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Friday, January 30, 2015

Letters to Carrots : Three and a Half Years

July 2014 to January 2014 
Dear Carys,

You’re suddenly three and a half and I want to call you a toddler still but you are so. not. a. toddler. anymore. You’re tall and lanky and I almost never see anything of “baby Carys” or “toddler Carys” in you anymore. You’re a full-on kid now, and it’s a bit of an existential crisis for me to suddenly be the mom of a big kid. We did the toddler thing for three years and was pretty comfortable in my role as toddler mom, but I feel like I just got assigned additional responsibilities as a kid mom and I didn’t get a chance to research what my new role would entail. And you’re springing new things on me every day. Keeping me on my toes.

You’re just the most, Carys. The very –est. You’re the funniest, the cutest, the smartest, the silliest, the most creative, the most imaginative, the craziest, the most daring, the sweetest, the most caring, the most polite, the most loving, the goofiest, the –est, the –est, the –est of everything. (That’s such a mom thing to think that of your child, I know. And I promise, I KNOW logically you aren't really the smartest three-year-old out of all the, like, 50 million three-year-olds in the world. But I do find you particularly brilliant and particularly amusing and particularly adorable and so on and so on.) You just live life all in caps: LIVE LIFE. You want to swing a little bit longer, climb a little bit higher, explore a little bit deeper, read one more book, give one more hug.

You’re definitely the most and –est of some not-quite-so-wonderful things too, like the most stubborn. The most threenager who ever threenaged. The messiest, maybe. The most selective hearing. The quickest mood changes. From just after three until about a month ago, you were three with a capital T-H-R-E-E. You weren't just three, you were like three’s poster child. Three’s shining example of what a threenager is supposed to be like. But we’re mostly (KNOCK ON WOOD KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD KNOCK ON SO MUCH WOOD) over that rough patch. There were a couple days there where you just cried and whined for absolutely no discernible reason for hours and all I could do was try to appease you and try to hold you and love you and then just let you get it out of your system when trying to help didn’t work. This letter would have been probably just a single sentence if I’d written it two months ago: “Carys, I’m going to sell you to the circus.” Although it's way better now than it was, obviously every moment of every day isn’t shiny happy all the time, because a) you’re still three and b) you’re still human and humans have emotions and mood fluctuations.

Your personality is huge; far bigger than your tiny body. Bigger than life itself. You positively vibrate with energy. You’re so excited about things – you get more excited about the smallest treat than most people get about Christmas. You talk with such emphasis and your eyes go wide, eyebrows up as high as they can go, and you lean into whoever is lucky enough to be the recipient of your attention, gesturing with your hands, fake whispering with a smile dancing on your lips. You're an amazing dichotomy of cuddly and Don't Touch Me, of princess and worms, of shy and outgoing.

You love to dance and sing. You’re always singing songs to yourself, whether made up on the spot or learned in school or One Direction songs learned from Pandora. Sometimes if you hear me start singing along, you’ll stop singing and put on a big fake pout, waiting for me to ask, “What’s wrong?” so you can reply, “I just want to sing by myself, please.” Other times, you want me to sing and sing loudly and sing the entire album over and over and over.

You love reading. Every night we do three books - because you're three years old! - plus one bonus book if you've been good, and the reminder that you won't get a bonus book at night is often all it takes to make you start listening. You love animals, dressing up, playing play dough, pretend cooking, real cooking, and drawing people (your art skills have just exploded in the last few months!). You love your baby sister (and any baby). You love camping. You love a show on Netflix called Julius, Jr., about a monkey inventor (yes, really). You love your friends, and it kind of breaks my heart when it's just me and you and your sister going to a park and you ask if any friends will be there - you're definitely a social little girl. You love playing MineCraft with daddy and you guys have built and entire "Carys room" in dad's virtual world.

You’re SO creative and inventive. Your dramatic play game is on point (to use some 2014 slang). You create these elaborate role-playing games and embed yourself deep into characters, so much so that you will answer without a second’s pause if I call you by the character’s name. You change the way you carry yourself and your gait and your voice and your mannerisms. You keep narratives going for months at a time. You're a mermaid ("Oh, look at my legs! They're turning into a fin!"), a robot ("Beep boop beep, press the button to make me walk!"), a statue, a princess, a ninja, a pirate, a teacher, a mom, a baby, veterinarian, a cook, a farmer, a singer. You have fantastical outfits that you put together in a million different combinations and use everyday items in ways I would have never considered. If I had not birthed you, I'd have serious doubts as to your parentage. You beg to wear tights. In 90 degree weather.

You have the most nurturing little soul. You love to play with babies – real and dolls – and take care of them in the most realistic ways that kind of actually blow my mind sometimes (and serve as a reminder that you’re always watching and taking in my actions and words). You dote on your sister – when you’re not yelling at her to leave your toys alone or get out of your play space – and you have a hilarious tone that you take with babies, squatting down and pinching their cheeks lightly and talking baby talk to them: “Oh, what a cute little baby, wook at dat wittle cheeky cheeky cheeky!” A few of your friends’ parents have had babies lately and you are completely enamored with “Baby Jakey” and all the other babies. You have asked me on more than one occasion if we could just please take all the babies home with us or if we could just please have another baby so you can hold it, since Emmeline doesn’t let you hold her anymore. And it’s not just babies – you delight in caring for me and your dad as well. You ask if we need a cuddle or our hand held or a band-aid or a snack. And it's not just humans - any creature is deserving of your doting, be it a real worm or a hard plastic toy lion or a paper giraffe puppet.

You take dance class and swim class, and we do drop-in gymnastics every once in a while. We did an actual gymnastics class for a few months, but it was a little too structured and a little to "real" gymnastics and less "fun" gymnastics, so we dropped it at your request. Your dance class is about the cutest thing I've ever seen, like EVER, with your little leg warmers and bony shoulders sticking out of your leotard and tiny ballet slippers. You're still a great swimmer, too - swimming the length of the pool and using big arms and holding your breath. I'd love to get you into a team sport this spring or summer, like soccer, and I think you'd love to do something like taekwondo. And eventually I want you to do real gymnastics again - I really think you'd be good at it.

You went on your first flight - to Hilton Head - and did amazing. You loved flying and regularly ask if we can "...fly to [insert place] like when we went to Hilton Head." You absolutely adored the beach and our bike rides around the island, and made fast friends with Mary Jo and Steve. Dad's friends stayed with us and I like to think you charmed the heck out of them (you even made up a nickname for Sam, calling him "Sammy"). We also had several long drives - to St. Louis and Dubuque and Chicago - and you did great. You can entertain yourself for hours on end given the right tools, and you adapt so well to different hotel rooms and cities. We went camping a handful of times, and you (YAY!) are a great little camper. You love everything about it - the tent sleeping, the hikes, the s'mores, and, of course, being with Nana.

I could write a million pages about you and all of the things that are so special about you (and, let's face it, probably about all the other three year olds out there - but those three year olds aren't MINE). Like your last letter, I've been collecting bits and pieces of things you've said or done over the last six months and I'm going to include them in a huge, long list. Most of these are probably precious only to me, but....well....this letter is from me to you, so that's okay. Some of them I remembered to jot down with dates and some I didn't, because I'm a terrible mother. (And the tense/voice changes throughout, I'm sorry not sorry for the inconsistencies. And some are stolen directly from FB updates.)

August 2014: 
- Mail bringer (what you started calling our mailman)
- Really into the phrase "poopy head." You said that you were a "poopy head princess with a long poopy head dress and a poopy head crown and poopy head sparkly shoes."
- After I did the ALS ice bucket challenge, a few days later you called me into the backyard, and I found you drenched in water. You then showed me your own version of the challenge, complete with a little intro like I'd done.
 - You call yourself the "Keeper of the snails/dog/cat/baby"
- When driving, you yelled at me when I wasn't answering you: "Do you hear my voice coming out of my mouth???"
- After playing in the rain, you and I were soaking wet, while Emmeline was dry (thanks to her stroller canopy. From the backseat you called, "Okay, yell if you are wet! [pause] Emmeline didn't yell, because she is dry."
- You started sounding out words and phrases, especially when trying to prompt Emmeline to talk: c-c-carys
- We drove by a guy holding up a Domino's sign, and Carys said, "Did you see that guy holding a sign?" I said, "Yes, what do you think it said?" Carys: "I think it says, go cars go! You can do it!"
- When camping: she called an axe a "hammer that cuts wood." She also took a bag of food and wouldn't put it down, saying, "I need to take these snacks into the woods when I look for bugs in case I get hungry or lost!"

September 14:
- At swim class, you decided to swim like a mermaid all day and refused the goggles and refused to kick your feet separately - you'd only swim with your legs crossed at the ankle and flap your legs like a mermaid might. Miss Keri couldn't stop laughing at you.
- You called a milkshake "drinking ice cream"
- You were pretending to be Ariel all day, right through bedtime. You asked for a bedtime song so I started to sing "Hush Little Baby" when you stopped me and said, "No, hush little ARIEL." I had to sing the rest of the song using "Ariel" instead of "baby."
- While playing Frozen with you, I was Elsa. You directed me: "Mom, pretend Anna is frozen." Me as Elsa): "Oh no, Carys, Anna is frozen. What should I do?" Your reply: "I don't know, stand next to her and cry, I guess."
- When asking if something is breakable: "Is this glassable??"
- Carys made worms out of play-dough, then lovingly put them in a container to take outside... because, as she explained it, "I am the keeper of the worms."
- Carys: "Why do you have to go to work?" Me: "So I can get some money." Carys: "Why do you need to get some money?" Me: "So I can pay for things." Carys: "So you can pay for things at Target?" (Well, she's not wrong...)
- Carys, after looking appraising my outfit: "Yeah, that's great. That's really great. You look wonderful." (Ok, thanks, toddler Tim Gunn.)
- Carys, in an exasperated tone: "Do you see what I'm wearing? A white dress." Me: "Oh, I do. What does that mean?" Carys: "It means married!" Me: "It does? You're getting married?" Carys: "No, I'm not getting married. I'm already married!" Me: "Who are you married to?" Carys: "YOU, MOMMY! Did you forget???"
- When she cut her forehead and knees after a fall at the park, she cried out, "I'm BLOODING!"
- So this is probably how every toddler reacts to their first ocean experience and it's not special - other than the fact that it's special because she's my kid - but I can't get over how not only can I not get Carys out of the ocean, but all she wants to do is go so deep she can barely stand and have the waves crash over her head. Maybe she really IS a mermaid like she keeps telling me.
- We watched a wildlife show at the zoo where they showed the hand signals they use to communicate with the birds. Over a month later, we were at home and she wanted to play zoo, and replicated the symbols with no prompting and pretended the birds were flying between us.
 - When she didn't want to give Nana a hug goodbye: "I'm sorry, you have no more hugs to give out, Nana. They're all gone. I guess you can't give me a hug."

October 2014: 
- On Halloween, Carys didn't want to trick or treat, she just wanted to hand out candy. She's all "Why, hello there!" and "What a great costume!" and "Oh, how wonderful!" in a hilariously patronizing tone to each person who came up. Then she got totally dejected when there weren't any more trick or treaters and sat on the front stoop calling for kids to come: "Helllloooo! Is anyone there? Come to my house! We have candy!!!"

November 2014: 
- I let Carys have a fortune cookie this morning. She pulled out the fortune and fake read it: "This says 'Santa loves you. Also Christmas trees, presents, and toys are coming tomorrow." Clearly we need to work on a) her reading skills b) her idea of true Christmas spirit and c) her timelines.
- When crying with tears dripping down her cheeks, you asked in a plaintive voice, "Don't you see my drippings?"
- While I was working on the computer and she wanted me to color: "No mom, you can do both. You have two hands. One for coloring and one for working."
- When I asked her if she would share her candy with me and she said no, I replied, "Don't you love me?" She said, "Ugh, mom, of course I love you. I always love you. [pause] But I'm still not sharing."

December 2014
- In her letter to Santa: "I would like a spaceship, but not a real spaceship, just a toy spaceship that flies all around. A real one is too big for our house."
- Carys: "Poopy butt! Poopy butt!" Me: "Carys, I don't like to that. You need to choose to say nice words." Carys: "Fine. NICE WORDS NICE WORDS NICE WORDS. There, are you happy now?"
- After I wouldn't let her have another cookie, she ran to her room, then yelled when I went to go check on her: "Get out of my bedroom! My bedroom is closed! I still love you but I don't want you by me!"

January 2014:
- I gave you a Junior Mint. Your assessment: "Well, they're a little bit spicy, but I........LOVE THEM!"
- You asked Nana if you could have this decorative rock, and grandpa replied (being silly), "As long as it's not George the rock. We can't part with George." Nana said, "No, this is Edward the rock." For the next week you carried "Edward the Rock" around and "fed" him and bathed him and tucked him in at night.
 - Carys wanted to play Minecraft and she is SO pissed at me for not doing it right. "No! You need a different axe! No, mom, chop that tree! MOM WHY DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS?"
- When I asked her to repeat herself using a nicer voice (not whining) she replied, "Mom! Calm down! Everything is okay!"
- You started lecturing me with fake Daniel Tiger lessons: "Daniel Tiger says, 'If you don't want to share with someone, it's okay not to share then!" and "If you accidentally hit someone, stop and say sorry right away!" (in a singsong voice)

Undated (because I'm awful): 
- "My arms are getting dizzy!" (after moving your arms in a circle)
- You have a tenuous grasp of monetary concepts: "Did you bring one money to buy one ice cream or two monies to buy two ice cream?"
- After I told her to "eat it up!" she replied, "Eat it up? But I eat it down! Down my throat and into my stomach!"
- I told her, "Carys, you are getting so big!" And she started crying, "I don't want to get so big! If I get bigger and bigger and bigger I won't fit in the house anymore and I might break it!"
- She was sick one night, and in the morning ran out and said, "I feel more such better!"
- After I told her she had to listen to me because I was in charge: "No, Elsa is in charge!"
- You attempted to tell knock knock jokes: "Knock knock!" "Who's there?" "A horse!" "A horse who?" "Because I'm a horse that lives on a farm!"

To keep up the tradition, a round up of your favorite things:

Favorite food: Ice cream and broccoli
Favorite drink: Milk
Favorite movie/TV show: Frozen, Julius Jr, Strawberry Shortcake, Scooby Doo, Little Princess, Zig and Sharko
Favorite color: Pink or purple
Favorite clothes: Real clothes - any long tunic or dress. Play clothes are your Elsa dress.
Favorite shoes: Your gray boots or your light-up Elsa shoes
Favorite toy: Play-dough
Favorite book: Frozen "Look and Find" book
Favorite park activity: SWINGS.
Favorite teacher: Mr. Connor
Favorite school friend: Addy
Favorite friend not at school: Charlotte

You're 43.5 pounds, 40" tall, and wear size 4T (3T is too short). Your hair goes down to your mid-back and is light brown and curly. You have big, expressive hazel eyes. You wake up about 8:30 and go to bed around 9. You go to daycare 2x a week, swim class once a week, and dance class once a week. You know the alphabet and how to write most of the letters, and can spell your name, "mom", and "dad" by heart (as well as E-M-M-E of Emmeline). You can count pretty high - I actually don't know how high. But at least to 30. You can recognize all the numbers. You can color in the lines, but you don't often have the patience to do so. You can draw people (with hair and fingers and toes and elbows and knees) and hearts. You can do a flip off the arm of the couch.

I'm stealing the same line I used to close your last letter, because I love it and it gets me right in the feels: You're beautiful and amazing and flawed and wonderful (and because of that, I think you're perfect).

I love you so much.

Love, Mama

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Letters to Emmy : Thirteen Months

What, did you think these would end at twelve months? Nope. I assure you I don't actually say her age in months anymore out in the real world, but I did Carys's letters until she was two, so I'm hoping to do the same with Emmeline, since I already failed on the weekly bump pics and her weekly and monthly age pics. I'm so sorry, Emmeline. I assure you that you're just as important and just as loved as your big sister (maybe more so since at the moment she's throwing a tantrum that I wouldn't let her have a third fruit bar today).

December 12, 2014 to January 12, 2015
Dear Em,

Hey, little girl, hey. You're hilarious and awesome and I love you. You make me laugh and laugh and laugh. And you make your sister laugh and laugh and laugh. And your dad. And your Nana. And everyone who meets you.

Your scrunched up smiley face remains absolutely THE BEST. The best everything. And you lean forward and put it right in our faces while chattering and it's impossible not to start giggling. Or you'll run forward to us, smiling and laughing with your arms flung back, almost daring us to not pick you up and toss you into the air.

You want to be an adult, like, yesterday. You want to eat food, but only off my plate the exact same way I'm eating it. You want to drink water, but only out of a real cup AND PUT AWAY THAT SIPPY CUP WOMAN, WHAT AM I, A BABY? You want to always be on my level and see and do what I'm seeing and doing. You want to put on your own shoes. You want to put on your own coat. You take the lotion bottle and try to put lotion on your hands and rub it all over your tummy. You take a brush and brush your hair (and mine). You want to take off your own diaper and put on your own diaper and put the puzzle together yourself and build the tower yourself and you get so frustrated when these things don't happen the way you want them to happen.

You're in that interesting phase where you're equally adventurous/independent and clingy. There's no middle ground. You're either off on your own and a mile away before I can blink, or you're crying to be picked up. And if you're in the mood to be independent, ain't nothing keeping you in my arms. You know all the tricks to wriggle out of my grasp. And if you're in the mood to be held, you'll stop at nothing to get there. You will practically climb up my legs into my arms.

You've started playing by yourself for a little while. You got stacking cups from Grandma Blankets for Christmas and they may well be your favorite toy at the moment. I'm so impressed (mom brag warning) by how you've figured out the order they go in and how you can stack them together over and over. You also love this activity table you got (also from Grandma Blankets!) and this little button art activity that is actually Carys's - while you can't match the colors to the picture yet, you love putting the buttons in the holes and I was pretty surprised you could do it. You also love it because it has a million little pieces and that means a million little things you can throw around, because mess. And what toddler doesn't love a good mess?

Up until this last month you would flip the heck out if I tried to put shoes or socks on you and you'd rip them off or cry until I took them off. I couldn't even put footie pajamas on you - in the middle of the night when you'd wake up, you'd pull and pull at them until they were completely twisted around and out of place. But now you allow exactly one pair of shoes on those chubby little feet - which is sad for me, because there are like a dozen cute pairs handed down from your sister that you refuse to wear.

You were doing so good with sleeping and just waking up once a night - sometimes twice - but molars have shot that plan all to hell. You're not waking up every hour, at least (though it feels like it). We're back to 3-4 wake-ups, though, and you're not going back down easily either. I am tiiiiiiiiiiired. So tired. THANKS, OBAMA. AND MOLARS.

You've started taking a stand if your sister (or I or anyone else) takes something away from you that you wanted or if we're sitting somewhere you want to be sitting. When that happens, lord help us all. A banshee scream emerges that can pierce the eardrums of anyone within a five mile radius. And you use your super toddler strength (and I'm not exaggerating there - you are freaking strong) to pull your sister's hair or pull at her shirt to try to physically force her to move out of the chair you wanted to sit in or out of my lap or just pretty much out of your life at the moment. (Although you still totally adore her above all others and she still makes you laugh harder than anyone else.)

We went to the zoo a couple times this month, and obviously we celebrated Christmas (which meant nothing to you - you weren't really even into ripping off wrapping paper, hello, are you even a real baby??), and you spent the night away from us for the first time ever over New Year's Eve (and did fantastic).

Mornings when it's just the two of us - before your sister or dad wake up - are my favorite times with you. Although I spend the first half hour trying to get you to play by yourself so I can grab a few more minutes of sleep curled up on the couch, as soon as I'm awake, you sit on my lap and make funny faces and goofy noises at me and make me laugh and laugh and laugh. And that's not a bad way to wake up. I mean, it is when it's at 6:00 a.m. But like at 8:30 a.m. it's pretty awesome.

My other favorite things: the way you back yourself up into my lap, carefully lining yourself off and walking backwards until your knees touch my legs and then sitting. And when you misalign yourself and fall to the side. And how you're always bringing me books to read you. And that amazing scrunch-faced smile. And your sweet babbling and vocalizations. The way you slowly and softly squeeze your hand up and down my arm when you're falling asleep in my lap. How you want to hold my hand after I've laid you down. How you tuck your arms in against my chest when I'm holding you upright. And the teeny tiny pigtails that I gave you for the first time. Oh, and the way you kick your leg when I'm holding you and your legs are dangling over mine. You're always kicking at least one leg, even as your drifting off to sleep.

And pretty much just all of you.  You're really freaking awesome, baby girl.  I love you so much.