I have a hard time remembering what things were like once time has passed. So I thought I'd paint a little picture of what the kids are like right now, starting with Robbie.
Age: just over 3 1/2 yrs old
Defining physical attributes: 1) We keep his hair buzz-cut short for reasons that include the cost of really bad local kids' haircuts, we own clippers, and the fact that he loathes shampoo and having his hair combed. 2) He usually has some sort of scratch or nick on his face that seems fresh - it's not. He cannot help but pick at scabs, so things take forever to heal. 3) The kid has super skinny legs, and therefore knobby looking knees. No matter how much he eats he never has a belly. I have to cinch size 4 pants super tight around his waist for this reason (we need the length). 4) I think it's remarkable how much his look overall has changed in the last 6 months, and how much older he seems as a result.
You can often find him: wherever his sisters are. On Wednesday and Friday mornings though, he's at preschool. On Sundays, at church enjoying Sunday School. Most Monday and Tuesday mornings, at the gym while mommy is at yoga. And all the other in between times, if it's nice out we're at the park. If it's not, he's at home playing with his trains, but his interests are expanding to toy cars too. He is into doing puzzles and reading books about trains (they are the only ones he wants to check out at the library). He spends a lot of time getting into trouble with Ellie when we're at home, but for as much trouble as they cause they play really well together. When things get hairy, we chill out with Nick Jr. or a movie, typically Cars, Toy Story or Madagascar and a big bowl of popcorn.
Sources of comfort: #1 is still that little blue square Lovey. However, Lovey is banned from leaving the house so if we're going somewhere and he needs security, he'll grab a toy train. Also, he likes to have a cup nearby. Milk, juice, whatever. Just something to save him from certain dehydration.
Favorite toys: trains, cars, puzzles. Lately he likes to use a toy with string to tie his trains together. Sometimes I find toys dangling by strings that have been tied to window cranks, doorknobs, etc.
At the table: he's becoming a very picky eater. This is unfortunate - he used to be my little garbage disposal! Throw anything at him in any amount and down the hatch it would go. Now it seems like the only things he'll eat are: sliced peppers with mustard, nuggets, apples, orange juice, green beans, baby carrots, pbj's, macaroni, hot dogs, pizza, chocolate milk, ziti with meat sauce, strawberries, oranges, pickles, yogurt, chips, waffles, scrambled eggs, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, sausage, apple juice and grilled cheese. If that seems like a long list, remember that this is literally all I can get him to eat for any meal, every single day.
When it's time to sleep: At night he likes to sleep with his blue Lovey, his big fleece Thomas blanket and also one brown blanket now that it's cold. He cannot fall asleep peacefully unless the following things are true: Ellie is in her crib, all of his 'stuff' is in his crib in its proper place (stuffed animals and a random blanket in one corner of the crib, pillow flipped over once, Lovey up by pillow), the folding screen in the room is opened at the correct angle (if you forget, he'll show you with his two hands the degree he prefers), the nightlight is on, the closet doors are completely shut, his dresser top is completely cleared off, the lights are off and the door is shut tight. He is as particular with his nighttime routine as it sounds. And if we say goodnight and walk out and something has been forgotten? Bloody-murder-screams.
However, all these things can be perfectly ready for bedtime and he and Ellie still find reason not to fall asleep. Lately they've taken to talking, jumping in their cribs, dashing from one end of their cribs to the other to peek at one another around the folding screen, dead-man-falling backwards into their pillows, and all-out-happy-screaming after we've left them for bed. On a good night, it only goes on for 20 or 30 minutes. On the bad nights, Rob and I roll our eyes and pray that Maddie doesn't wake up for hours at a time. If anything drives me to insanity, this will be it. Nothing short of punishing one child by removing the other from the room gets them to quiet down (and we've tried everything). But we don't like to reward one of them by taking them out of their beds when they've both been equally disobedient in their behavior, so usually we just ignore it altogether until they fall asleep. Once asleep, they tend to sleep through one another's night disturbances, although this Fall we've had a lot of nighttime coughing and that does wake both of them up. They are overall worse night sleepers than the baby for this reason, at this point in time. Yes, that is maddening, because they are really great sleepers when they have their own room.
Get outta here: Robbie's favorite haunts include Lake Ellyn park, Miss Kate's resale shop (Wear & Share), the toy aisle at Target, the library, the pavelock walk on the side of our house, our neighbor's basement and anywhere Mima, Papa, and/or Aunt Kelsey are. He also enjoys the Saturday morning routine of accompanying daddy on his weekend errands.
If you want to put the child in a bad mood: let him skip his nap for days in a row. He's dropping his nap overall, but 2 or 3 days a week he still needs one. This transition is not fun. If he doesn't nap, our afternoons are sprinkled with tantrums, sibling fights, demands and backtalk. If I do lay him down for a nap, he either sleeps so hard that it's hard for him to go to bed at night, or he can't fall asleep for his nap and ends up waking Ellie up from hers early because he's bored.
This is one smart cookie: He can count to 20. He's into rhyming and knows exactly how to do it right. He can identify things around town and stores we've shopped in even if just once. He also knows what direction we're heading in without me telling him (if North, he asks 'Are we going to church / to cross the train tracks / to the library / to Miss Kate's store?'... if South, 'Are we going to Mima's / to Target?')
Sometimes things are hard: I would still not consider him 100% potty trained. It's been a while since he's had an accident at preschool but some days he just hates to stop and use the potty, especially in the afternoon. Mom does an extra load of laundry on those days, and unless I'm prepared and able to deal with the possibility of wet pants, we usually put him in a pull-up when we leave the house for errands, etc. He also cannot resist misbehaving in the bath tub. What is it about splashing half the water out of the tub every single night that is so hard to resist?
Recent tricks include: galloping, cutting with scissors, dressing and undressing himself, taking off his shoes and putting them where they belong right away upon entering the house without being asked, playing on a scooter outside, helping bring in empty garbage cans on garbage day, spontaneously filling dixie cups for every member of the family, and washing himself in the shower. Also, explaining in detail the journey food takes from entering our mouths all the way through to it's exit (thanks to a new "My Body" book!). It's pretty funny to hear a 3 year old talk about intestines.
The sibling bond: is getting tight. When Ellie is sick or hurting, he's quick to love on her and get her anything she wants or needs. He plays nicely with her most of the time, sharing toys and encouraging her to play along with whatever storyline he's got going. That's not to say they don't have their moments of jealousy, anger and teasing. But I see them working out their problems on their own and growing in their relationship and love for each other.
Injury and illness: Robbie had a bad case of the flu early this Fall (on the first day of preschool, to be exact!), and seems to constantly struggle with colds and coughs right now. Thankfully he hasn't had any significant injuries.
Quirky things I know I'll forget years from now: He loves to sit and take my earrings out and put them back in again, over and over. He asks me every time we get in the car if I've buckled my seatbelt (I am religious about wearing my seatbelt, not sure why this is a major concern). He talks a lot about where God is, and what God likes. His theology is fairly basic but very accurate. He says his favorite things are family meals together, and spending time together in mom and dad's bed on Saturday mornings. What hope did he have of escaping the homebody-gene that Rob and I both have? (none)
Mispronunciations: "Matt-a-lin" for Madeline (pronounced MAD-uh-lynn). That's about it - he's always been articulate and never really had any of those cute mispronunciations most kids have.
My favorite things about him right now: His tender heart, awareness of others, how sensitive he is of my emotions, his desire to please us (his parents) as well as God, his increased snuggly-ness, how he is absolutely loving preschool, and his standard mealtime prayer which is repeated verbatim every time. ("Dear Jesus, thank you for this day and for the beautiful sunshine and rain and moon, and thank you for this food and please bless it to our bodies, in Jesus' name, Amen!")
Yes, indeed. Thank you for this sunshine.
Robbie, you are unique and special and we love you just the way you are right now! But we are also really excited to watch you grow and can't wait to see what God has for you in the future. We know He has big plans for you, and we're so thankful that He chose us to be your parents.