A Half-Dozen Healys

The Adventures of Amy, Jason, Seth, Evan, Nora, and Maya

Blog Masthead: A Half-Dozen Healys

Seth at Five and a Half: Reading, Playing, and Trying to Solve Life's Mysteries

by Amy

Dear Seth,

Just like with your brother, it's been about a year and a half since I last updated this blog about your development. I'll try to summarize how you've grown over this time period the best I can, but of course I'll leave things out. You know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. This is something we are always trying to get across to you, that we are proud of you no matter what. This is also something that has been especially important lately, because as the oldest of four, you have no choice but to grant us a lot of grace when it comes to making mistakes.

You love being a big brother, having a younger brother and two younger sisters, but you are the one who notices the most when we aren't the best at dividing our time up. Sometimes you are patient, but sometimes you aren't. That's okay - we understand. Sometimes we wish we could throw a mini-tantrum, too! But your sweet heart and compassion always persevere, and you let us try again another day to show you that you are still just as special to us as you were the day your were born. As I like to tell you, you were my first baby, the one who taught me how to be a mommy. You are the only one who will have memories of what is was like to be our only child, and I know you love hearing stories about those times, as much as you like making new memories with your siblings. We couldn't be prouder of you, and it's hard for us to believe that you are five-and-a-half (going on six), when wasn't it just yesterday that you were born, teaching us about sweet milk-drunk naps, little frogger tongues, and mid-nap "horsie-monkey" head adjustments?

Love, Mommy

When I last wrote, Seth had just started his second year of Tiger School. Last year was certainly a hard year for our family, which is why updating the blog fell by the wayside. With my extreme nausea-filled first trimester of pregnancy, our attempting to digest the news that we would be having not one but two(!) new babies, my decreased ability to physically care for Seth and Evan during my second and third trimesters of the twin pregnancy, Seth had a lot to adjust to. In the midst of all that, Seth had to come to terms with the terminal illness and death of his beloved and much missed Papa, as well as the unexpected death of his much loved Grandma Nancy (my step-mother) all within the same two weeks in March.

It speaks to Seth's strong character that he was able to weather all these challenges. It certainly was not easy. It was hard for Seth to accept that I couldn't run around with him and pick him up as I had been the previous summer. We were very clear with him to contrast the fact that my physical limitations were temporary, and that I would be able to play with him once again after the babies were born, as he was also trying to process what it meant that he would lose Papa. As Seth was older than Evan, he was able to understand better about spending time with me that didn't require as much physical activity. He would sit with me, read with me, tell me about his day. I could have him home alone with me in the house, as he would listen to me if I told him something was dangerous, as opposed to Evan at that particular time. He was still quick with a snuggle and a kiss and hug. We developed a new tradition of reading chapter books together, and we made our way through Ralph S. Mouse, Trumpet of the Swan, and Charlotte's Web.

Seth was excited about the prospect of having twin siblings, even though he couldn't possibly know how things would change when they were here. He was convinced that the babies would both be girls, and I don't know how he knew with such certainty. He accompanied us to two ultrasounds, once with Geema and once with Grams, and was always so sweet. He was patient through the extended time in the exam room, telling jokes to the babies in utero to get them to be in the right positions for the technicians. He laughed at the funny sound of the gel squirting onto my belly (likening it to a ketchup bottle), and wondering if the babies' experience floating around in their sacs was similar to that of being in space.

He was such a kind and caring grandson to Papa, visiting with us regularly and trying to make sense of it all. He drew Papa pictures and of course had suggestions for particular places to hang them in Papa's room so Papa would be able to see them the best. He regaled Papa with stories of how he wanted to build a working car out of a box and drive it all the way to Papa's house. The day he had his last visit with Papa, he brought a wooden boat my brother had made him, because Papa had bought Seth a few items made out of wood in the past. He made Papa laugh by telling him he wanted to sail to Hawaii in the boat. When he said good-bye to Papa that day, he did it with an understanding that we had hoped he would never have to possess as a four-year-old.

He hugged us as we cried telling him first about Grandma Nancy's death, and two weeks later about Papa's. We told him it was okay to be sad, and he told us the same. He helped us just as much as we helped him. He processed the news by explaining it to Evan, even though Evan was too young to understand any of it. As we approach the year mark of both deaths, Seth has moved forward with his grief. We can talk wistfully about fond memories, while still expressing sadness at the absences in our lives. We were amazed then, and continue to be amazed now, at Seth's ability for compassion, understanding, and empathy in the face of adversity. This is a skill that will serve him well in life.

Throughout his second year in Tiger School, he continued to grow and develop. He took great pride in his beginner understanding of reading and math concepts, and he felt so comfortable with all the routines of his classroom. We are so grateful to have had such a wonderful and supportive environment for him to attend daycare and pre-school. He continued to enjoy all the Tiger School concerts, and produced the video that is probably the closest we'll ever come to a "viral video."

He loved his friends from Tiger School, having known most of them ever since he was born. His relationship with Evan continued to develop as Evan got more verbal and was able to play more as an equal with Seth. He was patient (most times) as Jason took over much of the dinner, bath, bedtime routine with the boys as I got closer to my due date. Though it was hard for him, he seemed to understand when we would tell him that Daddy had to take care of the boys and I had to take care of the girls for now. He had fun when Jason would tickle him and Evan, and give them airplane rides.

He was an enthusiastic participant in his extra-curricular activities. When he participated in a little Fun for Fours class run by the town, he said "This is the most fun I ever had!" When I was able to come along to special events, he would really appreciate it. "What a lovely day that you came along to gymnastics." He still retained his sense of humor. When listening to a song where the singer repeated the refrain multiple times, he said "Okay, we get the point, stop saying that." He still had occasional times when he would just get so frustrated nothing helped but to give him some time to breathe. Once when he got frustrated after making a mistake using a non-erasable pen on a dot-to-dot, he said to my attempts to make him feel better, "Mommy, just leave me alone." And he was ever the enthusiastic participant in our family activities. Once when we got mixed up telling him about our weekend plans, he said, "Wherever we are going, I'm excited!"

He was very excited as his fifth birthday approached, birthdays and birthday parties having becoming a big thing in his circle. We decided to have his fifth birthday party a few weeks early (to accommodate my due date) at the Amelia Park Children's Museum, a favorite place of ours. He had such a good time. And our babies waited until the day after we had finished all of Seth's weeklong-birthday festivities to make an entrance into this world, so we still got to focus on Seth at his special time.

My mom had been convinced that the babies would come a bit early, but we hadn't really thought they would. At 37 weeks, we hadn't been organized enough to tell Seth that it was possible we would have to go to the hospital in the night. So, when he woke up on the morning of May 13 to Auntie Tanya telling him we had gone to the hospital to have the babies, he laughed and said "Really?" He loved his sisters from the moment he met them. He laughed with us when Evan called them "Norna and Myna" and "babies and other babies." He wanted to hold them and was gentle with them. He gave them kisses, just as he had given Baby Evan kisses several years before.

Those first six weeks of the twins' life, before we moved to our new house, Seth was finishing up his final year of Tiger School. He was definitely sad about this - he had loved the warm, protective environment and was not looking forward to giving it up. Between family and friends, we had enough coverage for Seth and Evan to get plenty of attention, even as we adjusted to life as a family of six. When we got ready to move, he was excited about the new adventure. The first couple nights in our new house, he wished he was back in the old house, but soon grew to love our new place.

Of course, it wasn't all perfectly smooth. Over the summer, when Liz was working for us to help me with the children, Seth really wanted time with me. As with Evan, we developed the alternating "special time" with Mommy, and Seth really loved this. We would go off and have adventures around campus, with Seth riding on his balance bike even in the heat of summer. One time we surprised Daddy in his office. We found the shady places around our new yard to play catch and chat. Jason gave the boys lots of attention and played with them outside and around campus.

The summer was full of family time and just enough activities. Some old stand-bys like gymnastics, arts and craft class, and swimming lessons (so close to swimming on his own, I think this summer will be it!), and some new activities like teeball, soccer, and a Lego class. Sometimes Seth is hesitant to try something new, but once he actually starts it, he takes full advantage and really enjoys it.

Seth is and has always been able to express his feelings very well, and he would tell us if something was on his mind. Seeing how much attention we would have to give to Evan and the babies, he would say he "wanted to back in Mommy's tummy," or that he "wanted to be Evan." He was pretty patient at first as Evan adjusted to sleeping in a bed, but when Evan would get out of his bed and go into Seth's, Seth would "sound the Octo-Alert (from one of his favorite shows - Octonauts) to tell us Evan was getting into his bed. He was happy when we took away Evan's nap and he started staying in his own bed.

He went on a grand adventure with Jason when they attended cousin Eben and Ruby's wedding in Maryland in July. Jason was a groomsman and Seth was the ringbearer, and they flew out on their own while I stayed behind with Geema and the rest of the kiddos. Always up for an adventure and always the life of the party on the dance floor, Seth had a blast. Seth is always out there showing off his dance moves, and we have attended several weddings in the last year and a half - Auntie Lissa and Max, Eben and Ruby, and cousin Tari and Tom.

Seth loves projects, and he always has a very specific idea in his head of how he wants things to look. At first, I think it's not possible and try to modify what he wants, but he always insists he can make his model. And 9 times out of 10, he can. Be it making a zip line out of bungee cords, a full set of train conductor clothes out of construction paper, or a 3-D house with Santa coming down the chimney, Seth figures out (and instructs us very specifically!) on how to make his vision come to life. He is very good at learning both in an auditory manner (has an excellent memory) and in a visual manner. He can assemble Legos on his own from the manual, and can figure out how to make different Rainbow Loom bracelet patterns from Youtube tutorials.

Sometimes he pushes the boundaries on his behavior. He still does not really lie to us, but instead will say "he forgot" or he "was just..." We've been successful with behavior charts and the newest version (earning popsicle sticks to put in a jar) where he can earn a reward. We just have to be better about following through on them, as the dinnertime/bathtime routine can go by in a blur around here. Evan has become obsessed lately about always going first at everything (going up the stairs, getting in the bath, getting out of the car), and though Seth tries to let Evan go first more often than not, he still can get very frustrated and want to go first himself. Who can blame him, really? He loves to be in a joke with us when Evan does something funny, often laughing with us at Evan's mischievous monkey grin.

As Seth was getting ready to start kindergarten this past fall, to our surprise he was not as excited as we thought he would be. He wasn't ready to leave the Suffield Academy crew, and he knew that I was going to be home with Evan and the babies. We went with him to his orientations and open houses, and talked about how it was okay to feel sad about the ending of something but excited about the beginning of something new at the same time. Though he wasn't in class with any of his SA friends, they would all ride the bus together, and he knew some of the students in his class from different activities around town.

We love Spaulding School, Seth's kindergarten-second grade primary school. It is very nurturing, and we were so happy that Seth got to benefit from the town's first year of full-day kindergarten. He had a great teacher in Mrs. DiRoberts, a veteran teacher who retired at the end of December. Luckily, he transitioned very easily to his new teacher, Mrs. Neuwirth, who also seems to be doing a great job. A lot of the first couple months of kindergarten for Seth was about learning how to navigate within the school. When to go to the bathroom, when to get a drink of water, how to have time to eat all his lunch. He was riding the bus and having all these new social interactions. We try to be deliberate in processing any social difficulties he has, and luckily he still tells us about his interactions, positive and negative.

This school year, instead of doing gymnastics, we've encouraged him to participate in the town-run kindergarten sports programs, and he has tried both soccer and basketball so far. Though hesitant at first, he has ended up having a lot of fun. We will try teeball in the spring, and then next year let Seth choose which sports he wants to pursue. As Seth gets older, with our four children, we will all have to be intentional in really choosing the activities that are important to him, in order to maintain a manageable schedule.

Perhaps the most exciting development so far this year has been that Seth has learned how to read! He had been making gradual progress, but it just kind of happened all at once one Saturday morning in the fall. I got out a Biscuit book, and all of a sudden, he was able to read most of the words to me! We've been amazed at how his reading and writing skills have continued to develop, both in terms of phonetics, sight words, and writing workshop. It is really exciting to see, and now we have to remember that we can't spell words in front of him anymore if we don't want him to understand us, because he can spell! It's fun that he can read the little notes we put in his lunch now. Yesterday, he even wrote his own note, pretending to be me.

Dear Seth,

We are so proud of the young man you are becoming. You are such a good brother to Evan, Nora, and Maya. You love to go in the "baby pit" with your sisters, and pride yourself on the fact that you are old enough to interact with them even more now with our supervision. They love you, and you always know how to make them laugh. We love that you are enjoying kindergarten. Please remember that while we want you to do your best, we never expect you to be perfect. We just want you to be happy, healthy, and strong.

If Evan gets hurt, you try to make him feel better. You single-handedly came up with all the games that we played at Evan's third birthday party, and you helped me make all the props for them. Pin the tail on Mickey, Hot Dog Dance competition, Find Mickey, Target Throw and Toodles Guessing Game. They were perfect for the kids and wouldn't have been possible without you. We took you to see Frozen last weekend, your first movie in the theater. Now you tell us you can sing Let It Go on the bus with the "McAllisters" (what you call the third-fifth graders who go to McAllister School). Though you loved the movie, you wondered why we couldn't skip though the scary parts like we do at home. However, now that you know how it ends, you want to see if again and again!

We are so pleased that you are enjoying your first year of Sunday School at our temple. You are very interested in G-d, and you have initiated many discussions with us, even wondering if humans were like puppets to G-d! The conversation could have been straight out of many Mommy and Daddy had in college! Keep on being inquisitive and full of wonder. Don't take things at face value just because that is what you are told - keep questioning, religion, science, nature - until you find an answer you are satisfied with.

We can't wait to see what the future holds, but we don't want anything to go by too fast. We are trying to savor the moment as it is happening, as opposed to always thinking about the next stage. You are good at this. We are looking forward to the rest of kindergarten this spring, and to helping you learn how to ride your pedal bike this summer. We are looking forward to another week-long vacation at the beach this summer with Chuck, Jenn, Katie, and Sam and Chris, Cathy, and Eleanor. You will be the only one of our four kiddos old enough to remember our last trip two summers ago, so you'll have to tell them how fun it's going to be, ok? And do you think you can help us a little on the beach with your brother and your two sisters, who will no doubt be running in three different directions? :)

Thank you for helping me fill out your birthday books, your kindergarten books, your question-a-day journals. Memory keeping is important to me and to our family, and I love to see the genuine interest you are taking in it now. Seeing you looking back at a book we have put together for you makes me happy.

You are an important part of our family, but you are also an individual. We will always be here for you, to advise, guide, and encourage you. When we went to Suffield on the Green this fall and you really wanted to walk across the rope swing set up by the Boy Scouts, at first I balked. Daddy told me it was safe, and that he would walk along next to you in addition to the other spotter. At first I was going to say no, but I know that my job as a mother is to make sure you are safe, but also to make sure you are able to try things you want to do. My fears should not become yours. I was so proud of you that day, how you listened to the instructions and walked across that rope bridge secure and confident. I hope you will find such success in all your future endeavors.

Love, Mommy

As always, this installment's Seth-isms:

  • "Before G-d or the presidents or any animals were alive"
  • "I love you more than G-d loves the world"
  • "It is really fun having matching babies at home"
  • "Talkie walkies" for walkie-talkies
  • "Mommy get me up" (in the mornings when I would be nursing the babies)
  • "You keep on telling me that, so I guess I'll keep on knowing it!"
  • Each morning when he leaves for school with Jason, he gives me a "hug and a kiss" through the window
  • Rapido caballo (a Spanish phrase from a Dora episode uttered over and over while galloping around the house like a horse)
  • Was awarded the Star Student one day in October at Spaulding
  • Was patient during a joint baking pumpkin bread venture with Evan in October
  • When helping me fix his easel, he came up with the saying "a job that's easy is easy, a job that's hard is hard, but we can do it as a two-person job!"
  • When first learning to read, he misread Hershey bar as a "He she bar"
  • Loves to make up songs, like "I love mommy and she loves me back"
  • Said to me, "Mommy when you start working again, can you be a teacher at spaulding?"
  • Once when I was volunteering in his classroom, I overheard him telling one of the teachers about some mementos in one of his scrapbooks
  • "I wish I could nurse so I could remember what it feels like"
  • "My hands are so tired from all the things I did since I was born"
  • During a recent snow day - "It's so nice to have a day just me and you"
  • "Maybe Mickey Mouse is G-d!"
  • "I want more babies!"- he and Evan got on a kick lately of asking for more babies! Jason and I were very clear in telling him our family is complete! :)