January 2010

No, Please

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When Everett started talking we could almost always figure out what he was saying from context clues, such as “nk!” for milk or “shtaah” for star.  We also learned that he does not often say things randomly – if he says “cow” or “moo” then there is some kind of cow-likeness nearby, even if it takes us a couple minutes of searching to locate.  But his vocabulary is now a flood that we simply cannot keep up with.  It is clear when he is parroting us, and sometimes it is clear that he is re-expressing what he senses, like saying “trouble” when he hears the word “problem”, or saying “no pork chop” after overhearing a conversation between the butcher and a woman at the grocery store.  However, he has recently started expressing ideas and observations that don’t seem to have any immediate relevance or urgency, and because we can’t always understand his pronunciation we have a list of words that have clear meaning to him but which are awaiting identification by us.  One word that we have no trouble understanding is No, which seems to be a significant word for toddlers.  It is one of the easiest to say and most powerful words in their vocabulary, so it’s not a surprise that many of them learn it quickly.  I anticipated that Everett would use this word in the defiant sense that I have seen from other toddlers, i.e. saying “No!” when told to do or not do something.  We haven’t observed this yet, but we have observed several other uses, such as:
1. No, I don’t want this anymore, take it away.
2. I don’t like what you are doing, please stop immediately.
3. I’m doing something I know I’m not supposed to do, so I will say “No, no, no” while I look right at you and do it anyway.

Please is another powerful word.  For some time we have been encouraging Everett to ask for what he wants rather than crying or whining, and we have also started to work on good manners in the form of please and thank you.  He has learned quickly, but now we are sometimes faced with the unfortunate situation that he has done what we asked but he is not going to get what he wants, no matter how irresistible he is.  He seems to sense this, and when he does he replaces “please” with “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!”, which among other things tests our resolve as parents.

We are very curious how much Everett remembers about past events.  To do so we have become detectives, mainly to figure out which features of the world are salient to him.  One fun way to do this is to ask him open-ended questions such as new words he learned today or the names of animals at the zoo.  Of course, this requires his participation on his part, and we recently learned that the average boy toddler responds after you call his name five times while girls respond after three.  We have started to experience this and we were initially tempted to believe that he is not listening to us when he does not respond, but instead we have learned that he is just not acknowledging.  This is how we found out that “pizza” has high salience but “put your coat on” does not.

We are thankful that Everett can verbally express ideas and desires, and are now trying to figure out what to do with all this information.

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Happy 2010

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Happy New Year to our friends and family!  We hope this message finds you well.

The first day of the new decade started at about 7:30am for us when Everett decided he had slept enough to recover from the New Year’s Eve party (he went to bed at 7pm).  We managed to stay in bed until about 8, then had Goetta, eggs, bagels and lox for breakfast.  By 9am Chris was on his bike, headed downtown to meet some fellow Tosa Spokesmen for a New Year’s Day bike ride before the polar plunge into Lake Michigan at noon.  The ride was followed by coffee and conversation at Alterra.  Melissa, Everett, Klaus and Meri-Jo also met us there and at about 11:30 we headed over to Bradford Beach for the plunge.  We were expecting a dozen or so crazy people, so we were shocked to find a crowd of well over 1,000 people on the beach without any parking available within a mile.  Even Elvis was there.  See photo above and video below.  None of us took the plunge this year but as soon as Chris saw the event he regretted not bringing his swimsuit and a towel.  Maybe next year.  But it did make us realize something important about Milwaukee that we did not appreciate until we lived here for a while: this place is alive.

Other New Year’s weekend activities…

First, a visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum.  Melissa and Everett have been there many times but this was Chris’ first visit, and it is a truly impressive museum.  There Everett learned about local birds (this photo also contains a nice view of his baby mullet),

while Melissa and Chris learned about members of the weasel population in Wisconsin including pine martens and fishers.  We also learned that Wisconsin is not named the Badger state for badgers, even though they appear prominently on the state flag and as school mascots.  Rather, the state was so named for miners who dug burrows in the ground during the winter.  We read this at the MIlwaukee County Zoo as well as the Public Museum, so it must be true:

Second: Everett’s first time sledding.  Because it happened so quickly we were unable to capture the look of surprise and concern on his face as he and Chris rode a saucer down the hill behind our house.  The single digit temperatures and setting sun made it a short outing, but next time we will try out Everett’s new skis as well.

Lastly: a visit to the zoo.  This was on another cold day, which meant that Everett had to be pretty bundled up, so much so that he could hardly move and we sounded like the parents from the Bill Cosby skit who overdress their child.

One funny thing about his snowsuit is that it’s almost as wide as it is tall.  Poor kid.  Here he and Melissa are watching the otters frolic.

It was a busy weekend but we still had time to reflect on how much our lives have changed over the past year.  At some point Everett transformed from an infant into a person with his own volition, opinions, desires and imagination.  We aren’t sure precisely when this happened even though it was right before our eyes, but we are mindful of and amazed at the rate at which he changes.  And we are looking forward to new family adventures in 2010.

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