Toddler Speak (in two languages)

The Every Morning Indecision Over Which Hat Best Compliments her Outfit.

The Every Morning Indecision Over Which Hat Best Compliments her Outfit.


(two silly chickens in their room chattering away)

Hank: Are you ready to get up, mana (sister)?

Molly: Sim (yes). Aussie pie-u?

Hank: What are you saying?

Molly: Aussie Pie-u, mano (brother)? Aussie Pie-u?

Hank: I don’t know what that means, mana (sister).

Molly: Aussie pie-UU? Mano, anda, anda cá. (come, come here).

Me: (entering their room and turning on the light) Good morning, chickens.

Hank: Mama!

Molly: Mãe (mom), aussie pie-u?

Hank: I have no idea what she is saying.

Me: She is asking to sit by you. She is saying, “I sit by you.”

Molly: (nodding) Aussie pie-u, mano (brother)? Hulk SMASH. Aussie pie-u?

Hank: You want to sit by me on the sofa and watch Hulk Smash?

Molly: (delighted to no end) SIM (YES)!

Hank: Sure!

Me: (smiling) Toddler speak is tricky. You’ve gotta decode your way through it using context and environmental clues 72% of the time. (lifting Molly out of the crib) Soon your sister will have full command of language and you will miss these moments of misunderstanding.

Molly: (clinging desperately to my neck, worried) Mama, Shur-megas? Shur-megas?

Hank: What are shur-megas?

Me: Molly, there are no formigas (ants)

Hank: Oh, (giggling)

Me: And anyway formigas (ants) are kind and our friends and you don’t need to be worried about a tiny little buggy. They are scared of you.  You are so big, so big!

Hank: Come on, mana (sister). I will hold your hand. Don’t be scared of formigas (ants) or moscas (flies).

Molly: (scared, clinging to his leg, all bed head and footie pajamas) Ah! Mooscas.

Me: (making Molly’s bed) Oh MaGoo, you remember what I told you. Moscas (flies) are friends, too. Don’t be scared. Do not be scared of little buggies! Moscas (flies) just want to fly around like butterflies and say, buzz, buzz, buzz.

Molly: (toddling out of the room holding her brother’s hand) No quero  (want) buzz, buzz butterflies. No quero (want). (shanking her head no)

Hank: (giggling) I will protect you and teach you to protect yourself, mana (sister). Don’t be scared, be brave. You need to be brave.  Brave people are scared too, but they just do things anyway.

Molly: No buzz, buzz butterflies, mano (brother).

Hank: We’ll catch the buzz, buzz butterflies together and let them outside, okay?

Molly: Okay.  Aussie Pie-U?

Hank: Yes, of course you can sit by me.

Me: (following behind with dirty laundry, beaming)


Glossary of Toddler and Portuguese terms in order of appearance:

Sim: Yes

Aussie Pie-U: I sit by you

Mano: Brother

Mana: Sister

Anda: Come

Anda Cá: Come here

Mãe: Mom

Shur-Megas: (from Portuguese) any bug on the ground.

Formiga: Ant

Mosca: Fly

Quero: Want

Buzz Buzz Butterfly: Fly


Permutable Prime

Two silly chickens, giggling and spinning a wooden top on my kitchen floor.

Two silly chickens, giggling and spinning a wooden top on my kitchen floor.


Hank: (pajamas, teeth washed, face brushed) Mama, how was your birthday? Was it the best?

Me: It was my best birthday, thank you very much. I wouldn’t have wanted anything more.

Hank: Except not stale cake.

Me: That’s what happens when all the tables are occupied at Pastelaria (bakery) Fina. (sigh, whispering) You and I can go to Fina after lunch and have a nice slice of cake to erase the memory of that cake completely tomorrow.

Hank: Okay! That’s right. I am on ferias (vacation). I don’t go to school until Quinta-Feira (thrusday).

Me: Lucky boy.

Hank: Carnival is not as good as Halloween…

Me: Less candy.

Hank: But more ferias (vacation)!

Me: (giggling) Truth.

Hank: Whatcha looking at?

Me: I am reading about permutable prime numbers.

Hank: What are those?

Me: “A permutable prime, also known as anagrammatic prime, is a prime number which, in a given base, can have its digits’ positions switched through any permutation and still be a prime number.”

Hank: Um… I only understood some of that.

Me: Do you know what a prime number is?

Hank: Um…

Me: A prime number can only be divided by 1 or it’s self.

Hank: OH yah.

Me: Such as 23, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31 annnnnnnnnnnnnd 37.



Hank: That’s interesting.

Me: Did you hear that last number?

Hank: um, no I stopped listening.

Me: 37.

Hank: You’re 37. Today. You’re 37 today.

Me: I am and a friend of mine sent me this birthday message, “Happy birthday! My gift to you: 37 is the 12th prime number and is “permutable” because 73 is also prime (which is the 21st prime).”

Hank: Who sent you this? Leslie Blaha? She’s a math scientist!

Me: True, but no. Another friend, Winter, he is also a scientist. He visited us for a day when we lived in Setúbal with Liz and Rob and Gabe.

Hank: The walkie-talkies in the car day?

Me: The very one.

Hank: I am sorry for Winter because all I remember from that day was driving through the Serra de Arrábia and taking to someone with the walkie-talkies.

Me: That someone was Winter. Your papa played the tour guide and Winter repeated the stories and local facts to your car following behind ours through the walkie-talkies.

Hank: Ohhhhhh-kay!

Me: SO going back to the permutable prime numbers…

Hank: Yes, please.

Me: You know I don’t speak or read Math very well at all. I am hardly fluent.

Hank: No you speak fairy tale and adventure and imagination.

Me: (smiling, nodding) Well, here I was thinking turning 37 was no big deal. I am glad I’ve had 36 trips around the sun and I’m excited to start my 37th tour, but 35 and 40 those ages feel more important making 37 feel rather ordinary. Now Winter has shown me that 37 is a uniquely special age since it is a permutable prime number. It is a prime number forward and backward: 37 and 73. 37 is a prime palindrome. Permutable prime numbers are fun and extraordinary and the next time I will be a permutable prime number again will be on my 71st birthday and the last time I turned a permutable prime was on my 31st birthday, but I had no idea what a permutable prime was then so I missed my opportunity to enjoy it.

Hank: WHOA, 71? That is like forever away.

Me: Forever is sooner than you think, my dove.

Hank: When was the last time I was a permutable prime.

Me: According to the list it was when you were 7, but the first time you will be a double digit permutable prime will be on your 11th birthday and the first time you will be a triple digit permutable prime number will be your 113th birthday.

Hank: Cooooooool.





Vimaranense (a person from Guimarães)


conversations with hank

A drawing by our little Vimaranense (person born in Guimarães), Amália (Molly)


Hank: (devouring €0.35 cakes on our way home from school) Mama, I have been thinking about something.

Me: Spill.

Hank: You really shouldn’t be so upset anymore about your swearing habit.

Me: What’s this now?

Hank: (swallowing) Well, it’s just… You don’t pay attention very well to other people when we are in the street, because they are speaking Portuguese and you really only pay attention when someone is speaking to you, like to your face, so you don’t notice.

Me: I don’t notice what exactly?

Hank: Mama, everyone swears in Guimarães. Everyone uses palavrãoes (curse words). Absolutely everyone! All the time. Even kids. Kids in my class (whispers) diz caralho (say fuck) like it’s fine.

Me: (blushing) That so is not fine, Hank, don’t you fall into that habit and be careful making broad generalizations.  Not everyone in Guimarães uses adult words freely and in public, although people in the north have this reputation.

Hank: I know, but they do, so you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself for swearing a lot.

Me: Thank you, my dove. That is very nice to you, but it would be one thing if Amália went to kindergarten and said, “A Nossa Senhora!” (The Virgin Mary) when she spills her milk, but it would be a whole other kettle of fish if she yelled, “Shit!” That would fully come back on me. There is no question where she would have picked up that gem.

Hank: (laughing, walking and attempting to eat cake at the same time)

(passing an adorable, tiny Granny on the sidewalk talking rather passionately to her friend)

Granny: O mor de deus, filha de puta! (God damn, motherfucker!)

Hank: (Like he won the lottery, point proven) SEE! SEE!!!! You heard that, right! Tell me you heard that avózinha (cute grandmother) right there!

Me: (nodding, bursting out laughing) Oh, Hank. It’s like Vimaranense (a person from Guimarães) are my people!! This is my tribe.

Hank: Not even you would swear like that in the road.

Me: Truth story, buddy. I may swear like a sailor, but even I have standards!

Hank: Mom, you need to realize our Amália is a Vimaranense (of Guimarães) ! She was born here. She is going to swear. It’s normal here.

Me: Here, but no where else and we will do our best for her to grow up like her big brother, always making the better choice!

Hank: Truth. (stuffing the last of his cake in his mouth)