Kids change so fast. Katie's outgrowing her 6-9 month clothes, so a few days ago, I pulled out the box of 12-month clothes. In that box I found the red dress that Harmony wore a year ago for this picture:
How much things change in just a year! Last year at this time, Harmony wasn't even talking, and now she jabbers on constantly. We hadn't even met Katie or seen her infectious smile.
Today, I'd like to take a moment to share what my kids are like at this point in their lives, knowing that a year from now things will change again:
* Lillian is 11.5, in sixth grade, and very mature. She is in charge of cooking on Thursdays and she makes a really yummy chicken lo mein. She loves to cook and will offer to do it on other nights, too. She loves reading, especially fantasy. When she's into a book, she tunes out everything around her. Some of her favorite authors are Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan. She plays the violin with the older kids in the 7th and 8th grade orchestra. She doesn't have a piano teacher right now, but practices playing on her own anyway. She'll often look up music online for pieces she wants to learn to play on the piano or violin, like Fur Elise, Star Wars (couldn't find it), and more.
She hates having her picture taken (hence the use of the Halloween photo above) and scowls when we tell her she's beautiful. Recently, I made a photo calendar for the year. She looked through it and asked, "How come there are so many pictures in here of the little girls?" I pointed out that when I only have two pictures of her for the entire year, then that's all I have to use.
She's great at babysitting and has started getting calls from other families.
* Joey is 10, in fourth grade, and has grown a ton this past year. The biggest change is that he recently discovered all the privileges that come with being responsible and helpful. He used to give us the hardest time about every job, telling us he hated to work and fighting us constantly. But for the last month, he's been a dream child, stepping up to his chores without reminders, and even volunteering to do extra jobs like take out the trash and read to the little girls.
Interestingly, a few days after Joey's change of heart, I asked him what made the difference. "What's going on? How come you're being so helpful?" "Oh, I just decided to," he replied. Oh the power of choice! And he's really stuck to it! He babysat some of the little girls a few weeks ago and when I came home an hour later, he had turned off the video I'd started, helped them dress for bed and brush their teeth, read them stories, and put them to bed.
Joey is a loving big brother to his little sisters. He stands up for Michael when he feels he's not being treated fairly. He's a thoughtful, smart, wonderful boy.
We have a wood-burning stove we use often in the winter to keep our home warm and Joey's enthusiastically taken the responsibility of keeping the fire going.
Joey is our most adventurous child. He loves to run outside barefoot to get the newspaper or take out the trash, even if there's snow on the ground. He's a delight to take on trips because he'll go anywhere, do anything and eat all sorts of food. He's been racking up work hours to pay for his part of a trip to Chicago in April. Last summer, he and his dad hiked to the top of Mount Timpanogas, and Joey would love to tackle that challenge again. He loves the outdoors and all kinds of science.
Joey loves hanging out with his best friend Nathan. They love to take apart old computers and electronics, build booby traps and other contraptions, and explore the forest behind our house.
* Michael is a very active, imaginative boy. He's 8.5 and in third grade. He carries on long, elaborate, imaginative play with his toys, such as setting up a war between his Lego storm troopers and his army guys. He loves Legos and dress-ups, and playing pirates or superheros with his two best friends.
He's good to his sisters and loves Joey. It it doesn't take much teasing to get a rise out of him, though, so he sometimes he's at odds with some of the family. He loves Katie and points out that she was his birthday present.
He is a loving child who is really concerned about choosing the right. He'll often point out ways that me or his dad could do better, "Dad, you shouldn't say that," or "Mom, you shouldn't yell." He doesn't like having 30 hard problems to do in math every day, but he finishes up quickly and cleans the mud room without reminders so he can play with friends or on the Wii.
* Allison and Sarah, 6.5, are easier to talk about as a unit, though they are very much individuals. They both love art and are doing really well in first grade. They love their teacher. They had a half-birthday party last Saturday and apologized profusely to her that she wasn't invited. "Mom said we could only invite kids."
At the first of the year, they read agonizingly slow, but with consistent effort, they've improved significantly. They can read complex words and longer stories and they always have a huge pile of books on their bed at night to look at before they fall asleep.
Allison asks really thoughtful questions and is a fun girl to spend time with. She's been volunteering to help cook dinner a lot lately, and sticks to tasks like browning hamburger with patience and maturity. Sarah is fun-loving and has a great sense of humor. She loves to be teased and laughs easily.
They love everything and everyone. They are special friends to a dozen people in our ward. They light up when they see them and run to give them hugs. They will often sit by Sister Hatch or Sister Thorn after the sacrament on Sundays and they'll color quietly through the rest of the meeting. During the week, they'll run over to Sister Bullock's house for a sucker and to Sister Hatch's house for some attention.
They both love to draw pictures and leave me love notes often, especially Allison. Here's a great one she left by my computer a week before Christmas:
Like Joey, both girls are adventurers. They love to see the world and take it all in. We love to take them places. Both girls are very grateful. Their prayers are full of sincere thanks for all sorts of things in the world, from trees and bugs to our lovely home and the fact that they are twins.
* Eliza is a sweet four-year-old, even if she does steal pacifiers from Harmony sometimes to suck on in secret. She loves the new adventures she's having this year. She goes to our neighborhood preschool once a week and she just started a two-day-a-week afternoon preschool and loves it, coming home every day so excited about what she did. She loved her dance class last semester, and she's thrilled to be old enough to go on Daddy Trips. She loves swimming. She can do complex, 60 and 100 piece puzzles and she loves her Littlest Pet Shop toys.
Eliza has always been a dream child. She's not perfect, but she is very good about following instructions and being trust-worthy.
I used to think Eliza was shy, but I've since realized that it's more a matter of being slow to warm up. She doesn't act until she knows what she's supposed to do in the situation. Take her to the doctor alone and she'll be very quiet and hang back. But if you take her with her sisters and they speak up and tell the doctor their names and ages, she'll speak right up and do the same. She's not afraid to speak up or talk to people once she's comfortable.
She and Harmony have the rockiest relationship in our family and are still learning how to get along. Eliza spent four years of her life in the little sister role, tumbling after the twins and letting them direct her in play, so it's a huge change for her to take on the big sister role. She's more of a quiet personality than many of the others in our family and the leadership role is new. She shows signs of jealousy of Harmony, insisting that Harmony is still a baby and feeling threatened sometimes when Harmony wants to play with her. At other times, the two get along great. Eliza never hurts anyone and even if Harmony pulls her hair (yes, this happens -- I have normal kids, you know), she won't retaliate, instead just screaming and crying until someone else intervenes. I'm glad they'll have another eighteen months or so to settle into their relationship before Eliza begins kindergarten.
* Harmony is usually a great two-year-old, hair-pulling incidents aside. She has become a real talker, jabbering on for long paragraphs about whatever interest her. She is really good at going down for naps and bed and loves her routine. We read her a story, lie her down with her doggy blanket (it has a dog on it) and a stuffed animal or her "rainbow" fish, give her a ton of books she points out she wants, and then leave the light on. We like to turn the nursery monitor up all the way to listen in on what happens next. She'll read to herself quietly and often she'll sing little songs to herself. It is very sweet. She's only climbed out of her crib once, and fell down, so she hasn't attempted it again. We're hoping that trend continues. She shares the nursery with Katie right now, and when she does start climbing out, we will move her into the room with Eliza and the twins.
She's a good little toddler and I often feel blessed to have had two good toddlers in a row after the challenge of the twins at that age. She listens pretty well when we go places. During Eliza's dance class, she was content to sit near me or look at books and play with Katie while Eliza danced. The chairs were set up in the same room as the dance class, and most two-year-olds (at least the ones we've had in THIS family) would have disrupted the lessons or taken off down the halls to explore.
Harmony absolutely adores Katie and has ever since her birth. Usually, my toddlers start showing jealousy once the baby starts crawling, but Harmony hasn't at all. She lights up and says, "Katie! Katie!" every time Katie enters the room and she still insists "'old er! 'old 'er!" even though Katie tries to squirm away. She even lets Katie crawl on her and laughs when Katie pulls her hair or grabs her face. Harmony is always looking for ways to help Katie, from bringing her toys to fetching diapers or clothes for me.
* Katie is a delightful 8-month-old. She pulls up on everything, especially our legs and is really curious. Everything goes in her mouth, so we have to be vigilant about choking hazards and small Legos. She has a quick grin and excited smile for those she loves, especially her mom.
She still wakes up at night once or twice and sometimes more times to nurse, though she's slept through the night a half dozen times in the past month. She's always busy moving. The doctor told me last week he's never seen a more active baby. Even when she's nursing, she'll often stretch and move and kick her legs.
She's pleasant and patient and really good at exploring. She tires of toys quickly if they're ones she's seen before, but she never tires of people. She gets a special smile on her face when she crawls into the twins' and Eliza's room. She's not in there often because they have toys in there that are choking hazards so when the door's left open, she crawls right in and her face brightens as if she knows she's getting away with something.
She's gotten three teeth in the past month and is quite good at biting her food. It's nice that she can feed herself now, though it means that sometimes she gets confused and bites me -- ouch! She loves bananas and cereal and hates plain bread. However, she loves bread spread with a bit of jam. She gets thoroughly messy when she eats and even with a bib on, I often have to change her clothes afterward.
So there's my crew, a dynamic, wonderful, amazing group of kids. I feel blessed to know them.