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New words daily from the pie-loving birthday girl

Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out

We’ve just brought Charlotte home after spending two days with Grandma and Grandpa Hodges in Woodstock. How is it she could look so much older and become so much smarter in only 48 hours?

Two days’ worth of development is one thing; this Saturday, we’re celebrating Charlotte’s second birthday and just how far she’s come since bringing her home from the hospital, and even since last year. At one, she had just learned how to walk and had one word under her belt. At two, she knows to hold hands while crossing the street; she knows how to walk up and down stairs; she knows how to put her socks on properly, plus other innumerable skills that illustrate how she’s no longer a baby, but a little girl.

And yes, she knows how to talk. Last time I wrote a Charlotte-centric column, we were just beginning speech therapy to jump-start her language skills. Stephanie, the therapist, worked with Andrew and I more so than Charlotte on how to “teach by example” so Charlotte could mimic, and eventually learn, how to talk.

Either I’m a quick learner or serendipity intervened, for Charlotte’s been picking up new words every day. At first, we faithfully recorded them as per our homework, but we soon gave up, for they’ve come at a furious pace. What does she want for supper? Pizza, beans or soup. And for dessert? Pie. What does she want to do now? Play with toys. What does she want to wear today? Grey tutu. How do you surprise someone? Boo!

Last week was a busy one for words, as Charlotte endured a sinus cold (blow nose) plus molars coming in (teeth boo-boo). She told me I was a “nice mommy” for giving her medicine and tucking her tightly into bed, which just about turned me to mush – as if her saying “good night” in that adorable sleepy voice of hers wasn’t enough. It’s been said that English, with all its slang and regularly broken grammatical rules, is the most challenging language to master. I’m so proud of how far our little girl has come in a few months, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

And the next few months will certainly provide more new conversations. We’ve started talking about potty training and “big girl” beds, and Charlotte will begin daycare come January. My husband and I have been very spoiled to have her all to ourselves for so long, but we know that she’ll learn a lot from the other children and teachers. It’s the inevitable next step in her becoming a whole person, and will prepare her well for school, which now seems just around the corner!

But first, we get to enjoy her birthday and Christmas together. We picked out our tree this weekend, and will decorate it tonight while Charlotte sleeps. I’m hoping to hear a “pretty tree!” when she sees the finished product. Coincidentally, she’s been saying “happy birthday” for a few weeks, while presenting us with anything resembling a cake (usually a Frisbee). When we counter with “Merry Christmas” she resolutely replies “no!” Maybe in her own simple way, she’s telling us to live in the moment and enjoy the present with her, for she’s growing so fast. Happy birthday, Charlotte!

Birthdays at the Macko house meant mayonnaise cake, even though I discovered that Mom’s recipe actually uses tangy Miracle Whip. This super-moist chocolate cake was unanimously the top birthday choice for us kids. I’m not sure if it was Mom’s old gas oven or the recipe itself, but the cake fell without fail, creating a luscious pudding-like centre. I’m going to renew the tradition this weekend for Charlotte’s party (along with that pie she’s always asking for!).

Miracle Whip “Mayonnaise” Cake
(from Emily Macko)

1 cup Miracle Whip
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt

Combine Miracle Whip, sugar and vanilla; sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add flour alternatively with water to Miracle Whip mixture, mixing well after each addition. Pour into waxed paper-lined nine-inch round pan. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Insert toothpick in centre; should come out clean when cake is done. When cool, frost with:

Chocolate Philly Frosting

1 block cream cheese, softened
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. milk
2 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
One square unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash of salt

Blend cream cheese and milk. Add sugar gradually, blending well. Add melted chocolate, vanilla and salt and blend well.

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