Eight is Great

Today was Cordelia's eight birthday party. Blake's away and Tanya, who usually backs me up at birthday parties, was busy with many things, so I was faced with managing by myself. It didn't take much thought to realize that that wasn't going to go well, so I threw up the bat signal to our babysitter from last year, Emma. Against all odds she was available, so I had a helper.

The party was loosely candy themed (because who doesn't like candy?) so we started by making candy sushi. I wasn't sure how it would go, with the stickiness and general potential for chaos, but everyone managed fine and made pretty credible rolls. And didn't even get incredibly sticky.

Next on the agenda was Pin the Cherry on the Ice Cream. It soon became apparent why no-one plays this game any more, because everyone just used their hands to figure out where the cherry went and it wasn't much of a contest. We made a rule that you could only use one hand, but it still wasn't that challenging. The most fun player was the youngest, who got all silly and giggly and fell over a lot, so Emma and I decide that maybe the peak age for "Pin the X on the Y" is a little younger than eight.

Next up was Pass the Parcel. We added a rule that if you already have a prize and the music stops when you have the parcel, you can decide whether to keep what you have, or pass it on to the next person who doesn't have a prize and open the next layer of the parcel. It was a pretty good solution to the problem of matching n prizes to n kids, but of course some of the prizes became inexplicably more valued than others, and there was fighting and unsuccessful attempts at trading. It was quite acrimonious and also rather annoying.

The last planned activity was Cordelia's idea: a few rousing rounds of Murder Handshake. It was okay, but the littlest kids didn't really manage the part where you have to shake two more people's hands; they would just collapse straight away. And when Otis was murderer he shook hands with such vigor that it was pretty clear what he was up to. So it seems the best age for Murder Handshake is a little older than eight.

Lunch was KFC (which seems like an obvious choice for party food but which I've never seen at another kid party) and then we finished with cake and more candy.

It was a pretty good party, but I really hope I'm done with kid parties. I like throwing the kind of parties where I actually get to have fun, not just co-ordinate other people's fun and listen to them whine. But next year Cordelia is nine, and surely that's too old for a games-and-cake party. Maybe we'll go to the Science Center or something. That would be nice.

Cordelia is Eight

So Cordelia is eight. She's not too excited about growing up; in fact she's downright against it. But it's happening anyway. She says she doesn't like school, but she seems to have fun when she's there. She loves ballet and jazz dance and Brownies. She has a couple of good friends and gets along well with most of the kids in her class. And she can manage the rest of them.

The other day we were chatting about her friends and relationships, and she said "I don't tell grown-ups about problems because they don't really help. They say they're going to help but they don't do anything." Last year she had some trouble with a girl who was her best friend a couple of years ago, and who got caught up with a third girl and started excluding her. She didn't come to me for help, and this year (so far) they are all three getting along together. She's also done well managing a couple of difficult boys in her class.

Grown-ups love Cordelia — at least, grown-ups who love kids love Cordelia. Grown-ups who don't love kids love Delphine because she's like a grown-up, but Cordelia's such a kid. She's enthusiastic and noisy and uninhibited. She loves talking to grown-ups and she still has that habit of telling long, involved stories without giving enough context, which is fascinating and occasionally surreal.

She's kind of getting too old for me to blog about her. When the kids were younger I treated them like extensions of myself, and of course it was okay to blog about them. But there's a lot of talk about Internet privacy lately, and what you're entitled to post about other people with or without their consent, and I'm starting to realize (a little belatedly) that even if I don't mind my whole life being online, that's not a decision I should make for the girls. But I guess that's another blog post...

Cordelia is Five

Actually Cordelia turned five exactly a month ago, but I haven't had time to blog about it until now. (I want to blog about that, too. Who knows if I will find the time…)

We had a little birthday party for her – her first real party with friends. She invited Ursa and Otis, Scarlett, Anna, and Zoey. And Amelia kind of crashed – Delphine invited her. The kids decorated loot bags, played freeze dance and What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?, and some other games. (Big thanks to Tanya for playing games with everyone. I hate games.) We ordered pizza, which is so lame but I didn't feel like prepping a bunch of stuff, and then we had cake. Cordelia requested a rainbow cake with plain icing (I upsold her to chocolate icing) and Smarties, and that's what she got. Pictures to come.

Cordelia loves home. She would love to be home all the time, or failing that, wherever I am. She has announced her intention to marry Otis, live in my house and have babies, which I will take care of for her.

I don't know how much Cordelia loves school. I think she's pretty happy, but it's not her element the way it is Delphine's. I'm not sure what she's good at – she doesn't talk much about lessons or class activities – and I don't know what she enjoys. I'm looking forward to our first parent-teacher interview to find out how she's getting along.

Cordelia's still our baby. She doesn't like to do things for herself – she asks us to spread her butter, zip her jacket, carry her backpack... I try to get her to do things, but I think I'm doing more for her than I did for Delphine at five, simply because this time I don't have a three-year-old to look after. Also Delphine's always been very independent, and Cordelia's... not. But she'll grow up when she gets around to it. We can wait.

No, Really

Sometimes talking to Cordelia is exhausting because she likes to say things very thoroughly. So yesterday I was in the shower and she knocked on the door and said, "C'n I go pee?"

"Sure, as long as you don't flush."

"Okay, mama, I was going to tell you when I was going to flush!"

"Okay, thanks."

"So you can get out of da water!"

"Yeah, that's right."

"But not out of da shower!"


"Just out of da water part of da shower!"

"That's right."

"But stay in da shower!"

"Yes. Thank you."

"But go out of da water!"

sigh "Right."

Talking Marriage with Cordelia

When you read this you have to try and imagine Cordelia's parts in Cordelia's voice, which is squeaky and loud and very enthusiastic. She also still pronounces "th" as "d", so really everything she says sounds hilarious.

Cordelia: I can't decide if I should marry Charlie [her newborn cousin] or Otis!
Me: I think you should marry Otis, because Charlie is already related to you.
Cordelia: (Thinks about it.) But Otis doesn't like kissing, and kissing is how you get married!

Me: We only have three sea monkeys left.
Cordelia: But maybe two of them will get married and have babies!
Me: Do you need to get married to have babies?
Cordelia: No! (Thinks.) But you need to have a house!
Me: Why?
Cordelia: Because you have to do a naked hug to have babies! And if you don't have a house everyone will see you do a bits-bits hug! And bits are private!


I posted this as a comment over at Hollie's blog and thought I should put it here too.

We were at the grocery store today and Blake and Cordelia were having conversations on the pretend phone – you know the one you make with your little finger and thumb outstretched?

Well, Cordelia called Blake and said, “Is Mummy there?” Actually, what she said was “Give it to Mummy”, but she meant “Is Mummy there?”

So Blake held his pretend phone up to my face, and I said, “Hello?”

Cordelia paused, giggled, and said, “Bye!”

That’s right, she prank-called me on the pretend phone.

Cordelia Reads!

Today Cordelia read a book! She wanted a second bedtime book, and I said she could have another book but she had to read it herself. In the past she has "read" those baby dictionary-type board books with a one-to-one word-to-picture ratio. This time she picked a Clifford easy reader. I stood my ground and got her to read it and she actually read the whole thing with a combination of all the tools she's supposed to use: phonics, word recognition, and context.

She kept saying, "My brain doesn't want to do that!" when I said, "sound it out" or "that's a popcorn word", but eventually her brain stepped up.

(A popcorn word is a word that you recognize on sight, it just "pops" into your head. Delphine taught us that terminology.)

Cordelia Brown, Age Four (and Some)

Miss Cordelia is now four years, four months and twenty days old, and she is well settled into being four. Four is a year of experimenting with power, and a year of great emotion.

Cordelia still loves to be with Mummy, but she can be pursuaded away by a sufficiently compelling offer. On Sunday Zaida stopped by to take her out. At first when we asked if she wanted to go with him she said, "Mummy!" and clung to me. But when I rephrased the offer—"Don't you want to go on an adventure with Zaida?"—she perked up. "Adventure?" And off she went.

Tonight I was talking her through the plan for tomorrow, as I do every day, and I said my friend Tanya was going to pick her up at school and take her for lunch. She pulled the "Mummy!" thing again, but I said, "Otis [Tanya's little boy] wants you to come play with him," and then she was fine with it.

Cordelia can get herself dressed to go outside all by herself. She's so good at it, in fact, that her teacher wanted to make a PSA video starring her, to try and pursuade kindergarten parents to teach their kids to dress themselves. I don't get to see this skill, however, because when I go into the class to help with mittens and zippers, she becomes all helpless and I have to zip her up. I don't help with boots and snowpants, though, because it is literally easier for her to do it herself—she's gotten competent enough that when I try and help we end up working at cross-purposes and getting in each other's way. So fortunately that's off my plate.

Cordelia has friends! She is friends with Anna, and Zoey, and Scarlett and Samantha. Anna was her first friend of the year, and neither of them will go into the schoolyard without the other. They walk in together, hand-in-hand. Anna is an SK and a good head taller than Cordelia. She's very quiet; we had her over for a playdate and Cordelia was in charge, telling her what to do and when. She was so proud to be the authority.

Cordelia is in swimming class this term. She and Delphine take half-hour classes, first Delphine then Cordelia, so DeeDee hangs out with me by the pool while Delphine has her class. She makes me draw pictures made of shapes, and then she has to count the shapes. Then I draw her name in bubble writing and she colours it in. (When Cordelia has her class, Delphine and I each read our books.)

Today when I picked Cordelia up from school she was crying. I know enough not to ask what was wrong right up front: she has to get some of her crying out before she can talk to me. But her sobs didn't seem to be slowing down, so I asked anyway, and she said she hurt her head. I tried to figure out how she had hurt her head, presenting various possible scenarios—did you trip and run into the wall? Did someone push you?—until she agreed with one. She said she had slipped and fallen into the wall. I didn't see any bumps or scrapes but I was appropriately sympathetic. We picked up Delphine and headed over to Tanya's place, where we have lunch every day.

But just as we got to Tanya's Cordelia started crying again—sobbing! I knew if she'd only bumped her head it would have been forgotten by now, so I asked if something bad had happened at school. She nodded, and after further questioning I got her to say that someone had hurt her, but she wouldn't specify how. She was really miserable, and eventually (after the retching started) I realized that the problem was actually that she was sick. She was nauseous and had a headache—the whole story about someone hurting her and her bumping her head was just her trying to explain to herself why her head hurt. She's never had a headache before! Nonetheless, she insisted on a bandage, so in addition to acetaminophen inside her, she had a nice big bandage plastered over her forehead.

Incidentally, this was the progression of her illness: headache, cry, nap on mummy, puke, cry, rest on mummy, puke, rest in stroller (with Otis next to her looking very dubious), watch Dora, sleep on bathroom floor, sleep on couch, wake up, take acetaminophen, watch Backyardigans, better! The whole thing took less than five hours.

Cordelia's nicknames: DeeDee, Boo, Cordeliaboo, Cordeli-bum, Bootle, Chuckles, Bubbles. Her teacher calls her Cordie.

Small Children Are Funny Because They Don't Know Things

This post is for those of you who enjoy that particular kind of humour derived from small children saying entirely inappropriate things in all innocence. Lucky for us we have a four-year-old, so we have plenty of that.

The other day Blake and the girls and I took the bus to the Ontario Science Centre. It was a chilly morning so while we waited for the bus we huddled together, the girls in between Blake and I, like penguins. Since I don't know what sound penguins make, I said, "Buck, buck, buck, bgawk!"

With that Cordelia squeezed out of our little cluster and declared loudly, "I got laid!"

The other morning Blake was brushing his teeth, and because we have small children, he wasn't alone. He has a tongue pierce, and part of its care and feeding is that you have to brush the stainless steel balls of the jewellery every day. So, that's what he was doing when Cordelia asked the obvious question, "Are you brushing your balls?"

"Yes. Yes I am."

"You should tell Mummy!"

This one is less inappropriate. The other day my friend Kat and I watched that "David after dentist" YouTube video for the first time—the one with the kid recovering from anaesthesia and saying silly things. Kat works with little kids and I live with them, and we didn't find the video particularly funny because kids say peculiar things all the time.

Case in point: Today, after a full day, then dinner, with her jammies on and her teeth about to be brushed, Cordelia asked, "Mama, is it morning or bedtime? I don't know when it is. I forgot!"

So yeah, "Is this real?" doesn't seem all that funny.



That was the sound of Cordelia's head hitting the wall behind me when she scrambled to hide behind my legs. What was she hiding from? Why, another adult tried to talk to her. Horrifying.

And then, just a couple of days ago, someone's nanny helped her off a too-high ladder in the playground. That sent her into a five-minute paroxysm of screaming fear and rage.

Cordelia is a fearful child*. I don't know how this has happened, but it has. She's scared of being away from me, and she hates being spoken to by any adult outside of a small set of acceptable people. She constantly tells me she loves me, and she wants to touch me all the time, as if without a physical or audible expression of our love it will disappear.

Delphine isn't like that. She carries with her a confidence that she is loved, that she can handle herself, and that everything will be fine. Oh, she's very emotional and things get blown all out of proportion, but it's all on the surface. Underneath it all she is, as one of her kindergarten teachers put it, steady.

Cordelia's emotional outbreaks seem underlaid with panic, some kind of apparently bone-deep fear that if she isn't constantly affirming the love of those around her it will evaporate.

And yet it seems when she forgets to be afraid, she's fine. She loves her kindergarten teacher and her class. She can play by herself for ages, if she can get past that initial hurdle of Walking Away. This is a terrifically painful stage (for both of us) and yet surely it is only a stage. At home she's such a happy, enthusiastic kid with such great passion and ideas. I hope the passion wins over the fear.

* I know in my last Cordelia post I said she wasn't fearful. I guess I didn't see the fear before. It's pretty subtle—mostly her clinginess manifests as merely whiny or needy—but I've since started to see the undercurrent of real fear or panic in the way she holds on to me, and the pitch of her screams.

Knowing your child is an impossible art which you can nonetheless never give up.

Cordelia is Four!

Cordelia is four! Her birthday was on Sunday, and we celebrated all day. In the morning, we had two kinds of pancakes (thin and fat), and then we went out to Word on the Street for some literary fun. We saw the TVOKids folks (again), got some (more) TVOKids swag, had lunch (chicken and hot dog), visited the This and Spacing magazine booths, bought some TTC station buttons from Spacing (Davisville, Museum, Dupont and Dundas), and listened to stories. Then we visited Daddy and his geeky friends at U of T. We all rode the TTC home, and then lots of people came over for Cordelia's birthday tea.

Instead of having a kid party for Cordelia, I invited family and friends: Baba and Zaida, Morgan and Erik, Douglas and Tanya and Ursa and Otis, Sara and Blair and (more importantly) Henry and Liam, and Kat. If you do that math you'll see I didn't do myself any favours; we ended up with thirteen people over, but everyone managed to get themselves tea or coffee or beer, and we didn't run out of cake, so I call that a win.

For her birthday, Cordelia got a Schylling balloon mobile and glow in the dark stars to decorate her bedroom, some cool markers and a sticker book, a book of foam shapes, and Lauren Child's creepy interpretation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Those were all from me (bought with money from my mum. Hooray Mum!) She also got a jewellery-making kit and a sticker book from Henry, and a very cute outfit from Kat, but the pièce de résistance was a homemade robot outfit from Tanya and Ursa. Cordelia loves to play robot: "I am a ro-obot!". I will post a picture.

Cordelia isn't as independent as I remember Delphine being at four. In fact, she's very needy: she doesn't like to do things for herself if she thinks there is any way she can get you to do them, and she often pretends something is too hard when I know she can manage it.

She's also clingy, but not in a fearful way. She doesn't cry when we're separated, but she's very happy to see me when we reunite. She seems to prefer my company to anything else. I said to another mom today, "No-one loves me as much as Cordelia does." I haven't re-read the Four book so I don't know if this is expected behaviour. As I said, I don't remember it with Delphine, but then we spent the four months after she turned four together, so maybe it simply didn't come up.

The other day Cordelia and I went to the school to pick Delphine up after school. Cordelia was very excited to see one of her classmates, Zoe, in the schoolyard. She ran after Zoe, but the other girl didn't see her. Cordelia came back to me, disappointed. "She didn't even see me!" I told her to try again, so she ran up again, and again Zoe was walking away as Cordelia approached and so didn't notice her. Once again I encouraged her to try again, so she ran up to Zoe and planted herself in front of her with a giant grin, kind of a "Boo!" move. Zoe just stared at her, and turned away. And my heart cracked.

That's the kind of approach that would work great on a Baba or Zaida or grown-up friend, so maybe she just needs to figure out some approaches for people her own age who aren't won over by extreme cuteness. We've been (mildly) concerned about Cordelia's social skills for a while—she didn't play with other kids much at nursery school, but was happy playing by herself. I'm not sure (again) what a four-year-old is expected to manage, socially. I will talk to her teacher about it in a few weeks after she's had a chance to get to know the kids better.

Cordelia is delightful. She is almost always happy (although sometimes she is very angry), she is agreeable, she is voluble, she is clever. She likes to make things, arrange things, draw and colour. She can run very fast. She knows the whole alphabet. She still says "f" for "th", and "naybe" for "maybe". She likes silly things: silly noises, silly pictures, silly stories. Cordelia is a ray of sunshine.

(Here's my post about Delphine's fourth birthday for fun. Cordelia chose lemon icing for her cake, too!)