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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Letters to Carrots : Two and a Half

July 2013 to January 2014

Dear Carys,

I miss your monthly letters. I am jotting down little things as they happen, but you're growing and changing and learning so quickly, I have a hard time remembering what milestones are new and what you've been doing for months, not to mention all the things I miss writing down, period. 

I look at pictures of you from a year ago - heck, from six months ago - and I can hardly believe it's the same child. It seems like no time has passed at all, but you're so very different. Your hair is so much longer and curlier; you aren't just walking but running and jumping; you can get things from drawers you couldn't even begin to reach just weeks ago. I can reason with you! I can ask you for help and you don't just "help," but actually HELP.  You speak in full sentences, sometimes (often) surprising me with your vocabulary and syntax. You know entire catalogs of songs. Your pretend play and imagination blow my mind. You make jokes and build complicated creations and hold a pen the right way and pretend to write - in the lines! - and can do things I would never have thought a two-year-old to be capable of doing. You have real opinions and can voice them, and make real decisions, and are just such a PERSON. I guess babies are people, too, but we all know really they are just blobs of tissue taking up space and demanding attention. Cute as heck blobs, but blobs. One day, you were asking me to get you ice and water, and the next day you could reach the dispenser yourself and suddenly you didn't need my help anymore. And I cried. (Not really. Maybe a little on the inside.)

(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

I know everyone calls the twos "terrible," but so far they've been pretty damn wonderful. Your dad and I can't help but tell you every day how amazing you are and how much we love you (and on the superficial side of things, your dad tells you how beautiful you are like 200 times a day. I try to balance him by telling you how smart and strong and fast you are, but let's be real: you're pretty cute!).  You're just the most special little girl I've ever met. And yes, 99.9% of that is just because I'm your mom, I know. I KNOW. It's my duty as a mom to think that. And yet I've had people pull me aside to tell me how special you are - daycare teachers and aunts and even a couple times, strangers at the store. Last week at the grocery store, you were pushing your mini cart along and helping me, and an older woman just watched you and smiled, then as we were checking out, said to me, "She's a special girl, that one."  See? VALIDATION.   Your personality is just so sunny and shines so brightly. You're so delicate, yet so fierce. You're this perfect mixture of feisty and stubborn and happiness and hilarity wrapped in a shell of pure loving. I will never get tired of you cuddling me or your un-asked-for hugs and kisses or of you telling me that you love me.

(Don't get me wrong - you're not some perfect angel child who never throws tantrums or whines. You do. Regularly. Over stupid shit. You're two. Of course you do. But they are luckily usually quickly over and never last long, knock on wood!)

One of my favorite things about this age is your imagination. It is just OUTSTANDING. You pretend all day to be another character and assign characters to your dad and baby sister and I as well (right now, the most common is that you're Elsa from "Frozen" and I'm Anna, though generic "princess" is popular also, along with "cowboy," "pirate," and "zombie." Oh, and robot, complete with stiff arm movements and "beep boop bee boop" sounds).  You play mom to your dolls, you build forts and castles, you swordfight. You build characters with play-dough and tell me about their personalities. You tell me what sister is thinking and you make us laugh with your stories.  You tell jokes and pretend-read books.

(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

You became a big sister last month, and holy shit, you are the BEST big sister ever.  While I was pregnant, you would rub my stomach, read to the baby, give the baby toys by putting them on my stomach, talk to the baby, etc.  You seemed to really get the concept after we explained that there was a baby growing in mommy's tummy and read lots of baby and big sister books, but you REALLY caught on after you accidentally watched a birth video I'd left queued up on my phone. Far from grossing you out or scaring you, you thought it was wonderful and asked to watch it over and over.  That has led to you telling people about your baby sister's arrival by saying that she grew in my tummy and then I "pushed her out!" complete with hand gestures, a pained expression, and grunting (I didn't get into the whole c-section thing with you). You ask about her first thing in the morning and she's the last one you give love to at night. Your eyes fill up with worry and sadness if she's crying, you love to check her diapers and tell me if she needs changing, you want to hold her all. the. time.  You help me get her latched on, you bring me diapers, you help change her, you rock her, you put her paci back in her mouth, and whenever someone comes over or we go anywhere, the first thing you say EVERY time is, "Look at my baby sister!"  I jokingly asked once if we should keep baby sister here or take her back to the hospital, and your eyes immediately filled with tears and you tried to grab her from me and said, "No! Keep her here! No take her back!" You spontaneously shower her with hugs and kisses and tell her, "I love you, baby sister. You're my favorite."  The hardest thing is making sure that you don't hug her too hard, but in a month of having her around, you've yet to push her off of me to get attention yourself or get upset if I have to spend time with her rather than you - you'll come sit right next to me and the three of us will cuddle together while Emmeline nurses.  You love her so much, and I am giddy with excitement to see your relationship with her grow.

Over the last six months, I've tried to jot down little things that I want to remember. So much has happened and so much has changed that it's nearly impossible to document it all, but my list has managed to grow so I'll have record of at least some of it.

(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

- You love zombies. You have a zombie face and make zombie noises. None of us are really sure where this originated.
- My least favorite of your games? Playing dead. I *think* this in reaction to one of your toys needing new batteries and I said, "Oh, it's dead," as you'll ask for new batteries or for the doctor to fix you up. But you lay limp and still and slack-faced and it really is disconcerting and I DO NOT LIKE IT.
- You can be a little toddler dictator at times. You'll put your hand over my mouth and say, "Shhh, no talking, mommy." You try to tell me what shirt I should wear, to take off my belt, what I can eat, etc. KID, I'M IN CHARGE AROUND HERE.
- We went camping at Ledges State Park in September with my parents, Kimberly, and Carol. You had SO much fun splashing around the creeks and trying to catch fish. We did a scavenger hunt and gave you a pictorial version of it, and you completely understood the objective and went around finding things and scratching them off the paper. Blew. My. Damn. Mind.  We also went camping at Hitchcock Nature Preserve a few weeks before that, and you are officially a Great Camper. You use the outhouse potties and eat fire-cooked food and sleep in a tent and LOVE it.
- We took our first family vacation to Branson (blogged about here) and it just reinforced how much we love spending time with you. (August 2013)
- For a while, you answered everything with "Um, yes" with the "ummm" drawn out and the "yes" short and quick and it was so cute.
- If you want a full serving or big portion of something, you ask for it "big", as in "big milk"
- You transferred to the 2s room at daycare in September with new teachers and new kids and have done great in the new setting.
- You potty trained! (September 2013)
- You love to read to me and read to her babies (holding the book facing out, like a teacher does)
- Creative use of toys: when pulling out things for the new baby, you saw a diaper bag changing pad and used it as nap mat for your dolls (it does kind of look like your nap mats at school!)
- You pretended to be Buzz Lightyear daily for weeks on end.
- You drew a face with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth (August 2013)
- While playing with a chalkboard, I realized that you recognized far more letters than I gave you credit for and knew over 3/4 of them by sight (August 2013)
- While playing with your Cozy Coupe car one day, you pretended to get gas by using a bike pump as a gas pump (September 2013)
- You fell while playing at the zoo and landed on concrete and got a concussion! We took to you the ER the morning after the fall, after you vomited and were incredibly lethargic in the morning.  You had a CT scan and were diagnosed with a minor (thank god) concussion. (September 2013)
- We spent days and days on end in the summer, from about June to September, in sweltering heat and went swimming in your little pool virtually every single day.
- We couldn't use our deck or backyard nearly the entire summer because it was being redone, so we we spent a lot of time playing in the front yard.
- I spent my first night away from you to attend the NKOTB concert with Darbi in Kansas City (July 2013)
- After spending so much time with your Nana this summer when she was on summer break, you missed her immediately when she left. You will pull out your toy laptop to do a pretend video chat with her and it makes me want to cry. (September 2013)
- You love to cook, both real and pretend, and to feed your dad and I (especially ice cream).
- You pretend to go on errands or to go to the park. You'll tell me "Okay, I be right back, going to get ice cream cone," and grab a purse and go down the stairs to "leave."
- You likes to "pay" me for things by handing me pretend money and having me give you an item in return.
- You laid your head on my stomach and felt the baby kick and laughed hysterically and said, "Sister, stop kicking me!" (Sept 2013)
- You pretend to be a doggie all the time - including playing "fetch" with "sticks"
- I love the way you say "thank you": "gank you". You are SO polite and will unfailingly say it anytime anyone does something for you or gives you something. You also say, "Oh, sorry!" if you even accidentally bump someone.
- You pretend to catches monsters, sharks, and zombies and to pet them and tell us if they are big or small, mean or nice, etc.
- Whenever you get even the slightest (and I mean SLIGHTEST) bump, you need an ice packs and bandaid.
- You love to have us clap for you while performing or dancing or running fast - you'll yell, "Clap, mommy!" while running around the island over and over and over.
- We had to store the baby's dresser in the playroom in the basement while we waited for the baby's room to be done, which led to you telling dad, "Daddy, clean baby's room!" when I told you we couldn't play in the playroom because the baby's dresser was in there because the baby's room was full of dad's stuff.
- We call you our little engineer, because of the way you figure things out and take things apart and put them back together.

- You are usually shy for about 15 minutes the first time you meet someone, but by the time the first hour is up, they are your new best friend and you've brought out all your toys to show them and roped them into a game of hide-and-seek.
- You LOVE princesses (much to my chagrin), though you don't necessarily love Disney princesses. You haven't seen most of the Disney princess movies yet (you've seen Brave, Frozen, Tangled, Toy Story, Cars, and Monsters, Inc) so I'm not entirely sure where the obsession came from (I assume daycare) but to you, a princess is anyone in a dress (including Santa Claus in his traditional robes - "It's princess Santa!", men in kilts, etc).
- You are still in swim class, and you are now floating on your back for minutes at a time completely by yourself (September 2013) and as of January, you can actually move your arms and legs to swim underwater by yourself a few yards.
- You were a baby bird for Halloween after you went through a long period of pretending to be a baby bird and having us build you blanket and pillow nests and pretend to give you worms.
- You are a master of my iPhone and dad's tablet, despite the fact you're rarely allowed to use them. With my iPhone, if you accidentally make the icons shake, you'll cry, "Fix it mommy! It's shaking!" while you shake for emphasis.
- You are a master of looking at us like we're idiots if we don't understand what you're saying and repeating yourself a little louder and more slowly, while doing hand gestures or making noises to clarify your words. For instance, "doggy" and "daddy" sound similar when you say them, so if I repeat the wrong one back to you, you'll say, "NO. DOGGY. WOOF WOOF," while signing "dog."
- One of your favorite games is hide and seek. You'll try to engage anyone in a game, even if you just met them, and tell them, "Let's [said like, "less"] go hide!" You love finding people too: "I foun' you!" You'll even pretend to look in places you know they aren't, just like your dad and I do. "Unner da book? Noooo. Behin' da curtain? Nooooo."
- You have a very set routine for leaving us: you must give us a hug, kiss, fist bump, and high five.
- After I bumped your head on the car door accidentally, you started crying, then told me, "Ice cream will make me feel better."
- You often pretended to be pregnant with me, telling me about the baby in your belly and even putting dolls or other things in your shirt to mimic my tummy.
- When I was telling you that we were going to go see Nana, you told me, "Nana is so cute!"
- I was feeling really good about myself one morning when you told me I was your favorite, but then you said the porch was your favorite too. Nearly everything has gotten the "iss my favorite!" treatment at one point or another.
- You are very into "friends" [or "frens" as you say it] and will ask to go see your "frens", especially Annie and Taylor from swim class, often. On the flip side, you'll also tell on you "frens" from school now: "Mommy, my fren Bode hit me today!"
- One morning when you woke up, you said, "I wake up! I can't see! So dark! Where are the lights? I can't see you mommy!" and your dad and I died laughing listening to you on the monitor.
- You are SUCH a good little mommy to your dolls, holding them on your shoulder after you told me they were crying and patting their backs and bouncing them and saying, "It's okay, honey. I love you."
- The goddamn egg videos. You love these stupid videos on YouTube that you randomly found one day that are just some Korean (I think?) chick opening and playing with various toys.  I don't know why you like them but I hate them, though I'll let you watch them very rarely if I need a minute to get something done. Your dad definitely lets you watch them more often than I do, but I swear, you would watch for three hours straight if I let you.
- You have been fighting naps lately and climbing out of your crib. We've been bribing you with a treat if you stay in bed and sleep. You're SO clearly not ready to drop them - you're incredibly grumpy without them and if we have to go anywhere in the car on skipped nap days, you fall asleep in the car before we're even out of the neighborhood.
- During my last trimester of pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and you were the best little doctor/nurse - you could check my blood sugar all on your own, from getting out the test strip and putting it in the monitor to actually poking me to draw blood.
- Two of your FAVORITE outfits are two dresses that I pulled out of storage from Nana's house that she had made for Jenna (we think? maybe me?) when Jenna was your age. They're wonderfully vintage and dated and it has made Nana's LIFE that they are your favorites (one pictured below!).

- Your go-to response to anything you don't know how to explain the answer to is "because yes" or "because no." For instance: "Carys, can you go grab me a towel?" "No." "Why not?" "Because no."  Or another example: "Mommy, we go to Taylor's house?" "You want to go to Taylor's house? Why's that?" "Because yes!"
- If either your dad or I tell you no and that you can't have/do something, you'll go run to the other parent and say, "Daddy, mommy is making me sad!" and tattle on us.  You'll also tell us straight to our face: "Mommy, you making me sad!"  It's actually kind of hard to hear, especially when combined with the saddest face this side of the Mississippi and and your plaintive cries. You've even told me that I'm mean. That cuts deep, kid.  On the flip side, you also tell us "You're making me happy," though that is usually reserved for something like ice cream: "This ice cream making me so happy!"
- If you don't want something, instead of saying "don't," you say, "can't": "I can't want it."
- Due to some, um, issues, I was giving you prune juice and explained to you that it would help you poop. You somehow combined the name and the effect and now call prune juice "Poop Juice."
- You and your dad play a game where you block the other person and need to get a ticket to get past and it is ADORABLE, especially when you are the gate-shutter. You stand with arms and legs spread wide and say, "I shut the gate!" and when dad gives you a ticket, you make beeping noises while moving to open the gate. (December 2013)
- Your favorite food, besides ice cream (OBVIOUSLY) is "ohgurt with sprinkles." That's plain, whole milk yogurt with chia seeds. You eat it daily.
- While I am on maternity leave, you've gotten to spend a lot of one-on-one time with your dad, and you're in heaven. He's taken you to breakfast several times and to the store, and while at the store one time, you randomly grabbed him for a hug and said, "Daddy, you're awesome." He came home from the store and told me about it with the biggest smile on his face. You make him SO happy.
- You've picked up on many of our phrases, so we have to be careful about what we say around you, but your "oh my gosh!" cracks me up every time.
- Your dad played some Christmas videos for you over the holidays, including "Carol of the Bells." I don't know what it is about that particular song, but you LOVE it and ask us to play you "Carol uh du bells" daily, even weeks past Christmas.  You also love and can sing all of "Jingle Bells."
- Another Christmas thing that you became obsessed with is the Nutcracker ballet. We watched it on Netflix one day and from that day on, you were completely hooked and we watched it every single day (while I try to limit your TV intake, the Nutcracker is educational and cultural, right?). You will dance the entire time you're watching it, with your hands in the air and twirling and kicking your feet in pretty accurate mimicry of what they are doing in the ballet.
- One of the funniest and most imaginative things you've started recently is to reply, "I have no hands! I can't!" if I ask you to do something you don't want to do.
- You know all of our first names and love playing the "What's X's name?" game. "What's mommy's name?" "Lawa!" "What's daddy's name?" "Chris!" "What's Nana's name?" "Annie!" "What's grandpa's name?" "Mark!" "What's your name?" "Cay-yes!" "What's baby sister's name?" "Em-uh-line."
- You have worked out relationships and titles in a way I didn't think toddlers could understand. For instance, Nana and Grandma Hanlon were in the same room once, and you said, "Two grandmas!" You have done the same with Grandpa (my dad) and Grandpa Nussrallah, etc. You also understand that Nana is my mommy and Grandpa is my daddy, that I came from Nana's tummy, and so on.
- You can easily count to ten and are working on the numbers beyond that.
- We took you to see Sesame Street Live and you were completely blown away by it. You sat with your friend Leah and the two of you danced and sang and yelled for the characters the entire almost two hours. Your dad said you let out the biggest scream of excitement when you entered the arena (I'd gone to our seats already with Emmeline) and saw Elmo on the stage (January 2014).
- You learned to scale your crib and can climb in and out in a half second flat. Needless to say, we'll be converting it to a toddler bed as soon as we get the toddler rail for it.
- You were SO sweet at Christmas this year and so gracious. Whenever you got a present, you'd say, "Dis for me? Who it from? I open it?" and then proceed to open the gift, give it a giant hug, and say, "I LOVE IT!" (December 2013)
- I totally didn't think this would happen for YEARS, but if your dad and I kiss you, you'll wipe it off in an exaggerated gesture and say, "I wipe it off!" while laughing hysterically.
- Seeing your relationship grow with your Nana, my mama, is one of the most special things about having a daughter. You love each of your grandparents so very much and talk about them regularly (you nicknamed your great-grandma Adkins "Grandma Blankets" because she makes blankets), but since Nana is my own mommy, it's especially dear to me to see the two of you together (I'm sure your dad feels the same about seeing you with your Grandma Hanlon). I just love the way she loves you and my heart just fills with joy whenever you ask about her. The day before she went back to Dubuque after her winter break ended, we went to breakfast with my family, and as we were leaving and mentioned that Nana was going back to Dubuque you got so upset and asked her not to leave, and you begged to go to Nana's house, and I am pretty sure both Nana and I choked up a little bit (spoiler alert: of course we let you go to Nana's house for a few hours as she finished packing).
- We pretend to eat or steal your nose or ear or arm or some other random body part and you'll pull a "new" one from your pocket to replace it with, or you'll hold out your hand and demand that we "spit it out!" so you can put it back on.

(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

This changes literally daily, but right now, as I write this, your favorites are:

Favorite food: ice cream or yogurt with sprinkles
Favorite drink: milk
Favorite movie: Pirates of the Caribbean (I can't believe your dad let you watch this, UGH!), Cinderella, and Frozen
Favorite color: yellow ["lello"] or purple
Favorite clothes: blue flowered dress that Nana made for Jenna when Jenna was a toddler or your pink/yellow/gray plaid tunic
Favorite shoes: brown boots (ok, you don't care about your shoes...these are my favorite)
Favorite toy: play-dough
Favorite book: the "Hello, Baby!" book that shows the baby growing in mom's tummy

Misc minor stats:
You sleep from about 8pm to 7:30am with a nap around 1-3pm.  You go to daycare two days a week. You're 26.5" tall and weigh 37 pounds [Note later: this is clearly wrong since you were 34lbs at your 3 year appt]. You wear size 2T or 3T shirts and 3T pants (which are huge at the waist, but 2T is too short). You know your ABCs and numbers up to 10.  Your favorite teacher at school is Ms. Lexi (in the green room) and it was Ms. Caresa (in the purple room). You have gray-ish hazel eyes and light brown hair (or dark blonde?).

I feel the need to write down ALL THE THINGS I can possibly think of about you, because there are so many more wonderful and adorable and delightful anecdotes that I know I'm forgetting and it breaks my heart to know that there are so many amazing moments that have already slipped through my memory. I hope that I can pull up the picture of you sitting in your dad's lap with your crazy hair and wonderful, scrunched-eye smile whenever I want (since you, you little meanie, won't let me take pictures of you anymore!).

I love you so much, and yet somehow I love you more every single day. I don't know how it's possible, but there you have it. You're such a completely amazing kid and the joy you bring to our lives is completely unmatched by anything we've ever experienced before.  You're napping as I finish writing this, and your dad and I keep asking each other if we should wake you up, because we miss you. We both just can't get enough of you. I know I've said it before, but I am so incredibly lucky to not only just know you, but to be your mommy. You are my favorite 2.5 year old in the entire galaxy and I give you ALL THE KISSES.

Mom (and dad)
(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

(Photo by Darbi G Photography)

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