Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Man vs. Grammar

I grew up with parents who were constantly correcting my grammar. It wasn't ever done in a bad way or to belittle or annoy me. They never used a condescending tone (though my dad's corrections occasionally carried a hint of impatience); they were just helping me build my grammatical toolbox, so to speak.

Yeah, I'll admit it - I got tired of hearing my mom question my use of "snuck" with, "How do you decline 'to sneak'? Sneak, Snack, Snuck?" And my dad STILL gets after me about my use of 'bring' and 'take' (because it apparently still eludes me).

But I don't fault them their efforts. In fact, looking back on it all with the wisdom of hindsight, I appreciate what they tried to do. I enjoy speaking properly. I'm obsessed with plays on words and obscure grammatical humor. Funny enough, Finley is, too. We spend entire car rides talking about sentence structure and rhyming words. This is probably why, at age three, he is already making puns and jokes that are, in my mind, brilliantly funny.

Because my parents were so successful (I think so, anyway) with teaching me how to speak properly, it should come as no surprise that Dana and I use similar techniques with Finley. We don't berate him for using the wrong word or incorrect grammar; instead, we gently suggest the right word when appropriate. Nine times out of ten, he picks up on it, repeating the phrase with the appropriate word. If he misses the cue, we don't press the point - not every moment is a good time for instruction. It is much easier to recognize that than get in a grammatical fight with a three year old. 

Turns out this is very much in-line with the Montessori method of teaching/correcting grammar, so we feel doubly justified in keeping this up.

One of the few times when we don't even bother correcting him is when Finely wants to get down from his chair after dinner. Once he started sitting in a chair without a booster seat, we began enforcing the rule that you have to excuse yourself from the table when you are done. During this first lesson, he kept getting "Can I" and "May I" mixed up and started asking, "Man I please be excused?"

He says it in such a cute, tiny voice and we smile every time. It's one of our reminders that he is still just a little boy and we've never had the heart to correct him. I guess every kid needs to have something little quirky phrase, right? That is his.

I suppose it could backfire on us. My brother had a similar situation with my niece. Her favorite color was yellow and she always said it with an "L" at the beginning, instead of a "Y". She didn't switch the letters with any other word starting with a "Y"; just "lellow". So nobody ever bothered correcting her.

At some point in her first week of kindergarten, she came home from school very angry and embarrassed and she let all of us have it! Apparently, when she asked for the lellow crayon during coloring time, someone told her she was saying the word wrong. She asked the teacher if the other child was correct and the teacher confirmed she was. She'd been saying it wrong for three years and nobody bothered to tell her. Twelve years later, we still hear about it every now and again.

This morning, I went into Finley's room to make sure he was doing OK getting ready for school. One of the cats was sitting on his bed. He was bent over her, rubbing his cheek in her fur (she's super soft) and making noises. I approached them to see what they were doing...

Finley: meow meow merow meow
Me: What was that?
Finley: I was speaking to Baby Teeters in Kitty.
Me: Oh, I see.
Finley: Now I'm speaking to you in Man.

I smiled. I kneeled down and gave him a big hug. I kissed him on his forehead. But I didn't correct his grammar. It was, I think, more important to just sit back and enjoy seeing how his little brain works on its own.

Maybe I'll correct it the next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

You! I Learned It From Watching You!

I've decided I have to start writing in this blog again, if only to record some of the hilarious/amusing/interesting things that little boy does.

His understanding of words and language and humor constantly amazes me.

Last month, we were on vacation in Florida. One day, walking on a path near some coastal water, we saw a little hermit crab scuttling about and this conversation ensued...

Me: Look, Finley, a hermit crab!
Finley: Cool!  Can I pick him up?
Me: Sorry, buddy, I don't think picking him up would be a good idea.
Finley: Well, can I CRAB him?

Seriously, he came up with that in a matter of seconds. Also, it's hard to be stern when you're laughing.

Last night, we were building stuff in his bedroom before bed...

Finley: Dadda, now I'm going to make a goats car.
Me: A goats car? What does it do?
Finley: It goats places.

Damn, I walked right into that one.

My first reaction is always, "I have no idea where he gets this!"  But if I think about it for about two seconds, I do know. If I don't think about it, my wife is quick to point out it is me. I even know WHEN he picks it up.

Finley and I spend almost an hour every day (going to and from work/school) talking about things. The subject changes almost daily, like word origin and why the sun rises later and later every day in the spring and what happens when you die (my least favorite topic, to be sure) and how come wet sand is better than dry sand when making sand castles.  And, periodically, we play games where we just go back and forth, rhyming words or phrases.

I don't ever think of it as "work" and I don't think he does, either. But it seems to be having a profound effect on his vocabulary. I think we'll keep it up.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Putting Things In Places Phase Begins...

Though I've never actually done it, I have to imagine pulling a subwoofer out of an Audi A4 is a fairly straight-forward task.  Open the trunk.  Disconnect some wires.  Remove some hex bolts or lag screws.  Pull out the subwoofer.  Done.

I would bet it is easier than pulling a 1:24 model Audi A4 with a surfboard roof rack out of a stereo subwoofer.  This, I can proudly say, I have now done.

Challenge:  Remove a 1:24 model Audi A4 (with surfboard roof rack) out of a Sony stereo subwoofer.

Method #1: Try sticking hand in to get it.
Nope, can't even get my hand into the sound hole past my thumb. The wife laughs from the sofa, but congratulates me on trying the obvious first.

Method #2: Try having the youngling stick his hand in to get it.
That also-obvious attempt didn't work, either. You end up with a monkey trap, where he grabs the car around the roof and tries to pull it out, only to fail because the car can't pass through the hole sideways.  This results in a frustrated two year old and an even more frustrated father, comically trying to tell his two year old son how to grab the car by the front to pull it out.  The wife laughs on from the sofa.

Alright, off to the kitchen for some tools. Dadda returns and attempts...

Method #3: Salad tongs
Ultimately, no, though this tool was involved in about half of the 170-some-odd attempts at car removal.  In the end, it was too bulky to try and manipulate the car through the subwoofer hole.  I could grab the car with the tongs, but not position it properly for removal. And the car was juuuust a bit smaller than the sound hole, so it had to be positioned properly for removal.

Method #4: Cooking Chopsticks
Again, ultimately, no. I can pick up anything from a grain of rice to a dumpling with a pair of chopsticks.  Apparently, an Audi A4 still eludes me.  At some point, I was alternating between using the chopsticks to position the car and the salad tongs to try and grab it. Repeat, ad nauseum, because it just wasn't working.

Almost lost an eye at around the 25 minute mark, when I was alternating between chopsticks and salad tongs, because the youngling picked up the chopsticks-now-miniature-light-sabers and began jabbing them around the subwoofer opening (where my head happened to be). Bit inside of cheek trying to not yell at the youngling for helping his dadda.

Method #5: Gravity
After a half hour, I was starting to get desperate.  I tried balancing the subwoofer on a magazine rack, sound hole facing down, to see if I could use gravity as an aid to my chopsticks.  Almost dropped the subwoofer on my head and decided to quit trying that method before I broke the subwoofer... or my head.

Method #6: Mechanical
Flipped the subwoofer on its side and tried to pry the screen off for easier access to the inside of the subwoofer.  This made me very nervous and I didn't really try that hard for fear of breaking the screen.  Or the subwoofer.  Or the salad tongs I was using to pry the screen off the subwoofer.

Metho.... oh, crap.  Where's the car??  After flipping the subwoofer around to balance it on the magazine rack and then laying it on its side, it appeared the car had become wedged somewhere inside the subwoofer.  Bugger.  I ended up thinking it through and reversing the previous actions of flipping the subwoofer on its side and balancing it on the magazine rack.  Finally, I heard the satisfying plink of a 1:24 model Audi A4 with surfboard roof rack rolling around inside the subwoofer again.  *whew*

Method #7: Ramp
At some point, I ended up with the car on its wheels on the bottom of the inside of the subwoofer.  I entertained myself for a minute by pushing the car to the back of the subwoofer using a chopstick, then letting it go.  It's the kind of car you can pull back and it winds up and takes off when you let it go.  It would drive forward and biff into the front edge of the inside of the sound hole.  I laid there on the living room floor, wishing I had that cupboard with the indian in it so I could have him make me a ramp inside the subwoofer.  Then I wondered if the Rats of Nihm would be too upset about the four mice I'd recently converted to "dead" in the garage to offer me a helping tail.  I seriously did consider making a wooden tongue depressor ramp for about 30 seconds, but, ultimately, common sense won out.

Method #8: Pastry Knife
Ahh... old tool shopping comes to the rescue!  About three years ago, digging through a workbench of old tools at an estate sale, I came across several old paint scrapers (one with a rosewood handle and two with walnut handles). I snatched them up!  (How often have you seen a production-made paint scraper with rosewood handles?) I also spied a narrow (about 3/4"), long (7" or so?) pastry knife, also with walnut handles.  For $.50, I snatched it up, too.  The former tools went into the workshop while the latter tool went into the kitchen drawer, after a bit of scrubbing with some scotchbrite pads and cleaning solution and a nice coat of paste wax on the now-clean handle.

Anyway, as I was pushing the Audi to the back of the subwoofer with the chopstick, using the surfboard roof rack, I noted there was a thin space between the roof rack and the roof.  Hmmm... I might be able to wedge something between the two, if I had a long enough and thin enough piece of metal!

The first thing to come to my mind was that pastry knife, and I knew right where it was.

And, viola!  Not 30 seconds later, I had the blade of the pastry knife wedged under the roof rack and was slowly pulling the car out of the subwoofer.  WOOT!  Job well done, Dadda!  It's Milla' time!

A few hours later, my wife mentioned something about the downstairs toilet not flushing properly. In a panic, my eyes immediately looked to the coffee table to see if the 1:24 model Audi A4 with a surfboard roof rack was missing...

Monday, August 13, 2012

He Takes His Straight Up

Phone call from Grammy-the-Baby-Sitter, with Finley crying in the background...

"Is it unreasonable to refuse the request for a spoonful of Ovaltine?"

(In the background, I hear Finley crying, "Spoon!  Spoon!")

"Er... well..."

"Really?!?  I thought he was making it up."

"No, he generally gets one when we're making some up for him to drink.  As an aside," I quickly add, "Dana started that..."

What can I say?  Sometimes you have to skip the middle man and just put the Ovaltine straight into your mouth.  

Also, my son has a chocolate sweet tooth.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Frozen Peas vs. Popsicles

"Frozen peas."
(The way he says it, it sounds more like, "Frooo-zen peeeees.")

"You want some frozen peas?"


"Ok, I'll get you some frozen peas."

I pour some frozen peas into a bowl and give it to him.  Finley sits at his small table, eating frozen peas.  (They're not that bad; you should try them some time!)  After a bit, he stands up and walks over to the refrigerator.  He reaches up and tries to open the freezer, saying, "Popsicle!  Popsicle!"

"Well... you can have a popsicle when you're done with your frozen peas."

Finley stares at me a moment.  I can see gears turning in that little brain of his and I wonder what he's thinking.

Finally, he walks over to the small table, picks up his half-finished bowl of frozen peas, holds it out to me, and says, "Done!" with a big grin on his face.  

He raises his eyebrows and queries, "Popsicle?"


*le sigh*

Well played, little youngling.  Well played.

Note To Self:  Next time, I need to say, "As soon as you eat all of your frozen peas, you can have a popsicle."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mother Is The Necessity Of Invention...

This last Friday I had to run out to the store on my lunch break to try and find some of those door knob safety covers.  The not-yet-two-year-old figured out how to open round door knobs a while back.  Apparently he now has the hand strength to follow through.

One evening last week, in the midst of a meltdown, the youngling finally realized his mom was in the hall bathroom with the door closed (and trying to keep quiet until the meltdown was over).  After banging his head on the door did nothing to remove the obstacle from his way, he decided to try what he'd seen us do umpteen times.  He reached up, grabbed the door knob, and started turning it.

It took him about a minute or so to get enough of a turn for the mechanism to clear the latch.  Fortunately for his mom, he'd distracted himself with the realization that he could open the door, so she didn't have to deal with toddler melt down.

But not wanting to provide any positive reinforcement for opening doors, we didn't say one thing about opening the door. We hoped he would forget.

No good.  Our son has the memory of an elephant.

Finley and the Cat Door
Thursday evening, a door once again separated son from mother; she was downstairs in the basement, feeding the cats.  Finley got tired of talking to her through the cat door, so he stood up, reached for the door knob, and had it open in about two seconds.

Oh, bother.

Sometimes, it's fun to see him learn, like when you're playing a matching game with him on the iPad and the concept of the game "clicks" and he knows exactly what he's supposed to do.

But there are other times when we see him figure something out and we immediately understand this new skill will result in us having to work even harder to keep him from getting into trouble.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Family Photos

Over the Memorial Day weekend, our friend, Shefy, took some family photos for us in Forest Park.

The rocking chair in the last two pictures has been used for three or four generations of childhood pictures.