A lengthy update on our children

It’s been a while since I just wrote an update on what the kids are up to. I’ll start with Chiara, as per her birth order, she’s often most likely to be left out.
Chiara- 15.5 months:

In the last week Chiara’s communication skills have exploded she’s now signing: bird, drink, bread, please, thank you, ball, diaper change, hungry, sleep, and thank you. She’s following instructions beautifully. In fact, yesterday, I was telling the boys “It’s time to go. Get your shoes and socks on then use the bathroom.” She went and got her moccasins and brought them to me, and then I found her in the bathroom standing next to the toilet in “peeing formation.” At first I didn’t understand, and went to pick her up, but she was adamant about the toilet, so I removed her pants and diaper and helped her sit on the toilet. Congratulating her on her good listening. She is getting quite a sense of humor and giggles freely. She’s especially ticklish under her chin and at the tops of her thighs. We have a nightly ritual of tickling and wrestling on the bed before I put her in the crib, she laughs and crawls away to the end of the bed and then I’ll grab her feet and pull her back, she’ll laugh and then I’ll tickle her and she’ll giggle all the more. She had gotten into a bad habit of hitting and squawking at people. So we’ve been really working on “gentle hands” and kindness and I’ve been quite shocked at how quickly and adeptly she’s changed her ways. She’ll go from a furrowed brow, harsh sound and swatting hands to a gentle smile and soft hands. She’s started dancing- spinning around in circles and raising her arms up and swaying. She loves books now, especially if they contain animals. She gets so excited when she sees any animal and points and says excitedly “Daddy!” (Dhddy) is her most used word. It means doggy, Daddy, ducky, and anything else exciting. She also says Yes, No, Shoes, Jesus, Mom, Mommy, and Daddy. She calls cows “moo.” Her favorite books are the Farmyard Tales Books.
She loves shoes and wants to put hers on as soon as she wakes up. (A trait my Father would be proud of!) She will also bring each of us our shoes when she notices we’re getting ready to leave. She often requests I put bows in her hair.
Her hair has gotten long enough to require being tied back or it hangs in her eyes, yesterday she was pushing it out of her eyes. It’s long enough to go in a pony with a little clip upfront, but I haven’t done it yet. It has a darling curl that looks both feminine and crazy.

She loves her daddy and will squeal and run up to him when he gets home.

She’s navigating the stairs and goes up and down them independently. She’s walking even running a bit now and is so thrilled with her competence and ability.
I babysat a three week old baby yesterday and she was SO interested, peeking into the ERGO every few minutes and gentle touching his head and squealing, her eyebrows lifted and her eyes bright.

She loves to make us laugh and has a silly face she’ll make at the dinner table to make everyone laugh. It involves squinting her eyes, scrunching her noses, and making an exaggerated smile her chin held high. She’ll hold it for a long time.Iit really is hilarious and we all laugh every time, even when she repeats it over and over.
She loves tiny things, and especially loves putting tiny things in bags/socks/ anything that might contain them.
She can draw quite successfully with the IKEA colored pencils, and likes to do so when her brothers are doing art. She loves taking the tops off the markers. She holds a pencil correctly.

In the last week she seems to have warmed up to strangers, but in general she plays coy or is rude. She often grumbles and turns away when people greet her and she swats at kids when they coo and get close to her. She is very expressive with her lips and will often form them into an “o” and turn her eyes down when people look at her.
She’s quick to tantrum and throws herself onto the floor over the smallest frustrations. As her communication is improving these seem to be lessening, and I’ve really been trying of late to listen and give heed to her requests. She’s clearly appreciated being more respected and listened to.
She’s discovered the raspberry patch and b-lines it for it whenever she goes outside hoping to find a tasty morsel.
She likes to walk down the steps at the front and back door- holding on to the railing so she doesn’t have to crawl down.

She loves flowers. She’ll point them out a walks or in books. Yesterday, she came in all excited to show me the two handfuls of fuchsia blooms she had picked from my pots. She was confused when I didn’t share her delight. (She’s really improved at just looking at flowers and just putting her hand gently under them instead of picking, so I was sad for the regression.)
Her relationship with the boys is complicated, she pretty apprehensive of Scotland, he tends to want to control her too much- picking her up and just being too active and loud. Though she loves to play a game where she swats him and he over-acts the injury. (Oh dear!) He, however, adores her and is always declaring how “cute” she is and how much he loves her. Chiara and Anders have these sweet interactions from time to time. I’ll find them playing and giggling together. In the last short while I’ve seen her go to the boys to comfort them when they’ve been crying- patting them on the shoulder.

She still a Momma’s girl and loves to be held, comforted and nursed. I had about weened her, but then she got sick and I started nursing her during the night. She got to the point where she wanted to be nursed, but only if she was lying down next to me- not sitting up! Now that her illness has passed she’s not nursing anymore, but still asks for it when she’s tired and I can’t put her down (like at church.)
She knows she only gets her passy during her nap time, and when she wakes up I’ll say “Leave your passy in your crib,” and she’ll take it out and drop it down. Today she went into her room got her favorite blankie with the silk sashing and her passy and brought it out. I asked “Are you ready for a nap?“ She nodded. “I’ll put you down as soon as I finish reading this book to the boys.” She alternated between lying down on one of the decorative pillows and sitting on my lap, until I had finished reading. She then happily went to bed, cooing and giggling as I tucked her in, and pretended to have her kitty and Hopsy (her stuffed bunny) kiss her and hug her.
Anders 3.5 years-

Anders is such a fascinating kid. He is both the most gentle and the most wild. He is the most helpful and the most defiant. He has a real desire to please and do things right, but when he is pushed beyond his limits he goes into what we have recently called “beast mode.” Anders it he boy says things like “Wow! This is my favorite food Mom!” Even when he’s not sure he’s going to like it. He’s the boy that always says please and thank you. And is generally upbeat, grateful, and appreciative. “Thanks for making this, Mom!” But he gets pushed around and manipulated a lot by Scotland and his response is generally to yell, “Stop it Scotland! I don’t like that!” He’s always been a loud boy, and he’s all the louder when he’s upset or frustrated.
Anders knows the rules, and keeps them in the forefront for all of us. He’ll often remind Scotland- which he hates. “Stop acting like an adult!” One afternoon he said as we were driving home late after a full day. “What are we going to do when we get home? Go to bed! Are we going to fuss? No! Are we going to fight? No! Are we going to brush our teeth? Yes!” He yelled this out to the whole van of siblings and cousins.

Anders is a writer. He has memorized the order of letters in his name and can write his name beautifully now, with all letters capitalized but small. He has great dexterity and is detail oriented and diligent with his handwriting book, and workbooks in general. He learned how to play Hot Cross Buns on the piano this week, well I guess just the first half, but being able to play his fingers independently has been a big deal for him. He enjoys doing “his studies” he knows his numbers up to 10, and can count up to 12 before he gets mixed up in the teens. He knows the alphabet and what many of the letters say. He knows the days of the week, and the months of the year. We are doing a combination of “How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” and “The Ordinary Parents guide to teaching reading.” He loves to play “Go to the Dump” with us. He matches cards and Scotter and I work on addition facts. He draws well and has drawn some very intricate and detailed train scenes.
Anders is jovial and has a chuckle that could rival Santa Claus. It’s loud, boisterous, and uninhibited. He’s very mature for his age, and being as tall as the average 4 year old is usually assumed to be older than he is. He is verbal, and can carry on a great conversation.
He loves Star Wars. Tom has been reading the boys a comic book version and it is Anders’ favorite thing. Some of his favorite books this year were “The Gruffalo,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Napping House,” and the “Farmyard Tales” series. He loves to listen to them in repetition, because he memorizes them and then loves to “read” them back to you. I’m constantly amazed at how well he remembers exact phrases on each page.

Anders has a keen visual memory and sense of orientation. He is always looking around when we drive and will often shout out, “That’s Baskin Robbins! We biked there!” or “I know this place, we bought wood there.” etc. After not having been in Utah for 3 months we were driving down a road and he said, “Hey, this is where we picked up garbage!” (And sure enough, he had joined Sabina’s family to do service there.)
Anders loves to bike. He got a strider for his 2nd birthday which he had mastered by the end of the summer. We were slow to move him on to the pedal bike. But last month we removed his training wheel and let him get used to balancing on his bigger bike, and yesterday we put the pedals back on. He’s great with the balancing and pedaling, he just needs to figure out how to get started without falling over. It’s been so fun to be able to joy along by them as they bike.
Anders LOVES trains. And while his interest in playing with them everyday has waned he still lights up overtime he sees one and says “I Love trains!” He also loves anything with a hitch. I really made a point of supporting his interest in trains, and I feel like I haven’t been as aware of what his new interests are.

He’s sweet to glom on to others’ interests. When I pointed out a bird singing on a branch and drew his attention to how it lifted it’s head and puffed out his breast, he marveled and later shared our find with his Dad over dinner. He’s very supportive of Scotland, and I fear gives in too often to his whims and desires. He’s often unwilling to suffer Scotland’s tantrums or berating for his own interests.
Anders admires Scotland so much, and will often defend him even when he was the victim. He loves sleeping in Scotland’s room, though for a while Scotland was scared to sleep in his room so he always slept in Anders’ room. He thrills when Scotland will treat him as an equal partner and they can have the most fun together. I love hearing their clever conversations and how they bounce of ideas to create a vibrant and complex playscape.

Anders used to always jump up and dance the minute the closing credit song would play after a movie. With his chubby cheeks dimpled with his smile and his eyes playful he’d spin and jive. It was my favorite part of family movie night. For some reason he’s stopped, and I had to lead the dancing last time, but after a while both boys were active participants.
Anders’ dearest friend is Hazel.
I’m trying to decide what I should do for him this fall. I did joy school with Anders when he was three, and I keep feeling like Anders needs a few more things that are just his. But the thought of adding something as structured as a coop preschool also sounds overwhelming. So I might just schedule a weekly playdate for kids his age, so he can have an opportunity to get together with his own group of buddies. He’s academically far advanced because of all our “studies” this year, so I’m not worried about that.
My main worry for Anders is that we take advantage of his contentment to often. That because he’s willing to jus smile and say OK we don’t give him his proper due. It’s the quinessential middle child situation, he always gets the hand-me-downs. His brother is often making fun of him, or ridiculing him, and he just grins and bears it much of the time.
Scotland: 6.5 years:
Scotland is at a challenging and exciting age. If I focus on all of his “issues” it can really cripple our relationship. When I focus on all the things I love about him, and the fun new things we can do together now that he’s older, I adore him. Some of the things I just love are: his endless curiosity, his desire to create, his endless imagination, his desire to play have fun and celebrate, and his often futile attempts to love on his sister. The thing I’ve realized about Scotland right now is he’s lacking impulse control. So when he goes to give Chiara a hug, he squeezes too tight, when he wrestles with Anders he’s too rough, when he teases me he does it to the point of annoyance. Since realizing this, I’ve been able to help him more, giving him tools and ideas for ways to monitor his body, and the feelings of those he’s interacting with.
Scotland is much more emotional now. His anger can flare up over the smallest things and he often lashes out with hurtful phrases “I don’t want to be your son any more.” “You’re the worst Mom ever.” “I HATE you!” Or with physicality- slamming doors, hitting, screaming. I’ve talked to many mothers who’s children this age are going through a similar thing, so I’m trying to stay calm about it, and not blow it out of proportion. But saying it is challenging is a understatement.  
But with those low emotions come some wonderful highs. He is a child who loves to explore, experiment, be funny, build, party, play with friends, read, learn, play music, and be outside. He has jam sessions on the piano several times a day. He’ll get up and improvise- extending songs he already knows or compose his own, singing the lyrics he creates to to go along with them. This makes me SO happy. All I want for my children is for them to love music, and to utilize it to bring joy into their and others’ lives.
His reading has exploded this year and he’s now reading small chapter books in a few days. His favorites of late are the Magic Tree House series and the A-Z mysteries series. He still loves his audiobooks, and has listened to “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.” “James and the Giant Peach.” “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” and “Harry Potter” just to name a few. I love how he pulls facts from these books to connect and understand the world around him.

He’s loving his gymnastics class and I’ve been impressed by his willingness to push himself. He likes that the class is challenging while also free. He seems to enjoy the boyish banter amongst the boys and is often chatting and competing with his other classmates.
Edmonds Heights has been a great experience for him. He made many great friends. His teacher called him an “absolute gem.” He never once complained, and always came home with much to share.

He likes the freedom homeschool offers. And I really feel it is the best spot for him, despite how challenging it can be for me. He thrives on short lessons with plenty of exploratory time afterwards- which has taken some adjustment from me, since I always want to cram more in. Instead of leaving him “wanting more.”

He loves to be outside, and it makes my heart sing when I see him kneeling beside the flower garden deep in some imaginary realm. He still loves to pick wild flowers, is always the first to harvest the garden, and is continually planting some new seed.

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