Monday, April 30, 2007

Can you say smart aleck?

"Is this what you're looking for?" I hold up the spongy baseball that Clay likes.

"Yes! Thank you!" And then a sly smile crosses his face.

"...or should I say 'No thank you!' Because in opposite world, that means 'Thank you!'"

Clay is obsessed with Disney's Cars and all things Lightning McQueen and Mater. Every night at prayer time, right after 'Amen', and with a virtual slap to the forehead he'll say "I forgot Lightning McQueen and Mater!! 'GaBleLiteMckwnMater. AMEN'"

He can sing all of the words to Route 66, and will correct us if we get the towns out of order. In case you were wondering, it goes through St. Louie, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City (which looks 'oh so pretty'), Amarillo, Gallup New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona (don't forget!) Wynona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino...

But I digress. The 'opposite world' sarcasm, as referenced above, is (naturally) what Lightning McQueen says to Doc after he loses his Radiator Springs race.

And I knew this immediately because I, too, have seen this movie TOO MANY TIMES. Sha-boom!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


At dinner, Mike started the conversation with "tell Mama what you learned at school today."

Proudly, Clay yelled "Messatorfamus!"

I looked to Mike for an explanation, and he said "metamorphosis." Of course.

"Yah... it's when you CHANGE! Like a butterfly!" (Clay flaps his arms).

And so it begins...

For all of my life, I've taken good natured ribbing about my vocabulary. As a child our neighbor, Mrs. Linton, would comment about the words I'd come up with, and as a teenager, my mom would joke that I was '14 going on 40'. Later in high school, I distinctly remember being teased mercilessly by my friends when I said something was 'trivial'. Oh the peals of laughter! They all thought it such a very big, 50 cent word, and couldn't believe that I would use it. Embarrassed and a little ashamed, I questioned whether I was using my words to puff up my self importance. My friends certainly made me feel so, and I took the laughter as an attempt to take me down a peg or two. Fortunately, we were out for pizza, so I could take comfort in food. Don't like my words? Screw you, and pass the pepperoni. I traded my 50 cent words for 50 dollar hips.

Although I marvel now at how much that innocent incident affected me (I truly believe my friends meant no harm), I recognize that it did so in a profound way. After that, I remember just wanting to fit in, and so the pendulum swung in the other direction. I avoided lofty language. I may have been on the debate and forensic team, but it was just a cover. I found solace in my prepared notes. And without them, I quickly found myself grasping for the right words. By the time I made it to college, I convinced myself that my words and writing were inferior. Can't win for losing, eh?

So today, I have two little boys, and I refuse to talk down to them, often with comical results. Clay's in the 'Why?' phase (will the questions ever stop?), and I will beat my head against the proverbial wall to give him a sensible answer, long after Mike has given in with a 'just because!'. Case in point, this morning's explanation about the phrase 'Spring has sprung', which I FULLY admit is a path I stumbled down. Clay wanted to know what the phrase meant. Here's what I told him:

"It's a play on words."

(Confused look from 3 year old.)

Trying again, I said: "You know how some words have two meanings?"

Gamely, the boy nodded tentatively. I could see he had no idea, so I tried to elaborate.

"Like, spring means the season with all the flowers, but it also means a curly wire that goes 'boing'!"

I'd lost him. I tried again.

"Like Drew's exersaucer? The legs have springs in them so he can bounce up and down?"

I'd better wrap this up. I'm losing him fast.

"So when we say 'spring has sprung', we mean the season SPRING has popped out, like a SPRING popping. Get it?"

He said he did, but I think he was just humoring his old mom. Either that, or he just wanted to get back to his cars. But at least I tried, and to be fair to me (and hey, we HAVE to be fair to me), this is the boy who told his classmate that her throwing her jacket in anger wasn't appropriate. So, it was fairly logical that I thought he could grasp the concept of a double entendre. Right?


Monday, April 23, 2007


Not to be outdown by his little brother, Clay is really starting to put letters and words together. You may have heard of the (sometimes unfortunate) rhymes he'll put together. He's been able to spell, and write, his name for some time now. Lately, he's been asking us to spell everything. "What spell stop?" We'll always oblige. Tonight at bedtime, he wanted to know how to spell 'cool'. 'C-O-O-l'.

"What spell 'sign'?". "That's a hard one. 'S-I-G-N'."

"What spells 'stickers'?" "S-T-I-C-K-E-R-S."

Next, smarty pants asks: "What spells 'small stickers'?"

Mother Tongue

For weeks, Drew's been babbling 'da da da da da', and I knew that it was coming. His first real word would be 'Da Da', or something paternally similar. I took an Introduction to Linguistics class back in college, where I learned that babies first say 'Da da' because the 'duh' sound is much easier to say than the 'muh' sound. Too many lip motions, or something like that. It was definitely true with Clay, and although I was a little sad when it happened, I was expecting it.

At mom's last visit two weeks ago, she noticed that Drew was babbling 'na na na na na', and theorized that it was his way of referring to me. Perhaps, but I dismissed it, smug was I with my knowledge of linguistics.

Last week, Drew started babbling 'ma ma ma ma ma'. Now, THIS was interesting. I was expecting a clear 'Da Da' first. When was that going to happen?

Today, I was at the sink getting some rice cereal ready, when I heard it, but with an unexpected clarity...

"MA MA!"

I turned around, and there was Drew, grinning from ear to ear, pleased as punch that I FINALLY got the message.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Isn't he the CUTEST!?!

Fortunately, I married a man who takes the time to e-mail me little gems such as this much needed 'pick me up'!


After school on Fridays, the Sheleheda boys' custom is to dine at McDonalds for the happy meal and cheap plastic toy of the week. Yesterday, Mike reports that the cheap plastic toy of the week was an iPodish device with the American Idol logo that played a snippet of a jazzy song. Clay was SO excited, and Mike watched him in the rear view mirror as he held the toy to his ear and bopped back and forth.

"It's just like Hannah Montana's!"

Do not ask us how he knows about Hannah Montana. For all I knew, his Playhouse Disney watching was limited to Little Einsteins, the Wiggles and Charlie and Lola. Sometimes Handy Manny. And Mike confesses that on occasion they'll catch Kim Possible. But Hannah Montana, I have no idea...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Little Too Literal

From Gran:

I asked Clay if he was allowed to bring his popcorn into the living room. He said he wasn't, so I told him to take it into the kitchen or else his Daddy'd have his butt for breakfast.

With wide-eyed earnestness, he replied: "My daddy wouldn't eat my butt!"

Monday, April 16, 2007


It's been a bittersweet few days for us. We found out this weekend that Clay's best buddy Josh won't be returning to preschool next year. We knew that when they went to kindergarten they would part ways. Josh lives several miles away, and their friendship probably wouldn't last the distance. But, it was sad news to hear that he won't be returning in the fall. We haven't told Clay yet, and probably won't until school starts next year. Bummer.

Tonight my friend Tom called. He's accepted a big new job in Los Angeles, and he and his partner Jim will be moving in a few week. They're good pals, kindred spirits, valiant souls, mensches, and great guys. I'll miss them terribly, and the pit in my stomach says this is so. Bummer #2.

The older I get, the more I realize that most friendships are fleeting, and family is generally forever. I've experienced few exceptions. I suspect Tom and Jim are exceptions to that rule, but I doubt Clay will be so fortunate this time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We have a tooth!

Drew's been really grumpy for well over a week, and today we found out why. He's cut his first tooth! I guess it's time to start singing the Captain Kangaroo tooth song to him:

Brush your teeth, round and round.
Circles small, gums and all.

A small, soft toothbrush the roundabout way
will keep your gums healthy and stop tooth decay!

So clean very carefully three times a day.
Go round and round. Round and round.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

Christos Voskres!

We celebrated a very cold, slightly snowy Pittsburgh Easter. On Saturday we went to the church for basket blessing, and that was probably the quietest moment we had. (As usual, I managed to inhale a noseful of the incense from Fr. Mike's cadilla

The Easter Bunny brought the boys a basket each. Clay's had ONE chocolate egg, and a floor puzzle and book. Then he searched for eggs. Drew's had prunes (for baby regularity), pacifiers, and a teether.

Voistynu Voskres!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tomato Thoughts

I think we're finally turning the tide of vegetable phobia in our household because tonight, Clay wanted a tomato for dinner. Not a puny cherry tomato, mind you. No, he wanted a 'great big tomato... without the seeds, please.' Yes sir... I started slicing right away and placed eight fat, heaping wedges in front of him.

Now, you may be wondering what kind of weird dinner this was for a 3 year old. I know I certainly was, but I'm not much of a cook, and since Mike's been sick this week we haven't exactly been having his home cooked meals. Mostly, we've been dining on yogurt, leftover mac 'n cheese, and cold cereal. Or whatever I can grab from the fridge or pantry that doesn't require the stove. Tonight, I picked up some sushi for myself and was going to give Clay cottage cheese when he asked for the tomato.

And how he devoured that tomato! I marvelled at his process. First, he'd slurp out the center of the wedge, and then he'd nibble the skin. He kept the pepper shaker handy, and sprinkled some before each and every bite. Happy as a clam, he even munched on some cucumber and olives from my salad. And I thought "I sort of know this kid. Like me he loves tomatoes, but where's the pepper appetite coming from?"

But, I suppose that's what kids are for. They'll have a little of you, a little of him, and a little of themselves. There's my eyes, his hair, and a mystery dimple. Not much of a taste for salt, but pass the pepper, please!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"A" Star is Born

Sunday Clay participated in his first violin concert. He played 'A', and his three classmates each played other notes. Together, they performed a Suzuki Twinkle variation, 'Mississippi Hot Dog.'

You can see the video here:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lunch with Teddy

For the past three and a half years, Mike and Clay, and now Drew, have had lunch with Great Papa about once a week. Recently, their day of choice was Tuesdays. Those days are gone, now that Papa has joined the exodus south, along with the rest of my aunt’s family.

So on this Tuesday, Mike was looking for a diversion. And since it was a beautiful day, he and the boys picked me up at work, and we drove to Roosevelt Island for a quick picnic. Being right on the Potomac, and so close to the airport, we couldn’t completely escape the hustle and bustle, but we still came pretty close.

Once you cross that footbridge and enter the woods, practically all unnatural sounds fade away, and you’re left with a dappled shade-filled serenity that ole’ Teddy would have appreciated.

After a lunch of sandwiches and apples, which even Drew enjoyed, we took a quick spin around the memorial.

Trying our best to ignore the large group of boys who were traipsing through a drained reflecting pool, and causing the park ranger much consternation, we meandered past the inspiring memorial tablets, and I found myself marveling at how appropriate the one titled ‘Youth’ was for me with my little men today.


I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.

Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.

Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character.

At that moment, we spied a woodpecker high in the tree, and as if that weren’t enough of a blessing, another joined her. This was a male, with a vibrant red plume. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. And just as Mike grabbed the camera to snap a picture, the large group of boys came up right behind us. Equally enamored with the sight, I chuckled over the chorus of ‘Cools’ and ‘Wows’. But then, I noticed the male woodpecker sidling up awfully close to the female. I knew what was about to come next. This is nature, after all.

‘Look! They’re mating!’ screamed one of the boys behind us. A slightly embarrassed chaperone smiled apologetically at me.

‘What’s mating?’ asked Clay.

Trying to quickly come up with an honest, but age appropriate answer, I grasped for words. Finally, I decided that this was a teachable moment I just couldn’t rise to.

‘Um, it’s… hey! Did you see that?’ I vaguely wave in the direction of a tree, while steering him further along the path.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rhymes with Lasagne

Now that Clay's in Sunday School, we attend church more regularly than before. Clay enjoys not having to sit and be quiet with us, and we enjoy not 'shushing' him constantly. It's a win-win! So in addition to that, and what with yesterday being Palm Sunday (and ironically, April Fool's Day, but that's another story), we made our way to church. After the service, I held onto my palm (party favor!), because I knew Clay would want it. I needn't have troubled, because as soon as we went to his classroom, he was standing at the doorway yelling "Mommy! Look at my 'Hosanya'!" (see blog post title). I look down, and he's holding a tongue depresser with a crayon colored paper palm leaf glued to it.

Hosanya indeed!