Elli's language abilities are hard to explain. She definitely knows a lot of words and many times uses them correctly-- usually when she wants something. "I want treat please" is uttered probably 100 times a day. She has her unique way of saying (or more commonly, yelling) it-- the words tend to run together and are in her own "Elli tone." But we have learned to understand her quite well. Most of the things she says are phrases that we've really worked on teaching her or that she has heard repeatedly, such as phrases that she hears her toys say. In other words, she doesn't have a lot of spontaneous language where she expresses what is going on inside her head. She is amazing at memorization and if she's in just the right mood, might wow you with an entire scripture that she has heard-- there are several that she knows word for word. But having a conversation with her is at a VERY basic level. It usually goes something like, "Elli, what do you want?" "I want drink please."
One of Elli's most common "words" is "Yeah, ok," with no break between the words. This evolved from her first saying "yes" very clearly, to us teaching her to change it to "yes, please," then her changing it to, "Yes, please ok," (this after hearing us say "ok" after she said "yes, please,") and then her getting very lazy and changing it to a one word, "yeah-ok." Her teachers have adopted this phrase and often answer each other with "yeah-ok" which we all find very humorous.
A few months ago, Elli started responding to a certain way of saying prayers. In the past, we would say a phrase and if she were in the right mood (which was rarely) she might repeat it. Once in awhile, she would say her "own" prayer, which was just phrases she had heard over and over. It might go like this: We would start by saying, "Dear Heavenly Father..." and wait for 20 seconds or so. Then she might say, "Thank you for this day. Please help us to have a good sleep. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." Most often this wasn't said very clearly, but we understood it.
Now Elli will "fill in the blanks." I will say, "Dear Heavenly Father. Thank you for...." and after a few minutes, she will say something. We used to have to prod her with ideas, but she soon began doing it on her own. The things she would list were ALWAYS food items. A common prayer would be:
Me: "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for..."
Elli: "Tootsie rolls."
Me: "Thank you for tootsie rolls. Thank you for..."
Elli: "Pumpkin pie."
Me: "Thank you for pumpkin pie. Thank you for..."
Elli: "Bananas and peanut butter."
And so on. A few weeks ago, I noticed that Elli was not always just listing random foods that she liked, but was actually listing the things she had eaten that day. Then one night, she listed "cat piano" (one of her favorite toys.) I was so excited that she was thinking of things other than food! Though she still usually listed just food, in the last couple of weeks she would sometimes insert other items.
Last night, Elli said the sweetest prayer. The very first "fill in the blank" was "home." My heart just swelled! I can't even tell you what a sweet thing it was to get inside her little head and know that she could be grateful for home and express it. The next thing she listed was "Grandma and Grandpa's house." Again, so darling! After listing a few food items, she then said, "Penny." Penny is the name of her teacher at school. She followed that with "Paula" who is one of the aides. This was the first time that Elli has listed a person in her prayers. It was such a special, wonderful thing! I was so excited to share that with Penny and Paula today, especially because it was her last day of school. I thought that was a pretty good end-of-year present for her teachers, and they did too!!!
Tonight, my parents are in town. They came to watch some baseball-- fun times! As I tucked Elli in tonight, she added "Grandma" and "Grandpa" to her list. Penny and Paula were still included (probably at least 4 times each). One of these days she's going to say "Mommy"-- I just know it! (;
I should also add that she listed some rather random phrases, such as "don't hit yourself!" (LOL) and "You're so funny Elli!" I'm pretty sure that's the first time ever that "Thank you for don't hit yourself," has been uttered in a prayer, and I'm also pretty sure that it made her Father in Heaven smile. (:
I love you, dear Elli Mei.