Poor Sparky. He’s kind of getting the short end of the journalling stick, what with someone small and determined developing so quickly. (Someone started crawling for reals on Friday, all four limbs moving in proper sequence and her tummy off the ground part of the time, even. Child gates are in our very near future. The same someone also figured out using a sippy cup on Saturday, namely that you have to tip it up to get the liquid out. But we digress.) (See? Poor Sparky can’t even have his own blog post without her getting underfoot.) So I thought I’d throw down a few things going on in his life right now.
He split his chin open at school three weeks ago when he missed a step going up a concrete staircase into the building. The school secretary called me and asked if I wanted to take him to get a stitch put in, but I thought the trauma of having to sit in an ER for gods know how many hours before having a couple of needles to anesthetise it and then have it sewn up would be worse than the scar it might leave, so we didn’t. We used a combo of butterfly strips and plain bandages to cover it at various times, and it has healed rather well.
He got his new bike last month, an early birthday gift from his local grandparents, and he has taken to it much better than the last one. He went out for a ride here with Grandma last weekend and HRH said he was flying along. He’s finally clued in to the fact that speed helps you balance on a bike. Now of course he needs to slow down a bit to work on the finesse and subtle parts of balancing, but it looks like he’s well on his way. We passed three of the kids who are on his school bus this morning, riding their bikes to school instead of bussing, so that little seed has been planted in his head. It would be great if we could walk/bike the kilometer to the new school next year on nice days instead of driving every day.
The first weekend in May I picked up a toy archery set for him at the dollar store while buying crepe paper streamers to use for the maypole. He asked if I would teach him how to shoot it properly (as properly as suction cup arrows and a plastic bow strung with elastic can be shot), so I got my bow and arrows up out of the storage room and showed him the basic stance and such. (The next-door neighbour was very interested.) He stuck one of my arrows in the ground to serve as a measure for distance, I held back a lot, and we each shot a few times. By the third shot or so he’d clued in to the fact that you have to actually aim above where you want your projectile to land, was actually listening to me when I showed him the way to hold things and stand so that his draw was more efficient, and was getting decent distance for non-aerodynamic arrows. He was terribly excited. And then he asked me to really draw my bow, and I banged an arrow across the yard into the window of the shed. Um, oops. (Both arrow and window survived the ordeal, but it did make a very sharp bang.) He just loved it. The only disappointment for him was that the targets that came on the cardboard backing were too small to use, and that he couldn’t get his arrows anywhere near them. He wouldn’t listen when I told him there was no way even I could hit those targets; they were about six inches across.
He’s terribly into playing Pokemon Pearl, and is suddenly a fount of information about Pokemons and their evolved forms, and what type best beat other types. Blade lent him a strategy/guidebook and he studies it very seriously. We have to watch how emotionally invested he gets with it, but he’s learning a lot about managing his time, making choices that will affect his playing experience later on, and understanding that there’s a loose storyline with certain events that has to be followed in a rough order; he can’t just jump to the parts he wants to do.
Sparky brought home a card in his agenda the other week advertising a day camp run by the local fine arts centre for kids, and at first we were really excited about the idea, until we saw the cost for a two-week session. He cried when I told him we wouldn’t be able to do it (and also tossed out the dramatic “I’m going to be the only one not going to camp!” statement, which we know perfectly well isn’t true, even without other parental confirmation). But last week I looked at the school’s website, and holy cats, this is a fabulous program. And coincidentally, the mum of his best friend from preschool (who is still very much in his heart, and came over for a playdate this weekend) is working with the centre, helping with registration for the camp. I asked her for her opinion about the centre and the camp program, and she gave it all a glowing review. I talked to HRH about it, and now knowing that we can break the payment into two parts (one at registration, one a week before camp begins) and also knowing that our tax refund will arrive at the right time, I think we’re going to go for it. It’s just under thirty dollars a day, and the quality of programming will be more than worth it. And the great thing is it’s not only arts like music, painting, and choir; he’ll get to do physical stuff too, like karate (or fencing, if he chooses it, but he’ll be in the 7-14 age bracket, and I’m not sure giving him even a bated épée is a good idea), and things like science or languages. We haven’t mentioned anything to him yet, but I know I’m excited. We’ve never been in a position to give him a camp experience. (And since I wrote that, Nana has offered to handle one of the payments as a birthday present, so he is definitely going.)
We’re working on pitch and rhythm in his cello lessons, and he’s surprisingly good at being able to sing a note name at the right pitch. It’s not an easy thing to do at any age. Last lesson his teacher turned the page of his workbook and said, “Oh, this is a new note to add into the ones you already know, this will be a bit harder.” “I can do it,” he said confidently, and sang the line correctly. He’s such a contradiction. When we ask him to focus or practice (or even just sit still, dear gods), he resists, but then he tosses things like this off and makes us all blink. Ask him to play a descending D scale and he can’t, but he’ll throw one off with an arpeggio while you’re sorting through sheet music and say, “I just wrote that. It’s called ‘Ducks Hopping Home in the Rain, Quacking’.” So he’s internalizing things; he just can’t pull them up on demand yet.
Speaking of making us blink, I finally looked up his current reading level. His school uses a popular system of readers that are sorted into various levels. By the end of grade one, I found out, they’re supposed to be able to read and understand books at level twelve. Well, Sparky’s been bringing home level 26 chapter readers; that’s equivalent to late grade four. He goes up a level every couple of weeks — his reading teacher is being thorough, so she’s not leapfrogging him, just making sure he can handle each level before she assigns the next one — so it will be interesting to see where he’s at by the end of the year. I knew he was reading way beyond his grade level, but finally having the data in front of me brought it home in a very different way. I was a bit dazed.
The problem with these more advanced readers is that they take about half an hour for him to read because they’re more sophisticated, which means he’s got an hour of homework every day. This is partly because they’re more involved, partly because half of them are non-fiction (on topics like the solar system, volcanoes, geysers, trees, that sort of thing) and we spend a lot of time talking about the information in it… or dealing with fallout from more emotionally advanced information, like learning that the sun will eventually go out in five billion years and all life here will cease, which really freaked him out. He knew we’d be long gone, but — “What about all the people here when it happens?” he cried out through his tears. “And all the animals? And plants, and trees?” Sometimes empathy can suck. We’re past it now, after discussing the Big Bang reversing and the changes that the solar system will undergo in the next couple of billion years. We forget sometimes that he’s only six, going on seven.
In other school news, I love that he’s bringing home spelling tests that he has practiced for, and they’re all at 110%, but what I love most is that he’s brilliantly proud of himself. (There’s a short sentence the teacher reads at the end of the test for them to try if they want to — “I like my cat,” that sort of thing — and he has gotten them all correct… although he lost half a bonus point for using a capital P instead of a lowercase P on one of them, which devastated him.) I love that I have to rein him in when he gets a new math worksheet, because he’s supposed to work some of the sums every day and hand the completed sheet in on Thursday or Friday, and he wants to do them all right now.
It’s not all sunshine and roses. He’s having a hard time with keeping his mind on what’s he’s supposed to be doing, and doing what he’s asked or told to do when he’s asked or told to do it. He goes off on tangents and forgets what his initial task was. He perpetually says “I’ll just do this first” and ends losing himself in it, then has to rush or deal with not having completed what he’s been set to do, both of which upset him… just not enough to learn to stop doing it.
I enjoy watching him play with Owlet, who, now that she is mobile, loves to pull herself up on the chair where he’s sitting and grab his feet, pockets, legs, and so forth. He has fun trying to help her walk, although he hasn’t gotten the ‘let her walk a step or two and then rebalance yourself’ idea yet; he takes off walking backwards and she kind of drags along after him if we don’t slow him down. He loves to push her stroller, and read books to her in bed at night. He is the coolest thing in the world to her. She kicks her feet and claps when she sees his bus coming, and if she can’t see him while we walk home she fusses. The best is when he walks next to her and holds her hand; she’s in absolute wriggly heaven when he does that, and tries to grab his arm with both hands and practically pull him into the stroller with her. He’s a wonderful big brother to her, and I’m proud of him for being the person he is.
Today, Owlet waved goodbye to HRH as he got his coat on to leave for work. In the past couple of days she’d been staring at her palm and moving her fingers very slowly, as if she was waving to herself in slow motion, and I thought that maybe she’d be one of those kids who waved to herself because that’s how they see other people waving to them. But no: this morning, without prompting, she looked at HRH, held out her hand, and wiggled her fingers ever so slowly, with a small smile. She had never waved before, even in response to someone else. We were thrilled.
She can do so much. She can play peek-a-boo anytime, anywhere. She can hold her own bottle (although we don’t encourage it, because she tends to bash it around). She can pick very small things up in a pincer grip. She can just about manage a sippy cup, although chewing on it is more interesting right now. She can turn pages in a board book, although she is impatient with books in general when we try to read them to her. She would rather turn handfuls of pages at once, or grab the book to chew it. Her favourite book is a body book showing babies and toddlers doing different activities, with body parts and clothes labelled. She loves to look at babies in any book. But really, the best thing about books is chewing them.
Owlet is developing socially, too. She has started feeding others, for example. We felt special when she offered us Cheerios or bites of her rice rusks… until we discovered that she was also pushing rice rusks at the furniture, her toys, and pictures of people in books. She has figured out the piano/xylophone that once was Sparky’s, after a brief period of just looking at it or watching us demonstrate it, and now bangs away at it both with her hands and the sticks that are attached to it. She is working on clapping; I noticed her making the motion with her hands last week, but with fists instead of open hands. Like knocking coconuts together, heh. Mostly she bangs her fists together a couple of times, then clasps her hands, then bangs the clasped hands on her legs or the table or whatever is in front of her.
Suddenly she’s everywhere. No longer can we put her down and expect her to stay where she is. She wriggles around quite well, despite not formally crawling. The other day she squirmed under my spinning wheel and managed to get herself on top of a treadle, and checked it all out for me like a little mechanic. To occupy her while I’m in the kitchen I give her a plastic mixing bowl of Fisher Price Roll-a-Rounds (I don’t think they make them any more, which makes me sad because I love them) and she digs them out, rolls them back and forth either with me or from hand to hand, and sometimes dumps them all out and watches them roll all over the place with great delight (and then puts the bowl on her head).
The biggest leap forward this month is the standing and cruising. Owlet pulls herself up on everything and everyone. She cruises along the chesterfield and along the coffee table, although the corners of the table continue to defeat her. She can’t get herself up into a sitting position on her own from lying down on her front or back, but if she starts off sitting she’ll get herself over to something upright (like the aforementioned table, chesterfield, chairs, bookcases, adult legs, my hair) and pulls herself up to her feet. I left her sitting on the floor of the living room a couple of days ago, with some toys around her to keep her busy, and went to work in the kitchen for five minutes. The kitchen and living room are essentially one big room, and she was quiet, so I didn’t think to check on her. But then I walked back in and found her standing on the other side of the room, leaning against the chesterfield where Gryff was lying. She was chewing on the tip of his tail and touching the pads of his feet.
Her favourite activity is walking around the house holding on to someone’s hands, which is great for her, not so great on the person whose fingers she is holding and whose back is about to break. Will she skip crawling? Who knows? I am told there are children who walk first and then retroactively apply the self-mobility thing to the crawling.
When we last left her teeth, she had two incisors on the bottom and her top two were taunting us. Well, the top two came in, followed shortly after by her right second incisor (three new teeth within five days, ack). The left second incisor is still tormenting her, but it should be any day now, too.
Just before the teeth came through she was running a high fever, which broke just as the teeth started cutting. I figured it was teething related. Except a day or so later a rash started breaking out, so surprise! Roseola! Sparky never had it, but the timing of the high fever and the rash was textbook. (I mentioned this to our doctor and said I didn’t bother bringing her in because if it was roseola there wasn’t anything anyone could do other than say, ‘Yup, roseola,’ and she said, “I wish more parents were like you!”)
Sleep is undergoing a weird overhaul. When developmental stuff starts happening like crawling, walking, acquiring new social skills and things like that, sleep can often be disturbed because there’s a lot going on in the brain as new neural pathways are established. So naps are all over the place, and night wakings are ranging from one to six per night. Teething and the roseola didn’t help, either. And on top of it all we’re trying to teach her to self-soothe and go back to sleep if she wakes up after a sleep cycle (hers seems to range from twenty to forty minutes), so I nurse her once at night around two when she wakes up after her initial long stretch of sleep, then if she wakes up after that I leave her in her crib while I pat or stroke her back and give her the soother, instead of picking her up to cuddle or nurse her back to sleep. She has let me know in no uncertain terms that she is not a fan of this, but she gets back to sleep within about ten to fifteen minutes.
We’re hearing the beginnings of real words, too. She has deliberately used Mama, Dada, and cat, although not consistently. She also says baba (or bababababa) now and then, usually when looking at one of her bottles. In fact, one night she looked at me after nursing and said, “Dada? Baba?” And I said, “No, kid; Dad is not coming upstairs to give you a bottle. You are stuck with me, and with what you just drank. Now go back to sleep.”
In the glorious world of food, she now eats just about everything except berries, milk, and nuts. She’s pretty much off cereal and mashes (not that we really did them much at all); we only mix up a bowl of cereal if we need to get something into her fast, and we pile diced veggies or meat in it to make a kind of potage or porridge. New foods this month include grapes, peppers, hamburger, turkey, scrambled eggs, Cheddar and Swiss cheese, mushrooms (raw and fried), celery, watermelon, and rice vermicelli. Overall so far, the only things she has really not pounced on and stuffed into her mouth are carrots and avocado, although I can grate carrots and add them to stir fries for her without a problem. We’ve started eating the same thing for lunch: I make macaroni, for example, and fry up mushrooms and a diced chicken thigh, then grate cheese all over it and toss it. Then we each have some. There’s something so very thrilling about your baby eating the exact same thing you’re eating. And now we have to defend our food again, because if you’re eating something and she is not, there is a great fuss made until she too has something, be it a rice rusk of her own or part of what you’re eating.
Nursing has been a bit of a challenge, and I can’t blame her, what with having to get used to three new teeth in such a brief period of time. Her latch is all wonky and she’s slipping down to nurse shallowly again, which is not optimal and is, quite frankly, cumulatively painful. We’re working on it. She’s has also developed a tendency to bite when she is really frustrated and at the end of her rope, which is not fun at all.
Also not fun: Getting one’s legs firmly wedged in the crib when one turns oneself crosswise, lifts the legs, and slots them in between the spindles. That’s what you get for having legs like turkey drumsticks, child! At her 9-month appointment, he doctor wrote down with great glee that Owlet now weighs 10 kg 38 gr (or 22 pounds and 2 ounces) at 28” tall, tracing her leap from ‘oh no, this baby isn’t gaining enough weight’ to ‘holy smokes, this child is plump and chunky and I love it’. She’s in the 96th percentile for weight (no kidding), and the 75th for height. I went back through Sparky’s records and discovered that he didn’t hit 22 lbs till he was a year old. No wonder Owlet has blown past all her 9-12 month clothes. She’s firmly in 18-month size territory right now, although her shape is changing all the time, because her diapers fit differently each week — not too large or too small, just fitting differently as her body changes shape. That plus the mobility thing mean I’m turning to dresses a lot now, to leave her legs and feet bare so she can get a better grip on the floor to pull up or get around, and because then we don’t have to sort through the drawer to find pants that fit her that day.
In general, it feels like someone switched the baby to eleven. She’s slightly manic, quick to push and push and push and suddenly start crying if things go wrong or not according to her plans, or she just overwhelms herself. Gone are the days where she’d watch and think about things. Now she throws herself in, and damn the torpedoes. It’s exhausting for everyone. I’m looking forward to things settling down a bit when this round of developmental overdrive is, well, over.