Oh, my sweet girl…This is the first month I haven’t kept notes of your doings and speakings and precious moments, so it will be more off-the-cuff. Let’s ring in the new year with a breath of fresh air, shall we?
You are perfect. Your curls persist. Some days they go a bit into hiding, but they come out full force other days, ringlets framing your angelic face. I stare for full minutes at your profile when you’re very focused on a task – that top lip arching outward like a tiny Dutch beak. You greet me in the morning by stroking my face and saying, “Hi – Mama.” We love to snuggle throughout the day, putting our faces so close together. Suddenly your smile explodes, releasing that dimple, your mouth an expression of total glee with just a small sprinkling of devious sass.
You’re sick for the entire Christmas break. You have a fever of over 103 from the 23rd-26th, and you’re full of deep congestion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so miserable. You’ve never slept in our bed for more than the early morning hours, yet you sleep with us from about midnight on for four or five nights in a row. Suffice it to say: I cherish you beyond belief, but there’s a reason I was never into cosleeping.
But you’re a trooper, as always, and we have a quiet, festive, magical Christmas with the Wolffs.
We decorate the tree, and you help Zaza attach the red bows. That particular square foot of the tree is quite crowded, but we call it a modern take. We sleep there on Christmas Eve, leaving out cookies, a carrot, and a note for Santa and his reindeer. You don’t quite understand, but it’s incredibly momentous for me to be on the other side of that magic for the first time.
On Christmas morning, we open the door to reveal the presents under the tree, but all you want is the purple star ornament you remember from the night before. You’re definitely more into presents this year. As we all sit around in our flannel pajamas eating Mama’s traditional Swedish coffee ring, I think, “Wow. This really is perfection.”
For two weeks afterward, every time we brush your teeth, you say, “Seeta!” because he’s the one who left your new flamingo toothbrush in your stocking. That Santa…He knows just what to get.
Some of your other “fabee” [favorite] gifts include:
a “Russian doll” set of three black and white cats from Zaza (Nailed it, Zaza.)
“Fohzee Anna Elsa” figurines from both Viva and Santa (different varieties)
a Mother Bruce book from Pops
waffle blocks from Santa Mema
markers and stamps and stickers from me and Papa
Mid-January, we finally make it to Pepaw's. It's not the most relaxing visit, as we spend Saturday afternoon and evening in the ER when you quickly develop a wracking cough and retracted breathing, very much like when we ended up in the hospital in September. Five hours, four meds, and one throw-up episode due to gross medicine later, we make it out. You sleep peacefully through the night and wake up your old self again. Behold the magic of meds.
What’s big this month?
Art! You love art – drawing, painting, stickers…You get washable markers and stamps for Christmas – two new mediums to add to your growing collection.
Puzzles! You take after your Zaza: a puzzle master. You can basically do a 12-piece puzzle, with just a little assistance. (“Wheh’s. Monkey. Piece?...Dee is!”) At the Wolff house, you pull out a 1,000-piece puzzle, bring it over to your little table, and attempt to work on it for fifteen minutes straight: “Udder piece like dis…” You place handful after handful of tiny pieces on the table and pat them down, as Zaza does.
Organizing Mama’s beads in tiny bowls: I watch you, so focused, and I can’t help but think of myself.
Purple everything: Yes, I feel like we lost the extreme purple passion for a month or so there, but it’s back in full force. Though you have a dresser full of adorable clothes, you rarely stray outside your preferred items. Most days you end up looking like a grape: purple pants or tutu, purple shirt, one of three purple sweaters, one purple sock, and your new purple mittens and winter hat to match your purple (Frozen) “Anna boot.”
Playing tea party: Sometimes we have real snacks, sometimes we pretend. But we always have real water. Girl needs to hydrate.
Lap blankets that must cover your feet: Again, all me there.
Paca's hat: To clarify, Paca (who accompanies you everywhere) has his own hat (your handmade rainbow/"popo" hat). You carefully place Paca in this hat, just so, along with any other small "feens" [friends] you select for the day.
“No Emmy eat!”: This is usually your response to, “It’s time for dinner!” After about a minute, you run over, climb up into your chair, and examine your meal before diving in. You simply need to assert that you’re not happy about the transition to meal time.
Feetsy pajamas, aka “feeties” – and zipping them yourself after my essential belly kiss (I buy you a few new pairs, one of which has brown bear faces all over it. We deem them the "Momo Boose" (Mother Bruce) PJs.
“Take Mama’s mouth”: I introduced this game the other day. We had already explored taking each other’s noses, and I said, “How about my eyes?” You eventually tried taking my mouth, and listening and watching me “Mm mm mm!” was pretty much the funniest thing you’d ever seen. You rarely laugh that hard!
Our new “bath song”: Zaza told me that a friend of hers has a bathtime song for his daughter, a jazz standard that they always play. I love that idea, and where do I go first New York, New York. It’s rather magical. I start singing, “Do do do-do-do, do do do-do-do…” and you step right out, taking your “big step” off the edge of the tub, your long leg extended forward, your perfectly round belly glistening.
The dramatic “cold walk” to Papa after bath – you huddled like your old lady walk, taking tiny steps and whimpering in your birthday suit. You want Papa to be lying on the couch, and you direct him there if he happens to be anywhere else when you emerge from the bathroom.
Dancing!! The other night, Mockingbird by James Taylor and Carly Simon popped on, and you immediately started grooving. Your go-to move is spinning with this crazy little leg kick – knee bent and kind of kicking out to the side. I show you how I used to dance with Mema when I was little: I kneel and hold your hand as you run around me. You love it almost as much as I do.
Playing piano: You show more interest in this recently, wanting me to sit and play and sing as you play lightly along with me.
“TB”: Frozen is back on top. Your go-to-sleep song is “Go-oh-ah,” otherwise known as The Ballad of Flemmingrad. I introduce you to Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite childhood Disney cartoons. Much to my delight, you love it – and request “Boo en Bees” [rhymes with “fleece”] at bedtime. Hearing “Tale as old as time…” from your room fills me with nostalgic glee.
We go to Mama Goose to find more “feeties” and you find a lovely Elsa one-piece, complete with a cape. We browse the toys, and you find a Sesame Street nine-piece puzzle collection (for ages “3 and up,” but I wonder if they’re too easy for you). I spy some Playmobil figures and start rummaging through them when I hear, “Elsa Anna!” I turn to my left and see a stuffed pair of your VIP Disney friends. It’s as though the Universe is shining down, accompanied by a chorus of angels. Unfreakingbelievable.
Your favorite foods these days include nuts of all varieties, shrimp, those Japanese sweet potato pancakes I make, (cheese and berries, of course), pea snacks, edamame snacks…You’re also a big fan of stuffed grape leaves, which entertains family friends.
You in a (Rather Spacious) Nutshell
You’re so strong and agile. You love to climb and roughhouse, and you’re a feisty little thing. I can see you going for both creative pursuits – art, drama, etc. – and sports, and I love that so much.
Your flair for drama continues to grow. You now act out Build a Snowman from Frozen: You stand by the bathroom door, knock, and say “Buh sowmeeee….” Then you lie on the ground and do the “tick-tock” sound, just like Anna does. Finally, you end the song with the most pathetic “Okee bye…” as you walk away hunched over and consumed with sadness.
You’re spirited and willful, especially when you don’t feel well, which I completely understand. We tend to feel everything more intensely when sick. However, sick or not, we seem to be in a “random shrieking” phase – particularly when you don’t to change your diaper/stop playing to eat dinner (“No Emmy eat!”)/etc. OR when you struggle with something. Your curiosity and drive to figure out how things work continues, and you catch on quickly. That said, you’ve been known to throw toys across the room and fling yourself on the floor, writhing with fury when you can’t get something to work the way you want it to.
You’re so particular. Your baby’s blanket has to cover its feet, just as it has to cover your feet in bed and when sitting in your chair at your little table. Paca and other "feens" have to be in Paca's hat just so. Beebee Namana must be wrapped in its tissue blanket at night just so. I know I did this to you, but it still takes every ounce of my patience sometimes to not just throw your friends in the hat and call it a day.
You have some new bedtime “must-haves”
one of the “popo beebees” has to be standing on Paca’s back so you can hold them together like that in one big group snuggle. You get very upset if the baby falls off, or if I don’t get the positioning just so.
your water cup – in one particular spot, right near your head, which you like to cram into the upper right corner of the crib
“teesu” [tissue] and “toppee” [Chapstick]
the Russian doll cats from Zaza – you open and close and stack them multiple times before finally deciding that they’re good to go
And, of course, the 17 million friends.
Speaking of bedtime, it’s not uncommon to hear several thuds after we tuck you in as you throw figure friends between the slats of your crib so they land beneath it. After that, we hear, “MAma! PApa!...” until one of us goes in and you say, “Sumpy fow.” [rhymes with “sow] To which we say, “Did it fall, or did you throw it?”... “Fow.” [rhymes with “throw”]
Yes, you want to do everything yourself, and you let us know: “Self,” “Own,” and, very recently, “My turn” are all common words. If I take your mask off when we get outside, I have to put it back on so you can take it off yourself. It feels silly, but I understand. You’re an independent woman who knows what she wants.
You’re at once tender and feisty, compassionate and testy, shy and fearless. You’re usually quick to try new things, yet you also might hesitate as if afraid of getting something wrong. You might think through your answer carefully, retrieving what you know is in there somewhere, before quietly answering. I love giving you that time and watching your thoughtful face as words and ideas undoubtedly race through that beautiful brain.
And then there’s your crinkled nose smile and little head shake when I ask what you just said, in disbelief of how you just put a new sentence together out loud for the first time – or when you’re just being goofy or sassy. That expression is you in all your glory.
On the rare occasions when I express that I’m unsure what you’re trying to tell me, you make a small “humph” frown – frustration meets contemplation, as if you’re saying, “Come on, Mama…I don’t know how else to tell you this.”
I already miss your precious little voice, even though I currently have the gift of hearing it throughout the day. I cherish the way you're prone to rolling the second “L” in a word or name: “Lily” is “Lih-el-y” and “Willy” is “Will-el-y.”
A few phrases I couldn’t resist jotting down:
After we bonk heads: “You’re okay, Mama.”
Overheard while you’re playing with your baby dolls: “Here you go, Beebee…Nahs an cozy. [nice and cozy]
During a morning snuggling session: “Know. where. Lily. Caht. is. Papa?”
Sitting at the table, waiting for dinner: “Give me my plate.” (You crack up when I say, exaggeratedly, “What did you just say?!”
At the Wolff house dinner table, “Everybody done!” You weren’t wrong: we were all done.
“Udder. popo. keep. fum. Mema. houze.” [Other purple keep from Mema house, as in, “I’m looking for the other purple [something or other] that we brought home from Mema’s house.”]
“Beeng. popo. tah. Mema. houze.” [Bring purple [something or other] to Mema’s house.]
At the “sotto sottee” Sciencenter, we’re looking at the animals until you eventually say, “Do subbee ess, Mama.” [Do something else.]
“Udda Entaco Suffa Pessa!” [the “other Entanco Surface Pressure” song from the live version]
“You’re ah done sahwer, Papa?” [You’re all done with your shower, Papa?]
As we listen to music during dinner one night: “How ‘bout Coco, Mama?”
Looking for a puzzle piece: “Udda paht heem!” [Other part of him]
“Emmy git own baf!” [Emmy get own bath – as in, carry your little tub into the bathroom, as is the routine you began]
Looking for a toy figure: “Dere huh ees!” [There her is.]
“Look fo udder Elsa fum Seeta, Mama!” [Look for other Elsa from Santa, Mama!]
Me: “It’s a Mema Day!” → You: “Love Mema, Ba, Lily.”
As we get ready for Mema: “Mema be hee soon!” (I guess my words are predictable.)
“Oopies deezy!” (I can barely handle this one.)
“Oh, MAHN!” (Oh, man!)
Nearly home after a very long drive, Papa and I continually affirm, "We're almost home!" At one point, Papa says, "Would you like to sing a song?" You reply, "No. Dive. Dust dive." Just drive. I'm sure you've heard me say that many a time to Papa when he's being ridiculous, but the fact that you chose this particular moment to try it out brought some hearty guffaws. Yet one more example of how you hear everything.
Looking deep into my eyes and saying, with the sweetest expectancy: “Pay rano.” [Play piano] Be still my heart.
And a few choice words:
bidawibe: spiderweb [You’re suddenly very interested in pointing out every spiderweb you see, wanting us to get rid of them. Poor Mema. She doesn’t need those eagle eyes.]
Ferdiman: Ferdinand (the bull)
I try not to brag too much about your brilliance, but I feel the need to share a few examples of, well, your apparent brilliance:
You know that red and blue make purple. You learned this after making colored water with me one morning, using food coloring.
We can officially tell a “story” together:
Once upon a time, there lived a…Zazu.
His friend was…Kit.
His favorite food was…pah-co [popcorn].
He liked to drink…wawa [water].
...and so forth.
What a joy and a half.
You are darn good at finishing book sentences after just a few reads, and I can tell that it offers you joy and pride, as it does me.
You don’t always trust us – especially Papa. One night, you’re looking for the purple lens thing from Viva – a flat plastic transparent filter. You have multiple colors and, on this occasion, we couldn’t find the purple one. What does Papa do? He hands you the blue one and says, “Here’s purple!” He figured you couldn’t tell the difference in the dark anyway. What do you do? You hold it right up to your face and look through it before deciding, finally, “Yeah.” Serves him right. I wish you had called his bluff.
Perhaps the most impressive mental feat this month is counting to ten. That’s right: you can count to ten. We learn this when playing hide-and-seek. I ask you to count to five while I hide, and you just keep going, all the way to ten: “Wah, toh, fee, fo, figh, seex, seveh, eight, nine, tee.”
Oh, my sweet girl, life is full of sweetness and light. Seeing you lying on the couch with Papa after your bath, giggling as Pops “catches” you over and over again from his chair, your sustained Mema hugs…
We spend 20 minutes one afternoon under a blanket on your bedroom floor, singing. You ask me to sing “Anunna sahn!” [another song] over and over again, staring at me with the most rapt expression, our faces close enough together to feel your sweet warm breath on my face…
You still snuggle with us every morning. On mornings when you wake particularly early (think 5 am versus 5:30 am) and refuse to lie in your room any longer, I bring you in even though it’s “toh orly” [too early] and tell you it’s time to close to your eyes. One morning, I roll over to help you get the message that it’s not time to gab: it’s time to lie still and stay quiet. You snuggle up behind me, your face under my top shoulder blade, and lie in bed silently – awake – for nearly an hour while I try to squeeze in a few more zzzs. I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep because I don’t want to miss a moment of this.
New doors open every day, and I can begin to see the worlds beyond them.
I want to record your precious voice saying everything, your endless humor and passion, your tenderest moments, but I restrain myself. I try to savor the present as much as possible. I also don’t want you growing up with a phone constantly in your face. I already feel guilty when I pull it out, as I know that you’re very aware of it. These years are priceless, and I’m constantly vacillating between my need to capture them and my rather Luddite nature.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama