Wednesday, August 13, 2008


There's a line from the movie Shrek that really struck a chord with me. When Princess Fiona shockingly exclaims that Donkey can talk, Shrek says, "yeah, it's getting him to shut up that's the trick." Whoever wrote that line definitely has kids.

My oldest son was a very early and sudden talker. I have video of him taken at Christmas of 1999, and he was only blurting single words like the usual "mom" and "ba-ba". In a video taken just two weeks later, he was speaking in full sentences, and he was only about a year and a half old.

My friends used to get such a kick out of how much he liked to talk, and the things he was capable of saying. My memory isn't great, and I don't remember a lot of examples of his lingo, but I remember how articulate and witty he was. Older ladies used to approach him in the grocery store and gush over him, "oh, look at the cute little baby! Yes you are! Yes you are! A-pffffftt. A-pffffftt," while poking his belly. Much to their surprise, he'd usually reply with something like, "I don't know you, you are not a-sposed to touch me." He still looked like a baby, but talking to him was like talking to a five year old.

Here we are ten years later, and I promise you he hasn't stopped talking since 1999. The cute factor might have lessened considerably, but that hasn't affected the frequency. I often think he could be used by some police agency to crack criminals into cooperating, because this child could talk someone right to death. And ask questions? Either he's on the world's most epic quest for knowledge, or he just likes the sound of his own voice. Maybe a bit of both.

Some might say he gets it honestly, but that's besides the point.

In the past few weeks I've relived the "just learning to talk" scenario all over again, with my younger son. He's a late talker; he just turned three and only recently has he begun speaking in full sentences. And what sentences they are.
There is nothing funnier than a child finally being able to verbally express what they have probably been dying to get out for months and months.

Fits of frustration and screaming "no!" at the television and the fridge, have been replaced with, "Mom, want to watch Scooby Doo", or "not banana, want some cheese".
Better still, he's been absorbing the same songs and movies and phrases since he was a baby, so to hear him start singing the theme song from The Backyardigans word for word, is great for a laugh. He's nothing if not a fan of repetition, and the movies Cars and A Bug's Life (among many others) have played on a loop in this house for a long time. Now he can quote lines from these movies verbatim.

Unfortunately, my younger son isn't nearly as friendly as the other one was at his age. My older son would have talked to anyone, and usually did. The baby isn't as much of a people person, and strangers don't always get a great reception from him.

For example, the other day at the mall our cart was blocked by someone chatting in the middle of the aisle. My son had no bones about telling the shoppers, "you're in the way! Move your stuff, right now!" Some parents would be embarrassed by an outburst like this, but really, what can you do? They're kids, and they call it like they see it. As much as I hate to say it, I'm used to his abrupt proclamations in the middle of the dollar store; hey, at least he's paying attention.

And it's easier to forgive a few painful moments when they're normally so polite. My kids might regularly speak out of turn, but they have excellent manners. Even the three year old says "pweeze" and "fank you" and "skuze me", and my older son holds doors for people and knows how to give a proper apology.

When you're a stay-at-home mom with small kids, the funny stuff is what gets you through the day. Somehow or another, my youngest has just adopted a British accent, and greets me every morning with a "Hello, Roger!" as if he's straight from the heart of London. You'd have to hear it, but believe me when I say it's hilarious. Also, the vocabulary variations can be quite funny, and I've enjoyed many stories about "bunglebees", "chuckamilk", and how "peckeroni pizza smells like dog poop."

I suppose these years are called "the best years" for a reason, and when the constant chirping in my ear is almost too much to bear, I try to remember how lost we'd be in silence.

Friday, August 1, 2008

In This New Age

What would we do without computers? I like to think it would be easy to revert back to the days of snail mail and encyclopedias, but realistically, I'm not sure I would make the transition so smoothly.

A few short months ago, I decided to solve my chronic computer woes by buying a brand new laptop. As a person who acquired their first computer only three years ago, this was a big deal for me. I'm used to error messages and insufficient space issues from a pre-historic desktop, so in comparison my new computer is like a little slice of technological heaven.

This past week, my laptop's monitor broke. It's a factory problem covered under warranty, but unfortunately it needs to be sent back to Dell for repair, which means I'll be without a computer for almost two weeks. For lots of people, I bet that doesn't even register as a problem. For me, it's a fate worse than death.

When you have the internet, you're used to things being instant. With the internet, my friend from Iqaluit can give me a virtual tour of the house she's planning to buy, from the interior paint to the landscaping. I can see pictures of a baby born in Edmonton before the family even gets home from the hospital. Didn't make it to the wedding in Halifax? No problem, I can watch a video of the bouquet toss the very next morning. My world is literally at my fingertips.

I can't even fathom doing things "the old way". Couple gets married on Saturday in Halifax. They get their film developed on Monday or Tuesday, divvy up a few shots, buy a stamp, and get an envelope mailed out by Friday. The following Wednesday I receive the pictures in the mail, a full eleven days after the wedding took place, and that's assuming we live in some alternate universe where brides make sending pictures to their friends their top post-wedding priority. But it's just one example of how the instantaneousness of the internet has spoiled me.

Perhaps this is a better example: writing this article. Twenty years ago, I'd be writing it by hand. I'd have to count the words manually, proofread it incessantly until I was sure I had caught all the mistakes, type out at least one copy on the typewriter, and deliver it to my editor. Now, with the magic of "backspace", I can write and re-write and edit till my heart's content. Cut and paste my way through spell check and word count software, attach the finished document to an e-mail, and voila - done like dinner. What used to be a week-long project has become a simple, five minute task. It's incredible when you think about it.

Another huge change has been with the concept of reference. You know your product has succeeded when it's name becomes a verb, as I'm sure anyone who has "Googled" something will agree. A high school project used to involve hours of research and perfecting your Dewey Decimal skills, but these days, Wikipedia will tell you all you need to know about Albert Einstein or the history of democracy, or anything else you could possibly need information about, no matter how obscure. Maybe you're like me and appreciate the value of a good old fashioned textbook, but even I'll admit that has been my source on more than one occasion.

And when I'm craving a healthy dose of nostalgia, YouTube is always there for me to rely on. A conversation with girlfriends about how funny an old music video was doesn't have to be fruitless anymore. We may have long since thrown away our VHS of every popular song on Video Hits, but we can watch any video (clips of any show or movie for that matter) by simply typing the name in YouTube search. What a beautiful thing for someone like me who's a bit stuck in the 80s.

Facebook is probably my favorite "tool". Everyone is busy with life, and staying in touch with your friends can sometimes be a challenge, to say nothing of people you've lost touch with. Facebook has allowed me to stay in contact with childhood friends, family members living away, and college buddies. I can see their kids, chat live with them, find out when they're coming home, and the list goes on. As any Facebook regular will attest, you feel a bit out of the loop when you've been off-line for an extended period of time.

And that's my dilemma. The world will continue turning while my computer is being fixed, and I'm sure I'll survive a week or two without the convenience of the internet. It'll just take me a little longer to get caught up with the rest of you.