Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Funny Kid

Jack Jack is becoming more of a big boy every minute! He started putting words together a couple months ago, and since then, the boy's been cracking jokes and really expressing himself. One of his first sentences was "Dada work" when Dad wasn't home. He began using this same explanation for anyone who came to mind, but wasn't at our house. "Grandma work." "Jov Jov work." (That's his buddy, one-year-old Jovie who you'll see in this post later.) Other examples include "Mama's water" (yep, he's got possessives down!), "water drink", "kitty out", "jacket off!" etc. Most of his sentences are two and three words at this point, and I am happy to report that he's getting pretty good at asking with "please", and his "thank you"s and "sorry"s are melt-your-heart cute. In fact, he just asked me for "more princess water" and handed me an empty princess sippy. When something falls down, he'll often say, "uh oh a cheerio!". The little rhyme delights him.

Although he's probably a better enunciator than Harper was, he's still a baby. The other night he was repeating "cream bubbles" over and over and I couldn't understand the first word. I thought it might be game, and it was holding me up. Finally, I remembered the bubble gum ice cream in the freezer and realized he was trying to request it! When I finally said, "Oh! You want bubble gum ice cream!" he clapped his hands to signal I'd gotten it right.

Jack's making more connections lately. A week or so ago, I was totally perpelexed about why Jack kept saying "sticky" when he was reading a book with animals in it. I knew the book wasn't sticky and he seemed to get more frustrated every time he said it. I looked at where he was pointing and it began to make sense. He was touching the picture of a tree frog and expecting it to be sticky but it wasn't. Another book of his (one from Aunt D, for his 1st birthday) was a touch and feel, and the photo of the tree frog had sticky fingers. Once I gave him the book with the tacky fingers, he felt satisfied.

Another evening E and I were talking about weekend plans, planning to attend the Clarks' "Soup Sunday". He overheard the word "Clark's" a few times and he started asking for "Chlo Chlo". I was amazed that he knew Chloe was a Clark even though her name had never been mentioned. He definitely understands more than we realize!

He has several books memorized and a good memory in general. If I pause while reading, he often fills in the blank in his baby-voiced-version-of-the-missing-word. He surprised me the other night by knowing what was beneath the flap of a book when we hadn't read it in forever and I didn't even remember!

I haven't posted in a while, so here are some shots of Thanksgiving. Here he is playing at the Tootles' house, offering Mama a leaf he has found.

Aunt Carie, Mama, Jack, and Aunt Erica
This is Jack's hug. He hugs like he means it-- rests his head against your neck on your shoulder nice and tight. Jack's a fantastic hugger, and he asks for hugs often.

This was a hilarious moment at the end of the day. Jack Jack had been telling me "shoe" all day long and I couldn't figure out why he was so preoccupied. I'd taken his shoes off and on several times for diaper changes already, but at the end of the evening, I pulled off his sock to discover Jack had been wearing a toe ring the entire Thanksgiving day.

Harper likes to play while I am putting away laundry, and I had seen her recently putting her rings into a sock so I think when I pulled the sock on him the ring was already waiting for him there. Somehow it maneuvered onto his little toe. When I pulled off the sock to discover this, I burst into laughter and urged E to get the camera. Jack was a little confused about the excitement over his toe/foot, hence the upset face. Ha!

Jack's second holiday season was much more participatory than his first. Here's Jack trying to spin the dreidel. He loved the dreidel game because of the chocolate. In fact, he learned the word "chocolate" as a result of the Hanukkah season. Chocolate is one of Jack's favorite things.

Here's Jack opening his Hanukkah gift from Aunt D and Uncle Marty-- an okapi, of course! They knew of Jack's love for "neigh neigh"s and chose the closest endangered version from WWF's donation page for Jack Jack. It was a hit!

Here's Jack helping to decorate our tree, enchanted by the lights.

I was worried this season would be full of broken ornaments, but I am happy to report that only one Big Bird ornament lost a limb during the course of the season. He got dropped on the tile. Otherwise, Jack was a good boy about not playing with the ornaments. Jack's good about not-doing what has been designated as a "no no", but he's not so good about coming when called, that type of thing. He's also great about following directions like putting things in the trash for me, handing things to Harper, relaying short messages to Dad, holding my hand when we're walking.

Here's Jack playing in his little cave at Grannie's house, Christmas celebration night. He loved to peekaboo out of it and crawl back in over and over-- it was just his size.

Just like Harper

Jack continues to look up to his big sister, and he tries to do everything like her. The good news is, she's usually doing good things like reading books or being polite. As a result, he's a braver boy and can do more things because he's trying stuff he wouldn't otherwise. But she's not perfect either. He's picked up some attitudinal maturity because he's got an older sibling, and they don't always agree. They get into little tiffs, but it never lasts more than 15 seconds. (He's learned all about the naughty chair the last few months, and it's helped us to establish some boundaries.) When it comes down to it, though, they're great friends. Harper calls him "Little Buddy" and when Harper pretends that she's in fairy princess school, Jack is her "little boy assistant", and he plays the role gladly.

Jack looks out for Harper, too. Whenever I dole out a snack, or pretty much anytime I give him anything, he asks for one for Harper, too, and then he delivers it to her. I know he misses her when she's at school because he says "bye bye sister" ( he pronounces, "sitser"), and when I announce it's time to get her he claps his hands and smiles.

He is more interested in books lately and can sit for longer stories. His favorite book is "The Jolly Barnyard" (a little Golden book). Other favorites include "I am a Bunny", "Busy Horses" (a Christmas gift from Uncle Steve and Aunt Erica), "Goodnight Moon", and any Elmo book. Here he is reading with his guest and buddy, Jovial.

And here they are at Jov's 1st birthday party, checking in on each other. Jack adores Jov, even kissed her picture several times during the holidays when their Christmas card was within reach.

Jack's become more attached to our extended family and friends over the last few months. He talks about people he misses and its nice to know that he has so many people who love him and who he loves back. Grandma watches little Jack while I work Thursday mornings and they've got a nice relationship growing. She remarks that Jack is "such a boy" and that he "sure knows what he wants". It's fun to hear another perspective on my kids and I feel so lucky and grateful that Jack and Harper are so well cared for when I'm away.

This is Jack napping in our bed. We still haven't gotten him a big boy bed, so he's still in ours. I simultaneously look forward to having more space to move and a less stiff neck in the morning, and also LOVE his cuddles and the quiet warm peaceful space we create when he's on my arm. Here, Sadie moved in for some of Jack's lovey warmth and it was worth risking him waking to click the camera of this shot. (Luckily, he didn't wake!)

Here's Jack doing his "Phoney Bologna" face-- fake cry. Just had to post it.

And here he is moments later eating with a fork. He's eager to feed himself and has been using a fork since just after Thanksgiving.

Jack got this toy from Harper for Hanukkah. It's great-- teaches colors, shapes, AND it's got Sesame Street characters with Elmo's voice prompting the activities. Jack has mastered shapes since we got this toy and can identify colors with about 90% accuracy these days.

He's pretty happy to play with his toys or look over books, but nothing replaces a playmate or listening to a story on someone's lap. He loves to sing "Baa Baa Bamba" (a song from Sesame Street) and replace it with different animal sounds. That's endlessly funny to Jack. Harper and Jack are into hide and seek lately, and he's learning to count because of it. He can say "1, 2... 6... 9" so far. His new joke today was pretty funny. He's been saying "Shabbat Shalom" for a couple weeks and tonight he replaced 'shalom' with 'shine bear' (Harper's Care Bear) and said "Shabbat Shine Bear!" We all cracked up through lunch at his alliterative genius.

Here's Jack doing his "big lips" face. Anything for a laugh!

The boy gets more fun all the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Email Harper

We just created an email account for Harper. She's writing to her friends overseas, but she'd also love email from her local buddies! She's way into checking it, and I type her thoughts for her replies. Feel free to add her to your address book.

harpersequoia (at) gmail.com

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Such a Good Girl

It's been so long since I updated this blog with actual content about Harper's life and personality. Guilt aside, I begin this post with so much gratitude for my good girl. I know that I'll never be able to remember all of the sweet moments of Harper's (or Jack's) life and that sometimes pains me, but in the constant push ahead sometimes a moment of notetaking provides a poultice to the ache. We all know Harper is smart, sensitive, imaginative, kind, loving... but the following stories illustrate those qualities. They're typical and revealing, normal to Harper and yet indicative of her uniqueness.

Christmas night, our good friends Kyle and Laura were over and Harper read the first page of The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket for them. Here's the entire text for your amazement.
This story ends in someone's mouth, but it begins in a tiny village more or less covered in snow. The snow had fallen during the long night, during which children had pressed their faces to the windows looking for a glimpse of a man who they suspected of bringing them wonderful gifts, but instead they heard a terrible noise from a certain cottage in the neighboring arrondissement, a word which here means "place where something was being born." The cottage was already regarded with some suspicion, as it was the only place not decorated with flashing colored lights at this time of year.

I admittedly helped her with the word 'arrondissement', but that was the only one I recall her struggling with. Although I hear her read often, this impressed even me because the syntax of this book is so adult, leaving less contextual clue for Harper's whole-language approach to decoding. She's a ridiculous reader.

Speaking of reading, Harper has begun what we call "reading in her mind", or silently reading. The first time we saw it was on Black Friday while standing in line and E quizzed her to see if she was actually reading/understanding. She was.

The girl still reads in the mornings when she wakes too early and the sound of pages turning has replaced the calls out for Dad or Mom. It's such a nice way to wake up, hearing my girl turning pages.

Her facility with language includes lots of idioms and grown up expressions these days. It seems she likes to include them or finds them fun. Phrases she tosses include "That's unfortunate," the yiddish "Oy vey, mein tatala," "It's no use", "Good as new!", "I feel bummed out.", etc.

Harper continues to be a very specific, detail-oriented girl. When we play and pretend with her, she often directs how or what we should say in response to her questions. "Pretend you're sleeping and you don't want me to wake you." It's like she's giving us our motivation before we go on stage to improv. She sets up scenes and she has a favorite opener/cue to let us know we're beginning to pretend together. "Um, hi, I'm looking for the ballet school. Did I come to the right place?" The answer is always supposed to be "Yes" and then you carry on with what follows. Here are a couple pretend photos from recent playing. Note her new side kick in pretendworld: Jack Jack!

Some of her favorite pretend scenarios include: fairy princess school, ballet, regular school, animal doctor, Mama/baby, ice skating with hands behind her waist in slippers on the tile, switching roles/relations (i.e. "You be Dada, I'll be Jack, Daddy will be Harper, and Jackie can be you... okay?). Here she is at Jovial's birthday party, playing teacher to the group of kids at pretend school. She also played "family" and she was the mom, Miles the dad, the rest were their kids.

She also started learning to use the computer and has gotten the hang of the mouse. She's spent a few hours so far playing on a preschool game site, starfall.com. She really likes the stuff there. Though it's a bit simple in terms of content, the motor skills and ease with the computer is beneficial.

She has a great vocabulary but still speaks in a 3 year old's voice, which makes the words sound extra cute. E likes to ask her why we use utensils at meal times (his gentle way of reminding her to use a fork) and she picks up her fork and answers, "Because we're civilized." She is very polite, almost to a fault! She begins many sentences with "Excuse me", even when she's not interrupting a conversation or getting someone's attention. After her ballet recital the other night, I overheard her telling a peer, "Excuse me, you look really pretty in that crown." Harper likes rules and likes things to be right.

Speaking of ballet recital, Harper loved dancing in the show! She beamed and I was amazed that she was so enthusiastic in her performance when her cohort was only 3 girls and the crowd was quite large! She loved the entire thing. She's doing great with ballet, but she has one noticable handicap in her left handedness. Her instinct is always to begin with the left foot, turn to the left, point her left toe when the routine always does right first. This aside, she still stole the show.

During the holiday season, she celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas and really enjoyed both. At storytime at the library, the librarian read one Hanukkah book alongside many Christmas books. When she began, Harper jumped up from her seat, walked up to the front to be sure the librarian would hear her, and said, "Hey! I'm Jewish!" enthusiastically. It charmed everyone because of her sweet pride. I could tell she really appreciated the affirmation of the Hanukkah book at the library-- the validation of both sides of her when the world in December is all Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Harper helped us light the menorah each night and sang the prayers. After the first night of celebrating over at Grandma's, Harper came home all high on being Jewish. As we got her ready for bed that night, Harper told me, "Mama, I love you anyway you're not Jewish." Such a thoughtful, hilarious kid! I loved the kid-syntax of replacing 'anyway' for 'even though'-- perfect example of how she is still a little kid but she often has the maturity and thinking of a much older person.

Harper also celebrated Christmas with my family. She enjoyed decorating the tree, learning carols, and writing a note to Santa. Her favorite Christmas carol was "Rudolph" and she sang that song over and over. It was cute to listen closely to what she was singing. Anytime she'd mess up a word, she'd pause to think, and then start it again at the very top. It killed me! She desires so much to do everything just right! Even singing a little song when (she thinks) no one is listening! She believes in Santa and wanted a glimpse so we went out to the mall to see him. Santa actually wasn't busy at the moment and stepped over to the side to talk to her. I thought she'd shout out her wish list or something, but instead she told Santa, "I've been good but sometimes Jackie is mean to me!" I was shocked that she was ratting her little bro out to Mr. Santa himself! But then she qualified a bit: "You can still bring him a toy, though." Harper "mailed" a letter to Santa, and also left this one for him on Christmas Eve.

The cousins got her her much coveted Baby Alive doll. Here she is opening the gift she'd longed for-- check that smile!

A few days later, she spent the night with the cousins and had a great time sleeping with Caroline and Savannah, staying up late watching movies and playing. When I arrived to pick her up, she had two french braids sprayed pink. She's the center of attention when she's at their house and she adores them!

I continue to like her school: I get little notes home letting me know the teachers are working on special projects with Harper and give her some extra challenges. Harper's the only one to have read books aloud to her preschool class, and she's the only kid allowed to pull the teacher's books off the shelf and read them alone if she wants.

Our girl continues to be sensitive, empathetic, and astute. This morning is a perfect example. I walked in her room and I suppose I didn't greet her as enthusiastically today because I woke with a sore throat. Harper climbed out of her covers and asked, "Mama, did you sleep okay last night?"
I answered, "Yeah, alright. Did you?"
"Uh, huh. I was just asking because you seem like you don't feel good."
"Actually, I don't feel well-- you're right, Harper."
How she picks up on the subtle stuff like this amazes me. She is very aware of others' feelings. Even when she is corraling Jack away from her breakable or fragile belongings, she comforts him with, "I still love you, little buddy!" Along with this emotionality comes some extra drama sometimes. Her go-to when she's feeling devastated is, "Now I'll never ____!" She emphasizes her feeling of futility, anger, or sadness by imagining the current disappointment as never-ending. Her lollipop stick breaks and the candy falls to the dirty ground? In a sensitive moment, Harper would probably stick out her bottom lip and say, "Now I'll never get to eat a lollipop!"

She is kind and loving, always looking out for Jackie. Their relationship is really developing lately. She often tries to hold his hand in the backseat of the car and sometimes he'll oblige. The other day on the way home from visiting family out of town, Jack fell asleep in the car. Harper whispered up to the front, "Mama, I just rubbed a little of my love onto Jackie". She had gently touched his hand because she couldn't resist his charming sleepiness. Another day, Harper had woken from her nap before Jackie and she came to join me in the "sewing room". She got her Hello Kitty coloring book out and colored alongside me while I finished up the last few stitches on a project. We chatted away together and after a brief pause, she asked me, "Can you feel my love, Mama?" I replied, "Yes, I can tell you just like to be near me, huh?" She answered, "Yeah." and I told her that I like to be near her too.

Here she is dressed to attend a princess-themed party. Pink, pink, pink!

and here she is at another friend, Syndie's birthday party, playing dress up.

Since she's been in school, Harper's really begun identifying with the common little girl stuff. She quickly rattles off that she likes purple and pink, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, and Care Bears. She's figuring out the dynamics of her peer group and navigating childhood friendships.

I'm very proud of this special girl we are raising. Harper is a delight. Even in tough moments, her learning and her self is right there on the surface of her crying or mad face-- and she's a wonder even then.