After Dr. Mom got home from work last night, we took the kids and the dog and walked to our polling station, voted, and felt like good Americans. Then I listened to the coverage on the radio for a few hours as I went about the rest of the evening, and I started to feel dirty. Every candidate that opened his or her mouth evoked my Holden Caulfield response: "Phony!" And we don't even have the tee vee, so we were spared all the horrible ads. Nor do we have a land line, so we missed the robocalls as well. I feel bad for anyone who had to endure that onslaught of soul-sucking crap.
The results seem to be pretty much what the reasonable pundits were predicting, so it's not really a big surprise. Considering that the Democrats (about whom I can't really get excited these days anyway) were outspent seven to one, thanks to the worst goddamn Supreme Court decision in recent history, they didn't do that badly. And at least California didn't go all tea-baggy. But still, the whole business left me enervated.
The thing that I'm psyched about, though, is language. Specifically the language that is starting to seep into my kids' brains, and sometimes come out of their mouths. They understand a lot. I can give them pretty complicated instructions (e.g., "Go to the closet and get your sister's purple socks and bring them to her") and, depending on their mood, they sometimes do what I ask them. They can identify all kinds of animals in real life and in picture books, and they have a small repertoire of words(ish) that they yell on cue, like "bathtime!" and "bowl!" (which also works as "ball!")
It probably doesn't surprise you that a couple toddlers would start acquiring language, but as for me, it blows my mind. I had heard about it and read about it, but never really seen it happen. I mean, it's pretty cool to see them figuring out how to negotiate their world in a physical way, walking and climbing and picking up and opening and closing; but to start figuring out how to refer to the physical world using a symbolic system--that's freakin' human. We have actual little people living among us.
Here they are negotiating the physical world, at a baby gear store where we were shopping for new car seats:
They seem to be pretty close to each other in terms of what words they know, but Butterbean is usually more into showing off her skills. She likes to play the "where's the [insert name of animal]?" game with books and pictures and can reliably point out about ten different species. Cobra will do so when pressed or in the mood, but often gives me a look like, "I'm not your trained monkey, and I'm not going to point out every stupid critter in this book." Then she shows me who is in fact the trained monkey by making me cluck and bark and neigh for her entertainment.
As if recognizing words and sounds isn't amazing enough, the fact that they can identify stylized cartoon drawings as elephants and cats really floors me. I don't see how even a grownup person with limited exposure to zoology and children's literature, much less a baby, could tell that a Sandra Boynton rhinoceros was supposed to be the same beast as one drawn by Eric Carle. But somehow they know.
Their spoken vocabulary is pretty limited at this point, but I think it is poised to explode into toddler poetry at any moment.
They've been saying "mama" and "dada" for months now, and of course, "shoes" was their first common noun. Since then, they've added "cheese," and, as I mentioned, "bathtime" which we all chant as we march from the dinner table to the tub.
They also can approximate a couple Vietnamese phrases (Dr. Mom speaks a lot of 'Namese around them), like "đi chơi!" ("go play!"), which is what we holler as we stamp toward the door on our way to a fun outing; and "bướm bướm" which means "butterfly," but is easier and more fun to say.
Another word they like is "bowl." They probably picked this up because Dr. Mom and I tend to say that word with all kinds of drama, drawing it out and accompanying it with ridiculous mugging. This is due to an incident years ago in Costa Rica, when we witnessed an Ugly American repeatedly demanding a "BOOOWWWWLLLL" from the waiter in an heladería, because it bothered him to eat his ice cream off of a plate. In any case, the girls have a lot of fun with this word, and will sometimes sing it out for minutes at a time.
In just the last couple of days, there have been times (especially bathtimes for some reason) during which the twins will imitate almost any word or phrase we say.
Also, they have discovered the comedic value of butts*. You can see where this is going.
Last night in the tub, Butterbean started slapping Cobra on the behind, which made both of them (okay, and their parents) laugh a lot. I offhandedly remarked, "Butts are funny."
That encouraged Butterbean to say, "Butt butt butt butt" for the next two or three minutes, as her parents tried to suppress their laughter and twisted pride.
In an effort to distract Butterbean from her butt-filibuster, I waved a rubber ducky in her face, and said, "Duck duck duck duck," to which she responded, "Duck butt, duck butt, duck butt."
Words are powerful.
*Like the ability to recognize animals from grotesque caricatures, the appreciation of butt jokes seems hardwired into the human genome.