Dear Sam,

Well, Chrissum time is over. Alas, by the end you were saying “Christmas” about as often as you said Crissum. Your little approximations of words are cute and fleeting. Already I miss getting to hear the babble of your baby talk and wish I’d found a way to record more of it. This month has begun a real inquisitive phase for you. You have a hard time being adjacent to a conversation without saying something like “What’s mommy and daddy talking about?” If we short change you on the answer by keeping it too simple “We’re talking about feelings, Sam!” then you have an immediate follow up question: “What’s mommy and daddy talking about feelings about?” Of course usually by then we’re both distracted from our original conversation as well as unsure how to rephrase our entire communication to each other in terms that a 2 year old could follow.

It’s not just conversations between people that are interesting to you. You like there to be conversations between your bears. Or between your dolls, or between your cars, or, frankly, just about anything you have 2 of. And here’s where it fails the adorable test. You are generally unwilling to supply both sides of the conversation yourself. Therefore you need a parent (or, fortunately a Grandparent) to drive the other bear/doll/car/other. You’ll assign a bear/doll/car/other to whomever you’re with, hold out your bear/doll/car/other and say “Hi.” To which the appropriate response is “Hi”. That formality out of the way, you’ll say, “It’s so nice to meet you much.” We have no idea where the “much” came from, but it’s there in almost every “nice to meet you”. We’ve also taught you the sign for “nice to meet you” which is complicated enough that you’re really no good at it, but exciting enough to you that you do it with great fervor.

Alas, the control and oversight that you demonstrate for conversations, you apply to as many aspects of your life as you can muster right now. Common phrases from the month. “No, daddy! No, Daddy! I can do it.” “I can do it all by myself.” “Sammy will do it all by herself.” “That’s my job!” OK, that last bit is kind of cute. You understand that someone’s job is what they do. So, when it’s time for something that you know about to happen you’ll announce who’s job it is. Like if I try to put on your pajama top, “No, Daddy! That’s Mommy’s job!” Recently, you claimed something was your job to Mom and the conversation proceeded something like this:

Mom: And what’s Mommy’s job?

Sam: Cleaning up.

Mom: And what else is Mommy’s job?

Sam: Playing.

Mom: Anything else?

Sam: Doing the crossword puzzle.

Mom: And what’s Daddy’s job?

Sam: Typing on the computer.

Mom: And what else is Daddy’s job?

Sam: Cleaning up.

Mom: Woo Hoo!

So while you clearly have a few things figured out, it’s still a very inquisitive phase. You’ll ask us “What’s he’s name?” You’ll ask us this loudly enough that the woman in the grocery store that you’re pointing at can hear you. We don’t know that woman in the grocery store. When looking at the cover of the “Shrek the Third” DVD, I can usually tell you the names of the people you ask about. When you ask what the name of the trash bin is, I have a little bit of a harder time. You also love to know what people are doing completely ignoring boundaries of time and space. We can be driving along in California and you’ll ask “What’s Mom-mom doing?” We do our best to make up something probable based on what we know of her routine. You also like to know the future. “After my nap, what will we do?” Usually we can be reasonably predictive. New Years Eve I was trying to explain the change of years as we waited for your mom in the parking lot of Safeway. You asked “In 2008, what will we do?” I was able to answer about predictive trips — you and Mom will go back to PA in June. We’ll all go to Wisconsin in Aug. And I predicted that “You’ll become a big girl in 2008”. “Big Girl” is our code for “potty trained.” You love talking about what kind of panties you’ll wear when you’re a big girl. Generally, green, red and polka-dots are your predicted favorites. We’ll see how your predictive ability turns out! You’re already pretty good on the potty front. If we tell you to go sit on the potty, you will usually pee. Pooping is still private, “Daddy want to go away to the kitchen now?!?” and doesn’t happen on the potty at all. You just aren’t yet at all predictive about that, so it’s still too soon to take away diapers.

It feels like “waiting for your mom in the parking lot of a Safeway” on New Years Eve deserves a little bit of an explanation. In order to travel to PA for the holidays, we decided to finally use our long-accumulated US Airways miles. It was great because it meant the whole airline trip cost us $15 — $5 ea in booking fees. But it also meant that we had to travel during “non-blackout” times. So, our travel back from Mom-mom and Granddaddy’s house was on new years eve. And mom was in the Safeway picking up the one “essential” we didn’t already have in the house — soy milk. We needed soy milk because you need milk. But much of this month you needed soy milk instead of regular cow’s milk because you had a really vicious stomach flu. You vomited. you vomited a lot. You even lost a pound or more during the worst week. While my weight can easily fluctuate by a couple of pounds, for you that’s 125 of your body weight and enough to freak us out a little bit. You even shared this flu with me. I spent one awful day expelling from both ends, one bad day recovering and a medium-ish day, back at work. For you, it dragged on and on though. But apparently one of the effects of this virus is that it wiped out your villi causing your body to react very poorly to dairy. Your pediatrician suggested that we cool it on the dairy for a week. We were relieved that you made the whole plane trip to PA without vomiting though we had the “barf bags” at the ready for the climb and descent. A week into the trip to Mom-mom and Granddaddy’s you’d been doing great so we thought nothing of you having a few cheddar puffs and tortellini. Alas, it turned out poorly and we had to change your blanket, your crib sheet, and your pajamas. Twice. The next day you were feverish and lethargic. The day after that, you bounced back admirably. But we’ve been on soy milk ever since. You’ve had bits of cheese recently and kept it down, and we’ll likely gradually switch you back, but oh so cautiously. We sure hope this doesn’t mean lactose intolerant. That would be an unfortunate thing to add onto a severe peanut allergy. It still weirds me out that something as common (and delicious) as peanut butter could be fatal to you. Something’s just wrong about that.

This month Grandmere left from her Thanksgiving trip out to see us in El Cerrito. And we went to have an extended stay with Mom-mom and Granddaddy for Christmas, so you’ve had quite a grandparently existence for a while. Fortunately, you warmed up to all of them pretty quickly. You only ever got moderately comfortable with Granddaddy. At one point you agreed to let him hold you after dinner and as we got to the end of dinner you exclaimed “Granddaddy doesn’t have to hold you.” Once again, you cleaned up over Christmas. It was pretty impressive. We took two suitcases there — three counting your pink “Hello Kitty” suitcase which your mom and I got you for an early Christmas present plus our respective carry-ons. And coming back, we not only filled those suitcases quite thoroughly but we ended up shipping 3 boxes of stuff back. We’ll be trying to figure out a way to at least rotate some of your toys in and out so that something remains fresh and interesting to you.

Your final set of molars is just about all the way in, and you enjoy using them on your vitamins. We have “Trader Darwin”‘s children’s chewable vitamins for you. And you get one before breakfast. When you eat your vitamin, you always have it sing the ABC song. It’s pretty cute, but you not only mumble through the _lmnop_section (something that somehow rings familiar from my own experience) but you completely leave out ‘k’. Every other letter is there, but ‘k’. What have you got against ‘k’?

Finally, Christmas has given you a great chance to keep singing. You’ve added Christmas carols to your collections of nursery rhymes and songs. My favorite currently is “Deck the halls.” By the time I managed to record it, it seems you’ve forgotten the first verse which you used to sing basically as “Deck the halls with Barley. Fa la la la. Fa la la la” I’ve heard your version of this song so many times that it takes a little bit of effort to remember the real version. I provide the rest of the song here for posterity. For those that don’t have parent ears or don’t remember the lyrics, what’s being sung is:

‘Tis the season to be jolly,

fa la la la la la la la la

Don we now our gay apparel

fa la la la la la la la la

Troll the ancient yuletide carol

fa la la la la la la la la

Of course, through all this cute is a streak of demanding. One of the moms in your playgroup said that “having a two year old is like living with a control freak with OCD.” And not to belittle those who are actually dealing with control freaks or OCD, but oh my, there’s some serious truth in that statement. One of the ways you do this is with simple declarative statements like those we use with you. We’ll say, “It’s time to wash your hands for dinner, Sam.” to which you reply, “I don’t have to wash my hands.” Once we establish that you do, in fact, have to wash your hands for dinner, it becomes “I don’t want to wash my hands with Daddy.” or “That’s Mommy’s job.” Once it becomes clear that Mommy is still finishing making dinner and it has to be Daddy, then it becomes “I have to wash my hands in the kitchen.” Then we have to establish that the kitchen sink is still busy. Sometimes every little step of doing anything becomes a series of trials like this. I have no doubt that I’ll look back on these days longingly through the filter of time. And I certainly wouldn’t wish them away, ever. But some of them can be trying.

Trying or not, you’re a great little girl, and I loved getting to spend more time with you this month than usual thanks to vacation and holidays. I love you and will join your crusade against the letter ‘k’ — at least if you could explain it just a little bit better.

Love,

Dad