11 on the 11th!

Dear Flora,

When I first heard the term rainbow baby, I didn’t like it. (For those who don’t know by now, which I can’t imagine is any of you, but you never know, a rainbow baby is the live baby that is born after a still baby.) It seemed too glossy to capture all that the birth of a live baby meant to your father and me.

But as time has gone on, I see, at least when it comes to you, how rainbow baby fits your personality. Although I suppose you would wrinkle your nose at me at the term “baby”. As an 11-year-old, you are far from a baby.

Flora in pink.
Pretty in pink (and just about any other color).

You are definitely our rainbow girl, though. You are many-hued and bright. You are easy-going most of the time. The list of things you dislike — chores, homework, broccoli — is fairly short, and though you don’t like these things, especially homework, you have adapted to the fact that they cannot be avoided.

You know the terms optimist and pessimist, and you consider yourself the former. You usually look on the bright side of things; you seldom complain. And you never complain about nothing, if you know what I mean.

And while you are generally even-keeled and sunny, you are starting to show flashes of temper, tears, and frustration that give your father and me glimpses of the rocky road ahead. I feel that your feelings should be treated as valid, but at the same time I have to teach you some appropriate behavior around them. And for as much as you embrace the sunny side of life, when you get angry or sad, I can see the pessimist in you, too.

You are more visually creative than I ever was as a child, and you are starting to find satisfaction in the written word as well. You recently received an art book about making charms out of clay, and you immediately made about five of them.

Clay charms bracelet.
Charmed, I’m sure.

When you came home the following day, you went right back to work, declaring, “My friends asked me to make them some charms.” As I had been such a quiet and introverted child, my heart thrilled to hear you talk about your friends. You have adapted well in your new school, embracing the opportunities and challenges it has set out for you. Thank you for that; it has been easy on my heart.

You, in general, are easy on my heart. I love you so much, my first girl, my rainbow baby — sorry, rainbow girl. Stay bright and curious and open to the world. Your daddy and I could not possibly be more proud of you.

Happy birthday, Flora.
Love,
Mom

Double Digits

Dearest Flora,

“Technically,” you said to me as sat on the edge of your bed to say goodnight last night, “I don’t turn 10 until 11:11 p.m.”

You are a precise 10-year-old, concerned about rules and propriety, correct information, facts.

You are independent, intelligent, and inquisitive. You read voraciously and ask questions endlessly. You also like quiet alone time, watching TV and playing on the DS, and making LPS videos. You make lots and lots of LPS videos. And you draw — no blank pad of paper is safe.

You get moody and irritated sometimes — Kate can still get under your skin like no other. You got cranky with me when I made you put on a nicer outfit for school today.

You are doing well in school, academically and socially. You love science and social studies. You have good friends whom you enjoy being with, and you are friendly to everyone. You asked to go back to violin after the summer off, and you joined chorus. You also played soccer again, and you are a good, tenacious defensive player — and you are *fast*.

Zombie Flora
Unless you are being a zombie. Then you drag one foot.

Aside from your inquisitiveness, my favorite thing about you is your goofy joy. You love showing me novelty tee-shirts. “Look, Mom!” you’ll say. “Be Alert. The world needs more lerts.”

And you will laugh and laugh.

Novelty Teeth and Little Brother
Novelty Teeth and Little Brother

Your biggest worry right now is puberty. You have a lot of questions about physical changes, one of the biggest being “WHY?” I’m glad we got The Care and Keeping of You, Part I, because it gave you all the information you wanted, and you came to me with any left over concerns.

Your biggest loves are “weird but true” books, LPS video shoots, Rhett and Link, and (new this year) Nancy Drew. Your biggest hates… well, I don’t know that you hate anything per se. You are not fond of math homework (too bad), noises your sister makes — ironic, since you walk around the house WHISTLING and you sing in the shower — or being told you have to do something. You are slowly adjusting to chores, which I give you credit for. It’s a big change!

All I can say is: stay true to you, my dear Flora. You are totally and completely fantastic. I love the person you are, and the person you are becoming.

Flora in glowstick glasses
My Goofball of Joy

Happy 10th birthday, rainbow baby.

Love,
Mom

While You Were Recovering

This is what Flora got up to while her siblings were having surgery and recovering:

1. She took a fundraising order to my office to deliver it to the people who had ordered from us.
2. She had a chorale concert. They did not sing “Let It Go”! They sang songs from The Sound of Music. She had a solo part!
3. She had soccer practice.
4. Her violin class was on The Saturday Morning Light Brigade, which broadcasts from the Children’s Museum. You can hear them here.
5. After the radio show, she had TWO soccer games. They lost one and won one.
6. She went to Kennywood with her BFF and family. She didn’t ride the Pittsburgh Plunge, but she did stand in the splash zone while watching the ride. She got soaked. She was gone ALL DAY LONG on Sunday.
7. She received a nature science set and a bird log (Christmas in May!) from her godmother, and proceeded to wander the yard looking for stuff to put in vials and examine. She filled in about five pages on her bird log.
8. She got strep throat.

For numbers 1 through 5, I have to thank my parents for chauffeuring her around and for recording the events for her dad and me to view later. For number 6, thanks to BFF family. What a treat it was! For 7, thanks to our good friend/Flora’s godmother/@Whatnot6 for bringing the children their Christmas gifts (from last year; we still had her daughter’s too) and helping me make the front of my house look pretty. For 8… I probably can thank that generous soaking she got at Kennywood.

What Flora has done since Tuesday: watched a lot of television, started antibiotics, and spent time at her daddy’s office. We attempted school today, but I think the antibiotics are making her nauseous. I think I’ll call her ped to sort that out. She’s with Bella and Tadone as I type this.

What Flora will not be doing this weekend: soccer practice or the soccer tournament she was scheduled to participate in.

Oy. What will your children not be getting up to this weekend?

It Runs in the Family

Unfortunately, “it” in this case seems to be sleeping problems.

I don’t know if we can classify it as insomnia just yet, but: Flora can’t fall asleep at night.

For about a week now, she’s come down between 9:30 and 10 p.m. to complain that she can’t fall asleep. Dan lets her sit on the couch with him for a little bit, watching TV. I’ve given her melatonin (about 1 mg) to see if that helps. (She says it doesn’t.)

Last night, she was up past midnight.

This is not good.

She is fried. She is frazzled; her temper is a hair trigger; she will scream or cry at the drop of a hat.

For an active 8-year-old, not getting more than 8 hours a night is not healthy. Letting her sit on the couch and watch TV because she can’t sleep is not going to help.

Tonight, I’m going to try some deep breathing with her. She has soccer this evening too, which may help knock her out. I’m also going to see if I can get her to count to 100 when she can’t sleep. I’m going to make it clear that she cannot come downstairs after 9 p.m.

I’m not sure if she’s anxious about something in particular or not.

A boy at extended day has been picking on her — unfortunately, he picks on everyone. She’s been doing the right things: telling him to stop, walking away, getting an adult. I told her if it continued, I would step in with the school.

She says she likes her teacher. She’s doing well in school with her work. She likes soccer, although sometimes she finds it challenging. She’s on a co-ed team with third and fourth graders, and sometimes at practice if she’s in a group of fourth graders, she puts a lot of pressure on herself. The coaches don’t pressure her. She feels like the older kids “tell her what to do”. She finds it upsetting.

We’ve been doing yoga a couple of times a week. After balking at first, she likes to do it now. I think she finds it fun to stretch and hold the poses. She doesn’t think of it as something she *has* to do. (Confession: I really like it too. This has come as a surprise to me. But I’ll talk about that another day.)

We’ll try a few things to see what helps. But if this continues, I may take her to the pediatrician. I doubt they’ll give her medication, but maybe they can help by talking to her about the importance of sleep, and maybe they will have some other ideas to help her quiet her brain. I’m sure that’s the crux of the issue.

How would you help an 8-year-old get better rest?

Flora’s 11/11/11

Dear Flora,

When you were between 3 and 4 months old, you thought 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. was party time. Any attempt to lull you into sleep at those hours was met with a solid wall of wailing resistance.

When I went to the pediatrician for your 4 month check-up, I mentioned this to her. I said, “Is there something I can do so that she will flip her clock around?”

The pediatrician replied, “Tell you what. Give it another month. If she doesn’t turn her clock around, give us a call, and I’ll tell you some things to try.”

One day three weeks later, you slept nearly around the clock. And woke up at 7 a.m., ready to start the day, discover normal waking hours, and put those party days behind you.

It was like magic.

And that’s what growing children outside of your body is like. Magic. Just yesterday, you were my tiny baby girl. Then you were starting pre-school, and now you’re reading and doing math. You wear a uniform to first grade every day.

I fret over you sometimes, worry about your attention span. In the evenings, when I am being pulled in three directions, it’s hard to get you to sit down and do your homework. But when I mentioned my concerns to your teacher at our conference this week, she just smiled.

“Flora comes into the classroom happy and ready to learn.” She said you are able to focus on your work, that you are eager to raise your hand when you have the answer or go to the blackboard to show your work. She said you like all your classmates and get along with everyone.

That makes me so happy to hear.

You are a mercurial spirit with a big heart. You love to learn, and you love to laugh, and, gosh, you love Looney Tunes.

I woke you up this morning with a kiss on your cheek and a whisper in your ear. “Happy birthday, Flora.” And you smiled the sweetest, happiest smile before you even opened your eyes.

May you always have the magic of the day in you. May you always have the magic of *you* in you.

Happy 7th birthday, Flora.

I love you so much,
Mommy

Inquiring Minds

(for @katrina413)

Flora’s first sentence was a question. “Ut dat?” Translation: “What’s that?”

She asked it All.The.Time. Pointing a little finger at the object in question.

“Ut dat?” “It’s a bird!”

“Ut dat?” “It’s an apple!”

“Ut dat?” “It’s a car!”

You get the idea.

So it’s really not surprising that at 6 years old, Flora asks more questions in five minutes than I ask all day long. (Unless the question is, “What are you doing??” I seem to have to ask that one an awful lot.)

My propensity to accurately and honestly answer her questions gets me in a boatload of trouble all the time. I really need to start saying, “Magic” or “Because God made it that way” more often.

There are, of course, questions she asks that I have to turn to Google for — my generation’s version of consulting the Encyclopedia Britannica — but even better than googling is Twitter.

I even created a hashtag: #floraquestions. Last night’s Twitter query involved parachutes (thanks to @mindbling for the answer: “nylon and the prayers of a 1,000 sky divers. #answersforflora”).

Most of our interchanges are like this (from last night and this morning):

Me: I need you and Kate to get up when I ask in the morning. Daddy is unavailable —
F: What is unavailable?
Me: He won’t be here.
F: Why not?
Me: He has conferences.
F: What are conferences?
Me: They are meetings.
F: Why is he going?
Me: For work.
F: I’m going to miss him!
Me (trying to get back to the point): Right, me too! That’s why I need you to get up in the morning when I ask you to.
F: Where’s Daddy going again?

Me: Get in Daddy’s car.
F: Why are we taking Daddy’s car?
Me: Because Daddy’s taking my car.
F: Why is Daddy taking your car?
Me: Because it’s in better condition.
F: What’s condition?
Me: It works better.
F: Why does your car work better?
Me: I have no idea.

In general, I do try to patiently answer her questions. But I also admit when I’m trying to herd them out the door or make dinner for everyone, it’s hard not to get a little exasperated. When Flora hears that in my tone, she protests: “I’m just really curious!”

And it’s true. She is.

Obviously, I think her inquisitiveness is a good quality. It’s one of the reasons I think she will do well in school, and, eventually, college and beyond. I always joke that she’s my little research scientist.

I think for her next birthday, I’m going to buy her a white lab coat and a microscope.

Braggin’ A Little

Last week, I had my very first parent-teacher conference, for Flora. It seems a little silly to me to be analyzing a kindergartener’s progress (or lack thereof) in school, but at the same time I recognize that now is a good time to find out about problems (if there are any).

Mrs. D could not say enough nice things about Flora. She talked about how “bright” Flora was — that was her exact word. She extolled her interest in and grasp of mathematical concepts; she praised her phonics and reading ability. Socially, she is doing great, not only making friends easily (her daddy’s influence, without doubt) but also standing up for herself when/if she is getting flak from other students. (I guess a couple of boys in Flora’s class are cutups in general, and Flora is very clear about when they are bothering her, and to knock it off.)

Her one weak point — and if you’ve been reading for any time, this will not surprise you — is her ability to focus in the face of distraction. For example, if she brings in something for show and tell (every Wednesday!), she needs to put it away right away. Otherwise, she has trouble focusing on the work she should be doing. She has a little trouble listening to instructions the first time, but ultimately, she completes her work and tasks in a timely way. So: she rated a good under “listening skills.”

I was delighted by my conversation with Flora’s teacher, obviously. Thinking about it a few days later, I have to admit that the “stand up for herself” part of the conversation is the part that caught me most off guard.

At home, Flora withers under teasing, criticism, or disapproval from me or her father. Or even other parental adults in her life (i.e. grandparents). She cries very easily; if disciplined, she will sob about how “bad” she is. So to hear that in another setting, where she might be teased (granted, by her peers) that she will stand up for herself was interesting (and encouraging).

Now, I don’t know if it’s an adult versus peer thing. Or if maybe it’s about the time that I’m interacting with Flora. It’s evening, and if we haven’t had dinner — forget about it. Like her mommy, Flora is a little grumpy if she is hungry. Plus, it’s a long day for a 6-year-old, and it gets dark early, and, frankly, like many a kid these days, I’m sure Flora is tired. (Hell, I’m exhausted by the time we all get home.)

I think, too, it’s appropriate that in public, Flora acts vastly different than she does at home. I have heard from many an adult (and babysitters) that Flora is sweet, well mannered, and fun to be around. And I’m not saying that she’s not sweet with me or her Daddy, or fun to be around. But she also — with me — can be demanding, whiny, dramatic, and difficult. As I mentioned in her birthday letter, she melts down at the drop of a hat (faster when she’s hungry and/or tired).

And, that’s okay. She is a bright and affectionate little girl, and it’s so nice to hear she’s doing well. It’s amazing to watch her grow and change and adapt to the world around her. I’m a lucky Mommy.

6

Dear Flora:

You have taught me the meaning of “peals of laughter”. You have a fantastic sense of humor, and, like many a 6-year-old, you especially enjoy physical and visual humor. Recently, an illustration in a library book — that of a cat sitting on a man’s head — had you pealing laughter for a solid two minutes.

You love school, but you hate being woken up in the morning. Not that I blame you. You have been born into a family of natural night owls who struggle — daily — with the facts of living in an early-bird world. The only time any of us was early was the day we were born. Your father and I will do our very best to help you adjust.

Or maybe I’ll just start lobbying your future high school and its district now to move its start time back by an hour. We would all benefit from that.

You lost your first tooth. And your second!

You are an exceedingly compassionate and empathetic child (except where your little sister is concerned). You want to know how people feel and why. You want people to feel good and to be happy. I hope that as you mature you won’t take on too much personal responsibility for making people happy. That is another lesson that your father and I are going to have to teach you: That’s it’s a fine line between being compassionate and being a doormat. Or, conversely, there’s a big difference between having a spine and standing up for yourself (and the people about whom you care) and just not giving a fig for what people think. (I fault on the latter side of this equation, and your father faults on the other.)

You are, despite my little parenthetical above, in general, a very good big sister. You look out for Kate; you comfort Kate when you can; you and she, for the most part, play together extremely well. Yes, you get fed up with her and sometimes want to “play by myself”; you tease her on occasion; and yes, you two squabble, but you aren’t mean to her. I don’t think I was half so patient an older sister to my sibs.

You already love your little brother, and you are so excited to meet him. (Me too!) I know that you will be a big help, although despite your vows to the contrary, I sincerely doubt you will change his diapers.

You have no emotional filters, which while age appropriate, is sometimes difficult for me and your daddy. You break into tears — or, granted, peals of laughter — at the drop of a hat.

You love to learn, and you are still curious. You ask question after question after question. When you note any exasperation on my part, you exclaim, “I’m sorry! I’m just so curious!” Which is fine when you want to know what butterflies eat, but not when you’re questioning why you have to take a bath.

You have been counting down to today for 11 days now. In your head (usually).

This is all to say: You continue to amaze me. You are amazing. And I love you very, very much.

Happy 6th Birthday, Flora.

Love,
Mommy

Back to School 2010

Flora started kindergarten today.

I know sometimes parents talk about wanting their children to “stay little”, but I have to confess: I love that my girls are growing up. I love their independence and curiosity and outgoingness.

I’m not sad they are not little anymore. Maybe being pregnant is a part of that; maybe not. All I know is I’m excited for Flora, and I hope her love of learning and her excitement about kindergarten is sustained throughout all her school days.