In the car, looking out of the window, matter-of-factly apropos nothing:
"I love fries."
His first unsolicited profession of devotion.
In the car, looking out of the window, matter-of-factly apropos nothing:
"I love fries."
His first unsolicited profession of devotion.
I’ve walked in on Ted precariously balanced on a dining chair, fighting with a box of Cheerios.
Ever since he learned how to move that chair about, there is nowhere he can’t reach. Except, apparently, into a box of Cheerios. He’s managed to open the top, he got one hand inside, but now he was getting progressively frustrated as the plastic bag inside resisted his valiant efforts. Finally, with one mighty yank, he pulled it out.
We’ve only just opened it, and it was “family-sized,” so I chose that moment to jump in. The prospect of vacuuming honey-scented fairy dust out of everything didn’t appeal to me that much.
"Sweetie, what are you doing?” I asked, pulling one sticky fist out of the bag. His little fingers kept going, Addams-Family style.
"I want strawberries!" he declared in a voice that suggested I was being supremely dim.
Reasons my kid is crying: marketing.
English is not my first language, but it never bothered me before. DH can understand me, most other people - whatever their accent - don’t seem to have much trouble either, so I’ve been resting on my laurels all those years.
I’ve been in pronunciation bootcamp for the last half a year.
"It’s a warm," I tell Ted.
"Worm," corrects DH, "Like in ‘squirm.’"
"Squirm… warm… wurm… worm… Worm?" I try to repeat, my jaw feeling like it’s about to get dislocated.
But when it’s just Ted and me at home alone, I tend to let things slip.
"Zucchini," I tell him. He’s inspecting his food again, but this time there’s no immediate "no." He seems to be enjoying it.
"Two chini?" he asks, and I have to stop myself from doing a face-palm.
"Five chini!" he exclaims, and I know he really must like them. "Five" still means "give me all you’ve got."
Hand, house, another hand, snake, plane, and a bunch of roads. As drawn and narrated by Ted.
A great piece of advice I’ve never heeded has been to only serve tried-and-tested dishes to your guests, and reserve experimentation to the family. Because, you know, it could turn out horrid.
Today, I’ve decided to make a quiche for the three of us. It’s one of DH’s comfort foods and a favorite of Ted’s. But there was a catch: The quiche was from a new recipe.
I had a lot of Brussels sprouts, you see, and wanted to do something original with them. (Before you object to the use of such a repugnant vegetable - Ted absolutely loves them.) Sticking them in a quiche seemed like a safe bet.
Preparation was a lot of fun. Ted “helped” whisk the eggs and cream together, ate a good portion of the pre-cooked sprouts, generously sprinkled tarragon over the whole affair, “softened” the zested lemon against the floor, and was in giddy awe of ceramic beans.
One thing led to another (following the beans back to their cupboard of origin resulted in Ted hitting the motherload of cake-making supplies), and the quiche baking time passed pleasantly, with Ted laughing his head off as he kept using a cupcake filler to squirt long streams of water into the sink.
"I!… I!… I!…" he was singing as DH came through the door.
"Is he finally getting his pronouns right?" asked DH excitedly.
"Let him finish."
"Iiiiiiciiing tip!" Ted triumphantly held up his new weapon for DH to admire.
The quiche was ready, plated up and served. It looked great. The new tip to cover the edges with aluminium foil paid off beautifully, as for the first time in our history they came out golden, not burnt.
I took a bite and decided to soldier through. Ted took a bite, spat it out and howled in dismay.
"What this?" he asked accusingly.
There’s no way to convey in writing how poised, emphatic and utterly devastating that “No” was. It was all things rolled into one: That I should know better than to call that thing a quiche; That it was revolting and he wasn’t going to eat it, now or ever; That I’d better think hard about my future as the cook of this family; That this thing was never to be attempted again; and That I should burn my laptop and any other devices that might have carried this abominable recipe.
DH and I close to fell off our chairs following Ted’s deadpan delivery. Rules being rules, the only alternative offered was a slice of toast. Ted pounced on it.
"You know," said DH wistfully, as we tried being adults about it and finishing our meal, "if I close my eyes I could believe I was eating lemon cheesecake. But then suddenly: Brussels sprout!"
My little windswept Valentine.
Today, something magical happened. We were at preschool, waiting for the class to start. Ted was playing with some trucks while another boy came over and sat down nearby. He got hold of a couple of trucks from the set. Ted objected, but he wasn’t playing with them at the time, so I reminded him we were in a public play space, the trucks were therefore unclaimed and available for Henry. It was Henry’s turn. Ted acquiesced, but kept eyeing Henry all the same.
Less than a minute passed, and Henry was done. Unprompted, he offered the trucks with which he was playing to Ted. Unprompted, Ted thanked him. Henry toddled away with his dad, and I picked my jaw up from the floor.
Finally, the day has come. Finally, they’re starting to acknowledge each other’s existence. Better still, while ignoring the very idea of other people being there, they have all managed to learn some rudimentary social skills.
A couple of months back I treated myself to an UP band. DH got one from work and I was getting jealous listening to his constant updates. In particular, I wanted a proof that there was a reason most days I was feeling like death warmed up.
We kept a tally for a while and decided that, if anything, UP was underreporting the number of times we were awake in the night.
Here are a few typical week nights:
Some of the “light sleep” areas are actually awake times.
Whoever came up with the phrase “sleeping like a baby” was having a laugh at parents’ expense. I slept better in the exam season of my postgraduate degree. (At the time, I thought staying at the library till midnight followed by uninterrupted five hours in bed was some kind of Herculean effort.)
Funny what a difference “uninterrupted” makes. Nowadays, I cannot imagine how on Earth I was ever capable of making a cogent argument on the subject of overcoming war trauma or successfully analyzing Walter Benjamin to shreds.
Nowadays, I go to parent education classes and proclaim I wish Ted grew up to possess strong critical thinking skills, but seem to be losing them myself. I console myself by reasoning even Einstein would end up with a bird brain “resting” like this.
Ted’s paediatrician reckons it’s time for some serious sleep training. We strongly agree. Ted has a different agenda, so for now the nights are a battle. (Overcoming war trauma may come in handy after all.)
There are things I was told about parenthood at which I used to roll my eyes, sleep deprivation among them. I figured parents exaggerated. A lot. I figured being woken up once or twice a night for a little bit could hardly interfere with one’s recovery from a day of blissful play with a beloved child. I figured wrong.
Thankfully, DH steps in on the weekends:
For reasons unknown to the sharpest minds, I’ve taken up running. (All my life, I’ve detested running with a passion.)
Ted wouldn’t let me exercise at the gym, collapsing into a howling puddle of tears within a few minutes of my departure, leaving the distraught women at the gym’s nursery no choice but to call me back to collect him. Over, and over, and over again. No amount of attempts or “easing” time was helping. I was sinking hundreds of dollars into the membership at a facility I wasn’t using.
I quit. Timely, so did Ted’s stroller.
In a bout of desperation, I craigslisted myself a jogging stroller. I must have been thinking something along the lines of, “Well, he needs a new stroller anyway, and with a jogging one I could try some running, and it’s second-hand, so it costs the same as a month at the gym… A month of running, and it will pay for itself!”
I had the best of intentions. I even got an app that would talk me through my paces.
What I didn’t expect was how much Ted would hate me running. That first time, he got into the stroller willingly enough. The second, he screamed and writhed, and insisted it was his turn to run.
Yesterday, we had a late start. The sun was setting, the temperature plummeted. Neither one of us wanted to be out. Ted asked for a drink. I handed him his bottle, only to have it thrown back at me with a weepy, “Too cold!”
In the spirit of bribery, I suggested warm milk and a bagel. He said yes. We stopped at the store, and left with the goods. It was getting dark. I started running. In a clipped, imperative female voice, the app said “two miles steady,” and we were done soon enough. Ted loved his “bubble milk” and left nothing but the crumbs from the bagel. Still, he made it clear he resented being confined while I was having all the fun. (Little does he know.)
The experience must have depleted any reserves of goodwill he had for me for the day, because, when I plated up our dinner and asked him to come to the table, he said no, he wanted to play with his "robot game" instead. I said play time was over, we were going to finish dinner and go to bed. He grabbed his plate of ratatouille and flung it down. There were tomato stains and chunks of vegetables all over the seat of his chair and the floor around it.
"Robot game nowwww! Right nowwww!”
I gave him a look and kept eating. He grabbed the handle to the busy bag cupboard and yanked as hard as he could. Thankfully, the lock held.
"Play time is over," I said, "I’m glad you’re not hungry, but I need you to clean up your place before we go for a bath."
"No bath! Huuuungrrrry!"
"Your dinner is on the floor, sweetie. If you’re still hungry, pick it up."
"Nooooo! Mommy pick it up!"
"Your mess, you pick it up. If I do it, I’ll just throw it in the trash."
"Nooooo! Huuuunngrrry! Mommy pick it up!"
"There’s your plate, there’s your fork."
"Nooooo!" he threw himself on the floor, and howled for about five seconds. Then, he remembered something.
"Shall we make a note, honey?" I asked, as I picked his etch-a-sketch off the shelf.
"What shall the note say?"
"Edwa’ robot game tomo’."
"Okay sweetie, I’m writing it now. Edward will play with his robot game tomorrow. I’m going to draw the pieces, too. Here’s the square, and here’s the triangle," I showed him.
"Triangle!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"Shall we clean up now?"
“Clean up, clean up, eve…yyy clean up…” he started singing, picking up his plate and ineffectually trying to get the scattered vegetables onto it. Whenever he failed, he would eat the obstinate piece, and move onto the next one. In the end, I helped him scrape the remainders off the chair cushion, and we went downstairs to run his bath, crisis averted.
Whoever came up with the idea of “granting children’s wishes” by writing them down was a genius. We’ve never expected it to work so well, or for Ted to take to it so willingly.
Also, running apps are evil.
It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally managed to put together a video of most of the signs Ted was using at around 20 months, when he started to figure out this talking thing. I wanted to make sure we had some sort of record, in case he gave it all up as his spoken language developed.
The signs in the video are: again, alarm, animal, apple, apple tree, axe/chop, ball, balloon, banana, bath, beach, bean, bear, berry, bicycle, big, bird, black, blue, boat, bridge, broken, brown, bug, bunny, bus, butterfly, button, bye, camera, car, careful, carousel, cat, cement mixer, cereal, change, cheese, chicken, cloud, clean, close, cold, cook, corn, cow, cracker, cut/scissors, digger, dirty, dog, down, draw, drink, duck, eat, egg, elephant, eye, fan, favorite, finished/all done, firetruck, fish, fix, flag, flash, flower, gentle, gray, green, hat, heart, helicopter, help, hide, home, horse, hot, hurt, ice-cream, inside, key, kick, kiss, knife, leaf, light, lion, little, milk, monkey, moon, more, motorcycle, mouth, mushroom, music, noodles, nose, off, on, one, open, orange, outside, pacifier, peach, peas, pig, pillow, pink, plane, plate, playground, please, police car, pop, potato, potty, purple, puzzle, quiet, radio, rain, ready, red, rock, run, scared, school, school bus, shoes, sorry, spider, spin/pinwheel, spoon, squish, star, squeeze, stinky, stop, strawberry, stripe, stroller, sun, swim, swing, tail, taxi, telephone, tent, thank you, tired/asleep, train, tree, truck, up, walk, wash hands, water, wet, where/I don’t know, white, wind, wipe/napkin, yellow, yucky, yummy, zebra.
After a day of desperate coaxing, I gave myself two more weeks to follow Ted with a camera and try to record him signing. He did have a lot to say, just not if I had anything pointed at him. I had to resort to staging moments when he’d feel compelled to comment, but if I missed it then, very often he wouldn’t get tricked again.
The ones I didn’t manage to capture were: advert (he still loves this one - signs it irately whenever something stops him from watching Wheels On The Bus on YouTube), angry, ant, awesome, baby, book, brushing teeth, bubbles, clap, clock, crab, cry, deer, drum, fire (on its own), fork, gorilla, grapes, hello, hug, kangaroo, kite, laptop, laundry, monster, owl, penguin, play (on its own), popcorn, seal, smoke, snow, tickle, trash, turtle, zoo.
He’s picked up a few new ones, too, but it happens less often now that I’m not living on ASL websites full-time. Nowadays, I’m all about busy bags. But that’s a story for another time.