Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Four-Year-Olds

I picked up Holland and Eden's 4-year-old photos today from the photographer. We have them done every year, right around the time of their birthday. Each year, as I am putting them in their frames, I spread out all of the photos from previous years and compare how they have grown.

This is the first year that I can say unequivocally that they don't look like babies anymore. They don't really even look like toddlers. They look like little girls. Sigh.

Four years.

Where have they gone?

It's terribly sad that my memories of our time in the NICU are so crisp and vivid, down to the smells and sounds, while memories of the good times are so fleeting. I wish I could bottle up each age, so that I could pull it out any old time to breathe it in and remember.

The best I can do is to keep blogging, so that I can look back to this time last year, or two years ago, or three. I love that I am able to do this, and any time I think of retiring the blog, I remind myself of how fast the time flies by and how quickly our memories fade.

So, let me try to capture my sweet, sassy, quirky, beautiful little girls, as they are at 4-years-old. Although words can never really do them justice...


Holland is a little bit tomboy, a little bit drama, and a little bit rock & roll. She is very sweet and affectionate, but also bossy. She feels her emotions intensely, very much like her mommy. She wants what she wants when she wants it, and will whine, pout, and turn on the tears in an instant when she doesn't get her way. Somewhere along the line she picked up the line "It's not fair!", and uses it a LOT. Life's not fair. Yes, I do tell her that, and the irony is not lost on me.

At the same time, she is super friendly and always up for a good time. She has a way about her that makes everything fun. She is the kid who wants to know everyone's name. She walks up to other kids at the playground (or anywhere really), and says, "My name's Holland, what's your name? Do you want to play with me." When she meets a kid who responds to her, she is happy for hours, telling me "I made a new friend!" She is sensitive to rejection, which is something that worries me.

Holland is finally really interested in growing up, but at the same time reluctant to relinquish her babyhood. She balances this transition by frequently telling me "I'm a baby-big girl." We've FINALLY got the potty-training down, but not to perfection quite yet. She still wears a pull-up to bed, and has occasional accidents. I'm impressed nonetheless, especially with the fact that she wore a pull-up while we were at Disney, and only had a couple small accidents the whole time.

I prepped her for months about giving up her bottle. I started telling her that 4-year-olds don't drink bottles. They drink their milk from cups. On her birthday I woke her up saying happy birthday. She popped up and asked, "I'm four-years-old now?" I said yes, and she responded "That means I don't drink a bottle anymore!" With only one small hitch (NANA), she hasn't had one since, and IS drinking her milk out of a special princess milk cup.

The one area that she (we) are really lagging behind, aside from her size, is in terms of self-feeding. But that is a post unto itself... Right now she weighs about 28.5 pounds, and is just over 38 inches tall. I've officially given up on growth charts, so I have no idea if that equates to any percentile. Probably not, but does that change anything?

Holland's favorite foods are ramen noodles, spaghetti, broccoli, carrots, pickles, tomatoes, Ritz crackers, bananas, and cheese. Her favorite color is blue, and she LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine with a passion. She knows all of the trains by name, and has quite a collection. Thomas is her first choice in what to watch, but she also still loves Elmo's World, as well as Word World and Caillou.

She's really into telling jokes now. She has an old joke book that she "borrowed" from Nana's house that she spends hours "reading." Her two best jokes are:
Q: What's black, white, and green?
A: A carsick zebra!
Q: What does a cow read at the breakfast table?
A: A Mooospaper!
She loves when we tell her jokes too, and always plays along even when she already knows the punch line. She laughs and says "that cracks me up!"

Holland LOVES music and loves to dance. She is the drummer in our family band, Princess Monkey Chicken, and has pretty good rhythm, though you wouldn't know it to see her dance!

Holland is somewhat sensitive to loud noises, and doesn't do scary. She HATES those ads that you see during previews to movies where they are showing you the wonders of digital sound. She will pass on a movie she loves just because she hates the previews. Like the movie Cars, for example. Loves the movie, but HATES the cows mooing before the movie starts. I don't even know what it's an ad for, but it freaks Holland right out. There's also a crazy puppet on one episode of Teletubbies that she (and Eden) cannot STAND, and we can't even watch the show anymore because of that puppet. It IS kind of a weird humanoid puppet in a pink house that scares the bejesus out of my kids. Anyone know what I'm talking about? That's OKAY with me, cause "tubbytubbies" isn't my favorite show anyway.

Holland tends to flit from one activity to the next pretty quickly, and has a hard time paying attention for long periods of time. She is also really easily distracted in situations where there is a lot going on. We really noticed it at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. We tried to let her walk some of the time, but she would get so distracted that she would run right into people or poles, or end up tripping over her own feet. I'm not sure if this means anything significant at this point in time, or is just where she is developmentally, but I'll be interested to see how it plays out at school.

Holland LOVES her family, her cousins, and her "friends" intensely, and is very loyal in her affections. She continues to be a mommy's girl, but is really enjoying her daddy right now as well. Each night when I tuck her into bed she says "I love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much." She wraps her little arms around my neck and gives lots of kisses.

I could live without some of the whining, but ultimately, she is a really, really, cool kid.


Eden is a little bit princess, a little bit comedian, and a little bit attitude. She has always been so laid back and sweet, but as of lately, has decided to try the sass on for size. She has found some of our buttons, and is experimenting with her ability to push them. I remember a few months ago, when she had her last speech eval, the therapist asking if she used the word "not" yet. At the time I said no, and was given the homework of teaching her that word. So, we practiced it for about a week in different contexts. Then one day, I went to get her out of her walker and she said, "Wet go of me. I NOT." I was SO excited! She got it! Little did I know that it would soon become one of her favorite words. Now we get the pleasure of hearing Little Miss Attitude mumbling under her breath "I NOT go do it, I NOT" over and over again. She's even got her arms crossed and the look of defiance on her face is priceless.

Eden has historically been Daddy's sweetheart. It was all about Daddy. Well, things have changed and she is giving Daddy a run for his money BIG time. Oh she torments him. "I no want Daddy! I want Mommy! I wike Mommy!" One day at Disney John got Eden out of the car. She told him she wanted Mommy to do it, but he did it anyway. Boy was she pi**ed. And she can hold a GRUDGE! She was rude and mean to him for several hours that day, any time he tried to touch or talk to her. She can be really mean. Yes, my sweet little Eden, hitting and biting when she gets mad. We're working on it, and she is getting it, but it takes time. I did teach her that it's not okay to say you don't like your family. She will say "I wike YOU Mommy" and I will say, "I like you too Eden. I like you, and Holland, and Daddy, I love our family." So now she will sometimes say "I wike you Mommy. I wike Holland, Daddy, Nana, Papa, and YOU. I wike everybody."

For all of her defiance though, her heart breaks when she gets in trouble, especially if she thinks she hurt someone. She bit Holland's hand the other day for grabbing a toy away and Holland started crying. All I had to do was LOOK at her and her bottom lip jutted out and she started sobbing. I put her in time out (a fate worse than death) and after a few minutes I picked her up and she hiccuped out a "Sorry Holland." She gets so sad when I am upset with her that I have a hard time disciplining her. We've had to really buckle down on being consistent with the punishments lately because she is getting so sassy. Up until now, we've been able to get by with the fact that when she is being a brat, we just have to make a silly face at her and she cracks up and forgets about being bad.

Eden LOVES to be silly, and has always had such a great sense of humor. She laughs at all of Holland's jokes, and tries to tell them herself, but doesn't quite get it yet. If she wants to make someone laugh, she will often just bust out with the punchline. For example, she might, out of the blue, say "Chicken Butt!" Or "CockadoodleCHOO!" Or "Mooooospaper!" It cracks US up, but no one else has a clue what she is talking about!

Eden has princesses on the brain. The only songs she wants to sing...the only books she wants to read...the only movies she wants to watch. Princesses. I love it. It's the best of both worlds. I get to watch Thomas and Belle. McQueen and Ariel. Mickey and Cinderella. But don't tell Eden she IS a princess. She always responds the same way. "Noooo...I not a princess. I Eden!"

Both of the girls LOVE to pretend. We pretend to be characters all the time. It's pretty constant. "You can be...(insert character of choice)." Holland is Ariel, Eden is Flounder, Daddy is King Triton, Mommy is Sebastien... Eden is Belle, Holland is little Chip, Mommy is Mrs. Potts, Daddy is Beast...Holland is Mickey, Eden is Minnie, Mommy is Daisy, Daddy is Goofy...Holland is Thomas, Eden is Percy, Mommy is Salty, Daddy is Cranky...Eden is Dora, Holland is Diego, Mommy is Boots, Daddy is Swiper. You get the picture.

Eden's language has come along in leaps and bounds since this time last year. She still isn't at the same level in terms of the depth of her understanding and expression as Holland, but she is definitely at a point where we can carry on conversations. She can tell me when something hurts, or when I don't have her orthotics on right. She can tell us about her day, or recount a story in simple terms. I love it. I really and truly LOVE talking to her and listening to her talk to me. Sometimes it actually DOES bring me to tears. Her hearing impairment and cerebral palsy are both things that could have significantly impacted her ability to communicate with us, in a variety of ways, and I am so thankful everyday that she can hear with her cochlear implant, that she has the ability to talk, and that she seems cognitively "normal". I feel humbled by the fact that things could have turned out so differently.

As with Holland, we have made a tremendous amount of progress on the eating front with Eden. Mealtimes are much less stressful than they were a year ago, but we certainly still have a way to go. Eden is not a picky eater at all, she just has a hard time eating enough volume to grow. She gets full easily, and when she is over-full her reflux bothers her. Eden has a ton of energy and burns a LOT of calories trying to get around. She weighs about 24.5 pounds and is 37 inches tall.

Eden's favorite foods are pizza, chicken nuggets, cookies, chocolate birthday cake, fajitas, guacamole, hot dogs, oranges, and watermelon. She willingly gave up her bottle for her birthday as well. I feel like it is the right thing to do in terms of her social and emotional development, but I am kinda sick to my stomach over the loss of calories, vitamin D, and calcium. I'm hoping over time she'll be hungrier without the bottle, and thus will eat more. Well..It's been a week and a half and I think she is losing weight:( If only she'd drink milk out of a cup. She drank it out of a bottle, and liked it, but when I give her a cup of milk she acts like I'm trying to poison her. I've tried different cups, different variations on milk (strawberry, chocolate, etc)... Nothing works. I'm just going to keep offering it, over and over again, and hope that at some point she'll decide it's not so bad. She does drink a ton of juice (V8 Fusion with Duocal), so I don't have to worry about dehydration, but I just love all the good nutrition in MILK.

Eden is the keyboardist/singer in our family band. She loves to play the piano, and sing in the microphone. We just need to expand her repertoire, since the only song she wants us to play is "Whole New World."

We have a big collection of plush characters, and puppets that we made from our favorite shows. Both girls are big on telling me "We should get Pete at the store." Or, "We should get a Tinkerbell costume." Or, "We should make Thomas puppets." They think you can just go to the store and buy a costume for any character. I think it is so funny. Just today Holland told me, "We should get Word World costumes." She said she wants to be Dog. Eden wants to be Ant.

They fight a lot. Is that normal? We have to have two of all the best toys, because they HAVE to HAVE whatever the other is playing with. It's infuriating sometimes. They each have a few toys that are "theirs" and you should see the meltdowns that ensue when the other touches "their" toy. They also purposely antagonize each other just to get a reaction. There's a lot of screaming and hitting and grabbing and crying. But at the same time, they really love each other, and it's fun to see their relationship develop as Eden becomes more able to interact with Holland. I hope so much that they will be friends, there for each other, and that they genuinely grow to like each other. But even more than that, I hope that they grow up to like themselves as much as I like them. If that's even possible!


Mamá Terapeuta said...

Oh my god, you do have a lot to blog about! Your girls are SO wonderful! I think they have funs all over the world. I know they do in Chile :D

This is a really beatifull post. I think it gets me a little since my daugther is about to turn 4 in a couple of weeks :)

Big hug for the girls on their birthdays!

Dandelion Quilts said...

They are so big and 4 is a big birthday. There will be a lot more changing and growing now that they are going to school. It will be a such a fun year. I love keeping up with all of you.

Mel said...

Mooospaper, Chicken butt, Cockadoodlechoo.... those family "inside" jokes are the best and I love it that Eden is participating!

Your girls are beautiful, inside and out! I loved this!

Lori said...

What a great post with a bunch of cute insights into your growing little girls. You are right. They really ARE looking like girls and not toddlers.

What a wonderful year you have have in store.

Rachel Dominguez said...

I am so glad to see this post and see how well these beautiful girls are growing. It's so wierd to think they are 4. I know you dont know me, but I feel I know you so closely and the girls and I just cant believe they are so big now.

What a blessing they are! You are so lucky they are yours!


Melissa said...

Beautiful post Billie! Happy Birthday Holland and Eden!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! I love getting to know your girls!

Amy said...

"They fight a lot. Is that normal?"

I sure as hell hope so. You really described my kids, too--best friends yet constantly fighting and antagonizing each other over toys. I've started labeling the toys we have two (identical) of so that I can point at the name and tell them whose it is. It seems to help.

Tricia said...

I have 3 year old B/G twins. I know what you mean about the fighting. I can even buy 2 of the same toy and they fight over the same one still. They find something that is a very little bit different and fight over that one. We have and they have started the saying "oh Children" I guess I must say that alot.
My daughter is also a Tomboy. I hate that I am not able to find Thomas, cars, tractor, underwear for girls. I am about to the point that I will put her in boys underwear so I can see the sparkle in her eyes. She looks at her brothers underwear and wants those characters. The closest I have come in Curious George and some animals. Do they not think girls can like cars and thomas?

juneheller said...

You know one of those really great moments, where something is just so overwhelmingly sweet and cute that you cry? That was the video, I loved it. Then I went into reading your bonanza of a birthday post, thank you for sharing so much about your girls. I love reading your blog.

Happy Birthday, Holland and Eden!

Stacy said...

Happy Birthday, Eden & Holland!

Yes, the fighting is normal! Our 4-year olds fight frequently, but they are also each other's best friends. It helps to have them in different classrooms for us - they get some time apart. And, yes, we have multiples of many toys!

Kim said...

These two have turned into such FUN little PEOPLE. Even when the are being sassy it's all I can do to not laugh. BTW, Holland DID take a nap for me but not until after she slammed the door and told my "you never make me take a nap"...

abby said...

That was a beautiful post....I love how you captured both of the girls' spirits and it's wonderful to see how far they have come this year.

Anonymous said...

Four years old, what big girls! I have 2 1/2 year old twin girls and they fight like that too, I'm pretty sure it is normal. Can Eden use a straw? I know my girls had the hardest time with sippy cups, the only ones they could use for the first 6 months after giving up the bottle were straw cups.

Bird's Eye View Photography said...

What a great post! They are such big girls!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Holland and Eden!!! Great post Billie. Yes, the fighting is definitely normal. We have a lot of that going on around here as well. I had the same problem with the bottle-sippy cup conversion. The girls wouldn't drink milk anymore..until we discovered milk shakes!! Here's a simple recipe:

1 banana
a few fresh strawberries
a little sugar
a cup or so of milk

blend in blender and they gobble it down like crazy. It's a bit filling as a 'drink' at meal times, but you can definitely replace a snack with this concoction. Good luck!!

Kelli said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to share Holland and Eden's personalities with us. It is nice to be able to put their inner selves with the pictures we see. You are a lucky mom. :)

Mami said...

Es un post muy lindo Billie!! Tus hijas son realmente adorables...:) Feliz cumple!!!
Tienes razón, yo tengo dos niñas (de 2 años 9meses y otra de 16 meses) y lo que más deseo es que se lleven bien y se quieran!

Ani said...

Happy 4th birthday to your beautiful girls! What a wonderful post... thank you for sharing a bit of them with us.

Anonymous said...

I love coming here and reading about my two adorable nieces. So Billy, please keep this up!

The picturs of the vacation are awesome and just look how big these two have gotten!

Oh yea, very normal on the fighting. ; )

Love ya guys and hope to see ya soon!

Anonymous said...

let me!see - fighting with your sibs? Hum, if it isn't normal then we need to redefine normal! What is normal anyway!! Kids that don't fight, now that's not normal! Now you have adorable, and normal down pat!! Love ya N

Ivanna said...

"There's a lot of screaming and hitting and grabbing and crying. But at the same time, they really love each other": this describes my crazy kiddos to the T. they are have a screaming fight one second, and the next they are hugging and laughing hysterically.... I don't get it, and it drives me crazy (the fighting), but I can't get them to work it out peacefully, even it there are two identical [insert any object] to be had...
On the milk, I totally understand. I had the same fear, since some days that is all my daughter seems to "eat", but luckily they took to sippy cups really easily. Kids seem to love straws. have you tried a cup with a lid and a straw? Hope you find something that works!

Beth said...

What wonderful little girls!

You write so beautifully; I always look forward to your new posts.

Happy Birthday, Holland & Eden! :)

L I S A said...

That was so beautifully written, what a wonderful gift that and the montage are for the girls. When their toys are long gone, they will have these words to remember what they were like when they were 4 yrs old.

Thanks for sharing!


ps You have a gorgeous family!

Anonymous said...

please forgive me if I have already suggested this, but I got my feeding tube dependent preemie daughter off her feeding tube of formula and onto a sippy of whole milk by adding vanilla Carnation Instant Breakfast mix to it - half to a whole package to taste, just see what they like. It made the milk taste better (sweeter), and it added tons of calories and vitamins, without taking away any of the nutrients and calories that were in the milk in the first place. Sarah would drink her whole sippy cup while we watched her one hour of tv in the morning (I know, I know, not the best parenting, but all I cared about was getting the milk in her and getting the feeding tube out of her). Just a suggestion.

The Microblogologist said...

Awww, they are so cute, 4 is such a fun age! A trick we use with my 5 year old niece is to give her a straw, it gets her to drink her milk just about every time. I have two sisters, I am the oldest, one came 18 months after me, the last came 13 months after her. Growing up we fought pretty much constantly, two tricks my mom used with toys was she would buy them in different colors if that option was open (mine were always yellow) and it that wasn't possible she would initial them with a sharpie with a K, L, or C. Perhaps not the best method of teaching sharing but sometimes sanity must come first!

People always told me that when I grew up I would be best friends with my siblings, particularly my youngest whom I tormented. I scoffed at them then but they were right, I adore her.

And what is it with kids these days, they are growing up way too fast! I am clinging to the fact that there are 5T clothes in the baby section, next year I will have to go to the little girl section, I'm not ready!

hallegracesmama said...

Will Eden drink the Resource fruit flavored drinks? We bought some for Halle in an effort for her to get that same nutrients as her milk/formula but she wasn't a fan. I have quite a few boxes here that she will never drink if you want me to send them your way to try out. Let me know!


Shannon said...

Happy Birthday Sweethearts. I've been reading about you all for about 2 years now. I CANNOT believe how big you guys are. Disney looks fun. My parents took me there for my 4th birthday too! we plan on taking the kids when they are older.
Love the pics!
-Shannon in Austin