Dear Sam,

The survivor

She sure is cute

Do you hear that noise? That’s your parents laughing and crying and jumping up and down because you turned ONE YEAR old, which means we MADE IT! We survived the first year, and here you are laughing, smiling, talking, and nearly walking. One full orbit around the sun and our newborn blob has become a little person with opinions and personality. Dad and I feel like we can finally breathe after 365 days of worry.

Now do you hear THAT sound? That’s the sound of the universe laughing at us. It turns out that the worrying does not go away. No! It becomes more intense. But fortunately the love and pride we feel for you, and the joy you bring us, also intensifies. Your 12th month has been a lot of fun, culminating in a wonderful and moving birthday celebration. So what was the final month of your first year of life like?

Spaghetti Time

Sitting Spaghetti Monster
(See FSM for reference)

Incredible. Sam, this past month I have exclaimed to you, to your father, to anyone, that you are SO SMART. It’s true. You blow me away. Now I know that every parent probably thinks that her kid is smart, and that may well be, but that doesn’t change the fact that we think you are brilliant. Some examples:

• You and I were reading a book that mentions a lightning bug. When you heard me say “lightning bug,” you pointed up to the ceiling light. This is because we often ask you “Where’s the light?” and you point to the lights in the ceiling. You can also identify feet, ears, and noses, though when we ask “Where’s your nose?” you usually point to our noses. That’s ok. Our noses are pretty prominent.

Sam picks out a book

Sam picks out a book

• While I feed you lunch out back in the garden, you identify various sights and sounds: a dog barks and you say “Go” (we think you picked that up from one of your favorite books, Go, Dog, Go!). A bird chirps and you say “Bir.” Camus comes flapping through the cat door and you point and say “Gack” or increasingly “Gat.” One afternoon, though, I thought you had lost your little 11-month old marbles: you kept pointing to the tree behind me and saying “Go, go!” I shook my head sadly. “I don’t think there are any dogs in the tree, honey.” You insisted, however, and so I turned to look. Two squirrels were cavorting in the branches. Of course. Tree dogs! At the end of Go, Dog, Go! all the dogs are partying on the top of a tree. So for you, this was a case of life imitating art.

Lunch out back

Lunch out back

• You already seem to have developed an internalized superego. We spent a lot of time at the neighborhood park this past month, and after several instances of hearing me say “no” whenever you brought a twig or a leaf or a wood chip to your mouth, you caught on. Now I watch in amazement as you pick up some forbidden object, advance it towards your lips, then say “No, no” and put it down. Is that great or what?

Talk, Talk, You Like to Talk

As you can see, you’ve been focusing on language acquisition. You’ve expanded and refined some of your vocabulary. Towards the end of the month, “Go” became “Gaw” as you work on the vowel for “dog” (or as Daddy says “Dawg”). “Ball” is “Baw.” “Book” is “Buh” and your beloved Emma Bear is “Bee” or “Bea.” You’re also working on intonation, and you know that when you ask for something, your voice should rise at the end. So when you bring us a book to read it’s “Buh?” and “Mo?” when you want more of something.

Back Yard View

Back yard view

And you’re doing ASL signs to go along with some of these! We started teaching you sign language when you turned 7 months old. Just some basics: “milk,” “eat,” “more,” “cat,” “mommy,” and “daddy” (ok, so those words pretty much cover your whole universe). Anyway, out of the blue this month, you signed for “milk,” “eat,” and “more”! I nearly fell over trying to reward you with whatever you had asked for. You are especially cute when you ask for milk, because you do the sign with both hands. Sometimes you mix up “eat” and “more.” And sometimes we can’t figure out what you want more of… which results in the crystal clear, universal baby sign of throwing a fit. Unfortunately, even though you speak and sign several words, we still suffer from miscommunication. Go figure. But I shouldn’t complain. When I took you to your first “Tot Lot” in Albany and you rode the swing for the first time, you giggled like a mad baby and signed “more,” “more” over and over again. All the other parents and nannies probably wondered why I had tears in my eyes and why I wouldn’t surrender the swing.

Walk, Walk, You’re Getting Ready to Walk

In addition to the parks in the East Bay, we’re also checking out ones in San Francisco. Early in your 12th month we met Daddy for lunch one day at his office. We went to a nearby park and sat in the grass and ate take-out Thai food. After Daddy went back to work, however, you would not sit still. You crawled right over to the concrete steps in the middle of the park and proceeded to climb them. I hovered, all protective and worried, because, you know, you had never climbed steps before, and this was a public park and there were all sorts of people using those steps to go about their business. But climbing those steps was your business, baby, and you would not be deterred. You even climbed down one step, to my amazement. You would have stayed there all afternoon, I think, going up and down, but I pulled you away amidst your protests, so we could catch BART back home before rush hour.

Sam unpacks

Sam unpacks

While you are now an expert crawler and climber, we are still watching for those first unassisted steps. You started cruising this month (it is less risqué than it sounds), by which I mean, you pull up on furniture and use it as an anchor as you shuffle your feet along. You love to pull up on stuff (including our pant legs) and you would do everything standing if you could. One of your favorite activities is to pull up on the wooden chest in your room and rifle through your book collection. You adore books now, and you ask us to read the same ones over and over. Just like your Mama who, when she likes a CD, will put it on repeat-mode, you like your books on repeat-mode. For a long time it was Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. I will likely be able to recite that book until I die. It got so bad that I was driving your Dad nuts because I was quoting it all the time. There were also days (after some rough nights with you) when I felt envious of one of the characters, “Red,” who is pictured all cozily tucked in bed. And I could go on at length about the Lacanian overtones in the actual “Hop on Pop” sequence, but I’ll spare you until you’re older. All of this to say… we’ve read that book a lot.

Joyful bath time

Joyful bath time

Sleep, Sleep…

But not without a peep. Sometimes two. But more often than not you make it through the whole night in your crib without crying for us to come to you. We did have a string of bad nights just before your birthday. Lo and behold one morning Daddy noticed that you had sprouted more teeth. Three on the top popped all at once. A second bottom tooth had been slowly erupting all month long, and so now you have five teeth. They help you gnaw on more interesting foods (buttered toast fingers, Kashi cheerios, even broccoli) but you still haven’t figured out that the purpose of teeth is to mash food up so you can swallow it more easily. Food is still a toy, and meals are something that happen to you while you’re playing. This means that in general you are really good in restaurants, because there’s so much for you to taste and watch. You even behaved pretty well at our dear friend Rebecca’s presentation at the Velvet DaVinci gallery in Russian Hill. She graciously invited us all, and did not mind your chatter during her talk. It pleased me that Rebecca got to see you just before you turned one year old because she first met you when you were only a couple of weeks old. So like us, she can appreciate how much you’ve grown.

Sam at the Gallery

Sam, Dad and Rebecca
at the Velvet DaVinci

Also shortly before your birthday, we suffered a scary, pre-bedtime incident with you. Daddy usually gets you out of your clothes and diaper to bring you to the bath. While you were lying on the changing pad, he was giving you belly farts, which you LOVE. But sadly, your giggles turned to screams because as Daddy leaned down to your belly, you kicked your legs up at his chest and your left leg hyper-extended and then gave under the weight of his chest. Your new pediatrician said there was no damage, however, and she was right, because within a week you were back to standing as usual. Still, it freaked us out. I guess this is just the beginning of such scares as you become a toddler. Please go easy, on us, ok? Ah, there’s that sound again. Oh well. If you can learn to talk, sign, stand, climb, feed yourself, turn the pages of a book, and chase after Camus in one year, I suppose your parents can learn to relax into parenthood… maybe.

So on your first birthday, darling Samantha, we celebrate your amazing little life. Here’s to much talking, walking, and sleeping in the second year. We can’t wait.

Love,

Mama and Daddy