August 19, 2008

Language Is A Virus

And he said: Hey! Are you talking to me?

Or are you just practicing
For one of those performances of yours?

Over the last three weeks, young Master B's vocabulary has exploded. I can't say if it's his addiction to the My Baby Can Talk series on the video i-Pod or if it's just developmentally the right time. Truly, these baby sign language DVDs have earned their worth and then some. I think he would watch these same two, 35-minute videos in repeat mode all day if I let him.

On the way back from the Bronx zoo last week, Parental Unit 2 and yours truly started an Excel sheet of Bert's words to date. We even took the time to break down into columns spoken words, words that are signed, and words he understands but does not pronounce clearly or substitutes (eg, quack is now used for 'duck,' down is used to indicate both 'pick me up' and 'put me down'.) Pretty nerdy, I know, but we're fascinated by how some words come to Bertram through ASL signs, then become spoken and how some words enter his vocabulary, clearly from exposure to the DVDs (and good ol' parental reinforcement, although we're OD'd on My Baby Can Talk), but skip the signing stage and go right to the spoken stage.

This past week, he has become more parrot-like, echoing certain words back to us, regardless of whether he truly understands what those words are. The word stinky comes to mind. You can guess when I might say that. Anyway, now Bertram repeats the word when I say it, as in

Parental Unit 1: "Whew-wee, this diaper is stinky!"
Bertram: "Stin-ky!"

Now I need to be mindful of my tendencies to elongate my vowels theatrically as in, "This diaper is stank-kay!"

Apparently, the next step is putting two words together in a phrase. I'm sure this will inspire some creative boddler phrasing.

And, a quick coda, I think it is high time we put the word boddler to rest. Bertram is a fully functioning bi-pedal boy with 50 words at his command. So hence forth, Bertram is a toddler.

Yes, Baby!

This is not a post about Bertram, not really.

Once upon a time there were two roommates living in the fair nabe of Greenpoint. Both in their 30s, they thought about, among other hot topics, having babies. One roommate answered the call to motherhood with a definitive "yes, baby!" The other roommate decided that she needed a year to think about whether or not a baby was in her future.

In this photo, the "maybe baby" roommate holds a very young Master B.

I'm pleased to report that nowadays my former roomie is very much "yes, baby." In celebration of my friend's change in baby status, I will be amassing a list of what I consider to be must-have items for new, first-time parents. I welcome any comments.

August 15, 2008

Who Loves the Zoo?

IMG_3295, originally uploaded by hal(var).

One guess. I give you one guess.

August 14, 2008

Mind Trip

Chillin with my tunes IMG_1283, originally uploaded by hal(var).

Parental Unit 1 decided to brave a trip to Maryland alone. And, that was probably mistake number 1. (How soon I had forgotten the lessons learned when I attempted to visit Maryland for a week with 4-month old Bertram, sans Parental Unit 2!) As we travelled south to the humble environs of Maryland on an Amtrak train that was an hour late, I should have known that what was about to transpire was the trip from h-e-double hockey sticks.

My usually intrepid boddler turned into a shrinking wallflower upon his arrival at great-great grandma’s house. He appeared, well, scared of everybody. I suppose this is the disadvantage of living far away from my family.

In an unfamiliar environment and without Parental Unit 2, young Master B clung to me like a lil’ barnacle. He didn’t want to take his usual naps. He had trouble sleeping in the travel play pen, which meant he slept with me—kicking and thrashing about restlessly during the night. Therefore, I spent my nights in and out of consciousness fearing that Bertram would either roll off the bed or kick me the head. With so little sleep, the latter didn’t sound so bad.

Desperate for a few moments to myself without the lil’ barnacle boddler, I pulled out my video i-Pod. Parental Unit 2 had recently put young Master B’s beloved My Baby Can Talk series on the i-Pod. It was eerie how young Master B immediately took to watching the tiny screen--to the exclusion of all else happening around him. The ear buds kept popping out of his ears, but he would watch those videos back to back, over and over again, with great focused intensity. I almost expected him to turn his head around 360 degrees a la The Exorcist. (Penelope Leach, the lady behind Your Baby & Child, posits that young toddlers do not actually process videos, but become almost hypnotized by the rapidly changing and colorful images.)

You can imagine that after three days and four nights of next to zilch sleep and mother/son barnacale-ing, we were on course for a major mommy meltdown. Bertram and I were sitting on the floor when he clamped his chompers down on my thumb, breaking the skin. Looking at my bloody and smarting thumb, I think said something along the lines of “take the child away before I slap him.”

I didn’t slap him, but I cried in frustration. The bite was the last straw. My tired mommy brain had transformed young Master B into young Master Sleep Destroyer, and I had had enough of the Sleep Destroyer’s shenanigans.

With the clarity of hindsight, I’ve been thinking is there such a thing as a baby behaving badly on purpose? I just don’t buy the idea that Bert is capable of being malevolent at 15 months old. True, he is an impulsive id machine, so if the desire is there to chomp on his mother’s thumb, his brain must go, “do it!.” Of course, for years, young Master B’s great-grandmother has suggested that there only tired babies and sick babies, but never bad babies.

When I take Bert out in the stroller, people make a point to tell me what a happy baby he is. And I believe what they perceive to be true for the most part, except, ahem, when he’s tired or sick.

Note to self: the next family visit involves two parental units.