Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dear Anna: Month 39

Dear Anna,

Last Monday, you turned 39 months old. You are now a bona fide three-year-old, with three months of experience under your belt. I'm astounded at how much you have changed since I last wrote you a letter. To begin with, your potty training hit a level consistent enough for you to transition to a new room at your day care center. You still have a lot of accidents, but you also have many days with none whatsoever. Your last great barrier (and I know you'll love reading this someday and knowing it was out there on the internets) is pooping in the potty. You're either not getting the physical cues you need, or you're just not comfortable with the idea. You have a low tolerance level, though, for poopy pants, so I think we're going to get somewhere with this soon...which will be good, as the worst poop disaster of our life together to date happened in your room this fall. I went in to get you after a nap and found you standing there, naked, with poop everywhere. You were trying to clean yourself up and get new clothes, but, in the process, you'd pulled poop up your back, onto the carpet, oh - everywhere. My jaw was on the floor, and you looked at me with the saddest face and said, "I pooped, Mama. And I got my hands in it." I got you into the tub and am now a majority owner of Resolve Carpet Cleaner. And that's all we're going to say about that.

You got a haircut that transformed you. Gone was what your father referred to as the "Prince Valiant!" As you weren't interested in keeping barrettes or headbands in but also weren't interested in hair falling in your face, we went ahead and opted for a pixie cut of sorts. It's adorable. As it fills in, I'm starting to mourn the curls less and see the match between this sassy cut and your sassy personality.

You still love your little sister. You're a little less sure of her now that she's crawling. She gets into your stuff, and that's just not cool. But I think you're remarkably patient. You get frustrated, and you try to keep her from getting the toy you're enjoying that has caught her eye, but I have never once seen you get rough with her. You love to tickle her and make her laugh. And I think your enjoyment of life's pleasures is somehow enhanced by sharing them with Tessa. During a recent bubble-fest, you were elated. You waved your hands, your eyes got wide, and you said, "There are bubbles, Tessa!"

You really got Halloween this year. You went trick-or-treating as a butterfly princess (or a fairy princess, depending on your mood when asked), first with me and then with your father. As we walked around one end of our neighborhood, you delighted in the decorations on front steps - the pumpkins, the skeletons, the witches' hats...and, of course, the people who dropped candy into your pumpkin bag!

Your pretend play has really taken off. You have a dress-up bin now, largely stocked with costumes from the Target 75% off post-Halloween sale. When I asked you, decked out in all sorts of finery, who you were, you replied, "I'm a woman. A butterfly woman." Sometimes you are a regular butterfly, or a doggie, or a princess - and we must address you as such, or our words fall on deaf ears.

I'm probably the most amazed by your developing literacy. You've had an affinity for books for as long as I can remember, and I'll still find books in your bed when I duck in to give your sleeping self one last kiss goodnight. But now you can write your name. You've started connecting the dots between letters and words. The first instance we saw of this came during a bedtime story when you stopped your father's narrative and said, "Daddy! Z-O-O! Zoo!" Seeing this happen makes me more proud and amazed than I can even begin to describe. You're reading. This doesn't stop some of the really cute word turns you have, though - my current favorite is "popadots" for "polka-dots."

For a couple of weeks there, you liked to count using your fingers to demonstrate the numbers. You were convinced that the best way to demonstrate "one" was to hold up just your middle finger. You flipped off so many people during that happily short-lived phase...I just don't even want to think about it. It was next to impossible not to laugh, which would have ensured it becoming a permanent part of your repertoire.

We had a small snowstorm a few weeks ago that closed school early and had us all home just before it got dark. You were delighted with the idea of playing in the snow. So we bundled you and Tessa up and headed outside to our teeny patch of snow-covered grass in front of the house. The neighborhood kids had left a sizable rolled snowball there, and you thought this was great. You tried to kick it like a soccer ball, describing your moves with every pummel until the ball was reduced to little chunks of snow. Then Daddy (accidentally) pegged you lightly in the head with a snowball, and you said, "Oh, Daddy! Sorry!" (You're still figuring out how "sorry" works, even though you say it a lot.)

You slept in our bed for the first time in ages last week on a night when the wind was howling. I tried three times to get you to go back to your bed, but your lip was quivering, and you were honestly scared. You crawled in with us and immediately fell into a sound sleep, on a straight diagonal, snoring. Around 4:30am, you decided you wanted to go back to your own bed, but the night scares are more and more common now. Right on schedule, I think, as your imagination becomes ever more active.

As we head toward Christmas, you've picked up some tunes. After one run-through, you learned "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and will sing it for just about anyone who asks. You also do a heckuva cheery rendition of "Jingle Bells." I can't wait to get you serenading your grandparents this Christmas.

As I wrote to Tessa in her latest letter, you participated with our family in a child dedication ceremony at our church. This was a beautiful event, welcoming you and Tessa into our church community. You were given a lovely (thorn-free!) rose by our head minister, and you even thanked her. I loved what the minister leading the dedication said, and I'm including his words here for you, in the hope that you find them as comforting and welcoming as I do:

A traditional African poem reads:
Speak to me, child of my heart. Speak to me with yours eyes, your round laughing eyes... How shall we name you...? Who lives in you and quickens to life? At the day of your naming, you will tell us.

Today we pause to dedicate children of families in our church, recognizing that these precious and holy human beings begin their lives as a promise; a promise that human life may be reborn in goodness, that love may become incarnate, that everyday miracles wait just on the horizon, that each person alive has the potential to sway this world of ours away from evil, bringing us peace and harmony.

Promise lives in these children. Today as we look into their "round laughing eyes," we are offered the glorious story of hope.

You are all of this and even more to me, my beautiful girl.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dear Tessa: Month 10

Dear Tessa,

Last weekend, you turned ten months old. This month saw you celebrate your first Thanksgiving, complete with a jar of pumpkin pie baby food that smelled so good, I'd have eaten it but for the table full of other grown-up options. My dad and Daddy's parents were visiting and celebrated the holiday with us, and you took to all three of them. It was especially wonderful for me to see you meet my father for the first time. He just delighted in you, and you didn't fuss a bit when he held you!

This has been a month of physical advances for you. I should stop being astonished that you're growing - we'd be alarmed if you weren't - but it still seems so quick to me. And, in some ways, it is. You crawled before Anna did, I'm sure in large part so that you can chase her around the house and take her toys. And this month, you pulled up to stand and starting cruising along the furniture. We'd just dropped the crib mattress from its top setting, and we had to turn right around and drop it to the bottom setting this month so that you wouldn't vault yourself out with all the bouncing you do in there.

The down side to this ability is that you don't always know how to get back down once you're standing up and holding onto something. When you're awake and playing, it's pretty easy to figure out. But when you've woken up and started crying (read: banshees have nothing on you), you rattle your crib bars like a little inmate, and get stuck. You're not really awake enough, and it's not really light enough, for you to figure out that you can lower yourself back to a sitting position from which you could topple back to sleep.

You have more hair. This isn't saying much, but the peach fuzz has now been replaced by a completely nuzzlable head of soft hair that looks like it wants to curl up at the ends. I still hold out hope that you'll end up with the red hair, but it's still too soon to tell. We're a long way from barrettes and ponytails, but I think we're starting to depart the "What a cute little boy!" compliments you receive despite being decked out in pink and floral from head to toe. I never thought that would bother me, but, well, it does. Don't they see the baby girl I adore? Evidently not. At least they have the cute part right.

You've also graduated out of your infant car seat. Gone are the days when I can get you from car to house without waking you up, alas! But gone, too, are the days of your being clearly uncomfortable in a seat that rapidly became too small for your ever-lengthening frame. Weight-wise and age-wise, you'll be facing the back of the car for a while yet, but height-wise, you were just crumpled up in that seat. Now you look tiny again, in the friendly confines of your swank new Marathon.

You've also begun using a sippy cup. It's debatable how much hydration you're actually getting from the water in the cup, but you're certainly getting the mechanics down. It didn't seem possible that you were already old enough for this ("you'll always be my baby" - repeat ad nauseum!), but one of those parenting sites' developmental milestone emails woke me up, and I handed you the sippy cup that day. You knew exactly what to do with it, and I felt a little silly for holding out on you.

On your ten-month birthday, you participated, along with Anna and Daddy and me, in our church's child dedication ceremony. (For those not familiar with the Unitarian Universalist deal, think baptism but with promises I can keep.) I debated dressing you up in the christening gown Anna wore - too dressy? Too chilly? The sentimentality of it all (and the advice of my chorale friends) won out in the end, and I layered you into the gown, which fit just right. You held your flower and let our minister show you off to the congregation. You dusted Anna's hair with your flower while the ceremony finished. And I felt like you - all four of us - became part of something bigger than us just then and that no matter what might happen, we would be cared for and supported by that bigger thing. I hope you always have that feeling of love and connection - it makes everything seem manageable and, beyond that, enjoyable.