Alex has been saying “I love you” (usually when prompted) for a week or two now. I reckon it’s about time – we’ve been saying it to him for almost 2 1/2 years (plus intrauterine time).
But today he said it in a new and special way.
He and I were walking to the bus, with a sharp wind blowing. I put his jean jacket on him. For some reason, he thought it should have a hood, and began to tug at the collar, saying “Hat, hat!” I told him there was no hat.
After a good half a minute of this, I spoke sharply to him. “Look, Alex, there is no hat on the jacket!” His face crumpled, as it often does when he suffers any form of reverse. He struggled to regain his composure for a few minutes, but was clearly devastated at the thought that I was irritated with him.
Finally he looked up at me with big eyes and a quivering lip and asked for a cuddle. I crouched down and he came into my arms. He clutched me tightly for a moment, burying his head in my shoulder, and said, “I love you, Mama.”
And everything was better.
Walking home from nursery yesterday, Alex told me about his day.
He had been playing at crying (he likes the drama, the contorted expressions, and the mock-mournful voices we do when we discuss what it’s like to be sad.) Then he turned to me and said, “I cry. I cry more.”
“Yes, Alex, you cried.” I thought we were still discussing the present, though I wondered why he cried “more”.
“I cry thumb,” he said, holding out his forefinger. This was a new turn; we had not been discussing the reason he was pretending to cry, though I had asked him if he was “sad”.
“Did you have an ouchy thumb?”
“Goose kiss better.” (He calls all the nursery attendants Goose, because their aprons have Mother Goose on them. I’m trying to get him to learn their names and use them when he says bye-bye, but with only indifferent success.)
I conclude that he injured his finger at nursery that day, and that one of the nursery nurses kissed it better. Talking about crying must have triggered the memory, which he wanted to tell me about. I have often, while soothing him to sleep, talked about the day with him, and I guess the idea of telling over the events of a day has taken root.
We were walking home from nursery this evening when we were overtaken by an older child on a scooter. Alex watched him with evident admiration, then turned to me and said,
“‘Cooter. Po ‘cooter.”
I agreed that it was a scooter, and that Po had a scooter.
“Te’tubbies ‘cooter. Po ‘cooter.”
I agreed that there was a scooter on the Teletubbies, and that it was Po’s scooter.
Then the conversation took a turn I hadn’t expected. Talking of Teletubbies , was the unstated introduction to his next comment: “Nana baw.”
“Yes, I said, LaaLaa has a ball.”
“Tinky bag. Dipsy hat!” finished the boy triumphantly, having listed all the Tubbies’ favourite things.
“What color is Po?” I asked, trying to establish how visual his memories of the Teletubbies are.
He answered promptly, “Red.”
“What color is Tinky Winky?”
“Blue.” We discussed this for a while, and agreed that Tinky Winky was actually purple.
“What color is LaaLaa?” “Yewwow.” “What color is Dipsy?” “Geen.”
This doesn’t necessarily establish the level of detail he remembers, since the colors of the Tubbies are significant and memorisable facts, like their favourite things. So I asked the clincher, something that isn’t generally emphasised in the show.
“What color is LaaLaa’s ball?”
He’s clearly got a visual picture of the Teletubbies in his memory banks somewhere. Very observant bunny.
Just outside Stansted Airport on the way to Rome. We went outside to avoid the crowds inside, and we ended up chatting with two other sets of parents who had done the same. Alex was still feeling a bit poorly, but he still managed to have some fun with the other kids.
June 6, 2003
(With apologies to Lou Reed)
Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spend it with you
Oh, such a perfect day…
Summer has finally hit Scotland, with (intermittently) sunny, (relatively) warm days. Long days, too, this far north and this close to the solstice. I got all the housework and laundry done yesterday, so I decided that today would be an adventure day. Would we take the train to Perth for lunch with Alex’ grandparents? Or take the bus to Peebles for a walk, or Portobello for an afternoon at the beach? Or would we go to the zoo?
Alex had only been to the zoo once, on his first birthday (a relatively cold day). He was too young to last long – a couple of hours were enough to exhaust him. But now, at two and a bit, he was ready for a longer time on a warmer day.
We took the bus out there (two buses, actually, with a change on Princes Street) in the morning, arriving at 10:30 or 11. The first thing that greets you at Edinburgh zoo is a statue of an elephant, with a sign explaining that there aren’t the facilities there to keep real elephants. Alex liked the statue.
Over the course of the day, we saw more beasts than I can list: California sea lions, flamingos, ring-tailed lemurs, camels, zebras, oryx, maned wolves, lynx, a tiger (or its tail, at least), monkeys of various sorts, chimps, gorillas, meercats, pygmy hippos, a polar bear, very not-pygmy rhinos (the biggest animals there), giraffes, snakes, lizards, a bunny rabbit (eating the grass, not part of the zoo), four varieties of penguin, locusts, tropical fish, cassowary, etc, etc. Alex spent most of the time in the backpack (the distances really are too far for him to walk). He stared and stared, pointed and watched.
A very funny moment came when we were at the rhinos. They were dozing in the sun at the very edge of the enclosure, right below us (their enclosure is sunken on the uphill side). Alex said “Rhino horn nose.” “Yes,” I said, “rhinos have horns on their noses. These ones are asleep. They’re taking their nap.” “Alex twinkle rhino,” he said, then launched into his abbreviated version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star . “Twinkle star,” he sang. Then he waved his hand in the air, about six feet above the huge grey beast, and said, “Shhh, shhh…” I hope the rhinos slept well after being shushed by my bunny.
Edinburgh zoo has a tradition that I haven’t seen at any other zoos I’ve been to: the Penguin Parade. Apparently, in the 1950’s, a zookeeper accidentially left the gate open when he left the penguin enclosure to go about his business. A little later, he looked round to find himself at the head of a column of penguins, who were themselves surrounded by an intrigued crowd of humans. Someone smart latched onto this, and now any of the penguins that fancy a stroll gather at the gate at 2:15. The keepers let them out and herd them gently along a triangular route, while the humans stand (behind yellow painted lines) watching them. Today it was king penguins, going slowly, pausing from time to time for mating displays (head up, wings out, hey baby, look at me !)
We left the zoo at quarter to five. Alex hadn’t slept a wink all day (he usually takes a 2 hour nap in the early afternoon). I made a tactical error and bought him a plastic elephant, giraffe and sea lion, so he played with them instead of falling asleep on the bus. I got off at the West End of Princes Street and walked east with my best soothing walk. Even the elephant couldn’t keep him awake more than a minute. He slept nearly an hour in the shadow of the Scott Monument.
Martin arrived while he slept, and completed the day by taking us out for a pizza dinner. Alex, despite chips and some hot dog at lunch and ice cream in the mid-afternoon, was starving by about 6, and loved the idea of pizza. The final cap was set on the day when the waiter gave him a yellow balloon! He was feeling so good that he flirted with every attractive female on the bus ride home, despite being ragged with exhaustion.
We’re home now, a little pink in the cheeks. Martin has put the boy to bed (with a framed photo of one of the penguins in his room – I love digital cameras and photo printers!). I expect a sound night’s sleep from him.
My knees hurt. But it’s a small price to pay for a perfect day.
Alex has finally recovered from the worst illness of his short life.
It all started on Thursday, May 15, when his temperature started to climb. As always for Alex, this illness was rapidly followed by vomiting. (Actually, he had thrown up a little bit the previous day, but we didn’t see anything unusual in that.)
Friday was no better, with 39 to 40 degree fevers barely responding to paracetamol and periodic barfing. We were struggling to keep him hydrated – food was right out of the question. He was listless and delerious, his pulse was racing, and he was just not himself.
By the Saturday morning, Alex seemed a little better. He was alert and cheerful. He took a walk with his dad, even ate some bread. But he declined again that evening, lapsing into a daze.
He remained very unwell throughout Sunday , May 18. His grandparents Sutherland came over to see him (and give Martin and me a bit of respite). But even the social stimulation didn’t make him feel better. By that evening, Alex was so much worse, and his fever was so uncontrolled, that we called the out of hours doctor’s office. He ended up in the emergency room of the Sick Kids hospital for observation. They gave him some ibuprofen as well as the paracetamol (the two drugs don’t conflict.) It brought the fever down (he was running about in the nude in the examination room at one point, dragging a pull toy and laughing madly).
Then he relapsed again. He was fevered and delerious throughout Monday, lying limp in my arms most of the day. (I stayed home from work to nurse him.)
On Tuesday morning, he staged another partial recovery, but was back to half a degree of fever by the end of the day.
This was a problem, because we were booked for a five-day trip to Rome from the 21st. It was a close thing, whether we took him to the airport on Wednesday morning, or to the doctor’s for a note for the travel insurance. We decided on the airport, and very nearly regretted it when he threw up at the departure gate.
The day’s travel was actually easier because Alex was so sick. We kept him hydrated, and he slept a lot. The only difficulty was his alarm at takeoff and landing, which was severe. We got to the hotel at about 9, and all collapsed in bed. Alex and Martin slept for over 12 hours, well into Thursday morning. (I got up and sat in the sun in the Piazza del Populo).
The story from then on was one of slow, steady recovery. His appetite returned gradually (encouraged by a newfound liking for pizza), his energy levels climbed, and by Friday he was our mischevous, flirtatious boy again.
Saturday, our final day in Rome, was a delight after all that illness.
(Alex’ illness unfortunately corresponded with a severe backache on Martin’s part, which kept him home from work for two days and made the entire time very painful.)
Alex is beginning to remember, and talk about, the events of the day. He’s even becoming capable of making conversation, which seems pretty abstract for a two year old.
A couple of examples crystallised this for me.
On Sunday morning, Alex and I went out to the Elephant House cafe on George IV Bridge in central Edinburgh. It was Martin’s morning for sleeping in, and I wanted to get us out of the house. While we were there, I treated Alex to the house specialty, a sugar cookie shaped like (surprise!) an elephant. He ate it while showing Mr Elephant (the larger of his stuffed elephants) all the elephant bric a brac in a cabinet.
That afternoon, he was washing dishes with his father. He turned to Martin and said, “Mama effant cookie”. He’d clearly remembered the incident, and wanted to tell his Dada about it.
Then, today, I was talking on the phone to my mother. Alex asked for the phone (“A’ phone!”). He loves talking to his Pepa (Grandma, somehow) Foley on the phone. So he said “cow moo” (talking about the cows we’d seen on the way home from nursery), then cooed like the doves that have been nesting in the neighbourhood (we’d heard and commented on them on the way home).
But then he said, unprompted, “Duck. Quack-quack.” Now, to my knowledge, he hasn’t seen a duck in weeks, so he wasn’t describing the day’s events. And he didn’t have any toy ducks nearby. I think he was filling the conversational gap…it was toddler shorthand for “Did you know that a duck goes ‘quack-quack’? Isn’t that interesting?”
We already have a chatterbox on our hands, but it’s fun watching him mature into a conversationalist as well.
Fortunately the illness didn’t last for very long. Often when he is sick, we won’t give him anything to eat for 24-36 hours, because that’s still in the “barf zone”. But by Friday afternoon he was a lot better, and he even had a proper dinner. Now he’s just back to being his usual mischievous toddler self again.