And this picture is untimely taken: on the second of July we were at a wonderful wedding in Seattle, nowhere near the leather armchair in our living room where these photos are traditionally shot. We got home late on the fourth. Too late for photography. So here is Noodles at seven months, three days.

How is she awesome? Let me count the ways. She is happier, more roly-poly, more squealy-giggly and more easygoing than ever. She still drools like a fountain and stuffs everything within reach into her mouth, but she’s so damn cute that it’s charming. She no longer enjoys vegging out on her back; she’d much rather roll over onto her tummy, then comically attempt to crawl. (This usually results in her treading floor and rotating herself around the axis of her navel.) If she’s on her back, I can take hold of her hands and pull her up, let go, and she’ll remain seated, upright, perpendicular to the surface she’s sitting on. She is growing geometry.

And a neck.

And a little pot belly. I don’t know what she weighs right now, but she’s expanded visibly since last month. (The monkey onesie has been relegated to the archive of outgrown treasures, right next to the Nats onesie.)

And HAIR. Dark blond hair, the color of honey in the comb. In Seattle, for the first time, I plucked a hat off of Natalie’s head and bust out laughing: my seven-month-old daughter had hat head. And it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.

She still has no teeth. She still nurses twice a day, although so little and so grudgingly that I suspect the udders are not long for this world. She still is not very good at eating solids, although I’ve now dispatched a box of baby oatmeal to the Bunnies Room. Miss Mary has agreed to attempt to feed some to Noodles every day at lunchtime. Eventually she’ll figure out how not to spit it out. That’s why we pay them the big bucks.

Natalie has already accomplished great things this past month, though. She’s seen both the Atlantic Ocean and Puget Sound. She’s been swimming, roadtripping, flying in a plane (like a champ), whalewatching in a boat, zipping over to the Space Needle on a monorail, charming her great-grandmother at a maternal family reunion. She is brilliantly verbal, suggesting an emphatic ba-ba-ba-ba!! in response to even the dullest propositions. (So far that’s her favorite consonant, although she’s also acquainted with pa, ga, and even ma. We’ll soon find out what her first actual word will be.)

Her shoe collection exceeds mine. She still has the dainty feet of a newborn, despite fitting firmly into size 6-month clothing. Her dimensions perplex me: for the child of two tall, big-boned, naturally heavyset people, she is inexplicably petite, elfin even. Maybe she’s a changeling. Maybe that’s why she so gamely boggles our minds with her consistent good humor, her sterling sleep habits, her even-keeled willingness to give anything a try. Any of these features could blow up at any time, but they haven’t yet. Like our marriage, our daughter beggars common sense: by now the honeymoon should be over, the bloom off the rose, etc. but it’s not. The lovefest is as intense as ever, only now it includes a third party.

“I keep waiting for her to acquaint you with what having a baby really means,” says my mother, “but she keeps being stupendous!”

“See now,” I reply, “based on 100% of my experience I think this is what having a baby really means.”

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.