Two months ago I would have said a "baby step" was roughly synonymous with a "small step". I used the term frequently to describe little yet symbolically meaningful progress towards a bigger objective. All of that still applies, of course, yet what was missing in my interpretation was the imbalance, the risk, the effort, the circuitousness, the uncertainty and the breath-holding anticipation that comes with learning to walk.
It's interesting to observe Ronan approach mobility; without a walking aid (stroller, parent, cardboard box...) he is focused yet cautious and every tentative step is taken with deliberation (see chair sequence above). Give him something to stabilize his balance, and Ronan becomes confident, persistent, and strong; he is nothing short of a little determined dynamo. He will run, if you can keep up with him, and he generates enough force to push his Aunty S around in his Red Flyer Wagon without any assistance from us. For fun, Ronan gives his buddy a ride in a laundry basket!
Ronan's Aunty M, currently doing research in Indonesia, always called Ronan a little "hottie". Now we have the evidence to prove it. We took a couple of snaps with a thermal imaging camera (thanks for the loan, Uncle H!) while Ronan napped and posted them here for you to enjoy. A few notes:
The blanket covering Ronan was a hand-knit gift from a mother of a good friend (B Kaka & family- Ronan won't nap without it!)... knitting aficionados, if you look closely, you can determine the type of stitch used.
You can make out (just barely) Ronan's sleep companion, a plush hippo named Happy (thanks Makena & Maya!), in the upper left corner of the image. Happy's wide nose is the dark blue (cold) because Ronan saturated it with saliva before drifting off to sleep.
Ronan's hair on the sides of his head is thin (red) from his sleep routine that involves a rhythmic rubbing back and forth of his head. On the top it's now nice and thick (blue) and keeps [the top part of] Ronan's head warm (radiative losses low).
It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery; I'm confident that Ronan's new sweeping obsession is exactly that. It is his way of letting Grammy and Papa know just how much he loves them. During Ronan's first few months, Grammy & Papa made frequent appearances at our home, helping with whatever was urgent and keeping things tidy. One of the common activities they would take on was sweeping the fallen leaves and the gathering dirt from the porch, as well as the dust in the inside living spaces.
Now that Ronan is almost 11 months, he's lucky that Grammy takes care of him four days a week when Mommy & Dad are at work. Grammy & Papa have continued their sweeping activities; often when we arrive home in the evening, the house (inside and out) is in far better shape than when we left in the morning. Ronan has taken notice of this and now makes an excited, direct run at a broom if he sees one. The other day I spent almost forty-five minutes on the deck walking next to Ronan as he pushed the broom around. I was amazed that he never tired of it.
His Aunty V noticed this passion and decided that he needed a broom sized more appropriately for his stature. In the photos above and below you can see Ronan at work with his new gift, helping Mommy keep the back patio nice and clean.
Here's to hoping this behavior extends to dusting, sink scrubbing, and vacuuming as he gets older!
It is marvelous to watch the development of a child's mind; each day there seems to be something new and wonderful for them to learn or discover. A specific task Ronan is pursuing with great determination is the actuation of switches. For him the curiosity started with the light switch in our bedroom; as we carried him in or out of the room he would have a prime view of how our actions made fun noises and controlled the overhead lights.
Aside from the obvious feedback that comes from moving the switch up and down, many light switches include auditory and tactile cues as well. The "click" heard and spring actuated snap up or down once the lever passes center are also important sensory inputs that help in the learning process. For Ronan, the "down" position was mastered far sooner than the "up" one (we can't call it "on" or "off" as most of the switches in our house are three or four-way). His initial and moderately effective "full fist whacking on lever" technique has (thankfully) evolved into a repeatable, single finger push-down the lever (see photo above).
The "up" position was harder for him to grasp with his first attempts involving both hands clasped together and thrust upwards with great force and effort. It really was very cute to watch, especially when he would miss the switch altogether and his stiff, interlaced fingers would swing wildly above his head. The look on his determined yet bewildered face was the perfect compliment to a very awkward and clumsy motion. He's since moved on (now uses his thumb with fingers flush against the plate, and actually grunts like a weightlifter) though it's still less repeatable than his downward actuation.
The curiosity has turned into routine... Ronan demands at least a few attempts at the light switch before we exit a room. As we typically spend our days in a rush, we often try to blow him off in our hurry from place to place. This is a big mistake. Not because of a tantrum but because Ronan
extends his unusually long and strong arms out towards the framing of the doorway and grabs hold with full force. More often than not he's able to latch his little vice-grip-strength fingers on the jamb and initiate a great centripetal force creating a direction change for both Ronan and person carrying Ronan, very much like a tetherball swinging around a post (see diagram to the right).
It's difficult to see in the photograph, but Ronan has finally cut his first tooth- the lower-right central incisor! Both Mom and Dad are terribly proud, even if he is a late bloomer at almost 10.5 months. Symptoms of teething have been mild- his saliva production has increased a bit, but his mood is good and any bouts of fussiness have been attributed to his moderately serious cold (note the snot running from his nose). For those who ask about the contusions on his face, let's just call it a "predictable slide accident". Nothing to see here; move along, folks.
Now that he is officially teething, Ronan has taken to chewing on things- anything from camera straps to small gravel rocks. The photo to the right shows him working on the zipper of his jacket; once he gets the nylon webbing saturated he goes for the metal slider. Just about anything has to be gum tested; of course this makes our jobs a bit more challenging as there are many items that should go nowhere near his mouth. The upside is his eating habits; Ronan is a fantastic, albeit messy, eater who is already more adventurous with his foods than his mother. His favorites, by category, are:
Chopped fruits: blueberries & kiwi
Pureed fruit: prunes and apples w/a dash of cinnamon