Category Archives: Letters to E.

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Filed under E.- the fourth year, Letters to E.

Protected: And now you are three

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Filed under E.- the third year, Letters to E.

E. at 33, 34, and 35 months

I have been remiss at writing one of these and thought I had better get it in before he turns three!

What he’s doing:

Walking all over the neighbourhood. He is a superb walker. We started getting into the habit of walking to the library after I picked him up from nursery school on Monday afternoons because there’s a bakery right across the street and he quite liked the idea of having afternoon snack there. After we’d done this a few times, I decided to look our route up online and discovered that it was 1.5 km! And then he was doing close to another kilometre to get home again from the library, all without complaint. He loves balancing on the angled paving stones on some of the yards in the neighbourhood (to prevent erosion from the lawns). Now that we’re (finally) getting some slightly warmer weather he’s been enjoying walking in his shoes. He was heartily sick of the snow and the ice and the wind and the cold. I thinked he walked to nursery school every day this winter except for one, when it was so cold with the windchill he would have been in danger of frostbite. That day we took the stroller. He’s also enjoying playing in the parks again, and getting out consistently at nursery school. I lost count of the number of days this winter where we would walk there and then discover that it was an indoor day because it was too cold for them to go outside!

He’s also really, really, into the mail right now. He became so disappointed that there was never anything for him that I wrote to all of his relatives and asked them to consider sending him something. That’s resulted in him receiving mail two or three times a week for the last few weeks, which has thrilled him no end. It’s also prompted him to get interested in letters. The other day we were walking back from the library and he asked me why the cats never got any mail and I said without thinking, “Oh, well the cats can’t read. There’s no point in getting mail if you can’t read because you won’t know what it says.” The next day he brought a book over to Q. and said, “I want you to learn me my letters so I can read.” He’s probably got 12 or 14 of them now, and he never fails to recognize when one of the envelopes that arrives at the house has an E. on it!

Speaking of the cats, he bosses them around constantly. It’s almost like having a younger sibling (I imagine) as he shouts at them, “No, no Yiyi! Don’t touch my trains! Shoo! Don’t sit there! Go away!” He absolutely hates it if one of them sits on a puzzle that he’s working on, or tries to sniff his toys. If one of them is in my lap he’ll sidle over and lean on them until they move (if he’s being subtle) or just shove them away (if he’s not). They’ve both taken to hanging out in his room in the mornings to take advantage of the morning sun, which he thinks is hilarious, especially if one of them has gone into his room and jumped onto his change table before he’s even woken up.

He has become very interested in time and numbers. He can count to twenty-nine, and can go higher if you help him out with “thirty” and “forty” (otherwise he’ll say “twenty-ten, twenty-eleven” etc.).  He is trying to figure out how the months of the year and the seasons and the days of the week all fit together. He knows who has a birthday in which month. He also experiments with saying things to me like, “I’m going to go and visit the Bears in half an hour”. We’ve been talking about his new room and he’s told me he wants a clock in there “so I will know what time it is when I wake up”. I read in Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender that this sort of interest is really common around this age, which made me feel a bit better. I’m completely incapable of not being obsessed with time and punctuality (army brat), and I was worried I was burdening him with the same rigidity. But it seems it’s just normal development and I’m sure I’ll be pulling out my hair waiting for him to get up when he’s a teenager.

I do sometimes feel like pulling out my hair when we’re trying to get out the door in the morning, or at bedtime. I’ve realized that we have very little conflict in our day if we observe his timeline. It’s when I have to pressure him to do something faster than he wants to do- because I need to run errands before lunch, or I need him to get in bed so he won’t be overtired the next day- that he pushes back and starts resisting and getting silly and running away from me. And if I push back, then we get a meltdown. I am trying very hard to leave enough time to let him do everything he can do himself- put his pants and shirt on, put his boots on, take all winter gear off, etc., but some days I end up taking over and doing it (usually with him screaming and writhing in protest) because we have to be somewhere else. It’s a hard balance to meet.

He still really likes to help me out around the house. He doesn’t enjoy helping with the vacuum, as it’s too loud, but he cleans the toilets when I do the bathrooms, and does quite a good job of it too (I do around the edges, but he uses the brush to clean the bowl). He still loves baking and did 85% of the work for the cookies we made for my students on the last day of classes. He doesn’t help as much with dinner prep as he used to- I think we got out of the habit in the U.K. because the kitchen there wasn’t toddler friendly and it’s been hard to restart. He matches socks when I do the laundry, and puts cutlery out to set the table.

One thing he doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of is growing. His feet are in the same shoes I bought a year ago (8s). I’m sure he is getting taller because his head is above the countertops in the kitchen now, but all his clothes still fit and he’s showing no sign at all of needing to move into 3T. We’re going to have to move the carseat around the next time we need to drive somewhere as he no longer has the inch of shell above his head that is the requirement for rear-facing. This is deeply frustrating for me, as the carseat is weighted for rear-facing to 40 pounds, and he is nowhere near that. He’s put on some weight (finally- it’s been a real struggle with him being ill in the fall and then again in December and again in January) and is currently a whopping 28 pounds. I seriously think he might be off the weight percentiles altogether if he doesn’t put on a couple of more in the next month. I am having trouble not stressing about this. He looks healthy and has lots of energy, but it seems odd to me that I might have an average-sized son rather than a tall one, given all of my male relatives are over 6′. Q. is average-sized, so it appears his genes might be winning out. E. is a total beanpole. Even with all the weight he’s put on you can still see his ribs and his pants all slip down below his waist.

He does have a good appetite, although it is wildly variable. Every morning he likes to ask me what the breakfast options are, even though they’re pretty much always the same. I never notice how little his eating troubles me until we have grandparents visiting. They invariably end up pushing him to eat more, or they report back to me exactly what he ate if they were looking after him. My mum finally relaxed one day after watching him eat four bowls of oatmeal at breakfast. I had told her and told her that he ate when he was hungry and dinner wasn’t usually a good meal, but she had still been fretting. Q. and I have started to push him a little bit more with food now that he’s almost three. We don’t push him to eat more, but if he’s eaten everything he liked, or drunk all his milk, and he wants more of the same, we’ve started asking him to try the things on his plate he hasn’t touched. So far this hasn’t led to any battles (I think because food has never been a battle), and it means he’s getting exposed to more things, as he is still a real toddler stereotype in what he prefers to eat. If he doesn’t like what he’s tried, he’s allowed to spit it out. He really dislikes seafood right now, which is funny given one of my favourite memories from his first year is watching him eat everyone’s scallops at dinner the weekend of his first birthday party. Scallops are one of my Dad’s favourite foods, and he just handed them over, entranced at the sight of this pint-sized almost toddler wolfing them down. We had scallops again the other night when he was visiting and E. took the one bite we’d requested of him and then immediately spat it out gagging. Oh well.

What he’s playing with:

These last few months have really been about imaginative play. We spent MONTHS playing Berenstain Bears. We would line up all of the dining room chairs to make a streetcar that we would ride to go and visit the Bears, and then we’d sit on the couch and pretend that it was going to be Christmas, or that we were going to have a picnic with them, or that they were moving out of their treehouse and needed our help. When we set up the trains, the trains would inevitably be transporting things that belonged to the Bears. He would get upset with me at quiet time or bedtime if I told him anything other than, “Have a nice visit with the Bears”, because that’s what he would sit up there doing for the entire quiet time, or until he fell asleep at night. Once he skipped quiet time because Grannie and Grandpa were visiting and he told me at supper, “I’m looking forward to bedtime because I can visit the Bears. I didn’t get to see them this afternoon.” Yep. This child tells me on a regular basis that he has “no friends” at nursery school because “the other children are too yowd”, so I’m glad he’s made friends with someone, even imaginary ones.

When the Bear obsession finally waned, he became fixated instead on Peter Rabbit. He has a stuffed Peter, as well as another bunny (this one a lop) which he has ignored for his entire life. Suddenly they were both treasured companions, and Peter and Mop the Lop (and I) spent days going “gooseberry netting” which consisted of the bunnies eating breakfast, then E. driving his dump truck over to the part of the couch where the gooseberries were that day, and then Peter would refuse to help Mop pick the berries, or Mop would spend the whole time jumping into the truck and Peter had to pull him back out again (depending on which bunny E. was in charge of that day). When the truck was eventually filled, he would get a book from his shelves to be the lid, and then he’d drive it off, dump it out somewhere, and we’d start all over again. The bunnies also come out at night when we sing Sleeping Bunnies before he goes upstairs to start the bedtime routine. He made Q. and I laugh so hard the first time he made them join in, because after the first round of the song, he lay down again, and he made Mop lie down, but then he made Peter keep hopping and refuse to lie down (because Peter, after all, is a very naughty rabbit).

In between the Bears and the bunnies, he became very attached to his stuffed cougar and, by association, my stuffed cougar, which was my most treasured stuffed animal when I was small (and not-so-small- he came with me on all my moves overseas). My mum made his cougar a cape, so now she’s Super Caramel and he spends a lot of time flying her around making a whooshing sound. He’s also continually engaged in a campaign to keep my cougar in his crib. I’m resisting, because as much as I love my son, I can’t relinquish my cougar, but he might wear me down.

He’s really not interested in crafts right now. We get art from nursery school perhaps twice a month, and he almost never colours at home. He does like stickers and sticking them in all sorts of strange places. Trains are still very popular, as is the IKEA tent he got for Christmas. We set it up in the living room and then the bunnies or the cougars will go inside and all sorts of antics will ensue. He’s in the habit now of watching a short (thirty minutes or less) video each day, which is more television than I’d like him to be watching, but since he doesn’t nap at all anymore and his tolerance for quiet time ends at about the hour mark, it’s a useful sanity saver. We tend to borrow DVDs from the library, usually Mighty Machines or Berenstain Bears. The Mighty Machines are 25 minutes long, so he can choose one of those, or three of the Berenstain Bear episodes (they’re 12 minutes and each DVD has five different ones). Mighty Machines has been a great discovery. It’s Canadian, educational, and apparently enthralling to almost-three-year-old boys. I know I’ve learned something from every episode.

He has a wonderful imagination but also incredibly firm ideas about how the game will go. I’ve had to tell him more than once that I won’t play with him if he keep screaming at me because he doesn’t like what I’m doing: “NO! WE’RE NOT PICKING THE GOOSE BERRIES FROM THERE! NO, I DON’T WANT PETER TO DO THAT! NO THANKS! NO THANKS!” I know he gets to control very little in his day, so I try to let him take the lead when I play with him, but I’m also cognizant that I do him no favors allowing him to be a tyrant when playing with someone else.

What he’s reading:

It was basically one Berenstain Bear book or another for two and a half months in this house. I think at one point we had 27 of them out at the library…and he had them all memorized and would correct you if you missed a single word. He didn’t have any strong favourites, although he was quite taken with Moving Day and Go Out to Eat. It was a great relief when the obsession eased in the last couple of weeks, not least because I had used up all the renewals on the library books and had to start taking them back. I think we’ve only got five or six out at the moment. He’s recently moved on to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, which has become a firm favourite (I think partly because it’s short enough that I’ll agree to read it twice at night, which I wouldn’t do with any of the Berenstain Bears).

What he’s saying:

I think I probably say this every time I write one of these posts, but his language really does change in leaps and bounds these days. He has such a wide vocabulary- we realized the other day (after a lot of wrong guesses) that he was trying to say “ricocheting”. The biggest change, right around 34 months, was he figured out the first person and stopped calling himself “you”. It was really interesting- he woke up one day and was clearly starting to experiment with it. The next day he had it 85% of the time, and the day after that he was pretty much letter perfect with ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’. For a long time he was saying “Yep” or “Nope” but lately he’s been using “Yeah?” with this huge upward shift in pitch at the end. He also shouts “No thanks, no thanks, I think that’s a terrible idea” when he disagrees with us. He’s started getting us to come with him by saying, “Ok, come on Mummy, let’s go and play with the trains”, while holding out his hand, which makes me laugh every time. He’s also understanding the idea of sitting together at the dinner table and talking, as he’ll ask, “How is your day, Daddy?” listen to the response and then, if we’re not fast enough, he’ll add, “I want someone to ask me how my day is!”

Here are a few of his conversations:

At lunch (33 months).
E.: “You was hungry! And thirsty!”
Me: “You were! Are you all done? Did you want to get down?”
E.: “No. You want to sit at the table and chat with Mummy for a little while.”
Me: “Sure! What do you want to tell me?”
E.: “Want to tell Mummy about what happened at [nursery school] on Wednesday.”
And he did.

At lunch (34 months).
E.: “I’m going to visit the Berenstain Bears at quiet time.”
Me: “That’s nice. Are you going to see them in their treehouse?”
E.: “Yes. And each day I’m there will be Christmas.”
Me: “Every day will be Christmas?”
E.: “Yes. Because I love Christmas.”
Me: “You do, sweetheart.”
E.: “And each Christmas I will get a big truck. Because I love trucks.”

In the bath (34 months).
E.: “I don’t want to use the potty or the toilet because I’m two.”
Me: “Oh. Does that mean you will want to use them when you’re three?”
E.: *giving me a deep, suspicious stare* “I will use them when I am bigger. Like an adult bigger.”

At breakfast (34 1/2 months).
E.: “Daddy, you and I are going to do the roof.”
Q.: “We’re going to redo the roof in the spring?”
E.: “Yes.”
Q.: “Where are we going to get the supplies we need?”
E.: “We will get the sprinkles (shingles) from Canadian Tire.”

Upon checking the mail and realizing that there are two pieces of mail for him and none for me (34 1/2 months).
E.: “I got two mails today! Two!” *shakes his head* “You did not get any mail again. You must be so disappointed.”

What I’ve noticed:

When we have good days, we have GREAT days. He is so funny, so insightful, so curious. He figured out ‘why’ questions in early February, and we often spend much of the walk to nursery school discussing one thing or another. Q. and I both end up shaking our heads sometimes at the things he tells us. He is genuinely good company. We have real conversations at the dinner table now.

When we have bad days, they are very difficult. He is so quick to start shouting or crying or both as soon as he dislikes something. When he’s having a bit of trouble doing something, he’ll start shouting, “Help! Help!” in this really high-pitched voice. Half the time he’s shouting it as he does whatever it is he’s claiming he can’t do. I have to admit I find the high-pitched whine/shout really hard to cope with. Nothing erases my patience faster.

He’s obviously worried about growing up too quickly. He’ll make big strides in doing something and then suddenly start wanting us to do it for him again, as if he’s realized he’s more independent. Bedtime is becoming a progressively larger issue. We put a nightlight in his room about six weeks ago because he was starting to show signs of being afraid of the dark. That worked well, but in the last week or so we’re back to him wanting the bathroom light left on as well and his door left wide open. We also have to check on him multiple times, and we’ve only just managed to curb a bad habit of having to go back in and take him back out of the crib for another cuddle on the futon. The routine also takes forever these days, now that we have to do two rounds of Sleeping Bunnies, and then he wants to run laps of our hall upstairs (usually 20 or so), and then there is the inordinate amount of time it takes him to put on his pjs, and then teeth brushing and hair combing and then there are stories, and then cuddles, and then we have to check on him three times, and then we still often have to go back in again to stop a meltdown. Partly this is a result of him occasionally napping at nursery school. He gave up napping over Christmas. Since then he’s napped maybe a handful of times- three of them at nursery school in the last week or so (which might mean a growth spurt). It’s so clear that he doesn’t need a nap now- it just destroys bedtime. But I also think part of it is he’s developing more sophisticated fears. He woke up from a bad dream the other night and told Q. that he had been lost and he understands the idea of being lonely too. Right now Q. and I are pretty clear on our lines in the sand and we’re not budging. I have to admit I’m glad he’s still in the crib- it would be far worse if he could be popping out of bed whenever he pleased. We were planning on moving him to his new room later this month but the timings are just going to be too hectic, so we’ll wait until we’re back from Oz in July.

Other than the battles at bedtime, his sleep right now is truly amazing. He’ll go to bed happily at 7:30 (8:00 at the latest) and sleep through for twelve or thirteen hours. Once he slept in until 9:00! The other huge change is we can get up in the morning without waking him up (even with our terrible floorboards). Occasionally Q.’s even showered upstairs without hearing a peep from the other side of the wall. And we can check on him at night when we go to sleep. I remember reading about Serenity being able to check on her O. when he was sleeping when E. was so little and so terrible at sleeping and thinking, “That sounds amazing. That will NEVER be us.” Yet here we are. A year ago at this point E. was waking up for the day at 5 a.m. or earlier. Two years ago he was waking up when we went to bed, even with the white noise machine in his room, and if I didn’t nurse him, he’d just scream for an hour or more, even though he’d fed less than three hours before. And now I can walk into his room before I go to bed and smooth his hair and check to see if he is wearing his bunny as a hat, or if he is cuddling a cougar. I can listen to his breathing (or put my hand on my chest if I can’t hear it). I can see how he sleeps. I love being able to do this.

His best bunny isn’t as popular anymore. Since she only has a bunny head and a blanket body she’s not as interesting as the cougars or the other bunnies, so she doesn’t tend to come out of the crib much these days. For a while he wasn’t even sleeping with her. It made me so sad to think he didn’t need her anymore- it was this reminder I just wasn’t expecting that he is growing up. And then I noticed that when he was asleep she was usually nearby, or tucked under his arm or his belly, and the last few times we’ve had a huge meltdown, I’ve been able to get him to calm down and fall asleep by getting him to cuddle her. He was even wearing her like a hat as he slept two nights ago, which I haven’t seen him do in months. I’m glad he hasn’t outgrown her quite yet.

He is still so physically cautious. We started going to playgrounds again, and when he first sat in a swing he didn’t want to be pushed very high at all, and the first time he went on a climbing structure he actually crawled across the little bridge spanning two sections (a bridge that was made of metal and wasn’t going to move). When I told him it would be ok to walk across, he did it, but he kept a death grip on the railing. In some ways this is a good thing, as he’s very sensible and it means I don’t have to worry about any daredevil antics. At the same time, however, I don’t want his excessive caution to slow him down. He became much braver in the playgrounds after a couple of visits, thank goodness. I think he just needed to remember how to play there.

He’s starting to develop some empathy. He spends a lot of time telling us that he misses us, asking about our days, giving us big hugs and cuddles, etc. When he knows we’re upset, he brings us kleenex so we can wipe our tears and feel better. He wanted to buy Q. flowers when he finished teaching for the year because “Daddy will love the colours and they will make him so happy”. He has also finally, finally, stopped rejecting his father. I am still doing 99% of the bedtimes, because if I’m home E. will make a huge fuss and it’s just been too stressful a semester to push that, but if I’m out Q. puts him down with no trouble at all. More importantly, E. has stopped yelling at his father to leave as soon as he walks in the door and he no longer shrieks and throws a fit if Q. gets him breakfast or changes his diaper. I had to leave for work before E. woke up a few times in the last couple of months, and Q. didn’t have to call me to get me to talk to a hysterical little guy. E. gives Q. lots of hugs and kisses now. They giggle together when they’re being Sleeping Bunnies. He seeks out his father for stories after supper. It makes my heart happy to watch them together.

Watching E. process the loss of the baby was heartbreaking. For weeks I’d be ambushed out of nowhere with questions: “Tell me again why there’s going to be no baby in September.” “Is you still sad about the baby?” E. told me that he missed the baby and that he was sad it wasn’t going to get to come out. His interest in the months of the year was sparked by his wanting to know exactly when September was. He knew that we weren’t supposed to going to Oz this summer- when we were talking about it, weeks after it had happened, he piped up with wanting to know why there wasn’t going to be a baby again. The other night I was telling him that he’s my best medium-sized guy (because he doesn’t want to get big, but he’s not little like a baby either), and he thought about it for a while and then said, “Mummy, I’m your only medium sized guy.”

He gets me through the day. Even on the days where he’s driving me absolutely up the wall and I don’t know whether to cry or scream and I’m afraid I’m going to do both, he gets me through.

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Filed under E.- the third year, Letters to E.

His favourite things (31/32 months)

What he’s doing:

Bossing us around. Negotiating on everything he possibly can. Talking a mile a minute  non-stop. Asking us to tell him a story and then telling us exactly how he wants the story to go. Then memorizing the story the first time and freaking out if we change anything (because we can’t remember it) when he inevitably wants to hear it again. Demanding to play hide-and-seek- he’s mastered 80% of the game but hasn’t yet realized that a) you shouldn’t hide in plain sight (like lying on the carpet in the middle of the hallway) and b) you shouldn’t yell out where you are when someone asks, “Where’s E.?” (“You behind the door!”). Wanting to join in “family cuddles” where we all lie on the couch together. This used to be restful before he was born. Now it resembles being on a couch with a small octopus as he wriggles and jumps and climbs and asks over and over again for “Daddy to tickle you with his feet!” Hiding under the blanket with me in the late afternoons- we lie on the couch together and I pull the big afghan my grandmother made for me over us both. Dressing himself- he’s fine with pants provided they don’t have buttons or zippers, and he can manage a shirt if I help him figure out which way is the front (with pants he tells himself “the tag goes at the back”). He gets worried with shirts because a lot of them are tight over his (larger than average) head, even the polos and others with a more open neck than t-shirts.

Also? NOT napping. He was really really sick in early December and right after that I realized he was starting to skip naps on days where he wasn’t at nursery school (he’s only ever napped once at nursery school, but we’d been in a good pattern all fall of him napping the other four days when he was at home). Then he started going five, six, eight days in a row before he’d nap. And although he was tired and harder to deal with at the end of the day, he wasn’t a wreck. We were away for a week between Christmas and New Year’s, and he napped twice. I think he’s only napped once since we’ve returned home- it took him over two hours to fall asleep, he fell asleep with toys and books in his crib and with the overhead light on, and taking that nap completely ruined his mood for the whole rest of the afternoon. Luckily he seems to be happy to play in his crib quietly for ninety minutes or two hours and accepts this as “quiet time” so my work schedule hasn’t been completely scuttled. But I’m not going to lie- on days where he didn’t quite get enough sleep the previous night, he is BRUTAL to deal with by about 4:30 p.m. or so.

What he’s playing with:

If I had to sum up E.’s thirty-first month in one word it would be: PUZZLES. Right at the start of the month I bought him (on a whim) a twelve piece puzzle only to discover that he could do it without help the second time through.  I then went out and bought him more (hurrah for Winners and their outrageously discounted pricing). It was a real eye opener as to just how badly I had been underestimating his ability. We went from twelve pieces, to twenty-four, to forty-eight within a couple of weeks. I ended up having to return two puzzles I’d bought him for Christmas because they would have been too easy by the time we gave them to him! The puzzle mania eased off a little bit in the thirty-second month, mainly because he mastered every puzzle we owned. He was given a bunch of new ones for Christmas, so that will keep him busy for a while (and allow me to rotate them around a bit more).

On his shelves this month:

3 January. New things on his shelves post- Christmas.

The top left space has three big floor puzzles: an alphabet train from M&D, a farm, and a dump truck, as well as eeboo’s Life on Earth matching game. He’s a bit young for the matching game right now, but he’ll grow into it. The middle space is his basket of small cars and trucks. The top right is the bunny house my mother made for him:

31 December. E's Bunny House, made by his Grannie.

31 December.

The bottom left has his alphabet blocks (Uncle Goose) which have become very popular at the moment. Bottom middle is his Plan Toys pirate ship, and bottom right is his Duplo. The shelves have pretty much stayed the same since we got back home from visiting after Christmas. In his cubby under the stairs his Bruder garbage truck and his wooden double decker bus have been joined by the Bruder dump truck/digger combo Santa brought at Christmas. I’d say he spends 60% of his time right now playing “construction” of some sort, 20% playing some version of “house”, 10% puzzles, and 10% other things.

What he’s reading:

Thirty-one months was all about Lost and Found and The Water Hole. We found them both at the library and I ended up buying him The Water Hole for Christmas because he loved it so much, and I loved it too (I adored Animalia as a child). He also really got into our Christmas books, especially The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas and A Porcupine in a Pine Tree (A Canadian Twelve Days of Christmas), although that one caused a huge emotional crisis. Then he made this huge leap and suddenly only wanted to read the longest books we had in the house (like Blueberries for Sal). We came back from visiting at Christmas with a bunch of Robert Munsch and some Berenstain Bears (all left over from when I was a kid) and he is obsessed with the Berenstain Bears. I read those books all day every day right now, and he keeps telling us how he’s going to move to a treehouse just like they do, and how he’ll go on a picnic and they’ll be there and they’ll all have lemonade together.

What he’s saying:

Mid- November:
E.: “You want to decorate the Christmas tree.”
Me: “No, E., we’re not going to do that. Christmas is too far away still. We’ll decorate when it’s December.”
E. continues asking, becoming progressively more and more agitated. Tantrum approaching, it’s late on a Saturday afternoon and Q. and I just want a bit of peace and quiet.
Me: “E., we’re not going to decorate the Christmas tree. Do you want to watch a garbage truck video instead?”
E.: “Yeah!”
The next day
E.: “Want to decorate the Christmas tree!”
Me: “We’re not doing that today, little love. I’m sorry.”
E.: “Watch a garbage truck video instead? Maybe just one teeny tiny video?”
Parents stunned into silence, realizing their toddler makes connections faster than they do.

Me: “Be careful, E. I think the grilled cheese could still be hot.”
E.: “NO! It not hot! Not hot!”
Me: “Well, E., it just came out of the oven, so it could be. Just check and blow on it if you need to.”
E.: “IT NOT HOT!”
Me: “Ok, E., fine. It’s not hot. I’m not going to argue with you.”
E.: “You want Mummy to argue with you. You want to keep arguing.”
My life has turned into a Monty Python sketch.

After buying a red potty like he asked for:
E.: *carrying the red potty around the room* “It’s an airplane!”
Me: “Do you want to sit on the airplane, E.?”
E.: *looking at me with deep suspicion. “When you older. Right now you want to wear diapers.”

Watching one of the cats investigating his snack:
E.: “Yiyi eating your snack! She should be eating her own snack!”

In the bath:
E.: “Want to tell Mummy a story. Once upon there were two bunnies. They were in the garden eating grass. They were eating flowers too. Outside Bunny was eating flowers and Biccie Bunny was eating grass. And they were eating waffles on plates with peanut butter for a special treat.”

At breakfast, perfectly cheerful:
E.: “I’m planning on having a horrible day at nursery school.”

Discussing travel arrangements for Boxing Day:
E.: “You want Mummy to sit next to you in the car… You a little bit worried about being alone.”
We agree that we should bring Caramel the cougar and she can sit next to him the whole time.
E.: “We can’t forget Canamel. We’d have to drive back home and then drive back to get her!”
More discussion about who would be in the car.
E.: “When I get a bit bigger I can drive. Then Mummy and Daddy can sit in the backseat!”

Opening a present from his Granny on Skype on Christmas Eve:
Me: “What do you think it is, E.?”
E.: “Duplo. Because of the sound it made.”
He was right.

Christmas Eve:
E.: “Have to have a really good sleep because Santa is coming!”
Then slept through until 8 a.m.!

Christmas Day, after playing with Santa present for about five minutes:
E.: “Want to see if there is something for Mummy and Daddy too.”
Cue hearts melting.

Christmas Day, post (very short) nap:
Q.: “Should we go for a walk?”
E.: “NO! Don’t want to go outside because it is very snowy.”
Pause.
E.: “Don’t like the forecast.”

On being asked if he’d like to go out to dinner:
E.: *runs to window* “Are we sure I can go outside? It’s very dark out.”

While watching me get dressed:
E.: “Mummy wearing underwear? It hides Mummy’s bum!”

While helping me cut loose threads off the couches:
E.: “Mummy tells the cats to stop scratching. Mummy says, ‘Hey you, stop doing that!’ But the cats really don’t.”

When my sister had been looking after him so I could go to the clinic:
Me: “E., do you want to draw a nice picture to say thank you to Auntie C.?”
E.: “Yeah!” *runs and gets a piece of paper, chooses a peach marker, uncaps it, and makes one small vertical line in the centre of the (very large) sheet. Takes it to his auntie.* “There you go.”
C.: “Thank you, E.! What is it?”
Given he’s been into minimalist art lately we were both expecting him to tell us it was a truck or a boat or something similar.
E.: “It’s a piece of paper.”

When playing with his Plan Toys pirate ship:
E.: “This one is wearing an eye patch.”
Me: “That’s right. He’s lost an eye.”
E.: *thoughtful* “Maybe he’s playing hide and seek with it.”

What I’ve noticed:

Two and a half is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures. The hard physical exhaustion of child rearing is behind us and we’re all getting enough sleep, but he is just so intense, almost all the time. He NEVER stops talking. He catches on to things far faster than we expect. He is an emotional whirlwind after being even tempered for so long. I’m not going to say we’re in the terrible twos, because when he’s on an even keel he is so much fun, but the meltdowns are much more frequent and much more intense than they used to be. He gets on recurrent feedback loops (about stories, about food, about the games we play) and it’s harder and harder to distract him and break the loop.

He’s becoming ever more introverted. He had a really hard time with extended family while we were away visiting over the holidays. The grandparents were all fine, as was my sister, but any extra family caused him to clam right up and seek solace in another (quieter) room. He tells me all the time that something is “too yowd” and he doesn’t “yike” it. The other day he tried to convince Q. he was sick so he couldn’t go to nursery school, then had the biggest meltdown Q.’s ever had to deal with. Q. asked him at one point why he didn’t want to go, and E. thought for a while before saying that nursery school was “too yowd” (I spend a morning there every week- it’s really not an overly loud environment). E. has even refused to allow me to read a particular book because the front cover shows a house with lots of people in it and he feels it will be “too yowd” as well.

He is SO sensitive and self-aware. He’s also really anxious. Q. had the bright idea of turning his crib around so we could lower the drop side during the IVF tww- if E. stood on a chair he could then step into the crib. We managed to get him to do it (and now he loves it and won’t let either of us lift him in or out), but the first time he was literally shaking with terror and crying, “I’m scared!”.

The other interesting thing is he’s stopped sucking his thumb. He was never very reliant on it except for when he was going to sleep. Q. and I realized that when he got up in the morning and was still sleepy and fuzzy, although he’d still rub his bunny around his face, he was no longer putting his thumb in his mouth. While away over the holidays he was sleeping at my Dad’s house on a mattress on the floor, so one of us would lie down with him, and we both noticed he wasn’t using his thumb at all. So we checked his hand, and the callus is gone. Both Q. and I needed parental intervention (at a much older age) to stop finger/thumb sucking, so we’re thrilled he’s done it all on his own.

His imaginative play is fantastic. He self-narrates, and we love listening to him talk to himself while we’re finishing dinner. The other day he got out one of the laundry baskets, told us it was a pirate ship, and then sat on Q.’s backpack, told us it was a rowboat, and then “rowed” himself out to the pirate ship.

He is a LOT of work right now, but it is so worth it. His language use and speech just blow my mind. We have lengthy, thoughtful conversations now. I love it, and the exciting part is I know it’s just going to keep getting better.

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Filed under E.- the third year, Letters to E.

A few of his favourite things (Thirty Months)

E. is two and a half today. And I’ve been thinking for a while now that I miss writing his monthly letters. I don’t think I could keep up with them if I tried to keep doing them in that much detail, but I miss how observant they made me, how they made me stop and find a spare moment to write down what he was doing and saying from month to month. He is still growing and changing, even if it’s not quite as obvious as it was in the first or second year, and I feel like it is all starting to blur together. So I thought I’d start a new type of post to mark his months, one that helps me remember who he is in this particular moment in time.

What he’s doing:

E. is (probably because of what he gets up to at nursery school) quite interested in painting and stickers and drawing and other such activities. I’m trying to be better at making sure we have the right supplies on hand. He makes very definite colour choices, has started telling me that he’s drawing something in particular (like two airplanes or a bumblebee, even though it still looks like a page full of squiggles), and can draw a pretty good circle.  He absolutely loves asking me to write his name on his drawings- sometimes one drawing ends up with four or five signatures. He loves baking and has now mastered cracking eggs. When we make banana bread, I do the measuring and the final stirring when the batter is coming together, but he pretty much does everything else. He also still loves sweeping, although he’s less enamoured of the vacuum as he feels it’s “too yowd”. He loves music and asks me to sing him songs all day long. If it’s a song he almost has memorized he will mouth the words that he knows along with me. Nursery school has been fantastic from this perspective as Q. and I probably don’t sing with him often enough.

He finally showed me that he can jump, although he’s not very confident. He’s still very cautious physically: very slow to go up and down stairs (suits me as it means he’s being safe, and our stairs are very high and very steep and end on a hardwood floor), very worried about getting down from any sort of height, etc. He does love to balance on the angled stones at the edge of some of the properties we pass on our way to nursery school. We’ve really noticed a difference in his walking since starting at nursery school. The walk is about 800 metres, and he walks both ways, three times a week, absolutely no exceptions. When he first started he’d suddenly crouch down in the middle of the sidewalk, saying he needed a break, but now he just trundles along, and if we’re in a rush, he is able (although not particularly willing, which is fair enough) to run along next to me the whole route, which means we get there in less than fifteen minutes.

What he’s playing with:

I hit a snag this month with my long-standing policy of toy rotation when E. made it clear that he could remember toys that I’d put away and request to have them back again. So far we’ve been willing to negotiate where if he wants a particular truck back he has to choose a different vehicle to put away, as I’m stoutly resisting having all vehicles out, all the time. Toys that he really, truly wasn’t playing with at all (like his Schleich animals) he doesn’t seem to miss, but vehicles that had fallen out of favour for a week or so seem to still be tightly retained in the toddler memory.

This month E. has been into his Duplo and his Megabloks in a big way. He likes constructing vehicles out of the Megabloks and the Duplo, but he also loves feeding the Duplo piece by piece into his Bruder garbage truck. He will happily do this by himself for ages if I’m cooking dinner or upstairs having a shower. The other toy that gets a lot of independent play is his Brio train set. I’m so glad we didn’t go with the Thomas trains- I have a real problem with them because the vast majority of the engines are male, and the silly boxcars are female- but by this stage E. would have a problem with them too, as he doesn’t like vehicles with faces on them. He has a dumptruck with a face, and he complains about it, pointing out that it’s supposed to have lights. He’s happiest playing with the trains on the carpet without the constraints of the tracks (again, very glad we didn’t get one of those massive train tables), and will make up all sorts of adventures for them. One day recently the train was loading up crackers and bananas before it drove to the store made up Duplo to drop them off.

On his shelves this month:

In the living room: Duplo, his basket of small vehicles, his Megabloks, his wooden farm, his train set, and his Bruder garbage truck have been out all month. I’ve been rotating the Schleich animals, musical instruments, wooden blocks, his Haba block set with dowels, his wooden car that can be assembled several different ways, and his balls. He always has a few medium sized vehicles out (the Playmobil airport bus was a huge hit when it reemerged) and a puzzle. He still doesn’t spend much time in his bedroom, but he’s played with the M&D vehicle sound blocks as well as a set of little construction vehicles when he’s been up there.

What he’s reading:

E. isn’t as interested in sitting still for stories these days, except pre-nap and at bedtime. My mother found a book of trucks with flaps on each page that she gave to him at Thanksgiving. He’s been obsessed with it ever since, demanding it every night. Q. and I would dearly love for it to disappear. He also insists on reading I am a train and Counting with Miffy at bedtime, which are two more strong contenders for the title of “most obnoxious book he owns”. He loves being silly with Counting with Miffy and will insist that there are two or three of something on every page, except for the page where two (or three) would be the right answer, at which point he yells out another number. Llama Llama Misses Mama played a huge role in helping him adjust to nursery school. Cars and Trucks and Things that Go was probably the best book purchase I’ve made to date as he STILL loves it and gets it out a few times a week. Some days he will listen to a very long story (like Scrambled Eggs Super or Blueberries for Sal or The Library Lion) while on others he prefers That’s Not My Bunny and other such narrative giants.

What he’s saying:

Absolutely everything. This child never stops talking! We were watching videos from last Christmas the other day and I had forgotten all the little sounds he used to make, and how good he was at communicating with us when he didn’t really have any words at all. He is experimenting a lot with verb tenses and having trouble with irregular verbs (as you would expect). We hear a lot of “I broked the garbage truck”.

He’s picked up a few of my verbal habits. He’ll say, “Don’t worry! Don’t worry!” if he’s starting to get worked up about something, and he’ll often tell me that “We’re making progress!” on something. He also says “Oh my goodness!” exactly like my little sister does, which is hilarious.

He’s finally started saying “Yeah” for yes, rather than “Hmmm”. We have my Dad to thank for that one, as he spent a lot of time trying to encourage E. to say ‘yes’ when he was staying with us for a few days.

When he’s really upset and recognizes he’s lost control of his emotions, he’ll come over and say, “I need a cuddle!”, which is entirely because of Q. working so hard with him this summer on ways to calm down when he becomes overwrought. It is so helpful that he now recognizes when this is happening, and will seek out the comfort he needs to allow him to process his feelings.

In general E.’s speech is very clear and he has very few adorable toddler mispronunciations. He correctly says ‘animal’, which amazes Q. and I given we both said ‘aminal’ until we were four. His little voice is so sweet, especially when it is singing. It’s less sweet when he’s getting a bit overwrought and about to become whiny as it goes up in both volume and pitch.

What made me laugh the other day was when he was playing with his garbage truck, and he told me it was going to visit his wooden farm to “collect the poo”. He drove the truck up, parked it, and then said, “Someone needs to climb the ladder.” He went over to his basket where his cars are stored, pulled out one of the little construction figures he has, and then made him climb the ladder to the loft to “get all the poo”.

What I’ve noticed:

I realized this month that running errands with him is now actually fun. I’ve spent two and a half years trying to avoid shopping with him in tow, but this month we’ve gone in search of new mittens, bought bulbs, and searched out presents for new babies. He regularly does the grocery shop on Friday afternoons with Q. after nursery school is over. He walks to the grocery store, sits in the cart and holds the shopping list, and then carries some of the groceries home. If the store we need to visit is far enough away that we have to take the subway or a streetcar (or both!) to get there, than the journey really does become the highlight of the trip. Yesterday I braved going downtown to get him a pair of mittens from a particular store that I knew would fit and last and which I couldn’t buy online because they wanted too high a minimum purchase to get free shipping. It takes an hour to get there when you walk at toddler speed, and requires a streetcar, a subway and another streetcar. E. had an absolute blast.

The other thing that’s stood out this month is how good his memory is. I’ve lost count of how many nursery rhymes and classic children’s songs he has memorized. Ever since we came back to Canada Q. has sung “Morningtown Ride” to E. every night before he goes to sleep. At lunch last week E. spontaneously started singing it to us and did both verses and the chorus, letter-perfect, with only the tiniest of help from his father when he got a bit stuck on one line. Q. then went and looked up the song and realized he’d been singing a few lines incorrectly. He tried to switch, but E. just fell about laughing every time Q. changed a word, so I guess we’re now stuck with Q.’s version!

I bought him a new puzzle this week because I’ve suspected for a while he’s really bored with the ones that have the pegs and the allotted spaces for the shapes. It was twelve pieces. We did it together once, and then he did it all by himself another four times that day. Whoops. Guess I’d better go and find some larger ones!

He is very sensitive to other people’s emotions, and often comes home from nursery school with stories of why one of the other children ended up crying. If we’re out and we hear a baby crying he’ll comment on it and then speculate as to why the baby might be crying. He usually guesses that the baby is hungry or the baby doesn’t want to be in the stroller/on the streetcar. Going through the separation anxiety with nursery school has meant that he has the vocabulary to talk about his own feelings, so I’m often told that “it’s hard to say goodbye” to something, whether that be Mummy, the park, the pancake at breakfast, or his garbage truck when it’s time to go to nursery school.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, E.- the third year, Letters to E.

The twenty-fourth month

E’s two-year post is below this one, and will soon be password-protected. E-mail me if you missed it and would like access to see his pictures.

Dearest E.,

I’m a bit late with this letter, but I wanted to make sure that I wrote it to capture all the excitement of your final month before you turned two! You had your official two-year appointment early this month because you were going to be overseas by the time of your birthday. You were 35″ tall (75th percentile) and 25.5 lb (25th percentile). This was the first time you were measured standing up, which accounts for the fact that your official measurements show you haven’t grown since 18 months (and indeed, might have even gone backwards by half an inch). You’re still a long and lean toddler, and I think you had a growth spurt after the appointment, so you might still be closer to the 90th percentile in height which is where you’ve normally been. This was the month where you had your first haircut! It was really only a trim to tidy up around your ears and to deal with the cowlick and would-be mullet at the back, but I had no intention of trying to do it myself. Given we were about to go away and you had a birthday party coming up, we figured it was a good time. I got my hair cut at the same time, and you were very interested in sitting up in the chair next to me. You took it all in your stride and didn’t mind the scissors or being sprayed with the water bottle. “We have eight year olds who can’t behave that well!” said the hairdresser to me when you were finished. Because we didn’t touch the front at all the haircut didn’t make a huge difference to how you looked, but your Daddy and I are both convinced that your hair is already growing in thicker as a result.

The biggest change this month was in your speech. You already had a large vocabulary, but this was the month where you really started to make full sentences with verbs and even some pronouns. By the end of the month you were coming out with some great sentences: “Grandpa play with big train and Ee-mi play with little train”; “Daddy come outside now too”; “Two people are on couch having seep [sleep]”. When you refer to yourself your name now has two syllables. You can count to fourteen, although you need me to repeat each  number after you say it to act as a prompt for the next one. You can sing “Itsy-bitsy spider” and “Head and Shoulders”, as well as do the actions.  And I am finally, finally “Mummy”, rather than “Mama” or just “Ma!”.

This month had one big difference in it from all of the others: about halfway through I got on a plane to fly to the UK where we’ll be spending the rest of the spring and the summer, and you stayed at home with your Daddy. I’m not going to lie- I think this separation was much harder on me than it was on you! I was absolutely dreading it, and the night I put you to bed after your birthday party and had to kiss you for the last time and walk out of your room was one of my worst nights as a parent. I cried a lot. Your Daddy told me that when you woke up you wanted to see me, like you usually do if Daddy is the one to go into your room first, but he was able to distract you by saying that Grannie was waiting downstairs to play with you. And that was it- you were fine! You had your Grannie and your Grandpa with you for the first couple of days, then two days just with Daddy, and then your other Grandpa arrived and he stayed with you and Daddy until it was time for you to go to the airport.

You and Grandpa had a blast! You’ve always, always loved him and thought he was great fun, and he thinks you are quite possibly the best thing on the planet, so I expected it would work out well. We spent a fair amount of time skyping in my evenings (your late afternoons after your nap), and I could see how much fun you and Grandpa were having and how silly you were being. Your Grandpa would tell me all the things you had been up to that day, and what you’d eaten, and how well you’d napped. You’d hang out for around five or ten minutes before you would start asking to say “Bye-bye, Mummy” so you and Grandpa could go play some more or go back to the park! You were given some more train pieces for your set (tracks and cars) at your birthday party, and you and Grandpa played with those every single day. Grandpa is quite a fan of trains, so he was very impressed with your new additions. I was so glad your Grandpa was able to come and stay. It meant your Daddy could get all the work done that he needed to do for the end of the academic year. Plus I think it was very special for you to have that chance to spend all that time with your Grandpa.

I missed you very very much, however, and I was so excited on the day you were going to arrive that I woke up twenty minutes before my alarm (and my alarm was set for 4 a.m.!). It seemed to take forever before you and your Daddy appeared at the airport, partly because I’d taken a very early bus in case something went wrong, and partly because your plane was delayed. I cried as soon as I saw you in the airport, and when your Daddy gave you to me, you just went limp and curled up on my shoulder like you never wanted to let me go.

You had a slightly rough introduction to our life in the UK. Not only was your plane delayed, but our bus took an hour longer than expected from the airport because an accident had closed the motorway and we had a new driver who kept loudly announcing to everyone, “This is my first time driving this route. I normally go to Gatwick. I don’t know these roads at all.” To make matters worse, about halfway through the bus ride you got motion sick. We think it was because you were happily engaged in drawing with your markers at the time, or that’s what your Daddy suspects given he used to get motion sick when he was a little guy. We managed to keep the bus clean and get you tidied up and into some spare clothes. You were so tired by that point (you hadn’t slept very well on the plane) that you passed out in my lap. But then we only had another fifteen minutes to go before it was time to get off the bus. Once we managed to get you home you had a nice time exploring the flat, right up until dinner when you tried to get down from the chair by yourself and face-planted right onto the floor because you were so clumsy from being over-tired and jet-lagged. You cut your lips and gums and were bleeding profusely. Your Daddy and I both felt terrible, especially the next day when you had a huge fat lip, but you were fine and before too long you were back to your normal cheerful self. That first night you went to sleep at 7:30 and woke up at 10 thinking you’d had a lovely nap, and it was well past 2 a.m. before we got you asleep again. But that was the worst of the jet lag and things have been getting progressively better.

You’ve adjusted fairly well to being over in the UK. We still haven’t quite managed to get you back on to your old routine – you’re sleeping later in the mornings and going to bed later at night – but that works for us, since there’s no rush to get out the door at any particular point and it’s probably unrealistic to expect you to go to bed any earlier given how long the days are here. There’s a blind for your room, but it doesn’t keep all the light out. We have had some problems at bedtime. It’s not surprising you’re experiencing some separation anxiety, given all the changes you’ve been through in such a short time. We’ve managed to avoid having to start sitting in your room while you fall asleep (we did that for two nights before deciding it was a habit we just weren’t willing to allow), and we’re able to just stick our heads in to say hello a few times, and tell you that we’re just in the next room if you call out. We’re leaving your door part-way open, and you have your new Schleich crocodile who sits on your chair to “keep Ee-mi comp-ny!” while you’re falling asleep. It is taking you a LONG time to fall asleep, which I think means you probably need a shorter nap, but your Daddy really needs that nap time to get some work done. Right now his strategy is to keep you super busy running around in the morning to make sure you’re ready for a nap. We also wake you up by 8 a.m., although the last few days you’ve been waking on your own around 7:30. I’m really hoping you can avoid making any major sleep changes while we’re in the UK, but we’ll roll with whatever you throw at us. Just please don’t drop your nap yet!

The day I left to fly to the UK we had your birthday party. Although this made organizing everything a bit hectic (this is a huge understatement), it worked out well on the day because it gave me something to focus on rather than just worrying about the flight and leaving you. Most of your toddler friends were able to come and lots of your relatives as well. You had a great time! We set up all of your toys, including your sand/water table filled with lentils that had been in the basement- it was a huge hit with the entire toddler set. We had your party in the morning (complete with the same chocolate and orange cupcakes I made last year given they were so tasty), and then after your nap you opened your presents. I think it’s safe to say that your absolute favourite present was the Bruder recycling truck from one of your little friends. You spent the entire rest of the day putting everything you could in there (including Berenice Bunny).

Your actual birthday was much quieter since it was just us three. I blew up some balloons, and put out your presents on the coffee table the night before. This turned out to be quite the miscalculation because as soon as you saw them you wanted to open them- you wouldn’t even take your sleepsack off first- and this meant your poor Daddy missed you opening them because he was in the kitchen making pancakes. I was really happy that you loved at first sight the wooden double-decker bus I’d found- I’d been sure it was the perfect present (and the perfect souvenir of our time in the UK) since I’d first seen it online a few months ago. After a pancake and sausage breakfast I went off to work. You and Daddy had a fun day, and then we all had a birthday dinner of schnitzel, which is still your favourite food, and brownies and ice cream for dessert.

Being apart meant that you bonded more with your Daddy. You’ve been pretty much in a consistent Mummy phase since you were old enough to express a preference, and I know it’s been hard on your Daddy to have you burst into tears if I leave the house, or to have you order him back out of the house whenever he came in after doing the shopping or when coming home from work. It’s definitely been easier on him to have things more balanced and to have you simply say “Bye-bye, Mummy! Go work library! Bike bike! Need heh-met!” when I get ready to go in the morning. But it was hard for me the first night you were here in the UK when you didn’t want me to sing you your lullabies but asked for Daddy to put you to bed instead. You seem to have evened everything out now and are very happy to just be with whichever parent is around.You were in the UK for less than a week when your birthday came around, but I think it was already clear you’re going to have a good time. You absolutely love the huge park with all the playground equipment, and you love riding around on your Daddy’s bike in your special seat (and you are very good to tell us that we all need our helmets if we’re riding our bikes). The patio and back garden of our flat is proving to be as popular as I had hoped, although the spring has been colder than expected. You like helping to feed the birds and visiting the farm in the next village. The next few months are going to be a big adventure, and your Daddy and I are so excited to share them with you.

Love you, my darling son, today and always,
Mummy

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Filed under E.- the second year, Letters to E.

Protected: The second year

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