Austen turned 18 months old yesterday. It's hard to believe he's one and a half already, and yet 12 months seems so long ago. He's such a different kid now. He talks, for one thing, sounding like nothing so much as a miniature surfer dude with his "whooaaa"s and "oh yeaaaaaaaah"s. We don't have complete sentences yet, but it's not that difficult to have a conversation with him.
One of my favorite words is something that sounds like "llol" or "llor", which seems to mean "stroller". The double-L is so clear...he just has it in the wrong spot. He learned "juice" (or "ju!") this weekend; I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I'm not a giant fan of giving him juice. (When he gets it, it's diluted by at least half.) I'm wondering when he's going to learn to say Perfectly Protein Vanilla Chai, which he likes even more than juice.
A couple weeks ago I thought he'd also learned to say "rats!" when something went wrong. He was trying to screw a cap on a squeeze bottle, and the darn thing kept getting away from him. He'd say what sounded like "rat!" each time. I said to Al, "I wonder where he learned 'rats!' from?" Al shrugged and said, "I don't know. Maybe Hannah?"
Just then Austen grabbed the water bottle off my nightstand, lost his balance (probably because he tripped on a pair of my shoes), and upended the bottle all over a bunch of books I had next to the bed. "Oh CRAAAAAAAAAP!" I intoned. "Rap!" Austen repeated. Al and I looked at each other; source found.
This was definitely another DIY month for Austen (I'm starting to wonder if all of them will be from now on). He pretty much wants to do everything himself, from eating to climbing and descending stairs to watering the plants. He's Mr. Independent, which suits me just fine, especially since he's not averse to giving me a big hug and a kiss before running off to do whatever interests him.
This independence has made the past few days much easier than they might have been. I was away from Austen for more than 12 hours for the first time ever this past weekend, when I flew to Vancouver for a hockey tournament. I put him to bed on Thursday night, and I didn't see him again (except in photos Al sent to my phone) until he and Al picked me up at the airport on Monday night. When I grabbed him off of Al's shoulders and swung him around, I got the distinct impression that he was thinking, "it's nice you're here, but we don't really *need* you." (If you're thinking "awww, that's terrible!" right now, I wasn't offended. I was glad that Austen and Al had such a great time without me.)
It also so happens that Hannah left for Thailand for two weeks on Friday afternoon, so Austen's childcare arrangement has been different for the past couple days (and will continue to be until Hannah returns). It's a long story about how and when we found another nanny with a charge who's two months older than Austen and how Austen and the other toddler, Mira, became friends; the only thing that's important to know for the purposes of this story is that I've been taking Austen over to Mira's house so that Mira's nanny, Jess, can watch both of them. Austen hasn't seemed to mind one bit; when I drop him off, he kisses me goodbye and waves me off, and then he and Mira spend the rest of the day playing together. See how the independent streak makes things so easy?
I'd actually say that life is easier in general around here these days. Al and I have worked out a schedule and a division of labor that I really love. Al is basically the primary caregiver now; I feel like a 50s dad who gets all the benefits of a cute kid (snuggling, after-work chats, weekend outings) with hardly any real work. Partly this is due to Austen's easygoing nature and EXTREME CUTENESS, but mostly it's due to Al shouldering most of the household and childcare responsibilities in addition to his regular day job. It really does take a huge load off of me, and I couldn't appreciate it more (though I could probably *show* I appreciate it more). That's the good news. The even better news is that Al is *really good* at these things—better even than he realized. He and the Beaner had an awesome weekend together, and they really *didn't* need me.
Somehow, knowing that makes the snuggles and kisses and "pick me up" gestures all the more precious.