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It is part of our domestic routine for me to give Tonji-kun his evening bath. He has an assortment of water-tolerant toys to play with while soaking, some of which he uses more frequently than others. Tonight, for the first time in many months (possibly a year), he chose his foam alphabet letters. After dumping out the bag contents into the bathtub, he slapped the letters to the tiled wall one-by-one in rapid succession (but in no particular order), naming each correctly with confidence. Notably, two letters he always mixed up in the past — “M” and “W” — he got straight, even though he was extremely tired.

Once all the letters were up on the wall, he decided to move them around and group them in pairs, which were seemingly random, but the end result was a bit like tarot cards:

TH: His initials and mine.

JP: We will be visiting Japan.

YG: We will leave from Edmonton International Airport (airport code: YEG)

UA: Our Air Canada flight might be a codeshare with Star Alliance partner  United Airlines.

BR: The forecast temperature for Edmonton this weekend is -30 C.

XC: When it gets warmer, we will go cross-country skiing.

WM: Garbage Day is soon, when the Waste Management truck comes.

EN: Tonji-kun is learning more English, now that he attends an English-language playschool 2 mornings per week.

IQ: He is so smart! 😉


Ever since Tonji-kun was 2 years old, we have been using a disciplining technique often seen on Supernanny, the “naughty step/chair/corner”, for times when he gets out of hand. In our Canadian version, we call the designated place where he gets sent to reflect on his behaviour the Penalty Box (just a corner of the dining room, though I’ve been tempted to build a real penalty box 😉 ).

Tonight my recreational hockey league team played in the early game, so Dorami-chan and Tonji-kun came to watch. Early in the match, but far enough along for me to be “-2” (“minus two”, meaning “on the ice (and in my case, largely responsible) for 2 goals against), I put my hockey stick where it got tangled in an opposing player’s legs, and ended up getting a tripping infraction.

I didn’t argue the call with the referee on the way to the penalty box or slam the door before sitting down. Our penalty killers held off our opponents’ power play, and I played better after that, getting back to “even”. We won the game 3-2.

I think it was good for Tonji-kun to see that even his father has to go into the penalty box sometimes. The same for his regular playdate friend’s father, who is on my team and was penalized shortly after I got out. Good thing it was only for 3 minutes. If the Supernanny formula had been used (duration in minutes = age in years) we would have had to sit out most of the game!

For the past couple of months, when people have asked me how old Tonji-kun is, I have been saying “a year and a half”, much to the displeasure of Dorami-chan. She thinks by rounding up his age I am creating unreasonable expectations for his behaviour in public. But by the checklist for 18-month development recently published by the Ontario Medical Association, Tonji-kun can hold his own with the average 1.5 year old:

The Enhanced 18-month Well Baby Visit

From the Nipissing District Developmental Screen (TM)

By 18 Months of age, does your child:

1. Identify pictures in a book? – He has been doing this for a while. Latest ones include “hoshi (star)”, “ha wo migaku (brush teeth)”, “mikan (orange)”, “momo (peach)”, “saru (monkey)”, “hebi (snake)”, “ari (ant)”, “hasami (scissors)”.
2. Use familiar gestures? – He uses as much sign language as we can teach him. Latest sign: “budoh (grapes)” – pretend to build cluster on back of wrist with fingers of other hand.
3. Follow directions when given without gestures? – He has been doing this for a while. For example, after his nightly bath, I can ask him to turn the bathroom fan on and the light off.

4. Use common expressions? Yes, his latest one is “Neh (“Eh”, or “Isn’t that so”)?

5. Point to at least three different body parts when asked? Yes, he knows “atama (head)”, “me (eye)”, “mimi (ear)”, “hana (nose)”, “kuchi (mouth)”, “te (hand)”, “ashi (foot)”, “heso (bellybutton)”, “oshiri (bottom)”.

6. Say 5 or more words (words do not have to be clear)? – Yes, some new ones are “toto (totte = get that)”, “itai (ow)”, “meh-meh (baa-baa, sheep)”, “moh-moh (moo-moo, cow)”

7. Hold a cup to drink? – He has been doing this for a while, and doesn’t spill very much any more.

8. Pick up and eat finger food? – He has been doing this for a while, and he has impressed strangers with his use of a fork and spoon.

9. Help with dressing by putting out arms and legs? He has been doing this since last month. Now he recognizes different articles of clothing and what is expected of him (e.g. shirt has sleeves to put arms into).

10. Crawl or walk up stairs/steps? – He has been doing this for a while – he can go down stairs also. He recently did his first dengurigaeshi (somersault).

11. Walk alone? – Yes, he prefers to, and often in his own direction.

12. Squat to pick up a toy without falling? He has been doing this for a while

13. Push and pull toys or other objects while walking? Yes, he has been doing this since the summer at 12 months, when he was helping to dig and rake in the garden. Now he is pushing a broom inside and trying out his father’s hockey sticks.

14. Stack 3 or more blocks? Yes, but if it is a stack somebody else built, he will knock it down.

15. Show affection towards people, pets, or toys? Yes, he doesn’t have a favourite toy yet, though. He has already kissed a girl at playgroup!

16. Point to show you something? Yes, he has been doing this since 12 months.

17. Look at you when you are talking or playing together? Yes, especially if he wants you to do something for him.

It warmed up a bit today (minus 6 C), so Dorami-chan braved the snowy streets of Edmonton to make her near-daily visit to a Tim Hortons donut shop. In two and a half years she had been to almost all the 18 outlets in Kingston before we moved. With 53 locations in Edmonton, she has a bigger project on her hands, but she has already noticed some differences in the level of service and has some favorites.
Today her coffee came in this year’s holiday season cup, which features a picture of a group of skaters playing hockey. Tonji-kun, unprompted, pointed at this and said, “Otohsan (Father)”. The couple of recreational league games he has seen me play seem to have made an impression!

Tonji-kun keeps growing:

  • Physical
    • Height – he is taller, and able to reach items on countertops. Dorami-chan‘s usable kitchen cupboard and drawer space has shrunk further! We will need to install some hanging cabinets out of his range. 18-month-sized clothes fit him perfectly.
    • Teeth – he doesn’t open his mouth wide, but there must be some molars coming in at the back (see Sleep below).
  • Motor :
    • He is more comfortable using a (baby) fork and spoon.
    • He can climb into and out of his baby chair.
    • Lately he does a “happy dance” when pleased.
    • He has tried standing on one leg (cheating a bit with hands on the table); we think he is emulating the skating of the hockey players he sees on TV.
  • Language
    • Speech:
      • Ban ban ban (Boom boom boom)!” – when he sees a picture of hanabi (fireworks).
      • Ma (uma = horse)” – he will say this when we start down a road we frequent that eventually passes by horse stables.
    • Signs – some new ones:
      • oishii (delicious) – open hand touches the back of the head
      • sakana (fish) – hands palms together, making a S-shaped swerving motion
    • Comprehension:
      • When asked, he can point out:
        • shingo (traffic light)
        • shimauma (zebra)
        • kirin (giraffe)
        • kutsushita (socks)
        • tebukuro (mittens)
        • saru (monkey)
        • ari (ant)
        • megane (eyeglasses)
        • face parts: mem-me (eyes), mimi (ear), hana (nose) – he will squeeze mine and expect to hear a “beep”.
      • Body parts: dressing and undressing is less of a battle when I ask him for his right/left arm/leg.
      • His full name – when his full name is called, he will raise his arm – only part way, though, so it looks like a Nazi salute (we’ll have to work with him on that!).
      • Negotiation – Dorami-chan was able to make a deal with him to keep wearing his hated mittens in exchange for pulling his sled one more time around our local park. As soon as she stopped, off came the mittens!
    • English – We use only Japanese when speaking to him, but he attends a couple of English-language playgroups, and has regular playdates with a couple of English-speaking buddies. And there are all those hockey broadcasts on television …
  • Social:
    • When I return from work, he comes to the door and bows “Okaerinasai (Welcome home)”.
    • At bedtime, from inside his crib he will pass me one or more of his stuffed animals so I won’t feel lonely.
    • He has met the babysitter Dorami-chan recruited, and behaves himself around her.
    • Dorami-chan brought him to one of my recreational league hockey games, where he was able to get right up close to the boards (they were the only specators in the arena). He pounded the protective glass with both hands like a veteran fan.
  • Toys:
    • Sled – it’s going to be a long winter – he enjoys riding in this, but likes walking around on his own better.
    • Shoehorn – Ours is the long kind – he enjoys using it like a walking stick, or a snow shovel.
    • Box – We finally finished the case of tortilla chips left over from Halloween – he has been very imaginitive with the empty box.
    • Hand puppet – He has figured out how these work
    • “Spot” – He got this stuffed toy dog from Jii-jii (Grampa) a couple of weeks ago. It is as big as he is, but he drags it around the house and knows it by name.
  • Food:

    • He is pretty much weaned off breast milk now. He eats most everything, but not beans yet — he isn’t giving Dorami-chan and me competition for the natto (fermented soybeans)!
    • He “drinks” wine and beer – he will put my glass to his lips and tilt it a bit, then sign “Oishii (delicious)”.
    • He likes nori (roasted dried seaweed) and wakame (kelp). When given the mini-onigiri (rice balls) Dorami-chan makes for his snack, he will peel off the nori wrapping and eat it first!
  • Sleep:
    • When tired, he will say “Nen-ne (beddy-bye)”, climb into bed and pull the covers around himself.
    • He has slept through the night on a number of occasions, but with teething he has had some miserable nights, too.

Tonji-kun continues to exhaust and amaze us. Here are some new developments:

  • Mobility – The older boys (and girls) at Japanese playgroup seem to have inspired him. He can spin around now, and walks with confidence and speed along a narrow bench, humouring his anxious father by letting him hold his hand. Another increase in height has brought the edges of countertops into his range.
  • Speech – not a whole lot new here:
    • Non-no” – Dorami-chan thinks this came from her asking him about riding his rocking horse: “Noru no (Are you going to ride)?” To him it means: “I want to play”, “I want that to play with”, or “Make this thing play”.
    • Baa” – his book of “Inai-inai-baa” (Japanese for Peek-a-boo).
    • Nen-ne” – sleep or bedtime (“Neru” = “to sleep” in Japanese)
    • Ma” – horse (“uma” in Japanese)
    • Shrieking – has diminished considerably in frequency, but not volume!
  • Signs – progress here is limited by his parents’ ignorance:
    • “Apple”, “water”, “milk”, “book”
  • Comprehension – non-random actions are evidence of processing going on in his head:
    • When he comes across the picture of an animal in his book, he will point to his stuffed toy version (if he has one).
    • When asked to turn the lights on or off, he will ask to be picked up, then will flick the lightswitch.
    • When asked to sit in his “high” (actually low) chair to eat, he will clamber in.
    • When we say, “Banzai!” he raises his arms, making it easier to pull off his shirt.
    • When asked to sleep, he will gather the covers around himself and put his head on the pillow.
  • Diet
    • He has quite an appetite — he has his own dinner at 5pm, then joins his parents for some of theirs at 6-7pm. Sounds like somebody …
    • He can use a regular cup or bowl, a skill he demonstrates regularly at bathtime, much to the consternation of his father. Luckily it is usually at the start of his bath, when the bathwater is relatively clean. He punctuates each gulp with a satisfied “Ahhhhh”.
  • Social
    • Bows to say “Konnichiwa (hello)” and “Arigato (thank you)”. A real Japanese!
    • Claps and says “Ahhhh-ah” at eerily appropriate times during hockey games.
    • Affectionate, but his clumsy hugs are more like football tackles.
    • Easily impressed — Says “Oooh” and “Woah” a lot.
    • Has developed a “diabolical mad scientist laugh” – hearty, head thrown back, mouth wide open.
  • Play
    • He loves the outdoors, the wind on his face.
    • Swimming – always comfortable in the water, and able to blow bubbles now.
    • Dancing – will bop along to any kind of music
    • Brave – goes down the playground slide head first.
    • Itai no itai no tondeike“- Dorami-chan has made getting an “owie” into a game where she gathers up the hurt by rubbing the injured area, then throws it into the air, or more recently at me. Great. But this works — soon he is laughing. Tell the pain management folks.
    • Always has eyes for the TV remote control. What a guy.
  • Memory – when watching an NHK video of Japanese children’s songs, he recognized the drawing style of the artist who did the animation, who also illustrated one of his storybooks
  • Sleep – the biggest change — for all of us! He is sleeping on his own in his crib now, and falls asleep without bedtime breastfeeding. He is then generally good until morning, although he half awakes a couple of times a night. Everybody is a bit better rested — all the more energy to expend during the day!

Over the last couple of weeks, Tonji-kun has become more directive in his play. He puts toys of his choice in the bath while the tub is filling, and now, instead of using the shower curtain for “inai-inai-baa (peek a boo)” (thank goodness – that moldy thing needs a wash or replacement), he asks me to sit forward so he can stand behind my back and tap my shoulder when he wants to be “found”.

During the summer, towelling off and dressing for bed would occur during Edmonton’s long northern twilight, but now with the evening darkness that signals approaching winter, I need to turn on the bedside light to see, which casts shadows on the wall. The other night I did a bit of puppetry for Tonji-kun with hand shadows. He seemed to enjoy the show, and to my surprise he has remembered and requested it every night since, asking for “Wan wan” (his word for “dog” is a dog’s bark in Japanese) – a dog is the only hand shadow I know (and Dorami-chan says the Japanese would call my pointy-eared dog a fox) . If this goes on, I will need to expand my repertoire!

I saw evidence at supper today of a new development Dorami-chan noticed yesterday in the car: Tonji-kun can do a second sign, “Motto (more)”, or at least his version of it (it should be: fingertips of both hands brought together; he does: fingertips of one hand into palm of other). Whatever, it was deliberate, consistent and used in the appropriate context (an empty milk cup). Even in spoken language children don’t say words perfectly at first (or ever – see Dubya and “nuclear”). Tonji-kun was very pleased that he got the result he wanted (a refill). We are amazed and have pulled out of storage our notes from our sign language class a few months ago. This stuff actually works!

Japanese Sign Language WWW Guide

Wikipedia > Japanese Sign Language Syllabary

Japanese Sign Language opennew world of communication, friendship

I thought this might be a good way of periodically summarizing new developments in Tonji-kun‘s ever-changing repertoire and physical state.

  • Teeth – 7 out, and 8th (a lower incisor) just showing. Beautifully white and straight. He looks after them with his little toothbrush. He can do a fair bit of damage to a whole apple (skin on), but becomes full or bored before it is finished.
  • Handedness – showing some preference for his left hand.
  • Mobility – YES, and then some. His walking is steady, fast … and determined if he sees something of interest. He has learned to get down stairs on his bum. His reach has increased, such that last week I had to install the doorknob protectors we bought some time ago.
  • Speech – none, but some consistent sounds:
    • “Ma-ma” – any food item (specified by pointing)
    • “Wan-wan” – dog (“Wan-wan” is how a dog barks in Japanese)
    • “Ba-ba” – bus (in Japanese, “basu“)
    • “To-to” – bird (in Japanese, “tori“)
    • “Bu-bu” – pig (in Japanese, “buta“)
    • “Ahhh-ah” – after dropping or breaking something
    • Shrieking for no apparent reason – this we’d like him to stop, please
  • Signs – yesterday he just started doing the sign for “bath” (scrubbing chest with both hands)
  • Diet – Eats everything we give him (he loves rice and tofu!). Can drink from a sippy cup, and from a regular cup with a straw. Eats lemons without wincing. Still breastfeeds at bedtime and when tired during the day.
  • Social – recognizes faces, claps when pleased (or when others clapping), laughs when amused (or when others laughing).
  • Understanding – he follows (some) commands, e.g. Ask “Buta-san wa doko desu ka (Where is Mr. Pig)?” and he searches for and brings a pair of my boxer shorts with a motif of dancing pigs (BTW something I would never buy myself, but thanks again, Sybil and Dave).
  • Play
    • Constructive (Starting to be): about two weeks ago, began putting Duplo together instead of tearing it apart, stacking rings instead of (or after) taking them off the stand, putting toys back in their place.
    • Soccer? Keeps the ball with him like a natural.
    • Music? Often humming to himself.
    • Brave – enjoys going down the slide solo (but supervised, of course).
    • Helpful – wants to participate in things others are doing shovelling, sweeping, lawn mowing. Dorami-chan got him a toy mower so he can feel involved from a safe distance without endangering his digits and limbs.
  • Memory – gets very quiet when we tell him “Goron-goron ga kuru (Thunder is coming).” He was frightened by his first prairie thunderstorm earlier this summer.
  • Sleep – wakes up crying at least once in the middle of the night.

Because of utilities work going on in our alley, I have had to return home from the front of the house this week. Tonji-kun happened to be looking out the living room window today as I approached the house, but disappeared as soon as he saw me. Dorami-chan says he rushed smiling into the kitchen and said something that sounded like “Otoh-san” (“Father” in Japanese). I don’t know who felt happier, him or me.