Abby’s Fourth Birthday

This month, Abby turned four.

So let me tell you all who our Abby-girl is.  She is the most enthusiastic, life-loving little girl I’ve ever known.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again and again for the rest of our lives, but Abby is an extremist. When she’s happy, she beams.  When she’s disappointed, the world IS ending.  Her meltdowns are epic.  Her naps are deep.  And when she wants to be loud, she’ll hurt your ear drums.

Abby had to get some shots recently.  Imagine a small room in a doctor’s office.  Abby is curled up on my lap with tears in her eyes.  Lydia is sitting next to us, covering her ears and singing (loudly) a made-up song about how everything is going to be ok.  The nurse is quietly singing Abby a little song about what she’s doing.  It’s not actually time for the shot yet, but Abby is curled up tightly on my lap, clutching her favorite stuffed pig in one hand, and screaming at the top of her lungs.  She continues to scream, even when I tell her it’s not time yet, until the “pokes” are done.  But, the moment Abby was done, she had a sweet little smile once again, tears in her eyes, and was proudly clutching her new stickers as if she had just won a medal.

Abby appreciates food.  One morning she greeted me by asking, “Where’s Daddy?  What’s for dessert?”  Her favorite foods are hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and ice cream.  In fact, we let her pick out one meal for her birthday and she waffled between these choices for about a week.  But all hope is not lost for her future dietary choices.  When Abby doesn’t like the meal I make, she’ll happily ask for three bowls of salad instead.

Abby receives compliments like a pro.  You know how some (many) people shrug off compliments because they’re humble or don’t know how to respond?  Not Abby.  If you tell her you like her dress or that she has pretty eyes, she’ll look up at you with sparkling eyes, a closed-mouth grin, and big cheeks in a way that will make you either compliment her more or try not to giggle.  She’s just that cute.  Dan and I took her to a toy store to let her look around and see what she might like for her birthday.  The conclusion: anything.  Just getting a gift makes Abby’s day and she’ll keep that gift with her all day, whether it’s a sticker, sunglasses, stuffed animal, face paint, tiara…you get the idea.  It was so cute on her birthday to watch her reactions when we sung her, “Happy birthday”, and it was even more adorable to hear her later in a different room singing to herself, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…”

Lydia and Abby are your typical young sisters.  They often don’t get along.  But within the past few months they’ve surprised me.  There are moments of every day when they can play happily together.  They get so caught up in their make-believe worlds and later come to tell me all the stories of what they’ve done.  Usually Lydia is the one in charge, deciding what they play and who’s who.  Abby is usually the princess, bride, or ballerina, and Lydia is the one doing Abby’s hair, picking out her clothes, and putting pretend makeup on her.  Abby also often “has a new baby” and Lydia is Abby’s doctor.

Abby gives the best hugs.  We call them Abby-hugs.  She squeezes tighter and tighter with impressive strength.  And, though her hugs are wonderful, she is less of a snuggler than her sister.  But she is more of a wrestler.  Dan likes to play-wrestle with the girls, but I usually sit out, so whenever a family comes over to our house, Abby wants to know if the dad will wrestle her.  If he’s not big on wrestling, she’ll go for tickling instead.

While Lydia learns things in big jumps, Abby is more of a slow-and-steady-type learner, but what stands out in her is her ability to love.  Since Dan and I tend to be pretty academic people, this has really made an impression on me.  I’ve seen that a person’s love can win you over.  In times when I’ve been overwhelmed and crying, Abby would approach me and ask, even when she didn’t have many words, “Mommy, why are you leaking?”  She’ll tell me now that she doesn’t like it when I’m sad or angry, and if I am she’ll ask, “When will you be happy again?”  She’ll stay by my side until I assure her that I’m doing well again and then she’ll run off to go play some more princess.

This Crazy Kiddo

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Lydia turned six at the end of May. She had been counting down to her birthday for over three months. Several days each week she would update us on what she wanted to do for her birthday, who she wanted to have over, and what presents she wanted to receive. When the birthday weekend finally arrived, we had a lot of birthday and start-of-summer fun. We took her to a toy store to pick out a toy to buy with her birthday money, got ice cream and pizza, and spent much of her actual birthday at the playground. She constantly reminded us to sing and say “Happy Birthday” and begged me to make her a “birthday balloon” (a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it). She got pink roses from Dan and went on her second-ever Daddy-daughter-birthday date.

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Lydia has also been asking regularly if it’s warm enough to play in the sprinkler or go to a pool. Since the first day of spring, it’s been hard to keep socks or shoes on her feet, not to mention a coat. She loves playing “house” outside and is so proud that this year she’s big enough to climb into our tree house all by herself.

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Lydia loves to play pretend, dance, and snuggle. She is always dressing up as a bride or asking to “play princess” with Dan, which is not exactly his favorite game. 😉 She loves any hands-on activities and anything “special”. Bridal showers, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers are sure to put her on her best behavior because she’s just so happy. When she learns it’s a significant day, for any reason, she’ll wonder why we aren’t celebrating more. For example, she asked why we weren’t having a fancy breakfast or a special dessert for groundhog’s day.

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Kindergarten was a breeze for Lydia. Thankfully (for me) she picks up on things really fast. Really, the best way to teach Lydia is to not teach her but let her watch others do the task. When she gets it in her head that she wants to try, she usually can succeed. This has worked well with laundry, cleaning up after meals, serving food, and even math lessons. I can get her to learn a lot more by doing a lesson half myself and letting her do the other half, than if I explain a concept to her and ask her to do the assignment alone.

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Gift-giving might be Lydia’s top love language. She loves to make “gifts” for people – homemade construction paper cards, simple cross-stitch pictures, cut out pieces of paper, and bouquets of flowers (dandelions or violets, usually) picked from our yard. She also loves receiving gifts. When she was struggling to do her reading lessons with a cheerful attitude, we discovered small prizes work wonders to get her motivated. And now that our library has started their summer reading program, Lydia has been reading at least a book a day to win her prizes, when it was always a struggle to do a page or two in her reading lesson book.

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She’s always been our most verbal child, so it’s no surprise that Lydia is almost always talking. If we had the patience and knowledge to answer all of her questions, she would be a genius. On ANY topic, Lydia can rattle off 5 questions without taking a break. Usually her trains of questions come to an halt whenever Mom or Dad have to ask for a break so we can focus on something or give attention to someone else. Lydia also has a very good memory. She has memorized over 100 Bible verses (with desserts as the most effective incentive). The other day we were listening to our daily news radio program during breakfast and one of their regular promo segments started playing. She recited the 30 second promo pretty well right on top of the program.

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This year is Lydia’s turn to accompany me to our church Ladies’ Retreat for a Mommy-Daugther date and she’s pretty thrilled. She’s been looking forward to her turn ever since I took Abby last year. Her memory is pretty incredible in that way too. For example, about nine months ago we took Lydia to a dentist appointment. They told her that she would earn a stuffed animal prize if she could stop sucking her thumb for 30 days. She stopped that very day. Last month I took her again and she got her prize. The next day I found her sucking her thumb after eight months without it! Dan and I had to explain that the point was to stop altogether, not just stop for eight months to earn her prize and then start again.

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Some of my most precious memories of Lydia lately have been our one-on-one times together. Sometimes Lydia will snuggle up next to me during nap time and play with my hair while she listens to an audio book. Occasionally Lydia helps me cook dinner, peeling carrots or stirring vegetables as they cook (that’s her favorite because she feels so grown up working at the stove). I try to remember to give her snuggles, hugs, and tickles whenever my hands are free because my hands are so often full, I’ll go days without a Lydia hug if I’m not intensional. (Don’t worry about her being deprived though, Dan picks up the slack. Lydia is quite gifted at sneaking into his lap whether he says it’s ok or not!)

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The Necklace

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For Christmas my sister and brother-in-law gave Lydia some beads and stretchy string to make jewelry. After we got back from our trip up North, I spent a couple of days helping her make necklaces and bracelets. She made some for herself, some for Abby, and I made one for Lydia too. I was soon all beaded out.

One day Dan sat down with Lydia and she decided to make a necklace for me. Dan helped and soon I was presented with a small collection of mismatched beads on a string. Of course, I wore it all day and then left it sitting on my dresser when I went to sleep that night.

Fast forward a day or two. Our morning was not going well. Lydia was being difficult and I was getting frustrated. After yet another episode with lots of whining and crying and poor behavior (on both sides), I stomped upstairs to give myself a time out. I was near-tears-frustrated and knew I needed to cool down before having a talk with Lydia. As I sat on my bed and fumed, I started to pray, but I just couldn’t seem to calm myself down.

I glanced up and decided to get ready for the rest of the day, but something on my dresser caught my eye.

“Oh great”, I thought to myself, “the girls got into my stuff and broke one of my necklaces”. I, still angry, stood up and walked over to the dresser to assess the damage. There, lying on the wooden dresser was my necklace from Lydia.

Tears came to my eyes (again) and sentimental music started playing in my head as I slowly picked up the necklace and stared at it in my hand.

My anger was gone and the day was saved. My sweet baby girl, who is still far too young to control herself of her emotions the way I should be able to, loved me enough to want to make this for me. Even though I blow it. Even though I get angry.

Just then I heard my Little Munchkin, my Gooselett, my daughter, climbing the stairs cheerfully, fully recovered from <her meltdown. I put the necklace on and resolved to do my best to make the day a good one, a memorable one. For her.