July 8, 2015 to January 7, 2016Dear Carys,
The first picture taken of you as a four-year-old.
This might be the absolute latest I've ever published a letter to you. Or your sister. Two months late. Eeep.
Four hasn't bothered me too much. Four I've been handling. Four sounds like a reasonable age for you to be. But when we start talking about turning five on your next birthday....well. Five is entirely too old. Five is ancient. Five is...FIVE. I'm not ready for FIVE yet. It's too soon. Thank god this is just your four-and-a-half year letter and I have six months to prepare for five (except that I started writing this in January and now it's March so I only have 3.5 months to prepare myself mentally!!!).
Four-year-old Carys is a fricking delightful bundle of energy and sass and imagination. I always feel kind of silly going on and on about how special you are, because every parent thinks their kid is THE MOST SPECIAL, but hey! To me (and your dad, and your nana, and your grandpa, and your grandma, and your aunts and uncles, and your sister) you are indeed the most fantastic four-year-old ever. EVER. You have this great combination of humor and imagination with a streak of naughty, so you are constantly making me laugh out loud.
You're so beautiful, Carys, with your hazel/green/gray eyes are so unique and so incredibly expressive, and your long lashes and freckles and wavy hair (I've given up on the curls, SOB...they're gone....SOB SOB SOB) and the smattering of freckles on your nose. I just want to smother you in kisses every time I glance at you. You're tall and lean, and so strong. You love to climb, you love to ride your scooter around (and are mastering the two-wheeled variety versus the three-wheeled one from last summer) and you are talking about learning to ride a regular bike.
You're an amazing artist. You come home with sheaves of paper, each one with a different drawing - mermaids, superheros, princesses, and family portraits are the most popular, but you had a week in there when it was all Noah and the ark and rainbows, and a week when it was all pictures of the earth, a week when it was pictures of pirates - you take your school's theme that week and illustrate it over and over. And your pictures are really good, I think. And not just for a four-year-old, but really good in general. I mean, you're not like ready to open a gallery or anything, but they're good.
Your other obsession is Legos - you love building with them, and whenever your dad is home for a few extra minutes, you beg him to build Legos with you. The same thing happens with grandpa when we're at Nana's house - he has a huge stash of Legos and the two of you disappear into the den for hours, emerging with some fantastic creation.
You LOVE to sing and act. The arts are what give you energy - you are always introducing different scenarios you want us to act out, or putting on a performance for me, or singing a made-up song about our day, or hosting elaborate scenes with your dolls. I will be shocked if you're not in drama in high school (is that still nerdy? or do cool kids do drama now?). You still love to dress up and come up with the most insanely creative outfits and costumes that you've thought through down to to the last jewel.
You also love animals - you ask for a dog about 100 times a day. You love rabbits and cats and birds and iguanas and spiders and horses and about any type of animal I could possibly think of. You love the zoo - but the petting zoo and visiting farms and places where you can touch and interact with animals is where you thrive.
So sad because we couldn't take the bunny at the county fair home with us.
You're so hungry to learn - you devour books, you want to learn to read (and are just starting to sound out words), and you always want to know how and why. You love going to museums and touring historic homes and are always asking me to look up answers on the computer.
That naughty streak, though....the last month or so you've apparently lost your listening ears because it's like anything I say is in one ear and out the other. It's so frustrating, this deliberate ignoring of requests. Because Carys, I KNOW you hear me! It's starting to get a little bit better, so hopefully it was just a brief phase. Of all of the phases we've experienced, it's been about my least favorite. It's like "OH MY GOSH, KID, CAN YOU JUST PUT YOUR SHOES ON PLEASE?"
Maybe related to that...PROBABLY related to that...you've really been craving individual one-on-one time and are having a hard time sharing me with Emmeline. The other day you asked, "Why do you always talk mean to me and not to Emmeline???" (see above: this was during a not listening streak when I'd asked you to clear your plate approximately 1000 times and an hour ago and it still wasn't cleared, so....yes, my voice may have gotten a little testy...but hello knife in heart and mom guilt!). And you've been asking me to put her to bed early so we can have "Mom Carys" time and any time we've got even a second of downtime you want me to hold and cuddle you. I'm trying to carve out more one-on-one time with you - it IS hard to share your mama, I know. I have also been telling you daily how special and unique you are to me, separate from Emmeline, and that seems to be comforting you, too.
Even with that struggle, you are such a good big sister to Emmeline. Every night, you fix her bed up - place her stuffed animals just so, spread out her blanket, get her Soothing Seahorse music playing, and you sing lullabies to her for a few minutes while I get her settled. She loves listening to you "read" a book and often requests you to do it over me. I love looking in the back seat and seeing you two hold hands, or seeing her mimic and copy you - if Carys does it, you can be Emmeline will be doing it in the next ten seconds (that's a problem, sometimes, when it's something you aren't supposed to be doing!). Yesterday we were driving to school and the car was just full of Emmeline's giggles and belly laughs - all from just watching your face.
It's such a controversial subject that I barely even want to talk about it for fear of igniting a mommy war and stressing out about it, but....kindergarten. You dang summer birthdays! Causing stress for moms since the 80s. Your birthday is in July, and the state we live in has a July cut-off for kindergarten. You make it by mere days. So we could send you and have you literally be one of the youngest in your class (if not the youngest), or we could wait and have you be one of the oldest in your class. I was the third-oldest in my grade school class, and it was fine. I liked being first to drive, and I'm kind of bossy (kind of?) so being the oldest kind of fed that. Maybe that part wasn't so good. Ha! Right now, we're leaning strongly towards waiting. I think you'd be fine if you went, and I think you'll be fine waiting. I don't think there's a right and wrong answer here. I know many people will disagree with not sending you this year, but we have our reasons, and they're good ones - for us, and they have nothing to do with helping you academically or with sports. So. Sigh. This is something I've been stressing out about for months but I'm pretty confident in our decision.
We've been in our new house a year now (holy crap did that fly by) and you've done so well with the adjustment - you love our neighbors Bob and Cathy (who you call "Aunt Cathy," and run to visit them weekly. I feel kind of bad for them; their daughters are grown so they're out of the toddler/preschool stage and then every few days their house is invaded by this 4-year-old ball of energy. Sorry, Bob and Cathy! It probably takes you a full day to recover from the Hanlon girl invasion. Ha! We love the park a block away - while we didn't go much over the winter, we'll be picking up our park visits now that it's getting warmer again. THANK GOD. You and Emmeline both love to go with me on bike rides, riding in the bike trailer on the back, and I can't wait to hit the trail by our house this year - and maybe by the end of the summer, you'll be riding your own bike?!?
And then there's my favorite part of the neighborhood - there are two other 4-year-olds a half-block down the street, and you love them and tell me that they're your best friends. You ask to play with Taylor and Elizabeth daily....multiple times a day, usually. I'm SO grateful that you have friends nearby - and more grateful that I love their moms, too. I had no idea that neighborhood friends were so important to one's mental well-being - it's not something we had at our old house. So this is new for me. WONDERFULLY new to me. Even a year later, I have to pinch myself. Sometimes I do feel a little bad for you, because they live next door to each other so they're usually already playing by the time you get down there or by the time we've noticed that they're outside, and you've mentioned that it upsets you before (last week you told me, "Mom...I wish I lived next door to Taylor and Elizabeth too so I could play with them right away...I don't like being the last one there,") or they'll tell you about going to each other's houses and you get sad you didn't go (they're not leaving you out, by the way - they're both great friends to you and their moms are wonderful about making sure you're invited every time they get together - these are days when we're not home. But it's hard for a preschooler to understand that when you're feeling left out). Sitting in their circle watching all the nearby kids scoot around on scooters or running around squealing with laughter - it was my favorite thing last summer and I can't wait to repeat it this summer.
We've done so many things since July - visited our zoo many times, visited the Lincoln zoo, went to the Children's Museum, had sleepovers with Charlotte, went on a family vacation to Lake of the Ozarks, went to a state fair, watched parades, went to Dubuque, attended birthday parties, had countless play dates, obviously celebrated many holidays (Halloween! Thanksgiving! Christmas!)
You are my heart and soul and reason for living. You light up from the inside out - and you light ME up from the inside out. You cheer me up whenever I'm stressed or upset, you make me laugh exactly when I need it, and your hugs and cuddles are second to none.
I've been terrible about writing down your sayings and expressions that make me laugh, but I did get a few of them. I wish I could replicate your humor in writing, but so much of it comes from your delivery and voice and posture and voice that it just doesn't translate to mere words on a screen.
- Piles hair on top of head while taking a bath: "Well, essentially I have short hair right now."
- "For real life?!?!?" (whenever something seems to good to be true)
- "Hey, that rhymes!" (you're so into rhyming - we love to play rhyming games in the car)
- Carys: "Mom, I just saw a couple of birds! I think there were hundreds of them!" Me: "You saw a hundred birds??" Carys: "Yes, like 10!"
- Out of nowhere: "I miss the dinosaurs. (Starts sniffing) I miss them so much. They were so cute. I think everyone is so sad they died. (Brightening) Except....I think one is hiding somewhere!!!" Me: "Oh, really? Which one?" Carys: "A tiana-saurus rex! He's hiding so no one kills him! In the woods! Let's go find him and tell him he can come out and we'll protect him!"
- "Mom, I'm just...really into Wonder Woman right now." (When I let her know her Elsa PJs were also clean and she could wear those instead of the Wonder Woman ones)
- You've been walking Emmeline to her room in the morning and basically doing the drop off routine, complete with hug and telling her to be good.
- "I have the best idea!" (about ten times a day...followed by a hilarious/amazing idea)
- American girl doll (Which you often shorten to 'American doll') - you got an American Girl doll catalog and became obsessed. You asked for one for Christmas, and even started calling Christmas "American Girl Doll Day."
- After trying and failing to make noise while snapping your fingers: "Ugh, I need a snap class."
- Totally out of nowhere: "Emmeline, you can have everything that is mine. Everything. My room, my toys, and my toothbrush."
- Me: "How did you know that?" Carys: "Well, because I'm so smart."
- Me: "I love you more than ice cream." Carys, eyes huge: "WOW. I love you more than ice cream too." (pause) "We should hug each other if we love each other so much." (while hugging) "I can't even let go I love you that much." (not even a second later, she lets go) "Just kidding, I can let go."
- I jokingly asked Carys to get Emmeline dressed while I took a shower - when I came out, Emmeline was completely dressed and Carys was so proud of herself.
- After reading a book that lectured against smoking: "We should write letters to everyone that says smoking is bad and will turn your lungs black so you can't breathe and you will die and you will cough".
- "I can't brush my teeth tonight because remember when I couldn't get that makeup off? I used the toothbrush to try and scrub it off so now it's covered in makeup. But wasn't that a great idea?"
- Me: "Are you excited?" Carys: "Yes, I'm so excited! I'm 2 20 12 excited!!!"
- "I'm not cute!!! I'm a nature girl!"
- "I want to dress up like that 'Roar' girl [Katy Perry].....I know!!! [Runs and gets one of my bras] I need this!" I put it on for her, after which her face falls and she takes it off. "No, no...this is too bubbly for me."
- While taking a shower with me: "Put the washing machine on me!" (referring to the shower stream)
- While reading a book that mentioned butterflies, she said, "Mom, that's not a butterfly, that's a moth." And she was right!
- Learning sign language at school, loves to spell things out in sign language.
- "Booty....bottom...BUTT!! I have a nice butt."
- As we're driving home...
Chris: "Hey, there's an ice cream store!"
Carys: "ICE CREAM?!? Can we go??"
Me: "No, I'm sorry. Not tonight. We just had pumpkin pie and we need to get home and go to bed."
Carys, starts crying: "Dad, you should never have said it! Why did you say it? Next time, just spell it so I don't hear!"
- You were hiding a little pouch in your pocket and behind your back....I asked to look inside (because you were acting kind of sneaky), and you answered, "NO! MOM! Don't look in there!! It's your birthday present!!" I suspected you might have something you're not supposed to, so I peeked inside (last time it was my makeup). But it was just hair things, all good, so I said, "Ok, I didn't look, I didn't see my present. I'm just closing it." You started crying and yelling: "You DID look! You just lied to me! Moms shouldn't LIE!" (We can talk about how guilty I felt after that later.)
- After trying something and getting frustrated: "Ugh, I don't know how to do this, I'm just a child!"
- After a quiet car ride and out of nowhere...speaks up nearly in tears "Mom...I just wish I had magic and powers."
- Emmeline put her own bowl away in the sink: "I guess you ARE big, Emmeline!"
- While watching a movie with a baby in it: "Mom, when I grow up I'm going to have a baby just like that." Me: "How about you have TEN babies?" Carys: Mom, I said ONE baby. You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."
- "Charlie [a boy at school] just is mean to everyone all day, but when his mom comes, we're saved!" (SOB. I talked to her teacher about it.)
- "Wilson [a boy at school] is really nice, mom. Next time it's a special day when you get to go to school with me, you **have ** to meet him!"
- You came out of the bathroom, where we have an automatic light, in shock with eyes wide with amazement..."Mom, I really have the light magic in real life. I just touched the wall and the light came on ALL BY ITSELF. [long pause, almost to herself] I can't believe I really have magic!!!!"
- After smelling something that smelled like wood burning while we were on a walk: "Mom, what is that? Wait, I'm going to give you a three choices of what it is: one, a campfire; two, a car; and I don't even want to say three because you won't like this one. Three, [whispers dramatically] someone smoking."
- Me: "Aww, Carys...look how little you were in this picture. Time is going so fast!" Carys: "I know...but don't worry. You'll always be my mommy. because remember how Barack Obama has two daughters and they grew up but they're still a family? That will be us."
- "Mom, I'd like you to meet my baby, Assie." Me: "What did you say?" Carys: "My baby, Assie" (I was dying.)
- We took her friend (Charlotte) to a hockey game, and as we were driving there, you told her: "If you do really good at cheering and dancing, they will put a little camera on you and then put you on the big TV in the middle and everybody will love you!"
There were hundreds more things - probably better things - that I should have written down, but didn't. And I already regret it - I never remember things like I think I'm going to. When will I learn?
I love watching you grow up, Carys. You're my Care-bear and you always will be. I love you so much that I can't even express it. Just know that it's more than anything.