Month 21: Repeat After Me
Even if I hadn't skipped the 20 month update, there'd be a lot to write about this month. It hardly seems like the first week of August and the last have anything in common development-wise; if I'd written this update two weeks ago, everything would have been different. When we started this month, for example, the Beaner was still calling milk "mama". Now he says something that sounds more like the Swedish word for milk than the English one, but it's very clear that he's saying "milk" even when there's no milk nearby to help you guess from the context.
Context is still pretty important in most cases; though he knows how to say "water", he prefers to call it "li'lo"—a word that's extremely similar to his words for stroller and Toyota. Sometimes it's necessary to scan the block for Toyotas, ask him if he's thirsty, and determine whether he's complaining that he'd rather be in the black stroller than the blue one in quick succession. Similarly, "momo" could mean BMW (he'll repeat the letters when we say them), watermelon, banana, or more. Meanwhile, he seems to be adding 5-10 new words a day to the mix, and not all of them are particularly clear. Most of the time we know what he's saying because he's repeating what we've just said—"umbrella", "cottage cheese", "time for dinner"—but sometimes he waits until hours or days later to spout a word he's heard us say back at us. The other night he climbed all over the bed intoning, "ben one, ben one, ben one", and I had to tell him that I had no idea what "ben one" was. He seemed rather put out by this; his face twisted into a grimace of consternation. It was only two nights later that I realized he'd been looking for the stuffed penguin that usually sits atop our headboard (he grabbed it and cheered, "yay! ben one!").
We're getting a few previews of the Terrible Twos around here; the tantrums can be loud, lusty, and long, and there've definitely been times where I lost it and started crying, too. Most of the time we're able to switch to Ignore mode, though, and he gets over whatever pissed him off on his own. Sometimes he even gets over it before he really gets started. Instead of throwing himself on the floor when he wants to have a fit, he has this hilarious habit of lying down ever so carefully and then positioning his legs just so for ease of kicking. By the time he gets all situated, he realizes he has everyone's bemused attention (he's fond of using the lie-down technique in public places), and he sort of kicks half-heartedly while gracing us all with an evil grin. I feel like his straight man when I announce loudly, "oh, are you going to tantrum now? OK, then, be careful you don't bump your head."
The fact that we're approaching two years old also has its upsides: in addition to the increased vocabulary, there's also more to do. He can run (the other night he ran all the way home—in a series of 50-yard dashes—from the Barnes and Noble on Rittenhouse Square), he's learning how to jump (he hasn't quite got the action of bending his knees and lifting both feet at once; instead he either scissor-leaps, or he free-falls with both legs together like he's participating in a trust exercise), and he's also learning how to drive (well, steer). And though he hasn't quite outgrown the Please Touch Museum yet, he's just as interested in the science exhibits at the Franklin Institute.
We learned last month that there are a few things he actively dislikes (and that totally freak him out), like the creepy Humpty Dumpty that appeared in a Sesame Street segment one morning, and anything else with a smile that seems overly large, fake, and slightly predatory, but for the most part he's pretty fearless at this stage. He can go up or down two flights of stairs without assistance (and he often does; I pretty much let him wander around the house as he pleases and only follow after he's had a few minutes on his own). He regularly climbs onto couches, chairs, stepstools, and ladders, too.
As I write this I'm realizing all the ways the Beaner is like a sponge these days, and it's impossible to chronicle them all. The other problem (compounded by the fact that I skipped last month's entry) is that his skills are getting so deep and multilayered now it's hard to tell exactly when something started. We've been, consciously or unconsciously, showing him how to do things for months; when he noticed the patterns, and when he started repeating them, isn't always easy to distinguish. It's also true that he often makes a huge leap forward and then reverts to his old behavior for days or weeks before repeating the new behavior again. I intend to press on, however, and cover a few more anecdotes and milestones before I post and go to sleep.
Last night after bathtime, we were watching Sesame Street while lying on our bed as we normally do. Al laid down next to us and started talking to me about our budget and finances, and he and I started having a pretty serious discussion. Prairie Dawn and Cookie Monster were shrieking at each other about cookies in the background, and it all got a bit too noisy for me—I felt like Al and I had to shout at each other to be heard, and I didn't want the shouting to accidentally turn into a fight, so I grabbed the TiVo remote and hit the pause button so Al and I could try to keep a conversation about a touchy subject (for me, anyway) calm and reasonable. I only got about two words into my next sentence before the Beaner had retrieved the remote and resumed playing Sesame Street. We stopped our conversation for a moment, congratulated him for navigating the complex TiVo remote correctly, and then just turned the volume down.
Last month the Beaner inherited a push trike from his cousin Henry, but he wasn't interested in riding it until recently. I'm not sure whether he's just more interested in wheeled things now, or whether he likes the idea of steering (though, thankfully, the front wheel locks, so it only requires minor adjustments to keep him moving forward without crashing), or whether he wants to show that he's a Big Boy, but he now enjoys taking the bike with us occasionally when we go on evening walks. He has a word for it that we understand as "bicycle" (he uses the same word when pointing at Hannah's bike, for example), but I'm not sure I could spell it phonetically right now. Too tired.
Speaking of wheeled things, the Beaner has learned to recognize a bunch of new car models since I last wrote about his auto obsession, including Hyundai, Kia, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Mini ("mi-mee"), Lexus, GMC ("abc"), Subaru, and probably a few others I'm not remembering now. Al taught him to call a Mercedes a "benz" (easier to say than Mercedes), and he now refers to Mitsubishis by their full names rather than by "mitsu" or "bishi". Oh, and he calls Volkswagens "VW" instead of just "W"... though I fear we may have been too insistent on correcting him there: He now says "VW" for every letter W he sees. At first I thought the proximity of V and W in the alphabet might be confusing him, but he proved me wrong when my favorite Seattle alphabet segment came on Sesame Street, and he repeated the letters as T! U! V! VW! X! Y! Z! We're still working on separating V and W for him; I think the fact that W also appears in BMW with no V sound in sight is helping.
The Beaner isn't just into cars and letters, by the way: He also loves to count. He pulled on the doors of the Please Touch Museum when we passed by on a family walk one night, and I said, "they closed at 4:30, honey, and it's 7." The Beaner responded, "8! 9! 10!" He does this pretty much any time a number comes up in conversation these days—he'll give the next three or four numbers after the one you mentioned, and then say "ah, ah, ah!" in a Transylvanian accent. It's pretty cute when he says "one Volvo! Two Volvos! Ah, ah, ah!" I think the modifying with numbers has helped him learn to modify with other adjectives as well; for example, he now identifies the black stroller (his favorite), says he wants a juicy peach, points out orange taxis, differentiates between the green watering can and the orange one, and knows that mangos and watermelon make him sticky. I guess most of his adjectives are colors ("purple Jeep! red Jeep! black Jeep!") or numbers, but he seems to delight in learning new ones like juicy, sticky, crunchy, and messy.
Oh, and one last thing: He knows his name now. Al told me he'd said it out loud a couple times this week, but today I heard it for myself. He pointed to me and said, "Mommy" (something he started calling me yesterday, in addition to the usual "Mom" or "Ma"), and then he pointed to Hannah and said, "Ann-nah", and then he pointed to himself and said, "Awh-toon".