Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Grinch on the Pot

We haven't really gotten into Official Toilet Training yet, but we have a little low-key "potty time" every night before bath.  Ben loves it.  I emphasize this because one might draw quite a different conclusion from his post-potty soliloquy tonight.  I should also add that his favorite book right now is "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" -- a little out-of-season, but shows good taste.  After tonight's potty time, we took his hearing aid out as usual (he doesn't wear his CI on the toilet) and put him in the bath.  This is what followed:

"I hated my potty, the whole potty season.  Now please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason.  It could be my head wasn't screwed on just right.  Or perhaps it's because my shoes were too tight.  But I think the most likely reason of all is because my heart was two sizes too small."

I've commented before on how he has a really amazing memory -- I think that's been a key part of his quick language acquisition.  With relatively minimal exposure, he memorizes long passages from poems, books, songs, etc.  Often, it's clear that he doesn't fully understand everything that he's memorized (something I see in my college students all too often!), but in this case, he was able to translate into the first person, so obviously he's making a lot of sense of this passage.  In any case, I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I'm not sure if that's even a word, but at any rate it's something I've been thinking about lately.  Jess recently wrote an eloquent (of course) blog post about what makes her son Connor special.  Actually, she was responding to the very suggestion that he is "special", and what that word means to her and to others.  Go read it -- it's good stuff.

And my immediate reaction was that of course he's special, in fact her whole family is special, in an entirely positive way that I tried very hard to convey in a comment to her blog post, but I couldn't quite get the words right.  In fact, I confess that I rewrote the comment several times before I submitted it, and even then it never did capture what I was trying to say.  And I'm pretty sure this post won't capture it either, but in re-reading Jess' original post I came across a line that clarified the matter a bit for me.  Here she is describing Connor,  "...who, like all of us, is doing his best to make the most out of what he’s been blessed with."

And that's just it.  I'm sorry to disagree with you, Jess, but that's exactly what sets both you and Connor apart from most people.  Most of us don't do our best to make the most out of what we've been blessed with.  If I'm at all typical, then most of us waste our energy trying to come up with excuses for why we use so very little of our potential, or bemoaning all the things we aren't blessed with.  Every now and then I recognize this, and I vow that I will do better, that I will invest my energy and resources into doing the best I can with what I have.  And I think I've made a little progress in recent years.  Certainly, having a child and feeling the overwhelming love and joy that come from just holding him, watching him, being present in the moment with him, has done a lot to redirect my emotional energy in more productive ways.  But in other areas of my life, I still err on the side of crankiness and excuses.

Jess and her family live 3000 miles away from me.  My only window into their lives is her daily blogs.  They ring true, but what do I know -- maybe she puts up a good show.  Well, we all put up at least a little of a show.  Our inner lives are always more turbid and confused than our blog posts suggest.  But still, Jess' ring true, and I know that the optimism and faith in life, love, and family that radiate from her posts are real, and a daily inspiration.  You don't see it, at least not to this degree, in every family.  My life may not (yet) exemplify it, but I'll credit myself with the sense to recognize it when I see it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Imagine, if you will...

Ben sitting on his little training potty, singing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and I work all day!" at the top of his lungs.

Yeah, it was pretty cute.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let It Be, the movie

This is pretty recent -- sometime between Hanukah and Christmas.

For an explanation of the "phase one" stuff, see this.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where to begin?

Tonight's dinner joke:
  • Ben:  Knock knock!
  • Neil:  Who's there?
  • Ben:  The Beatles.
  • Neil:  The Beatles who?
  • Ben:  The Beatles are glad you didn't say orange or banana!
Ben's most graphic joke so far, concocted one evening while we were in Wisconsin over Christmas:  "If Winnie the Pooh made a poop, he would be Winnie the Poop!"  More recently, he has added the follow-up observation:  "If he didn't make a poop, then he would be Winnie the Pooh!"

Ben tells his own stories these days, usually variations on ones that we make up for him.  Most of his stories lately have been about the Beatles.  [I know, I know -- you all think we're overdoing the Beatles thing.  But I swear, the kid is absolutely obsessed.]  His favorite theme these days has been The Beatles Go To The Circus.  Invariably, there are clowns with balloons, and it is John's birthday, so a clown comes over, announces this to the crowd, and gives John and the rest of the Beatles balloons.  The only suspense lies in which color each Beatle will ask for.  Most of the Beatles seem to favor black or brown baloons -- read into this whatever you like.

For most of the time that Ben has been obsessed with the Beatles (since he was about 15 months old), his favorite seemed to be John.  Now he has settled on Ringo, in no small part because of the mind-bogglingly beautiful wooden drum that my father made for him for Christmas.  His favorite album is Let It Be, and his favorite song is "Two of Us."  He has also developed an unfortunate interest in the lyrics to "Maggie May."  Actually, I don't know all the lyrics to "Maggie May," but I'm pretty sure they're not really appropriate for a two year old.  This happens.  I'm sure that some of their critics thought otherwise, but the Beatles weren't really writing for the preschool demographic, and more than once we've run into a detail or two that we just kinda gloss over.  He can sing all of "All Together Now," and he thinks that the line "Can I take my friend to bed?" is about naptime.  And he has absolutely no idea what Kinky Boot Beasts are (do you?), but I must admit that it's rather cute when he refers to them as "Pinky Binky Boot Beasts".

We celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas around here, and Ben was heavily into both this year.  Every night of Hanukah, he solemnly undertook the important task of picking out the shamash; most nights, it was orange.  [We had one of those modern multi-colored candle collections.]  "Shamash" is not an easy word for anyone to say, let alone a 25 month old, but he made a brave stab at it.  He also sings the dreidel song at breakneck speed, and correctly identifies each Hebrew letter on it.  I'm not kidding.  He freaked us out with this one night.  Now, each character is a different color on our dreidel, and he might have just memorized the colors, but even so....

I just made a quick count, and I'm estimating that he knows upwards of 100 ASL signs by now, perhaps more.  Receptively, not necessarily expressively.  In fact, his attempts to make signs are usually pretty primitive.  One of his favorites these days is "jungle".  For one of our Signing Time playgroups, I taught the group how to sign the song "In the Jungle" (you know -- awimaweh, in the jungle, the lion sleeps tonight, and all that).  So several times a week he'll turn to me and say, apropros of nothing, "This is the sign for jungle, Mommy!", and proceed to create trees along his arm and up to his shoulder.  Apparently, his idea of a jungle involves lots and lots of foliage.

Ben rarely makes any signs while watching Signing Time DVDs.  In fact, much of the time, he seems to tune in and out.  When we encourage him to make signs, he actively resists it (but part of that is Being Two -- if Mommy and Daddy want it, that's as good a reason as any to reject it).  But then, a couple of days later, out of nowhere, he'll make some of the signs, so clearly he's paying attention.  Receptively, he has a much larger vocabulary -- as is typical -- and this is of course the more important skill area as far as we're concerned.  When his equipment is off, he talks and we sign.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new decade...

...or is it?  Remember the arguments about whether 2000 should be included in the old millenium or the new one, the old century or the new one?  Well, whatever.  It's a year ending in 0, and that always seems to bring on more serious jubilation and reflection than others.  (If you really dig those, we should switch to a binary calendar, so we'd get one every other year, but I digress.)

I'll be honest:  This last semester was rough, professionally and to some extent personally.  I felt like I was working long, hard hours without reaping much success in the classroom, at least in two of my classes.  It was frustrating and exhausting, and that seeped out into the rest of my life.  Ben continued to amaze and delight us on an almost daily basis with his abilities, growth, and generally sweet personality; at the same time, he turned Two, and his increasingly intense episodes of Twoness have been a source of both gratification and exasperation.  I'll save most of the Twoness for another post, but suffice it to say that I spend a good deal of my time reminding myself, through gritted teeth, "He's developing executive autonomy, he's developing executive autonomy," which sounds much more impressive than "He's being a stubborn and contrary little stinker!"

As a result, it's a little hard to look forward right now with the sort of anticipation and resolution which the occasion requires; I'm still in recovery mode.  But I have recovered enough to be very mindful of how incredibly fortunate I am, fortunate in family and love, fortunate in the quality and security of my life.  I wish everyone good fortune and peace in the New Year.  And Ben, I love you.