Archive for September, 2009

“Just How Much Does He Understand, Anyway?”

Friday, September 25th, 2009


I’ve written much about Max’s verbal expression, but not as much about his verbal comprehension.

In a nutshell, he understands almost everything.

If you say, “Wave your arms!” he’ll wave his arms.  If I say, “Gimmie some bonk,” he’ll (gently) (usually) bang his forehead against mine.  When Amalia says, “What do the crows say?” he’ll do his crow impression.  When you say, “Max, explain the dark energy paradox,” he’ll coo gently and start scribbling out cosmological diagrams and equations with his big blue marker (although this isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds, as his grasp of quantum physics is still pretty rudimentary).

It’s startling how much he actually can comprehend.  I find that when I want to say something he won’t understand, I’ll resort to the benthic, sesquipedalian depths of my active vocabulary.  Instead of, “Is he eating anything yet?” I’ll ask, “Has he yet partook in any comestibles?”  It leaves some of our conversations around here sounding like they’re coming from a Victorian romance novel, and as far as I know, he can still understand everything we say, and the joke’s on us.


One other thing:  as he gets bigger and more active, he’s also building muscle.  He’s harder to control, and when he fights back, boy, he really means it.


Month 16: Piggies, Zebras and Camels, oh my!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Max is sixteen months old today.  He doesn’t seem to notice.

Unrelated, we had something special planned today.  Amalia had the day off.  I had finished a work-project last night at 10pm that I’d been toiling on, off an on in violent spurts, since March.  The weather was gorgeous.  So I played hooky from work in the morning and the lot of us went to the Puyallup fair.


Max got to see lots of different kinds of animals, although the highlight of the day was our first destination, Pig Palace.


Max was overwhelmed with breastfeeding flashbacks.  He was so bedazzled, that when given the opportunity to pet a piglet, he elected instead to pick its nose.


There was also an Animals of the World exhibit, where Max got to see lots of the critters he’s been learning about in his board books.  Like zebras, oxen, and camels.


All in all, it was a fun day.  He saw the cool critters, ate lots of junk food, was amazed by the awesome rides, and pointed at lots of overweight people.

In linguistics news, Max is now trying to say “moon”.  It’s one of his favorite objects, he always points at it when he sees it in the sky, or in the illustrations in his books.  He’s still not saying it very well, usually saying “boo”, or sometimes as close as “boon”, but he’s working at it.

Nanny Found!

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Well, actually … after much toil, we weren’t able to find a suitable nanny, so we decided to go with the border collie.


She’s not so good at changing diapers, but what can you expect for 8 Snausages/hr.?

In linguists news, Max is now has added a couple more words to his active vocabulary.  These words are “baby”, “hi”, and “bye”.  He’s also getting the first few syllables of “communism”, but it may take a while before he perfects that one.

Apparently, there was a time when you could just set Max on the ground and he would stay there.  Like, he wouldn’t move around all the time, bouncing off of fixed objects and literally vibrating with energy.  There are even photos on the photo gallery that prove it.  I, however, have no memory of this.


It’s a bit like the way Stephen King cannot remember composing his book “Cujo”, but without the cocaine.

The most entertaining aspect of his mobility, curiosity, and imitation of us so-called adults is that he’ll pick up objects and leave them in random places.  Like putting the mobile phone in the laundry hamper.  Or Amalia’s glasses in the old car seat.  Or the DVD remote control in the recycle bin.  Hey, he sees us put stuff there all the time, so it must be an okay thing to do.

Now whenever we see him play with something, we keep it strongly in mind that unless we pay some attention to where he puts it, we may never see it again.


“Honey, have you seen my heart medication?”

“Yeah, Max was playing with it earlier this morning.  Why, do you need it?”

Nanny Hunt

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Our current nanny, Kendra, gave notice just under a month ago.  After a year of stellar service, she decided to hang up her spurs and get a real job.


Which means that we need to find a replacement.  It has been neither easy, nor fun.  Well, actually, Amalia has been doing all the work, so in way it has been really easy, for me at least.  Ah yes, if all things in life were so simple.

This time around we’re going to have a significant change:  this will be a nanny-share operation.  We’ll be teaming up with another family (that of Amalia’s former classmate Carolyn), who has a kid roughly Max’s age named Evan, and the nanny will do her best to keep both of them in order.  Kind of like a border collie.


Amalia posted an ad on craigslist and received a cataract of responses.  As in, over one hundred.  In spite of the request in the ad in include a resume, only about a quarter had them attached.  Amalia hand-picked a few candidates, ran them through a rigorous phone-screen designed to filter out psychopaths (surprisingly, there were only two, and we interviewed one of them  anyway, just for laughs), and we called in a few candidates for interviews.

Five candidates walked in, and cage-match style, only one emerged victorious.  Well, actually, an offer hasn’t been made yet, but there’s a clear contender, and I think the final word will be just a matter of communication.


Until then, Max and Evan will remain biweekly play-buddies.

The Labyrinthine Path From Babybabble to Coherent Speech

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Q:  What does the snack food “Pirate’s Booty” and soap bubbles have in common?


A:  They are among Max’s first verbal words.

On Friday night, Amalia and I left Max with a babysitter, and not only did he not cry at our absence, but when we got back he was speaking a new word.


Or maybe it’s “bible”.  We’re not sure.  He says it when we start blowing bubbles and he gets all excited, so that’s a clue.

Max has been communicating quite effectively via sign language for a while, but hasn’t really picked up any clear verbal speech.  His grunts can speak volumes, but words have been a little bit elusive.

Sometimes he’s been saying “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma”, or “da-da-da-da”, and he’s even occasionally got the context correct.  But other times he’ll say one of these to the cat, or the garbage can, or the spatula.  So it’s never been really clear that he’s been trying to say words.

Then came, “Uh oh.”

Repeated by Kendra whenever she dropped everything, it soon became Max’s catch phrase.  Drop the fake chicken nugget onto the floor.  “Uh oh.”  Knock over the magnetic tower I built for him to knock over.  “Uh oh.”  Run out of raspberries.  “Uh oh.”  Watch the vortex of Drosophila swirl above our compost bucket.  “Uh oh.”

We’re not sure when he started saying “Booty”, and we assume that it pertains to the Pirate’s Booty snack food.  That is, he says it whenever he wants to eat it.  I suppose he could be referring to something else and is still working on context issues, but the evidence is highly in his favor.  It didn’t come immediately.  He sounded like Jabba the Hut for a while (”Booda-booda!”), but now he’s got it down.


And as mentioned already, just by leaving him alone with Rana for a couple of hours, he picks up the world “bubble”.

(”Bubble booty?”  I’d rather not think about it.)

But even as Max is only starting to get his English skills down, he’s been fluently speaking with crows for about a month now.  So English is only his second language.

Battle Scars: Gravity is a Harsh Mistress

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Max has been walking, steadily, for over three months now.  But it hasn’t come without a toll.


It’s tempting to say that his greatest enemy is pavement, but really, it’s gravity.  Pavement might have been the cause of the abrasion you see in the photo above (occurring today circa 16:30), but he’s had worse spills.  A trip on the deck had him looking like the cover of an Andrew WK album.  Nose bleeds, puffy lips … even standing up while beneath a table can deliver a head-bonk that can ruin his day.

Recently, he stood up in the bathtub, and slipped, sliding all the way down on his back.  The no-slip adhesive pads in the tub scratched his back, and he had these cute red little abrasions down his back, exactly on the points made by his vertebrae.  While that’s pretty elaborate, he’s also be working on the basics:  just a week ago, he skinned his knee for the first time.


But he’s certainly getting better.  He walks, even runs, without thinking about it, and has ever-lofty goals:  climb the stairs on this own, upright.

Returning to the Den of Horrors: The 15-Month Appointment

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Like most pediatricians, ours will lie dormant for weeks at a time, awakening only to feed.

We had no idea what to expect on this trip, especially since it was clear that we comprehended her true nature.  Would she be cautious, to try to lower our guard?  Or would she feel backed into a corner, and more likely to strike?

I packed the snub-nosed revolver with silver bullets, the 11th-century ceremonial silver dagger with protective runes etched into the blade, a brace of wolvesbane, and the trusty photo of Dr. Benjamin Spock.  We went over our drills, summoned our courage, and steeled ourselves for the worst.  Anxiety was high.

As it turned out, our normal pediatrician was away on leave — hibernating while rearing her unholy brood.  So we got a proxy.  Or maybe this was a deliberate ploy to lower our guard.  She looked human enough, but if you squinted and looked at her through the corner of your eye, only then would her true form be revealed.

She must have known that we were on to her, because she was on her best behavior.  She and her hunchbacked minion had Max measured.

For some morphometrics:

Height:  33.5″ (95+ percentile)

Noggin circumference:  49.5 cm (95+ percentile)

Weight:  23 pounds, 2 ounces (50th percentile)

We kept the pediatrician at bay, and she was cautious.  She only betrayed her true nature when she said, “You should really think about” — pausing to lick her lips with a warty yellow tongue that passed over and beyond her chin — “yes, you really should fatten him up, he’d make a nice plump little fellow.”  And this kept us distracted long enough for her hunchbacked minion to impale Max three times in the legs and inject him with foul solutions that, when spilled on the floor, would eat through the linoleum and leave a cloud of toxic fumes.

Then the two of them cackled, transformed into a large mound of spiders, and scurried away.

So did we.  Without the turning-into-spiders part.


Time warp

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Wait, what happened to all those posts I made between January and today?  I’ve been posting almost every day for the past eight months and now all of those updates are gone.   All the joy, the tears, the laughs, the embarrassment … technology today, you can’t trust the stuff.  I swear, people who design computers must be communists.

Anyway … behold the new era!  More frequent, yet shorter posts!  Quick anecdotes, updates, news-bites, factoids, and trivia.


Today’s special:  Max loves raspberries.  But only if they’re picked fresh off the bush.

We have this cute little unruly raspberry patch in our yard, and Max will go out of his way to get us to take him there, so we can pick and feed him fresh raspberries.  He’ll eat them until he poops sulfuric acid.

But if we offer him a big ol’ raspberry from the store, fresh from the ABS plastic clamshell container, he’ll just squish it up.

Oh, and he also likes to imitate crows.