The Things They Say

I realize that kid quotes generally aren’t absorbing to people other than their parents. However, this is first and foremost a (very rarely updated) family journal so here goes.

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This baby lives to take off her pants. Winter, Shminter. You can always tell when she’s succeeded because she lets loose a delighted chortle, then goes on tour showing off her pudgy pink legs to the whole family.

Josie (19 months) has a beloved elephant. We gave Elephant to her for her first Christmas and he quickly became her special toy. For a long time she didn’t call him anything. A couple of months ago she started calling him, of all things…”Beer”. Beer the Elephant. We finally figured out that she was copying her big sister who has a beloved bear, very originally named “Bear”. After a month of “Beer” Josie made a fresh verbal attempt at “Elephant” and landed on “Onion” as her best approximation. Another month later and she’s crept forward to “Ey-fun”. We will miss Beer-Onion the Elephant.

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Jack (4), casually announced to no one in particular while putting on his astronaut costume: “I’m getting ready to save the world.”

Moments later, struggling with the costume’s zipper with his tongue out in concentration he panted “I’m. Not. Ready. To save. The world.”

Finally dressed he pumped his fists in the air, cheered “I’m ready to save the world!” and…ran straight over to his sisters to roar in their faces and deliberately annoy them as much as possible.

If you’d asked me for a three sentence summary of A Four Year Old Boy that’d do it.

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Jenny (2.5) doesn’t understand what an astronaut is, but has her own astronaut costume that I bought for a couple dollars through a local swap site last fall. She loves dressing up with her big brother. The other day I helped her into her costume as Jack put his on. Jenny strutted all over the house pointing to herself and announcing “air-cot! air-cot!” I can’t figure out if I’m raising an astronaut, an apricot, or a French green bean.

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Annie is going through a potty mouth stage. It’s typical for four, but that doesn’t mean it’s socially acceptable when a preschooler walks around all day to a steady mantra of “poopy. poopy. poopypoopypoopy.” Last week she tried it again with her Occupational Therapist. The OT told her that they could only use nice words while playing together. Annie’s solution was to stand up, run to the corner of the room, cup her hands over her mouth and whisper “poopy” as softly as she could any time she felt the urge to misbehave. With that out of her system she’d run to the therapist to play politely, sure she’d obeyed the rules. I don’t like potty mouth but I have to admit that kid brains crack me up. Got a favorite method for reforming a potty mouthed kiddo? I’m all ears.

Town

Will you come on a walk through town with us? Let me introduce your friendly tour guides:

“Mom. I don’t speak English yet. Also, the fat pink thing keeps grabbing my hair beads. Make it go away.”

Oh. Never mind. Beg your pardon. Let’s check with the backup tour guides. Guys?

“These are the Methodist church steps. We like the church steps. We will go up and down the church steps for the next hour. Your readers will be very interested in the church steps Mom. See?”

“No, kids. They probably won’t.”

“Well the Grandmas will. And the Aunts. See, we’re cute! Who wants to walk through town when they can see us climb up and down these stairs fifty times!”

“I do. But you’re right, at least the church is pretty.” (Top and bottom cut off because Annie proceeded to step in a fire ant nest and I ditched the camera to wipe hundreds of swarming ants off her legs with my bare hands.)

Today’s weather was perfect for a meandering walk through town this morning. We detoured off the main street for a wander through the farmer’s market. The sweet lady who bakes cakes and has watched the twins grow up from babyhood gave us free scones. We spotted motorcycles, puppies, cars, fountains, and a pig statue in a store window. We threw tantrums (well, some of us) and climbed walls. A good day in any toddler’s book.


Out Solo

I often take all four kids out by myself for walks around the neighborhood, tricycle rides, playing in the yard, or car-based errands like the bank drive-through. Going to actual destinations by car is a different story. I managed baby twins out and about easily, and even outings with three kids aged one and under were doable. Going anywhere with all four kids aged three and under is much more difficult. Without a second adult to help with the prep/potty/diapers, into car, out of car, activity, into car, out of car, resettle at home routine it can take so much time that everyone is starving, cranky, and in need of a diaper change with missing socks before I’m half done.

However, things are shifting. Josie is 10 months old and has reached the point where she doesn’t spontaneously combust from a late nap or feeding. Jenny can walk with reasonable stability and copes with the occasional missed morning nap. The twins are dramatically more capable and mature at 3.5 than they were at three. In the last month I’ve taken all four out alone for hikes, errands, park time, the town festival, and the nature center among other things. I’m enjoying the ability to slightly relax the tight daily routine that keeps our family ship under sail. Yesterday I took them out for a quick one mile hike before dinner. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and lovely walking. Lest taking two three year olds, a one year old, and a baby hiking alone sound too Mary Poppinsish I’ll add that one child had to stop at the public restroom where the twins touched everything (then licked their hands). Also, I had to bribe them past the playground at the end of the hike with cookies to get home in time for dinner, which they then refused because they’d just filled up on cookies. Also, Jenny woke up with vomit caked into her cornrows this morning. You win some, you lose some.

Halloween 2015

 

Advance apologies to all the grandparents for the low-quality photos. We were trying not to lose four kids in the crowds, and everybody pasted on a stoic look every time a camera appeared.

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Our town hosts a downtown Trick-or-Treat the day before Halloween during the afternoon. It’s ideal if you have young children. We took the kids out then so we wouldn’t have to juggle walking the neighborhood, handing out candy, and getting over-sugared kids to bed in one evening. Annie kept politely trying to give a piece of candy to each person who offered her one. Jack literally started shaking in terror when he saw a preschooler dressed as Spiderman; it never occured to me until then that he hasn’t seen a mask before and didn’t know what had happened to that kid’s head. After a couple stops they got the idea and started having fun. On Halloween proper I baked oatmeal-raisin cookies to make things a little special. The Man and the twins raked up the maple leaves in the front yard (or rather, the Man raked and the twins “raked”). We handed out candy and the kids loved standing at our door watching the Trick-or-Treaters after dark. Once we’d packed everyone off to bed the adults sipped hot cider and read while the last of the candy hunters headed home outside. We never did carve the pumpkin, but there was just enough special in the weekend to make it fun for everyone.

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This year the twins were old enough to get that something special was in the wings. A huge part of my childhood pleasure in holidays was the anticipation, not just the actual day. As a child your birthday party may only last two hours but you revel in the weeks of buildup planning games or food or picking party plates and cups at the store with Mom. Advent and weeks of making and baking build up to Christmas. Lent and Holy Week set the scene for Easter. Grocery shopping, pie baking, and washing the best dishes precede Thanksgiving. Trick-or-Treating is over in an hour or two but as a kid I spent weeks brainstorming, sketching, and pulling together Halloween costumes.

Did you make your own Halloween costumes when you were growing up or did you buy them? It feels like Halloween costumes have shifted a lot in the last couple decades. In my kindergarten class’s pictures almost every kid wore a homemade costume – some handsewn just for the holiday, some in a sports uniforms or odds n’ ends from the dress up box. This year about 95% of the kids who came to our door wore store-bought outfits.My husband tells me he always had premade costumes back in the 1980s, though, so perhaps it’s just a regional difference. We very nearly joined the storebought ranks this year because I thought about costumes but took no action until the day before Halloween. At that point the only ones left in the twins’ size at Walmart were superheroes (they have no idea what those are yet), Disney princess costumes (also no idea), or devil temptress outfits (FOR TODDLERS?). I grabbed $6 in supplies from Walmart’s tiny sewing section and threw together simple costumes with an hour of quick snipping and hand sewing; that homeschooled childhood spent in quilting circles finally came in handy! In the end it was surprisingly fun to use the creative part of my brain again and the twins had fun watching the process and loved wearing their costumes.

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Robin Hood: Jack has been pretending he’s Robin Hood (“Wobin Hood”) since we watched the old animated Disney Robin Hood movie for a family movie night. I folded a piece of green cloth in half, cut it to his width, snipped a neckhole at the fold, and cut the bottom edges in a zig zag. We wrapped it with a brown belt. He wore a green shirt, his sister’s green leggings, and his brown church boots. I quickly handstitched a simple Robin Hood hat out of two sheets of green felt and added a red feather from construction paper. I stitched together a quiver out of a sheet of brown felt and some twine, but decided against a bow since I wanted his hands free while we walked around.

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Bear: Annie loves bears but does not like being bogged down by extras and accessories so I kept her outfit simple. She wore brown pants and a brown shirt from her dresser. I painted a bear nose on her face with one of the $1 Halloween makeup kits. I looked at a couple pictures of bears for ear shape and spacing, folded a piece of brown felt in half, and cut out the right shape for ears at the fold so I could bend it over a pipe cleaner and sew each ear together for double-thickness and stability (too long and floppy and the ears would say “puppy”, too big and round and they’d broadcast “mouse”) ). In retrospect I should’ve just sewn them over a headband. My original plan to twist the pipe cleaner into her hair didn’t hold, so I ended up just wrapping it around a headband anyhow.

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Cowgirl: We weren’t going to dress Jenny up but realized at the last minute that her birthmom might like a costume photo. Jeans, a handmedown shirt, pink cowboy boots we’d received as a baby gift, and a fabric scrap for a bandana did the trick. No hat, but she hates hats anyhow.

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Baby: This one was complicated. We dressed the baby as a baby.

 

 

 

 

Mixed feelings

Sometimes you’re just hangin’ out after a sponge bath…IMG_9218.JPG

…while the paparazzi snap blurry phone photos…IMG_9214.JPG…when you decide to roll for the first time…IMG_9220.JPG…and you’re just not sure what to think about that.
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Threenager

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Many parents say that girls are harder at two and boys are more volatile at three. Some say boys evict the “Terrible Twos” with the “Histrionic Threes”. We’ve seen that over the last two months as our formerly happy-go-lucky and compliant Jack defies instructions by running away, crying, inching forward like a turtle, or throwing himself on the floor no matter what we ask him to do. Please go to the potty so you don’t have an accident on errands? Fascists! He can’t go to the grocery store in his underpants? Outrage! His baby sister is wearing the same color bib as him? Oh cruel fate! Alas! Alack! Woe! *cue Greek chorus*

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Sometimes it is just an outburst of a very little boy still learning self-control. Other times, well… While on vacation a week ago Jack started shrieking angrily in the back row of the minivan. It was painfully loud and Baby Josie let out a plaintive wail. Jack immediately stopped screaming and corrected her for her interuption in a perfectly normal voice “No, [Josie]! I want to scream.” Helpless victim of his emotions, my foot. We are, incidentally, seeing some progress with Kendra’s Bean Jar approach.

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That being said, Jack’s also blossoming as a person with new thoughts, words, and abilities unfolding every day. He’s an endless source of creative play, always takes care of his sisters, and loves to help. He begs to vacuum, runs to fetch and carry if our hands are full with a baby, will pick up sticks or rake leaves all day, and especially loves unpacking the groceries with us. We must have once said something like “thanks, little man” when he helped us unload because now every time he carries in groceries, puts them on the counter, and flattens the bags for us he struts around with his chest puffed out announcing “I’m a yittle man! I’m a yittle man!” Thankfully, between the wild developmental swings of defiance three year olds can be awfully sweet. Josie thinks so, at least when Jack’s not shrieking like a banshee…

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What’s in a Name?

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I don’t know about you, but I love naming kids. I love playing with name combinations, looking at lists, scrolling through ancestors’ records, and surprising family and friends with our final choice (we don’t tell in advance). However, the difference between “real life” kid names and blog names is that real life imposes deadlines. The adoption agency contacted us to ask if we’d adopt the twins, then immediately followed up with a request for names for legal paperwork. We named the twins in the process of a walk around the block. Luckily we already had a short list at that point since their original adoption fell through two months before. The baby got her real name after just a couple of days – we had general favorites, but since we learned of her existence one week, met her a week later, and adopted her the week after that it wasn’t exactly a lengthy process! However, with a blog I have license, in theory, to play with names forever. And I probably would, if I could. There are so many blog options without taking names you’ve “saved” for real life. There are the names you love, but that won’t work with your last name. The ones that saddle a kid with embarrassing nicknames or initials. The ones already claimed by close relatives. The ones where you like the nickname but not the full name. At this point, though, the deadline on calling Kid #3 “the baby” is…the next baby. So, after months of procrastinating and calling her “the baby” here on the blog, the current baby will henceforth be known as Jenny.

Before social workers and the adoption agency got involved our baby had no NICU visits from parents, family, and friends. She didn’t even have a name. The NICU staff, volunteers, and hospital providers went above and beyond to make sure she was nurtured and loved during that time. Various hospital staff who knew about the lone baby in Pod D would stop by during work breaks to hold her. Volunteers snuggled her; one elderly man (a retired doctor) rocked and cuddled her for hours on a regular basis. Doctors and hospital social workers checked in regularly, advocated for her needs, and set the ball rolling when it became clear that going home with her birth family was not an option. And through it all, the huge nursing team provided round-the-clock care and love. As she got bigger they even pooled their own money to buy her clothes, blankets, and hats so she had things of her own instead of having to use the hospital’s supply. Her primary nurses, Jennifer and Lisa, cared for her several shifts each week throughout her hospitalization. Jennifer, especially, was there from the beginning. She helped admit her when the helicopter brought her to the hospital, and continued to shower her with love, nurturing, and prayers for three and a half months until she was released from the hospital. Jennifer took the baby’s clothes home to wash and even gave her a temporary name so that those caring for her wouldn’t have to keep calling her Baby Girl. [The name she picked, by the way, was a lovely name – it just happens to be waaaay overused in our family so we didn’t keep it as her permanent name]. When we met our daugher-to-be for the first time, Jennifer placed her in our arms. So, in honor of her foster mother Jennifer, Baby Jenny it is!