Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Language of 2 Year Olds

More than 3 months left to go before my son turns 2 and I am still amazed at how much he understands even though he still can't convey his thoughts and wants into full sentences...yet. What he does do--and very well I might add--is point to what he wants while simultaneously uttering the sound or sounds the object makes. For me, its taken months to assimilate his "vocabulary" so that I can better communicate with him. To better facilitate this, I decided to make a list of these "word sounds". Since I'm not a virtuoso in this style of communication, a handy guide was needed in finding the exact word that illustrates the specific sound I was looking for that my son uses. That's where the list of onomatopoeia at "Wiktionary" became very helpful. This also helps in keeping my pronouciation of these sounds at work to a minimum. After all, reproducing random gutteral sounds from my 21 month old's vocabulary in a professional work environment isn't conducive to long term employment.

Let's take a look at some of these onomatopoeia that my son has perfected:

Any motorized vehicle--heck, any machine that burns combustible fuel--is of course "vroom, vroom, urruum.....". No big surprise here. Although my son's Fisher Price 4-Wheeler doesn't burn gasoline, the "vroom, vroom, urruum....." works here too.

A train or truck (18 wheeler) is "Umm, Umm" which is said by detaching each word from the other in a distinctly separate manner. It's said while pulling a phantom horn with his right hand from above. This one is ONLY for a truck or train and should not be confused with "vroom, vroom".

My cordless drill is "Eeeeeeeeee" with a crescendo from the start to the fifth "e" which is held for a few seconds or until he runs out of breath whatever fits his fancy at the time.

The coffee maker is "Blah-la" created by sticking your tongue hitting your upper lip as it exits your mouth--the "blah"--and then quickly pulling it back in hitting your upper lip as it retreats--the "la". All of which occurs in about a half of a second. He also uses this to identify a few animals and inanimate objects such as a frog, cat, snake and clock. This poses a real problem when you in the kitchen and ALL THREE ANIMALS are standing under the clock which creates a huge challenge trying to figure out what one he's referring to not to mention how they all got there seeing how we only own a clock.

My drum set is "boom, boom". No detailed pronunciation description needed. He has also used the old "boom, boom" when something else has gone "boom, boom" like a backfiring car or an appliance that suddenly blows up...not that that's happened.

Any food that he doesn't like or some object either in the garbage or some to be placed in the garbage is referred to as "BLAH". All kids use this one. Remember to drag out the "AH" part for a half second or so to really place emphasis on how incredibly yucky the object in question really is. The pronunciation has to be convincing or else it will be looked at as...well, "blah".

One of the first sounds that my son incorporated into his lexicon was a straight up "grow"l. This word "growl" is used so often in real language that it probably shouldn't be classified as an onomatopoeia. aNYWAY, I think he picked this one up from me one day when I was disgusted about something and I sighed. He interpreted it as a "growl" where it has been used to identify dogs ever since. Of course, when he's not too happy, he'll "growl" to show dissatisfaction.

And last but certainly not least, the king of all toddler onomatopoeia, the mother of all little kid words:


Yes, he loves to say it even when its not really necessary. If your in the bathroom, he points to the toilet and he says, "POOP". When your walking around in the backyard, he'll point to the grass and say, "POOP. When you tell him to take off his shoes, he points to the treads and says, "POOP". A bird flies off of the deck and it leaves some white residue, he points and says, "POOP". He finds a Tootsie Roll and says, "POOP". This word has become interchangeable for basically all objects in the house and in the yard. Whether or not it's accurate is immaterial. The word "POOP" just works and my son is the king of its usage. Now you ask him if he has indeed "pooped" in his diaper and he will flat out lie to you in a cleverly orchestrated maneuver designed to let the "poop" stew in there until I build up enough gumption to change it.

Once he starts saying "tintinnabulate" then my wife and I are in trouble.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RUSH's New Album

Although it won't be officially released until May 1st, Rush's new album Snakes and Arrows was leaked onto the web late last week. Since then, I have listened to the entire album three times. Now, contrary to my wife's contention that Rush is all I listen to, the relatively new song by the group Breaking Benjamin called Breath is quite awesome and rightly deserves to be near the top of the rock charts where it has been for many weeks... but I digress.

This new Rush album, Snakes and Arrows, has alot of music on it, almost 63 minutes worth. You'll notice right from the beginning "old school" Rush elements that put the band on the map 30 years ago but also has a conspicuously modern feel which Rush or any band needs to stay competitive in 2007. et this album features songs with multiple movements as in the case with Track 2: Armor and Sword. This song is more than 6 minutes long but it stays fresh with all its complexity and bold feel. The first track, Far Cry, which has been close to the top of the charts for almost a month is probably harder than track 2. It gets your attention with a strong beginning and bold ending. Some of the middle tracks offer a bluesy feel in parts while changing back to a classical rock dynamic.

For the first time in 18 studio albums, Snakes and Arrows features 3 instrumentals. The first titled The Main Monkey Business doesn't disspoint. It's hard rock, classic rock and acoustic elements compliment each other quite well. The second titled Hope is a short jam session between Alex Lifeson and getty Lee. The third, track 12, called Malignant Narcissism is quick--a little over 2 minutes--but powerful. The bass riffs and tom-tom solos for a measure or two stand out toward the end.

Overall, I'd recommend Tracks 1, 2, 6, 9, 10 and 12. Tracks 6 and 12 being instrumentals.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Audio Books and Innocence of Childhood

It's amazing what mp3s you can find on the internet if you just look hard enough. For example, over the last 7 days or so, I've been listening to Bill Bryson's book The Lost Continent in the car to and from work. In brief, its about Bill's (I'll refer to him by his first name. He doesn't mind) trek across American after spending a number of years in Great Britian as a way of re familiarizing himself with our great land. One of his goals was to see if that perfect American town portrayed in movies actually existed. If you've read any of his books (A Short History of Nearly Everything, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Notes from a Small Island just to name a few) this literary work will not disappoint.

Prior to a week ago, the words "audio book" to me seemed like a contradiction. A book, after all, unless you're a 6 year old, should be read not heard. Listening to a book by all accounts seemed to me like cheating on a test. Why not just read the summary on the back cover?

That was my stance until I started listening to this book. Boy was I blown away. It wasn't at all as bad as I envisioned. My initial guilt for even postulating such an endeavor was quickly snuffed out as I became drawn into the storyline. True, its not the same as digesting the pages one after another while sitting in your favorite chair sipping an adult beverage but it doesn't suppress ones ability to conjure up mental images of what is transpiring in a specific passage even while thundering down the interstate.

The first seven or eight chapters which I finished last Thursday chronicles Bill's early leg of the journey which took him through Illinois, Kentucky and parts of deep south. The cotton fields in Mississippi he described reminded me of what I saw when I set out on my own cross country trip back in 1998; a story for another time. As he made his way through Illinois and western Kentucky, his description of the small towns were as vivid as anything I had ever heard.

...Then something hit home...right in between my eyes.

As Bryson searched for the "perfect" American little town, it occurred to me that as I observed my young son playing without a care in the world, I longed for the days when all I did was run around the neighborhood which was "perfect" in my eyes. I'd wake up on a Saturday morning, watched new episodes of Looney Toons (or were they reruns from the 50s and 60s?), ate a bowl of Frosted Flakes and went outside to play ball or ride my bike all over the neighborhood with no thought to what time it was or how much time elapsed. Truth be told, I got pretty good at figuring out the time by looking at the sun, within say a half hour or so. Eventually, I'd return home, eat dinner, help my mom or dad with a few tasks around the house or in the yard followed by more ball playing or more bike riding through the homemade dirt trails on the edge of the neighborhood. The next day, the process would start all over again.

Never did I have to worry about the hardcore reality that made up the world outside my neighborhood. After all, my neighborhood was my "perfect" little town as far as my 8 year old eyes could see. I didn't have to pay bills, didn't have to worry about employment, didn't have to worry about federal or state income tax or health care. My life consisted of three things: playing ball, riding my bike and playing video games. That's it. Nothing more. The rest fell into place. Life couldn't get any easier.

Alas, you can't go back in time to relive childhood days gone by. You can't even pretend that it's 1983 and ride your rusted out BMX up and down the street. I guess you could but the neighbors wouldn't look at you the same after such a stunt. However, during a trip home last summer, I decided to take a trip back to the old trails hoping that I could score one more ride only to find that the weeds had taken over leaving no trace of the trails that once stood. Evidently nature proved to have the last word.

I know it's a stretch but listening to Bill's voyage through these towns made me realize how much I see myself in my son. The childhood innocence he radiates as he plays in the family room or out in the garage is intoxicating. It triggers my memories from childhood of the smell of food my mom was cooking on the stove as I watched reruns of Scooby Doo or the sweet smell of my dad's pipe emanating from the basement as he worked on some project. Heck, I even remember the brand of tobacco--Captain Black--because it was my job to fetch it when he was ready to smoke his pipe.

In and of themselves, these stimuli mean nothing. But to me, they represented security and comfort. I had a comfy house, good food and loving parents that regardless of what trials and tribulations existed in their adult reality, they exuded a sense of calmness that, in retrospect, helped deflect the stress of everyday life away from me. My life in my small little "perfect" world continued unabated with, still, not a care in the world. It is this environment that encapsulates security and comfort that sustains the innocence and "perfection" of childhood that I wish to provide for my son and future child; something they will look back on in their adulthood with soothing fondness.

Call it living vicariously through ones child but playing with my son helps me forget that I am a working, responsible adult who needs to pay his taxes on time. The stressors of everyday life suddenly vanish and my existence becomes locked in a state of pure naivete. For these fleeting moments, I am back at home in 1983 smelling the faint tinge of cigar smoke from my dad or the overriding aroma of spaghetti sauce at the hands of my mom or the sound of the powdery dirt as I ride my bike on the old dirt trails back in the old neighborhood. If only these moments could last as long as childhood itself.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lake Effect Snow in April Produces Snowout

Lake effect snow is something that I am growing to hate. Hate is a powerful word but it fits here.

On Good Friday, the Cleveland Indians were scheduled to play their home opener. After 2+ hours of snow delays, countless trips across the infield blowing the snow off and thousands of gallons of 2-cycle fuel, the opener was cancelled and rescheduled the next day as a double header. So much for that. The double header was snowed out. So, how about a double header Easter Sunday with another game to be made up later in the year? Nope, another snow out due to the continuous lake effect snow squalls. That makes three consecutive snow outs due to more than 20 inches of snow! Now, the new "home" opener which was pushed to Saturday has been moved to Milwaukee due to horrible field conditions.

What we need now is about a week's worth of 80+ weather. That ain't happening either. Rain is forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday and again on Saturday. At this rate, baseball won't be played in Cleveland until mid-July.

At the bottom are the storm totals since the snow began falling last Wednesday at 5PM. 118 hours of continuous snow.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nathan's Easter Egg Experience

It's times like these that I realize my son will not remember any of this. In fact, he's probably about a year to a year and a half away from having memories permanently etched in his head from everyday experiences he will be able to look back on. Even still, its great to be apart of you child's explorations creating great memories for yourself even if it involves vinegar laced dye that at the time permanently transforms his hand to an exact likeness of the Incredible Hulk.

That brings us to the pictures chronicling my son's second Easter Egg experience featuring: egg dying, eating and hunting. Enjoy...Oh yes, the one picture with grandma also features her adult beverage cleverly concealed by her right hand.