The Sam Update

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Today is Sammy’s fifth birthday. It is her first as a big sister and, at least right now, she definitely sees that as the best birthday present ever. But there are so many other milestones at five years old.

Besides Zoe and Leo, the biggest thing going on for Sam now is school. She is starting her third year of Montessori next week, which is the equivalent of kindergarten. She will be in school from 9am-3pm this year. They call it “extended day” at her school. When she started there two years ago, she couldn’t even pronounce “extended day.” Now, she is a true little-kid: looking forward to showing off her new lunch box, eating lunch with her friends, and bossing – I mean, showing the little kids how to do the work properly. She reads and writes, does addition and subtraction, and can take care of a lot of her own needs without adult help. She is even old enough to truly miss her teachers. She keeps talking about them and I can tell that she is not just mimicking the feeling, but truly longs to see them again and get back to school.

This summer has shown us another great leap in Sammy’s development. She seems to have learned how to practice and to accept help. She spent a lot of time this summer writing her letters and numbers – she has most of them down now, which is a great improvement. The motivation is her own. She sits down to work on it without prompting. But even better, she will sometimes ask me for help. If I give too much, she gets angry, but she will take minimal help if I get it just right. This has been a challenge for her (and me!) in the past. She is so fiercely independent that she would say, “Mommy, can you help me?” but then rebel as soon as I gave her the tiniest bit of instruction. (Then she would give up.) Now, she will allow me to write a letter on her paper so that she can have a model to copy. If I tell her a letter is backwards she doesn’t yell at me and tell me I’m wrong or that she wants to do it “her own way.” If I do it properly – not too often, and offered as a choice to her such as, “do you want to see the right way?” – she actually wants to know the right way! (Of course, I’ve also explained to her why there is a right way.) I’m learning a lot about how I’m going to have to work with her once I become her teacher. And I can finally see that it might indeed be possible for us to homeschool without destroying our relationship. I’m going to have to work extra, extra hard at providing the most minimal “instruction” possible, and I’m going to have to tune in to what motivates her. It would be so much easier if she’d just swallow what I want her to learn. Damn those independent minds and wills that children have!

We eliminated Sam’s afternoon nap as a part of our regular routine after she was having some trouble sleeping. Now, she takes a nap if she feels tired. She’ll just disappear and go upstairs and nap. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see my child knowing herself and her needs, and taking care of it all on her own. I definitely got the timing right on this one.

Bedtime is still a parent-directed activity, partially because I believe she still needs guidance to get the amount of sleep she requires, but also because we all enjoy bedtime so much. When I’ve talked to her about how things will change with two new babies in the house, I’ve asked her what special times she most wants us to keep untouched. The first thing she said was reading books at bed time. Adam and I have been taking turns putting her to bed since she was about a year old (we did it together before that). It’s a long routine that can take close to an hour. We might have to shorten it somewhat, but we’ll never take it away from her, as long as she wants it.

Also at bedtime, we’ve tried to allow Sammy more freedom in coming out of her room. She still wears pull-ups (and there’s no end in sight to that) so she doesn’t need to come out to use the bathroom, but sometimes she wants to get water or a snack. We’ve gone through periods where we allow this, and periods where we don’t, because she’ll abuse the privilege and start coming into our bedroom to chat, or sitting in the hall to play with the cat. The night before I went into labor, she was in one of her “wandering around the house” phases and just wouldn’t get to bed. I called her into my room where I was lying in bed like a beached whale and I cried in frustration, telling her that I needed rest too, and would she please just go into her own room out of respect for me. She got it, and went right to bed. But it doesn’t always work that way. There are still nights when we struggle to get her to bed and there is a lot of yelling and crying. I know she does not want to be controlled, but I don’t know how else to ensure she gets her sleep, and also to make sure Adam and I have our own time together. I’d let her have the run of the house if she could restrain herself from knocking on our door or making a lot of noise, but she’s not there yet. And most nights, she does go to sleep right away, so overall, the situation is tolerable. But I know we’ll all be happy when she is just a bit more mature and we can let go of this control.

Something that is shocking to me is that Sammy has recently developed the high-energy that I expect to see out of a two- or three-year-old. She’s always been so calm (compared to most kids) that I thought we were in the clear. But I guess I forgot that when it comes to anything physical, Sammy is way behind her peers. Now she’s bouncing off the walls and having trouble focusing and listening. She needs a lot of physical activity to get through a day without going stir crazy. It’s strange that I finally have one of “those” kids, but at least I’ll be a little bit more prepared if Leo and/or Zoe are the hyper type.

Sometime just in the past few weeks, Sammy developed a new laugh. Her toddler giggle still comes out, but sometimes this completely different laugh escapes her. It’s loud and, well, I guess I’d describe it as jolly. It’s her little-girl laugh. It could come from a ten-year-old. It’s funny how it just came out of nowhere like that, instead of morphing, as I would have expected. For now, we get both laughs, but I know it won’t last long. I’m going to have to be sure to take a lot of video before the toddler laugh disappears altogether.

Even with all of these changes, Sammy would tell you that the most important thing about turning five is that now she can have two gummy vitamins instead of just one!

We’ve had a couple of days with Leo at home now, and we’re learning what Sammy is like as a big sister. So far, so good. It’s going to be interesting to watch her as the novelty wears off. If I can keep my cool, I might learn a lot about “my oldest daughter” in the next few months.

Every little thing she does is magic.  That has been the theme song of my past half-year with Samantha.

I visited a friend a couple of weeks ago who has a two-month-old baby – her first.  Of course, we talked about all the usual suspects – breastfeeding, getting out of the house, the difference between gas and a giggle, etc.  I found myself saying things like, “Oh, yeah, I had forgotten about that!” and “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of that soon.”  But when the baby made some gurgling noises and my friend said, “You’re so cute!  Everything you do is the cutest thing ever!”  I said, “That part never changes.”

It’s almost unbearable – how much I love Sam right now.  I spend a lot of time just looking at her.  I’m finding her to be more and more beautiful as she grows older.  I wonder, is that because she really is beautiful, or because  she looks like me, or because she looks like Adam, or just because she’s my daughter and I’ve raised her since she was born?  I suppose, as another friend wisely told me, it’s all of the above.

When Adam puts Sam down for bed at night, sometimes she’ll run back out of her room to turn off the hall light, and she’ll come into my room (I lie in bed every chance I get right now) to sneak in one last goodnight.  For some reason, this is when I see her the most objectively.  I’m wrapped up in a TV show or a book and suddenly there is this adorable little person in my doorway blowing me a kiss.  Oh my god – is that really her?  Is she really that tall, her hair that long, her voice that sweet, her manner that grown up?  Then she runs back to her room – because she seems to have forgotten how to walk – and I hear her tiny voice through the wall, talking and singing with Adam.  I feel it so strongly at those moments that I have to say it out loud: “God, I love that girl.”

The past six months have been a period of extraordinary growth for Sam. First, she turned an important corner in school.  Last year, she fell into the role of “the baby” of the classroom.  She allowed the older girls to treat her like a baby (she was the smallest), and she did not act independently.  At home, she showed a great deal of independence, taking care of herself and her needs to a great degree, choosing her own clothes and activities, and playing by herself a great deal.  But at school, she would not choose a piece of work without first asking the teacher if it was okay.  She would not have her snack without asking.  She didn’t show interest in learning new things and needed someone to guide her through her day.  Sometime early this school year, that all changed.  She is finally acting like a Montessori kid at school.  She still gravitates towards work that she knows and can do well (this is the personality trait of hers that concerns me so much), but she is making her own choices.  She tells me that she actually skips her snack most days because she would rather “choose another piece of work.”

Academically (if you can call anything done at this age academic), Sam has been struggling with her fine motor skills.  It’s something of a problem because she hasn’t been able to write her letters or numbers well, and a lot of the school work she is ready for in every other way requires writing.  We’ve been working on it a bit at home, and I know her teacher nudges her to focus on those skills.  (I like a Montessori teacher who nudges instead of leaving it wholly up to the child.)  Just in the past month or so, I’ve seen a huge leap in her writing abilities.  Her drawings of faces have become, not only more realistic and “organized” (which I take as a sign of her learning to organize her visual perceptions into something akin to visual concepts), but more precise and neat (which is more about controlling the pen).  I think she was a bit slow on both the organization of input and control of output, but both seem to be improving together.  As I mentioned recently, she can finally write her name somewhat legibly.  And now, she seems to be quickly learning how to write more and more letters and numbers.  A few days ago, she was able to write this note in a birthday card.  (“Too Natalee From asee Sammee” – asee was her first mixed up attempt at her name.)   I guided her hand for the letters “r” and “N” and I helped her sound out “Natalee” but she did the rest by herself:

Sam has gone through a long and intense numbers phase recently, and moved quickly from the early Montessori numbers work up to the stamp game, which involves writing the numerals.  I’m not sure if the teachers are helping her with the writing part, but she is doing the stamp game regularly.  At home, it shows.  We’ve always played games like counting the M&M’s of each color and then adding them to find out how many M&M’s there are altogether.  She was hit or miss with this six months ago, but now she seems to really get the concept.  She even did a little subtraction a few days ago when one of her butterflies died.  She said, “There were five butterflies and then one died, so now there are only four.  And when the other four die, there will be zero butterflies.  That means none.”  Wow!

Intellectually, Sammy has entered some kind of creative period.  She is taking ideas and rearranging them now.  She can actually make up original stories, which is new.  She’s always been big on role-playing with her dolls.  She has had them talking to each other and going to the playground and going to sleep and acting out all kinds of situations since she was two.  But all of the dialog and the actions had always come straight from her real life, or sometimes from a TV show or movie.  And she has never, ever, told a story to me beyond, “Once upon a time, Little Bear went to the water park and went swimming. The end.”  And she would only tell that story because I had just told it to her, but with more detail.  Basically, she could sum up.  Now, she tells me about movies – but they are movies that she has made up in her head.  ”Mommy, you know what?  There is this movie about a prince.  And he goes into the ice and slips and falls.  And there is a dragon who comes to save him.  And the dragon takes him to the princess and they make cookies and get married and live happily ever after.”  At first I thought she saw a movie at a friend’s house that I missed, but she’s told me about a few other movies, and some of them are obviously too kooky to be real.  It’s not much of a story, I know, but it’s the first time she has done this.

Her creativity shows in other ways.  She has made a few real jokes.  I wish I could have captured them, but I lost them in the disorganized mess that is my mind right now.  She loves to make up silly rhymes, and some of them are quite clever.  I enjoy this a lot, because Adam and I are big on making up songs, and now all three of us can do it together.  Even her roughhousing time with her dad is different now.  The two of them do a lot of wrestling and tickling and physical goofing around.  Adam plays the Big Bad Wolf and eats up Sammy’s belly button, or gobbles up her back saying, “I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs.  NEEDS MORE SAUCE.”  You know, all that stuff that dads do.  The other night, Adam was crawling into the room in a scary way to get Sam and I yelled out, “Look out – the zombie is coming to get you!”  After he attacked her and was munching on her belly, she cried out, “Daddy stop!  Zombies don’t eat Sammies!”  In the past, she might have mimicked something like that, but she didn’t have the creativity to make it up.  Now she does stuff like that all the time.

Unfortunately, Sam is less and less cuddly.  I’m always touching her and she has to tell me to knock it off.  She rarely likes to be in a helpless position, like lying on my chest.  She’d rather sit next to me than on my lap.  But, she makes up for this by giving me unprompted hugs and kisses and telling me that she loves me.  She also says things like, “You are a very, very very, very nice mommy”  and “I really, really, really like you, Mommy.”  She genuinely thanks me when I do something she appreciates.  Her affection is real, and the older she gets, the more that means to me.  Maybe she even thinks that every little thing I do is magic, too.

Oh my god, I have a four-year-old!  It never ceases to amaze me, this thing called “growing up.”  After a brief hiatus early in the terrible threes, I’m back to thinking that every age is the best age ever.  Four-year-olds rule!

I’ll write about Sam’s birthday party (parties) later, along with photos.  But I’ll include this picture for now, since it captures an expression on Sam’s face that seems to be typical of this age for her: a combination of shyness and excitement:

Back in March, I wrote about how Sam fell in love with tap dancing. I was ready to sign her up for lessons during the summer, but there wasn’t anything available so we did the Tumbles thing instead, which worked out very well.  After seeing how she behaved at Tumbles in the beginning, I’m relieved we didn’t commit to a series of dance lessons back then. Sam was completely unable to follow instructions in a class like that.  She would have stood still and watched and learned nothing.  But now, after Tumbles, and being just a few months older, she is ready.  She starts ballet and tap lessons on Monday.  She tried on her tights and leotard last night and I think she might actually put up with wearing them in order to look pretty and learn how to dance.

Yesterday was the first day of her second year of Montessori.  I remember when she started last year, how intimidated I was by the older kids.  I wonder if she felt the same way.  This year, she’s a middle kid.  (Montessori primary classes are made up of 3-6 year olds.)  She definitely made a lot of academic progress over the summer in her language and numbers (no thanks to our lazy Mossoff Montessori, but simply due to her own initiative).  She’s reading words on street signs and billboards when we go out and about now.  I teased her that she “snuck behind my back and learned how to read” one day, because the progress was so sudden.  She loves that, and it makes her try to read every word she sees.  She read “water” and “waste” the other day, with only a bit of help from me with the silent “e” and long “a” in waste.

We did a few counting games over the summer, and I can see that numbers are finally something of interest to her.  At the beginning of summer, she could count objects, but she’d get lost at around 8, or she would lose track with her finger or drop the object being counted and lose track of where she was.  Now, she can drop an object and pick it back up and continue counting, and she can keep track up to the mid-teens.

Sam’s observational skills continue to amaze me.  One thing that has not changed since she was about 20 months old is her awareness of the moon.  I don’t think I’ve noticed the moon once in that entire time without her pointing it out to me.  She sees it whenever it is out during daylight, and the few times we have her out at night, she always points it out to us.  I have no idea if this is common, or a particular interest of hers, but I sure do enjoy it.

But it’s not just her vision that amazes me.  Just yesterday, we were driving through an unfamiliar part of town and we stopped at a red light.  After she finished counting the red and green lights and giving me a lecture on how I should wait until my light turned green, she sniffed and said, MOMMY, I SMELL SOMETHING.  “What do you smell, Sammy?”  I SMELL A CAR WASH.  “Really?  I don’t smell anything. Maybe there is a car wash around here.”  I looked around and sure enough, there was a car wash a few doors up the block.  When I pointed it out to her she couldn’t see it from her view in the backseat.  She had identified it totally based on smell, from half a block away.  She is also sensitive to the smell of gasoline, freshly cut grass, and farts.

Oh, yeah, she’s really into the bodily function humor right now, too.  So it turns out that is not exclusively a little-boy phenomenon.

Another big thing that has developed over the past few months is whining.  I mean, Sam has whined for a while now, but this is her parental-torture-of-choice at the moment.  We work so hard at not interacting with her when she does it (and I really think we succeed most of the time) but she still does it a lot.  I say, “I hear a whining voice” or “I can’t understand you when you whine” or “Please use your normal voice” about a hundred times a day.  It’s only a phase; it’s only a phase; it’s only a phase.

Emotionally, it’s hard to judge Sam right now.  She can say things like, “I’m going to my room to calm down,” and actually do it.  This makes me so proud since we very explicitly taught her how, and modeled it ourselves.  It’s very rare that Sammy totally loses control of herself and lashes out for more than a moment.  It still happens, but it’s so much less often.  And seeing her get angry and spit, but then deliberately stop herself is so gratifying.   On the downside, I think I’m seeing more “manipulation” from Sam.  (I put that word in scare quotes because I don’t like its connotation of malice, but I don’t have a better word.)  She tends to use things like, “I miss my daddy” or “Ouch, that hurts” along with tears to get attention.  I’m sure that’s somewhat normal, but it’s tough to deal with.  I want to respect and honor her true emotions, but I don’t want to fuel a drama queen.

Of course, her conceptual development is the most joyous thing, but it’s also the hardest to describe.  I usually notice it by means of the integrations I see Sam making.  I’ve posted a bunch of Little Things that give clues to what is going on in her head, but I know they don’t capture the big picture that well.  She is definitely developing her sense of place and time, and that is new.  Recently she has been asking “how long will it take to get there?” when we go someplace new in the car, and she’s been more deliberate about her use of “later,” “tomorrow,” “earlier,” and “five minutes.”

I guess the way to capture what is going on in Sam’s head is to say that she is constantly working on Conceptual Common Denominators.  For instance, we watched The Sound of Music and we told her the Nazis were bad guys.  But then we had to convince her that not every person in a uniform was a bad guy.  Or, her friend next door went on vacation a few weeks ago and now every time her car is not in the driveway, Sam asks if she went on a trip.  Some of her errors make for the funniest stories, but I’ve been working hard at not laughing.  And when I do, I’m always sure to tell her that I’m laughing because I enjoy the connections she is making.  Not only is that true, but it’s the understatement of the year!

Happy Fourth Birthday, Samantha!

I’ve been slacking on the blog so much lately that a lot of great Sam news has piled up.  Then I noticed that today was Sam’s 3.75 birthday, and I realized that a Sam Update was in order.  I can’t seem to summon any deep thoughts lately, and I know the blog is really suffering, but I want to record this, even if it’s just for myself.  I’m also really sad that I don’t have any pictures for this update.  I haven’t taken a single picture of Sam (except on my phone, which takes crappy photos) in almost two months.  I hope I’m not neglecting her real needs, but I suppose I’m entitled to a little imperfection right now.

It’s been exactly two weeks since my last potty training update and it’s been the easiest two weeks I’ve had, potty-wise, since last September when we got rid of the diapers.  Sam is finally, FINALLY, using the potty regularly.  She now has what I would call “accidents:”  occasionally, she’ll leave a track or get so excited that something will come out, unbidden.  But she has completely stopped using poo as a weapon against me.  Making her clean herself up did the trick.

The more interesting part is that she has blossomed in many other ways in the past two weeks.  Her teacher says that she suddenly became much more independent at school, we’ve gotten rid of the booster seat on her dining room chair at home, and she has started working on putting on and taking off her shirt – the last major hurdle in dressing until we get to tying shoelaces.  It’s kind of strange how that one issue seemed to be holding her back in many ways.

In a week or two, we’re going to try nighttime with no diaper.  If she’s not ready, it doesn’t matter.  The ability to wake up to urinate is something that is largely physical and out of the child’s control, so I don’t plan to put any pressure on her.  But at least we’re at a point where we can try it.  I am now willing to wash sheets daily if need be, since I’m not washing out thousands of pairs of underwear.

We just returned from a great trip to New Orleans.  Adam and I lived there for a year (and got married there!), and we went back for a reunion of all the clerks of Adam’s former employer, a federal judge.  He’s been on the bench for 20 years and has had 64 clerks, and I think 47 of them came for the reunion (one from Tokyo), which shows you how deeply this man touched all of their lives.  Do you have any former employers like that?  Adam is really lucky.

We told Sammy all about “The Big Kahuna,” as the judge is called.  She seemed very nervous about meeting him and finally admitted she was scared.  With some gentle pressing, I finally found out that she was scared because she thought he was going to be really BIG, like a giant or something.  So cute.  But she met him in her usual shy manner and by the time we had attended the four scheduled events with the judge, Sam had fallen in love with him, and was really sad to leave.  For some reason, this touched me.  Sam definitely responds to some people more than to others.  It’s just another instance of her growing personality and values, and it’s wonderful.

(Incidentally, this was my first trip back to NOLA since Katrina, and I thought the city looked better than ever.  When we lived there, nothing at all looked new.  Now, there are many brand new homes and a lot of fresh paint.  This says nothing about the health of the city, since much of the restoration came from the federal money which was stolen from others, but I was still glad to see that, at least for now, The Big Easy is doing ok.)

We also ate a lot of good food, went to the Audubon Zoo (we’re zoo connoisseurs now, and this is a great one!), walked through Audubon Park, took the streetcar, drove around a lot just looking at our old haunts, walked through Jackson Square in the French Quarter and explored a bit, and swam in the hotel pool a couple of times.  Sam came everywhere with us and I feel like we filled her to the brim with new and exciting life-experiences.  She started out the trip very cranky and I was feeling like we were doomed to horrible vacations, but by Saturday night her mood improved and we ended up having a very nice time. 

A few weeks ago, Samantha got her very first “report card.”  Of course, they don’t give out real report cards in pre-school, but we had the end-of-year parent-teacher conference and Sam’s teacher filled out a form that is supposed to tell us how she is progressing.  I must say, I kind of like the formality of it and I learned a lot from that meeting (including the potty training advice that saved my sanity).

Sam’s teacher had been telling me for a month or so that Sam never chooses her work on her own, but always asks a teacher if she may use something.  In Montessori, this is not necessary, so Sam was just doing it on her own for no reason that anybody could discern.  Adam thinks that she might have been confused about it being ok for her to use someone else’s property – that she didn’t understand the idea that these things that weren’t hers were ok to use without asking.  While it’s true that Sam has a great sense of “mine and thine” (not a big issue when you eliminate the misplaced “sharing” lessons and don’t chastize your child for saying “mine” when it truly is hers), I suspected she was doing it as a way to interact with the teachers more.  When I’m with her, Sam is extremely social and talkative.  She seems to desperately need to tell every stranger about the boo-boo on her foot, the pie she had for dessert, and how Toby rides in the car with us.  When we are out and about, she is constantly talking to people.  And yet, at school, her teachers say she is “shy.”  So it made sense to me that Sam might have used the “may I use this?” questions as a way to have more interaction with the teachers, since she didn’t know how else to interact with them.  We’re not sure what the issue was, but it disappeared after that meeting, according to Sam’s teacher.  I really do think that the potty issue might have broken some kind of dependency thing in her, but that’s  just a TOOMA.

We also learned much more about what kinds of work Sam is doing in school, and it turns out that the summer activities that I picked were right on the money, as things that are both developmentally appropriate, and which Sam has interest in.  I got quite a few other ideas of activities from her teacher as well, and she is available for the first six weeks of summer if I have any questions.

I learned a few new things.  One is that Sam needs to work more on her fine motor skills.  I had always thought that she was advanced in that area, and slow on the gross motor skills, but her teacher says it is the reverse.  When you only have one child, you just have no way to know these things.  She is also more advanced in math than I had realized, having done many of the early exercises in the Montessori program.  She never talks about math, and only recently showed her interest in numbers to me, so I had no idea!  Of course, she is progressing very quickly with language, but I already knew that.

It’s hard to believe that Sam is completing her first year of school.  I know it’s pre-school, but Montessori is real school and real work.  There have been times throughout this year that I’ve thought, “Sam is spending three hours a day away from me doing the most challenging and interesting things, and I don’t get to see it.”  It would get me down, to think of all that I’m missing out on.  I want to see her write her first letter “P” and to see the look in her eyes when she first grasps that numbers are quantities.  But looking back on the year, and especially since the meeting with her teacher, I feel like it’s the best thing in the world that she spends that time apart from me.  She and I are so close, and we spend almost all of our other time together.  She has a needy streak (hence the need to talk to people constantly) and I don’t want everything to be about mommy.  The richness of her experiences at school is something I could never replicate at home.  Later, when her learning will be more abstract, it will be a completely different matter (although, of course, I’ll rethink it when the time comes).  But right now, I feel that our decision to send Sam to Montessori is one of the best parenting decisions we’ve ever made.  She is really flourishing.

I know I said I wasn’t going to do any more Sam Updates, but now that six months have gone by, I feel the urge again.  Maybe half-year installments are more appropriate now that she doesn’t change so quickly.

But in six months – wow – how much she has changed!  I guess the two big things are the potty training and her big-girl bed, both of which I’ve written about before.  Recently we had a breakthrough that relates to both of them.  Sam woke up from her nap, used the bathroom, then went back to sleep!  This bodes well for getting rid of the nighttime diaper, but I’m not going to push it.  I tried taking away the little pot kind of potties since she was using the regular toilets most of the time, but as soon as I did, she regressed and now I’m dealing with 4-5 accidents each day again.

Of course, Sammy’s communication skills have improved a lot since September.  She can talk on the phone a little bit, although even her dad isn’t able to understand what she’s saying.  But she’s starting to understand that she needs to speak up, and that the person on the other side can hear her but not see her.  She likes to talk to strangers.  She tells them about whatever is on her mind – a little bit of the Snow White story, how she scraped her toe when she ran outside barefoot, or how her dog got an ear infection.   She uses complete sentences much of the time, although she still has the persistent pronoun problem at times.

It’s hard to tell what progress she is making in school.  She seems to like polishing and cleaning and coloring the best, but I know she does other things, too.  I am a little bit concerned because her teacher just told me that Sammy seems to feel it necessary to ask if she can do something instead of just doing it.  If you aren’t familiar with Montessori’s prepared environment, the classroom is set up so that the children (as young as 3) can walk around the room and choose what they want to work on independently.  Most of the materials have built-in feedback so that a teacher doesn’t need to tell the child if she did it right or wrong, so there is minimal adult involvement.  But Sammy apparently asks before choosing anything.  She is such a strange mix of independent and needy.  I can see both aspects of it at home, now that I’ve heard it from the teacher, but I don’t know if it is a problem and if so, what I could do about it.  It’s something to keep my eye on.

She has just learned to count.  It seems like she should have known how to do this long ago, but up until now, it’s all been just mimicking sounds.  “One, two, three…” was just a series of words for her.  She recited numbers up to twenty a long time ago (if you ignore The Number Which Must Not Be Named – fifteen), but she could not count objects past two.  She either didn’t understand the concept, or she just couldn’t coordinate pointing at things in succession and counting them.  Now, all of a sudden, she is counting everything.  I’m not sure how high she can get reliably, but with a little help (around the mid-teens), she counted 24 Goldfish crackers the other day.  Since I’m more of a math person, this is fun for me!

Sammy’s self-awareness amazes me.  She needs to work on distinguishing emotions like frustration, disappointment, or excitement, but she understands and can identify happy, sad, and angry very well.  When she is angry, sometimes she will “zip her lip” (to stop herself from yelling at us) and go up to her room on her own to calm down.  Sometimes she’ll say, I NEED TO GO BE BY MYSELF RIGHT NOW! and she’ll do just that.  I guess she’s had a lot of practice, since she seems to have been perpetually angry for the past six months.  I’m sure that’s not accurate, but it feels that way.  I guess this is part of what being three years old is all about.

Since we’ve been struggling with the potty we’ve been having more conflicts, and I’ve gotten back into a bad habit of nagging her to use the potty.  I mean, I know when she needs to go.  It’s perfectly obvious.  And once the accidents started I tried to head them off by reminding her to go.  The other day we went out for a walk and after 5 minutes she just stopped and stood still and wouldn’t move.  She was holding in an impending bowel movement.  I asked if she needed to use the potty and she said, NO, which she says every time.  I got frustrated and said we needed to go home and she threw a fit.  I had to threaten to carry her home and abandon her scooter before she would walk with me, and even then, it was a rough walk home.

Later that afternoon, when we were just snuggling on the sofa and I had totally forgotten the incident, she said to me (and I got this down verbatim):

I’M NOT FEELING VERY HAPPY RIGHT NOW.

“Why not?”

YOU KEEP TELLING ME TO GO TO THE POTTY AND THAT MAKES ME ANGRY.

She said it calmly and with such assurance.  It was like I was talking to an adult!  God, that girl is amazing!  I immediately apologized for nagging her all the time, and I told her that I would stop.  She agreed to try harder to use the potty.  (It’s too early to know if there will be any positive results, but I do know that she was entirely right in her complaint.)

Despite all of the good, this is the first period where I can’t say that this parenting thing just keeps getting better and better.  It’s been a rough six months.  Most of it is just the nature of her age, but also, I can see aspects of Sam’s personality that I don’t particularly like.  She’s a hot-head like her mom and dad, and she converts all negative emotions into anger.  I can’t force her to change, but have to somehow help her see, in an age-appropriate way, how she can better identify those emotions and then think about how to solve the problem.  I think she is doing extremely well for her age, but I do get tired of being yelled at all day.  And, of course, overall, I find her developing personality fascinating and wonderful.  I wonder what she’ll be like in six more months.

Samantha is 3!  I have a 3-year-old daughter.  She’s a kid, not a baby.  I guess that’s why I only have one decent photo of her from the past month.  Shame on me!

Samantha

Yesterday, her actual birthday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, just like the day she was born, so I took her to the water park.  This was the third time we had gone this summer, and she finally worked up the courage to go down one of the water slides.  Of course, once she did it, she was an instant expert and had no fear.  She climbed up it, fell on her face and laughed about it, and probably slid down at least 50 times.  This is so typically Samantha.  I don’t think it’s a particularly good character trait, but it’s her, and even as I try to encourage her to take more risks, I respect and enjoy who she is.

We have finally entered the “why” phase.  I’ve been looking forward to this since before Sam was born!  I know parents complain about all the “whys” and maybe someday I’ll understand, but for now, I love it.  One question I seem to get over and over is WHY YOU NOT LIKE FRUIT CUPS, MOMMY?  I think I’ve explained to her that I do indeed like fruit cups about 30 times in the past week.  There is also the constant WHAT YOU DOING, MOMMY?  WHY YOU DOING THAT, MOMMY?  WHY YOU DRIVING, MOMMY?  WHY YOU WALKING DOWN STAIRS, MOMMY?  WHY TAKING SHOWER, MOMMY?  But my favorite so far was after I had sung “The Farmer in the Dell,” and there was a long pause and then, WHY DA CHEESE STAND ALONE, MOMMY?  WHY CHEESE STAND ALONE?

Another change is that Sam doesn’t seem to play with her toys as much anymore.  I’m not sure if she needs new toys or if she just needs to be doing something more structured.  She might still play with her dolls or little figurines, making up a whole scenario and playing it out, but most of the other toys hold little interest.  I’ve had less time to do my own work because she has needed me to be doing something with her more often.  I’m just trying to hang on until she starts Montessori in a couple of weeks.  Then I’ll assess what’s going on.

She has also come through the other side of the latest difficult period.  I re-read my post from last winter about how I refocused on natural consequences instead of time-outs and was surprised to recall how difficult that period had been.  Giving up the time-outs has been a great success.  We still have tantrums, whining, screaming and crying, but we have much less conflict and bad feelings between us, and even though the hitting has come back here and there, it’s mostly gone.  I also have much less internal conflict and generally feel good about how I’m doing as a parent.  I still don’t think I’m a true believer in Positive Discipline – but part of that is that I don’t think PD is an integrated system, but just an amalgam of ideas.  There are so many good ideas in that collection, though!

She’s really growing up.  I try to notice it every day.  It used to be a daily occurrence that Adam and I would look at her in wonder and say, “We made her.”  I’ve noticed that we hardly ever say that any more.  She has started to make herself.

It’s been another month of booming independence for Samantha!

Does the recorder sound different when you blow it into a jar?

Does the recorder sound different when you blow it into a jar?

Sam is going through another growth/development spurt right now.  She is constantly hungry, she is sleeping a lot, she is bursting with energy, and she is doing new things every day.  Just in the past few days I noticed that her communication skills shot through the roof.  For example, yesterday when Adam got home, she asked him plainly, HOW WAS WORK, DADDY? and she expected an answer.  She is also saying things like ONE BLANKET FOR EACH BABY instead of BOTH BABY HAVE BLANKETS.  There are other things that have struck me, but they happen so fast and furious that I never seem to get them down on paper.

Her imagination is booming too.  She seems to have a good grasp of pretend versus real, at least for her age.  She tells me when things are pretend now, like when we play monsters or ghost.  Sometimes I’ll say, “Oh, are you putting your doll to sleep?” and she’ll respond, NO, JUST PRETENDING.  She has interesting thoughts like, when I noted that the dog was sniffing the air, she said, MAYBE TOBY GOING HUNTING FOR FOOD.  Where does she come up with this stuff?

Pretending to be angry

Pretending to be angry

After months of counting ONE FOUR SIX TEN FIVE THREE EIGHT!  Sam is finally starting to count to ten properly.  As a matter of fact, she can count to twenty, as long as you go along with her conviction that fifteen is The Number Which Must Not Be Named.

As I’ve already written, Samantha got through her first weekend without mommy and daddy this month.  This is a bigger milestone for us than it is for her, but I’m proud to report that she handled it very well. 

Somehow, Sam decided that she didn’t need bibs anymore this month.  She used to demand a bib – it was just part of eating – but overnight, it seems, she dropped it and we let it go.  And you know what?  She doesn’t spill as much as she used to.  I wonder which was the cause and which the effect there?

Lasagna

Lasagna

I’m not sure if she’s grown any taller, but Sam’s feet grew almost 2 sizes in the past few months.  I had to buy a second set of summer shoes for her, and that is a first.  Shoes (and clothes) had always lasted at least a season, and as a matter of fact, she is still wearing a lot of her clothes from last summer.  I sometimes worry about how small she is, but hey, somebody has to be in the 10th percentile.  At least her small stature is not interfering with her independence as much as it used to.  She can now reach most sinks with a stool, she can use the short drinking fountain at day care, and she can reach doorknobs.  I know she’ll still have challenges growing up small, but both Adam and I have experience in that area so hopefully we can help her through it.

We’re working on the potty training in earnest now.  As of now, all it means is that she wears underwear for a few hours each morning and she sits on the potty sometimes.  It seems like she now knows how to hold her urine as I haven’t seen a puddle in a few days, but she still hasn’t peed on the potty.  I might just break down after all and buy a book to tell me what to do.  Maybe.  If I’m really desperate.

In retrospect, I know that we did indeed experience the terrible twos.  The reason I’m only sure of this now is that Sam is going through another willful phase, complete with all the usual tantrums, but now with the added bonus of whining mixed in.  Once she started on this spree, I realized that the past several months had been very peaceful, and I saw the contrast with January and February, when things were tough.  I know that this won’t last forever but it’s sure not fun.  I’m back to having a wet right shoulder most of the time from all the crying that goes on there.

A fun development is that Sam now likes to shower with us.  It’s not always convenient in our tiny tub/shower combo (I’ll shave my legs again someday, I suppose) but it’s great to see her wanting to get clean just like mommy and daddy.  Today, I finished my shower and Sam wanted to stay in for a while so I got dressed and puttered around the bathroom for at least 10 minutes while she showered all by herself.  Really, the only help she needs is a hand to step in and out of the tub and someone to turn the water on and off.  She soaps and rinses pretty well all on her own.  She even dries herself with a hand towel all by herself, propping her feet up on the toilet to dry her legs, just like I do on the vanity.  The first time I saw her do that I just about wept with the realization of how much of the things Adam and I do will become a part of her forever.

Swimming

Swimming

Only 2 more months until Samantha is 3 years old!  I’m going to have to start thinking about what to do for her birthday

I have a feeling we’ve entered the talking phase. I mean, the nonstop, Slyendless, unbearably-cute-and-irritating-at-the-same-time, talking phase.  Sam has always given us her lovely soliloquies, but now she is interested in conversations.  This kind of thing happens a dozen times a day:

MOMMY?
Yes?
MOMMY?  I LIKE, I LIKE, I LIKE GO PWAYGWOUND.
We’ll go to the playground after your snack.
MOMMY?
Yes?
MOMMY?  I LIKE JUICE.
You have juice in front of you.
MOMMY?  I LIKE, I LIKE, I LIKE, I LIKE, SOMETHING ELSE.
This is your snack in front of you.
MOMMY?  I LIKE, I LIKE, I LIKE CANDY.
Oh.
MOMMY?
What is it, sweetie?
MOMMY, LOOK!  LOOK, EYES, NOSE, MOUTH [she's made a face on the plate with her food]
That’s a face!
MOMMY?  WHAT DOING?
We’re having a snack.
MOMMY? MISS E. [her teacher] SQUIRT SHOES WITH WATER. CRIED. MOMMY COME LATER. AFTER NAP.
Oh, Miss E. squirted your shoes with water during water play?  Did you like that?
NO.  SHOOK ME.
You were scared.
YES.  MOMMY?
Yes?
MOMMY? TELL LIDA-BAYDA STORY.
I’m sorry, Sam, but I can’t tell you a story while I’m eating. My mouth is busy chewing.
MOMMY?
MOMMY?
MOMMY?
Yes, Sam.
MOMMY?  ALL DONE SNACK.
Ok, let’s clean up.
NO! NO CLEAN UP.  MOMMY?  I LIKE SOMETHING ELSE. I LIKE PWAYGWOUND.  I LIKE, I LIKE, I LIKE, WAAAAAAAA!

We seem to be losing a lot of the cute mispronunciations lately.  If I correct her, she can say most words properly, although she still uses her baby words most of the time.  I tried to note as many of them as I could before they disappear altogether:

Pwaygwound (playground)
An bote (both – she always says “and” along with “both”)
Shook (scratch)
Shook (scared – I can tell the difference between scratch and scared because with scared she usually does the sign language along with the word)
Membo (remember)
Danky (thank you)
Pudy (put)
Read-ee (read)
Oh-gee (orange)
Hebicopa (helicopter)
Adi-gayda (alligator)
PB (TV)
Bit (bib)
Lida bayda (little bear)
Downshush (downstairs)
Amee-yo (animal)
Sam-bup (stand up)
Seep (sleep)
Back-see-ball (basketball)

What we’re getting in exchange is Samantha’s new, made-up language.  She mostly speaks it to the cat and it sounds something like, CHA-MOW-WOW.  MI-MI-MOW-A.  HA-HEE-NA-HEE-NA. MUSH. A-WEE-AH. GOI-A-BOO-BOO.  She loves that cat so much we should have known she’d find a way to speak his language.

I’ve asked Sam a couple of times if she would like a baby brother or sister and she says yes, but I don’t think she really knows what it means.  I’ve heard that many children her age start asking for a brother or sister and I would have expected it from Sam by now since she loves babies so much.  She’s definitely the nurturing type and I know she’ll be interested in a baby, but I also know that she likes to be the center of attention and the transition will be hard.

In the treeAs I’ve been writing this, Sam has come over a few times and asked to be picked up.  I explain to her that I can’t pick her up while I’m writing and that this is her time to play by herself.  If she seems lost, I’ll ask her if she needs help finding something to do.  She usually says no and walks off, but if she doesn’t find something she’ll be right back again saying, MOMMY PLEASE PICK UP.  But the last time, she went to her bookshelf and I heard her “reading.”  When she was done, she said, MOMMY, READ BOOK SELF!  (She can’t really read it, but she is working on it, as I’ll write about in a future post.)  Sam made a lot of strides in her independence this month.  She can get up and down from her booster seat at the dinner table, she can climb in and out of her car seat, and many other physical things, but mostly, she just continues to find new ways to amuse herself.  And us.

Samantha is 33 months old.  That’s two-and-three-quarters years old to you and me.  May was a busy month for her.  She had visits from both sets of grandparents so we did a lot of fun, new things.  Everybody jokes about grandparents spoiling their kids, but what I’ve found is that I am the one who spoils her when they visit.  I don’t seem to be able to carry on a conversation and pay attention to the details of how I relate with Sam at the same time.  So I let her get away with interrupting conversations, I pick her up if she screams, I spoon food into her mouth if she doesn’t want to eat, I let her run around the house with sippy cups to avoid spills, and all sorts of other things that I don’t normally do.  It’s a good reminder of just how much effort goes into all of these little things that make up allowing her to be independent.  We loved having the grandparents around, though.  It was a great month.

Samantha is doing a lot of new things this month.  She has always made up “conversations” for her dolls and Little People, and acted out scenarios with them.  Now, she has started telling stories.  It’s pretty basic and the sequence of events doesn’t always make sense.  She might say something like:

ONCE PON TIME. LI-DA BEY-DA [that's Little Bear] LIVE COTTAGE WOODS WIT MUDDA [mother] BEY-DA, FADA [father] BEY-DA.  LI-DA BEY-DA PAINT YELLOW. FALL DOWN.  WANT GO FISHING WIT FADA BEY-DA. MISS FADA BEY-DA. SAD. CRY. MUDDA BEY-DA TELL FADA BEY-DA BACK TOMOWOW.  LIDA BEY-DA SLEEP. WAKE UP. FADA BEY-DA HOME. YEA! DEEEEEE END.

Sam has also taken to adding DOT-COM to the end of many sentences, which I find hilarious.  She must have picked it up from radio commercials in the car.  We adults don’t notice it much, but if you don’t know the meaning of all our words, you might think DOT-COM means something like, “Thank you, goodnight,” or “The End.”

Sam can spell her name.  I mean, she can say the letters, S-A-M because she has heard them in that order so many times.  I know, it doesn’t mean anything, but I still love it.  Here’s a clip of her “spelling”:

 

I am now certain that Samantha loves piano music.  She’s been asking for PIANO for months, but I was never sure if it was just the only instrument that she knew the name of well enough to ask for when she desired any music.  But it has become clear that she knows a piano when she hears one, and that she likes it better than anything else.  She loves all kinds of music, but piano just sends her off the deep end of joy.  I hope I can get a video of a moment when we are flipping through radio stations and we come upon some classical piece with a piano.  She’ll close her eyes, lift her head, raise her arms towards the sky, and start spinning in her special Samantha dance.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Sam has long been pointing out things from her car seat, but lately she seems to always know where we are when we drive around.  School, the ice cream shop, the playground…she practically gives me directions.  Maybe we didn’t need to buy that GPS device after all.

Sam has three new teeth coming in.  Don’t let doctors tell you that it is a myth that teething symptoms include fever and diarrhea.  We weren’t totally sure, but it’s been a long time since she had a new tooth and we clearly saw these symptoms, along with drooling, biting, and general testiness, before we figured it out and stuck our fingers in there to check.  Yup, teeth numbers 17, 18, and 19 have made an appearance.  Number 20 is the last of the baby teeth (which were supposed to be in about 9 months ago), and then we’ll get a reprieve for about 4 years when that crazy thing happens when the first set falls out and you have to do it all over again.  Then you get braces.

Samantha had her first major “I hate mommy” phase this month.  Well, she didn’t hate me, but she certainly liked everybody else better.  It didn’t last too long, but it was hard on me.  When it was over, it was over, and we’ve been getting along better than ever since then.

Another big development is Samantha’s new fears.  She has become afraid of lawnmowers, walking in the street where the cars go, and thunder.  Luckily, so far, she is not terribly afraid.  She just cowers a bit and wants to be comforted.  But the other night, a thunderstorm hit just as she was going to sleep.  I heard her start screaming in fear when it was booming, so I broke my usual rule and went to her room.  She was scared enough that I let her come downstairs and watch TV with me until the storm had passed.  When I told her that the thunder was gone and it was time for her to go back to her room and go to sleep, she started kicking and screaming and saying, MORE THUNDER! MORE THUNDER!  So much for that.

Pretty girl dressWe have a real, live kid in our house now.  I suppose Samantha is still a toddler, but she seems to have crossed some kind of divide in the past month or so.  I had to look this up to be sure, but the next stage of childhood is called being a “pre-schooler,” and it includes 3-5 year-olds.  What a horrible designation: pre-schooler.  It’s like saying, “You’re not anything in particular, and the most fundamental thing we can think to say about you is that you’ll spend 2-3 years preparing for school, which will prepare you for life, which will come later.”  I suspect this term would not exist if it weren’t for the fact that we have a public school system, with its rigid definitions and timelines for each child.  I’m tempted to make up my own term for this age, but it’s pretty hard to make up a new term for something you’ve never experienced before!

Smell is the sense of the moment.  Samantha must smell everything.  And she almost always says, “Mmmmmm,” after a good sniff.  So we get to hear things like, Mmmmm, PICKLE.  Mmmmm, TOBY PAW.  Mmmmm, COFFEE.  Mmmmm, WINE.  I like to take out the spices and let her smell them all.  Mmmmm, CLOVE.

PwaygwoundI think Sam has caught up with her peers, developmentally.  As I mentioned last month, she recently came through a huge gross motor skills development cycle, where she learned to crawl (yes, she was unable to crawl until a couple of months ago!) and dramatically improved her skill at jumping, climbing, walking while bent over, and other such things.  She has also improved her skills at pouring, carrying objects, pulling and pushing, and lifting.  This spurt of growth, and the daily physical Beauty and the bruiseinjuries that came with it, seems to have passed, which is a relief.  (Check out the bruise in this photo…ouch!)  Now I just get to enjoy the results.  Tonight, Sam spent a good few minutes just walking a circut through the kitchen, dining room, and playroom, carrying one of her plastic chairs.  Outside, whenever there is a slight incline, she likes to run up and down it a few times just to make sure gravity still works.  She can also do a cute little skipping run and she is fast.  Sometimes she holds hands with the the two kids who live next door and the three of them “gallop” down the sidewalk.

Writing mommy a noteSam’s verbal skills continue to improve.  She uses words like both, another, before, after, later, want, mine, like, and (my favorite) love.  It is not unusual for her to say something like, I WANT GO PWAYGWOUND MAYBE AFFER NAP…MAYBE?  MAYBE LATER?  I LIKE PWAYGWOUND.  She can almost always express herself now, and incidents of frustration are fewer.  However, when she does get frustrated, the intensity of the emotion is higher than ever.  It can be almost frightening to see her get so mad and wild.  But Positive Discipline continues to work well for us and I feel much less conflicted about how I’m handling these issues.

Both sets of grandparents get to see Samantha this month, which is so wonderful.  I love to “share” her with them.  I obviously love to share her with the entire world, as evidenced by this blog, but there is something so meaningful to me, just to know that they are seeing her grow up.  I know that they see her in a way that is just a little bit like how I see her and I’m just desparate to show somebody:  LOOK!  DO YOU SEE?  DO YOU SEE THE MIRACLE? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE JOY?  I’m reminded that they went through all of this with me and with Adam, and that they see us in that way too.  Before Sam, I never could have imagined these feelings in my wildest dreams, and I’m still not totally convinced that I’m not the only one who has them.  Because if every parent feels this way, what keeps the world from exploding with happiness?

Samantha was thirty-one months old yesterday.  That’s 944 days!  A while back I calculated how many diapers I’d changed and came up with 3000.  Now it must be more like 5000!  I wonder if it would have been worth it if I could have paid somebody one dollar per diaper change to do that work for me.  Probably not.  That’s a couple grand per year and it’s really not so bad to change diapers.  Would I do that job for somebody else’s child for one buck a diaper?  No way.  Maybe $5 each would do it for me.  I suppose that’s why nannies are so expensive.  Is taking care of kids really that horrible a job, where if they are not your own, you need hazard pay?

Big Girl BedThe biggest development of this month was Sam’s transition from crib to “toddler bed.”  Her crib is convertible, so we just removed the front gate and replaced it with two smaller barriers at the top and bottom.  The mattress is so low that she wouldn’t get hurt if she fell out, but I don’t think she ever has.  What she can do is get out of bed anytime she wants.  This was pretty scary the first few nights.  Not for her, but for me!  Really, it’s quite a big deal when you’ve always known that your baby is safe all night in a crib, but now she can get out and get into all sorts of trouble.  It’s also a huge milestone in the whole growing up thing.  Both Adam and I are still marveling at what a big girl she is now.

She made the transition very easily.  She gets up and turns on her light sometimes, but for the most part, she just sleeps.  The only trouble we’ve had is that she has started waking up early each morning.  The first few days I went to her, but now I’m trying to ignore her.  She’ll usually cry for 10-20 minutes then fall back asleep, which is great, but a lot of the time I can’t get back to sleep myself, so I’ve been quite tired lately. 

Sam and I are going to Montessori together once a week now, and she is only in day care twice a week.  This arrangement is working out very well and saving us some money too.  I’m not sure what we’ll do when the seven-week Montessori program is over.  I might try to find some other formal activity for us to do together, but with summer coming we might not even need that.

Sam went through another developmental burst this month.  This means that she had more tantrums, was willful, and was extremely physical, at least, by Sam standards.  She got so many bumps and bruises for a while Falling Downthere that I was afraid her day care teachers might start thinking something bad was happening at home.  Sometimes we’d just be hanging out and Sam would fall down and really hurt herself and scream and cry.  Then one or two minutes later, she’d stub her toe, then she’d get scratched by Jinx, then she’d drop something heavy on her foot, then she’d fall down again.  It was really hard to watch her go through it.  She’s come out of it now, though, and the good part is that she is clearly more advanced than she was a month ago: talking in more complex ways, running faster, less cautious, and just plain smarter.

Another good thing about this phase of willfulness is that we didn’t use time outs, and it has worked itself out.  I knew we’d have to go through one of these periods before I could truly say that the positive discipline works.  I’m glad to report that it does.  It did not “spoil” Samantha to refrain from traditional punishment.  She didn’t need to be punished.  She just needed guidance.  I’m pretty happy with the changes we’ve made regarding discipline, although I still struggle to figure out the right thing to do quite often.

Sam is starting to bring home learning from day care, which is really cool.  One day I picked her up and when we got home, she got out of the car and lay down on the grass.  I asked her what she was doing and she said, LOOK SKY.  Later, I read the daily report the day care center gave me and it said that they spent time outside lying on the grass looking at the sky.  Another day, we were driving home from day care and Sam started saying all the days of the week.  She didn’t get them in the right order, but she had never said any of them before, so I was surprised.  Again, the daily report said that they learned the days of the week.  I really don’t care if she knows the days of the week – it’s just rote memorization right now – but I’m glad to see that she is trying to share these things with me.

What else can I say?  I love this kid.

img_1336

Today, Samantha is two-and-a-half years old.

Give me a moment…

Whew.  I just had to banish my fear of her growing up too fast.  I’ve never had much of a fear of death, but I imagine this is what it must feel like – this unbearably strong wish to make time stand still.  But then I remember that without time and mortality, there would be no values at all, and that the best way to freeze time is to live in it.  The feeling passes, but wow.

So on to the update!  Sam’s biggest accomplishment this month is that she is starting to use the potty.  She still has trouble anticipating the event, but when she misses it, she lets us know by telling us, TOO LATE. CHANGE DIAPER.  She’s actually pretty lucky because she has 3-4 chances to practice catching it every day.  We’re entering a new phase of poop all over the place, I’m afraid, which is another thing she likes to say:  POOPIE ALL OVER THE PACE. POOPIE ON COUCH. NO POOPIE ALL OVER. POOPIE IN POTTY. POOPIE ALL OVER. YESCH.

Somehow, Sam learned to say “thank you” without much instruction from us.  We occasionally tell her that she can say “thank you” when somebody gives her something, or compliments her, or helps her, but mostly she has just heard us using it.  When I hand her a new capful of paint and get a DANKY MOMMY in that sweet voice of hers I just about melt onto the kitchen floor.

She talks on the phone a little bit now.  She seems to understand that she is talking to someone, and she listens.  Beyond saying, HI, though, I have to prompt her.  Adam is particularly happy about this development, since he is occasionally away on business trips.  Both Sam and Adam look forward to their telephone time, now.

Sam continues to tell us stories.  Her memory is astounding.  Yesterday it snowed and I said something about the time we went sledding (which was over a month ago).  Sam said, BOY, FALL DOWN, CRY, DADDY, HELP, which was her way of remembering that we saw a boy fall off his sled and cry.  She remembered the part about the dad because when the boy cried she got very upset and I told her that his daddy was helping him: ”See, he’s ok; his daddy is holding him and he’ll be fine; he just needed a hug.”

Despite the continuation of these kind of strung together noun-and-verb sentences, Sam has started using some prepositions, conjunctions, and articles.  She is even finally getting her pronouns right, but thank goodness, she still says NAKED YOU when she takes her clothes off.

I just checked one of my old favorite web sites for milestones that Sam should have hit by now, or will be hitting soon.  I’m so glad I’ve avoided these things lately.  It says that by 30-31 months, most kids can recite their name and draw a circle.  Ok, she just did those things, so that makes sense.  But half of kids can put on a T-shirt (nope), balance on each foot for a second (we’ll have to try that), recognize the ABC’s (sure), and brush their teeth (yes, for a while now).  Advanced skills for her age are using two adjectives (if she were only using two adjectives, I’d be scared), drawing a cross (we’ll have to try that), and pointing to objects described by use (she did that before she could talk).  But it isn’t until 33-34 months that most kids can name one color?  I think she knew at least 5 colors before she could talk because they were some of her first words.  But the milestone of stacking 8 blocks? Why in the world would she even try? 

Headband

Our daughter continues to become more independent every day.  I’m enjoying the fact that Samantha can go up and down the stairs on her own now.  It really reduces the level of awareness I have to maintain when she is running around amusing herself.  As I write this, though, Sam is yelling, MOMMY, COAT! MOMMY HELP COAT! because I’ve left her coat on and she doesn’t want to take it off herself.  There are some things this girl just doesn’t want to do.

Sam has painted at school many times but today we painted at home for the very first time.  The “teachers” at school have told me that Sam is particularly interested in books and art, so even though it’sHands of Blue not my thing, I’m going to try to get the easel in the kitchen for painting a few times a week.  The best part of painting, though, was seeing Sam take a wet paper towel and clean up every last bit of paint from her belly and legs all by herself.  Cleaning up is something we don’t have a problem with in this house!

In the past week or so, Sam has become more physical, climbing and jumping and squeezing and rolling.  I put a bunch of pillows out on the floor for her to jump in, but that doesn’t seem to interest her.  I can’t wait for the weather to break so that we can go back to the playground more often.

A favorite game right now is talking through the baby monitor.  Sam asks for BABY MA-DA all the time, and when her dad is upstairs in her room, she likes to call out DADDY-DOH-DOH, and he replies through the monitor, “Sammy-so-so.”  She could do that all day.

Her memory is improving, too.  We noticed a big difference in her awareness of past events after our trip to Florida.  She is still talking about it, saying that she misses grandma and grandpa, talking about swimming and walking outside with the dog.  She picks up a candle and says, LIGHT, CANDA, GRAMPA because she remembers lighting the menorah with him, and she often raises her cup at dinner, saying, TOAST, TOAST, GRANDPA because he taught her how to toast.  She also remembers two recent visitors to our house, talking about things we did together, and she knows the names of the kids who live next door. 

Maybe my favorite development of the month, though, is my realization that Sam is beginning to look like my mom. 

Grandee's Granddaughter

Grandee's Granddaughter

Since I missed the quarterly pictures, I have two sets for you today. Click the picture, then click “Slideshow” at the top-left to see them all.

Sam 24-28 months
Christmas 2008

 

As I’ve been reporting, Samantha is in her terrible two’s phase.  I think it could be more properly called the testing two’s.  She is testing cause and effect, mostly how she can cause me to effectively lose my mind.  No, seriously, it’s a challenging time for us, but I view it as normal and actually quite an exciting development.

Sam is now using three words sentences quite often.  NO COVER UP means that she does not want blankets on her at night.  MORE WATCH DUCK means she wants to watch the TV show, Little Bear, but don’t ask me why she calls it “Duck.”  PICK UP YOU means that she wants to be picked up – she still can’t get that pronoun thing straight.  She loves words, especially big words.  Now is the time when I really need to start recording all the funny things she says.  If you didn’t read about her first joke here on my blog a couple of days ago, you really have to read it now.  It made my heart leap with joy!

Sam has started to memorize her books.  I think she might even be able to sight-read a couple of words, but it’s hard to tell.

Another interesting development is her verbal recounting of events.  A while back, Adam and I updated our bedtime routine to include a recap of the day.  After reading a book, we turn off the light and talk about what we did that day.  She doesn’t participate yet; she just listens.  But it must have influenced her because now Sam tells us stories about things that happen to her.  She tells her stories in a strange stream of consciousness way.  For example, she’ll look out the window with a glazed look on her face and say, FALL DOWN. Then she’ll make a sad face and say, ABBY.  If I’m quiet, she’ll continue with furrowed brow:  FALL DOWN.  FALL DOWN.  NO.  NO PUSHING.  ABBY.  NO PUSHING.  NAUGHTY.  FALL DOWN.  DIRT.  NAUGHTY.  NO.  It turns out that there is a girl in Sam’s school named Abby who likes to push.  I think she must have pushed Sam down in the dirt outside, and then was told she was naughty.  Another one from tonight:  FRUIT CUP.  BUY.  EAR.  EAR.  DOCTOR.  ANIMAL (still pronounced AM-EE-YOH).  PAW.  DOCTOR.  ANIMAL.  SHOE.  NAUGHTY.  This means that we went to the store and bought fruit cups, and when we got home we discussed taking her to the doctor for a possible ear infection, (but that we also talked recently about taking Toby to the animal doctor because he has a boo boo on his paw), and when we came home Sam would not put her shoes away and she was naughty (even though we didn’t call her that.)  I love interpreting these soliloquies.  When I get it, it’s almost the same feeling as when she first started using sign language – it’s just a whole new level of communication.

The other thing that is a bit more disconcerting is that her imaginary play usually involves giving her dolls and animals time-outs.  She is either giving Girl, her new doll, a time-out, or she is putting her down for a nap.  I wonder if these are the two things that she feels the most lack of control over. 

It’s so hard to be a parent.  You can never know if you’re doing the right thing, and even if there is no one right thing, you still wonder if you could be doing better.  The pace is relentless, the feedback is fuzzy and usually delayed, and when you try to do research and read and learn from others, there is so much information that you can lose sight of your own values and goals.  I’ve always sneered at parents who claim that what they want most for their children is for them to “be happy.”  Well of course, you want them to be happy, but get specific, folks!  Do you believe in education, unconditional love, faith in God, the pursuit of wealth?  Come on!  But I do find that when I feel uncertainty about how I’m raising Samantha, I look at her and ask myself: is she happy?  It’s not the best standard to judge by, I know.  She might be happy now, but miserable later.  But it is something.  And I’ll tell you, this is one happy kid.

SamThis is supposed to be the big quarterly update with multiple photos, but since we’re unpacking I’m glad to simply say that Samantha is handling all the chaos like a champ.  She loves the new house and on her first day at her new daycare, she napped and ate and had a great time.  What a great kid!

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