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Maddie is 4.5!

October 6th, 2012

I can’t believe that Maddie is four and a half (or was on August 20th!). Time for another letter to Maddie!

Dear Maddie,

Today you are four and a half, and I’m sure you will be proud to tell everyone for the next 6 months that you are not just “four” now but “four AND A HALF!” I suspect these half birthday milestones will be pretty important to you for the next few years.

You are almost officially a “graduate” which is a very exciting thing in your preschool. You have talked about the graduates in your class for the past year, and now they have all moved up to kindergarten. You have many exciting things ahead of you with special “graduate work” and more challenges. You also will have the privilege of starting French classes and starting on your graduate art project. I’m excited for you!

You are such a perfectionist, and we have to encourage you that everything does not have to be perfect. Your teachers have mentioned this, and we have seen it at home. If you are writing and do not form your letters perfectly, you insist on starting over. The other day, you were coloring a picture of Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates (one of your favorite characters). You were upset because you didn’t get the correct shade for her skin color. One arm was “too dark” and looked “too orange” to you. The two arms looked the same to me, but it just wasn’t right to you and you had to start over. When we told you that we didn’t want to waste the paper; that it looked fine and you should continue, you literally scribbled all over the page to “finish” it. Considering that you rarely go outside of the lines these days, it was a deliberate “fine, you want me to finish it, I’ll finish it alright” act of defiance. I guess we shouldn’t push you too hard to be imperfect. You know how you want things to be done, and you know you can do it right.

I think that this makes you afraid to try new things sometimes until you are sure you will be able to master it. You know all of your phonics, and you have been doing moveable alphabet. You’re able to spell all kinds of words with short vowels, and you write them very neatly in booklets. You have still not shown very much interest in reading. Given the way that you have approached everything else, I think that one day you won’t know how to read, and then the next day you’ll be reading everything.

You don’t always show us or your teachers what you’re capable of doing. Not long after your last letter, I wasn’t completely convinced that you were able to count to 20 reliably. I figured you probably could, but you didn’t often demonstrate it to us. Then one day, you counted to 130 by yourself. We were on the way to school, and I asked, “Maddie, what’s after 130?” as we were pulling up through the drop off circle at school. You refused to answer and said, “I don’t want my teachers to hear me.” We’re going to have to remain on our toes with you if we want to keep you challenged!

At school, you have been working on your world map. I think you are almost finished with it. Sometimes you’ll tell me factoids about the continents, and other times you’ll just tell me that you worked on “the pink one.” It has gotten you interested in maps, so sometimes we will look at maps on the laptop at home. You still draw a lot of “maps” in your artwork.

You have been doing new lessons in the math section like the “short bead stair.” Most of the work that you do in your classroom doesn’t have a take home portion, and you usually don’t want to tell me about your lessons. I don’t always know exactly what you’re learning each day, though we usually get weekly reports from your teachers.

You had another bike day, and you zipped around on your balance bike this time. We were so proud of you! You have really gotten the hang of that thing. Bike day is twice a year, so you’ll have two more before you head off to kindergarten. Your best friends are the girls closest in age to you in your class. You talk about Maya, Tara, and Maggie the most. We’ve been told that you get rather silly with your friends in the classroom sometimes! You still see some of your old friends on the playground (Keira and Callie).

You and Tara were in the same swimming class this summer. I was nervous because it was your first class where parents were not allowed on the pool deck. I had to watch nervously through the windows on the other side of the pool. The lessons were great for you, and you learned a lot about pool safety. By the end of the lessons, you swam by yourself with a noodle around your waist. This is a huge deal for you, and I was so very proud. You were quite proud of yourself, too. We haven’t done any other classes or lessons this summer, but you are signed up for rollerblading lessons starting next month. We gave you several options, and you picked rollerblading.

I thought you might pick basketball since you have said that you want to “play basketball like Daddy” when you are older. Every time you are asked what you want to be when you grow up, you say you want to be a Mommy. I love it. You plan on having a boy and a girl, and their names are going to be “Henry” and “Baby Sister.” The other day, Cullen said he wanted to be a Daddy when he grew up. You told Cullen that he would have to go to work, and you would stay at home with the babies. I thought that was interesting considering that both of your parents work, and the same is true of pretty much all of your friends. We talked about different families and how some Daddies stay at home, and sometimes both parents work (um, like your parents, for example!). I also think it’s interesting that you’re planning to marry your brother. You have asked him to marry you in the past, and he has accepted.

While I’m pretty sure the two of you won’t get married, I hope that you two will be great lifelong buddies. Tonight, you two were winding down for bedtime and you said, “Cullen, you are a great brother!” and Cullen replied, “you are a great sister!” Moments like these make my heart sing. You two can be so sweet to each other. You always insist on sitting next to each other at the dinner table at home. You sometimes hold hands all the way to school in the car. You play together at home for hours, usually with you directing him in your adventures.

You very frequently tell Cullen and others exactly the script that you want them to say. You have progressed from you asking questions in the form of, “Cullen, can I have that toy-say-yes.” to things like, “Cullen, say, ‘Maddie, here’s this toy!’” Sometimes you use this tactic to get what you want, but other times you just provide the script for whatever scenario that is being imagined at the time. “Cullen, say, ‘I see a monster in the woods!’”

You two get along more often than you fight. I still have to say you two fight at least a little bit each day. You get so mad at each other and resort to hitting and biting, something you would never do with your classmates at school. Sibling relationships certainly are special in many ways! Most often, you fight over toys. You also frequently fight over who gets to be first in the car or at the dinner table. Cullen usually doesn’t care about being first, but he knows just how to get under your skin. It drives you crazy when he says he was first, even when you were first. He does similar things to you by telling you something he knows isn’t true just so you will get upset because he’s wrong. I think little brothers may just have a special talent for antagonizing big sisters.

You dish out your own fair share of teasing. The other day, you were teasing your brother about something you could reach in the car that he couldn’t. He was very upset. I warned you that he’s going to be bigger than you before too long, and you didn’t like that idea at all! I measured your heights the other day, and you were around 40 inches. He’s only a couple inches shorter. You weigh about 32 pounds, and he’s catching up at 29.

The two of you went through a phase where you were always calling each other “brud” and “sissy.” You don’t do this as often now. Lately, you pretend to be “Mommy” (I’m “big sister”) and Cullen is “Baby.” It gets confusing to me sometimes because Cullen will say, “Mommy! Mommy!” and I’ll say, “what?” and he will say, “No, little Mommy.” When he really wants my attention and you’ve been playing this game, he calls me “big Mommy.” You two will also refer to yourselves in third person every once in a while (for emphasis). You call yourself “big sister” when you do this, and Cullen calls himself “baby” or “baby brother.”

Lately, I have been having story time with both you and Cullen on my lap. You will each pick several books, so we read for quite a while. I love my cuddly story time with the two of you! Some of the recent favorites are Skippyjon Jones, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, and the Paperbag Princess. After stories, sometimes you help tuck Cullen into bed and sing him songs. Recently, you covered him with his blanket and cradled his head very sweetly and gave him a kiss.

You then get another story with Daddy where you insist that Daddy lay down with you for a couple of minutes and “tickle” your back. You usually prolong bedtime in any way that you can with a drink of water, another potty break, or whatever you think might work. You have a clock in your room, and for a while we told you that you needed to stay in your room until the clock started with a 7. This worked for a while, but now that Cullen is in a big boy bed, he comes to his door and starts screaming, “Can I come down now?” until he wakes us all up. That typically happens well before 7. We’ve given up on the “starts with 7″ rule for now.

You allegedly nap at school on some days, but you almost never nap on the weekends or vacations. Every once in a while, you will fall asleep on road trips, but even that is pretty rare these days. You do pretty well with quiet time. We send you to your room, usually with your LeapPad or Nintendo DS, and tell you what your clock needs to start with before you can come out. If we stick to 30 minutes or less, then you do pretty well. After that, you start coming out and asking if you missed it or just if you can come down yet. You have figured out that Daddy will eventually let you come downstairs, so I think you probably like it when Mommy takes a nap or runs errands during quiet time.

You and Cullen typically get your TV time first thing in the morning. You’ll probably learn eventually that your parents are NOT morning people. And you and Cullen seem to be very much morning kids. I am sure in a few years, we’ll be dragging you out of bed and we’ll be lecturing you about sleeping until noon, but for now you two are early birds. It’s rare for you to both sleep past 7, and it’s equally rare for one of you to wake up without waking the other. So, you two get to watch TV while you eat your breakfast at the kid table. Every morning that we have breakfast at home, you demand the same thing: a breakfast bar, kix (usually without milk), and orange juice.

You and Cullen have branched out with some of your shows, but most of them are Disney Junior shows. Your favorites are Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and Little Einsteins. You also still like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You have liked every Disney Junior show that you have seen, including a little Octonauts, Handy Manny, and Secret Agent Oso. We now have a dedicated Disney Junior channel which is very convenient. At first, it wasn’t broadcast in HD for some reason. You noticed this immediately and asked, “why is it so blurry?”

You’ve recently gotten into Bubble Guppies, shockingly not a Disney Junior show, which focuses often on music and inspired the two of you to pretend that you’re in a marching band. I think that’s awesome! We also frequently act out an episode where the Bubble Guppies attempt to “totally rock” for the Rock Ness Lobster (or, as Cullen calls him, “The Totally Rock Lobster”). All four of us get into that fun while Cullen usually directs us to indicate who is going to “totally rock” and who is going to play the Rock Ness Lobster.

You have started to get scared about random things in shows and movies. There is one episode of Little Einsteins that you refuse to watch that is based on Jack and Beanstalk. You do NOT like the “Forte Giant.” I guess that it is a bit suspenseful as the characters try to sneak around the giant’s house without getting caught by him? We just have to be a bit more careful about our movie and show choices. Since your 4th birthday, we have been to one more theater movie, The Lorax. That was our first movie as a family and Cullen’s first theater movie. You and Cullen both enjoyed it!

Cullen is getting more into playing games, so sometimes we can all play a game as a family. We have had the most success with Candyland, Go Away Monster, and Hisss with your brother. You love playing Kids of Carcassonne which is exciting for your board gaming parents. One day you said, “Carcassonne is my favorite game ever!” I was so proud. You also like Pengaloo and do pretty well with any kids’ game we’ve played. We are working on how you handle both winning and losing. You get upset when you lose, and you gloat heavily when you win saying things like “Nah nah na boo boo! You never win!” I can appreciate your competitiveness, but we probably need to tone it down a bit.

Somehow you got into saying “bagels!” every time your color in Carcassonne comes up. I’m not sure why you chose “bagels” as your catchphrase, but it makes me laugh. You and your brother also invented something to say instead of “awww, man!” when you encounter something you do not like. You two sometimes say, “awww, muppets!” I have no idea where you got this. As far as I can tell, you two made it up. Very cute.

You do spout random things all the time, and it’s hard to know if it’s something you made up or picked up from school or from one of your shows. You are learning so much. You informed me that female mosquitoes are the only ones who bite because they don’t like you messing with their babies. You told me that it’s light and then dark and then light and then dark because the earth is rotating. You let me know that big thunderstorms have tornadoes. Your last year at Children’s House is going to be fun for you.

Since my last letter, we have had many fun events and a great summer. We enjoyed the usual Easter egg hunts and decorated sugar cookies. The Easter Bunny brought you some great treats, but I think our favorite gift from the Easter Bunny was your first set of the regular sized Legos!

We were not surprised that you love Legos given all of your previous puzzle skills. You can now put together puzzles of more than 100 pieces all by yourself. At first, you needed some help with the Legos, but you can do these by yourself, too. You are great at following the steps in the instruction booklets, and you want to put everything together just like it appears in the pictures.

Recently, we had a “big sister” celebration with your friend Sophie who now has a baby sister. We went to Crabtree Valley Mall to eat at Sophie’s favorite restaurant, PF Chang’s. It was great to learn that you can find food you will eat there now! Daddy especially loves PF Chang’s. After our meal, we went to the Lego store where you and Sophie picked out a few new sets. You are especially drawn to Lego’s new “Friends” series which is marketed to girls. The sets are pretty cute! We also went to the Sanrio store (the “Hello Kitty” store), a general candy store, a Godiva store, and the Disney store. You and I both love jelly bellies, but not as much as you love chocolate! You are a big chocolate fanatic. One day you said, “We pretty much love anything covered in chocolate, right?” Smart girl.

It’s hard to say what you love more, chocolate or breakfast. It’s probably chocolate, but you do love breakfast. It’s by far your favorite meal (it is mine as well!). You often ask if we can go to “the special breakfast place” where we often go for birthdays and other special family days. You always get pancakes, fruit, and orange juice. You love orange juice and apple juice! We went there a few times this summer, including one time when Grandma was visiting.

When Grandma was visiting, we also took her to the Life and Science Museum and Goodberry’s. She had never been to either, so it was fun to take her to some of our favorite places. We introduced you and Cullen to Goodberry’s early in the summer where they have the tastiest frozen custard. We went several times this summer. YUM! You always want chocolate with rainbow sprinkles, of course.

Another favorite this summer has been Pullen Park. You and I first went there by ourselves when we didn’t make it to a movie showing in time. They recently renovated the park, and they have a train, carousel, and a little kid boat ride. They have some play structures, swings and sandboxes. You enjoyed it quite a bit! When we went as a family for the first time, you couldn’t wait to show your brother all the sites. You said, “Cullen!! We’re going to Pullen Park!!! Pullen Park is awesome!” and when we were there, you pointed to all the attractions and told him about it.

You and Cullen love playing outside, and we have done a lot of that this summer. We have taken a good number of family walks recently. You two have spent a lot of time in your little pool. We had it set up on the deck most of the summer. One day, I surprised you both by jumping into your pool. Once everyone, including myself, got over the shock of my not-so-graceful entrance, you and Cullen were deeply amused at your Mommy “swimming” in the kiddo pool. It was refreshing!

We went to Edisto Island with Melissa and Jason for July 4th where you LOVED playing on the beach. We built sandcastles, collected shells, saw stingrays and crabs, and waded in the waters. You and Cullen fought over who was going to sit next to Melissa at every meal. We all had a wonderful time. We are looking forward to our family beach trip at the end of the month. It will be the first trip that we have taken with just the four of us since Cullen was born! You and Cullen are already talking about all the sandcastles you will build and shells you will find.

You love building and creating things. You do a lot of scissor work and coloring at home and at school. You love making “books” by stapling or gluing several pieces of paper together. You then draw random letters, words, and pictures on the pages. We did a few special classes through work – sugar sculpture and ceramic painting. In sugar sculpture class, you created a bear out of fondant for a cupcake. At the ceramic painting class, you and Cullen painted “popcorn bowls” which we will see next week at the follow up movie event. I’m sure we will have many more creative classes and events in our future.

I can’t believe that you will be FIVE when I write my next letter. Between now and then, we’ll be making big decisions about where you will go to school. We are a bit overwhelmed by all of the choices that we have in our area. Last I checked, we could choose from more than 20 public elementary schools (not counting charter options). Wow!

You are developing into a sweet, creative, smart, beautiful unique little girl. You love to wear dresses and skirts but couldn’t care less about princesses. You almost never let me put bows or pigtails or braids in your hair these days. When asked to smile for the camera, you tilt your head drastically to the side saying that it’s your “favorite smile” and your “real” smile. I have to get you to laugh to get a natural picture out of you. Usually mentioning that I have boogers on my head makes you both laugh and look at the camera.

You are very independent at times but still need and want us at other times. You stopped using your belly button as your security blanket for a little while, but you have resumed that habit recently. I can tell that you’re a little nervous or scared or shy when you try to put your finger in that belly button! You get scared about random things, but you are a little daredevil when you want to be. You can jump on the swings, get yourself started, and continue pumping your legs. The last time we were at a playground, you didn’t want us to push you on the swings at all. You are proud of your swinging skills (and we are, too!).

The next few months should be interesting with rollerblading classes, your first months as a graduate, the beach, Disney, Halloween, family visits, and the holidays. Our family is having a great time together. We are creating memories that I hope you will look back on with fondness. I love our life, and I love you big, giant, huge, enormous bunches. You’re my best girl. My sweet girl.

Love,
Mommy

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