You are now precisely four-and-a-half years old! Hurray!
It’s been four months since I’ve written one of your newsletters, an omission I’m readily blaming on your little sister, despite the fact that she’s only been a part of the family for two-and-a-quarter of those months. The addition of the Butterfly to our family has significantly altered our previously established family dynamics, not least of which included semi-regular blogging. Another post-Butterfly change will be that future installments of these newsletters will directed to the both of you. However, I wanted to write you one last letter, just for you, to wrap up the summer season.
If I were to sum up the past four months in a single thought, it’d be this: You are growing up so fast!
And let’s be honest: you’ve been growing. At an alarming rate, too. Over summer you’ve spurted up to about 42 inches, which in addition to being a nice (dare I say ultimate?) number that you can take home and introduce to the family, is also the bare minimum height for many of the more thrill-inducing rides at the Central States Fair. Whereas last year you were only able to ride variations of the merry-go-round, this time you tackled the bumper cars, the Sizzler, the Alpine Sled, the high swings… you name it.* The bumper cars, hand down, were your favorite. I’d simply wedge my foot on the accelerator and you’d steer, deliberately smashing into the other cars with maniacal glee. I suspect you’ve got a career ahead of you in demolition derbies. On a not unrelated note, you’re not getting your driver’s license until you’re 30.
* The one exception was the Gravitron, which you simply refused to go on. At first I thought your hesitance was because the thing spun so fast, but it turns out what freaked you out more was its strong resemblance to Phineas and Ferb’s Mix-and-Mingle Machine, which at the end of the episode accidentally explodes, ejecting all its riders into the sky. I explained that such an event with the Gravitron was extremely unlikely, but you reasoned that if Phineas and Ferb couldn’t make it foolproof, what chance did a bunch of carnies have?
Interestingly enough, while your height tends to increase, your overall mass does not, which means that right now you look tall and skinny, but (should things continue this way until the end of winter), you’ll end up looking a bit lit Mike Teevee at the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
This unprecedented spurt in your height has gone hand-in-hand, paradoxically enough, with an unprecedented spurt in your energy level. You jump, bounce, run, sing, and play all the time. (In hindsight, this goes a long way towards explaining the previous paragraph.) You have so much spare energy that I’m currently in negotiations to lease you out to Black Hills Power in the hopes of reducing our monthly electric bill. However, until the details of that are worked out, I’ve instead been finding other ways to burn off your excess energy. In June we made you take the Volksmarch, a six-mile hike up to the face of the Crazy Horse monument…
In July, we made you hike the Great Wall of China…
and the Huangguoshu Waterfall, the fourth largest waterfall on the planet…
In August, I started taking you on bike treks along the Rapid City bike path, where you completed a 3-mile ride, then a 4-mile ride, and (mostly recently) a 5-miles…
And in September, your mom enrolled you in dance class as well…
…but nothing seems to work. You remain an unstoppable human dynamo.
Indeed, you yourself have taken to learning new physical activities in an effort to tire yourself out. You’ve mastered pumping your legs while swinging, so that with one solid external push you can oscillate for hours under your own power.
You then set your sets on the monkey bars, and after several days of failed attempts, skinned knees, and bruised buttocks, you’re now sailing across them like a primate princess. I’m hoping that some studio will bring back American Gladiators for Kids, ’cause I think you’ve got a serious shot at the big money there.
However, the most common way for you to dissipate your access energy is in the form of what you call “sassiness.” You positively ooze sass, where by sass I don’t mean “back-talk disrespect” so much as “rock star attitude.” I’m not sure where you picked up the concept of looking sassy, but it’s become your favorite default stance. For example, here’s you being sassy at the Temple of Heaven…
at the Forbidden City…
and back at home…
I’m still not exactly sure what constitutes “sassy,” but apparently it involves Zoolander faces and severe scoliosis.
In addition to vertical height and energy density, you’re also growing in intellect. You remain fascinated with science and reading in general, and have become increasingly excited about the prospect of going to “real school.” To prepare for such, you’ve developed something of an addiction to activity books that include ABC connect-the-dots and find-the-next-shape-in-the-sequence puzzles. You’ve also been pushing yourself to learn your letters, and you can now recognize all the capital letters of the alphabet, and are getting pretty good at writing them down as well. You’ve memorized how to spell your name (first and last), have (almost) memorized MOMMY and DADDY, and are fond of writing these words down on any unmarked planar surface you find. My favorite still is the message you left scrawled for me with bath crayons on the wall of the tub for me one day:
In case you can’t read it, it says:
I ♥ U
along with many further attempts at the “I ♥ U” bit scattered below it.)
Your improved mastery of writing implements is not limited to your penmanship. Your general artistry has also improved. Gone are your Spongebob-esque caricatures of the human form; now you draw bipeds with torsos, round heads, and smiling faces. You also experiment with different shapes (like hearts, obviously), and can amuse yourself for hours trying to sketch trees and umbrellas and even your own hand. I am utterly amazed at your artistic energy and output. My personal favorite is a watercolor portrait of you (in brown) holding me (in blue) aloft under a rainbow, along with your signature (which is so large it takes up all the negative space in the image).
In fact, you’ve gone from simple arts and crafts to full fledged art (as evidenced above) and hardcore crafts: every other weekend you and I go to Lowe’s, where there have a kid’s building workshop. Over the past few months you — yes, you! — have built and decorated (either with watercolor paint or stickers) a ladybug-shaped bug box, a school bus with rolling wheels and a slide-away top to hide chalk, a purse hanger, and a puppet theater. In fact, you’re so excited to build things, we’ve got you your own apron, safety goggles, and a hammer, and on our non-Lowe’s weekends we’ve built a coin bank and a monster truck. For your next project, I’d like you to build a door frame and install a door for the laundry room, okay?
Speaking of scholastics, you are also working hard on learning “math,” which in your case refers to counting, adding, and subtracting. Your interest was piqued in a conversation with your mom about your funds:
You: Mom, right now I have only 3 dollars. I want to buy some make up from Claire’s, but it costs 6 dollars.
She: Sounds like you need more money.
You: Well if I clean Daddy’s toilet, he’ll give me a dollar, and if I clean your toilet, you’ll give me a dollar, so then I’ll have 5 dollars.
She: That’s right.
You: But that’s still not enough. I still will need one more dollar before I can buy my make-up.
She: Do you know you just did math?
You: Really? I did math?
She: Yes! You just did math!
You: Awesome. Can I get a dollar for it?
You’ve got a promising future in economics ahead of you.
This actually reminds me of another conversation — one that I had with you — that illustrates that, while your grasp of number sense still needs refinement, your understanding of the deeper aspects of logic is developing just fine.
Dad: Ladybug, look at all those bikes in that yard.
You: Wow. There’s like…. a thousand bikes there.
Dad: A thousand bikes?
Dad: Isn’t that rather a lot? Wouldn’t that mean that family has a thousand kids?
You: Well, at least a thousand kids who like to ride bikes.
Ian Stewart‘s gonna love you.
Speaking of mathematicians, you’ve also got quite a bit of a Pythagorean streak in you, in the sense of ascribing mystical powers to natural numbers, where by “natural numbers” I mean “4,” and by “mystical powers” I mean “someone should buy this for me.” Seriously, any time you see something with a “4” on it or in its title, like Connect-Four or a four-square ball or whatever, you practically beg us to purchase it for you, on the grounds that you are also 4 and are therefore fated to own in. You’ve even taken it to phonetic extremes, as in
Me: Who is this soda for?
You: Four? I’m four, so it must be for me.
Of course, let’s not forget that it’s not just your height and brawn and your brains that have grown this season… the main reason this newsletter is so late is because your family has grown as well. The Butterfly is now part of the family, and I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am of the way you’ve embraced the role of “big sister.”
The Butterfly certainly didn’t make it easy on you. During those first two weeks in China, all she did was punch and kick and pinch and scream at you, but you nevertheless persisted in doting on her, showering with love and kisses and hugs. (Well, I assume they were hugs. Given the Butterfly’s attempts to twist out away and your determination to keep her in contact, you might have been practice alligator-wrasslin’ moves.) It paid off too, since by the time the we returned to the States, the Butterfly had come to accept you as a part of her family, and for the most part the screaming and punching and hitting has subsided. (Although, possibly from the aforementioned manhandling, she’s still scared to the dickens of letting you hug her.)
Your favorite joint activity is going to the park, which replaced the previous favorite joint activity of bath-time immediately after that time the Butterfly filled the tub with floating turds. You’ve done your best to teach your little sister the joys of the outdoors, such as mucking about in the dirt, counting rocks, and falling off of slides. You’re especially fond of pushing her in the baby swing, since after the first two times you managed to get kicked in the head by your baby sister you finally comprehended the “get out of the way before the swing returns” concept.
In recent days, the Butterfly has taken to imitating your every action, which typically means she follows you around the house from room to room like a lap dog and incessantly plays with all your stuff. While this is beginning to get irritating to you, you handle it with a maturity far beyond your four-and-a-half years. Indeed, whenever I get irritated with the Butterfly for, say, dismantling the TV remote for the eleventh time in five minutes, it’s you who says “Stop it Butterfly. And dad, remember, she’s just a baby in a new family. She’ll understand soon or later. Give her time.” And then you send me to my room to think about what you’ve just said. Oh my eldest daughter… you are wise beyond your years…
I love you, Ladybug!
— Ba ba