Kids say the darndest things: Say Please

A few from the peanut gallery lately…

Jax has the most adorable way of saying “Yeah!” for everything.  The opposite of “Yeah” is “Nope.”  We have taught him “Yeah” by accident, because we say it all the time, and rarely say “Yes.”  We have taught him “Nope” on purpose, because it’s so much easier and cuter somehow to have your toddler say “Nope” to you instead of the harsher, “No.”

He has said, “Thank you” really well for quite some time now.  He says it with a cheerful tone of voice, and says it very frequently.  Probably because I use it all the time too – especially to reinforce his positive behaviors.  He rarely says, “Please”, probably also because I forget to use it all the time.

I haven’t forced the issue (for example, insisting he say “please” before I comply with his request or giving something to him).  This is partly because I am also really forgetful about saying “please”, and partly because I consider tone of voice to be of much greater importance in polite communication than saying certain words.  I’ve heard plenty of ugly-sounding “please will you’s” and plenty of very cheerful and polite-sounding “will you” without the “please.”  So I work with him on having a cheerful tone of voice when he asks for something, more than I work on “please.”

If he asks for something in a whiny or frustrated tone of voice, I just repeat his request back to him with a very cheery tone of voice, modeling the way I would like him to ask.  He them immediately changes his whiny/frustrated tone/behavior, and responds with an excited little, “Yeah!”

Lately, I sometimes will also be more specific than just modeling, and let him know that he doesn’t need to cry / yell / whine, that he needs to ask me nicely.  Sometimes I don’t correct the poor behavior, and just say, “Jax, can you try that again? Please ask Mommy nicely!”  And he will change his tone promptly.

To work on both the “thank you” and “please” issue a bit more however, I decided to get cute books we found at the library. One where a little bear says “thank you”, and one where a penguin learns to say “please.”  The trouble with behavior books is they often have the character exhibiting such poor behavior for a large portion of the book, and finally learning their lesson on the last few pages.

I like the Bear Says Thank You book, because Little Bear already knows how to say thank you.  He asks his Mama Bear for various art supplies, and when she provides them (Here you go, Little Bear), he says a huge “Thank you!” with a page all to itself.  At the end, he uses his art supplies to make a poster that says, “I Love You” and gives it to his mommy. The only thing I change in the words, is I add “please” to the end of his requests.  It is absent from the book because they are working on one thing at a time, but it’s easy enough to add it in when reading the book.

Penguin says Please is good too, but it does have the penguin begging for things in an insistent manner, “Give me something to eat! Give me something to drink!” I really don’t care for the phrase “give me” AT ALL, so I substitute, “I need.”  Then when the mama penguin corrects him, she says, “No, no Penguin, you must say please”, which I change to “Hmm Penguin, first you must learn to say please.”  I try to use “no” for strong correction, and not for gentle teaching moments, and I want mama Penguin to do the same.  He quickly listens to her, and rewords all his requests using “please.” She responds with “Very good, Penguin”.  At the end of the book, he forgets to say please again, and says, “I need the other sock!”  When you flip the page, he says, “Please!”  Even the first time I read it, Jax giggled at that last request of the penguin, because he was able to understand the penguin was supposed to say please, and he didn’t even after learning his lesson.  It was a bit humorous the way the book was laid out, and he got the joke.  He still giggles at that part every time we read it.

The Penguin book has helped us a bit in the “please” department, and the following incident occurred a few days ago.

Jax was sitting at the table eating a snack.  I was cleaning the kitchen.

In the silence, I heard his little voice say thoughtfully, “Say please, not yeah.”

I giggled, then thought, Who taught him that?”.  After asking everyone in the house, we concluded no one taught him that; he thought of it himself.

Being almost two

Jax is almost two. Almost two with a mind too big for his body and a thirst for learning and discovery that is insatiable. It daily chases me down with a need for guidance and creative play ideas.

Each evening I recount to Benjamin a story or three from the day. We laugh and sigh at the tragic humor and delightful moments that result from a Being who is almost two. Last night I was saying I need to write more of these down. It’s easy for me to find the time to enjoy even a small crisis but harder to find the time to document it.
I recently attempted to make ketchup, which is traditionally a fermented food that was good for you, not a high-fructose-corn-syrup junk food. It wouldn’t matter much except Jax has taken to wanting ketchup on everything from chicken to fish to eggs, or preferably eating it by the spoonful like soup. In those quantities, I wanted to make it a healthier food. I bought organic tomato paste, strained whey from organic yogurt, and it was actually simple to make. After two days of fermenting on the counter, the flavor was intense but fantastic.
Of course, one tiny taste and Jax wrinkled his nose and asked for “dat” ketchup (the one from the dollar store in the plastic bottle). I tried watering it down and adding more honey, tasting along the way to try for a similar flavor. Nope. I watered it down some more and as a measure of desperation emptied the contents of the plastic bottle into the sink and poured my ketchup from the glass mason jar into it. He was happy to try it this time, since I had deceived him, but his wrinkled nose with a single taste told the true story. He even refused to eat any if the scrambled eggs that had been on the plate with that terrible ketchup. Kitchen fail.
He broke a jar of sesame oil in the pantry a couple days ago. The pantry used to be a safe place for him to play, with metal cans in the bottom shelf, woks and funky utensils stashed against the floor. But he has learned to open almost any container and discovered how to use the stool we keep in there to get things off the high shelves. He was actually doing a good thing by getting a bib for himself off the third shelf, but he lost his balance on the stool, bumped the bin of bibs to the floor, and it caught the glass bottle of sesame oil on its way down.
“Accident! Clean a towel!”, he said. I gave him a hug and closed the door on the glass and the smell so I could deal with broken glass later without his footsteps following my every move. These things happen. We are almost two.
The next morning was the first tough one. The first accident that he meant to do because it looked exciting and he had yet to learn it was naughty.
He colored with marker on the vintage chair we’ve been turning into a gorgeous rocker. Another one of my projects that I begin so blithely only to complete them a year later.
I was making the bed and heard his sweet voice in the other room.
My brain flashes red warning bells.
“Colors,” is his universal word for anything that writes, paints, or gives color to paper. Watercolor, crayons, markers, pencils, pens. They are colors.
There shouldn’t be any colors available in that room he is in.
“Color rocking chair!” I hear next, and the red warning lights flash and sirens erupt in my heart as I rush in to halt the tragedy unfolding.
It is too late. Soon enough to stop an increase to the damage but too late for two long streaks of red sharpie on the pale yellow fabric.
“NO!” Comes out of my mouth. Loud and insistent and firm but not screaming ugly. 
“NO, we do NOT color on rocking chairs.”
“Jax, that is not good, NO.”
And his sensitive heart cracks and tears wet his soft cheeks.
“Jax clean a towel?” he says, words spilling over each other with the tears because he wants to mend the mess he made. 
“Washing machine?”
“Daddy fix it?” because that’s what I tell him when something is too broken for me to repair. Maybe Daddy can fix it.
And he sobs and asks to nurse because that mends all aches and tells him I still love him.
And I do. While I caress his tears and tell him that Mommy is very sad about the chair but he is more important to me than the chair.
He calms down while we nurse and when we are done he seems peaceful. We can both speak calmly about it and I say it one more time for the learning record,
“We only color on paper. We don’t color on chairs.”
And when Grandpapa enters the room an hour later, Jax tells him, taking his hand to show him the scene.
“Don’t color rocking chair.  Color paper.”
When Daddy gets home Jax tells him again.
In bed that night, I am nursing and cuddling and singing him to sleep, and I begin the prayer that lists the names of all our family and their pets.
“God bless Daddy, God bless Mommy,”Jax interrupts me somewhere along the way.
“God (grunt grunt) rocking chair.” And my heart melts a little because he is still thinking about that mess he made and knows we are going to need Big help to fix it.
He can say “bless” perfectly, but he has to think really hard about it, and thinking about how to say “bless” and what he wants to say after that word is too much, so he inserts an “uh” or two in its place.
I have worked on the smaller streak with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol, and there is a barely noticeable pink smudge that remains. The bigger problem was all the rubbing of the q-tip caused a lot of the old fuzzy upholstery fabric to rub off. I haven’t started on the larger streak yet, so periodically Jax comes into the room and sees it, climbs up on the chair to touch the mark, and says, “Accident.”
The thing is, adults make mistakes too. It was an adult mistake that left a red sharpie within a child’s reach right next to a vintage yellow chair. We hopefully progress from mistakes like coloring on walls and jumping in cars, but we still make them.
And the accidents of our little ones only remind us of our own failures too, giving us the grace we need to teach them a life  lesson, with humility and gentleness.
Because the accident I can make with his tender soul is a much bigger one than red sharpie on a vintage yellow chair.

Sweet Words

As children are accumulating vocabulary, they say all sorts of interesting, hysterical, embarrassing, and lovely things.

I was afraid to teach Jax words like “shirt” or “truck”, just in case they came out sounding wrong.  (“Shirt” mispronunciation has turned out to be inevitable. I just ignore it. He will learn the correct way to pronounce long before he learns the incorrect way has an alternate meaning. “Truck” has been okay. It is “twuck.”).

I’ve been thoughtful that he will translate words from one scenario to another. Unfortunately, others in my life haven’t had the same forethought.

For example, when he was suddenly afraid of the sound of the airplanes flying over our home (which happens countless times a day in this military city), my Tita taught him to say, “Go away! Go away airplane!” as a defense mechanism.  It worked temporarily, and since he had something forceful to tell the airplane, he seemed slightly less intimidated by them. Sometimes. Other times he still cried for me.  The downside is he naturally started telling people like me and his Daddy to “go away” when we were doing something he didn’t like.  I finally convinced my Tita to stop saying those words around him, because it is so hurtful and ugly for me to be told “go away”, even when I know he is little and can’t comprehend the fullness of meaning.

For a little while, he had started yelling loudly, exciting words he learned from other children, like “NO!” and “MINE!”.  I would respond by yelling loudly, “JESUS!”  Now I periodically hear him across the house or in the car randomly shouting “JESUS!” for no particular reason.

A few things that happened recently that were too sweet to forget….

In the car. He asks for music. I turn on the radio to the Christian station. (Which is the only thing I will listen to now that he started repeating lyrics like “Carry me, carry me” (a current over-played Christian song) or “Speak life, speak life” (another over-played Christian song).)

On this particular day, the song that came on, I recognized, and started singing along.

“Yes, Jax, Mommy’s here.”

“Yes, Mommy’s singing.”

“Mommy singing?”
“Mommy is singing.”

(me: teary eyes)
“Yes, Mommy is singing to Jesus.”

(He proceeds to sweetly sing the name of Jesus over and over).
(I melt).

We are in the grocery store. I am wearing him in a wrap on my back. He wraps his arms around my shoulders and says, “Hug.”
“Aww, hug, thank you Jax, I love hugs!”

“I wuv ooh”, clear as a bell, the first time he has ever said it.
(Of all the many, many, many words and phrases he knows, I’ve been wondering why this one has not yet entered his vocabulary, when we say it to him so many times a day.)
“I love you too, Jax!”

“I wuv ooh!” again…
(Then we repeat back and forth several times while I try not to start bawling in the grocery store).

When I put him to bed that night, it is one of the times I always say it to him several times before and after putting him down in his crib. He repeated it again that same day, copying my gentle, sweet tone of voice.

Ah, words a mama loves to hear.

He hasn’t said “I love you” since that day though.

Kind of like our chickens who laid four eggs in October then haven’t laid a single one since.  Dear chickens: by January, your lives will be in danger. Consider my encouragement to begin laying eggs.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Jax Reilly’s first

At sixteen months, Jax is talking enough to have a few “kids say the darndest things” moments already.  Here’s a few I want to remember from the last couple months.

A few months ago, maybe around April (so he would have been thirteen months), we were at my grandmother, Tita’s house.  At the time, “apple” was the word Jax used for any fruit or food he liked/wanted.  We were in her front yard, and discovered small seed pods about the size of large grapes, perfectly round.
He picked one up and said, “Apple!”
I said, “Ball!”
He took one more look at it, then threw it across the driveway like he would with a ball.
We spent the next twenty minutes tossing “balls” up and down the driveway and lawn.  At the time, he only had about 20-30 words, and I was grateful that even with that vocabulary, we clearly communicated with two words he knew well.

Fast foward to June, (he is fifteen months), and talking a lot more.  We were down by the river, and he picked up a large rock out of the river bed. After taking a long look at it, he said, “Apple.”
I said, “Rock.”
Jax: “Apple.”
Me: “Rock.”
Jax: “Apple.”
Me: “Rock.”
Jax: “Apple.”
Me: silence.  I am arguing with a fifteen month old.

I posted this one on Facebook, but a few weeks ago, we were laying in my bed nursing.  He still nurses to sleep at night, when he wakes up in the morning, and one or two other times during the day, usually around nap time.  Sometimes while he is nursing, I check my email or Facebook on my phone.  On this occasion, he decided to nurse only briefly, and sat up while I was typing a comment on Facebook.  I kept typing, trying to finish what I wanted to say before going on with the day.  My brain was half focused on what I was writing, and half realizing that Jax was saying, “Mommy. Mommy..! Mommy!! Mommy!!!” in the background.  I just. wanted. to. finish.  I don’t usually ignore him. I usually respond, not only because I value responding to my children promptly, but because he will keep on like a broken record, repeating and escalating until he gets a response from me.  Unfortunately, this time I didn’t respond fast enough.  He put his face between me and my iPhone, and said clearly, “Mommy! Ah- nah, Pone!” (all done, phone).  That was his first sentence.

My sister Mercy got married a couple weeks ago.  The wedding was beautiful, and held in a fancy Catholic church that her husband and his family belong to.  Behind the altar are elaborate engravings, architecture, and near-life-sized sculptures of various saints.  At the rehearsal, I walked toward the front of the church holding Jax.  Ever the observant one, he stared openly at all the statues.  Then he pointed and said, “Emo!” (elephant).  I didn’t respond because I was trying not to giggle.  A moment later, very seriously, “Cow.”

No, Jax, definitely not a cow.



As Jax gets older (and more mobile), he is therefore destined to get into more things.  I’ve been trying to use this to my advantage, by placing toys at his level for him to access at any time, or opening “safe” kitchen cupboards for him to unpack while I cook.

It made me remember an incident at Christmas that I don’t want to forget.

My niece, Piper is two.  She is delightfully loving, busy, and into everything.  She can climb almost any piece of furniture, and open any bag.  So if you want your purse or backpack to be “safe” from her inquisitive fingers, you have to put it on top of the highest shelf in the room.

I learned this lesson the hard way (as did Piper).  I left my purse on the kitchen island, which is bar height, with bar stools.  Piper climbed up the bar stools and onto the island to explore my purse.  My phone was with me, or I’m sure that would have been her first choice.  As it was, she instead went for a bottle of capsules in my purse.

My sister Tabitha, Piper’s mommy, discovered Piper with my purse open, things everywhere, and powder from open capsules on her lips.  She only slightly paniced, restraining herself while calling frantically for me, to find out what her daughter had consumed.  I arrived at the scene to hear Piper saying, “Spicy!!!”

The capsules were ginger root, dried and ground and capsulized. I keep them with me to help with digestion.  Good thing for Piper I don’t take any medicines, and the only things in my purse and pill box are various herbs and spices.  The worst she got out of trying to eat the pills in my purse was the bitter, spicy taste of ginger.


Also, we wore this outfit weeks ago when it was still winter here.  I’m not sure whether to pity the Americans still stuck in the blustery drudges of winter, or the south Texans who are grimly welcoming summer in February.

Up and Down and Scooting Backward (And a Box of Chocolate Bunnies)


This is how he goes right now.  Up, down, up, down, all fours, hands and toes, up, down, slide backward, up, down, slide backward.  He can travel all the way across the room – backward.  It’s like a reverse army crawl.  I can’t really say he’s crawling since it’s not forward movement, but he’s definitely a mover!  On Melissa’s slick floor, he could also spin in circles on his tummy.  Up, down, turn, up, down, turn, slide backward, roll, spin.  And he’s five feet away from where you put him in no time.

I was taking these photos when I looked up and saw this.

The little blur in the bottom left corner of the photo is Jax’s fuzzy head.

The kid who got caught in the photo is Schroeder.  Three years old, and full of delight and mischief as three-year olds are prone to be.

He had been snacking on these Annie’s organic bunny crackers during the day.  He kept getting caught, and getting put in time out, with the box moved a little higher out of his reach.  I looked up and saw him looking at me, the box in one hand, and the silver foil bag of bunny crackers in the other.  I said, “I don’t think you’re supposed to have those.”  Melissa overheard me from the other room, and her Mommy voice resonated with THAT tone we all recognize, “Schroeder!”  Without a word, Schroeder slowly, very slowly, squatted down, setting the box and the foil back silently on the floor behind him.  He has just dropped the box in this image.  Then he walked away, leaving them behind like he’d never touched them.

By the end of the day, the bunnies were completely gone.

It’s one of the things I’ve found to be true with other people’s children, with my nieces and nephews, and I’m sure will be true of my own.  They can be SO DARN FUNNY when they’re being bad.  And you’re just trying so hard not laugh because they are SO funny, but they are seriously in trouble, and you can’t laugh, you have to hold it in somehow so they don’t think their poor behavior is humorous, but it REALLY IS because they’re just so darn cute even when they’re sneaking chocolate bunnies.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Twinkle Little Star

Last week at our community group meeting (church small group with five married couples), Isabel led worship. She picked out three kids’ songs for us to sing together, and Esther played guitar. We sang, “Deep and Wide”, which is about the love of God, “Jesus Loves Me”, and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Before we began singing the last song, Isabel explained that she chose this song because it was about God’s creation. She said Esther told her it wasn’t a worship song, so we couldn’t do it for group, but Isabel had insisted, “Yes, it is! When we look at the stars, we think about God!”

When the songs were through, she prayed out loud, with her eyes squeezed tightly shut, thanking God for all the beautiful things He had made, stars, and sun, and flowers, and her mommy. She is only four years old, but she gets it. And she inspires me.

Kids Say The Darndest Things: To Wit – Isabel

Whose Birthday Is This Again?
It is MY birthday celebration with our family.  Everyone is singing “Happy Birthday” while Mercy (my baby sister, 17 yrs old) slowly walks toward me with a cake-full of candles.  Isabel (my niece, 4 yrs old) is standing faithfully by my side. The song completes, and the audience hushes, waiting for my wish. Isabel’s eyes fixed on the glowing wax atop the cake, she leans in to me and whispers, “Do you want to help me?”

The Solitary Purpose of Marriage Is…
My family is in the kitchen, some of us cooking dinner, some of us relaxing, some playing, some conversing. Isabel dashes across the kitchen toward me and asks emphatically, “Aunt Joy, why are you and Benjamin married if you aren’t going to have any kids?”

Isabel and Aidan

Name Calling Humor
Our family is around the dinner table, which is always a noisy and happily chaotic event. Through the din, I hear Isabel call someone a name, and her father corrects her firmly.

Daniel: “Isabel, it’s not nice to call people names. No one here is laughing. Do you see anyone laughing?”

Isabel: Laughs.

Daniel: “You see, you’re the only one laughing.”

Isabel (in a commanding voice): “Aidan, LAUGH.”

Aiden: Giggles

Isabel: Laughs

The rest of us: bust up laughing.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Dr. Isabel

Went to Dr. Isabel Applegate’s yesterday for a sore throat (Isabel would be my 4 year old niece).

After gently checking my belly with her stethoscope, she declared matter of factly, “Well, it seems that you hab a hawt beat.” Good to know I’m still in the land of the living.

New tool (no idea what they are called, but they shine light in your eyes). One eye, then the other. “I bewieve dewe is sumpting wong wit yow eyes.” Good to know my sore throat includes a bout with pink eye.

Next, my ears. “Wooks good! Dewe is nufing wong wit yow eawes. Just vewy diwty.” Now she’s addressing my ear hygiene?

Turns out I need a shot to make it all better. Oh wait, that isn’t a shot, it is for drawing blood. Two quick pinches, and

Dewe is pwetty much bwood awl ovo.”
Blood all over. What kind of Dr. did I come to see?

And when Aidan brought his poor sick baby to see Dr. Isabel, she asked him, “Is it a mosquite bite or… did he get eaten by a wolf?  How much of him did the wolf eat?”

And I’m sitting here thinking, “Isabel, you’re writing my next blog post right now, whether you know it or not!”

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Spaceship

My sister Tabitha is a few weeks pregnant with her second child.  Her first, Sebastian, is just over two years old, and the most verbal child I have met.  When Tabitha and Matt (her husband) announced to Sebastian that he was going to have a baby sibling….he didn’t skip a beat, “I don’t waaaaant a baby; I want a spaceship!”

Well, baby looks kinda like a spaceship about now….um…does that count?

Sebastian and I playing outside