Our baby girl is now two years old!  After 7 years of always having a baby in the house, and 4+ years of always having two under three in the house, I hardly recognize my life anymore.  I thought those days of never using the bathroom by myself and never getting more than 3 hours of sleep at a time was a permanent condition, and now they’re gone and over.  Like birth, it’s such a precious time, it’s too bad that when we’re in it we’re exhausted and stretched to our limits.  It makes the memories all the sweeter, though!


Ellie is a delight to us all.  She is still small for her age (80cm, 11kg) but well able physically and verbally.  She uses sentences where she can, like “I don’t like it,” or “Not that one, the other one,” where more normal for her age would be to point or give a one-word answer.  Her diction is such that I believe folks this summer should be able to well understand her after a few hours of contact.  The cousins, of course, will catch on faster!


All we can guess is that Ellie’s advanced ability is due to a feedback loop of natural ability and interest paired with three older siblings who adore her.  She learns so much from them.  She jumps with two feet, climbs to the top of the bracchiation ladder, can do a somersault on her own, can set her place at the table, draw, paint, and cut, ride a scooter, put her undies on and off (mostly), lie in bed at night with the others and fall asleep (mostly), help patiently in the kitchen only touching what I tell her to (mostly), look for cars before crossing the street, and much more.


Her current loves are water and dresses.  She and Vivienne got matching dresses for her birthday and they love wearing them together.  The first thing Ellie asks for in the morning is to go in the kiddy pool.  Just a year ago she was deathly afraid of water – to the point of screaming her head off during baths.  Children grow so quickly.  We must remember to celebrate their successes and not focus on the next step – there will always be more to learn, but wow – what a lot they have learned already!


We’ve just started trying underwear and she has made a good start, but none of us have the energy to push it.  She likes going on the potty and wearing undies, though, so maybe we’ll have no kids in diapers in a few months. Crazy!


That last “Cute Things” report was in January, so here goes . . .


February 2017

“I doot” for I do it.


“I pray (babbling) amen.” During devotionals


While watching The Cat In The Hat on Grandma’s Treasure Chest she recognized the style as being similar to The Foot Book, which she had recently been reading, and said “Foot!”


Walks up stairs alone.


March (21 months)


“I don’t like it.”


“Morning Doseph.  No! I’m working.”  She could stop her work peeling garlic for me enough to say good morning but not enough to give a hug.  By the way, this was 5:45am . . . Ellie and Joseph are my early risers, often getting up before 6 and much of the time closer to 5am.  I’m finally getting used to it and learning how to use the time (and go to bed early).


“Rabbits are walking.” I wrote this down to show my surprise that she knows grammar enough to say “are” and not “is” or for that matter to put the “to be” verb in at all.


“I suh goo” I want a snuggle.


“Mommy, where are you?” – The call the kids are allowed to use in the house (they may not shout out requests to me, but must come find me.)  This means she was away from me long enough to not know where I was and able enough to climb up the stairs to come find me.


March 20th – her first haircut.


“tnk you.” Thank you.



Can jump with two feet and actually get some air.


I have a complicated history of music with my kids.  Joseph didn’t like to hear me play or sing when he was a baby or young child and I let it intimidate me.  We don’t hear classical music or hymns at our church, and my heart aches that for the first few years of their lives, my kids have had little quality music exposure (we didn’t have a workable sound system for a long time).  I’ve learned that all transitions are hard and good music sometimes takes some getting used to and to simply play the music I love and teach the kids how to keep quite respectfully or leave the room.  Resistance has dropped and almost vanished and I can even sometimes “catch” Joseph picking out parts of the Bach invention I’m practicing.  However, it was healing when I had classical radio on in the car and Ellie said, “I love it. Musik.”


Says her own name, “Ellie”.



Sings a version of the ABC song while on the potty, including “lmp.”


Gives I love you kisses.  She is very affectionate!


Took out three grissini and said “I have three!”  (I later observed that she did the same thing when she pulled out two.)



Says something like “porridge” to mean “orange,” but “orange juice” is normal.  (And now Stephan is teaching her to say orange juice in French – she likes word games.


Can put Brio train together.


Says, “baby suit” for bathing suit.


She loves the water and plays with floating, putting her face in the water, and walking in a squat so the water is higher on her body.  When I spin her around in the water she leans back with enjoyment.


We went to the woods for her birthday with homeschooling friends.  She spent loads of time in the shallow creek and also scooted across a big log that went across it, just like the bigger girls.


We have a night ritual of whispering “I love you” first in one ear and then the other over and over again.  First I whisper in her ears and then she whispers in my ears.  I’m eating up all the little cubby kid hugs and kisses that I can get.


I may have resented all I had to give up to care for kids, but I have gained much more than I have lost and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  He who loses his life shall find it.  Most days I fully enjoy motherhood and genuinely enjoy the company of my children.  I’ve finally slowed down enough for their slow and wondering ways to teach me about God’s beautiful creation and how backwards most of us adults view life.


It’s been a wonderful two years with you, Eleonora, and we look forward to many more adventures with you!

Posted by harp on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 11:26 am | Edit
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We have a lot going on and I can’t keep up the pace writing about what the kids are doing.  Here are the notes on our “Cute Things They Do” calendar.


When we told the kids that their Swiss grandparents were sick this was the response:

Joseph: I think they are seasick

Vivienne: What’s seasick?

Daniel: I don’t see sick!





Sledding!  We got more snow than I’ve ever seen and it stayed and kept snowing over the course of two weeks. We did a lot of sledding and snow play and Joseph is all over it.  For our “short lessons” we do any kind of “joy of movement” rather than playing in the gym necessarily.  One day Joseph exclaimed “Sledding could be the joy of movement!”


I made a new chart with clothes pins for keeping track of daily tasks.  It was several days in the making and Joseph wrote his name in the wrong spot so we had to redo it.  I’d pasted a paper over the spot but we hadn’t gotten to writing the names again but when I came down from quiet time Joseph had taken the chart down, written his name in the correct spot and started writing Daniel’s name.  I love those moments when the kids see work that needs to be done and do it!


Mommy: The older you get, the harder you have to work.

Joseph: The older we get, the more slavery we have


Lost his upper left front tooth





Vivienne counted down the days until her birthday.  She knew, for example, that one day it was 10 days until her birthday because the day before it was 11.


She planned her birthday with my support, but did most of the decisions (food, invitations, activities, etc.) and most of the work (except food prep on the day) on her own.  It was a several week project and it went really well.  We were both thrilled!  She had chocolate cake with white frosting and a mermaid-themed party, though we didn’t do all that much with the theme.  In fact, she wanted to change it to princesses but realized it was too late because she’d already sent the invitations (she drew mermaids on them).  “That’s okay. I already picked mermaids.”  Being in charge herself makes it less stressful and frustrating for us all!


Her upper left 6-year molar appeared.


Blew a bubble with bubble gum.


“I miss my birthday.  I will have to wait a long time – for a year – or even more . . .”


Vivienne has really matured and is quite a delight.  She is much more able to recover from overwhelming emotions.  She is tall and slender and loves to dance and pose and wear her new birthday tutu or other pretty outfits.  She takes care of most of her own personal needs (though not yet soaping up in the bath alone).  She is a willing helper for her siblings and quick to try to make peace.  She feels the need to pinch people, but it’s not as hard or as often . . .


Vivienne loves all things girly and beautiful, but is broad in her definition.  She loves Disney princesses but also African prints.  She enjoys the beauty in everything.  It’s hard to believe she is now 5, but of course most days she acts much older so it’s hard to believe she is only 5!


We love you, Vivienne!





Counts 100 chart with a little help twice in a row – his obsession with numbers reminds me of his brother.



Reaches the milk in the fridge without a stool


D loves running, at least in circles and small spaces.  His chubby face lights up with delight – I love it!





“I tsin tsin” for I want cinnamon sugar.


Reveled in the attention from Takata’s attention (friends from Japan).


Days “Dan-Dan” and Joseph (hard to capture how!).



At bedtime Ellie likes to sleep with her Christmas doll (from Grossvater and Grossmutti) and her stuffed dog.  Once her doll was missing and I can’t tell you have she did, but she communicated to me that it was in the attic.  It was!

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I’m behind, so I’ll just copy what we have written down.


Joseph 6 1/4


“I really do believe in Jesus.”


Skips dinner to practice blowing bubble gum.


Lost lower right tooth (2nd).



Can clean up kitchen after a meal (clear counter and wipe). {I forgot about this and haven’t asked him to do it since!}


We’ve been listening to The Story of the World in the car and in it they discussed monotheism und polytheism.  Later Joseph asked, “Are we monothesists?”



Daniel: Where are you going?

Joseph: I don’t know and I don’t wanna know. (disappears upstairs)

D: I know where he’s going.

Mommy: Where?

D: Somewhere else!



Joseph played the B-I-B-E-L song in church!  He learned to play the melody on his own and was willing to share it when we did the worship for church.  He did a wonderful job!  (BTW, it’s not the B-I-B-L-E song that English speakers know.)


Vivienne 4 3/4


Drew a giraffe.

Getting able at roller blades.



Does a self-chosen crazy long copy work!  I’m all for not overwhelming kids, but if they’re given freedom they can blow us adults away with their focus and determination!


Each person needs 2 slices of bread.  There are 5 people.  What’s 5x2?  Vivienne: “6! . . . 10!”  (It’s not clear what she understand of math, but she does have fun with it.)


When discussing which playground Vivienne wanted to go to she explained, “We go left, right, right, then straight over the street.”  Indeed, that was right.



Vivienne and Daniel play Memory together without help.  {This is fruit of our homeschool lessons where we play a game and practice loosing graciously as well as game set-up and take-down.}


Vivienne solves a word problem in her head.  How many nights until Elijah’s birthday party after Grossvater and Grossmutti visit?  G+G visit in 3 days and the party is in 5 days. Answer: 2.


Blows up a balloon on her own (with the help of a mouthpiece.)


Mostly knows her short vowel sounds.


No more notes on Vivienne! Mostly because I kept planning to write a reflection on her because she’s grown tall, more helpful, more able to calm down after something upsetting, and all-in-all a great delight.  Things are still up and down, but I know to expect that. ;)


Daniel 3 Years


“Coca cola is poo-poo.”

Stephan: What?

J: The German word for Coke (kohki) sounds like “kakki” which is a word for poo.


“Tuckle me” (meaning tuck me in at bedtime)


I asked Daniel how many pairs he had after our game of Memory.  He counted 5 pairs on his own.


Ellie had the firetruck and was making car sounds and running it along the ground.

Janet: Daniel taught Ellie how to play with cars!

Danielle: Yeah!

Ellie: Yeah!


Beat us in the game Nanu. He always knew what picture was under which colored cap.


Does his jacket zipper on his own.


Does the balance beam on his own (sideways).



Can print coloring pages by himself (I get to the webpage, he scrolls, selects, and prints himself).


Eleonora 15-17 months


Uses sign to ask or Daddy.


Shows me trash in her hand and says “dash” for trash then threw it in the trash can.



The big news is she weaned herself after we all had a stomach bug.  After seven years of always being pregnant or nursing or both it’s a weird feeling.


Says, “ha bitte” (have please)


Hears the neighbor’s dog bark and says “dets” – the dog’s name is Dexter.


Says “up,” and “Aaah dis” for “I want this.”


Says “geiss.” {This shows that parents understand through practice.  I no longer remember what this word means, but to us Ellie is a clear communicator.  I guess it still takes specified knowledge to understand her!}


“Aaah psh” for “I want to push (the stroller).”


“breybrest” for breakfast


Can walk along the balance beam with one foot in front of the other while holding onto our fingers.



Says “Saah Mama” for “sorry Mama.”  She knows the whole drill when she disobeys because of watching the older kids.  Quite amazing to discipline a not-yet 1 ½ year-old this way, but she shows she can do it so I know I can insist on her apologizing before going on with her play.


“soht” for sock


“Aah pu” for apple, pointing to a picture she had not seen before.


Makes up a sign for “ketchup” at the table.  She squeezes her hand together like she’s smooshing silly putter and makes a great squeeze-splat sound – just like ketchup.


“Aah sala” for “I want you to read the book to me.”  Read is “läse” in Swiss German, she just switched the syllables.


She says so much more than this – it’s amazing!

She also can climb the brachiation ladder right up to the ceiling and back!

Posted by harp on Monday, December 12, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Edit
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Ellie is a super cute charmer, but we try not to let her get away with too much.  She’s walking almost exclusively and just got her first pair of “real” shoes (until now she’s had leather slippers for maximum flexibility).


She likes to draw on the floor or table and wipe it up.  It’s good that I’ve learned not to yell about such things, but not so good that it’s simply a game . . . no matter how much one learns as a parent kids always challenge you further!


She doesn’t use the potty so much anymore, but I’m just taking it as it comes.


She can eat quite well on her own, drinking from a normal short glass and using a fork to stab food, though fingers are still preferred.  It amazes me what kids can learn given the chance and calm expectations.  Food is a great way to give a kid a multi-sensory craft without having to do anything extra other than cook what you always do for the family.  Yes, it’s a mess to clean up as they learn, but clean-up is part of any multi-sensory craft!


From our notes:



Vivienne accidentally trips Ellie.  Ellie was very angry and made it known by crying and pointing her finger at Vivienne.  Vivienne apologized and Ellie quickly forgave her, doing a simplified version of our forgiveness ritual: stroking her sister gently and hugging.



Ellie starts to communicate in two-word pairs, doing things as pointing down the stairs then pointing to herself to indicate that she wants to go out with us, too.  I do my best to respect these calm communication attempts in hopes that we reinforce the power of using calm words as opposed to throwing a temper tantrum.


Her signing vocabulary is probably the largest of any of our kids but she’s using speech, too.  She says “I selber” when she wants to do something herself (selber means (my)self  in German).


Says something that clearly means and sounds like “cows” while pointing to them.

Posted by harp on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Edit
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Daniel is growing taller and thinning out.  He’s nearly always dry at night, but struggles during the day . . . and he had the most EC . . .


He’s a full participant in the creative play of his older siblings and doesn’t need me much when things are happening, though he’s a wonderful cuddler especially in the morning or when he’s hurt.


He enjoys being around for our “lessons” but chooses to play quietly rather than participate most of the time, with the one exception being copy work.  We all love copy work.  Each person sits and does work at his own level and it’s interesting and useful to us all.  It has a boring title, but the flexible framework it provides is priceless.



Looked at the clock and said “It’s three o’clock” and he was right!  (It turns out that he was lucky that time.)


Me: What’s your name?

Daniel: Daniel protoceretops


Said our memory verse from memory (Ephesians 6:1 Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.)


We’ve started 5 minutes of one-on-one time for each of the kids with each parent at bedtimes and everyone enjoys it, though it’s good we call it special time and not 1-on-1 time because we’re rarely uninterrupted.  Daniel likes to ask “What’s outside?” then look out the window with me and name things.  Then we fall back into the bed and he asks “What’s outside?”


Can spin a top.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Edit
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Joseph: Hey!

Janet: Hay is for horses.

Joseph: I said “hey” with an ‘e’ not with an ‘a.’



6 year molar (bottom right)

Backward jump rope with a piece of hose (extra piece cut off from our hose)

6 year molar upper right

2 loose teeth! (July 11)

Ties shoes on own


“I don’t want to drop trash. Dexter will choke.  No one in Switzerland should be like the Gambians.” (Joseph is looking over my shoulder as I type.  He saw I had written “dump” and said “That’s a type-o.  I said ‘drop’ not ‘dump.’  Sure enough, that’s what the note says . . . this was from over a month ago!)


“People might be therapods.”


“They have two legs and two hands.”


Janet to Stephan: What’s “kreidezeit” in English?

Joseph: cretaceous period!



“Does that embrass you?”


Joseph discovered The Unschoolers Handbook book that was in my room and read it when I didn’t know.  I found out because he said something about it’s great to homeschool because he can fix his mistakes and redo his work rather than just getting it wrong.


August 8th he lost his first tooth! Lower left


Inspired by a friend, we’ve been using the Yousician app for learning piano.  Joseph was regular with it (daily) until he started to teach himself to read real notation (around August 9th) and discovered the “lessons” function of our keyboard.  He taught himself the right hand of amazing grace and can read simples pieces out of our Faber and Faber piano method for kids.

Nothing replaces a human teacher, but sometimes the right technology can give the right start!  I’m excited to share music with him!


Joseph is now in homeschool 1st grade.  We started doing some official “lessons” together with all the kids and he’s really taken to it.  Since he was 1 ½ and teaching himself the alphabet and how to write it I learned not to direct his learning because he had his own strong direction and shut down when I interfered.  I pegged him as “does not like adult-led teaching” and there he remained (I had plenty of additional evidence, too).  Whether I’ve learned to change my style or he’s grown or something else, one thing is clear: he no longer fits in that box and it is therefore very dangerous to put a person in a box – they might just change!  He enjoys the short inputs and the guidance I’m giving – and he still has lots of time to direct his own learning.


His current passion is dinosaurs.


It’s a pleasure to be Joseph’s mother and teacher!

Posted by harp on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 6:40 am | Edit
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From our notes:


After hearing thunder outside Vivienne asked “Is that a dinosaur?”  You can tell what the kids are into these days . . .



She wrote her full name (Vivienne Linda Stücklin).  She writes her first name on a regular basis at home and at Sunday school.


In the Hello Kitty activity book she got from Grandma and Joy, Vivienne enjoys doing the paint-by-numbers.  After a few of them over the course of a few days she was able to read part of the instructions herself (“green” and “blue”).


She read the “LEO” sign on the road, but we think that was just remembering.


Vivienne is enthusiastic when we do our school lessons and is happy to trace letters, draw, sing, and she’s become a real monkey in our home “gym.”  She likes to hang by one arm and twist around – she does look like a monkey!


Vivienne loves doing things with me and often chooses to help me with work rather than play, though she is also growing more able at playing on her own.  She much prefers to play with her siblings or neighbors, though.

Posted by harp on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 6:41 am | Edit
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Ellie has grown so much!  She now chooses walking as a mode of transportation more often than not.  She uses many signs throughout the day including toilet, eat, water, please, milk, thank you, cheese, and want.  She is a communicator.  It is amazing to watch as she is by far the earliest and best communicator (as we can remember).


From our notes:


Ellie says “baba” for Bappe (Stephan).

Signs “water” and “more”


She stopped using the potty for a while, but now that she knows the sign for “toilet” she’s more willing to try but in any case she is aware of when she goes in her diaper because she’ll stop and use the sign.



Daniel spilled and Ellie brought us a rag to help clean it up without being asked.  I said “thanks” and she signed “thanks” back with a big smile.


She started choosing to walk some.


We have a ritual of apology and forgiveness where the kids give a hug when they say “I forgive you.”  I had asked Daniel to apologize for hurting Ellie and she gave him an “I forgive you” hug.  How do I know it?  I don’t know – she’s just a clear communicator!


At 13 months and not comfortable walking, she climbed up the bracciation ladder confidently and quickly.  She went high enough to hit her head on the cross ladder and then came down on her own.  I was nervous, and when it was over we were all proud!  (Of course she chose to do this when we were trying to get to bed – the kids always know when to pull out their greatest feats of physical and intellectual growth.)


I placed a pizza baking sheet near her and she said something that clearly sounded like “don’t touch.”  Her signs are often accompanied by vocalizations (tzs for please, for example).


She drew on the gym mat and I gave her a cloth and she wiped it up.


The best signs she knows are “yes” and “no” which she just does with a nod or a shake.  It is a wonderful blessing to have a 14 month-old who can clearly express “yes” and “no.”


She signed “father” and said “dada.”


Once she started crawling up the stairs thought we were all in the living room.  I asked if she wanted to go to bed. She shook her head “no.”  I asked if she needed to pee and she nodded “yes.”  I took her to the pot and she peed!  This was the beginning of her reawakening of interest in using the bathroom.


In a word, she’s a charmer and I’m enjoying each stage so much more than I ever was able to before (by choice and experience).  I write that so when I look back later I can assure myself that I DID enjoy my kids when they were little!

Posted by harp on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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Daniel is three!  It’s hard to believe he’s only three.  He’s been talking for so long and so well and plays with his older siblings in much the same ways they do.  Sure, he drags his feet when it comes time to use the bathroom or put on his shoes, but he’s capable, just likes to take his time . . .


We had family over for his birthday and enjoyed warm sunny weather and play outdoors and in.  He didn’t talk as much about his birthday coming up as Vivienne did, but he did keep saying “When I am three, I’m three.”  That’s for sure!


From our notes:



He can climb in and out of the play pen (just for fun – Ellie sleeps there).


He is more of a deliberate speaker, but will still substitute English if he doesn’t know the German.  For example, “Ich bin share-a das for Ellie.”


Some German grammar spills over to English for a while before getting corrected.  “I’ll put it there in.”



He wrote his name!  I wrote in all caps and he copied.  So fun!


Once Ellie fell and nobody saw it but Daniel.  She was bleeding from the mouth and we asked him what happened.  He was able, after a few attempts, to describe and show us what happened.  That was quite impressive for a not-yet-three-year-old!


Speaking of deliberate speech, I had told Daniel that on his third birthday the potty would disappear and he would use the toilet because three-year-olds don’t need potties.  The next day he said “When I am three years old the potty will . . . disatape . . . disappear!”


He often thinks before he talks, which makes it very easy to interrupt him because nobody knows he’s trying to say something.  We are more aware of this, however, and that helps.  It was quite frustrating for a while to have him suddenly burst out in frustration saying “I’m talking!!” when he had been completely silent!


Daniel loves jumping on our trampoline (indoor, but fairly large and with bungie cords not springs) and running after balls.


He plays very well with Ellie and she loves playing with him.  He is still sometimes too rough with her, but not very often, and will apologize right away if he’s hurt her.  He was one of the first people Ellie would walk to.


Daniel has started drawing people and making pictures to give to others.  He currently saves all of his money (except for some occasional very generous gifts to God) and has over 10 Francs in his savings.


Joseph says he gave Daniel a gorgosaurus for his birthday.


Daniel is quite social and likes people with people, and also hanging out with the grown-ups when they talk.


He is quite deliberate (i.e. slow) in eating, dressing, and all manner of things that adults would rather he be quicker at, but his laid-back nature is a good thing when it comes to sibling difficulties.  He can still get quite upset, and he can sometimes use his calm to intentionally push his siblings buttons, but for the most part he is willing to play “peaceably.”


Daniel got a tricycle for his birthday because we realized that thought he can balance just fine on his pedalless bike, he doesn’t know how to pedal.


We are so happy you are part of our family, Daniel!  We love you!

Posted by harp on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 10:35 am | Edit
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Ugh, I have NO notes on Vivienne!  She continues to struggle to grow in staying calm and in control, but is wonderfully generous and thoughtful when she is “herself.”  She enjoying drawing, painting, dancing, and playing with others.


She loves sitting next to Ellie at meals so she can feed and take care of her.


For project time she often wants to bake, and she always wants to do things with me.


She’s letting her hair grow out (I think that means no more cutting her own hair – phew!) and is patient enough to let me put it in ponytails or I even braided her hair once.  Wow, we have a little girl!

Posted by harp on Friday, July 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Edit
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So none of my children managed to walk before 13 months, not that it matters, I’m just sayin’ . . . she will take a few steps every few days but she is in no hurry.  I think it’s because she’s afraid of some overenthusiastic sibling pushing her over . . .


All of my notes for this month have to do with her mouth.  She got her last incisor (lower left) and two upper molars this month.


Ellie says “ciao ciao” and “good night” quite clearly in context.


That’s the end of my notes, but in general she is quite communicative.  She’s started signing “please” and “finished” at meals and I really have to get my act together or none of my kids will have learned baby sign despite having minored in sign language in college.  I am working through my guilt of not having a second chance to give at least one of my babies all the opportunities I imagined I would before actually becoming a parent . . .


The biggest change this month is that we night-weaned Ellie (using this helpful article as a starting point, for those who’ve asked me).  She was ready for it, hardly complaining at all (a few 10 minutes cry sessions was it).  She never want to go to bed or back to bed, but if I calmly show her it isn’t time to get up and nurse she cries less than a minute before falling asleep again.  I am beside myself with excitement having the bed to myself for the time being.  (Stephan is still sleeping with the older kids . . .)  I have more energy for the kids when they sleep at night, so we’re all enjoying the changes.  Still, it’s weird to think that the baby stage is nearly over – it was SO intense it felt like it was a permanent sentence!


But this is about Ellie, not me. ;)  She is no longer deathly afraid of the water – she even walked through the shallow pool holding my hands.  She loves playing at the sink while I cook.


She’s still a happy and charming little girl.

Posted by harp on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Edit
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This is Daniel’s last month of being a two-year-old.  I love two-year-olds!  Aside from the toilet needs (he’s actually mostly dry at night but is too busy playing during the day to always make it on time), it’s such a delightful age of discovery and growing ability.  He uses the workspace tools alongside the others and mostly knows not to draw or cut furniture and clothing . . .


He is quite able in communication, using full sentences in German and English (no High German yet).  He is usually easy to understand despite using “t” for “k” and some other consonant replacements.  It makes “trying” and “crying” sound the same, but context is usually enough.  He speaks deliberately, which is more like Joseph at that age than Vivienne, our prattler.


What is super sweet is how much he and Ellie get along.  When Ellie wakes up she can’t wait to wake up her “dada” and Daniel responds well to her climbing on him as a wake-up.  They smile and coo and laugh and it’s the sweetest picture in the world.  Often Daniel claims Ellie is saying something that we haven’t noticed, like “Ellie said thanks.”


Whenever the weather has been warm enough Daniel likes to splash in the kiddie pool with Vivienne.


He’s starting to lose his afternoon nap, or I don’t have the patience to make him do it.  I’ve started telling the older three they can go where they please during “independent time” but they have to stay quiet, and I retreat to my bedroom for a little rest and down time.  It works fairly well and at least I get some rest before they need me again.  One of Daniel’s favorite things to do in this time is play Mommy and kid with Vivienne in the attic.  Often Daniel is the mommy.


He likes running around, wresting, kicking and throwing balls, and playing with cars.


Argh, again my notes are pathetic.



He calls his bathing suit a “babing soup.”



He watches and learns from everything around him.  Joseph has being learning about American money on ABCya.com games and later when Joseph said he wanted to earn a 20 Franc bill he looked at me seriously and said “I want 10 Francs and a dime.”


He is irresistibly cute with his cubby red cheeks and comic manner.  He has a slight tendency toward being spoiled, but he’s much better than he was during Grandma and Dad-o’s visit because we are more aware of how he can charm everyone and get away with stuff.  The challenges of parenting never go away, do they?

Posted by harp on Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Edit
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Wow.  The baby years are so intense.  Now my youngest is over one and I’m not pregnant.  It’s like I’m coming up for air for the first time in six years and I can’t believe how much my family has grown – including Stephan and me!  What an intense school life is.  How sweet the rewards of long and unrewarding hours of comforting babies, disciplining toddlers, loving the kid behind the temper tantrum, and patiently letting them “help” in the kitchen!


Joseph is an able, happy, curious, helpful boy and we are so thankful that we get to cherish life with him!  His academic abilities are still advancing at an unusual rate, thanks in large part to online resources that he can navigate himself since he can read.  The world is so different from when I homeschooled.  I am so excited to experience homeschooling in a whole new way.


Joseph has grown tremendously this year in his social skills.  He is still outgoing, but more sophisticated in his “bids” – ways of engaging strangers and friends.  He can entertain long hours by himself still, but always enjoys the time he gets to spend with neighborhood kids, folks at church, and visitors.


Joseph wanted to enter 1st grade on his birthday, and I told him he couldn’t do that if he were going to regular school, but in homeschool kindergarten he could decide to be done with kindergarten and start first grade, so I guess our first homeschool year is finished (though officially we have one more week.)  He was happy and accepting that he was in homeschool kindergarten and not at a school like all the other kids he knows (I’m working on getting together more often with other homeschoolers – but they aren’t exactly close!).  This was a great relief as he was set on going to “Gersag school” – though of course, if you do choose public school you don’t get that sort of choice and neither where we lived before no where we are now would he have been sent to Gersag.


Enough technical stuff.  Joseph had a great birthday, enjoying his treasure hunt to his LEGO fire boat and spending the rest of the day putting it together in the new (old) large table in the attic.  We had Graham Gem muffins as cake and Stephan took the day off so we could all be together as a family – Joseph’s request.


Most of my notes on Joseph go into the homeschool report, but there are a few from the “Cute Things” list.



Joseph had mono and had a hard time resting enough to recover, but did finally get over it.


“Gave ball back to ellie” – a note Joseph wrote, which goes with the note he wrote in Ellie’s column: “gave Joseph ball”


Wrote an email in Swiss German to Bappe.  We’ve never taught him how to write Swiss German.  I’m not even sure if he’s seen it, but he did a pretty good job trying phonetically.



Brachiates across the ladder with one hand per rung.


Stumbles onto Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Asks, “What is a triolgy?”

Stephan: “A trilogy is three books that belong together.”

Joseph: “But it can be four!”

Stephan: “The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a joke trilogy.”

Joseph: “Why is that funny?”


While he still doesn’t get plenty of jokes, he’s starting to appreciate them – again a sign of social growth!


Joseph still enjoys origami, Legos, biking, reading, things that are fast, cooking, DuoLingo (language learning), ABCya.com games, math drill programs (Big Brainz, Xtra Math), and recently again Khan Academy and much more.  Perhaps his favorite thing to do is help Daddy with projects – especially ones involving wood.


Joseph rarely is out of control and when he’s upset he can calm down.  He doesn’t feel things as intensely as Vivienne, but can still be quite disappointed.  He is good at respectful negotiation, and most of the time has a good attitude.  He can ask at any time to earn media time, and more often than not he is willing and able to do the task I set for him, like taking down the recycling to sort or cleaning up his workspace or a room.


My days with Joseph are like having a little adult around.  He can entertain himself, help others, and communicate respectfully and well.  Of course he has much to learn in terms of competencies and social skills, but he is well on the right path and I enjoy his company very much.  Sometimes I feel bad that I have to focus so much attention and energy on the others that I don’t have much quality time with him.  He’s left to his own devices a lot, but I am sure that is also good for him.  I hope to be more intentional about time with him this year so we can enjoy each other more!


Joseph: When I am six, may I get up at 5am?

Janet: Yes, you may.

Joseph:  When I am seven, I want to get up at 4:30am.

Janet: Do you think the older you are the earlier you get up?

Joseph: Yes.


Joseph has always been an early riser but I guess my model of early rising is making an impression (though I only get up around 5:15).


Maybe we’ll have more quality time in the mornings!  Or maybe I’ll let him binge on media time before breakfast.  If he learns that getting up early means getting in the things that are important to him, then maybe that’s not a bad lesson.  What do you think?


We love you, Joseph!  We look forward to watching you grow in the coming year!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Edit
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Vivienne started doing simple math!!!  This is terribly exciting for me as I feel I’ve neglected her education with all the fuss over Joseph’s early abilities and trying to get permission to homeschool.  She’s managed to pick up a good intuition, and though she is not confident in her abilities (who could avoid slipping into the fixed mindset of “my brother is the one who can read and do math – not me”?) she solved several simple problems with either fingers or unit cubes (addition and subtraction less than 10).  She did the problems in order to complete a paint-by-numbers sheet.


She is learning that she can learn and that’s the best lesson I can teach!


Other evidence:

“I’m learning to be a mommy,” as she munched some salad, “because mommies like salad.”


Vivienne has started to be able to play in the attic by herself during quiet time.  More than fifty percent of the time it is still a struggle, but she doesn’t really need the sleep anymore and she is starting to figure out how to use the time on her own.  She’s only lasted longer than hour once, though.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Edit
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Ellie is a year old already.  She still feels so tiny!  We celebrated by taking all day to put together her gift: a WaterPlay system of canals and locks.  Joseph did most of the assembly on his own.


In the evening Stephan’s folks and his sister and the cousins came for playtime and food.  Chocolate cupcake crumbs were everywhere and everyone had a great time.


Simple.  The joy of family.  Collapse into bed!  It was a good day for Ellie.


We love you, Ellie!  You are bright like your name and spread sunshine over our days!  You always wave to your father as he rides to work and insist on watching him from the doorstop as he bikes away.  You reach out for hugs when your siblings wake up in the mornings, and you rest your head on your mommy or daddy’s shoulder when you need a little rest and love.  We’re so thankful for you!



Ellie can go up and down the stairs easily (she purposefully turns around to go down backwards).



Joseph wrote, “put away dice,” which means she put dice in the square hole I put in the lid of a yogurt container – great entertainment!


Daniel is the only one with a name (besides “mama”) and she calls him “da da.”  It is so precious to see her reach out to him when he gets up in the morning or is finished with a nap.  She adores him!


“eh eh” means no, but it also means yes if she doesn’t shake her head or if she claps her hands.  Hand clapping can also mean she wants to use the potty.


She sometimes joins us in hand-holding for mealtime prayers.


She ways goodbye and says “tsch” and use it once to indicate that she wanted to upstairs and take a nap.


She started walking while holding someone’s hands and loves the activity whenever someone is willing to indulge her.


Her 2nd lower right incisor arrived.


June 14th she started experimenting with standing without holding on to anything.  Look ma! No hands!  And she is so proud of herself.


She has a conscious, or the desire to please.  If I walk in the room and she has something she thinks she’s not supposed to have she startles then offers whatever it was to me with a smile.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Edit
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