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Archive for November, 2011

Pillow talk

Thomas in his sleeping bag, ready for his bedtime story.

One really fun thing about being a parent is getting to eavesdrop on your children’s conversations with…themselves. For many months now, Thomas has been entertaining us with soliloquys as he drifts off to sleep or wakes up. Sometimes he also chats to himself in the middle of the night, a fact I discovered while feeding his little brother at all hours over the past several months. One night, as I crept into Nicholas’s room, I heard from behind Thomas’s closed bedroom door, “Careful. CAREful.” He sounded fully awake, as if he’d been lying there for hours and just then decided to start talking. For an instant, I wondered if I should check on him, to make sure he wasn’t climbing out of his crib (or out the window).

Anyway, it turns out that “crib speech” is also an important phenomenon in child development. You can read about it here. As you might expect, it’s a way children practice their language skills and reflect on things that have happened to them. Interestingly, children also tend to repeat warnings they’ve heard from their parents. Thomas has certainly heard us tell him to be careful quite a bit!

A few weeks ago I decided to record a sample of Thomas’s post-nap chatter.  I’m not terribly happy with the sound quality, since it was recorded off the baby monitor with my digital camera in video mode. Among other things, you can hear Nicholas playing nearby. I’d like to collect some more samples with proper equipment – ideally, with a microphone in his room, attached to a recorder outside the door that I could set going when he wakes up. But for now, here’s the MP3, followed by a little transcript so you can follow along.

Thomas crib talk MP3

Thomas. No. Another, another Thomas. Video. Cranky Crane! (garble)
(Garble). No poop. Hope not. Get home.
Have moon. Hmm. Picture.
Birds. Butterflies. No. Crows.
Like Gatsby. Black white.
Green light. Monitor.
Truck! Long car. Oooh trr-UCK! Pick floor.
Accident. (garble) accident.
Beeeeep. Bus.
Hurt you. No! Gatsby hurt you.

Now, here’s an annotated version, for those of you who know and love Thomas and want to know what he might be talking about:

Thomas. No. Another, another Thomas. Video. Cranky Crane! (garble) – Generally, I think he’s just talking about his Thomas the Tank Engine Video, which features Cranky the Crane, a character he really likes.

(Garble). No poop. Hope not. Get home. – Reference to having had a dirty diaper at the park. Poor kid.

Have moon. Hmm. Picture – He’d like to pull out the moon that appears in one of his storybooks, but sadly, we’ve told him, it’s just a picture.

Birds. Butterflies. No. Crows. – Probably talking about various flying creatures in his books. For the longest time he insisted butterflies said “caw,” so there’s some confusion there.

Like Gatsby. Black white. – We saw a cat in the yard that wasn’t our cat Gatsby, but that resembled Gatsby, at least insofar as it was feline.

Green light. Monitor. – Thomas has spotted the baby monitor that I put in his room for the purpose of this recording.

Truck. Long car. Oooh trrr-UCK! Pick floor. – He’s talking about the various vehicles that appear in one of his books, one of which is a limousine (long car). I think he’s also spotted some of the dinky cars littering the floor of his bedroom near the crib, and would like to pick them up.

Accident (garble) accident – Probably also car-related

Beeeep bus – Self-explanatory, I think.

Hurt you. No! Gatsby hurt you. – This is a bit muddled, but I think he’s replaying a little conversation we had earlier about how the cat that came into our yard unexpectedly wouldn’t hurt him.

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Summer in November

Seventeen degrees on November 9? Yes please.

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This little cat came to visit this morning. Thomas was scared at first, but eventually he relaxed. “Like Gatsby,” he said. “Friendly.”

Nick had no apprehension about the creature whatsoever. He’s smiling, as you can see if you take a good look at his left cheekbone.

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Mmm cookies

Often, the hours between 3:30 and 6 p.m. tick by very slowly in our house. These are roughly the hours between Thomas waking up from his afternoon nap, and dinner. Most days, we spend that time inside, since Nicholas often needs to eat or sleep somewhere in there, so an outing is more trouble than it’s worth.

Which means it’s an excellent time to bake cookies. Like these.

Yesterday, I was tired, and tired in particular of reading Thomas stories. So I hit Google and did a search for “healthy cookies,” and this is what turned up. Luckily we had all the ingredients, even the almond meal, which I bought in quantity at some time in the past for the making of rum balls (these rum balls, for anyone who’s interested).

This is the third or fourth time I’ve tried to bake something with Thomas, and it’s a bit of an adventure for sure. It’s become more of an adventure since he grew tall enough to reach the countertops. Last time we made muffins he tried to drink the baking powder while my back was turned, and while I was cleaning up that mess, he went for the vanilla. So I’ve had to come up with a strategy.

1. Find a recipe. Ideally one without eggs, because eating the dough makes it more fun. While doing so, fight off Thomas’s advances on the keyboard, as he whacks at the Caps Lock key to make the little green light go on and off.
2. Sweep the kitchen floor.
3. Measure out ingredients into little bowls.
4. Put little bowls and some bigger mixing bowls and spoons on the floor.
5. Invite Thomas in to dump and stir and scoop.
6. Lick bowls.
7. Sweep the floor again.

Really, Thomas is too young to be able to do any of these jobs well. He gets bored with stirring really quickly, and has to be stopped from spooning the ingredients out onto the floor just for fun, or into his mouth. But I think he’s learning. The first time I tried this I was struck by all the teachable moments in baking. Kids can learn the names of ingredients, and a little basic math if they’re helping you measure them out. Then there’s the motor skills involved with the stirring and scooping. And finally, safety (“Touch oven big ow!” Thomas says. Good boy.) And maybe one day 15 years from now, I’ll wake up in the morning and he’ll have made ME a batch of delicious muffins. That will be great.

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Happy ‘ween!

This being Thomas’s third Halloween, I spent a bit of time (at Dave’s suggestion) practicing trick ‘or treating etiquette with him. Thomas learned to say a reasonable approximation of “trick or treat” and “Happy Halloween!” Now, several days later, when he catches sight of his little pumpkin bucket with his treats, he says “Happy ‘ween!” in the hope of being given one or two. I guess he falls into the “with apostrophe” camp for the holiday.

The holiday began in earnest on October 30th, with the carving of a pumpkin. Dave decided to do something a little different, and carve bats into the pumpkin instead of making a traditional jack o’lantern. While he worked, Thomas busied himself with one of the smaller (decoy) pumpkins, while Nick looked on from the comfort of the stroller.

At this age the costume is the most important thing, and Thomas was a skunk this year. Dave’s co-worker Joanne gave it to us. Her mother made it, and her daughter wore it about ten years ago. We were honoured to have it passed along to us.

For Nicholas, we went with a simple kitty cat costume. I painted a nose and whiskers with eye makeup, which worked reasonably well – although it did need to be re-applied a few times on account of drool.

As for the trick or treating…well, as with everything involving children, it did not go exactly as planned. Dave loaded Nick into the backpack and took Thomas by the hand, but they didn’t visit a single house. Nope. “Not today,” Thomas said, as Dave encouraged him up the walkway to the home of our next door neighbour, Adam. “Poppa house,” he said. So off they went to visit Baba and Poppa, where a great fuss was made and bran bars were deposited into Thomas’s plastic pumpkin. Then it was back to “Mommy house” at Thomas’s request.

I can’t say I’m sorry that Thomas didn’t come home with a bag full of candy. This particular holiday raises a host of sticky parenting issues that we will have to deal with soon enough. Such as, how much candy should I allow my child to eat? I always planned to avoid giving my children sweets of any kind until they hit school age, but it hasn’t worked out that way. It’s tough to deny children things you know they will enjoy, and that you enjoy yourself. There’s a powerful urge to share these experiences with them, including things that are unhealthy.

Then there’s the question of what kinds of costumes should be off limits. Thomas’s preschool prohibited weapons. I’m not sure if it’s because they were worried the kids could actually hurt each other with plastic guns or light sabres, or if it was about sending a message about violence more generally. Maybe you’ve seen this article about a ban on scary costumes at a couple of schools in Calgary. And what do you do if your son wants to dress up like a princess? (My first thought was, “let him,” but upon reading the article I’m now not so sure.) I’m pretty happy to put all such Halloween frights off for another year.

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