Archive for February, 2007

Okay, so maybe I’m a birder. Darn it.

Posted by julie on Monday, 26 February 2007, 11:33

Sylvan and I have seen two bald eagles in two days! On Saturday, Sylvan and I went to the Finley Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis with Courtney (“Cokie”) — nanny extraordinaire, Mt. Pisgah Arboretum Walks & Workshops Coordinator, and fantastic friend — to go for a soggy hike. We had just driven into the refuge, and I was going slowly so Courtney, a true birder with her binoculars, could look at the ducks, and I looked up to see a BIG, dark bird overhead. Courtney said, “That’s an eagle,” and, sure enough, when it passed directly over us, we could see its white head. The rest of the day passed soppily. I didn’t even pack rainpants, since it never rains that hard in Oregon. Wrong. Courtney was a great sport, the kind of hiking companion you want to have when it’s cold and wet and miserable: honest but not whiney. On our drive out, I stopped for some California quails. “Look, California quails!” I said, a bit too loudly. Courtney, looking at me and cutting to the chase, said, “Sure, you’re not a birder.”

Yesterday, Sylvan and I traveled up to Corvallis again, this time to paint our friend Leslie’s bee boxes and visit with her chickens. Yesterday’s bald eagle flew over I-5 like any crow or starling, without fanfare.

Rinascimento Man

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 21:53

Sylvan is experiencing a renaissance, I think, a rebirth from babyhood and its drive toward greater mobility to toddlerhood with a goal of greater understanding and communication (not that mobility is taking a backseat; see “My son is a monkey.”). I suppose Sylvan’s great leap in communication started in December, when he started to mimic words, but he’s really blossomed in the past couple of weeks.

Sylvan started singing. It started with “rum sum sum,” a song with hand motions that keeps him from going nutso in the carseat; then, in the car last night, he started patting his knees and singing “dum dit dum dit,” which is similar to the rhythmic refrain in his book Hand Hand Fingers Thumb. He also sang with his friend Leo’s piano today, doing his bobbing dance and singing “dum dit dum dit.”

His vocabulary continues to develop at the rate of 2-3 new words a day. This morning we found out that he knows “shaving,” then he said “penguin” this afternoon, and he’s gaining prepositions, like “on” and “under,” with their related concepts.

Sylvan’s personality is becoming more apparent, especially when we spend time with his peers. Sylvan is happy! He plays contentedly on his own and will talk to himself in his crib about what he sees before falling asleep. At our Birth to Three meetings, he plays in the playroom next door to the adult room for two hours, coming in occasionally to flash a big, dimpled smile and ask for a snack. Ah, I love my little independent.

Sylvan is also sweet. His passive nature means that he doesn’t really mind when his toys get taken or when another toddler pokes his nose. He moves on, which is a trait I admire. We might have to do some assertiveness training later, but it’s a nice quality in a toddler – and it would be a nice quality in me.

My son is a monkey

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 22:00

One of the small, agile, climbing kinds. Like a marmoset.

On Sunday morning, I awoke to hear Sylvan talking. I often wake up like this, lying there listening to my son and my husband conversing downstairs. Usually, it sounds like this: “Rubboo . . . on,” followed by Chris’s explanation that rubber-soled shoes only go on when we’re going outside. On Sunday, Sylvan was saying “up,” a word succeeded only a second later by a big thud. And Chris was still next to me in bed! Uh-oh. I ran into Sylvan’s room, where I found him on his hands and knees on the floor, looking surprised with big tears running down his cheeks. Chris quickly gave Sylvan a little head-to-toe pat-down (no broken bones) while I kissed the tears away. So the comfort of having Sylvan caged up like an animal in his bed is coming to an end.

On Sunday evening, we put Sylvan to sleep in a Pack ‘n’ Play, since it’s a little deeper than his crib. I paused the movie, The Singing Detective (even though it’s Robert Downey, Jr., don’t bother), because I heard Sylvan’s doorknob jiggling. Yes, the little escape artist had stealthily scaled the playpen walls, letting himself down gently on the other side. I put him back in so he’d do it again. It was an impressive display of strength and flexibility. He hooked his left heel over, pulled his whole body up, swung his body over the top, and lowered himself gently to the ground. As frustrated as I was that I couldn’t think of how to contain our too-young-to-be-reasoned-with little boy, I was proud of his persistence and agility.

Chris MacGyvered Sylvan’s crib so that the mattress is resting on crates, six inches below where it used to sit. Sylvan might be able to get out of that, too, but he hasn’t yet. He has a nest of sleeping bags and pillows in front of the crib onto which he can throw himself if he feels so inclined. The next step is the mattress on the floor. So my little boy will be up and prowling the corners of his room at night, figuring out how to remove the safety plugs from the outlets and how to scale the bookcase.

Know the sign of a good husband?

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 22:05

He makes his wife smile. He makes his wife smile when she comes home at 10 o’clock on Valentine’s Day from a dress rehearsal for a performance in which she doesn’t even get to actually dance (is walking dancing? jumping up and down? okay, maybe there’s a turn or two) and so she isn’t at all psyched to be in it. She’s even less excited to dance after she saw the second half of the show, in which dancers get to actually DANCE, and all she wanted to do was curl up in a fetal ball and feel sorry for her dancer self.

But she’s smiling now.

Tejana makes me smile

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 22:23

Tejana, all wide smiles and dancin’ legs, Tejana with tiaravisited today for a couple of hours. She’s a month and a half younger than Sylvan, but she’s always seemed older than her months – very engaged and communicative. Since Sylvan is getting big, scary molars and has been sick, I was concerned about how two toddlers would treat a tired Mom. They handed each other crackers, stole each other’s water, one of them ate sand, and the other had a short tantrum when I told him he couldn’t go down the slide by himself. They were really fun, and, although I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Tejana, she managed to massage that spot even a little more. She grabbed my hand when we walked down the sidewalk, something I can’t convince my little independent to do (which means I end up carrying him like a writhing sack of potatoes across the street). And, tonight, at our Birth to Three meeting, after we’d been apart for two hours, Tejana, the 20-pound linebacker, barreled right onto my lap, sitting with me to sing songs.

A couple of weeks ago, Tejana illustrated an important point about baby development, namely that all babies develop differently. Something I find interesting is the diversity of ways in which similarly-aged babies gain language. Some sign frenetically, making amazing conceptual leaps when they need to figure out how to say words for which they don’t yet know signs. Some pick up many, many verbal words very quickly, most of which don’t really sound like English but all of which mean something specific to the baby; these babies might also frequently mimic the sounds of words they don’t know. Other babies say very little, but if you ask them to “please take the shoe to Daddy,” they’ll do it without a problem.

Sylvan is an immediate mimicker, so he is the master of a large vocabulary that I don’t always understand. Tejana, however, sat on my lap a couple of weeks ago as I read her a story about a cow, which, I told her, said “moo.” That little girl stared at my lips saying “moo” for probably two minutes while she figured out what she had to do to make that sound. Then she got up, said “moo,” and walked away. Tejana makes me smile.

Varied Thrush sightings abound

Posted by julie on Monday, 5 February 2007, 23:24

I’m not a birder. I don’t even play one on TV. If it eats rodents or other birds, I’ll give it more than a passing glance. Okay, if it’s a kestrel, I’m intrigued: all that fight wrapped up in a tiny, graceful package. But I don’t carry binoculars; I have to rely on the kindness of strangers (or my father-in-law, mother-in-law, or husband) for their binoculars .

Every once in a while, though, I look out the window and see a bird I don’t see every day (I see crows, scrub jays, and robins every day). Years ago, when we lived two houses down, it was a northern flicker. Tephra and I raced from window to window, hunting the wild flicker, Tephra with ears flattened, me with Sibley Guide to Birds open, seeking the right page before my prey disappeared. Flickers are woodpeckers with tan and black striped backs, gray heads, and white rumps that flash the observer as the bird flies away. I think I actually called Chris to tell him about the flickers. I do know that he said something like, “Oh, a flicker. Yeah, they’re often in our yard.” Since that day, I’ve seen a flicker every month or so in our neighborhood. Undoubtedly, a keener birder would see them more often, but that’s not so bad for a dedicated non-birder.

Today, once again, I added a bird to my repertoire. This time, it was a varied thrush, a bird whose song I’ve recognized for years but that I’d never seen. I stood at the front door, again with Tephra, watching the pair of bright orange and black birds, Sibley in hand. For a non-birder, I really do like thrush song, as does Tephra. When I told Chris about my sighting, he said, “You’ve never seen one before? I’ve seen four or five in the last month, although I’d never seen them right here before that.” I guess I really need to open my eyes more often.

Burley Babes Get Published

Posted by julie on Friday, 2 February 2007, 10:29

Sylvan and I made it onto Burley’s website and into their downloadable catalog: Click the “Products” link to download the catalog, which has some more cute pics of Sylvan (and a couple of my hidden face).