Saturday, September 17, 2011

Madelyn at 18 Months

(Note: This is Madelyn's 18 month post even though she has since turned 19 months old. It's also long. What can I say; I like writing about my kids.)

In my experience, most kids have a sort of "I'll defer to the adult" mentality when it comes to life. Not that they don't argue or try to express themselves or question adults, but there's usually an underlying feeling of "you're the grown-up here and you're probably right." Adult, and especially parental, opinions are given slightly more weight than that of peers and when an adult says to do something or states a fact, it's kind of taken that the adult is likely more correct than the child. Madelyn does not have this default setting. And I love it. If Madelyn has an opinion on something, she sees it as completely 100% equal to my or Angie's opinion. Even if what we're saying isn't opinion at all but is just fact. She takes nothing at face value and demands answers, not necessarily because she's curious (even though she is), but because she feels she deserves them. At times, this can be trying, but it's honestly one of the things we love most about her. We sometimes flash forward to her teenage years and preemptively cringe, but really, I know that those traits are exactly what will keep Madelyn safe when she's a teenager. They are the exact qualities we'll want her to have as she walks into a sea of overly judgmental and insecure peers. Her immense confidence and belief in herself will just make her that much more impenetrable to the typical teenage issues and will give her worried parents (because parents are always worried about their kids, no matter what age) a little more comfort.

Now, I know she's only 19 months old, but it's amazing how much of her personality is evident this early and has been evident for so long. It seems like she was born knowing exactly what she wanted out of life. When we get frustrated with her when she's 15, we'll have to remember this is the same little girl that decided at only a few months old she was NOT going to drink out of a bottle no matter how starving she was. At day care, she would go the entire day without taking a single sip even though she was extremely hungry (side note: Madelyn is always hungry. We have never seen her get full from eating.). She has a near unbreakable will when she makes up her mind.

She's also very independent. One of the situations where we got to see her personality come out was at the beach this summer.  A wide open beach felt like heaven to her. Since the beach was so big and there really wasn't any way for her to get hurt, we would just sometimes let her wander to see exactly how far she'd go. The answer: REALLY FAR. The amazing thing to us wasn't just that she was comfortable wandering a beach by herself but that she almost never even looked back to see if we were following or see if what she was doing was ok. If she saw a bird a quarter mile down the beach and wanted to get closer, she'd just start walking. She didn't want or need anyone to come with her and she didn't feel the need to ask permission.

She's completely fearless in that way and it's making Angie and I have to adjust our parenting a bit at times. Things that work on most kids don't seem to work on her. For example, Madelyn likes to just jump into the pool with no floaties on. She thinks it's hilarious and loves the mini adrenaline rush before she hits the water. We kept telling her not to do it because we can't always be within catching distance but she kept going. So we tried the "tough love" parenting approach and decided to not catch her one time and let her go under. She looked at us with a mischievous smile, jumped right into the water and ... we just watched. We watched for an uncomfortably long amount of time but we wanted her to learn the lesson. Once we figured the lesson had been learned, we pulled her above water. She coughed up some water while trying to catch her breath and wiped the hair from her eyes. Then she looked right at us with a smile and yelled "More! Again!" and scrambled to get out of my arms. Lucky for us, the pool is closed now because I have no idea how to parent around that one.

Madelyn is also funny. Like, really funny. She loves making people laugh and knows exactly what to do to make it happen. She makes goofy faces, funny sounds, falls on the floor; whatever. She'll do anything for a giggle and mostly because it makes her laugh too. She actually just seems to have a knack for…can't think of a better word here…manipulating emotions in general. If we're at the dinner table and she throws food on the floor, she'll look at me and if I'm about to get upset with her she'll put on her sad eyes and point to her latest bump or scrape and start pitifully saying "boo boo, Daddy. Boo boo" to try to distract me and make me feel sorry for her. I know better than to feel sorry for her but it does sometimes work in that I can't help but laugh. It's just too funny to see this sweet little girl try her hardest to get out of trouble and know that I have a soft spot (ok, maybe a soft crater) for her sad face (ok, really just her face in general).

Another thing about Madelyn at this age is that she never stops moving. She's always doing something. She's running, she's climbing, she's wandering, she's tackling somebody, she's dancing, on and on. She'll sit in a chair just to get out of it and then sit in it again. Being at the pool with her and Patrick is an exercise in multi-tasking that would challenge even the most seasoned multi-taskers. It's because of her non-stop movement that quiet, still times with her are that much more amazing though. When she waddles over with a book in her hands and sits on your lap to read, it will melt your heart. We put her to bed awake, but every night we read books and then I turn off her lamp and we just rock for five or ten minutes. Silently rocking with her in the dark, listening to her breathe and feeling her weight in my arms is truly one of the highlights of my day.

Madelyn's sweet side also leaps to the forefront when it comes to babies. It doesn't matter whether they're real or not; she LOVES them. One minute she'll be chasing Patrick around and wrestling and the next she'll pick up a baby doll and just stand and sway with it. Her whole demeanor changes and she suddenly looks much older and more mature. She pats them on the back, kisses them and gives them pretend bottles. And when she puts them "to bed" in the pretend basinet she takes extreme care in very carefully straightening the blanket out before gently laying it on them. If it's a real baby (which really means any child under 3) she's a little less gentle but no less sweet. Cousins Carson and Creighton can give first hand testimony to Madelyn's insatiable desire to hug. Her teachers at school tell us she often just walks around hugging all the kids in her classroom and trying to give them kisses, giggling all the time.

Madelyn's vocabulary has been expanding a lot lately, also. In the last month or two she's added a ton of new words. One of her favorites is "C'mon!" for when she wants you to follow her or do something with her. We went to Grandma and Grandpa's house a couple weeks ago for Uncle Thomas's birthday and we were all sitting in the family room with kids music on. Madelyn was, of course, dancing like crazy but would then walk around the room and grab people two at a time and yell "C'mon!" while pulling them by the pant leg into the middle of the room. If anyone sat down she'd dance her way back over to them and repeat the process. And that's the funny thing about Maddy; for as independent as she is, she loves everyone and can't wait to have fun with every person she meets.

Speaking of people she loves, I don't think there's anyone else in the world Maddy loves more than her big brother. She lights up when he walks in the room and idolizes everything he does. Patrick has learned Maddy-cakes will try to imitate almost every sound he makes and thinks it's hysterical. They play a game almost every night at dinner where he'll start making sounds or saying words and Madelyn will echo each one. It always starts with the same nonsense sound ("me-maw me-maw") to signal the beginning of the game and then it changes to whatever other goofy sounds or words Patrick can think of. The game goes until the two of them are laughing too hard to keep playing. Madelyn loves to just be close to Patrick. The other day when I was getting them ready for school, Madelyn wouldn't stray more than a few inches from Patrick's side the whole morning. She ended up sitting on his lap while he ate his breakfast. Luckily, Patrick is a very patient little boy and loves his baby sister just as much as she loves him.

Lastly, here are Madelyn's current stats:

Height: 33 inches (89th percentile - WHAT?! How?!)
Weight: 25 lbs (64th percentile)
Head: 18.75

Madelyn, we love you more than you'll ever know. You are the sweetest, silliest, most beautiful and determined little girl and we wouldn't change a thing about you. Our lives are a million times better because of you and we enjoy so much watching you grow up!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Patrick at 3 Years Old

It's been awhile since we've done a "where are they now" post about the kids. Since Patrick just turned 3 and Madelyn 18 months, I thought it was a good time to catch up. We'll start with Patrick...

If I could sum Patrick up in one word right now it would be "Why?" That one word is probably 40% of what comes out of Patrick's mouth. Patrick's Why Phase started about a year ago. Which means I'm not sure it's really considered a phase any more. I'm sure he won't always ask why as much as he does now, but it definitely brings to light his extremely curious personality. Living with Patrick right now means that you have to be prepared to answer for every statement you make. Every sentence out of your mouth or action you take has to have reason or justification. He just HAS to know why everyone is doing whatever they're doing. Here's a pretty typical conversation at our house:

Me: Be right back. I'm going to take the trash out.
Patrick: Why are you taking the trash out?
Me: Because it's full and I don't want the house to smell.
P: Why don't you want the house to smell?
Me: Because I don't like things that smell.
P: But dinner smells and you like dinner.
Me: ...sigh... yes, that's true, I don't like things that smell "bad."
P: Why's the trash smell bad?
Me: Because it has old food in it and old food smells bad.
P: Why does old food smell bad because it's rotten? (He does this all the time too. He answers his own why questions but still forms them as a question. I'm never really sure how to respond to these.)
Me: Right, because it's rotten.
P: Why is rotten bad?
Me: Because it's yucky (this is where the conversation might end except that I always end up saying something that prompts another question like…) and will make us sick. (Me in my head: Dangit! Why did I add that last part!)
P: Why does rotten food make us sick?
Me: Because it's yucky and gross and has germs and mold and yucky gross stuff that makes us sick. (This is the verbal equivalent of a shotgun blast. Throw as many words and reasons into one sentence as possible and try to cut off all possible future questions at the pass.)
P: ...But why will you be right back?

This seriously happens several dozen times a day. It's hilarious to us and although at times it can be exhausting, we wouldn't want it any other way. I think it doesn't bother us because he really genuinely wants to know the answers. He's not just wasting time or repeating the word "why" over and over to try to wear us down. He sincerely wants to know the reason for everything. The other night after bath he said something about a frog jumping around without a head. (He has a frog towel that he couldn't see the head on. We're not doing animal dissections at home…yet.) I said something about how he wouldn't be able to jump around without a head because he wouldn't have a brain. The second the sentence left my mouth I knew I was in for it. The questions came flooding with "Why can't he jump without a brain" and me trying to answer in a way that wouldn't prompt more questions. That's IMPOSSIBLE with a topic like this. I said something about how our brain is what tells the rest of our body what to do and how when we pick something up it's because our brain told our hand to pick it up and yadda yadda. Then he started asking questions like "But when my hand picks something up is it me telling it to pick it up or my brain?" I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS LIKE THIS. I felt like I was back in my college philosophy classes, headed down the ontological and epistemological rabbit holes, only, with a 3 year old. I tried the same tactic I used in those classes (falling asleep) but it didn't work. Luckily, it was time for me to read stories with Madelyn. Now I have some time to prepare for our next conversation.

Patrick at three is wonderful. He suddenly decided that he is a grown-up and started getting himself dressed and undressed, jumped full on into potty training (which we've pretty much conquered other than night time) and asks to do more and more things for himself every day. If he's playing and realizes we're busy with Madelyn or something else but he has to go potty, he'll go to the bathroom, use his foot stool to turn on the lights and get himself on the potty, go, get re-dressed and wash his hands. All on his own. He moved up a class at school to be with the older kids (most are 9-12 months older than him) and has loved it. His teachers joke that some of their most adult conversations of the day are with Patrick and they love having him in their class. He went to the doctor yesterday and weighs in at 35 lbs. (72nd percentile) and is 37.25 inches tall (40th percentile...sorry kid, that's my fault).

He is still extremely cautious at first until he understands the full situation. But once he feels comfortable, there's no stopping him. If you watch the video from the beach you'll see that he jumped off the diving board, rode the waves on a raft, went down a water slide and broke out every dance move he had in the middle of 30 adults. He didn't leap into any one of these activities right away but once he was in, he was IN.

He still loves dinosaurs, rocket ships, animals and especially race cars.  We're constantly amazed by his memory on every one of these topics. He knows just over 30 dinosaurs and can tell us really specific details about each one of them. And it's not because we have dinosaur flash cards or make him tell us every dinosaur he knows every day. He'll also tell us what kind of car each one of his matchbox cars is and what year it was made. It's so fun watching his mind work and seeing all the things he remembers about what he's learned. Patrick also still fully believes that he can only REALLY run fast if he's in his underwear because his clothes slow him down. Thus, most of the time we're at home, he's in his underwear because he always wants to race us around the house.

His favorite thing though is creating stories. His imagination is constantly churning up new adventures for us all to go on. If he doesn't feel like telling a story he'll just pick up a couple toys and come to us and say "Dad, tell me a story about my blue race car meeting his new friend the duck." or "Mom, can you tell me a story about a road runner racing a struthiomimus and they meet my Lamborghini?" Although, usually half way through the story he'll jump in and fix any perceived plot mistakes we've made.

Here's a video of Patrick after dinner talking about a spaceship blasting off. A video like this is really the best way to capture his personality. I love how intensely he tells the story and how he explains every detail of us climbing the ladders and fixing things and when Angie brings up taking Roxy along for the space ride it throws a wrench into the story and you can see his mind trying to work out how the dog will climb the ladder and fit in the spaceship and all the other details. And I left the first part of the video in with Madelyn imitating his blast off noises because I could watch that over and over all day. It's so cute how Madelyn wants to do everything he does.

Speaking of Madelyn... watching Patrick be a big brother has been amazing. One of our favorite things is watching him try to help Madelyn talk. Her vocabulary has been increasing lately and she tries to say almost everything we do. Patrick couldn't be happier. He walks around the house and explains every object to her "Maddy, this is the shoooopppiiinngggg caaaaarrrrttttt. Can you say that? We put our toy groceries in it. Can you say "groooocccceeeerriiiiiiiieeeeees?" When they play outside he's become very protective of her and will get worried if she's more than 15 feet away from us. He'll yell for her to come back and if she doesn't (she doesn't) he'll walk over and say "Let's just hold hands Mad. You can walk wif me" and he'll bring her back to where he thinks she's safe.

We can't wait to see what parts of his personality we'll be introduced to over this next year. Every new discovery has been a joy for us to witness and we're so blessed that we have Patrick in our lives. Not a day goes by he doesn't make us laugh. We love you Pat Pat!