Friday, August 29, 2014

My Calvin Boy

Oh, my sweet Calvin boy.  He is such a great kid.  I am loving 6 year old Calvin.  It is such a great age for him.  Often I think that Calvin's spot in our family and extended family is probably the most difficult one to be in, and he handles it so well.  Ryan gets the perks of being the oldest, Sophie gets the perks of being the first daughter, and Hannah is the baby.  Those each come with special "bonuses", in my opinion, that Calvin's position doesn't necessarily have.  But what he lacks in position, Calvin makes up for in awesomeness.  He earns his own bonuses just by nature of being who he is, and I LOVE that about him.

When we get together with cousins, it is often difficult for Calvin.  Katie is the oldest in her family, and sometimes gravitates towards playing with Ryan (18 months older than her and two grades up) rather than Calvin (6 months younger than her and in the same grade), and since Sophie and Jane are thick as thieves and the boys fall in with Hannah in the "baby" category, Calvin is left to be the 3rd wheel often.  When we are with the Barringer cousins, he sometimes fits in with Evie as a playmate, but often it gets divided up as girls playing girly things and boys doing boy things, and then he's the third wheel with Luke and Ryan.

I think it really does make him sad, and I think feeling left out has contributed to his reputation of being the glass-half-empty/Eyore personality over the years.  But I am glad to say that in this past year or so, Calvin is working his way past that!  He really does have to work hard at it, and I am so proud of him for it!  It takes some extra care and attention to talk him through his feelings and what to do about them, but he comes out on the other side with great ideas, a great imagination, and a lot of compassion and observation skills that my other kids don't really have, at least not to that degree.  It just seems to make him a deeper little soul, somehow, and I wouldn't trade that for the world!

Calvin's best little buddy is Joey, a little friend from our church, and who was also in Calvin's kindergarten class last year.  They love to play games that involve killing pretend ghosts.  I am on the fence about how I feel about that game, but they have so much fun doing it, and they are definitely using their imaginations, so I usually don't stop it.  But I prefer when they are out in the yard climbing trees and playing camping and stuff like that :)

Calvin likes to play cars with Ryan, but during those kinds of games, Ryan is in charge.  But Calvin really LOVES playing pretend games outside with Sophie or with Ryan and Sophie, as long as Ryan isn't being bossy.  They pull out camp chairs and make forts, play soccer tag, have races around the yard, all kinds of great kid games.  Calvin loves to look for birds and bugs and butterflies and always tries to catch them and make friends with them.  He loves to catch the grasshoppers and frogs that he sometimes finds in our yard or our cousins' yard.  He is a lover of animals and nature in general, and he is usually very gentle.

He still ADORES Chippy, his hamster.  She has turned out to be such a great little hamster for him.  She is very friendly and lets him hold her and play with her.  We had her out on the floor the other day and she wriggled behind the dresser.  I thought we would have to move it and get her out, but instead Calvin sat down nearby and put out his hand and she just came right back out and climbed on him.

Calvin is a very good artist.  I love seeing the things he comes up with.  In fact, he won 4th place in the coloring contest at the Anoka County Fair this summer (same one that Ryan got 3rd place in 4 years ago), and he was SO excited.  The lady called to tell me, and I asked her if she would mind talking to Calvin about it himself, and she obliged.  I wish I had it on camera, he was so delighted!  It was just the cutest thing ever.  I periodically save Calvin's doodles so I can do something with them at some point.  In fact, just last month I had one made into a shirt for Michael, and he LOVES it!

Calvin is a very loving and sweet boy.  Sometimes it can be hard to motivate him, but usually only if he feels like other people aren't working, so he shouldn't have to, either (cough, cough, Sophie).  Once that moment has passed, he is a good and eager worker.  He is very compassionate and loving when he notices that someone is sad, and he continues to be the best in our family at sharing.  He will share anything with anyone if he senses that it will help them feel better about something.  He really is so sweet.

I took Calvin with me on a run the other day at 6:30 AM.  We ran 2 miles, with a few walking stretches thrown in when he needed them.  He did so great, and I was really impressed.  It was just so fun to be with just him, doing something that made him feel so good about himself.  He just beamed, and held my hand, and was just the sweetest ever.  My heart was just bursting.

Of course, it's not all rainbow and butterflies with Calvin, either.  When he senses that he is being dealt with unfairly, he lets out a huge, energetic, "UG-UH!"  It's become a verb around here, as whenever he says it, I retort with, "Oh no, don't you ug-uh me!"  It often has to do with screen time, and is usually easily remedied by talking through it. And giving him a few minutes to cool down, plus a little extra love and attention.  Then he is good to go, once again.

Calvin is our earliest riser.  On normal days, it's between 6 and 6:30.  If we are on vacation or if we have a guest staying at our house, he is just too excited, and it is more like 5.  Calvin occasionally takes naps, but only when we're going to be up very late that night or when he really just can't function happily anymore.  That doesn't happen often, but I'm glad that naps are still an option for him when it does happen!  He goes to bed well, usually around 8, and lives for his song and back scratch right before bed.  He always tells me how nice it feels, and it's just the sweetest.

Calvin is starting first grade next week!  It will be a big change for him.  He'll be gone all day, eat lunch at school, have actual homework, and his new first grade teacher just arrived from Spain and doesn't speak much English, so I am sure his Spanish will come a long way this year!  He is getting pretty good at reading, and can finish beginner kids books by himself now, and we are very proud of him!  Early reading is not something we have really worked on with our kids.  We encourage them gently and help them when they would like help, but I've just assumed that they will get to it when they are good and ready, and it seems to have worked well so far!  I'm glad he is making progress.  He is a smart little guy!

I am so proud of the sweet boy our Calvin is.  He is such a good brother and friend, and I am so happy to be his momma!

Here are some pictures of the 1st Grade photo shoot I did with Mister Calvin:

This is pretty accurate.

Love this little buddy:

Calvin and Katie.  Calvin is such a goof:

Making do with one lens:

Helping Michael with a sawing project earlier this year:

Being a sweet big brother to Hannah:

One of Calvin's pieces of artwork:

Brothers and buddies:

He's always doing faces like this when I ask him to smile:

These he did for Grandma.  They say "I heart you".

One evening everyone else went to bed early and Calvin and I drank lemonade in the shade all by ourselves in the back yard.   The orange slices on the cups were his idea:

Playing in the sand with Hannah:

Calvin said this was a "Charicature of Christy!"  I dig the spirograph necklace.

 Calvin's winning picture and check for $4!  I love that he turned the dog into a dalmation.  I thought that was very creative!

His friend Emily asked him to give him lessons on how to draw sea turtles.  It was really cute.

A frog he found in the yard:

Entertaining Hannah with my phone:

Taking a walk with Katie:

The shirt I made for Michael out of Calvin's squirrel drawing:

Holding a snake Michael found:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sophie these days

Our Sophie girl is a sweet, emotional, affectionate girl these days.  So, I guess not much has changed there!  She has been having a good summer.  She has had lots of cousin time, lots of Christy time, lots of Grandparent time, lots of family time, and some friend time mixed in there, too.  She is always happy if we (or really anyone else, for that matter) have time and attention to devote just to her, or if Jane is around.  The worst crime I could commit in her eyes is promising a Jane day and not delivering, which I try to avoid at all costs.

Sophie was sharing a room with Calvin, but recently swapped with Ryan so that she now shares a room with Hannah again.  The trouble was that when we would ask Calvin and Sophie to clean their room, she would just utterly refuse to help.  So we decided to put her in a room where the mess that gets made is essentially all her responsibility.  And she is LOVING it so far.  And I love hearing my girls goofing off while trying to fall asleep.  That only lasts for a couple of minutes before I have to move someone, but it's cute for a couple of minutes, at least.  Last night Sophie was put to bed before Hannah, and so she was asleep when I put Hannah in.  Hannah lays down and then immediately jolts up with a "HI, YOU!" and crazy giggle.  She was disappointed when she didn't get a response.

So, a typical Sophie day these days goes a bit like this.  Wake up around 6:30 and come snuggle us in bed or snuggle with whomever is awake on the couch.  She is a good hugger and snuggler.  She then heads off to play with whomever wakes up next or has woken up before her, usually down in the basement.  Then she will typically wander up and ask about breakfast.  Instead of going to play until it is ready, she will almost always opt to wait patiently (but not quietly...she talks and talks and talks!) at the table until it is ready.  This drives me a little bit nuts!

Sophie will usually eat toast, fruit and cereal for breakfast.  Today it was toast, fruit and a hard boiled egg.  She loves cinnamon on her toast, will ALWAYS ask for milk to drink but almost never drinks much of it, and always seems to finish the fruit I serve with meals before she finishes the other parts.

After breakfast, she gets dressed.  Now that she has switched rooms, she can reach all of her clothes by herself.  What a nice change!  I do her hair, which she is very good about.  She always wants one braid or one ponytail, but the truth is that her hair is still too short to stay up nicely like that for very long.  So I usually tell her she can do down and curly or else up in two of something--two buns, two braids, two piggytails.  I love her curls, and I try to talk them up to her a lot, because I have noticed every now and again that she bemoans her curly hair and asks to have "straight hair today".  I tried that once with my straightening iron, but her hair is so thin and so uneven in back (I have never in my life cut it) that it looked simply awful.

She loves her pink princess toothpaste (the only time I have ever purchased not minty toothpaste for my kids--I was at Grandma's and I was feeling especially nice), and takes FOREVER in the bathroom, no matter what she went in there to do.  It always ends up with singing and puttering with something.  It often ends with her dipping the top of her head in water and coming out with wet hair running down her face, asking me if she looks "creepy".  She is funny.

Once she's dressed and ready for the day, we attempt chores.  Sophie has adopted the motto of "I'm scared to be alone".  Except that it's not true.  She's actually never been scared to be alone--she does great.  It's just that she is social and craves someone to talk to (where on earth does she get that from???) and so she has told herself this lie until she really believes it.  So it is sometimes VERY difficult to get Sophie to do anything by herself.  If I offer to help her, my rule is usually that I will help her as long as she is working hard, but she usually only lasts a couple of seconds.  At which point, I leave and tell her she has to do it alone.  If she's in a good mood, she eventually decides that she will do it, and then she does GREAT work!  Probably my best worker under those circumstances.  But if she's not in a good mood, I simply can't influence her to do it, no matter what I try.  So I just tell her that she has lost her chance at chore money because I have to do her chores now.  Then there are a few tears and then she is off to play again.

Sophie loves to play with her brothers, Calvin especially.  Summers are kind of hard for me.  First of all, four children feels like so many to have at home all day!  And secondly, Calvin and Sophie play SO WELL when Ryan isn't around.  When they are all three together, sometimes they play SO WELL and sometimes it is just a disaster :)  So I think Sophie has been missing playing with Calvin in the afternoons when Ryan was still at school.  I think she will be rather lonely this year with the boys both in school all day.  But Sophie's main desire in life is to be included in what the bigger kids are doing, and it makes her so happy when she is!  She starts preschool (2 days a week, 2.5 hours per day) in a couple of weeks, and I know she'll love it.  I am excited for her to make new friends and learn more about social interactions.  I know she'll do great!  Sophie has been playing in the back yard a lot this summer with her brothers and sister, doing some really awesome make believe games, going on cousin outings, doing some playdough, going to parks, playing in the sprinklers, that sort of thing.  And it has been a nice summer.  The weather has been beautiful and we've spent a lot of time outside enjoying it.  Sophie loves being outside, and I often find her on the little swing in our backyard or climbing the tree by our garden.  Or digging in the dirt.  The other day I sat out there under our maple tree with her and she was just so lovely and adorable that I cried because I didn't want her to grow up.

Sophie's lunch of choice is always, and I mean ALWAYS a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Okay, that's not exactly true, I guess.  If Jane is eating with us, Jane always has a plain peanut butter sandwich, and in that case, Sophie will request hers to be just like Jane's.  She likes apple slices or some other fruit to go along with it.  Sometimes I get so fed up with her love for PBJ that I force alternative lunches on her, but I always end up crawling back to the PBJs, because, hello, cheap and quick!  Sophie is my most reliably polite child, and usually asks for things with a "please and thank-you" and a "may I".  And least more so than the boys.

Sometimes Sophie still naps, but when she does nap, she stays up so much later that unless we have some event where I know we will be out late, I almost never ask her to nap anymore.  But when I do, she is usually willing and good at falling asleep quickly.  When I don't there are often meltdowns about not getting her way.  Sometimes these result in a nap even if I don't want her to take one!  Or in a best case scenario, an over-tired Sophie will simply complain about being "too sweaty!", which I guess she uses as a filler word for uncomfortable or tired or hot or cold or anything other than feeling just right.  But you can bet almost always that if Sophie says that she is sweaty, she could probably use a nap.  Whether or not you want to give her one is another story!

The afternoon is spent doing more playing and running errands.  Sophie is a girl of simple pleasures.  For example, I can seriously make her day by asking if she would like to use my door to get out of the car.  She is a good shopping buddy, except for in the check out line.  Those shelves of toys and candy were MADE for her.  I have to be on top of my game to get through with my sanity and dignity as a mother still intact.  Michael's and JoAnn's are the worst offenders.  Those checkout lanes go on forever and they have every candy and child-enticing thing known to man.  It is maddening.  And Sophie has a REALLY hard time leaving any of those places without begging for at least 5 things.  At which point I tell her that she can save up her chore money to buy them.  But then she remembers that she usually refuses to finish her chores and therefore doesn't really earn money.  This makes her very sad.  I'm hoping someday it will encourage her to do her chores more willingly.  Time will tell!

Usually when we are out, though, is when I get the most compliments from Sophie.  That is when she notices my hair or my earrings or my eyeshadow and decides that she LOVES them and tells me about how nice they look.  It's pretty cute, and makes her a pretty delightful shopping companion.  Plus, she loves to talk to people at the store, so they always seem to think she is funny or charming, which she is.  She likes this a lot.  Also, whenever she sees litter on the ground, she runs up to it and scoops it up in her hands, no matter what it is.  This grosses me out to no end, but she is so excited to "help keep Heavenly Father's world clean and beautiful" that I have to allow it.  Maybe I'll have to start carrying around little baggies for the extra gross things so he doesn't put her hands on them.  Gross, but sweet.

When Michael gets home, we have dinner together.  Sophie is a pretty good eater, as in she will try pretty much anything, but she must be going through a phase where she doesn't really need that much food, because if she doesn't really love what we are eating, she will just eat the fruit or veggie or bread and then be done.  Even when dessert is on the line, she usually won't finish dinner.  She will say something like, "I decided that I wanted to be a little healthier, so I am not going to eat dessert."  She is very sure of herself and heads off to do whatever without a second thought.  The only exception to this is if Jane is around and if she has earned her dessert.  Then Sophie will usually swallow anything she has to swallow to have dessert just like Jane.

Sophie loves to play with Michael and do things with him when he gets home in the evenings, or when he is home on the weekends.  She is a good buddy for whatever project he is working on.  She loves getting dirty, so she's up for whatever.  She loves stories and music and dancing.  Now when she sings, she puts a fake vibrato in her voice and it is pretty funny.  She's usually on key, though!  Sophie loves family time, and especially right after we kneel for family prayers, she wriggles into the middle and yells "THE ONE IN THE MIDDLE GETS HUG TRAPPED!!!!!!!!!!" and waits for everyone to hug her all at once.  It makes her so happy.  Bedtimes (especially if she hasn't napped) are usually pretty easy for Sophie.  She loves to wear nightgowns and is pretty put off if they are all in the laundry when she is looking for one.  She loves a song but doesn't want a back scratch, and loves to snuggle Violet the dog.  Other snuggle friends, even Elsa, get shoved off the bed.  And she usually either doesn't want blankets at all or wants them just so--completely straightened out with absolutely no wrinkles.  She is very particular about this, especially if you are laying down to sing to her and you happen to be on her blanket.  It is really cute to watch her try so hard to hold it together and ask you politely to get off and straighten out the blanket.  Not as cute when she just doesn't have the required inner strength and wails uncontrollably about it :)

We love our Sophie girl so much.  She is kind and thoughtful, funny and smart, and tries so hard to do what she knows she should--which is sometimes so hard for her, with all of those swirling emotions.  But I love to see her try so hard to be in control of them--she really is a great example to me in that way!  She is such a sweet and patient big sister to Hannah--this is something that was pretty unexpected for me (she was in a kind of rough 3 year old patch when Hannah was born, and I expected there to be major trouble), and I love seeing that side of her.  She is confident and determined and knows which way she is walking.  She loves her family, loves her cousins, loves her best buddy Jane, in fact, she seems to love just about everything.  She is a sweet and spunky girl, and I am so glad to call her mine! 

Some pictures of the preschool photo shoot I did with Sophie at AnnaMarie's house.  Such a happy girl!

Love this little beauty:

My favorite:

My other favorite:

My very most favorite:

Playing with Jane:

Spending some quality time with Daddy:

Love these two!

Helping Daddy change the wipers:

Sitting on the porch:

 A back yard evening:

Sitting under the apple tree with Michael.  They like to sing an old song about this, so they sang it together under the apple tree:

Love the look on Sophie's face:

On her swing:

Blue eyed baby girl:

Out for a walk at the park with Jane: