Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dear Anna: Month 42

Dear Anna,

When I decided I would write you a letter every three months instead of every month, I thought I was doing myself a favor - that it would be easier to keep up somehow. Ha! You are a constant whirlwind of activity and change and funny stories, and I can barely remember every little thing long enough to jot it down on my list for your letter. (You'll only wear dresses. You love blueberries and Welch's Fruit Snacks and ice cream. You can write your name and Tessa's. You're putting more words together. You're figuring out child-proofing devices. Ack!) But, nonetheless, here we go. You turned three and a half earlier this month, and you are ever more an independent-minded, crazy, wonderful little person.

For the first time, you've started consistently testing the limits of bedtime. We tend to allow you some activity post lights-out (well, not the butterfly night-light), but your recent ventures have gone everywhere from bouncing off the walls - quite literally - to reading out loud to your stuffed animals to banging on the door to be escorted to the potty. We tried allowing you free egress for a while, but we started to worry about wearing out the hinge on your door after the first few nights. We might be getting there again soon, though, as you've made incredible strides in your potty-training and can now do everything start to finish on your own.

These past few months marked an entry into food projects, largely centered around holidays. Our busy weeks don't translate to you helping to make dinner (although you're very helpful about bringing your plate to the sink when you're done!). We did make some cut-out Christmas cookies and decorate them, and just a couple of weeks ago you helped dye your first batch of Easter eggs. We talked about what colors you liked and which colors could be combined to make new colors, and you put stickers and drawings all over our beautiful eggs, which we then displayed on the kitchen table in a round vase, where you can always see the egg with your name on it.

You received a kid-friendly digital camera for Christmas and have been a little household paparazzi every time you take it out. It was pure magic to you at the beginning - you would take a picture, pause, look at the screen, and chuckle to yourself, "There you are..." It would be downright creepy if you weren't three and having such a good time.

Music is becoming a bigger part of your life. You've always enjoyed it, but lately it's become painfully obvious that you have a good ear for lyrics and melodies. It started innocently enough with our playing at the piano. I showed you the A-G scale, and you were adamant that H still came after G, even on a piano. We sorted that out, and you can generally plunk out A through G and then begin at A again, occasionally even on the right keys. Sundays generally find me singing with our church chorale, and you are a bit of a mascot, sitting with the group during warm-ups before going to your preschool class. A few weeks ago, as you were settling into your Sunday afternoon nap, I heard you singing to yourself and realized after a moment that you were replicating our warm-up scales.

But by far the most entertaining aspect of your newfound vocal skills is hearing you sing songs you've come across during your day, either during dance time at school or while riding in the car with Daddy or me. You're too young to know what some of the more complex lyrics mean. When you sing, "L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see..." or "It's all right, I'll be fine, don't worry about this heart of mine, just take your love and hit the road," there's some sense that you might know what's going on there. But when you came out with "Them baggy sweatpants, Reeboks with the straps, she turned around and gave that big booty a smack, she hit the floor, next thing you know, Shawty got low low low low low low low," I was ever so grateful that we can move on from this song without your ever comprehending its actual meaning. And yes, for the record, I'm far more amused than mortified.

Beyond singing, you're talking a blue streak. You run a constant narration of everything around you, and the turns of phrase you've adopted are really cute and often very funny. For a while, I became "mimama," and you figured out how to keep me close at bedtime with a well-placed "Don't go, Mommy!" At school, your teachers tell you that you are great and fine, and we've adopted this as well. You tell us, though, that you are just fine and that it's your best friend Nora who is great. When you're putting on your shoes, you'll start to put a shoe on a foot, pause, and ask, "Yes? Or no?" You sound like a tiny Heidi Klum. Here's a sampling of other things you've said I don't ever want to forget:

"Oh, that's not good..."
"The blueberry is nice and juicy, Mama?"
"We have to go to the drunk store." (CVS - the drug store)
"I used to nurse on Mama but I'm a big girl now." (to whomever will listen)
"Nufting." (translated - Nothing)

Your pretend play has taken off, too. You transform in a moment to whatever captures your fancy. Lately, this is either a doggy, a butterfly, a fairy, or a princess - or some combination thereof. You now accessorize to play the part, too. When your father and I went away for a weekend trip recently, you requested that we bring you back a butterfly ring, presumably so you could better be the butterfly. I found you a princess crown at Target not too long ago; when you put it on, you decided you needed to see the effect in the mirror. To say you were over the moon about the effect would be a complete understatement. You've gotten into the classic (old and new) Disney movies big time; your favorites are The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, and 101 Dalmatians. No wonder - princess, fairy, doggy...there they all are.

You adore your little sister. In case you're reading this at a time when you find her the very bane of your adolescent existence, let me assure you that there was a time when you would make every effort to make her laugh when she was sad, kiss her good-bye at day care, and hug her to within an inch of her life. Some of this affection seems to be a generalized baby effect, though; when you visit Tessa's room at school, you will often go around hugging and kissing all the babies. Aggressively, enthusiastically hugging and kissing all the babies. Until they fall over and cry, on occasion. Tessa's used to your advances, and she loves it. No-one can make her laugh the way you can, and I hope - as I have since the day I knew you would have a little sister - that this is the foundation for a life of closeness. You are one incredibly sweet little kid, with a heart of gold that I see on a daily basis, and anyone in your path is better for having been mauled by you.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dear Tessa: Month 13

Dear Tessa:

Earlier this month, you turned thirteen months old. You're a solid one-year-old, although most other parents of wee ones who ask how old you are reel back at the response and say something along the lines of, "Really?! My seven- (ten-, four-...) month-old is already as big as she is!" You might be little, but you pack a punch. You're loud and proud, and you'll tell anyone who cares to listen all about your baby views.

I expect you'll be walking soon. Up until very recently, you were content to cruise and then drop to a mile-a-minute crawl to get to your next destination. Lately, though, you've been taking more liberties with your mobility. You'll cruise one-handed, and you'll allow me to hold your hands while you step along. You have that stepping thing down pat. Sometimes, you'll be doing your one-handed cruise, and you'll let go and stand independently for just a second or two. In that second, you're like Wile E. Coyote after the motor dies on his flying contraption. You're blissfully oblivious of your unsupported state, then the realization kicks in, your face changes just a bit, and down you go to sitting or crawling.

You're talking a blue streak and experimenting with the sounds that come out of your mouth. You figured out about making bubbles and also about the sound that comes out when you flip your tongue across your teeth. Your best word right now is "Uh-oh!" This is also your favorite game; your big sister shows infinitely more patience with you on this one than your parents do... You can somewhat reliably say "doggy" and "daddy," but we're not sure there's much of a difference in your mind at this point. Once in a while, you toss a "mama" my way, but I think your comprehension still outstrips your expression by a mile, and I don't take it personally when you call the Cheerios "mama."

What I also don't take personally (much) is that you're weaning yourself, a bit earlier than I'd have preferred. I know this means you're getting what you need elsewhere, and you're doing just fine - and that I can still be so proud we went over a year - but I will miss this. I still give the nursing thing a shot on a daily basis, but, more often than not now, I get nipped for my trouble. The one in four or five times that you snuggle in for a nursing session, though, keep me going. I think I could stop offering entirely without offending you, but I'm just not quite there yet. It makes me a little sad that you're ready before I am to call it a day there, but I love seeing you dive in and try new foods with all those new teeth, too.

I also love seeing you start to enact things you've seen done through your play. Anything that remotely looks like a phone (play phone, remote control) becomes that thing we talk into for you - you hold it up to your ear and babble away. The box of musical toys is one of your favorites to pull off the shelf. You're becoming quite accomplished on the harmonica, but I was so proud of you the day you figured out how the kazoo works. Watching you play a triangle by banging it on the floor is my reality check when I start thinking you're the second coming of Mozart.

As much as I try to keep you from seeing television, some exposure is inevitable with a three-year-old in the house. For the most part, you just don't seem to care about what Anna's watching. But last week, Anna opted for an episode of Johnny and the Sprites. You took one look at those furry little muppets, and you were a goner. If I guess at a translation for your babbling: "Whoa! That thing is little! And round! And fuzzy! And a pretty color! And it sings! There's another one! There are ten more! Whoa! There's a bigger one! With antennae! Did you know about this?!" That last is the part where you turned around while still pointing at the screen and babbled at me with such incredulity that I lost it on the spot.

On a more serious note, we were in a minor car accident this month. Someone sideswiped us after hitting another car and did the most serious damage to the door right next to your car seat. You were asleep at the point of the impact, and the first thing I heard after the collision was you screaming. In that instant, my heart dropped right out of my body. I don't even remember getting out of the car and opening the door behind me to get to you, but I know I'd have torn it off if I had to. As soon as you saw me, you calmed down considerably. I got you out of your seat and could see immediately that you were okay. I watched you for days for any signs of trauma and saw none. For all the inconvenience this accident has caused, I'd triple it or more if it meant you would still come out of it unscathed. So for every time you bite me when you don't want to nurse, or wake up in the middle of the night despite sleeping through most other nights, or throw your sippy cup to the floor for the tenth time at dinner, thank you. You're exactly who you should be, exactly as you should be, and far beyond what I dreamed you would be.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

For the Record

Something's been bugging me for a couple of days now. In the lead-up to Tuesday's primaries, I saw a lot of news coverage, largely about the two Democratic candidates for President. That's not what's been bugging me.

One news story covered a specific group of Clinton supporters - all were women in their fiftues or sixties. As they talked about why they were supporting Senator Clinton, one expressed her dismay at the lack of support for Senator Clinton by younger women. She felt that younger women were not supporting a female Presidential candidate because younger women had not been in the trenches for women's rights and therefore didn't understand how much it took to get a woman to the point where she could be a serious contender for the highest political office in the country.

Hang on.

First, wasn't the whole point that we womenfolk would actually get to decide for ourselves where we would throw our political support rather than falling in line with what someone else told us we should think? I don't much care who's doing the dictating - I don't care for it no matter the source.

Second, have we really come so far that we can be considered out of the trenches? How many nursing moms do you know who got more than a few dirty looks for feeding her baby in public (count me among them). How about the abysmal state of maternity leave policies in the U.S.? I'm not going to turn this into a full-blown rant on those (and plenty of other) issues, as much as I'd be happy to do so, as it takes me away from my point.

And my point is simply that, while I appreciate how far our society has come and value every opportunity I have as a result of the hard work done by many before me, I think we still have miles to go. And I will make up my own mind, thank you very much, as to which candidate I find best able to lead us there. My candidate might be the one these ladies were espousing, or perhaps not, but he or she is just that - my candidate, of my own determination.