Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm a big believer in temperament. Temperament refers to a set of innate dispositional traits that we are born with and that stay with us (to a certain extent) throughout our lives. I believe in temperament as someone who has studied developmental psych, but also as a parent.

Because what you learn as a parent is that kids come out a particular way and, for the most part, they pretty much stay that way.

Sandra Scarr wrote about the idea of "good enough" parenting. Meaning that our kids are born the way they're going to be, and our job is to provide a good enough environment for them to grow in to the adult versions of their little selves. Or, as Lady Gaga would say, we're all just "born this way, baby"

Case in point - Penelope

Now I know this is my second post in a row about Penelope. Sorry Q & Z - I'll get to you next, I promise!

When Penelope was born she was 34 weeks gestational age and 3lb14oz. The first thing the nurses when a preemie is born (after clean up) is to put sensors on them to monitor their breathing. I was out of it but Moin was there when the nurses put those sensors on Penelope and he said one turned to him and said, "Wow! You've got a feisty one here!"

She wouldn't stop moving and kicking and fighting the nurse off.

Then, two months later, we had our family over for Christmas. Penelope refused to go to sleep all day because she was so happy to have so many new people around her.

So Penelope's reaction to her first day of "school" today was predictable in every way.

The girls don't need daycare. They are lucky to have me and my parents and Moin watching them most of the time. But I signed them up for day care one day a week (for three hours) so they could play with other kids. We are calling this "school."

When we arrived today Penelope marched right in without even turning around to say goodbye. When I came back to pick her up she said "Hi" and the proceeded to do a dance of excitement for me. Then she found each of her teachers and individually said good-bye. THEN she went to each child and gave them each an individual hug! She loved being there around all those people so much.

And I wasn't surprised one bit. I could have predicted that from the moment she was born.

This is a girl who loves people, and action, and chaos, and - I'll admit - sometimes a little drama.

Speaking of drama, I'm ending this post with Penelope in her new flamenco dress Wa and Pa brought her from Spain. And do I even need to tell you that she LOVES it?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Penelope is not the best eater. And by "not the best" I mean picky. And by "picky" I mean hardly eats anything at all. And what she does eat is in teeny tiny portions so small I can't believe they sustain her. My sister Kelly once said Penelope survived on spirit alone, which I think is a great description.

And this is not toddler-induced picky eating that is a result of stubbornness. We know what that looks like (ahem, Quinn). She has been picky since the first day she tasted food, and has only ever accepted mild flavors.

When she turned one she threw her cupcake off her highchair in disgust.

And she still doesn't like chocolate. Chocolate!

Another day I'll have to do a post about Zahra's eating, but in a nutshell you can just reverse everything I said above. It's confusing to me because I know there's a gene for picky eating (as described wonderfully in a video by Neil de grasse Tyson here) and the girls share the same genes so how did this happen? Epigenetic effects, possibly?

Anyway, the one category of food Penelope really loves is fruit. And within that category, she really really loves berries. Look at her cute little strawberry-covered face at the farmer's market.

So guess who is super happy that it's summer in Minnesota?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We've had a great week-long visit from Grandma Amy.

She spent a LOT of time doing puzzles and games with Quinn.

We took her to tour Quinn's new elementary school. Here he is on the playground. See the orange? :)

Guess who else think they're going to school there next year?

The girls and I also took Amy to Como conservatory to see the flowers as gardening is one of her favorite pastimes.

The girls loved/were terrified of the fake animals in the Como kids playroom. It's so hard to know what's real and what isn't!

Speaking of real vs. fake, we took Amy to Teddy bear park in Stillwater, MN.

Stillwater sits on the St. Croix river, which separates Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is about 30 minutes from our house. The kids love teddy bear park, but as you can see Quinn is much more at peace with the large bears than Penelope is!

Zahra warmed right up to them, too.

Penelope never made friends with the bears, but she did some good climbing so all was not lost.

Quinn did some good climbing, as well.

Here's a shot by the St. Croix river.

Finally, we went to Minnehaha park and played in the Wabun wading pool. I only managed to get a picture as we were leaving.

Apparently this wading pool is one of 62 free wading pools through the rec centers in the twin cities! In fact, everything we did with the kids this week was free. One of the many reasons we love it here.

We also ate tons of good food and spent lots of time relaxing at home. The kids loved having their grandma here all week and all the extra attention that provided! Thanks for a great visit, Amy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's been a big couple weeks lessons-wise for the Syed children.

Two weeks ago the girls started taking music classes through St. Paul Parks and Rec. Music class for toddlers involves singing songs, dancing, and playing simple instruments. I used to go to these all the time as a grad student to recruit participants so it was fun to go as a parent this time.

The first class my friend Elena was visiting from Scotland so she got to come with us. As you can see the girls were a bit dubious the first go-around.

By the second class they were really warmed up. They've been dropping Quinn of at preschool since they were born so I could see them thinking, "circle time? teacher? listening? we've got this"

Here's Zahra with a shaker.

And guess who thought she was supposed to be in the MIDDLE of the circle?

After the second class we had a picnic and watched some big kids play tennis. The gleam in Penelope's eye while watching kids play tennis scared me a bit. I'm terrified of having to drive one of my children to sports tournaments all over the state of MN, as I see many of my neighbors with older children doing.

Quinn started up with gymnastics again. He took gym classes last winter/spring and really enjoyed them but also struggled compared to the other kids. It took him all semester to learn to do a somersault, while most other children learned that in the first class. So I was so proud of him when he asked to take lessons again, knowing how hard it was for him the first time. I'll always be proud of my kids for their accomplishments, but I think I'll be most proud when they try hard at something that they're not necessarily naturally good at doing. That shows real strength and character.

Here they all are waiting for class to begin.

Finally, Quinn had his first piano lesson this week!

He did a great job and sat and listened to the teacher the whole time. He learned where C and D are on a piano, and how to find them from any spot on a piano.

Piano lessons are mentally challenging. And you have to sit still and listen for a good chunk of time. All of these things are hard for a 4-year-old and Quinn did them quite impressively. Therefore, I shouldn't have been surprised that he was a total STINKER for the rest of the day. I told Moin that Quinn used up all his good behavior at piano and didn't have any left in him. But his teacher thinks he's a perfect angel :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quinn understands numbers and space.

I remember when he was just a baby living in Santa Cruz that he would sometimes get agitated in the stroller or car. We figured out after a while that he would get upset whenever we deviated from the typical route. Even back then he knew what direction we should be going and would become distressed if we veered from that path.

Then, after he began to walk, we started a little experiment. We would set him down in different parts of downtown Santa Cruz and say, "Ok Quinn - find bookshop Santa Cruz!" And sure enough, he'd survey his surroundings, turn in the correct direction, and walk toward the bookstore. Even if it was several blocks away.

So saying he understands numbers and space is not a parental brag. It's a true fact about him - as true as the fact that he has curly hair or that he has blue eyes.

Nevertheless, I was somewhat taken aback by this exchange that took place a few days ago:

Quinn and I were driving in the car and he noted the time on the internal car clock (1:44). I said, oh yes but the clock in this car is fast so that's not the correct time. Just then we drove by a large digital clock which said 1:22. So I said, "Quinn the clock in our car is 22 minutes fast."

Fast forward a bit. We run some errands and get back in the car where the clock now says 3:06pm. Quinn says, "Oh it says 3:06. That means it's 2:44!"

Seriously. He figured it out in his head in one second.

So yes, it was an exciting moment. But really, the most important question is - how soon until he can do our taxes?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spring/summer cleaning around Minnesota has benefited us this past week. Not because WE'RE actually doing spring cleaning (ha!), but because we've ended up with lots of hand-me-down toys.

Now, I love hand-me-downs and hate buying toys new. It just seems so silly when they're only used for a short time, and you can get a used one without all the packaging, etc.

So, needless to say, we were excited about the following gems that came in to our life this week.

First, Quinn's new bike.

We bought this at our next-door-neighbor's garage sale. All four of their kids have used it before Quinn which makes it even more special. The neighbor kids have also taken quite the supervisory role in helping him ride, partially because the bike used to be theirs I think.

Another neighbor gave us this trike for the girls

They are obsessed with this thing. They can both actually ride it pretty well but need supervision. Therefore a picture of such riding does not exist. you'll just have to take my word for it :)

Another purchase from our next-door-neighbor's garage sale was this awesome train table.

The kids (especially Penelope) love trains and have been using a make-shift train table for some time, so this was a big hit.

But, the biggest item of excitement was this dollhouse, given to us by some friends.
All three adore this thing. Quinn has his own dollhouse in his room which is the one item his sisters aren't allowed to touch (his rule). So, they couldn't believe their good luck when something so coveted appeared in their living room.

Both girls still try to go "in" the dollhouse, which is actually developmentally appropriate as shown in this video from Judy DeLoache's lab:

It's always a favorite of my students :)

Can't wait to pass these toys along to some other lucky kids one day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For Father's Day, I interviewed Quinn about Moin.

I saw the idea on Pintrest, and it turned out great. Quinn's answers were classic. My favorite part is the "listen" and "behave" sequence. Quinn was so excited about it that he gave it to Moin two days early.

In case you can't read it, here is what the interview says with Quinn's answers in bold:
My dad is 33 years old.
His hair is black and eyes are brown.
My dad likes to wear a sweater.
He loves to eat brownies.
He is smart because he knows how to change diapers.
My dad works hard at his work.
Daddy always tells me to listen.
It makes my Dad happy when I behave.
If he could go on any trip he would go to hidden falls and he would bring a water bottle.
I really love it when my Dad cooks chocolate chip cookies.
If I could give my dad anything it would be a hug.
My favorite thing about my Dad is his hugs and kisses.

Obviously Quinn loves his father very much. And why wouldn't he? Moin does awesome things like teaching him how to ride a bike, which just happened today!

And it goes without saying that his look-alike daughters love him, too.

BUT Our kids are super-duper extra lucky because they have TWO fantastic father figures that they get to see every day: Moin and my dad (Pa). How great is that?

My dad is off traveling the world right now, so we won't be with him on father's day. Dad, I know you're reading this so I thought you should know that we're going to get donuts on father's day. We'll think of you, but won't feel sorry for you and all the fabulous Spanish food you're currently eating!

Happy Father's Day to Moin and Pa. We love you very much.
Quinn, Penelope and Zahra

Friday, June 15, 2012

Quinn has been out of school for the last two weeks. I'm not working, and my parents are out of of town, meaning it's been just me and the kids all. day. long.

So, what have we been doing?

LOTS of reading.

and puzzles (by "puzzles" I mean Quinn does puzzles and his sisters destroy them)

and photo shoots.

It's hard for me to think of things I can do safely with all three of them. One thing we can do is go to the store, so we did that a lot. Z sits in the back of the cart with the groceries, Penelope (who can't be trusted to sit unstrapped) sits in front of the cart with the buckle on and Quinn walks along side/dictates my every move.

Oddly I've never managed to get a picture of this crazy set up. Go figure.

And finally, I won't lie, these two weeks have also involved a lot of extra TV.

Did I mention summer school starts on Monday? :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quinn has always loved food.

When he was younger this translated to eating everything in sight. Now, he's pickier but his favorite activities are still: (a) cooking, (b) playing with pretend food, (c) talking about food, or (d) reading about food. He's been saying for a while now that he wants to be a chef when he grows up

Therefore it was no surprise that he selected this amazingly predictable stack of books from the library this week:
Grow Pumpkin Pie
Rah, Rah, radishes!
Ice Cream
I get so hungry
What the buzz? Honey for a sweet new year
Red Food Book
Yellow Food Book
Brown Food Book
How did that get in my lunchbox?
Pieces-Part-Portion (with a picture of pizza on the cover)

and, finally, my personal favorite - Why can't I just eat candy?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Now that the girls are older, we sometimes get long extended periods of silence where they both play by themselves. And by "long-extended" I mean 10- to 15-minutes.

Zahra with the drawing pad that is the favorite toy of both girls, currently.

Of course, Penelope's periods of silent activity involve her reading while precariously balanced on a coffee table, but we'll take what we can get.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

We had a great time on our trip to Iowa. Quinn loves his cousins so much that he (with the help of grandma) made them all matching tie-dye shirts to wear.

Close up of Penelope in her Quinn creation...
and one of Zahra

But the highlight of the trip was swimming in the Grinnell community pool. We went every day.
Penelope loved it, of course.

She really wanted to go down the water slide, but was too little. She looks so dejected as Aunt Kelly walks her back down the stairs!

Zahra surprised us and jumped right in. She been scared of her baths recently but that hasn't seemed to transfer to swimming.

I insisted on holding her hand as the water got deeper which she was NOT happy about.

Eventually she wore out and took a break. Guess who else was exhausted? Me!

The big man has come a long way with his comfort in the water. He lets his hair get wet now! Face underwater, however, is still a no-go.

I love this picture of the girls watching their brother be silly.

And finally, Quinn taking a break to admire his pink toenails. Love him!