So. much. to. share.
Let's see if I can remember it all!
Caroline's language acquisition is BLOWING our minds. When she opened birthday presents at Mamie's house the Sunday after Thanksgiving she said repeatedly "Ooh, Yook at dis! Ah, yook at dat!" That was DELIGHTFUL and thoroughly impressive to us. But by the time she was opening Christmas presents she was saying "Look at this! Look at that!" In one month she masters the "L"? Wow! She also recently started saying "I love you." Ah... so sweet.
Speaking of opening presents... I was up with Caroline early on Christmas morning not because she was chomping at the bit for Christmas, but because she is 2 and still has funky sleep patterns. I nursed her back to sleep and wrote an e-mail to some colleagues in which I said that she is too young to be anticipatorily excited about Christmas, but... when she woke up I said "Merry Christmas, Caroline! It's Christmas!" And she said "Open presents?" and then shrieked with glee! Too young, mommy? I don't think so.
She was delighted by everything in her stocking and everything under the tree. She didn't quite understand why other people were getting presents too. I think this is a function of her birthday being so close to Christmas, but she was relatively patient for other present opening. There was only one minor meltdown on Christmas morning, not bad.
As you can see in some of the pics below, one of the biggest hits this Christmas was a set of Duplo lego blocks that Kev and I got for her. She made huge progress in the week we were with Pa and Eepa at working with these (though she started off pretty strong!) She built towers and robots and all sorts of great things... she also likes using red blocks to make "lub mcqueen" (that's how she says 'lightning mcqueen") and blue blocks to make "Sally" (Sally is lightning mcqueen's love interest in the movie Cars).
This big box of blocks presented a good opportunity to practice the skill of cleaning up from one activity before moving on to another. Eepa taught us a song "Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean everybody do their share!" She LOVES singing this and sometimes she loves cleaning up while she sings it. We did a lot of putting blocks in the box, and then dumping them back out 5-10 minutes later.
Caroline also enjoyed tracing hands and feet on freezer paper (brilliant drawing surface, Eepa!) over and over again. "I make hands?" Or "I want make hands." These were the two phrases that would initiate a coloring session.
Caroline also demonstrated awesome dancing skills while we were staying with Pa and Eepa. They would put on music (usually the Strathdees) and play some of the marvelous rhythm instruments they gave Caroline for Christmas and she would dance and dance and dance. Eepa characterized her natural moves as "Native American" and indeed it did look like she was doing a Native American circle dance.
She learned many of the names of the children's books Eepa took out of the library for her visit and was asking for them by name in the last few days we were there.
We had "happy hour" every night of our visit. When Kev was growing up this was a Friday, Saturday ritual- juice and snacks and a toast and catching up with the family on the living room floor. Caroline LOVED, LOVED, LOVED happy hour. She would cheer when she heard it was time for happy hour. And she'd spin the tray of snacks around to position whatever happened to be her favorite treat of the night (honey roasted soy nuts? sesame sticks? cheese?) closest to her. We have decided to have happy hours on Friday and Saturday evenings at home since it delighted her so and when we suggested that we were going to do this last night she shrieked and then said over and over again "Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray!" (And she really emphasizes the "Hoo!")
She has been saying "Hoo-ray!" and doing a bit of a happy dance at several excited moments the last week. I'm not sure where she learned "Hoo-ray!" But it is terribly, terribly cute.
Caroline seems to be grasping a certain understanding of time... she uses "later" appropriately, and "after", and "in a minute" or "just two minutes." She'll often say "I want bath after dinner." Or something like that. She has SEVERAL phrases in her goodbye rituals now, among them is "See you later!" All this time talk developed while we were in MIchigan. It was amazing to see it unfold.
Caroline had her first night away from both of us. Pa and Eepa took care of her while Kev and I went to our favorite B and B for the first time in MANY years. She did very well. She did wake up in the middle of the night and Pa and Eepa let her be for awhile, but eventually she was calling out for mommy and daddy fairly intensely, I guess, so Eepa went and laid down with her and soothed her until she fell back asleep. Eepa stayed with her until morning.
Eepa gave so much time and attention to Caroline while we were there (so did Pa!) Caroline was usually ready to be done with dinner before the rest of us (partly because her belly was quickly full after happy hour!) And would beg Eepa to come play with her. Eepa would indicate that she couldn't leave the table until her water was finished and Caroline would keep coming back to the table to check to see whether the water was empty. By the last few nights Caroline asked to sit on Eepa's lap and eagerly helped with the drinking of the water. (This is pictured below!) She's one smart cookie!
Speaking of cookies... and cake... so many wonderful things start with C! Eepa has a tradition of making a sheet cake when loved ones visit and frosting it with chocolate frosting and then decorating it with colored frosting writing "Happiness is a visit with..." for us "Happiness is a visit with Kevin, Sarah, and Caroline!" Eepa also has a tradition of making sugar cookie people for each of the people who will be gathering in their home for Christmas which she then hangs on the tree. This year she made gingerbread people instead and had TONS of extra frosting from decorating these with some other friends before we came, so there were LOTS of extra decorations on the cake- a few Christmas trees for example. Another part of the sheet cake tradition is that people can cut their own piece, however big or small, whatever shape they'd like. Caroline, of course, was not cutting her own cake, but she was asking for particular parts of the cake. For awhile she was asking for letters. But then she set her eyes on the Christmas tree... She also very much enjoyed her gingerbread cookie- pic of that below.
Caroline also delighted in blowing out candles (also pictured below!) She isn't having as much luck with our candles at home, but she tries valiantly (and daddy helps her out and gives her all the praise!)
She hasn't quite grasped why she's no longer getting a Hershey's Kiss and a little book every night after dinner (these were our Advent rituals- one from Eepa, one from Mamie) But she's not too distressed about it.
Lest you think it is all sugar and spice and everything nice with our girl... we have started using time outs. We've used them enough that her stuffed animals are now getting them. She doesn't like them one bit... but they do seem to help. Mostly she needs them for a failure to listen and follow-through. It seems a bit early for them, but... I read somewhere that if children repeat your rules to you they're ready for time outs. She often barks rules at us or at other kids. She's ready.
Lately when we've been doing something with her that she doesn't want done (changing her diaper sometimes, changing her clothes sometimes, getting her ready for bed, putting on a coat or hat or mittens, insisting on clean up... the list goes on and on and on...) even if we are 10 ft away from her she'll yell "DON'T HIT ME!" What?! We've never hit her! Not intentionally anyhow. And we're usually doing nothing like hitting when she yells this. She has heard this from me when she has hit me aggressively. And she has heard regularly "No hitting. We don't hit." So the phrase isn't shocking... but it takes us aback every time. Often it is in response to being spoken to in a stern voice.
We think Caroline dislocated her elbow shortly before our Christmas trip. We were "1,2,3 weeing" with her in a parking lot after buying Papa and Mamie's Christmas present and when we went to put her into the car she started saying "Ow! Ow! Ow! Arm hurts. Ow!" She was very agitated about getting her car seat straps on. She was favoring one arm, holding it limply at her side. It seems to have popped back in on its own. She had a doctor's appt the next morning and the doc confirmed what our dear nurse friends (Debbie and Sam) had suggested "a nursemaid's elbow" that corrected itself. Needless to say, much to her dismay, no more "1,2,3 wee." But she'll survive. An elbow that pops out? Just one more thing she shares in common with the young Uncle Daniel.
Along with "Hoo-ray!" she has also been saying "I don't wanna." A LOT. Very strong will... no surprise there. You don't wanna wear a winter coat? Tough. We'll give her a choice about WHICH winter coat, but not whether to wear one at all.
We are working on night weaning because after two years I'm ready to have my boobs back at night. We've explained that after her bedtime nursing no milk until the sun is up. She had a few nights of 8 or so hours of sleep, still waking up before sunrise, and we held her off on further nursing until sun up. She's been waking in the middle of the night more the past few and eventually she comes into bed with us, but she isn't nursing until morning. She asks a lot, but I just say over and over again- "We need to wait for the sun. Look out the window if you can't sleep and tell me when the sun is out." She's pretty literal (as the "I can't see!" story below suggests so even when the sun is up because she can't literally see the "sun" she says "I can't see it!" Oh well... We've stuck to our guns all week. No middle of the night nursing. A fair bit of sleep interruption nonetheless, but... I think we're getting there. We bought toddler bedding for Caroline so we can tuck her in. She loved it at first, but now she resists her bed... back to sleep resistance.
Well, on the balance... she's still a GREAT kid. And we love her like CRAZY!
Was that everything? Nope, not a chance. But that's all I've got for now!
Edited to add two more things I should have shared-
Caroline is becoming quite the little capitalist. She knows that stores are for buying things and she regularly asks to go to the store. One of her favorite play time activities involves using her toy cash register to scan and buy several items of play food. And by several I mean LOTS. She also slides a play credit card in its slot when she's ready to pay. She asks for this activity by saying "Let's go buy things!" or "I want buy things." Great. (We are truly grateful for the fabulous shopping cart, play food, and cash register... just hadn't thought about how early this would introduce the capitalist mentality to our wee one!)
Speaking of working to remedy unintended mental consequences... shortly before we headed to Michigan Caroline started singing grace with us more regularly. When we learned the grace we learned it as "God our Father, God our Father, once again, once again, we bow our heads to thank you, we bow our heads to thank you. Amen. Amen." We quickly started singing it "God our Mother, God our Father..." Or the other way around, wanting her to have a gender balanced God image in her head. Well... when she started singing with us in earnest she was saying "Father" EVERY TIME- and aggressively. So... we aggressively went on a corrective mission and sang only Mother for a few weeks. Just today at lunch time she sang mother twice. I just read Elizabeth Johnson's "She Who Is" for the first time last semester and I am less convinced about the effectiveness in gender neutrality for the dislodging of androcentric, patriarchal God-images. I clearly DO NOT believe God is woman or a man... I just don't want Caroline growing up assuming one or the other... She'll get Father, He, Him... plenty of other places. God our mother at home, at least for the time being, seems just about right.