Four and 2/3rds (and almost 3/4ths)

Yikes, it’s been longer between updates than I realized. It’s been a marathon few months, not least because Laurel seems constantly to be in some kind of developmental transition. Her emotions are running high (translation: lots of boundary-pushing, upsets and meltdowns), and she’s starting to sound, at times, like an absolutist/teenager; when we say no to something in one instance, she breaks down, saying she’s “never” going to have/do whatever-it-is. Or when she expresses a desire and we say no, she claims we’re “not listening to her words.” The difficulty, now, is trying to explain to her what “never” and “not listening” mean, and why they’re different from what she’s expressing in her pique of frustration. This happens more than once a day, lately. Also, curiously, she is way more interested in pushing boundaries and doing what she wants — to the point that negative consequences are not really a deterrent.

Kids; just when you think you’ve got their number, they change their number.

Anyway, lots of wonderful stuff is happening, too. Laurel is still drawing and writing a lot. We’ve been to so many birthday parties this fall, for her friends and ours, and for each one she’s made at least one drawing/card. Some have received a few pieces of artwork, and a lucky few have received whole manila envelopes full, including a birthday crown. (Here’s her Uncle Nathan wearing his.) Art is a daily part of her routine, and when she gets some downtime, she pulls out the pens, crayons, paper, scissors and tape and gets to work. Around Halloween (more on that in a moment) she learned to draw skeletons, so whole sheafs of paper were covered with them. And, more recently, multicolored spiders. She’s so busy and creative. But we have to pay attention to keep up our stock of paper, tape and other office supplies.

A couple of months ago, Laurel needed a haircut, and insisted to the stylist that it be short. She got it, and really likes it. (In fact, she says she now wants a buzz cut like her Uncle Tyler’s.) However, it’s also caused her to make more random proclamations like, “Just because my hair is short doesn’t mean I’m a boy!”, which makes me wonder if kids at school are saying anything. She says they aren’t, but given that I had a similar haircut at her age, and I remember people calling me a boy and getting grumpy about it, I suspect it’s happening a little. It doesn’t seem to be bothering her a whole lot, though.

Halloween, as before, was a big deal. She looked forward to it for weeks, and was insisting on wearing her leopard costume (which she has now worn for three Halloweens in a row, and probably needs to be retired before the next one) until about a week before the big day, when she said she wanted to be a ghost. Fortunately, she took it well when I said I didn’t have enough time to make another costume, so she was a leopard once again. We trick-or-treated around the neighborhood, yielding an enormous bucket of candy on her part, after which she sorted through and pulled out a number of pieces she said she wanted to give away. On the downside, the morning after Halloween she selected about 5 pieces of candy she wanted to have for breakfast, and was devastated when I insisted she have a nutritious meal instead.

Laurel has fostered a close relationship with the crossing guard who works near our BART station. They talk together a little every time we cross the street in the morning, and Laurel brings her flowers or drawings sometimes. Rhonda recently knitted Laurel a pair of slippers and, finding out they were too small, knit two more pairs, one red/white and one variegated purple. Laurel is also friendly with the woman who runs the flower shop near the station, to the point where she often comes home with fresh flowers just a little bit limp from a day in the city.

In all, she’s doing very well — happy, healthy, curious and growing. And excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner…

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Alphabets are all you need

Laurel moved to a new preschool classroom in July for the 4-year-olds and young 5-year-olds who aren’t eligible for kindergarten yet. Earlier this year she was a “dolphin,” and now she is a “whale.” At first she was a little uneasy with the transition (her new campus is a couple of blocks away from the old one, and no longer in the same building with Devin). But in recent weeks she has developed a gigantic crush on one of her teachers, Sonya. Every day she spends time at home drawing pictures and writing notes for Sonya, putting them in envelopes, sealing them shut and writing Sonya’s (and her own) name on the outside. It’s adorable, aside from causing us to run out of envelopes, and so far Sonya doesn’t seem to mind the adoration. She’s a preschool teacher, so I’m guessing she’s been through it before.

At any rate, Laurel has been practicing writing a lot. Devin pointed out to her that she knew how to write pretty much all the letters, and helped her write them in order. She’s been pretty much on an alphabet-writing (and singing!) spree ever since. Sometimes it comes out sort of orderly, like the above. Other times … it’s much more random. The other day she asked me, “Mommy, how many Os are in the alphabet?” I think she was a bit skeptical when I told her there was only one. Later, I discovered an alphabet she wrote… that did indeed have a few extra Os in it.

She’s also still very interested in puzzles, and has memorized all of the puzzles she has (including the one of all the 50 states, in which each state is a puzzle piece, pretty much). One of her favorites is a depiction of the planets in the solar system, plus the Sun and Earth’s moon. She put it together one recent weekend, and then decided to write some of the names of the planets. This one was my favorite.

Urban kid

I had to go to New York for two weeks last fall at the start of my new job, leading Laurel to build up this far-away city in her mind as some kind of Shangri-la. So when we learned that Devin would need to go there in June for a few days in June, we began plotting a way to join him.

Since we bought the tickets well in advance, there was a lot of buildup. “Mommy, when are we going to New York?” was a common question around here. But finally the day came, and we got up in the morning and went to the airport and got on the plane (which was only delayed an hour). It was her first time flying since she was 14 months old — before she could walk — but she was mostly content to stay and play in her seat, read and draw a little, nap and look out the window. I didn’t have to do too much apologizing to people in neighboring seats. :) Then we took her first taxi trip, from JFK into Manhattan, to meet Devin where he was staying, at the Standard Hotel on the High Line.

We were only there about two and a half days, and she was only mildly jet-lagged, leading to some later-than-usual but manageable afternoon naps. We visited two playgrounds (Bleecker and Union Square), Bryant Park, Times Square (kind of by accident), the outside of the main branch of the New York Public Library, where the above photo(bombing) happened, Central Park, Washington Square Park, the High Line, and both my offices and Devin’s. She ate pizza, Chinese food, sushi, a Reuben, fancy pasta, and donuts from Babycakes. She rode the NYC subways like a pro. She was pretty sad when we had to get on the airplane to come home, although she got to watch a movie and then slept most of the way back, which was nice.

Probably her two favorite places were Central Park’s turtle pond and the fountain at Washington Square Park. She spent ages at the pond throwing things into the water, watching the turtles, running around on the rocks, and drying off from slipping into the edge of the pond at one point. At Washington Square, we showed up just as the Dyke March was ending, and the fountain was full of topless women and kids in swimsuits. Laurel loves water (if you couldn’t already tell), so it wasn’t long before she was in the fountain along with everyone else — and refusing to come out. We stayed there a long time, too; long enough that it got dark and the fireflies came out.

We’ve been back a couple of weeks, and already she’s asking when we’re going back to New York!

Four and a quarter

It’s summer(ish) in San Francisco, and the nice weather and long days have brought us outside more often. We’ve been working on our garden, and on Father’s Day we finally got around to planting Laurel’s placenta. It took us a long time — first because we wanted to own the place where it wound up, and second because we wanted to come up with the right plant/bush/tree to go with it. So now her placenta is feeding a California Bay Laurel, which we hope will do well in our yard. Laurel helped us plant everything and is excited about watching her Laurel plant grow.

Devin and Laurel recently made their own super-strong, super-stretchy bubble solution, which they’ve been playing with several times a week. Laurel’s bubble-blowing skills are rapidly improving as a result, although it’s unclear which she loves more: blowing bubbles or popping them! (We know which one Devin likes more. :) ) Also, our neighbors are happy about the bubbles that sometimes drift over their fences.

Laurel’s continuing to read new words, slowly but surely. She can now pretty much read the names of all the planets (although usually they’re right next to the planets, and she recognizes several of those by sight already, which helps). She’s also using the magnetized letters on the fridge to spell words. Her drawing skills are improving, with people looking a little more lifelike (complete with big round ears and pink cheeks), and cats looking catlike. Well, sort of. :)

She is also having more dreams, and learning what a bummer it is to dream about something cool and then wake up and realize it’s not real. Twice she’s woken up crying because of this. In one dream, she was playing with some kind of special cup that she could stick her finger through. In another, she was playing with a small blue spray bottle that sprayed “rainbow water.” I love the inventiveness of these toys and wish I could somehow make them real for her.

Her statements and conversations are becoming increasingly logical, even when she’s upset. The other night, when she didn’t get milk at a late bedtime after she fell asleep in the car, she wailed and said, “I feel like not having milk is making it hard for me to sleep.” The other day, she told our friend Tara that the cute cat ears on the rim of the bowl she was using “aren’t real.” And then there was this conversation from a couple of weeks ago:

Me: “Can you come get your laundry out of the dryer?”
Laurel: “No, thanks.”
Me: “Why not? Did your arms fall off?”
Laurel: “Yep.”
Me: “Then how are you riding that tricycle?”
Laurel: “I got prosthetic arms.”
Me: “Then you should be able to get your laundry out.”
Laurel: “No, they don’t work for that.”

— Beth

Recent Laurel-isms

Laurel has rediscovered her face paints recently. A week or so ago, she did this — and then asked to see this.

This morning, she got out her ukulele and was singing “Jimmy Crack Corn,” except she sings it, “Jimmy Crack born, and I don’t care.” When I asked her if that’s what she was singing she said, “YEAH. It’s NOT CORN.”

Last night, when I showed her the huge, rising moon, she said, “Yellow moon. I think the moon ate so many eggs, it turned yellow!”

The other day at breakfast, we had this discussion as I was trying to get her to eat some yogurt:

Me: “If you don’t eat your growing food, how will you grow?”
Laurel: “I did! I grew all the way to four!”
Me: “But what about five, six, seven… twenty…”
Laurel: “Twenty-eight! I want to be twenty-eight forever.”

On Mother’s Day

I’m overdue in updating here, due to the usual combination of explanations and excuses, but it has been a good couple of months. There’s been a lot of drawing (at home and at work), a not-insignificant amount of furniture shopping, evenings playing and learning about Minecraft, playing with friends, eating the first cherries of the season. We’ve introduced her to the calculator, but perhaps more significantly, she has started reading a few words here and there. Not just the words she already recognizes — such as certain search sites or her own name — but words she looks at and figures out. A couple of weeks ago, drawing on maps I’d made of our in-need-of-help yard, she recognized the word “rocks.” Yesterday at a shop, she recognized the word “stop” on a sign that was neither red nor octagonal.

We’ve been working on it, Devin especially, with a puzzle Laurel got for her birthday with the 50 states that only fits together in the way the actual 50 states do, so he helps her find the pieces by shape and by the names of the states. She finds it frustrating, but he helps her stick with it (and now she’s started doing things like eating her morning toast until it’s the shape of a state and then saying, “Look, Mama, it’s Nevada!”). We do the same with books at bedtime, random words around the house. It’s coming along. We know she’s going to love reading once she learns how, so it’s sometimes tough for us to be patient, eager to have her join us in the world of written words. Even if it means being slightly more careful about what we leave lying around the house.

As mentioned, drawing is a big deal right now. Sometimes it’s representational; sometimes it’s a series of multicolored scribbles meant to represent different cuisines, but every day she wants to draw something new.

In the spirit of home improvement, we’ve been to several furniture stores looking for the perfect couch, and Laurel has enjoyed trying out all the different beds, sofas, chairs, and so on (and has not at all enjoyed being pulled away from them). We’ve also been to the local garden center a few times, looking for plants for our garden, which she likes so long as we don’t spend too long looking at any single thing (or, worse, anything she finds boring). There are moments I flash back to how bored I was in the fabric store with my mom when I was a kid. :)

This week was Bike to Work Day, which Devin did, with Laurel in her kid seat between the handlebars. She loved it.

Here are some random moments I’ve shared elsewhere on the Internet in the past couple of months:

* Recently in the car, the Cure’s “Lovesong” came on, so I sang it to Laurel. Today I started singing the chorus to her: “However far away, I will always love you. However long I stay, I will always love you. Whatever words I say, I will always love you.” She stopped eating breakfast and reached out her jam-covered arms, asking for a hug.

* So far, Laurel’s nightmares seem to involve doors closing (on a trolley, on an elevator) and getting separated from Devin because of that. She just had one of them. Poor kiddo.

* Laurel had a heck of a fever dream this afternoon. When she woke up, she said sheep were growing in her bed and pooping in her hair.

* This morning, as I was waking her up, Laurel asked, “Where are we going today?”
“School and work,” I said.
“I wish you said something else,” she said.
“What do you wish I said?”
“The zoo,” she said.

* On the couch, watching videos of space launches, waiting for the shops to open so we can run errands. I’m occasionally getting kisses from Laurel’s toy dinosaurs, who are dancing and flying and then using her socks as sleeping bags.

* Last night coming home, Laurel said, “Mommy, let’s play hide-and-seek in my room! I’m going to hide under the covers, and you find me!” The woman sitting next to us on BART was trying not to laugh.

Four.

The length of a presidential term. The wait between February 29ths. The time between Olympic games. That’s how old she is now.

I also had a milestone birthday last week. To celebrate our birthdays, we rented a house in Sonoma County and took Laurel to some of the places we loved as kids. She really loved them too; impressed by the tall redwood trees, eager to throw rocks in the Russian River and dig in the wet, rocky sand. At the end of the weekend, we realized she thought we had decided to move there, and she had a total meltdown when she realized we were leaving.

She is learning and doing so much every day. She loves puzzles and has memorized the ones she got at Christmas, so she has new, more challenging ones. She and Devin have been talking a lot about the planets, and space, and watching videos from inside the International Space Station (she even knows the names of some of the people on board). She’s really interested in trucks, especially the book of trucks with German words that we got in Zurich when she was barely 1, and still passionate about her fire truck.

She’s curious about everything, beginning to practice writing some letters, and starting to become more cooperative again (sometimes!). We’re doing our first sticker/reward chart, to smooth out the rough spots at bedtime and encourage her to fall asleep on her own, and so far it’s going well. Some nights, though, we go in to turn off her light and find her asleep with one of Richard Scarry’s books tented over her head. It isn’t because she fell asleep reading, but because she says it helps her “not see the dark,” which she’s afraid of.

Her drawings are becoming more representational; she even drew a self-portrait recently:

We recently had a bout of illness which resulted in Laurel developing a wet, chesty cough that turned out to be a touch of pneumonia. Who knew three-year-olds could get pneumonia? (Okay, dumb question.) Fortunately, the antibiotics worked quickly. Laurel only felt lousy for a couple of days, and she kind of enjoyed exaggerating the gravelly noise her chest could make when she exhaled. (I told her to make the noise when we saw the doctor, and she did; the doctor was duly impressed). She’s all better now. :)

She also continues to be really funny and sweet. Some recent Laurel-isms:

With reference to Laurel’s bedtime sticker chart, I said maybe I should do one to encourage me to go to bed on time. Laurel suggested Devin should do one, too, “so that he will go to bed in the nighttime and not sleep all morning.”

Some of you may know the “goodbye song” that many preschools sing. Recently, Laurel sang, “Goodbye, Cesar Chavez, goodbye, Cesar Chavez, goodbye, Cesar Chavez, we’ll see you here next time.”

And, a couple of months ago, after Devin returned from a trip to Zurich, Laurel brought me the toothbrushes that Devin and I used while traveling, and made them snuggle. She said: “Zurich and New York love each other, just like Mommy and Papa love each other!”

— Beth

Almost four (and in love with her fire truck)

A couple of weeks ago, Laurel and I went to a thrift store in the Mission to donate some of her things that she’s not using anymore. We started poking around, first in the kids’ clothes and then in the toys. She really latched onto this fire truck, and she hasn’t had one at home, so I got it for her. Except for school, it has hardly left her side all week. At meals, she either has it on the table or under her chair. It’s next to her in bed at night, and she takes it with her when she wakes up. She hasn’t been this attached to a toy since she got her baby doll a couple of Christmases ago. 

Laurel is a month away from being four, and she’s making huge leaps. She seems a little calmer (or maybe that’s my imagination) — she’s still pushing buttons and boundaries, but the meltdowns and tantrums are a bit less. She has moved past some of her worst behavior. We’ll see if she has a last gasp before she reaches four — supposedly an age of equilibrium — but I’ve been enjoying her company a lot more the past couple of weeks. 

Since around Christmastime, she’s been really interested in anatomy and in what’s going on inside our bodies, so I got her “From Head to Toe: The Amazing Human Body and How It Works.” She wants to read it almost every day (in between Richard Scarry books). 

She’s also turned a corner in her writing and drawing skills. She’s starting to draw faces and other representational objects, and is occasionally practicing writing letters. She can make a convincing T, H, and N, and likes to draw C and U, although the Cs are usually backwards and the Us are usually upside-down. Devin also taught her to draw an inequality symbol, so she’s pretty keen on that one, too. 

Laurel is playing a lot with words and saying some funny things (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not). Here are a few choice selections: 

“There’s a McGuffin on your uterus!”

About the picture of faces linked above: “They’re monster faces. They won’t bite you, because they’re not real.”

“There’s a nipplepotamus in your bum!”

“Brush the toothbrush’s teeth.”

Now that I’m back at work, we’ve settled into a kind of morning routine that’s nice, and (sometimes) includes all of us walking to the BART station and riding BART together partway in the mornings. Laurel likes to sit in my lap and play “I Spy” as different people get on and off the trains. We tend to pick colors, which is a challenge with the weekday crowd, given that so many of them wear grey and black.

Another common theme around the household lately is the fact that Devin and I are both playing Ingress. We often try to include Laurel in the game, pointing out the landmarks where portals are located. She spends quite a lot of time talking about portals and resonators and links — presumably she isn’t the only preschooler in San Francisco who is. :)

Holiday goodies

Christmas has come and gone for another year. This year, Laurel remembered enough from last year — buying a tree and wreath, decorating the tree, visiting family — that she really anticipated the holiday. She had also learned a ton of holiday songs at school, including Christmas carols and Hanukah songs (the dreidel song, plus “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”). She sang them constantly — much nicer than being bombarded in the shopping centers, let me tell you.

Our Christmas tradition involves three separate events, more or less. On Christmas eve we went to my stepsister’s, where Laurel gorged on appetizers and then played Barbies with her six-year-old cousin, ignoring dinner. We normally wouldn’t let her play with Barbies, but the whole dollhouse and accoutrements were in the middle of the living room, so there wasn’t much use in trying to stop her. She helped the dolls take naps, use the toilet, and drive around in a car. If she can keep relating to them in only that way, we’ll be fine. :)

We slept over at my dad’s, had breakfast and gifts in the morning, and hung out. Laurel enjoyed her time with Grandpa and Nana, which has become more frequent and more of a source of joy for her in the past year. She has certain traditions there, such as tossing balls up to the loft space with Grandpa, and finding the stuffed yodeling bear and making it yodel.

Later in the day we went to Devin’s mom’s for more gift-exchange and dinner. Laurel helped distribute gifts to people (a burgeoning tradition; she did it last year, too — and by next year, she may be able to read the name tags on the gifts and do it without help). She loves being there, too, goofing around with Grandpa Steve and Poppi and talking with Grandma.

It’s really great to see her warming up to all her grandparents after a long period of quasi-stranger-anxiety that was rough on her and equally rough on many of her grandparents. We’re so lucky to have all of them so close, and they all love her so much. We hope she’s going to have lots of fond times with them.

–Beth

Three point three-seven-five

I may have escaped Hurricane Sandy in New York, but I came home to Hurricane Laurel.

We’d been warned that 3.5 is a turning point for a lot of kids — one fraught with emotional turbulence, boundary-pushing, and frustration. Just as Laurel turned 3.5 it seemed like we were in the clear; she was sweet, independent and as cooperative as a 3.5-year-old can be. But the past couple of months have been challenging — and I do mean that in the best possible way, but still.

One of the main issues recently is Laurel’s language. She’s SUCH a great talker; her vocabulary and ability to express herself surprises most of her caregivers (in a good way), but at home, she mumbles, slurs her words, uses one-word sentences (often: “WANT!”), and, in a recent move, has reverted to talking about herself in the second person. She did this around age 2.5, too. Instead of saying, “I want a cookie,” she’ll say “You want a cookie.” When one of us says, “No, *I* don’t want a cookie,” she’ll correct herself and say, “Laurel wants a cookie.”

Clearly this is developmental, it’ll pass, and when it does she’ll be composing the 4-year-old’s version of the Gettysburg address, but right now it’s frustrating to have our wonderful conversationalist reduced to grunts and taciturn orders.

We’ve had even less-pleasant setbacks, such as Laurel’s unwillingness to clean herself up after using the toilet (and making a game of her attempts to avoid such obviously unnecessary activities). Oh, and there are the tantrums. Hoo boy.

There are upsides. She’s gotten better at walking — mostly the result of taking lots of walks at school — and can now hold hands and be a decent strolling companion for a few blocks, as long as she’s not in a distractible mood. That means we have to carry her, or push her in the stroller, less. She’s learning lots of new songs, so the house is full of lusty, loud toddler singing (especially on the toilet for some reason). And her school just went through a couple-months-long lesson on donuts (their shapes, how they’re made, flavors, and even how to run your own donut shop), so she’s even more interested in baking projects.

She’s also super sweet, cuddly, and thoughtful.

I suppose we’ll keep her. :)

— Beth

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