Dear Sam,

Urban babies
wear black.

Today you turn 13 months old, which means we have completed the first month of your second year of life. This means that for the past month, we’ve been saying things like “Oh, remember this time last year…?” This time last year you were too small for the Halloween costume we had for you (a black cat), we barely noticed the change back to Standard Time, I was still getting the hang of feeding you, and Daddy and I spent the better part of the days in pajamas. You’ve come a long way, baby! (I wonder if that cigarette ad reference will mean anything to you by the time you read this?) And this past month you’ve continued to grow and change and charm us.

Gnawing on
stuffed animals

One thing this month that was eerily similar to your first month of life: we spent more time at the doctor’s than we generally care to. There was your 12-month appointment, of course, with our new pediatrician whom we love and you despise. (Good for you for not putting up with people poking and prodding you without your permission! That said, the pediatrician is really a nice woman, and I hope you’ll warm up to her someday.) Then there was the return trip to get a flu shot. THEN there was the peanut butter incident. One evening near the end of dinner, Mama got a phone call from a friend in Altoona. While she took the call in the other room, Dad decided to let you taste some peanut butter. (Your doctor had just okayed its introduction into your diet). Well, you were tired and so rather than put the peanut butter in your mouth, you rubbed it into your eyes. By the time I got off the phone, your eyes were red and puffy, and your father was freaking out. Thank goodness for the 24-hour advice nurse. Anyway, the sad news is that you are allergic to peanuts. Fays and Capeharts everywhere sigh, for we are a family who loves peanuts and peanut butter. Dad and I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch almost every day. Your great-grandmother Ann Capehart loved nuts of all kinds, especially peanuts, and Granddaddy even likes to eat peanut butter crackers with his ice cream. Alas. There is hope, nonetheless, that the allergy will fade. When you’re two years old we can have you tested and we’ll see. Fingers crossed that eventually you and Dad will fight over the Reese’s peanut butter cups in your Halloween loot.

If only you’d use
that fork!

While we need to avoid feeding you nuts of any kind, there are still plenty of foods that you enjoy popping in your mouth, chewing, and … spitting back out. Cereal, bread, grape halves, pear slices, strawberries, melon, cubes of cheese, crackers, soft veggies, beans – you love to cram these in your mouth but you still haven’t graduated to swallowing much of anything. And you disdain anything remotely chunky that we try to spoon into your mouth. Cream of wheat has been a major victory, although it has to be mixed with pureed fruit, and lumps are immediately expelled, no exceptions. You have not shown much interest in wielding the spoon yourself, but prefer to studiously ignore that a meal is in progress while you play with whatever Mama can come up with. Measuring cups and spoons, napkin rings, cups and bowls, empty cereal boxes… you name it, we’ve used it to entertain you through meal time. Lately you’ve enjoyed looking at pictures of yourself on the laptop while we quickly get some food into you. “Bay bee?” you say and refuse to open your mouth until I open the photo gallery. I was a little worried that one day you’d be incapable of sitting across a table from someone unless he or she was wearing mirrored sunglasses, but you also like looking at and identifying pictures of your family. “Mama,” “Gat” (for Camus) and of course your favorite word “Dah dee.”

Sam and dad wait
for the train.

“Dah dee” is also your new favorite sign. To make the ASL sign for “Father,” one makes an open hand and brings the thumb to the forehead and taps it a couple of times. We’ve been doing this for months and pointing to your father. One day this month you looked at him, said “Dah dee,” and tapped your head with your hand. Every time you do this we nearly fall over from the cuteness, because it looks like you’re slapping your head because you just realized that you did something stupid—like the old V-8 commercials—“I coulda had a V-8 !” (Another old reference). But what’s really hilarious is that you make the “Daddy” sign whenever you hear your father make some sort of bodily sound. Dad will be in another room and sneeze, cough, burp, or just clear his throat, and you immediately say and sign “Dah dee.” It is beyond cute, and makes me giggle even as I write. One of the games we play is “What sound does this animal make?” You know that a duck goes “quack,” a sheep says “ba,” a cow says “moo,” and a horse says “nay.” When I ask, “What sound does Daddy make? Burp!” you laugh and start tapping your head. Good times.

Bears!

After “Dah dee,” “milk” is still your most frequent sign, although you tend to use it whenever you want anything, not just milk. We haven’t seen you sign for “eat” and “more” in a while. Perhaps your ASL database allows you to remember only a couple of signs at a time? Occasionally you sign “Mama,” which is the same hand position as for “Dad” but the thumb taps the chin. When you do it, it looks like you are tapping your cheek. And a handful of times you’ve signed for “bath.” The most amazing indication that you’ve internalized signing is that you sometimes talk and sign in your sleep! A couple of mornings I’ve seen and heard you say “milk” and “Daddy” while you were still asleep. I guess that you were dreaming that Daddy was giving you a bottle of milk, which would be a pretty sweet dream for a baby.

Sam goes hiking

And that brings me to two big changes this month. The first is that you are drinking whole cow’s milk almost exclusively. You took to it very well. A couple of weeks ago, we phased out the evening nursing session too, and so now you nurse from me just once in the morning. The other momentous passing is that we have retired the Baby Bjorn (or as Granddaddy called it, the “Martin Van Bjorn.”) Now when we head out for walks, we either sport you around in a jogging stroller, or carry you piggyback style in our new Ergo Carrier. Of course, we expect that sometime this coming month you may join us for walks on your very own. You love to walk holding onto our fingers, and you’re a regular little speed demon cruising up and down the couch. You also like to walk your little milk crate of toys around the house. While we are thrilled to witness your development into a biped, it also scares us: where are you going to let your feet take you? What will you get into? And how much clean-up will be required afterwards?

Carefully arranged rice.

Sam, you and your mother are already engaged in a battle of wills over what goes where in the house. Actually it’s not a battle at all, but a game that cracks me up. Aunt Skip will tell you that I used to laugh myself silly when I would visit her apartment and find her storing her groceries on the living room floor. Well, every day with you is like a visit to Aunt Skip. I NEVER know what I’ll find when I walk into a room where you’ve been alone for a minute or two. Packets of saffron rice in your booster seat. Napkin rings in Camus’s basket. Socks in a salad bowl on the kitchen floor. I love how it all makes perfect sense to you. Then I swoop in and put everything back and you get all huffy. “No, no, no, Mom, can’t you see that the plastic spoon looks best in the potato bin? Sheesh!” I must confess, however, that I jumped a foot when I walked into the kitchen the other day and found a pile of rubber ducks sitting on top of the canvas grocery bags in the middle of the floor. Staring at me with unblinking eyes. That was just creepy.

See, at just 13 months old you’ve discovered how to wig out your old lady, and how to identify your old man in a crowded room when he passes gas. These are important life skills, baby girl, and we couldn’t be prouder of you.

Love,

Mama and Daddy