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Dear Ezra: Month Twenty-one

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Dear Ezra*,

You really have perfected the art of getting by with the bare essentials. While many of your peers have sailed by you linguistically, you have kept to a small but versatile set of words. But what you lack in vocabulary you make up for in resourcefulness. Like the following list of words. They each have multiple meanings:

  • “Bup” = up or down. Basically it means, I want to be in a different place; please move me there.
  • “Guck” = stuck, but more accurately it means, I don’t have the strength or dexterity to get this off/up/out/opened/undone; please do it for me.
  • “Den” = again, except you often use it before anything’s been done. So sometimes it’s do that again, and sometimes it’s please commence that thing I like.
  • “Moo” = more. Like “den,” it’s a catch-all for wanting something, usually food, and it doesn’t necessarily have an antecedent. It’s another way of saying “want.” (Not to be confused with the sound a cow makes, which is more like “meu”.)

We’re trying to teach you manners, so it’s not a constant barrage of “moo moo moo.” To that end I’ve taught you the word “please”, which you pronounce as “beep”. Except you always require a prompt before you say it. Usually it’s “What do you say?”, to which you’ll say in a whisper, “beep.” I wonder if you know that it’s a way of being polite, or if you just know that that’s what I want to hear when I say that prompt. Maybe there’s no difference.

For record-keeping purposes, here’s a list of all words you can say, as compiled by Mom and me just now:

Hello (phone), hat, eat, ee (kitty), byoo (bird), ola (gorilla), uno, key, choos (shoes), gock (sock), baby, done, all-done, mama, dada, Gaca (Veronica), Momo, my, me, baybeu (diaper), choochoo, peepee, eye, no (nose), nana (banana or Nana), Papa, nock (milk), caco (cracker), wawa (water), chee (cheese), Haha, Bubbo, Popo (your three favorite monkeys), Elmo, hi, bye, whee (slide or spinning chair), fwum (drum), bum (spoon), bow (bath), on, uh-oh, oh-no and yay. And of course a bunch of animal sounds, like meu, mow, woof, roar, neigh, sssss, and quack.

(I have this vague memory of being 10 or so and sitting in a cafe with Grandma and Aunt Lilli writing down on a pad of paper all the words Uncle Oliver knew how to say. He must have been around your age, because the list was about this long. I also remember how soon after that it became impossible to track them all.)

Your twenty-first month has seen development in other, obvious ways, like an increased demand for attention, in the face of your tiny new competition. This has manifested in the form of climbing on as much as you can: tables, chairs, couches, window sills, bathroom sinks, kitchen counters. You’ve just reached the dangerous combination of height and resourcefulness — pushing a chair across the kitchen to allow you access — that makes all this monkey business possible. The upshot of all this is that Mom and I are getting a crash course in how to discipline. We’re not very good at it. It’s actually difficult for me to hold back laughter when I try to give you a time out, both at the absurdity of my seriousness and the adorable way you scrunch up your face and pout.

You have also discovered the tantrum. I think you’re getting a head-start on those terrible twos. You break down for the most absurd things, and again, it’s so difficult to take you seriously. This weekend we spent a whole morning watching trains, then when I took you home you spent minutes, flat against the door, wailing, demanding me to take you back out to see more. You were inconsolable. You were so in love with those choo-choos. Turns out you were mostly just hungry and tired.

Your most mischievous moment was also your most clever. We have this swing. You used to swing it when you were a baby, and now Zella does. But if you find it empty, you jump at the chance to sit in it and lounge, despited being twice the max size and looking like a beached whale when you’re upon it. The other day, while Zella was swinging peacefully, you sat down next to it, held out your arms, and said “hol’ baby?”, which means that you want to cuddle with your sister, and which you know I can’t refuse. So I took Zella out, intending to rest her in your arms, at which point you immediately waved her off, yelled “no!” and made a beeline for the chair. It was devilishly clever. And I fell for it THREE TIMES. I’d be peeved if I wasn’t so damn proud.

You are so far very kind to your sister. You’ll lay down next to her and smile. You’ll ask to hold her (genuinely). You’ll even ask to kiss her goodnight, which you don’t know how to vocalize, so instead you say “eh?” and make a fish face. You can’t say her name, but you know it when we say it. I’ve gotten you so far as to say “Leh-la” a couple times. I’m sure you’ll be saying her name before you’re saying your own.

Winter’s been tough for you, kid, but it’s over now. The days are getting longer and warmer, which mean more bike rides and park time and choo-choo-watching and eventually, swimming. Thanks for being patient with us as we get used to this family-of-four business. The good times are just getting started.


*So much for that plan to make these letters into a combined thing for both you and Zella. We just have too much to say.

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