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Cullen’s 28-month letter

June 4th, 2012

So, now I have a new plan of doing every 4 months for Cullen’s 2nd year, since I couldn’t get my act together to do a 27-month letter. I don’t think he’ll mind too much. Here’s the latest letter to Cullen. I managed to finish the letter a day or two after the “birthday,” but it took me longer to get the photos together.

Dear Cullen,

Wow! So much has happened since my last letter to you four months ago. I’m not sure where to begin! Since you turned two, you have started a new class at school, you embarked on potty training adventures, you ditched your pacifiers, you had two birthday celebrations (one shared with your sister), you’ve added a few teeth and had your first trip to the dentist, and we spent our first nights apart from each other.

Shortly after the letter, we had a cupcake party at school in your 1-year old classroom to celebrate your birthday. You requested cupcakes and rocket ship goldfish for your special snack. You loved having Mommy and Daddy in the classroom with you. In fact at one point Daddy stood up, and you pointed a finger at him and said, “Daddy, you are not going anywhere!”

Since your sister’s birthday is in February, the two of you agreed that you wanted to have a Mickey and Minnie themed joint birthday party. You were so cute in your matching Mickey and Minnie shirts embroidered with your names! I baked and decorated a Mickey cake along with pretty cupcakes with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters. You and Maddie were excited to invite friends Keira, Sophie, Maya and Tristan to your party. Uncle Chad, Aunt Kristin, Nana, Papa, Grandma, Melissa, and Jason were also in attendance. The kids all enjoyed the cupcakes and made quite a mess. I was questioning my decision to use brightly colored icing, and this was one of the few times recently that we have used a bib for you. You were a little embarrassed when everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to you and Maddie.

You were excited about opening your presents from the party, and one of your favorites was a robot matryoshka. You love taking them apart and putting them back together. You have taken it to bed with you on several occasions. One day, you placed them on the table in front of you and said, “the robots are watching me eat breakfast.” You’ve also gotten quite a bit of usage out of a set of colorful wooden blocks in different shapes. You received a few new books as well, including “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck.” I love the expressions that you make for the different emotions discussed in the book. You’ve been more aware of your emotions and will say things like, “Maddie, I’m angry at you!” when you’re not happy with your sister.

You aren’t always great at using your words when you are angry. Your most common approach is to shriek loudly when someone is disagreeing with what you are saying. Most commonly, that someone is your sister. You still love to get under her skin by saying things that often aren’t true (like that you got into the car first when you really didn’t). This results in Maddie whining and crying that she was first. You then shriek at her, insisting, “No! I WAS FIRST!” At this point, Maddie does some more crying and says that you’re hurting her ears while you shriek some more. This happens with all sorts of things such as an argument over who had a good day today (at which point I remind you two that “it’s not a competition” and that you can both have good day). I feel like it happens at least once a day in either our commute to or from school or both. It’s not always a pleasant drive with these arguments!

Sometimes you don’t use your words at all and you try to hit your sister or throw things at her. This gets you a quick trip to time out (or sometimes when you’re really out of control, a trip to your room for some quiet time). You’re not a fan of time out, and you’re not particularly good at staying there. Time out is on the verge of being an effective tool for you. Sometimes the threat of it works to curb your behavior, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a trip to time out is successful, and other times it seems to be pointless. The threat of losing “privileges” works for you sometimes, but usually these “privileges” have to be something that is going to happen immediately (like just before your bedtime stories). We’re getting close to being able to use better logic to explain the consequences of your actions. You already know when you made a “bad choice” and tell us that next time you will make a “better choice.”

You and your sister have your fair share of fights, but overall I just love seeing the two of you play together. You two can be so sweet, and you keep each other entertained most of the time. The other day, Maddie declared that she was going to marry you and you accepted her proposal. You suggested that Daddy and I should get married as well. We’re way ahead of you, little man! You two will often declare that the other is your “best friend.” I hope that you will continue to be close, though I know sibling rivalry will be ugly at times. One of my favorite things about you two is that you call each other “sissy” and “brud.” One day recently, Daddy called you a “little stinker” to which you replied, “No, I not a stinker! I’m Cullen! Or Brud.”

You still insist on sitting next to each other at dinner, and your bedtime routine isn’t complete without hugs and kisses for your sissy. It is one of my biggest hopes that the two of you will share a special bond throughout your lives. It makes me so happy to see the way you two adore each other and to see the daily special moments like when you hold hands on an after dinner walk.

About a month after your birthday, you started your new classroom at school. You transitioned very quickly. You visited on the first day, and you were ready to stay all day on the second day. For the next two weeks, you were very concerned that I was going to drop you off at the wrong classroom. You did not want to return to that “baby” class! I think your transition was greatly helped by the fact that Dana is one of your new teachers since she sometimes comes to babysit. You and Maddie absolutely love Dana! You’ve even made up a song about her. Your friend Clare was welcoming as well. You already knew her since her mommy and I are friends. You and Clare didn’t overlap very long in the classroom, but I still think she helped with your transition.

I think that your 1-year old teachers miss you, especially since you were one of the only kids that they could have conversations with! Your communication skills are amazing. You seem to be able to express anything you want to say. When you are hurt, it usually calms you down when I ask you if you can use your words to tell me what’s wrong. Usually just being able to tell me that you bumped your head with a toy or that someone stepped on your toes seems to really make you feel better. I know it makes you feel great that you’re able to tell us things and that we understand you most of the time. I love the little conversations that we have these days, and I especially love the conversations that you and Maddie have together.

One day in the car, you were making elaborate plans involving your good friends Maya and Tristan coming over to our house and having a sleepover. Maddie started to chime in with some ideas of her own, and you turned to her and said, “No. You not talk. It’s my turn to talk, and it’s your turn to listen. It’s not a competition. It’s not a competition, Maddie.”

Another reason your transition went so well is that you were ready for some new challenges! You love all the opportunities in your new class. Since you go to a Montessori school, all the activities are called “work.” Your favorite works are the jigsaw puzzles and painting. When I ask what you did that day, you usually talk about one of those two things. You have gotten great at jigsaw puzzles and can put together 48-piece puzzles all by yourself! You progressed rather quickly from the peg-style toddler puzzles to the 48-piece puzzles. I think perhaps we weren’t challenging you enough with these! You often want to do everything your sister is doing, and your sister also loves puzzles. You both seem to have a knack for them. Since starting in this classroom, you come home with random discussions like about how butterflies come out of cocoons and how you talked about sea shells at school. You seem eager to learn new things! You’ve been great at identifying your colors and shapes for a while, and you’re pretty good at counting up to 20 (and sometimes beyond!).

Your new classroom has new routines as well. You now have access to a sink so that you can wash your hands anytime that you need to. This means that in the beginning you had numerous outfit changes from soaking yourself in the sink! You also set your own place at the lunch table and serve yourself family style and pour your own milk. The first few months of this class comes with many outfit changes, and most of those are due to spilled yogurt at lunch!

We have entered a new phase of outfit changes. A couple of months ago, one of your teachers called me on the phone to say that you wanted to talk to me. You took a few minutes to get out what you wanted to say, but when you warmed up on the phone, you said, “Mommy, I want to wear underwear.” I wasn’t ready to start the potty training, but I wasn’t going to say no to that! We started the following Monday. It has been an adventure, but the teachers keep telling us that you’re doing great. In the past couple of weeks, we have definitely seen some progress. You have had some accident free days lately, and you are getting much better at telling us when you need to go potty (rather than us needing to remind you constantly). We are looking forward to being completely accident free and diaper free! You still wear a night-time diaper. Sometimes you wake up dry in the morning. We will probably continue to use the night-time diaper until you’re more consistently dry every morning.

You have had a few regressions with your potty training. One regression occurred while I was out of town. I spent a few days with a girlfriend in Orlando while Daddy stayed at home with you kiddos. This was the first time that I had ever been away from you overnight! I was gone for 4 nights. I missed you, Maddie, and Daddy quite a bit, but I had fun, too. I think out of you three, you missed me the most, though I know Daddy was also very happy to have me home again! You and Maddie were mostly excited that I was bringing presents home with me. I think that you weren’t able to express how you were feeling about my absence. You had more accidents than usual and became suddenly more defiant. That may have been due to me being away, though it could have been due to your incoming two-year old molars. You are slowly getting the last of your baby teeth. You’ve always been a difficult teether, and your teeth are always slow to emerge.

You had your first dental appointment a couple weeks ago. You did great at your appointment, but the dentist pointed out that you were starting to develop a cross bite, likely because of your nighttime pacifier habit. We had been hoping to hang onto the paci until we had the potty training thing under control. The dentist seemed to think that it would be a good idea to go ahead and quit as soon as possible. We talked to you about the paci fairy and said that she would visit and bring you presents when you were ready. You were ready to trade in your pacis that night. You gathered all of the pacis from your bed and asked me to leave them for the paci fairy. You were excited in the morning when the paci fairy left you a set of little horses. The paci transition was difficult for about a week. You didn’t have too much trouble getting to sleep, but you woke up frequently and screamed in the middle of the night. You made odd requests in your half sleeping state like, “I need a straw” and “I need chocolate!”

Your bedtime routine has been pretty consistent for a while now. You give your hugs and kisses to Daddy and Maddie, and then I take you upstairs where you pick out a book or three. Some of your recent frequent requests are Skippyjon Jones, Red Hat Green Hat, The Monster at the End of the Book, and Maddy the Alaskan Moose. You can “read” Red Hat, Green Hat all by yourself. It’s hilarious. You think that the “chicken” (he’s a turkey) is the funniest thing ever. I love having you “read” that one to me. The book follows an easy pattern, so you basically have it memorized.

After stories I say, “let’s find your bed!” (I used to say, “let’s find your pacis!”). I turn off the light, and we give each other “great, big, giant” hugs and kisses. I then sing you a couple of songs at your request. Every once in a while, Maddie will join us and sing you two songs (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and the “ABCs” song). Sometimes you want you and me to sing songs together. Lately, you most often request “Red and White” (one of NC State’s fight songs – you know all the words to this one now!), “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Hush Little Baby,” and “Rock-a-bye Baby.” You know most of the words to all of these songs. Sometimes you’ll request songs from school that I don’t know, and you’ll get upset that I don’t know them or try to teach me the words. For a while, you wanted me to sing “Wheels on the Bus” almost every time. I think you figured out it was the longest song since it had so many verses. We’ll make up verses together. One day, I sang the verse, “The mommies on the bus say ‘I love you.’” While I was singing, you slowly reached up your arms and hugged me in an extremely sweet gesture. You’re also a big fan of “Hush Little Baby” since I often make up additional verses for that one, too. Admittedly, that is because I only know the first few, so I have to improvise. You think that it’s hilarious when Mommy’s going to buy you a porcupine.

You still sleep on the little pillow that you got from the hospital when you had your surgery (a year ago), and you have preferred the train blanket with your name on it. You are starting to get too tall for that one, so you’ve started using your Mickey Bengals blanket a lot. You sometimes ask me to pat your back. You look at me lovingly. It’s very sweet. And then I tell you I have to leave, and you don’t like this. You would prefer for me to stay by your side all night.

You always want “one more story” or “one more song.” I tell you ahead of time how many stories or songs that we are going to do so that you’re prepared, but that doesn’t stop you from trying to squeak in one more. I cover you and pat you and give you kisses. I tell you that I love you big, giant bunches and that I will see you in the morning. You’re nearly out of your bed before I’m even out of the room. You start telling me immediately that you need to potty. You learned that we took you more seriously in the beginning if you said you needed to poop, so you use that often. This is where Daddy steps in and takes you to the potty, puts you back in bed, and covers you. Often you’ll get a bonus song from Daddy.

Sometimes after Daddy covers you, you stay in bed. Most of the time, you come to your door and call for us to come back and help you in some way. You have a gate on your door since our bedroom is downstairs. We don’t want you wandering down the stairs in the middle of the night! You come up with some funny requests at times. Most of the time, you want us to come back and cover you or sing you another song. We keep telling you that you need to go back to bed and cover yourself since both of us have already covered you. You try for a few minutes and usually give up, sometimes saying, “I’ll cover myself” before shutting your door.

You have gone through some phases where you get out of your bed a dozen times with different excuses. The potty excuses have been frequent since we started potty training. Before that, you had to be more creative. You’d throw a book or toy just beyond your reach and ask us to retrieve it. You would put your pacis in your footie jammies and get them stuck down in the feet. You’d claim to have a poopy diaper, knowing that we couldn’t ignore a poopy diaper (smart boy!). Sometimes you’d gather your blanket and pillow and cozy up in the space between your door and the gate, pulling the door as close to you as you can. Once you came to the door and said you were “checking on something.” When I asked what you were checking on, you said that you were checking on your gate. Another time, you came to your door and asked to be excused (just like you do at school and home at the lunch and dinner table). My favorite time was when you opened the door and just said, “Wolfpack! Go State! Wolfpack!” I’m glad that you can’t see our faces with all of your creative requests. You make us laugh!

In the past month or so, you have had your “terrible twos” moments. You are constantly pushing your boundaries. When we want you to do something, you often will run away from us giggling and saying, “you can’t catch me!” With your recent potty training, sometimes this means that you will run around the house refusing to put on pants for 30 minutes. When you misbehave like this, we’ll ask you questions like, “Do you want stories before bedtime?” At times, you’ll reply, “No! I don’t want stories!” You act as if that punishment is precisely what you want. You are keeping us on our toes, little man.

Most of the time you are a very happy boy. People ask us all the time if you’re always as happy as you seem when they see you, and you really are. You have such a sweet smile and a pleasant personality. So many things bring you joy and laughter! One day at dinner, you found Daddy’s name to be very funny. You kept looking at Daddy and saying, “Gabe!” and laughing hysterically. You’re the perfect audience when someone is telling a funny story. You seem to laugh in all the right places. You are very friendly. When we went out to dinner for Maddie’s birthday, you had your eyes on a 5-year old girl at the next table. You said, “I want to see the pretty girl.” The next thing we knew, you went over to visit with them and they adopted you. You were sitting with their kids and coloring. I’m pretty sure you would have gone home with them without protest. The other family loved you!

You continue to show interest in playing games, and you are getting better with the concepts of following directions and taking turns. You can mostly play Candyland, Zingo (a bingo style game), and Hisss, in addition to Go Away Monster. Maddie stays up just a little later than you, and she usually gets to play a game or two before bedtime. It won’t be long before we all play a game together each night. I’m looking forward to many years of family game playing!

The Easter Bunny visited you and Maddie since my last letter. One day before Easter, you said, “The Easter Bunny is coming to our house! We’re going to see him!” Maddie replied, “No, Cullen. The Easter Bunny is like Santa Claus. He comes while we’re sleeping.” The Easter Bunny brought you a kid digital camera, so you can now take your very own pictures (just like Mommy!). We decorated sugar cookies and had many Easter egg hunts in our backyard.

We spent Mother’s Day weekend visiting with Nana and Papa. This was you first longer trip in the car since you started potty training. We got into the car right after dinner, and you had an accident in the car on the way to Nana and Papa’s. Other than that, you stayed accident free the entire weekend, including the trip back home. We were so proud of you! We had a wonderful weekend, and I had a fabulous Mother’s Day. I loved spending it both with my own mother and my kiddos. On Saturday, we went to Discovery Place in Charlotte. Both you and Maddie loved it, and I was excited to revisit it since I had been there several times as a kid. This was the third science museum that we have visited since your last birthday! We have lots of great museums close to home.

Just a few days ago, we went to my company picnic which was held after work on a Friday. You loved the inflatables, especially the big slide! You looked a bit scared in the pictures that I took of you, but you wanted to do it over and over. I was proud of how you climbed up all by yourself and came down the slide. We had another special treat at the picnic with your very first fireworks show! You seemed a little unsure at first, but you were saying “ooh!” and “aah!” along with the rest of the crowd after a few minutes. I’m sure we’ll see some fireworks in the fall at Disney World!

You and Maddie are very excited about our fall adventure to Disney World. It’s still many months away, but we have started talking about it. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is still one of your favorite shows, so you will love meeting all of your favorite characters. You are especially fond of Minnie and Daisy. You have your own small Minnie Mouse, and you often steal Maddie’s other three Minnie Mouse “buddies” (stuffed animals in our house are called “buddies”). Another one of your delay tactics at bedtime is to request specific stuffed animals, and you most often request one of the Minnies.

Your latest favorite show is Little Einsteins, another Disney Junior show. I love watching you and Maddie interact with this show! The characters go on adventures in their rocket ship, and it focuses on art and music. I love that you’re learning about how different instruments sound, what famous paintings look like, about popular classical musical pieces and their composers, and various musical terms. The show asks you to do things like pat your legs and put them high into the air to help get energy for the rocket ship. You are so adorable when watching this show! I have to admit that it is currently my favorite kids’ show as well.

Other shows that you and Maddie enjoy are Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Handy Manny. We’re big fans of Disney Junior these days! You and Maddie can sing all the words to most of the theme songs for these shows. You especially love singing when we’re in the car. In the car, you often sing theme songs, the ABCs song, Puffer Bellies (Down by the Station), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Sally Go Round the Sun, and Jingle Bells. You even make up your own songs at times. You love music.

You and your sister are both constantly talking. Every morning, Daddy helps me get you two into the car and off to school. You think it’s hilarious to say, “Bye bye stinky Daddy! Daddy needs a shower! Hahahaha. Stinky Daddy!” I think Daddy likes your newer goodbyes where you now say, “Bye bye good Daddy!” or “Bye bye happy Daddy!” You still sneak in a “stinky Daddy” every now and again and then giggle about it. On the way to school, you are always providing commentary about our surroundings. “That truck is too big for our garage. It’s too heavy. It would crash our house.” “I see a SCHOOLBUS!!!!” “What are those people doing there?” “It’s going to thunderstorm.” I love hearing all of your observations and experiencing the world through your descriptions. You have started to lose the cadence that you had where you paused between every syllable. I loved it, and I already miss your halting style now that you’re talking more smoothly with a regular rhythm.

You are so sweet and affectionate. You give the best hugs and kisses. Your latest thing is to kiss me right on the mouth and then giggle and say, “I kissed you right on the kisser!” You are also fond of saying, “you never have kisses” while looking at me for my reaction until I make a pouty lip. You then come over and offer me kisses (again, often right on the kisser). I love it! I tell you that you are my sweet boy all the time. Tonight, I was saying, “You’re my sweet boy!” and you were responding with, “You’re my sweet, Mommy!” back and forth before bedtime. I often ask you, “Do you know how much I love you?” and you usually grin and say, “big bunches and little bunches!” You make my heart happy. I love you big, huge, giant bunches with a side of little bunches. Life with you is wonderful.

Love,
Mommy

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