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Zsuzsi at 5
2011 passport

Zsuzsi just turned 5 in September. She is a bright, pretty, good-natured, artistic, and beautiful little girl. I could probably go on. Sometimes I marvel at how *good* she is; she's helpful, she's generous, she's creative, she's polite, she's loving, she's tidy... where on earth did she get all that from? :D Her one "flaw" is that she tends to whine, but even that is corrigible most of the time, and she corrects her intonation if I remind her that she is whining. She is kind to her little sister, if bossy at times, and in all fairness, Vivi knows which buttons to push to get Zsuzsi to lose her temper.

She is in the "intermediate" group at her kindergarten. In Hungary, kindergarten runs from age 3 to 7, and in most places, the kids are segregated by age. In our kindergarten, they mix 3-7-year-olds in the same group, which I actually very much prefer. I think it helps younger children because there are always older children to emulate, and it helps older children because it teaches them to be mindful of younger children. It is much harder on the staff because they have to come up with age-appropriate activities for everyone in the group, but for the kids, it's a clear win-win scenario.

So Zsuzsi was 3 years old when she joined kindergarten two years ago, and apparently, she was then in the "mini" age group, and last year she was "small." So this year, she is "intermediate" and next year she'll be "big." Big kids get special pre-school preparation and other privileges. David was horrified when he learned Zsuzsi would be 7 before she starts elementary school, and there was some wavering on both my and her kindergarten teachers' part about whether or not to start her early - at age 6. But Hungarian elementary school is so strict, so demanding, so military-style, that I really think it is better that she starts later.

No doubt I am greatly influenced by reading some homeschooling blogs, and I know that stuffing kids full of information too early is not necessary. Zsuzsi is incredibly inquisitive; she is teaching herself to write in a bizarre, reverse kind of way. She is not interested in reading at all, but she wants to write. So she asks us to write things for her, and she copies them.

She is a wonderful multi-media artist. Every day, she creates some new piece of art. She draws entire picture books and tells us stories about them. She involves photocopies, paint, crayons, tape, cutouts, drawings, letters, leaves and flowers she collects, in her artwork. It is truly impressive. She seems endlessly creative, and endlessly engaged in creating something new.

She is also meticulously conscientious. They tell her to bring in apple graters at kindergarten, and she is distressed if we can't comply. Recently, she started Bible study, which is a free half-hour activity at her kindergarten, held by someone from the local protestant church. I wanted her to go because I felt it was important for her to spend some time hearing about morality and right and wrong, as opposed to the heavily consumerism-laden messages of other kids' activities. Well, the teacher in the class gave each child a folder with a picture of Adam and Eve and all the animals, and gave them, for all intents and purposes, their first homework assignment, which was to color the drawing. Zsuzsi was so proud of her folder! She rushed home, and immediately set to coloring in the picture. And then Vivi came and scribbled on it. :( Zsuzsi was absolutely distraught! I've never seen her so panicked in her life. (We got her another copy from a friend in her group, but it cause some very tense moments at home, let me tell you...) At any rate, I don't think doing schoolwork will be an issue for her, she loves doing these assignments and she is conscientious to a fault about getting things done.

She also helps me around the house. I can actually at this point involve her in tidying up her room, then give her a vacuum cleaner and then a mop, and she will even direct Vivi (whose attention span and enthusiasm for these kinds of things is MUCH shorter) in getting it clean. Amazing. Don't know where she gets that from.

I am happy to report that she now sleeps through the night. ;) She actually started sometime around 3.5 years old, and now she sleeps like a log. She is beginning to dramatically resist afternoon naps, though. By dramatically, I mean she wails like a banshee that she doesn't want to sleep, then she clonks out for more than an hour and can barely be woken.

She is always making people presents. She wraps up her artwork and draws cards day after day. Giving presents is her main means of expressing love. The worst punishment she can think of when she is mad at someone that she won't make them presents anymore! I smile at it now, but I do wonder whether this focus on gift-giving and receiving will remain with her when she is older.

I recently got her her very own library card. The library is right on our block, I can't believe I hadn't taken them there before. Zsuzsi was ALL OVER the idea of bringing books home, and she got herself a really awesome one about animals. I've been reading it to her at bedtime, and there is a quiz at the end, and she actually retained most of the information! Which was totally shocking to me because I think the book is a bit over her head, it's about how many cm long a lizard is, and how many tons a whale weighs, that sort of thing.

She is also doing better on the food front, though she is still a bit picky. However, she is old enough now, and conscientious enough to care when I tell her something is a healthy food and something is not. She has an amazing sweet tooth, but when I tell her an apple is healthy and a gummy bear is not, this actually carries weight with her to the point where she'll choose the apple over the gummy bear (or at least BEFORE the gummy bear...)

I've been putting dairy back into her diet on the theory that she needs to build up a tolerance to it, because her tolerance actually decreased while she was on a strict elimination diet. So for 8 months now, I've been allowing her to have increasing quantities of dairy. At first, I just started using milk again in things I baked. Then I started giving them milky snacks like sweet rice cooked in milk (tejberizs) and grits cooked in milk and strawberry milkshakes. I always boiled the milk first, and I usually cut it half and half with water. Then during the summer she actually got to eat ice cream, REAL ice cream! Only one scoop at a time, but she was so excited! And since we had no incidents with this, I recently let her try fruit yogurt. I was a bit worried because I had a hunch that she was more sensitive to fatty dairy than to skim dairy, plus I'm not sure whether the milk in yogurt is boiled first or not, but she did well with full-fat (organic) yogurt. I don't know if the organic part had anything to do with it, but I guess it's better for her anyway. So now she's had about an ounce of yogurt almost every day for the past 5 days, and still no ill effects! Yay! She may finally be outgrowing her dairy allergy!

And now I better go and pick her up at kindergarten.

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I hope that someday, we'll be able to hang out in person! :)

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