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Happy 3rd Birthday, Cullen!

January 25th, 2013

Somehow, I’ve managed to finish Cullen’s letter the same week as his birthday. Woohoo!

Dear Cullen,

We were all excited to celebrate your third birthday today! It was a regular school day, but we had plans to go out to dinner after school. You requested both fried pickles and hot dogs. Fortunately, we found a place around here that has both. We weren’t sure if it was going to be possible. I’m glad that you weren’t disappointed! You were a happy boy at our dinner. I think you enjoyed the fried cheese curds more than the fried pickles. I have a feeling that you may be requesting this in the future.

You and Maddie wanted to have another joint birthday party this year, so the two of you are having a small Lego themed party in a couple weeks. Since you are sharing a celebration, we once again declared that we would have a “Cullen Special Day” around your birthday and a “Maddie Special Day” around hers. We had your special day on Sunday and had a wonderful time celebrating you!

We started with breakfast at our favorite breakfast place where you had chocolate chip and gingerbread pancakes, turkey sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs. We went to the toy store next where you could pick out anything you wanted. You started with a large stuffed dog and ended up with a Cars race car set. In between, you were in possession of several Lego sets, a game, and a Minnie Mouse pillow pet. After your shopping spree, we headed to lunch and a movie at our dinner theater. We saw Wreck It Ralph, and you seemed to enjoy most of it. You thought a few parts were too loud and a little scary. We explored a new park after the movie before heading home to have your requested spaghetti dinner. Of course, we followed dinner with cake. You wanted the color of the yellow cake to be purple, yellow, and blue. It was all wonderful.

You are such a pleasant boy. I love being around you, though I will say you sure can throw a fit! Most of the time, you have a good underlying reason. Usually when you are very unhappy, it’s because you’re hungry, tired, or sick. Every once in a while, you will tantrum when you’re just not getting your way or fighting with your sister. You have days where you are absolutely defiant, like on Christmas Eve. When I told you that I might email Santa about your behavior, you said, “Yeah, email Santa. Somebody of my friends or family will bring me a LeapPad.” Yeah, good luck with that, kiddo! You’ve had your “terrible twos” moments, but most of the time you’re extremely easy to get along with. You’re sweet, happy, and funny.

We have had some big moments since your last letter. We spent more than a week at Disney World in October, and we had a fabulous time. We were all exhausted, but we loved every minute. Well, so we might have had a few questionable minutes here and there, but overall we made fantastic memories. You even were completely accident free for the first five days…and then you got some kind of tummy bug. We had a bit of a setback, but we were encouraged that you still tried to get to the potty when possible. It just wasn’t always possible, unfortunately. Sleep was pretty good in the hotel. Everyone was so tired at the end of each day that we didn’t have too many fights at bedtime, and you and your sister slept pretty well through the night (well, for the most part). You experienced your first flights, and those went well, too.

You loved riding rides and meeting characters. Your favorite rides were Dumbo and Small World. You loved the Winnie the Pooh ride, particularly the part where we bounce with Tigger. You had a great time driving your own car at the Tomorrowland Speedway. You were scared by a few other rides. The animatronic ones in the dark were scary the first time, but you seemed to like them better when repeating. It helped you to know what to expect. You rode Goofy’s Barnstormer rollercoaster twice, and it was scary both times. You wanted to get off the ride and screamed that it was TOO FAST.

You enjoyed the shows and parades. The highlight of your trip was probably meeting characters around the parks at character meals, especially Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse. You were so sweet when you gave kisses to Minnie Mouse! Your sister didn’t want anything to do with the princesses, but you wanted to meet them. One of my favorite moments was when you told Rapunzel that you would protect me from the dragon. She told me that I had a special prince! I sure do.

It was fun hearing you talk about your experiences. When we got back, I asked when we should go to Disney again, and you said, “In 3 days!” Your communication skills are awesome, and I feel pretty lucky that you are able to tell us the things that you do. When I put you to bed on “Cullen Special Day,” you recapped quite a bit of the movie. Of course, we never quite know what you’re going to talk about! Sometimes I really wonder what you’re telling your teachers (and often they tell me little funny things that you have said). The day after we decorated the Christmas tree, you told your teachers that we put “a hat and hair bows” on our tree. Our tree topper is a lighted Santa hat, and we had put bows on the tree as well. You don’t miss much!

We started our Christmas season while we were in Kentucky for Thanksgiving. We visited Grandma, Grandpa, and Heidi for a few days around Thanksgiving. In addition to our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we visited Santa. You told Santa that you wanted a LeapPad like your sister, Legos, and a soccer ball. Later, you said you wanted Santa to bring you rollerblades and a Dream Lite Pillow Pet. You and your sister were convinced that it would transform your room into a wonderland. One morning leading up to Christmas, you came up to Daddy and said, “Daddy, I have to tell you something.” You were very serious and continued to say, “Dream Lites transform your room into a starry night sky.” Santa brought you everything you wanted and a few little surprises. You must have been very good this year.

While in Kentucky, you and Maddie decorated gingerbread houses. You had fun putting candy on the house with Aunt Heidi, though you wanted to eat it, too. You and Maddie did some Christmas crafts. For Christmas, Nana and Papa gave you and your sister a subscription to the Kiwi Crate. The Kiwi Crate is a monthly delivery with nice quality crafts. So far, you have each made a xylophone, jingle bells, Aurora Australis postcards, and a penguin bowling set. I’m looking forward to this month’s kit. The theme for it is board games! You love doing crafts and have been recently getting into drawing our family. I love how you draw our legs and arms sticking out of our heads and how you narrate what you are drawing.

On Christmas Eve, we decorated sugar cookies and made Chex mix. We love sprinkles in our household! We used bright icing colors this year, too. We left cookies for Santa and Chex mix for the reindeer and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. You and Maddie had a slumber party, and we told you not to peek at the tree when you came down to get us in the morning. I’m pretty sure you peeked on your way down, but we knew you would! Christmas Day was spent with just the four of us, and it was wonderful. We opened presents and stockings, put together Legos, and enjoyed our time together. I think it was our best Christmas yet!

You have started putting together big boy Legos, and the whole family is having fun with that. You still need a bit of help putting them together, but you are pretty good at figuring out where the pieces go! You get excited about the sets, too. When we look at Legos at the store, you and Maddie get very excited about many of the sets. You aren’t too interested in the girl sets, but you love fire trucks, space sets, car sets, and Star Wars sets. I see a lot of Legos in our future.

You have experienced a few other new things in the past few months. You took a session of soccer lessons, and you seemed to enjoy it. At some point, you were learning how to do a soccer stop. When you did it the first time, you turned to Daddy and said, “that was easy!” After soccer was over, we signed up you and Maddie for rollerblading lessons. This was Maddie’s second session and your first. You were excited to join your big sister! You’re a little nervous at times, but you’re getting better each week. Maddie has taken several sessions of pre-ballet through my work, and you were thrilled to be able to finally join her for a session. You two are awfully cute together. Your sister watches out for you in both classes.

You and your sister are best friends. It makes me so happy to see the two of you being such great buddies. Of course, you do fight over toys and who gets to be first or who gets a particular cup at dinner here and there, but most of the time you love each other. I hope that your special relationship continues to be this positive through the years. Nothing would make me happier than for the two of you to be lifelong buddies. You two play together almost every moment that we are at home. You pretend to be in marching bands, play hide-n-seek, and play a somewhat disturbing game of “Titanic” (sometimes you get to be the iceberg and I have heard Maddie tell others that they don’t have a lifebelt and are, therefore, going to die). One of your Magic Treehouse books was about the Titanic, and you have both been a little obsessed since then. Maddie’s bed is the Titanic, and you jump from her bed to a blanket or mattress on the floor which represents the life boat. You two love making forts out of furniture and blankets. You like to put on “magic shows,” and it cracks me up when you point your “wand” (your recorder) at someone and say, “Abracadabra Alakazam! The magic is going straight for ya!” You both love making giant train layouts with your wooden train set.

You’ve had a good number of slumber parties both for fun and out of necessity when we swapped your room with Daddy’s office. You and Maddie love sleeping in each other’s rooms, but it doesn’t always go well. You keep each other up all night chatting and giggling and getting out of bed to play with toys. The two of you take turns having sleep issues, and we tried putting your beds in the same room for about a week. That was a disaster, so I don’t think you two will be sharing a room any time soon! You just keep each other up way too late, and then you wake up far too early in the morning regardless of the amount of sleep that you have had.

In my last letter, I explained how you figured out the childproof gate and can roam freely around the house at night. At some point, you stopped coming by to let us know that you were awake. I think you didn’t like the times we sent you back to bed because it was “too early.” You often just come to the living room to play. Who knows what time you get out of bed to do this on some mornings. One morning, Daddy came out to find you sitting on the couch with his iPad playing Angry Birds. You really know your way around the iPad! You’re a pro at opening the games and switching between apps.

For months, we have been talking about your big boy room with your big boy bed and a space theme. You told everyone about your new room and how it would have stars and rockets. Your dad and I gathered things for your room for months, and we put it together over the break at Christmas. It looks awesome! We still have a few more things to add to it like the planets hanging from the ceiling, a few more stars, and a valance to match the bedding. You love it. Your sister is jealous and wishes she had a space themed room, too. She tries to trick you out of your pillows and comforter.

Speaking of which, your sister is quite manipulative at times. And you love her so much that you often let her get away with it. She will say, “Hey, Cullen, didn’t you want to give me that toy?” and you say, “yeah!” and hand it over as if you wish you had thought of it earlier. It doesn’t seem to bother you most of the time. I guess you make up for it at times by antagonizing her in other ways. You know how to push her buttons by saying things she doesn’t want to hear over and over or screeching at her. I suppose that is fair. You snicker and say, “heehee, I get under Maddie’s skin!”

Maddie also didn’t like it when you went to see the Disney Ice Show instead of her. She was supposed to go, but the night before she was complaining about how she didn’t like princesses and didn’t want to go. After much of her whining, we decided that you would get to go. You were excited about it, and you said that you loved princesses. She regretted her choice the day of the event since other friends at school were talking about going. We had a great time. We saw Merida from Brave, Rapunzel from Tangled, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. We even got to see Mickey and friends. You were a great little date, and we had a very special night.

I was a little nervous about taking you to the event since you still have potty accidents here and there. It seems like you’ll do really well for a few weeks, and then you’ll have regressions. It has been a frustrating road, and I’ll be glad when we don’t have to worry about taking back up outfits when we’re out and about. I will say that you do pretty well when we’re away from home, most of the time. You seem to get lazy at home or wrapped up with something you’re doing (or worry that your sister is going to take your toy while you’re gone). You have the same problem at school sometimes, but most of your accidents in the past few months have been at home. Of course, part of your success when we’re out of the house is that we take you to the potty more frequently.

You still wear a pull up at night. We had a couple of days where you requested to wear big boy underwear. Since you have never been dry in the morning, we all agreed that pull ups were a good idea for now. We’ll try again in a couple of months. It’s hard to know when you wet your pull ups since you are often awake before the rest of us. You definitely take advantage of the pull up in the morning, and you often poop in it before waking us up. For a while, you were coming to Daddy to say, “Daddy, I pooped in my pull up. I’ll let you take care of it.” Sometimes, you take care of it yourself. We don’t encourage that since it can be a mess for you to do it, and who knows where you might leave the dirty pull up. One day, we found some poop tracks on the carpet in the hallway and Maddie’s room. You had gotten some on your foot and tracked it around the house. Yuck!

For a while, you were having daily accidents at school, so I’m glad that you have gotten a lot better. We were worried that they weren’t going to let you move up to Children’s House. They require a bit more stability with using the potty, so it has been stressful. We should be hearing about your new teachers any day now! You turned in your move up paperwork recently. We are going to be sad when you leave the daycare building, but we are excited for your new adventures. I am particularly sad about your move to Children’s House because that means we are permanently done with the daycare building. For nearly five years, they have been a significant part of our lives. I will miss them.

You are such a sweet boy. When I drop you off at school, you always give me hugs and kisses. You’ll say, “I want FIVE hugs and FIVE kisses.” You like to kiss me on the mouth. You tell me that you love me all the time. At night, I usually put you to bed, and now that you’re in the big boy bed we can cuddle. You like to “save me a spot” and are so happy when I lay down with you “for a couple minutes.” We tell each other “secrets” which usually go something like, “I love you so much! I love you to Jupiter and back!” You are very cute about this. I’ve never know a more loving, sweet boy. I love when you sneak little kisses for your Minnie Mouse buddies, too.

Another sweet thing that we have been doing lately in our family is our nightly “good/bad” routine. We all go around the table and tell everyone at least one good thing about our day and, optionally, something bad about our day. If we have dinner with friends or family, we share this “game” with them as well. We have all enjoyed this bonding experience. You say almost the same thing each day. When we started, you would always say, “Reading was good about my day.” This was one of the first things that Maddie said, and so you picked up on it. Now, you almost always say, “Um, something good about my day is eating with my family. Everything was good about my day! That’s all I know!” We all declare “eating with my family” to be one of our good things almost every time.

We had a very busy fall. Halloween this year was a lot of fun. We started early with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney in mid-October. You and Maddie wore your costumes to the park. You were such cute pirates! As I mentioned in my last letter, the two of you wanted to be Jake and Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We coached you guys to say “Trick ARRRRR Treat, mateys!” When we went trick or treating, you didn’t say much at the door. You enjoyed it for the most part, but the first house had a dog. After that, you were tentative about approaching the door until you were reassured that the household did not have dogs. As we did last year, you and Maddie traded most of your candy to the Halloween Witch who brought Legos. It was fun to see which ten pieces of candy that you each kept for yourselves.

Sadly, we did not get a chance to visit Great Grandma in Atlanta just before Thanksgiving as we had planned. She ended up having surgery and was in the hospital when we were supposed to visit. We had hoped that we could visit her a few months later when she was recovered, but she had complications and passed away on Thanksgiving Day. Your Great Grandma lived a long, wonderful life and she loved you so much. I know you probably won’t remember her, and that makes me sad. I am glad that she had the chance to know you. She was so proud of you and Maddie and loved all of us very, very much. Your Great Grandma was a special, amazing woman. I wish that you could have had more time with her.

I never knew how wonderful it would be to have a son. Since I grew up with a sister, I think I always imagined that I would have two girls. I didn’t picture what it would be like to have a boy until I was pregnant. It is better than I ever imagined. You are sweet, loving, and full of energy. You keep us on our toes and keep our hearts full. I love you to Pluto and back and more. You are my best buddy.


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