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Archive for February, 2011

Seriously Serious

Robin was talking — 0r g-chatting, or e-mailing, or whatever passes for communication these days — with an old friend of ours who lives in Los Angeles.  The friend was saying that the more frequent blogging makes her feel like she’s right here with us, watching Miles grow up.  I glowed a little as Robin told me this because, you know, the thought of being connected to loved ones near and far makes me a little weepy and happy at the same time.  I’m that sort.

But then Robin said, “And she said Miles looks so serious all the time, very somber.  Like, he’s never smiling for the camera.”

!!!?!?!???

Sputter, sputter, snort, guffaw.   

I don’t know what she’s talking about!   Do you?

The dreamer.

 

I mean, sure, he’s not a smile machine like his friend Diego.  I get that.  But to say that he looks serious?  I just don’t know where that’s coming from.  Is she blind?  The kid’s a laugh a minute!

Playground.

 

Truly, he practically bubbles with perpetual giggles, as the following photo should make obvious.   Ready?  Here it comes.  The hilarity and glee are going to knock you out.

Jedi nap-avoidance.

Okay, so I had to concede the point; we post a lot of somber-baby shots.   I started in, huffing and puffing and filling my worry balloon, analyzing whether there’s something wrong with Miles, if he’s too serious, if he’s happy.  Robin cut me off.

“I told her it probably has more to do with our aesthetic and with when and how you take photos.”

Oh, yeah.  Worry balloon deflated.

Miles is a happy kid, but it’s a happy quiet.  His default emotional state is a sort of muted, curious amusement.  He is quiet, but he is not shy.  He observes before plunging in, but he’s not fearful.  His touch is light; his bites of food are small.  He laughs and smiles, especially when Momma is wrestling him or if he sees a dog wagging its tail or our cat Luna playing on the bed.  He’s mild-mannered (though recently prone to tantrums).  He’s just Miles.

He laughs.  Really!  But in case you’d prefer some evidence, I come prepared.

Party all the time.

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Read my lips.

I decided to catalog almost all of the words Miles says.  I say almost because he’s constantly adding new words.  Plus, he will sometimes blurt out a word, like “bike,” and then not say it again, ever.  And I’m sure I’ve forgotten about most of those words.  But this list will capture my best estimate of the words that our son, Miles R. O. Davidson, is saying at 16 months.

At first I was tempted to get all teacher-y and make a big chart with different columns to show how clearly or consistently he uses each word.  It would have smart-sounding columns, like Attempting, Approximating and Mastering, and I would develop a rubric that would determine the placement of each word within the column.

You think I’m joking, I can tell.  You think I can’t possibly be that insane.

But not only was I thinking of doing this, I was thinking of doing it with a big chart paper on the wall of our apartment.  And writing the words on index cards so they could be moved over from column to column as he improved his pronunciation.  And maybe even printing or drawing images to go with each word so Miles could see and understand the chart, too.  Then I thought, maybe a white board would be simpler.  But where would I hang it? 

Luckily, I don’t have time in my day to pursue such wild shower thoughts.  (We all have wildly ambitious thoughts in the shower, right?  Like “Maybe I’ll study Russian and read Tolstoy again!  And start volunteering to mentor teen girls!  Or at the very least make a chocolate souffle with organic eggs!”  But I digress.)

Here are the words, for your enjoyment.  (And keep in mind that many of these words would be in the Attempting category, meaning he makes some odd gargling sound that only we can identify as that word.) Interestingly, most of the words start with letters from the beginning of the alphabet.  It makes me wonder a little bit about how the alphabet is sequenced, like is it correlated with the ease with which human babies can form the sounds?  Or is Miles just a lover of the letter B? 

ABC

apple, ball (favorite word), banana (one syllable, of course — “bah!”), bath, bear, belly, bird, blocks, book, bottle (while signing water, to ask for a water bottle), bowl, breast (what were we thinking?), bus, car, cat (official first word, frequently said with glee while chasing Luna and jabbing his finger into his cheek to sign the word), cheese

DEF

dance (Aretha Franklin is a favorite), dog (obsessed!), duck (his sleeping companion), fish

GHI

go (when he is sitting in his wagon and wants you to push, silly!), hat (he likes trying them on, especially the new fedora), hot (radiators! ouch!), hi

JKL

none yet!

MNOP

ma (either of us), milk, momma (usually Robin), mom (usually me), no (while shaking head earnestly), Nana (once), Pooh (as in Winnie the)

QRS

shoes, spoon (adult utensils, puh-lease!), star

TUVW

teeth (when asking to brush them), that, truck (an old fave that’s making a comeback), water

XYZ

xylophone (just kidding!)

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Isn’t He Lovely?

Just photos today.  I had some nice lighting in the nursery, and Miles was obliging.  xoxo

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“Baby sign language? My brother ruined his kids by teaching them sign language.  All because he wanted them to excel.  Tsssk, tsssk.”

“My sister’s kids refused to talk because they could sign.”

“Better be careful.  You’re going to delay his speech.”

That’s what they said.  And they were wrong.  So there!

Okay, let me back up.  Way back when Miles was an itty bitty infant, I began to wonder, should we teach him sign language?  Proponents say it is good for their brains and improves their vocabulary.  They even claim that it virtually eliminates the terrible twos!  Crazy, I know, but people argue that toddler who can communicate are more likely to get what they want (within reason) and less likely to flip a lid because you handed them crackers when what they really wanted was juice.

All that sounded very appealing.  But was it all a gimmick?  Some stupid yuppie scam?  I didn’t want to be some high-pressure, overachievement freak, either. I didn’t want to be one of those parents. On one hand, I had friends who were signing with their kids and said it was great.  On the other hand, people shared awful stories of sign language retarding children’s speech and parents standing in front of their 4-year-olds begging, “Milk!!!  Can you just SAY milk?!?!?”

I bought the Signing Time DVDs.  I waffled on the topic.  I consulted Robin, who was lukewarm.  Miles and I watched the DVDs occasionally, but I didn’t commit to practicing the signs in everyday life. We were at an impasse for a couple months.  And ultimately, I made the decision the way most important parenting decisions are made: in a moment of desperation. 

During a weeklong bout of the flu, with a sad and peaked Miles hanging all over my sad and haggard self, I started playing the Signing Time DVD every day.  (Okay, sometimes twice a day.)  Miles liked it, and it kept him engaged for twenty minutes or so.  Before I knew it, we were all signing like maniacs.  And now we are completely, zealously hooked.

How can I explain the awesomeness of communicating with a 16-month-old?  Perhaps with an example.  He runs over to the bed where our cat is all curled up and, smiling at me, signs a two-word sentence, “cat sleeping.”

“Yes Miles, Luna is sleeping,” I say.  “We don’t bother her when she’s sleeping.”   And he smiles, signs “sleep” a few more times, and moves on.

Signing  has changed the way he looks at books.  He studies the pages intently for familiar images, then points ecstatically and signs “ball” or “bird” or “cat” or “food.”  He sometimes “reads” like this for twenty minutes at a time by himself (miracle!), poring through the pages.

Signing often lets me know what Miles is thinking about.  We’ll be sitting around doing something, maybe finishing lunch, and he’ll look thoughtful and start making the sign for baby. “Okay, Miles, go get your baby doll,” I say.  And he runs into our bedroom and pulls the doll out of its bin, squeezing and rocking it blissfully.  When he is hungry, he walks to into the kitchen signing “food.”  When he is thirsty, he bangs on the refrigerator and signs “milk” or “water”, depending on what he wants.

And he’s talking up a storm!  I have no way of knowing whether he’s talking more or less than he would otherwise — there’s no control group when you raise your kid, so there’s no looking back — but his talk is just delightful.  When he’s really jazzed about something, he says it and signs it at the same time.   A million times a day he approaches me saying, “Book?  Book?  Book?  Book!” as his little hands press together and apart, like he’s opening and closing a book.  If I don’t get the point, he signs “read,” picks up the book, and hands it to me. 

“Dog” is another one he likes to both sign and say, and “cat.”  In the morning, when Robin is trying to get ready for work, he follows her around signing and saying, “Ball! Ball? Ball!  Ball-Ball-Ball!!!”  And, astoundingly the other morning, “Momma, ball!” 

Other sign-and-say words include shoes, bird, bath.  Several words he signs but can’t say very clearly — milk, hurt, water, baby, doll, car, sleep, drink, sorry, thank you, potty and train come to mind, though there are more.   And some words he just says and we never sign.  For one thing, he says “teeth” because his latest passion is brushing his teeth.  He says “spoon” and “bowl.”  He also says “cheese” quite clearly and politely.  I wish you could hear him.  “Cheese? Cheese?”

And, best of all, he has made up a few signs himself.  Phone is a hand to the ear and a questioning sound, like “Eh?”  Hat is a pat on his own head.  Brush is a brushing motion he makes in his hair with his fingers.  Robin has decided we ought to contact the American Sign Language Association and ask them to add Miles’ signs to the official sign language dictionary.

It’s hard to take pictures of him signing, so I’ll just leave you with some other gems.

Hanging window shades.

 

Spitting in the sink.

Practicing yoga.

 

Fedora!

And, because there’s no such thing as too much fedora…

"Hat!"

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View Finder

I promised more posts, and more posts you shall have! 

So often in this family, I am the one behind the camera.  I’m no professional photographer — I mostly use the automatic settings on my camera these days — but I have enjoyed playing at photography since high school.  The rituals of the darkroom soothed me through high school and college with their solitude, chemical fragrances and slosh, slosh, sloshing sounds.  Then, post-college, I used my camera to document the small happinesses of domestic life: Robin, our cat Luna, food, and combinations of the three.  Robin cooking food!  Luna and Robin napping in the sun!  Robin eating bacon with Luna lurking menacingly on the arm of her chair!  Since then, well, you know what it’s been.  Close-ups of Miles.  Robin holding Miles.  Miles sitting in his high chair flinging food at Luna.  And so on.

I love photographing everyday life.  Gestures that hint at complexities between loved ones.  A plate of breakfast food. Feet.   Often, I attach great emotion and meaning to a photo that others find completely commonplace and unexciting.  (“Why did you take a picture of the back of my head?” )  I stand by the fact that, to the careful observer, these photos reveal the ordinary sweetness of being alive. 

Here are some photos from our everyday, not-so-dramatic life.  Instead of close-ups, or posed shots, they are life as it unfolds.  And, okay, they all involve food.

Brunch at home.

 



Scrambled eggs.

 

Feeding time.

 

Nanny, Miles, Nana.

 

But then, every once in awhile, I realize there is very little photographic evidence of my presence.  And I hand the camera to Robin and say, “Take one of me.”  And she, with a gentle smile, obliges.

Early February, Hotel Le Bleu.

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Me: Robin, I’ve decided.  I’m going to take a more casual, chatty approach to the blog.

Her: Okay.

Me: I know I’ve talked about it, but I mean it.  I think I will post more often if I don’t try to make every post so thematic. I mean, who needs that kind of pressure?

Her: Uh huh.

Me: So I am just going to write chatty entries and throw up whatever photo I have, even if it doesn’t go.

Her: Ok.

Me: (growing more vehement) It’s not fair for our readers to miss out on the little moments because I am trying to find some great meaning in every little thing Miles says or does, trying to impose narrative and symbolism and end with a huge orchestral to-do each and every time.

Her: Yep.

Me:  I can tell you don’t believe me!  Why don’t you just say so? Well, if you’re not going to be supportive, I’ll just have to show you!  Jeez. You don’t think I can do it, is that it?  You think I’ll need to make some big deal about the change, revise the post seventeen times or whatever?   I’ll show you!  I’m going to just up and post a photo of Miles in cowboy boots, talking on the phone, without rhapsodizing or anything.  You just wait!  They’ll never know what hit them, and neither will you!  I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO SPELL CHECK!!!!  (Storms out of room.)

Okay, not really.  But I couldn’t just make a huge change like that without saying something about it.  Could I?  And no, for your information, I didn’t spend twelve minutes stressing about the title of this blog.  Pshaw! (Snorts scornfully and changes title again.) 

Yeah, can I place an order for delivery?

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