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Archive for the ‘Speech’ Category

I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize most sincerely for my rudeness in not responding earlier; my mothers are quite adamant about restricting my use of the computer.  “Miles, don’t touch that!” they chide, thinking I simply want to press the buttons and make a disaster of their external hard drive.  How can they fail to understand that I need to keep up on my correspondence?  They ramble about “screen time” and how it is bad for my brain development, yet I think we both know that my brain is developing appropriately.  Perhaps if you, a physician, write to them and ask them to relent, they might reconsider their cruel rationing of the iPhone, the Internet, and Sesame Street. 

But on to other matters.  You asked about the new neighbor downstairs.  I have not yet had an opportunity to make her full acquaintance, but I confess to a deepening affection for her bicycle.  She parks her bicycle on the second-floor landing, and each time my mothers and I come and go I examine it with interest, naming its parts aloud. 

(I’m talking now, by the way.   Sometimes I speak in sentences, as tonight when I was holding my stuffed monkey up to see the moon outside my bedroom window.  “Monkey, see moon,” I instructed it.  But I digress.  My attention span has yet to mature.)

When I pass the pink and lavender bicycle — yes, I know my colors now too — I often say, “Handlebars!  Seat!  Pedals!”  In case my mothers should think I believe the bicycle is mine, I also clarify, “Heather’s bike.”  Sometimes, I admit, I get confused and knock on Heather’s door, asking for you and Min.

Although the bicycle is charming, I am more than ready for you to return.  Please move back in downstairs at once.  I understand that this will be detrimental to your career and that your family might object to your moving so far away from them.  Yet, as I am sure you know, 2-year-olds are famously egocentric.  Everything is about me, of course, and I prefer that you come back. 

If you must know my reasons, they are simple: you played with me so very well, you were kind to my mothers, you saved Luna’s life, and you always pretended not to be bothered by the sound of me throwing wooden toys on the floor at 6 a.m.   Additionally, any place without subways cannot be a good place.  As I have matured, my interest in transportation has grown exponentially (see above discussion of bicycle), and I shudder to think that anyone for whom I care would be deprived of decent public transit.

It sounds as though the short mother is almost done running my bath.  I must close this letter quickly before she realizes I am not in fact cooking imaginary omelets in my play kitchen.  I regret deceiving her, yet I could not allow another day to pass without my responding to your kind inquiries.  I look forward to seeing you and Min very soon as you move your things back in to the apartment.  Please hurry — my birthday is next week, and if you ask very politely my mothers will probably let you take me to the zoo.  They always liked you. 

Warmly,

Miles

P.S. If I need to communicate with you again, I will do so through the blog.  My mothers have cut off service to my cell phone.

P.S. #2 Attached, please find a recent photo of me.    I hope Min will enjoy it.

On Sept. 17, David wrote:

Dear Miles, 

Probably by now you are wondering where we have gone. Don’t worry, we are still around just a little farther away, in a place far away known as Arizona. It’s a strange place unlike the comforts of our walk-up in Brooklyn. People here have golden blonde hair and bronze colored skin. They also drive in big pick-up trucks, and can you believe that they don’t know what a subway is?! Arizona is great though. There are surprising a lot of restaurants to try here, which keeps us busy during the weekends.
 
Anyways, we very much miss New York, especially walking around Park Slope. But most of all we miss you and your family, as well as Violet and hers. We have been keeping up on your blog. Min absolutely loves it, especially the candid pictures of you. Anyways, I know you still have your cellphone, so call me anytime you like. Tell Melissa and Robin we said hello and that we miss them too. Hoping that the new tenant below is friendly.  
David
 

My, what big teeth I have.

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I would like to state for the record that some things about being (almost) 2 are not so terrible.

Around 2 years old, children develop symbolic play.  That’s fancy child-development speak for, like, pretending and stuff.  They personify their stuffed animals and use toys to act out little scenes.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, this is closely tied to the development of language.   Which means that Miles is able to tell us a little of what he’s imagining, and we get a peek into his inner life.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing in Miles’ inner life.  His toy animals hug and kiss each other ardently, with little regard for preserving the purity of species.  You’ve heard of the lion lying down with the lamb?  Well, in our house the chameleon lies down with the monkey, and the giraffe lies down with the bear.  The animals are quite promiscuous, actually.  The animals also have conversations.  The stuffed dogs will not shut up. (“Ruf!” “Ruff Ruff!” “Ruff… ruff.”) 

There’s lots of cooking and eating in Miles’ inner life.  In his play kitchen, he unloads groceries, washes his hands, munches on grapes, and drinks pretend coffee. 

Other rituals confuse me a little.  Cows take naps inside houses made out of cut-up milk cartons and then wake up to endlessly climb invisible stairs.  (“Upstairs!  Downstairs!”) Huh???

And yesterday, this happened.

"Doggy read. Miles read. Book."

He put his little stuffed dog in his lap, nestling it in, the way he nestles into my lap when we read before naptime.  Then, patiently, struggling with the pages and smushing the dog somewhat dreadfully, he “read” the dog  several books, pointing out significant objects on each page.

"Truck. Fire truck."

Did I die from the cuteness?  Yes.  Yes I did.

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Peas in a pod.

On the way home from music class Friday morning, we stopped spontaneously at a large, lovely playground that we don’t get to very often.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, so we usually go somewhere closer unless we are meeting someone.  Miles, thrilled with his good luck, clambered up a metal ladder (when did he start climbing ladders?!), chattering away in multi-word sentences (when did he start chattering?!).

At the top of the slide, he shouted joyfully, “Binn!”

Playgrounding in February.

“What Miles?”

“Finn!  Finn! Is she?  Where … is she? Where?”

I realized with shock that he was remembering the last time we’d played at that playground, almost a month earlier.  We’d played with his very best friend, Finn, and he expected her to be here today.  He scanned the playground eagerly from his perch.  Big kids shouting, tots racing through a water sprinkler, everywhere the hot sun.  No Finn.

Of course he expected to see her.  We see Finn at least once a week, and it had been much more than that since our last play date.  But Finn was on vacation with her moms.  “Sorry Miles,” I said.  “No Finn today.”  After a few seconds, he gave up, skidding forlornly down the slide.

Spring.

He’s been this way about Finn for quite some time.  Like the first time I mistakenly mentioned we were going to Finn’s house an hour before we were supposed to leave.  Miles marched to the door and began banging on it, chanting her name.  In case I wasn’t getting the point, he grabbed his shoes from the bin, thrust them into my hands, and entreated, “Go!” 

For several months, I was sure he thought Finn’s name was “More.” 

“Do you want to go see Finn?” I would ask.

“More, more, more,” Miles would chant, firmly signing “friend” with his hands. 

“Are you saying more friend?”

He’d look at me.  Concentrate. “More.” (Sign “friend.”) “Please.”

Got milk?

They met at two months old in a coffee shop.  A mutual friend connected Robin and me with Finn’s moms, Alicia and Melissa, because we were lesbian families who’d had babies within two weeks of each other.  At that point, Miles and Finn were bald and squirmy grubs, rooting for the breast.  They couldn’t have cared less about socializing.  Then they moved on to parallel play, eyeing one another with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, until their first tortured attempts at sharing.  Now their friendship is a passionate and intense toddler love fest.  He mostly calls her “Binn,” and she mostly calls him “Biles.” They’re a funny pair, both blonde and blue-eyed, running around like a couple of Scandinavian elves out of a fairy tale.  They scream each other’s names. 

“Biles!  Biles!  Biles!”

“Binn! Binn!  Binn!”

“Biles!”

“Binn!”

They debate the finer points of Elmo and Ernie.  They hug, they read, they giggle, they grab, they cry, they push, they chase.  

So funny!

A few months ago, we asked Miles and Finn for the first time if they would like to kiss each other goodbye.   We were finishing up a play date, and they’d been milling about, grabbing toys off the ground, turning in circles, grabbing the dogs’ tails. 

Both stopped.  They looked at each other.  And then they bolted — not away but toward each other — collided belly to belly and nose to nose, and bounced back, stunned.  Contorting with suppressed laughter, we asked if they would like to try again.  Finn smiled.  Miles approached.  He tilted his head and teetered.  Finn grasped his arm and leaned and… contact! 

The smooch train.

With Finn and Alicia, we go to the playground, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the amazing sandbox at Pier 6, the Transit Museum, the park.  Sometimes Robin and I babysit Finn, and other times Alicia and Melissa babysit Miles.  In the Fall, Miles and Finn will be together in a cooperative preschool, which means Alicia and I will be taking turns (with other parents) teaching and providing snacks. 

Best of all for me, as the kids’ friendship has developed — in between the breastfeeding, the diapers, and the snack times — Alicia and I have become great friends too.  We sneak in actual, adult conversations sometimes, conversations that help keep me sane and balanced.  On weekends sometimes we get together all six of us: four moms talking and two toddlers climbing and babbling.  In those moments, I realize just how eloquent our son really is.  More.  Friend. Please. 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Two little monkeys jumpin' on the bed.

Play date.

 

Push!

 

 

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Miles recently discovered tails.  Specifically, that they exist and that they grace the posteriors of some (but not all!) animals.  We were playing in his room, hugging his stuffed animals, when he noticed.  He hugs his animals in a very specific way, crushing the poor creatures to his neck while twisting his torso in a rocking motion and patting with one hand.  Not coincidentally, this is how I hug him when he is hurt or upset.  Then, when plopping a just-hugged dog to the floor, he made his discovery.

Hugfest.

“What is this strange, delightful appendage?” he asked me, in his own language of gestures, syllables and eyebrow lifting.

“That’s a tail, Miles.  See, the giraffe has a tail too.”

His astonishment quickly turned to engrossed wonder.  With joyful purpose, he examined each and every animal in the bin, sorting them by tails and not tails.  Dog?  Tail.  Pooh bear? Tail.  Otto the Love Monster?  Not tail.  Chamelon?  Big tail.

Why tails?  Why now?  It baffles me, and I love it.  Sort of.  Over the next day, he started saying  “tail” and invented his own hand sign for tail: pointing at his own bottom.  (Other Miles-invented signs: holding his palms up questioningly for “where?”, holding his hand to his ear for “phone,” and patting his head for “hat.”)  Within two days, the tail thing was getting out of control.  A little scientist, he insisted on personally investigating the tail phenomenon.  He had checked the animals on his wooden farm puzzle for tails and repeatedly confirmed the existence and location of Luna’s tail (a procedure she does not appreciate).  On the changing table, when Robin was putting him in a new diaper, they discussed the tail of a teddy bear he was holding.  Curious, he reached down to his bare bottom and checked himself for a tail.  Robin had to assure him several times that he did not have one.  He seemed disappointed.

Just the other day, Miles was in the bathtub and I crawled away from him to grab the baby shampoo. He patted my bottom inquisitively, not for the first time that day.  “Tail?”

“Miles, Mommy does not have a tail!”  I said.  “I promise!” 

My little scientist smiled.  I knew he would not take my word for it.

Baby doll: not tail.

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At the laundromat a few weeks ago, Robin and I were  folding clothes while Miles lounged, miraculously content, in his stroller.  Finally, he started to fuss.

“Should I give him the liquid product of the bovine?” Robin asked seriously.

“I only brought water,” I answered. 

“Oh, okay,” she said, and handed Miles a toy instead.

You may recall that Miles was recently obsessed with brushing his teeth and that we took to referring to tooth brushing as “that thing” so that he would not beg to do “that thing” every time we mentioned that particular hygiene ritual in front of him.  Now we use complex, wordy euphemisms — like “liquid product of the bovine” to mean “milk,” for instance — for all sorts of everyday substances, objects and acts.  

At breakfast, we might speak in code about “that long yellow fruit that grows in bunches in the tropics.”  Feeding Luna, his newest obsession, we refer to alternately as “nourishing the feline”  or “providing sustenance to the feline.”  We refer to the Y, where Miles goes for open toddler gym time, as “the place of recreation with spherical objects.”  When one of us can’t figure out why Miles is hopping and squealing and pointing to the window, the other might ask, “Did he perceive the utterances of the neighbor’s canine?”  A garbage truck might be, “the vehicle that removes the refuse.”  You get the picture

We do this as much for ourselves as for him.  It’s fun to spontaneously construct these odd synonyms, and we joke that when Miles finally figures out what we’re talking about, he’ll have the best vocabulary in Brooklyn.  Other kids will know that C-A-T spells cat, but Miles will know that cats are called felines — or, alternately, “the evil mammal that lurks in our closet.”

Plus, we’re actually fooling him!  Or, we were.  This weekend, in front of our friend Lindsay, we were talking about “the long yellow fruit that grows in bunches in the tropics” and Miles looked at Lindsay and said politely, in case she wasn’t getting it, “Banana!”

Just try to fool me, ladies.

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Robin and I are full-fledged members of the Mean Mothers Club.  We got our Mean Mother identification cards in the mail the other day, complete with scowling photos in which our lips are permanently pursed in the “No” position.  How did we finally get to join such a prestigious group, populated by notable Mean Mothers throughout history?  What new cruelty have we devised that wins us this mark of distinction?

We harshly refuse to let Miles brush his teeth 27 times a day.

I’m going to let you in on an awkward little secret.  Something is wrong with that kid: he likes to brush his teeth.  He’s

"Teeth?"

 actually obsessed with it!  What kind of kid loves tooth brushing?  Eekgads.  He certainly doesn’t get it from this mother.  I used to elaborately fake having brushed my teeth — wetting the toothbrush, smearing some toothpaste in the sink, and tiptoing out with a self-satisfied smirk.  (Yes, my dentist profited from this subterfuge.  I had many, many cavities.)

About 27 times a day, Miles halts his current activity, acquires a look of concentration, holds his index finger to his mouth in a brushing motion and asks, urgently, “Teeth?” 

At first we tried to play stupid, but his pronunciation is clear and his invented sign language leaves no room for doubt.  Plus, he’ll grab us by the pantleg and drag us to the bathroom to get his point across.  This desperate plea for tooth brushing has finally driven us to close the bathroom door.  Not his passion for the plunger, his new ability to clamber atop the toilet lid, or his antics with the Charmin — just his incessant demands for “teeth.” 

As I quiz my friends, I find that this is… could it be?  Fairly normal?  What’s the matter with kids these days, I ask you?  Can anyone make any sense of it?

Robin and I have taken to referring to tooth brushing as “that thing.”  As in, “Robin, make sure I get a chance to do that thing without him seeing before you leave for work.”  Or, “Honey, I just did that thing.  Do you need to do it?”  Yes, I know very well that certain pop songs refer to sex as “that thing” and that my life in comparison to a pop song is now really, unbelievably unglamorous.  

So about 27 times a day, I hear my mean, unglamorous self saying, “Yes, Miles, that’s where the toothbrush is, but we don’t do that right now.  We do that after our bath.”    His lip trembles and his whole body sags with the weight of his disappointment.  Then he perks up and looks at me hopefully again.  Perhaps I have not understood how much he wants it?  “Teeth?!” he asks.  And, flashing my best Mean Mother scowl, I say, “No, Miles.  Later.”

As I put him into the bath, he checks with me over and over to make sure tooth brushing is still on the agenda.  “Teeth?  Teeth?”  I reassure him and hand him his toy fish.  He plays with his once- beloved bath toys, but it’s almost as if he can’t relax until that brush is in his hands.  Finally, bath over, that magical time arrives.  The whole time we’re drying him off, he’s asking.

Don't forget, Momma!

Robin or I brush his teeth first, then hand him the brush to give it a go.  Grinning into the bristles, he chuckles a little.  And stops in the middle to look at us and be sure we know.  He pulls the toothbrush out, signs and mumbles it one last time — “Teeth!” — and continues brushing. 

At last!

 

He likes this? I really don't get it.

 

Bliss.

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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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