Sunday, February 24, 2008

breaking the language barrier

Miguel’s vocabulary has exploded (apple! toofu! cup pease! uh-oh!). I understand that, as a 16 month old, breaking the language barrier is his job, but, still, it’s amazing to witness. He loves saying people’s names: Ben (day care playmate), Sheer-a (his Godmother), Char-y (easier to say than Nana), Gra-pa. He has even started to say Mama (Finally. He’s been saying Dada forever. Of course, now that M is in reach, he has started up with Mii-kle.)

He’ll try to repeat nearly any noun you say. After we got a wedding invitation in the mail, he walked around with his “tation.” Last week he was on his tip toes lunging at the counter saying “Fow-er! Fow-er!!!” It took me a few minutes to realize he wanted the pink carnations I had bought from my school fundraiser on Valentine’s Day. Who knew this lowly flower would be so appealing to a toddler?

This afternoon, he was rattling the gate asking for “tar, tar, TAR!” Befuddled, I opened the gate and he led me down the hall to the master bedroom. Lo! On the bed was Michael’s guitar. How did Miguel remember that his dad had left it there this morning?

“Gasses! Gasses!” He’s pointing at the sunglasses Nana/Char-y gave him. “Music! Muuuu-sic!” He’s pounding at the door to the study, demanding to hear Farmer Jason or Springsting’s take on Pete Seeger. “Dance, dance, dance” he smiles as he spins or stomps his feet, once the muuu-sic is on.

He’s not just talking, he’s communicating. His hyper verbal mama couldn’t be more tickled. I just want to trail him with a tape recorder (without hovering, of course).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

messy times and 47 stairs

This picture has little to do with this posting but it is recent and symbolic of messiness, which IS somewhat the subject of my get off yer arse and do some writing post for tonight.

We are better at maintaining our sidewalk than our inner commons. During this top 10 Chicago winter, we (mostly Michael) have diligently scraped away each blizzard and dusting from our 25 foot ribbon of walkway. One weekend, I shoveled all the way to the intersection, knowing that the Head Start next door only plows on weekdays. This was early in the season, when I was delighted to finally have a proper winter. Three feet of the white stuff later, and there's less pep in our snow relocation efforts. We clear to the property line and no more.

Our entryway and stairs are another matter. Out front, we are concerned about safety, so we swing into action at the first flake. Inside, we're waiting until spring to bust out a mop. Between the never ending snow, our first floor rehab and our utter exhaustion, the depression-era white, gray and black tiles in the foyer and oak stairs are suffering.

Miguel's bike trailer is stored in the front entry. The tiles under his parking space are covered in dark gray sludge from commute drippings.* The second entry has a thin layer of silt from when we blew insulation into the ceiling. The stairs are daily abraded by salt, plaster, and neglect. We and our guests have to traverse a 3 story moat of grime to get to our apartment, which is one reason we have been horrible about inviting people over lately.

Despite the sub-par conditions, today I let Miguel climb all 47 dirty stairs to get home. He had his snow suit and gloves on (actually, Mommy's wool socks were on his hands, up to his elbows, since he can't keep his gloves on), so I figured, why not? For now, Miguel's stair-climbing tools are his shoes, knees and sock-gloved hands. As long as he didn't lick the stairs (or Mommy's sock-gloves), what did it matter that the stairs were dirty?

I wonder what Miguel was thinking as he finally completed the long journey that he only knows from my or Michael's arms. For 15 plus months--his whole life--he has been swept upstairs. Was he tired? thrilled? unencumbered by analysis? as he crested the last landing? We don't know. I *can* say that I was proud. "Maybe we shouldn't move to the first floor after all," Michael mulled.

*I nearly got stopped by the police yesterday during yet another 5:30pm snow. As I hauled Miguel south on Kimball, I was slowly passed by a squad car, windows rolled down. I looked at them, they looked at me. I sensed. . . .something, a judging maybe, and I didn't like it. I had half a mind to speed up to them at the next light to see what the problem was ("What?? Ya got a problem with me???"), but as I was carrying my son, I instead opted to keep my careful slow and steady course. I needn't have raced anyway, as they stopped for me to catch up to them.

"Is that baby cov. . . " Before he could complete the sentence, he saw that Miguel's trailer DOES have a cover, so no officer, I was not feeding my son a salt and motor oil smoothie for dinner! Somewhat indignantly I explained, "Yes, it's just like a covered stroller, except that the STREETS ARE CLEARER THAN THE SIDEWALKS so it is easier to get home.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Free Ride

A bus trip back in August (10 months)--before Miguel caught the waving bug. . . .

Today’s Guest Blogger is Michael, Miguel’s dad.

Gin has blogged about CTA troubles she has endured with Miguel—who really needed to get the pool before it closed, anyways? (see previous post.)

While most of my day-to-day travels with Miguel involve towing his bike trailer to and from daycare, I do find myself on the bus once or twice a week, usually running the odd errand with an agreeable travelling companion.

Since I’ve had a number of good bus experiences with Miguel, and since CTA has successfully averted ‘doomsday’, I thought I would extol some virtues of busing with baby.

There’s nothing like a free ride to stoke customer satisfaction. Although there’s been a lot of hype around CTA’s new seniors ride free policy, kids under six have always gotten a free pass at the farebox (when accompanied by a fare paying adult).

There may even be a way for Daddy to avoid the fare, too. My friend Josh --a parent, cyclist, and CTA rider--has hypothesized you could put your toddler on the bus, hop on your bike and meet your son or daughter at your destination bus stop. He reasons that the bike will always beat the bus, so there’s little danger of your toddler having to wait for you to catch up at your destination.

Though I generally prefer biking to the cramped confines of a city bus, Miguel’s latest developmental advance has made riding the bus loads of fun.

Miguel is going through a gregarious stage where he indiscriminately approaches any stranger with an enthusiastic wave and a hearty “Hiyee!” He is down-right gleeful to have a captive yet ever-changing audience to try out his newly-learned salutations.

Few riders can resist Miguel’s charms. After waving and smiling back to him, bus passengers are often very generous in offering me free parenting advice. Yesterday, an older Eastern European woman told me how once Miguel becomes a teenager, he will constantly beg me to buy him expensive designer clothes.

“Pierre Cardin, Tommy Hilfiger . . . he’ll want you to spend $200 on his pants and you’ll just have to tell him no,” she prognosticated. An older African Amercian gentleman a few rows back chimed in, “And don’t forget the Michael Jordan shoes--$150!”

I was tempted to inform all passengers within earshot that no, I wouldn’t have to worry about commodity fetishism in Miguel’s teen years. He doesn’t watch TV and he’s seldom seen the interior of a car. Miguel will be attending socialist summer camp, we read to him every evening from Das Kapital and we’ve been careful to only use red diapers.

Instead, I nodded my head and deferred to the wisdom of my fellow passengers. Wisdom I would have missed were I waiting with my bike at the next bus stop for Miguel to catch up.