Newsletter: month twenty-one

Dear Ladybug,

Yesterday you turned twenty-one months old.

We celebrated this new monthly milestone by taking you to the mall to meet Santa Claus. Last year you grew terrified of the Fat Man in short order, but this month your mother has been prepping you to meet him, showing you pictures of Santa on cards and in books, and even showing you the picture of you and Santa… together!… from last year. And it worked, since not only did you not burst out into tears when you met “San Ta Tas” (as you call him), you actually buttered up the jolly old elf by sharing with him your picture from the previous year before demanding he bring you a bunch of Elmo products for Christmas. That’s my little consumer!

Indeed, your mother has spent most of this month prepping you for Christmas, knowing full well the ungodly number of Christmas cards and Ladybug photos she’ll be required to send to our family and friends, all of whom feign interest in the events of our lives just long enough to see pictures of the milestones from yours. And while I find you to be inexpressibly beautiful and photogenic, it frustrates your mother to no end that you rarely smile on demand for pictures. Hence, in addition to desensitizing you to obese bearded men in red suits, she has also been trying to teach you the concept of “smiling” for pictures, a task that has met with limited, albeit amusing, successes:


The current result is that, when your mother commands you to smile, you stand agape with your lips curled over your teeth, a facial expression that evokes not so much Normal Rockwell as Edvard Munch. We get a better result when we command you to say “cheese,” at which you bare your little piranha teeth and say chiz:

This month you’ve embraced your inner muse, or rather, your inner music. I swear, all you do is sing and dance anymore. Every morning when we watch Yo Gabba Gabba, you bounce around happily stomping your feet and waving your hands and giggling manically to yourself. And if you should happen to spot me sitting on the couch, barely clinging to consciousness at 6 in the morning, you grab my hands and pinch my legs while demanding me to “Up! Up! Up! Dansh! Dansh! Up! Dansh!” until I eventually relent and bounce around in a similarly spastic fashion. Thank God YGG has its brief educational interludes, for they not only give me a brief moment of respite, but they also do occasionally silly activities like making funny faces, and activity you’ve got licked anymore:

Your singing library has also expanded. You’ve developed an especial fondness for Please, Thank you, the only song on Yo Gabba Gabba more repetitive than Banana. Seriously, the entire song is as follows:

Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you.
Magic, magic, magic, magic.
Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you.
Magic, magic, magic, magic.
Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you. Please? Thank you.
Magic, magic, magic, magic.
[ Now repeat for, oh, two more days. ]

There’s not a day that goes back where I don’t find you quietly singing “Peas. Ten too. Peas. Ten too. Peas. Ten too..,” bouncing you head from side to side to punctuate each phrase like some kind of pigtailed metronome. The upside of this is that you are certainly the most polite twenty-one-month-old on the planet; the downside is that no one else on the planet can be polite with you without turning you into organic broken record player.

Of course, given the frightening intelligence you possess, you’ve already generalized Please, Thank you to any pair of opposites. For example, every morning when we get up, I pour you a sippy cup of milk from your little red milk carton, and then I pour me a glass of milk from my big plastic milk jug. As soon as the two different vessels of milk are removed from the fridge, you start to sing “Ah-na*, Da-da. Ah-na, Da-da. Ah-na, Da-da.,” rhythmically bouncing your head and pointing back and forth at our respective brands of moo-juice. Never before has such flagrant displays of obsessive-compulsive behaviors been so unspeakably endearing.

* Ah-na is, of course, how you’ve most recently taken to pronouncing your own name. Why you choose to work with those two particular syllables of your name, given that nobody on Earth actually refers to you by them, is one of life’s current great mysteries.

You also sing Naptime from Yo Gabba Gabba every time we get you ready for bed, naptime or nighttime. The song goes “Nap time, nap time: time for sleep, time for sleep. Nap time, nap time: close your eyes, go to sleep,” although when you sing it, it becomes “Nap nigh, nap night, oo oo sheet, oo oo sheet. Nap nigh, nap nigh, oo oo aysh, oo oo sheet,” which to me is soooo much better, as I am strongly under the opinion that the “oo-oo” verse structure is sadly underused in modern songwriting, Sympathy for the Devil notwithstanding. In any case, the song is now so synonymous with the activity, that you in fact simply sing the song to indicate that you want to sleep, rendering several months of training in ASL utterly moot in a single, albeit charmingly sung, melody.

You are now also especially fond of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and I’ll catch you at all hours of the day humming it to yourself. I remember the first time I heard you do this: you were playing with some of your rubber duckies in the kitchen, singing quiet bop-bop-bops to yourself, when I suddenly noticed that your bops were singing our the melody to Twinkle Twinkle. “Mother!” I shouted in amazement to your mom, “She’s singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! In key, too!” To which your mother replied, “Good job, Ladybug. You dad doesn’t even know what ‘key’ means, much less how to sing in it.”

In a related note, someone is getting a lot of coal for Christmas.

In addition to continuous karaoke, you have also developed an unfathomable infatuation with Elmo. That is, it’s not unfathomable that you like Elmo: who doesn’t like a childish red muppet who sings and draws and is completely ignorant of the concept of first-person point-of-view? Rather, it’s unfathomable how you even know who Elmo is in the first place. We’ve never watched Sesame Street before, and the only thing with Elmo on it you own is a small tee-shirt covered with innumerable teeny-tiny faded disembodied Elmo heads, like the aftermath of some horrible Muppet chainsaw massacre. Nevertheless, one day you announced that that shirt had Elmo and he was your favorite, and now you spot him everywhere: on posters, on DVD covers, on other kids’ clothes, and of course, in stuffed form. Your mom relented an bought you some Elmo pajamas and a little Elmo jacket prior to Christmas, and now you won’t leave the house unless you are wearing something — anything — with Elmo on it.

I find this particularly disheartening, not because I have anything against Elmo, but rather because I have tried ever so carefully to completely isolate you from the cartoon horrorfest that is Dora the Explorer, a program I know you’ve seen. If you can discover Elmo (and the uncountable infinite set of merchandising associated with him) without any exposure to Sesame Street, there’s no hope at all I can keep that obnoxious, screaming little girl and her simian sidekick with he footwear fetish out of the house. God help us all.

But even when that horrible day when you come home demanding the matching Dora the Explorer Spanish-Screaming Vanity and Dresser set, I will still enjoy singing with you and laughing with you and tickling you and all your little beheaded Muppet friends. ‘Cause I love you, Ladybug.

Ba ba

Photo album

See more pictures from your twenty-first month of existence over at Flickr.

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