Some kids look more like their mothers, others like their fathers. So far, Liam has been a pretty balanced blend of myself and HRH. I find it interesting that if I’m holding him people say he looks more like his dad, but if HRH is holding him they say Liam looks more like me. However, it is undeniable that in this picture his expression demonstrates that he is, at the precise moment of the photograph, my son through and through:
(We’d just been baking, which explains the flour. The upside-down chair in the hallway, well… I can only imagine that he saw something on a high bookshelf somewhere that he wanted a closer look at.)
His handle on language gets better all the time. It makes me smile when I hear a clear “Please may I have a little cracker?” from behind me in the car. I hadn’t realised how used I was to actually conversing with him until his cold messed up his enunciation enough to make me constantly ask him to repeat himself, or guess at what he was saying (incorrectly, of course, to everyone’s frustration).
When he sees someone playing an instrument on TV or something about the music we’re listening to catches him, he runs up to me and says, “Mama, I need my cello. Can you get it, please?” And he is convinced that because HRH works at a school and takes a bus there he must take a school bus, so he waves at school buses during the day and says, “Bye bye Dada on a school bus! Back tonight!”.
Over the past month we’ve acquired some new favourite books, such as Robert Munsch’s Mud Puddle, Marjorie Flack’s Angus and the Cat, and Leo Lionni‘s Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, the latter two being among my own childhood favourites. We’re also reading a lot of Thomas and the Great Race, concerning which I must admit that I was feeling snarky when I read it to him for the first time, and so when we got to the part where Thomas passed Bertie in the race I said “Ha, ha!” in a rather sarcastic way. Now Liam says “Ha, ha!” every time we read that page. I am somewhat ashamed, but also highly amused. I found a second-hand copy of Jeremy’s Decision for him recently and he loves it too, probably because it has both conducting and dinosaurs in it. He enjoys conducting, especially to the theme music of Music & Company in the mornings.
We began introducing him to Hayao Miyazaki films this last month. He watched My Neighbour Totoro, riveted and speechless until Totoro had first been encountered. Then he started suggesting places where Mei and her sister could look for him: “Where Totoro? Maybe… in a tree? Maybe… in a bus?”. We draw lots of Totoros and cat buses now, and look for soot sprites in the back garden. He usually ‘catches’ one in the lavender and runs to show me, palms together like Mei in the film, but when he reaches me he opens his palms and looks and says, “Oh no, it gone!” in astonishment. I love the imaginative re-enactment that goes on at this age. Sandman7 kindly gave us a copy of the Totoro soundtrack and it has replaced Cars as Liam’s score of choice when we travel. He really enjoyed Kiki’s Delivery Service too, which has reinforced his fascination with broom-riding and has given him the new word ‘dirigible’. His caregiver showed him the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at Hallowe’en and for a while he kept saying, “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? It’s the Great Pumpkin!” And he ran around the house with a towel over his head saying “Where’s Linus?” for a while, too.
We don’t watch much TV, but Saturday mornings are a time to laze a bit and watch some fun stuff for an hour as we play. While watching the new line-up on Kids’ CBC a couple of weeks ago we happened to see Bo on the Go, and it has quickly become Liam’s favourite TV show. And thank goodness it has grown on HRH and I as well, because Liam had only seen it twice, a week apart, and then one night at dinner he looked at his arm and saying, “Uh-oh, I need more energy” just like the protagonist does. (We are very aware that this kid is an incredible sponge.) We bless Bo, however, because we have convinced him that his cough syrup is yellow energy juice and so he takes it despite the not-so-great taste and even claps at the end of the dose. Kids’ CBC is great, thank goodness, so on the days when we allow him some TV in the mornings for some reason there’s always something decent on. Liam enjoys the web site, too, for the games. He’s learning how to click things, but it’s Flash-animated and he sometimes clicks the right mouse button instead of the left and is taken to the Adobe Flash info page, which frustrates him.
He asked for soup the other day. Hello? I thought. You do not like soup; you can’t keep it on a spoon and it frustrates you. But after watching Remy make soup in Ratatouille (yet another film he watched this month for the first time) he ran into the kitchen and asked for soup with great excitement. So I paused the movie, opened a can of mushroom soup and took out a spoonful, whisked it with some milk, and warmed it up. And he sat and ate half of it quite adroitly, saying “Mmmm!” after every bite. Until he got a chunk of mushroom on the spoon, that is; then he said “Bleah!” and cheerfully announced that he was all finished. Other adventures in the kitchen include helping me bake or cook, which is fun but frustrating, too, because he grabs things and throws them into the bowl before they’re needed or spoons things out of the bowl onto the counter. “No Mama, I stirring — this Liam’s spoon,” he insists, until I get another wooden spoon of my own to use while he uses the first one. While making cracker dough yesterday he discovered the wooden mortar and pestle that I use to crush dried spices for cooking, which interested him. He insisted on using the rolling pin, too, alternating the rolling part with making marks with the end of the handles on the dough. (It was cracker dough; I wasn’t overly concerned about it toughening up through enthusiastic abuse.) While playing with the rolling pin he saw the picture that accompanied the magazine article with the recipe in it, and pointed to it with great excitement. “Look Mama, I rolling — just like in the picture!”
His fine motor skills are improving in general. His colouring and drawing are getting more focused, and he’s going great guns with real cardboard puzzles that have between fifteen and twenty-five pieces. What was a frustrating challenge two months ago is now much easier for him, as he looks at the bits of pictures on the pieces and matches them up. In fact, we got him a new one on Saturday, then picked up another one on Sunday while we were out and about. The hardest thing for him to do with the puzzles he has is to open the boxes!
The big-boy bed thing is going very well. We did have to put a doorknob cover on his door last week to prevent him from escaping at odd hours, but that was a very recent development and although it’s always on now as a precaution he doesn’t try to open the door very often. It’s funny to hear him slip out of bed sometimes after we’ve turned the lights out, pad to the door, try the handle, and say, “Oh, it’s lock’d” in his funny precise enunciation, as if he was just checking. Last night we took the bed rail off the open side of the bed, too, at his request ( “Please, Dada, I would like it down, this down, please, off bed, for me and Bun-Bun.”). He didn’t fall out, and it makes it a lot easier to tuck him in.
The changing seasons provide lots of interesting things for him to talk about, too. “Too dark!” he says a lot when we go out to the car in the late afternoon, now that Daylight Saving Time is over. And with November come scads of leaves dropping from our huge maple tree. Our driveway has a bit of a slope to it, so the leaves tend to collect near the garage. This delights Liam no end, because he gets to ‘run in the leafs’, kicking them around and scuffling his feet through them. And we must be the only family on the block who imports leaves into their backyard. On a walk around the block last week HRH and Liam came across a huge pile of leaves someone had raked to the edge of the sidewalk and Liam insisted on running through them, then picking up a few armfuls and dumping them into the wagon to bring home. He threw them on the grass in the backyard with great enjoyment. As the weather gets chillier the street hockey games are increasing in number, too. A couple of weeks ago we went out on a Saturday and the kids next door were playing in the driveway. Liam paused for a moment, mouth open as he watched the five year old twins taking slapshots at their adolescent brother in the net. Absolutely starry-eyed, he walked right into the middle of the game, reaching for the teenager’s stick. We scooped him up to allow the boys to play and he wailed; he wanted to play too. We finally got him a tiny set of sticks and whiffle balls, and he loves them so much he carried one around while we did errands last weekend.
For some reason Liam is suddenly very interested in robots. Last week he emptied his two-foot-high mesh laundry basket and pulled it over his head. “Are you a robot?” I asked. “Yes!” he said with great pride. He is a big fan of the song Robot Parade from the They Might Be Giants No! album. (Invisible: your place as Liam’s favourite band has been usurped by TMBG, I’m afraid.) He is also very interested in superheroes. I can’t remember what prompted it (certainly not The Incredibles) but one day he ran into his room and insisted I find a ‘super-cape’ for him. I tied a sheet around his neck. Then he insisted I have one too, and we jumped around the living room for a while being superheroes. He gallops around the house with his broom between his legs too, saying ‘Fly! Fly! Fly!’, and it’s a big treat to have HRH actually pick him up and zoom him around the house on it.
Baby Tallis is now recognised as a member of the Preston-LeBlanc clan: he asked me to draw her this morning. We showed him her pictures from the hospital and right away he said, “That Liam!” And yes, in his experience, he’s the only baby he knows who has slept in one of the baby aquariums, so the self-identification was understandable. I know he’s going to love meeting her, once the cold is officially finished.
Watching him play pretend and re-enact things he’s seen somewhere is wonderful. If I cut a finger or he stomps on my foot and I say “Ouch!”, he turns around, pats my shoulder and says, “It’s okay, Mama”, which is what I say to him if he trips or misses a turn while running down the hallway. Sometimes he’ll take our faces in his hands and turn them in his direction, saying, “Look at me” the way we do to him when we’re trying to communicate something important. And while we get spontaneous flying hugs all the time, now we get spontaneous kisses, too: he’ll creep up to us and lean over to kiss an arm, a knee, our hair, then go back to what he was doing before. It’s very special and just what we need sometimes to brush away the general exhaustion.