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lulu letters: month 32

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Dear Lulu,


I recently read a passage in a book that felt as though the author reached inside, to the core of my motherhood, and revealed it on the page.


To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once. You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she’d been and the child she’d become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them simultaneously, like a 3-D image. It made your head spin. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.


My face hurts all the time, and I constantly lose pieces of “before.” Just this evening, you walked up the stairs (one foot, then the other on each step) without holding on to the railing the entire way up, and I thought, “Wow. There she is. A capable, independent little-big human.”


I asked your Papa to describe you this past month: Vibrant, headstrong, personable, expressive (“expresses love”), funny, and independent. You express love in so many ways. “I love you…I love you, too.”


You drive us absolutely bonkers at times. BONKERS. Blatantly ignoring us, flat-out responding, "No!" and, in your most passionately angry moments, swiping at my face, grabbing me, or biting yourself. (You never attack Papa. Just me.) You take me to places that feel like a Herculean test of some virtue I clearly still need to work on. Papa and I try to tap each other in when we reach the point of banging our heads into bricks, but sometimes my "strong Mama voice" emerges and sometimes he takes off your costume himself. We avoid battles as much as possible, knowing they don't do any of us any good, but hey: we all do the best we can.


Yet again, I feel the need to mention your perceptiveness and emotional intelligence. You sense shifts in people’s voices, and you listen to everything. One morning, we’re all sitting around the table discussing the show Severance and the importance of the elevator. You hear the scary/mysterious tone and run over from where you’ve been playing independently for the past 15 minutes. You stand right next to me, look up, and ask with a concerned expression, “What about the ehvaydoh?”


We talk about using our imaginations, and you get it. What a magical leap.


One morning, you exclaim, “I can do anything because I’m stong.” Papa melts. He tells me later, “I’ve been saying that a lot lately. I didn’t realize it stuck.” Everything sticks.

 

Every month, I think, “Okay, next month will be a short letter.” Every minute with you blows my mind: How can I even begin to choose “highlights”? Then the end of the month rolls around, and I compile my random notes that somehow accumulated just as they did in previous months.


Let’s begin with the basics. Your hair is and probably always will be a wonder. It's getting so long, but I'm ready to let it grow Rapunzel-length before I cut it. Your eyes are fairy eyes, your nose a fairy nose, your lips perfection. And you have a new tiny mole on your face, your first. I basically cried when it first appeared.


Your stats at your 2 ½ year well visit:


Height: 37 3/4 inches

Weight: 30 lbs


You're down to only around the 70th percentile for height, but I have no doubt you'll shoot up again soon. (Papa was happy to hear that, as he's still afraid you'll be a giant.) You got one shot and, as usual, didn’t even flinch. You also made it all the way there (about 20 minutes) with training undies and gave them a urine sample at the office. I was busting with pride.


This brings me to POTTY TRAINING! We’re doing it! It’s a process, as I’m not into the whole “trained in a few days” approach. Slowly, but surely, it’s clicking. As with speech and most things, you have your own timeline—but when you’re ready, you run with it.


By mid-June, you often wake up with a dry diaper, and you sometimes wake up and say, “I have to go pee!” I buy training undies and “real” Frozen undies as motivation. I’ll spare you the details, but we have many exciting moments, and you’re about 90% on top of it with us and with Mema. You even tell me you have to go when we’re out on our adventures, which is huge. For some reason, Viva’s is a bit less successful. I attribute it to the excitement of play there (?), but you’re astoundingly mindful, so it’s probably another emotional factor I might not ever fully understand. Anyway, it’s happening!


In food news, you value cleanliness. You often wipe your face and hands during meals, and I’ve never seen a toddler eat an ice cream cone so neatly (even wiping your mouth after each bite). You’re also an expert bowl scraper.


As for sleep, you’ve been sleeping through the night with no calls for Mama to find Paca or reset your blanket. You can now set and reset your blanket yourself. I’ve been waiting about a year for that skill to develop. Bedtime ease varies, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s better overall. Small maturity shifts seem to be settling in.


Still, for whatever reason, you continue to call to us from your bed. If we go in and you say you need more water or want to hug the other parent (etc.), you insist on getting out of bed to do it yourself. However, you never get out of bed when we’re not in the room: You call whenever you need us in the evening, during the night, and in the morning. It’s hilarious—and miraculous.

 

A few other tidbits…


You love your routines. One morning, Papa puts one M&M into your classic edamame and raisin snack. You pull it out and say, “What’s dis, Papa?” He says, “It’s a surprise!” You counter with, “Papa, That’s for dessert!” and make him put it back in the cupboard (where you forget about it). Likewise, after dinner, you ask for a fig newton. When I tell you we’re out and you can have a few M&Ms instead, we carefully take out 5-10 M&Ms together…and you’re fulfilled.


You have such…spirit. It flows (or bursts) out of you.


Most of my notes from this month are words that come out of your precious cherub-like lips. (Granted, those cherub-like lips don’t always emit cherub-like sounds, but that’s part of being a passionate little human.) As I’ve written before, your enunciation is impressive, my dear.


Here you go, my love—some choice phrases this month:


  • (Talking about when you’re all grown up)...And I’m gonna deenk wine someday!…

  • Is dis waddo fum yesterdeey? [Is this water from yesterday?]

  • (Passing Atlas Bowl) The lights aow on! We beddo go dere nex time, okay?

  • Mm! Dis is a feas! [feast]

  • You come cohse to me, Mama?

  • I’m a widda bit sy fum dat Papa. [I’m a little bit shy from that Papa.]

  • Papa: Isn’t that an interesting thing?…That IS a interestin thing, Papa.

  • Sorwwy! I wanna open it up. Dat’s my toice [choice]…Me: Did you just say that’s my choice?…(Snort kind of laugh) “Yeahhh…”

  • You have diffent hair. Dat’s coo. [cool]

  • Sumpins goin’ on with da light, guys. Papa toned it off somehow.

  • Me: What kind of ice cream are you going to get?..Umm, banilla today.

  • I sink weow ah set, Mama! [I think we’re all set, Mama!]

  • Me: Would you like some more melon?…No, I’m ah set fo melon.

  • Are you all done with your oatmeal? Yes, I AM ah done with my oitmeal.

  • I want to see the vee-dee-oh when we get home.

  • (Seeing what color your hair tie was when I took it out of your hair—You guessed purple, I guessed orange.) It IS ottange! It’s NOT popo! Sopize!

  • I’m sowwy, Mama. I didn’t mean to it was a axint. [an accident]

  • (Watching me use scissors) Carefo not to cut yo fingers, okay?

  • Paca looks like a cockadoodledoo!

  • (In the car, you suddenly start talking about a “waddo boddo doh” (water bottle store)

  • Mama, I tuwn on da light so you can see in dere.

  • Oh! I was jus’ lookin at my Nusee wime book (waving hands).

  • I’m sited I’m wearin dat dess! [I’m excited I’m wearing that dress!]

  • (Saying goodbye to me and Papa on our way to NYC) Have a gate tip!

  • (Holding a tiny Play-Doh bowl I just made) I can put sumpin’ in it if I want.

  • Weenin’ in the ween! [Swinging in the rain!]

  • Look! A boo zsay! [blue jay]

  • We figood it out! [figured]

  • I fehwt sumpin in da lohguht and it was pobby dust honey! [I felt something in the yogurt, and it was probably just honey!]

  • Me: Are you ready to go to Viva’s?...No, I’m dust cuttin papo for a liddle while. [No, I’m just cutting paper for a little while.]

  • Me: What do we say after I give it to you?...Deeko! Yowecum! [Thank you! You’re welcome!]

  • I’m woah-win da stoller on da cowpet so it’s kye-it [I’m rolling the stroller on the carpet so it’s quiet….After Papa asks you on several occasions to roll it in the bedrooms, which have carpeting, because it’s too noisy on the wood floor.


The two Funniest Lines of the month would probably be as follows:

  1. (Looking up Papa’s nostrils) “Papa, you got biderwibes [spiderwebs] in yo nose!”

  2. (Looking at a photo of a Wizard of Oz play in the Ithaca Times) “Mama, where the heck is Glinda?!” Oops.


And the most profound: You climb all over the inside of the car, and Mema, in her efforts to get you into your carseat, says, “You’ll get lost down there!” You reply, “I want to be lost.” Woah.


Some of my favorite words of late:

  • Kivvus tee: Christmas tree

  • bursay: birthday

  • logitt: yogurt

  • waddo: water

  • guk: skunk

  • panpanno: piano

  • oitmeal: oatmeal

  • moshin: marching

  • bassik: basket

  • say-oh: snail

  • bullerfy: butterfly (still the cutest, most beautiful pronunciation of a magical creature)

…and expressions:

  • Echoing “Okay” and “Mm hmm!”

  • “Oh!” as in:

    • Oh! I see!

    • Me: What’s her name!...Oh! Doe-ey! (Dory)

  • Yah!

  • A quiet “I don’t know” or “Teh-ew me” [Tell me] when you don’t know the answer to a question.

  • I know, I know…

  • Okay okay okay…

"Why" is huge, and it's often the beginning of a very thorough/mirrored sentence: "Why do you just need to sit down fo a minute?"..."Why ow you puddin' da muhk in the fidge one lass time?"..."Why is dat baby ky-in like dat?" I constantly laugh at how immersed in stereotypical toddlerhood we are.


Toward the end of June, you start asking, “Is dat wewy [Is that really] ____?” It first appears during a bedtime book. You trace words with your finger as you try to make up the words. I point out the word “butterfly,” and you say, “Is dat wewy bullerfy?”


There goes the trust.

 

I never know quite where to begin with your favorites, as they are bountiful – and often shifting. I buy you a magnetic schedule-activity-board for the fridge (date, holiday/activity, weather, how you feel today, etc.) It’s big for about a week, at which point you lose interest. Ah well. You’ll come back to it. I still think it’s pretty nifty. I guess this is one of my favorite new things this month. As for you…


  • Paca: Still you’re #1. We leave Paca at the Wolff house one evening (how we manage to do this at this point escapes me), and it’s the most traumatic event—perhaps ever. You dissolve into body-shaking sobs. Mema hears it over the phone and drives Paca to you.

  • Babies: You’ve recently been spending a lot of time with your babies, pushing them in your play stroller and preparing food and drinks for them in your play kitchen.

  • Your people: You adore your people. We have the sweetest reunion with Mema and Ba after their long trip. You say, after a play date with your new friend Gordy, “He’s my best fee-end.” At Boundary Breaks one evening, you dance with your new friend Gordy, you run across the lawn to greet Amy when she arrives, and you ask Chandra to go to the bathroom with you. These are your people.

  • Friends: How you cherish your friends. Friends at Viva’s, friends at Story Hour, friends wherever. You talk about them—including how much you love them and want to hug them. As I told a new friend recently when you tried to sit on her son, “She’s a close sitter.”

  • Waving and saying “Good morning!” to the morning school busses: I used to shout, “Quick quick quick!” and whisk you to the window when I heard the school bus in the morning so we could wave to it. This somehow initiated a Pavlovian response: Now, whenever you hear it, you freak out—wide-eyed, literally tossing toys aside—and yell, “Kick kick kick!” as you run to my arms with your arms up so I can whisk you to the window in time.

  • Any and all social events: You come alive.

  • Being shy when I drop you off at Viva’s: Most mornings this month, we arrive and you promptly exclaim, “I want to be sy!” We snuggle on the stairs as you slowly emerge fully and reconnect with Viva. Who knows.

  • Sundaes on Sunday: We start a new tradition, inspired by friends. You thoroughly enjoy every ice cream cone.

  • Art: Painting, drawing, stickers, stamps…and your new favorite: cutting paper with your lefty scissors (“Mama, I made you a pahsteck!” [project]) You hold the scissors upside down, but it works quite well for you. And you even use what looks like a “quadropod” grasp, which normally develops ages 3-4.

  • Hammocks: You have the time of your life swinging at the Russells' house, and we hang ours up to continue the fun. You love when I lie in it with you.

  • Singing: You sing so much now, and you even sing louder at times, really letting it fly.

    • Fee Leedo Ducks is your new go-to. So many ducks.

    • Wockabye Baby is still a popular choice.

    • Hush Little Mama (to the tune of Hush Little Baby): You invent this variation and get the biggest kick out of it.

  • Nursery rhymes: You have a nursery rhyme book, and you love to read it before bed. You sing all the ones you know, and I do the rest, leaving openings for you to insert words and phrases. Among the ones you know in full:

    • Twinkle twinkle leedo dao…and you sow yo leedo light, tinkle tinkl all da night

    • Hey diddo diddo/Da cat an da fiddo…and da dish wan away widda poon

    • Hicky dicky dock…da cock stuck one…

    • Leedo Miss Muffa sat on a tuffa/Eadin ho cohds an whey/Aloooong came a pido/Who FIGHTENED Miss Muffa away

    • Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake…

    • Ba ba back seep/Hab you any woo…

    • I read Little Bo Beep, and you ask me to read it five more times. I realize you’re trying to learn it. (When she loses her sheep, you say sadly, “Das a sad paowt…”) After #6, you try it yourself—and nail it. Incredible.

  • Books: Our little bibliophile…what a joy. One night, you see a picture of a cat on a page:

    • “I want to go dere…In the book!”

    • “Okay! Let’s go! 1, 2, 3, jump!”

    • “Did you jump me in dere?”

    • “I did!”

    • “But we didn’t wewy. It’s just peetay-end [pretend].” You move your face super close to the page and proclaim, “I can’t jump in dere!”

  • The “Wizard Owaz”: We watch it, we listen and dance to the songs, you sing the songs…It’s your new obsession, and it’s beyond fantastic.

  • Papa: Would you like to listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow?...No, I call it Over da Reebow.

  • This is da powt where she lands in Muxkin (or Munnix) Land!

  • If I Onee Had a Bain/Haowt

  • Ziggy, pay Somewhere Ovo da Reebow by Judy Garlix (which soon morphs into Garlic, and I will forever call her Judy Garlic).

  • Alexa and Ziggy (our second Alexa): You can often get them to play what you want, especially if it’s a song you ask for often. It doesn’t always work. For example:

  • “Alecka, pay Under da London London Ky!” [Under the Lovely London Sky from Mary Poppins Returns]

  • “Alecka: Nex!”

  • One morning, Alexa asks, “Shall I play more music related to that?” From the bathroom (on the toilet), you shout, “Yes!”

 

We pack this month full of adventures. Celebrating Mema's birthday. Spending a weekend with Zaza and her two friends. Hearing our friend-band The Darts play at Hangar Theatre and Boundary Breaks. Farmer's Markets. Nearly every week contains at least three events, and the weekends are jam-packed because that's the way your Mama rolls.


You are, as always, a love.


You rub my belly when I tell you it hurts. You tell us randomly, “I’m happy…I’m so happy.” You greet me with the BIGGEST smiles and hugs when I pick you up (usually, but it rocks my world every time).


One evening, you’re having a rough time settling down because you’re scared of a nonexistent bumblebee in your room. I dig deep and come up with “Maybe you’ll ride on the mama bumblebee, like in Dream Animals!” Your face explodes with the biggest smile, and you croon a sweetly excited and giggly, “Ye-e-e-es!” A few weeks later, as I’m tucking you in, you say (face wide open with a grin), “I’m going to ride da bumblebee. And he’ll be nice. He won’t huwt me.”


After a fun evening at Taughannock, you lose it when we have to leave (fully grabbing my neck with both hands and screaming as loud as you possibly can). In the car on the way home, I say, “You know what? Let’s be happy because we had so much fun! That’s why it was so hard to leave!” A slow smile spreads across your face, and you say, “Yeah…” Magical.


While “reading” one of my books you pulled off the shelf, I find a few affirmations to recite together. I tell you to close your eyes and put your hands on your heart. You do. I say, “I accept love.” You repeat, “I beseck love.” I say, “I speak truth.” You repeat, “I beak toos.”

 

So many small moments give me pause as I realize I’m living my dream of motherhood, everyday tableaus recreated from my imagination.

  • You standing in your nightgown choosing two books from your new bookshelf (the ideal child’s bookshelf in my mind, all the books facing forward like a magazine rack, that I waited three years to buy).

  • You feeding your babies and singing them songs as you rock them. You running, full sprint, across a green field, riding a giant wave of joy.

  • You painting “people” or rainbows or anything at all.

  • Reading you books on your bed, me leaning on your bed, you sitting between my arms.

  • Singing a song together, literally cheek to cheek, one of your arms around my neck, you quietly echo-crooning each line of a song I just made up.

In our together moments, I think of my own childhood and how my Mama was this magical being, this full-on grown-up, who somehow gave me everything I ever needed. Boundless love, safety, and comfort. (She still is.) I think, "How can I ever be that person to a tiny human?" But then I feel you snuggle into me, tell me you love me, hold my face in your hands...and I think, "Wow. I guess I'm that person to you." Life is remarkable.


One bedtime, you’re having a hard time settling in, and you say to me, “Stay fo-eh-vo.” [forever]


One morning, you snuggle into me and say, “I’m gonna take care of you, Mom.”


I will take care of you. Forever.


Love, Your Mama


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