I've been writing a lot about Joseph, and recently Daniel has taken center stage, so before I write more about either of her brothers, it's time Vivienne had a post of her own. She is 18 1/2 months old, as Joseph was when I was here for her birth, so it's interesting to observe the similarities and differences, as well of course as their interactions.
I wonder if second children, who are born with a sibling, are more predisposed to compassion and an awareness of the needs of others. I remember noting that characteristic in Noah, and Vivienne has it in spades. She's physically very affectionate, too, asking to "snuggle," and freely doling out hugs. One of the first things she and Joseph do in the morning is to give each other good morning hugs. Unless Joseph is already eating, or otherwise engaged in intense concentration, that is. The funny thing is, I remember him as being much more reserved, and less demonstrative in his affection; it seems to me as if he has learned a lot from his younger sister.
And she, of course, is learning a lot from him. She does not have the same fascination with letters and numbers that he did at 18 months, but knows more about them than most her age, if only in the same way a fish knows about water. She can already count to five in three languages (Swiss German, English, and French), because we always count the toys as they are being put away.
Vivienne, in one sense, is all girl. She's a dancer, always moving, especially if there's music or even rhythmic speech to be heard. She has a petite frame, despite having been born both longer and heavier than Joseph, and has blonde hair with soft curls. I've mentioned her tender heart; if she notices Joseph needs something, she'll often get it for him, and while she'll scream bloody murder if he takes a toy from her, frequently after getting it back she'll voluntarily hand it to him. She's adorably cute in her little dresses, and I'm convinced she knows it: she has a look that can bend adults to her will, and will probably enslave more than a few boys in her teen years. Joseph has a few favorite pieces of clothing he will wear until forced to change, even to the extent of wearing long sleeves and long pants on hot summer days; Vivienne sometimes finds the day too short to wear just one outfit. Plus, she loves shoes. There's a rack of shoes outside the door to the apartment, and a favorite activity is to sit on the steps and try out other people's footwear. Our Swiss National Day celebration included a bounce house, which Joseph could not get enough of—but Vivienne preferred to investigate the assortment of shoes left on the outside.
But this is no "girly girl." She'll be an ezer warrior for sure. She's tender—her cheek is rarely without a tear from some physical or emotional wound—but at the same time tough as nails. When she wants to get somewhere, she runs rather than walks, reminding me of her cousin Joy. (On the other hand, if an adult wants her to get somewhere, she must stroll and stop to examine every flower, bug, and pebble.) She's eager to keep up with her big brother, whether running, climbing, or flinging herself off the slide into the ball pit at the nearby shopping center. She has a real temper and a scream that would wake the dead, leading me to suspect that her Irish ancestry (on both sides, though somewhat distant) has contributed more than the slight reddish tinge to her blonde hair. But she recovers quickly and is quick to sign, "sorry." She's much like her mother at that age: her hair is fine and with all the activity won't stay combed for more than a minute, which contributes to a ragamuffin, gamine look—as do the skinned knees and an affinity for dirt and water.
Ah, water. Called "mo-mo," for no reason discernable in either English or German, it's a Vivienne magnet. Water is her beverage of choice at all meals, and many times in between. She'll drink from a cup, directly from the faucet, and from any vessel that passes through her hands while she helps me wash dishes, which is one of her favorite activities. In a book, in a video, through the bus window—if Waldo were water, Vivienne would spot him before anyone else. If there's a puddle, she's in it. Larger bodies of water are even better, especially if there are stones around; as far as Vivienne is concerned, the purpose of pebbles is to be thrown into any available water.
But water is not her only love. She's crazy about airplanes of any sort, especially the jets that fly overhead multiple times a day, to and from the nearby military airfield. When they were considering this apartment, Joseph was eight months old, and Janet saw the airfield as a plus, thinking it would be great fun for a little boy to grow up watching the jets. And he does enjoy them, but not nearly as much as Vivienne does: she must run to the window whenever she hears their (extremely loud) sound. She's also the more enthusiastic about watching the new construction going on next door: the diggers, the bulldozer, the front loader all doing their (very loud) work all day, every day but Sundays and holidays. (Did I mention enough times that it is loud here, and do you remember that we have a newborn in the house? Oddly enough, none of it seems to bother Daniel, though he was intelligent enough to be born on Mariä Himmelfahrt, so his first day was uncharacteristically quiet for him in this Catholic canton.)
Here is another difference between Joseph and Vivienne: At this age, his wooden number puzzle was one of the great joys of Joseph's life. Vivienne also likes the puzzle, and can easily put the pieces in the right places, but the + and x pieces, which to Joseph were "addition" and "multiplication," are both airplanes to Vivienne.
Vivienne adores going out, whether to help in the garden, or to run errands, or simply to play on the swingset. Oh, how she loves to swing! She has been able to hold on well to regular swings from a young age, and has a much longer attention span for swinging than most adults, who often alleviate their boredom by counting the pushes. (Joseph makes that a challenge by requesting the count be in French, or by 5's, or as he did recently for me, by 51's. He's patient with my struggles, but if he asks for 51's in French, I'm giving up.)
She also loves balls, can throw pretty decently, and kick really well for her age. Not to mention carry them around in her mouth like a mama cat with her kittens.
The biggest change in Vivienne in the four weeks I've been here is an absolute explosion in language. Both English and German, but more noticeable (at least to me) in English, probably because it's been the dominant tongue in use since I came (though not exclusive by any means). The meaning is clear enough for those in the know, though there's not a lot yet that would be understandable to outsiders—except for "Nei! Nei! Nei!" which with a shake of the head and a stamp of the foot may be the most universally recognizable utterance. "Nei" has been around for a long time, but recently she has added "no" for my sake; even at her age she is sensitive to who speaks what language. It is an exciting privilege to be present at this point in her development.
As it is to watch all of our grandchildren blossom, each in his or her own, individual, marvellous way.