Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dear 2-Year-Old Caleb

Dear 2-year-old Caleb,

Has it really been a YEAR since I've written you one of these letters? Time really has flown by this past year, even more so than for your first and second birthdays. Now I'm here on the eve of your third birthday and I'm in disbelief that I will have a three-year-old little boy when I wake up in the morning.

You turned two and it was like a switch was turned; you entered the terrible twos with full-force and never looked back. You are rebellious even by toddler standards, always pushing the boundaries and fine-tuning your negotiation skills. You have more energy in an hour than I can muster up in a week, and I'm always dragging behind trying to keep up with you.

And yet, spending my days with you - seeing the world through your eyes - it keeps me young. Everything is exciting and new, even things I see every day but never gave much thought. Currently, every car ride is exciting because you cheer me on when I drive through a green light. "YAY! We made the green light!" Your imagination has been sparked over the past year. This morning, we were snuggling in Mommy's and Daddy's bed after you woke up and you were telling me the animals you saw on the ceiling (T-rex, bunny rabbit, ant); the morning sun coming in between the window blinds created a shadow from the ceiling fan.

You are so ACTIVE. Even when you're watching TV, you often bounce up and down in the living room like you have springs in your feet. It seems like your favorite thing in the world is to roughhouse with Daddy. You jump on him, head-butt him, and tackle him every chance you get. I think poor Daddy needs a break sometimes!

Your interests shifted this year into very typical boy things. You phased out of the Dora the Explorer phase and got VERY interested in volcanoes and then dinosaurs. If I had to pick a theme song to describe this past year, it would be the Dinosaur Train theme song. That has definitely been your favorite show. It astounds me how much you have learned about dinosaurs - you can say even the most difficult dinosaur names, like Quetzelcoatlus (technically that is a pterosaur and not a dinosaur). As you can see, I have learned quite a bit about dinosaurs with you, too! You have also started to get into Daniel Tiger and you really like the movie Frozen (along with every other child in America, maybe the world).

It has been amazing to watch your language explode over the past year. You have an impressive vocabulary that is growing every day. You speak in complex sentences and sing songs. You carry on conversations with adults, including phone calls (usually with Grandma and Grandpa). You know your ABCs, and the sound each letter makes. Your pre-reading skills are great, too! You even have some of your books memorized and you like to read them to us, especially Goodnight Moon. Even the books you don't have memorized, you like to "read" to me by looking at the pictures and making up a story. You tell the best stories! Your facial expressions and hand gestures are fabulous. I hope you never lose that.

You've gotten better about this lately, but this year we spent a lot - I mean A LOT - of time learning how to use nice hands and feet. You hit, kicked, pushed, and threw things over and over. Despite that, there is a sweet and nurturing side of you - and I always see it, even when you're acting out. It's my hope as a parent that I can encourage that side of you while discouraging the hitting and kicking. I'm very proud at the progress you've made. It's still a challenge for you sometimes, but many times you play nicely with other kids your age without hitting or kicking.

Food has continued to be enemy number one for you. You still have a fear of most foods that aren't cookies or crackers. We saw a nutritionist who was only mildly helpful. Thankfully, I know you're growing because you keep outgrowing shoes and clothes - but I'm sure this is only because of the supplements and formula you take. You won't need Pediasure when you're in college, right? You will eat normal foods one day, right? Right?!

One of the biggest milestones this year was that you started part-time preschool. I have to admit, I was a complete mess over this. How could I possibly abandon my baby and leave him with strangers? I wanted to start you in preschool much sooner but the thought of it made me crazy so I kept putting it off. But I knew you were ready, and I eventually bit the bullet. You adjusted very quickly and made Daddy and I so proud! Mrs. Laura is your teacher at A Kid's Gym in Oviedo, and she is wonderful. Even knowing you were in a great place, that first drop-off...I didn't know if I could do it. After Daddy and I dropped you off, we went out to breakfast. And I broke down crying in the middle of Townhouse Restaurant. Big tears, ugly crying in the middle of a public place. It was so hard to leave you! But I knew it was best for you (and me, too). And you did even better than I had hoped. Now you love it! You get gymnastics and outside playtime and so many different kinds of's a great place for you and I'm so happy to see you thriving there!

I can't believe that tomorrow I will have a three-year-old boy. I'm so blessed to have you in my life. Even when I'm pulling my hair out, I still feel that way every day. You're my everything. I can't wait to see what new adventures this next year will give us!

Love you always,

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dear 23-Month-Old Caleb

Dear 23-Month Old Caleb,

I'm a couple days late posting this one because we had to celebrate your second birthday and it's been a busy week! I can hardly believe you're two. But we'll save that for the next, "Dear Caleb" blog post. This one is all about the month leading up to your birthday.

What comes to mind first about this month is that we are communicating on a completely different level now. Almost all of the time, you can tell us what you are trying to say and we actually understand! You rarely sign anymore because you know how to say all of the words you used to sign. One day, over ten new words popped out of your mouth! You are even good about saying, "please" and "thank you" or "thanks." You also say, "bless you" anytime someone sneezes. One time, we heard you say, "Bless you" over the baby monitor while you were in your crib - you were still awake and heard me sneeze in the other room. :) You are talking in three- and four-word sentences now. You say things like, "I got it" and "I spy a bow."

Your obsession with football and the Green Bay Packers continues to grow. You sleep with footballs every night and usually ask to watch Packers highlights ("Pappoh?") as soon as you wake up. You throw your hands up in the air triumphantly when they score a touchdown and you clap when something exciting happens.

You are becoming your own person; your personality is emerging more and more. You have a very logical mind. You like sorting things, especially by color. You're good at puzzles and problem solving. And you like putting things away, in their place. You get really hyper at night and flip around in our bed like a gymnast or wrestle with Daddy. You aren't big on snuggling unless you're sick. You don't like getting messy, but you love to color and do projects where you can use tools, like paintbrushes for example. You're a daredevil, always jumping off of things and giggling like mad. I have a feeling you'll like roller coasters.

I think what stands out about you most is your athletic ability. It's odd saying that about a two-year old but it's true. Somehow, you learned how to correctly hold and throw a football - even with a perfect spiral! You are so strong and you can throw the ball so hard that I don't even know how it's possible! This month, you started catching balls when we throw them to you. You often say, "Catch!" and ask to practice. We clap and cheer when you catch and when you miss, we say, "Almost!" Now you repeat us and say, "Almost" if you miss the ball. Playing ball makes you very happy and it's clear there will be a lot of sports in your future.

You have started to memorize parts of books, so you often help me read. You know some parts of The Poky Little Puppy, like "I see something!" and the part in That's Not My Mom! where where Gerry says, "Aha!" There is also a Thomas the Train Book of Opposites that you know very well. If I say, "Up," you will say, "Down" and so on.

We spend a lot more time drawing and writing these days. Your fine motor skills are awesome! You seem to especially like to write with pens, and you often "help" me with my grocery lists by scribbling all over the paper. You have started writing letters and numbers, too! Sometimes it seems to be a happy accident and you are surprised when you tell me, "Nine!" and other times it seems purposeful. Some of the letters you draw are A, C, G, I, L, M, O, P, S (kind of), U, and V. You write 1 and 9 as well. You always tell me what you draw and often make the corresponding sound for letters. You like to draw circles a lot, and you can say, "circle" very well now too.

You are learning about colors beyond the few basic colors (ie, red, blue, yellow, orange, green). This month you learned purple, pink, black and brown. You can recognize and distinguish between basic shapes: circle, rectangle, square, crescent, heart, and diamond. You kind of know what an octagon is because you associate it with stop signs (which you seem to love for some reason).

Preschool co-op this week covered letters J-N. We played with Jell-o in a jungle safari, made lava lamps, magic milk and masks, played with wet noodles and made pasta necklaces. You had a cold for K week. It's good for you to see the same groups of kids every week. You are still too rough with the other kids, but it's getting better. And you are better about saying, "Sorry" and giving apology hugs.

You also have your first official girlfriend, Sienna. She calls you, "Cable" and her Mommy tells me she talks about you all the time. She also calls every boy "Cable." She hugs you and you two even kissed once. It's adorable. Most of the time she is chasing you and you run away. In the preschool co-op, you two usually wind up playing with each other. She is the cutest and sweetest little girl and as her Mommy Meagan says, "she's completely smitten!"

You continue to learn and grow in your Kinder Kicks class. Some weeks are better than others. One week, you did a fantastic job of following the obstacle course Mrs. Katrina set up. Sometimes you're just not into it and all you want to do is run around. But that's ok :) By the way, Mrs. Katrina also commented about your throwing skills!

It's funny, I didn't think I had much to write about this month but once I sat down, I realized I had so much to say about you! You truly amaze me and make me proud to be your Mommy.

Love you always,

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dear 22-Month-Old Caleb

Dear 22-Month-Old Caleb,

The language explosion continues this month. You said your first sentence, "Hi, mama." You walked into our bedroom one day and said it very clearly, like you've been saying it all along. (And you probably have been, in your head!). Since then, you have put a few other words together like, "all done" and "I spy..." and "bye-bye, Dada" and "I know." I have given up on keeping track of all your new words. Most days, a new word pops out of your mouth at least once or twice. Once when we were checking out at Publix, a nice girl who works there taught you to say, "toes." You learned to say other body parts, like knee, elbow, and butt.

Many times this month, I sat back in awe at how quickly you are learning things. It seems like just yesterday you were a helpless newborn who just laid there and did nothing but sleep, poop, and cry. You are so incredibly smart, and it is so much fun to watch you learn and grow.

You spend most of your free time playing with balls, particularly with one small basketball and football. You have a crazy athletic ability that an almost two-year-old should not have! You can't play ball with kids your own age because you simply through the ball too hard and make your friends cry! It gives Mommy a headache.

You have mastered your numbers, 1 through 10. You've known 8 and 9 for a while but now you know them all! I haven't tested you, but I think you know all of your letters by this point too. And you do an excellent job with recognizing the sounds that letters make.

<sigh> You are so incredibly rough - "all boy" as many would say. I can't get you to stop hitting your friends, or throwing toys (that should not be thrown). It's a constant battle. You will eventually grow out of this, right? </sigh>

We went to the "Hippity Hop Adventure" at the zoo with Grandma and Grandpa, where we did crafts and saw a live musical performance. It was lots of fun! We had a very nice Easter at home, and you got a fun Easter basket with a football, train book, socks, a truck, a Giraffe flashlight, and other little goodies.

The preschool co-op is going great! This month we learned about the letters E-I. We had Easter egg hunts (for both E and H), a rice sensory bin, an oatmeal sensory bin, finger print painting, hula hoops and hopping, a garden sensory bin, a gumball machine sticker activity, and ice painting.

I saved the best update of the month for last. This "event" actually just occurred a couple of days ago, so it's very fresh in my mind. You were doing naked time before bath. (Granted, this is a dangerous activity for someone your age who is not potty trained, but you had already pooped once this day and cleaning up pee is not too bad so I wasn't worried...). You were in the living room - naked - on your hands and knees eating food off the floor like a puppy dog. You were picking up food off the floor with your mouth, without using your hands. You had just eaten dinner and had thrown half of your food on the floor so I figured you were eating a pretzel. You looked so silly, so I walked over close to you to take a picture. At first I was confused because I didn't see any food on the ground. Then I realized, you weren't eating - you were drinking. You were lapping up your own pee off the floor! Seriously?!! After I recovered from that, you pooped in the playroom, and I'm pretty sure you played with it before I discovered it because there were poopy stains that screamed, "Poop was here!" even though the actual poop was a little to the right. I got that cleaned up and started running bath water for you, while you peed in our bedroom and then licked pee off your hands.

Toddlerhood sure is interesting! :)

I can't wait to see what crazy things you do next month...

Love always,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dear 21-Month-Old Caleb

Dear 21-Month-Old Caleb,

To the outside world, you may not seem all that different than last month, but I have noticed huge changes this month! Here we go:

  • The language explosion is starting! It seems like every day you are saying a new word. I can't keep track of your growing vocabulary anymore, but here's a quick list of what comes to mind: question, bubble, ball, boat, bowl, Caleb, Nancy, help, cup, pee pee, nose, book, map, car, Elmo, home, uh oh, and cookie. You are still communicating with single words, but I think you will start combining words soon. You will do two signs together, or a combination of words and signs, like sometimes you say, "ball" and then sign, "please." You also started signing, "thank you" this month.
  • Your pre-reading skills are progressing quickly, too! On Valentine's Day, I nearly fell out of my chair when I watched you sound out a word. It was the word, "boss" on a onesie. You pointed to the "B" and said, "buh," then the "O" and said, "ohhh" and then the "SS" and said, "ssssss." I know you didn't actually read the word but it was pretty amazing to watch you take this huge leap in phonics and pre-reading!
  • We started a preschool co-op with other Moms and kids your age. It's going great! We rotate houses every week and each week we learn about a new letter. This month, we covered A-D. We read books, did some finger painting, made dough hand prints, and played in cake cloud dough. You even get homework assignments! They're not too hard, though. It's just a coloring sheet for that week's letter. We are keeping them in a folder so you will have your own ABC book! The socialization is really good for you and I love that you get to play with the same kids each week and make friends. We're still working with you on hitting and throwing toys. Some weeks you are so well-behaved and I'm so proud of you, and other weeks don't go nearly as well. It's a work in progress, and that's ok.
  • You are getting so much from the Kinder Kicks classes, and I have watched you grow in many ways in just a short time! You are the youngest in the class but you still manage to keep up! I'm very proud of how you are improving with listening and following directions. I love how you are willing to try new activities and you're eager to learn and play.
  • You are starting to express your independence. One way you do this is with clothing. We often have multiple wardrobe changes in a day because you want to wear this orange shirt or that Packers shirt. Sometimes we pile on multiple layers. Sometimes you sleep in the same shirt you wore the day before.  I love watching you express your preferences and ideas about things. You're so quirky! Sometimes you have to put things away, "just so." One night, we were leaving the playroom and you were almost out the door when you turned around to turn over one of your cars that was upside down. You make Mommy and Daddy giggle all the time.
  • A couple of months ago, I was trying to teach you about circles. How to identify them, and how to draw them. I haven't practiced them with you in a while, but you obviously remembered because one day something clicked and you started drawing circles over and over on your "C" homework! (You also did it on your "D" homework). I was so amazed that what we practiced had sunk in and you picked up on it. You are such a sponge right now and I'm so happy watching you learn. You are so, so smart and you amaze me every day.
  • You are completely obsessed with balls. Any and all kinds of balls. There is a small basketball in particular that you really seem to love. You are constantly throwing balls at us and wanting us to play with you. You have quite the arm! I recently joked that you'll become a baseball pitcher, and Daddy said that wasn't allowed because it's a dangerous position. Funny that he's the over-protective one ;)
  • We also went strawberry picking for the first time. What a fun activity! We'll have to do that again.
I can't wait to see what new things you bring on next month. Hello, 22 months!

I love you always and forever,

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Magic of Busy Bags

If you have a toddler, then you understand the anxiety that comes from eating out in a restaurant as a family. Toddlers have a tendency to freak out about everything, so you never know what you will get on any given day. There is at least a 50/50 chance that toddlers will lose their minds in the middle of dinner, and you'll have no choice but to ask for to-go boxes and high tail it out of there.

We don't go out to dinner as a family very often for this very reason, but we did last night. I knew we were planning to go out and I prepared myself. That's when I discovered the magic of...busy bags.

Here is Caleb (21 months) at dinner last night, playing happily. This kept him busy for about 30 minutes! In the world of toddler-restaurant-time, that is a lifetime! My husband and I finished our dinner and then the three of us just sat around, playing and talking. No more rushing to pay the check to prevent the inevitable meltdown that we know is coming. It was wonderful :)

So what exactly is a busy bag, you ask? Well, it's simply a small and portable activity you can take with you. They can be educational or just plain fun. Usually it's something you could fit in a small ziploc bag. Last night, I brought a set of colored, reusable ice cubes (from the dollar store!). They came in 4 colors so I brought 4 small containers from home. He had lots of fun sorting, dumping, re-sorting, stacking, and more!

I'm now a big believer in busy bags, and will be looking for more ideas. If you search for busy bags on Pinterest, there are lots of great ideas - like this one. Do you have any other busy bag ideas to share? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dear 20-Month-Old Caleb

Dear 20-month-old Caleb,

Well we had a wonderful month! Here are some highlights:

  • We started a class together called Kinder Kicks, which is a fitness/martial arts class for toddlers and a parent. I like that it will give you a little more structure each week and I think it will help you with listening and sitting still. So far, you mostly run all over the room the whole class. It's great because we both get some exercise! I love that there is a lot of focus on confidence. I'm excited to see how you benefit from the class each week.
  • We all got sick again, but I'm getting used to at least one sickness each month. I try to tell myself we're building up your immune system, which would happen when you started school anyway. Might as well get it out of the way now.
  • You're still aggressive, but I'm seeing more of your sweet side come out. You are constantly giving both Daddy and I hugs and kisses. And sometimes you kiss everything, from trees to puppies in a book to my glasses (while I'm wearing them). I hope I can nurture your sweet side and help you grow into a nice and polite little boy. We still have to work on your hitting, biting, and throwing. It's a work in progress ;)
  • I decided to start teaching you a few basic signs (as in sign language), and you have picked up on it amazingly fast. You first learned, "more" and then "milk." Then "ball," "eat," "play," and "please." We're working on, "thank you" and "sleep." It is really helping you communicate your wants and needs to us! 
  • You're picking up on so much around you. One day we were at the library after story time, and we were doing puzzles with another Mom and little boy. They were Chinese and the Mom was teaching her son to count in Chinese. You started doing it, too! You were saying, "One. Two." in Chinese! The other Mom commented on it and said you did a great job counting in Chinese. You're learning from watching Dora the Explorer, too. When you want something open, you say "Abre" which means open in Spanish.
  • Your new words include "map" and "baby" and probably other words I can't think of at the moment. You say baby quite a bit, and you understand that YOU are baby. You point to me and say, "Mama" then point to yourself and say, "Baby." You also make a really cute chomping sound for alligator. The word, "Bye Bye" has transformed to, "Bye Bow." And "Pappers" has transformed into, "Papp-OH." You are continuing your toddler jibberish, and sometimes it sounds like you are telling such fabulous stories to us. You are so incredibly animated and emphatic, it is just adorable. I have to remember to get this on video tape because pretty soon you'll be talking for real!
  • You know a lot of your letters by now, probably most of them I'd say. And this month I have noticed you are not only recognizing letters, but also the sounds they make. This is part of something called phonemic awareness  and it excites Mommy because she knows it's an important step toward learning to read. You especially seem to recognize B, P, S, and T. When you see those letters, you point and make the corresponding sound. For a while you were mixing up B and S but I think you have them straight now.
  • You still love reading more than I could ever describe in one blog post. It is a huge part of our everyday life. It's usually the first thing we do when you get up and the last thing we do before you go to bed. Sometimes Daddy and I get tired of reading books to you over and over and over and OVER, but I remind myself that this is such a wonderful passion for you to have and I am so proud of how much you love books and reading.
  • We are starting a preschool co-op with 5 other families and kids, and I'm very excited about doing this every week and watching you and your friends learn together. I'm sure I'll have more to report on this next month.
I hope this next month is just as great as the last. I can't believe I have to start planning your second birthday party!!

Love you always,

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dear 19-Month-Old Caleb

Dear 19-month old Caleb,

As we say goodbye to 19 months, we are getting closer and closer to your second birthday and farther and farther from your first birthday. Time seems to be flying by so fast!

Looking back on this month, we had a little mix of everything.

  • You got SO sick this month, your first flu. You felt just terrible and you broke our hearts because you looked so sad and lethargic, a stark contrast to your usual tornado-style personality. You had the usual runny nose and cough but you also threw up and had diarrhea, both of which were firsts. And your fever went over 103 for the first time. We stayed home for a week and had lots of snuggles and watched cartoons and movies, including the Toy Story movies for the first time.
  • You somehow shared your virus with me in my eye and I got quite the case of pink eye. My eyes got so swollen that I could barely see and Daddy had to actually take time off work to help me for a couple days. I had to cancel my birthday plans (but hope to reschedule soon!) but I still had a nice day at home with you and Daddy. And I was very lucky that some friends dropped off some gifts and goodies at our door to cheer me up!
  • All four of your canines came in, at the same time (teeth numbers 13-16). The teething started while you were sick so that whole week is a sleep-deprived blur to me. However, the good news is that you only have FOUR teeth left to go until we are done with teething!
  • Your behavior has surprisingly gotten even more challenging, especially the hitting and biting. Mommy is frantically reading toddler discipline books. And we are taking bets on when our tipping point will be to sell you to the zoo ;) I think part of the problem is you were very spoiled while you were sick - I pretty much gave you whatever you wanted and held you a lot and gave you all of my attention. So now, you naturally can't understand why you're not getting your way. Hopefully next month I'll report that this is getting better...
  • On the other hand, sometimes you can be ridiculously sweet. You are still so snuggly at times, giving me lots of kisses and hugs. It makes me forget all the hitting :)
  • You have mastered jumping and bouncing. You always seem to be jumping, spinning, rolling - in constant motion. One Sunday morning recently, we brought you into bed with us when you woke up for morning snuggles. You naturally wanted to start jumping around. You stood up and flung yourself backwards onto the bed so that you landed flat on your back. I think you love the rush of falling, you're such a dare devil! Only, this time you landed a little too close to the edge. There was just enough momentum to make you do a complete flip backwards off the bed and you landed on the floor, flat on your face. Daddy and I both tried to grab you but you were just out of reach. Once we realized you were OK (just a little cut on your tongue that has already healed), we laughed so hard! It was ridiculous to watch you flip through the air like a tiny acrobat!
  • I can't even remember which new words you have learned this month. Your favorite new word is Packers (pronounced by you as "Pappers"), as in the Green Bay Packers. You are getting really into football, both watching games with Daddy and playing with your footballs with us. You have quite the arm! You also meow like a cat, but it sounds more like mow (rhymes with now). You are constantly pointing and saying, "Eh! Eh! Eh!" Your jibberish continues and is just as adorable. You have a few jibberish words you say often, like, "A gundhy." I wish I knew what it meant!
  • This month you also experienced your second Christmas. It was so much fun! You're not old enough to understand what was going on, but you sure loved all the new toys! Santa brought you an easel and a toy horse that makes a neigh sound. And in your stocking was some little musical instruments, toy trucks, and a Santa duck. You got too many other things to list from us and other family members and friends. You loved everything! We haven't opened all the toys yet just because there were so many.
  • We rung in New Year at the Callahans, where you got to play with your buddy Shawn as you both stayed up way past your bedtimes! You're such a lucky boy to have so many wonderful friends and playmates.
As always, I love you to pieces and I love that I get to spend every day with you. I'm looking forward to this new year ahead.

[P.S. - Stop hitting!]

Love you forever,