Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twin Falls

One of my goals this summer is to do a backpacking trip with Tyler and Stella (albeit one that's low on mileage and elevation gains). Besides working out the logistics of how we'll carry everything PLUS Stella, it means we need to get in backpacking shape. When I heard that today would be in the 60s and dry (and tomorrow not so much), I suggested a first hike of the season. We looked through our hiking books and remembered a nearby pleasant hike that's always been filled with kids and families, Twin Falls. Kid-friendly because it's only about a 30 minute drive from Seattle, 2.6 miles round trip, and not too many switchbacks, with a decent payoff view of a waterfall at the end.

It was fun getting to let Stella toddle around a bit, even if it meant trying to keep her on the path and out of the river (which she was fascinated by, even signing "water" when she saw it).

Pointing out the river to dad

Touching the cold river water. She really wanted to walk on in!

It was a nice day, a little chilly in the shade, but perfect once we got moving (especially with 20-odd pounds on our backs). I forget how green it is in the Cascades, a carpet of ferns, moss-covered trees, ferns growing off of tree branches.

Green on green on green.

An early peek at our destination.

I've done this hike a few times in the past. We tend to hike past the viewpoint for the lower falls and head up to the bridge over the upper falls:

Upper falls. Stella was mostly interested in the other hikers up there with us

The lower falls seemed especially spectacular today, with white streams of water flowing down the rock face.

All in all, a successful hike and great way to start our Saturday!

The happy hiking family!

Stella's a natural!

And we managed to get back to the car before Stella got too over-tired....

Truth be told, this was actually her nap on the way *to* the hike, but she looked the same on the way home... It cracks us up how she puts her hands behind her head like that.

Here's to lots more hikes this spring and summer!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

15 Months and Videopalooza

Spring is here--daffodils are blooming, and our Japanese Magnolia is in full glory:

Which means we're getting to spend lots more time outside with Stella.

This is the Chief Sealth Trail, that's soon to be extended really near our house. It's along some powerlines, which isn't always fantastic, but it's a great urban walk, and on a clear day you get some magnificent views of Rainier.

It's great to get to go to playgrounds and for walks now that she can do some walking too!

Stella's pretty good on even ground, but she still needs to learn more about steps, edges and exercising some caution for the sake of self preservation....

Tyler talked a lot about Stella's verbal development in the previous post. On top of the sounds and signs, our tall (89th percentile) thin (50th percentile) daugher's got lots going on. Probably my favorite thing right now is that she's into hugs and kisses. She'll come up, wrap her arms around my neck and squeeze tight. I have to admit, the hugs are still a little more pleasurable than the kisses, which involve her planting her enthusaistic mouth wide-open onto any body part--cheek, chin, neck, shoulder. Sometimes with a little tongue. She'll also blow kisses goodbye, which involves a lot less saliva.

On top of finding out her stats, we were reminded at her last doctor's appointment that she can now have toothpaste when we brush her teeth at night. Teethbrushing had been our biggest power struggle, but the novelty of a minty-fresh mouth has helped. Stella still wants to do it herself, but I'm trying to teach her that I go first, then she can brush and then drop her toothbrush into the sink.

First minty moments!

Other current favorites include raisins, roasted red bell peppers, swinging (and not much else at the playground) and getting chased:

This happens at least twice a day. Someday we'll be in a hurry and it will be less cute, but it's pretty fun for now.

As demonstrated in the video above, Stella's pretty thrilled to have a chance to run around in her skivvies--or nothing at all--another benefit of a balmier house in the spring:

Organizing the cabinet...

Insisting on sitting in her rocker....

On top of running around, she's kept her interest in books. It's been fascinating to realize she's learning about the directionality of pictures and print. She has some books where the image looks upside down (ducks ducking their heads under water, a boy doing a flip into a pool, the monkey who's fallen on their head) and she'll turn the book around to see it "right side up".

Apparently, this is the "right" direction for the images.

And her interest in keys hasn't waned. I've learned to try to keep mine in a coat pocket and out of sight, because once she sees them, she must have them.

Holding the keys on the way out of the house.

Here's one of the reasons she's obsessed:

Listen carefully--that "beep" is the sound of the doors being locked and the car alarm setting. Over, and over, and over again.

Can't wait to see what's in store as her 16th month begins....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talking and Wining

No, that's not a typo. I didn't mean "whining" or even "winning," I meant "wining". But, I'll get to that shortly.

Over the last couple weeks, I've had a couple people mention the fact that there hasn't been a Strange and Benevolent entry in nearly a month. Some people have even gone so far as to check in to make sure that nothing had gone wrong. Luckily, everything has been fine. It's just been that that combination of workin' and baby-raisin' which we call life has kept us busy and distracted enough that neither Sarah nor I have had the chance to really sit down and type an entry. Still, I know we have friends and family near and far that need their Stella fix, so let's check in with her, shall we?

Actually, she's not quite forming full sentences yet. But, now that she's mastered the art of walking, it definitely seems like Stella's focus has turned to communicating with us, both verbally and otherwise. It probably also helps that recently we've been watching a baby sign language video with her, and she seems to actually be picking up a few signs from that.

So, since I have a feeling that the coming months will introduce a veritable tidal wave of verbage, I thought it might be nice to take a snapshot of where her vocabular sits today.


"Kitty" - She's been saying "kitty" actually for months and months now. It was easily her first word, and beat pretty much the rest of her vocabular to the punch by about a good 6 months. To this day, pretty much any animal is a "kitty," though felines still get the loudest and clearist exclamations.

"Key" - She picked up this one as soon as she discovered that her favorite thing to play with pretty much shared the same word as her favorite animal (see above).

"Mama," "Papa" and "Granpa" - Probably a little wishful thinking here. But, we feel like we've caught all three of these on various, random occasions.

"Mum-mum" - This is the name of what was one of her favorite snacks, a rice cake called mum-mums. We also found out later that it is the Indonesian word for "eat" ...which makes sense, since Tirza speaks Indonesian around Stella daily. Pretty much any snack seems to be a mum-mum.

"Bwu-bwu" - Her version of a dog barking. And, by default, her word for dog.

"Ah-ah-ah" - Her monkey sound, and default word for monkey.

"Brrrrrr" - Probably the most rare and random Stella word. We own a vibrating frog-shaped massager (similar to this). Stella is pretty obsessed with it. This is her basically her imitating the sound it makes when turned on and placed on the hardwood floor.

"Ba-ba" - This one is a bit of a mystery. It's either A) "Bottle" or B) "Bye-bye" or C) "Ball." ...or maybe all three. We haven't quited pinned it down yet.


Waving and blowing kisses - Departing guests are usually treated to waves goodbye and, if they are lucky, some blown kisses. Passing buses, airplanes flying overhead and even the occasional flushed toilet also receive waves goodbye.

Nodding and shaking her head "yes" and "no" - After a couple months of mixed signals, she's now pretty dependable with both nodding and shaking her head in response to questions.

"Milk" - Probably her most dependable true sign-language sign. We were amazed when she learned this one after only watching the sign-language video once.

"Cracker" - She sometimes does the sign-language sign for cracker, though I think she uses it for "snack" in general.

"Dog" - In addition to her usual "bwu-bwu" she also sometimes pats her leg at the same time, the sign for "dog."

"More" - Stella learning this sign might be opening some sort of Pandora's box... but for now we are enjoying her being able to let us know if she wants more milk, dinner, etc.

"Thirsty/Hungry/Teething" - In addition to the milk and cracker signs, she also has a generic mouth rubbing gesture she's been doing for months which is her default if she is thisty... or hungry ...or her mouth hurts ...or just wants something.

"???" - Usually when asking Stella where something is, Sarah and I will turn our hands upward and cock our heads to one side with a confused look on our faces. Often, Stella will mirror this gesture as if to respond "I don't know!"

In addition to all these, it's impressive how much she seems to understand these days, even if she can't respond with words. Talking about changing her diapers will cause her to cry. Asking her to go get her shoes will send her hunting around the house. Asking her to pick up some trash and put it in the garbage will usually get results (if she wants to throw it away).

Through this array for words and gestures, its amazing to feel like we are finally having "conversations" with her and each day we find ourselves communicating more and more with this little person who shares our house and lives.

And, in addition, she is still good at communicating her opinion of certain things. For example, this is her saying "Stormtroopers are scary."


In addition to work and Stella, wine-making and tasting has definitely also kept Sarah and I pretty busy. Last month, we bottled the '08 wine we'd been making and moved the whole wine-making operation from my parents' house to the wine-making room that my dad and I have been building in the back of our garage.

Pumping the '08 wine from the barrel to a carboy. Sometimes wine-making has a definite "mad scientist" feel to it.

My dad moves the empty wine barrel from the crawlspace under his house where it's lived for the past couple years.

The whole operation, plus the newly bottled wine, in the back of my dad's truck.

Looking through our garage into the new "wine room." There's still some work to be done, but its coming along.

Fellow winemaker, Gary, sterilizes the mouth of the barrel after putting the '09 Syrah into it.

The '08 Stella Rose's Stellar Red!

In addition to winemaking, we also got to do some wine tasting with friends last weekend. It turns out that there are a half dozen wineries just down the hill from our house. We ended up only making it to a couple (one had eight wines available for tasting), so hopefully we'll be able to try more next month.

Sarah and our friend, Stephanie, taste wine at Cadence Winery. (I'm blaming the blurriness of the photo on the camera... not on the wine intake of the photographer.)

Hopefully, Sarah and I will get back in the blogging habit, and you won't all have to wait another month until our next entry. But, until then, just remember, these boots were made for walking!