Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dear Anna: Dancing Queen

Dear Anna,

In the interest of seeing if you can focus and follow directions in an artistic setting for 45 minutes and of seeing if you like it at all (or if we should give up entirely and go for rumblin' tumblin' gymnastics), we enrolled you in a Tiny Tu-Tus "ballet" class at one of the county rec centers; it began earlier this month. You had the privilege of missing the second class for your birthday party (more on that in another letter), but the first class was, well, interesting.

You were all about your beautiful ballerina outfit. You were so excited to go to ballerina class. You're even still excited about going to ballerina class, despite your experience of the first class. Mistake #1 - we arrived too early. You were pasted to the window of the class studio, watching the younger set in their class, all the while getting antsier and antsier about starting your class. Mistake #2 - we did not plan on a substantial snack before your class. Your class that begins at 12noon. You were famished and none too pleased about it. You didn't realize in the moment that you were hungry; you just knew you weren't about to follow all those directions and fall in line with the other teeny ballerinas.

Oh, you started out just fine. Cute personified, raising your arms up and turning around. I watched from outside the studio - your first such activity without parent participation! But as the class wore on, you petered out. By the end of the class, while the other wee tufts of pink were happily dancing around holding hands in a circle, you were firmly planted on the floor, away from the circle, glaring at me through the window as though you were a caged animal at the zoo.

Grandma is bringing you to your class on Saturday, and Daddy and I are loading her up with tips. Get there just in time. Give her a Lunchable in the car, or she might eat a ballerina. Try not to watch the full class from the other side of the window - she can sense your fear. I do think it'll be just fine - really, I do. And hey, if you don't like this one, we'll try something else in the spring. Something tells me you'd love to do somersaults for 45 minutes straight.

As a complete aside, I have to show you this picture. In the midst of your various Disney obsessions, you've become a big fan of Peter Pan. I'm shocked at the movie every time we watch it, particularly at the now-considered-appalling portrayals of Native Americans (whom you refer to as the "scary sweethearts" - ??). But you love the adventure and the villainy and the crocodile and Michael's little teddy bear. I took this picture one evening right after you watched the movie and right before you went to bed.

The movie ends with a cloud version of the pirate ship, now under Peter's command, sailing away past the moon, and, in this picture, you are ardently searching the skies outside our house for the ship. You're going to lose so many of these flights of fancy and magical beliefs, but I hope you're always looking for the ship in the sky.

Love,
Mama

Dear Tessa: Not one little bit reticent

Dear Tessa,

Well, my sweet girl, you are talking. You are pointing out anything and everything that crosses your path as well as many things that don't. You began around 15 months with simple wordlike creations (still not sure how I feel about "mama" for "banana"), and now, four months later, you can create simple sentences and could land a talking head job on CNN for your running commentaries on all things great and small.

You're signing a bit, too, mostly at mealtimes, but your signs for "more" and "please" largely complement the words you've developed out of them ("mo" and "peezh"). You repeat absolutely everything, and it only takes one or two practice runs before you can pretty well count a word as part of your vocabulary.
Animals are high on the list of your words. One of your favorite books is That's Not My Monkey, which we scored on a recent outing to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Your representation of the title goes something like "At Ott I Ukkey!" When we ask you where the mouse is (a wee white mouse, friend to monkeys, makes an appearance on each page), you sometimes point, sometimes don't, but you always say, "Eeeshhaaa!" Which we take to mean, "It's there!" or "I see it!" or "Why are you wasting my time with such trivial matters as finding a mouse in a book? Good God, woman, don't you know there's a financial crisis on?"

Other words have caused Raised Eyebrow Syndrome in older strangers and Knowing Smile Syndrome in other parents of toddlers. "Ocean" comes out quite clearly as "Oh Shit," and that's all there is to say about that. Except that we are working on "sea" instead of "ocean" whenever possible until your pronunciation clears this one up a bit.

You can accurately answer most "yes" and "no" questions and haven't yet fallen into the preschooler (ahem, Anna) trap of giving false answers so as to confuse and disorient your parents. You love saying "yeah!" as though this proposition is just the best idea since nightlights. Sometimes you start in on a hearty "yeah!" and then realize that, no, you actually don't want an apple, so the answer is a delightful, "Yeaa---! Noo."


When we're reading, you like to point back and forth at various pictures - one of your favorites for this is the last page of The Going to Bed Book. The last page reads, "The moon is high; the sea is deep. They rock and rock and rock to sleep." When I'm done reading that line, you point from the moon to the boat to the sea to the air to the stars to the moon to the boat to the moon to the boat to the sea...you get the idea. And each time you point, you stop and wait for me to name that at which you're pointing. I can almost see the sponge that is your language development center soaking these labelings up, and, sure enough, out come the words shortly thereafter.

You have some extremely particular pronunciations, which probably come from our own emphasis of words we very much want you to understand. One especial favorite is "hot," which comes out with an exaggerated beginning "h" and an exclamation point of a final "t." You're getting the concept, too, which is the whole point, but it's adorable to see you lean over something at your high chair, look up at me, and slowly exclaim, "HhhoT." "Hat" gets a similar treatment, although, to be sure, the dangers inherent in your millinery aren't so great as those in an overheated batch of mac and cheese.


Lately, you've added your own name to your ever-expanding mix of words - you've answered to it for some time, but now you can label yourself: "Tesshha." You also label your most favorite possessions: "doggie" (one of the first and probably the favorite), "pashi" (paci, for pacifier, for those who prefer the "binky" terminology), and "Arieooo" (translated: Ariel, the Little Mermaid - she's your faaaavorite).

I haven't heard you talk about your toddler room classmates yet, but Anna is still "Amma," and you are most put out if she is not present for your amusement when you wake up or when we pick you up at day care. Daddy is now "Daddy" (he'll be the first to tell you that took forever), and I am Mommeeeee, which suits me just fine. You call out to us in delight when we arrive to claim you from your crib in the morning or at the end of a day care day, but it isn't until we arrive home or the restaurant or wherever we're going that it seems to sink in that we're all together, and you exclaim, very much in the tone of one making introductions in a group, "Amma! Daddy. Mommmeeeee." It's a lovely way to be rounded up at the end of the day.

Love,
Mama

Friday, September 12, 2008

When the highlight of your day is a new mousepad, perhaps it's time to go home.

It is a nice mousepad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dear Anna: SING, Sing out LOUD...

Dear Anna,

It will come, perhaps, as no surprise to people who know your mama that you are becoming quite the little singer. You sing everywhere - to your stuffed friends at naptime and bedtime, in the bathtub, at meals, in the car - you name it, you've sung there. Your songs are often ones you've learned at school or at home, but you also make up songs that sound remarkably like chanted liturgy - little recitatives about your activities and surroundings:

I am a baby puppy
I am playing at the pool with Tessa
Puppies play at the pool
Puppies eat canteloupe and
Puppies take baths with Tessas


You have your favorite learned songs, too, most of which are by a certain Ralph Covert, of Ralph's World fame for others in the children's music know. Ralph's songs are catchy and fun, and you're very concerned that we all have our favorites. Yours is a song called Surfin' in My Imagination. I know this because each time we get a couple of tracks from it in the car, you announce that when Surfin' comes on, you will sing Very Loud. And you do, especially on the little Beach Boys-esque vocal riff in each chorus.


You've had a few group performances - this summer's "Academy Awards" at school saw your class perform a rousing rendition of Down by the Bay. At the end of each verse, a few kids hollered out their assigned silly lines (Did you ever see a snake baking a cake?! Down by the BAY!). You got so caught up in the singing that you missed your shout-out line, and when the song was over, you were positively distraught, insisting, "They forgot me!" Oh, my little diva, you sounded beautiful to me - I heard every note.

I love that you can sing on key at this young age. I love that you learn lyrics and melodies so easily. I love that you make up your own narrative tunes. But more than these talents, I love that you love music. It's such a huge joy in my life that I could never quite imagine it not being one in yours, too. To each her own, of course, but I am over the moon every time I hear you singing a song to your little sister, or just to yourself.

Love,
Mama

Thursday, September 4, 2008

For the record...

It's been an honor and a delight watching The Daily Show's coverage of the conventions. This shouldn't surprise me in the least, but it's been just lovely. I'm currently an especially big fan of Samantha Bee's "choice" piece at the Republican convention.

And to pull from a comment I heard on NPR today, how is it that the "fake news" is the only broadcast of note to go side-by-side and back-to-back with footage of one person making completely contradictory remarks on central issues (Bill O'Reilly, I'm looking at you! Among others.)? It might be the sheer entertainment value that keeps it off the "real news," but it's some of the most telling footage I've seen through this seemingly-interminable campaign season.

Finally, let's hear it for the community organizers out there. Think you were unsung before? Hmm...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Moot Point

So, Sarah Palin. Do I really have to spell this one out? I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama because of Senator Clinton's gender. I voted for Senator Obama for my own, internally-thought-out reasons, reasons with which I'm very comfortable. I'm not voting for McCain-Palin over Obama-Biden because the GOP claims to have forged ahead and shattered the glass ceiling. Last time I checked, Governor Palin stands on the opposite side of virtually every issue I hold dear - censorship, the right to choose (And can we please stop calling this pro-life and anti-abortion? I don't know anyone who's actually anti-life and pro-abortion. Let's call it what it is - pro-choice and anti-choice. Thanks.), thorough sex education for our kids in their schools, and the list goes on. Nothing on that list has a damned thing to do with her family, her choices in raising her family (there but for the grace of whatever you believe in go I), or the choices her family makes.

So let's be clear. Should McCain-Palin gain the White House in November, I will not be taking one iota of comfort or joy in the fact that a woman has attained the vice-presidency. I will be working counter to McCain-Palin's every move against my personal freedoms and those of my daughters.