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Happy (belated) 5th Birthday, Maddie!

May 23rd, 2013

Wow, Maddie is 5 years old. Five seems like a big deal to me. Why does it seem SO much more than 4? I guess I’m thinking about how she will be starting kindergarten and gaining more and more independence. It’s hard to believe. So, here is Maddie’s letter…most of it written 3 months ago. Better late than never.

Dear Maddie,

Today you are five years old, and this seems like a very big deal to me. Since my last letter, you’ve been enjoying the privileges and rewards of being a “graduate” at Children’s House. You were excited to finally be able to do “graduate work” and to finally go to French class. You have been learning so much in the past 6 months. You are hesitant to start new things, but once you make that leap, you really blossom. We have been so proud of you.

One of the biggest things going on with you right now is reading. A few months ago, you started to show more interest in reading. Your bookworm parents are excited to see you reading and enjoying it so much! The 3-letter words that took you several tries of sounding out the phonics a few months ago are sight words for you now. You have graduated to long vowel sounds, tons of sight words, and numerous exceptions. As we teach you to read, I’m reminded of how complicated English can be! I’m not sure how any of us learn to speak, read, or write!

You are getting lots of practice. You still bring home some readers from school, but you are well beyond those now. Every night, you read to us from a variety of level 1, 2, and 3 readers. You can read almost anything you want to read now. You’re not quite reading books to yourself, but I’m sure it won’t be long. You often read street signs when we’re in the car. The other day, I realized you can read just about anything and asked you, “Maddie, how does it feel to be able to read pretty much anything you want now?” You replied, “I’m free!!!!” I thought that was a perfect response. It’s an exciting milestone, for sure. I like how you ask about unfamiliar words and are expanding your vocabulary as well. It’s been fun working with you every night! It’s definitely my favorite part of the day.

Now the part of the day right after this is not always my favorite part of the day. At times, it has been my least favorite part of the day! You have been through some rough periods with regards to sleep in the past few months. For a while, your bedtime was awful with numerous delays and screaming for us to come back and give you extra hugs, back scratches (you still call it “tickles”), a glass of water, and whatever occurred to you at the time. We would tell you to go back to bed over and over and over. You’d lose privileges. We were frustrated and unhappy. You were taking forever to go to sleep. Then, you’d wake in the middle of the night repeatedly as well. We tried many things to make this better. Rewards for staying in your bed all night without calling us didn’t seem to motivate you. Briefly, you and your brother shared a room. This lasted for about a week when we determined that while it was better for you, it was much worse for your brother. You guys kept each other awake for hours giggling and playing.

Some things would work for a few nights, but then you’d go back to your old ways. I checked on you at regular intervals before you had a chance to call on me. That helped a lot at first, but then you became more demanding. After a week or two, it backfired. Now, you have a walkie talkie that you can use to talk to us and request us to visit when needed. This has been a huge improvement in our nighttime routine. You are very sweet when you call us, and sometimes we can just talk to you to make you feel better when you’re scared. It cracks us up when you say, “Roger that, Daddy!” over your walkie talkie. Now you get a few tickets each night that you can use to call us to your room. If you save all of your tickets, you get a bonus ticket. You can save up tickets for prizes or trade them for things like extra stories at bedtime. You seem to be fairly motivated by this, and we are all much happier at night.

Our nighttime difficulties make us nervous every time we go on a trip and stay in a hotel. That doesn’t keep us at home, though! Since our last letter, we went to the beach, Disney World, and Kentucky. We also stayed in a local hotel for That Board Gaming Thing, the annual board gaming convention. You guys spent only one night in the hotel with us, and it didn’t go very well! The two of you spent the night at our house on Friday with Kristin! This was the first night that Daddy and I have spent away from the two of you. You had a great time with Aunt Kristin, and we had a great time playing games and not worrying about having to wake up too early in the hotel!

Our beach trip was to Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina over Labor Day weekend. It was our very first trip by ourselves as a family of four! We had a wonderful time together. I think we will have more beach trips in our future! Our first beach trip a few years ago was iffy. You hated the sand and were scared of the sea. This time you loved building sandcastles, begged to be buried in the sand, and made sand angels. You and Cullen were both a little scared of the ocean, but you loved swimming in the pool. It was the first time that you felt comfortable swimming by yourself with a small belt float on your back. We were so impressed and proud of you. You were a very happy girl!

In October, the four of us headed down to Florida for our first “real” trip to Disney World. Technically, both of you had been once before in 2010 when you were 2 and Cullen was just a newborn. We only spent a single day at Magic Kingdom that year. This time, we spent more than a week and explored all four Disney parks and had numerous meals with your favorite characters. Midway through the trip, we met up with friends Earl and Michelle (or as you and Cullen like to call them, “Earlenenmichelle”). We enjoyed sharing some of the magic with them.

The best park for the two of you this time was Magic Kingdom. Your favorite ride was originally Dumbo, but once you rode on Goofy’s Barnstormer, you leaned over to Daddy and whispered, “Dumbo isn’t my favorite ride anymore.” One of the highlights of our trip was the time I rode with you on the rollercoaster in the front car. You put your hands way up in the air the whole time. The look of joy on your face was priceless. Your next favorite ride was Small World. We rode that one, the rollercoaster, and Dumbo many times.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Boo to You parade were other highlights. You had a lot of fun with the stick horse races at Whispering Canyon where you declared that “nobody could catch me!” You loved the fireworks and especially enjoyed the night that you and I secretly viewed bits of the Epcot fireworks over the trees from our patio. We were the only ones out there, and it was a wonderful secret. Your favorite characters were Minnie, Mickey, Daisy, Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), and June (from Little Einsteins). You didn’t want to have much to do with the other male characters and especially disliked Princesses and Goofy.

You were baffled that everyone in the parks called you “princess” and started to tell them that you were NOT a princess. In the months prior to the trip, you had decided that you actively disliked princesses and wanted nothing to do with them…ever. I don’t think that the Disney cast members knew quite how to respond to a 4-year old who did not want to be called a princess! I have to say that I am proud of you for being yourself and standing up for yourself.

You didn’t love every moment. There were some times where we tried to find something you would like to get you out of your funk and grumpiness. I think that the parks would get overwhelming to you at times. You started to create a little cocoon in your stroller where you could block out the crazy world. Sometimes we rode rides that were a little scary for you. You were my brave little girl and wanted to ride Tower of Terror. You did NOT like that one, but I think you were proud of yourself for doing it! Many of the dark rides weren’t enjoyable the first time, but you liked them much more when we repeated them. It certainly helped for you to know what to expect.

At the end of every day, we would all talk about our favorite moments from the day. We’d also have to decide which one of those favorites were our “top top top favorite” for the day (and sometimes we had trouble narrowing it down). The trip was full of so many great memories, and I’m glad that I wrote down everyone’s favorite moments. I will always look back on them fondly. Our nightly ritual is similar to one that we have at home called “good bad.” At most of our dinners, we go around the table and talk about the good and bad things from our day. It’s a good way for us to all connect to each other, and I hope we’ll be able to continue it through the years.

When we returned from Disney, you and your brother were asking us when we would go to Disney again. You thought we should go “next Sunday,” but your daddy and I are going to need a lot more time to recover than that! It was a wonderful trip, but I don’t think we’ll be able to handle going too often. When I told you that we’d probably go when Cullen was getting ready to go to kindergarten, you whined, “That’s tooooooo long!!! I’ll be SEVEN!” We do have a Disney cruise planned for next year, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy that!

We went to Kentucky for Thanksgiving where we visited mostly with Grandma, Grandpa, and Heidi. We saw Dylan and Sterling on Thanksgiving for the big meal, too. We had a very nice visit with everyone and stopped by the shop to have bubble tea. You and your brother especially enjoyed that treat! While in Kentucky, we paid a visit to Santa. You told him that you wanted legos and rollerblades. Later, you added “clothes for baby sister” to your list.

On Thanksgiving, we received some very sad news. Great Grandma had not been well for a few months, and she passed away that morning. I am not sure whether you will have any memories of her, but I hope that you will always know how special you were to her. Your Great Grandma and Great Grandpa loved you and Cullen more than you’ll ever know. They were so proud of you, and I’m glad that you had the opportunity to spend special times with them. It meant the world to them. They were two of the sweetest people that I have ever known, and they had so much love for all of us.

We had another full holiday season! At school, we were in town for the holiday concert. We had missed your first one due to being on the cruise the year before! You sang the songs at home a lot, but I’m not sure you made a noise when you were performing at the concert! Your lips were moving some of the time, but I think you were a little nervous to be performing in front of all of those people.

As usual, we made Christmas sugar cookies with tons of icing and sprinkles. We have quite the collection of sprinkles, and you love decorating cookies. We made gingerbread houses and Christmas crafts while we were in Kentucky with Heidi and Grandma. We made Chex mix (because of course we need to leave cookies for Santa and Chex mix for the reindeer!). We read Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. I love all of our little Christmas traditions!

We spent a “quiet” Christmas Day with just the four of us. Your big gifts from Santa were new rollerblades and the Olivia’s House lego set. We had a wonderful day putting together legos and spending time together as a family. You put together Olivia’s House all by yourself in one day(though I did help you find pieces – it was a big project!). Thinking about that day makes me so happy as you must have told me a hundred times how happy you were and how much you loved me. What a wonderful memory!

We also celebrated Christmas with family. Nana, Papa, Kristin, and Chad visited with us before Christmas, and Grandma and Grandpa came for a few days after Christmas. We were so happy to see everyone, especially since Grandma and Grandpa decided to come at the last minute.

You were excited to try out your new rollerblades at your next lesson! You are getting ready to start your third session of rollerblading lessons. We are seeing a lot of improvements, and you still seem to enjoy it. Your friend Sophie and your brother took lessons with you this past session. I’m looking forward to warmer weather so that you can practice outside as well. We have let you and your brother try to skate in the bonus room, though it is tricky on the carpet! It does help you with your balance.

You and your brother also took pre-ballet. This is the fourth time that you have taken this class, but it was your brother’s first time. You were so sweet with your brother, but we’re starting to realize that you guys probably do not benefit by being in the same class! You end up distracting each other too much. You both loved ballet.

You and Cullen are best friends. I love to see the two of you interact. You can play together for hours. He’s starting not to let you boss him around quite as much, so it will be interesting to see how that develops! You are sad when your brother isn’t around. You complain that you have “nobody to play with!” You often talk about how great our family is and how much we all love each other. You’re right. We have an awesome family! You and your brother fight over little things all the time, and you have some big fights here and there, but overall we see more love than anything. I am keeping my fingers crossed that you two will always be close!

You talk about marrying your brother and having babies together. You are very consistent about talking about wanting to be a mommy when you grow up (and think now that your brother will be the perfect daddy). You often see a baby outfit in the store and will say, “I think I’m going to buy that when I have a baby.” You talk about toys of yours that you want to make sure that we keep “for your babies” because you think that they will enjoy them, too. You are very loving with your Baby Sister doll, and she has been your favorite “buddy” lately. You wrap her in blankets to “keep her warm” and enjoy dressing her in different outfits. I am seeing a shift to Tenderheart Bear, a Care Bear that was mine when I was a little girl. Time will tell, but you’ve been awfully attached to Tenderheart since I found him for you a few days ago. The last few nights, you have wanted to sleep with both Tenderheart and Baby Sister.

You love to do art projects, and you create quite a bit of art at both school and home. Nana and Papa gave us a monthly subscription to a craft box, Kiwi Crates. We have all enjoyed them quite a bit so far! The crafts are something that I do with you and Cullen. You get excited when we get a new one in the mail! You love to use scissors, glue, markers, and crayons. You make “books” frequently. Recently, you have been making “copies” of your coloring work at school. You enjoy tracing the pictures.

Our whole family loves playing games. You especially like playing board games Catan Junior and Kids of Carcassonne. This makes me very happy! I love your enthusiasm for games, though we are working on your sportsmanship. You tend to throw a fit when you lose and gloat when you win. You are great at your LeapPad games, iPad and iPhone games, and DS games as well. You’ve been playing Angry Birds quite a bit on Daddy’s iPad and on the iPhone. You want to get 3-stars every time, so I have seen you start a level over when the first bird is a flop. You and your brother have started to play the Nintendo Wii a bit more. You recently got a Wii Fit game for kids with some of your favorite Nick Jr characters, and you enjoy that one. You excel at puzzles, and sometimes put together puzzles with as many as 300 pieces by yourself.

Lately, we haven’t been watching too much television. You guys still love Disney Junior shows, especially Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Doc McStuffins. Some new shows that you enjoy are the Mr. Men show (you guys have a collection of the books) and Ni Hao Kai-Lan. If you watch TV, it’s usually in the mornings before school. Daddy and I aren’t morning people, so this is typically for our sanity.

Speaking of Jake, you and Cullen went as characters from Jake and the Neverland Pirates for Halloween. You went as Izzy and Cullen went as Jake, of course. You two were adorable! You also wore these costumes at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so we enjoyed getting some extra use out of the costumes. You were Izzy for your school’s Halloween parade as well. On Halloween night, we visited a dozen houses or so before heading back to our house to sort through the candy. You and Cullen each chose to pick ten favorite pieces of candy to keep and gave the rest to the “Halloween Witch” who brought you a small Lego set.

Both of you have been very into the regular Legos in the past few months, and you had a Lego themed joint birthday party! Just like last year, we had “Maddie Special Day” and “Cullen Special Day” near your birthdays. For both special days, we went to our favorite breakfast place where you insist on chocolate chip pancakes every chance you get. For Cullen’s special day, we went to a movie at the dinner theater and a new park. Both special days involved a trip to the toy store where you each were able to pick out one thing that you wanted. You were very sure that you wanted a race car toy (as Cullen got one on his special day). You picked out a racing toy, and you held onto it despite the allure of numerous other toys in the store…until Daddy wondered if you’d like a new big girl bike. You finally decided to trade the race car toy for the promise of a new bike. I was so proud of you as you gave up the instant gratification of a new toy for the later purchase of a bike. We didn’t want to rush the purchase of a new bike. On your special day, we went to the downtown Natural History museum where you and Cullen were very excited to see the Titanic exhibit. As a special treat, it snowed almost the whole day. Since it had been warm in the previous week, the snow posed no travel hazards. We had beautiful snow, and it didn’t interfere with our plans. It was perfect! You had your first hot chocolate on that day – imagine that, chocolate you can drink! You are crazy about chocolate, so this was quite special. We ended the day with dinner and cake with friends, a devil’s food cake with chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles, decorated by you with a chocolate graham cracker bunny border.

Ever since we read the Magic Tree House book about the Titanic, you and your brother have been playing “Titanic.” You pretend that your bed is the Titanic, and you decide who lives or dies based on who gets to jump into the life boat and has a life belt. Sometimes Cullen puts a blue blanket over his head and pretends to be the iceberg. You jump off the bed onto a blanket or pillows (the “life boat”), so we know you guys are playing “Titanic” when we hear lots of loud thumps upstairs! One of your new pretend games is the dark/light monster where you go through the house and turn off all the lights. You have been putting on hilarious magic shows for us and our guests. You two dress up in random clothing and claim that you are “going to New York City!” We are planning to take you two to New York City in the spring, and you are excited about this.

In the car, the two of you put scarves on your head and flop them down, pretending to be Rapunzel. You take turns telling each other to “let down your long hair.” We have built many forts in the house out of pillows, blankets and furniture. You guys often pretended that the forts were “jail” for some reason. Yesterday morning, you said to Cullen in the car, “Hey, Cullen! Let’s pretend we’re dorks! Haha! Cullen, I’m a dork! Are you a dork?” Daddy and I thought this was hilarious. After we got back from Disney, you and Cullen pretended our commute was a rollercoaster ride and put your arms up in the air while telling me to “go faster!” I love the imagination the two of you have these days!

Recently, you orchestrated your first practical joke. You put a path of papers across the floor with different colors and asked us to walk along the path. Unbeknownst to us, you had put clear glue on one of the papers so it would get stuck to our foot as we traversed the path. I’m pretty impressed with your ingenuity. You tricked Nana, Daddy, and Mommy with your little joke. We all thought it was hilarious.

You love pajama days and chocolate. You prefer keeping your hair cut short and beg for a haircut when it gets too far down your neck. You’ve been fairly healthy, though you had strep throat again right after Thanksgiving. This was your 3rd time. You are more expressive these days and give us more hugs and kisses and tell us that you love us more frequently, especially at bedtime. You have been working hard at school, finishing your North America map and the 100-board. You’ve been doing great at math and have been doing addition and subtraction in a 1st grade workbook.

You are both excited and nervous to be going to kindergarten this year. You have expressed being concerned about making new friends. Hopefully, we will find out which school you will be attending soon. The school selection process has been stressful for your parents! Fortunately, we live in an area with lots of great options, and we know you’ll do great at any of them. Depending on which school you end up attending, you may be starting school before your next letter!

We love you so much, and we can’t wait to see what the next 6 months have in store for you. I’m so proud of you and lucky to have you as my daughter.

Love,
Mommy

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