Friday, May 27, 2011

Kids' songs for the musically (but not linguistically) inclined

Cloud has learned to sing songs by himself. The results are hilarious. He skips words and sometimes groups of words, but always leaves an adequate pause in their place, as if mentally counting off the syllables.

For instance, "C is For Cookie" goes like this:

"Hee... kiki... ...,
Hee... kiki... ...! Nom nom nom nom."

The Alphabet Song has a different twist:

"Bee bee bee bee bee bee...
Emm emm emm enn..." (At which point I interrupt and sing it with him correctly, because I am thrilled at the idea that he's interested in the alphabet.)

Today I overheard him tackling Old MacDonald:

"EIEIO... meow meow meow... meow meow meow... meow meow meow meow meow meow meow... EIEIO."

I'm impressed at how well the kid can carry a tune! I'm also excited at his improvements in sentence structure. And his use of pronouns. He uses pronouns incorrectly - and by that I mean 90% of the time he uses the wrong pronoun - but I'm working hard to teach him which pronoun applies to which person in each context. (I find this really frustrating. When I'm not correcting his use of pronouns, I'm dwelling on his use of pronouns. It's such a tangled mess! I don't know how to untangle it! When my young cousin had the same problem, he was much more easily corrected. When I try to correct Cloud in the same way, he just laughs.)

(Don't get me wrong - I love that he laughs so easily. That's one of his defining traits.)

(Another defining trait is the way he tries to yank me off the couch, whining and crying, when I lie down to take a rest. That trait is less endearing. Yes, I know that I'm experiencing an acute, chronic energy deficiency lately. I know I'm boring when I'm tired. I know I'm Cloud's only possible playmate when we're chillin' at home. I'm sorry. I'm tired. That's life.)

In other news, summer arrived suddenly today, which made Cloud very happy. Not only did he get to go outside without a jacket, but I actually let him wear shorts. OMG. Life is just so good.

Monday, May 23, 2011

AwesomeCloud and the random exhortations


I haven't posted in a while.

Today is my birthday. The weather was dreary, and nobody was in exactly a good mood. Yesterday we had a vendor table at the Maine Comic Arts Festival, which was in MAINE, yo. It was a fun show, but the trip was looooong, and now everyone's tired.

Here, have some coyote pups from our new minicomic, Unpopular Species #3:

AwesomeCloud's vocabulary has been growing exponentially. He blurts out the strangest things for no apparent reason. Sometimes he takes on our mannerisms, saying, "Oh my goodness" or "suuuure" just like mama or dad. And some things he says... I haven't figured out yet.

Daddy got him to say "arbitrary" today. After we praised him for attempting to say it, he said it repeatedly until we reached Friendly's (for a birthday ice cream cake).


The ice cream cake was a big hit, although I'm not sure the kid noticed it was for me. He waited impatiently for Daddy to sing "Happy Birthday," and then he streeeeetched over the table and plunged his spoon into the cake.

He has also learned to lick the ice cream off the bottoms of candles. That was my doing. Oh well.

He likes to lick serving spoons, too. When he asks, "Yick? Yick? Yick?" sometimes I get confused about what he wants, but I'm learning.

At some point he'll learn to speak in complete sentences.

Oh! Also, he ate his first corn dog. While we waited for our meal to arrive at the table, I drew a corn dog for him with crayons so he'd know what to expect. I think it really helped. When he received the real corn dog, he picked it up with a decent degree of confidence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kung fu promotion

Kiddo is learning a ton of stuff at kung fu. Here he is surrounded by blonde girls. There used to be boys in the class, too, but they either joined the older kids' class or dropped out.

At this age, showing up is more than half the battle. Therefore, it's already time for Cloud to get promoted to his orange belt! He gets an A for effort and an A+ for showing up, and that's all it takes.

Apparently the promotion ceremony is a big deal. Sifu told us that people invite family, friends, and even teachers. Now I feel bad. I don't think we have anyone to ask. The people we're close to emotionally, aren't close enough physically. And I feel a little silly explaining to my few local friends that I want them to come to a... thing... to celebrate my son showing up to his kuan for eight weeks straight.

He may as well get used to having a fan club of two people... at least until he makes some close friendships himself. Anyway, at age 3 he's unable to differentiate between parents who surround themselves with all sorts of intimate BFFs and parents who mostly just have each other. The important thing is that he gets to learn martial arts, and he'll probably excel in it, especially if we can afford to keep sending him.

He learned to kick today. Like, really kick with his foot flying up in the air and everything. Something must have clicked during his lesson today, and all of a sudden he was kicking. Then when we came home I tried to teach him to dance in 4/4 time, and he showed signs of understanding what I was getting at.

Friday, May 13, 2011

That lady is a BAD influence

Do you ever find yourself coaching your child while they play? In and of itself, it's not an unreasonable act. It feels perfectly normal to stand next to the slide and tell your kid, "Go slowly. Let the little boy go by. Be careful." But when you have twenty parents standing over twenty children in one playground, step back a little and listen. See if it doesn't sound a little weird.

AwesomeCloud and I were the first ones to arrive at the playground this morning. Soon a mom and her two-year-old daughter joined us. It was the most natural thing in the world to coach Cloud, "Don't push the baby. Wait your turn. Watch out you don't kick her when you do that. Gently, now."

"Oh, don't worry," the other mom assured me. "He's fine."

Yeah, he's just friendly and competitive at the same time. Which is a great way to be when he's playing with boys his own age and energy level.

Fortunately, as the playground filled up, AwesomeCloud's potential playmates diversified. He ended up latching onto a group of three other boys, two four years old and one three years old. The two older boys began competing with each other, jumping off a part of the playground structure that was about three feet off the ground and had a kind of ladder thing for toddlers attached to it.

I started exclaiming "Nice jump!" to them after they had landed.

AwesomeCloud and the other three-year-old boy wanted to join in too. They couldn't jump down that far, but they could climb up. And there was a lower landing right next to that spot that they could jump off. So they started taking turns jumping off the lower landing and getting in the bigger boys' way.

"Great jump!" I'd say to one or another or the next boy in rapid succession. "A bit of a wobbly landing there. Good one! A little more practice and you'll get it. Good landing! Good one! There you go! Swing jump, woohoo! Whoa, nice running jump!"

The boys ate it up. They glanced expectantly at me before and after every jump or climb, their eyes shining. I stood there with a coffee mug in one hand and a sippy cup in the other and shouted out encouragement.

Joey, Kieran, Theo, and Cloud.* I'd already met Kieran's granddad on the other side of the playground; he was definitely the type to park himself on the nearest bench and gruffly coach his grandson's play. At first, at the same time I was saying, "Great jump!" he'd bark out, "Kieran, don't jump!" Kieran, don't do this. Kieran, don't do that.

Joey's father, or possibly grandfather, was on the same bench with a coffee and a newspaper. His coaching was just as gruff. "Joey, watch out for that little boy," he coached, while the little boy's Mama said to Joey, "Oooh, nice dodge, and, jump! Good one!"

Theo's mom was more of a classic micromanager, being concerned about injury, or risk of injury, or suggestion of risk of injury. I think that parents of pale children are more cautious, although that may be a prejudice on my part. Or maybe, when the very sun can injure your child, you justifiably have more to worry about. Anyhow, Theo obviously didn't want to be fragile, and took some wild jumps off the low end and some careless risks up the toddler ladder, and his mother was at a distinct disadvantage because she was on the wrong side of the structure, attempting to coach him through the bars and not getting very much of his attention.

Instead, he was all about listening to me as I shouted gratifying praise at his antics.

None of the parents said anything to me about thwarting their efforts to get their kids to be careful. So I kept doing it. The boys were just being boys, and amid the chorus of parents coaching, it struck me that boys at play was a beautiful thing. Like a couple of warblers among grackles. I was disappointed that none of the other parents were moved to utter something positive to their children, but as the two dads/granddads gradually gave up, and Theo's mom stopped trying so hard, I tried to say enough positive things for all of us.

Of course, there was one inevitable moment when Joey bumped into Theo and all the other grownups caught their hearts in their throats. But Theo, possibly empowered by his inclusion in some real boys' play, caught himself with his hands and stood proudly back up. The kids endured a little verbal scolding, and that was it.

When Cloud and I left, Theo's mom said goodbye to us.

I don't want Cloud to become careless to the point of being a danger to himself or others. I want him to be aware and considerate. I want him to learn the physics of hurling his body around on playground equipment. It seems to me that the best way to accomplish that is not to ride him all the time, but to gently remind him to be aware and then let him experience real play with real kids. Let him learn by doing. And a little positive reinforcement won't hurt. I don't want him to feel like he's under the microscope every time I accompany him to the playground.

Incidentally... at some point Theo said to his mom, "I'm having lots of fun!"

"You're having lots of fun?" his mom repeated, as if it weren't a phrase her child used every day.

And maybe it wasn't.

*Not their real names, but close enough.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I'm sure AwesomeCloud doesn't want me writing about ticks. He's been getting a little paranoid about them lately. I don't really want to write about ticks, either. So I'll just say the bare minimum.

It's a bad year for ticks - unless you're a tick; then you'd consider it a good year.

Two weeks ago, we went to Audubon to start the year's work on the butterfly garden. Lots of ticks found us there - at least a dozen. Then, between being squicked by ticks and all the rain we've been getting, we avoided going back to the garden for the past two weeks.

We went today. It was cold and windy, although finally not rainy. We pulled a few weeds. We saw a prairie warbler and a gigantic green frog. AwesomeCloud took pictures. And when we came home, we found two hangers-on.

I'm sure there'll be more of them.

You know, I never had any strong objection to them... until I found them on my kid.

And that's all I'll say about ticks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cat people, dog people, weird people, and birds

Last Friday morning, when Cloud and I went outside, we saw a car parked on our front lawn. This wasn't unusual; it was on the very edge of our property, in a little alcove type area that allows people room to pull over on a street that is largely not conducive to pulling over. We watched the car for a minute, but it didn't do anything, so we went about our business of digging in the dirt.

Then a tow truck pulled over. The tow truck driver got out, spoke to the person in the car, and then shouted at us, "She got a flat tire! May we use the entrance of your driveway?"

"Sure," I said.

The tow truck driver added, "She didn't want to get out. She was afraid there might be a dog."

"Um," I said.

Then the driver of the car peeked her head around the juniper bushes and said, "I was afraid there might be a dog."

"This is our dog," I replied, pointing down at Riley. "She says meow."

"Meow," said Riley. She's helpful like that.

The woman didn't seem very amused by my remark, nor did she light up upon the recognition of a fellow cat person. But she was distracted with her flat tire, so I can't blame her. Riley, who in spite of being the most doglike of all of our cats is still very much a cat, disappeared under the juniper bushes.

Later on, I started thinking about dog people versus cat people. I don't put a lot of credence into the idea. Sure, some people love one and hate the other. Some people adore one and tolerate the other. But ultimately, cats and dogs are both animals, both mammals, both domesticated, and their similarities far outweigh their differences. For many people, the issue is whether or not they care to include an animal in their household. If they do, then the choice between cat and dog is just nuance.

A friend of mine recently confided that now that she's owned a few cats and a few dogs, she feels somewhat more affinity for the cats. I can relate to that. I like the idea of taking walks with dogs, and playing Frisbee with dogs, but when it comes to the day in, day out responsibility of dog ownership, I'd like it a little better if it were like owning a cat. I'm not always very affectionate, I don't want to take walks several times a day, and I hate drool. OMG, I absolutely hate drool.

My friend treats her dogs like I treat Riley, anyway, so in that respect having Riley is a bit like having a dog. They both wait at the door to go out, and all I have to do is open the door and then watch for her to be ready to come back in again. They both try to eat people food, so shooing Riley off the counter 50 times a day is like having a dog... a dog who jumps like a cat, which is worse than having a real dog. (Fortunately she's only 8 lbs. A dog 30+ lbs who jumps like a cat would be terrible.)

AwesomeCloud was enraptured by the presence of the tow truck, and he also enjoyed observing the tow truck guy change the lady's tire.

We saw a Baltimore oriole in the backyard, so we filled a birdfeeder and also put a half grapefruit out for the birds. Now we have grackles, woodpeckers, a goldfinch, and English sparrows in addition to our orioles. It's funny how quickly the birds come back. I've been neglecting the birdfeeder ever since AwesomeCloud came home, a year and a half ago; it didn't seem worth the effort when he wasn't interested in looking out the window. Now, however, he's thrilled to see birds of all different colors - yellow finches, red cardinals, orange orioles, blue jays - and maybe I can get myself to keep the feeder filled this year.

The cat is a problem. I know. I don't have any brilliant solutions to that problem.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baby steps toward bilingualism

It was the best of days; it was the worst of days. The 'worst' part is me suffering from multiple simultaneous health problems, the most presentable of which is a chest/throat/head cold that is threatening to choke me to death. It's a secondary infection, which makes me think of pneumonia, but it probably isn't real pneumonia. (If it is, you can all admonish me later on for not seeing a doctor.)

The 'best' part involves AwesomeCloud speaking Hanyu (AKA Mandarin Chinese).

I can't explain my reasoning, but it seems that somehow, once speech therapy started, I began to develop an inordinate interest in speaking Hanyu to him. He's had Early Intervention speech therapy, but it ended last March, and nothing like this happened then. But now we have him in preschool-related speech therapy. His first session was Monday; his second session was today.

This morning, I put a Chinese cartoon in the DVD player. It featured Lan Mao (Blue Cat), an obnoxious character played by a man who speaks like himself and doesn't even try to do a cartoony voice. Lan Mao's face is apparently used on a lot of merchandise in China, like baby formula and plastic toys. His voice may make him sound as if he probably has a cigarette in one hand, but apparently he's popular with the kiddies.

There were also lots of CGI dinosaurs.

I don't know what that was all about; don't ask me. It was entirely in Hanyu. (Interestingly, the subtitles were also in Hanyu.)

Anyway, whenever I heard a phrase I recognized, I'd repeat it to Cloud. Sometimes Cloud and I would also imitate unfamiliar phrases. I think we're learning something. For instance, I learned 'lan mao'.

Then we went to the park, because if I can't spend the whole day in bed, I may as well go to the park. I sat on a bench next to the little playground, nursing my tea, while Cloud more-or-less played by himself. He also wandered off a teeny tiny bit. Wandering off by himself is not his strong suit; in fact even leaving me on the bench to play on a slide 6 feet away from me has been a challenge until recently. Today, however, he went on the slide, then to the edge of the woods, then onto the baseball field where he found a stray ball, played with it a tiny bit and then abandoned it, and even threw our empty snack wrapper in the trash all by himself. It was nice - a foretaste of free-range parenting. :)

But he also sat with me on the bench quite a bit. And while we sat, I was moved to tell him, "Zhe shi niao." (That's a bird.) And some other phrases that popped into my head. Cloud didn't repeat any of them - he wanted to call a bird a bird, and that was fine.

Later on, we went to our local Chinese take-out for lunch. The young woman there is the one who gave us the Chinese cartoon DVDs. I haltingly spoke a little Hanyu to her, just for practice, and she helpfully responded in kind. Then we sat down and ate.

As we were leaving, I turned to the woman and said, "Zai jian!"

"Zai jian!" she said. "Can little boy say zai jian?"

"Cloud," I prodded. 'Say zai jian to our friend."

He turned around, looked her square in the eye, and said, "Bu dong."

That means 'I don't understand.' It was very unexpected; he knows zai jian at least as well as he knows bu dong. I've only started saying bu dong to him in the last week. But still, it's the right language, and I'm proud.