More changes, every day. Tonight he fed his pretzel snack to his stuffed dog, and thoughtfully followed it up by offering some milk from his sippy cup (pretzels are thirsty things, you know!). It's a small thing, but it's a milestone - true imaginary play. He's utterly fabulous.
At our pediatrician's suggestion, I've been using time-outs to try to curb the hitting. I'm shocked at how quickly he's figured the whole thing out. Right now I'm just doing 30 seconds, and I count them out verbally (no eye-contact, though). The first 3 or 4 times were a struggle, and I was beginning to think he really was too young for it, but now he's really sitting still. My favorite part is when he starts asking to get up "Bah? Bah? Bah?" which shows me that he understands that he's not in charge of when he gets up - I am. Powerful stuff. Today he only had time-out twice (a few days ago he was in time-out five times before 9 am), and a few times after the warning ("Nate, if you hit me again you will go in time-out.") he just didn't hit me again. Super powerful stuff.
I've also been really consistent about taking things away from him when he's misbehaving with them, and boy is he understanding it. I think he's figuring out that I mean what I say, and that the consequences are coming his way. His behavior is really improving: much less hitting, much less testing, much less blatant disobedience. I'm really proud of both of us.
Gratuitous photo of Nate finger-painting with pudding: