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Cullen is 3.5!

July 25th, 2013

I’ve managed to finish Cullen’s letter within a week of his half-birthday. Lately, I’ve been pretty good about getting his done…but then I have to do Maddie’s less than a month later. That part is challenging. I’ll see which kid wants to change their birthday to make this easier on me.

Dear Cullen,

My sweet boy, you are three and a half! I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to start describing the changes that we have seen in you in the past six months. You have the same sweet, lovable, charming qualities, but your personality has been amplified since my last letter. You’re very active with pretend play, and have started to prefer things that are more stereotypically “boy” activities. You like to make noise, slash with pretend swords and light sabers, and invent superhero games. You always have some sort of “powers” and like to talk a lot about Star Wars. You have seen a little bit of the movies, and you’re a big fan. You even want to be a Storm Trooper for Halloween, so that you can “byew” a lot. Forgive me, son. I can say it, but I cannot spell it. You’re imitating the sound that the Star Wars laser guns make. You call their blasters “byewers.” We’ve had a lot of byewing around our house lately. You seem to have an endless supply of energy.

The new preferences in play have caused a few rifts between you and your sister. She doesn’t always want to play your scenarios, and you often don’t want to play hers. Fortunately, you still have quite a bit of common ground. Sometimes you even compromise by pretending in your own way. You’ll want to be a fierce lion, so Maddie will be your Mommy lion and you’ll be the baby lion (or sometimes you’ll be the Daddy lion and she’ll be the baby). One time you were demonstrating your Spider-Man powers by tossing webs while she claimed to have Hello Kitty powers (tossing lollipops). You both seemed happy with those compromises. You both love playing with Legos, and you’re getting into putting together your own creations with both the Duplo style and regular style Legos. You and Maddie will work on building projects together sometimes, too. You also both like playing “school” and you played “baby school” a lot for a while. I’m still not quite sure what that means, but you played it a lot together.

You and Maddie even had a Lego themed birthday party. I’m not sure how long you two will want to have your party together, and it’s possible that this was the last one. It went well, but I could definitely see the two of you wanting different types of parties as you get older. I’m pretty sure you won’t get your sister to agree to a Star Wars or Superhero themed party! Although, your sister has said a few times that she wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween, so you never know. The Lego party went well, and you and Maddie appreciated the Lego guy head cupcakes that I made for the party.

You and Maddie are still best friends, even with your differences in play styles lately. You moved up to the preschool in February, and you had a fabulous transition. The transition went more smoothly than I had anticipated, despite knowing how ready you were for the new challenges. You were excited to be at Maddie’s school. Once the weather warmed up, you even spent every third week on the same playground. A few times, I saw the two of you on the playground together. You could count on the two of you being together, and I even spotted you running around hand in hand. You weren’t able to sit at the same table, but you did see each other at lunch every day. Daddy and I are sometimes able to take you to the big cafeteria. We took both of you to the cafeteria several times which is always a fun treat for both of you.

Now Maddie is at kindergarten, and we are all adjusting to the changes. We hadn’t realized how hard this transition would be for you! I think you miss having her at school and in the car during our daily commute. This means less time that the two of you are spending together, not to mention all the extra attention that Maddie has been getting. Both of you have been exhausted each night, and I feel like you’ve had a few more fights than usual as a result. You’ve both definitely been more sensitive in the evenings, and you’ve had more than your fair share of meltdowns! Last week was Maddie’s full week, and by the end of the week things were improving. Today was a bit rougher again, so I’m guessing the beginning of each week may be more challenging. We are all figuring out the new routines. I feel like we only recently adjusted to having both of you at the same school!

Since you started at Children’s House, you’ve had several fun events. You celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with your first preschool pajama day (and everyone could bring in a Dr. Seuss book to share with the class). You had your first bike day and rode your brand new scooter. The scooter was a good choice as you’re not too comfortable with your balance bike or your shiny new big boy bike with training wheels. Perhaps you’ll ride one of those two in the fall at the next bike day. I volunteered in your classroom to help with a baking project on Pi Day in March, and we made mini chocolate pies to celebrate. You had a school spirit day and represented Mommy’s team. Go Wolfpack!

You are a busy worker at Children’s House, and you’ve been learning lots of new things. Much of the work that you have done so far has been in the practical living section but you’ve also explored other sections of the classroom. We are so proud that you’ve been learning your phonics letters and know several of the letters already. We have been playing games in the car on the way to school where we take turns naming things that begin with a particular letter. Both of your parents are avid readers, so we are excited that you are taking these early steps towards reading! The first time you came home with letters written on your hands, your sister was very excited for you. She exclaimed, “Cullen! You did sandpaper letters!” This is a big deal in the Montessori school. You’re doing well with counting, and you have started writing your name and other letters pretty well. You do a lot of drawing and coloring at school as well.

We still do many crafts at home, and you and your sister are enjoying the Kiwi crates that Nana and Papa gave to you guys at Christmas and renewed at your birthdays. The monthly craft box brings excitement to both of you. Since our last letter, we’ve made games, a lantern, a scavenger hunt box, a periscope, spy disguises, pom pom pets, a bird costume, bird nests, and more. I love how the crafts use a variety of different materials and themes each month. It’s a fun thing for us to do together, and sometimes we do them with Nana or Grandma.

You continue to love when we read to you, which is something that we do every night before bed. Grandma and Grandpa were visiting this weekend, and we all took a trip to the bookstore. You were in heaven and picked out two Clifford the Big Red Dog books, The Cat and the Hat Comes Back, and a Lego Superheroes comic book. We also got the Magic Schoolbus Space book. Your favorite so far is the Lego Superheroes book! You sure do love the superheroes. We have a lot of fun with the sound effects. You sometimes will listen to longer chapter books, but you still have a preference for the picture books.

You and Maddie continued taking rollerblading lessons and finished up the ballet lessons that I mentioned in my last letter. We have been taking a break from organized activities, but we are hoping to sign you up for swimming lessons before too long. We think you’ll be ready for your first class without parents before too long.

When we had Maddie’s Special Day around her birthday, we went to our Natural History Museum where the Titanic exhibit was on display. Since both of you have been fascinated with pretending to “play Titanic,” you were excited to see the exhibit. I’m not sure what you thought of it, but I showed you lots of artifacts. By the end, you were telling me that the things were dirty because they had been “under the ocean for a long time.” Your favorite parts were touching a piece of the real titanic and the simulated iceberg. When we started the tour, we were all given a boarding pass with a real person’s name. We discovered the fate of our passenger at the end of the tour. We found Daddy, Mommy, and Maddie, and all three of us survived. And then we found your name. Unfortunately, you went down with the ship as you were part of the band. You started to get pretty upset that you didn’t make it, so we had to play up how honorable that it was that you were in the band and played beautiful music and helped to calm people. You were quite satisfied with that and liked the idea of being in the band. When I asked what instrument that you thought you might have played, you said, “drums!” Later, I heard your sister telling you that you went down with the ship, and you replied, “yes, but I made sure that you and everyone was happy.”

You have a very active imagination. One day, I heard you banging around in the kitchen and I asked what you were doing. You replied, “I’m fighting dragons!” Oh. Well, carry on, then. You then said, “Maddie, you should be ok now.” Maddie said, “But they are still alive!” You replied, “Yes, but they won’t growl at you now.” You then ran over to Daddy and me, “Mommy! Daddy! Be careful. Watch out for dragons. They could roar fire on you. They are still alive.” Well, you *did* vow to protect me from dragons when you met Rapunzel in Disney World!

Another common theme in our family has been baby goats. Aunt Kristin and Uncle Chad bought some goats last fall for their new farm ventures. They bought two baby milk goats first, and later they bought five female meat goats and each one had the possibility of being pregnant. It turns out that all of the goats were pregnant, and most of the goats had twins or even triplets! Aunt Kristin and Uncle Chad suddenly had a bunch of baby goats. You talk about Kristin’s baby goats all the time, especially since Kristin brought two of the babies to visit with us. Before you even met the goats, you said several times, “When I grow up like a Daddy, I’m going to have baby goats. I’m going to name them different names. One is named ‘Carrot.’”

As a bonus, our route to school takes us past a ton of baby goats in a few fields right before we enter campus. We all love looking for the goats and get very excited when we see them each day. We all say things like, “I see baby goats! Lots of them! I think that they are having breakfast!” The baby goats must have taken a vacation in a field that we couldn’t see from the road as they had disappeared for a couple of weeks. We were all sad about this and thought that the baby goats were gone for the year. While they were missing, each day we speculated on where the goats might have gone. For several days, you would say, “I think they are lost in the woods.” Then, one day, you said, “I think that Kristin took the baby goats because she loves goats so much.” I told you that I didn’t think Kristin had taken them, and that she already had her own baby goats. Maddie said, “What kind of a person takes baby goats!?” Your reply was, “Um, well, someone who likes goats….or … maybe…sheep?” Then you said, “I think that a coyote ate them…or maybe a crocodile.” Fortunately, the baby goats returned the following week, and we all rejoiced. I love how you bring such joy to daily observations. We really love spotting those goats!

We were supposed to visit with Kristin and Chad’s goats over Memorial Day weekend while we were visiting Nana and Papa, but Kristin was sick. We were all disappointed that we weren’t able to see the farm. We spent time with Nana and Papa and went to the Carolina Raptor Center where we had fun with the birds.

We had our big trip of the year just prior to seeing Nana and Papa. The four of us went with Jason and Melissa to New York City. You and Maddie had been talking about the trip for months before we left. The Easter Bunny had brought the two of you story books about NYC, and each one featured some sights around the city. We were able to see several of those sites including the Brooklyn Bridge, the bull on Wall Street, the Hall of Science, the Unisphere, Times Square, the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs!), Central Park, Grand Central, the Statue of Liberty (from afar) and the Library. Other highlights included our fancy lunch at the American Girl doll store and a chocolate fondue dessert at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We had a wonderful time in the city together with very full days full of fun and treats.

Chocolate was a definite theme on the trip! We thought that Maddie was the big chocolate fan, but it turns out that you have quite the sweet tooth as well. One night, we went to Max Brenner, “the chocolate restaurant.” You and Maddie had giant chocolate syringes for your dessert (thankfully, they let us split the syringe into two separate ones, half filled). Before we knew it, you had sucked all of the chocolate out of yours and looked at the syringe with a puzzled, angry look and exclaimed, “there’s no more chocolate!” This was just a few minutes before you started the craze that would last for weeks…the stomp dance. You got a rather wild look in your eyes and jiggled your head as you stomped across the floor. We were all very amused, and the stomp dance was repeated many times after that first night. The night before, you had had mac ‘n’ cheese at dinner, and you did a crazy dance then, too. I guess that you are just happy about your food!

One of your favorite parts of NYC was the subway, which you sometimes called the bullet train. We rode the subway to get to many of our destinations around the city, and we did a ton of walking. You and Maddie both rode in your strollers most of the time, and you even took a few naps in your stroller. You and Maddie shared the pull out couch in our hotel room, and you were both excited about our temporary home. It was more like an apartment than a hotel room, so I’d say we were a bit spoiled as far as NYC standards go! We spent five days in the city, and neither of you wanted to leave the city when it was time to go home.

While we were there, you kept a journal of your experiences (plus some random scribbles, of course). You did a pretty good job drawing pictures of skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty! I keep a journal on each of our trips, so I’m looking forward to continuing this with you as you get older.

You’ve had so many fun experiences lately. We have been going to plays and saw a Winnie the Pooh play, Rapunzel, and Charlotte’s Web. We have tickets to a few more plays for the rest of the year. We’ve also been going to the movies more often as a family. This summer, we’ve seen Epic, Despicable Me 2, and Monsters University. You enjoy the movies most of the time, but you do get a bit antsy towards the end of each one. You love the popcorn and candy. At home, you still watch some of the same shows geared towards preschoolers, and we even let you watch Return of the Jedi after weeks of you and your sister begging to see Star Wars. When Princess Leia saved Han Solo from the carbonite and took off her disguise, you said, “awww, that’s nice! I thought she was a pig guy!”

You don’t always agree with what everyone else wants to watch, and recently expressed your displeasure while we were trying to watch Monsters Inc. You walked over to the TV and turned it off saying, “this is a damn movie!” I had to bite my tongue not to laugh. Recently, I spent a week in San Francisco at WWDC, Apple’s developer conference. You and Maddie stayed at home with Daddy, and Daddy had a particularly frustrating moment where the word “damn” slipped out. You and Maddie took notice and thought it was hilarious to repeat it in various ways for the next 15 minutes. We had thought that maybe you had forgotten it, but the movie incident happened a few weeks later.

Daddy spent a few days away from us earlier in the year to go to Spring Training in Arizona. He had a great time on his trip, and we had a great time at home. While he was away, we went to the Shiny Diner for the first time and went bowling. This was the first time that you and Maddie had been bowling, and it turned out to be a bit of a late night. It might be a while before we go again, but you and Maddie seemed to enjoy it.

That weekend, we had Sophie and her Mommy over for a slumber party. After the morning’s rollerblading, we all went to Target and lunch and then back to the house for early Easter fun. We dyed Easter eggs, did some crafts, and decorated sugar cookies. We even went to the neighborhood Easter egg hunt. We made binoculars out of toilet paper rolls, and we all went exploring in the back yard (who knew that we had “hot lava” back there?). I had bought the two of you journals, and you wrote and drew about some of your experiences in the journals.

You continued to draw in your journal in the coming weeks, and one of the things you drew in your journal was a tick. One day after bath, your dad and I noticed something on your belly. It was a tick! I’m not a big fan of the nasty little creatures, but after a mishap a few years ago when I had a tick, Daddy felt I should be the official tick picker. I’m proud to say that I extracted the stubborn guy perfectly, leaving no bit behind (thank goodness!). I even stayed calm throughout, for your sake. You wondered how the tick got there, and your commentary on the whole thing was, “that tick was sneaky!”

We took you to the doctor after the tick bite as a precaution, but you haven’t had too many doctor’s visits recently. At your 3-year old check up shortly after the last letter, you were just over 31 pounds (46th percentile) and a little over 39 inches tall (86th percentile). You are getting closer and closer to Maddie’s size!

You’ve been fairly healthy lately, but your sister has become more physically aggressive with you. She went through a phase over a few weeks where she was biting you quite hard. She left some serious marks more than once. You really milk it when she bites or pinches or hits you and act all pitiful so that we’ll hug and snuggle you. One of these incidents was on a morning when Maddie was supposed to go to her kid book club. Well, after that, she was not allowed to go to book club and you went in her place. That was your first experience with the kiddo book club, and you loved it! You went to your second meeting this weekend, since we were hosting it at our house. You’ll be able to be a regular attendee before too long!

You’ve gotten a lot more independent since moving up to Children’s House. We were nervous about your transition as you still had potty accidents prior to moving up to the preschool. You had a few in the beginning, but you have only had a few isolated accidents since then. I can’t remember the last time you had an accident! We had a few false starts for the nighttime potty training. It seems like the third time was a charm, and you have now been pull up free and completely dry at night for almost two months. I’m proud of you!

I’m especially glad that you are accident free at night because sometimes you want to start the night out in our bed. You will come down the stairs after we think that you’re tucked away for the night, and you’ll announce, “I’m going to go sleep in your bed!” You’ll just march into our room, climb up in the bed, and make a nice and cozy nest of the pillows and blankets. Considering that you fall asleep in there without trouble, we just let you do it. We carry you up to your bed when you’re sound asleep, and you transfer easily. You are adorable in your little nest (and we think your confident announcements are amusing).

You crack us up all the time. We never know what you’re going to say. Recently, one of your teachers told us that she was offering you various foods at lunch time. After the third offer, you said, “that’s some good waitressing, Candice!” One day, you spotted a deer crossing sign and said, “that sign means that reindeer aren’t allowed to gallop on the road.” One night, you declared, “Mommy, you are the best Mommy in the whole wide world.” You then leaned over and gave me one of your signature, sweet kisses. And then about three minutes later, I refused to given into one of your bedtime stalling tactics. You stammered, “you…you…you are some kind of peepee head!”

You are quick to insult when you get frustrated with your family members. We hear you tell Maddie quite often, “you’re not my friend anymore!” For a while, Maddie would reply in a hurt voice, “But, Cullen, we’re going to get married when we grow up.”

You are very loving and affectionate to me more often than not. We make up sweet little loving stories and songs about each other at bedtime. One night when we were snuggled up at bedtime, you said, “We’re like two squeezed carrots in a bucket!” I said, “um, what? Did you say we’re like two squeezed carrots in a bucket?” You replied, “yes, we’re like two squeezed carrots in a bucket because we’re stuck together!” Well, alright, then. I love you, my fellow squeezed carrot. You make my heart happy.


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