Someone turned four on the 26th. Her dad said that her at-home party, at-school party, and birthday breakfast were topped off when an entire planeful of people sang her happy birthday. Which I'm sure she just hated. These poor third children, they can be so neglected.
Here is Mali the birthday girl on her for-real natal day, all dressed up to go visit Seymour's parents for Thanksgiving:
So let me tell you about this girl, about what she's like right now. And as this will be an ooky and sentimental and everything-about-"mommy-blogging"-that-give-me-the-hives post, you should feel free to go elsewhere.
I am not sure where this entertaining little gremlin came from. I do know that she is part sweet and friendly Seymour, part my outgoing and charismatic mom, with a bit of my deviltry mixed in -- which is good because entirely well-mannered children make me yawn. I tell people that she is my bonus, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. She is an absolute delight.
She seems to have a spotlight on her everywhere she goes, and makes friends with everyone she meets -- whether they had intended to meet her or not. She is the Empress of our local grocery store, where half the staff knows and loves and comes over to talk with her.
Because of all the positive reactions she gets all day long, she sometimes thinks a bit too much of herself. When we visited the new Cal Academy, and the docent introducing a movie told us all to have a good time, Mali shouted out, "We will!" The entire audience cracked up, so she said it a few more times and didn't understand why everyone wasn't laughing with her again.
Occasionally, she can be a showstopper. Literally. When she visited the Sesame Street Lounge at BlogHer San Francisco back in July, she was excited to meet the real Grover and Abby Cadabby, and play and talk with them. Then Abby Cadabby asked Mali what her favorite song was, and our girl belted out "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in its entirety. Her performance made Abby's puppeteer -- someone who should be impervious to kiddling cuteness -- cry. The attending Sesame Street staffers were agog as well, but then recovered and handed me business cards, saying, "We need to see her in New York!" I didn't get Mali's performance on video because I was too stunned and amused, and didn't even write about the staffers' reaction, because it was all so surreal. That was *my* kid? Who taught her how to do that? Where did she get all that confidence?
She's been doing basic reading for a while. I came to pick her up early from school a couple of months ago, and she was sitting with one of her teachers reading a book full of phrases like "Bob sat on a mat." That same week Seymour and I were checking out his website, and Mali leaned over our shoulders and read, "Quest!" I can't trick her into watching what I want on TiVo because she will say, "No, Mommy, Kim Possible is RIGHT THERE." She had a lot of fun, pre-Election, reading peoples' yard signs as drove down the street, and loved say things like, "Yes on Prop 8! Hurray!" purely because she knew her statement would infuriate Iz.
She wants to do everything that big sister does, which is what little siblings this age do, or so I've heard. When Iz got a haircut and Mali didn't, Mali came home and started to give herself a haircut. Thankfully she only took off one front lock before I found her:
Unlike her practical and analytical sister, she actually plays and makes up stories and all that. She gives her stuffed animals names, interacts with them as though they are real, and makes them play out imaginary scenarios. I had only hearsay beforehand knowledge of this kind of play, as Iz and Leelo are creative in different ways. Iz's and Leelo's long-neglected stuffed animals and dolls must be thrilled to finally get off those shelves.
She figured out how to sing along in harmony. I didn't teach her to do that, and in fact have been trying to teach Iz to do so for years. She dances and rocks out whenever she hears a good beat. Unabashedly. One of these days I might even let her join some kind of music or dance or indeed any kind of class, like the ones Iz used to go to at her age.
She is sweet and squishy and empathetic. Even though Leelo still terrorizes her every chance he gets, she tries to offer him treats, tries to share her french fries, donuts, toys, or other things she knows he likes. I hope we can help Leelo control his behavior before she stops doing this altogether, before the "I don't LIKE my brother!" howls take over completely.
I spent several months being worried that she never really drew, that her peers were drawing trees and houses while she only scribbled big colorful jagged-edged clouds. To the point where I went in and talked with her pediatrician, who assured me that she wouldn't expect Mali to draw more than a circle (which she could do, if pressed). That same day, following the pediatrician's visit, Mali came home and drew a bunch of "Shylers" (i.e. dolls) with Seymour. Who laughed at me a lot. It's now a few weeks later, and she is drawing all the time. (I'll have to capture some of her flower or ghost creations and post them here.)
I am starting to realize that Mali is the kind of kid who doesn't do things like potty training or drawing before she's ready, but who -- once it's time -- is *really* ready.
Watching her development, watching how different it is from her siblings', makes me appreciate how some kids are closed oysters -- we parents have to be patient, and wait for them to reveal their gifts. Iz has a same-aged friend whose development had a few hiccups, but who now plays piano beautifully, is an amazing artist, and scores self-made stop-motion Lego animated movies. Watching that child's development, and seeing Mali develop faster than Iz in some ways but more slowly than her in others gives me perspective, and faith, that Leelo still has a lot he's waiting to share with us.