Mykala commenting on Help, Help!

Also: “Baby need-a mama meow paw!” when she takes my hand to bring me into the living room.

It’s all together too much sweetness to be contained by such a tiny little body. It defies science.

Curious George

Ess likes to watch a movie called Curious George Swings into Spring, but she asks for it by saying something like “watch… maow… ping… and balloons UP and UP” or some other kind of variation on her summary of the plot. To translate: her stuffed monkey’s name is Marge, nicknamed Mow, so monkeys get called Mows; there are hot air balloons in the movie in many shapes, and sometimes we have only the barest hint of a guess which movie she’s referring to. There’s also ‘Crinkas Pooh’ (Christmas Pooh), ‘Pump pump Mow’ (Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest), and ‘Ringinal Pooh’ (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which we sometimes call Original Pooh).

Anyway, there’s a part in Curious George Swings into Spring with a big musical number about wiener dogs and Ess LOVES to clap along. She holds up a duck or a cow to us, and then that’s our dance partner for the song. She gets so excited that she starts doing rollicking little skip-hops around the floor, kicking one leg forward as she jumps off her back leg, going back and forth like a rocking horse. Sometimes we start the movie and forget the song is coming, and Ess will rush in, clapping. If I’m really missing out, I’ll hear a little voice from the next room: “Clap peez, Dada. Clap peez, Dada.” On my way, little Ess.

Help, Help!

“Help, help, Dada Owl! Help!”

Ess uses precisely the same tone of voice when peril is imagined or real. It is a perfect mimc of the higher-register you would use if you were reading a book to a two-year-old and conveying that someone is in trouble, but ultimately will be just fine. You know, low-budget playacting. Also:

“Help, help, Mama Meow! Help!”

These are the names Ess has for us. They’re also our Halloween costumes she has picked out for us. She is thinking of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, where Katerina Kitty Cat is a dancing cat who wears a tutu, her mom is a cat too, and X the Owl is O the Owl’s uncle.

So, imagined or real peril. If Ess is climbing the piano (no) and reaching for something out of reach (no), and can’t quite do it and might fall (nonono), you’ll hear her go “Help, help, Dada Owl! Help!” And it is crazy, because the inflection is PRECISELY the same she uses when she takes her tiny Essie-sized fork and perches it precariously on the edge of her high chair tray, and then plays from the perspective of the fork: “Help, help, Mama Fork! Help!” If you close your eyes, they sound exactly the same.

So, if I hear Ess go “Help, help, Dada Owl! Help!”, you better bet I’m running as fast as I can to get in there before someone sustains an injury, real or imaginary.

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Ess-to-English translator, October, 2016 edition:

pump-pump — pumpkin
keem — diaper cream
carefiff — carrot

hot-dong — carefiff dogs made by Mykala by marinating carrots, served on a bun; (they are DELICIOUS)

frawberry — the fruit or her strawberry-flavored toothpaste

bunny noonas — Annie’s Mac & Cheese, which has noodles shaped like bunnies… pretty much any noodle covered in a yellow sauce will do (dairy or non, big noodle or small). Recently, Mykala got a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese and one of the shapes is trees: so you have to be ready to fulfill the TREENOONA, NO MAMA COOK-UP. NO, MAMA request.

And then there’s Friend, which is the name of a little Playmobil character, about two inches tall, who wears a green cardigan.


Friend doesn’t follow Ess around the way her stuffed monkey Marge does, but it is such a generic but also intimate, charming name for a figure, that we always find ourself smiling if Friend is being tucked in, or going to visit other animals in Essie’s world.


Nobody wanted to go to the mall yesterday (“No, tay home” said Ess), but it was one of those necessarily unpleasant trips you make to get ready to go to a wedding (this Friday, Mykala’s very good friend from Forest Lake, Jenni Kling, gets married). Anyway, whenever we’d walk into any store, Ess would immediately ask to leave to walk around one of the Mall of America’s many, gigantic concourses. Said she wanted to “see-a people.” But then, she became entranced by the escalators, a word she can kind of pronounce, such that you can understand her if you know what you’re listening for. Ess stood on the stairs for one ride, and was utterly hooked.

Up. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Down. Up. Down. Up. Up. Down. Down. Up. Down.

I actually had to convince her that a good alternative to standing on the escalators was going to get a pretzel at Wetzel’s Pretzels. (Also, my god, how do they make those things? Double fried or something? Pillowy, salty, cheesy, umami. Not food, but anything that pushes that many taste buttons at the same time rarely is.)

We went home empty-handed, but Ess sat in the back and regaled us with a narrative about how good each sip of her fruit smoothie was:

“Baby drink pink drink.
Ho yummy. Pink drink go… inna baby tummy.
MMMM. Pink drink!”

I sat next to her in the back seat, making sure that her enthusiasm for her delicious drink didn’t make it explode into a sugary flood of disappointment.

Feeling like I had a rare opportunity, a time where she can articulate things, but isn’t far from being an infant, I asked something:

“Do you remember being in mama’s tummy?”
“Yeah-ph.” (She’s getting better at her S sounds, but ‘yes’ still sounds like this.)

She said yes! From a neuron-based, physiology perspective, I’d no idea if this was possible, but Ess continued:

“And in the mama tummy. Baby Katerina grow and grow and grow and grow and grow and GROW!”

Shocked at this, and quickly querying my mental list of books Ess had read to see if she was parroting something back or synthesizing de novo, I thought maybe, perhaps, Ess was accurately describing what babies do in uteruses by just thinking about it. Oh, also, Katerina Kitty Cat is what Ess calls herself. And since she doesn’t understand pronouns, she also requests (well, demands) that we call her Katerina and not “she” or “you” (or “Ess”, for that matter).

“Oh you did grow! You really did. And could you hear mama’s heartbeat?”
“Did sound like bumBUM, bumBUM, bumBUM?”
“Bumbumbumbum. Nonono. No. Mama-mama-mama-mama-mama-mama”
“Haha! Oh, I see! It sounded like mamamamamama. Well, then… did your heartbeat sound like peeowsh-peeowsh-peeowsh-peeowsh?” I asked, mimicking the sound of her little heart on the doppler monitor at the OB/GYN, a sound I’ll never forget.

Ess didn’t even hesitate:

“And baby heart—and baby heart go baby-baby-baby-baby-BABY

Yes, yes it did, sweetheart.


Mykala and I have a steadily-growing list of movies we would like to watch, but there are so many other things we’d rather do (usually, rather read) once Ess goes to bed that we watch very few movies. At this rate, I expect to miss most excellent new films and all of the new mediocre ones for years to come, because soon Ess will want to watch with us. We are prepared and excited for that.

Most important, at the point when all the merchandise, freebies, tie-ins, and commercials point us at Disney junction, we expect to take an intentional detour so we can instead watch the entire Miyazaki canon first. This is 90% due to his superb, realistic, empowering depiction of woman protagonists and 10% to the extraordinary artistry of the films. It is so so SO important to Mykala and I that we do everything we can to show Ess (not tell, tell doesn’t work) the deep biases and xenophobia against women and any ethnicity/culture/norm outside mainstream-America. In order to do this, Ess first needs to be instilled with a fiery core of steel, her options limitless, her potential vast, her autonomy paramount. If we help her stoke this fire early on, we hope she can then learn to counter institutional biases against women, thereby pointing the prow of her ship into the waves, tacking rather than capsizing.

There is much much more to say about this in the years to come. If you are interested, start by following Everyday Sexism on Twitter.

Night Thoughts

Saturday night, Mykala and I watched the Imitation Game, which meant we were up way past our usual 11pm bedtime. Lying down to sleep afterwards, perhaps due to my brain out of practice at inhabiting the narrative structure of a life not my own, I found myself shocked to realize with crystal-clear certainty that my last bike ride with Ess on the handlebars would happen, and fairly soon. Hot tears sprang to my eyes and as I wiped them away in the dark, I told Mykala what I was thinking. Sharing it seemed to somehow make it worse, give it more power.

A happy accident, though: missing something before it is gone helps you enjoy it more than you would. A gift of adulthood, perhaps.



I finished prepping a crown for a patient of mine, one who always remembers I have a young daughter and asks how she is doing; then they surprised me: gave me a little stuffed bear wearing a t-shirt from where they work. How nice! Ess likes this little bear.

Serving Mama

Serving Mama

Ess showing her potholders to Mykala.

Cook Up

“Little bit of eeeehhhhh and a little bit of eeeeehh.”


A little visit to the park before family night at Dave and Sandy’s.