Dave maintains that Ryan has been a more talkative guy than Nathan since birth. This is quite possibly correct, although I never trust my own memory for such things; it’s amazing how the intense details of each stage fade so quickly as the child grows. Yet another reason for me to get out the video camera sometimes.

But it’s been interesting for me to watch Ryan’s language skills. He’s coming up on seventeen months of age, and arguably has no reliable words. Oh, he talks a lot — a lot — but it’s all babble. “Eh?!” is his favorite questioning sound, and “Na!” is how he comments on or demands something. Both of them can be repeated as often as he feels is necessary for emphasis, sometimes ten times or more. “Eh eh eh eh?!” he’ll say, pointing out the window, to mean, “Oh my gosh! Is that a person walking?!” Or “Na na na na na na na?!” (accompanied by an insistently jabbing finger as he’s sitting in my lap) means “What’s wrong with you, woman?! Nurse me this instant!”

To be fair, he makes a very decent woofing sound when he sees a dog. Perhaps that counts as a word? But “ma-ma,” “da-da,” “ba-ba”… all these are conspicuously absent. I can’t remember when Nathan first started assigning specific sounds to specific meanings, but I do remember that it was after he’d started walking, and that his first word was “ba-ba” which meant “bellybutton.” Ryan shares the universal fascination with that anatomical feature, but hasn’t given it a name.

This is not to say that Ryan is language-deficient in any way. He understands an unbelievable amount of what we say, sometimes even things I don’t expect him to pick up on. The other day he correctly distinguished between “my nose” and “your nose,” which I remember was a concept that was a long time coming with Nathan. (To be fair, he hasn’t consistently repeated that trick, so I can’t be sure he really understands the concept.) He knows an insane number of words for body parts, and loves the “Where’s your…?” game. He also knows sign language for a variety of key words like “more” and “down.”

But I have this feeling with him that it’s going to be all or nothing. Mom and Dad always said that Peter didn’t talk until after he turned two, but that he launched right into using complete sentences. I apparently started talking somewhat before I turned two, and then they couldn’t shut me up. I don’t know what shape Ryan’s speech will take, but I do know that lately the range of sounds he makes when he’s chatting has increased. Maybe there are words stewing around in there, about to bubble to the surface.

In the meantime, he’s plenty good at getting his point across. Especially when he wants nursing.

Posted in Kids. 2 Comments »

Exceptionally Early

Two Christmases ago, when Ryan was just a little non-mobile guy and Nathan was two, I remember decorating for Christmas and thinking that I should really make my boys some Christmas stockings.

This past Christmas, after putting up all of the non-breakable decorations I had available, I thought the same thing. I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old with no stockings, and Nathan at least was getting old enough to understand and enjoy stockings.

I spent about a week of Dave’s Christmas break sketching a fantastically complicated and beautiful stocking. Then, three days before Christmas, I threw that out and started on a much simpler concept, which I nevertheless failed to complete for Christmas Eve.

But I would like to report that I am totally ahead of schedule for next Christmas. It’s only January, and I’ve already completed the boys’ stockings! How organized is that?

And best of all, I really like them. I’m glad I ditched my original idea, because these are simple in concept but (in my humble opinion) lovely in execution. Nathan’s is the red one and Ryan’s the blue, and I like them both a lot. I think they’ll be sturdy enough to last, too.

Posted in Making. 3 Comments »

Seeds, The Temptation

We had a very cold spell here in Portland, with temperatures hovering around freezing for at least a week. I know that isn’t impressive compared to most of the country, but it’s pretty chilly for us. Now, though, the weather has reversed itself admirably; we’re only in the middle of January, and already it feels like spring. And not only the humans are fooled: the rhubarb and raspberries are poking up fresh new shoots. “Time to grow?” they are saying hopefully.

It’s all I can do not to go out and plant the first bits of my garden. I’ve spent the last three weeks poring over seed catalogs, trying hard to select seeds while still hanging on to my common sense. I mean, really — I know that I don’t need six kinds of peppers, but they’re all so tempting. About halfway through making my selections I had to talk to Dave about adding some more vegetable beds to our garden. Apparently over 300 square feet of space isn’t enough.

You’d think that after the rather disappointing summer last year I would be more cautious, ready to scale back my more ambitious projects and focus first and foremost on laying in the basics. But it seems this is not the case. The gardening fever has me well in its grip, as evidenced by insanities like these:

  • despite never having successfully grown brussel sprouts, I now own seeds for four different varieties
  • I have more than twice as many bean varieties as I have family members
  • apparently believing that the kids will be “all grown up” come harvest time, I’ve ordered shelling peas, five new kinds of tomatoes, and (I kid you not) quinoa

Oh, and the peppers that I was trying to talk myself out of? I was somewhat surprised and embarrassed when my Territorial Seed order arrived to discover that there were nine different pepper seed packets in it. Did I really order those? I think from now on I’m going to have Dave review my orders with a red pen.

A New Hat

… and associated wrist-warmers/baby leg-warmers/child arm-warmers. Technically these were a gift to me from my amazing aunt Suzanne, but really the whole family has been enjoying them. And I can’t really begrudge that; they are so soft and warm and cozy.

Games At Our House

A little while ago, on a quiet evening in the living room, Nathan pulled me to the middle of the room and had me sit down right next to his swinging rope. He began to arrange the rope so that it draped over my back, fussing about with it in a business-like fashion. Then he went over to a low shelf nearby and typed for several minutes on it, all the while staring intently at the wall behind the shelf. “Beep!” he finally said, loudly, and came back over. “I give you x-ray,” he told me, as he began to rearrange the rope. (Nathan had some x-rays when he went to the dentist last fall.) Apparently I needed multiple x-rays, because we repeated the process several times. He even re-created the standard chit-chat: “You have fun driving today?” he asked me as he worked, in exactly the same polite, distracted tone that gets used for such filler conversations. He nodded in response to my equally formulaic answer, then went back to his computer.

He can be all sorts of vehicles at a moment’s notice. If he’s just running around the house making loud sounds he’s probably being a truck. If he has his arms folded across his chest, though, he’s being a school bus, and when he stops he opens his arms like the bars on the front of the bus and requires me to put children into him. If he’s carrying around one of our rectangular plastic bins at arms-length in front of him, he’s a front-loader, and is likely to scoop up imaginary dirt and pour it on me. Occasionally we hook together so that he can be a truck and me the trailer, or we can be a train. Occasionally he’s a tow truck and needs to hook onto me to pull me out of the ditch.

And then, of course, there’s The Monster Game. “You want be monster?” he says to me hopefully, at least three or four times every day. Early on we experimented with nice monsters, tickle monsters, growly monsters, Christmas monsters (they eat Christmas, in case you’re wondering; no, I’m not sure exactly what that entails either), etc. Now he only wants me to be a scary/mean/growly monster — they all mean the same thing. Basically it means that I growl at him, chase him around, eat various toys and other objects with ravenous ferocity when offered them, and then growl some more. Every once in a while he’ll kiss me on the cheek to turn me into a nice monster, but he almost immediately asks me to revert. Scary monsters are apparently the most fun.

I think we may also have imaginary friends around the house. Or at least, he occasionally calls “Zana” on the phone and talks to her about current events. (This pronunciation is distinct from Santa, and also from Annabelle, one of his friends in playgroup.) And then the other night Dave produced an imaginary kitten, which we played with all through bedtime — passing it around and petting it, mewing softly, carefully moving it aside before lying down on the pillow. Recently we also found two baby monsters in his closet, which we had to take shopping with us, because their mother wasn’t there and they needed someone to take care of them.

It’s easy to be absorbed only in what Nathan is doing, since it’s new and exciting. But to be fair, Ryan is constantly doing new and exciting things too. With such constant modeling, he can play monster with the best of them, can pretend to eat things (including me, if we’re playing monster), will frequently drive toy trucks around making motor noises, and absolutely adores The Hiding Game. Really, they both like that one — it’s the game where we hide under a blanket. Sometimes someone is outside the blanket; sometimes we’re all inside. Who are we hiding from? I don’t know; I think it’s just fun to be under a blanket.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow is another new and exciting day, filled with a world of possibilities.

A Small Tidy Spot

I am not, overall, compulsively organized. (I can almost hear Dad’s snort of agreement at that statement.) I’ve gotten more organized as I’ve gotten older, and there are certainly areas of the house that I care more about than others. In the kitchen, for example, if something isn’t exactly where it’s Supposed To Be, then to my mind it is Lost. This is why it’s been in everyone’s best interest if no one but me ever puts away the dishes.

But in much of the house, I am functionally organized: that is, exactly as organized as I have to be in order to function. I don’t futz around with getting really organized unless something really bugs me.

Something like CDs, for example.

We don’t have a ton of music. Everything that we own fits (almost, roughly) into a small box, where we packed it once long ago for moving. It’s lived in that box ever since. This was a little annoying to me all along, since digging through a box to find my favorite Enya CD was never entirely fun, but over time more popular CDs shifted t the top, and it wasn’t terrible. Until, that is, Nathan became more interested in listening to music.

To make a long story short, I developed a deep reluctance to go anywhere near that box. I began to loathe it: the broken cases, the orphaned CDs that hadn’t been put back correctly, the jumble of unused discs that neither of us could remember where we’d gotten them anyway. One somewhat frantic afternoon, when I was looking for a CD for Nathan, I had a vivid fantasy about scooping up the whole box and taking it out to hurl into the garbage bin. “If we’re just going to treat these like garbage, why not throw them away and be done with it!” I imagined screaming. That was when I knew it was time to act.

Thrift stores to the rescue: over Dave’s Christmas break I found two nice little CD organizers for very little money, ones that (importantly) could be mounted to the wall out of easy child reach. Buying them was fun; installing them satisfying; but unless you have that little nugget of organizational joy in your own brain, you won’t understand the sheer, ecstatic pleasure of putting the CDs into their new home. Grouped by artist! Further grouped by type! This section reserved for library CDs! I approached the task slowly so that I could savor it more.

Of course I know that it won’t stay so wonderfully organized, but that’s ok. I can already feel the compulsion dying now that our CDs have some kind of home. In the meantime, I’m just letting myself enjoy the brief, lovely increase in household order.

Saga Of A Play Kitchen: Part 1 – Deconstruction

Dave and I had an ongoing discussion for a long time about the issue of getting a play kitchen.

On the pro side, it was obvious that both kids liked to mimic the constant activity that they saw going on in the kitchen. We’ve had a bunch of pots and pans and utensils for the kids, stuff that I picked up at thrift stores, and those have gotten a fair amount of use. Like all play, it seems to go in waves, but at times there have been a lot of stir-fries coming out of their pans.

But there were three really good objections to investing in a play kitchen. First, we try to limit the number of “single-use” toys that we get. Dave was more interested in supplying them with a table of the right height, for example, that could be used as a kitchen, a tool bench, a lab bench, or whatever else they might dream up. Second, our kids are tall. The standard play kitchens that we’ve come into contact with are already pretty short for Nathan, and he’s only three. And third, of course, there’s the expense. Oh, there are fairly cheap plastic kitchens out there, but let’s face it: the kind that I was really tempted by were ones like these.

With all the arguments against, as well as the weight of momentum, we did nothing. And then one day last month we finally visited The Rebuilding Center.

We’d heard about this before, along with the Habitat For Humanity ReStore. It had always sounded right up our alley. And finally I guess the time was right, because we headed out to explore the vast wealth of reclaimed doors, windows, hardware, tiles, lighting, and (most importantly) cabinets in The Rebuilding Center’s warehouse.

Dave and I are both decently handy around the house. We have tools, we’ve done some woodworking in the past, we’ve played around with a variety of materials between us, and we’re not afraid to read and try new things. But building an entire cabinet from scratch? Let’s just say that the activation barrier on that activity is high.

Modifying an existing cabinet to fit our needs? That’s just a good time. That’s the sort of thing that we would do together for a date night.

And so the idea of making our own play kitchen, from inexpensive bits from The Rebuilding Center and our own (healthy) store of scraps, blossomed into fullness. The more we talked about it, the more fun it sounded. We could make it tall enough for our kids, we could make it on a much smaller budget than would be required to actually buy one, and we could use some of the delicious tiles and fixtures that we’d browsed through. Browsing through building materials is one of the few kinds of shopping that we like to do: it just cries out for our imaginations to run wild with things we could make.

Here is where we are so far:

We bought a $4 cabinet, brought it home, and shortened it substantially by removing the bottom spacer. It was only $4 because it was missing two of its six drawers. The hole left behind immediately screamed out to us “Oven door goes here!” Shortened, the cabinet is just about perfect for Nathan’s height, slightly tall for Ryan. That’s good; it means they won’t outgrow it completely by the time they’re four.

We stripped the cabinet, removing the dark laminate as well as the rubber strips used as trim and edging for the drawers. Since this is going to be a relatively large and bulky piece of furniture, as play kitchens go, we want the colors used in it to be a bit lighter.

We sanded down the exposed particle board, removing laminate glue and smoothing the surface to get it ready for painting. Although the picture belies this, I actually did a fair amount of the sanding. I mention this only because Dave has been doing the majority of the rest of the work, which hardly seems fair since this project was originally my brainchild. He has been having fun with it, though, so I don’t feel too bad.

He will also do a much better job than I would. This is not intended to be self-deprecating, only a statement of fact. If I was in charge of this project, I would have charged in immediately with stripping and sanding, and then rushed headlong into the tiling, slapping a bed of mortar straight onto the existing top, cramming tiles on top of that, and only them wondered how I could attach a facing to the front. Ok, maybe I would have planned a little more than that, but I sure as heck wouldn’t have taken the time to create this:

Dave now has a to-scale TurboCad diagram of exactly how the finished unit will go together: how the tiles fit, how the faucet (we found such an awesome faucet!) will fit on, how we’ll reinforce the sink, etc. It took him more than a week of daily work to complete this plan, but in doing so he thought through the construction in minute detail. Two nights ago he headed out to the garage to start cutting, and the progress he’s been making has been astonishing.

Pictures of that work, though, will have to wait for the next post. This could well be a lengthy project, especially since Dave is heading back to work tomorrow, so I will share progress as it becomes available. In the meantime we are having lots of fun. I am working on our paint scheme for the base; we have some leftover paint from our walls that we’ll probably use as the base coat, but we’re thinking of splurging on a small amount of colored paint and doing a little stenciling as well. So many options!

Further updates to come…

Posted in Making. 1 Comment »