When a baby can finally harness enough power and coordination to put her hands in her mouth, voluntarily, it is the infant's equivalent to climbing Mount Everest. If you think about it, for her entire life, this child has been working towards this one goal. It may seem simple to you and me. One goal. Get that wily little appendage into my pie hole!
She would struggle. Grunt. Miss. Punch herself in the face. Poke herself in the eye. Cry. Whine. And finally, one day, she did it! And she wasn't even surprised. It was as if her reaction was "Now that wasn't so hard. What's next?"
Now my daughter is infatuated with her hands. She can't get enough, two-fisting more than a person arriving late to a New Year's Eve party. They're always in her mouth. Like Violet Beauregarde with a piece of gum. She even does it when she's not hungry. They're her new toy.
She even grabs things now, but it's mostly inadvertently. And when she does, she attempts to squeeze both hands, as well as the object she is holding, into her mouth. Like a bunch of clowns piling into a Volkswagen Beetle. She's very proud of her new found talent. Cooing, gooing, drooling, and gurgling. Making a symphony of sweet sounds. It's quite amusing, yet, at the same time, a little disturbing.
I say disturbing because the cheerful concert coming from Penelope's mouth is often interrupted. By a loud, intrusive gagging. Like the static when you're blasting the car radio and you drive under an overpass. It's nasty. And sometimes - brace yourself - if she's doing this after a meal, she makes herself puke. Does my daughter have an eating disorder? What the hell is happening?
So then the vomit is not only on her clothes, and her chin, but now it's on her hands. And if you don't catch it quickly, or you're pre-occupied, you return to find Penelope has lathered her face in her own spit-up! She must be using it as an exfoliator, because her complexion is impeccable!
The next step after finding your child soaked in more throw-up than the floor of a fraternity house bathroom, is the clean-up. The clothes and the face are no problem. She actually gets a kick out of that process. She even tries to eat the burp cloth, just like our dog tries to bite the towel or napkin we use to wipe off her furry little grill.
Then comes the tough part. The hands. Prying them open is harder than cracking the lid on a new jar of Kalamata olives. It easier to catch a bumblebee in your hand than it is to wrangle one of this child's excitedly flailing arms. And once you finally wrestle one of her hands away, you have to manage the difficult task of opening her fingers, which is like accessing the can opener on a rusty old Swiss Army knife.
Finally, you've loosened the fingers. And there you have the treat of all treats. Enough caked-on and spread-out spit-up on all of her little digits to make a tray of meatballs. Mmmmm. Mangia!! Pass the cheese, please!
But this is just the beginning. The first of many discoveries. What's next, we have no idea. Rolling over? Crawling? Talking? Teething? Who knows! We're new at this. So is Penelope. That's what makes it so great.