Dear Charlotte: your Dad is a master letter-writer

[Charlotte: The following is a letter written by Dad as part of my Christmas present in 2017. He has, for years, been an amazing letter writer and this one is one of his best. I have many tattered and yellowing pages that he wrote me from Africa back in the early 2000s, but until Christmas I hadn’t gotten a letter from him in years.  This one is for both of us.]


December 2017

My dearest love(s),

You know more than I that the year since Donald Trump’s election has been a unique year for everyone, but most of all for women. I have been inspired by your criticism of our president for a variety of reasons but most definitely for his disrespect for women and disregard for women’s issues. While one day I might have appreciated Trump’s acknowledgement of “locker room talk”, what has become public about Men’s treatment toward women in the last year has taken that term to a new level, and I can no longer associate myself with that and can not promote to our son as a right of passage.

Your attention to women’s issues, while it has always been there, has inspired me to think more deeply about how everyone in our society should play a part in acknowledging problems, redressing issues, reconciling, and moving forward to create a more equal and respectful society. Your thinking has caused me to reflect on the world between women and men. I have reflected on how I relate with women, how my male peers should do so, and how we should teach our kids about women and gender issues. My reflection is because of your passion.

You know that I enjoy music for its musical and lyrical enjoyment, and this summer I came across an NPR project for and by women which, in this case, addresses women in music. This year Turning the Tables promoted a list of the 150 top albums by women musicians prioritized by the artists’ popularity, societal and/or industry relevance, and their address of women’s issues.

I collected the top 10 albums for you from a variety of locations which will be made a available to you digitally. Included in this shared file resides lyrics of each song on each album in respective order and also an NPR review of each album. I thought this list of albums might provide some meaning to you in terms of exposure to important women artists, ideas that were important to them, and perhaps some ways which you might relate.

To Charlotte in particular – You are currently almost five, and it is almost impossible, maybe reluctantly, for me to conceive how life will be like for you when you mature into a woman. While living in the present, I am just enamored with your infectious smile, intelligence, and curiosity. But someday you will be that woman, and you will be confronted with a variety of struggles that your brother and I will never experience ourselves. While your mother and I promise to always be here for you when you encounter trying times, but we may not always be able to be there, nor will not necessarily seek our help. In short, there will be times in your life when you will face many of life’s challenges independently, and thus someday you must develop that strength, constitution, and support systems on your own. Your mother and I are here to help you in this regard.

Charlotte – these 10 albums does not serve as a guide in womanhood. That is not my point. I simply think your reading this message might give you a tiny glimpse into your mother’s life at this moment; what has partially occupies her mind, how she might look at the world, and maybe even her perception of how our society perceives her (and you). If you’re wondering what the hell I’m writing about, just ask. We can fill you in,  

You two are the most important women in my life, and I want you to know that I respect you more than I may normally communicate. I don’t know how or when our society will unshackle itself of gender discrimination and despicable disrespect, but I believe that we are living in a pivottable moment which point we are beginning to witness the testimony of women that will force change to occur in the home, in the government, in public, and in the workplace that women demand in a free society. In this world, women and men will be judged by their merits. I have faith in this, and I hope change will occur very soon.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy!

Your loving husband and father

Fred Follansbee (Dad)


Dear Charlotte: Happy Birthday! Now where did my baby go?

Happy Birthday!  You’re FIVE!

Someday I’ll give you these birthday letters all in a package, when you turn 18 or 21. When that happens, I hope you’ll read some of these letters with a skeptical incredulity. Mom!” I imagine you’ll say. “Things like that did NOT happen. People would never treat other people that way…!”

You see, at the time you are turning 5, in 2018, we are on the cusp of a major turning point for women and marginalized groups. It started a full year ago, when the country elected a piggish man in Donald Trump–a noted sexual abuser–over a woman for president. As I wrote in another letter to you, I cried that morning–and that week, that month. I cried with incredulity, and with the waning hope that you would not have to grow up in a world where accepting a man’s questionable behavior would be easier than ‘letting’ a woman try to lead the country.

Since then, January 2017, the floodgates have opened. Man after man has been accused of sexual harassment, even assault, and many of these high profile/high powered men have been shamed and banished from the public eye. #metoo has become an animal of its own, the very beast that we needed to bring the true beasts to daylight so we can start putting women out in front.
I don’t know many females on the other side of #metoo. Nearly all of the women in my life have examples and stories they can share, including myself. It’s painful to read some of them, and it often seems that each day there’ll be a new story, a new accusation, a new high powered male taking the fall.

But we are trying hard not to get tired and tune out. Now is the time we need to tune in, lean in, listen more carefully, and use our anger more productively. We are barreling ahead towards changing some crucial conventions, laws, and most importantly, beliefs. I dare not say that we are on the precipice, yet. I still think we are climbing up the hill. I don’t know how long it will take, or how slowly the changes may unfold–but I hope that by the time you read this, you are at a far enough distance to barely believe ‘this stuff’ really happened.

So what does this have to do with five-year-old-Charlotte?

You’ve spent much of the year between your 4th birthday and 5th entranced in a princess world. You love Cinderella, Elsa and Anna, the little mermaid and all the rest. You read them, you dress as them, you dance them, and you draw them. I’ve spent the entire year subconsciously feeding you a different message: that you are a strong and important person because you are smart and brave, not because of your beautiful dress or your graceful twirls.

For every princess book we bring home, I accompany it with Rosie Revere, Engineer or She Persisted. Your princesses are all subservient in a way I will not let you be: Ariel sacrifices her beautiful voice to marry a man, and Cinderella stays locked away in her attic until a prince tracks her down. Even modern-day Moana admits “I wish I could be the perfect daughter”. I refuse to let you believe that you’ll sacrifice, wait, or be made invisible because you need someone else to validate you. You, my dear Charlotte are kind, strong, brave, and IMPORTANT. It seems we’re still waiting for society and our culture to give you that message, so until then I will give it to you every day myself.

I will keep changing all the pronouns in our books to “she” or “her” when they talk about railroad conductors, dentists, artists, and scientists. I’ll call them firewomen and snow-women, because why does every compound word have to end in “man”? When you learn to read and you can clearly correct me, I’ll teach you to do the same….because you can be and do anything you want.

I look back on the picture books from my childhood and realize that all the characters are male, and ALL the pronouns are male-centered. The female-centric stories are often goofy girls like Amelia Bedelia, or fluffy stories like The Babysitters Club.  I hope you someday ask me why someone ever needed to write a book like She Persisted. ..that it will be obvious to you and everyone else that when a woman stands up for what she believes in, she is heard and validated for exercising her human rights and not just for being a female risk-taker.

For Christmas this year, Dad gave me (us!) the most thoughtful gift. I’d been chiding him for months about how he only listens to male musicians, and only follows male-lead bands. Apparently, that got him thinking (and researching). He sought out the top ten albums by women and procured them all for us, on an ipod. He then transcribed the lyrics to every single song, because these strong women are not just singing about handsome men and “yeah baby”-ing it.  They’re singing about equality, hardship, how they’ve been brushed aside, what they’re really aiming for, and how they plan to get it. I’m meant to hold onto this until you’re old enough to understand and appreciate it–which I will (the letter anyway. The music? We’ve already been rocking out to it!)

You are showing signs of developing a feisty side. You’ve been pushing your brother around (literally) and starting to push us around (figuratively). Though I sometimes need to correct these behaviors, I secretly like it that you’re finding your voice and standing your ground.  You go girl.

Strong Charlotte, you are my best girl. You are curious, beautiful, and kind–and such a multi-dimensional soul that I am incredibly proud to be your mother.  You’re five now, officially starting your ‘big kid’ years. I can’t wait to see how you develop inside and out,

Love and admiration,





Everybody should have a Bunna

What’s a Bunna?  A Bunna is a grandmother, specifically MY Bunna to whom I gave that special name when I was a toddler.  Apparently I couldn’t say “grandma”, so Bunna just stuck–and now poor Faith is known to everyone as Bunna.

When I was a kid, we’d go visit my Bunna and Papa very often and spend the weekend.  Saturday morning was always “donut day”, and Papa would bring back the donuts well before we crawled out of bed.  Sometimes we were even allowed to eat two!  We’d play board games, dance to records, celebrate birthday parties and holidays, and make big breakfasts on Sundays with eggs and bacon.  Bunna and Papa’s house was always a fun adventure.  In the summer we went fishing in the “Debbie Doo” boat, and in the fall we’d traipse around picking pussy willows to make Christmas ornaments.  As we got older it became the place we were allowed to watch MTV and eat pizza in the living room…and I’m pretty sure Bunna took me out driving well before I turned 16.

Charlotte has been having a lot of fun with Bunna lately.  She came to visit for some Christmas shopping this week and had dinner with us, and Charlotte was delighted to have a new playmate.  Bunnas love to laugh, play dress up, sneak you bites of their dessert, and will always get right down on the floor for whatever fun is going on.  Everybody should have a Bunna!

Throwback Thursday

Doing a little throwback today, looking back through some of my favorite pictures of Charlotte as a newborn.  I promise, I’m trying to take photos of Baxter too so that he won’t be conspicuously absent from our (digital) photo albums.  Keep reminding me 🙂

Hands are yummy, April 2013

Subway + stroller = not always the best combination.  But we did it!

Charlotte goes on her first plane and first subway rides in New York City, at only three months old!  Subway + stroller = not always the best combination. But we did it!  April 2013.

It may be April, but the bear suit is still a necessity!

How can you not fall in love with this little babyface?  My little sweetheart at 12 weeks old.  April 2013.


nap time, February 2013


Wearing mom’s dress from when she was a newborn, 31 years ago! February 2013.

photo 2

Buzz buzz, Baby ‘Bee! March 2013.

Day time baby

Day time baby, three weeks old.

Night time baby

Night-time baby, 3 weeks old


Reading with Dad, 3 weeks old. Starting early!

Stylin’ babe! March 2013.

Sunday morning snuggle time

Baby snuggles on a lazy morning.

photo 1

Synchronized napping….everybody wins!


Baby yogi headed off to her first yoga class. March 2013.

Dear Baby ‘Bee (I wish you could see yourself)

Dear Charlotte, my dear little Charlotte,

I wish you could see yourself now and understand what a truly wonderful big sister you are.  People warned us about you being jealous, demanding attention, regressing with certain skills or having no patience.  And now, when people ask me “How is Charlotte doing with Baxter?” my immediate and earnest response is, “She has surpassed every hope and expectation I could have had!”

You are kind, you are gentle, and you are so attentive to his needs and wants.  When Baxter cries, you immediately hop to problem-solving mode.  “Milk” you tell me, or “belly hurt”.  Or you rush around the house trying to find a burp rag or a pacifier.  Before Baxter was born, I hoped I could train you to someday help me.  I never dreamed you would start from day one.

When we have evening dance parties, you ask that Baxter joins the fun.  When we sit down to eat our dinner, you want to share yours with him.  When we laugh at something, you look to make sure Baxter is laughing too.  And you give him a kiss each morning when you wake up (by touching your forehead to his and exclaiming “mah!”)

I truly did not know that a 20 month old could be so compassionate and inclusive.  You have an empathy that is so in tune with those around you, and of that I am in awe.  It’s not something Dad and I have had time to teach you…so I have to believe it is your nature.  I want to say that I am proud, but that would imply that I had a hand in it.  Your inner beauty shines so brightly that sometimes it makes me cry.

I know it won’t always be this way.  And I know that by the time you are old enough to appreciate this, you will have no memory of it.  But I will never forget your cheerful “Ba Ba, play!” or your furrowed brow trying to discern why he is crying.  I wish I could bottle it up and save it forever.

Love always,

Your proud mom

The Mayor of Portland

The Mayor of Portland

Everywhere we go, Charlotte waves to everyone and everything she sees: at the grocery store, Starbucks, day care, driving in traffic…waving at kids, adults, dogs, trees, and pumpkins. It garners a lot of smiles and even more return waves. Who doesn’t love to be the object of a baby’s attention? She’s my little Mayor of the City of Portland, glad-handing everyone everywhere we go!

Fine dining

For those of you that haven’t dined with the Follansbee Family lately, I thought I might give you an update on what Charlotte is eating these days.  I wrote a few months ago about how we are foregoing the pureed baby mush step, and are doing the method called Baby Led Weaning (BLW)–basically, baby feeds themselves from the beginning, and they eat anything that we eat–just in a more manageable form.

People ask me all the time “What is Charlotte eating now?”  Well, I’m glad you asked!

Dinnertime is so much fun at our house.  Charlotte sits on our kitchen island in her bumbo seat while we cook, and then all three of us eat the same meal at the same time.  When we go to restaurants, we sometimes feed her off our plate–and have even ordered some side dishes for her.  BLW couldn’t be easier, and I think we are growing a little human who absolutely LOVES food.

Charlotte will try anything, and among her favorites are baked apples, roasted chicken, and fish.  Yes, fish!  Salmon, haddock, tilapia!  You name it, she is a little hoover at our dinner table.  Last night we had grilled cheese and tomato soup, and all three of us licked our plates (er, high chair tray) clean.   By feeding herself, Charlotte can experiment with the temperatures and textures of her food, and decide what tastes she wants to mix together.  Oatmeal and peas?  mmmm!  Kale and frozen strawberries?  mmm!  Turkey meatballs and dried prunes?  MMMM!  haha.  Click on the photos to enlarge.