There is no doubt about it: the theme of this month is secrets and surprises. There is a lot of “don’t look now” and “no peeking”. Then she does something – sometimes for a minute, sometimes for ten. If it takes long, she will remind us to not look, about once a minute. And then finally she says “come look now”, or sometimes “dinnng” which also means that the surprise is done. Sometimes she comes to me with a surprise already prepared, hidden behind her back, and then proudly uncovers it.
The surprise can be anything. Quite often she shows off her ability to do things on her own: either taking care of herself (getting dressed in the morning, or undressing and getting into bed at night) or helping us (setting the table for dinner, or bringing out all the breakfast goods), or even playing on her own. Once the surprise was that she had assembled like seven or eight jigsaw puzzles on her own. Or she may go out and pick berries for us, or show me a picture she’s drawn.
But the surprise can also be something sneaky, such as bringing a garden trowel and sneaking it underneath my skirt, where she lays the cold trowel against my legs, and then squeals with laughter when I yelp. Or something totally quirky and unpredictable, such as taking 10 books and standing them all up on the living room table so they make a “house”.
Most good surprises bear repeating. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been subjected to the trowel surprise.
Repetition combined with surprise has also been a theme in several of our games and conversations. There was the wizard game, when she’d ask me again and again what I wanted to be turned into, and then the sneaky wizard always turn me into something else instead. I’d wish to become a crocodile and she turned me into a stone instead, then I’d ask to become a bird and she’d turn me into an ice cream, and so on for a long time.
Or we might talk about how some people have cars and others don’t, and then she would start making up other things for which this is true. First seriously (bicycles, and houses, and trees in the yard) and then as weird as she could make it (roofs, doors, noses etc).
There is a lot of talk about ages. “When I am 5 I will be able to go to swim school. When I am 6 I will go to school.” But also: “I cannot go to the playground on my own. (Me confirming: No.) But I can do it when I am 6. (Me: yes.) But when I am 7? When I am 10? When I am 8? When I am 4?” and so on about many many things. She is very aware that she is three and almost four, and often informs friendly-looking strangers of this important fact – people on the train, other kids’ mums, neighbours etc.
We also talk about babies, and what they can and cannot do – sometimes in general, sometimes specifically about our baby. They cannot sit up, walk, eat, talk, etc. The baby won’t be able to ride on her bike, or climb the stairs, or even play with any toys at first.
Ingrid often mentions her own upcoming birthday. We’ve been talking about it for a long time already. Early summer we spoke about how we will first go to Estonia, then I will have my birthday, then she will go back to nursery, then the baby will probably come, and only then in the autumn will it be her birthday. Now she is back at nursery, and various other signs of “autumn” are appearing (the library is open again, and the ice cream seller at the playground has packed up for the season), so she thinks her birthday should be close, but of course it is still two months away. What an eternity to wait.
She is now quite confident with the days of the week, so anything that is less than a week away can be easily explained. This is very convenient. Yesterday she counted Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-…-Sunday about 7 or 8 times in a row and asked, “will it be my birthday then?” and I said indeed it will. Today when we spoke about her birthday again, I told here it is many many days from now, and she said, “all the days I counted before!”.
The concepts of today, yesterday and tomorrow are, actually, harder than weekdays. She doesn’t seem to feel comfortable with the fact that “tomorrow” refers to different days. “Is it tomorrow today?” she asks. Now she mostly prefers to call them today, “the day that was” and “the next day”.
She’s also learned the basics of reading a clock. She knows to ignore the fast hand that moves all the time, and knows that the short hand is the important one. She knows that it is, for example, two o’clock when the short hand is on the number 2 and the long one is at the top. I don’t think she’s understood half hours yet – whenever the long hand is not at the top, we usually describe the time in relation to the full hour. “Getting close to two o’clock now, just past two o’clock, halfway between two and three” etc.
She’s comfortable with numbers up to 20, and can count to 29 without help. From there on at every x9 she gets stuck, but when prompted with the name of the next multiple of 10, she will keep going up to 100, as long as she doesn’t tire first. She often skips numbers like 44, 55 and 66 (as if one six should be enough already) and often forgets the sevens (37, 47 etc).
She may be able to count, but I get the impression that anything greater than 10 is still just an abstract concept for her. When there is A LOT of something she may say, “there could be twenty! or a hundred! or maybe ten!” as if all those big numbers are just about the same size.
On a few occasions she’s done some simple addition under ten: two plus two, three plus three, five plus two, and such. I think she knows two plus two by heart, but the rest she manages with the help of her fingers.
On a completely different topic, she’s come into contact with the concept of death repeatedly this month and the previous one. We’ve sometimes mentioned how people die, flowers wither, and food goes bad. We’ve encountered some roadkill, we’ve read fairy tales with stepmothers (where the mother has died), and she’s seen the frog king die in Shrek 3. “It’s like Snow White, but you never wake up.” She understands enough to know that everybody will die, and that it is not good. But there hasn’t been much more talk than that.
Other habits and skills worth mentioning:
We’ve done a lot of swimming and splashing around in the water, both this month and the last. Ingrid has long liked playing in water, but she has gained a lot of confidence this summer. She used to really dislike water on her face but can now put her whole face under water, or blow bubbles, or jump up and down so she gets water splashing over the top of her head. She can (either with my help, or with her armbands) float on her back. The greatest advances happened this weekend: she figured out how to actually move in water. With her armbands on she’d walk into quite deep water (up to her chest), lift her feet from the bottom, and then float and actually move in various directions using her arms and legs. She was actually swimming, albeit short distances and not very efficiently.
Ingrid now manages basic naviagation and playing movies on both Mac and PC, all the way from turning on the computer to turning it off again when done. Choosing the right profile, opening Explorer, choosing an mp3 file or opening the DVD in the media player, starting the movie using the shortcuts of the appropriate OS, switching to full screen mode, adjusting the volume, pausing, closing etc. The only thing she needs help with is knowing which media player to use (because we’ve got DVDs for various regions that won’t all play in the same one) and getting the DVD out of the case (and that’s mostly because we don’t want her to do it, after severe scratching of some DVDs).
She has acquired a habit of talking in a whiney voice, and various other distorted voices, when the mood strikes her. Both Eric and I find the whingy voice very annoying and say so, and we hope that it will pass soon. The other voices are not particularly annoying but can be almost impossible to understand, which doesn’t stop her from using them. She also likes to talk “like a baby”, meaning mostly “eeh” and “daah” and half words and lots of pointing. She is also still fond of the alliteration game, where the first sounds in all words are exchanged for a common one. “Klag klill kla kölk” for “Jag vill ha mjölk” and so on. Works reasonably well most of the time, except this morning I asked her, “who will pour the juice – you or me” / “mina või sina” and she wanted to answer using the alliteration game and got stuck… whatever letter she chose, “mina” ja “sina” were indistinguishable. So she switched to baby language and said “daah” and pointed at me.
She continues to be physically much more active than she used to be, say, half a year ago. Cycles to and from nursery, does not begin to immediately complain about walking, runs, skips and jumps. She is just learning to jump on one leg and can do about two hops in a row.
She goes to sleep in her own room and sleeps there until she first wakes, which can range from 2 o’clock to almost 7. Sometimes she wakes and shouts for me because she needs to go to the loo. We tried going without a night nappy for a while, when the nappy had been dry every single morning for a few weeks. But that quickly led to big puddles three nights running, so now the nappy is back. And the nappy is dry every morning again, so yesterday and today we tried without it again. Yesterday went well; we’ll see about tonight.