Friday, January 15, 2016

Zachary Joseph: 3 years!

My Dearest Zachary,

Today you turn 3 years old. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. It was the day I learned that my heart could grow exponentially in just a matter of moments. The night before you were born I was worried about how I could love two little people as much as I already loved Ryan. I truly had nothing to worry about! My heart felt like it might burst the day I met you and it has grown even more every day since you came into our family.

Zachary, you are a feisty, snuggly, silly, funny, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, smart little boy whom we are so proud to call ours. You give fierce hugs, you love to "nuggle" (your word for snuggle) and you show love and joy (and anger and frustration :) with so much passion.

This past year you have truly blossomed! Your language took off like crazy. When the year started I was a little worried about the number of words you had. Now, you constantly talk and tell us what you think. You ask excellent questions, and your attention to detail about the way the world around you works is astounding. We always had a sense that you "were taking it all in" but now that you communicate so clearly and effectively you're able to let us know that we were correct! For example, you notice immediately if someone got a haircut. The other day, I came home from getting my haircut and you said, as soon as I walked in the door "Your hair looks so pretty, Mommy! I like it!" This is a gift, Zachary. May you always notice these things. Your spouse will one day thank you! You also notice if one of your brothers gets something you didn't and you quickly speak up to correct this miscarriage of justice. You notice the most minute details on cars and when we see a van just like ours you'll often say something like, "That van like ours...but not ours! Different wheels! (or lights, or bumper, etc). You never confuse a car of the same color but different make as being like ours. You are now recognizing letters and you find "Zs for Zachary!" everywhere we go. Its so much fun to see the results of those little wheels inside your brain turning!

In addition to being a smart and inquisitive little guy you are also extremely kind and caring. You are always looking out for your little brother, and if he's doing something that you  think looks dangerous you will say, "Mama, get him! Connor could get hurt!" (Though, you don't say Connor...the way you say it sounds more like "Donna." A part of me hopes you never master that hard C sound.) You love Ryan so much and to this day, if you're given two of something (a treat, a small toy, etc) you immediately run to share one with Ryan, even if they were both intended for you. You give fierce "monkey hugs" and say "Uh ooh too" (Love you too!) in the sweetest, kindest, most heart-melting way. I must say, "I love you!" 100 times a day just to hear your sweet "Uh ooh too" response. You can say "love you too" but it has become habit for you to just say it in your little kid way, and once again, I hope you never stop. "Uh ooh too!" is the best thing I hear all day!

As exceptional as you are in some ways, you're also very much a three year old in many ways. One of your favorite words of all time is "poopie." You'll find any excuse to use it and when someone else uses it, especially NeeNee, you think it is HYSTERICAL! Your giggle is one of the most joyful sounds I've ever heard and yes, I've been known to say poopie on occasion as well just to hear that glorious sound of your giggle.

You also eat very much like a toddler. You LOOOOOVE foods that you love. The problem is, you only truly love about five foods: Macaroni and cheese, waffles, yogurt, steelcut oatmeal, and peanut butter (but not on a sandwich, just by itself on a spoon). You'll tolerate strawberries and mandarin oranges, and sometimes bananas. You won't touch a vegetable unless it is snuck into a pouch (thank god for whoever invented those things!) or a homemade smoothie, which we make often and fortunately you love. You detest any type of meat. I mean what kid doesn't love Chick Fil A chicken nuggets?!?!?!?! You, that's who. I have to believe that one day you will be a more adventurous eater. Auntie Catharine is convinced you're going to be a famous chef one day. You do love to help me cook! But that whole "let them help prepare the meal and they'll eat it!" adage is total and complete BS with you. You'll gladly and excitedly help. But you usually do so while exclaiming "dat smell hoooorrrrrrible!" Its clear you have very sensitive taste buds. One day, if you do become that famous chef, I'll be sure to be your biggest supporter and strongest critic. Let's see how you like it when I taste your famous filet mignon in a truffle reduction sauce and exclaim, "Oh, that's horrible!" Yeah, paybacks buddy....paybacks.

So, while your love of food is limited, your love of animals is vast. Recently, for your and Ryan's birthday (we got them a bit early) we got two pet rats, Rizzy (Ryan's) and Ryder (yours). It was Ryan who really wanted them. You just sort of seemed to jump on the band wagon. But since getting them you have proven to be an exceptional pet owner, especially for a three year old. You like to hold them and play with them and you are so very, very gentle and kind with them. Watching you with Ryder and Rizzy makes their smelly, stinky cage that drives me crazy all worth it.

In addition to animals you love your family. You're very much a home body. You're most content being home with the people you love most, me, Daddy, Ryan, and Connor and playing a game or watching a movie while snuggled on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. But you love your NeeNee and PopPop fiercely as well and you get sooooo excited when they come over. Your cousins adore you and you in turn get excited any time they come to visit. Julia and Caitlin dote on you with such sweetness and James seems to look up to you. He loves to give you spontaneous hugs.

This past summer and fall we lived with NeeNee and PopPop for 4 months. And while it wasn't easy on any of us (most especially on NeeNee and PopPop) I have to say, you were amazing. You went with the flow more than I think most 2 year olds would have and you proved that as long as you're surrounded by the people you love, you'll be just fine. Yes, you certainly had more tantrums than normal (and that's saying something because you're a very emotional kid and you show STRONG emotions when you're frustrated or angry) but overall, you did really well. I mean, what kid learns how to potty train in one day while in the midst of the biggest change they've been through in their life? You do, that's who! You mastered potty training literally, in a day back in August. It was amazing. And for that and so many other reasons and I couldn't be prouder of you.

Though you did great while at NeeNee and PopPop's, I have to say, since moving into our own home its been a joy to watch you blossom even more. It's clear you are glad we have our own home again. You're thrilled that we have all our stuff back. You no longer have to ask "it in storage??" when you can't find something that's missing. And when you see something in our new house that was also in our old house you often say, "Dis just like our old house! We have dis der too!" It is all very exciting for your newly minted little three year old self!

There are so many things about the world that you love so much, in addition to your favorite people. You love books and would sit and have books read to you for hours. You especially like the "Piggie and Elephant" books by Mo Willems and you can "read" many of them by yourself now and it is just so darn, adorable. You read with different voices for each character and with the same emotion and inflection that I use when I read. Sometimes I wonder if you might enjoy acting when you're older. You're sometimes a little shy, but when given the proper venue and audience, you shine! You thoroughly enjoy playing games and you are able to follow the rules correctly in a way that far exceeds your age. You love "Hi Ho Cherry-O," "The Cat in the Hat, I can do that!" and "Busytown" the most. We're just starting to play UNO with you and you're getting it more and more every day. You'll be beating me and Daddy in no time! (Just don't beat Ryan....he would have a difficult time with that!). You continue to love trains and this year chose a Polar Express themed birthday party. If we let you, you'd watch that movie every day of the year. But, fortunately, just after your birthday Zerk (our elf) brought it back  to the North Pole. Don't worry, he will return it close to Christmas time! You've picked up on Ryan's Star Wars fever and you love learning about the different characters and you too enjoyed going to the theater with me, Ryan, and Uncle Mark to watch Episode 7. You may have fallen asleep for some of it, but when you were awake, you loved it!

You also love to run and play and jump and just be active. You're an amazing climber and you can scale a playground with no help at all. You love to do the fire pole and you love big slides. You can do the monkey bars by yourself but you insist that I be right there when you do it. You're always trying to keep up with Ryan, and you manage to do a pretty great job! You learned to ride your scooter this year and you are a PRO! You zoom along so quickly when you ride it! Its really quite impressive. When we were at NeeNee and PopPop's we went for a walk almost every day and you would always choose to ride your scooter. You scootered so much that you wore a huge hole in the front of your right shoe!

And yet, as active as you are, and as much as you desperately want to be a "big boy" you are also still very much by baby. You still use a pacifier (that's going to have to go in the next few months) and you still have mommy snuggle next to you at every nap and at bedtime in order to fall asleep. These are things that yes, we will have to transition you away from in the coming year (yes, I have things I'd like to do besides lay next to you all night long) but I'll soak in those extra snuggles for as long as I can. You won't be little forever and one day, I will long to have you snuggle next to me so you can fall asleep.

So, my sweet boy, in  these early days of your life I am doing my best to enjoy every moment and treasure the snuggles and cuddles, because I know they won't last forever. But, my love and pride for you is something that will most certainly last forever! Happy 3rd birthday sweet boy! I love you more than you will ever know!

Love always,


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ryan James: 6!

Dear Ryan,

Two thousand, one hundred and 90 days ago you came into this world. You did not come willingly or on time (you were 9 days late, and came via c-section after all the pitocin (a special medicine given to mommies to help get the baby to come out) in the world didn't make you budge, not even one little millimeter) but ever since you have been here you have nestled yourself into our hearts and our lives and we can't imagine life without you.

This past year was a year full of much change for you. We put the only home you ever knew up for sale. Throughout this process you were excellent at reminding your brothers, "We can't make a mess so someone will buy this house!" and you were helpful in running around and cleaning up whenever someone wanted to come look at the house at the last minute. After a few weeks, someone wanted to buy the house and we had to move out a lot quicker than we expected. On July 2nd (mine and Daddy's 10th wedding anniversary....what a way to celebrate! ;) we moved into NeeNee and PopPop's house for the next four months. We were so grateful to have their home opened up to us, and in many ways, it was the perfect "second home," but living there was harder on you than I expected. You were used to your beloved NeeNee and PopPop only seeing you at your absolute best, and even the best kids like you have rough moments. And it was hard for you to have those moments in front of two people you adore so much. But, you persevered and so did we right along side you.

Then, in August you started Kindergarten. You had to "commute" to Kindergarten while we lived with NeeNee and PopPop and I thought for sure you would come home every day grouchy and tired and miserable. But you didn't. Not even once. Watching you walk into school on your very first day, barely looking back to give me a quick wave, I swelled with pride. Here you were, in the midst of the biggest changes you'd experienced to date in your short little life and you were just rocking it. And you've been rocking school every day since. You are inquisitive, eager, and creative. You want to learn and you're doing a fantastic job.

Finally, on November 11th we moved into our beautiful new home, and watching you continue to blossom as we were once again in our own space has been a joy. You are back to your old self, and it makes my heart so happy to see you growing and developing into such a kind, independent, confident, loving, thoughtful, and inquisitive little man.

 Being in our new house one of my favorite things has been watching the way your relationships with your brothers are growing. In our new house you have space to play independently and come up with fun games together. You wrestle and argue, and play, and jump, bounce and run. You ride bikes and chase each other around inside and out because there is plenty of room to do all those things. You certainly have your moments when your brothers drive you crazy, but most of the time I can tell the three of you really do love each other and there is nothing that brings me greater happiness than watching those relationships develop. Remember, they're the only brothers you've got. One day, they will be the people who knew you longer than anyone else. They will be your links to the past and the future and I hope you cherish those relationships forever. Zachary and Connor look up to you so much. They want to be like you. And Ryan, if you keep on the track you're on now, then they couldn't have a better role model.

And yet, I write all this, not to make you sound perfect. You're not. You have your faults as we all do, and as I would expect you to. You hate to lose, and you get frustrated when you do. We're working on that. You don't always listen the first time, but, you're improving. You sometimes talk back in a way that Daddy and I find disrespectful. Sometimes you're a little too rough when playing with Zachary. But one of the biggest signs of your growth is your own realization when you've made a mistake and the increasing frequency with which you apologize on your own, and that, makes me a very, very proud Mama.

Recently, in a continuing sign of how much older you are, Daddy and I agreed to let you get your first pet (besides Rocky the beta fish who bit the dust shortly after we moved out of our old house....RIP Rocky). So, this year, for your birthday, you got two pet rats, yes...rats. Rizzy and Ryder (we let Zach name one...even though we all know they're really both yours) joined our family a week and a half ago and so far, they're proving pretty fun. They're still getting used to us, but even Daddy and I think they're cute, and I love watching you care for them and enjoy them. They'll be a learning experience for sure.

When I write these posts I try to take time to talk about what it is you most like and enjoy. You played soccer on a team this year for the first time and while you didn't love it, you enjoyed it and were very proud of the trophy you got (which I explained was for being a good sport and working hard, because, the whole "everyone gets a trophy no matter what thing" is just ridiculous. ;) And a few weeks ago you started basketball, and I am your assistant coach. You seem to like basketball more than soccer and that couldn't make me happier. I secretly hope this is a love we will share. 

But, if I had to list one thing, that you love more than anything else I would say you love people, specifically, your family. If you could, you would choose to spend your days surrounded by those you love the most: Daddy, me, Zachary, & Connor, your beloved cousins Caitlin and Julia, NeeNee & PopPop, and your Aunts and Uncles who adore you. You'd have Grandma and Grandpa visit every weekend and you'd share all your favorite things with all of these favorite people as often as possible: Star Wars, riding bikes/scooters (though we still need to work on getting those training wheels off), making pearler bead creations, learning about volcanoes and space,  going on treasure hunts, eating pizza and chicken tenders.

Earlier this year, two days after we moved out of our old house we went on vacation with our entire family to Bethany Beach. This added to the chaos and unpredictability of life at the time, but you loved every minute of "having all the people [you] love all in one big house," as you so aptly put it. I love the way you love your family so much. It is truly heartwarming. When we returned from that vacation, you would cry every night at bedtime for a week or so because you "just missed everyone being together so much." Weeks later, when you came across a stuffed animal you won while on vacation the tears started again and you explained, "I just had so much fun being with everyone." It wasn't what we did on vacation that you loved so much. It was who we were with, and I just love that about you. I hope this love of family is something you carry with you forever.

And while you adore your family members, your circle of people you're becoming comfortable with and wanting to spend time with is growing. You don't think twice about spending a few hours outside with our new neighbors. You love getting to go to Mrs. Becky's house to play with Emily, Drew, and "Madz," and you love being in school with your teacher and classmates. You've had sleepovers at Auntie Catharine's and Uncle Mark's (where eating a whole bag of skittles was the highlight!) and NeeNee and PopPop's and the fact that you are comfortable being away from us is a sign of your maturity and growth. 

Ryan James DeBoy Caminiti, when you were growing in my belly I had so many dreams of the person you would become. So far, you are more amazing than I ever dreamed you would be. I cannot wait to watch you grow over the many decades ahead of us. I believe in you completely. I know if you continue to persevere, to seek joy, to ask good questions, to notice when people are being unkind, and choose not to just sit back when you notice that, to love, be respectful, and follow your heart in all you do, then without a doubt, there are amazing things ahead. I am so privileged to have a front row seat.

Happy 6th birthday, sweet boy! As you told me the other night, "I love you to the farthest planet in the universe that they haven't even discovered yet, and back!"



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