Wednesday, November 26, 2003

This morning I was led to believe that someone called Monkey Jim was in my house.

Youngest woke this morning and asked urgently for "muckeegeem." That's the phonetic approximation. One of the first things you discover when your toddler turns verbal is that phonetics do not apply. What comes out of the baby's mouth as opposed to what the baby intended to come out of her mouth are sometimes two entirely different things. You find yourself instead playing a little game of "now if I were the baby, what would I say?" And then you rattle off a bunch of similar-sounding words and phrases until the baby hears you say the right thing and perks up.

I've gotten pretty good at the game. See, if Youngest and I are going for a walk and she says, "ahmunnawideinnatolla!" you can bet she meant to say, "I want to ride in the stroller." If you're rocking her to sleep and suddenly feel moved to sing the lullaby your mother sang to you when you were a baby, she might reach up and put her fingers over your mouth and say, "nosingingdatsong!" which means, "You have no vocal ability and you're making my ears ache, so please stop."

But there's no context in the morning when she's just woken up, and who knows what Monkey Jim-type characters could have been entertaining her while she slept. She smiled at me quizzically. "Nooo…No muckeegeem. Muckeegeem."

"Muddy gem?"

"No. Want the muckeegeem."

"Money gleam?"

She tried pronouncing it slower for me as if I were a retard. "Muckeeeeegeeeeeemmm!"

"Many… geems? What's a geem?"

"GEEEM! GEEEM!" She seemed to be thinking, could I be any more clear?

"Okay," I said, trying to take a step back and locate some clues. "Should we go look for the, uh, muckeegeem?"

"In sissy's room," she said. "We go find it."

Ah ha! The location had been established. We knocked on Oldest's door, who was grumpily putting an outfit together for school. "Muckeegeem," I said to her. "Translation?"

Oldest looked at me blankly and then put her arm around Youngest, leading her conspiratorially a few feet away from me. "What's she talking about?" she asked Youngest.

Youngest seemed relieved. "I want muckeegeem," she explained. "I pwess de buttons. Pway muckeegeem."

"Oh, okay," said Oldest. She went to her junk drawer and pulled out a little electronic handheld game in which pressing buttons causes pixilated monkeys to jump over barrels to the tune of loud, monotonous beeping. Youngest squealed with glee at the sight of it.

Monkey game. Much less spooky than the idea of Monkey Jim hanging out in my closets.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Today's top five coping mechanisms for having too many large projects with small deadlines:

1. Eat raw fish.
2. Sing along with Cat Power songs.
3. Imagine that Chan Marshall and I regularly share insights and eat sushi together.
4. Wonder if Chan Marshall likes sushi, and suppose that even if she didn't she'd pretend to just so we'd have an excuse to hang out.
5. Decide that if Chan Marshall is going to lie to me about something as fundamental as sushi, she has no business hanging out with me anyway, and how dare she call herself my friend if she can't even be honest and up-front with me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Good point and well stated. Closes with the Kurt Vonnegut passage of which I am most fond.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

I am so proud of Youngest. She has adopted the time-honored tradition of the Bedtime Water Stall.

I find it amazing that all of us as human beings, independent of any organized plot or intention, have at one time used the Stall on our caregivers. It works every time, and yet no adult can resist it.

Step 1. Refuse to go to bed. Wail, scream, beg, whimper, kick, and plead in an effort to avoid going to bed.

Step 2. Stand in your crib long after Mom has kissed you good night and closed your door, and howl without mercy.

Step 3. Suddenly stop crying, sniffle plaintively, and call out with sincere earnestness, "Mom? Mommy………?"

Step 4. Give Mommy a second to wonder if the cessation is some kind of trick, and then call, "Can I have a drink of water?"

Even the most steadfast and resolute Ferber parents find themselves weakening at this innocent request. They ask themselves whether their own rest or sanity at the end of a long day is worth denying their sweet child a simple drink of water, and the answer is always Of Course Not.

We can ignore requests for Oatmeal the puppy, Emily Baby, another blanket, a lullaby, a hug, and even one last kiss goodnight. But not water. It just seems so cruel to leave a small child all alone in a dark room without even a sip of water.

And maybe part of us remembers being that child and feeling relief wash over you when the door to your bedroom opened and your mother appeared with a small cup of water, backlit by the bright hallway light. She'd help you to sit up while keeping the covers tucked tight around you, perch on the edge of your bed and put one arm around your shoulders while you gratefully took the cup and leaned into her warm motherness for one last stolen cuddle before sleep.

I can't help it. The little voice calling "I habba dink of water?" will probably get me every time. Good for her.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"All right," I said to my stomach this morning, poking it awake. "It's been two weeks since we last spoke, and you promised me a verdict on the embryo situation."

It yawned and stretched, glaring at me distastefully. "Well you should know," it groused. "It's your uterus."

"You're the resident smart-ass. Shouldn't you have the inside story?"

"I told you already. Nothing new to report."

"Nothing growing?"

"Nothing but my sincere annoyance with this line of inquiry."

"Fine then," I said, and rolled out of bed in search of my favorite jeans.

"So, I'm thinking burritos for lunch?" said stomach.

With some difficulty, I closed the button on my jeans. "I'm thinking I'll no longer be attributing your roundish, womanly shape to anything maternal for a while."

"Watch it, or I'll work up some serious indigestion on your behalf. Bitch."

As much as I hate letting my stomach get in the last word, I had some strong coffee and such to lean into.