February 2010


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Everett is the child of two researchers who at times experience him as an ongoing experiment.  However, he is not always a cooperative research subject, and so in many cases we must rely on observations alone to answer two questions that are of great interest to us:

1. How much does he understand?

2. How long can he remember events?

While he continues the bootstrapping process of learning to speak, reason and navigate through the world, we continually watch for clues that might answer these questions.  Here I will try to capture a few vignettes, some related to our research questions and some are future clues about things we would like to remember.


First, a clue that has to do with our house rather than Everett.  One day we were looking at the stone above the fireplace and noticed something unusual:
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This looks like it might be a fossil, but we never thought about it much until one day at the Milwaukee Public Museum when we saw this:

which seems like a pretty clear match.  So there you have it: our house was most likely built with stone from the nearby Silurian Racine Formation, including a fossil of an extinct cephalopod.


Getting back to E, last year he learned to say “Dada” and soon afterward he would start screaming it when I came home, sometimes to the point of hyperventilating, which had the side effect of making me feel like some kind of rock star.  One night we were on a Skype call with the Gabbys and I said goodbye early to go pick up dinner.  When I returned home I was greeted with “Pizza!” instead of “Dada!”, indicating that he knew what pizza was, overheard me mention it during our Skype call and remembered for the half hour or so while I was gone.  Similarly, last November I took him to the Audubon Center one day when they happened to be showing one of the resident owls, which he repeatedly and emphatically identified.  We didn’t return for a couple months, mainly because of holiday travel and other commitments, but when we pulled into the parking lot in January he started shouting “owl!” as soon as I opened the car door.


Everett’s continues to amaze us with his language.  We sometimes try to teach him specific words, but most he seems to pull from thin air. Elevators, satellites and asteroids are a small sample of recent arrivals.  Also, some of his names for people are changing: for as long as he has spoken he has called Melissa’s parents Gabby & Gabby.  But over the last few days, in the absence of any correction or encouragement, he has started calling them Gabby & Gandaddy.  We aren’t sure if he remembers this from long ago or heard someone else say it, but it looks like it is here to stay.  Lastly, he has started adapting phrases that he hears from us, such as the time his friend Leo was crying, and he crouched down and asked “What go on baby?”.  When he couldn’t get a satisfactory answer he turned to Melissa and shrugged.


Everett has a growing interest in tools and instruments.  It’s too soon to say whether he has The Knack, but he is certainly interested in screwdrivers and power supplies (note to the grandparents: the power supply is not plugged in).
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Oh yes, the force is strong with this one.


Melissa’s maternal instincts continue to become stronger, so much so that sometimes they spillover from her son to her husband, such as the times she unconsciously tried to put a bib on Chris, or served him a drink in a sippy cup, or asked him when he was headed to the bathroom whether he was going to pee or poop.


Finally, there are times when Everett is upset and we can’t gather enough clues to figure out what is bothering him.  At this point we usually attribute his mood to things that each of us experience often: Chris thinks he is overheating, while Melissa thinks that his skin is dry and he “needs lotion”.

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For the past week we have been on Grand Cayman island for a family vacation with Gabby & Gabby. Since Everett is not yet able to write, I will attempt to summarize the trip using his words: spaceship (airplane), Horton (Hears a Who), Gabby, swim, lizard, I-GUA-NA, fish, crab, beach, swing, camera, more swim, more fish, more crab, more beach. Judging from his reaction, one of the best features of the island is the large lizard population, and among them the most popular is the clock lizard at the pool, whom he would check on several times a day.

Most of the remaining time was spent exploring the pool and the beach with the Gabbys and Mom and Dad. Melissa and Chris both enjoy tide pools very much – it’s one of those places where you can sit and watch part of the world unfold in front of you. In fact, one of the formative experiences in our relationship was in Friday Harbor, Washington during a long weekend of land, sea and air exploration while Chris was researching Hermissenda. So we were happy to discover that Everett seems similarly interested in tide pools, and after a couple days he became quite adept at finding the many varieties of fish and crabs in them. Everyone seemed happy to stay near home most of the week, which was great and very relaxing although we weren’t sure where all the time went. Photos of the trip are here. A few highlights are in the video below.

The week leading up to this trip was a rough one for Everett.  First he slipped in the tub while Chris was giving him a bath, cracking both of his front teeth and chipping one of them. Two days later he rolled off the bed and hit his head on the dresser, which resulted in a puncture and gash to his forehead. In the former case the dentist said we would have to watch it for a few weeks before deciding exactly what to do. In the latter case we opted for urgent care rather than the emergency room. One illogical but perhaps not surprising development in medical care since we were children is that neither the pediatrician nor the urgent care clinic will provide stitches; this is only done in the emergency room. The urgent care doctor said that Dermabond might work but recommended stitches. At that point we were already two hours past his bedtime and this would have required completely starting over in the ER, then sedating him, then stitching. Also, the stitches would have to be removed in a few days while we would be in the Caymans. So we opted for Dermabond, which seemed to work ok. Everett was amazing while the medical team worked on him.  It took them three attempts before they could clean his wound, approximate the skin and apply the glue, and during this time he was still and mostly quiet. About ten minutes afterward he pointed at the exam bed and said “Ouch”.

The week on Grand Cayman was fantastic, primarily because Everett was surrounded by four doting adults, all of whom seem to experience delight in spending time with him.  His speech has expanded from words to sentences to multiple sentences.  He was able to wish Gabby (Cress) a Happy Birthday, and bless Gabby (Amanda) when she sneezed.  His communication has now progressed to the point where using the same name for both Cress and Amanda has become a bit confusing.  The only time we are able to differentiate is when only one of them is present, during which he calls them Gabby and Other Gabby.  Another reason this trip went so well is because the Gabbys volunteered to serve as our advance travel reconnaissance team.  They got there a few days before us, and by the time we arrived they had already setup the apartment with a crib and a room for Everett (ok, a closet), and had found a car with car seat.  This allowed us to travel lighter than we have for any other family vacation, and with the warm weather we are to lighten our load further by leaving cold weather gear behind.

We will end this blog entry with a piece of information for parents traveling with infants: those of you who have travelled in the last few years know that the airlines have become fond of personless, electronic systems for checking you into you your flights.  Even if you are traveling with an infant they will insist, sometimes even demand, that you use these same systems to check your entire family in for each flight.  We have tried this on multiple airlines for domestic and international travel and have observed the following: electronic checkin with infants is impossible.  What happens is that we struggle with the electronic system for a while, then find the one airline person who is trying to service 20 kiosks, then they struggle with it for a while, and then they direct us to a customer service desk where a human checks us in, and even then it can take a long, long time.  So our advice is to resist their insistence and just find a human as soon as possible. We have also noticed that things move a little faster if your baby is crying, not that we are suggesting you do anything to encourage this, such as turning off the Horton DVD.

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