We knew when Elvie joined our family that typical timelines for development probably wouldn’t apply to her. In addition to her physical birth defect, she had a very hard start to life and was quite sick when we finally got to her in Ethiopia. We knew that she hadn’t been given the opportunity to develop a lot of the skills that other babies can develop in the first five months. Still, we could see a spark of who she was the whole time, and as she grew, her personality came out more and more. She has always been eager to try new things, unless she isn’t. It turns out that Elvie is a little bit stubborn, and she doesn’t care to be on anyone’s timeline but her own. So even things that I thought she might eventually catch up with, that wouldn’t be directly impacted by her birth defect, she has insisted on her own pace, her own way. Talking is one of those things.
Instead of talking, she wanted to focus on the challenges that people said she wouldn’t accomplish, like walking before her last surgery. Because she is so expressive, she hasn’t really needed to talk anyway, so why would she bother, when she could be spending her time getting faster at getting into things that are off limits? If she wants something, she just raises an eyebrow or points enthusiastically, and she gets the point across. However, now that she is healing from surgery in her brace, and thus her movement is a lot more confined, she has suddenly had a language explosion. I chuckle a little when I think of it, because it is such a surprise, and because I was just starting to worry ever so slightly that we’d have to add another evaluation and therapy to the list. She was just doing it her own way, as usual. Here are a dozen of her most used words and phrases. They are such magic to hear.
Elvie finally wants to talk!
And when she talks, she does it with enthusiasm, just like everything else. Imagine her saying these words and phrases as if they are the most exciting words and phrases ever spoken aloud.
Elvie LOVES to make friends, and she has been saying “Hi!” to everyone we meet (whether they want to meet us or not) for months now. It was this one word that made me think that she would be talking in no time. It turns out that she enjoys fooling me.
Always accompanied by a wave, “Bye-bye!” like “Hi!” has been around for quite some time as part of her friend-making efforts. If the new friend is lucky, she’ll even blow a kiss.
She can't say Elvie, so she says Diddy instead.
And she says it with glee! There is always an exclamation point after “Diddy!”
My name, repeatedly, at top volume.
It is rare that Elvie says “Mami” just once, or that she says it at a normal volume. My name must be said as loudly as possible, and at least three times in a row.
She misses her Ababi during the day.
And thus she says his name over, and over, and over, and over, and…you get the picture. Ababi is an Amharic form of Daddy, and it turns out it’s even easier than Daddy to say repeatedly.
Her sister's name is tough for her to say.
So she simplified it! Zinashi became Nah-ni, and like the wonderful big sister she is, she doesn’t mind. In fact, I think Zinashi kind of likes her new nickname.
Elvie loves to read!
One of the first words she says in the morning is book. She loves to look through books while we’re all still waking up, and loves to have them read to her throughout the day.
A word from her favorite books
Elvie’s favorite books are ones that feature animal sounds, and she has the “Moo!” part down better than any other sound in any of the books. She also likes to point at pictures of cows when we are out and about and yell, “Moo!”
Sometimes she mimics my naptime excitement.
I’m not sure when I started drawing out the word nap and saying it like it was the most exciting, anticipated event ever, but she has definitely picked up on it. Consequently, every day at naptime, she sounds way more enthusiastic about napping than she actually is.
Give her more!
At some point, Elvie realized that her plate was not the only plate on the table, and she started begging for items off others’ plates by simply saying, “More!” and grinning shyly. This is a terrible habit, but most people find it so endearing that they beg me to let them share with her.
Because she can't say the L sound yet.
We have a rambunctious cat named Lucy that Elvie loves, and she is often called Lulu. Since Elvie can’t pronounce the L sound yet, she calls her Du-du. She doesn’t seem to understand that it’s just our cat’s name, and every animal she sees is referred to as Du-du, whether it be cat, dog, squirrel, or bird.
Sometimes she's not sure what to say.
An all purpose phrase is always handy, even though this one doesn’t always make sense in the context in which Elvie is using it. If she can’t think of the right word to say, she’ll just nod vigorously and say, “Uhhh…YEAH!” with as much gusto as she can muster. I’d love for her to learn more words, but I have to admit, I hope she doesn’t learn them so quickly that this adorable habit disappears completely anytime soon.