I am tempted to rename Bootsie "Boo-Boo" after Yogi Bear's furry little sidekick that I remember so well from the Hanna-Barbera cartoons years ago. At fifteen months, she is a roly-poly, cuddly little teddy-bear-like chunk that I love to rock and squeeze and wrestle around. As much as I enjoy doing those things, however, I have to say that my favorite activity these days is listening to her as she learns to talk.
I remember when her mother was this age and saying so many new words every day that I couldn't keep track of them enough to make a list. Although Boo-Boo is more reserved in the variety her vocabulary demonstrates, she is no less prolific in the amount of chatter she generates. Having just spent three days with her, I will attempt to rank what I remember as her top ten most frequent words. Here they are in descending order of frequency:
10. "peez" (used fairly rarely, but most often when the situation involves the potential for food).
9. "baby" (usually said in the context of play involving a doll house).
8. "nie-nie" (which she says either when laying her head on a pillow during play or when actually heading for a nap or bedtime.)
7. "uh-oh" (This was one of her first two or three words, appropriate in a number of situations Boo-Boo seems to encounter in the course of a day.)
6. "mama" (another of the early words; self-explanatory.)
5. "hi" (I can see that we are going to have to give her the "Don't talk to strangers" lecture.)
4. "bye-bye" (We have a tri-level house. Boo-Boo tells us all this every time she--or anyone else for that matter--goes up the stairs, down the stairs, or out of a room. You can see what I mean by "frequency" here.)
3. "me/mine" (Ah, the first-person pronouns. Boo-Boo is not shy about asserting herself. With an older brother and sister, she shows good survival instincts even at this tender age.)
2. "no!" (Ditto above.)
1. "Elmo" (Jim Henson's lovable red muppet.) Read on.
It is true: the word I heard Boo-Boo say most often during the past three days was "Elmo." This is in reference to an animated Elmo doll that I got at a garage sale last summer for $2. But this is not just any Elmo. It is not the kind of Elmo a kid cuddles up with for a long winter's nap. Oh, no.
This is Pizza Elmo. With two AA alkaline batteries imbedded in each foot, Pizza Elmo, in his shrill but distinctive little voice sways vigorously from side to side while he and the pizza he balances in his right hand sing a duet to the tune of "Funiculi, Funicula."
Yes, the pizza sings. When you press Elmo's innocent-looking left hand, the pizza's pepperonis turn to eyes and nose, and his mushroom mouth opens in the richest baritone you've ever heard. Sporting a chef's hat and apron, Elmo croons his way through the various steps of the art of pizza-making as Mr. Pizza himself adds his own cheesy interpretation. It is great fun, and, of all the kids, Boo-Boo loves Elmo the most.
Even when I had her in her high chair in the kitchen, she would get this wistful look on her face and ask "Elmo?" I would say, "He's upstairs." If I said this once during the past three days, I said it a hundred times. Or more.
This leads to my favorite conversation of the weekend, which began like all the others. "Elmo?" she asked. Then, without waiting for me to answer, she said, as clearly as a bell, "Uptez?"
Happily, I made a mental note of this new word. She said it only once, so it didn't make the Top Ten. But however you slice your pizza, "upstairs," for a fifteen-month old, is a pretty delicious new word.