We woke Patrick up just before midnight on Tuesday and took him outside to watch the Perseid meteor shower with us. It would have been better a few hours later and many many miles further away from shopping center light pollution but it was still pretty and cool.
Patrick was pleased.
The people who built this house put a double-sided gas fireplace between the living room and the entryway. When we moved in six years ago we made the dual discovery that: 1) the glass panels get so hot they could sear tuna; and 2) the ignition for the pilot light is wired to a wall switch that even a very short child can reach on his or her tippytoes. So we disconnected it. A few years later we had a guy out to see whether it might be possible to convert the gas fireplace to a woodburning one; partly because I prefer a nice wood fire and partly because we are completely surrounded by trees here; trees that fall over. So the guy looked at the chimney and the hearth and the floor and gave us two quotes, one was for what it would cost to convert the fireplace from gas to wood; the other was for what it might cost to tear the house down and rebuild. They were comparable.
So we have this (temporarily; say another five years until we can be mostly sure the children will not get first degree burns from the glass) useless fireplace in the living room. Recently Patrick noticed its resemblance to a fish tank and suggested that we could fill it with water and aquatic life. Because it would be so educational for the babies, he said. Patrick has twigged to the fact that I have a weak spot for him when he is all brotherly so he tends to frame outrageous requests under the broad mantle of philos adelphos. Regardless, I said no. He asked why not. I said because the fireplace is not remotely watertight and aquariums require a lot of special equipment and even if neither of these things were true it is impossible to actually get inside the glass space without prying off the metal surround so there would be no way to get fish in and out. Finally, I said, nobody wants to squat in front of our fireplace and watch things flit around in there.
It is almost like Fate and Patrick have worked out an arrangement so that a week never goes by without my being forced, grudgingly, to admit that I was wrong about something.
Yesterday a bat - a very very cute chocolate brown bat with bright button eyes and weird webbed wing hands - got trapped in the fireplace and the children and I spent the entire day sitting on our sit-us-down-upons watching the bat flit around in there. He hung upside-down. He crawled on the fake logs. He ate a mosquito. We were all entranced. Well, almost all of us. Edward came over during the initial excitement, peered at the bat, then retreated to the far corner of the living room and started reading a book. Every time someone would mention the bat he would smile and say "Bah" and point to the fireplace but he was not going back over there. I could read his thoughts as clearly as if he had written a treatise on the subject: maybe this bat was friendly, maybe it wasn't; seemed to him the prudent course was one of caution. Caroline, having not a single thread of wariness in her entire body, was beside herself with glee and served as a one woman bat welcoming committee. "Hi Bat! Hiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaeeee!" she waved and cooed. She tried to give it raisins by smashing them into the glass. She kept bringing her music over to share until I confiscated the player (I assumed that bats need sleep. also that bats have very sensitive oversized bat ears.) When she started to cry I hauled her into Steve's office.
Steve looked at the screaming Caroline and then at me, like why I was I bringing him a crying child when he was trying to work?
"She was bothering the bat," I explained.
"Oh," he said.
Overnight the bat escaped up the chimney again - which is good, although I miss him - and Patrick this morning suggested we could keep hamsters in there. I actually hesitated for a fraction of a second.
I always wonder when I read about other people's toddlers and their cutey-cute expressions (that sounded snarky but it is sincere. I really do love reading about other people's kids and their SCOOZmepeaz's and whatnot) whether they actually say excuse me please or, you know, scoozmepeaz.
Patrick had a speech delay of epic proportions. When we finally took him to be evaluated at two and a half he was below the fifth percentile for expressive language. The speech pathologist warned us ahead of time that kids often under-perform during evaluations and that it was better to skew a little low and qualify for services etc. I think she was used to parents freaking out when their child was deemed to be subnormal. During the eval Steve and I sat there while she had Patrick identify things on cards: "dog?" "DA" "rabbit" "DADA" "strawberry" "DUHDA."
She then looked at us.
"Is this about what you get at home?" she asked, delicately.
Steve and I were beaming, like, "Yes! Isn't he great! We are so sorry to be wasting your time!"
She looked at us with pity and then booked Patrick into speech therapy, twice a week. She told us that it might take a few years... .
As it so happens it was a terrific experience, our health insurance covered it, Patrick loved his pathologist and he was out in six months speaking mellifluously of dogs, rabbits, strawberries and the joys of selling seashells by the seashore.
And then I never thought about it again until I made a discovery during Patrick's weeks of fever and swollen glands. Why I had never before asked him to stick out his tongue I have no idea but it was only a couple of months ago that I did so and I suddenly realized that Patrick has a tongue like a lily pad. It is very blunt and the frenulum is connected so far in the front that the moment his tongue pokes in front of his teeth it gets pulled back in the middle. I looked at it and thought AH HA! No wonder he sounded like he was speaking with a mouth full of gumballs. My second thought was that I wanted to go back and STRANGLE that lactation consultant from seven years ago. I TOLD HER it was the baby's fault that breastfeeding was a neverending ordeal of incredible suffering and that he was always hungry and I never got to sleep more than an hour and I hated it. How we did it for a year I will never know but we did. Oh right, because it all got much better after eight weeks. Anyway. I still think a little clipping of the ol' tongue-tie might've gone a long way. But that is all wa-wa-water and buh-buh-bubbles under the buh-buh-bridge. I forgive. Mistakes on both sides (hers and Patrick's, with me as the innocent victim) no doubt.
The reason I bring this up is because Edward sounds just like Patrick did. Caroline says "Baaaa-tuh" for bat. She says, "Teeeeeef" for teeth. She says, "Gooooo nonnah buhleeduhnow fuh dassen?" for something; we have no idea what but she sure is a chatty little thing. And she has this poky pointy agile little tongue with which you could slice cheese. Edward's tongue is like an Oreo cookie and his words all begin and end at the back of his throat. "Cah" (car) "Crah-cah" (cracker) "dah" (dog) "dah!" (star) "kwah" (square) "cahcah" (circle)... huh. Edward is really into shapes. Shapes and cars. First he walked. Then he started running everywhere. Now he has his riding trike push car thing he rides. He rides from the living room to the bedroom, the bedroom to the kitchen... he's such a suburbanite. Why walk when you can drive?
Where was I?
Oh right. I cannot decide if this is just normal (or normal for him) speech development or if I should be more proactive this time and have someone listen to him before he develops his own vowel-based language like Patrick did: Oh mama nah ah duh ahn! (Look, Mother! The light is on!)
Nineteen months: are they supposed to sound like Edward or like Caroline? Please advise.
I requested a book on seven year olds ("Your Seven Year Old: Life in a Minor Key") that Angela recommended in the comments on the last post. Today I took the children to the library and I picked up my reserved copy and Patrick got a stack of things that looked good to him (Asterix ho! some odd looking mouse-based comic book - not Maus, I checked lest I accidentally find myself trying to explain the Holocaust at 11:30 one night; The physics of compact objects - my mother firmly believed that it did not matter what children read as long as they were reading; Captain Underpants kills me, you know, but Patrick thinks it is funny.) I let him use the self-checkout machine because it is fun but as he got to the book on seven year olds his hand froze.
"What is this?" he asked.
I blushed. I actually blushed.
"Is this a book to help you figure out how to get me to do what you say all the time?"
"Yes," I said. And I narrowed my eyes at him. He opened his mouth. Shut it. Then scanned the book and I put it in the library bag.
I CANNOT BELIEVE I actually blushed.
Books. I saw a friend at the library and asked how she was. She said she was struggling to find a good book to take camping. I asked what she wanted. She said, fluffy? Light?
I thought for a minute and said, "Ohhh! What you want is 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'. Not fluffy exactly but very charming and delightful. And, incidentally, the library has a slim and campable paperback copy."
This was a book that you recommended to me on bed rest and it was such a perfect book for the occasion that I take great pleasure in passing it on (the recommendation; not the book. I never get books back so I am never loaning that one out.) I have an ad up for two books right now. The, um, Buttafucco story? Did I even spell that right? I saw that and had to think for a minute before I realized that she must be that poor woman who was shot in the face by her idiot husband's idiot underaged girlfriend. Did she stay with him after that or something equally horrible, do you know? I did get the other book, The Eight, out of the library because I liked the cover. I have read the first ten chapters and it's fun so far. I'll let you know what I think when I am done.
So I am reading that and a manuscript that one of Steve's business partners has written. I am taking a really long time with the latter because it's so far from what I would usually read (like oh my god soooooooo faaaaaaaaar - think serial killings) and I keep trying to decide if I should make helpful notes as I go or just get through the whole thing and then go back and be helpful. He asked for it, by the way. The help I mean. I'm not just taking a pen to his life's work at random. But a serial killer. Slow going.
What are you reading? Is it good?
PS Good GRIEF. I cannot believe I forgot the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. I just finished the first five books (written for young adults but who cares?) and gave them to Steve to read and we both enjoyed them so much we adjusted our austerity budget to enable us to order the next three books in the series from the only place they are available... Australia. Adventure books, well written and well told. Also, my dear friends down under, you probably know this already but DAMN do you pay a lot for your reading material.
PPS I have gotten into my food blog a bit and I am really enjoying it. I appreciate the comments from those of you who have taken a look, so thank you. Tonight's recipe: mint lime and vodka cocktails.