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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Letters to Carrots : Four Years Old

January 7 to July 7, 2015
Dear Carys,

You're four years old and suddenly it's like you might as well be ten. You've grown up so much, somehow, overnight. I know it will be years and years of this - seeing you wake up and seeing you in a totally different light. It's a little bittersweet.

Okay, a lot bittersweet. Every day that goes by is one day less that I get to spend with you, and it makes me want to quit work and go on fantastic adventures all over the world with you, using the excuse, "Don't you see?? I only have a few years left where I can do this!" along the way. Before long you'll be in school all day and our lazy mornings and trips to the zoo and children's museum and impromptu overnights will be restricted to weekends only. (And let's face it, everyone else is trying to squeeze those experiences into weekends, which is why the zoo and similar places suck ass on Saturdays.)

I can't explain how much I love you. I can write a million words (and god knows I come close) but not come close to touching on what this love for you and your sister is like.  I think moms will understand what I mean. The way your heart flutters every time you look at them (especially when they are sleeping, right?!?) and you physically feel affected. That fullness in your heart? That feeling like your heart is going to burst with the next heartbeat? (Okay, realistically, it's not EVERY time, Carys. Those times you're throwing a fit bring out slightly different emotions. But for the purpose of this sappy letter, we're pretending those times don't exist.)

You're such an amazing kid, full of contradictions and whimsy and imagination and sass and it mystifies me how such a little person can hold so much personality. You're smart and beautiful and funny and loving and kind. And I always wonder where in the heck you came up with some of the things you say.

You're still bold and brave and outgoing, but you're showing signs of pulling back and questioning your abilities, which breaks my heart. I know part of it is just getting older, but when you start to hesitate before doing things that you've done a million times before, I want to take you into a little bubble and do nothing but shower self-confidence on you. You can climb, you can hold the praying mantis, you can draw mermaids, you can make new friends at the playground.

And you really can do so much. You can open the car door, climb into your seat, and buckle yourself in - and make sure that it's tight enough and the buckle is in the right position. You can make yourself frozen waffles for breakfast. You can pour Emmeline a sippy cup of milk. You can walk to your friend's house by yourself. Some days I legitimately feel like you don't need me at all!

You're so eager to learn everything. Why do mosquitos drink blood? How far did we bike? Why does the S make an 'ssss' sound? How, exactly, do babies get food when they're in their mommy's tummy? What happens if you fill a bag with soap and water and shake it up? You love theories and experiments and looking up answers. I love this age, where the thirst for knowledge and answers literally can't be quenched. It's non-stop questions and wonderment.

You've gotten so much better at helping and listening when I ask you to do something over the past few months. I think you've realized now that it's super annoying to listen to me ask 100 times and to go into time out when you don't listen, so you just get it over with. But even if it's born out of annoyance with me, I'll take it!

We've taught you your address and 911 (and, by the way, role-playing a 911 call is a favorite activity around here, where I act as both the injured person and the 911 operator: "Mom, fall down and get hurt so you can't move!" followed by "Okay, mom, I am calling 911, answer!"). I think you're kind of hoping for a disaster to occur so you can use this knowledge, while I'm hoping you NEVER have to use it. When I tripped down two stairs the other day, you immediately ran up, shouting, "CAN I CALL 911????" When I declined your offer, you ran to get me an ice pack instead. I love how you take care of me.

You're always coming up with plans. "Mom, I have a great plan." "Hey mom, listen to this great idea!" I hear those words whenever a challenge arises, whenever I put the kibosh on an idea. You can't go to Elizabeth's house to play because she's napping? "I have a great plan! What if we write her a note and leave it on her door and it says to come over as soon as she wakes up?" I say no more dessert? "Hey! What about this idea? Let's have some frozen fruit! That's kind of like dessert but it's healthy so we can eat it any time!" I need dad to help you because I'm putting Emmeline to bed? "What about if dad puts Emmeline to bed so you can help me? Does that sound like a great plan?" So many great plans and great ideas come out of that brain of yours - you have an answer to everything. To. Everything. It's so hard to tell you no anymore because you're always coming up with workarounds and solutions for any challenge. I hate resorting to "because I said so" but I've had to resort to "because I said so" because it's the only thing you don't have any answer for (yet).

You love to write. You can read and write a handful of words by heart, like Carys, mom, dad, nana; you can recognize a few more, like Emmeline and Hanlon (but not write them unless I spell them for you). You love to practice writing and are always spelling out words we see around us and asking me to spell things so you can write them. When we drive down the street, you spell words and call out numbers as we pass them and I'm just so thrilled that you're so excited by literacy right now. I hope you always love letters and reading and writing.

You're hands down one of the most creative kids I've ever met. Your dress-up outfits and characters literally astound me sometimes (a Space Girl Pirate Princess? With a tiara and a sword tucked into your belt? Okay then!). You absolutely LOVE to draw and you're like one of those speed drawers you see doing street art - you whip out 10 family portraits in about two minutes. I love the small details you include - my freckles, dad's beard, Emmeline's tiny ponytail. It pains me to throw any of them away, but we'd seriously have 200 sheets of paper from just a week's worth of time. You're very prolific. You're always coming up with new storylines to act out, singing songs in the car, or giving a dramatic reenactment of earlier moments.

But your dress-up play just exceeds everything. It's the best. The absolute best. Seeing what you come down the stairs wearing is always a highlight of my day. Your ability to layer rivals the most celebrated fashionista. (And don't forget the makeup...you love my makeup.)

You still absolutely LOVE animals. Farm animals, wild animals, zoo animals, bugs, mammals, whatever. If there's an animal to pet in a 10 mile radius, you'll find it. And pet it. And cry when we can't take it home. You love to sit on our front step and wave at all the dogs (and people) walking by, calling out how much you love their dog and how cute it is and asking to pet it.

And babies. OMG, you and babies. You're drawn to them, and you want nothing more than to mother them and love them and take care of them. You're lucky we had good friends who all had babies (since you're probably not getting another one out of me!).  You love them so much that one of our friends actually gave you a picture of her baby, and it's one of your treasured possessions.

You're such an active, outdoorsy, nature-lovin' kid. I will keep these traits in you if it kills me (and sometimes, when it's 100 degrees and 90% humidity, I feel like it might). You love going on trike rides, you love going on bike rides, you love camping, you love exploring and geocaching and searching for munzees. I really, really wished we lived somewhere that was more temperate and suitable to outdoor play all year long. Cooping you up inside on days when it's just dangerously hot or cold outside is kind of heartbreaking. I feel like I'm caging a tiger at the zoo. You just want to roam free!

I'm never going to remember all of your particular mannerisms and facial expressions and I wish I could record a day-long video of you just to catch them all at least once. You have this quick thumbs-up that you'll throw while you look over your shoulder at me to tell me that everything is okay or that you're having fun or that you're listening to the instructor. You raise your eyebrows and get wide-eyed while telling stories or when you're excited about things. You have a scruncy-nosed, squinty-eyed smile that comes out when you're really happy, and a lopsided grin that emerges when you're giving me that knowing look.

You're so kind and empathetic (usually). You break out with "I love yous" randomly, to me and Emmeline and dad, throughout the day and usually follow it up with a kiss or a hug. You ask for cuddles still (surefire way to make me cry: think about how one of these times will be the LAST TIME YOU EVER TELL ME YOU NEED CUDDLES) and love climbing up into my arms or falling asleep next to me. You cry if you feel like an animal or friend is hurt. You're usually unfailingly polite, with your conversations sprinkled with "please" and "thank you" without prompting. You usually share so well, so much better than what I'd expect from a four year old. I rarely have to remind you to share - you just hand over a handful of your snack to Emmeline without anyone asking. Whenever you get something for yourself (like a po-ca-sicle), you always get one for me and your sister, too. You love giving gifts to others and I'm often presented with a small package, wrapped in a napkin and secured with a mile of scotch tape and a smile.

And girl, I can't even begin to describe what an amazing sister you are to Emmeline. You love her so much (and believe me - the feeling is mutual). You have the regular sisterly dust-ups - fighting over the same toy, or mom's lap, or the last cookie - but you two care about each other so much. You take such good care of her, Carys. She's so incredibly lucky to have a sister like you, even at your young ages. I had to run to the grocery store quickly, and we left Em with dad, and while we were shopping, you pulled me close and whispered, "Mommy, I really miss Emmeline. Let's hurry up and get home." TEARS, right?!? I hold no illusions that will always be like this, but I hope to the deepest part of my soul that you'll always be close.

Lest you think you're a perfect four-year-old - the first to ever exist - you're not. You can be stubborn, and you can be sneaky (I SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING THERE), you can have a hard time listening and sharing. Sometimes you cry when I drop you off to daycare, sometimes you deliberately disobey, sometimes you whine...a lot...and sometimes you can be mean. You're very, very four. You are every ounce a four-year-old. But I'm partial to thinking you're a pretty fantastic one.

I think you're so beautiful. You have gray/green/hazel eyes that defy categorization. You have looooooong hair, almost down to your waist (past your waist when it's wet), that curls at the end and looks like it was dipped in sunshine - it's about 5 shades lighter at the bottom than the top. You've had it trimmed twice in your life and I need to take you to get it trimmed again. It probably even needs to be seriously cut, but I can't bring myself to do it. I keep hearing about all these people that cut their kids' hair only to have the curls NEVER COME BACK.  On the otherhand, maybe it will curl even more with less weight pulling it down. Or maybe it will stay exactly the same. But we'll never know since I'm gonna pull a Mother Gothel on you and not let you cut it, ever.  (Or until you ask, at least.)  Your eyes are so unique - they're so hard to describe. Gray? Brown? Green? Hazel? A little bit of everything all mixed together. You have a tiny scar in the middle of your forehead from when you fell running downhill at the old house, you have a smattering of freckles across your nose, and one fleeting dimple. All in all, it's about the best face I've ever seen.

Swimming is another favorite activity, and you're still in swim class (3.5 years now!). They're teaching side breaths and I just can't believe a just-turned-four-year-old is learning freaking side breaths. We got a slip 'n slide and let's just say we've killed some grass in the backyard because it is always on. Taking a bath in our huge master bathroom tub is one of the greatest treats I can allow you and you'd stay in until your entire body wrinkled into oblivion if I let you.

In addition to swim class, you took dance class from August to May(ish) - specifically pre-ballet. I really love the program you're in; they're very conscious of making sure everything is age-appropriate and the costumes are sweet and never revealing, and the dance moves are completely family-friendly, even with the older kids. You kind of wavered back and forth with your enjoyment of the class - while you always seemed to really love it once you got started, you sometimes didn't want to go or didn't want me to leave the room (which I had to do, because otherwise Emmeline wanted to join you like WHOA and a 1 year old running around the room while a bunch of 3-5 year olds tried to dance was not ideal). But you did AWESOME at your recital. I was so, so, so proud of you.

We took you to Frozen on Ice in Chicago in January, and we moved. Those were the two big things that happened in the last six months. You were a trooper during our road trip (seven hours each way, and I don't think you complained once!), and you were REALLY a trooper during the move. You put up with me dragging you to look out house after house after house and open house after open house (and actually loved looking at all the different houses and imagining where your room and toys would go in each one). And the actual move? Somehow, we survived that with nary a setback. It didn't phase you in the slightest. It helped that we did it so gradually, but you took to the new house like you'd always lived there, and only mentioned the old house once or twice in passing.

We've been having the kindergarten discussion for a while now, and I think we've almost certainly decided to send you after your sixth birthday instead of your fifth birthday. Nebraska's cutoff is in July - one of the earliest in the country, if not the earliest - so you will have just turned five days before starting kindergarten if we sent you next year. While I think you could handle it perfectly well, both emotionally and mentally, I'm thinking long-term and that I'd rather send you off to college with another year of maturity under your belt. Next year I'm going to pick up on the preschool curriculum at home, and a few months before kindergarten starts I'll slowly bring you up to going to daycare/preschool full time so that the transition isn't from two days to five days all of the sudden, but rather two days to three days to four days to five days.

Really, I don't even want to think about kindergarten, because I'm going to miss having you around. I'm sure I'll enjoy some of the freedom, but I am REALLY going to miss you. So let's just move on from that line of thought altogether, shall we?

(The shoes!)

I've kept a list of things that you've said but I just realized they're on my other phone. My old, broken one. I'll have to charge it up and see if I can pull them off of there. In the meantime, this is what I had stored on the computer:

February 2015
- You called me into the kitchen and handed me a cup full of Italian Soda, then got dad a cup of coke, then got Emmeline a cup of milk, all before you got yourself a drink of water last. I couldn't have been more proud of you, thinking of everyone before yourself (although, girl - sometimes in life, put yourself first. You deserve it.) 

- Neighbor was stuck in the snow and we were watching out the window: "I know, mom! I think we should open the window and yell out, 'You can do it! Go, go, go! I know you can do it!'" When I pointed out it was a little too cold to open the window, you paused and said, "Ok, how about we put on our coats and boots and gloves and we'll go help her?? I'm really strong!"

- You had an existential crisis on her way to Annie's birthday party today. I mentioned that Annie was turning four, and you lost her damn mind. "I don't want Annie to turn four! I want us all to be three forever! Me and Charlotte and Leah and Taylor and Annie all need to be three together! Mommy, please make it no more birthdays!"

- "My arm and leg got eaten off by a dinosaur. I just have to put the arm pieces and the leg pieces in the fridge to save for later so the doctor can put them back on."

Carys, there are so many things I want to do with you, so many experiences I want to share, and I have to remind myself that even though these years are flying by, we have time. We have time to sneak in another zoo trip. We have time to go camping. We have time to sleep in late, to play baseball outside, to bike to the ice cream shop.

The days are long, but the years are short.

So much truth in that short sentence.

I love you, Carys. I love you so very much.





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