Monday, December 29, 2014

Dear Tor

Happy fourth birthday, big guy!!

This year you will have four parties: yesterday (with Tim and Caitlin) and again today we celebrated at Oma and Opa's house; we'll fete you again at Ahbee and Pakka's when we get there next week; and we'll tie one on with your preschool friends after we're back in Oxford. Although we didn't intend to match the number of occasions to your years on Earth, it does have a nice symmetry.

Right now you are SO into superheroes of all kinds, especially Ironman, so you were pretty easy to buy for and your preschool party will be a no-brainer to theme. Your birthday cake yesterday reflected this and I'm sure it won't be the last one to do so. You have a reasonable amount of clothes but basically wear the same five shirts over and over again because they feature your favorite characters: Spiderman, Ironman, and the Ninja Turtles.

Feeding the monkey

You are still an amazing big brother, though Col definitely presents different challenges than he did a year ago. You help Col walk by holding his hand and slowing to his pace, and you hardly ever bowl him over anymore. You clown for Col when he's unhappy and it cheers him up at least half of the time. You do get devastated by Col's penchant for wanton destruction when you're carefully crafting towers or pizzas or sticker pictures, but you cheerfully take responsibility for having taught him the bad habits of throwing toys and squawking to get his way. This does not mean you repent of having taught these habits nor of the habits themselves.

Get a haircut, you hippies
You definitely have a British accent, as heard here in "There Was a Chubby Snowman":

You're now thriving at your new preschool and we can tell you're learning. You can draw honest-to-goodness people, with heads, bodies, arms, legs, and hair, though drawing isn't your favorite pastime. You can sound out short words but need to rely more on your first impressions. (When reading Col's name at Christmas, for instance, you sounded out every letter correctly: "K! O! Llllll." But when we asked you to string it together, you said, "Caleb?" Then, "Caitlin"? Before getting to "Col!") You largely enjoy the same level of story that you enjoyed last year, but you're much better at remembering what happened in the narrative and telling us why a character did something. In addition to superhero stories, albeit to a far lesser extent, you're interested in "Jesus stories" and enjoy going to Sunday school.

You have "best friends" at school who fall in and out of favor, mostly depending on whether they want to play superheroes with you on a given day. The meanest thing you can think of to tell us is, "I'm not going to be your best friend anymore today!" Or if you're feeling really naughty, you might even call us "stupid." That one lands you in time out.

Unsurprisingly, your tastes are sensitive to peer pressure. I recently told you the story of Pinocchio and you begged for another one; when I gave you the choice of Thumbelina, Rapunzel, or Sleeping Beauty, you told me scornfully, "Alex Cabala and me don't like girl stories." When I pointed out that there are no girl or boy stories, but that boys can like stories about girls just like I'm a girl and can like stories about boys, like Pinocchio, you said, "You know, Mom, I love girl stories." I'm sure the pendulum will swing back once you and Alex get together again.

Your favorite toys are mostly toys you can imagine with, like action figures or Legos. We've recently discovered that you go nuts for charades, so you must actually be my kid. You enjoy music and dancing, and impromptu dance parties have staved off several tantrums.

Yet you can be intractably grumpy, especially when awoken while still tired. It's tough to see you sad and not know how to help you, and it seems like even you don't know what you want at those times. You still wake up in the middle of the night and want one of us to sleep with you, which is invariably Dad.

You use the bathroom completely on your own, but you can't yet do up trousers with buttons. You correct us when we say "pants" instead of "trousers".

You love doing things for people (although, sadly, not always the things we want you to do for us). You were more excited this year by giving Christmas presents than by getting them, and you worked hard with Ahbee's patient help to make us all candles. At Oma and Opa's we write clues for all our presents, and when it came time for Tim and Caitlin to open your gift, you said, "This one's for you, and the clue is...IT'S A CANDLE!"

You have a clear sense of your place in the family and think of family members in their absence. I think this is especially important in light of where you live. You also seem comfortable with your place in the world, while constantly testing boundaries.

We are blessed to be your parents, grateful for the four years we've had together, and excited to experience the future with you. Thanks for all that you bring to our family, Mr. T.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fourteen Months!

It's lucky that we're still counting Col's age in months, because without those reminders, I could go blithely on about life without ever remembering to post. Apologies to the boys' die-hard fans!

The fourteener, captured this very morning
as he selected wine for the table

Fireplace bumpers brought to you direct from our Newark house

Col now demands to do several kinds of self-care autonomously, most notably brushing his hair and teeth and feeding himself. He also likes to clean his tummy with a wipe during a diaper change.

The feeding is the most high stakes of these. It's highly gratifying to watch him learn to do it himself. For instance, yesterday I gave him a mini yogurt and a spoon, and I watched him grasp the spoon right above its bowl and poise it over the yogurt, ready for the plunge. But then he paused, looked into the yogurt, put the spoon down, moved his hand a little higher on the spoon handle, about the height of the yogurt container, and proceeded to take a bite without getting his hand all yogurty. You could practically see the gears turning.

Of course, there's always the hand if he needs backup
A less successful yogurt experience

Baby's First Hairbrush should come two-sided

It's been a full, full month. The highlight was a visit from our amazing newlywed friends Josh and April, who trekked all the way from Texas to spend our first UK Thanksgiving with us. Due to a week of Col being off sick, I had to work that day, and I came home to a feast the likes of which has never been seen--well, at least in England. The piece de resistance? A succulent smoked turkey (since our trusty Weber is twice the size of our oven, it was the only way to go). We ate leftovers for a week with gusto.

Off the plane and into Col's heart

On the quotidian front, our daily routine has been somewhat marred by Tor's propensity to fall asleep on the way home, and then to be grumpy for the rest of the evening once he's awoken. Col tends to fall asleep too, but he's usually willing to rally when offered food.

Just another 6 p.m. back at the homestead

So our weeknights tend to wind up with Tor draped over the couch like this and demanding the only dinner he generally eats:

"I need cheese sticks, peanuts, and bread with butter and no crusts"

whereas Col usually ends up more like this:


Sometimes we can bring Tor back around with an activity that interests him, like a game, a movie, or, recently, Christmas stuff.

This quickly devolved into pip-counting

This year's Advent calendar

Busting out the tree: who is most excited?

Picking up a few tricks from The American Boy's Handy Book

Mornings are my favorite, because Tor is so much happier. Although he does sometimes border on the manic. 

It's sometimes a toss-up which kid is the messiest eater

"You know, Spiderman is my favorite superhero
because he has red on him, and red is my favorite color.
And Ironman is also my favorite superhero because he's red."

I also enjoy chatting with Tor while I bike the kids to day care. Tor throws out a daily gem or two.

Scene: Biking behind a garbage truck
Tor: Ewww. It smells like the farmers' market.

Scene: Tor repeatedly clearing his throat
Me: Need some water?
Tor: I just have a frog in my throat.
Me: Water can help wash it out.
Tor: No, I'm going to use some dandelions, rubber bands, and a starfish to catch the frog. I'll mix them all up with some salt and that will make a net. Then I will put some oil on the starfish to make it into a hard pink bowl for the frog to sit in.

What do you even say to that?