immediately tried to suck it like a straw. For two or three weeks we had to tip the cup up every time we wanted him to have some water or milk, and each time he would drop his hands and let us do it for him. I was getting tired of assisting in this manner, so this weekend I handed him a sippy cup full of water and let him try to figure it out, no pressure. After walking around with it for about an hour, he finally realized what he had to do to get the water out, and he's now a sippy cup pro.
The other big thing I've noticed—and it was only today that I was sure that's what he was doing—is that he's picking up books and "reading" them. He'll open one of his board books and start saying "da dat dat da da, da dat dat dat dat dat da da," as he turns the pages. He usually reads to someone—in the photo below it's Hannah, our babysitter, who's sitting off camera—and by the end of today he was responding when I said, "can you read your book to grandma/aunt Lisa/[whoever happened to be calling to wish him a happy birthday]"? He also did something interesting on Monday: When I said, appropos of nothing, "Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep on a hill that's steep!", he rummaged through his toy box, found his Sheep in a Jeep book, and brought it to me. Huh.