The Kids at Christmas, 2016

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I mentioned in my last post that I was getting our Christmas cards ready to send out. They’re out in the world, and while I’ve definitely been doing some writing in recent months, I haven’t written an actual Christmas letter in quite awhile. I always love receiving them, but for some reason I haven’t been writing or sending them. One of the things that everyone seems to do in the Christmas letter is to give an update on everyone in the family and it made me wonder what I would write about each of our children right now. When I started this blog, I hoped to do a better job of recording who the kids were and what they were up to at different moments in time. But I’ve been so busy documenting our move and the house that I haven’t said very much about who they are. So here we go, a brief snapshot.

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Jonah just turned four on Thanksgiving. Despite all of the times that I expect too much of him and he acts his age, refuses to listen, is stubborn and defiant, I still feel like he’s growing up far too quickly. He’s so tall, and the day he turned four he told us repeatedly that he’s bigger and stronger and insisted on doing things like carrying his birthday cake from the car to Grandma Sue & Grandpa Pat’s house, “because I’m four now and I’m strong.” He loves books and loves being read to. His teacher told me that in one of the first weeks of school, she was reading a story and almost all of the other kids were talking or doing other things and he said to her with surprise, “I’m the only one listening!”. He loves to build things, loves trucks and machines and seeing how things work, and still loves digging in the sand (it’s consistently his favorite part of his day). He’s doing great with the potty now, and really only has accidents at school after nap when he’s been sleeping a very long time.  He doesn’t show much interest in art or in learning to write (one of the downfalls of a Montessori-based school is that he can choose never to do these things if he wants). He likes music, but mostly just in the car and at home, and seems to be lukewarm about music class at school (an administrator told me that he’s mentioned that he feels his music class is for babies – he’s with the 2 & 3 year olds and most of his friends are in the 4s group). He has two very good friends at school, boys he plays with daily, and it feels to us like he’s found his tribe. We’re having them over next weekend to celebrate his birthday and we’re excited to get to know them better.

If I’m being completely honest, he’s wonderful but also super challenging. Most of the time we feel like asking him to do almost anything is a battle. He’s the most strong-willed person I know, and things go from zero to totally explosive in just a few seconds. He’s super smart (they recently gave him a test at school because of a study the school is participating in, and his “age equivalency” the average age of other test takers who scored like he did, ranged from 5.7 to 6.9 depending on subject), but has a lot of trouble with self-regulation and not getting ridiculously upset if he doesn’t get his way. If someone does something he doesn’t like or even just misunderstands him, he loses it. He’s super grouchy in the mornings, often refuses to acknowledge or greet anyone. He’s basically a teenager in a four-year-old’s body.

That said, he can be so charming and so sweet; he has incredible empathy. If I’m upset for some reason (stress, frustration, who knows…) and I’m crying, he’ll always come over to me and say “It’s OK Mama D, I’ll take care of you” and pet my head and hug me with absolute sincerity. Last night he refused to stop playing with a box of fragile Christmas ornaments and dropped it, and it sounded as if some things had broken. I was very upset and he laughed at me, which was WAY more upsetting than the fact that he’d dropped them. I basically told him that it was monstrous to laugh at someone when they’re sad or upset because you’ve hurt them or upset them, and walked away from him. He sat on a stool across the room from me while I ignored him, and about a minute later, on his own, he said “I’m sorry Mama D. Can I give you a hug?” I was blown away by his awareness and his desire to make amends. Usually we have to force him to tell people that he’s sorry. He’s still a cuddle bug, loves to sit in my lap and needs to have me cuddle him to sleep at night.

I worry a lot that we’re making all kinds of mistakes with him. Children absorb everything; they learn so much from what we say and do and I often feel that we choose the wrong battles, we yell way too much, and his explosiveness is probably directly correlated with our explosiveness. Despite the fact that I know better intellectually, I really take his disrespect personally and let it get to me. I have a lot of work to do and really want to be a better mama. I know that so much of what we see in him comes from what we model for him.

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Vivienne and Jude are 22 months now, and are at a pretty adorable age. While we’re seeing the beginning of the terrible twos in certain moments (they both say “no way!” when we ask them to do things because they’ve learned it from Jonah), this stage of development seems impossibly charming and cute compared to their threenager big brother. That said, I have to acknowledge that I love Jonah’s independence these days. It’s amazing to know that (in most cases) if I want to bring him along for some errand I’m running, he’ll be fine and trustworthy and will make the errand more enjoyable because he’s good company. I can leave him alone to play for ages and not worry about him. There’s less risk that he’ll do something outrageously dangerous or destructive. The twins are still in that toddler phase when you just don’t know what’s going to happen, and if things get quiet you know to worry. When the three of them are alone together they can be trouble, but I love that they love one another and enjoy playing together enough to get into trouble. Jonah loves making them laugh, which can lead to him making bad decisions and modeling bad behavior for them, so that’s less amusing. They think that he is everything, which is really sweet to see.

Vivienne is super sassy. Teachers at school adore the twins, but in particular we get lots of funny stories about Vivi because of her sass. She loves shoes and hats, insists on putting on her boots first thing in the morning, and loves to wear sunglasses. She’s absurdly independent and wants to go up and down stairs without help, won’t let us help her to put on her boots (the other morning when I tried to help her, she put her hand on my chest and said firmly, “No Mama D”). She wants to put her own coat on just like Jonah (flipping it over her head). She has so little hair, but she loves it when the teachers put it in a tiny ponytail. She loves books, loves being read to, and feels a great sense of injustice if Jonah is getting a book before bed but she isn’t. She insists on joining in. She also loves playing pretend – she loves baby dolls, loves the toy kitchen at school (we’re getting one for Christmas now that we finally have the space), will offer people pretend food and tell me when her baby is napping. She’s also fiercely determined to do things even when challenged. She’s spent many an hour at school outdoors trying to ride a trike on which her feet do not reach the pedals, but the teachers tell me she is undeterred and just keeps trying. Unlike Jonah she LOVES art! For some reason she says something that sounds like “lellow” (rhymes with yellow) when she wants to color, and color she does. She will go through page after page of blank paper. She used to do big dramatic scribbles, mostly in a circular motion, carefully choosing just a few colors that all seemed to work beautifully together on each page. But recently they taught her to spell her name at school. If you ask her to spell it, she’ll shout “V-I-V-I”. What’s funny is that Jude also says that when you ask how to spell his name. Once she learned that, her artwork turned to attempts to write her name. She does tiny scribbles now, like handwriting, over and over again and will sometimes quietly say “v-i-v-i” as she draws/writes. Despite her independence she can also be clingy – when tired she wants to be held all the time, and sometimes even when she isn’t tired. She’s affectionate and gives wonderful hugs and kisses, and loves to bury her head into my neck. She LOVES music. As soon as we get into the car she shouts “I want songs!” and usually requests one. It’s often Baa Baa Black Sheep or the Muppets Mahna Mahna. She sings along to most of the songs on the Raffi album we listen to in the car. And if she doesn’t like the song we’re playing she objects loudly and continuously until it’s been changed. She’s such a firecracker, such a huge personality, and she’s super fun and super amusing to have around. She does have quite a temper, and is probably just as strong-willed as Jonah, but at this point her small size and huge personality make it cute enough that even when she’s furious we often look at each other and giggle. I know that’s terrible and that we probably need to reign things in now before she’s 12 and it’s uncontrollable, but for now I’m enjoying her spark.

Jude is so easy going, so laid back, and just so happy-go-lucky. He’s sensitive, cries easily when knocked over (for example), but never seems to get very angry. Every once in awhile when he’s thwarted we can see the two-year-old approaching, but for the most part he’s either just happy or briefly sad. He’s the one of the three who is that stereotypical toddler who is always touching or getting into things that he shouldn’t: dirty things, dangerous things, electrical things, anything with buttons or switches, whatever it may be. He is always interested and always where he shouldn’t be. He likes a lot of the things Jonah likes: cars, blocks, playing in the dirt, but he’s also much more into playing pretend than Jonah ever was. He likes baby dolls (less than Vivi, but enough) and the toy kitchen at school. He loves slides, bouncy things, and ride-on toys. He and Vivi both love climbing on things (they have a climber at school) but Vivi has always been the more advanced climber (he’s also heavier and generally less nimble). He’s a total cuddle bug, loves to be held and cuddled all the time and has his two fingers in his mouth most of the time. He likes books now (he didn’t when he was younger) and will ask for them, but mostly likes the ones with things that move/flaps that open, and will often wander away mid-book if it’s one without. He doesn’t show much interest in art, but loves to sing and listen to music and will dance easily. He and Vivi both love animals – they love to spot them from our windows or when we’re out and about, and Jude will say “meow meow” or “woof woof” in the cutest voice. He has such an adorable giggle and is a super easy crowd. It seems like he’s smiling about 97% of the time. Both Jude and Vivi love to play games with people – the sort of thing where a pattern of you-do-this then I-do-that repeats itself over and over and they can predict what will happen and just laugh and laugh. Oh, and if Jude is playing with something and it’s time for bed he’ll often object, until I say “say night night to the balloon (for example)” and suddenly he’s fine and saying “bye bye balloon!”

I feel badly that Jude’s paragraph is so short compared to our other two, but the truth is that he’s the least complicated of the three. I knew it would shake out that way before I wrote a single word about any of them. They’re so unique and interesting and fun in combination with one another. I’m excited to see how they continue to grow, how their interests evolve, and who they all become. I also wish that they would all slow down a little. Last night I tucked in sleeping Jonah before I went to bed and marveled at how big he looks, especially in bed. There’s something about seeing them completely still that accentuates their growth for me. I need them to stay little for awhile longer, it all just moves too quickly.

*all photos in this post by http://jesmilephotography.com/

 

 

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