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Saturday, June 29, 2013
::Aurora's Monthly Newsletter, June 2013::

Dear Aurora,

Another month (well, more than a month; I’m over a week and a half late, which is AGES in baby time) has zoomed by. I planned to write this on your 2-month birthday, but that day you got your 2-month vaccinations. The rest of the afternoon consisted of screaming so persistent that I lost my breath after half an hour of loud shushing in your ear and had to resort to turning on the vacuum next to us. It was really loud, but it short-circuited your brain enough to make you forget you were hurting at the injection sites. But then, in Rory fashion, you settled down by bedtime and proceeded to sleep for 7 hours.

For Memorial Day, we journeyed to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, one of our favorites. The windy roads didn’t seem to bother you, and you were cool to be passed along to different people while Dad and I enjoyed the ceviche, guacamole, fajitas, and margaritas. You also enjoyed my outing with the Mountain View Moms group to Vasona Park, where my friend Alisa and I wore you while Sagan ran around and played on the jet fuselage there. You slept the whole time in the Baby Bjorn when we went to the Bay Area Discovery Museum for Father’s Day. You seem pretty content to be worn, but as it gets hotter, I see this becoming a slight problem.

We also ventured to The City when your Nana Judy came to visit, and you were a champ in the car all day for that, too. She loved being able to meet you, and when you first met, you had a huge grin ready to melt her heart. You and Dad both got a treat on his birthday, when you took a long nap together.

I took you to see Dr. Woo, my OB/GYN who delivered, you, and she remarked with some awe about how strong you were (though she had previous experience with your strength when she removed your hand from the top of your head while you were still in utero).

You got a special delivery from Pitter of hair bows, which you’ll tolerate. A bit. I mostly accessorize you with your dozens of shoe-socks and with your bibs.

Your tongue is a new discovery; you’ll mimic our actions if we stick our tongues out, which is hilarious. You suck your fists, even when you’re not hungry, like you’ll be able to siphon gold from them.

The best part of this month has been the persistence of your unstoppable smile. When anyone comes to your crib in the morning or after a nap, you stop your cooing (you rarely cry when you wake--you just coo) and send them a ray of smile-light so bright it illuminates them, too. When I get you in the morning, before I nurse you, we talk a little bit, swapping ah-goos and bigga-boos, and you smile as I lift you out. It’s the best part of my day.

Your smile is readiest, though, for your brother. He merely has to walk through your field of view to get you to grin. He clearly, and I hope irrevocably, loves you, offering a laugh, or a pat, every time he sees you. And you reciprocate! It’s very unexpected, just how much you’re drawn to him. He says, “Aurora so cute!” and “Me love her!” all the time. And when he says those things, I just gush with love for both of you, of your coming years of comraderie, cuddles, and adventure.


You are my sweetie-pie, Aurora.


DISLIKES Vaccine injection sites, the process of pooping, too-small footie pajamas,
LIKES Going to sleep 90 minutes after waking up, bathtime, being tickled, sucking your fingers or thumb, Sagan's kisses
THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW Hold your head up, turn to the sound of our voices, bring your hands to your mouth, support your body weight with your legs, "run" on your back

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Monday, May 20, 2013
::Aurora's Monthly Newsletter, April 2013::

Dear Aurora,

 Today, you are one month old. I’m flabbergasted at that, really--it seems like you’ve been part of this family forever, but at the same time, it feels like we brought you home from the hospital yesterday.

 On my due date (Thursday, April 18), Gran (who had been undergoing treatment for his relapsed leukemia and was on pins and needles about timing for a bone marrow transplant) called me and let me know that, surprisingly, his doctor gave him permission to travel if he could get back to Dallas by the next Thursday. “So if Aurora’s born by Monday, I can come. Are you going to ask to be induced?” And I did, and you were born the next day, at about the same time that Gran and Pitter touched down at SFO.

Your birth was so different from your brother’s, which is mostly awesome. We were in a different state, for one--we’d moved to California about a year before--so instead of a crowd in the waiting room, it was just your dad and me. Aside from the really uncomfortable experience that was Having Your Hand Removed From Your Head By My Obstetrician While I Was Five Centimeters Dilated, everything was easier this time, labor-wise. I only had to push for about 20 minutes, through about five contractions. And there you were, pink and lively! With the weirdest toes I’d ever seen.  

 (Also, Dad got all faint-y soon after you made your entrance into the world, but he sat down, closed his eyes, and concentrated on your cries. You’re what got him through it!) Gran and Pitter loved being able to cuddle with you and coo at you while they visited, but they had to return to Dallas too soon for Pitter’s work and Gran’s consolidation chemo.


 Soon after, Uncle Josh came to visit, and he was by far your favorite sleeping surface ever. Then, “Aunt” Nessa made her way here, and she gave you so, so many kisses. And, there are dozens of people in Texas who love you and haven’t even met you yet.

 You’ve been in “blob mode,” wherein you don’t know how to control your limbs, which is hilarious, and your wiggly desperation when you’re hungry is more amusing to me than it probably should be. In utero, you were way more active than Sagan was, and you’ve justified my concerns early on by being able to houdini yourself out of swaddles really easily. You also don’t seem to be calmed by them as much; you can take a nap splayed out on your back, in just your day clothes. By far, you’re most animated when you’re seeking out a nipple.

A few weeks before you were born, I asked your dad if he thought he’d be different as a father this time, since you’re a girl. “I don’t think so,” he answered. But as soon as you were born, he was in awe of you--your beauty and sweetness. His voice went all soft, he stroked your head, and he made it clear to my parents and me that he would be very different this time, since you’re a girl. Later I asked him about it, and he said, “Well, it seems like with a girl, there’s so much more at stake.” And he’s right, Aurora--this is a very high-stakes time to be a woman. People are finally (re-?)realizing that our culture needs to respect women and listen to their choices. Your dad and I both hope that by the time you grow up, the world’s become a friendlier place for girls and women. In the meantime, we’ll try to raise you and your brother as forces of good, people who will inspire others toward a change.

I knew that adding you to our family of three would disrupt things for all of us, most notably Sagan. He’s used to having our attention all to himself, and in this past month that’s been mitigated by the happy flow of visitors who’re happy to help me out by entertaining him. This last week, the first one without a visitor or your dad at home, has been tough. But overall, he’s been amazing with you. He clearly delights in your presence, frequently spouting, “Aurora baby!” as he gazes at you with a smile. He’s extremely gentle; he pets your head and holds your hands and kisses your cheeks with a surprisingly soft touch. The sweetest moments for Dad and me since bringing you home have been those times when Sagan will hold you and tell us he loves you. We’re so glad you have a big brother who loves you so much already.


You, like your celestial namesake, cast an enchanting glow over everyone who comes into contact with you. This enveloping glow keeps me awake when I feed you in the middle of the night, amazes me when I see it brighten everyone’s faces, and helps me see through those moments when having two kids to take care of at the end of a long week seems a little too much to handle. Thank you, Aurora, for being my light.

Today, your dad and brother went off to Maker Faire by themselves, leaving me, for the first time, alone with you for a day. It was delightful. You napped, you watched me do the dishes, you stretched and wiggled and let your socks fall off. At one point, you slept on my shoulder for an hour, letting out those sweet sighs every once in a while, the adorable, breathy ones that only babies produce. When I did some chores, I put you in the bouncy chair, and I went over to you every few minutes to say hello. Once, I zoomed in, said, “Heeeeere’s Mommy!!!” and a real, not-produced-by-gas-or-dreams smile burst across your face like a supernova. And when I saw that, I finally got to see what you really looked like. The way happiness visibly washed over you. Inexorable proof that you love me back.


Love, Mom

DISLIKES Hiccups, hunger, being cold, when the car comes to a stop, needing to burp
LIKES Waiting until someone changes you to spew your green poop for five minutes, being held upright, letting Sagan coo and play near you, my boobs, being bathed
THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW Smile, lift your head, vocalize, focus on faces, track lights across the room
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::Hiatus:: I planned to write Sagan's twelfth Monthly Newsletter while we were in Indianapolis for Josh's RPLND (cancer removal surgery), but I didn't get around to it. And because within a week of our return from Indy--and Josh's all-clear when it comes to testicular cancer--my dad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, I never got around to it. In the mean time, Sagan's been awesome. He's three. We moved to Mountain View, CA so Austin could work for Numenta and basically have his dream job. I continued to "play at home" with Sagan, and I got pregnant. On April 19, 2013, I had Sagan's baby sister, Aurora Vancouver Marshall. She, too, has been awesome, and I'll be starting her Monthly Newsletter here momentarily. Thanks for still visiting or subscribing to my feed. Y'all are wonderful.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011
::Sagan's Monthly Newsletter, March 2011::

Dear Sagan,

I can’t believe this is possible, but everyone around you is even more in love with you than they were last month! I KNOW! Eleven months. 11/12 of a year. Dang.

We all love that we can’t count the number of times you’ve gone camping. The proximity of Cedar Hill State Park works in your favor, because when you get to a campsite, the fire, the leaves, and the birds keeps you fascinated for hours. As Gran says, “Ah, there. Now he’s finally touched every leaf and blade of grass at this campsite. And put it in his mouth.” Nana and Grandpa Karl came to visit, too, and they loved watching you have a good time.

In fact, you love the great outdoors no matter where you are. If you’re fussy, I know that I need merely take you outside, and you’ll simmer down immediately.

At Gran and Pitter’s, the deck is your favorite play place. You make the deck your own, prompting the installation of lattice on the railing so that we don’t have to spot you the whole time.

Josh had his offending testicle taken out, and the day he had the surgery, you went over to your friend (and second cousin) Kassidy’s house. Dena, Dianne, and Clint were charmed by your quick crawl, your snaky hands, and your affectionate backwards roll thing. You escaped from a diaper change, and Kassidy was grossed out when you “spread your naked all over [her] dolls.” Keepin’ it classy, there, Sagan.

You’re eating “real people food” even more, now, and while you take your time eating (a trait you get from your maternal grandfather, who is the slowest eater EVER), you’ve become a champ. Chicken, pasta, biscuits, and rice make you smile. You lost your craving for puffs (unless they’re the ones you’ve sadly discarded under the couch, those are delicious!), instead preferring Multigrain Cheerios or Club Crackers. I suspect you now look down your nose at anything touted as “dissolves easily.” I gave you some Honey Nut Cheerios and Honey Grahams for about a week, but then I freaked out, remembering that honey is a no-no for babies until they’re a year old. Fortunately, the Internet came to my guilt’s rescue, and assured me that only raw honey was a problem.

Unfortunately, you’ve acquired the ability to throw stuff, and this has an effect on your eating time; I am now less of a feeder and more of a fetcher of things from the floor when you’re in your booster seat. Usually, you throw backwards, which confuses you. I’m also letting your nursery neatness go to pot. These developments are causally linked.

You stopped taking your morning nap, too. You used to sleep for about 45 minutes at around 10AM and 2PM. Now, we’re down to an hour at around noon. Your bedtime is slightly earlier, but it’s little consolation.

You still love your baths:

I showed you how a brush is used, and you’ll happily take the baby brush from me and “brush” the back of your hair. You’ll also brush your hair with almost any object. A shoe. A stuffed animal. A board book. Your sippy cup. Awesome.

Your mobility has shifted, now, from crawling (low, horizontal vectors) to climbing (high, vertical vectors). Somewhere in there you’ve figured out how to stand and, even better, to stand up without any support to get you up (March 12)!

Pretty soon thereafter, you progressed to taking steps. You surprised Gran, Dad, and me one day (March 14); I set you down after coming inside, and you stayed standing and started taking a few tentative steps, and you’ve continued that slow discovery since. Good thing your diaper provides good padding! Though you rarely fall; you smoothly control your transition to your butt or knees.

This ability to walk (or crawl fast, which is your usual preference) lends you a new
independence, and you have little problem wandering into the next room while we’re hanging out somewhere. You’re content to entertain yourself, usually emptying containers or messing with our messes.

We know to check in on you, especially when you’re quiet because a) you might’ve choked or b) you might’ve found something really expensive to destroy. I’m glad neither has happened yet.

You’re still really into music, moving your body and headbanging to just about anything with a rhythm. You’ll clap when you hear things you like (or, I guess, when you’re happy to be finished with something like a diaper change). We went to Floor & Decor one day for ideas about designing the bathroom, and you surprised the heck out of me when you started banging your head along with the song playing on the overhead speakers: it was the one Beavis and Butt-head would “duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh-DEH-duh...” to. Ask your Uncle Josh and your dad about who Beavis and Butt-head were.

Your personality seeps from your every move. You’re ready to show delight at almost anything. For a while, you showed happiness by headbanging, but I think you ended it when you got happy about something in the bathtub and hit your mouth on the porcelain side of the tub. Ow! You’re always inviting mom and dad—or anyone else around—to share in the fun. You’ll start hooting at something you’ve discovered, and you’ll turn around and smile to make sure we’re watching. I can feel you saying, “Did you just see that?!? I’m AWESOME!” And you love soft things; you’ll hug and nuzzle them, like your Einstein doll, Uncle Josh’s little Yoda, or cuddly blankets.

You imitate us more every day. For about a week, any time I made a gross face and said, “Pshewy!” you’d make a disgusted raspberry: “Plblblblbt!”

And you say words now! Your jabbering in the car one day (March 1, to be exact!) led to “ma-ma,” and soon after that, “da-da.” “Josh,” even, followed soon thereafter. And it becomes clearer every day that you’ve assigned meaning to them. You say “da” pretty much only when your dad’s around, and “Josh” spontaneously sprang from your when FaceTimeing with Uncle Josh. I don’t know if you get that I’m “ma-ma” yet. But that’s okay.

You might be able to say other words, too, though Dad and I think we might be projecting expectations a bit too much. I swear we heard you say “Up!” one day when you wanted me to pick you up. I think you may have said “Yes” and “Yeah,” in answers to questions. And I’m pretty sure you said “algebra” the other day. Yep, you’re our kid.

You’re interacting with the world, and I can now see that you’re processing it in more complex ways. We’re still showing you signs for words, like “pig” for which you point to your nose, and “frog” where you flick your tongue. It’s hard to do, mostly because I rarely have one hand – let alone both hands - free when we’re playing, eating, or exploring.

However, one night a few days ago, as you ate your dinner, you held your hand up toward the Sputnik lamp in the dining room and opened and closed your hand, signing the word “light.” And I just started crying, right there, about to put a spoon of peas in your mouth. “That’s right, Sagan! Light!” And I started going nuts, making the sign and saying “Light!!!” and gushing and clapping and crying.

You’ve been communicating since the day you were born. You cried for food or for help. You started smiling and laughing, sharing your happiness with us. And now. Now you’ve clearly made the connection that certain symbols (like signs and words) represent objects or ideas. And you use those symbols! This conceptual jump, this complex ability in you, has meant more to me as a mother than any crawl, roll, or step. Because it means you’ve started understanding. And I can’t wait to start having conversations with you, whether they’re spoken or signed.

I know you’ll have some fascinating things to say.


Likes: Pizza, ice cream, taking off my headband, hugs, hooting and pointing at things
Dislikes: Having the Sonicare toothbrush taken from you, rough crawling surfaces, your morning nap, oranges
Things you can do: Wave hello and bye-bye, walk 5 steps, throw objects
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Sunday, February 27, 2011
::Sagan's Monthly Newsletter, February 2011::

Dear Sagan,

You’re making it harder and harder to write these letters. Primarily, you’ve become so much more fun, so much more interesting, that I don’t want to rip myself away from you – even to let you play by yourself in your crib! – to spend time writing. Also, you’re so much more “into” (and I mean that figuratively and literally) what I’m doing during the day that your desire to “help” means I need to do things like laundry and dishes while you’re napping. And after you go to bed? I’m bushed, and I just want to go to bed.

Early this month, you stayed with Pitter and Gran for a whole weekend while Dad and I went to Austin. He had a conference to go to, and I had an entire day of nothing. I had coffee, played around online, napped, watched cable, and I never had you far from my thoughts. Pitter even took over Daily Sagan duties for me, showing off the amazing “play board” Gran made for you.

We had some snow, several times, and you weren't particularly into it. We didn't get photos of you outdoors, but please let this "after" photo suffice:

Josh moved out of his apartment to live with Pitter and Gran while he gets chemo for his testicular cancer, and he seems to be responding all right. His cancer, more importantly, is dying, based on blood tests, so we’re very glad about that. The day he moved out, he came along and watched you while we cleaned, and you exhausted him! But, to use his exact words, “I always save enough energy to pick you up, Sagan.” You are his best treatment; even when he’s tired and hurting from chemo, you can unfailingly make him smile.

Every day, your fantastic peals of laughter come to me, either from your bath, where you and dad splash, explore facets of the tub spigot, sing, and puzzle over the buoyant properties of different items, or from your high chair when you giggle about how I steal your puffs from you. You love peek-a-boo, and tickling still gets you every time. There’s this cusp of exhaustion you experience at around 8:00 PM every night, and you balance between finding everything either hilarious or tragic. The quivering lip coupled with the laugh... Greatness.

We’ve started signing with you, and the ones I find myself showing you most often are “dog,” “star,” “light,” and “more.” The day you sign back to me will be more fulfilling than a classroom of passing TAKS scores!

Your musical interest has grown; you “sing” along to music in the car or as you’re going to sleep, and you even try to match the wail of sirens as they pass by the house (which, on Westmoreland, is frequent)! You’re even more in love with your music table and your walker, and every time your walker’s songs come on, you look over to me and bob your head with me. And clapping! You’ve become a clapper! It’s the best, cutest thing; as you hear music, or are particularly delighted by something, you’ll clap! Yay!

You get fascinated by smiling faces. One day, your Einstein t-shirt faked you out and you started trying to talk and giggle to him:

By far, your favorite thing is being outside. When you get fussy, I only need to take you outside and plunk you down in the grass, and you’ll be in heaven for hours. The weather’s getting perfect for this, and whether it’s the park, the yard, camping, or Pitter and Gran’s patio, you’re golden.

One day, after I changed your diaper and you hung out on your changing table (with me at your side, because dang, boy, you’ll be trying to climb off that thing in no time!), your dad came up, and he and I put our arms around each other and kissed. You watched, smiling, and when we looked at you, you smacked your lips. You knew we were kissing, and you showed us.

You’ve become such a curious, delightable, and affectionate kid. I continue to not know whether your traits are “baby” or specifically “Sagan.” When you’re near people you love, you either hit them (choruses of “Gentle, Sagan, gentle!” quickly follow) or nudge your head against them. When you so clearly show love back, when you nuzzle your head against me, that ember of love I have for you, the one that’s with me even when we’re apart, explodes into a shower of light. And I’m so pleased, too, when you do the same to other people, knowing that you have so much love around you and within you. Seeing others love you is the greatest empathy ever.

You are my favorite person in the world.


Dislikes: having your face wiped after a meal, waking up alone, being sleepy
Likes: Club crackers, yogurt, tortillas, napping on the big pillow in the living room, pointing at stuff, emptying containers of all contents,
Things you can do: crawl like lightning, grip a puff and shove it in your mouth if you initially miss, point to things, offer food to others
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Thursday, January 27, 2011
::Sagan's Monthly Newsletter, January 2011::

Dear Sagan,

It’s hard for me to believe that everything that’s happened this month actually happened. From two days after Christmas... to now?!? Wow. It’s been a month more characterized by developments in the world instead of in you.

We went to the Marshalls’ timeshare condo in Conroe for New Year’s, and it was grand. You had the best time crawling around, cruising the tall coffee table and dining chairs, and I loved being able to exhale a little bit. See, it being simply a furnished condo, there was very little “stuff” sitting around. No DVDs for you to tump over. No cords for you to try to chew. No bric-a-brac for you to throw. It was a marvelously childproofed place!

We “did Christmas” with Nana Judy, Grandpa Karl, Uncle Blake, and your great-grandparents; you made everyone smile when, as we were saying goodbye, you reached for Great-Grandpa Bill for an extra hug.

New Year’s Day, we visited the Hemmes, who have a baby girl about three months older than you. You were so friendly! Of course, you demonstrate affection by grabbing your friends’ noses, so Jade wasn’t the biggest fan of your advances. But you guys shared toys, even handing them to each other, and it made me excited to see you interact more with babies your age.

As we left, you actually waved “bye-bye” (for the first time!) to your new friend. You got to hang out with Shelby, another dog whom you absolutely adore:

You’re cruising like a champ, reaching out to move from one object to another (the couch, your music table, Mommy, and the wall are your favorite “cruise anchors”). At last, you’re able to hold your bottle yourself, but whether you want to remains an issue. You’ve carried your bottle as you crawled by holding the nipple in your mouth, which was the cutest thing ever. Just recently, Pitter and Gran noticed you could click your tongue – or maybe it’s your whole mouth, but it’s totally cute, too. Here’s a video of you waving “hi” and showing off your click:

You’re also picking up clapping, and the “roll-‘em-up” portion of “Patty Cake.” Nice motor skills, kiddo!

I could do without – as could anyone who’s changed you this month – your motor development vis a vis ROLLING OVER WHILE GETTING YOUR DIAPER CHANGED. We hate it. Especially when your diaper’s poopy. So please. We know your core muscles are strong. You should just stop now, ‘kay?

You can also play with your toys, for minutes on end. This is a big deal! Sometimes, you’re even content to play alone, with no one else in your sight. It’s adorable to hear you randomly giggle at a toy, too; you’re able to literally entertain yourself. It’s great. But you run so hot and cold... One minute, you’ll be fussing because we left the room. The next, you’ll crawl out of the room, stop to turn around, notice we’re following you, then let out a huge cry of abandon as you hightail it out of the room even faster.

Your new favorite food is puffs. You can’t get enough of them. Banana, mango, “green,” sweet potato, apple... they’re all fun to eat (and find under the couch three days later). Your food repertoire has expanded to include cheese, pork, and several other fruits and vegetables. You love the tube packets of baby food; we went to IKEA and after 3 ½ hours of shopping (during which you were an angel!), you started to get fussy, so I opened up a packet of prune puree. As I leaned down under your stroller for a bib, you squeezed almost all of its contents on your shirts, your stroller shoulder straps, and your face. AND it was a deep, brownish purple.

You continue your fascination with minutiae, and your new “friends” are the lights that show up on the walls – reflected, refracted, whatever. You coo and talk at them, and your giggle when they move (like when I jiggled your exersaucer and made the light bouncing off its mirror fly across the room).

You’re also sleeping better (thanks to Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”), only waking up once or twice a night, rarely requiring a pick-up. Your dad and I really appreciate that.

The biggest occurrence this month isn’t a development for you, but for your Uncle Josh. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer. And Sagan, I don’t know what all of us would’ve done without you. When Dad and I went to the hospital to visit him, Pitter and Gran babysat you, and your time with them gave them a much-needed break from thinking about hospitals and cancer and medicine. You went to the hospital several times (we always tried to keep you away from the germ-infested people). Gran watched you in the parking garage, and you were fascinated by the mirror-ceilinged elevator to the skywalk, the pebbles (which you remembered from the lake, but were freaked out that you couldn’t remove from the bench).

We met up with Josh, too, and your visits to him in the hospital made him feel better than morphine.

And here are videos from one of those hang-outs.

There’s some super-cute stuff around 3:00, and then again at 4:00:

Check the little wave at the end!

More curious adorableness:

You have no clue that Uncle Josh is facing the biggest battle of his life, and that Mommy spends most of the time you’re napping researching ways to give him even the tiniest edge against cancer. You don’t understand why everyone hugs you a little harder and smiles at you a little longer. You haven’t the foggiest idea that you were one of Uncle Josh’s first thoughts when he heard his diagnosis.

And you don’t know that your beautiful smile, musical laugh, and amazingly clear love for all of us is giving us exactly what we need.



Dislikes: lying on your back, being fed (you want to do it yourself!), hanging out in your tent, run-ins with the Roomba
Likes: exploring textures, meat, cheese, your FaceTiming with Josh, escaping the living room corral, "talking" to Oscar and Loki
Things You Can Do: Wave hi and bye, stand supported on one leg, “click” on demand, carry things in your mouth, make anyone smile
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Monday, December 27, 2010
::Sagan's Monthly Newsletter, December 2010::

Dear Sagan,

Merry eighth month! I have to say, when you were conceived, Dad and I had no inkling what great timing we’d achieved vis a vis your age during the holidays! I think that 8 months is the cutest possible age for a baby to be at Christmas; what a conflagration of habits, fascinations, noises, activities, and locomotor skills!

You went “camping” a couple more times, which basically means we had campfire food in remarkably mild Texas winter weather. When I went out to buy your dad's Christmas present, Gran and Uncle Josh took you to the lake shore and marveled at a) your lack of interest in the ducks; b) your fascination with the tiny pebbles, which you miraculously didn’t try to put in your mouth; and c) your appreciation of the sound of lapping water. Josh took some great photos with our camera (and Christmas rectified his lack of a good camera of his own):

Funnily, their discovery of your love of water sounds coincided with my purchase of a “Seaside Lullabies” CD, which features common, tinkly-sweet lullabies with soothing lapping water in the background. (Bonus track: 14 minutes of just the waves!) I started playing it as I rock you to sleep, a process which is surprisingly painless. You seem to have stopped fighting sleep; you may have just realized the beauty of it, the surrender to restfulness after your days of go-go-go and play-play-play. UNLESS, of course, we’re talking about the middle of the night; you’re waking up twice on average still, and we’re chalking it up to teething. Most of the time Dad or I can just shush and pat you back to sleep without lifting you out of your crib, but the rest of the time, you’ve already stood up, and there’s no way to get you straight back down after that. You then need a cuddle. And it’s not that bad when I think about how holding you in my lap or up on my shoulder won’t last much longer.

Solid food continues apace; you’re now really into the little “puffs” that, as far as I can tell, are more for training fine motor skills than they are for actual sustenance. But you love ‘em, and if you end up with childhood obesity, it was probably because puffs are The Greatest Panacea For Babies Ever.

You’re ever-more into discovering textures and details. Your eyes are drawn to them, even beyond what I notice sometimes. You’re fascinated by the door chain on the front door; whether it’s dangling and sparkly or closed and grab-tastic, your eyes (and fingers) are drawn there whenever we go into the front room. Amazingly, though, when we were coming inside after feeding Oscar the other day, you gestured and cooed, and I realized you had noticed another door chain! I totally hadn’t realized there was even one back there. Good eye, kiddo!

You’re still cruising up a storm, and we’ve turned the living room into the Sagan Corral. You don’t really need the foam mats anymore (though this month could easily be categorized as The Month With All The Head Bruises and Screaming), but we’ve set up an ottoman between the sofa and the red chair to create a babyproofed (well, mostly babyproofed) zone from which you cannot escape! Except for that one time you did. You bust your lip a couple of times, too, what with those emerging teeth (you now have four; if all you wanted for Christmas was your two front teeth, you totally got your wish).

Your personality is starting to ooze from every move. When we play music, you’ll often “sing along,” an odd wailing sound that I realized just tonight sounds just like a theremin! You’ll happily bang your hand against any flat surface (and I’ll happily say, “Bam bam bam!” along with you). By far the cutest music response you do now, though, is dancing. Your whole body bops back and forth, your head thrown back in elation and your mouth open with glee. Unfortunately, you’re a little camera shy with this, though; the sight of an iPhone or camera makes you fixate on it. Christmas music (specifically, Christmas commercial music!) really make you boppy. I downloaded all the Target Christmas songs, as well as the Vampire Weekend album, so we could replicate this effect sans TV. We all love to watch you dance.

Your cousin Kassidy babysat you one morning; she loved having you at your house, but I know she was glad to get all the attention back when you left!

You’ve started this faux bashfulness phase, one in which you turn your head away from people and bury your face in my chest for a moment before you turn back smile, flashing your four gorgeous teeth and reaching for a new friend. False shyness or no, I’m happy to be the recipient of your nuzzle.

Being the pride of three couples, you were featured on many holiday cards. We had four different ones (you can thank Shutterfly’s weird coupons for that!), plus Pitter and Gran’s, plus Nana and Grandpa Karl’s. You’re a star.

You performed admirably at the Smith and Rowe and Patterson Christmas reunions, dressed as Santa and Christmas plaid kid and Puma kid, respectively. Other little kids bowed down to your adorableness. And played with you. And made you smile. It was great. We were sad to not achieve our goal of training you to say “Ho ho ho!” before the holidays, though.

I almost didn’t decorate the house at all, but I’m glad I took the time to put up our silver tree with twinkly lights. You love gazing at our Christmas décor, particularly the sock Rudolph Pitter made (jingle bells! whee!) and a statue I refer to, affectionately, as Proctology Santa. (He’s pulling on a glove! With a twinkle in his eye!)

Christmas was... well... perfect. You were old enough to be completely adorable and interactive yet young enough to have no idea what was going on, so you didn’t know what Santa brought you, or why everyone gave you all those boxes with fun paper to eat, or what Baby Jesus had to do with anything (though Gran encouraged you to teethe on his wooden one from the nativity set, and when you lost that, he used a little flashlight, which I guess was appropriate). You did take an epic nap, along with the best of ‘em.

Next year will be different. Awesomer, but different. Sleepier for Mommy and Dad, for sure.

You LOVE the toys you got that make music. Your bam-bam-bams are welcome on a great LED-lit drum; you can beat that thing like a metronome. You have a musical learning table that really entertains you, with jazzed-up versions of nursery rhymes and the alphabet song.

And your rockin’ walker makes you “wiggle and giggle, bounce and bop and tap” (lyrics theirs). It’s amazing, to see the diametrically opposed reactions music gives you – from calming you down after fussiness to spazzing you out from your normal self – and I can’t wait to discover what more music can do for you.

More than anything, though, this Christmas made me so happy for you. To see so many people who love you and care about you, people whom you make smile and laugh—and weep with joy (I’m looking at you, Pitter)! I love that you’re a new focus of attention, and that you’re so sweet and fun and happy around large crowds (useful for being a Smith, huh?). Every year from here on out will be more beautiful, more joyful, and more magical than the last. Christmas was such a memorable, fantastic part of my childhood, and I pledge to make it as wonderful and wonder-filled as mine were.

Also, I pledge to embarrass you. A lot. Starting by publishing the face you make when you poop!


Dislikes: Being removed from danger, “drinking” from a sippy cup, being confined to your baby carrier at a restaurant, sitting in a high chair at a restaurant
Likes: Your Christmas tree and wreath in your room, the flavor of electrical plugs, unrolling toilet paper, your vibrating teether, singing
Things You Can Do: Headbang, chew/bite, walk while holding a hand, crawl fast, gesture to things you want, understand (and often comply with) “No”
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Saturday, November 27, 2010
::Sagan's Monthly Newsletter, November 2010::

Dear Sagan,

Well, your Monthly Newsletter’s a few days late this time because you’ve been sick. And wow, I didn’t know exhaustion until I knew Sick Baby! Your fussiness combined with your inability to sleep longer than 30 minutes made for very tired parents. But you seem okay now, and I expect you’ve either gained immunity to something or you’ve popped a tooth.

So, wow. This month. It’s been remarkable.

It was Halloween; you went as Oscar:

On the day of Halloween, we went to the park where you rode your first slide (whee!) and your first swing (waaaah!) while it was 80 degrees. Later that day, your dad and Uncle Josh let pasta-making get the best of them, and we all watched "The Walking Dead," a zombie show that has since prompted scores of mild freak-out-with-worry moments for Mom.

You went on what’s probably your last Smith Ladies Shopping Weekend, it being the last one during which you won’t remember gifts bought for you. You were pretty happy to hang out at the mall, which gave Morgan reason to call you the Happiest Baby Ever. I’m not sure about that, but you were cute crawling around on the floor and grinning at passers-by.

It also was Thanksgiving, and you fell asleep along with the best of us.

Last time I wrote, you couldn’t crawl. However, this month, in the span of a week, you went from your little crawl-scoot, to crawling “properly,” to pulling yourself up to standing, to cruising, ALL WITHIN A WEEK. I don’t know if Kuhn had infant development on the brain when he devised the idea of paradigm shifts, but WOW. Nowhere are these changes more apparent than our living room. Gone are the days of eating in the living room! No more do we have a semi-stylish IKEA rug as our floor! See ya later, coffee table! We now have foam-puzzly pads on the floor. Our coffee table is behind Oscar’s crate. We have to hide everything – remotes, cans of soda, magazines, our phones – from your sight. I thought crawling would be a big deal, but two days later, you quickly eschewed the horizontal vector in favor of the vertical. Climbing is your raison d’etre. (No, Mom doesn’t know French. Google helped. Except for mode d’emploi, which I know from US-Canadian packaging and manuals.) Crawling is only your means to climbing up. And once you’re up, you’re moving. This has resulted in copious contusions. But to hear your dad say it, “If he doesn’t have any scratches or bruises growing up, I’m not doing it right.”

Fortunately, along with your cruising skills, you’ve developed the ability to fall gracefully, or at least with minimal injury. This does not mean you get away abrasion-free; you just lose less blood now. I think the accomplishment of “I know I can actually try not to fall backwards” was huge. Flailing at least helps.

All this physical prowess doesn’t mean you’re without your mental development, too. Every day, you’re more clearly learning things. This is not without its pratfalls. I can’t use my iPhone or iPad around you anymore without intense interest. (Jealousy seems to have developed, too.) I turned to your dad one day and said, “Wasn’t it nice when our baby didn’t have a clue?” Every single day, you’ll do something that makes your dad and me look at each other and smile, sharing the wonder of your accomplishment or discovery. You’re beginning to figure things out that we haven’t shown to you. Wow.

And clues you have! Your visual acuity – or at least your perception of detail – has really become clear. You’ll immediately reach for anomalies in the wood floor, buttons on Grandpa Karl’s shirt, leaves on the deck, and, unfortunately, noses. You love grabbing noses, and I’ve talked myself into believing that’s how you show affection. I can hear your inner monologue: “Awww, aren’t you a cool mommy? I will now pinch your nose and scratch it with my neglected fingernails! Love you! Mean it!”

One day I showed you that the switch on the wall of your nursery could go “on” and “off,” and now you can’t leave a room without reaching toward the switch and glancing toward the light. Sometimes we’ll indulge you and let you play a while, and about one in ten of these sessions will result in an actual change in the light level. Have you discovered causality?!?

Here you are, enjoying some gravity:

And here's some fun with object permanence!

`` ` `q2 `
You typed that!!! Nice.

You’re also really, really vocal. What started with your attempts to be friends with Oscar has spread to people, too. You’re a huge fan of “Ooh!” and “Oh!” We’ve tried to train you to say, “Ho ho ho!” but that’s not worked. Yet. I’ll sing, and you’ll wail along with me. You particularly seem to like arpeggios for now. And “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

You’ve reached a place where you have the ability to get yards away from me, by choice. You’ve discovered your autonomy, and with that comes separation anxiety. You start to whine when Dad or I leave the room, even if one of us stays there, though this is mitigated by continued talking or singing as we leave. You know you’re independent, and this makes me proud and also kind of sad. Fortunately, though,this separation is balanced by a new closeness. You’ll grab my nose, smush your face into mine, or hold my neck while I hold you. You’ll even, on occasion, just sit in my lap, relaxed into me. You’re getting big enough that your days of sleeping on us and our ability to hug your whole body are numbered.

Probably the worst part of this month has been a disgusting regression in your sleep habits. I swear, you slept better during your first three weeks than you do now. I smugly put away The No-Cry Sleep Solution, thinking, “My baby doesn’t need this,” and now, I’m thinking, “Damn, crow tastes like chicken.” So, we’re getting paid back for our months and months of interruption-free sleep. Your immediate instinct when you wake up is to practice crawling, ‘cause hey, it’s new and fun! Right? Your dad and I are rising to the occasion, though, planning our nighttime Sagan shifts and implementing some of the baby sleep best practices.

The aforementioned fevery sickness, which made for a night of micro-naps, may result from a triumvirate of pain for you. A) You’re cutting a tooth up top. I think. B) Our furnace is working, so our house is dry, and your humidifier isn’t enough to keep you uncongested. Finally, C) Your head gets a new bruise approximately every 7 hours. Your late- or middle-of-the-night wakings mean that I roll out of bed, grab my silenced phone (hey, I’m entitled to a little bit of Marple as you fall back asleep), and see if I can lull you back to sleep without picking you up. If not, if you’re wailing, I attend to the basics (Hunger? Diaper? Stuffiness?) and then rock you in the glider. This usually does the trick. When you finally get back to sleep, I relish that feeling, that weight if your head on my shoulder and your feet in my lap. And then a curious chiasmus comes; I stop rocking to calm you, and I let the rhythm of your slow, measured breaths calm me. The back and forth of your chest on mine brings me peace in the middle of the night.

My newest favorite lullaby is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and the loveliest lines of the bridge stay in my mind’s ear when I go back to bed:

“Where troubles melt like lemon-drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me...”

I’ll always rock you, and I’ll always do everything within my power to melt your pain away.


Dislikes: Going down for a nap, having the Apple TV Remote/iPhone/piece of paper/granola bar wrapper taken away from you, violin solos, lying still on the changing table, falling
Likes: Crinkly objects (especially leaves), talking to the space heater, peek-a-boo, watching Oscar and Loki play
Things You Can Do: Crawl across the room, transition from crawling to sitting and back, pull yourself up to standing, (more importantly) get into a seated position from standing, walk holding someone’s hands, hit toys against the floor
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