Lily Speaks Up

Our daughters on Saturday morning…

I’m told that parents are not supposed to compare their children to each other, but how can you not? What we know best about parenting we know from experience, so when some new ailments manifests itself, or child number four does something as yet unseen or unexpected, you noticed.

For example: our number five, Lily, has begun to speak more slowly than her older siblings. We attribute this primarily to the fact that her siblings do the talking for her, anticipating her needs and filling in the blanks – she need only whine, whimper, grunt, or shriek, and her desires are addressed. Lately, however, she is becoming more verbal, showing her strengths, her weaknesses … and a budding sense of humor.

She loves her family, and has said Momma or Mommy for a long time now, and Dada or Daddy only slightly later. Emma came easy, and her hero worship from her eldest brother led to his name being next in her vocabulary: Nennen at first; now Denden.

Among her next words were nanee (banana), and gog and guck (for our Schnauzer Puck). She was a little slower with her other brothers, but that’s fair: they’ve been a little slower with her, as well. Trevor, as she warmed to him was Ruh-ruh, then Reh-Ruh, and now Chreh-ruh.

She then said all of these names for weeks, but we couldn’t get her to say Gabe or Gabey. We couldn’t trick her, couldn’t coerce her – nothing worked; she just looked at him and held her tongue. Then last week she began to call him Abba – which given his priestly inclinations, seemed almost mystical (it’s Hebrew for “father”). That was cool, but only lasted for a couple of days before it devolved (we thought) into Abluh or Uh-bluh. (Gabe quickly tired of everyone asked Lily who he was, or saying, “Lily … where’s Uh-bluh?”)

It seemed like a step backward, until once a couple days ago, when Lily saw Gabe’s photo and said, “Ay-bluh.” You could almost hear Gabriel in her syllables – she knows what she wants to say, but can’t quite articulate it yet.

She is trying out other words, as well, that show up in humorous (and sometimes trying) ways. For example, when we tell her not to do something (or when she is about to do something she knows she shouldn’t), she looks at Jodi or me and says, “no, no, NO!” in a tone that suggests nag, nag, NAG! And one night when she was being clingy and fussy, I made the mistake of steering her away from Jodi by stepping between them, putting my arm around my bride, and saying, “MY mommy!”

I thought it was funny in the moment – but a day or so later, I returned home from work, walked into the kitchen, and kissed my wife, only to see Lily march over, grab her pant leg, and say, “MY MOMMY!” Now she walks around the house claiming everything in her reach: “My mommy, my Denden, mine, mine, MINE.”

Nice going, Dad.

Finally, a couple nights ago we’re seated at the table eating supper, and everyone’s chattering away. It’s hard to listen to five kids at once, and Lily is repeating the same monosyllable over and over, so I’ve tuned her out temporarily.

Finally I focused in, and see that she’s leaning across the table, looking insistently at me as she speaks.

What did she say?

“Jehm. Jehm. Jehm! JEHM!”

“Wait a minute!” I say, and the table quiets. “Lily, who am I?”

She grins. “Jehm.”



Jodi and the kids are giggling. “Who?” I ask again.


“Lily, who am I really?” I say, mock sternly.

She grins until it wrinkles her nose. “Daddy!” she says.

She loves this game now. She won’t call Jodi anything except Momma or Mommy – though she knows her name, too; ask her to give Jodi a hug and see.

I know, I know – it’s not the first time a child has done something precious (or precocious) while taste-testing words. But for us, it could be the last. Jehm is enjoying it, and so is Daddy.

Trevor Contemplates the Nature of Fear

I brought Trevor in on the train this morning. As we were waiting at the Elk River Station, I related the story of Gabe, standing with his back to the tracks on a narrow train platform in Connecticut, when a freight train blasted through. Somehow, immersed in the newness of it all, Gabe hadn’t heard it coming. “It scared the bejeebers out of him!” I laughed.

Fifteen minutes later, safely aboard the Northstar, Trevor asks, “Dad, is ‘bejeebers’ just a made-up word, or something real?”

He told me later that he couldn’t imagine what “bejeebers” would be if it was something real that had come from Gabe.

Rose Is Rose

If you look at the list of blog tags to the right (and down), you’ll see that “Rose” appears only about half as much as “Bren,” “Gabe,” or “Trev.” A number of factors contribute to this discrepancy, including the fact that Brendan and Gabe are both older and have thus had more opportunity to do blogworthy stuff; the Trevor was more recently a toddler and preschooler and thus was more prone to do cute kid stuff than any of the older kids; and that the boys spend more time with me than Emma does. She and Jodi get more one-on-one time by virtue of shared interests, etc.

One thing that hasn’t been a factor, because it simply isn’t true, is that Emma’s not as cute or funny or bloggable as our male children.

Case in point: today our girl-baby and I ran errands together. As we rolled into Elk River, she spotted Chipotle and hatched a plan: “Dad, why don’t we go to Chipotle and not. tell. anyone.

“Emma!” I said in mock outrage. “That would be incredibly mean and selfish. Besides, I have to go home and make them supper tonight.”

“You have to make supper for them,” she persisted. “Nobody said anything about us.”

“No, Emma, I’m sorry — we can’t go to Chipotle.”

“Oooh! then how ’bout Pizza Hut? I want to toast a tortilla, then wrap it around a slice of cheese pizza and eat it!”*

“If we stopped at either place, that would really toast Mom’s tortilla.”

Emma laughed and laughed. “Next time I get mad, that’s what I’m gonna say: ‘That really toasts my tortilla!'”

“You can do it with other stuff, too.” I said.

And so we did: “That really browns my burger.” “That really fries my bacon.” And so on.

“Toasts my tortilla” and “browns my burger” are Emma’s current faves. I love that girl. And even though I mentioned the other kids in this post, I’m not tagging it that way. She needs to gain some ground!


*This, by the way, was later dubbed the cheese pizzadilla or the quesapizzadilla.

Online English Pet Peeve, Part 1

It’s trivial, but I can’t help it. It bugs me when people who want to draw out a word for emphasis arbitrarily type a string of consonants at the end instead of a string of vowels in the middle. For example, one might reasonably shout, “Yessss!” but certainly not, “That dude was fasttttt.” Way cool = “cooool,” not “coollllll.”

I realize this poses a problem with short vowel sounds in a word like hot: “hooooot” may look like something an owl says, but I would argue that “hottttttt” is certainly not better, based on the amount of spitting required to render it audible. And how can you expect people to believe that “me n my girls r gonna have funnnnnnnnn tonite” when string of nnnnns reads like a soft snore?

I propose no rules other than to make what you type accurately reflect the sounds you would expect someone to make when they say it. Perhaps, “It is ho-o-ot outside!” Or better still, “It’s scorching!”

Colorful Language

Blogger’s Note: My friend, children’s author Jacqui Robbins (yes, the Jacqui Robbins, and don’t act so surprised!) posted this little gem, which got me thinking about when my own kids began to notice differences in people.

Let me say up front: racism is a real problem in the world. As a result, we have complex reactions to race — we notice differences between people quite naturally, and then (especially as adults) we sometimes overcompensate for our reactions. We react so strongly at times that we can confuse our children by overthinking it. This is how I remember one early incident.

Several years ago, Jodi and I took the older boys to a high-school basketball game. Brendan and Gabe were preschoolers, and we were seated in the crowded home bleachers. The visiting team was from a nearby city, and had players “of multiple ethnicities” on the floor. All one of the starters on the home team, the Warriors, were white — and when that one minority player hit a nice jump shot early in the game, the crowd cheered wildly.

“Who made a basket?” asked Brendan.

“Number five,” I said. “Do you see him?”

Brendan went down the steps a ways to get a better look at the scrambling players. “You mean the brown one?” he called back.

The crowd around us matched the makeup of the starting five: Mostly white, except one family seated across the aisle from us. Jodi and I glanced at them in sudden embarrassment. They didn’t seem to have heard.

“There he is,” I said, pointing. “Number five!”

Brendan craned his neck, then looked back at me. “The brown one!” he said. “That’s what I said!”

“I wanna see th’ brown one!” yelled Gabe.

“Listen,” I rasped as Jodi glanced across the aisle. “His name is Charlie. You guys can cheer for him by name. Cheer for Charlie.”

They did, and after a while, the family across the aisle noticed and smiled proudly. And I started to think: The boys didn’t mean anything by it; they’re just kids, pointing out the most obvious distinguishing characteristic. I laughed at myself. To think that I was worried about a color…

The cheer squad chanted, “Here we go, Warriors, here we go!”

“Let’s go, Warriors!” I shouted, and Bren repeated, “Let’s go, Warriors!”

“Who is ‘Warriors’?” asked Gabe.

“That’s the team we want to win,” said Bren. “The ones in white.”

The other team was pressing hard. “Let’s go, Warriors!” yelled Brendan.

“Yeah,” said Gabe. “Let’s go, whites!”