Reading books to toddlersI realized I am a full-fledged Grandma, known to the kids as Sheshe, when I packed my bag for North Carolina and had only a few items of clothing and the rest of the bag was filled with a baby doll, doll accessories, play diaper bag and doll accessories.

It’s fun to see my toy tester, 10-month-old Caroline, mouthing and exploring all her toys. As much fun as she has playing with her little Fisher Price piano and Learning House, she is just as happy crawling over to the book shelf and helping herself to a nibble of her parents’ books while ripping out the pages.

I am often asked how do you know when your child is saying her first words? They are clearly representing something familiar and interesting to your child like a pet’s name (“Oreo”), a fun toy (“ball”) or word repeated from a favorite book or song (“up”). It is repeated in many contexts, such as home, the store or a friend’s house, and it has meaning. After a long somewhat tiring trip through the mall, we went through the kids’ shoe section of Dillards and Caroline rose up out of her stroller seat and yelled, “Ba.” Immediately her mom recognized that she was saying balloon, referring to the multi-colored bunch of balloons back on the display, ready for kids who just purchased a new pair of shoes. We got one for Caroline, minus the shoes, and it entertained her all the way home. After she chewed through the box of crayons serving as the weight to keep the balloon from rising to the ceiling, it ended up just there. Now she could look up and say, “Ba” just to remind us that it got away.