I write this blog so friends and family can stay updated on our goings-on, but that makes it all too easy to let the daily on-going stuff go unrecorded. Since we've moved to the other side of the planet, most of our loved ones haven't spent time with the girls in over a year and (gasp!) soooooo much changes in children so quickly that I thought it might be nice to take a post to record where the girls are now and what they are doing. First-born first:
Our big girl is Ellie or Eleanor or even her full name if she is feeling so inclined. When she was littler, she had a whole host of nicknames, most commonly "Monkeyschatz", but those are almost always rejected now. If you call her a monkey (even when she's acting like one), she will become indignant and inform you sternly that she is not a monkey, she is a girl. Ellie is four and a half years old now, and she's over a meter tall. She is starting to notice her own growth and new little achievements. In the past week, she has been able to open the car door to let herself in (we have a SUV). She didn't have the strength/coordination/height to do it regularly before now. She is so proud each time to reaches a new little milestone.
If you met her out and about, the encounter would vary wildly depending on how well she knows you. If you are a stranger, she might reach for my hand or hide her face in my skirt, peeking out at you shyly, remaining perfectly silent; this might even happen if you are a known acquaintance of mine but not necessarily of hers. She might surprise us both by becoming chatty, telling you about her day, a funny recollection or some of baby Stephanie's antics. If she is excited to see you, you will know because she will hide behind my knees or under my skirt (prompting me to remind her that I don't love sharing my underpants with the world) and shriek with glee (it's the shrieking that will tip you off to the thrill). This is what she does most days when Markus comes home from work, unless I'm nowhere nearby, in which case she runs shrieking down the hall and hides under the covers on her bed, laughing hysterically. You will also know she is excited to see you, because she will not allow us to have any conversation whatsoever. She will interrupt with anything and everything she can possibly think of to tell you about, but she doesn't do this to be rude. She just really wants your attention and will do what it takes to keep it because she values it.
Ellie enjoyed her first day back at school on Wednesday. For you Northern Hemisphere people, our February is your August/September; this is the start of the school year. She just finished summer holidays, and man oh man were they too long. The first month was great, but after that, she was more than ready to go back (and there were a few weeks left to go). By the end of the holidays, she was downright difficult (and frankly unpleasant) much of the time. She had devolved to an almost continuous outbreak of bad soap opera displays of misery (fake tears, fake wailing in fake agony...) for any minor annoyance, real or perceived. Sometimes, she just woke up, took one look at me, scowled and announced in a surly voice that she would not listen to anything I said all day. It was raw-ther trying. But day one back at school and she was back to herself! She's happy to be with us, happy to play with Stephanie, happy to snuggle with me and spend time together, happy to sit on her own and read...you name it. She is one contented kiddo.
A (well-meaning) older woman recently told me that raising children was a lot like having a dog in that you just have to train them properly. Of course, this lady had no children of her own but two little yip-yip dogs. In Ellie's case, it's more like having the big dog who needs continuous intellectual stimulation or it will destroy your house (and your sanity). Ellie loves school, and she took to Montessori like a duck to water. She loves to work. She loves the independence and the freedom to choose her work and the environment that allows her to work uninterrupted for as long as she likes. This work may be puzzles, drawing, cooking, writing, whatever...and she thrives on it. Today, she came home from school and read quietly to herself in her room and then in the kitchen with Stephanie and me for over an hour. She is relaxed, content, and centered again. Thank goodness.
Now, when I talk about her reading, perhaps I should put it in quotes. She doesn't actually read yet, but she is actively working on it. We are not trying to teach her (she works on it at school). Ellie has always done everything in her own time and in her own way, and she has always let us know when she wants instruction. On the other hand, she has been devouring books ravenously of late, so we think actual reading isn't too far away. She cannot get enough of the Connie books, a German series. Over the holidays, she watched a lot of German DVDs and greatly increased her use of Dinglish (blending German and English in her speech). We're pretty excited about her enthusiasm for German. Markus is feeling reassured for all the time he's spoken German with the girls, though we know immersion will be required at some point to firm it up.
On the whole, Ellie is a sweet, wonderful girl (if a bit--okay, quite--high maintenance). I'm her mama and I'm biased, but her goodness runs through every bit of her; anyone who knows her well will tell you as much. To knock down my bias, I'll also share the tougher sides. She's very sensitive, and she takes life's knocks quite hard. She is very serious and contemplative. She is stubborn, and she pushes buttons of mine that I didn't know existed until she found them. She is fretful and particular. As Markus often says, the order of the universe must not be disturbed. But...she is also incredibly loving and a true nurturer. She is a darling big sister and a sweet mama to her Lolo. She is compassionate and thoughtful about others. She is tender and gentle and caring towards all small creatures, and she is deeply hurt when others are not. She doesn't understand why people can be hurtful or mean, and when it happens to her, her heartbreak breaks your heart too.