Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXXIV

Dear Fern,

You turn 34 months old today. Something really big happened to you this month, but we can't quite remember what it is.

Fern slideshow

Oh, yeah, that was it.

Yes, you became a big sister this month, and if there's sibling jealousy in you then it's waiting for a different month to manifest. You've adapted to the presence of a baby admirably, mostly by becoming more flexible in your inflexible demands.

Last month, if you wanted attention and both of us were home, you'd usually pick one or the other. "Mommy, come play basketball!" would be the call, or "Daddy, I want to take a bath." Now, peppered by frequent helpful visits from friends and grandparents, your key expression has become "I want to play with one of the grownups." The implication is clear -- any grownup will do, whichever one is not changing or nursing or soothing the baby.

Sometimes you get involved in baby care yourself. Since you can pretty much reach the sink now (we'll discuss your pro-basketball future soon) you moved your bathroom stool next to the changing table and helpfully provide wipes on demand, all the while telling poor discommoded Claudia, "It's OK. It's OK."

Dolls have reaped the benefit of your sisterhood, as well: you've become incredibly attentive to their needs, diapering them and putting them down for naps. Your mom bequeathed to you her own childhood Sasha doll, and it's rare that you don't install her in the high chair at the dinner table in front of a tray of wooden vegetables, feeding her very small bites and blowing on the fork when her "food" is too hot.

You're not all about babies, of course. For one thing, you've become an unrepentant clothing kleptomaniac. First you were squeezing into your sister's baby clothes. Now it's come to the point where we're keeping little bags of clothes to be returned to your friends, since you can't go on a visit without pawing through closets and drawers for choice footie pajamas.

Friends have gained in importance, though of course we've had a hard time seeing them enough. A couple of weeks ago, we saw Erwan, your bestie from the old neighborhood, and for a while there it seemed like you might smother him with the hugging and all. We've joked in the past, the way all parents do, about "planning the wedding." Now we think you might be thinking along the same lines, as well, and no joke.

So one of the most revolutionary months of your short life, a month of changes that could have confused or annoyed or even frightened you, has instead boosted you squarely into the ranks of the confident, communicative, compassionate big girls. Well done.

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy


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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXXIII

Dear Fern,

Fern slideshow

You turn two and three quarters today, and there are two drawbacks to this milestone.

For one thing, we just taught you to say "two and two thirds" and that was kind of impressive.

Secondly and more importantly, this is your final mensiversary as an only child. Rare will be the days to come when you'll have both your parents' undivided attention. One friend, another parent of two, described the sensation as going from double-teaming to a one-on-one defense -- and it seems that you don't completely approve of the change.

Don't get me wrong: most of the time you continue to be your blissfully satisfied, cooperative self. You're also more likely these days to go off to play some game of your own invention -- by yourself. It's as if you're already preparing for how distracted we, your parents, are going to be in a few short days.

But you're also backsliding, too. No textbook regression for you: you're still pooping in the potty and dressing yourself. But if we indulge you, and sometimes even over our objections, you'll try to squeeze into some of the baby clothes we've been getting ready for your sister. You've also taken to making us feed you sometimes. Although we're loathe to do that for an almost three-year old, we know that if allowed, you will go without a bite of anything (except toothpaste, which you covet). And then you won't sleep. And then we won't sleep. So if feed you we must, then feed you we will.

Your ambivalence about sisterhood has a positive pole, too: you spend much of your time practicing baby care. One of your favorite games is "put the baby to bed" in which you arrange pillow, blankets, and stuffed animals for your current sister proxy -- the favorite doll you've oddly taken to calling "medium-sized dolly." (At least it's not "venti dolly.") So at the same time that you're looking slightly tarty in your 6-month-sized T-shirts you're also asking for a doll-sized Baby Bjorn. You make us feed you, then in the same beat turn to feed your doll or teach mommy's belly to sing "This Old Man."

It's obvious why the family enlargement confuses you: it's doing the same to us. Every symptom -- from your stubbornly regressive moments to the periods of unbridled saintliness -- is completely normal for a now two-and-three-quarter year old about to get a baby in the family. You've really enjoyed self-identifying as a "big girl" -- doing things like having entire telephone conversations and writing letters to your friends -- but you're not sure that you like the idea of losing your recourse to babyhood. Just today you rejoiced over upgrading from car seat to booster but at the same time you wanted to ride in the Ergo carrier like a baby -- something you haven't done for over a year.

Your upcoming thirty-fourth month promises to be life-changing for all of us. We know -- well, hope -- that you'll feel as we do that the titles you're losing -- "only child," "baby of the family" -- will be more than compensated for by the ones you're gaining -- "big sister," "sensible caregiver." And, the most exciting label that you'll be surely taking on in a couple of years -- that might last the rest of your life -- is, of course, "best friend."

So if you have a few moments of receding into infantile behavior for a little while -- it's not a problem. You've got a lot on your plate just now.

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

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

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXXII

Dear Fern,

Fern slideshow
Communing with a baby ladybug.

You turn two and two-thirds today and as you careen toward three, you seem to be daily more intent on controlling the world around you.

It started months ago with clothes -- you've always wanted to pick your own, but more and more, your need to create an outfit that's "just so" borders on obsessive. Pink, of course, is still in vogue, although you like to mix things up, too: just today you chose dark striped tights instead of pink pants. And some days nothing but a dress will do.

Your experiments with the world are not limited to the sartorial, though: you want to actively participate in nearly every aspect of daily life. We love that about you, of course, and sometimes it's even useful, like when you help load the dryer or whisk your own eggs for breakfast.

At other times, your independence can be challenging. When you make up your mind that you will be doing something by yourself, it's nearly impossible to offer you any help. Stuck inside a sweater with a sleeve the wrong way in, you still want to get it on by yourself and reject any obvious assistance. (We're getting pretty subtle about helping hands, though; as long as you don't notice us tug or pull, you can't object.)

Your self-reliance has made you a problem solver. We've struggled for months with washing your hair -- you don't like to be reclined into the tub, we don't have a sprayer, and when we use our special hair-washing rinse cup, you won't tilt your head back. So mom asked you a few times how you'd solve the problem of needing to look up at the ceiling during rinsing. "I can look up at a duck!" was your decision, and -- since you'd come up with it yourself -- it worked! One or two rubber duckies later and your hair was clean.

Not surprisingly, you like to control us, too. Dad told you the other day about how Mommy was coming home soon and you immediately responded, "Is her hair up?" If mom's hair is down, you're sure to demand that be fixed, and the same goes for ordering dad to "Put your hat on!"

We're really proud, though, of how you're convinced that pretty much everything in the world can be brought under your control, once you learn the trick. At the zoo one day this month, two goats were friskier than usual in their attempts to steal every bit of kibble we'd bought. The two started butting at each other fairly violently, like something out of a nature video. Adults were running off, but you grabbed one by the neck and whispered something (probably a threat) into its ear. Over and over, you pushed the brawling goats aside and insisted that they play nice. And amazingly they did, and what's most impressive, they stopped treating you like a lunch ticket and instead showed you the same deference a farm hand would deserve.

If you can master zoo goats, we guess you can accomplish just about anything. At least, that's what you seem to think, and if this month is any guide, you're probably right.

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXXI

Dear Fern,

"Thank you for a nice day, daddy."

Fern slideshow
Sweet girls.

Today, the day you turn 31 months old, that's what you said in lieu of "Good night." Mommy and daddy looked incredulously at one another. We didn't tell you to say that -- we've never told you to say anything remotely like that. Earlier in the day, unprompted, you came out with "Thank you for dinner, mommy!" It warmed our hearts, it was a nice sentiment, but where did you learn it?

The answer is obvious, of course: you heard someone use the expression, you understood and liked it, so you adopted it as your own. But not so long ago at least one of your parents was present and usually responsible for every one of your "learning moments." Now, it seems, you're teaching yourself.

The other day you wanted to show off your sunglasses to your cousin. You just whipped them out, unfolded the earpieces, and put them on in the fluid gesture of an L.A. driver. A few months ago trying the same action you would have nearly punctured an eardrum or else ended up with the glasses upside down. But we never taught you the skill -- we couldn't say for sure that you learned it this month, even. But you learned it, and you learned it somewhere on your own.

Have you been practicing these things during nap time?

You count now -- not just numbers, which you've done in a rote way for a long time, but you now enumerate things with numbers. You climb up on the big toilet and take care of business alone -- usually with the door closed, "for privacy," as you say. And you learned to turn the deadbolt and let yourself out of the house, a skill we'd just as soon you'd left for a couple more years.

You're learning to be a compassionate little thing, too. We get lots of spontaneous and apparently heartfelt thank yous, hugs, kisses, and knuckle bumps. You like nothing more than to care for babies by putting your face directly into theirs and saying "It's OK, little buddy." Apparently, you think that infant care is a Gilligan's Island rerun, but oddly, it seems to work: babies love you.

Stuffed and imaginary pals aren't forgotten, either. You spent a few memorable nights with your mom making beds for a monkey and a frog out of a fruit roll-up box and bits of felt using rolled adhesive tape for the pillows, and you're ever holding Joey's hand when we cross the street, the better to keep her invisible little self safe from cars.

There are still challenges, of course. Your nighttime sleep is still fantastic, but naps can be a struggle. You are sometimes bossy with kids your own age and slightly older (like your parents). But those rough edges only appear when you're sleepy or hungry -- on whole, you're a charming, personable little kid, and every day you master new skills and words and grownup emotions, whether we see how you're doing it or not -- usually not.

Well done.

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

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

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXX

Dear Fern,

Fern slideshow 
Big. Girl. Bed.

You are two and a half years old today. Happy Half Birthday!

After weeks -- months -- of struggling with you to fall asleep alone, we finally discovered the solution: bribes.

Well, OK, let's call them "rewards." You've got a rewards chart -- every day you put yourself to sleep, you get a sticker on it, and three days of stickers mean a prize picked from a bag of covet-worthy treats: nail polish, paint sets, Swiss army knives -- heck, we were desperate enough to put anything in that bag.

What's funny, though, is that once mom set up the chart and the prize bag, it took you maybe two days to become a champion self-sleeper: you caught right on. The crucial breakthrough was comprehension: if we explain what we need from you, you get it. And, if the reward is great enough, you even want it.

Potty training took an imperceptibly short time once we established the one-jelly-bean-per-successful-pee rule. Nearly constant diapers and the potty chair as a novelty is so last week: now it's diapers-only-while-sleeping and we're looking into getting one of those workplace "Days Without An Accident" signs.

Of all the rewards, the grand prize of them all, the trophy that really turned your sleeping around was this:

The Big Girl Bed.

Yes, the very idea of a twin bed that was all your own -- a bed you could get in and out of at will, a bed that you could pile high with your stuffed animals and books -- that drove you to change your sleeping habits nearly instantly. For a few days, you would cry when left in bed, but for no more than five minutes or so. (By comparison, when we tried to do this in April, you screamed for 20 minutes and seemed ready to keep it up for hours except that we, your pathetic parents, couldn't take it.)

You told your friends, your relations, even your acrobatics teacher about your big girl bed; soon you'd repeated the phrase so incessantly that it came out more like "BIGurlbbed." You wanted to look through every furniture catalog that came to the house to pick out just the right one. And, night after night, you put yourself to sleep with little or no complaint.

And finally, yesterday, the Ikea man came by so that you could spend the night before your half birthday, for the first time, in your big girl bed. And you fell asleep on your own, and slept through the night. (To be perfectly honest, you did wake up an hour earlier than normal when you managed to squeeze past the safety bar and fell on the floor, but that's to be expected once or twice, right?)

In just a couple of weeks you turned sleeping from one of your hugest challenges to an enormous success. Sure, the reward had something to do with it, but we tell ourselves firstly, "So what?", and secondly, that you accomplished something hard by deciding you really wanted it -- and that's something for you (and us) to be proud of.

Nice job. We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

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

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXIX

Dear Fern,

Fern, getting ready to say something really goofy.

You're 29 months old today. In our family, five-twelfths-birthdays are a time of reflection, even more than half birthdays or the lunar new year. Thus, we decided this month to simply jot down everything fascinating and bizarre you say. Sadly, you say incredible stuff about thirty times a day, so we were desperately understaffed for the task. Suffice it to call these few quotes your highlight reel. (Or, in some cases, your bloopers...)

It's a parenting truism is that the astounding things that kids say get flattened in the retelling, so we'll report these with little exposition and rely on your imagination to fill in the flavor of your monologues, conversations and general observations on various subjects. To wit:

On health:

June 17th:

"Bird seed is the best medicine."

I'm not sure if it clarifies anything that "bird seed" is your term for cashews or peanuts.

On technology:

June 20th, on a fake cell phone:

"Papa? Papa? Where are you? Here, I'll put you on speakerphone."

On matters veterinary (and exculpatory):

June 7th, after chasing our cat out of your room and receiving a mild rebuke:

"I kicked Carson to make her feel better. Maybe she likes to be kicked!"

On your role in the universe:

June 20th, speaking to the refrigerator door after having just pulled out a yogurt:

"I'm going to hold you to keep you stable."

On seasoning:

June 21st, after playing in the backyard with the neighbor kids:

"Mommy, I ate some rosemary in the backyard. It's totally edible!"

On San Francisco:

June 21st, some little time later, out of the blue:

"I love our neighborhood!"

On hygiene:

June 17th:

"You can kiss me if you wipe it off."

On laundry:

June 23rd, while "helping" fold clean clothes:

"I'm a pile of underwear!"

On exceptions:

June 10th, after hitting mom and getting a stern talking-to, in a bewildered voice:

"But we can hit butt cracks!"

On food:

June 23rd, finding a leaf on the kitchen floor and showing it to dad:

"Can I suck on this?"

On implications:

June 22nd, getting ready to go:

Mom: "Do you remember what we're doing this morning? We're going to Deb & Erica's baby shower."

Fern: "Are we washing the baby's hair?"

On neonatal care:

June 25th:

"Don't touch my nose right now, because I've got a baby!"

On nature:

June 26th, swinging at the playground:

"I smell the wind."

On gifts:

July 1st, using the pretend cell phone attached to the kitchen from Grandma Ocean:

"Hey, papa! Thanks for taking pictures! Do you got a kitchen? I don't remember. Do you got a kitchen?"

On dumb jokes:

You learned a dumb joke from an Elmo doll ("Why shouldn't a pizza tell jokes? Because they're really cheesy!"). One morning, mom was making cheesy eggs, so dad gave you the prompt -- "Why shouldn't a pizza..." -- and you impishly answered,

"Because they're really eggy!"

On fashion (or a legal career):

June 25th, getting dressed in the morning:

Fern: "I want to wear my flower pants."

Dad: "Oh, they're a little bit dirty, though."

Fern: "Oh, but they're a little bit clean, though."

On love:

June 25th, as you were falling asleep:

Mom: "I love you very, very much."

Fern: "I love Darryl very much. I really really love Darryl. I love Darryl. I love Darryl very very much. Darryl's my driver."

Darryl is one of the drivers on the bus line that takes you down to your favorite playground.

I know you'll believe that these are all real quotations, direct from your funny little brain, because I suspect that we couldn't invent anything nearly as interesting. Making them up couldn't possibly be half as fun as listening to you come up with them yourself, anyway: these days, every conversation we have with you means a trip through your oddball imagination.

It's tons of fun: more so every day.

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

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

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXVIII

Dear Fern,

Fern shows Joey how to handle a goat.

You're two and a third today, which is one-third of the way to seven, though sometimes it feels like you're already there. This installment of our monthly letter to your future self will be about one of your best friends, lest you forget about her in the years between now and whenever you're reading this.

Her name is Joey. When we describe her to our adult friends, we call her "imaginary," but that's just shorthand for "so real that you can't quite see her." Joey appeared (so to speak) just before we found out that you're going to have a baby brother or sister, so it's possible that she's your stand-in sibling during the long wait for the real one. Your mom's childhood invisible friend was a scapegoat she used to explain her own misdeeds to herself, but you don't seem to blame anything on Joey -- she simply comes along for the ride, the game, or the story.

Joey is your all-but-constant companion. She's had dinner with us and she frequently rides in the car. You push her in the playground swings and she was at the zoo the other day. (Sadly, she's afraid of goats. But you showed her that they're safe.) She's the perfect companion in that she can go off and play by herself when you're engrossed in activity, but when you're lonely or bored, she'll trot back over in her imaginary way and enliven the day.

You like to introduce Joey to your family. We've had two sets of grandparents visit this month, so you got several chances to describe her. The first time Joey's hair came up, it was pink. (Later in the month it turned "dark" -- your word for black, we think -- so she's either going natural or goth.) It's really neat that you introduce Joey to your grandpeople and other relations as it underscores your connection to all of them -- separately, as individual people that you can tell apart and appreciate for their differences. Even your out-of-town uncles, aunts, and cousins feature regularly in your life, thanks partly at least to regular Skype sessions. There seems to be a part of your mind reserved for family: you'll ask to call a certain grandpa or pretend to visit a particular grandma at least a couple of times a day.

Our first misunderstanding about Joey came from the name: your dad understandably asked you about "him." You quickly corrected Joey's gender: she's a she, the name notwithstanding, which begs the question of how you figured out that Joey could even be a girl's name. (Short for Josephine, presumably?) Did you see it on a Sesame Street podcast? Did we read you a book with a Joey heroine and forget about it? Are you studying the French revolution when we're not looking? We have no idea.

Joey was around your age once, then she was a little older, and just today she was 8 -- as ever, you tend to play with older kids. On the other hand, this month you've started to see younger babies in a novel way, perhaps best summed up as "animate playthings." You like to help them walk, push them on swings, and the other day you told a five-month old to cover her mouth when she sneezes. You've loved dolls for a while now, but where once they were more independent friends (like your Frida doll), now your Dolly relies on you to carry her across the street, give her a bottle, and tuck her in at night. You’re becoming a big sister, and big-sisterhood becomes you.

They say that imaginary friends are projections of a child's own personality. You have such an immense personality that it's completely plausible that it would erupt out of your head as Joey the Wonder Girl. Wherever she comes from, it's always a merry day when Joey appears. (Of course, with you around, every day is already fun anyway!)

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

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

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXVII

Dear Fern,

F & E pretend to be pregnant
Fern and Erwan, expecting

Now you are 2 and a quarter. It seems that you look around daily and say, "Hey, check out all these people!" More and more often, when we take you to the playground or on an outing or when a visitor comes calling, you'll leave us behind and run off with playmates of your own choosing.

This month, you had what we're calling your "first conversation." You'd been following a trio of four-year old girls around the playground. You love four-year old girls, although (or perhaps because) they treat you a little like a pet, their most compliant friend. Paige, one of the girls, pulled you aside to invite you to a cookie party for her Cinderella doll over at the bench. You, Paige, and Cinderella sat there enjoying Fig Newtons, lost in chat about various important topics. Paige showed you a ballet step that you tried to copy. Best of all, no parents were present, encouraging you the way we sometimes do to "Show little Paige the way you like to dance!" No, you undertook the entire interaction all on your own, with us just eavesdropping.

It's not just girls who interest you, of course. You got to spend a few days with Erwan this month during his school's spring break, and you two are still best of friends. (One day, you practiced being pregnant together. You're having a duck, and Erwan's expecting a panda.) And you like younger kids, too. When we got to brunch and hike with our friends Kelley and Phil and nearly one-year old Elias a couple of weeks ago, you wanted to show the baby everything you know about being a big kid: your room, your toys, and your music.

And then there was Joey. It occurred to you a couple of weeks ago that people in your life don't have to be manifest, so you started talking about friends that your mom and dad had never met, and, in fact, don't exist in any physical form. Joey was the most common imaginary visitor, and boy oh boy is she a scream. Joey dresses really well, favoring flower shirts and hair bands -- just like you! She likes to eat breakfast with you, but frequently goads you into jumping up and playing before mealtime is through. And, best of all, Joey likes to take you on those long airplane trips to visit your grandparents.

Even characters in books deserve your attention. In a photo from one of your favorites (Sea Lion Roars, of course), a baby sea lion appears to be crying. Reading the book with your mom last week, you handed your bottle over to the book and said, "There you go, little buddy!" The sea lion didn't visibly react, but he was surely grateful. You do similar things for your dolly, with whom you have regular conversations when more animated company isn't available.

So you're well on your way to compassion, a journey we witness almost every day through your fascination with other people and creatures. It's inspiring to behold, really: empathy in its rawest infancy.

Keep it up! We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

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

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXVI

Dear Fern,

Listening for an easter egg

You're twenty-six months old today. Thirteen-sixths of a year!

We still call you "baby" sometimes, but every day that nickname is less accurate. Your attitudes, your interests, and your capabilities are quickly becoming those of a little girl. The real line to kidhood was crossed when you widened your eyes to perceive the greater world around you -- no, not just your eyes; you're tuning every sense you've got to your surroundings. So for this month's retrospective, let's go on a tour of your senses and how they've expanded of late.

Taste. You've got a New Yorker's palate: you love pastrami, grilled onions, and pickles, not to mention mushrooms and gourmet olives. Clearly, you inherited this eclecticism from your mother, who also loved a good ethnic nosh as a toddler, and not your father, who wouldn't even touch a mushroom until his 20s. Which isn't to say that you're a fantastic eater; some days you won't eat much more than a few Goldfish no matter how hard we try, but then the next day you'll wolf down an entire slice of pizza. Or four.

Touch. One of your favorite backyard activities is burying your feet in the birdseed bucket. (Let this serve as a reminder to all of you not to eat our birdseed.) Interestingly, after you've done that, you obsessively remove every grain of millet from between your toes. You also insist on stripping off all your clothes should three drops of water sully your sleeve, although that may just mean that you like being naked.

Hearing. "What's that noise?" comes up so often that we as parents find ourselves listening to our surroundings a lot more, too. You'll point out a distant lawnmower, or the sound of a hammer next door, or odd new bird sounds. (We're jealous of the fact that you can already tell a chickadee from a hummingbird by their songs.) Music, as always, is one of your greatest joys. Listening to the Nutcracker Suite a couple of weeks ago, you said, completely unprompted, "I hear butterflies singing." Oddly, you repeated the comment when Ray Charles played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which I guess shows you've got some good taste in music, too.

Sight. You're always looking around these days. When we are driving in an unfamiliar place, you ask "What's happening here?" or "Where are we?" You also want to know who lives in every house we pass. More than ever, you're sensitive to things that you see that have changed: if a doll is not where you left it, you'll notice. Your eyes are sharp, too: you can point out the last tiny ripe blackberry on the vine or the cat in a distant window down the street.

Smell. Spring means heaps of blooming flowers in the neighborhood. Smelling flowers is a favorite pastime, although one of them turned on you a couple of weeks ago. That's when you discovered a marigold: when you sniffed it, you recoiled from the stink almost like you were personally offended. Ever since then, you've been checking out different flowers somewhat… suspiciously. Still, you'll go out of your way to smell a rosemary bush (and taste it too, more often than not).

You're developing other senses, too: your sense of humor has been bolstered recently by the riddles printed on your string cheese wrappers that you love to repeat, although you sometimes mix up the punch lines. ("What kind of room has no windows and no doors? A necklace!") And your sense of mischief is ever-present and ever-growing: at the playground the other day, you purloined your friend's hat and hid it in the merry-go-round, and you're forever sneaking into the closet so we'll hunt for you. (Just now, writing this, daddy found a change-of-address sticker on his back. I wonder how that got there?) And, as we've written before, your sense of style is emphatic and pronounced. You've got firm ideas about what goes together in an outfit -- stripes, flowers, and butterflies are big at the moment.

The changes are coming blisteringly fast now, although amazingly, you're still that same big baby we met in person over two years ago -- that, and yet so much more that it's hard to put every transformation into words.

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

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

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXV

Dear Fern,

Playing "chase around the pillar" with Emmeline

Twenty-five months! That's a quarter of a hectamonth old! One thing that stands out this month is how you've worked on your relationship skills. You've always enjoyed other kids, but when it came to serious "play" you once typically looked to an adult, or else played by yourself.

Lately, though, you've done a great job inventing games with playmates. You don't need much adult encouragement to engage another kid in playing (or hugging or singing). Around mid-month, you met a 4-year old girl at an unfamiliar playground, and before long the two of you were happily spinning on the merry-go-round. You'd somehow gotten her to sing "Ring Around the Rosey" with you and she was playing with your hair bows. She had to leave soon after, but before she was whisked off for her nap, she asked daddy, "Can she be my friend?" To be honest, you looked nonplussed, but at least you nodded in a sort of accommodating way as she hugged you.

Your joint-play repertoire has also grown. Thanks to Erwan, you've enjoyed a good game of crash for months, but now you also like walking hand-in-hand, climbing, see-sawing, chasing, and, of course, dancing with other kids. At a sandbox equipped with a fountain, you and two older boys started a busy car wash business, first rinsing off all the toy tractors and shovels and then getting them sandy again. (You were best at the second part.)

You also reached a huge milestone by weaning this month. It was sudden, forced on you by mommy's appendectomy, and you've done pretty well. Although you don't ask to nurse any more, you haven't been sleeping quite as well, and it seems that you are feeling the loss. On the upside, you've become a lot more willing to hug and snuggle -- something you didn't used to put up with for too long.

So, all in all, another great month, the first of your third year. Spring is here and the weather is gorgeous in San Francisco (when we left the house today you commented "It's a beautiful day!"). We're looking forward to many outdoor adventures with you in the month to come!

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

Here's this month's slideshow. Sorry there are so many pictures -- we couldn't decide! If you can't see the pictures below, click this link.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Dear Fern, part XXIV

Dear Fern,

Our proud 2-year old

Today you are two!

If the "terrible twos" are starting, we haven't had much sign of it yet. Sure, you're a little stubborn about sitting at the dinner table if there's something more interesting to do, but for the most part you are engaged, excited, and filled with just as much zest for life as you always have been.

We could probably write pages filled with stories about what you're "into" as you turn two, but to make things easier, we'll just jot down a list of your five favorite things in life.

Fern's Top Five Thrills At Two

  1. People. You are devoted to members of your family, even those you don't get to see very often. Some days you'll randomly pipe up with the name of a grandparent or cousin or uncle or aunt, run over to your photo album, and show us the picture of the chosen relation. You love talking to your far-off relatives on the phone (and the computer!) and you enjoy their visits even more. More and more, you seem to like to orchestrate these connections -- "you sit here," "grandma play dolls," "call uncle," that sort of thing.

    You're quite fond of your friends, too, not to mention their parents. A couple of months ago, you started requesting playdates, and now not a day goes by but that you inquire after the whereabouts of Erwan, Emmeline, Emma, or Galicia.

  2. Animals. A couple of days ago, you found two crickets under a paving stone. Crickets are hard to hold and easy to hurt, but you picked them up ever-so-gently and cupped them in your hands so you could peer at their funny "eyes" (which is what you call antennae). Then, and this makes us really proud, you put them right back where you found them -- "home," as you said. Scale is no matter to you: you gently stroke our cat Carson, but you can also push around the ornery petting zoo goats like a dyed-in-the-wool farmgirl.

  3. Pretending. Every day, you discover ways that your newfound "pretending" skill can serve you. You're an old hand at tea parties, and you still travel by the "airplane" behind the armchair. You've added to your repertoire, though: you drive, cook, eat, and dig in your pretend world. You can be a butterfly, a worm, or a lion. You've probably changed as many diapers as we have, but your diaper changes are a lot more interesting: you've swathed a duck, Elmo, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. You're especially fond of pretend presents: gift bags you fill with various toys (or imaginary treats) and then give to us, or just open yourself. You also pretend to swim in the bathtub, although you've only been in a pool once.

  4. Music. You've come to prefer songs with a "fill-in" component, something that can change each time you sing them. Just yesterday you were singing to "Mary Wore a Red Dress," but you substituted "Fern" for "Mary" and various parts of your outfit for the dress: "Fern wore new shoes!" and "Fern wore orange tights!" A couple of days ago you also sang about how "Frida wore her red dress." (You love that doll!)

    Lyrics. Rhythm. Humming. Experimenting with instruments. You love it all. Every morning when you come downstairs, or when we get into the the car, you request the kind of music you want that day. Sometimes you really want to hear your Music Together songs, or the addictive Boynton albums you got for Christmas. For that matter, you're still asking for Christmas music long after the season ended. And nothing delights you more than when you know the words to a song.

  5. Dancing and Moving. Few things make you more ecstatically enthusiastic than dancing. You've got favorite music, of course, but you don't really need any music to dance; a little clapping is plenty of impetus for you to get on your feet. You saw a Sesame Street video about ballet and now you love to twirl and tiptoe and pretend you're flying around like a butterfly. You're a wonder in your acrobatics class, swinging giddily from a trapeze and bouncing on a trampoline. And it's no secret that any adult willing to swing you around wins major points -- as long as they'll do it "again!" and "again!" and "again!", that is.

We could go on … you love to wash dishes, you love to fix things with screwdrivers and tape, you positively lust after any water voluminous enough to splash. But for now, we'll just leave it here: you are growing and learning so much every day that we'd hardly be able to write it all down.

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

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

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dear Fern (Part XXIII)

Dear Fern,

As usual for this time of year (and isn't it amazing that you are starting to have "usual" things!), you've been traveling a lot. It's exciting to see how connected you are to your far-flung family -- you're really starting to seek out relationships with your grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. At least once or twice a week, you'll ask, unprompted, that we call (or Skype!) a specific relation. You've video-chatted more in the last month than we ever had before and are mastering the cross-country rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

You in the garden of your new house

Your pretending continues apace. You invented a game with mommy last night where you gathered a "suitcase," kissed every living and stuffed inhabitant of the living room with a "bye-bye," and then crawled behind the armchair to be on your "airplane." Then you would arrive and repeat the process, over and over.

The gap behind the armchair has become a favorite pretending spot. It can be your "house" or "airplane," or just a cozy hideout -- or a hundred other things to come, probably.

Even after just a few weeks, you are thriving in the new house. You love the garden where we've found bugs and worms, dig holes, and picked flowers and even a couple of January blackberries. (Imagine that, you Midwestern relations!) You're also sleeping through the night pretty consistently, and although that started before the move, the new place seems to be contributing. It's certainly quieter up here on our little street, and the air is probably cleaner, too.

We've talked about the language thing before, but your vocabulary becomes more and more uncanny. At least a few times a week you come out with a new word -- often in a long sentence -- and we just don't know where the heck you got it. Of course, you've got favorite words, too. "Boys" comes to mind (also one of your mom's faves at that age, interestingly), and now "marching" (from your new favorite song), "pretty dress," "bless you mommy," and "there ya go daddy."

And soon -- in just a month -- you will be two years old. Enjoy this last month of your oneness! We know we will.

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.