Monday, December 17, 2007

Baby with a cellphone

Fern has figured out how to take a picture with Graham's phone, turn it around, and squeal at the results. Her latest photoessay follows.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Dear Fern (Part XXII)

Dear Fern,

New adjectives flooded into your vocabulary this month. You asked for the first time to wear a "pretty dress," and you describe things with words we're sure we never taught you on purpose: "fuzzy," "heavy," "cozy," "chilly," and countless others. Whenever you hit on an invented phrase that makes sense, you get really excited. "Cheese sandwich bacon" came to you one day: you know about cheese, you know about sandwiches, you love bacon, so putting them together gives you the ideal food!

Sentences are also interesting you. "I-want" is an easy construction, but you're also trying out some more complicated turns of phrase, like "I-no-like-it" and "Push-you-on-belly-swing." The record long sentence so far is "Let-me-I-want-touch-water-please." You tell jokes, too, usually about farting.

 2007 11 30 005
You picked the outfit yourself!

We're not sure when, exactly, but you have started to "pretend." It began with flying like a bird by flapping your arms -- that may be from your music class -- and has progressed to full-blown tea parties with tiny Play-Doh cups, saucers, and petit fours.

As always, you're really active, quite the dancer. The guitar player who sits and entertains outside our playground didn't used to excite you all that much, but now as long as he's playing something with a beat you're happy. And your acrobatics are progressing apace -- you can hardly see a horizontal bar without wanting to hang from it.

Group activities are starting to interest you more and more. The other day, you led a gaggle of toddlers in a mad game of Ring-Around-The-Rosey that left your dad with torn jeans and bruises. And you like leading: you love to encourage other kids to follow you places, although you usually move on once they're there. (You're a little disappointed, we think, if they don't show up!) The pursuit, it seems, is more important than the destination.

You still love bugs and worms, but lately you've insisted on showing all your discoveries to other people. Your preference is "kids" -- you must think that adults don't need to see another caterpillar -- and especially older boys. Maybe we're projecting, but we think you're proud that you can gently hold (and pet and caress and kiss) a worm that even the big, weapon-wielding boys are a little leery of.

We're moving this month -- today, in fact -- to a neighborhood closer to hiking trails and into a house with a backyard, but a bit farther away from the friends you've made down here. The loss of that community is sad, in a way, but we'll hold on to many of the friends we've made here, and we see a lot of good coming out of the challenge to take on a new playground and make new friends. Given how engaged, how verbal, how active you've been this month, we can only assume that you'll be hit the new neighborhood like a freight train!

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

Here's this month's slideshow. If you can't see the pictures down there, click this link.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XXI)

Dear Fern,

2007 10 12 003_edited-1
Stomping Puddles

You turn 21 months old today, and like anyone turning 21, you are torn between two of life's great stages. Sometimes you'll eat an entire bowl of cereal with a spoon and cut up food with the side of a fork, and the same day you'll ask for your string cheese to be broken into pieces for you. You can count to twenty on a good day, but if you're not in the mood we can't entice you even to say "two."

So -- baby or little girl? You be the judge.

Last week, you were playing catch with your mom, rolling a ball back and forth across the floor. The next day, you grabbed her hand and told her to "Sit!" Then you went and got the ball, sat down across from her, and resumed your game. Sounds like little girl to me!

Three seems to be your favorite age in a playmate. If you find a willing kid in the three- to four-year old set, you'll disappear with her to collect rocks, dance ring-around-the-rosey, or draw with sidewalk chalk. You prefer that us parents keep our distance when you sequester one of these older buddies, so you'll run off with your buddy where you think we can't see you. Then again, if you're playing with someone your own age, you seem to like a parent or two around to perform our necessary swing-pushing or bug-finding roles.

You're still full of baby joy, too: a good tickle-fest or tumble can make your day, and you love to cuddle. On the other hand, you seem to be developing a fakey posed smile that you whip out whenever we say "cheese" with camera in hand.

Winter seems to be bringing out the little girl in you, too. On our first rainy day, you insisted that we go get you rain boots and a jacket and, after months of hearing about it from your friends, you finally stomped in a puddle for the first time.

Words keep coming, and you're starting to put them together into sentences. Some of your new phrases we'd sort of rather you didn't shout about, too -- it's great that you correctly identify "Arf-Arf Poop," but do you have to do it so often? Deep down, I think you know you're being a little mischievous.

Maybe baby, maybe little girl. A lot of both, probably, and we're hardly the ones to say. We'll just close with this exhortation, and it's probably not the last time you'll hear this: we sure hope you don't rush to grow up. Getting older is empowering, but being a baby is pretty fun, too!

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

Here's this month's slideshow. If you can't see the pictures down there, click this link.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breakfast with the Family

We made Fern a calendar (her first Day Planner!) with little stickers letting her know who she's seeing and what she's doing each week. She seems to like it, but especially the stickers part. Today, for example, she wanted to have breakfast with the entire family and quite a few friends.

2007 10 29 028
Guests For Breakfast

(Ken, Jewel, Ali, Luke, Mark, and quite a few more of you are hidden only because you're on a sleeve or right on the high chair. Trust me, you're all there!)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XX)

Dear Fern,

2007 09 07 040_edited-1
I Can Figure It Out!

You turn twenty months old today. To celebrate, you called your mom on her way home from work and talked to her for ten solid minutes, mostly without repeating yourself. You sang her some songs, recited your ABCs and counted to ten; you told her "I love you" and mentioned that there was a ball and there was a bird. And, whenever your dad asked if he could have the phone back, you said simply "No," and chatted with your mom some more.

This month again has been all about language. You are starting to put words together in surprising ways, and you're always trotting out new vocabulary we never taught you: "mushroom," for example, came tonight, and "office" yesterday. We had started a list of the words you know, but we gave up quickly; it's just too hard to track. Your pronunciation is improving in leaps and bounds, too. Until this month, we were the only ones who could understand most of your words. Now, more often than not, Fern-language resembles English closely enough for strangers to understand.

You've started singing on your own without prompting -- "just for fun," it seems. You have some favorites: "Eensy Weensy Spider," naturally, and a chant from your music class, "Hey Ya Na." Once, you obligingly sang the theme from Love Boat to show off to your dad's stay-at-home dad friend. Like any campfire singer, though, you don't need to know many of the words before you're ready to hum along to almost anything.

2007 09 11 025
Your First Best Friend

Your best friend Erwan started school this month, and although you suffered his absence well, you still ask for him several times a day. Once, thinking you saw him at the park, a giant smile spread across your face as you nodded and shouted his name. Having had a friend like him, it seems to be easier for you to make new friends; you're learning the names of your regular park playmates and even seem to know how best to play with each one.

As always, you love figuring things out and have an amazing ability to focus. You managed to untie the farm gate at the zoo last week as a bemused zookeeper looked on. You clip your stroller belts, climb up the kitchen stool, unscrew container tops (which can be dramatic and wet) and dig up roly-polies. Driven to discover, you're also prone to frustration more than ever. You seem to have realized that you will someday be able to do everything we adults can, and when that day isn't today, you can get frustrated. You don't have frequent tantrums, exactly: it's more like you're upset that the world isn't quite under your control. (Yet.)

You're obsessed with water, tunnels, stickers, animals, bugs, and shoes.

Your mom started taking you to a circus arts class where you love swinging on the trapeze ("peez") and running on the trampoline, crashing into a pile of mats at the end. Before starting this class, you learned to climb ladders on your own. And, for some time now, your favorite trick at the park has been to hang from the bar at the top of the slide, raise your feet up, and swing back and forth. Willa, your new friend, learned to do the same after watching you, and her grandma claims that she is now more daring on the play structure because of you! You're one tough kid.

You're living a mile a minute these days; it's as much as we can do just to keep up!

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy


Here's this month's slideshow. If you can't see the pictures down there, click this link.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reunited Video

Hey, all! As you may know, Fern's best friend Erwan started a full-time pre-school this month, so we don't get to see as much of them as we used to. After a week apart, we finally got them together for an after-school treat at Peet's the other day and the kids were, to put it mildly, overjoyed. So much so that we let them roll around in a spot we probably otherwise would have avoided rolling around in. (You'll notice E's mom removing a cigarette butt mid-way through!)

If you can't see the video below, or if you want to see it bigger, click here for the full-sized page



Monday, September 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XIX)

Dear Fern,

You're a summer girl.

As grown-ups -- and even more, as San Franciscans -- we've forgotten, a little, what summer is for. Thanks to you, we're starting to rediscover that...

Summer is for the Sun

You love getting outside to "piay!" every day. We've been discovering and rediscovering outdoor adventures spots: the beach, the Discovery Museum, and new playgrounds. We're out for a good part of almost every day of this unusually fog-free summer. The bright sun has finally taught you to love hats and sunglasses -- two items you formerly saw mostly as peek-a-boo toys, or earlier than that, things to chew briefly and then ignore.

Summer is for Ice Cream

Another newfound love. Your mom took you for your first honest-to-goodness full-on ice cream cone this month, and it's a full-body experience: you lick the cream from the cone, stick your fingers into it, lick them a bit, bite the cream, and then crunch the cone. For future reference: you far prefer the cone to the cup, the cake cone to the sugar cone, and your favorite flavor is coffee. (Yeah, great.)

Summer is for Acrobatics

Just when we thought you could have some independent playground time, you started climbing ladders. Big ladders, too, the ones the four-year olds have trouble with. You've always liked hanging from the monkey bars, and now you swing from the bar at the top of the slide, giggling at the panicked looks on our faces. And you love tumbling. Somersaults are an old favorite, and just the other day, you put your head on the ground, locked your knees, and just stood there, like an ostrich about to do a headstand. Your buddy Erwan thought it looked cool, so he tried it right away, and suddenly there you were, two baby butts in the air, like a miniature yoga class.

Summer is for Junk Food

Your food tastes have swung toward carbohydrates, so we have to work a little harder to keep you eating enough fruits and vegetables. Luckily, you're still a nut for avocados, and you love to eat berries off the vine. (I even pretended to pick store-bought berries from a tree, and you loved that, except that then I had to pretend to pick avocado, cantaloupe, pears, and rice cake from that same tree. Hm.)

Summer is for Goofiness

Your mom and I are curious about the nature and nurture debate as it applies to goofiness. Because boy, are you evah. Your mom had you at the market the other day and you repeated "Loodleoodleoodleoodleoodleloo" for 25 solid minutes, apparently just because you like the way it makes your tongue feel. You also tackle us out of nowhere (I think maybe Erwan taught you that one), smoosh your face up against the French doors, and make silly faces just to prove you can.

But summer is coming to an end and so, alas, is your 19th month. Erwan is going to school full time soon, so we won't have as many outings with our buddy. You are starting to draw quite a lot and getting excited about longer books with fewer pictures, so we can spend more time on (for lack of a better word) "intellectual" pursuits.

As we speed along the last half of your second year, you're establishing and communicating your personality more loudly every day. Sometimes that fills the days with challenges, but more often your burgeoning individuality is just fun, fun, fun to watch.

We love you very much,

Mommy & Daddy

Here's this month's slideshow. If you can't see the pictures down there, click this link.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XVIII)

Dear Fern,

You're a year and a half old today, and we're going to call this one "manipulation month." I mean that in every sense: you're making connections between cause and effect at an increasingly sophisticated level, but that also means you're learning that you can make us react when you make demands of us.

You've had your first real tantrums this month. Nothing major -- a few minutes here or there when you didn't get your way -- but we're trying our best to teach you that tantrums are not a tool. You got a timeout this week, a minute by yourself in your high chair in the kitchen, and, astoundingly, it worked. Your mom and I are also practicing our toddler communication skills: we acknowledge that you WANT something at your level and at your volume, even as we let you know you can't have it. To our surprise again, that also seems to work.

Those challenges are still few and far between, though, punctuation marks to huge stretches of development that amaze your mom and me daily.

  • You love to put things away in their proper place. For what I'm sure is the last time in a decade or more, we can come into a room where you've been playing and find it neater than it was before.
  • While rocking you to sleep, your mommy asked you to close your eyes, so you reached up and closed them with your finger.
  • You've begun noticing when Carson the cat's food or water bowl is empty and ask to help fill it. You squat next to her bowl, scoop up some kibble, dump (most of) it into the bowl, pick up the pieces that scatter on the ground, and hand feed them to her, all the while scrunching your face up in great concentration. We're not quite ready to let you loose with the water pitcher!
  • You've quickly become an expert "babysittee." You lead your babysitter around the playground, telling her it's time to play on the swings now, but now it's time to look for bugs... she reports that you don't give her a minute's rest! 
  • You really recognize your friends now, too, like your park buddy Erwan. You can say his name, and you know how to entice him into a game of "crash" or buddy-sliding.
  • What began as a few scribbles has turned into a real passion for any kind of marking device on any markable surface. (Thank goodness for washable crayons.)

And so at eighteen months we find you a confident, excited, personable baby, turning quickly into a little girl who makes new discoveries and embarks on fresh adventures with each passing day.

Keep it up!

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XVII)

Dear Fern,

In your seventeenth month, you decided to trust the members of your extended village.

One afternoon you went to the playground with your Aunt Morgan and Uncle Luke. You see them in pictures all the time, but they live in Chicago so you haven't gotten to enjoy them since Christmas. No matter, though -- you pulled them into the swings and up the slide without a thought to how far away your mom and dad were. After all, aunties and uncas are just as good at playing Up! Whee! Watwa! as your more familiar relations! You got cozy like that with a lot of folks lately... our old friend Angie, your Uncle Greg, and dozens of others in our extended circle.

This month, you invented a somewhat credible "run." From your bouncy toddle you roll up onto the balls of your feet -- cue parent anxiety here --, throw all your weight to one side -- we swallow hard --, catch yourself with a toe, overbalance and nearly topple before you land the other foot -- that pounding noise is just our hearts --, and thus canter on in a barely controlled careen, as if you're sliding down a hill that's just a little too steep to walk.

Sometimes -- OK, a lot of times -- you take a tumble. Mostly, you aren't bothered a bit, and we're pretty proud of your solidness. Maybe because we always roughhoused with you, you seem to regard upside down and sideways as perfectly legitimate attitudes. When a random playground mom fusses over you after a fall, you usually give her a sort of pitying look, as if to say "Get over it!"

You concentrate really intensely. On a plane this month, you spent twenty minutes opening and shutting the window shades. The first day you figured out that you could autonomously climb the stairs, sit, and go down the slide, you repeated it about thirty times. Unfortunately, this focus comes out best with novel experiences: anything you've already accomplished (like, say, eating) tends to take a back seat to your thirst to explore more.

Oh, one last thing: you learned to brush stray strands of hair from your face this month. We expect you'll perfect this gesture over the next few years while we have control over your hair, until that sad future day when you'll crop it short as a rebellious teenager.

So your seventeenth month ends today, and as we enter the last month of your first sesquiannum, it's getting harder to call you "the baby." You talk and act more like a little girl, and although we miss your infant helplessness, we're excited by each new accomplishment, which these days come pretty much daily.

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

If you can't see the slide show, click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

DSC_0012Another post from Kristin...

As you’ve probably figured out, blogging has become more and more difficult as Fern has gotten older—for one, she’s become more attuned to the camera, often wanting to use it herself in the same way that she wants to use our cell phones (not advised, by the way, as I recently discovered when my cell phone crashed to the floor as she dropped it from her high chair—thank goodness for cell phone insurance!).

For another, if she spies a computer in use, she also wants that for her own purposes of tickling Elmo, making it difficult for us to complete our own tasks.

Her technophilia is only one of many ways in which she’s following in daddy’s footsteps … she also loves digging in the sand for crabs and dipping her toes in the ocean. Next thing we know, she’ll be saving seals and blogging on her own. What will she write?!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XVI)

Dear Fern,

We're going to call this the "month of parlor tricks."

There's probably a more technically precise term from the field of child development for the astounding leaps you're making, but since we don't know the correct nomenclature, we're sticking with "parlor tricks." Or maybe "baby vaudeville" because it's so fun to have you perform in front of our friends and playmates. Here's what you can do, mostly new this month:

  • The Animal Sounds Game. Impress your friends by giving correctly and in succession the correct sounds for cat, dog, sheep, owl, donkey, elephant, snake, and lion!
  • Do You Wanna Rock?! When we say this, you throw up your arms and we all say "Let's Rock!" Even better is when we start out like we're with Metallica: "Hey, Cleveland! DO! YOU! WANNA! ROCK?!"
  • Find the Body Part. You successfully locate your head, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, ears, shoulders, belly button, hands, knees, feet, and toes.
  • POILs (Phrases of Impressive Length). You say "olive oil" and "belly button" (in addition to some 45 other fairly typical words). We're working on "meritocracy," "ambulate," and "self-immolation."
  • Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet. Thanks to Music Together classes, you clap, stomp, drum, strum, and hum on command.
  • Please and Thank You. We've got you using the signs for "please" and "thank you" and you're picking up the spoken word "pweez" -- often even on your own. We're not positive you really know what "please" means, but then again, does anyone really know what "please" means?
  • Playground Tricks. Since you're an old hand at the playground, you've picked up a few stunts that seem impressive for a 16-month old but are simply habit: hanging and dropping from the monkey bars, doing somersaults, belly-swinging by yourself, and digging for bugs.

So it's been a banner month for your development. We'd be guilty of evasion if we didn't mention the downside to that: we've just come off a week where you had a few horrible sleep nights -- up every other hour, sometimes not falling asleep until the double-digit PMs, and getting only 10 hours of shuteye some days, when 13 or more was your average. Such sleep disturbance, some of the "experts" say, can be a sign of a growth spurt of mind or body.

Thankfully, though, the brief sleepless phase seems to have passed, and you're back to your previous pattern, which was becoming more and more regular. We're going to chalk up the anomaly to a surge of growth and learning.

So here you are, one-and-a-third years old. It seems like it won't be too much longer before you'll be writing these blog entries on your own. Your mom and I are just starting to get the first "gee-you're-not-a-tiny-baby-anymore" pangs, but nevertheless: We can hardly wait for what's to come!

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Looky what we learned today

Our former roommate Laurel took this on her phone last night. The tongue thing was unplanned. I guess Fern & I are sort of similar!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Sinister Look

Sinister look

Hey, everybody! I couldn't resist posting this cute little photo of Fern looking a little sinister. In the picture, she's chewing on a pencil topper that a grandfather (who shall remain nameless, but it's the one who's a priest) got for her. Let's just say... she's a lot of fun with everything she does these days!

There are a couple milestones to report, too.

Fern set pen to paper for the first time and entered the "Craft Age": the picture at right was her first creation! Now we just have to make sure that the crafts remain on paper, and not the newly-painted walls!

To complete the dental saga, I should let you know that Fern's final first molar came in with hardly a complaint. She's now got 12 teeth, and although it's hard to predict, her canines will probably come in about four to six months, then the final set of molars in about a year.

Finally, Fern is very excited about the birth last month of her new Minneapolis cousin, Tanner!

Sorry I've been so lax about posting lately -- I'll do my best to fill in the gaps this month!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dear Fern (Part XV)

Our Easter Trip

Dear Fern,

You're fifteen months old today. Fifteen. A teen-month-ager. And you're not unlike a teenager in a lot of ways: you're newly capable, excited by life, and immersed in daily discoveries.

You're turning into a little linguist. You enjoy knowing the names of things, whether in English or sign language. You can name things as diverse as your belly button ("bewi-buh"), oatmeal ("ohmaol"), and your pet Roomba ("Wilbur"). You've also moved on from nouns and verbs to feelings: you can tell me you're tired now, and your mom has taught you "I love you" in sign, and "please" and "thank you," too.

You're so clued in that we're discovering that we have to be very careful what we talk about. Both of us have become adept at s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g things out. We read in our Karp that we can use this to our advantage, by "gossiping": praising positive behaviors to another adult rather than directly to you. Apparently, there's research to show that you pay more attention to what I'm saying when I'm talking to mommy than when I'm talking directly to you. In fact, Karp suggests that I can gossip with the cat or even some handy inanimate object.

"Hey, stove, don't you like it when Fern tells me what she needs so nicely?"

"Why, yes, Graham, the microwave and I agree!"

At least it gives me someone else to talk to.

We got to see a lot of family this month both here and in our Easter trip to Virginia. You're very engaged, and seem perfectly willing to play with anyone who wants to play, including your grandparents but also, amazingly, your rather physical older cousins. Since your best friend is 2½, I suppose you're getting used to a little rough-and-tumble, but I was amazed at how you thrived on the onslaught of holding, running, walking, picture-taking, singing, tumbling, and dancing the older kids brought on.

We've gotten you out to restaurants a few times, including your Uncle Steve & Aunt Julie's place in Virginia Beach. Eating is a lustily physical experience for you now. You don't want to be fed anymore -- you want to feed yourself and you love new textures between your fingers: rice cakes, mushrooms, smoked salmon, or, as was the case at Ribley's, a nice barbecue pork sandwich!

You've also expanded your animal experience. We got to meet lambs ("baaaas"), sheep, guineas, horses, and, as always, many new bugs this month, and you seemed to enjoy them all. It's not so easy to get a city girl like you out to see nature, but you enjoy every minute! The zoo is a pretty intense experience: you've got just enough language to express yourself in a really beautiful way. When your mom took you there last weekend, you were fascinated by an anteater: your joint spoken-signed word for it was "nose-cat," which I thought was pretty apt. At the same enclosure, you impressed a peacock sufficiently with your cries of delight that he displayed his feathers for you. (I realize that it's not entirely complimentary to say that you sound like a peacock, but there you go. Let's just say that your enthusiasm is... magnificent. And voluminous.)

You're doing a lot of learning these days, Miss Fern, and we feel honored to be along for the ride!

As always,

Much love,

Mommy & Daddy

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dear Fern (Part XIV)

Dear Fern,

Sometime this month, you made the transition into "little girl." We can't put our finger on exactly what we mean by that, but we know it's true.

You're talking a lot more. You pick up words with ease, although you don't always remember them for very long. We'd think you were just mimicking us if not for the fact that pretty frequently, you'll bring the word back a few days later, unprompted.

While it's fun hearing you say all these new words, our enjoyment pales in comparison with your excitement at being able to communicate what you want. It's a little like being in a foreign country: you use a combination of pointing, the few words you know in English or sign, and some very focused grunting to get your meaning across.

Here's an actual conversation you had with your mom the other day:

"I'd like some food," you said.
"Oh?" answered mommy. "What would you like?"
"Cereal, please."
"Ah, I'll get the cereal out, then."
"With milk," you added, politely.

Maybe you think I'm exaggerating your lucidity. It's true we translate a little bit for you, but not that much. You're very well spoken.

A beautiful spring has hit San Francisco, which means we're doing big outings at least once a week. You love the beach and the zoo, and we spent a memorable day in the park with some new friends. I'm learning that you resemble us when it comes to travel: you like going to beautiful and interesting places, but once you're there, you have no need to sight-see. You don't need to experience every animal at the zoo, and a pigeon is just as good as an eagle. And one good lawn at the botanical garden is enough for an afternoon's experience... no need to see everything.

Thanks in part to these long morning outings, you're down to a single nap per day. You'll stay up for about five or six hours after you get up in the morning, then go to sleep for up to two hours. This has been a fantastic thing for us... we can really get out there and experience life when you're able to go that long. Your napping has been incredibly easy, too: once, after a particularly exhausting day when we visited mommy at work, you actually fell asleep in the car! (I know, to other parents this doesn't seem like a big thing, but it's a rarity for you.) Even more amazing, you stayed asleep as I parked the car, transferred you to the stroller, rolled you a block to our house (crossing a busy intersection as we did it), decanted you from the stroller, carried you upstairs, changed your diaper, and put you in your crib. Good nap!

You are having a little bit of trouble at night, waking for sometimes an hour or even more at 3 or 4 a.m. We're not sure why, although we suspect that your erupting molars are one possibility. We've also had luck feeding you extra right before bedtime, so it's possible you're just waking up a little hungry sometimes. Still, it's a big improvement over the multiple awakenings that were happening even just a few weeks ago, and we're hopeful that once those teeth come in we'll be able to get back to sleeping through the night.

Walking, which you've been doing for over two months now, has finally entered the realm of "second nature." I no longer have to worry when you're in head-banging range of something, which is a relief. I think it's done wonders for your self-confidence, too, to realize that you can get somewhere, experience the new place, and then get up and come back to us, all without any particular help.

So I guess what we mean by "little girl" is that your gifts for interacting with the world have developed to the point where you're asserting your own being more often than not. Honestly, it's just a little bit frightening to contemplate the entirety of the path that you've started out on, but at the same time we're jazzed to see you taking it!

We love you very, very much.


Mommy & Daddy

Monday, March 12, 2007

Weathering the weather

San Francisco has gotten warm and wonderful this week, so we decided to go out and enjoy our lunch alfresco in the playground. Fern had no trouble adapting to a summery lifestyle: kick your feet up, eat a strawberry, and watch the birds do all the work!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Two and a half feet!

Just a quick note to report on this week's one-year physical checkup. Fern passed with flying colors and all her stats are in pretty much the same deciles as before: 75th percentile height, 90th percentile weight, and somewhere just over the chart lines for head size. So, at 30.5 inches, Fern has crossed the two-and-a-half foot mark for good!

Many of you will remember the friend in the photo as our former roommate (and wedding cake designer) Laurel, who still comes over to hang with the family every week or so and also blogs all about her gourmet lifestyle, here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dear Fern (part XIII)

Dear Fern,

I have really enjoyed using the nice round term "a year" when people ask how old you are. You're doing everything a good one-year old should: your walking is coming along really well, you pick up new words (in English and sign language) nearly daily, and you're discovering new skills (like dumping things out of other things).

This month, though, I am paying special attention to your emotional development. It's been a challenging month for us, with difficulties facing many in our family and loved ones. So maybe I'm projecting, but I imagine that your sentiments about and toward others are starting to emerge.

One day this month, at the playground, you encountered a ball-stealer. (These are fairly common in the one-year old set, and you, in fact, play the role pretty frequently yourself!) In this instance, you didn't cry out or lunge after your stolen property, but you didn't disconnect and move on, either. You just looked at the other baby with an impenetrable expression. You showed that you were annoyed, certainly, but it was mixed with a question, almost a sense of wonder about this other being and his actions. It seemed as if you were trying to figure out why anyone would snatch a ball like that.

Do one-year olds ask these kinds of "Why" questions? I have no idea. I expect I'm grownupopomorphizing. But there was definitely something there. Other examples float up in my memory, too… You've started hugging both me and your mom a lot more without being prompted, often when you don't seem to be either seeking comfort or hiding. You’ll be playing in the living room when suddenly you turn, hug your mom or me, and then go on with what you were doing. It’s pretty charming.

At the playground, you're over your stranger anxiety. You approach other parents, climb on them, even hug them... not quite as often as some of the other kids do, but a couple of times a day. At home, you're suddenly very attentive to dolls (and stuffed animals, to some degree). You have two baby bottles that you feed them with, and if a doll isn't handy, you feed me or your mom. Or the cat.

It's hard to predict your adult personality from what we see now, but one thing seems clear: you're going to be cheerful. Thoughtful too, I'll bet. And pretty curious. Not without tearful episodes, unfortunately, but always consolable. (You’ve started complaining and even crying a lot more this month when you don’t get what you want.)

After that, though, the signs of your future persona become hazier. Will you like animals, sports, dolls, or trucks? (All of the above, at the moment.) It seems equally likely from this distant vista that you’ll be a novelist, a sorghum farmer, or a professional roller derby skater.

Whatever will be, will be. We’re sure having a great time watching as you figure it out, though.

Much love,

Mommy & Daddy

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fort California

California living

Fern and I got to play "fort" the other day. She's still a little unsure about it: she seems to like the idea of being inside the cavern we constructed, but pretty quickly scoots out. Good thing she did, too, because as you can see, our building collapsed immediately afterward. Living in earthquake-prone California, I guess we'd probably better teach Fern a very important new phrase: unreinforced masonry building!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Peet's grants me (a little more than) 15 minutes of (not very much) fame

Peets recognitionOver the years, I've stayed loyal to Peet's Coffee*, never straying to that "other" place (the one with the name from Moby Dick, you know) unless I had absolutely no choice. (At the Bakersfield airport, for example. Then again, I was stuck in Bakersfield, so I had bigger problems. But I digress...)

These days, I take Fern to our newly-opened Peet's down the street at least two or three times a week. (She doesn't get coffee until she's four, we've agreed. But she likes people-watching.)

Imagine my pride, then, when after all these years, I've been recognized as a dyed-in-the-wool Peet's fanatic. I am proud to announce that Fern and I are this week's... Customers of the Week!

How, you ask, could this have possibly happened? How did they pick me from among all the Peet's regulars who buy expensive coffee mixtures instead of cheap black coffee like I do? Here's what happened, recalled in this snippet from my forthcoming off-Broadway play about the incident:

SCENE:  A San Francisco Peet's store. Enter from stage left GRAHAM, an unshaven but otherwise clean guy pushing one-year old FERN in a stroller. Thunder peals offstage. GRAHAM approaches the counter behind which MICHELLE and ETHAN loll, looking bored but alert. Both have tattoos and look like they might have some hidden piercings and attend art college at night.

GRAHAM: Hey, there. How do you get to be customer of the week?

MICHELLE: Oh, I just take a picture of you. Let me get the Polaroid.

GRAHAM: That's it?

MICHELLE: Well, we already have one for this week, so you have to wait until next week. But I'll take your picture and leave it here.

GRAHAM: Great!

FERN: Hah! Mahmahmahmahmah. Psfffft!

And that's all it took!

*Even those of you from elsewhere have probably heard of Peet's Coffee, the local coffee roaster and chain that started in Berkeley a few years before I went to school there. My coffee addiction came of age drinking Peet's. When I first went to a local cafe for "coffee," I was actually drinking the least coffee-like of espresso drinks: mochas heavy on the chocolate and cream, lattes with almond shots, and similar monstrosities. I was a theater major and did overnight shifts on the college radio station, though, so soon, as I began to spend ever less time sleeping, I dropped the adjectives from my coffee order one by one. No more "decaf," ever. No more "single-shot" or "lowfat" or anything with "-ccino" or "frap-" involved. No, I was down to just one-word orders:

"Coffee." (Okay, I probably said "Please," too... at least, after the first cup.)

By this point, I wasn't even suggesting the size I wanted because I would simply hand over one of my capacious travel mugs. Peet's is pretty strong coffee, and drinking 32 ounces at a go gives one quite a rush. I don't remember too many specifics about college, but in the few memories that come back to me, I'm moving really, really fast.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Auditioning to be a Marimekko model

Something about doing nine loads of laundry inspires me to be a little more diligent about Fern's bibs. It's not like we don't have good ones: we've got a whole stash by Marimekko, including this full-arm number. Usually, though, by the time Fern's strapped into her high chair and I've got her food organized, she's already smooshed avocado into the sleeve of her white onesie and dropped peas into her tights.

So it's been a while since Fern put this on, and to be honest, I'm pretty sure she used to hate it. Something about today, though, put her in a great mood! I ran out of time to edit, so these are fairly well raw pictures -- sorry about the flash wash. I couldn't pick my favorite, either, so I'm just putting them all up!

Here's a link to the show.

Friday, February 23, 2007

First playground playdate

Fern and Aliyana
Fern and Aliyana
We finally had what I feel is a pretty major "first" -- our first playdate with someone we met at the playground. I'm not sure why this took so long; I've been going to the playground for a looong time -- since Fern was about 20 weeks old. It's a big deal for me, though, because I've been a little shy to seek social encounters outside of the playground.

Fern got to know Aliyana in a pretty typical way for us: at the playground, I met her mom on weekdays and Kristin met her dad on weekends. (It's amazing how many babies we know in common without having met the same parents!) The girls are pretty close to the same age, and seemed well-matched. Aliyana's a solid walker, but Fern is pretty physical and lopes or cruises or crawls after her without difficulty.

I'm shy about this sort of thing, as previously mentioned, so I left it to Kristin to make the first contact, inviting the family over for brunch and play. (That's what the photos are from.) The next week was rainy, so Aliyana's mom invited me and Fern over for playdate and lunch. A friendship was born!

Since then, I've been investigating playgroups and have planned outings with some other parents, too. I've even gone to Peet's for a coffeeklatsch with a mom, two strollers, and a dog! The floodgates, it would appear, have opened. Next stop: running a preschool from the house!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Replacement O's [sic]

As you may remember, we've been searching for a replacement for Cheerios, with their high-fructose corn syrup. Our urban deity, Trader Joe, heard our plea and provided. Fern seems pleased to the point of indifference.

The one drawback is the incorrect apostrophe. I hate having grammatical errors in the house, but if it's for Fern, well...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Birthday recap

Far too many photos to put on one page... click here for the whole birthday slide show. I'm also missing quite a few because they were taken by other people... could you e-mail your photos if you've got them? Thanks!

Phew! What a birthday -- we're still recovering! In all the hustle and the bustle, I left a few fun bits out of the blog, so I thought I'd just catch up a little.

First off, as you may know, Fern's birthday comes the day after Uncle Greg's, so when he and Grandma Linda arrived we had a little celebration. Fern was asleep for the cake part, unfortunately, but we did spend some time practicing "blowing out the candles" for her big moment to come. (For the record, Fern did not blow out her own candle. I swung her around to set up an air current, but even that didn't really work!)

Grandma Joan and "Papa" Gary had a fun day with Fern when they arrived from the airport, warming up from a somewhat sleepy and whiny car ride. (We picked them up in a Zipcar since we've pared down to just one car at home now, and Fern still wasn't really used to it... and silly daddy forgot her water bottle to boot!) Among other things, they got to see the Christmas wagon put to good use as Fern got some walking practice in.

On the birthday day itself, Fern got all dressed up (we hardly ever get to wear dresses!) and was celebrated by Greg, Linda, Gary, Joan, and, of course, Uncle Ken and Aunt Jewel. She had a bite of her first birthday cake, although it was hard to tell if she liked it. (Judge for yourself from the picture!) Kristin created a Krispy Kreme cake, much like our wedding cake, except this time with a butterfly-and-fern theme, just as if you'd been strolling along a forest creek and happened to discover a patch of the elusive doughnut mushroom.

As mentioned above, I'm short on photos from the birthday, so please send me any more you've got! For now, here's a link to the whole set.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

One Year Old!

Our birthday entry is a joint effort; Kristin starts it out, then Graham's portions are indented.

Dear Fern,

As you walked down the hall today toward the living room where everyone had gathered to celebrate your birthday (you had just woken up from your nap), you pressed yourself into my legs expressing only a few moments of concern. You quickly gave everyone a coy smile and jumped into opening your presents with gusto, taking each in with keen interest.  The flirtatious looks you threw about the room while you were eating your lunch, commanding attention from your high chair, made it clear how connected you feel to those you love and who love you back.
You are now a true toddler (you have taken your first independent steps after several weeks of cruising, and now you utter strings of "no no no no no")—it was hard to imagine a year ago what that would mean.  At that time, all of the nurses in the hospital affectionately called you "the toddler" because of your massive mop of hair and size.  You came out a solid, healthy girl, and remain so to this day, even after weathering acid reflux and casts on both legs.  Your first cry was a throaty complaint, to which we responded with tears popping out of our eyes.  When we caught our first glance of you while the nurses were cleaning you up and weighing you, I remember exclaiming "Oh my god, look at those feet!  NO!  Look at that HAIR!"  And, "No ... really?  9 pounds 6 ounces?!"

In the following weeks, we plunged into a new lifestyle in which we kept the lights down low in the evenings and carried you in Sven (our name for the "Baby Bjorn" carrier) much of the day and all evening to keep the witching hour at bay.  When we finally had enough courage to set you down, we would put you in the basket from Grandma Joanie and Papa next to our bed.  My superstitious nature would kick in each evening as I felt a surge of relief at the sight of the protective totems hanging from the basket, tied there by one of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich (how that came to be is another story), who also provided much comfort to me in her essays about motherhood, which I read when I wasn't catching up on sleep.  Somewhere between three and four months (the end of the "fourth trimester"), you seemed much more at ease in the world—and we began to gain confidence as parents.  I no longer had the regular urge to call your wonderfully responsive pediatrician to make sure we were doing everything right.  At six months, we moved you into your crib in your own room and began the long journey to "regular" sleep.

My memory's not as good as your mom's, so I remember those first weeks as individual images. Changing your diaper for the first time in the hospital. Waking up from my perch on the chair to see you nursing in your mom's bed. Installing and re-installing the car seat base. The time you squeezed my finger for the first time. And, finally, taking you on outings. You've probably seen all these pictures by the time you're reading this, but try to imagine them the way they were: experienced first-hand by two new parents trying desperately not to be too clueless.

Four months (what your mom called "the end of the fourth trimester"), was also around the time I really settled being at home with you by myself on weekdays. Your mom had taken care of lots of babies before, but with very rare exceptions, I never had. What I had done is cared for a lot of wild animals, and strangely, I took comfort from that. Like any seal pup, you seemed the happiest when I was relaxed and calm, or at least when I pretended to be. So that's what I did.

You would never have known that your dad had any moments of not being relaxed and calm.  While he took comfort in having cared for wild animals, I drew comfort from his stoic serenity.  Through his tireless efforts, he has been the one to establish your regular sleeping patterns (someday we'll share with you the recordkeeping we continue to do to track your sleep, diapers, nursing, bottles, food, etc.), starting with regulating your nap times.  Now your nighttime sleep has started to become more solid—at times even including eight-hour stretches.  And it's much easier to help you fall asleep.

You've gotten more social by the day. You've always loved to smile back at anyone smiling at you, but increasingly you seek out others as well. This is great for me; I was getting a little lonely at the playground! Having you socialize with other babies opens an entirely new parenting dimension, too. You enjoy touching other babies, and an occasional touch becomes a grab. You sometimes steal toys, even, and they're stolen from you. I'm frequently asking myself when I should intervene: does it do more harm than good to interrupt your normal play? Baby chimps climb over one another and wolf cubs play-wrestle. I'm sure this behavior plays an important role in their development, and perhaps yours, too.

Then again, there are a lot of things baby chimps and wolves do that I wouldn't allow for you (except for licking gristle off of bones, of course). But there's no book to guide these kinds of decisions, so every day I redraw these boundaries for myself. Sometimes my limits float toward liberal permissiveness simply because I'm sleepy. Other days I realize after the fact I've reined you in too closely. I guess that's part of teaching you about life's disorderly nature.

Everyone comments on "what a good waver you are."  At times, you wave even when no one is in sight as we stroll to and from the park (when I'm taking the "weekend shift" where I connect with the other weekend shift parents—often daddies).  You also wave at the webcam in your room, at Wilbur (the name we finally chose for Roomba), and at "kitty cat" Carson.  When I leave each morning, you wave goodbye and assure me with your dimpled smile that you will remember who I am when I return at the end of the day.  I can't fully describe what it feels like to see you at said end of day, but know that there is nothing sweeter than the moment I walk through the door and see you and your daddy.  I treasure our evening bedtime routine, which once focused on reading Good Night Moon, but has expanded to include your current favorites, I Love You as Much, Baby Beluga, Goodnight Gorilla, and Who is Coming to Our House. And I feel myself fully releasing all tension from the day when I sing some of the same songs to you that Grandma Joanie sang to me: Kentucky Babe, The Little Shoemaker, and Over the Rainbow.  I have internalized the importance of setting limits at bedtime—if I let you pull books off the shelf (by reaching over my shoulder while we're sitting together on the chair in your room), bedtime can take three times as long.  Once I started setting limits and sticking to them, you responded beautifully.

When people comment on your personality, I wonder how much of it is going to stick. When you're reading this—how old will you be, 9? 15? 32?—, will the same words describe you as those we use today? Gregarious. Contented. Responsive. Goofy. Resourceful. Determined. Um... jolly? Don't get me wrong: it's fine if you change, too... this is an exercise in early nostalgia more than an expectation. But ever since you were born, I've looked at your face and thought I saw glimmers of your older, wiser self. At times I'm secretly surprised that we're not yet having full conversations in English, although we have clearly started conversing in some language. Lately I've even begun to sense that you, too, are frustrated that you can't say more, as if that word you want to know and articulate is just on the tip of your tongue. Then again, I may be wrong, and simply grownupopomorphizing. I blame all that hair. Makes you look older.

You have learned to use your words.  In addition to mastering a few words in sign language---milk (which you seem to use for mommy too), more, eat, and avocado (in that order with the latter three emerging on the same day this past week)---you now say "daddy" (ever since October), "mom" (or, more often, "momom"), and "kitty."  Most recently, you learned to  say "up" after I told you that you needed to use your words instead of shrieking when you wanted to get out of your high chair.  What started as general vocalization from the time you were very little has now turned into full-blown singing.  You favorites of late are La La La Lemon and Clap Your Hands (which also includes lots of "la las").  When you hear these songs, you stop what you're doing, turn your face toward the music, and burst out with "la la la la." 

You scare the mothers in your music class. Whenever people sing, you sing, and sing loud like a mezzo-soprano on a roller coaster. To strangers, it can sound like you're miserable, but your face is filled with joy. (I think you're happy because you're finally getting your message across.) You're not always thrilled with big groups of people (neither am I, come to that), but if you've got an activity to focus on, like singing or playing, then you're comfortable. I have to confess to a little guilty satisfaction when you're feeling discomfited, because you've started to hug for security, which is fun! You are so at ease in so many situations that I can already feel left out, watching you play and enjoy yourself without me! It's nice to be needed.

Yes, your newfound ability to hug (even when that hug includes a little bite on my shoulder) is incredibly fulfilling.  When you turn to me when you're feeling insecure, or when you're just wanting to give me a squeeze, my insides get all squiggly.  It's the same feeling I get when I enter your room to find you beaming up at me after a nap or when we get into giggling fits together over silly things (your laugh of late is sounding like Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter).  Sometimes it looks like your smile is going to explode.  Or maybe I'm just projecting the feeling of delight and awe inside me when I look at you.

We love you very much! Thanks for a wonderful year, and get ready for many more adventures to come!


Mommy & Daddy

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kelley & Phil's bun!

We got to go over to Kelley & Phil's last weekend; as you can tell, Fern's got another playmate on the way! Unfortunately, we didn't get any good shots of Phil this visit; there are some of him in the "related photos" though!