18 May 2015

The Real Five-year Anniversary

Since Curtis was out of town the week before and the week after our anniversary, our celebration waited a few weeks. And what a perfect weekend we waited for! An anniversary and Mother's Day falling on the same weekend makes for a very pampered wife and mom.

On Saturday, Curtis planned a perfect day for us. We drove just ten or fifteen minutes to the town next to ours to find a hike. Curtis found a lovely and kid-friendly trail that lead to a waterfall. The trail itself was gorgeous. We walked along the river, surrounded by lush green ferns and tall, tall, tall trees covered with moss. The sunlight streamed through the treetops, which were hundreds of feet above us. The dirt trail was not too steep that Sebastian couldn't ride his bicycle, so he pushed himself alongside us as we walked hand in hand. Another perfect moment. We heard falling water and caught glimpses of a bridge through the leaves. We crossed the bridge and found our way under it, leading to some rocks overlooking the falls. As I watched Curtis wear Livia and hold Sebastian's hand on top of that rock, I thought about what a great man I married. Two weeks late doesn't mean I can't reflect on what a great relationship we've developed over the last five-plus years. He's a near-perfect man, an adventurous dad, and a wonderful companion.

As we made our way back to the car, Sebastian started feeling adventurous enough to pick up his feet down some of the hills. It's a good thing we both forgot our cameras because I think our moms would die to watch Sebastian experience "downhill mountain biking" for the first time. At first, he skidded his feet the whole way down some of the slopes, but then he attempted to place his feet on the footrest of his bike. What an exhilarating run for Sebastian and view for Mom! And what would a mountain biking experience be without a big fall. He cried for a bit, but was back up and coasting down the next hill in no time.

Sunday we went to church, which I love on Mother's Day because there are always treats. A candy bar and giant cookies this year. Score! Sebastian, Livia, and I went outside to look for snails so Curtis could cook us a delicious meal in peace.

Mmm! I could smell the butter and garlic from outside. We had a lovely meal of salad and broiled lobster tail with a very unhealthy-but-oh-so-delicious butter sauce. I'm so spoiled!

On Monday, we stopped by the Portland Oregon Temple before we dropped Curtis off at the airport. Even though he would be gone for the next week, we were lucky to get to reflect on the reason our marriage is even possible. In the Visitor's Center, we sat at the feet of Jesus Christ, and showed Sebastian the marks in His hands and feet. He touched Jesus' feet, then looked at his own. It was a sweet moment.

We took some much-needed time to celebrate us and our life together, but if I am honest, a day rarely goes by that I don't think of how blessed my life is by my sweet husband. We are both not without our faults, but at the end of the day, we are each the best thing for the other. Curtis elevates me in ways I didn't realize a person could. He treats me with kindness and compassion that I don't think I deserve; yet, he makes me feel like I am such a deserving woman. He kisses me the moment he comes home from work and holds my hand while he's driving. In fact, he always drives. He changes diapers all weekend so I can have a day off. He speaks to me softly. He somehow knows how to answer all my tricky do-you-think-I-look-fat?-type questions perfectly. He thinks I'm the hottest woman alive. He understands my past and accepts who I am trying to be. He encourages me to do anything I want to do. He lets me relax when I need it but pushes me to work when I need that too. He is just the best. And I feel so lucky to know that five years is still only the beginning.

04 May 2015

Two and a Half Times Two-hundred

The older Sebastian grows, the more brilliant he proves to be. When Sebastian first started walking at eleven months, my dad would comment how incredible his balance and leg control were. Most people watch a walking toddler and see an expected milestone; he saw a miracle. That's sort of how I view speech and language. Sebastian, at two and a half years, is able to communicate nearly anything he wants. If he doesn't know the word, it usually takes just one time of hearing it to be able to use it correctly.

In the past six months, Sebastian has dramatically increased his vocabulary and phonemic inventory. Linguists estimate that toddlers know roughly five-hundred words. Since that's more than I'm able to document here, I'll just write up a few of my favorite Sebastian speech examples.

As I mentioned, it rarely takes Sebastian more than one time of hearing a word to get it. For example, as we were driving through the Oregon countryside, we saw many large, industrial wind turbines. (I would have called them windmills, but Curtis promptly nipped that improper term in the bud.) Sebastian, having never seen these before, called them "airplanes." First of all, what an incredible association. Second, after Curtis said, "Those do look like airplane propellers, Sebastian! But those are actually called wind turbines. They look similar, but they generate power instead of fly in the sky." Then we hear Sebastian say turbine over and over and over . . .

One interesting thing that Sebastian is obsessed with is the cold. In fact, he won't tolerate anything else. I'm not exactly sure when it started or what prompted his aversion, but within the last few months, Sebastian has requested that we freeze his food. Follow me, now . . . I'll prepare a hot meal, because hey, we enjoy hot meals in our house. So we'll place a plate of steaming food in front of Sebastian, and he usually exclaims, "Make it cold first!" So we have to put it in the freezer. If we try to just blow in it, he'll remind us, "No! Freezer!" So there we have it. Cold water to wash hands, cold water to drink, cold food to eat. Naturally he loves ice cream. Sometimes I won't bother reheating leftovers, and the way to entice him to eat lunch is to remind him that it's cold.

I Basin
The other day, a woman asked Sebastian how old he was. We haven't really practiced this question yet, but I guess we need to because apparently it's all people know how to ask a toddler. She asked him, "How old are you, cutie? Are you three?"
Sebastian shook his head, "No."
"Are you two?"
Sebastian looked at her like, silly lady, "No, I Basin!" while patting his chest.
Of course.

We were hastily walking to a doctor's appointment, when a man who lives in our apartment complex walked past us to take out his trash. He seemed like a nice man, but was wearing an eye patch. Sebastian took one look at him and started to yell, "Pirate! Pirate! Pirate!" I'm thinking, I don't even know how he knows what a pirate is! Honestly, he's never seen one other than a cheap plastic finger puppet that he got at a grocery store treasure hunt. We designated that thing as a bath toy. But, yep, I have called that a pirate before. But man, how quickly he made the association of a simple eye patch to that pirate. Very clever, indeed. Embarrassing, but clever.

. . . is
One interesting grammatical construction that Sebastian uses is placing the verb is at the end of sentences. For example, he will say, "Where Tigey is?" or "Sky blue is," or "Dad at work is." I will repeat his sentence using the correct word order, and he will again repeat it correctly; however, when he creates his own novel sentences, he places the is at the end. Interesting! I believe this comes from how we frequently place is (or any verb) at the end noun clauses. For example, Sebastian reads a book called Skipper's Bone. In it, a puppy named Skipper asks different animals if they have seen his bone. He asks, "Do you know where my bone is?" (Where my bone is is the noun clause.) While questions place the verb directly after the wh- question word and before the subject, noun clauses with wh- question words place the verb after the subject, just like a normal sentence.

The Best Moon
Another favorite quote shows, again, how Sebastian thinks and what is in the world he knows. We started playing a "You're the best" game. It's simple: I would tell Sebastian, "You're the best!" And he would respond, "No, you're the best!" It was cute. Then I shook it up: "Well, you're the best Sebastian!"
"You're the best Mom!"
"Well, you're the best son!"
"You're the best moon!"
Ha! I thought. He definitely understands relationships: Sebastian and Mom, boy and Mom—so, of course, son and moon.

"It's too tasty" is a common phrase at the dinner table. Although it sounds like a good thing, Sebastian says this when he doesn't like something. We're not sure where it came from, but we suspect that he understands the word "too" as a negative and limiting word. We do, afterall, say, "That's too fast," when fast is usually a good thing, too fast is not and usually leads to us saying, "Stop!" Sebastian also uses this construction when saying things like, "It too hurts."

After a few versions of her name, Sebastian has settled on "Wia" for Livia. He says it so often that Livia said her own name for her first word. One of my favorite phrases is "I want to sing songs with Wia." Of course it's when he's supposed to be in bed himself, but how can I resist?

But I'm Happy
When Sebastian can tell that I'm getting upset, he'll turn the tables, pat his chest, and yell, "But I'm happy!" I think this phrase shows two things: First, Sebastian's disposition is, in fact, generally happy. He rarely wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, and if he is feeling cranky, usually a tender touch and expression of understanding turns him around. Not always, but generally. Second, I think this shows how Sebastian is definitely entering the opposition-in-all-things phase. He's not afraid to try doing what I don't want him to do. And that's a really healthy part of testing toddler boundaries. In this case though, I'm happy to let him win.

Sebastian's pronunciation is clearly much more clear than it used to be. Research shows that two-year-olds are generally between 50% and 75% intelligible. While I understand nearly everything he says, the phonological processes sometimes still get in the way to unfamiliar audiences.

One phonological process that stands out in Sebastian's speech is assimilation, when one sound in a word influences another sound in a word. Sebastian says "biaper" and "gog," but he can certainly say /d/ in words like "Dad" and "dancing."

Sebastian also reduces many of his consonant clusters. He says /tɑp/ for "stop," but /pu pes/ for "toothpaste."

Another process is weak syllable deletion, which is obvious in the way he says his name. He also says /bi ko/ for "bicycle," deleting the middle syllable.

Stopping, replacing fricatives into stops, is less common for Sebastian: he says /dɪs/ for "this," but he can say "sad" and "fish."

When we were at the aquarium with my mom, a poster near the shark exhibit warned about the damaging effects of illegal shark hunting. A small picture showed shark fins that had been cut off. Sebastian looked at that picture and amazingly understood exactly what it was: "broken sharks." My heart! We have seen broken cars and broken trees (from strong wind a few weeks ago!), but we've never really seen hurt or dead animals. That he could tell that that picture (which I didn't even see) showed shark fins—and that those fins were from sharks—amazed and touched me. He continued to show this sensitivity toward animals when he saw his first broken snail on the sidewalk. He said, "Oh, sad! Broken snail!" (/bwoˈ kn̩ s̪eɪw/) He screams at his friend when he tries to crush snails, "Ne taka!!!" Now, if he sees a snail crossing the sidewalk, he picks it up by its shell and places it in the bushes.

Our neighbor, who has a son Sebastian's age, is from Bulgaria, so they speak Bulgarian around Sebastian a lot. Sebastian now speaks a few Bulgarian words to his friend, including ne taka (don't do that [which Sebastian usually yells]), baika (the bike), e-la tuk (come here), zdravey (hello), dovizhdane (goodbye [which Sebastian says vine]), and kakvo (what).

Five-year Anniversary (So We Flew to Texas)

Five years of marriage was spent in an unconventional way. Curtis and I talked for about five minutes and didn't look at each other the whole day. He drove out to the mountains by himself to get some space; I took the kids to my parents'. It was lousy, I'll admit. But not for the reasons you think. 

Curtis spent two weeks in North Carolina for work: one week before and one week after the quinquennial anniversary. Since he was in paradise and I was stuck by myself, I decided to take the babies to a significantly less boring location: Mimi and Pappaw's house!

We flew out on the twenty-forth, the actual anniversary, which is why Curtis and I didn't spend too much time talking together. Besides both babies being perfect angels on the flight, the only noteworthy things in the airport were these two potatoes that Sebastian sneaked through security in his pockets.

Happy anniversary, Dad!
Mimi and Pappaw wasted no time spoiling these babies. We had a pool party the first day with the Dorman and Turner cousins. Ten kids in that pool! It was a tad colder than comfortable, but you only live once, right? Sebastian didn't seem to mind at all. He had hot dogs and brownies for dinner, after all. 

After a day spent with my friends (with whom we took no selfies!), Mimi took us to the aquarium, which we all LOVED, of course. I once saw one of those 360-degree tunnels surrounded by sharks and fancy fish in Las Vegas and I've always wanted to walk through one. Well, today was my lucky day! And it was as cool as I imagined.

Angel right there . . . 

We apparently didn't get enough exotic in, so we spent the next day at the Fort Worth Zoo.

Few things, however, made these babies happier than the pool in the backyard. I remember swimming out here after school in the fall with my dad and brothers. We'd turn on different colored pool lights after the homework was done and the sun was down. I've yet to feel so relaxed again! That pool still knows how to make a kid feel care free! Sebastian watered plants for at least a solid hour.

But of course the fun had to end. One week just didn't seem long enough this time!

(I felt like a rock star in the back of the plane, i.e. the part of the plane where everyone with kids sits. While the four other babies/toddlers were whining and wrestling their parents, this mom had time to actually read a book. I didn't get far. Don't worry.)

No, so this post wasn't so much about our anniversary. But maybe another week we might do something with wood. Until then, Sebastian will probably ask when we are going back to Mimi's house.