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Because we appreciated Madeleine being a toddler when she was baptized, we decided to wait until Rachel was two for her baptism. The big day was May 22, 2011 at St. Columba Church in Oakland. Madeleine was preparing Rachel for months, telling her, "When you're baptized it will be like the priest is washing your hair," to which Rachel would reply with great seriousness, "O'day."

Rachel loves, loves, loves the music at St. Columba and she enjoyed the entire mass that day, except for the baptismal rite. She cried when the priest, Fr. Karl Davis, OMI poured water over her head. She cried (loudly) when Paul lifted her up for the entire congregation to see her, she cried when she was anointed with oil, and she kept on crying when she was presented with her baptismal garment. The poor girl just didn't like being in the spotlight, especially once she got a bit scared. After the rite itself, though, she went right back to enjoying the mass.

That night during her bath, Paul discovered her pouring water over her bath toys and declaring, "Baptize, baptize." Now when she hears we're going to mass at St. Columba she asks us, "Rachel get baptized 'gain?" We ask, "Do you want to get baptized again?" and she says "Yes."

At 25 months of age, she still fit into the baptismal dress her Grandma Naffziger made for Madeleine when she was 15 months old.

Her godparents are Celeste and Brian Stanley, friends from St. Columba, and our friend Sheri Hostetler, pastor of First Mennonite Church in San Francisco.

 
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(We're catching up on some older news...)

Our sweet, second daughter turned two on Good Friday and Earth Day, April 22, after a fun and busy spring. Rather than throw a boisterous party on a solemn church day, we celebrated quietly and happily as a family of four. Then we celebrated again two days later on Easter with Paul's family. Ann came in just under the wire and finished sewing Rachel's one-and-only birthday quilt by the second celebration!

Particular things of note in Rachel's previous few months included our trip the the midwest to visit her Naffziger grandparents at their new home in a suburb of Cincinnati, where she also had some time with her Aunt Ellen. After that, we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to visit our friends Sharon and Randall -- also Madeleine's godparents -- who moved there from Alameda last fall.  Also this spring we planted Rachel's placenta as a family. It went into the ground to fertilize a lemon verbena plant we hope will bless us with its wonderful aroma for many years to come.

Rachel continues to grow in cuteness, and although she displays some typical two year old obstinance, we know how to manage it with more humor this time around. We appreciate her love of her 'is, which is short for "sis," which is short for "Madeleine." Rachel loves going to My Play Place once a week, but misses her sister when Madeleine is at preschool. She is already learning to ride Madeleine's scooter and is eager to be able to ride a bike with her too. Besides her sister, Rachel's favorite playmate is her stuffed dog which she named "Lulu." She makes us laugh every day regaling us with stories of other dogs throughout her world, all of whom are named Lulu.

 
Now that the holidays are over, it's time to update some of our photo collection from the busy last few months. By the end of the year Rachel had hit 20 months of age and her early speech has begun. She says more words than we can count, but her repetitive favorites are Mommy, Daddy, 'Is (for "Sis"), 'Lilah (for her friend Delilah), Papa (Paul's father), cat, dog, baby (refers to any child she sees under the age of two) bubble, wa-wa (water), more, and robot to name a few. The vast majority of her conversations include one or more of the above. To our chagrin, she learned how to climb out of her crib in November and to this day still has not mastered the art of consistently taking long -- or even medium length -- naps. She is sweet and funny at times, happy and playful, or stubborn and mischievous.

Madeleine loves the holiday season as she is quite the liturgically-minded child. She asked if we could celebrate Hanukkah again (we did, with dreidel play every day), and Advent was another hit. She loves the ritual of the nightly Advent candles. This year’s Advent had the added excitement of preparation for her inaugural appearance with the children's choir at St. Columba's Christmas Eve mass. She was the youngest and the shyest during rehearsals, either refusing to open her mouth or just mouthing the words silently, but she surprised us by singing out proudly and confidently on Christmas Eve. Although we had never practiced it with her, she even sang along when the 12 year old soloist sang her "solo" verses during one song.  She just turned 4 1/2 and insisted for the second year in a row on a mini-celebration complete with a cake and 4.5 candles. January brought longer preschool hours for her: from 9:00-3:00 on M,W,F. Both she and Ann are thrilled at the addition. The new schedule enables the two of them to make the 1.25 mile commute home by bike, sometimes with the trail-a-bike, sometimes with Madeleine on her own two wheels pumping furiously while Ann pedals slowly behind her.

In other news, we do indeed have six new hens now, bought as day-old chicks in October. After much deliberation in the naming process we've settled on: Goldilocks, Fuzzy, Blackie, Roughpowder (a long story behind that one), Leafy-Leaf, and Buster Posey. We hope the last doesn’t turn out to be a rooster, but we just had to name one in honor of the World Series champs since they were hatched during the post-season that Ann and Paul so enjoyed watching with neighbors this year.
 
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A couple of months ago Lori Eanes, a professional photographer in San Francisco who has done photography for Utne ReaderThe New York TimesSunset Magazine, and Parenting Magazine, just to name a few, contacted us to see if she could photograph our family and garden for a project she's currently doing. 

She came out at the end of July and photographed us for two hours, snapping away as we planted seeds for our fall garden, harvested squash, pumpkins, beans, strawberries, and plums, and the girls tended to the chickens. She came up with some incredible shots. We were struck looking at them by how lush and fruitful our small (only 750 square feet) and not-so-perfect garden came off looking. It really is amazing how much food you can grow in a tiny space.

We just got the photos today, which you can view in the slideshow below (or click on it to see the photos larger).

You can see some of the other photos from Lori's in-progress "Backyard Project" on her website under Portfolio > Projects.  We hope to see her collection of urban farmer photos in a local publication sometime soon!

 
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Rachel's first year went so quickly for us and on Earth Day, April 22, we marked the official end of her infancy. We are glad the trials of the first year are through, even as she provides us with different challenges with every new thing she learns.

She is quite a physical little girl: little because she remains solidly in the 10% for weight, and physical because she is a climber, if anything. The smart - and strong - little kiddo has learned to push chairs to places where she wants to reach things and she feels free to climb right up into danger zones. We also have to be vigilant lest she unroll all the toilet paper in the house or try to stir the toilet water.

Now she wants to participate in everything we do and the desire to imitate her older sister is coming on strong. If she had it her way, she would get to stay at preschool with Madeleine. She is quite shy and reserved with anyone outside of her immediate family and she makes people work to earn her smiles and affection. Luckily for Mommy, Daddy, and Madeleine, she graces us with a lot of the both.

We've posted new photos here:

February 2010:

March 2010:

April 2010:

 
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Our girls are growing up! Madeleine now vigorously corrects people when they assume she is three years old by telling them, "No, I'm three and a half!" She has definitely become a pre-schooler in terms of social maturity and independence, which is fun for her and a relief to us.

Madeleine often still asks us, "I forget, how old is Rachel again?"  It's hard for all of us to keep track when we count in months and they are flying by, but Rachel is almost 10 months old now. The two sisters are best of friends and it is beautiful to watch their interactions with each other. The more Rachel develops and learns new things, the more Madeleine roots her on and celebrates her. We love watching her develop too, although the early crawling (at 7 1/2 months) and standing up and now "cruising" have made our lives more complicated.

In January we took a trip to South Bend, Indiana to visit Ann's parents and introduce the girls to snow. Madeleine had some memorable quotes. On a day when the high temperature was 12 degrees she asked "Why are there clouds coming out of my mouth?" She spent about 4 minutes on the outdoor ice skating rink before calling it quits ("I'm getting cold and this is very hard") but she wanted to go back the next day. Making a snowman/snowpyramid was a big hit, as was Grandma's hot chocolate when she came inside.

Back in Alameda, we've welcomed three new chickens into our flock. Madeleine chose all the names: Scramble (named after the one who died last fall), Pancake and Waffle, now bring our flock up to six. We are enjoying glimpses of spring, time to work in the garden, and the prospect of Rachel's first birthday soon to come.

We've posted new photos here:

October 2009:

November 2009:

December 2009:

January 2010:

 
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Rachel is already five months old. Her newborn infancy has come and gone, and now our girl is wanting to grow up and PLAY! She does full-body wriggles when excited, and she flaps her arms and legs when she watches her big sister Madeleine run, jump, dance, etc.

She seems eager to eat solid food (she positively panted and drooled over our pesto pasta the other night), but in the meantime she sucks on her big toes a lot. A couple weeks ago she began rolling over and she's never looked back.  She loves to practice making new sounds, and we swear sometimes she vocalizes "just to hear herself talk." We are still yearning for the time when she will begin sleeping through the night and taking more than 30 minute naps.

Now that Madeleine has started pre-school two mornings a week, Rachel gets some special one-on-one time with mom, which we hope makes up for all the time she gets set down so we can get something done around the house. In the last month, Rachel's Grandpa Naffziger got to hold her quite a bit during his two week-long visits. Look at just a few of the newest photos and you'll see why we call her our "little Pauline girl."

We've posted new photos here:

Month 4:

Month 5:

 
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We've been meaning to write a "Rachel is Two Months Old" blog for the last month, but the diaper changes, extra laundry, and hours of rocking to sleep got the best of us and now Rachel is three months old. She is a great smiler, a good nighttime sleeper (she still likes those half hour naps during the day, however), and a fairly calm baby. Occasionally she does feel the need to scream for a bit, we think to steal some of the attention from her big sister.

She's had several big outings for so early in her life: Ardenwood Farms, two Oakland A's games, the Oakland zoo, etc. Madeleine is excited at Rachel's increasing interactive nature and is eager for a time when she can play with her more purposefully.

We've posted new photos here.


Month 2:

Month 3:

 
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Rachel has turned from age zero, as Madeleine says, to one month old. She's done it quickly and quietly as she is a calm and easy-going baby for the most part. Her biggest challenge of the first few weeks was waking up to eat so that she could gain weight. In fact, we actually had to set our alarm clocks a couple of times a night to wake her and feed her since she didn't like to awaken on her own. Now she is more active and alert and we let her wake us when she's ready for some homemade milk. Her continuing challenge is learning digestion. We forgot how hard that is for some newborns and how loud they can be as they try to do it.

Ann has ventured out with her around town a few times, big sister in tow. Mostly, she gets quiet time with mommy at home in the morning when Madeleine has someone special come to play with her (Paul's mom, friends, and neighbors), and "loud" time when Madeleine is around. She seems mostly unphased by the high decibels Madeleine is able to achieve in all manners of her moods, but we have noticed she especially seems to enjoy quiet alert time with both parents after Madeleine goes to bed for the night, just when we're ready for bed. 

 
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...GIRL!

We welcomed seven pound Rachel Claire Canavese into our family on Wednesday, April 22 at 2:50 pm. Our little acrobat, who spent much of her last trimester in a breech position, was born by emergency c-section 10 days before her due date when she decided to lay transverse (horizontal) after the doctor's attempts to turn her. 

We named the baby after the biblical Rachel (a physically strong and beautiful shepherdess, one of the early matriarchs, and mother to Joseph and Benjamin). The middle name Claire is in connection with Saints Clare and Francis of Assisi and their love of the natural world because of Rachel’s Earth Day birth date.

Ann and about 90% of family, friends, and random strangers thought Ann was carrying a boy.  Paul, again, knew Ann was carrying a girl.

We will probably share more of Rachel's birth story later, but for now we are focused on getting to know her better!