Ryan is 9 years and 5 months old as of this writing, and he is just as imaginative and challenging and talkative as ever. He is obsessed with video games such as Age of Empires, Empire Earth, and Rainbow 6 (on my iPad). If there's shooting and/or building an empire, he's on it. He's also made something of a hobby out of irritating his siblings, and has honed this ability to a very fine edge.
Resistant. He is still pretty resistant to suggestions from me (and Brendan, too, but mostly me) about work I suggest (or even require), such as math or clearing a pathway in the hall so I don't have to step on zillions of LEGOs just to reach his room. He pretty much wants nothing to do with anything that wasn't his idea in the first place. And he's too good at sniffing out oblique approaches from grownups.
But lately he is slightly, ever-so-slightly, more willing to listen to these ideas than before. For example, the time has come (actually, it's a bit passed now) for him to take a standardized test to stay in compliance with our state's homeschooling laws. He was INSANELY resistant to the idea at first. But then we managed to have a reasonable discussion in which I showed him the law, and we talked about the risks and consequences of non-compliance, and what Brendan and I are okay with in that realm, and what we're not. We talked all about laws and when and why it's okay to engage in a little civil disobedience, and how to make that decision about whether it's worth it. And I also explained the purpose of the test, and how we could use the results. Then I left the decision up to him, and he chose to take the test. I ordered the PASS test because it seemed like a low-stress, inexpensive option for his first official testing experience.* He's taken the placement test portion (and did just fine, hooray) and will take the test this weekend probably.
I've noticed he really is beginning to mature in many areas, and this willingness, after a reasonable discussion, to suck it up and do something that he doesn't especially enjoy (like with the test) is a new, but welcome, thing. His artistic tastes are maturing, too--he is into more grownup movies and he can handle fake/fantasy movie violence just fine now (no nightmares for him!). He is really interested in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, mostly, I think, because it's a glimpse into what kids at the next stage of life are doing and how they behave. Granted, the kids in the books are school kids, so much of what they do and how they behave is shaped by that experience which Ryan does not and will not have, but still. I remember being curious about that kind of stuff, too. He is interested in Wesley Crusher of Star Trek: TNG for similar reasons, I think. He's learning all about Positive Discipline, too, and we have many discussions about parenting with him. Which is fun and interesting. And disconcerting when I find him with his nose in one of my parenting books. And slightly irritating when he tries to call me out on what he thinks is a mistake (with him or with his siblings). :D
We still have a problem finding real work for him to do. He can mow our lawn, but that will only need to happen a few more times over the next couple of months, and then he'll be on hiatus until spring. He has agreed to help me declutter and sell some things on eBay, so I'll be teaching him how to do that. As he gets good and independent with that, I'll let him keep a higher percentage of the sales. Finding work for him to do and learn will continue to be a challenge for us and him until he's closer to the official work age. Even the local libraries won't let you volunteer unless you're 16! I have a whole rant/blog post thing in my head on this topic, so I'll be writing more about this later.
Physically, he's still a solid, strong kid, though on the short side (apparently a Casey family trait). I wish he'd pick up TKD or gynmastics or something because I think he'd enjoy it and excel at that kind of thing, but this is one of those things on the Resistance (aka, Reason is Futile) List. Also, he seems to behave and handle things much better if he's had some hard physical activity, so yet another reason for him to move. Since he won't join a sport, I've been making sure to provide and encourage such movement at home. Once he gets going (if you can get him past the Resistance), it's hard to stop him!
To sum up, Ryan is a challenge and a delight all at the same time. Always has been. Always will be, I expect.
Morgan is 6 years and 6 months (well, in just a few days). She is beginning to really blossom into an individual, out from under the shadow of the big brother just a bit. She has a sense of who she is and what she is like, and she's trying on different roles and personas (personae?) as a way of figuring this out some more. For example, she has recently decided that she is a tomboy, and therefore, all of the princess-y stuff in the house must go. We had some friends over yesterday and her four year old friend left with many of Morgan's old purses and Disney Princess/Tinkerbell stuff. Which is fine, because I need help decluttering.
She is physically very adventurous, my Monkey Girl, and started taking gymnastics about six weeks ago. She LOVES it. I've been watching her in class and she is really picking things up and despite being pretty small for her age, and sort of willowy/wispy, she's pretty strong. They moved her up to the next level (still a beginner class) so she'll start that next week. It's fun to watch her do and enjoy something that I did and enjoyed for many years. Sometimes she comes to CrossFit with me and works out, which she enjoys even more than gymnastics, I think. I've told her that gymnastics and CF are very, very similar, and she likes that she is learning how to do some of the things grownups (in particular, Mommy) do. At CF, she runs with me and does a kid WOD with crazy enthusiasm. After gymnastics class, she tells me all of the things she did that are CrossFit-y, and we always compare notes. It's kind of fun. I am glad that my gym is fine with me bringing her occasionally and letting her work out and play on the rings (I'm trying to get Ryan to come, too--he's come with me, but has only observed and not participated). At Morgan's request, I'm going to consult the CrossFit Kids website and give her a WOD to do at home on a semi-regular basis.
She is the opposite of Ryan when it comes to taking suggestions. She is willing to learn pretty much anything that anyone suggests. And she has the initiative and independence to follow her own pursuits, too--she's not just waiting around for suggestions from others, I mean. She is studying two languages right now (with some help from our friends) and is plugging away at piano almost entirely independently. She is reading all over the place. She was seriously disappointed that it wasn't time for her to take a standardized test (evidence that she is related to me after all!), and is a bit jealous that Ryan "gets" to do it. She wants to try everything and anything, and when she takes to something, she does it with her hyper-laser-focus thing.
One thing that has been a challenge is her tendency to (seemingly) turn off her brain when she thinks someone else is there to handle a problem. An example of this has been in parking lots. If she's holding my hand, she doesn't feel the need to be vigilant for cars. It's nice that she trusts me, but it's also led to her being nearly clobbered by shopping carts, people, curbs. Thankfully, no close calls with cars. I've found a way to manage that so that it's improving, and I'll probably talk about it on a podcast soon.
She is patient and kind to her brothers (almost to a fault), and is more than willing to read aloud to Sean and help him find things, and play and play with him. Those two are beginning to be good friends. I'm trying not to abuse this too much--it would be so easy to send him to her for ALL of his problems, but I know that's really my job. She and Ryan get along fine, but there is definitely a different dynamic there, and she tends to put up with more, ah, crap from him than I think she ought. She's also got a group of friends we know through our homeschool co-op, mostly girls, but some boys, too. She eats lunch with them instead of me and the boys, and they do a lot of giggling together.
Mostly, life with Morgan is fairly easy and pleasant. When we can get her attention, that is. :D
Last, but not least, Sean, who is 3 years and 3 months. He is really turning into his own person, and that person is LOUD. In many ways, he reminds me powerfully of Ryan at this age--the imagination has kicked in and goes full blast (up to 11), and the Talk Button seems permanently set to ON.
What's different is that Sean has yet to hit the tantrum thing. I'm still waiting for it. It seems impossible, having gone through two Three Things already, that Sean could skip over this phase of child development. Oh sure, he's got a temper. This kid can go from Rainbows and Sunshine to RAGE in a split second. Often to my amusement. And he definitely gets angry for the general reasons my other three year olds got angry--when reality refuses to conform to what he has in his mind, and when people (even Mommy) refuse to be bossed. But none of his fits has lasted longer than twenty minutes or so, and he'll even go days in between a large-ish fit, which baffles me. I truly can't decide if it's a personality thing, or if he just hasn't hit the crest of this fun developmental stage yet. Only time will tell, and I dare not hope it's just a personality thing. I mean, his personality is different, and I can tell that he is definitely a Blow Up & Blow Over kind of guy. However, I probably won't relax about this until he's either had a two hour fit or is five years old, whichever comes first. It's probably best for me to remember that the worst of the Threes didn't hit until more like Three And A Half anyway. So remind me about this post in a few months.
Sean is super into video games (watching and playing) and kitty cats (he wants to be a kitty for Halloween) and anything vehicular and robots and he loves books. One funny thing that he does is he yells abuse at his video games when something isn't going the way he wants. It's sooooooo funny. Well, not to him, and I am mindful of the fact that his feelings are real and not to be made fun of. So I do my laughing inside. But still. Highly amusing.
He's got a new list of things he's afraid of: bugs of all kinds, especially spiders and butterflies, and smoke alarms (they're so freaking loud). But he's also moving past some previous fears. Robots, for example. He has always been a little freaked by robots and now really likes them, and sometimes pretends to be one. During his freak-out stage, he'd talk and talk and talk about robots, and I think over time he's just worked his way through to the other side. Here's hoping the incessant butterfly discussions begin soon.
He can read three letter words with some effort, but doesn't seem to want to put in that effort all that often. Either that, or his brain has switched over from deciphering how to read to something different. I've noticed each of my kids doing that--as soon as they hit some kind of brain milestone, they abandon it for a while to go to something else.
He's a solid guy, weighing only about five pounds less than Morgan. He is pretty coordinated, too, and tends toward cautiousness (another way he's like Ryan). He is very conservative when it comes to climbing or new playground equipment, but once he's decided to do it, he is completely confident and rarely falls. Sean painted a picture for the first time the other day and spilled not a drop, for real! I felt a bit guilty because I haven't given him lots of crafting opportunities--mostly because my years with Morgan have taught me that craft projects are fraught with extreme mess. But really, it's craft projects with Morgan that are fraught with extreme mess (she got very messy with the same painting project, actually). So now I need to remember that three year olds love to paint and cut things and splash in water and give him chances to do that. He's not fully potty trained, but he's well on his way. And he is not fully weaned yet, but getting very close. Bittersweet, that.
One great thing about the last six months or so is that Sean is more and more independent, and can manage many daily tasks on his own. He gets his own breakfast and can make me coffee in the Keurig and feeds the cat and gets the mail. Stuff like that. It's really freed up a lot of my time! He's also able to separate from me much more easily--at homeschool co-op, for example, I can leave him for five or ten minutes coloring a picture or playing with a toy while I go in search of one of the other kids. Last spring, I'd have had to take him with me, and probably carry him, too. He goes outside in the backyard all by himself and will stay out there for a good long while, just playing and looking and talking to himself. It's not unusual for me to go several hours without needing to do anything with him or for him because he's off in the yard or in another room of the house, occupied with his own affairs. And he's also officially one of the gang now, and plays very well with his siblings. He's old enough to enjoy their games and add to their enjoyment, too, and has very little (if any) issues with impulse-control issues such as hitting or throwing toys.
Sean is still his funny, sunny self. Except when he's not. :D
So that's what's what with the kids lately. This post took a long time to write--over a couple of hours, with stops and starts and interruptions and thinking. I might add to it as I think of more things about each kid.
*For the record, I don't really have a problem with standardized testing as such, but I mostly have a problem with the state stepping in to make this decision for us. I think learning to take standardized tests is a useful life skill, but I'm also not convinced that if you don't do your first one at 9--or 8 or 7 or 6--it's a skill you can't pick up later on. And while I'm looking forward to seeing the results, I expect them to confirm my own personal assessment of where Ryan is and how he's doing.