2006.12.28 Toddler terror

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

“Some spiders are nice. That’s when I call them my friends. But sometimes they aren’t friendly. That’s when I have a problem with them.”

That’s what I told Carter Nofziger. He’s a toddler. When you talk to toddlers, you really have to distill your diction to the essence of what you mean. You know, like exactly what I didn’t do in my last sentence.

I occasionally wheel and deal with toddlers during my work here at the Observer and it’s never an easy thing. That’s why I have the utmost respect for area parents, especially parents who happen also to be daycare workers or preschool or kindergarten teachers.

Toddlers are bizarre and altogether mystifying creatures. In conversation, they jump from one topic to the next erratically and often nonsensically. They also spend as much time upside-down as they do rightside-up.

In fact, when I talked to Dean and Zach Rogers about Thanksgiving last month, the greatest challenge of all was to get them to stop doing backflips long enough to answer my questions.

Carter’s mom Felicia used to work at the Observer and she stopped in to visit yesterday. With Lincoln logs and sidewalk chalk and all kinds of neat toys that I’m not allowed to play with, the office is well equipped to accommodate little-uns. However, Carter seemed to be in a conversational mood. And an eating one.

My coworker Rich was in the office finishing up his Monday afternoon duties and had brought along a bag of carrot sticks to munch on. Carter immediately homed in on those. In between rabbit nibbles, he explained how he loves vegetables and how carrots are his favorite vegetables.

“I don’t like tomatoes,” he said.

Then he noticed the apple on my desk.

“What’s inside this apple?” he asked, tapping it against a stack of notes. These are the kind of questions that mortify me. How do you explain what’s inside an apple to a toddler? I shot Rich a puzzled, desperate look.

“Well, I guess apple. Apple is inside of apples,” I answered.

“Yeah, applesauce,” Rich agreed.

“How would you like a worm to come out of one of those?” Carter asked. I began to feel like I was being interrogated.

“I don’t think I would like that,” I replied. “I don’t like eating worms.”

“I like worms,” Carter retorted. “Worms are my friends.”

“I see,” I said, clearly on the defensive. My palms began to sweat. “Worms are a little too slimy for me.”

“You are my friends,” he said. “So I can tell you. Sometimes they scare me. Do you like spiders?”

What was Carter getting at? What was he trying to imply? I could tell he was trying to throw me off with this absurd line of questioning. I answered with the statement at the top of this column.

“Is that the basement?” he continued, pointing to the wall. “Is the monster still there?”

“All right! All right! I confess! I did it!” I cried, falling to my knees. “I did it all, I swear! It was me and me alone! You cracked me! For crying out loud, you cracked me!”

Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but toddlers tend to put me on edge. David used to inhabit my desk before I started working here, and he filled it with all sorts of interesting doodads, one of which is an old bean of some kind. I had the hardest time explaining to Carter that I didn’t know what kind of bean it was, but that it wasn’t a good idea to eat it.

He wasn’t convinced, and made as if to put it in his mouth.

“No! No! Don’t do that!” I said. “It’s the kind of bean you put in your pocket, not your mouth!”

My ploy worked, and Carter set about finding a pocket to stuff it in. I’ve found that toddlers have a much better understanding of “yes” than “no.” That is, it’s more effective to tell them what you can do with something than what you can’t do with it.

Still, for all I’ve learned about toddlers, I just plain can’t trust myself to keep an eye on them. They’re too cagey. Too unpredictable. I’m too distractible.

But I better shape up my act. I had the pleasure of seeing my brother John and sister-in-law Stephanie on Christmas. Johnny Five is becoming a noticeable bubble in Steph’s belly, so it won’t be too long before Toddler Pickell is finding new modes of curious mischief to get into at Uncle Jeff’s house.

Me, I never got into much mischief as a toddler. I kept myself occupied by staring pensively at the wall and chewing the varnish off my crib.

At least, that’s what my mom says.

    – Dec. 28, 2006 
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
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  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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