Friday, June 19, 2015

State of the kiddos, volume 1

Now that my kids are a little older, I'm not writing monthly letters to them anymore, which is, well, surprisingly freeing but also means I have much less of a record of what they're like, what they've been doing, how they're changing over time. So... every now and then I'd love to do a little capture of what they're like at that moment in time. This one is long because, well, it's the first one in awhile... hopefully future installments will be a little shorter.

Callum is feeling more and more like he's rounding the corner into the fun part of age four. The behavior chart has helped a lot, and while he definitely engages in some limit testing and gets frustrated sometimes, he's whining much less and is very happy and helpful. It's been fascinating to watch him grow into a real little person and observe more and more about the way his mind works.

The thing that stands out to me the most is that he's just such a kind, thoughtful person. The other day we suggested a special outing to the children's museum, just him, while Annika was at daycare, and he responded that he would rather wait for a day when Annika could come too because she loves the ball room at the children's museum. I mean. Couldn't you just die? It was so sweet and thoughtful, beyond what I would expect from a four-year-old. He runs outside and picks dandelions for us and tells us that he brought us a beautiful flower and it smells so good and carefully puts it into a cup of water for us to keep. He tells me "have fun at work!" when I say goodbye to him in the mornings. He is so loving with Annika (though of course he gets frustrated when she takes his toys) and they play together amazingly well. He pretty much never lies, and if he says he'll do something, we know he will. He's very affectionate, and wants endless numbers of hugs, but he's also very independent, and will happily play on his own for hours.

He notices everything, and has started attempting to negotiate the world with us the way we do with him. For example, if he wants us to do something he will tell us that we should do it so that we can get a sticker for our chart, or that if we don't do it, he won't let us have our favorite food (we actually don't use food as a reward or consequence ever, but he has evidently picked up on that concept anyway). He's extremely observant, and we often hear ourselves reflected in him in the way he talks to us and plays with his toys. He comes up with clever ways to try to get around the things we say. Recently he told me that kids make the rules, and I told him no, grown-ups make the rules, and he thought for a minute and told me that in that case, his stuffed Olaf actually gets to make the rules, because he's 701 years old and that's older than anyone else in the house.

He's very creative. He engages in long, complex imaginative play on his own with fully detailed scenarios and ongoing conversations that he acts out among all the characters. He has started liking to draw and paint and generally do art a lot more than he ever did before. He makes up stories about toys and puzzles and pictures, and will build things like Octonauts out of any toys he has on hand. He still loves cars, both the vehicles and the movie.

He loves numbers and seems to have a natural mind for them. He can count at least to 1,000 and sometimes beyond. He can read three-digit numbers and is starting to be able to read four-digit numbers too. He can compare numbers (a week or so ago in a parking lot he was reading license plates, saw two cars next to each other with an 848 and a 691 on their plates, and said to me, "Eight hundred forty-eight is more than six hundred ninety-one"). He can do simple math if you ask him conceptually (like "if you have five apples and you eat two apples, how many apples do you have left?") and he can envision a mental number line and tell you which number is closer to another (for example, "which number is closer to six--three or eight?"). He can read a digital clock to tell you what time it is and is just starting to grasp what time actually means (rather than thinking that if you say something is happening in three hours, he can just count to three and it will be time). He loves puzzles and can do up to 70-80 pieces entirely independently, and 100 pieces with some assistance. He asks questions about numbers constantly, things like how fast we are going and what the temperature is.

Every now and then he gives a little glimpse into his four-year-old logic, like last week when he asked me how fast we were driving and I told him 30 and he asked with great puzzlement how that could be, because we could only drive 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, or 120. It took me a minute to realize he must have taken a look at the speedometer once and seen that those are the only numbers actually printed on it. Or, once recently he commented that we were driving past a school. I looked around and did not see an obvious school and finally noticed a tiny sign in the distance marking a nearby school. There was no way he could possibly have seen that sign or known what it meant, so I asked him how he knew there was a school nearby, and he said, "Because the sign said 20!" After a moment I realized that he had deduced (correctly) that 20mph speed limit signs almost always denote a school zone.

He's extremely active. He's always on the move and always running. He loves to jump, slide, swing, scoot, bike, swim, hike, roughhouse. He has boundless energy and always wants to be outside. He can walk or scoot surprisingly long distances without complaining. When we went on a hike a couple weeks ago he sat down and complained one time, not because he was tired but rather because he was upset that Torsten had scolded him. Once he got over that, he happily sang to himself the entire rest of the hike.

He is still big, but not off the charts big like he was as a baby. He hovers around 70th-80th percentile. I believe he's about 42 inches and 42 pounds. He remains picky and doesn't eat much, but somehow the situation feels less dire than it used to--with the behavior chart we have at least gotten him to take bites of things that he would previously absolutely reject, like chicken and salami and even a piece of spinach, and he expresses a desire to eat his dinner even if he then falls at the final hurdle of actually eating it, and altogether even though he's not really eating much more than he ever did, I feel like we might be starting to see the slightest sliver of light at the end of this particular tunnel.

He remains, as he has been since babyhood, a happy and laid-back kid. He is still sensitive, and gets hurt feelings if he gets scolded or any kind of negative attention, but he is quickly reassured with hugs and talking it out. He reacts surprisingly well to transitions--when we told him he was going to change schools in the fall he had questions, and still does, but was surprisingly fine with it given how much he loves his old school. It feels like... like he's never really had his trust violated and so he has no awareness that bad things could happen to him. I hope he stays that way for a long time.

He is our sweet, loving, clever boy. We are so lucky.

Annika also feels like she is rounding a corner into a pleasant age. The first half of age one is always challenging (though adorable) because the motor skills are there but the cognitive skills not so much, so you're basically looking at a fetus on feet (TM Jonna). As she gets closer to two she has become better at listening and a little more self-regulated (though, obviously, still a toddler). She is happy and energetic and deeply opinionated.

She is surprisingly good at communicating. I was keeping track of her vocabulary and gave up after about 75 words, but she has to be well over 100 words by now. She puts two and three words together in sentences, and is just beginning to grasp pronouns and verbs (she will say things like "Mommy go" and "me down"). She has also very much mastered the art of the word "no" and will combine it beautifully with other words to very clearly articulate exactly what it is that she does not want ("no night-night!" "no Daddy!"). She is learning sign language at daycare and will add signs to her words for extra emphasis (such as saying and signing "all done" or "more" simultaneously). Her newest phrase is "me too," which just debuted two days ago when Callum asked for some milk and she came racing into the kitchen while I was pouring it yelling "me too!" She says please and thank you quite consistently. She has also started doing an angry clap for emphasis when she is particularly upset, where she will yell what she's upset about and then smack her hands together sharply to make her point even clearer.


She has very strong opinions and isn't afraid to express them. She definitely has quite the feisty personality. If she doesn't want to be carried she will stiffen her whole body in an attempt to cause you to drop her, danger be damned. If she wants a toy from Callum and he won't give it to her she will scream bloody murder as though she'd just sustained a serious bodily injury. When her will is thwarted she can throw the mother of all tantrums. If you try to distract her or calm her down she just gets angrier. The other day Callum gave her the toy she was requesting, then started playing with another toy. When she saw his toy she gave up her own and tried to get it from him. I told her that Callum was having a turn and she could have a turn after he was done. I then tried to get her to play with the first toy. She slammed the toy on the ground, stamped her foot, ran in a screaming/sobbing circle around the room, came back to the toy, picked it up and slammed it on the ground again, did a huge angry clap, and then threw herself on the ground kicking and screaming. She's tenacious, too--she kept it up until Callum finished his turn with the toy she wanted and gave it to her, at which point she was immediately happy again. Given the magnitude of her rages, she gets over them surprisingly quickly--if she has a meltdown because she wants me instead of Torsten, she stops crying and starts acting totally normal the second I pick her up.

I don't mean to make it sound like she is all tantrums, because she absolutely isn't--they aren't even particularly frequent given her age--it's just that when she does have them, they are spectacular. But when she's not angry, she's a delight (OK, her anger is actually kind of delightful too in its hilarity). She's very resilient--runs around, falls down, maybe cries for a second, hops back up. Since she has a big brother she's used to running with the big kids and it's very important to her to keep up. She idolizes Callum and wants to do everything he does. Her gross motor skills are strong--she can jump off the ground from a standing position and does it frequently; she can climb up the slide and ladder on our play structure; she can run and climb stairs and dance. I can only assume that she does all these things because she sees Callum do them, and whatever Callum (or "Cow-cow" as she calls him) does, she believes she can do too.

She continues to be a great eater, though slightly less willing to devour whatever is put in front of her than she was as a baby. She particularly loves all meat and fruit, and can eat endless amounts of lox and tangerines specifically. The only foods we've found that she doesn't like are mushrooms and watermelon. She is also not big on carbs, especially bread. She's basically the opposite of her brother when it comes to solid food, but they share their deep and abiding love of milk, and we've started limiting her intake a bit as well to be sure she continues to consume a variety of solid foods rather than filling up on calories from milk alone.

She's really into dolls, which she calls babies--she owns maybe eight or ten of them and always has to have one of them with her. She will carry armfuls of them around with her and she loves to play pretend with them--she puts them in the baby swing on the swingset in our yard, pushes them around in our toy stroller and shopping cart, puts them to bed under a dishtowel and then tells them "night night" while patting their butts, hugs them, and puts them in her high chair and pretends to feed them. She is big into imitating right now, and will hold a toy phone (or our actual phones, if she manages to grab them) to her ear and say "LO?" She has an independent streak and tries to brush her own teeth and comb her own hair. Speaking of hair, I feel confident enough to say that hers is definitively curly, and, well, I'm delighted.

She loves daycare, and talks about her teacher and all her little friends. She knows the drop-off routine and prompts us through each step of it each morning. Her teachers love her, and talk about how sweet and quiet she is at school, which is hilarious for us to hear because she's so not quiet at all when she's at home (though her teachers say this is very common). Every morning at drop-off she gets a giant smile on her face and gives Callum a huge hug when it's time to say goodbye. She gives me a hug too, but that special hug and smile are reserved entirely for her adored brother.

She loves to be outside. If one of us goes near the backdoor she comes running over asking, "ow-side? Ow-SIDE?" And she will full-on weep if we don't let her go out. She can happily spend all day out there, running around, playing with the water table and the sandbox, climbing the slide, trying to ride the tricycle, and playing with her dolls. If she's upset about something she can almost always be cheered up by being taken outside or for a walk. She is surprisingly good at independent play, and can play on her own with the play kitchen or many of her other toys for extended periods of time. She also loves the toys that are theoretically too old for her, like magformers and legos, and will spend ages playing with them. She sits in a booster at the table almost all of the time now, and pretty much never in her high chair--she desperately wants to be a big kid and man, she is getting close.

She is smart--she understands absolutely everything we say and responds to it, often catching us off-guard. She has very quickly figured out what certain things mean, and surprises us by reacting to things that we didn't even think she knew about. She comes up with clever ideas to try to get what she wants, such as announcing that she's hungry when she knows bedtime is coming in hopes of staving it off.

She is fiercely independent and wants to do everything Cow-cow can do, but she is very big into hugs and kisses (which she delivers with a loud smack), and loves to show us things and check in with us regularly. She is almost always happy and has a giant, room-lighting smile. She laughs constantly, never louder than when she and Callum are playing.

She is our affectionate, clever, feisty girl. We are so lucky.


  1. It must be something about Annika and Izzy's age- being outside is their #1 priority!

    Callum sounds like such a sweetie. What a good big brother!

  2. They are adorable!!! I love reading about them over the years and getting this little glimpse into their burgeoning personalities and person-hood. :)