Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Punctuated Equilibrium

Escaping from the crappy grad school situation for a moment (where things are happening; promises are being made and broken; people are stepping up and people are exposing themselves as sexist mercenaries) to discuss the life of a three-quarter-year-old.

LL is now over nine months old. When their babies reach nine months of age, many mothers like to mention with amazement that their babies have now spent as much time on the "outside" as they did on the "inside." Rather than guiltily apologize for not writing a nine-month update closer to LL's actual nine-month birthday, I am going to confidently assert that I did this on purpose, to penalize him for staying on the "inside" so long past his due date. Born late? Then you get a late nine-month update. So there. But first, a dinosaur-themed aside:

I once took a class taught by the late, great (and fascinating, and unbelievably egotistical) paleontologist Stephen J. Gould. Staying away from any debates about the merit, or scientific accuracy, or usefulness of his work (because holy cow, paleontologists are a fanatical, argumentative bunch!), I bring him up because one of his primary scientific contributions to the field of paleontology was the idea of punctuated equilibrium. The idea that things remain remarkably stable until... all of a sudden they're not, and things are crazy for a very brief period of time!... until suddenly they're stable again. Interesting way to understand the fossil record. Fascinating way to evaluate human history and technological change. Increasingly accurate way to understand the development of LL, because after two months or so of relative stability and slow changes, my little LL is suddenly going through crazy developmental achievements. Though I'll admit that a few of them are the sort of "achievements" that only a close blood relative would really appreciate, so feel free to skim.

(And if you were drawn in by the idea of discussing dinosaurs, then I'd hate to disappoint, so here are a few things to fulfill the promise: LL's favorite song is "We are the Dinosaurs" by Laurie Berkner. One of his favorite books is "Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!" by Sandra Boynton. Upon learning of these preferences, certain relatives began purchasing lots of dinosaur-themed clothing. LL wore some of them at our college reunion, mostly to show off for a dear college friend who is now a paleontologist. Our paleontologist friend had issues with LL's "Dino-Mite!" shirt, because the stegosaurus pictured on the front had the wrong number of tail spikes. Stupid Carters paleontologywear. Interestingly, our friend had fewer problems with the "Snugglesaurus" shirt, since he was not aware of how many spiky accessories a real snugglesaurus would have, though he was pretty sure that they probably didn't smile as much as the one pictured on the shirt. When I teasingly challenged him with a simple, "But how do you know they didn't smile?" I got a twenty-minute lecture on recent papers studying the shape and use of dinosaur lips. I then distracted him by mentioning the friendly T-Rex in Night at the Museum, because talking about silly Hollywood portrayals of dinosaurs is a useful way of distracting this particular friend when I want to change the topic. Like I said, paleontologists are a fanatical bunch.)

Anyway, back to our story.

Right after LL reached the six month mark, he learned to sit and he began eating real food and he stopped nursing and he started sleeping better, and then ... nothing terribly new happened. He continued to eat and he continued to sit, and goodness gracious he continued to grow. But nothing really all that newsworthy happened, for many many weeks, despite my attempts to find things to talk about at his seven- and eight-month updates. (Okay, he did a few new things, mostly under the heading of "communicating with people who don't speak baby," but mainly he improved on things he was already doing.) And then all of a sudden, during the last month, everything exploded. And are still exploding, actually, because he's clearly on the verge of still more new achievements sometime in the next few weeks. For starters, we were pleased to note that after plunging to the 18th percentile for weight, LL has rebounded to what we had thought were his normal growth curves: 40th for weight and height, 75th for head size. Yes, the kiddo still has a big head. He often sits with it tilted to the side, because it's just too heavy for his skinny little neck. He weighs just a hair under 20 pounds right now, and all the weight seems to be in his cheeks.

As for developmental explosions, a summary so far:

Teeth! LL got his first two teeth relatively early, at five months. He then went through month after month of frantic chewing and drooling, but no more teeth emerged. Then, suddenly, over a two week period, we saw the emergence of three additional teeth, in quick succession, so he's now up to five visible teeth. And I thought that I felt number six today, though he wouldn't let me thoroughly investigate to confirm it.

Mobility! Okay, saying that he's mobile is a bit generous. But he's not exactly stationary anymore, either. Crawling still eludes him, but he is finding other ways to end up in different places than where he was set down. His favorite involves sitting on the floor and bouncing a la Tigger, which is very cute but very inefficient. (He moves approximately three feet/hour, but it's a random walk sort of thing, which makes it even less productive.) He also does a roll-drag-bend-pull sort of thing that's even less efficient than an army crawl, and usually makes more progress backwards than forwards, usually away from his target, so he doesn't use it much. Still: mobility!

Standing! LL is discovering the joys of a vertical world. He loves standing, but only holding onto people, not objects. And he screams bloody murder if you sit him back down before he's ready.

Eating! LL went from only eating the mushiest of purees to suddenly loving chunkier fare. Cheerios are his new best friend. Fruit chunks are awesome. Crackers rock. A large part of the joy is that he can feed himself, which extends beyond food to include drinks as well. He prefers to hold his own bottle for all meals except bedtime, and he is loving the sippy cup of water that we offer several times a day. He's still a bit mystified at needing to suck on the sippy cup instead of chew it, but once we removed the valve so that the water would flow freely, he was happy. Wet, but happy.

Talking! LL has always been talkative. He gurgled and cooed from very early on, and had extensive conversations with me starting just before three months. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he was slow to move from cooing to the ever-more-sophisticated babbling. Then one day he discovered the letter B. After a day of "Ba! Ba! Aba! Baba! Ababa! Ba! Ba! Ba!", S declared that "aba" ("dad" in Hebrew) was LL's first word. That's one happy daddy. After practicing his B's for a few days, he added T, then (diplomatically) M and D on the same day. (He now often babbles "Amamadada!" which we've taken to be a joint "Mom and Dad!" word.) And L, G, and S. All over the course of like two weeks. He's babbling all the time now.

Sleeping! Not to jinx us or anything, but we've got this sleep thing temporarily figured out. Two naps, at roughly 9am and 1pm, but they're flexible enough to move as much as an hour without throwing him into total disarray. Bedtime around 7pm, also pleasantly flexible when we're out and about. He sleeps through the night more than half the time, which is victory enough for me, and more often than not, he'll sleep until something approximating 7am.

We've also had the chance to expose LL to a bunch of new things recently. My brother, sister-in-law, and their three children all stayed with us for several days, and it was a lot of fun watching LL play with his cousins. We took him to the beach for the first time, where he loved the sand, loved watching the ocean, and frantically objected when hit by an admittedly cold wave. He also "swam" in a pool for the first time, which he took in very calmly, right up until S dunked him under water, which brought more frantic objections.

Cold water and head-dunking aside, LL is one cool cucumber. He hates to be alone, but he is happy to play by himself for extended periods of time as long as there is somebody near him. Of course, playing with somebody else is better. Being in crowds of people is better still. We've been going to a lot of large group outings in houses and parks lately, and LL is in heaven sitting with his toys, surrounded by friends. He loves observing everyone around him and taking everything in. Some of our friends have even questioned whether he ever gets upset (um, yes he does, he's a baby) because he's always so happy and calm when he's hanging out with them.

Especially if there are blocks. Blocks are awesome. Blocks, and dinosaurs.


  1. oh they grow so quickly! sounds like he is the most amazing baby evah! (next to monkey of course:)

  2. I think we secretly have the same child. Or maybe there is something to astrology? Or to having two well-educated semi-nerdy parents? (Not that I'm calling you and S semi-nerdy :)

    Can LL teach Harry how to sleep until 7? Harry seems to have forgotten. (Though I'll take the 6:15/6:30 we've been getting for a week or so over the 5:30 he had drifted towards.)

  3. LOVING the Dino Speak. We also have the same outfits too. We are huge fans of Anything Laurie!

    Sounds like you and LL are trucking along nicely. Congrats on all the new fun things happening

  4. You should check out the song When I was a Dinosaur by Trout Fishing in America. Great for kids!

  5. I was giggling at the discussion of spikes and smiles on Carter's "palentologywear." Ha ha ha!

    It's funny to read your posts and remember Bean going through those things 6ish months ago. :)

  6. Oh, and check out my next post... I'm giving you an award. :)


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