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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A whole hand, plus a finger

Our baby is turning 6 today.

I'm not sure what feels so entirely transformative about this birthday to me but it feels like a giant rite of passage.  And yet, as with most things, the changes that turning 6 signifies in my mind, the ones I can't help but feel I need to brace my heart against, have already happened.  Maya has become a six-year-old in the past 3-4 months in the way her mind thinks, the ways she expresses herself, the questions she poses, and the blips of self-control she exhibits.  She went into kindergarten having a good grasp of writing her letters and could write words if we told her each next letter.  Now at the dinner table she spells things aloud for us and she can read a little in just two months.  We went to a restaurant and she brought a pad of paper onto which she copied down all the words she saw (including "live music" and "Guinness" which was just too funny to even consider).

A difficult and finicky baby, and then a biting, willful toddler, Maya has grown into the most loving and generous child.  Every single day she says things like, "I have the best moms in the whole entire world!" and "If you count to 100 100 times, I love you way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way bigger than that!"  When we give thanks before a meal she always says variations on the same theme: "I'm thankful for my family."  "I'm thankful we are all together again."

Maya loves school with affinity never shared by her older sister.  She wakes up in the morning and says, "Do I go to school today?" and then gives a fist pump and a "YES!" when I tell her she does.  (Equally, because she is such an inherently happy child, she will also give that answer if I tell her it is the weekend and she gets to be home with us.) 

Maya's brain is an incredibly active place and as soon as she comes home from 6 1/2 hours of school, do you know what she wants to do?  Play school.  We have an easel set up in the kitchen an she spends hours at it practicing letters and numbers (and then using a pointer to identify each), painting, coloring or just pretending to be a teacher and dictating our family (not that her teacher is in any way a dictator, but Maya puts her own bossy flair to it).  She gives out awards and moves us up or down the animal behavior chart that Sandi made as a replica of the one at school.

This means if, for instance, I set a limit with her at supper (such as "Maya, don't put your feet on the table") she stares me down for a few seconds, slips out of her chair and silently moves my clothespin from the coveted owl down to the dreadful elephant.  It is a powerful and effective slap in the face.

We now have clothespins for each of us, plus Cinnamon the bunny (she gets moved to elephant OFTEN), Olivia our babysitter and Allison who comes over in the mornings before school.
Maya's brain is so active that the only time it is at rest is when she is asleep or takes a TV break.  She often will suggest outrageous projects or activities to do 5 minutes before we leave the house as though creativity waits for no one.  A few Sundays ago, she got up at 5:30 and before 7 A.M., while Sandi and Ella slept, we had read 3 Highlights magazines, done 1 science experiment and 1 craft project. 

This is why Maya needs two parents.

Maya, modeling the gloves she made out of tissues.  She sees possibility around every corner and behind every pedestrian household item.

Oh, how our baby has grown...


First run
Maya really, REALLY loves to get mail.  Everyday when we check the box, she says, "Oh! I hope I get mail today!"  When Ella was home sick with poison ivy, she made her a card with some jokes on it, sealed it in an envelope and left it in the mailbox with the rest of the mail for Maya.  Small gesture, big reaction.

Maya is learning about punctuation at school and I believe she has been waiting her whole life for the arrival of the exclamation point.  We read endless loops of Mo Willems books (no complaining from me) which heavily utilize the exclamation point.  Maya feels it is her duty to shout the exclamation for the entire neighborhood to hear and experience.  When you cover your ears in protection she shrugs and points to the exclamation point as if to say, "It's not my fault.  It's the punctuation."

One of our all-time favorite Mayaisms is, "I don't matter" by which she means "It doesn't matter."  We will miss this one when it is gone.

The other day we left for school in a bit of harried fashion. I needed to get Maya to school, Ella to Trish (again during the posion ivy debacle of 2013) and me to work.  After dropping Maya I had a panicked feeling as I remembered that I hadn't put her hearing aids in.  This is a recipe for disaster at school.   Stressed and knowing I wouldn't have time to run home and get them, I called the school.  They checked and she was wearing them.  Our responsible little girl had seen them on the counter and plucked them in her ears without even being asked.  I was so intensely proud of her it brought tears to my eyes.

There are so many other countless things to love about Maya.  The way she sits with her legs crossed like a lady while she does a totally child-like activity like coloring.  The way she has recently become scared of her own shadow and can't go "by my own" anywhere in the house without a companion.  (That one is honestly cute and often rather maddening.)  The fact that when I pick her up from school she runs out and jumps into my arms like we haven't seen each other in weeks and as she hugs me she tells me how much she missed me. That when we were loading wood with each and every armload she would shout: "LOOK HOW STRONG I AM!!"  And how at dinner the other night as we were discussing her birthday, she tapped her cheek and said, "Hmm...I need to figure out what to get Ella for her birthday." 

Maya is a bundle of firing neurons, a hum of excited energy that can barely be contained in her body.  She skips everywhere, sings or talks constantly and if those get boring she just makes random noise with her mouth.  She loves to entertain and will do anything for a laugh.  If she feels she is losing her kid audience and can feel their laughter ebbing, she slyly throws the word "poop" in any random string of words and catches kids like fish on a line.  Maya has twigy arms and legs that are deceptively strong and can do several pull-ups in gymnastics.  She remembers the lyrics to songs heard weeks before and will belt them out at odd, often inappropriate times.  She doesn't like candy or cake or really even ice cream and is sort of reverse picky in that she won't eat any kid food.  Her go-to foods are cereal, pasta, brown rice, cheese sticks, and fruits and veggies.  She has a giant pink pig named Eliza that she sleeps with and a security blanket called "Blue" that she still drags everywhere.  She recently started asking a lot of questions about death and wants to be reassured that we will live until we are 100.  Maya has more joy and exuberance in her little pinky than some people ever feel in their whole lives.

Maya has taught me how to be tireless, how to make anything fun, how to laugh with wild abandon and how to love unguarded. 

One of my all time favorite Maya pics

So there is really not much left to turning six except some balloons, dinner out and a family party this weekend.   Plus some last minute arm exercises so that when people ask her how old she was, she will no longer flash them the five fingers of one hand but will also need to lift that other arm for the additional finger needed to indicate that she is now SIX.

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