Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conversations you are probably not supposed to have with your two year old:

Mommy can I eat this?

Sure..................What is it?

I'd offer pictures, but Si is still so sick he is allowing me to wipe his face after eating and sleeping in more than 20 minute increments. All the fight's gone out. I doubt he wants this memorialized. Poor poppit.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I was going to write this and immediately after post pictures, all “nothing to see here! No blow hard list making parents around our house!” but last night Simon decided to practice not throwing up into a receptacle, so nobody’s taking pictures of anything around here. Damn, I am so sick of stomach viruses. If some of you weren’t actual members of the clergy I would be using a lot of much more colorful language than “damn” right now.

But some of you are, and we’re not going anywhere today, so I can write the state of Claire Helen, 30 months. Technically she’s still a toddler, but she’s well on her way to little kid status. Most of her development is now in concepts she’s getting rather than new things she’s doing.

At the end of last year, Mat worked a lot of late nights. When Claire Helen would get a little blue about that, I’d say we could “have a party with the kitty cats,” which meant pajamas for everybody, hot chocolate,* and pillow forts with flashlights. They caught on, and now Kitty Cat Parties are something we do on rainy afternoons, dark nights, and boring Tuesdays. Recently she’s added “Turtle Parties” to her celebratory repertoire, which are just like Kitty Cat Parties, only with basketball instead of forts.

I probably should have noticed when she started using modifiers like “actually” and “probably,” but I didn’t, and now she does. The other day I asked her to get a diaper for Simon**, and she said “Um, actually, I’m reading right now.” Ha! I’m so proud of my little lawyer’s child, crafting relevant arguments and knowing her audience’s points of persuasion. Her grammatical structure is mostly adult now, and she uses all the parts of speech as well as every kind of sentence structure (subjunctive clauses, quotations in fantasy dialogue, proper question formation, etc). She’s got a big vocabulary, especially when engaged in pretend play, and is very specific in her language. Yesterday when we got home from the park she was whining and holding her hands, and I asked her if her hands were cold. “No, dey are FWEEZING mommy! My hands are FWEEZING!”

She really likes to talk about what’s “the same” and what is “different,” and I am always interested to see what catches her eye. The grass outside is the same as somebody’s shaggy carpet; the print on a shirt is the same as the birds on the electric wires. She’s also very clued in to who has “more” and “less.” God forbid she get 3 raisins when Simon got 4.

She can count to 14 and knows all her letters(and they sometimes make appearances in her fantasy play, with their only spoken lines being the sounds they make. “An L scampered into the room, and said in her outside voice “LLLLL!” so her teacher banished*** her to the playground”), though not on cue. If you ask her what letter you are holding, she will only say “A,” but if you try to hand her an O when she asked for the S, she makes fairly clear that she is just nobody’s trained monkey. Yesterday her class at preschool hosted All School Shabbat with the other 2-3’s class. The idea was for the kids to stand up behind a table, sing some songs with motions, and pass out the bread. It was the stuff of Kodak commercials, 22 tiny little heads peeking over the butcher paper covered table, “knocking” on the door and blinking their pudgy hands like stars in time. 21 off them, anyway. Number 22 stared imperviously out at Mat and I, refusing to move her hands away from her sides for even a second or make the vaguest pretense of singing any of the songs she's known for over a year. Occasionally she would leeeeeeeean into Claire Jane, and the two of them would burst into fits of giggles when they’d fall a little, and when the time came to pass out challah, she tried her very hardest to stuff the entire loaf into her mouth before it got to be her turn to hand some out. Nobody’s trained monkey.

Other than for actual performances, she is excellent at following directions and is almost always the first in her class to line up, clean up, and put her dishes back after snack. She’s not a ringleader in the traditional sense, but if we are at a park with friends, and the kids are out of view, 99 times out of a hundred, Claire Helen is leading some kind of nature walk off in the woods or pulling somebody up some far stairs. She’s an explorer. I think it’s going to be great fun to go camping with her, so long as I install one of those microchips with a GPS system in her neck. Though she and Simon have very different responses to social situations, the both of them, when confronted with an open space to walk in, just take off. No looking back, no pausing to play, just walking walking walking. I’ve let them go for minutes at a time, and have not yet reached the point when they might pause or change course unless faced with an immovable object. When people see Simon do this they tend to make some crack about it being a “boy thing” which pushes 98% of my hot buttons,**** but mostly it’s that Claire Helen is the original wanderer. It’s the funniest trait, and it seems to be almost specific to Mat’s and my children, the total absorption and degree to which all other developmental attributes fall away when they go to wander. Going through separation anxiety and usually won’t let me get more than 10 feet away? Not a problem, I’m wandering. Really interested in fish and going over a stream stocked with them? Eh, I’m wandering.

She is still, though I can hardly believe our luck, extremely gentle with her friends. She doesn’t push or shove or steal toys, and her only response to the rampant toy thievery of 2 year olds is to eventually cry and want to sit in my lap if there’s been a particular lot of it. This is not to say she doesn’t wig out entirely if somebody else gets on the airplane rocker at the playground(her version of wigging out being coming up to my knees and saying “I was USING that. I NEED it. I was USING that.” ad nauseum until the other child gives her a turn), and we’ve had to try several approaches to stop the “I am playing with whatever Simon picked up 2 seconds ago” pattern that emerged for a little while, but out in the world she is the most gentle soul I’ve ever seen. She’s also extremely stoic, and a couple weeks ago when she twisted her ankle, her doctor was coming up with all sorts of wild diagnoses because he couldn’t believe a toddler wouldn’t be hysterical at someone touching an ankle that had been twisted. But she has very stringent rules about public conduct, and if she can keep it together, she will.

I still feel like we have been so lucky with both the kids’ temperaments. I am sure Claire Helen’s stoicism and extremely subtle mood changes would be a challenge for some people, and Simon’s separation anxiety and weird showing-affecting-by-head-butting habit would be crazy making in the wrong house. But they’re such a good fit for me. The stuff they need help with(strangers are scary; why are you all looking at me? MOMMY DON'T GO!) is the stuff that’s easiest for me to give, and they’ve taken a pass on the loud, attention hogging behavior I have the hardest time dealing with. Their generally mild dispositions and even tempered way of being make for a generally serene, harmonious house, and even just the fact that they yell less than any of the other kids we know is enough to make any other challenges easy as pie. Except for regurgitated pie. Man I hate stomach viruses.

*Which for Claire Helen means heated up milk plus 2 drops of vanilla. Don’t tell her.
**Not because I’m trying to make her into a “little mommy” or anything creepy like that, just because you know, little people like to be helpful. Except when they are busy reading.
*** Yeah, I know. Banished? Very medieval “classroom” she had going there.
****I went to the neatest lecture on gender and education the other day, and came out with the most coolest factoid: though there are some – far fewer than most people think, but some - generalizations you can make about the two different sex’s brains, only 75% of each sex has that type of brain. The other 25% has the type generally assigned to the opposite sex.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Earlier today I was talking to some people about how we used to explain rules to Claire Helen, and at what age what worked. I was going on about this month versus that month, and decided to look back at some old posts to see about all that, and it turns out I had no idea what I was talking about, and in the span of a year have completely forgotten what she was up to. Which would be pretty helpful to know, as there’s another toddler in the house. All this to say though I am not really a fan of “Look what my kid can do!” brag lists, I’m going to post one for record keeping, at least of Simon. We’ll see how far I get with Claire before she wakes up. You can avert your eyes if it smacks of egoism to you, and I’ll put up some pictures soon as cover.

At 13 months, Simon can:

Walk! Very quickly and sturdily, though still a bit like baby Frankenstein. He can climb on basically anything if he has his Robeez (little leather shoes with grippy leather on the bottoms) on. So I keep him in socks in the house, just to keep him off the mantle as long as possible. Would that I was kidding. I’ve just started letting him walk beside me when we run errands, and he is so proud of himself. He balls his hands up in fist, stares straight at the ground 2 feet in front of him, leads with his belly, and does his little Busy Man hum (Mmmm. Mmmmmm. Dummmm. Mmmmm.)the whole time. He would probably keep walking in a straight line until he got to Tibet if I didn’t turn him at corners.

Talk! Maybe, oh, a dozen words? More than 5, less than 30. Many of them sound remarkably similar- I don’t think any of you could tell the difference between “there” and “Claire,” for example, and the biggest difference between “no” (Neyney) and Dada (Nahnah) is the shaking head that accompanies the former. He also signs “more” when he wants more singing/playing, “milk” when he wants milk, “diaper change” when he wants me to come with him somewhere, and “please” when he wants anything else. I’m not really pushing the signing thing this time because I kind of have mixed feelings about how it went with Claire Helen. But he’s doing it.

He’s right in that early toddler language explosion stage where every day you feel like Anne Sullivan* because your kid said “gaaaap” right after you handed them a grape. And! He just said “Woof!”After I pointed at Betty! Sign him up for Yale right now!! SURELY HE WILL CURE CANCER BY AGE TEN BECAUSE HE SAID “CUH” WHEN I POINTED TO THE CUP! All the back patting that goes on over this stage is probably in the top 20 things that annoy non parents about parents, but is why people are willing to have more than one child after realizing they don’t know how to throw up into a receptacle for four solid years after they are born.

Think! He just this weekend gained the ability to follow two part directions (pick up the shampoo, and put it on the shelf), including directions about objects not in sight. He can recently be calmed not only by objects/activities such as motion and singing, but also stories about things he likes or the idea of an activity he would like to do in the future. I consider that kind of a big Age of Reason thing, and one of the hallmarks of toddlerhood versus babyhood. He can also identify the letters C and S, though I’m pretty sure has no idea what their being “letters” signifies, just that they are the big pieces in Claire Helen and Simon’s name stools, and that Claire Helen puts on a pretty big show for him when she discovers he has one. Oy.

He’s also developed some insane toddler preferences. He treats an open refrigerator like Mat and I treat episodes of The Wire, and will freak right out if you try to close it while he is busy staring at it. He doesn’t try to get anything off the shelves; he just wants to study the food, enjoy the fact that this week we bought the purple yogurts instead of the blue ones, and did you notice those parsnips are starting to look funny? His favorite place in the house is the bathroom, and if he manages to move the stool next to the sink and get up on it, he screams like someone is poking his eyes out until you rush in terrified, at which point he smiles calmly and points to the faucet for you to turn the water on. If he wants something food oriented, and you have something else food oriented in your hand, he will chase you around the house trying to get it out of your hand so he can throw it angrily on the ground. Weirdo.

We continue to be impressed with his ability and interest in art, specifically drawing. Given a roomful of activities, he will invariably choose to draw in some way. He’s got a great little grip on pens and pencils, and when you tell him to “draw a circle” will draw a slightly more curvy line than the squiggles he’d been drawing before. And then look expectantly for mountains of praise. I kind of love that about him. He is so sure that everything he is doing is SUPER and you are going to be SO EXCITED TO SEE THIS. Ironically, though paintbrushes are still highly favored objects, he has no idea what to do with them, art wise. I think he thinks you should eat the paint off them, maybe like they’re special spoons, just for your watercolor eating needs. They’re actually the only non food object he ever puts in his mouth, but it comes up about twice a week when we drop Claire Helen off at preschool, since they generally have some kind of painting out as a choice for free play(morning provocation), which he makes a beeline for, assuming Elmo the class guinea pig isn’t within view for some good poking. She loves that.

Still a preternaturally cheerful little dude. I’ll try to get to Claire’s write-up tonight, but you know how we parents of young children are. We might be too busy out whooping it up. Friday night! Par-tay! Woooooo!

*Helen Keller’s teacher. Is that obvious? I couldn’t decide if that was obvious.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pictures from a cross country ski weekend. We got a little cabin-y thing in the woods and could quite literally put our skis on right outside our door and take off. In my infinite technological un-wisdom, I did not realize the camera was working until the last day, when we took these.

Claire and her "Big Girl Skis" that got used for approximately 5 yards of "skiing."

Here you can see the sled contraption that allowed us to Get! Outside! With young children! Miraculous.

Supposedly I'm working on a post about how Simon has become quite the little toddler the last couple weeks, and Claire is rewarding us for that year of sleepless nights with oodles of affection and mind blowingly mature statements. Supposedly. But Simon did just pee on the dog, so that might have to wait.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hmm. Guess we were too busy having fun on Christmas to take too many pictures. Here are a few, plus indoor sandbox day (this morning; I'm not telling you what time, because we were still in our pajamas, and no, it wasn't 6:30 am.).

OK, indoor sandbox day is giving me guff. Will try those later. Technology: 549378236784, Stephanie:0.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Simon is at the age when, at home, he only wants to be picked up, and out in the world, he only wants to walk by himself(he walks a little like a marionette, with the top half of his body mostly still, and his hips swivelling out to the sides to hopefully kick his legs forward a little. Not the most efficient mode of transport ever.). What's wrong with the floors at our house, little Si? Lucky for him he's so cute when wandering the sidewalks of Seattle. He walks a few steps, then looks back and say "HA ha!" just like Johnny Carson when a guest made an off color joke. Ooooh, pretty risky there, being 5 steps away from mama.

Claire Helen would like to know where snow lives, what fish use for pillows, why paint sticks to other paint, and what mad eats. I would like to know where I can find an extra hour in the day, so I can more regularly update this blog, and maybe put some pictures on it.