Logorrhea

I know what it sounds like, but to assure you that I haven’t fallen into a literary rut of feces, here is a definition:

Logorrheaˌlôgəˈrēə,ˌlägə-/ noun. 1. a tendency to extreme loquacity.

One year ago, a friend of mine was over who has a son. He was three at the time and I remember very distinctly my friend watching my daughter playing quietly with some of her toys. He turned to me with a knowing expression and simply said, “Enjoy the silence.” Of course, at the time Josie was two and I was blissfully living downstream from the dam and had yet to notice its cracks. Back then, my wife and I were getting, maybe, three word phrases from Josie – simple sentences that we delighted in recounting to one another, which only parents could take delight in.

“You’ll never guess what she said today,” I would say to my wife upon arriving home.

“What?” she would say breathlessly, as if I had just returned from the reading of my rich dead uncle’s will.

“Ducks…fly…sky,” I would recount slowly, like a poet reciting halting lines of verse.

One year later, and that little speech center in her brain has gone supernovae. Before it happens to your two year-old, you never really think it’s possible – like when they were a baby, and you could never imagine them with teeth. But it happens. Oh does it happen. And I’m not saying that it always feels like drowning in a deluge of verbal vomit. Like yesterday, she said the sweetest thing, I honest to god wrote it down and read it to my wife when she came home: “One day, when I’m bigger, I will fly up to the moon. Not with one spaceships. With my wings.”

Adorable, right? Except that the other 99% of the time what comes out of her mouth is a stream of consciousness. But from a toddler’s consciousness, so it’s just a bunch of random words and ideas rattling around a garbage disposal and what comes out looks like what happens when I connect my shop-vac’s hose to the exhaust port by accident.

To give you an idea – a tiny taste of the endless train of mangled verbs and nouns I listen to all day – here is a transcript of a video I took today. She was reading a dinosaur book while playing with a T-Rex figure, and I just set the video camera on the table and walked away. This took the time it took me to make a cup of coffee, spiked with an unmentionable amount of Bailey’s. I added punctuation to make it intelligible, but I regret doing so now. There should really be no punctuation at all.

“…mouth this the beak of the triceratops mouth you ate the whoooole beak the whole triceratops you needed this you ate the tail to grow your tail you ate his mouth to grow your mouth you ate his eye to grow your two eyes you growed your feet for his feet you ate mate you ate yourself. Pretty sad to ate himself him just lay down and another one came and say, “What you doing laying on ground?”
“I’m just laying on the ground,” he say.
“I’m been talking something.”
“What you talking?”
“I don’t know. I’m talking another one of my friends.”
“Why?”
“You talking one swimming dino?”
“Yeah. I’m talking with triceratops. Right over there. (in pirate accent). I’m talking…I’m talking…um um um um um um uh um saying that they ate all meat this guy knocked hisself right over by the tail of this big dino and this dino will fell right down and this volcano erupt last time trannafaur rex last time him erupting. this dino died last year pretty sad your friend this guy flow then the volcano erupted then this guy had to five um I’m wanting to give one…(inaudible gibberish)…I’m pretending you get one shoot this dino you have a longer tail that you want I show you you grow this much.

This will melt your brain.

Not that I’m advocating the use of torture, but the U.S. government could save itself a lot of hassle from the likes of aggrieved death metal bands by recording toddlers talking to themselves and broadcasting that instead to the prisoners in Guantanamo. Better yet, ship a barge of toddlers over there. I hear they already play the theme song from Barney over and over and over and I bet the food is really bland too, probably a lot of plain pasta and white bread. They’d fit right in!

I realize this post sounds tantamount to a cry for help. It is not. It’s simply a birthday wish for noise cancelling Bose headphones.

Or, at the very least, a lock on the bathroom door.

Lost in Translation

I remember spending time with parents of toddlers before having kids  Their kids would pull on their pants mid-conversation and out of their mouth would come, “Dada whatta misa nuufus?”
“I think he’s in the bathroom sweetie.”

They’d tear off, and I’d say, “What just happened?”
“Oh, he was just asking where his Snuffleupagus stuffed animal was.”
“Bullshit,” I’d think, but sure enough here comes a beaming toddler out of the bathroom holding his Snuffy.

This fluency in toddlerese isn’t immediate, but the immersion is total so the learning curve is steep.  I’ll call bullshit on a parent who claims fluency with an average 18 month-old, but by 24-30 months I’ll believe them.

Hampering fluency is toddler insanity.  I remember for a couple weeks ago Josie kept using the word ‘Cah-row-ree.’  She’d say it mostly while playing in the car.  I could make out that cahrowree lived up in the clouds, but that was about all.  Eventually I figured out that she was saying ‘coyote,’ which is kind of hard to figure out when your toddler is emphatic that coyotes live in the sky.

Josie is still somewhat unintelligible to the unpracticed ear, so I still act as translator for our friends.  To help out, here are some translations for her more common nonsensical words and phrases.

Toddlerese / English

Cahrowree / Coyote
Yet / This
Allbody / Everybody
Up the road down the road / Beyond the house
Fro / Throw
Rant you / Thank you
Cock / Chalk
Fuck / Truck
Turkey / Twisty
Facebook / The Internet
Luten / Josie’s cousin Lucian
My / I
Foon / Spoon
Arf arf / Dog
Coo / Chew
Fireworks / The tops of carrots, or real fireworks
Want not want / Don’t want

Toddlerhood: a Prescription for Anti-Psychotic Drugs

Living with a toddler is like living with a senile manic depressive.  You are a captive social worker belted into their emotional roller coaster.  They can deliver you, with a kiss and a “I really love you Dada,” to the clouds, and in quick succession they can send you hurtling toward the earth in a death spiral of banshee-like screaming at the back of your friend’s wedding.  When the ride stops, you are a crumpled emotional carcass while they are smiling like a cherub, handing the ticket man another token.

I heard someone once say that if an adult treated you the way a toddler does, you would probably punch them and call them a jerk.  You’d probably also swear at them, with the most common refrain being, “What the hell is wrong with you?”  There is a lot “wrong” with them from the adult perspective, so much so that if a toddler were treated as an adult by a psychiatrist, I think they could be prescribed the following four anti-psychotic drugs.  I will provided evidence for each of these drugs’ associated conditions using examples from our recent camping trip to Mt. Rainier National Park.

Lithium (for bipolar disorder). If I could choose only one drug for my toddler’s mental first aid kit it would be Lithium.  If toddlers were an emotional landscape they would look like the Himalaya.  Adults, on the other hand, mostly look like the Midwest.  This causes friction.  Iowans don’t acclimate well to being dragged up frigid 8,000 meter peaks and run back down to the sweltering Indian paddy fields over and over again.  It is exhausting and gives them severe headaches.  Lithium smooths things out.

Sarah and I like to hang onto the delusion that we are still hardened hikers without a two year-old on my shoulders and a baby growing in her tummy.  So we do not eat at picnic areas set up by the NPS.  No, we hike 0.3 miles up to a ridge, lugging our camp stove, water and noodles and cook our dinner like real thru-hikers on the trail.  While I’m boiling water, Josie tells Sarah she needs to go “poop poop.”  Uh oh.  Josie is not a seasoned outdoor pooper.  She is also tired and hungry.  It is a Saturday in July and there are literally hundreds of people on this trail.  Sarah valiantly scoops her up and departs for the small grove of alpine firs nearby.  As I’m stirring penne, I begin to hear screaming.  So do about 30 other people walking down this section trail.  It sounds like a cougar is mauling a small child in the woods.  I’m thrown back to a sociology class in college, learning about the murder of Kitty Genovese.  Five minutes pass, and Sarah emerges.  Aside for some reddened eyes and uncooperative sphincter, Josie has emotionally recovered completely.  Sarah and I, on the other hand, are a little ragged.

IMG_8050

This is five minutes after the code red shitfest in the woods. Also note the hallucinatory behavior she is exhibiting, mistaking Sarah for a pot.

Valium/Xanax (for anxiety).  Traveling with toddlers is the worst.  The reason why is that change makes them anxious.  Routine is their friend, so in a way they’re a little autistic too.  Therefore, taking down the tent in the morning is a rife with trauma.  After a number of meltdowns, we finally got it right by having her “help” with undoing the clips and collapsing the tent poles.  Then again, she didn’t collapse the tent poles.  They became play things and I eventually had to take them away, which led to more banshee screaming.  Thirty seconds late she was fine.  Look – a squirrel!

I wouldn't call toddlers monsters, but then again they do seem to possess an innate fear of fire.

I wouldn’t call toddlers monsters, but then again they do seem to possess an innate fear of fire.

Haldol (for megalomania)  Megalomania is characterized by four conditions, where individuals believe themselves omnipotent, have a deluded sense of possessing extraordinary power, or exhibit grandiosity, which is a view of personal superiority and disdain for others.

Mt. Rainier is a massive stratovolcano 14,411 feet high, and possess more glacial mass than all the rest of the glaciers in the continental United States combined.  When Josie first saw it up close from her car seat she declared it “My mountain” and referred to it in this way for the rest of the trip.  Enough said.

Narcissism is also a marker of megalomania.

Narcissism is also a marker of megalomania.

Of course I wouldn’t recommend giving a toddler Valium.  If, however, I could get Josie a prescription I can’t say I wouldn’t pilfer her stash the next time she devolved into a convulsing jelly of screaming.  Just to smooth things out a little.  Then again maybe I’ll just break out that ear protection again – probably less habit forming.

Month one. 2:30am. 120 decibels.

Things you never say until you cohabitate with a toddler

What follows is a list of phrases that I had never previously used much or at all before having a child, but now use with disturbing frequency.  Most seem to be focused on telling the toddler not to put certain items in their mouth that will land them in the ER with Hepatitis or an x-ray that doctor looks while muttering, “Now how did THAT get in there?”

“Be careful with people’s eyes”
“If that is poop, should we be touching it?”
“Please don’t grab the doggy’s face”
“Did your bear go poop?”
“Way to go pee pee in the potty!”
“Sitting at the table comes with certain privileges and putting your feet up on the table is not one of them.”
“What’s in your mouth?”
“No, no amount of water is going to make that clean.”
“Oh my God, what have you been eating?”
“Mmmm…no that’s been on the ground way too long.”
“Don’t eat rocks.”
“Please don’t put the orange I just peeled for you between your toes.”
“Dog biscuits are for dogs sweetie.”
“Don’t run with your fingers in your ears!”
“No we can’t go today, it’s bouncy castle.”

And finally, something you never say until you become a dad.  As these words left my mouth, my feeble inner teenager exhaled his last breath, rolled over and died, and I officially became my father.  I said this in reference to an 18-wheeler who was tailing me as I was driving five-under on a curvy road at night with my family.

“I’m more than happy to pull over for some guy who’s probably coked-out on speed and hasn’t slept in 22 hours.”

Thankfully, this toddler isn’t a compulsive everything-in-the-mouth-putter-inner, so if you have better lines, I’d love to hear them.

Abstract Art

Excerpt from The New York Times’ Art in Review: Josephine Axling: The Refusal of Desire,” by Joseph Pepperidge. 

Newcomer Josephine Axling finds her work at the center of a new installation that opened last night at the Frigidaire, which is sure to solidify her standing as this country’s next Jackson Pollock.  Building upon her pudding phase, she has outgrown the understated brown and greens hues that marked this earlier phase in her life.  Now, working mostly in watercolor, her spontaneous brushstrokes have expanded on her earlier works such as ‘Pistachio’ and ‘Butterscotch’ with their frenetic energy.  This new collection of six paintings not only reflects Axling’s precocious abilities as a painter, but also the incipient duality of her human condition. Some have even commented that this collection almost seems to have been painted by two different artists.

Viewers have been delighted by the whimsical cerulean blues and lavenders in ‘Cookie’ and its sibling ‘Cracker.’  Their commentary on the demands of today’s post modern family’s dietary habits harbor no nostolgia for a more formal Rockwellian era of sit down meals. Together, their demanding brushstrokes firmly redirect even the most distracted viewer toward their gaze as if to say “Hey, they’re up there in the cabinet!”

In contrast to these lighter works, ‘Styx’ has been described by other reviewers as “hauntingly stark” and “foreboding.”  Similarly it appears in ‘The Letter O’ that Axling started with a floral effervescence of yellows and reds, but later she seems to have caged them in black brushstrokes.  Gallery attendees often speculated in front of this piece as to the artist’s alluded title’s meaning, with “Oppression” being the most popular guess.  ‘Styx’ and ‘The Letter O’ apper to be transition pieces – bridges (or rivers, as it were) toward a darker place, where viewers with more sensitive dispositions may not want to go.

Set against the gallery’s towering south wall, together hang ‘Exorcism’ and ‘Hades.’  A single bare light bulb hangs high above them, dangling from a cord that eerily is perpetually swinging slightly, casting shift shadows on these terrifying pieces.  More than a few gallery goers could be heard gasping as they rounded the gallery’s corner.  Most described a some sort of purple demon in ‘Exorcism.’  It’s been rumored that the artist painted this during a convulsive fit immediately after being denied a showing of ‘Cookie’ at the neighboring gallery ‘The Kitchen.’  The final piece in the collection, ‘Hades,’ is audibly powerful – seeming to scream so powerfully with the voices of those denied the gates of Heaven, that many viewers described feeling their eyes burn as they turned away from its cries.

Full of emotional range and artistic spontaneity, Axling’s latest collection at the Frigidaire sets the stage for an eagerly awaited encore.  And given her young age, I’m sure audiences will not be disappointed in the coming year, though given the noticeably dark subject matter of her latest pieces, fans of her work are bracing for a emotionally draining experience after she turns two next month.

Clover is a very patient dog

This pretty much sums up the current relationship dynamic between my daughter and my dog.  Nothing real surprising.  Clover has the look of pitiful resignation that can only come from knowing that you are so low on the family totem poll, that a bumbling toddler who poops her pants sits on top of your head (figuratively, and literally sometimes, speaking.)  Josie, on the other hand, loves Clover, and treats her as such like one of her many inanimate stuffed animals.  Stuffed animals, however, have no feelings and so you don’t have to admonish toddlers to “be careful with Teddy’s eyes” or “Daffy doesn’t like to have his face grabbed like that.”  This is one of the sweeter moments.  Don’t let it fool you though.  The next photo in the sequence is one of Josie’s blurry legs delivering a barrage of kicks to Clover’s head.  Clover is a very patient dog and my job, going forward, will be to make Josie realize that not all doggies she will meet are going to be so tolerant.

Rx: French fries with gravy, butter, and ranch dressing.

Josie had her 18-month check up the other day.  We flunked.  Besides screaming through the various measuring tools that masquerade as torture devices from the perspective of a tired toddler, the one thing she was able to tolerate was the weighing scale and it read the same as her last visit.  So our doctor put on the concerned furrowed brow and asked me what she eats.  Now, for some context, let me say that I am someone who loves to feed people.  Nothing makes me happier than having company over and cooking a smorgasbord that leaves them loosening their belts and exasperated when I pull out dessert.  So when my doctor gravely puts on the why-are-you-starving-your-daughter look, it strikes a particular chord of failure for me.

Josie isn’t starving.  Here’s what she looks like…..and what my doctor wishes she would look like:

Image

I’m kidding of course, but I agree that she should have gained some weight since our past visit.  It was a good wake-up to be reminded that no matter how much it seems like Josie is a ‘big girl’ she’s still growing like crazy and her metabolic needs are vastly different than ours.  Over the last few months, we came to the perspective that, except for whole milk, Josie should pretty much just eat what we eat.  Doing so would make her palate diverse, staving off the I-only-eat-white-food rut that some toddlers get in.  It also saves time on making a whole separate meal.  The problem is, that we eat a pretty healthy low fat diet.  As an adult the last thing I’m trying to do is pack on the weight.  Not so with little ones.

I’m not overly concerned though.  Josie is a dainty eater, and always asks to leave the table with a ton of food left on her plate.  My brother, on the other hand, has to dole out food at a reasonable pace for his 95 percentile son to inhale without choking.  So even if Josie “should” be heavier, making up a little weight is something that is easily corrected.  To help us with this, our doctor gave us a handout on high calorie foods that has recipe ideas and suggestions on how to pack the calories into a toddler.  This handout is crazy.  On it is a cartoon Arabian genie smiling with a bowl of fruit in one hand and a stick of butter in the other.  Usually your doctor admonishes your eating habits and implores you to eat healthier.  Here is a sampling of some of the meals my doctor is prescribing for my daughter:

  • Cooked oatmeal, butter, syrup and cream
  • Any fruit dipped in whipped cream
  • Spaghettios cooked with added butter, vegetable and cheese
  • Ravioli heated with added butter and cheese
  • Macaroni and cheese with extra butter and cheese
  • Mashed potatoes, butter and meat gravy
  • French fries dipped in tartar sauce
  • Eggnog
  • Pudding
  • Fried chicken with skin
  • Spareribs
  • Fried beans
  • French fries dipped in ranch dressing
  • Tator tots with melted cheese
  • Cheeseburger and French fries
  • Deli-sliced meat dipped in gravy and cooked vegetable with butter
  • Deli-sliced meat spread with cream cheese, rolled up and sliced
  • Fish sticks dipped in mayo or tartar sauce
  • Meat pate
  • Cheerios dipped in cream cheese
  • Ice cream (avoid those with nuts and/or other hard pieces)
  • Mashed potatoes with butter, gravy, or sour cream

My favorite lines in the handout are,

“Try not to use foods labeled as “light,” “low fat” or “fat free.”  Some high-fat crackers are Mini Ritz Bitz, Cheez-Its, and Chicken in a Biskit.”

and,

“Young children, and especially children with problems gaining weight, need higher amounts of fat to provide enough calories to fuel their greater growth requirements.  Later, as growth reaches appropriate levels, the emphasis on fat can be reduced.”

This handout is kind of messed up.  To it’s credit, it does have some healthier suggestions, but ‘Deli-sliced meat dipped in gravy and cooked vegetable with butter?’  ‘Chicken in a Biskit?’  Seriously?  Can’t we do a little better?  Where was fettuccine alfredo on the list?  I remember being told once that a plate of that is equal to, like, three Big Macs.  Or how about a croissant, or butternut squash soup with cream base and topped with sour cream and chives?  This American idea that kids like to eat garbage reminds me of that Buzzfeed post that went around a few months ago featuring pictures of school lunches from around the globe – many of which look like combo meals from Baja Fresh or Panda Express.  Then there are the photos of American lunches, which give the impression that we take our culinary inspiration for children’s lunches from what comes out of their rear ends.

And that last quote cracks me up.  I’m pretty sure that many parents who receive advice like this for their growing children don’t let off on the gas once ‘appropriate levels’ are met, and I bet their children are all too happy to continue scarfing down tator tots slathered in mayo.  After all, children continue to grow and put on weight until their teens, right?  And I’m guessing in a few years if you try to take ‘little’ Jonny’s fried chicken, french fries and eggnog and replace it with a plate of pesto, green salad, and a glass of 1% milk, it’s not going to go over so well.  Your taste and preferences for food are culturally conditioned from a very young age.  No wonder, according to the CDC, the rate of childhood obesity in this country has nearly tripled since 1980, up from 7% to 20% as of 2008.

I agree that if your toddler, for a non-medical reason, isn’t gaining weight and has dramatically fallen from his/her typical weight percentile, then yes, by all means, grab the gravy and dust off your old college beer bong.  However, I think we would be doing a disservice to our kids, and the larger health of our country, if we starting serving milkshakes made with Hidden Valley Ranch every time a kid goes sideways a couple percentage points.  Yes, I’ll be adding some cream to Josie’s milk for the next couple months, some extra peanut butter to her sandwiches, and buttering her toast pretty thick.  I’m just guessing, but I bet by her next weigh-in, I can get her back up to her “normal” percentile curve at her next weigh in without turning her into collector of Happy Meal toys.