Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deck the halls… with non-breakable items

A little background: after we have given thanks, spending the week with my father and family in North Carolina. We would cut down a Christmas tree, jam it in the car and on the long drive back to Baltimore, blast Christmas music passing truck after truck full of trees headed for the big cities.

This marked the start of the Christmas season for us.  Now we're in a different situation. Spending Thanksgiving in North Carolina isn't always going to be a possibility let alone bring a tree back.

However, the German tradition of putting up the tree on the 24th is not an option.  The tree is too beautiful not to enjoy for the month of advent.
Saturday morning, the sun peaked out for a few hours. A welcome break after 4 weeks of rain, we set off to start a new tradition. Packed into the car (minus Holly) we headed out to find a tree farm we had heard about.

Less than the 8 hours to North Carolina, 20 minutes later driving out of Schoenberg, we almost passed our destination. To the left we saw a house with two dozen rows of trees in front, all about the size of a big twig, something Charlie Brown would be happy with but not what we were hoping for. We kept on driving and found the perfect tree at the local Nursery in Schoenberg.
Saturday night we had our own Thanksgiving dinner and after Stella went to bed, we put the tree together.

Do you remember the movie "Close Encounters of a Third Kind"? Remember when the Alien spaceship landed and all the humans just stared up, dumb in amazement, eyes glassed over, speechless?

This is the only way I can describe Stella when she first saw the Christmas tree all lit up this morning. This little being, dwarfed by this enormous, luminescent, living tree with all sorts of dazzling and sparkling things…in our living room. She stood motionless for a few moments, then kicked into high gear, inspecting every corner, branch, light and ornament. Stella is especially enamored with our bugs bunny ornament. Every time she runs into the room, she points it out. We purposely tried to keep all breakable ornaments out of reach and the classic Norman Rockwell image comes to mind as she is standing on her tip toes, stretching as far as she can, trying to reach the shiny antique glass ornaments above.

She is enthralled with every ornament, the snowmen, the snowboarding Santa, the sparkly bells, the "balls". She roars back at the English Bear. Stella runs around the tree pointing at all the different ornaments and sometimes grabs them. We're trying to tell her that they are for looking only. Hopefully she'll get the hang of it soon. I would hate to put a gate up around the gorgeous tree.
This evening while at the dinner table, Stella grabbed the newspaper and opened it up as if she was really reading it. Now this isn't anything out of the ordinary, Stella loves to look at books and magazines. But what made this such a funny scenario is that she grabbed the paper, sat back in Maja's lap to read and when she was done with the page, she folded the paper together, grabbed the next page and opened it up again, looking intently at what was on the page. If she wasn't a toddler, her actions would mimic a wall street investor reading the numbers with his morning cup of coffee.

Stella loves to dance. When I come home from work, before I can take off my coat, she's asking, well demanding our hands to dance. Singing "wir haben eine ziehharmonika" (we have a harmonica), we stand in a circle stomping our feet. By the chorus, instead of swaying, we lift Stella up swinging her back and forth. She finds this totally cool and doesn't want to stop. When she hears a song playing over the stereo that she likes, she'll start bobbing to the beat.

There is a trampoline at the toddler gymnastics that Stella loves to jump on. She is now getting the hang of jumping on her own. It is really funny to watch her try and jump by herself. She hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. If she is walking when she tries, she it looks like she is trying to take long exaggerated steps as she lifts off of one foot, extending to her toes, look of amusement on her face, reaching with her arm as she lands with her other foot, only to repeat.
If however Stella has your hands, let the stomping action begin. With both hands secured, she lifts off and stomps and stomps and stomps. She loves the exaggerated spring Daddy gives her as she jumps up too.

We've mentioned that Stella currently has a total aversion to the bath. She loves looking at the water, throwing her toys in, even dipping her foot in. She screams bloody murder when you try to set her in though. As an alternative we filled the tiny tub with water and washed her while she sits at the wayside. Then she found her cups, which she promptly filled and dumped all over herself.  Mommy, the carpet and the bathroom were soaked. But the child was clean!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Do the Crab

I am grizzly, hear me roar
There is a lot to be said about Old Bay seasoning. The zesty taste that just screams Baltimore and I think a little bit slipped through the umbilical cord when Maja was pregnant. We’ve brought in Stella’s sand toys for the winter and amongst them is a crab. Maja showed Stella what the crab does and when I came home today, Stella had a new greeting for me. Sitting on mommy’s lap, she raised both hands open and closed her fists, crab style. Next we’ll teach her the sideways crab shuffle.

Stella has become Holly’s Bain. She terrorizes her every second she can. Stella chases, pets, sometimes in her over exuberant arm movements hits and the biggest new thing is stepping on her. Even when you are holding her back telling her no, Stella sticks her leg out as far as she can, just trying to get a toe on poor Holly. Any dog in their right mind in this kind of situation would distance themselves. It could be the mother instinct, it could be a bit of masochism, or just plain craziness but Holly always wants to be around. And thus the constant shuffle routine of running around, chasing and Holly moving to a new spot only to move 30 seconds later.

I must admit that Stella is not a total terror to Holly. She likes to and tries to pet her as often as possible in a loving way and she loves giving Holly treats.
Mafioso Stella with her "stogie"

Yesterday during this game, Holly perched herself as high as she could on the couch, on top of the arm, on top of the cushions. When Stella came her way, she even unsuccessfully tried to run across the unstable, cushioned back of the couch. Stella found this hilarious and tried to climb after her. And this is when dad’s foresight paid off. A while back I purchased a foam pipe insulator and put it on the hard windowsill. Maja said it was ugly, didn’t they have other colors? I, well, I don’t see it. So as Stella was chasing after holly, she slipped and hit the cushioning with only a startled gasp, no harm done.

Stella hasn’t limited herself to climbing couches though. A new pastime is to climb daddy. Taking both hands, she “walks” up Daddy until she is standing on his shoulders, Queen of the hill.

If she isn’t climbing things, she’s dumping things out. No matter what it is, and what it is in, it’s gotta come out; a bag of pasta, clips, lunch, anything. If we’re lucky we can coax her to playing the “put it back in” game but as soon as the last piece is in, flop it’s out again.
Stella watches like a hawk and is starting to mimic what we do. The other day while sitting on mommy’s lap, she grabbed the knife and fork and tried to cut the bread on the plate. She’ll grab a knife or spoon and try and get the jam out of the jar and loves eating with a fork. She does sometimes regress to her doggy roots and pull the bowl or plate up to her face to suck down a piece of meat or bread.
fun on the teeter totter

She has become a big help taking off her coat. She’ll try to undo the zipper herself and when open, she grabs both sides and tries to yank pulling both sides at the same time. After coming in from outside we can ask her to take her shoes to the shoe rack and she’ll run over and place them next to daddy and mommy’s shoes. Stella wants to put her “house shoes” (grippy socks) on but she hasn’t figured out quite how that works yet but she’ll extend her foot to you to put them on. She loves her new once piece pajama’s from grandma and will try and put her feet in her self. The other night she was so tired that she grabbed her pajamas and tried to put them on herself. When mommy laid her on the bed to wash and get dressed she lay there like a lump on a log and promptly wanted to lie down in her bed. She didn’t even want to look at a book.

One of Stella’s favorite books is “five little monkey’s jumping on the bed” She laughs when their jumping on the bed, she says “ow” and grabs her head when they fall off and bump their head and she wags her finger in disapproval when the doctor says “no more monkey’s jumping on the bed”. Last week she took the story to heart. Stella decided it was time for one of her tornado storms. Not on the ground as usual but on the bed. Daddy warned that it wasn’t a good idea but she was having too good a time. Daddy caught her as she started to slip off. Daddy warned again. The tornado increased in fury until in the blink of an eye she was on the floor. Luckily she sort of rolled off the bed, only lightly bumped her head and had a good scare. Needless to say, she hasn’t done this since but I think this is only because she is having too much fun running back and forth giving her parents other things to have ulcers over.

Winter is fast approaching and to help combat the influx of mud and dirt, we bought a red matte for inside the front door. Stella was drawn to it like a magnet. Bringing her toys, sitting on it, lying on it and running from the kitchen to the matt, back to the kitchen for a bite to eat and back to the matte. This is one of her favorite new places to play now.

Stella and her red carpet

The friendship with Hannah is cemented. They are practically twins. Last Saturday we took a short walk with Hannah and her mom. The two were like tweedle dee and tweedle dum. If one ran, the other ran, one would laugh, the other would laugh. Stella sat down on the curb; Hannah plopped down right next to her. And in one instance they even fell, as if on cue, Hannah tripped, two seconds later…Stella tripped.

The two are inseparable. When we walk by their house, Stella runs over to the gate and starts shaking it furiously, wanting in. When it is time to part, she will nicely shake Hannah’s hand goodbye but then put on a horrendous fit when we turn to go.

Stella has also become fond of her bike trailer. Today Maja wanted to take Holly and Stella for a walk. Stella ran over to the bike shed and wouldn’t budge, insisting on going for a bike ride. She’s a sly little one too. In the shed we have a box with what is supposed to be Stella’s Christmas present. Apparently as Maja was putting the bike and trailer away, Stella grabbed a piece of the present (a little house) and carried it inside. Maja didn’t even notice until she had locked everything up and was inside. Guess we’ll have to become a little bit more shrewd with our hiding spots.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An owl hooting, twirling monster, jabbering little daddy’s girl.

The other day I had a conversation with Stella. She spent the day with Opa. When I got home I asked her how her day was, did she have fun, did she take a long nap etc. Although I steered the conversation so that all she needed to do was answer with “ja”, An affirmative that she now has in her vocabulary. She looked at me as if she comprehended al that I was saying and answered each question with an exuberant ja.

This got me thinking about speech development. Some may think it weird to lead her like this. Practially putting words in her mouth. But I see this as just another piece in the puzzle. Showing her cause and effect, the interaction between to people and how to engage in a conversation. She beat the statistics that say she should have thrown a nein into the group. She not only answered my questions but is trying to learn and use new words

I know that children are like sponges and that they soak in everything that they hear and see. What astonishes me though is that Stella is doing this in a bilingual world. She is learning and comprehending two languages. You can see it in her face. I can ask her something in English, Maja in German and she gets it. Of course as we continue to increase the complexity of our questions, we have to help her out, but she’s getting it. She knows that an “Affe” and Monkey are the same, that on and off are the same as an and aus. She’s getting it.

One of our new favorite games is to search for things within the book. Reading the actual story has taken a sideline to the hunt and search. Questions like: Where’s the balloon, where’s the boy ,where’s the doggy, what’s the horse say, what does the owl say, etc. That’s her new favorite animal sound. The whoo whoo of an owl. And you see her search, and if she doesn’t point right away, you see her eyes find the item.

A new favorite book is a farm book. Yes we have lots of those. This one has big illustrations of different farm situations like the horse stalls, cow stalls and orchard. It has scenes full of characters and lots of flaps to find things under. Stella loves looking under these and flipping up all the flaps. The last scene is of the woods. Hanging on a tree is a big is a woodpecker. Stella taps her finger on the page to show the what the woodpecker does. Then I ask where’s Daddy. She happily lifts up a flap that is disguised as a tarp. Under it is a bear with a camera on a tripod. Guess she has me figured out. Then I ask where’s Opa. On the top of the page there’s a bear with a chain saw cutting wood. Opa’s favorite hobby.

While not yet using full on words, stella loves telling you stories or holding items up and describing them to you. She’s learned Heiss (hot) and says that for the oven, or food that is too hot. Also Nass (wet) when she dumps her drink all over herself. She definitely tries to communicate with us and you can see the frustration when she’s not getting through.

The Thyne’s left us a little wicker chair when bought the house. The seat is still a little high for Stella to pop a squat but it is light enough for Stella to lift and move around. She takes it all over the house. She’ll crawl onto it. Standing up with the aid of the high back then turn around and slide into a sitting position.

If she needs your help moving the chair, wants to show you something or simply take you somewhere, she will run up to you and extend her hand upwards for yours. What used to be a symbol of needed stability is now a sign of determination to bring us into her world as she drags you along trying to communicate with you.

Typically when I come home from work, Stella is extremely excited that I am there, shouting “daddy daddy daddy.” But when I open my arms to her she wants to stay with mommy. Not as depressing as you might think though. After dinner we’re playing and rough housing as usual. A new development is that she has now become a daddy’s girl. And I’m soaking it up. If we are in crowds or over stimulating situations, she knows there’s security being in daddy’s arms. And sometimes she even prefers it to mommy’s. Although I would say we’re 50/50 but it’s nice to be held up to the same level as mommy after so many months of mommy’s girl.

Maja and Stella have started going to a Childs gymnastics group twice a week where there are lots of kids and fun things to crawl up, over and around. She has brought this practice home by climbing on anything and everything, scaring her parents to death as you turn around and she’s at the top of her high chair, a moment ago she was on the floor.

An interesting personality trait has surfaced. Stella likes to observe from afar. If there are too many children at a particular object, she will watch from a distance and contently play at another not so crowded object. Once the crowd has died down, she will go over to the first object, explore and play.
This is not to imply that she doesn’t like crowds because she does, but on her terms. She loves the energy of everyone and runs around like wild.

At the end of these days, when she is home, she will quietly sit in your lap and hang out, apparently tuckered out. A stark contrast to her normal bee in the pants restlessness. Lately after dinner, it feels like someone flicks an overdrive switch on Stella. She becomes hyperactive, running back and forth, up and down, climbing on things and jabbering up a storm. This is some great fun if not also quite a challenge to wash and change her and get her ready for bed. Then she’ll crash into bed after her milk and book.

In our “guest” room we have a mattress lying on the floor. Before, this was a safe place for her to learn to walk and balance. Now it is an oversized trampoline. She loves to run in from another room and fall onto the mattress. She loves to roll around, flail her legs and spin like a tornado until she falls.
But all this energy is spent in things she enjoys. For things that she doesn’t, well you’d think we’re torturing her. Cutting nails is a two person effort. We’re lucky any more if we can get her on the potty and my gosh, forget washing or worse taking a bath.

Our once half fish now has the wicked witch of the west complex. She thinks that water is going to melt her. Stella will look interestingly into the bathtub and throw toys in there but as soon as you put her in, she starts screaming bloody murder. We have had to resort to baths once a week and it is basically a quick dunk to avoid permanent hearing damage. One time Stella screamed so hard while getting her toe nails cut that she threw up. Hopefully this is phase will end soon.

Needless to say, if you haven’t gathered form the stories above, Stella is at an awesome age right now. We feel so fortunate to have her and these wonderful experiences. Time is really flying (as you may have noticed from the lack of blogging the past month) I am going to try and get back to blogging regularly, stay tuned.