Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All About the Kids

I don't think I've written much about what the kids are up to lately, at least from a developmental sort of perspective. Follow me on Twitter or find me on Facebook for cute pics and funny conversations--I realize I used to post more of those to the blog, but now I find it much easier to use Twitter and FB. This is a long post, and may not interest you to know this many details about my kids, but I'm doing this mainly for myself, as a way to remember what they were all like at this particular moment in time.

The kids have been mostly fun lately, and they are each in such different developmental stages which can present some challenges to be sure, but in many ways they complement each other nicely.

Sean, almost 2.5

First of all, can you even believe he is nearly 2.5 already? Seems like 5 minutes ago I was announcing his birth. Crazy.

He has really started blossoming into his own independent person in the last couple of months, as he's rounding the corner toward Three (he's preoperational!). Suddenly he is very into doing things all by himself, and is great at putting on his own shoes, and of course, removing all clothing at the drop of a hat. Looks like I've got another nudist. :o) In general, he's got good physical coordination--he's been drinking out of open-topped cups for over a year, and has a good sense of balance and spatial awareness. I'm thinking of having him give Morgan some lessons, actually. :/ He is still nursing, but has recently cut way back, so I think he'll be fully weaned in a few more months. That's bittersweet for me, but mostly...sweet.

He's pretty good at recognizing the shapes of things--he figured out all of the shapes months ago, maybe even a year ago. So now he can correctly name all of the numbers and letters. I don't think he quite knows what they're for yet, but he's been playing a counting game on my iPhone obsessively for the last few weeks, so I suspect he's starting to cotton onto counting. He finally grasped colors a few months ago. He took the longest of the three kids to figure those out (Ryan was 14 months or something ridiculously early like that). For a while I was wondering if he was red/green color blind, but it turned out he had the names confused. He has recently decided that his favorite color is green. He can correctly identify that he and his brother and dad are boys, and that Morgan and his friend Livy are girls (and random people at the store, too). He couldn't quite place me or Kelly in the 'girl' category, as apparently people who play for Team Mom are merely servants and not actual people with gender, hmph.

He is, like his sister and brother before him, whip-smart. It really amazes me how many things a 2.5 year old child can say and do. His imagination has kicked into full gear and he plays for long stretches of a time alone, and with his siblings. So far, he copies what they do for the most part--he'll pretend to pow you in a battle, or pretend to be a kitty (he does have a very authentic meow). But he is beginning to add his own unique twists to the games, bringing something new into the process. This has been a challenge for the older ones to accept, as they are used to bossing Sean about what he ought to do. It's been quite a shock to discover that this "baby" has his own ideas about how to play games!

He is fascinated with music of all kinds. He LOVES the music class I take him to, though he's quite serious in class and reticent about participating. I think he's just sponging it all into his brains. When he gets home, he sings and dances, and pretends to play guitar and sings Beatles songs. He has a decent sense of pitch, and he can sing on key even without the music playing in the background. We're getting him a little guitar for Christmas and I can't wait to see the look on his face when he gets it!

He loves vehicles of all kinds, which is an interesting contrast to Ryan at the same age. Ryan always loved construction vehicles, but by this age he had switched his interest toward peopleguys--the workers who used those cool machines were more interesting to Ryan than the machines themselves. Sean definitely likes the machines. Flying machines rate the highest--airplanes and helicopters--followed closely by trains (yes, he's been infected with the Thomas virus). After that, trucks and cars and construction machines and boats.

Sean is also very adept at the computer, like Morgan was from a young age. He plays Starfall and Poisson Rouge (our new favorite website for young kids) and Sprout (the Thomas games). He plays games on my iPhone like nobody's business (and he'll hang up on you if you call me during one of his games).

Personality-wise, he still has his sunny disposition and impish sense of humor. I think of him as the Class Clown of our Homeschool. (Ryan better look out, because Sean is quickly learning that it's super fun to push Ryan's various buttons as a form of entertainment.) He hasn't really hit the tantrum stage yet, but the glimpses I've had of it indicate that he will be more Incredible Hulk-like than either of the others. Ryan was a Stomping/Hitting guy, but mostly he screamed at you the 9,000 reasons he was mad. Always articulate, that one. Morgan was a Puddler--she would develop Noodle Legs (the Jelly-Legs Jinx from Harry Potter always reminded me of her) and dissolve into a puddle of screaming tears wherever she happened to be standing. Sean--he quivers with rage, and I suspect he will thrash and kick and probably throw stuff. You can tell he hasn't reached this stage yet because I still find this thought somewhat amusing. :)

So. That's where we're at with Mr. Sean. Moving on...

Morgan, 5 years, 8 months (today, actually)

Morgan is also starting to change dramatically. She is beginning to leave behind the preschool years and seems to be maturing toward that next stage. With that change has come a minor bout of tantrums and unreasonableness (The Five Thing that Barbara Coloroso mentions in her book Kids Are Worth It!).

She is an interesting kid, having a mixture of being waaaaaay ahead of typical development than usual plus being right at or kinda behind of typical development in other areas. The last time I tested her reading level, she was around 5th-6th grade. And yet, she still experiences potty regressions. Sometimes, it's the bouncing back and forth that makes parenting her a unique challenge--I can't figure out what to expect from her, and when I'm caught by surprise, especially when it's a negative sort of surprise like the potty thing, it's harder for me to handle the way I'd like. This is purely because of my own personality--I'm not the sort of person who really enjoys surprises (even with CrossFit--I have to check the WOD beforehand so I'm prepared!).

She reads very well, as I mentioned, but she still prefers to be read aloud to, and often prefers "young" kind of books. I attribute this to her needing to have the younger, more immature, still only 5.5 years old side of her acknowledged and nurtured and cared for. So I am not inclined to push her toward reading books that would be at her reading level--which postpones, at least for the time being, the problem of finding books at her reading level that would also be appropriate for her developmental stage. She can do complicated math like adding two digit numbers with carrying, and in fact, absorbed this lesson so readily and completely I was left feeling like I ought to do more with that.

Again, I'm wary of pushing too much. She's far ahead of where every "expert" thinks a Kindergarten-aged kid ought to be, and she's self-motivated about her work. I'd rather her pursue her academic (and other) learning because she is genuinely motivated than because I am making her do it, especially at this age. She still has perfectionist tendencies and they are worse when she feels outside pressure to perform. It's a real balance, this homeschooling thing (or parenting, really)--trying to figure out when and where a push is helpful and when it's not.

She is still obsessed with dogs, and Brendan and I have agreed that there is a family dog in our future. It will still be a while--I'd very much prefer to be well over Sean's oncoming tantrum thing before we got a dog, because I know that once a kid emerges from the other side of that first breaking away/becoming independent stage, he is much more reasonable and has a little more self-control. He's kind of a bruiser who doesn't know his own strength--a little more impulse control from him would be welcomed by any new family pet, I think. But we will get a dog--something in Morgan's very soul yearns for this experience and I think that as long as we reasonably can, we should try to help fulfill this desire. It will be quite a change to have a dog after years of cats, though! I'm looking forward to it.

Morgan is super helpful around the house lately, which is a nice development! She will generally jump in and help with the dishes, and in fact, loves to help me do work like that because it makes her feel like a grownup (says she). Believe me, I'm milking this for all it's worth! And she is sweet and friendly, and has been playing with Sean quite a bit lately. I think Sean is finally interesting enough to play with, and unlike the other brother, is generally willing to play her kinds of games. I think it will be nice for her to have Sean as a playmate.

She's having trouble sleeping in her own room, and this is becoming a problem. What I'm hoping to do is move Sean into her room with her in the near future--I think she likes having someone to snuggle with at night--who doesn't? Sean needs just a few more months I think, gotta get that weaning over with. Then the two of them can snuggle like puppies all night long.

She's also becoming quite brave and a little daredevil in her old age. She stands up to Ryan more often, which is a good experience for both of them, methinks. She embraced rollercoasters and demands to drive. She loves spending the night at Livy's house (where they sleep together snuggled up like puppies). In many ways, she is the most independent of the three, and seems to need us less.

Personality-wise, she is still just like her Daddy. :) Methodical, something of a perfectionist, and slooooow (in Brendan's defense, he is not actually as slow as M is). I mean, this child is slow as Christmas. Kelly remarked recently that when Morgan is over at her house, everything takes 100 years longer to do. And she's right. Part of this is her methodical perfectionism thing, and part of it is her hyper-focus thing. What she pays attention to, SHE PAYS ATTENTION TO. Sadly, everything else fades into the distant background, giving the impression that she is unobservant and not paying attention to anything. And she is unobservant of 99.9% of reality, but boy, that 0.1%, well she's ON it. Most of my parenting of Morgan revolves around helping her notice the rest of reality and deal with it. Not looking forward to the day she can drive.

Which brings us to...

Ryan, age 8 years, 7 months

As always, Ryan is a challenge and a delight, all wrapped up into one little boy package. I keep telling myself that if I can survive the raising of Ryan, then the others will be nothing.

He is full of energy, loud, in your face, and, and, . . . just in your face. Boisterous. That's a good word. He will not be ignored and in his quest not to be ignored, he is often just Too Much. We're working on that. And it's funny, because in public (usually) and at homeschool co-op, he is perfectly behaved and rather quiet. He saves it all up to unleash on me, I think. Hmph.

Ryan is a Renaissance Man--his interests are diverse and many (as his personality is rather the opposite of Morgan's hyper-focus, this makes sense). He is eager to suck in information about these varied topics, and now that his reading has caught up to this quest for knowledge, he is able to suck in that information independently. HOORAY! He spends most of his time either creating projects--like doing electricity projects with his electrical kit, or making wild and weird concoctions in the kitchen out of tea bags, or setting up a huge battle scene to recreate something like Thermopylae--or he's reading. His nose has been stuck in some book or other for the past couple of months. Brendan's reading Sherlock Holmes aloud at nights, and by day Ryan's been reading Encyclopedia Brown. He's also reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War and he really comprehends it. His reading tastes tend toward mysteries or nonfiction, and he'll spend hours looking through DK books about science or history topics. But he'll listen to fiction audiobooks (or read-alouds), and so far we've listened to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Secret Garden (we saw this movie, too, and it was really good!). We'll tackle LOTR as an audiobook later this year, I think.

He is so creative and imaginative, too, and very wordy. We thought of the perfect Christmas present--a flip cam! And we're going to get some how to make movies books, too. I think he will have a blast with this project, and it will be a good outlet for his imagination and storytelling.

He is busy all the time, and he's all over the place (literally and figuratively), so it's hard for me to figure out where he is academically sometimes, where he might need help or what neat-o thing I should introduce to him next. I've explained my concerns in this area, and he's beginning to understand that I'm actually here to help him out, and that I've got some really useful information and fun resources up my sleeves. Another thing I've noticed is that he needs to believe there is a real-life actual purpose to be served by learning XYZ. He's math-resistant--not because he can't do it--he constantly amazes me with all of the rearranging of numbers and stuff he can do mentally. No, I think the real reason he's been resistant to math is that he couldn't see the point of it. But one day I mentioned that I could teach him how to manage the books for the cabin business, and even turn over the management of that business to him and the other kids one day, but he'd need a certain level of math to be able to do that job. Suddenly, he's adding columns of two digit numbers. Basically, with him, I need to connect the skill or knowledge to a particular peopleguy job in the world, and he's on the plan.

Except when he's not. Lately he's been going through one of those fun stages of open defiance and challenges. I'm almost looking forward to Sean's tantrum thing--at least it will be more straightforward to deal with, almost refreshing. Ryan never stops...he picks picks picks on his siblings or me until someone loses their minds, and then he picks picks picks again. It's a testing limits thing, and right now we're in full-scale batten-down-the-hatches you-only-get-one-chance mode.

The other big parenting challenge we've got going on is that he needs to be more kind to us. He is bossy and rude, and demands from others what he is unwilling to give himself. He goes out of his way to try to annoy his siblings or make them cry. As much as I remember doing this exact thing myself, it's annoying as you-know-what when he does it. We are in a Zero Chances mode until he demonstrates that he can be kind right out of the gate to the people who love him best. It's upsetting and worrisome. And because of his personality, and maybe mine, it's just exhausting, mentally. I find myself dreading the teen years.

And speaking of teens! He had a couple of pimples on his face last week (probably because he never washes his face, even though it's on the Bedtime Chart!). I suggested that he wash it (and helped him use some of my facial cleanser). But I also mentioned that pimples happen to teenagers. Well, you've never seen anyone so proud to have zits! He declared to Kelly that he was almost a teenager and told her his body was starting to change into a man's! (I did look up precocious puberty just in case the zits were not dirt-related--I don't think he has that.) We've had quite a few interesting discussions about puberty and what happens, etc. In excruciating detail. :o) Actually, I'm glad for this chance to open up the door to these types of discussions--easier to tackle some of this earlier rather than later.

And just so you know (if you still happen to be reading this far down), I will probably be talking a little less about Ryan in the future. He hasn't asked me to yet, but I anticipate a time when he'll want his Mom to stop sharing his business on her blog. It'll happen, I'm just not sure exactly when.

So there you have it! My wonderful, challenging, funny, delightful, crazy kids. I'm glad I wrote this, because I know that in a couple of years, everything will be completely different, and I'll enjoy looking back on this time.

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