31 months

We have a full-fledged 2 1/2-year-old now. We're in the throes of the terrible twos. ... Though, I'd like to think we've reached the peak and the worst is over.

At this stage, she's grown into such a complex little creature, it's hard to know where to begin. Parenthood, thus far, has been everything I imagined it would be -- and a whole lot more. One moment we're using our last nerves in a struggle to convince her to put on her coat; the next she's sitting sweetly on the couch and talking to her baby doll with a toy bottle in one hand and her baby's blanket in the other.

Her tantrums are both torturous and hilarious. She shouts “No! I don’t wan-it” -- even though she probably has no idea what she wants at all. And then -- like the flip of a switch -- something will distract her enough to make her the happiest 2-year-old in the world.

No, after all, is her favorite word these days. We could offer her ice cream, and she’d reply with a snippy, punchy “No!” Just because she loves to use the word and wield whatever toddler power she may have. ... Her other weapon of choice is a random nasally scream. Meeeeeeeeeeh!

Sometimes the hardest part is keeping a straight face when we have to discipline her for doing something wrong. When she whips out that pout, its almost always over for me ... A few weeks ago, we forfeited a Sunday morning at church because we had to deal with a Phoebe fit. The standoff ended eventually when I broke into a laughing fit. Unfortunately for me, Kates didn't think it was so funny.

The good news is all of us have grown a lot since our adventures of the summer ... Those first few weeks of leaving Phoebe at her new daycare were so discouraging we might have quit our jobs to stay home with her. Now, she barely takes time to say goodbye to me when I drop her off in the morning before running off to play with the other kids in her class.

Phoebe is so smart. And stubborn and independent. Just like her parents. She has a mind of her own, and if she doesn’t get what she wants she lets everyone know about it. Our poor neighbors.

Then there's the sleeping. We moved her from her crib to a bed almost immediately after our move in July, and the switch was going swimmingly. Until fall arrived. During the month of September we could count on middle-of-the-night visits from Phoebe every few nights. The trend got worse during October with Phoebe paying visits to our bed almost nightly. It got to a point that we set up blankets and pillows at the foot of our bed, knowing that once she woke us up and drank some milk to calm herself she'd crash on the blankets and sleep until daylight broke.

Add to that the marathon that is getting her ready for bed. The bedtime ritual usually begins between 7 and 7:30 at night. But after brushing teeth, reading stories, singing songs and saying prayers, we’re lucky if she’s asleep by 9. The whole ordeal leaves Kates and I wiped out and too tired to do much of anything else most nights. Putting Phoebe to bed is arguably the most exhaustive part of our already loaded days.

Thankfully, we might have finally nipped the 2 a.m. wake-up taps in the bud by installing a “magic gate” at Phoebe's bedroom door this week. Or I could just tell you we retrieved the baby gate from storage and put that in Phoebe's door.

Naps are another story, and luckily Kates and I only need to worry about those during weekends. ... There are some days that she is too tired to stand, let alone fight us over a nap. Then there are the days like a recent Sunday afternoon -- before we installed the "magic gate" -- when she repeatedly climbed from her bed and appeared giggling before me upstairs. At one point that afternoon, as I listened to the monitor, I heard her rustling and the music suddenly changed from a set of Baby Einstein lullabies to Stacy Orrico's "More to Life" blaring through the speaker. She had figured out how to switch the music on the iPod and crawled back into her bed where she sat smiling when I made it to her room to check on her ...What can I say? She understands technology, too. She turns on the DVD player and starts movies by herself all the time.

Phoebe certainly has made it apparent that she likes music, especially the classic and indie rock Kates and I enjoy so much. Few genres seem to get more of a rise from her, and rarely a day goes by that she doesn't ask me to "turn the music on" as we're driving to the daycare.

Lately, Phoebe's also has had a heightened interest in the rock 'n' roll playlist I created for her at birth, and while there's never a shortage of impromptu dance parties at our house we had one for the ages as we watched the Packers-Cowboys game Sunday night. Phoebe announced she wanted to dance and she wanted the "party" playlist. So we turned it on for her and a rollicking dance party ensued that covered nearly every corner of our living area. There was a train and jumping and skipping around all of the rooms, while we waved the green and white beads we've accumulated this fall at Bearcat football games. The dancing went on for a good half hour. It was a fantastic diversion to our troubles.

And Phoebe doesn't just do rock music. It's not out of the ordinary for her to break into singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree," "Twinkle, Twinkle," or "Wheels on the Bus." Or the theme song from "Elmo's World." Loudly.

Her favorite pastimes continue to be coloring, stacking blocks and playing with cards -- her matching game, Uno, Phase 10. Doesn't matter. She just likes looking at the cards and reciting the animals, colors or numbers on them. ... Recently she's also begun a habit of putting every card, figurine, cup, plastic food item, and whatever else she can find into a bucket and carrying it around like a purse.

Her favorite things to watch are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Street videos particularly the 40th anniversary DVDs we acquired last Christmas -- which during the segment of highlights from the first season features a counting bit that includes a chef falling face-first down a staircase with a wedding cake; the first time we watched it with Phoebe she got so upset at the sight of the cake crumbling into a million pieces that she cried -- and "Jonah," and relentlessly, "Toy Story." ... Thankfully for my sanity, her interest in Barney videos has waned. Still, she's watched some of her videos so often that she we're now catching her reciting the promotions that appear before the feature presentations.

We also introduced her to "Monsters Inc." a few weeks ago after Kates found it at the local library, which, in Phoebe's eyes, stands as a place to get movies, not books. it was no surprise that she adored "Monsters Inc." and watched it nearly non-stop for the week we had it. Although, the first few minutes of the movie were always too scary for her to watch alone; she always wanted to sit with Kates or I -- until Boo showed up. Then she was cool.

She gets excited about washing her hands. Because it means she gets to pull the step stool away from the wall, drag it into the kitchen, set it up in front of the sink and climb on to it.

She loves opening sandwich cookies and eating the frosting first. "Daddy, pwease open it?" she asks, thrusting the cookie into my face ... She also refuses to drink her milk unless we warm it in the microwave first, which I think is just plain weird.

Like most toddlers, apparently, she delights in running around naked after her baths. She loves to play "tricks" with her tongue.

She delights in giving and receiving high-fives when she does something well. She still loves talking on the phone -- only now when we give her the opportunity, she takes it to another room to talk gibberish to the victim in private.  

We’re not potty training officially, but she’s showing more interest in using the toilet -- when she thinks of it. Most of the time we just catch her bracing herself against the coffee table or the refrigerator, to which she acknowledges “I’n working on some-ting.” … Although, she’s figured out she can also use that as a stalling tactic. That strategy becomes apparent when you approach her and she runs away shouting, “I’n working on some-ting!” … The best way to tell if she truly has a dirty diaper is to tell her to sit down. If she needs a change, she says, simply, “I can’t.” … “Why not, Phoebe?” … “I poopy.” We'll begin potty training in earnest in January. 

She can spell her name out loud. Ask her to write it on a piece of paper and she makes a series of hash marks with her crayon.

Kates and I also have noticed more lately that Phoebe needs a playmate. We'll see about that. We can barely keep up with Phoebe.

We've said she's a ham almost from day one -- there are days I think Phoebe and her uncle Joel are going to get along extremely well when Phoebe's a little older -- and she cracks us up every day with her eye rolls, whimsical comments and observations on life.

Here are some of the most quotable quotes from Phoebe I've scribbled down during the last few months:

"Not yet." (usually followed by 'I'n reading my book,' 'I'n watching my movie,' 'I'n workin' on someting.' 'Or plain silence.')

"Pwease stop!" (usually prompted by me trying to steal part of her snack.)

"Goodbye Mommy. Have fun!" (spoken nonchalantly as Kates was leaving for the store.)

"Pwease have my ladybug so I can get it."

"Daddy. Come here!" (which she no doubt  picked up from our relentless orders to follow us to the car, to the dinner table, to the grocery store exit.)

"Hey everybody, look at me! I got my shoe in my hand!"

"Mommy?" ... "Yes, dear?" ...  "I'm not a deer! I'm Phoebe!"

"My cookie fell down." ... "Where?" ... "In my mouth so I ate it."

(At daycare, as told by one of her caretakers) "Phoebe's jumping. She said, 'Paige, I jump.'"

"If everybody had $40, they'd be so happy!" (said with a tilt of the head.)

"Daddy, pwease don't drink dis, ok?"

"Pwease go to St. Joe so I can get movies. I got milk." (spoken in a single breath.)

"I have an idea. I go play with my friends!" (as she's heading toward the door for no apparent reason)

She is indeed one-of-a-kind. And we love her more and more every day.
If you're a young parent, you might understand. Otherwise you can go throw up now.

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