This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



September 2013

Alex is FOUR!

As of the time this posts, at 15:54 UTC (8:54 AM Pacific, 11:54 AM Eastern), Alex will be exactly 4 years old when you take into account the fractional length of a year, leap days, and all of that exciting stuff.

So four. Big year!

First of all, if you haven’t hit play on the video above yet, please do. Ever since he was tiny, I’ve “interviewed” Alex right before big milestones. Although he came close when he was three, this is the first time the conversation is kinda actually interview-like. So hear about what turning four is like, and what is going on in his life, straight from Alex himself. :-)

After that, read on for my own notes about changes since the last update when he turned three and a half. This is of course mostly for myself and close family. I don’t expect anybody else to actually read this. :-)

  • Alex does NOT want to turn four or have another birthday. For the last several weeks when we have talked about his birthday coming, he has actually been a bit upset and apprehensive. He mentioned this in the video above, but he very much would like to stay little. He doesn’t want to get big. He likes being little and is worried about turning four. We try to tell him about the good parts of getting bigger, but he does not believe us. And frankly, there is something to be said for being three. I can understand his concern. I wouldn’t mind being 41 a bit longer myself. (And probably wouldn’t mind getting to be three for a bit again either…)
  • Although he’d seen it and watched it a bit going back to when he was really little, over the past few months Alex has gotten really excited about Portal and Portal 2. At first, it was all about watching me or Amy play, and he would ask us to play frequently, and want to watch us for hours. Then slowly, he started taking the controls for himself. At this point he can finish the first few levels of both games by himself, and play significant chunks of later sections as well, only getting stymied by puzzles where the solution involves a decent number of steps that have to be done sequentially, or ones where solving the level requires not just figuring out where things go, but also exactly timing your actions. Even then, I’m pretty sure he knows what needs to happen, he just doesn’t have quite the coordination yet to pull it off. ON some levels, he has clearly memorized what he has seen me or Amy do. On other though, it is clear he is experimenting and figuring it out. He has tried to teach Mommy and Grandma Ruth how to play Portal as well, with limited success.
  • Alex is doing simple math, of the single digit addition and subtraction types. This is both in spontaneous fashion… “This toy needs six batteries, I can only find four.” “Don’t worry Daddy, I will find you two more!” and in more written out ways like playing iPad games that actually ask “6-4=?” and supplying the right answer. Counting he still usually gets a bit muddled in the teens, but is very very close. And I think he understands once things get more regular again above 20. And he proficiently and correctly uses zero as well.
  • Alex has memorized so many words, he sometimes can make you think he is reading, but mostly it is knowing and remembering what things say. He is however starting to (with prompting) sound out and figure out some shorter words. He is clearly interested in the process, regularly asking other family members to read not only books, but signs and other things in the environment. And in computer word games, he is successfully completing some words (when presented with a missing letter) and connecting rhyming words and such though. He makes more mistakes and is more frustrated than with the math games though, so he plays the word ones less often. He also understands texting, having asked his mom on a few occasions to text me things he is saying to get a message to me. He can’t spell much more than his name at the moment, but he clearly understands the concept of writing conveying messages.
  • He reads maps! He mentions in the video above several games. One that became on of his favorites over the last six months was Trainz Driver. This is a train driving game (NOT aimed for kids his age). He loved it and spent hours and hours and hours on it, learning every in and out of the game that didn’t require reading. One of the key features of the game is that it has a “map view” of the worlds the drains drive in. Alex very quickly became proficient in flipping back and forth between the map view and the various other views to orient himself, analyze the path the tracks took, upcoming junctions that had to be switched, etc. But he also generalize this almost immediately, pointing out the “map view” at the mall or in other places and correctly orienting himself using those tools. (Not to mention figuring out that with Google Earth or Apple’s Maps program or the equivalent, he could see the map of where his house was, and zoom in and out and figure out where things were.)
  • In the last few weeks, he has moved from Trainz Driver to the more complicated Trainz Simulator, and the full Mac version of Trainz as well. He isn’t so much into completing the detailed little missions, as just exploring the worlds and driving the trains around, but when you read to him what the missions are supposed to be, he pays close attention and wants to do that too. He just can’t do it himself, because you have to read the instructions to know what you are supposed to do. (He also mentioned he likes Trainz Trouble, by the same company, which is an entirely different kind of game.)
  • Also as mentioned in the interview, he hates soccer. We signed him up for a 3-4 year old soccer thing at the local Y this summer, and Amy volunteered to be his team’s coach. But Alex outright refuses to participate. We can bribe him with frozen yogurt or the promise of a new toy into maybe running on the field for a few seconds to a minute, and maybe kicking the ball once or twice, but he does everything he can think of to avoid actually being on the field and playing. (Like getting on all fours and pretending he is a dog, or deciding he needs to explore the woods nearby, or just lying down and refusing to move, etc.) He hasn’t given it an honest shot yet really, but he doesn’t like the notion of being out there and playing with all those other kids. He’d much rather just do more solitary play, or play only with people he already knows really well.
  • He continues to harass the dog (Roscoe) on a regular basis. Roscoe puts up with it remarkably well, only occasionally and under extreme duress expressing his displeasure, and even then almost never anything more than a warning bark or growl… followed by running away. But when Alex can remember to be more gentle, Roscoe will cuddle with him, lick him, and otherwise express lots of affection. Those two love each other deeply, despite the fact Alex can sometimes be a bit overbearing with it. Almost all the times I walk Roscoe, Alex comes along. Sometimes with a second leash attached so he can also be “walking” Roscoe. And every once and a while, Alex holds the only leash, and generally does the task well.
  • Alex hates school again. He now fights going almost every day, and is often in tears as we leave him. Just when he was starting to get really comfortable with school and was seemingly getting to actually enjoy it quite a bit, his entire class graduated from pre-school to pre-K… except him. He missed the age cut off by just a few weeks. At the same time a favorite teacher left to start a new non-toddler based career. Suddenly surrounded by a group of kids who were all younger than him, rather than the group he was used to that was all older than him, he started to regress a bit. The teacher that was with him the most told us that he was bored and was not getting anything out of the activities any more, and was being less social again. All his friends had left! Anyway, after a summer worth of back and forth with people, any day now he should be rejoining his old class (which is now pre-K), which hopefully will help. But enough time has passed, it will also be yet another change and adjustment, so that will likely throw him for a loop too.
  • On the “spooky things that kids say” front… one time in the car he started talking about how before he lived with us, he was in “the red darkness”. Um… OK. But before jumping to any conclusions about him remembering the time before he was born… he also talked about how there were trains in the red darkness. But every once in awhile, including quite recently, he will mention off handedly events and places that go back as far as when he was 12 or 13 months old… so who knows. Pretty sure there were no trains in there though.
  • Less far in the past, just last month he started relating to me details of an event that was about a year and a half previously… at that point instead of just going to free swim sessions at the Y, we had been taking him to actual swim lessons. A teacher who had been really gentle and patient with him left, and he had a new teacher. On her first session with us (maybe second, I forget) she took Alex from me, and dunked him under the water. He was clearly very very terrified and upset by this. He was instantly and immediately done and would NOT get in the water with her again. This led to us changing classes immediately, and at the end of the session ending the lessons entirely, switching over to the Y. At the time it happened, Alex could talk of course, but not well enough to express his feelings in detail. A year and a half is a long long time to an almost-four-year-old, but some memories are clearly burned in… Just a few weeks ago, on the way to soccer, we had this dialog as we were driving to soccer practice:
    Sam: To get to soccer, we pass by swim, then it will be on the left.
    Alex: We passed by old swim too! Old swim had teacher.
    Sam: Yes, old swim did have a teacher. Do you want to have a teacher for swim again some day?
    Alex: No. No teacher!
    Sam: You like it better when you just play with me and Grandma Ruth?
    Alex: Yes! Teacher at old swim was mean. Teacher pushed me under water and scared me. Me very scared. My eyes weren’t good enough.
    Sam: Yeah, that did happen. That’s why we stopped going there. You remember that?
    Alex: Teacher was MEAN. Teacher took me and made me go under water. I no want go under water. No teacher!
    Sam: But do you remember the teacher before that? You liked that teacher. She was nice.
    Alex: (Silence, then changed topic.)
  • Speaking of swimming. Alex, myself and Grandma Ruth go almost every week and swim for about an hour. Alex has made great strides in the last few months. At one point he suddenly realized that in the shallow ends of the pool he could REACH THE BOTTOM with his feet and keep his head out of the water. This was a GREAT discovery, as all of a sudden he could get around without being anchored to an adult. A couple weeks later, he finally tried holding on to a pool noodle, and realized that with it under his arms, he could kick and navigate himself pretty much anywhere he wanted in the pool. This was INCREDIBLY EXCITING! The last few times we have gone swimming, he grabs that noodle and just kicks happily all over the place. He is working on his efficiency and maneuverability and such now. But oh what a difference it makes to be able to go your own way and not just be at the mercy of Grandma or Daddy!
  • There is a lot less of normal TV shows and movies. He’ll still watch them occasionally, but is MUCH more likely to want to watch stuff on YouTUbe if he is going to watch stuff. These days it is Portal videos more often than not, although occasionally still train videos or other things.
  • Speaking of trains, trains are still everywhere. He still loves his trains. He plays with them all the time, and builds quite elaborate layouts, and plays out various stories.
  • Planes are starting to get a lot more attention as well though. He will excitedly point them out whenever he sees them in the sky. We will fly my flight simulator with me. He has a couple toy planes he flies all over the house and plays out various scenarios with. The older one is a 747 toy I brought back with me from the last international flight I took a while back. The second is a toy Space Shuttle his grandmother got him just last month. He is starting to get into the whole idea of the space shuttle too, wanting to fly the shuttle on the simulators.
  • Speaking of which, on a whim last month, I got one of those $20 remote control helicopters. He loved flying that thing around for a couple weeks. At first it was mostly hitting the ceiling at high speed, but after awhile he got the hang of it and was actually controlling it pretty well. Of course, at that point it became less interesting, so we’ve had fewer helicopter sessions since then, and he usually wants me to fly it, to interact with the plane he is flying by swooshing it around with his hand.
  • Just as I sometimes call myself Abulsme, as a nickname I have had for years, over the last six months, Alex has sometimes gone into a pretend mode where he uses a fake scary voice and calls himself “I-Zim-In”. I have no idea where that came from, but he has used that particular name consistently to go with that fake scary voice for quite some time now.
  • Sometime, a long time ago, we must have been driving at night and gone into a tunnel, and I must have said this or something, but now, whenever we go in a tunnel… or even under bigger bridges, Alex says “Tunnel! Tunnel!! OH NO!!! TOO MANY LIGHTS!!!!” That had to have originally come from me. But he started doing it ALL the time.
  • In a few hours he will be getting a bike for his birthday. Shhh!!! Don’t tell him!
  • A couple of times we have gone to real train stations or train yards to just watch the trains. He does love those trains, and can just watch forever!
  • He correctly points out and identifies the logos of four or five brands of cars. And he uses the word “logo” when talking about it.
  • He has capitalization preferences. He is adamant that his name needs to be “ALeX”. Just like that. No other combination is acceptable. “ALEX” he might be able to live with, but would rather not. “Alex” is definitely not OK. He made me change it in the video of his interview when he saw me editing it. “ALeX” is how it should be as far as he is concerned. “Lower case E please!”

As usual, there is tons more, and I could keep thinking of things for a long time, but this post is already “super-long” as Alex would say.

9 comments to Alex is FOUR!

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