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lulu letters: happy new year

Dear Lulu,

Happy New Year, my sweet. Welcome to 2024—and my attempt to sum up the past three months. Yes, that’s right: after three years of monthly musings, I’m spacing it out a bit. 

First and foremost, I must say: Your school photo?! WOW. I can't even. It's unreal. You look like a movie star. It's literally perfection. I mean, not to make this about me, but I can't believe we made you. All those tiny cells and chromosomes, all the DNA somehow nailed it.

One of the most exciting developments this month (among many) is that you now officially know your name. One morning, Papa and I silently observe you picking up your pretend phone and talking on it as you walk around the room…”My name is Emmylou…Emmylou Wofe VanBunnisy...Uh huh…Yup! Oh, okay!...” And on it goes. We can barely contain ourselves.

The other big news is that we now own the only home you’ve known. Well, we own the house, but we moved downstairs. It feels so much more like a family home somehow. I showed you your room when it was empty, and you said quietly, “I’m going to be vewy bwave…” I did my best to beautify it for you. I hung familiar things on the wall and added a few new ones, we got you rainbow fairy-like curtains, a soft purple area rug and a fuzzy round white rug for your “reading corner,” and you now sleep in your “big girl bed” (which used to be either Mema’s or Auntie Lisa’s, then mine, then Zaza’s). 

I’m thrilled with our new space (including its 10-foot ceilings),and I hope you are as well. About a week in, we had the Wolffs over for a holiday dinner. You were sick (of course) and tired, but you suddenly broke into tears and exclaimed, “I want to go home!” I scooped you up and rocked you in your new room. Change can be hard, my love. Now you simply refer to our “reguhlo” [regular] home as the one of the past. How you make me smile, even when it’s something like, “I froughed up Paca…In our rehguhlo [regular] house” (because you cough so much you throw up and remember the last time you threw up on Paca).

A brief summary of other events and adventure highlights…

We spend Thanksgiving in Atlanta, which means you finally go on your first flight. We are very excited, but it is, in a word, underwhelming for you (?) The runway is a big hit (you start giggling and exclaim, “My belly feels funny!”), but I continually encourage you to look out the window, and you look only briefly before returning to whatever it is you’re doing. You are a TROOPER, traipsing without complaint around the airport, wearing your mask for most of the plane ride. 

Uncle Mike plans fun excursions for us in Atlanta: a science museum, the aquarium, an astounding light show in the botanic gardens complete with your first s’mores, a delicious Mediterranean restaurant complete with your own cocktail, and a puppet museum complete with Rudolph puppet show. Not the mention Thanksgiving with about 20 dishes—of which you choose Brussels sprouts and green beans and proceed to eat them all. 

You connect with your cousin Cole, which is precious.

Holiday events include Trumansburg’s Winterfest and the image of you dancing down the street in your boots and winter garb, a few dinners at Atlas with friends and family, and seeing Peppa Pig at the State Theater. In a word: yikes. We all agree that it’s just too loud. I secretly affirm that it’s everything about childhood programming that I hate. Does it seem too young for you? Most of the kids in the audience are going wild and singing along, and you sit there silently—probably trying to figure it out just like I am. Never again, I hope.

Our next State Theater adventure is a dream come true for me: The Nutcracker. We go with Mema, a ladies’ date. You sit between us, wearing your new crown and snacking. Near the end of the first act, you ask, “Why aren’t they talking?” Great question, my love. Welcome to the world of dance. You are incredible overall, and I’m not surprised. I sit there watching you watch it, and my heart is unbelievably full. I remember the magic of my first time seeing it around the age of five, spellbound.

We go ice-skating at Cass Park with Namaste…four or five times? The first time, we help you use the walker. The second time, you’re running across the ice as you push it yourself, not wanting us to help you at all (even during the dismount). Seemingly fearless. By the fourth or fifth time, with Zaza, you do one lap around the ice and just want to eat popcorn. We’ll keep the skating spirit alive somehow.

We have our new annual Fire Feature. I hope you someday get to experience the magic of caroling hayrides, which disappeared in our post-COVID world. Still, the evening is magical, surrounded by our circle of community family.

Snow falls on the 18th, and we begin the 19th with morning sled-pulling. It melts within a few days, but we savor the white while we can.

We have a beautiful, quiet Christmas. You have a double ear infection and I have pneumonia, but we have a perfect Wolff Christmas even so. Santa brings you everything you asked for in your first letter to the North Pole:

  • Elsa costume

  • Ruby slippers (heels)

  • Dorothy costume

Even at the age of three, these three items held strong all through December. Watching you open those gifts—especially the ruby slippers—is the epitome of Christmas joy. You clip-clop in the shoes for about four days straight. 

We have our annual beloved Russell dinner and gift exchange. Dylan and Haley give you your first Barbie. I initially curse him, then fall into laughter at the beauty of him giving you your first Barbie (travel Barbie, a solid choice). He and I used to play Barbies when we were young, but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone at school about it. Perfection.

Mema and Pops join us for a quiet New Year’s Eve in our new home on 12/31/23 (123123). As at every celebration, you are filled with joy surrounded by people you love. We look outside when they leave to see gently falling snow and a light dusting on the ground. After a green Christmas, it seems the perfect way to usher in a bright new year, filled with possibilities. 


I decide to remove naps from the equation out of desperation. For months, you push me to my limit nearly every night. One would think my tolerance has increased, and who knows? Maybe it has. Yet nearly every night, after going in and out of your room about ten times, I’m beyond exhausted, and I resort to the raised voice and something like, “For the love of God, go to SLEEP!” because I simply have nothing left to give. Running on fumes.

(Then, one night, I don’t come in for a few minutes after you start crying and screaming for me. This is after I’ve hit my limit, and I need a beat. I go in calmly after that beat and hug you. You say quietly, “I wanted you to make me feel beddo…” My heart breaks. I ask if you feel better now, and you say no. After I leave a few minutes later, you call me back in to say, “I feel beddo.” All is forgiven.)

Other notable bedtime antics: You walk out of your room, walk over to us on the couch, and say…

  • (coyly) “What’s goin’ on…”

  • “What’s dat fell? Oo! Orantses!” (you smell Papa’s orange)

  • “I put my fingo in my butt and now if feels tinky. I need to wash my hand.” To which your Papa and I agree, “That’s a legitimate reason to get out of bed.”

You even know how to play us: When I read the last book, Papa rubs your back first. When he reads the last book, I rub your back first. This strategy prolongs bedtime.

So, no more naps. You hit a wall pretty often at some point during the day, but you always get another wind and return to your happy little self. Bedtimes are a breeze now. We read three books, we each rub your back for a few minutes, and you’re good to go. You’ve come to love blankets. Some nights, you go to bed wearing fleece pajamas and your new fleece Frozen bathrobe, wrapped in a blanket.


In other “youness,” forgive anyone who grazes an item of clothing you want to put on yourself: You throw yourself on the floor, facedown, and scream-cry like you just learned that your beloved dog (or, well, your best friend, Lily) is never coming back.

In short, you’re three—and very good at it. Pulling out your hair is a natural part of parenthood, right? All in all, life is magical. We’re raising a feisty child, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. (Okay, we would remove the bedtime shenanigans and the bordering-on-lunacy moments, but other than that.)

I love to read books with you. You know more than half of Little Blue Truck’s Halloween and Room on the Broom and “read” with gusto. 

Every day brings a new moment or several of, “Wow! Well, she knows that.” You’ve taken to locking doors, which is super fun for us. I exclaim, “EmmyLOUUU!” multiple times a day as I walk to get a coin to unlock a locked door. We’re not sure if it's a sense of humor, being a trickster, or thoroughness.

One drive home, we listen to you sing the entire “Five Little Ducks” perfectly. You often sing songs from The Sound of Music (you’re a pro at “Do Re Mi”), and you’re darn good at “The Perfect Nann”y from Mary Poppins: “We won’t hide yo spectacles so you can’t see…Put [somethin somethin somethin] oh peppo in yo tea…”

You’re prone to sleeping in dress-up dresses and gloves, and you are a pro at using the big toilet all by yourself. You pull our TP rack near it before hoisting yourself up, carefully choosing one square of TP to wipe before finishing up and dragging the TP rack back to its spot.

We are officially in costume territory, often with multiple changes within a short period. You’ve also started PERFORMING for us. We sit on our new giant L-shaped couch, which forms a lovely stage just for you. You pull out your new tiny guitar, dressed to the nines, and do a “puppet sow” (Again, The Sound of Music is big right now). I’ve waited my entire life for this. One afternoon, you explain, “Mama, I’m on the TV wight now.”


A few choice words and quotes this month:

  • hossibal: hospital (Yes, we go yet again, because your croupy cough is out of control)

  • To enfibinny and beyond! (Buzz Lightyear’s favorite phrase)

  • zeppakope: stethoscop 

  • falafel tiles: Picasso tiles

  • I won’t nevo bake my pahmiss. 

  • Can I tell you a seekit?...

  • Can you pay with me afto I'm finished dawin'?; 

  • The chuckling "Yah..." 

  • upspy down: upside down (I can’t get enough of this one.)

  • Happy birsday!

  • (to Papa, drawing) Yo wohkin wewy hawd on dat!

  • I by wih my liddo euy sumpin…wed. (I spy with my little eye, something…red.)

  • Wowee! Dis is amazin!

  • Dat’s da one I’m talking about white now.

  • bazoo: bonjour

  • Which wine do you like—this one or this one? 

  • I sink this cup is a beddo one to use. Because I only like this cup when it’s winto.

  • Boy, you wewy like the wine!

  • supocalifaxo: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (I get it. But a month later, you know the word perfectly.)

  • (Something falls) Good LOHD…

  • Good grief, woman! (I guess I do say that to you.)

  • I’m cahcerned…(Woah.)

  • (To Papa) But—Mama is the boss of you all the time!

  • (when we give you kisses, hugs, etc.) It’s my own body!

  • I can’t stop huggin’ you!

  • It’s blue?! No. Kiddin.

  • In the car, I ask, “How are you doing back there?”...”Good. I’m dust a little tired. Dat’s all.”

  • Look at dis colorfow beckfast!

  • It’s so mahvelous! 

  • SO muts [much] kisses!

  • Me: “Emmylou pick a letter!”...“A B C D E”

  • I’m not cuffy in my dreams!

  • I’m so exciged! 

  • Me: “Would you like to…?”...”I do.”

  • Like—he was like…

  • I’m not very interested in this.

  • Oh dat fits so mahvelous. I’m so right.

  • Why is he nervous?

  • Pops: “Emmylou, look at my tie!”...”I saw that earlier.”

  • (Telling me about your drawing)...And he was afwaid of the dowkness. 

  • (Dryer beeps when it finishes) Oh! I think I can go check on the laundry for you. I think it was calling for a person…like me…Mama, could you come show me which one it is?

  • Why are you seewious? 

  • Oh! Nake you! [thank you]

  • I cuvvo my mouf so nobody can have gehwms.

  • Could you help me do the Velcro in the back please?

  • (Looking at hair clips and noticing that many are similar or the same) WOW! Look at all of them! It’s a collecksin!

  • Mama! I can say Ice Atse! Because I’m a big go!

  • He’ll be like, “What’s happenin?”

And, one of my faves from these past few months: You barge in while Papa is getting dressed and exclaim, “Papa, you have a beautiful butt!”

A few more precious moments:

  • We practice the phrase “big brass band” from Jolly Holiday. You are incredibly persistent: “Yo howt stowts beatin like a big blass ben…big blass ben…Yo howt stowts beatin like a big blass ben…I can’t say it!” After practicing together for several minutes, you finally get it—and explode with joy.

  • We’re talking about brains for some reason one morning…I ask, “What color do you think YOUR brain is?”…”Umm…yellow and golden. Because my haiw is yellow and golden.” Can’t argue with that logic.

  • We finish a new favorite book, which includes a scene where the animals each throw an object into a magic pot. (One of them contributes a twig.) You exclaim, “I LOVE twigs!” That’s the takeaway. I burst out laughing.

  • Overheard: You talking to your baby, “You want some cake? How can you aks? Please? Okay!…”

  • You run into our room one morning to wake me up. You’re wearing a beautiful dress-up ensemble and holding a bouquet of fake flowers, and you and Papa are both wearing Rambo-like headbands: “Mama! Me and Papa dust got mayweed!”

Dreams are pretty sweet right now:

  • Last night I had a dweam about Elsa. She was vewy consoned. Her parents were like, “You have to go to New Yoke City!”

  • I’m gonna dream about you…And I’ll dream about you! We can meet in our dreams…What will we do?…Dance and fly…And I’ll wear a dress with rewy puffy sleeves (all whispered)

  • (Ferris wheel dream imagining) And I will be vewy bwave.I will be fee-ose…(fierce)…It’s like Ferris’s wheel encept it’s a Ferris wheel because Ferris rides on it. 

“Sp,” “sk,” and “st” have emerged as of November. You get a kick out of commenting on how you used to say “Deve” and now you say, “Steve.” I mourn the loss of words like “guy” (sky) and “biderwibes” (spiderwebs).

On the other hand:

  • “J” is “ts”—as in, “Tsohtsa” [Georgia]

  • “Sh” is “s”—as in, “fwess aow” [fresh air]

  • “Th” is “z”—as in, “Bye, gwandmuzzo (You surprised us all by calling Mema “grandmother” the other day.)

One dinner, you say out of the blue, “I can do anything I want in da wode.” We honestly aren’t sure whether you mean that in a “girl power” way…or in a “F you, guys. I can do whatever I want.” We decide to give you the benefit of the doubt and go with girl power—and amazement at that statement.

A few proud parent moments in the music realm:

  • One dinner, you hear music playing and say, “Is dis jazz?” It is indeed.

  • One morning, Papa changes the radio from classical music to the news. You say, “No, Papa! I dust want classical.”

One common question these days, “Does he/she love me?” It could be about people we know, strangers we pass on the street, or characters in books.

One common response, “Oh—oh. Yah yah yah…” with a wave of your hands, just like a mini-adult. You have also learned heavy sighs and the exasperated “UGHHHHH.” On the other hand, you sometimes say it was your fault—as in, “I’m sowwy I bumped yo head, Mama! It was my fault.” I often respond by smothering you with kisses.


I always check on you before I go to bed. Your Papa sometimes says, “Do you have to do it every single night? You might wake her up!” To which I reply, “Yes. And no I won’t.” I’ve never woken you up, and I must do it. I don’t think I’ve missed a single night. My day isn’t complete until I watch my beautiful little lady sleeping like an angel.

My Emmylou, these letters are getting more challenging. I’m hoping I can continue feeling like I’ve captured enough of you as I embark on this quarterly adventure. We’ll see how it goes. I think your hair is the epitome of where I am right now. I know I need to at least get it trimmed, but it’s almost unbearable. I will need to preserve those baby locks somehow. And, after that, I feel like you’ll officially be a little girl. My heart hurts. 

Can’t we just go for the Rapunzel look?

On three occasions during our Jacques holiday shindig weekend this past weekend, you looked at me as we sat in a crowded room and simply said, “I love you.” Every time you say that, I think, “Wow. I am the luckiest person who ever lived because I get to be your Mama.”

I love you so.


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