Oh, my sweet girl…
I make a point of pausing as often as I remember to focus on nothing more than letting the wonder of you wash over me: observing you, listening to your most-precious angel voice, breathing you in, letting you seep into every corner of my physical and spiritual body.
I see more and more of myself in you, yet I seem to believe less and less that you’re of me.
So much of these letters (that I still manage to write) have been based on what’s happening in our world – what you’re doing, how you’re doing, who you are in the ways that humble words attempt to describe…More and more, I find myself at a loss. This is due, in part, to your rapid-fire development, your booming brain whose sponge-like comprehension curve is more discernible than it was pre-(verbal) language. It also stems from my lack of understanding: How can you continue to blossom into a more beautiful, more affectionate, more soulful, more passionate, more impressive, wiser, funnier creature? Then again, you have embodied those qualities from the beginning. Perhaps you’re just more and more…human somehow. A more sentient being with greater consciousness.
Whatever and whoever you are on a mystical level, you remain, as ever, my daughter.
We celebrate my 39th birthday. At dinner the evening before, you try to guess whose birthday is tomorrow. When we finally land on me, your first response is, “CAKE!” I explain that, well…we won’t have cake tomorrow (because Papa is taking Mama on a date), but we will have it later in the week with Mema and Ba. The look on your face is uncanny: confusion married to disgusted disbelief, complete with that tiny forehead dimple freed by concern. I get it. Life is mind-boggling.
We also celebrate Valentine’s Day. Papa buys you a miniature rose plant, and I show you how to water it in the sink with your watering can. You love my “Mama” roses and examine one in detail during dinner. We put one in a vase for your room, and your face lights up when I say, “Like Beauty and the Beast!” I call you Beauty, and you smile shyly. My heart.
You and Papa make me a beautiful card with flowers: circular “flowers” by you, stems by Papa, and your hand outline (always a suggestion by you whenever making cards). Papa makes us dinner, and you finally fall asleep at 8:30 after a not-so-gift-of-a-bedtime-experience. Ah well. We still celebrate love.
Papa and I have a long weekend in Ottawa, and we have the most joyous reunion imaginable. At one point, I pick you up and you say [for the first time to my ears], “Let! Me! Go!” So giggly. I say, “Never never never!” and bounce you and swing you and smother you with kisses. You want to play this game about a million times. When you try it with Papa, he puts you down when you say, “Let! Me! Go” and you frown and say, “No, say ‘Nevoh nevoh nevoh!’”
What’s big this month?
I’d say we have two primary bigs this month.
If I was forced to describe you in one word this month, I’d choose “own.” You’ve always been headstrong and independent, but this is a new level. You might erupt like a volcano, tears and screams and even body-throwing if we have the audacity to hand you a cup that you wanted to get yourself. Whether it’s getting a snack out of the refrigerator, opening your vitamins and taking one out, filling your cup with milk (which we do together), or getting Paca from your bed when it’s time to leave for Viva’s house, you want to do it all.
You are a pro at taking off your socks, and you can usually get your pants off by yourself as well. I help you a little with tops, but you like to undo your diaper before bathtime.
If I get your chapstick out of the pocket of the diaper caddy on your dresser, you scream, “NOOO!!!! OWN!!!” I put it back on the dresser, but it’s not enough: You put it back in the pocket, remove your hand for a split second, then reach in again to get it yourself from the very beginning of the step process.
Papa is worried that we need to get you evaluated for OCD. I try to convince him that you’re simply being a toddler and understanding/exerting your sense of power and self-efficacy. In truth, there are times I harbor a bit of doubt as to whether or not that’s 100% true. But I’m sure you’re fine.
I continually try to sneak in words like, “Sometimes we need help!...It’s nice to do things by ourselves, but we help each other…You can do so many things by yourself, but this is something we have to do together.”
I love encouraging you to do things yourself, which is perhaps at least in part why you’re so keen to do everything yourself now. However, I’ve also been helping you for over two years, so forgive me if I automatically go there. I’m learning.
Big girl bed!! You don’t get out of your bed yet. You still call for us – and, instead of standing, you sit on the edge of the bed.
In no particular order:
Morning figs for all: You love dried figs. Most mornings, you “ask” me to open the refrigerator (“Mama! Opee dis!”), pull out the bag of figs, and pull out at least three: “One fo Emmy…one for Papa…one for Mama…one for Ba…” and so forth. We have full conversations about these figs:
“Give him his now.” [Give Papa his fig now-slash-when he wakes up.]
“Mama hahv hews tomorrow.” [Mama will have hers tomorrow/later, as I need coffee first.]
Later, after we give Papa his fig: “Did you eat yo feeg yet?”
Apples: I’ve never seen anyone eat 98% of an apple, but you always make the most of one.
Fig newt(ons): This somehow becomes a popular dessert choice – and also motivation to eat more dinner.
Dress up: You wear tutus and fancy headbands (sometimes two at a time) and gloves and necklaces, and I think, "Well, so much for gender neutrality." Ha. It's all just so much fun.
Frozen: Yup, still big. Anna, Essa, Keestof, Ova, Been. [Anna, Elsa, Christophe, Olaf, Sven] Aunt Ann sends you a globe light that rotates and projects Frozen images on the wall. The first time you experience it in action, you are full of wonder. You spin slowly, eyes wide and mouth open, whispering things like, “Dees so FUN!”
A few books are particularly big this month.
Mother Bruce [aka Munno Boose], which Ba gave you for Christmas (and Hotel Bruce, which I get you from the library):
“Bruce was a…gumpy beer”...
“Rubby eews foppy!” [Rabbit’s ears floppy]...(pointing at mouse) “His eews foppy, too!”...(pointing at another mouse) “His not foppy.”
When the Sun Rose [aka Suh Rose]:
One night, you surprise me by reading a page: “Cawwa gohd sun.” [“Her carriage was gold as sunset.”]
On one of the last pages, the girl has her hand on her doll’s back as the doll sits on the fence. You explain, “Hohd heend…Keep safe.” I turn into a puddle. How I love to read books with you, but this one in particular holds great magic.
Eric Carle books: These gain popularity after we watch a Mister Rogers episode where he visits Eric Carle. (Mister Rogers is truly the greatest.) They read a book that we have (From Head to Toe) – a book that I’d never read as a child but found at a library book sale or somewhere like that. You recognize the book and are amazed. For the following two weeks, bedtime books consist of three Eric Carle books:
From Head to Toe: You nail every one at this point, which is so fun.
I See a Song: When Papa “reads” I See a Song (aka makes sounds for each picture), you often say, “No! Mama, wight way.” Apparently, you prefer my sound improvisation.
Draw Me a Star: You also prefer the way I read the end of Draw Me a Star in a quiet, wonder-filled voice: “Hold on to me, said the star to the artist. Then, together, they traveled across the night sky.” One night, as we read the page with flowers, you point to the purple flowers and say, “I love dis one.” (Stop it.)... “Why do you love that one?”...“‘Cause popo.” [Because it’s purple.]
You adore your people, and some of us have special moments with you most days. You love playing “This is the way the doctor/preacher/cowgirl rides” with Ba. Papa gets his naked post-bath snuggles and silly time on the couch. That giggle! Papa and Ba elicit that giggle more often, which makes sense. Mema and Mama have our own special roles: we’re the ones getting shit done and saying, “Okay, time to _____!”. Ha. Mema also still often rocks you to sleep. And you and I have our sacred morning snuggles in bed. May we continue to snuggle even when you’re all grown up.
Your best friend is a cat named Lily. You talk about her, you greet her before anyone else, you tell her things, and you share toys with her. When you're upset or you get a boo-boo, you want Lily. May she live to be 100 years old.
You in a (Rather Spacious) Nutshell
You have a perfect fairy face with tiny, perfectly-proportioned features – a tiny button nose, tulip lips, long eyelashes, and expressive eyebrows that look painted on with fine strokes.
You have perfect fairy hair that continues to amaze – and it’s getting so long! It falls below your shoulders and, in the tub, you look more and more like a mermaid. Most days it forms a halo of waves and curls and that Lulu wildness we so treasure. Sometimes ringlets frame your face, or one falls right in the middle of your forehead. On other days the hair prefers to fall in straightened waves.
More and more people comment on our resemblance. I see it when you smile – your face shaped so much like a young Jamie’s. Your eyes seem darker than they used to be, and Papa says they’re the exact same color as mine. You are truly a blend of all of us, and for that, I’m grateful.
You only grew maybe ¾ of an inch over the past three months, but you grew nearly three inches during the three months before that. The belly is going strong, and I still kiss it every night before we put on your PJs. I also love to kiss the little patch where your shoulder meets your chest, right by your armpit – and the mirror of that spot on your back. And the back of your neck, especially behind your ear, when your hair is up. And your perfect little arms as I help you put on a shirt. And the top of your head, on one of your two whorls…It’s so hard to choose my favorite spot.
Oh – and you have a new little mole on your back, which brings the total to…three? One on a leg, one on a foot, one on your back.
I’ve already discussed your obsession with “OWN!” You’re independent and often perfectly happy to play independently when I’m cooking, etc. You’re also very good at asking for what you want by saying, “I want ____” and even, now, “I. Need. Hewp.” I was thrilled the first time I heard that. We’re still working on “please.” This has been a long lesson. My favorite ongoing reminder to you: “Always please!” in a sing-songy voice.
You remain your passionate self, often a mad scientist of sorts: brilliant, but crazy. Papa said recently, “I don’t know how to describe her without using the word ‘maniac.’” Ha. As you know, I have oh-so-many words, but I take his point. You are a pistol, but so well-rounded – equally as tender and thoughtful.
Your memory is remarkable. One example: You rediscover a C.S. Lewis chapter book set at the Wolff house and launch into the memory (from at least two months ago) of sitting on the floor and being silly with Zaza while looking at the books. “Last time” is also a big phrase these days, as in, “Weer dis Mema howse lahs time!” [I wore this hair tie to Mema’s house…sometime recently.]
The night of January 31st ended with me in tears, completely emptied after really raising my voice (one word) to you for the first time and your insistent “OWN!” for chapstick in addition to the ridiculously particular blanket-wrapping of many friends. Yes, we have many nights of bedtime challenges this month that escalate to some form of personal hell. It can take you ten full minutes to choose a song:
“Emmylou, what would you like to listen to?”
Blank stare/playing with toys and avoiding eye contact
Repeat multiple times
“Would you like _____?”
“Emmylou, you need to tell me a song.”
“Which song?” [I name multiple options.]
This is what makes me lose my mind most nights. Just this. Bedtime songs and friend-wrapping. This is why my “dry January” lasts exactly 1.5 days.
We finally replace your Alexa so we no longer have to use my phone. She doesn’t always deliver, so I project songs from my phone. As usual, you want to do it yourself: “Lekka! Pee Booey en Beese!” [Alexa! Play Beauty and the Beast!] Sometimes the timing is perfect: You ask her just as the song starts playing on Alexa from my phone. You smile at me, a quiet, excited, proud smile because you think you did it yourself – or, if you feel really proud, you open your mouth in a huge “O!” of beside-yourself-glee. These are beautiful moments.
Some nights are better than others, and you play happily in your crib for up to an hour before falling asleep. More often than not, you call us in at least a handful of times, completely distraught and screaming about something or other. Still, you generally sleep until at least 6 am, so that’s progress.
You’re more discerning than you used to be, and you longer simply sit at the table with us – you’re up and down constantly and, though I hate to do it, I use the post-dinner “fig newt” as motivation for you to sit and eat with us.
That said, dinners are filled with goofiness and laughter like never before. Whether making funny faces, saying silly things, or “conducting” the music we listen to, the space is filled with gratitude and joy for our family of three.
Communication and Brain Power
I can no longer separate “communication” and “brain power,” as so much of what you say demonstrates your intelligence.
Oh, my darling, you are talking in full sentences, and every new combination of words, every new verb and tense, sends a shiver of delight.
You often repeat words and phrases quietly to yourself after we say them, as if categorizing them in your brain. A few days later, you bust them out on your own. One morning, when I’m wearing workout clothes, Papa exclaims, “Look at your hot Mama!” You walk over and start rubbing my pants and say, “Mama hot!” Good grief.
Your language is complex enough to incorporate time:
“Emmy sad lahs time.”
“Go to Viva’s tomorrow” or “Ahk Lily tomorrow.” (When I can’t understand the song you’re asking for at bedtime, you usually say, “Ahk Papa” or “Ahk Mema” – or even “Ahk Lily.”
Dees heertie use udder day! [I used this hair tie the other day!]
You even bust out with past tense verbs now and then: “Papa had it.”
You use words like “maybe” and “sometimes” and “first” and “just.” When doing a puzzle with Papa, he suggests working on a new section, and you say, “Feego out fuhs” – as in, “Figure this part out first.”). In the tub, you randomly remember how Timon eats bugs. I ask, “Do you eat bugs?” You smile, do your big "that's crazy" nose-crinkling, and say, “Nooo!...Dust Teemon.” For the first time, you ask me to watch TV, rather than making a declarative statement.
And you astound us all with your first rhyming diddy:
“Eeny miney no
Caht tiga on toe
If he’s howwers lek heem go”
Adorably entertaining sounds (you can now pronounce "L" as a beautiful rolling sound, as in "Li-lil-y") words abound – such as:
blila: vanilla (as in the vanilla we add to your yogurt)
…but lone words are slowly subsiding. Sentences are taking over! Here’s a taste of your frequent jabber.
Deet’s so keezy…
That’s so crazy…
Mama heer in Emmy mouf…Eet gone now.
Mama’s hair is in Emmy’s mouth…It’s gone now.
You wet, Paca?…Yees… Paca wet fum dees [milk].
Are you wet, Papa?...Yes…Paca’s wet from this [milk].
Emmy’s Mama cahwd Jeemie…Yo neem es Jeemie.
Emmy’s Mama called Jamie…Your name is Jamie.
In the car: “I’m hot!”
[The first time you called this out, I thought, “Wow. She’s officially a kid.”]
Know beenky is, Mama?
Do you know where the blanket is, Mama?
Put my towa on, Mama!
Put my towel on, Mama!
I. Huhd. Sumpy…
I heard something…
Emmy put dahpo in dere!
Emmy put the diaper in there! [the diaper pail]
Wat TB, Mama?
Watch TV, Mama?
[Me: “Which color stamp?”] Maybe…peek.
Deez guys need bo too.
These beads need a bowl, too.
I want see it!
I want to see it!
Mama, yo so loud!
Mama, you're so loud!
Sumpy on yo fingo, Papa.
There’s something on your finger, Papa.
I need anunna peepo towa.
I need another paper towel.
Feego out fuhs.
[I’m going to] figure this out first.
Opee do fo you, Mama!
Open door for you, Mama!
Turn yo head, Papa.
Turn your head, Papa.
[Me: “Your spoons aren’t in the refrigerator- they’re in your drawer!] …(laughing) Mama, yo wight…
Mama, you’re right…
[snuggling with Papa] My foot hahv no space!
My foot has no space!
[looking under the bed for Baby Namana] I look…He wasn’t dere.
I looked…He wasn’t there.
Let go upteer, Ba!
Let’s go upstairs, Ba!
[looking for a toy] Maybe she’s in hee-o!
Maybe she’s in here!
Yay! All by myself!
[Triumphant pride accomplishing something that took you a while to do yourself!!]
Carefo not huht Mama!...I found a tissue!!...His name cowed Wally…Wally my feend.
Careful to not hurt Mama! [after you kicked me in the stomach while snuggling]...I found a tissue! [under my pillow]...His name called Wally…Wally’s my friend.
Weely kie sometime.
Willy cries sometimes.
Mema has a hawk de sky! Like dees one.
Mema has a hawk in the sky! [I saw a hawk in the sky at Mema’s house.] Like this one [the hawk toy Mema bought for you].
Our days are filled with small moments that I want to remember forever.
“What was your favorite part of the Sciencenter today?” ...“Udder popo eegpant.” [the “other” purple plastic eggplant – like the one we used to have – in the pretend kitchen]
Mema visits and she and I watch you play quietly with your babies for the longest time. You whisper to them, tuck them in, give them a bottle…When Mema says she has to go, you express your sadness, then lean over your babies and whisper to them, “I know…Mema go.”
“How much snow did we get?!”...“Wah two fee fo five!” 
“Okay, you chose many books, but we’re only reading three books.”...“I want wah two fee fo five!”
I sit with you as we watch Mister Rogers. We haven’t watched it for a while, and you were a little too young the first time. This time, you sit in your little chair, completely mesmerized, just as I was as a young girl. I know, baby girl. It’s magical.
I sometimes say, “ I know, baby girl…” when you’re upset or disappointed. Sometimes you now say “Beebee go…” when you’re upset or when one of your babies is upset.
You watch me making a sandwich for Papa for our trip, and you take the last small apple out of the fruit bowl. You hand it to me and say, “Fo Papa.” What an incredible sacrifice.
On Valentine’s Day, I finally share And You Become, the small book of poems I wrote for you. It’s terrifying to share something so sacred with the world, but it’s out there for others to read.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama