Monday, September 19, 2011


My favorite new word of Ila's is definitely "mole." Not like the animal, like the little brown spots my skin is covered with. She's been fascinated by my moles for a number of months. It's particularly lovely when she tries to pinch and pull the few around my neck that are a bit raised. I get to say fun things like, "Ila please be gentle with Mama's moles." At any rate, she obviously absorbed that these spots are moles because the other day she kept poking me on my knee and saying, "Mo," as in "mo" (poke) "mo" (poke) "mo" (poke). I was bathing her, so I wasn't super focused on what she was saying until about the 8th poke. Then, I realized she was trying to tell me something. She was pointing out my moles.

Now, why, I would like to know, would she decide this is an important word to absorb and use when she seems completely and entirely uninterested in words that have much more practical applications like "eat" or "yes" or, even, "no"...or, the lovely "mama?" Sigh. I admit, it would be sweet if she actually called me mama. All in the fullness of time, I suppose. Realistically, she shakes her head for "no" and does her signing for "eat"...but there are so many other practical words that she hasn't adopted yet.

It is fascinating to observe which words she plucks out of the hundreds she hears each day to try out and repeat. Her earliest words, after "egg" and "Bob" (for a stuffed bobcat toy), were "ball," "hat," "hot" and "water." Technically they were "ba," "haa," "ha," and "wa." "Ball" and "water" are not surprising. She loves playing with both of these, so these word selections make sense easily. Why "hot," though? I wasn't even aware that I used that much with her. However, I suppose, when I'm holding something hot, I am very emphatic and clear about it. Maybe she picks up on this extra emphasis - the word seems important, so she makes special note of it.

On the utilitarian side of things, she added "up" (pronounced exactly right) shortly after the above words. She likes to use it semi-automatic style, "up up up up up up up up up up." Towards the end they're screeched if you're not complying quickly enough. Whenever Kiyomi or I walk into the kitchen, she is sure to race in and hit you with a volley of "up's." This room is, obviously the hub of lots of interesting activity, and she doesn't want to miss anything. These days, we have to stand her on a chair or step stool by the counter, give her her little apron, and let her "help." Helping pretty much means tasting everything, smearing food across the counter, or banging the mixing spoons around. It's pretty adorable if you just roll with it. If you are very attached to getting whatever it is done quickly, it's a little less cute.

She is so much more...capable. I suppose that's the right word. For instance, it feels like she understands the majority of what I'm saying. The other day, she was "helping" me make scones. I was cutting in cold butter to my flour mixture, and, after cutting off a few "tastes" of the butter for Ila, I asked her to put a few pieces of butter into the mixing bowl. Well, I'm positive she understood what I asked her to do, but she had a better plan. Why not "taste" these much larger pieces of butter as well? She did want to put the chunks of butter into the bowl...she just wanted to eat them more.

She's also much more physically dexterous. She can eat with a spoon, with a surprising degree of accuracy. She is running...actually, more like trotting, but it's way more coordinated than the bizarre trip-step hop she was trying out a couple months ago. She's able to put stacking rings onto their spindle. She can manipulate little things with her fingers. Just thing, a year ago, she was a little blob that could barely grasp a rattle when I forced it into her fingers. It's impressive how much kids learn and grow in the first couple years of life.

She just seems to know what she's doing more. She bit my nipple while I was nursing her and chatting with folks during our visit to the cottage. She hasn't done this many times, and I responded with my usual "no" and put her down routine. This is, of course, very upsetting for her. However, she came back a while later and signed to nurse. She starting nursing, and I looked down at her. She very gently made a biting face then shook her head, as if to say, "I may want to, but I would never do that horrible biting thing." Her little face was so earnest, I wanted to laugh. Sometimes it seems she's particularly cute and hilarious when she's experimenting and pushing the limits. I know that I ought not laugh at certain things, but it is difficult. Other times, have no problem not laughing. She dropped a stuffed toy in the toilet right after peeing in it...that was a moment I did not laugh. (While telling Kiyomi about it later, though, I did chuckle.)

She watches everything then experiments with weird gestures. She's got this fake smile she pops out and works on occasionally. Last month she was shrugging her shoulders in a prolonged cutesy way. Yesterday, she was shaking one hand spastically in the air as she'd seen me do when I was shaking water off my own hand. Today, she's putting her head down and slouching around like Quasimodo. Some things are clearly imitation. Others, I'm not certain where they came from.

She has added a few more words to her permanent repertoire in the last couple weeks, "book," "uh-oh," "bike," "Willa" (our friends' daughter's name), "apple", "banana" (pronounced, oddly, "meena") and "help." But I can see that it will be a while until she is truly talking. It's sort of charming that she's so sparsely verbal, though. It adds to the feeling that nothing is premeditated for Ila. Limited language, limited planning. There's something so unstudied and present about everything Ila does. She walks around the house, busy with a block or ball, then tosses that aside, walks to another room, barks like a dog in response to the neighbor's dogs, repeats a stray word I say, points to a succession of five things some with accompanying gestures or sounds, then wanders on again.