Two days ago you turned twenty-nine months old.
I would have written sooner, but we were in the midst of (first) an almost hurricane, and (second) the Dantian hellhole that is the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. In point of fact, that’s also an excellent synopsis of this month: it’s been exceptionally busy! However, for the sake of expository cohesiveness, let’s boil it down to two big things.
Big thing #1: this was a month of grandmothers. In the past four weeks since your last newsletter, you’ve spent three of them with your grandmothers. First, my mother, the Nana Shoo, came to visit you from California. After an initial freak burst of rain, she was blessed with much better weather — or at the very least, much drier weather — than when your Nana B visited, and so she and you (and by extension, your mom and I too) raced to experience the tourist Mecca that is the Black Hills.
One day we all went to the world-famous Reptile Gardens, a massive hepetological zoo that, in the past, has suggested bringing in your children as lizard munchies. While you were less than thrilled at seeing the lizards, turtles, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, tortoises, birds, prairie dogs, and pretty much every other animal we paid to see, they did have a quarter-operated crocodile on which you could sit and ride, and man if you didn’t love that thing.
Another day we went sight-seeing in Keystone, the tourist burb just shy of Mount Rushmore. While you were less than thrilled at seeing the shops, crafts, stores, historic sights, sculpture gardens, and pretty much everything else there is in Keystone to see, they did have an alpine slide — a sort of non-snowy luge course — with little plastic sleds on which you could sit and ride, and man if you didn’t love that thing too.
Recognizing a pattern here, when it came to decide what to do on the third day, we just took you to Chuck E. Cheese and let you ride this for four hours:
And man, if you didn’t love that. You are going to be one cheap date when you get older.
The other big highlight of Nana Shoo’s visit was another trip to Custer State Park, staying in a tiny little cabin in the woods that looked less like a family getaway and more like the site of Ash Williams’ first (and second) adventure. We spent the day on the beach of Legion Lake, where (as expected) you spent the day alternately making ornate sandcastles (or rather, piles of muddy sand you claimed were ornate castles) and then tromping through them like a Sino-American Godzilla.
That night we went to a chuck-wagon dinner, which included a hayride and singing buckaroos. I find it amusing that despite being a Chinese-born little girl with a Hawaiian sounding name, once in a pair of overalls and a wide-brimmed hat, you fit right in.
After Nana Shoo visited, we took a quick breather before heading out to Florida to visit your mommy’s mommy, the Nana B. Now owing to the relentless heat and the three-thousand percent humidity of southern Florida, there’s very little to do except swim in her pool, something you took to with gusto. As I mentioned before, your first attempts at swimming were mainly to throw yourself into the deep end with a gusto bordering on the suicidal while I swam desperately to pluck you off of the pool bottom before you suffered irreparable brain damage. Well, irreparable-er brain damage, at any rate.
However, after your Nana B bought you a pair of water wings, whose natural tendency for buoyancy effectively counteracted your natural tendency for self-destruction, you quickly got into the rhythm of floating and swimming, and within hours you were able to sprint your way from one side of the pool to the other like a miniature Michael Phelps, albeit one with significantly less endorsement contracts to live up to.
Now, whereas your Nana Shoo treated you to another hailstorm, your Nana B decided to up the ante and sent you a frickin’ hurricane. You actually weathered the event pretty well, patiently waiting it out until you could go out and play in the rain. After all, you spent almost two weeks swimming in an enclosed pool: now was you chance to go swimming in the street!
Big thing #2: this was a month of conversations. While you’ve been speaking for quite awhile now, this month something in your head just clicked and the verbal floodgates opened. And now you talk. Ceaselessly. All. The. Time.
And not just your little directives and one-word requests. Full on sentences. About imaginary tea parties and things you’d like to do when you grow up. On the one hand, it is an awe-inspiring thing to watch you talk, and I am ceaselessly impressed by the sheer vastness of both your vocabulary and your cognitive skill at piecing together coherent thoughts from it. On the other hand, it is also a teeth-grindingly frustrating thing as well, since your pronunciation skills have not advanced at a similar pace, and I can spend fifteen minutes with you scratching my head and going “What?… What?… What?…” before either I finally can figure out what your saying, or you get frustrated and go ask mommy instead.
I’ve noticed that this moth you’ve become significantly more opinionated about things. Actually, I suspect you’ve always been this opinionated, but before I was blissfully saved by the fact that you could articulate your thoughts. Well, no more. Now I get your opinion on everything. For example, when you get up, you still want a glass of milk, but whereas last month you might have only said
I need milk.
this month I get
Daddy, I need milk please. My milk, not daddy’s milk. In my Cinderella cup. With the purple top. I don’t like cold milk… microwave the milk, okay? I need microwave milk. Not too hot, or I’ll blow on it. I’ll can do it. I can push the buttons. Oh, silly daddy. You forgot to put my milk away. Put it right there, by daddy’s milk. Do you want milk, too? Daddy likes cold milk. No microwave for daddy. You should get a cup. Up there. A green cup for daddy. I hear the microwave — beeeep beeeep beeep! My milk’s all finished. No, let me do it! I can do it. Yum, good milk. Why haven’t you poured your milk daddy. Your milk is right there, and you cup is right there. You can do it, you like milk? Why are you covering your ears, daddy? Daddy? Can you hear me? Helllllloooooo…..
…and so on.
In fact, that story is not 100% true.
You can’t say “I can do it” yet; instead, it comes out “I dood it.” I find this particular mispronunciation especially endearing, and so I often ask you if you want to dood something, to which in invariably answer no, but not for the reason you’d probably guess. We frequently have conversations along the lines of
Me: Let’s get some cheese out of the fridge. You want to dood it?
You: No. Silly daddy.
Me: Should I do it instead.
You: No, I dood it.
Me: You want to dood it after all?
You: No, silly daddy. I dooooood it.
Me: Oh. You want to do it.
You: Yes. I dood it.
You can only imagine the conversations we have when I ask about this is the past tense.
I find it funny how you can hear the difference in the words when others speak, and yet are simultaneously deaf to it when you do. Of course, the do-dood-did confusion is laughably minor and, given the irregular conjugations of the verb, pretty understandable. The one that confuses the heck out of me is gazeebo.
Me: Where should we go outside to eat lunch?
You: The elbow!
Me: The elbow?
You: No, silly daddy. The elbow!
Me: The gazeebo.
You: Yes. The elbow.
And then we ate at the “the elbow” while bending our arms at their gazeebos.
One of your favorite things to talk about is to find matches. For example, you’ll find two different red things and will announce “Match…. match….” while pointing at the two objects in question, whereupon I would agree and point out their similar chromatic hue. Of course, with this month’s leaps and bounds in abstraction, you’ve quickly gone on to find more subtle matches, turning it into a guessing game with me. “Match… match!” you’ll announce, pointing at, say, your Cabbage Patch doll and plastic carrot, and when I admit to being completely stumped, you’ll smile sympathetically an announce, “Silly daddy. They’re both plastic representations of carbon-based organisms.”
Well, not quite that, although one time you called a match involving a tub of baby wipes and a pair of plastic ladybug galoshes. The match? You got them both from Target, as evidenced by a tiny trademarked bull’s-eye on both items. You either have a gift for forensic observation or a brand-name loyalty.
Another common topic is the notion of possession. No, not the Linda Blair, pea soup kind of possession; I’m talking about the determination of ownership. More specifically, I’m talking about you asking “Is this mine?” Because you ask that. All. The. Time. In months past, you would simply grab something and announce “Mine!” with comical fierceness, but now you ask “Is this mine?” with almost equally comical politeness. “Is this dolly mine?” “Is this cookie mine?” “Is this movie mine?” Oddly enough, however, you never say this to actually ask if the said object belongs to you. In fact, you only ask this question when (1) you already know the object is yours, and you simply enjoy parental confirmation of that fact, or (2) you want the object, and this is just the first part of your gambit for possession.
The usual game goes like this. You pick up something you want — mommy’s jewelry, daddy’s keys, you name it — and the game is on.
You: Is this mine?
Me: No, that’s mommy’s keys.
You: Can I hold it?
You: Thank you, daddy. I like this. It’s pretty.
[ pause ]
You: Is this mine?
Me: No, they’re still mommy’s.
You: Can I hold it?
Me: You are holding it.
You: Thank you daddy. I like this. I really like this.
[ pause ]
You: Is this mine?
And this process repeats until you either (a) break my spirit and I simply agree that, yes, those expensive diamond earrings that have been in your mommy’s family for centuries are now, in fact, yours, or (b) find a better object to play with, like a spatula or jade sculpture or something equally befuddling. Possession my be nine-tenths of the law, but apparently repetition is nine-tenths of possession.
Of course, if there is a single topic that dominates most of your conversations, it’s the Disney princesses. Just like Elmo and Barney, I’m not sure how you developed such an encyclopedic knowledge of the Disney princesses, since I know I’ve never shown you any of those movies. (Though not for lack of trying, I might point out. While your attention span is exceeds the half-life of Nitrogen-16, it does so only by a few seconds, and consequently you spend most of the time watching the movie by, say, playing with dolls, drawing on your chalkboard, driving toy cars, and in extreme cases, in a completely different room than the TV set.) And yet, day after day, you tell me all about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Ariel and how much you like them and how much you love me and would I please buy you those Little Mermaid sunglasses and the matching DVD/VCR combo?
I never realized how much crap there is out there with Disney Princess pictures on it, but unfortunately for me, you have. Whatever consumer genes you’ve inherited via skin-to-skin osmosis from your mother have kicked into full gear, and so now like an eagle you can spot Disney princess merchandise from up to three miles away. You often comment on how cool it would be to have a Disney princess version of everything. I say need some shampoo; you suggest Disney princess shampoo. I go to get some cereal to eat; you suggest Disney princess cereal. We need new batteries for the smoke detectors; you suggest Disney princess batteries. In fact, just the other day while you were playing with you little Ariel toy, you commented on the fact that it would be much better if it was a Disney princess Ariel, and when I tried to explain to you that Ariel already was such a princess, your head exploded.
Of course, you all time favorite Disney princess is Cinderella. I’ve been trying to push Mulan on the grounds that she not only comes from China, but given her warrior training could easily kick the ass of any of those other prissy princesses, but you’ll hear nothing of the sort. I’m not sure what about Cinderella appeals to you so much, but I think it’s because you like to sing “Cinderella, dressed in yellow” whenever you mention her. Then again, given your new found loquaciousness, the song usually comes out
Cinderella, dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss a fellow
Made a mistake and kissed a snake
How many doctors did it take?
I like doctors.
I go to the doctors when my butt hurts.
My doctor has a choo-choo train. Choo choo!
Thomas is a choo-choo train. Did you know I went on Thomas?
But not now, he’s on the Island of Sodor.
But I like Thomas. Thomas is blue…
And Blue’s Clue’s is blue too. Match, match?
I dood it! Right daddy?
Are you putting your hands over your ears again daddy?
…and so on.
I love you, Ladybug. Now please shut up.
— Ba ba
See more pictures from your twenty-ninth month over at Flickr.