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3:26 PM Tue, Dec. 11th

Get a Grip: Baby daughter is growing up

The tiny cotton ball-size socks that had seemed so small when we got them, then so big when they first wrapped Sophie's little feet just a year ago and stretched high above her knees, are again tiny.

I noticed how tiny they had become last weekend as I plucked them from her drawer and deposited them into the "too small" box, which is currently overflowing in contrast to the "grow into" box that is quickly emptying.

The first time we put the little redhead into her crib it seemed so big, too big for such a little baby.

But this morning when I snuck into her room for a last look at her sleeping form before leaving for work, I noticed that the giant crib had shrunk.

It, like the socks, wasn't so big anymore.

Every morning I tiptoe into her room and watch her sleep.

Her jammies rise and fall with every breath.

The other day I noticed that I hold my own breath until I see the jammies go up and down twice.

Up, down, up down, breathe.

This is my routine.

This is the only time she is still.

I think her motto is "work hard, play hard, sleep hard." When the morning sun reaches her crib she opens her eyes and jumps to her feet, demanding her morning milk.

Upon devouring her milk, she commences to dance and sing in her crib until Daddy rescues her.

Dressing her is a task because it requires her to stop moving long enough to be stuffed into her clothes.

She is not amenable to repose.

Now that she's walking – actually, its more a swagger than a walk, as if she just got off her horse and is headed for the saloon – Mommy and Daddy are spending their days in a half crouch, running, arms out, behind her as she careens recklessly through the house.

Her favorite thing is her weekday trips to Betty's.

Betty is an angel disguised as a day care operator.

At Betty's, Sophie dances, sings, plays with and orders around the other kids.

Sophie, like her Daddy, is a people person.

The more people there are around, the happier she is.

Being home with just Mommy and Daddy is marginally interesting.

Being at Betty's with the other kids is great fun.

Being among crowds of people is her favorite.

In restaurants, she'll sit proud in her highchair and greet passersby with a practiced beauty-queen-parade-wave, a wide gap-toothed smile and a perky, "Hi!" Patrons going out the door also get a wave and a smile along with a "bye-bye." Last weekend, apparently frustrated with the slow service we were receiving at a Blythe restaurant, she toddled over to a nearby table greeted its occupants and bummed a fry along with the usual expressions of adoration.

Afternoons as we sit on the front porch she waves and hollers "hi-lo" at passing cars and pedestrians.

In her spare moments between greeting people, she chases the long-suffering cat at full-speed swagger.

Bringing up the rear, as always, are Mommy and Daddy at half-crouch, arms out, reciting the parental litany.

"Careful, careful Sophie! No, don't eat that.

Stop.

Stop.

Be nice to Ralph.

Good girl.

Very nice.

No! Thank you.

No, Ralph has his own food; he doesn't want your Cheerio.

Oh, thank you.

Mmmmm.

What a good Cheerio.

Thank you.

No.

No, that's Ralph's food, not yours.

Good girl.

Stop.

Stop.

Where's your book? Can we read your book? No, we don't eat the book, we read the book.

Good.

Oh, thank you…"

All the while, she's in motion, grabbing, waving, dancing, singing, running.

Her exuberance is exhilarating and her smile infectious but I still cherish my silent moments with her every morning in the moonlight.

Up, down, up, down, breathe.