24 April 2014

Year 4X in review

her life, so far, in pictures
(birthday; 6 months)
(12 months; 18 months)
(2 years; 2.5 years)
(3 years; 3.5 years)
(4 years old with papa and mama)

weight: 16.2 kg (35.7 lbs)
height: 102.2 cm (3 ft 4 in)
head circumference: 50.8 cm (20 inches)
shoe size: 9 (US) or 26 (european)
clothing size: 4T/5T (US) or 98/104 (european)

favorite things: underwater animals, 'scary' things (monsters, aliens, bugs, dangerous animals, etc), collecting 'treasures' outside, bug collecting, singer satu sopanen

favorite foods: cheese, yogurt, viili, bread, pasta

food sensitivities remaining: soy, lactose, cinnamon (but she can handle small amounts of each, hooray!)

trips taken this year:
-tübingen, germany in april//may
-stuttgart, germany in may
-porvoo, finland in may
-tallinn, estonia in june
-halifax, canada in june/july
-washington, dc in july
-michigan in july
-haltia (in finland) in october
-copenhagen, denmark in october
-florida in january/february

favorite books: creepy crawlies, creepy creatures, know-it-alls sharks!oceans [3D-explorer], ocean [pledger], life-size sharks and other sea creatures, national geographic kids first big book of space, everyone poops, ellens lionthe jolly postman, tiny pie, the moustachapilla​r, the day the crayons quit, every thing on itcreepy carrotstheres something spooky in my attic, the BFG, the minpins, mischievous house monsters, troll wood

a typical weekday as a (now) 4 year old: wake up at 6:30/7a. walk to daycare by 8:30a. get picked up from daycare at 2p. play with mama until dinner. have dinner at 6p. play with papa. bedtime story with mama. asleep by 8/8:30p.

celebrations:
1. family day in the city. we had lunch at stockmann and X got to pick out a special treat from the bakery. she got an animal magazine from the bookstore. we also went to the sea life aquarium and she got to choose two sea animals from the gift shop (in addition to actually visiting the aquarium) as an early present.

2. actual birthday. she slept longer than normal, hooray! she was a little disgruntled at first to have us say 'happy birthday!' she said she was a bit nervous that her presents might not like her. she also wondered if she looked older. at daycare they sang to her and she got a birthday card to take home. then she spent the afternoon staring at her wrapped presents wondering when dave would come home so she could open them. i let her open one small thing from a friend of mine she hasnt met. also, to pass the time, she got inspired by the excitement and surprise of gifts to want to wrap some presents we had to send to american friends. she loved the challenge of wrapping herself, and was chattering away about her hopes that the gift recepients would be excited and that they 'wouldnt peek' at what was inside because of how she was wrapping it. then dave gave us the always wonderful gift of coming home early. she was able to open her gifts from some friends of mine, from us, and from my mom. then dave went to pick up her requested take-out pizza for dinner (though she had wanted it to arrive 'by the pizza van'). she chose ham and pineapple as her pizza and scarfed half the pie! then we had a store bought chocolate mousse cake for dessert and she was able to video chat with daves parents and sister in order to open her gifts from them. it was good to space the presents out like that and we ended up having a lovely day. she was grateful for every one of her gifts, gave them all try-outs and attention and we had a nice time being together and celebrating in the best way i can think of. i hope we can do it again next year. i thought she got a nice variety of presents, not heavy on toy-toys (more like books, open-ended play things, activities, etc), and nothing was too huge and monumental. everything was appreciated and nothing was too expensive. finally at age 4, we are starting to figure this out!

*side note: the day before her birthday she asked to see some of her presents that were wrapped so she could just touch them and wonder what was inside them. i hadnt wrapped our gifts yet so i pulled out the wrapped items friends/family from afar had sent her in the mail. for those who sent things, thank you. no matter how small the gift was she played with her little wrapped stack of gifts for more than an hour, just imagining and inventing things to do with them. and then we talked for another 30 minutes or so about how each package got to us and how letters and packages travel through the mail, so it was also educational. your thoughtfulness went further than you could probably imagine, and we are all thankful and lucky to have been the recipients of it.

 (digging in to the pizza; enjoying new birthday gifts)

3. shark birthday party. we did another small party this year and i think that was the right choice. X just doesnt gain anything from a large crowd and being the center of attention with even the 7 people around her singing happy birthday made her uncomfortable. plus, she is still learning the social aspects of entertaining more than one friend at a time. the two little girls we invited were actually established friends this year (last year we were lucky enough to have some friendly people with nice kids about the same age, but we hadnt yet really established any friendships or long standing playdates) and we had a lovely time. it was still an actual party so we decorated and there was all the excitement, but it was easy for us to manage and handle without feeling stressed or uncomfortable. i think this will be what we aim for again next year. and the shark theme went really well. it was fun to do the food again, and we have so much shark stuff that it was easy to decorate. we're thinking next year maybe a bug party...? too soon to tell of course.

 (decorating)
(party food)

message to X:
thank goodness you are still young, so we can enjoy many more years of exploring with you. because of and with you we learned so much about our surrounding neighborhood, our new city and country, and about settling into a new way of life. we watched you take to the finnish language with gusto and it made us smile. you have a thirst for knowledge that we hope is never quenched. we have enjoyed our trips with you more and more because the things we try out and experience with you are things we likely wouldnt do if we didnt have a child. and while you certainly still know how to keep us on our parenting toes, we also realize how deep our understanding of life has become since you came into our lives. even though i am the more serious parent you have helped me to reconnect with the limitless adventures and fun that come with exploring through books and in being out in nature. so thank you for taking me along for the ride, even if im not as silly as your other loved ones. :)

X files - 4 years old - Many hats

more and more she is like a woman who wears many hats, she likes to 'try on' so many things and see how they feel now: different pretend worlds, different activities, different foods. some of them are things she enjoys and wishes to develop further, some she is happy to not try again for some time. sometimes after being very open about many things, she will take some time to be more closed off and reserved. its a time of lots of new, so some back-and-forth makes sense. shes growing and changing, thats for sure.

obsessions: our cat (nutmeg), BEING a cat, milo and otis movie, beauty and the beast movie, satu sopanen music, scary stories

nightmares/dreams: a lionfish roared at her. a howler monkey, who she knew, ate her. she was in the desert with a turtle who was making her do somersaults.

good picture books: theres an alligator under my bed, mossy, crabby and nabby: a tale of two crabs, the monster that glowed in the dark, dr seuss's sleep book, goldilicious, you will be my friend, z is for moose, dusty and smudge and the soapsuds, theres a nightmare in my closet, little ghost wicky, jumpy jack & googily, the steadfast tin soldier, frog in love, elberts bad word, mirabelle

good longer books: in a dark dark room, ellens lion, the minpins, the little girl and the tiny doll, the BFG, huberts hair-raising adventure, the squirrels birthday and other parties, henry and mudge in puddle trouble

dav pilkeys dragon series: a friend for dragon, dragon gets by, dragons fat cat

good special interest books: a day in the salt marsh, one small square: cave, creepy crawlies, mischievous house monsters, nighttime in my backyard, weird creatures of the wild

good audio books: animal stories [nigel anthony/nerys hughes]

(more cat love)
 
(being a cat; being like papa)
(smile for the camera; bubble baths)
(outside action)

x-citing developments:
1. medical follow-up. so the end of the florida constipation story is this: she ended up going a total of 10 days without pooping. we tried various gentle remedies from the finnish pharmacy without results. it was clear that her body wanted to go to the bathroom but she was determined to avoid the scary pain that she assumed would go with it. the kid. is. determined. so, she stayed home from daycare the first week back from the trip laying on the couch, intermittently in pain. we finally had to go to the hospital when she couldnt sleep from the pain. the taxi ride cost more than the care (27€ for the hospital visit, billed later. there was no paperwork). our experience at the helsinki childrens hospital was wonderful: fast service, they listened to our whole story, were patient and very gentle with X and they explained everything very well before it happened to her. the treatment was done under her terms and i think it went a long way to replace some of the memories of our US medical visit. the day after treatment we had a rocky start because she needed to be pooping on her own now. after an hour or two of fear and refusal she was able to go on her own and surprised herself that it really didnt hurt too much. this allowed for several other successes that day and things got easier and easier. there was a week or two of toilet regression (diapers for a bit and then letting her use her potty in her room again), but then she went back to her regular potty routine without issue.

2. wonder week. these really seem to be sticking around, still coming at the half year and one year marks. for a random week she had her sleep messed up, was extra irritable, sensitive, and clingy all for unknown reasons. daycare was totally confused, i was nonplussed.

3. sleep. she was having a hard time with bedtime so we started the whole process 15 minutes earlier and it made a big difference in the cooperation level. however it has really changed our mornings! she now wakes up between 6 and 7a, instead of around 8a. however, after some patience and guidance we have managed to get her into a routine where she goes pee right away and then proceeds to read or play for perhaps 10-20 minutes before coming to wake us up. this helps ease us into the early mornings in a manageable way. i love opening the door in the morning to find her reading on the couch. its been a lovely perk of having a small apartment.

4. weather. after our florida trip, she expressed frustration that it wasnt warmer and easier to play outside. she doesnt like getting her snow suit on or dealing with mittens (oh the mittens!). i think too it was hard to appreciate things this winter because there wasnt snow to enjoy. once we end up getting outside though we have fun, but it wasnt inviting most days. she did however have fun with all the slippery ice on the trails we have around the neighborhood. while we havent gone ice skating, she has started to develop an enjoyment of the sliding sensation.

5. hygiene. a while ago we showed her how to wipe her own bum, she tried it a few times but didnt care about doing it regularly. but recently she has taken to being totally toilet independent. now she wipes her own bum and washes her hands. on occasion she even dumps her little potty into the bigger toilet (just pee thankfully).

6. physical. she now takes her balance bike off-road and rides it on trails in the woods and across boulders and tree roots. she has also gotten remarkably good at riding it on pavement. we have a gentle hill outside our door and she can basically glide, feet off the ground, for the entire length of it (100 ft).

7. personality/interests
-she is really into cutting things with scissors. thankfully we have no disasters to report yet. she gave a toy of hers a haircut (with the understanding that he wouldnt grow it back). she cuts herbs for recipes. she asked all her stretchy lizards and snakes one day if they wanted their tails cut, she asked if they understood that their tails wouldnt regenerate. they all understood and she gave them all tailectomies. she left the frogs unharmed since they have no tails, and a few lizards apparently needed arm and leg amputations as well. she hasnt gotten upset about her cutting repercussions yet so i figure she is welcome to 'adjust' her toys.

-after reading the BFG and wondering what the poop of the giants who eat people looks like, she decided to write her own story about the giants (thankfully not about poop). so we stapled a 'book' together and she had me write a story about one of the giants and she drew the pictures. she put the finished work on our bookshelf and has plans to create others. lol.

-she doesnt really like coloring in coloring books. the pre-formed pictures dont seem interesting to her. but she does like to draw. i try not to ask her to draw anything specific and its been interesting to see what she does. she will get the coloring things out when she has an idea. she seems to get a flash of a story and starts drawing things to be a part of it ('these are dog footprints and then a monster comes and the dog poops and'...she just creates a whole story right there on the paper).

-she has an imaginary friend named sari who is a little girl, the exact same age as her with the same fears, likes, dislikes, etc. and she is attached to Xs body. in fact, sari is actually two of her fingers. she also has an imaginary friend who seems to go with her to daycare, it is a creature called the gruncher (from a book called the minpins). he gets frustrated by things in the same way X does. she also pretends to be 'satu' when she is dancing.

-thanks to her balance bike, and her desire to run around, she has been playing with the bigger kids in our yard for the hour or so before dinnertime. there is a gang of perhaps 5+ kids from ages maybe 5-8 who ride bikes/scooters, climb trees, play general chase/hiding/surprise games. they tolerate X and let her join in. she follows them, last in line usually, trying to keep up, ever curious about what they are doing. the leader, a boy of perhaps 8 or so is actually rather kind and looks out for her. i just love our apartment building area, its playground, its quiet driveways, and the natural set-up that allows for parents to easily watch their kids, for kids to explore and be free while being contained and safe close to home. this new playing with her peers thing has also gotten me a little emotional. its the biggest reminder so far that she is growing up, that she is leaving the realm of our family unit to test out new environments. im not clinging to her, or the loss of her love or anything, but rather that anxiousness about how her entry into the real world will be. the joy, the hope, the tears, the rejection, all the things that await, good, bad, exciting, painful, and otherwise. ive been able to give her her space and while shes out testing the boundaries of this new experience, its just so shockingly new to feel this way and im not sure how one ever gets used to it. im certainly aware the feeling will only continue to grow.

-she hums the theme song to homeward bound. she does it at bedtime to put herself to sleep, on the bus to keep herself busy, she does it as various animals (as a sheep: baa baa baaaaaa ba ba ba ba ba baaaaaa ba ba baa ba baaaaa...), she even made up a version where she inserts random finnish words into the tunes rhythm. its funny. she also does the milo and otis theme song and the beauty and the beast theme song.

-we havent watched a ton of disney movies, but by far her favorite is beauty and the beast. she actually doesnt care too much about belle, but she loves the beast. she plays beauty and the beast with dave and likes to sleep with the toy she has designated as the beast, and has designated other toys she has as belle and lumiere who watch over her while she sleeps.

-she plays a game called 'scientist.' i swear i dont make these up. she starts with animals walking in front of me and tries to make them intriguing. she prompts me to say 'thats an interesting animal. catch it.' and then she 'catches it' puts it in a 'tank' (or a cage). later, after amassing a dozen or so animals, we stop and she spreads out a special examining cloth (her tram shirt) and she takes books off her book shelf and uses them to correctly identify the animals that we caught. its too funny.

8. learning
-just from bringing books on various topics home from the library, she can now tell you about the human body, evolution, the big bang theory, space, etc. some of it is clearly just interesting things she has memorized, for the time being, but some of these facts are things she has really thought about and digests and wants to have further discussions about, which leads to introducing new topics or ideas. she can even name all the planets in order from closest to farthest from the sun.

-she has taken an interest in learning to write numbers and letters. this was never something i asked her to do or tried to practice with her, though i know lots of preschools and parents of kids this age do start introducing the idea. its been interesting to me to see that she can find the motivation for these kind of pre-writing motor skills by herself.

9. anecdotes
-i got up one morning to see that she had rearranged our bookshelf a bit. our wedding picture was missing so i went looking for it (and told her i wanted to put it back). she had put it on her dresser near her bed. she followed me into her room and said 'but i wanted to put it there because it shows love'. well...i had to leave it there.

-she got a stack of 'ranger rick' magazines off the shelf and a pair of her scissors and told me 'mama, i have to set these animals free!' and she went about furiously cutting them out of the pages and then danced with them.

-baby anecdotes: when i brush her teeth she is at the same level as my belly and likes to hug or kiss it. she says she is going to be a sister. she thinks it will be a girl and has offered names. she told me that the 'magic in her room' wrote out these names in the dark, as ideas: rose, ava, achrisantha, and a few others i cant remember. she told me some grown-up at daycare told her to talk to the baby, so she bent down to my belly and whispered 'rose!' lol. she declared a tree outside to be her 'love tree' because the one trunk had split into two at the bottom 'one for the baby, and one for me'.

momma mentionables:
1. friend. we have gained a neighbor as a new friend. the mom is finnish, the dad is irish. the girl is bilingual and attends Xs daycare. the girl is one year older and is in the older daycare group but the different groups mix on the playground and they always seem to find each other. X was invited to the little girls birthday party. i emailed an rsvp, and then quickly stalked the mom on facebook and also mentioned we'd be up for playdates. lol. they have taken us up on the offer several times and even helped hook us up with our new landlords.

2. i got into a baking/cooking groove. its been a work in progress to adjust to gluten-free baking, but its finally paying off. i can modify most things now (with success), ive found some new recipes, gotten some solid recipes of finnish foods we like sorted out, and ive become better at ad-lib cooking. i still dont find it to be an enjoyable or peaceful experience, but if i have time to do it properly and can put some music on, then ive come out with some good dinners.

3. i had a bit of a breakthrough in my ability to change my reaction to having my buttons pushed by the kiddo, and it came from the tv series called buffy (and thank you again jules!). it involves my fight or flight response. previously (and still occasionally), if buttons got pushed a certain amount of times, i basically always chose the 'fight' mode, even when i didnt want to. i couldnt find a way to disarm the trigger that made me chose 'fight' immediately. i was forever looking for mantras to say to myself or things to visualize but nothing helped in the moment, and then one day buffy popped into my head. in season 7 episode 12, buffy is teaching the new slayers some tactics. in a fight, she tells them, its okay to run if you get caught off guard, then once youve re-gained the higher ground you can turn and re-face the challenge, and now youve established the fight on your own terms. so its not flight out of weakness, or running in fear, its to give you the chance to clear your mind and focus, to get the upper hand, to take the surprise adrenaline out of the situation. my reactions can be much more even and i can just focus on the kiddos troubles without adding my own to it. i can be the stable one who guides the heated situation to a calm landing back in reality (ideally). its still in progress, but im very pleased. ive always been a more visual learner so advice-in-action coming from the tv/movie world seems like a natural fit, and im glad to have an image that can easily pop up in my head in times of struggle. 

4. with a second kid on the way, ive been struck with how much ive learned about life in the past several years, and ive read enough to know that whatever comes next will be as unpredictable as all that came before it. i hope this time to at least avoid the folly of thinking ive found the answer(s) and that i can dole out advice to others. i know now that i had those feelings most heavily (of judgment or desiring to give unsolicited advice) in the first two years when i was completely overwhelmed with the chaos and confusion of my own first time parenting mishaps. its like a coping mechanism, to dish out what you feel (namely guilt, judgment from others, frustration at not knowing some piece of information sooner, etc). 

i see now that when people do that they are choosing to take energy away from their own real internal problems to direct it at other people. i get that its not that much fun to turn the mirror on ourselves because personal work is hard, but whenever ive made a baby step forward in better managing my own weaknesses i feel so much more peaceful. i am nicer and more forgiving of myself which makes me have more energy to be nice and forgiving to those around me, and hopefully to people in general. i find that i am still willing to share my opinions, but i think im more careful to acknowledge that they are only my opinions on my experiences or observations. i like to share books or 'styles' that i have found to be surprisingly helpful or open-minded, and i find myself very much encouraging people to trust that they can find their own groove, listen to their own intuition when it comes, and to seek out like-minded parents or parents with kids of similar temperaments if they are feeling alone in their struggles. so many times it helped just to know that i wasnt the only one living in a certain situation, even if other family or friends hadnt experienced it before. so many times those feeling-alone situations encouraged me to reach out to my more fringe friends or acquaintances who i thought might be in the same situation and they were always willing to share their experience or show support. by being honest with myself and being open to telling others about how things were going i learned so much more about how to cope and move on than i ever could by just seeking (or offering) straight up advice. and i hope to continue to remember this. and if i forget, perhaps elizabeth bennet can remind me...as i was re-reading p&p recently, i was stopped by this quote "we all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing." while it may not work in all contexts, i think it definitely works in parenting.