Dear Sam,

Some of the other moms that brings kids to your tot group remarked, “Oooh, 17 months, that’s a rough age.” If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see a great age, because you’ve been a real pleasure to be around this month. It’s true that you’re starting to explore this thing we call a tantrum, but the ones I’ve been exposed to have been pretty managable, and we’ve gotten you out of them without too much trouble. Most recently, I started reading one of your books, “Farm Friends,” to your mom. Of course, I don’t think she was enthralled by the plot: “This is a pig. Here’s a cow. Don’t forget the horse.” etc. But she feigned as much interest in listening as I did in reading, and by the end of the third pass, you had climbed next to mom, eyes still wet, signing and saying (mo, mo).

This month has felt pretty sedate too, so in review, I was surprised at the number of firsts I get to report. Probably the most interesting to you was your trip to Fairyland in Oakland. You went with your “friends” Piper and Meri. I put friends in quotes because Mom takes you to Meri’s house every week to play, but you still don’t interact much with her. You at least know who she is this month, and think about her when she’s not around — as evidenced by a palm against the side of your chin, and a (meh?) sound when we talk about Meri. Fairyland looks unchanged since the ’70s, and this look was verified by Meri’s dad who reported things largely unchanged in his memory, and he was last there 20-some years ago. Still, you enjoyed it. You went down a large, scary slide. You rode a wacky, small-gauge train. You saw your first puppet show which starred a character that I enjoyed in my childhood: Uncle Wiggly. Of course, it contained the subtext of “the rich should share what they have with the less fortunate” in addition to the main moral, “stealing is bad.” This kept you well entertained, but not quite as much as “Noah’s Ark” — a fixed structure with a little moat around it, and two birds contained in it. The birds themselves weren’t that interesting to you, but you loved walking up and down the ramp that lead up to the ark.

Your interest in birds did manifest itself later in the month. I had Presidents’ day off, so I went along when you and mom do your usual grocery shopping. Instead of shopping, you and I went to the pet store, and then walked around El Cerrito Plaza some. At the pet store, we first stopped at a large cage full of parakeets. After a while, I got bored, but you still seemed interested. So, I waited a bit longer. Finally, I dragged you away to show you turtles and fish, but you’d have none of it. “No, no, no.” “Burr? Burr?” And so we’d go back to the birds.

The word “no” has taken a new prominence in your vocabulary too. It appears that you have two possible meanings for the word. The first, what we’d expect — the opposite of yes. The other meaning must be the toddler meaning — “I’ve heard you and am considering what you said”. We can offer you your sippy cup for example, you’ll give a vehement “No!” and seconds later, say and sign “Wah?” asking for the water in the sippy cup.

You do have many new words this month, including a number of two-syllable words where each syllable is different. Much to the delight of marketers everywhere, I think your first of these two-syllable words was “elmo” pronounced (eh – moh). You also have elbow pronounced (eh – boh). You’ve started referring to the bear that we’ve been treating as your lovey as (eh – ma) reducing the confusion between “emma” and “mama” which were disturbingly close before (mah). Your mom and I have been pretty good about signing “all done” and “all gone”. You’ve conflated to two into the concept of finished for which you use “all gone” (aw – go). Other two-word phrases you have include kitty cat (key – cah), and red wagon (rah – wah).

(Rah – wah) brings me to colors which you can identify pretty reliably now. You have a ring of colorful plastic keys which mom quizzes you on, and I’ve seen you do pretty well. You also identify the color of cars which was your first introduction to colors. When you and Mom would go for your walks, you’d point to to a car and say (gah?) shorthand for “What’s that?”, and Mom would tell you the color.

Another two-word phrase you make regular use of is good girl (guh – gir). You make use of this phrase preemptively anytime you do something that we’ve praised you for earlier. I notice it most around your self-feeding. You prefer feeding yourself over having us put food in your mouth. You’ll take a small, plastic spoon, dip it in some food, turn it any number of ways, fling it around, etc. But when it finally makes it into your mouth, regardless of there still being any food substance on the spoon at all, you spit out the words (guh – gir!) sometimes spitting out the very inbound food along with those words.

You are also pretty communicative with “bye bye”. You tell me “bye bye” if you’re awake in the morning when I go to work. You tell the house (or the cat?) “bye bye” when we all go out of the house. You tell your mom “bye bye” when we’re all in the car, and she’s turned around to watch you for too long. You told her an emphatic “bye bye” when she came to check on you at one point. She’d left you on her office chair and you managed to reach her laptop from there which was fascinating to you. You’d managed to open several applications, and for all I know, either searched for something interesting in “spotlight” or renamed her hard drive to “kgjhgfh”. You knew that the fun would end if you were discovered, so as soon as Mom discovered you, so when she popped her head out to check on you, it was “BYE BYE!” “BYE BYE!”, “BYE BYE!”

Alas, you fell from that same position later on, conking your head on the desk leg and giving yourself quite a shiner. We were worried enough about it to call our advice nurse, and we had to watch for concussion and wake you every two hours during your sleep that night — an unpleasant event for us, though you fell back quickly each time. You came through it just fine though.

We knew that babies love peek-a-boo, but we thought it was just about object permanence and therefore an earlier phenomenon, but you still enjoy it in all sorts of forms. If I’m doing something in the bathroom, you’ll come right in and wrap yourself in the shower curtain, or “hide” behind a towel. I’ll ask “Where’d Sammy go?” and then bemoan your absence. After a bit, you’d expose your face, I’d gleefully announce “There she is!” which would just crack you up. You’d then very seriously say (and frequently sign) “More!” (moe) and the process would repeat.

While that form of peek-a-boo had been going on for a while, you developed a new one this month. Now you can be playing with something in the kitchen or den, and you’ll take a doll, bear or other toy and hide it in a drawer or under something else, and ask “Go?” as in “Where did the toy go?” After a bit you reveal the toy and we say “There it is!”

You’ve got new words home (ome), rice (reese), and hat as well as having picked up the signs for bear and water. You enjoy stacking the peg board blocks your Grandmère got you for Christmas. You can identify pop culture references in an ad in Wired including Superman, Spiderman, Storm, and Wolverine. You can identify LoTR characters from their pictures on the spines of the books. You love park trips, and have found (dog) tennis balls there several times which you love to throw or kick, and you’re getting much better at both throwing and kicking. You love crayons, but mainly for sorting.

Finally, you went on your first bike ride this month. We used some money that Grandmère gave us a while back for this purpose to get you a sidecar. It’s pretty neat because I can look to the side and see you, and you aren’t behind my rear wheel where things could get thrown off my tires at you. You didn’t like getting started, but you settled into it. I think the combination of the seating position with having to wear a helmet made it hard for you to see what was going on. Hopefully, it’ll improve as you get bigger. That said, we all rode from our house near the del Norte stop down to North Berkeley on the Ohlone greenway. Once there, we stopped briefly for you to wander in the tot lot, but we didn’t have much time before darkness started to encroach, so you didn’t get much time there before we had to turn back around.

All of this is great. I love it. I love watching you develop, grow and learn. You impress me with your seemingly daily progress. But, by far, my favorite part now is your bedtime ritual. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it post-Ferber except to note that it has made a tremendous difference in our lives, so allow me to elaborate on how it is currently.

Every night, at about 8:00 PM, I get to offer you a bottle of milk. From what I can tell, this is one of your favorite times too, because once it’s clear that that’s what’s going on, you literally run to me, arms outstretched in “pick me up” pose. You down your bottle while lying in my arms and lap. It’s the only time in your day (that I see at least) where you are largely still, and it’s a supreme pleasure to get to hold you through that. You aren’t completely still. Sometimes you kick, sometimes you’re exploring my hair or yours with your hands, but you’re calmer than any other time during the day. We play lullabies from our music collection. I try to make sure to tell you every day that I love you, and this is a prime opportunity to do so.

When you’re just about done, I tell Mom, and she gets your baby bathtub ready. I strip you, and we walk to your bath together, you reaching up to hold both hands of mine which help steady as you get in the bath. I usually clean up from bottle time, and start cleaning up from our dinner as Mom bathes you, and sings you songs. When bath time is over, you clamber out into waiting towels in my lap, and I bundle you up. We go into our bedroom where mom and I put lotion and diaper cream on you, diaper you and put you into your pajamas. From there, we head to your room where we read three books, the last of which is always “Time for Bed” by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Jane Dyer. We have family kisses and hugs and Mom puts you in your crib reminding you that you’re a good girl, while I turn out the light. Mom and I then sing three rounds of the song she made up for you to the tune of Frère Jacques, while you arrange your stuffed animals to your pleasure in the crib. When we’re done, we tell you to sleep well and how much we love you, and head out of your room to finish the clean up, etc.

While much in my life is long and sometimes stressful work and commute, these moments border on idyllic for me at least and I loathe the day that they will come to an end.

In case I didn’t say it yet today, I love you Samantha. You’re a good girl. Sleep well.

Love,

Daddy