Dear Sam,

I’m writing this to you in your Uncle John’s old room at Gradyville, PA. You are asleep in my old room, clutching a toy car and set of plastic keys. The knees of your purple pants are filthy, your feet are covered in carpet fuzz and cat fur, and your round little tummy rises and falls rhythmically, straining against the straps of the car seat you fell asleep in. It’s the well-deserved sleep of the crawler.

It’s been a phenomenal month, baby girl, not merely because of the rapid growth of your motor and verbal skills, but also because we’re on the cusp of our biggest change yet as a family. In 2 days, your Daddy returns to us, and we head out to Altoona for one last trip to deal with the move. Then two weeks after that, we fly to San Francisco. This month has offered a brief period of stability within the flux. It’s given me a chance to breathe, and you a chance to shine. As you crawl, climb, clap, chatter, and change, you are also my anchor. Every night you fall asleep nursing in my arms, and every morning you babble excitedly and grab for the cord as I open the curtains to the window. Without fail. Always. It’s those little constant things that keep me going. Of course, those will change too. Next week we’ll wake up in Altoona. Then one day it will be El Cerrito… and who knows where after that. And it doesn’t matter. It’s enough that we have each other.

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**Little Scientist

**

And the curtain cord, Mom! Yes, the curtain cord, the light switches, the air vents, the buttons on the cd player, and the old fashioned built-in door stop at Mom-mom and Granddaddy’s office. You are fascinated by anything mechanical, technological, electrical, and dangerous. Every day when I put you down on the floor of the Fay Real Estate office, you crawl over to the French door in order to examine the doorstop that latches the wood into the floor. You’re getting quite good at turning light switches off, and turning the cd player on. Every time Granddaddy picks you up, you grab the pens he keeps in his shirt pocket. You tug on Mom-mom’s gold necklace. Why can you drop the pens on the floor but not the necklace? What happens when you drop things from the high chair? Why does a ball roll away from you? Why do the adults duck and groan when you sneeze with a mouthful of carrots? So many questions, so many experiments. And now that you are mobile, your field of research has expanded considerably.

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A common scenario: you spy an unknown, microscopic object yards away. You zoom across the floor towards it, giggling maniacally. You grab it between your thumb and forefinger and drag it backwards as you sit your little bottom on the floor. You start to pop it into your mouth when your mother distracts you by saying “No, Sam,” or by snatching the object from your hand quick as a pickpocket, or by waving her arms frantically which causes you to drop the piece of (lint, cat fur, unidentified speck) to see what all the fuss is about. If the object is legit, say a harmless cat toy, then she leaves you alone, although you usually drop it anyway in order to applaud yourself. Yes, you love to clap your hands. When you first started crawling, I used to applaud you wildly. You now believe that this is normal behavior, and so often you crawl forward for a ways, sit back down, and then clap, looking around for all assembled to do the same. Lately, however, you’ve had more important business than solicitation of praise. Lately, you’ve turned your crawling skill towards a single goal: the cat.

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Baby Feline

It’s not clear, however, whether you want to GET the cat, or BE a cat. I suspect that you’ve adopted the second goal as a means to achieve the first. If you act the part, poor kitty is bound to accept you into his feline cadre, and then voila—he’s yours. On what evidence do I base this theory?

  1. You enjoy chasing Ren, but he’s still faster than you.

  2. You love playing with cat toys (stuffed cat nip toys, balls with bells in them, kitty wands, rolling disks, balls of tin foil, even the round track with a ball in it that Camus always hated). If only we had known, we could have saved a lot of money on baby toys. Baby Einstein? Forget it. It’s Baby Feline!

  3. You definitely understand both the word and the ASL sign for “cat.” When we ask “Where’s Kitty?” you look and point to the resident feline.

  4. Moreover, you’ve adopted your own word for “cat.” When you point to the kitty, you say “Gack” or “Gacka.” It’s happened consistently enough now that I suspect this will be your first word.

  5. You would love to get your hands on the cat crunchies in the cats’ bowls, but there I draw the line.

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You also have a special sound that you make whenever you spy a cat, or any animal—whether animate or inanimate—it’s a high-pitched “ohhh.” Mom-mom remarked today that it’s amazing that you have already decided on what you think is cute.

Too Much Cute

You also agree that you’re cute. You make the same “ohhh” sound when you see a picture of yourself. When we ask in the living room, “Where’s the baby?” you turn and look at my baby picture hanging on the wall. You seem to understand a lot of words: “baby,” “kitty,” “mama,” “eat,” as well as your own name. Every day I show you Daddy’s picture and say “dada.” Very soon we’ll see if you recognize him! I think you will.

But will he recognize you? You tripled your birth weight this month, you make all sorts of new sounds (including an imitation sneeze that cracks me up), and you are learning to feed yourself. Project Fatbaby has expanded to include finger foods. You can feed yourself cooked plain spaghetti, whole wheat crackers, and whole wheat bread, though 95% of it ends up on the tray, the floor, your hair, your diaper (thanks to those wide-necked onesies). You tried some cheese last night (cheddar and swiss) but those were quickly spat out. Other new foods (still pureed) you ate this month include: blueberries, apricots, strawberries, prunes, and spinach. You loved them all. You also love to play with adult food while we eat our dinner. Sweet potato skins were a big hit. The can of dried oregano makes an excellent shaker. Mom-mom says that you have a “boarding house reach,” which means that if it’s on the table, you will find a way to grab it. That will be familiar to Daddy, since you were honing that skill way back in March. But just wait til he sees you reach all the way across a room!

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Le Tour de Sam

We traveled a lot this past month. The day you turned 9 months old, we went to Canoe Creek State Park, where you dipped your feet in the lake. We hung out with some Altoona friends, including Deniz, your “classmate” from our Bradley birth class. In Phoenixville, PA we visited 8-week old Katrina, daughter of my old high school pal. You didn’t have too much to say to little Katrina, but you loved playing in her Gymini. We made a trip out to my old stomping grounds in Lancaster to see friends from Franklin and Marshall where I used to teach. 10-year old twins Chloe and Olivia entertained you with songs and books, but were disappointed that you wouldn’t let them hold you. Finally, you crossed the border into Delaware, your third state (after PA and NJ), so we could visit an old friend from Swarthmore and her two children, 4-year old Evan and 6-year old Emma, for whom your teddy bear is named. Next month you’ll add California and Wisconsin to your list of states, and I hope next spring we’ll take you to our beloved Virginia where we’ll visit Charlottesville friends, including Benjamin Tucker Marcus, born almost exactly 9 months after you!

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At 10 months now, Sam, you are officially an “older baby.” 4-year old Evan asked if you liked being a baby. (He was quite enthusiastic about his own babyhood!) It was an interesting question. Do you like being a baby, Samantha? I love being your Mother.

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Love,

Mama