20 Months!

Vaughn and Malcolm, too cool for school

Fall has arrived, Gisele's ecstatically back in school, Nels is in the midst of working on a game that will take about 3 years to get on shelves, and I'm embracing the life of a suburban-PTA-classroom volunteer mom. And Malcolm and Vaughn are living life to the fullest and naughtiest that only toddlers can.

Malcolm hoping to catch a glimpse of a trash truck and Vaughn with his favorite kind of literature: the flap book

What sort of changes have there been in these last 8 months? They're getting craftier, for one. Vaughn, in particular, is becoming a student of human behavior. He puts his findings to questionable use. For example, he always wants what Malcolm has, but if I'm around to stop his outright thievery, he'll come up with another plan. Once, Malcolm had a book that Vaughn wanted. So Vaughn ran off to the bookshelf to find Malcolm's favorite book (Goodnight Moon) and sat down next to Malcolm with it. Malcolm made it known that he wanted Goodnight Moon and Vaughn politely handed it over while snatching up Malcolm's book. I'm sure that Malcolm didn't realize how he'd been manipulated. He's much more artless and plain in his desires.

On the other hand, it's possible that we're reading too much into Vaughn's actions. He can be very generous. He likes to feed goldfish crackers to Malcolm, and he often offers toys to him if Malcolm's making a fuss about wanting them (of course, he's just as likely to run off, laughing wildly). I know that from the sensational way that I write these updates it appears that I view Vaughn as a bad seed, but in truth I'm his best champion. People scoff at me, but I do believe that he wants to be good. He's the most eager to aid in chores; he'll run to get a diaper to sop up accidents on the floor, he loves bringing in groceries, he tries to water my plants according to my instructions, he alerts me right away when he's pooped his diaper by saying "Bup! Bup!" And who could forget the time he pooped on our laminate floor and got a Swiffer mop to clean it up? I could smell the scene as I rounded the corner. A poop-covered Vaughn was industriously smearing the poop around the floor with the Swiffer. Ah, memories....

Malcolm and Vaughn both relish trying on Gisele's costumes and shoes.

Malcolm has many strong points himself. He's very independent throughout the day and doesn't demand to be held nearly as much as Vaughn does. He is much braver in the water than Vaughn, and likes to be held in the pool while dog paddling back and forth. He likes to sit down and carefully play with his toys, particularly cars that he pushes around. Malcolm and Vaughn both love making machine sounds as they push vacuum cleaners and little lawn mowers. It sounds like a loud drone, and they do it often throughout the day. It's something that Gisele never did. Another surprise for me is the level to which they are interested in vehicles. I knew that it might happen, but they really are obsessed with trucks and trains and pick those kinds of books to read most often. They draw from the same set of books that Gisele did, but she showed very little interest in vehicles and much more in people. I'm just saying now that I'll slit my wrists if they put me through the boredom that George inflicted on Annick, making her read detailed fighter jet books to him. And then George would thank Annick by peppering her with facts about bomb capabilities all day. No thank you!

I do have a small complaint about Malcolm: he's too obedient! It's not natural for a toddler to happily march off to bed at night waving bye bye. And although he doesn't really like me brushing his teeth, he'll open wide for me. He loves rules so much that he admonishes others. When he saw Silver run across the street he said, "No no" with the same sound of disapproval that I make. I'm not proud of this, but sometimes at night, when I'm rocking Malcolm to sleep and he just keeps looking around, I'll growl "Close your eyes". Because he's sensitive, it will upset him, and he'll start to cry, but then bravely hold the tears back. And he'll, of course, close his eyes. He reminds me a lot of myself as a child, actually.

My little pumpkins, and Malcolm and Vaughn going through Gisele's desk while she's at school.

Malcolm and Vaughn are growing and developing well. They're about the same size; around the 75% in height and a bit less than that in weight. They're vegetarian. Some of their favorite foods are: chocolate soy milk, hummus sandwiches, goldfish crackers, pinto beans, soy hotdogs, nori, pancakes, grapes, yogurt, etc. I try to feed them at a little table, facing each other, but they have the terrible habit of carrying their plates over to the coffee table or couch to eat. I try not to notice because I have enough to deal with. Another bad habit of theirs is to climb up onto the big dining room table and push buttons on the answering machine. If Nels is home he'll tell them "No" and pull them right down, but it is a little confusing for them because Mommy lets them do it. Mommy also lets them play with scissors and screwdrivers (under supervision). My philosophy (and this worked with Gisele) is that if you remove the forbidden mystique from scissors, kids lose interest and stop trying desperately to get their hands on them.

Verbal development is a bit sluggish. Gisele was saying all sorts of words at this age, and at 24 months she was using words like "actually" in full sentences. I just can't imagine that happening with these guys. They say maybe 20 words each, most starting with "b" or "g". Of course Vaughn has his own unique growling sounds that are not the sounds of a human child. They fit in well with his aggressive, wild personality. Malcolm is following in Gisele's footsteps in that he constantly points to things and questions "tha" in a piercingly high voice. He understands everything we say to him, and he likes making connections. If we read about goldfish, he'll run to the kitchen to point to our box of goldfish crackers. He used to take out Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny (both written by the same author), and flip to a page in each book that showed the same picture of a cow jumping over the moon. His taste in books is much more... cerebral than Vaughn's. He can patiently sit through a story, whereas Vaughn tries to turn the pages as you read to him and has a fondness for flap books.

Vaughn, where he belongs, and painting en plein air.

But lest you dismiss Vaughn as a dumbell, let me explain that he's much more mechanically inclined than Malcolm. He has no problem at all with shape sorters (Unlike Malcolm), and he can easily fit legos together. He has a fascination for putting DVDs into players over and over again. I think he's slowing breaking our DVD drive on the computer.

Unfortunately, Malcolm often imitates Vaughn. If Vaughn squeezes his chocolate milk drink onto the floor, Malcolm does too. If Vaughn draws on the floor with a marking pen, Malcolm will too. Gisele tries to keep them in line. She'll tell them "NNNNNNooooooo" and explain to them what they should be doing. But for the most part, they still delight in our look of shock at their misbehavior. It's a little frustrating. When they aren't misbehaving together, they sometimes laugh together. Recently, Malcolm has started to elicit laughs from Vaughn. For no apparent reason, they'll lean into each other and laugh uproarously. I think it's the start to a great friendship.

Vaughn and Malcolm in Nels' bed, and hugging each other at the zoo.

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