We hauled out the family DVDs the other night and stepped back in time to watch the Lunalings as they were a decade ago. I was amazed at how happy they looked. They’ve always been cheerful kids, but unless we just didn’t capture the bad times (which we may not have) all we have is footage of them laughing and mugging for the camera.

And their little voices are amazing.

Hearing them takes me back, even more than seeing them.

For a while, we were collecting their kid-isms on paper, just a little sheet of things they said in strange ways so we wouldn’t forget. They were phrases we weren’t likely to catch on paper, so we jotted them down…and now the paper is floating around somewhere in the house, nowhere near as available as the DVDs are.

But I remember what they said.

Mid-Luna had a knack for repetitive sounds. Her collection includes such gems as “tatato” and “jajamas.” We still use those, actually…no Luna Lexicon needed. Luna Jr. liked to run everything together. His isn’t a vocabulary, as much as snippets of conversation. His most familiar kid-ism was a phone message he would leave on my office voicemail whenever he cajoled his mom into letting him play with the phone.

It went like this: “Hi-it’s-me-Zane-I-just-wanted-to-say-hi-okay-I-love-you-bye.” All one big long word, with no spaces and no breaths. We expect him to answer the phone this way to this day. Sometimes, just to humor us, he does.

But the most prominent Luna kid-ism came from the eldest Luna, probably at age five or so, and at some random moment when she was expanding her expressions to include slang and metaphor. No one can remember the circumstance, but a request was made…maybe we asked her if we could borrow one of her books, or we might have requested to step between her and the television as we made our way through the room.

Whatever the prompt was, her reply turned out to be, “Sure. Poke yourself out.”

Mrs. Luna and I paused, wondering if we’d heard her right. “What did you say?”

She repeated it. “I said, ‘Sure. Poke yourself out.’”

She was quite the literal one back then. Except for the expression she was trying to use.

I believe it was my wife who asked her, “Do you mean, ‘knock yourself out?’”

The Lunaling shrugged. “Sure.”

This has become something of our family motto. I’m not even sure we use it in context every time, but we use it. And if we were to craft a family crest, this would be written across the top, in a rippling ribbon flowing above kitchen utensils and some form of snack food on a bare counter (using plates isn’t really our thing.) It only means something to us, really. I’m sure every family has something similar—a catalog of idiosyncratic terminology specific to their collective experience.

Every time we delve into ours, we travel back to those early moments. No DVD necessary.

It took a while for our kids to understand that we weren’t making fun of them when we use their kid-isms. We were remembering their childhood and appreciating who they were when they were still learning the language, and their ears captured grander things than their mouths knew how to release back into the world. They have their own kid-isms now, but it’s not quite the same…most of what they’ve garnered comes from pop culture, or the internet, or their friends. Text language peppers the dinner conversation, both in sarcasm and in sincerity. And that’s fine. We dive in and mimic them, in the same way they mimicked us. Sometimes, we even understand what we’re trying to say.

It all part of the fun of watching our kids turn into bona fide people.

But one thing is certain, no matter how much their language evolves: “Poke yourself out” trumps “Totes

magotes” every time.

What are your favorite kid-isms? Throw some out in the comments section so we can all add to our Vocabulary of Amazing Stuff.

I’m throwing out some free e-books to anyone who’s interested in learning a little more about my Joe Vampire series. Joe Vampire: Night Falls is a short story in which Joe’s office receives an interesting – and myth-shattering—new team member. And Joedaism: Wit and Wisdom from a Contemporary Vampire Dude is a volume of advice about dealing with your own ridiculous vampirism (or challenge of your choice). Check ‘em out…you can’t beat free!

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