Monday, January 23, 2012

A post about Soren

I'm not sure why, in popular culture, the terrible twos so overshadow the turbulent threes. Maybe if people started telling parents whose sweet baby turned into a howling monster, "Oh, by the way, it's going to get worse next year," we might be able to get overpopulation under control.

(I kid. Mostly.)

But Two and Three are rough for different reasons entirely. All the baby books say an infant's needs and wants are equivalent; babies cry about being hungry, or wet, or lonely, or uncomfortable - and yes, sometimes they just keep on crying, absent any obvious cause - but they generally do not have much in the way of separation between things that they want and things that they physically or emotionally need. They want things because they need them. Then they get a little older, a little more independent, start communicating their desires more, start exploring the world and all the wondrous things in it. They learn by touching, tasting, testing. And when their pursuit of knowledge and happiness is at all thwarted in any way, they rapidly become acquainted with the brand new emotion of crushing, unbearable disappointment. Welcome to Two(ish...your exact mileage may vary). You won't let me chase that super interesting leaf that's being blown out into the street? HOW COULD YOU? WHY WOULD YOU DO SUCH A THING? YOU HAVE DESTROYED EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD.

(Come to think of it, two year-olds are kind of like angsty teenagers, except smaller and slightly more prone to unintelligible howling.)

Then along comes Three, when their curiosity manifests in endless chains of "Why?" They progress from just being vociferously disappointed about the denial of their wishes to being whiny and willful and determined to circumvent these perceived threats to their happiness. They push, and push, and push, and push. And then they push some more. One of Soren's frequent refrains, after he's been told no, and continued to whine and beg, and been reminded that the answer is no, is a sobbed, "But I need it to turn into yes!" Then there's the blatant ignoring of directions or instructions, the dawdling and (inappropriately timed) goofing around, the repeated doing of things they know full well are not allowed. It can be extremely trying, in a completely different way from how Two was difficult. At two, they're learning (much to their chagrin) that boundaries exist and where they are. At three they test and push, over and over, to determine if indeed those boundaries are immovable or if maybe there are weaknesses in the perimeter that can be exploited.

Which is to say, it's sometimes very frustrating to be parenting a 2 year-old and a 3.5 year-old simultaneously.

But, despite all appearances, I honestly didn't set out to write a post about Twos and Threes or to complain about the frustrations. The difficulties are caused by (mostly) developmentally-appropriate behaviors, vexing though they may be. I remarked to Tom the other day that I sometimes have to remind myself that the kids are, in fact, just little kids, and that they behave the way they do - ignoring me or doing the exact opposite of what I ask - because they're kids, and not because they're jerks.


There are starting to be times when Soren and I are not constantly at odds. When, like last Thursday, he listens and does what's asked of him without an argument. When he plays so patiently and sweetly, yet enthusiastically, with Eleri that I can't stop grinning. I can't help but hope that maybe, possibly, these are signs of smoother sailing ahead. Because that would be really great.

I truly did intend this to be a post about Soren's most endearing qualities. (Kinda went the other way on that one. Whoops.) So here goes.

I've written before about how the lad gives his stuffed animals very unusual names (such as Zebra Ear and Pointy Tail), but now we've got another in the pack now - a stuffed lion my cousin Caryn gave him for Christmas. He named it Jaws of Life. This is perhaps the most amusing manifestation of his Fireman Sam obsession, with the possible exception of his tendency to sport a Welsh accent when he plays Fireman Sam games. Which he does. Often. He told me a few weeks ago that he was "playing house" with a friend at preschool. He went on to describe their game as, "sleeping in the house, and then the smoke alarm went off, and we had to run outside and wait for firefighters to rescue us!" He insists that he only plays with boys at school, but his teacher told me that he plays with the girls almost as much. A new boy joined their class this morning, and Soren introduced himself by spelling his name first, then saying it. He's actually been doing that a fair bit, lately. His preschool teacher apparently just discovered (about a week and a half ago) that Soren can read. She made a point of stopping me after school to tell me that he had read "a whole list of about ten words!" I wasn't quite sure what to tell her except, "Well. Yes. He's been reading for quite a while now."

He's been a lot more huggy again lately, too, which of course I can't possibly complain about. I am pretty sure that sometimes he uses it as a stalling tactic ("Soren, please put your shoes away like I asked you." "But I need to get a hug first!"), but it's not a very effective one, since the hugs only last a few moments. Best are the sibling hugs, because holy crap, it doesn't get much more adorable than that. As I mentioned, he's been playing really nicely with Eleri, more and more. Sure, there are still fights over toys and grabbing things back and forth, but those sorts of things are happening less often. It is really, really, super awesome to be able to take a little break while they entertain each other, and to not have to constantly be stepping in to break up arguments.

Not so much one of his endearing qualities, but something I should mention, is Soren's somewhat recent fear of "dark night clouds." He's very specific in his worries that they're going to break into the house with an axe and take him away. This fear extended, at least temporarily (he mentioned it a couple of times but hasn't since), to the moon. The moon was going to come in and get him. I have no idea where this fear came from, except to guess that it's just a fear of the dark to which his ample imagination has added some specificity. Poor kid. Some nights it's worse than others, and sometimes he goes to bed without seeming worried at all. Why clouds, though? They're about as insubstantial a thing as you could come up with. Go figure.

One last anecdote and then I'll sign off for the night. One day last month, I was driving us to the school, listening to non-kid music for once. Eleri was begging for me to play her beloved "Bah-bah Pass It On" yet another time, and I told her I'd switch to that CD once the song I was listening to was over. That song, which happened to be "Lazy Eye" by the Silversun Pickups, was actually just starting. Within the first 30 seconds or so of the song, Soren piped up from the back seat, "This is the song that me and Mommy like." And later that day he asked if I would, "play the song you and me like, again." Now he asks for "The Lazy Eye" frequently, and even Eleri has started to request it. Hehehe. I am terribly amused by this.

Anyway, he's quite the kid. And as much as he drives me up the everloving wall some days, I adore the heck out of him.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remarkably Good

We've all been a bit under the weather around here again lately. (I know. You're shocked. Shocked!) But I'm not going to write about that. Instead, I am going to write about the strangely excellent day that was January 19, 2012.

For starters, I got a pretty solid night's sleep. (That alone has the capacity to lay the groundwork for greatness.) Eleri slept the whole night in her own bed, and though we did have Soren in with us eventually, he wasn't hideously kicky or floppy. I woke up when Tom's alarm went off at 6:30. This happens pretty frequently, but I'm usually so exhausted that I pass right back out almost instantly. This morning, though, I couldn't fall back asleep, so I decided to read for a while, figuring the kids would probably be up and at 'em soon anyway.

I am rarely so glad to be so wrong. I was able to read, undisturbed, until almost 8:00! Sure, more sleep would have been a welcome alternative, but there's something beautiful about a leisurely 90-minute ramp up to the day. Most mornings the kids wake me, and they of course bolt out of bed ready to take on the world (or my sanity...whichever is a more convenient target), so this morning's slow approach to the day was a lovely and unexpected gift. Around 8:00, Soren woke up, and soon after we could hear Eleri starting to stir in the other room. Soren hopped out of bed and trotted off to see her.

I found them like this, he in her bed, the two of them happily exchanging their good mornings.

But wait. It gets better still. Instead of leaping up and demanding breakfast, the two of them started playing together, cooperatively and adorably, in their room! I sat in the living room with a big, stupid grin on my face, listening to them talk back & forth, having actual conversations, playing without argument or upset. It was amazing. And it went on for a good 20 minutes! (I recorded a bit of it for posterity, in case it never happens again. Hehehe.) Then they came out, asked nicely for breakfast, and were rewarded with yogurt parfaits, which they ate without making a mess.

The morning continued in an almost bewilderingly perfect fashion. The kids were agreeable and helpful. Whining was at a minimum. Soren actually came to me at one point and said, "Mommy! I cleaned up the toys in my closet!" I know. It didn't take long for me to start wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.

But the goodness continued. I let Soren look up ASL signs on the computer while I cleaned the kitchen, and he would run to the kitchen gate after every one to demonstrate for me. Eleri (who knows almost all of her letters now, by the way!) played with the iPod for a while. Soren helped clean up his room without argument. (Okay, without much argument.) When the ladies from the cleaning service arrived, the lad showed off his ability to count to 10 in Spanish (which he learned in preschool).

We went to the playground, where I pushed them together on the big green swing to a chorus of giggles and repeated cries of, "Faster than that!" There were, of course, some complaints when it was time to go; it was really cold out, plus we had errands to run, so I set a 20-minute playground time limit, which is almost criminally short as far as they're concerned. But on we went.

Things devolved a bit at the store and on the way home, and unfortunately for Tom, the evening was more or less normal, with the exception of some pretty dedicated eating on Soren's part at the dinner table. But hey. The better part of the day was almost like something out of a dream. A good dream. Not the kind I have after I eat something too spicy late at night.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guess Who's Two!

I know. Not going to take many guesses. It's Eleri!

The lass celebrated her birthday on Sunday with presents, a special trip out with Daddy to run errands and pick up lunch, an outing to the park with Soren and me in the afternoon, and delicious birthday brownies after dinner. She had her 2-year doctor visit yesterday, which she did not enjoy; similarly, she was less than thrilled about her trip to the dentist last week. But she's growing well - 74%ile (28.5 lbs) for weight, 87%ile (35") for height - and has healthy teeth and aside from a bit of persistent fluid in one ear, she is in tip-top shape.

I took both kids to the library for story time this morning. They were extremely well behaved, sitting quietly on the rug, paying attention to the stories and songs. I was very impressed. Then we had a good two-hour chunk of fun time with friends at the park in the afternoon. The rest of the day was...trying. But tomorrow is, as always, a new chance to start fresh.

It has been a crazy week here, weather-wise. Monday was chilly in the morning, and then we got snow in the afternoon. Snow! Not a ton of it, but enough to play in and take neat pictures. Observe.

Tuesday was a bit warmer (enough to melt all the snow and for us to be quite comfortable walking around the zoo all morning). Wednesday was about the same temperature, maybe a skosh warmer, but very rainy. And then today it was sunny and nearly 60 degrees in the afternoon! Tomorrow we're supposed to have a high of 40 again. Crazy fluctuation, I tells ya.

Tomorrow is pajama day at Soren's school. He is very excited about this. I question the wisdom of scheduling pajama day in the middle of winter, but I'm sure it'll be fine. And yes, I'll get photos.

That's all she wrote for now. More again soon.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

As the lass approaches her second birthday

Frolicking at Hoyt Playground in Astoria, NY

Eleri turns two on Sunday. Two! And while I am frustrated daily by the breakdowns as she learns to navigate the tricky world of human emotions - even the most minor disappointments are met with OUTRAGE and DESPAIR - it's pretty great to watch her grow and evolve into her own person. She's strong and feisty and funny and incredibly sweet. She will dispense hugs at the slightest provocation. (Except sometimes when Soren tries to force them upon her, and then she really really objects.) If you try to take something from her, she will fight and cry, but nine times out of ten, if you just ask nicely she'll give it up with a smile.

I've written before about some of the funny sentence construction Eleri uses. ("I see it! Pony.") She's also developed some interesting words and phrases for things. "Blanket" is frequently used as a modifier - "blanket pants" are sweat pants or fleece pants, "blanket water" is water in her bedtime bottle, and the one that really mystifies me is "blanket cheese," by which she means string cheese. Sometimes when she's playing by herself, she grants time-outs to her stuffed animals for not being gentle with one another. And I have no idea where the phrase, "I see it! Zamboni house." came from, but we hear that one at least a few times a week.

She is a Signing Time fanatic and knows a ton of signs at this point. Most of the time her usage is more vocab-quiz-style than conversational ("Ellie, what's the sign for lizard?" "Hey Ellie! What's this sign?" etc.) but every once in a while she'll use the signs on her own. We're working on politeness when she asks for things, and when prompted for a "please" she almost always signs it when she says it. A couple of weeks ago she was signing (and shouting) "stop" to some birds on the balcony, though I'm not quite sure what their offense was.

(Soren's quite good with the ASL as well, but this is an Eleri post.)

Eleri is completely hooked on the song "Pass It On" by a band called Rabbit! (The exclamation point is part of the band's name. Rabbit! Not Rabbit.) You can listen to "Pass It On" here. Eleri calls the song "Bah-bah Pass-idawn" (listen to the first 15 seconds and you'll know why). Current obsession aside, she's got an interesting taste in music. Sometimes when she gets ahold of one of the iPods, she'll randomly land on something by Fugazi or Veruca Salt and start bopping her head & dancing around. Might be a mini-punk rocker in the making. ;)

Like her brother, Eleri is very social. She made friends with a couple of girls at the mall play area today (they were probably 5 and 7 years old) and hung out with them for a good half an hour. I'm pretty sure I could leave her with Soren at preschool and she wouldn't bat an eye. Very secure in herself and her surroundings, the majority of the time, which is such a great thing. She's also, I'm reluctant to admit, a bit girly with regard to her fashion choices, attracted to necklaces and skirts and such, but she plays as rough-and-tumble as Soren did at the same age. And, awesomely and somewhat hilariously, she delights in finding heavy things to pick up, so that she can then declare, "I'm so strooooooong!" So I guess I can live with the skirts and necklaces. ;) Hehe.

Anyway, that's our lass. We have got some pretty amazing kids.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Merry Christmas. Have a PR.

Tom got me a super awesome fully waterproof mp3 player for Christmas. I got to try it out in the pool for the first time this evening. It's really amazing how much of a difference it made, having a (more or less) consistent beat to try and match. I shaved almost 90 seconds off my previous best time for 1000 yards, and I hadn't even been able to come within a minute of that record since I set it in mid-October! So that was pretty great. I look forward to many more music-accompanied swims in the future.

It was cold here today. Really cold. High of 32 cold. Just the sort of day to make hot soup for dinner. I found a recipe for coconut & chicken curry soup and made that. (The recipe calls for jalapeno, but I left it out so it wouldn't be too spicy for the kiddos.) Tom made some incredibly rich stock over the weekend, so I used that in the soup, and it was outstanding. Definitely a win.

I also tried hot quinoa cereal this morning. Jenny had left it behind when she visited, and I finally got around to making it. It was interesting. Oatmeal-type consistency, except with the flavor of broccoli. Quinoa is, of course, a broccoli relative, but I'd never really thought they tasted alike before. So that was interesting. Not bad, though! Would have been killer with some grated cheddar over the top. ;)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2012, everybody. So far so good? Hope so!

I've got lots and lots to catch up on, here. I was finally organizing my digital photos this morning, and I had stuff as far back as October 23rd to go through. October 23rd! That just might be the furthest behind I've ever managed to get. But, no matter. The process has begun, and the first batch of photos from our recent trip to New York is up on Flickr. (Spoiler alert: the kids are just as cute as ever, if not more so.)

Some things to look forward to in the new year:

- The (third? fourth?) annual year-in-review post
- Photos! Duh!
- Videos (seriously, I have a bunch to post)
- Tales of hilarity and adorability

So...yeah, pretty much the same as ever. Just hopefully more of it, again. I did manage to finish Eleri's Christmas stocking - in time for Christmas, no less! - so my evenings have freed up dramatically. I'm hoping to get back on a more regular blogging schedule once again (I know, I many times have we heard that one?). Fingers crossed, anyway.

For now, I'm going to try to get a bit of sleep before the wee ones invade our bed. They'd been doing pretty well sleeping most or all of the night in their own beds, but then we went on vacation, and vacation screws up everyone's sleeping routines. So it's been crowded again these past couple of nights. Not for too much longer, with any luck.

Good night, and good tidings in 2012. :)