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tinkle, tinkle, little star

With the holidays upon us, Munchkin’s toy collection has expanded appreciably, threatening to overwhelm the already cramped play space we have carved out of our small DC apartment. The best thing about the new additions is that as Munchkin has gotten older, the toys have become progressively better. He still gets a kick out of many of his baby toys — the ones that light up and jangle incessantly; fortunately, he is also interested in the toys aimed at the age range just above his, which makes play time much more exciting for us.


There are many reasons why parenthood is great, and certainly the excuse to play with toys that evoke one’s own childhood is high on that list. Looking over the pile of Munchkin’s Hanukkah presents, S mused, “Perhaps we should return this car set — he already has so many vehicles.” “Are you kidding me?” D retorted with unexpected fervor, “These look like so much fun. I’m going to love playing with them…um…with him, I mean.”

The best toy we got for Munchkin this year is a box of Magformers, which we had glimpsed at a friend’s house during our recent road trip. The set consists of various geometric shapes whose sides contain little magnets that turn the shapes into building blocks. Given Munchkin’s interest in cars, we bought a set that includes wheels, and these proved an instant hit.


He is still too young to figure out how to build with them himself — Magformers are marketed for ages 3 and up — but he loves playing with and destroying whatever we construct. As soon as the vehicle comes apart, he launches into a plaintive chorus of “timbidi, timbidi” — his version of pomogi, the Russian for help! — until we build him a new car. At first he simply drove the vehicles we built around the coffee table, but recently he started decorating our constructions by tacking additional pieces onto them. Each time he gets a piece to stick, he stops to exclaim, “Whoa!” — his little mind blown by the magic his hands have wrought.


It’s not just play time that’s gotten more fun as Munchkin has grown older. Daycare has heightened his appreciation for music, and in addition to rocking out when we play our favorite tunes he also requests specific songs for us to sing. During Hanukkah, he became really keen on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and S wound up singing it to him every night she lit the candles.

At first we weren’t quite sure what he wanted when he looked at us expectantly and said, “tinkle, tinkle.” We had just acquired a potty, and thought it might be a sign that, after spurning our previous attempts at toilet training, he might be ready at last to give it a go. Alas, no such luck. Then he hummed some gibberish that closely resembled the first line of the song and the mystery was solved.

Munchkin’s speech is still too incomplete for a stranger to pick out most of the words he can say, but to us, at least, the days when he will be able to communicate clearly everything he wants seem just around the corner. Now that he has spent a couple of months in daycare, the balance of his language learning has shifted noticeably towards English. Although D is miffed that Munchkin is slower to grasp new Russian words, he is hopeful that the first year and a half of his life — when Russian predominated —will prove a strong enough foundation for continued Russian acquisition. Munchkin will happily parrot new Russian words that strike his fancy, but it seems to take him a lot longer to incorporate them into his own vocabulary.

One of the best things about spending an extended period of time in the DC area is that D’s sister lives here. She travels a lot, but on the weekends she is around, she usually comes over to take Munchkin to the park, giving him a chance to spend some quality time with his aunt, and us a chance to catch up on our studies. The only downside is that he misses her something fierce when she leaves, and repeatedly asks for her for several days after every visit.

It’s amazing how strong of a bond he has formed with his relatives given how infrequently we’ve been able to see them for most of his young life. He asks to Skype with his aunts or his nana pretty much every day, and sometimes a 5-minute Skype call is the only way to get him to calm down if he is having a meltdown. Fortunately, FSI closes for a week of winter holidays, which has afforded us an opportunity to visit S’s parents in Maine — the only time during D’s training that we’ll be able to take this long of a trip.

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