What a tremendous year this has been for you! While your parents have struggled and stressed, you have emerged from your shell and made amazing gains. Around this time a year ago, you suddenly became a risk-taker. You climbed and jumped and scrambled over rocks. You began to communicate verbally. We were amazed and thrilled with your growth.
I don't know if you were just ready to make a large developmental leap or whether it was the effect of years of therapy kicking in. I'm inclined to lay a lot of the credit at the feet of Mr. Rich, your occupational therapist. Your biweekly sessions with him were basically one-on-one gymnastics lessons. You swung and jumped and crashed and climbed, all in order to strengthen your vestibular system. I didn't buy in to the theory that all that activity to stir up the fluid in your ears would really lead to global developmental growth, but I was sure proved wrong.
Speaking of school, nothing surprised me more when you told me you wanted to ride the bus. I made you wait a week before talking to your teachers since I was sure you would change your mind. But you didn't, and the first day you rode the bus, you didn't even look back. I'm the one who cried!
Your love of books continues, and still one of your favorite outings is to the library. Maisy, Lowly Worm, Pete the Cat, Sal, Frances, and Frog and Toad are some of your favorite characters. I get so tickled when you tell your cheese, "Hello, lunch!" or ask me to sing "Happy Chompo to me."
No doubt as a result of your great love of books, you have some pretty strong literacy skills. You can recognize all letters of the alphabet and know most of their sounds. You can recite the letters of your name and recognize it, Leo's name and a few other key words when you see them.
But your growth in vocal output has been the greatest source of delight for us this last year. You have transitioned from using a handful of single words to using complete sentences. You still use endearing mispronunciations like blell (bell), blowm (brown), and jama (pajama), but you no longer call your brother "Eo" and no longer tack "-doh" to the end of words (Daddy and I still say "monkey-doh" and "bumpy-doh" because we miss those words).
You are a lover of routine. Every morning, without fail, you request, "cereal with D milk in it." And then, dependably, "Me pick poon. Me pick monkey pill." An outsider might think we try to put water in your cereal or choose the spoon and vitamin ourselves. You have also some strong and irrational fears and enjoy reciting them. "Me no like big cock, tick-tock, tick-tock; noisy han dijer; noisy flush; sun coming in bline; showver head; leaning over water."
You've also become more interested in art projects this year. You've loved to stick on stickers for some time, but now you like to draw with markers and paint. You have just started to tell me what you've drawn, often snakes and tigers. And you've started to do more pretend play, especially with kitchenware. You bring me pretend coffee and love to mimic animals in gait or sound.
Your emerging fashion sense is utterly charming. Daddy gives you the most leeway in outfit choices, and the days he helps dress you, you're likely to wear wild combinations. But I love that you have become comfortable stating your preferences, and I am proud to see you confident enough to make your own choices. And, of course, I love that you love girly clothes like tutus, red mary janes, and flowered rain boots. When given a choice, you're likely to choose bright pink and vibrant patterns, especially combined with other prints. I dressed like this at your age, too, so I love to see a little of me coming through.
You have a sweet singing voice and carry a tune quite well, especially for your age. At the beginning of your fourth year, you were carrying tunes with syllables, but now you sing the actual words and sometimes even sing along with an adults. Old McDonald and I've Been Working on the Railroad (especially "fe-fi-fiddly-i-o") are favorites right now, but you've also loved Twinkle, Twinkle and Wheels on the Bus enough to get us good and sick of them. During the summer, You Are My Sunshine began to make you cry. It's still a puzzle to us. You would ask for me to sing it at bedtime and then begin to cry ("sad eye, Mama"). So we'd switch to a happier song. Yet, you would ask for it nightly. Now the list of sad-eye songs has expanded to include Rainbow Connection, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and I See the Moon, and you don't ask for them much, but when you insist on them, they always make you cry. You have a sentimental side, clearly.
You love your brother dearly, but you have a strong desire to control his behavior. You want to dictate what toys he is allowed to play with and are quick to tattle when he tries to escape a confined area. The minute he starts to speak up, you are likely to scream, "No, Leo!" which is not pleasant for anyone. Whereas you don't want him near you while you're playing, you seem drawn to him while he is nursing, leaning over him and saying, "Leo, Leo, Leo" while you push him with your fingertips. On the other hand, you have been incredibly sweet with him. One of the sweetest memories of the year is when you went through a phase of wanting to read to Leo (back when he couldn't move around so well). You would recite words and phrases from your favorite books to him as you turned the pages.
You seem to be more stubborn on a daily basis. You are willing to sit outside the house rather than come in and eat the bread and cheese I made for your lunch that you insisted you didn't like (but you really love). I know this is a natural developmental stage, and I am so pleased you know and are willing to state your preferences, but this can be very difficult. You want to make all the choices when it comes to your food, clothing, and activities, and we try to honor this within reason, but you still pitch a fit if you don't get your way in a seemingly minor decision.
You're still very much Daddy's girl and prefer him to me for almost every activity. I also get to deal far more often with your misbehaviors, and I'm the one who usually has to send you to time out. But, we've started to bond a bit more lately over baking projects and art projects (areas Daddy has little interest in). I'm looking forward to more mother-daughter time in the years to come.
It will be exciting to watch your future unfold. You exceeded all our expectations this year, and we can't wait to see what this next year will bring!