Word Burst

Back in mid-January, William began a big vocabulary explosion — the big word burst that usually hits kids around age 2.  It’s still going on; about every other day a new little chirp will pop out of his mouth, and after a few second delay my brain will register it as a real word. 

“Dehdee” became “Teddy.”

“Bibbit” is “ribbit” — for a frog

“Dok, dat, doo” = “sock, hat, shoe.”

“Behffee” is “breakfast.”

One of my favorites: “Dawbee” = strawberry.

He’s learning a language that is understood by only about three people!  Nice!  For a short while, I kept a list of the words he was learning, but I quickly lost track — there were just so many.  One of my English profs in college once told me that the majority of first words English-speaking children learn have Anglo-Saxon roots, and I wanted to see evidence of this.  Just going by casual observation, I guess it’s true, if you aren’t counting words like “banana.”

This week, however, Wimmy came up with “Pok,” his word for “pocket.”

“Pok!” he yelled, sticking his hands in the pouch on the front of his sweatshirt.

“Pok!” he cried, finding a wrinkle in his pants into which he had placed a “dawbee.”

“Pok!” he said after examining my V-neck shirt — and stuffing his hands down its front.

I corrected him quickly on that one.  (Definitely not a pok!)  A few hours afterwards, however, I was taking off his clothes for a bath.  William bent over to examine his bare tummy, especially his bellybutton.

“Pok!” he exclaimed, sticking his finger inside the little dimple.  Well, sure — I guess a bellybutton is a kind of pocket on your belly.  A tummypocket!  I love it!

(And yes, “pocket” is Anglo-Saxon.)

For futher reading:


Almost Everything by Joelle Jolivet.  Word books are kind of a sub-genre of picture books; I don’t know anybody my age who grew up without at least one Richard Scarry “Biggest Word Book Eveh” or somesuch.  Jolivet’s work takes the concept to a stylish new level: bright, jewel-toned woodblock illustrations are packed onto super-oversized (18″ high!) pages.  There are vehicles, flowers, animals, world costumes, houses, foods — well, almost everything.  It’s the kind of book that kids don’t read so much as put on the floor and sprawl over it.  Her first book is called Zoo-Ology and is worth seeking out as well.

The Gospel According to Eleanor

Tonight, after finishing up trick-or-treating, we gathered the kids together for our evening family prayer.  It was Eleanor’s turn.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” she began  “Thank you for Halloween.  Please bless the candy that we got trick-or-treating, that it will be safe.”

A pause.

“And please bless the candy that I got in my goody bag at preschool that it will be safe, too.”

Ah, yes.  There’s nothing as fascinating as the flimflummery that erupts when you mix religion with toddlers.  Things have been especially interesting, Eleanor-wise, since we began sending her to a “Christian” preschool. 

“Christian” meaning: they have “chapel” twice a month, spend a short time every day doing “Jesus Time” (aka, they hear Bible stories), and all of the children have learned the dreaded Noah Song.  You know:

God said to No-ah, There’s gonna be a floody floody!

Errrrrrgh, I’ll stop right there.  However, it’s the “Jesus Time” that seems to be having the biggest influence on Ella’s worldview.  Namely, the way she percieves the New Testament to be.

Usually, during weekday breakfasts, I’ll have my own bit of scripture-storytelling with the kids, which usualyl means reading from the Book of Mormon Reader (yes!  With the illustration of a middle-aged, potbellied Ammon!  That’s the one!).  But lately Eleanor has insisted on telling the scripture story all by herself. 

This is the way it usually goes:

“Once upon a time, there was a wonderful man named Jesus.  He was very nice.  But then — BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!”

–here she pounds on the table–

“Some Romans came and tried to kill Jesus.  So he ran away —swoosh! and hid in a beautiful garden.  And those Romans could not find him!  The End!”

My transcript really doesn’t do justice to her interpretation, which usually involves a lot of gesturing and vocal inflection. 

I haven’t the heart to correct her story, and even if I tried, I doubt she’d take me seriously.  Eleanor’s the sort of kid who picks out a particular world-view and sticks with it, come what may.  Heaven help us if she ever becomes involved in politics.

Quotable Quotes

Yesterday we went to visit the Carnegie Science Center, for what is probably the last time.

During a presentation about dinosaurs, an eight-year-old girl sat next to me and cooed over William, who was in my arms. After complimenting his chubbiness, eyes, and smile, she suddenly grew quiet and frowned, staring at Wimmy’s yead.

“Did you cut his hair?” she asked.

Okay, fine. The haircut is bad! I admit it! Why must I continue to fend off remarks like this?!? Because it’s poetic justice? Probably!

Other recent remarks from around the house:

Eleanor on dance: “Mama, want to see me do a ballet?” [She jumps up and down and flaps her arms.] “BALLET! BALLET! BALLET!”

Jeffrey has recently discovered that the suffix “-ism” is used to describe occupations. So, a person who shoots with a bow and arrow is an “arrowist.” After school on Friday he buried the apple seeds leftover from his lunch in the front yard — “I’m a very good buryist.”

Lately I’ve noticed how our classic film-a-thon is beginning to have an effect on the kids. Jeffrey occasionally opens the refrigerator door while spreading his arms wide and singing, “GOTTA DANCE!”

Actually, Eleanor refers to Singin’ in the Rain as “Gotta Dance.” “Mom, I have two favorite movies,” she told me a few days ago. “I like Meet Me in St. Louis because there’s a little girl just like me in it. And I like Gotta Dance because there’s a lady with long legs just like you in it.”

Whoa. You know who that lady is, right?

Have I mentioned how much I love my daughter? Really, really love her?

Meanwhile, Jeffrey has gotten involved in the Obama campaign. He found a bunch of Obama stickers somewhere and plastered them all over his Spider-Man lunchbox (Oy), and apparently gets in discussions about politics with a girl in his preschool class. “Mooooom,” he tearfully cried to me after school one day, “Caty says that a girl is going to be President! But I said it’s gonna be Barack Obama.” And who do Mom & Dad support?

No comment.

Spring is in the Air

Little kids seem so much more receptive to the little changes. Sometimes this can be trying, such as when I use the –gasp!– wrong cup for Eleanor’s milk, or layer on Jeffrey’s blankets in the incorrect order at bedtime. (For the record, it is: cow blanket, polka-dot blanket, and then the blue pinwheel patchwork quilt. Which he then promptly kicks off as soon as I leave the room.)

But there are other times that my kids pick up on the best details in life. There’s a passage in Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins in which young Rose walks into her bedroom and immediately notices how the sunset is coloring the room, “with a child’s quick instinct.” That quick instinct — that uninhibited reaction to nature — is something I love in kids, especially when it helps me experience seasonal changes, like this burgeoning spring, through their eyes. (Oh, that old cliché. But it’s true.)

The wind is blowing briskly, and Jeffrey wants to go outside. “I like to play in the breeze,” he says. “Because it keeps me fresh.” He is always wanting to report on the weather at his preschool. “I felt a breeze today, Megan,” he reports proudly. “It must sign up for the weather report and say that it’s windy!”

Our first few flowering bulbs have come up, and our kids are enraptured with them, shining out like rainbow-colored coins scattered in our grey backyard. Poor little blossoms — they don’t stand a chance against my kids’ chubby fingers. Jeffrey made short work of the crocus, while Eleanor is slowly plucking the hyacinths apart. The realities of wilted flowers are hard, however. “Mommy, my flowers are melting,” says Eleanor sadly, tumbling a wrinkly, rubbery pink nub into my hand. “The flower melted, Mommy!”

A few mornings ago Jeffrey was quietly staring out the window over his breakfast bagel, his hand softly cupping his cheek. “Mommy, why is it pink all over?” I asked him what he saw outside that was pink, and he wrinkled his brow in thought. “Everything. Everything is pink,” he said, sweeping his hand across the window in a grand, yet vague, gesture. I looked, and it was all grey to me, but after gazing for moment, I could see it — how the sunlight slanted across the tips of the trees foresting the hillside, and if you didn’t look too closely at one in particular, you could see streaks of pink, like a gauze hung over the spindly, bare branches. It was the budding leaves, the raw pink tone they have just before bursting, the color of baby’s tongue. Birthing is hard, renewal is hard, the struggle to produce something new and gorgeous out of what essentially seems like a bunch of sticks in the mud. I love that Jeffrey can see it, this secret way of looking that he can show me, that we can share.

One of my favorite springtime books:

Rabbit’s Good News by Ruth Bornstein — There’s a big ol’ rainbow of pastels at work in these illustrations, although they aren’t showy by any account.  Little rabbit uses all of his senses, from sniffing the air to listening for birdsong, to see if spring has really arrived.  Then he bounds out of his den to share the news. Little kids enjoy the simplicity of this tale, and like being able to match up Rabbit’s senses with his body parts (“he hears with his . . . EARS!”).  Sweet ‘n’ simple.

Sunny Side Up

smiley-blankie.jpgThe latest news from Ella-land:

Lately she’s in full revolt against the idea of toilet training. “I’ll wear underwear when I’m three,” she says airily. If I try setting her on the toilet, she stiffens her body and screams. If I show her the fancy-shmancy underwear, she throws it across the room. And screams. We’ll get there someday . . . someday. . . someday.

I put a denim jumper on her last week, and she peered at it curiously. “It’s my jumping dress!” she later exclaimed, and gave a demonstration across the room.

Skipping is one of her favorite things to do, especially when holding my hand as we walk along the sidewalk. “Skip, Mama,” she’ll urge, only it comes out sounding more like “Dip, Mama!” Oh, how she loves it when I skip with her! Oh, how I’m afraid of falling right on my face in the parking lot!

Last week, Ella’s blankie took a trip through the washing machine and dryer. (It had been getting a bit, shall we say, “musky.”) Little did I know that a little felt sticker had been put in the wash too — a little orange and yellow felt smiling sun. The sticker fell apart, but the little yellow circle with the smiley face somehow got fused onto the blankie. It won’t come off, but we don’t much mind. Now Eleanor’s blankie is always happy to see her. Although, if the blankie knew what fate lay in store for it — if it saw the shredded, over-loved remains of its predecessor — it would probably be running for its fuzzy little life. That’s why Blankie the First remains under Lock and Key. And by lock and key, I mean In The Highest Bureau Drawer I Can Find.

Speaking of Blankies:


Owen by Kevin Henkes is probably the cream of the blankie-oriented crop.  Little Owen is practically joined at the hip to his little yellow blanket.  Nosy next-door-neighbor Mrs. Tweezers is trying to convince his parents that it’s time to let go of his ol’ pal.  Owen manages to thwart Mrs. Tweezer’s various blankie-removal advice, until his mother comes up with an ingenious compromise that keeps Owen with his buddy and saves face around the neighbors of the world.  My personal favorite of Henkes’ mouse books.

    To Thine Own Delf Be True

    scissors.jpgEleanor has trouble pronouncing the letter s.  She pronounces it like a d, especially when it’s the first sound in a word.

    “Mommy, I want some dissors.  To dip something.”  Translation: “Mommy, I want some scissors.  To snip something.”  This takes a little bit of extra processing on my part, and Brian’s, too.  We keep trying to correct her (“It’s ssssssnip, Eleanor,”) and she keeps trying to say it the right way (“ssssssDip”) but the going is slow.

    The word we hear mispronounced most often is the word “self,” as in “I did it all by my delf!”  Eleanor has a habit of bragging about her independence at inopportune moments, too:

    After kicking and squalling while being buckled into her car seat: “Mommy!  I got buckled all by my delf!”

    Or, when we are pouring her some milk, and she suddenly grabs the jug, spilling milk everywhere: “I poured a drink all by my delf!”

    Worst of all, when our toilet training efforts backfire: “Mommy!  I made a poopy in my diaper — all by my delf!”

    Well, I guess it’s a good thing she didn’t actually need assistance doing that.  But still.

    Brian and I have therefore been categorizing Eleanor’s growing independence in two ways.  First, there’s when she actually does something good by herself (like hanging up her coat on her hook, or setting the table.  Then there’s the stuff she does All By Her Delf.  And those are the moments that we are learning to fear.  I’m sure there will come a time when simply hearing the word “delf” won’t make my heart beat faster, but it hasn’t happened yet.  All I can do is have patience, pray, and hope she won’t drive me Indane.

    Broadcasts and Woodworking Tips

    radio.jpgThis afternoon, while sitting in the front seats of the (parked) car and gazing in the mirror, Jeffrey fiddled with the radio dials and said this:

    “Good morning, listeners!  The forecast for today is that Jeffrey and Mommy will look in the mirror!”

    I’m guessing that he hasn’t figured out that a “forecast” refers to things that are going to happen.

    Later, at bedtime:

    “Mommy!  I can’t go to sleep without Bat Tiger!  I need him close to him so he can get snuggles and kisses!”

    Here I should explain that Bat Tiger is just that — a stuffed tiger wearing a Batman outfit, the product of a Grandma-sponsored trip to the Build-A-Bear Workshop.  I fished Bat Tiger out of the nest of blankets Jeff habitually keeps on his top bunk and placed him on Jeffrey’s pillow.

    “Is Bat Tiger a superhero?” I asked.

    “No, he’s my assistant,” he replied matter-of-factly.  “He helps me build forts, except for one time when he got sick because he didn’t have his goggles.”  Jeffrey traces circles around his eyes with his fingers, to show what he meant.  Goggles.  Goggles?
    “Yeah.  See, I needed to shave some wood for the fort, and sand and polish it, and Bat Tiger didn’t have his goggles on and his eyes got hurt.”

    I love that my son is safety-conscious in his fantasy play.  Good old Bat Tiger.