Sam first learned to "count" back in late June while my dad was here, and of course Gus followed right behind. At that time the boyos had a little toy elephant that once had "talked," but they pulled the string a little too enthusiastically and all conversation with the elephant ceased. However, the string still hung out enticingly, and Sam in particular loved to grab this thing by the string and swing it around his head like a medieval morningstar, or else whack things on the ground with it (are there polo-playing genes in our background?).
But then Grandpa showed Sam a better trick. My dad would lean forward and hold it out in a confidential manner. He'd swing it by the string and count, "One, two, three!" At "three," he would throw it up about a foot in the air so that it spun two or three times, and then catch it again. Sam and Gus would cackle in amazed wonderment like a gaggle of little guinea hens, and rush forward trying to be first to grab the amazing flying, counting elephant! Sam usually won the scramble, since he was more aggressive than Gus at that time, and he was first to pick up on the tossing and counting: "Doo, doo, dee!"
I was all excited at the time, thinking he was really learning to count. But I should have known better. "Doo, doo, dee!" was about as far as they got with the elephant (which since has disappeared -- I think perhaps it fell into the litterbox and met with an untimely displacement into the garbage). Both Gus and Sam have since learned to "count" on their fingers, or they will "count" birds eating on our porch, or really any damned thing that comes in multiples. But I don't think there's any real concept of counting -- only that you are supposed to point at things and make certain prescribed sounds. (Gus's preferred sounds at the moment resemble Japanese a little: "Doe, doe, doe, doe, dojo!")
But today, Sam made a breakthrough -- well, maybe. At least it sounded better. I have noticed before that often right after their naps, they are quite chatty. Today I had Sam up on the changing table after his nap, and he was fooling around with a string of four plastic pop beads while I changed his diaper. Suddenly I heard, "Uh, doo, three
Okay, I don't know what the last sound was. Something vague. But "three" was clear as a bell! My head popped up and I said, "Sam, what did you say?" He said calmly, "Doe, three! Three!"
Of course, then everything was "three!" for the rest of the afternoon, which put paid to the idea that he thought it had any meaning. But still ... you know, really, at this point I'll accept anything that sounds like a real word! I'm not particular any more! And Sam can now say "three!"
In the boys' defense, they've had a bit of a word breakthrough in the last few days. Suddenly, they are rushing up to me with their (five million) board books, jamming them into my leg or my tush, and pointing emphantically at something in the book: "Cat! Dog! Baby! Dada!" they tell me. "Mama! Ba ba! Dog, dog! Woof woof!" Sam startled me a few days ago by stabbing his finger at one porcine cartoon by Sandra Boynton and announcing, "Pig! Pig!" Yup, it was a pig, though I had never heard him say it before that, and he has taken every opportunity since to point out pigs. He can even identify Dr. Seuss's pigs, which look more like a mangy pink camel. I never knew there were so many pigs around. They show up in children's lit right and left. I hope this adoration for pigs wanes a bit as time goes on, or there will be precious little bacon eaten here as they grow older!
Perhaps the cutest thing they do, though, is word substitution. There are some words they just can't or won't say, so sign language (all their own) comes into play. A flower (or plant of any kind) is a "sniff sniff" -- finger held up to the nose as if holding a flower, and a quick sniff. I even find myself answering them, "Yes, that's a sniff sniff," instead of sayng flower. They've also developed a cute thing for "elephant," where they lift their little arms to their faces and flip their hands at the wrist, and do a tiny little elephant trumpet. Gus does a fair imitation of the sound, but it's Sam who really kills me. Gus has kind of a raucous voice, but Sam has a soft little voice that is so gentle and sweet that it cracks me up every time when he attempts to trumpet like an elephant. It would have to be a very, very tiny elephant.