Wednesday, November 30, 2011

English Language Learner



Sixteen months is an active and social age. It is wonderfully amusing to watch Macie grow and develop, becoming such a little individual. Observing Macie play and interact with her world, I am amazed at how much she understands. In addition to comprehending and responding to language, Macie’s speech and language development has increased exponentially. Her constant babble is slowly becoming intelligible, as her word count grows. When Macie can’t articulate the proper word, her facial expressions and physical movements frequently communicate her meaning. Macie’s recently expanded communication skills have made her even more entertaining. Below I have shared a list of English words that Macie is now using, as well as short anecdotes and commentary about her use of the English language.

List of English Words

Ball
Dog
Duck
Moo
Mom/mommy/mama
Dad/daddy/dada
Mine
My
Milk
Baby
More
Done
No
Yes
Bye by
Vroom
Hi
Book
Gunner
That (as in, “I want that”)
Peanut butter- almost
Blueberries- almost

Dog Obsession

Macie is absolutely obsessed with dogs. One of her first words was “dog”, she has at least six dog stuffed animals, and her “lovie” is a raggedy stuffed dog that has been washed so many times that he is starting to come apart. Currently this “lovie” is stained with blueberries and peanut butter- Macie’s two favorite foods- and is in need of another washing. Every time Macie sees Gunner (our border collie/Australian shepherd mix), a dog outside, in a book, or on TV she immediately gets excited, waves, and says “doawg”. If she hears a dog barking she calls out for them and starts looking around with wide, alert eyes. Needless to say, dog is one of her most frequently used words.

Possessive Language

The most surprising of Macie’s new words is her use of possessive language. A few weeks ago she started saying “mine” in response to having something taken away from her. In these circumstances Macie shrieks “mine” and eagerly reaches out her arms, impatiently requesting the item back. Macie makes it seem as if her human rights have been violated when you take a possession away from her. Such a drama queen. Macie has also been using “my” lately to demonstrate ownership and relationship. Most often she says “my daddy”, but I have also heard her say “my dog” and “my book”. Clearly Macie is confident that all three belong to her.

Mimicking Language

Even though Macie can’t completely communicate in English, she certainly understands the flow and sequence of sentences. For a few months now she has even been mimicking our sentences, not that we can understand her exact words. The best example is from a few months ago. Our dog, Gunner was barking ferociously and Josh yelled, “Gunner, shut up!”. A moment later Macie yelled, “dada, shu uh!”. Although it wasn’t verbatim what Josh said, it was close enough in both the word structure and fluctuation. We cracked up, amused at the idea that Macie may have just told her father to “shut up”. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we hear that out of her mouth…though hopefully not for a few years.

Repetitions in songs

When listening to music, Macie often mimics the sound of a repetitive chorus. For example, in the Nicki Minaj song “Super Bass” the chorus includes repetition of the word “boom”. As soon as Macie hears the song, she immediately starts to shake her head and repeat “ba, bo” sounds. By this point you should not be surprised that my daughter listens to modern pop music as opposed to “toddler radio”. I promise, I tried to play toddler music, but I seriously wanted to drown myself in Nyquil after about an hour of “the wheels on the bus”.

Uh Oh

Macie says “uh oh” all day long. She says it when she or someone else drops an object, when she can’t find something, when we correct Gunner, when we correct her, and often for no apparent reason. When Macie says this phrase it is with wide eyes, raised eyebrows, and a very serious expression on her face. She intentionally makes eye contact with you so that you understand the magnitude of the situation. Imagine McCauley Caulkin’s facial expression on the “Home Alone” movie cover…but much more adorable.

Ah, Ah, Ah

Per our PAT educator’s recommendation, we try to avoid saying “no, no” to Macie. She suggested that rather than correct Macie, we should redirect her attention. This is all good and great in theory, but in practice it can be challenging sometimes. When Macie is determinedly digging in the trash and ignoring my attempts at distraction I automatically revert to the “ah, ah, ah” phrase. Technically, I’m not breaking Tina’s rule- I’m modifying it…right? (Why am I such a chronic rule follower?) Macie has gotten so used to hearing this phrase that she parrots it right back to me with a big, precocious grin on her face. You can tell that she takes me seriously, right?

Momma!

Basically, any time Macie needs something she yells for me. Seriously. She even yells for me when I am in another room and Josh is playing with and taking care of her. Most of the time she yells for me when she is hungry or to tattle on daddy for not giving her exactly what she wants. When this happens Macie indignantly calls for me, wanting nothing to do with her “uncooperative” father. Funny how quickly I have become the fixer and helper.

My Daddy

As mentioned in previous blogs, my husband works odd hours that change on a monthly basis. Additionally, he often has three or four consecutive days off work. Macie gets used to him being home on these days and can never quite adjust to his rotating schedule. On days that Josh works, Macie often looks at me and says, “mahy daddy?” with her hands and arms in the “what” gesture (arms bent, palms facing upward), as if to question where he is and when he will be home. When Josh does pull into the driveway, Macie excitedly runs to the window, giggles, and waves- eager to give her daddy a hug.

My Daughter the Southerner

As Macie’s word count steadily increases, I have noticed that some of her words are spoken with a Southern accent. She has always pronounced “dog” slowly, so it sounds like “daowg”. Then I noticed that Macie’s pronunciation of the word “my” sounds like “mahy”.  Even still, I didn’t notice Macie’s Southern accent until she put her first three-word sentence together. Last week Macie found her Christmas stash and immediately started playing with her walking, barking toy puppy. When she put the toy dog down I tried to place it out of her line of vision. As soon as I took the puppy, Macie yelled, “Mahm, mahy daowg!” (Mom, my dog!) and held out her hands for me to return the puppy. It was one of the cutest things I have ever seen. I’ve always been partial to a Southern accent, but hearing my baby speak that way is incredibly endearing. I’m guessing that this is just a phase in Macie’s language development and that she will eventually learn to speak like a Midwesterner. In the meantime, her Southern accent will be endlessly amusing while it lasts.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Macie


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day full of family and feasting- two of my favorite things. Each Thanksgiving I reflect on the past year and remind myself of how lucky I am to have such an amazing life. My family is supportive and loving, I have a wonderful husband, I enjoy my job and the people I work with, and I have the opportunity to further my education. I am healthy, happy, live a comfortable life, and have minimal complaints. There are so many blessings in my life, but I am most thankful for Macie. After reflecting on why I am so thankful for Macie, I compiled a list of things I love about her.

1. Macie keeps me laughing. She is a constant source of entertainment.

2. Macie is my antidepressant. Spending time with her makes me happy and relaxed.

3. Macie is energetic. She is always on the move and can destroy a room in minutes, but she is also learning and engaging in her surroundings. 

4. Macie dances like no one is watching. She does multiple squats, side-to-side movement, and quick feet- with a huge grin on her face.

5. Macie can play with anything. We don’t need fancy toys (even though we have some) because she is happy to play with the contents of the recycling bin.

6. Macie is very social and charismatic. She talks a mile a minute, in both long and short sentences- like she is having a conversation with you. When we did her 16-month evaluation with Parents as Teachers, Macie was advanced in the social/conversational category. Last weekend Macie gave her Grandma Ann a tour of the house, complete with unintelligible descriptions and stories about each item in the house. She doesn’t let the language barrier keep her from talking.

7. Macie is nurturing. She loves her stuffed animals and baby dolls. In order to demonstrate her affection, she cuddles them and pats them on the back. She also puts them in her baby stroller and walks them around the house, tries to put saline in their noses, and attempts to lotion them after a “bath”.

8. Macie “plays nice”. She is not aggressive and does not usually take things away from other children except in retaliation. The only time she gets upset is when they hit her or try to take something away.

9. Macie is fairly easygoing. Although she can be difficult if she doesn’t get her way, Macie is typically a pretty easy baby. She is content to play around the house, keeps a decent daily schedule, and is very easy to put to sleep.  

10. Macie is tough. She has been fighting croup and an ear infection this week, as well as teething. Despite this trifecta of discomfort, Macie has been such a trooper. Yes, she has been tired and clingy, but she has not cried in frustration after a coughing fit…as I have been known to do in the past. When she falls down or bumps her head her typical reaction is “uh oh”, rather than tears.

11. Macie is creative. When faced with a problem or task she attempts multiple methods of accomplishing her goal. For example, when trying to remove a Cheerio from a vial (part of our P.A.T. assessment), she shook the vial, turned it upside down, and tried to remove it with her tongue. When one method doesn’t work she just moves on to the next.

12. Macie is fun to shop for. I enjoy picking out outfits for Macie and getting her dressed each day. She lets me fidget with her clothes and hair with minimal to no fussing.

13. Macie is a happy baby. Most of her days are spent enjoying life, with a smile on her face.

14. Macie is smart, curious, and adventurous. She likes to play outside, dig in the dirt, and is constantly searching for something new. Macie loves books, understands much of what she hears, says 12+ words, and learns something new each day.

15. Macie has a mind of her own. She knows what she wants and definitely communicates her needs. While this can lead to occasional meltdowns when she doesn’t get what she wants, at least Macie is asserting herself and communicating her preferences. I hope she always speaks up and makes her needs known…just in a more constructive manner.

16. Macie loves her mommy. Even though she often ignores me at home, I know that she loves me back because she clings to me at the gym, stays near me at playgroup, and remains close at family functions. She is independent at home and in familiar settings, but outside of that she is mommy’s girl.

17. Macie makes me a better person. I strive to set a good example for Macie in everything I do. This means I eat healthier, avoid confrontations in front of her, demonstrate kindness and affection, and share my love of learning.   

Our Parents as Teachers Educator noted on one of her visits that I am the center of Macie’s world. Very appropriate, considering Macie is easily the center of mine. 






Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stella


My muse for this blog is a 2 ½ year old girl named Stella. In our weekly playgroup Stella is a constant source for chuckles and entertainment. With her bobbed hair, quirky walk, and sassy attitude, Stella makes it clear to everyone that she knows what she wants and intends to get it. She usually arrives a bit late and always makes an entrance with her head held high. When Stella’s bestie walks into the room the girls immediately get to work playing “big girl” games away from the younger toddlers. She speaks very animatedly and with personal conviction. When we sing “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, Stella enthusiastically shakes her finger and puts her face into an exaggerated frown when we sing the final line (“no more monkeys jumping on the bed”).  Basically, this girl has personality for days and makes no apologies.

This past week Stella came to playgroup and was immediately the center of attention (more so than usual). Her panties were hanging out of her dress, which was in a red/orange/brown striped pattern, and she was wearing lilac high tops (Converse). Nothing about her outfit worked, but her confidence made it clear to everyone that it didn’t matter. Shortly after they arrived her mother told us why Stella was such a mess. Earlier that morning Stella, wearing an outfit picked by her mother, was playing downstairs while her mother was putting away clothes upstairs. When Stella’s mother came downstairs she was surprised to find her daughter face first on the floor, laying in a pool of syrup, and licking it off the floor. Despite the childproof locks to the pantry, Stella broke her way in, climbed to the top, confiscated the syrup, and decided that the most convenient way to eat it was off the floor. I was rolling with laughter, as I imagined the scene in my head. I pictured Stella looking up nonchalantly (with a raised eyebrow) when her mother caught her, as if to say, “What are you looking at?”. Clearly, Stella had ruined her first outfit for the day, so her mother directed her to find something else to wear while she cleaned up the sugary mess. And, thus, we had the story for Stella’s unconventional outfit.

That anecdote solidified my appreciation for Stella.  I wish that we could all be a little like Stella. This girl has endless confidence, a little recklessness, and a lot of gumption. She knows exactly what she wants and makes it known. Stella is an enthusiastic, loyal friend to her playgroup bestie and always finds a way to entertain herself. I hope that she never looses this sassy personality and continues to enjoy life as much as she does now. Stella is exactly the kind of person I always wanted to be….minus the exposed panties.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Portrait of a Professional Mommy

A few weeks ago I wrote a Middle School Language Arts lesson plan for my Secondary English Methods graduate course. The purpose of this lesson plan was to teach students about voice and word choice. In this lesson, students are asked to write a bio poem describing themselves, focusing on using descriptive language and communicating their voice. The other part of the assignment is for students to draw a self-portrait incorporating the four adjectives used in line two of the poem. This week for class we were asked to complete the writing assignment developed in the lesson plan. Below is my bio poem and self-portrait, which I'm sure many of you mommies can relate to. Please do not judge my poor artistry, as I have never been particularly gifted in that area. If anyone is interested in the lesson plan please let me know.

______________________________________________

Maegan
Compassionate, Professional, Optimistic, Stalwart
Who is married to Joshua Bowersox
Who is the mother of Macie Kate Bowersox
Who works as a part-time professional and a full-time mommy
Who hates changing dirty diapers, laborious recipes, and cleaning the toilet
Who feels overwhelming love for my family and pressure to be “perfect”
Who enjoys studying the times of yore, loosing myself in a book, and exercising to exhaustion
Who likes cuddling on the couch on gloomy days, basking in the spring sunshine, and spending time with my supportive family
Who takes excessive photographs of my delightfully entertaining daughter and unnecessarily long showers
Who desires twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep, a childfree day at the spa, and limitless shopping
Who dreams of completing my M.A. and finding a teaching job
Bowersox


___________________________________________________



Monday, November 14, 2011

Shopping with a Squirrel

During the first 9 months of motherhood, having a child did not significantly hinder the shopping experience. When Macie was a newborn she would sleep in her stroller and was often unfazed by the process. When Macie was old enough to sit upright in the cart, her fascination with our surroundings kept her occupied long enough for me to get what I needed and check out. Although shopping with a baby was not the easygoing, unburdened experience that it used to be, it was at least manageable. This summer Macie’s patience for prolonged confinement in her stroller and/or shopping cart began steadily declining. I could still keep her in the stroller or cart, but I had a significantly reduced time threshold in which to complete my shopping. Once Macie started walking (right after her 1st birthday), shopping became all but impossible. Other than the weekly trip to the grocery store and an occasional trip to Target, I typically avoid shopping with Macie.

In case you have never been shopping with a toddler, believe me when I say that it’s like someone let a squirrel loose in the store. In a previous blog, Hurricane Macie, I compared Macie’s destructive tendencies to a hurricane. She just can’t wait to get her hands on clean, organized spaces and transform them into piles of rubble. Macie’s method for destroying stores is similar to how she wreaks havoc in her room. However, it is much worse in public because there are many more things to touch. Macie immediately goes into squirrel mode and gets to work. She runs from section to section pulling bits and pieces off the shelves as she goes. Sometimes Macie stops to inspect the item in her hand before carelessly tossing it to the ground, other time she doesn’t even care about the item- she just wants it off the rack and on the floor. In her quest to touch everything, Macie darts quickly through the maze of displays. You must keep your eyes glued to her at all times; otherwise you will easily loose her. When I do take Macie shopping I usually end up making hassled, thoughtless purchases, which results in another trip to the store to return half the items. I spend more time worried about keeping Macie occupied and preventing her from destroying the store than actually shopping. I can never fully focus on what I need. This means that the shopping experience is no longer fulfilling or productive…L.  Now the process is so stressful and tiresome that I would rather avoid the situation all together than take Macie.
 
Three recent shopping excursions perfectly illustrate the process of shopping with a toddler. The first time I noticed how difficult it is to shop with a toddler was on my little sister’s birthday. As usual, my mother, sisters, and I planned lunch and shopping to celebrate. My husband works strange hours and was, unfortunately, unable to stay home with Macie. With optimistic (delusional) resolution I convinced myself that it would all work out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a fairly successful lunch I was hopeful that Macie would make it through a little shopping. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how long shopping takes with four women. We hadn’t even made it out of our first store before Macie was bored with her stroller and ready to explore. By the time we got to Victoria’s Secret she was in full squirrel mode. Despite my best efforts to block her little fingers, Macie kept pulling panties out of the drawers. Exhausted, I decided to put Macie back in her stroller and try to distract her with a cell phone. This unsuccessful attempt, resulting in tears, was the final straw- I had had enough. We weren’t in the mall for more than an hour before we left. I have never been happier to leave the mall in my life.

A few months ago my mom, little sister, and nephew came to the city to shop. As usual, we headed to the West County Mall to hit up a few of our favorite stores. Again, Josh was working so I had no choice but to bring Macie. After the last shopping incident I was wary, but still optimistic. Maybe this time would be different. It wasn’t. In the parking lot Macie flat out refused to be strapped into her stroller so we decided to carry her...such a practical idea, right? After breaking my back carrying Macie for ten minutes, then wrestling with her as she attempted to wriggle out of my arms, I ended up chasing her around the store while my mother shopped. After an hour I was exhausted, frazzled, and just wanted to go home. Luckily my little sister is a mommy genius and rented one of those shopping cart/kiddie cars at one of the mall kiosks. Macie agreed to sit in the cart, but only if you plied her with graham crackers. In the final store, The Children’s Place, Macie decided that she was ready to join in the fun. Once we let her down she ran from rack to rack of clothing, carefully inspecting each item. Although Macie’s behavior was entertaining, I was concerned that Macie was annoying the sales associates so I hurriedly picked out clothing for Macie and left. At this point I was saddened to realize that I no longer enjoyed shopping- at least not with my daughter (gasp L).

This weekend my mom, twin sister, and I planned yet another shopping trip to buy coordinating outfits for our upcoming family photos. When we made the plans I had every intention of hiring a babysitter to watch Macie. Unfortunately, my babysitters were unavailable. My mom and sister responded positively to the news, but having been through the Macie shopping experience before I knew that this changed the whole focus of the day. At this point I knew that we only had about two hours of distracted shopping and I was fairly certain that we wouldn’t end up accomplishing our objective. My goal for the first store was to purchase larger clothes for Macie, as her latest growth spurt left her shirts and pants about half an inch too short. That was the ONLY thing we needed from this store, yet somehow we ended up meandering amongst the departments- shoes, home goods, lingerie, and finally to the children’s section. As we proceeded through each section Macie had a wonderful time running through the aisles, pulling panties and brassieres off the racks, and trying her best to lose us. Again, it was like shopping with a rabid squirrel. If you let her loose she wreaks havoc on the store. When you try to contain her she screams, foams at the mouth, and tries to bite you (slight exaggeration). By the time we made it out of the first store Macie was at her threshold of shopping tolerance. The charm of running around, pulling items onto the floor, and leaving devastation in her wake had faded and Macie was ready for lunch and a nap. Luckily, Josh was able to pick up Macie at our next store and left us to our mission. Even without the distraction of Macie we still spent HOURS searching for coordinating outfits…which could have something to do with the fact that we are very distracted shoppers to begin with. 




Saturday, November 5, 2011

Big Wheels & Belly Buttons



Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is one of Macie’s favorite places. Macie’s love of the park is evidenced by her giggles and shouts as soon as the playground comes into sight. If I try to pass by the play area without stopping Macie reads me the riot act and basically has a seizure in her stroller seat. Since the park is only two blocks from our house, we visit at least 4-5 times a week. Lately we have been taking Macie to the playground every day the weather is fairly decent, trying to take advantage of the last few warmish weeks of fall. The following anecdote of toddler socialization took place at Blackburn Park earlier this week.
When playing on the playground Macie follows a fairly predictable pattern. First she runs to the big kid jungle gym and tries to climb the steps to get to the slide. After a few stressful attempts, we usually guide Macie over to the toddler-sized jungle gym and watch her go up the steps and down the slide until she gets bored. After a few minutes of this Macie usually runs over to the swings, checks out the springy duck and seesaw, then spends the rest of her time playing in the rocks. The rock table is where Macie was playing the day she met the coolest toddler ever.

We heard him before we saw him. The sound of big wheel tires racing over the cobblestone path leading to the playground entrance warned us that trouble was coming- and fast. Then we saw him. This little boy, around 3, with longish wavy hair and a roguish laugh peeled into the play area. After taking a second to assess the situation, he recklessly zoomed around the playground, enjoying the feel of wind through his hair. This little guy had the need for speed and his legs peddled enthusiastically to power his rapid pace.

This mischievous little boy immediately caught Macie’s attention, as she stopped playing in the rocks to stare at him in awe. She seemed impressed by his speed, spunk, and devil-may-care attitude. He was like the toddler version of James Dean on a motorcycle. When he sped to our part of the playground Macie caught his eye and he skid to an abrupt halt. They stared each other down for a minute, Macie with her mouth wide open. Then, with a sudden burst of inspiration, Macie lifted her dress to show her belly. After a few more awkward moments James Dean Junior grew bored and zipped off again to do laps around the playground. Macie’s attempt at impressing this toddler idol was unsuccessful. Luckily, she didn’t seem phased. Better luck next time.

After witnessing this amusing interaction, I began to ponder why Macie always shows her belly to other children. When faced with another child, she reflexively lifts her shirt. What is she trying to communicate? Is it the same message as when a dog lays on its back and displays its belly around other dogs? Is she showing her belly as a sign of friendliness and non-aggression? Whatever her reason, it makes for some entertaining and slightly embarrassing social exchanges. Right now it’s fairly adorable, but if Macie is still flashing children in a few years I am going to be concerned. J




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