Saturday, October 11, 2014

And Amelia!!

So, in posting my last entry about Sylvia turning five, I realized that I never posted one when Amelia turned two....on August 8. Oops. I'm not sure if the oversight should be blamed on how busy we were in August, how much I've neglected this blog, or just what it's like to be a second child. In any case, it's never too late -- so here's that two-month-old birthday post:

Selfie. Oct. 10, 2014
My littlest is two. She’s a full-fledged toddler, learning to negotiate the world and her place in it. She is a child of contradictions and big passion. She is snuggly and craves closeness and affection, but she is also mercurial and throws epic tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants. She is learning new words every day and understands so much, but the frustration of not being able to communicate perfectly results in hot, streaming tears. But while she gets upset easily, she also recovers easily, and her happy times are as joyful as her angry times are difficult.

In mid-August, she started attending the same school as her sister. Unfortunately, the church was in the middle of a demolition project next door, so she only associated school with giant construction equipment that was “too loud,” making her full of stress and apprehension about going. Now that construction is over, she’s happy about school (“my cool!” “backpack!”) and even seems upset on the days when Sylvia goes and she doesn’t. They enter and leave the building holding hands and melting my heart. She now knows her teachers’ names (“Mizus Davy” for Mrs. Davis and “Mizus Dunky” for Mrs. Duncan, the movement teacher – which is her favorite activity). She is excited to show me her weekly “libe-ee” book and tell me each day, in her broken words, what she had for snack.
She is still a Mama’s girl. She demands “up” regularly and really prefers to see the world from the viewpoint of someone’s arms. She has plenty of affection for “Daddy” and “Pop” and “Ninny,” but always prefers Mama. She runs after Daddy to ask for goodbye hugs, always wants goodnight hugs from everyone, and requests “snuggle” most evenings.

She is demanding and emphatic. We try the parenting tactic of offering two choices, and she frankly rejects the premise. She will hold her ground on everything from food to walking to wanting to do it herself. “SELF!” she yells multiple times a day, even when the task is too difficult or not allowed. Screaming and tears follow any attempts to help. She will squeeze out the empty toothpaste tube herself, alone, for 15 minutes before finally asking for “help, Mama.” Then again, sometimes she wants “help, Mama” for tasks she can easily do alone, usually just because she wants the company.

She gets away with all these demands because she’s so adorable. She has soft blonde curls that frizz in the back, surrounding her head like a feathery halo. She has big hazel eyes, a bow-shaped mouth and her grandmother’s big cheeks. Her laugh is low and husky and she is usually quite happy, curious, and enthusiastic. Friends and strangers want to snuggle her, but she tends to pull away and stick close to Mama.

She adores her older sister, but doesn’t worship her. She wants to play with her but also wants to do her own thing. They get along quite nicely and Sylvia is thankfully patient with her. She plays her own versions of Sylvia’s games: stealing Daddy’s shoes for keep-away, running into the yard instead of getting in the car, and dressing up in “tutus” (any fancy skirt).

Amelia loves to eat, and she eats all day. Her favorite foods are cheese (usually shredded), olives, sautéed mushrooms, cucumbers dipped in Ranch, soups, grits, Cheez-Its and lollipops. She does not have the sweet tooth the rest of us do. While she will beg for treats like most children, she usually takes just a few bites before being “all done.” Instead, she has an active salty tooth and will surprise us with the amount of salty food she can put away.

She recently started liking puzzles and can do them quickly. She has finally allowed us to read her books instead of just flipping through them maniacally, though she doesn’t have much of an attention span for them. She likes to play with big Legos or blocks, plastic food, crayons, just about any of Sylvia’s toys, iPad and iPhones. She loves all the wheeled toys, proudly has her own scooter now that she rides well, and seems to think she’s big enough for all of them. She has just started sitting still for television, and often asks for Daniel Tiger or Curious George. She loves Starfall on the computer.

Amelia is a handful. She has strong opinions and big feelings. People want to love her and generally do, but they acknowledge she’s hard work. She’s headstrong, coquettish and loveable. I am just crazy about her, even when she drives me crazy.

Sylvia Turns Five

As of October 8, I've been a parent for five years now. The platitude has turned out to be very true: parenting means long days and short years. All told, those five years of exhausting days, long nights, endless hugs, daily laughs, dancing, singing, coloring, adventuring – they have resulted in the most wonderful little five-year-old a mother could ask for.

Sylvia is in many ways a miniature me. She is rather intense and serious. Her teachers even told me they were working on having her take things less seriously, especially things that are difficult for her. But she is smart and inquisitive and the teachers find her “a delight to teach.” They also said she was very kind to other students (My heart! Bursting.). That said, she is often not kind to me these days, using Mama as a punching bag for her very big emotions, and testing out tantrums, foot-stomping, yelling and nastiness for their effectiveness in getting to do what she wants. She is stubborn and headstrong. That stubbornness has its positive side too, though, as she really applies herself to achieving goals. She wants to figure things out, learn all she can, solve the problem and overcome the obstacle.

She continues to be quite accomplished in physical activities and coordination. Darren likes to tell people that she’s ripped (her back muscles are indeed impressive). She is amazingly quick and agile on her scooter. She is strong and nimble on the monkey bars, and she is advancing quickly in gymnastics. Riding a bike (with training wheels) is still challenging to her and she gets frustrated on it easily. We haven’t yet started any sports, but she likes to throw and catch. She is mostly fearless, but Year Five has taught her some wariness about too much speed or height, which I greatly appreciate.

She’s very interested in the natural world, constantly exploring and asking endless questions about bugs, rocks, soil, stars, and animals of all kinds. At least weekly, she has me looking up and learning about some new thing. We regularly have bugs in jars around the porch and house, we’ve grown caterpillars into butterflies, and we’ve kept Polly the hermit crab alive longer than anyone expected. She has so many “special” collections of rocks, twigs, feathers and acorns that I have to regularly sweep her room when she’s gone or it would become its own forest. She can spot a tiny inchworm or a beautiful feather in the most hidden places, and she will fearlessly let any creature crawl into her hands.

Sylvia still loves art projects and breaks out the paints, crayons or markers regularly. She’s been working on illustrating a book for a while now. She’ll write letters but isn’t constructing her own words yet. She loves to dance and to sing. She memorizes song lyrics quickly and sings regularly, often making up her own songs. She started theater class last week and loves it, and she really enjoys going to see plays. She still puts on costumes several times each week, and regularly adds accessories to her outfits. She wears only dresses (hasn’t worn pants or shorts in two years) and cares very much about what she looks like each day. She has special ways of putting clothes together (butterfly shirts with flowered skirts, for example). She is still pretty obsessed with princesses, but she also likes fairies (we had a fairy-themed 5th birthday party), mermaids, unicorns and most anything magical.

She talks nonstop and has a rather impressive vocabulary for her age. She tells long stories and wants to have lots of books read to her (we just started chapter books, but she clearly misses the pictures). I think we get even more frustrated with her tantrums and fits because she suddenly loses her reason, which is usually so intact. After a tantrum or fit, she has a lot of EQ and can discuss all that happened, but during one she’s unreasonable and difficult.

She is wonderful with her little sister and shows an impressive amount of love and empathy. Yes, they fight, but only briefly. They seem to truly adore each other. Sylvia has stepped nicely into the “mother’s helper” role too, and enjoys conspiring with me to make things work with Amelia’s mercurial nature. She’s also starting to help more around the house, and now when we cook together, she’s actually more of a help than a hindrance. She is very independent at home and in her play, but she’ll cooperate much better if she’s had some special one-on-one time with me each day. We’ve started playing card games and board games, and I truly enjoy this time together.

Sylvia, I wouldn’t change you for the world. We may butt heads because we’re so alike, but I am in wonder of your accomplishments and growth each day. I love you at age five and I’m excited about the girl you are and the one you’re becoming. Happy birthday, Dumplin’.