The Christmas Letter

The First Annual1 Christmas letter. I assume we are all Christians here, if not Catholics, but I just don’t want to miss saying to “happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Happy `Īd ul-’Aḍḥā’.”


The dogs Nigel, Karma and Bella2 and the cat Maggie have finally gotten used to Maconnell but are still wary of Scarlett, especially when she grabs their noses, which tends to happen a lot when she is in her highchair eating and the dogs will come by, sniffing to see what she has dropped, or as more often is the case, what she is holding out to the dogs so that they come close enough for her to grab onto their noses. Because we know this and we know the dogs know this, we have to shoo the dogs out of the living room so that Scarlett can focus and eat her food.


Scarlett—as you are all have noticed by now—eats. She is in constant food retrieval and disposal mode, and if you refuse her food, she will let you have with some serious piercing screams of annoyance: Do. Not. Mess. With. Her. Food. I think she needs all this food to just keep up with her constant squirming. I have spent several days just documenting the fact that she does not stop moving—ever.
As for her ability to walk, we were off on that one. We thought surely by Thanksgiving she would be taking a few independent steps3 but for now4 she just hangs on the furniture and kind of falls forward, not resembling walking so much but evoking tentative zombie stagger steps. Crawling as you know, she has down; she’s fast and constantly underfoot. I finally understand why Jenn wants Scarlett to start waking: It will slow her down. As for cognitive development, Scarlett understands that meaning of “No.” Of course, she also understands that she is too young to understand this concept, and so will hesitate for about a second after she is told “No,” before she quickly plops another found object into her mouth.


Maconnell has also improved his locomotive abilities. He is starting to build up speed to where he is almost running, he isn’t quite lifting his knees high enough, but his legs are starting to glide a bit better and his feet are starting to bounce more and his transition from step to step is quicker and on occasion he seems to be almost running—i need to find the right words—but as he picks up speed he seems to teeter more and more but no longer falls head long forward and bites it, like he use to. He also almost knows the fundamental issues involved in operating a truck: He knows where the keys go and to turn them, he understands he needs to downshift into drive, he understands the wheel turns the truck left and right. I have personally seen him demand the keys and head off to the truck ready to go boggin.5 Note I have notes about him that I am still working on and intend to put up soon.

Other News

What else, while we did not remodel the house on the level of my dad, we painted the house a wasabi green. We also painted the chimney red, but from across the street it looked like a bloodied shiv sticking out of the roof, so we had to go back and paint it black. We also ripped out several trees and weeds in the front yard, and now have a perfect view of our neighbor’s dilapidated hovel which was quite exciting to realize after all that hard work and money was spent.

Death of a Truck.

I got a new truck, no name for it yet though. Several months ago, my beloved Ford F-100 Ranger “Bocephus” was rear-ended and so after much thought, we traded in my WRX Subaru and got a bright blue Toyota Tacoma. I suppose it’s exactly what I’ve wanted and, if need be, can cross the coastal range in four-wheel drive via the logging roads, the kids in the back of the super-crew cab and the dogs safe in the truck bed, covered and protected by a canopy.6 However useful the truck will turn out to be, it cannot compare to Mr.Whitman’s Mini-Cooper which just brings out all sorts of envy in me.

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  1. this is not actually true since this is the first letter, but I hope to make it an annual event []
  2. named after Flavius Belisarius [505? – 565] is often described as one of the greatest generals of the Byzantine Empire; he helped Emperor Justinian reconquer much of the Western Roman Empire []
  3. This morning dec 11, 2008 she managed I think to take one step but quickly sat down. Dec 14th at 4pm, she took 3 successive steps before taking another nosedive. Dec 15th, at 6:30pm she took two steps before faceplanting. Each crash quickly followed by peels of frustrations that just have to be heard to be believed: This is a little serious girl who is going to get her way. []
  4. Now being when I started writing this on Dec 7th. []
  5. This four-wheeling in mud pits for you Mid-Westerners. Think of an outdoor Monster Truck Rally track about 15 minutes from our house out in Warrenton. []
  6. Again highly useful if driving through zombie infested woods. []

The Mysterious Case of Kirsten and Scarlett

Sept 30, 2008 6:09 PM

For the past few months, multiple members of the family have noticed the startlingly similar appearance of Kirsten and Scarlett.1,2 They both seem to be developing at prodigious rates that just leave their sibling in the dust. Dad said, “They both have legs that could support elephants.” We are pretty sure this was meant as a compliment but you won’t hear me saying that to anybody over age two.

So the questions becomes is this the “Arnaez” look, and can we say that their speed of development is due to some “Arnaez” gene?3 Or is it that they are females and Arnaez. There is something very interesting going on in these two. There are a couple of pictures of them both staring directly into the camera and an expression that could be read as “Really? Youse taking my picture?” — It’s a wiseguy look, coming from these baby girls.4

I thought Maconnel, when he was 3 or 4 months old, looked like Ivan, especially when Mac got mad and turned beet red. Now I keep thinking Scarlett looks like Ivan too and I wonder if that what an “Arnaez” looks like.5

As for the Mac update, today when I got home from work, I walked into the living room and Mac was sitting in a chair, sort of bouncing up and down, and was singing the “ABC song (won’t you sing with me.)” He has a low, almost comically low, singing voice for a little boy,6 and while I’m sure he sort of understands what counting is: He will count his cookies, his grapes, the fresh blackberries that are just ripening7 and the steps as he walks down them; I don’t think he conceptually gets the alphabet in any meaningful way, but heck he has to start somewhere.

  1. I keep thinking they look like Ivan. []
  2. I was going to post the picture, but I suspect both Laura and Jenn would have some serious objections. I’ll email you the picture if you like — just let me know. []
  3. It is at this point that Jenn will like to point out my essentially epistemologically solipsistic philosophy or as she puts it: “Egocentric.” []
  4. I wonder, if like Scarlett, Kirsten has started saying, “Da-da” at a very early age and pretty much conquered any sort of independent will that said Dad had. Perhaps mine only lasted a few minutes, and was quickly wiped away, knowing that this is a very little girl, and I am her dad. []
  5. So then I start thinking and wondering well if Ivan looks like an “Arnaez”, what do I look like? I suspect I look like my mom’s dad, but I’m not sure. []
  6. I finally got it on tape []
  7. We had a scare recently when I unwisely introduced him to the concept that he could eat berries. We spent the morning picking blackberries and eating them, and eventually we ran out of pickable berries, so I turned around to head home, but Mac found another set of red berries, later identified as Rockspray Cotoneaster, and proceeded to start eating them. Anyway, we called poison control and they mentioned they contained cyanide and we would need to watch Mac for any signs of sleepiness. I’m still kicking myself thinking that Mac would be able to tell the difference between Cotoneaster horizontalis and the Himalayan Blackberry:Rubus armeniacusn

    But as Rousseau said:

    S’il tombe, s’il se fait une bosse à la tête, s’il saigne du nez, s’il se coupe les doigts, au lieu de m’empresser autour de lui d’un air alarmé, je resterai tranquille, au moins pour un peu de temps.


    If he should fall or bump his head or make his nose bleed or cut his fingers, instead of rushing to him with an with an expression of alarm I will stay calm, at least at first.

    Émile, ou De l’éducation – Livre second


Scarlett Squealing

Download PDF here Sept. 21, 2008 8:06PM There is almost so much to write about Scarlett and Maconnell already I don’t think I’m going to catch up1 so I just thought everyone might want to be prepared when they meet Scarlett again. As you all know, there is a small bet that she will be walking by Thanksgiving, but extrapolating from the available evidence, it seems like it might be next week that Scarlett is taking her first steps and maybe another week before she is asking to borrow the car.

I thought Ivan’s kids were loud and never imagined that my kids would be so, but Scarlett has not only exceeded expectations but can squeal at such a high pitch that for just a few seconds it appears that her mouth is open and no sound comes out, but in actuality what has happened is her pitch has gone ultrasonic2 for a few seconds and then she returns back to earth and follows it with a surprisingly raspy “WHarrr!”3 The expression at these times is the most interesting bit: There is not a hint of displeasure or irritation, but more of an open, arched eyebrow, eyes wide open surprised look that suggests even she is astonished by just how much noise she can generate.

At these times, Maconnell is usually doing something4 that has caught our attention which makes me wonder if it isn’t some sort of attention grabbing maneuver she has engineered. Usually though, Maconnell is deep into his almost-Talmudic study of Elmo and all things Elmo, 24 hours a day, but he has definitely discovered he has a sister and has commenced trying to stomp, smother, bat on the head with baseball bat, rip any and all playthings from the fist of, but also will give kisses and hugs and pats on the head to his sister, Scarlett.

  1. But not for lack of trying, I’m told that I’m already trying to provide so much documentary photographs and video, that I have been told to not output so much, i.e., looking at five photos of the kids is OK once every week or so, but being presented with upwards of 100 to 150 photos of pretty much the same exact pose or composition tends to wear thin, I’m told. []
  2. which explains why the dogs already seem a bit cowed by her and lay low whenever she approaches []
  3. It sounds almost like the Whassup! commercials I was showing her, but had no idea she would pick up. You can watch them here Also a good remake is here. []
  4. When he isn’t watching Elmo, he be counted on to be trying to:
    • rip the cat’s tail off
    • exit the front door and escape into the front yard
    • reach up and over onto the counter thus demonstrating that there is less and less space that can be considered safe
    • climb up and jump off any and all availble seat cushions or stair steps that have resulted in some really amazing crashes
    • on particular stellar days, not only escape out the front door but escape with cars keys
    • throw all the cusions of the couch onto the floor and proceed to eat whatever and I mean whatever he finds underneath and between the cushions. Eecchhh.