Leta’s language skills have taken another leap in the last few weeks, and she has started talking entirely in complete sentences. We noticed it first when we were vacationing at my mother’s cabin over the fourth of July. Because my sister was there with her five kids, and my brother was there with his four kids, we had to sleep in the same tiny room as Leta. We don’t normally do this as she is a light sleeper, and sometimes at night while she is asleep in her room at the back of the house I can wake her up from fifty feet away by imagining the sound an eyelash would make if it drifted to the ground.

That night at the cabin she woke up suddenly a few hours after midnight and began screaming. She was frantic and panicked, and she shuffled around in her portable crib as if she were wrestling a bear. The room was completely dark, and Jon and I held still waiting to see if she would stop and go back to sleep. The screaming continued for several minutes, and then she abruptly stopped cold. Silent. We couldn’t even hear her breathing. I held Jon’s hand under the covers to indicate that maybe the worst was over when, unexpectedly, she yelled out into the dark as calmly as if making a closing argument, “I would like to get out.”

For so many months of her life we struggled to understand what she wanted, what she was thinking, and now that she can communicate her needs we often ask each other if it was really worth it to teach her this skill. She begins every day by telling us exactly what she wants — Sesame Street, orange juice, M&M’s, and a trip to the store, always in that order, always before I’ve even turned a single light on in the house. Yesterday morning she deviated from this usual list and demanded a popsicle. “Mama,” she said as I lifted her out of the crib. “I want a copstacle. A red one. I love red.” I expect that within a few days she will be asking for an Oompa Loompa.

I told her that we could have copstacles after breakfast, but that first we needed to put on our clothes and brush our teeth. I had her lie on the floor so I could change her diaper, and when I took it off she said, “No poop in there, huh, Mama.”

“Nope,” I said. “No poop this time.”

“Mama?” she said with a look of worry in her face.

“What is it?” I asked, unsure of what could have possibly happened in the 45 seconds she had been awake that could make her so concerned.

She looked me straight in the eyes to make sure I was paying attention, was taking her seriously, and she said, “I love poop.”

Never have I been so grateful for the gift of language, because if this exact situation had happened a year ago, I’m not so sure I could have guessed that that was what she was thinking.