I feel like I wrote last month’s letter yesterday. Yet here we are, one month before you turn three. THREE. We were at Stewart Park the other day, enjoying a picnic under the pavilion. A little boy and his father sat a few picnic tables away. The boy was 2 ½. The father was shocked to learn that you were just nearly three. “She looks like a kid!” he exclaimed. “My son looks like a baby.” We laughed. “Well, maybe he just looks that way to me,” he said. It can be tough to watch your own child grow out of those sacred earliest years, so there might have been some truth to it. But I agreed: His son looked like a little sprite compared to my mature-looking daughter.
I see you on a swing, and I think, “Wait. Why are you suddenly ginormous?”
You are ridiculously independent, ridiculously stubborn, ridiculously PARTICULAR…and ridiculously perceptive, brilliant, precious, and, these days, testy.
Your Superpower Perception alerts you whenever we try to help you, no matter how infinitesimally. “Did you help me?”...In those moments, I can either lie and lose some trust or tell the truth and incite a riot. I usually opt for the former, telling white lies along the lines of, “No, my finger just brushed up against you.” Stupid, I know, because nothing gets past you: “Yes, you did.”
Last week, I adopted the “Mama’s serious” voice trying to get you into the car. You exclaimed, “No, I’M da boss!”
Welcome to pretty-much-three. What a wild, trippy ride.
Where did this past month go?! Speed of light, constant movement.
Papa and I go to Portsmouth for a long weekend, and you stay with Mema and Pops—at their house, not ours. A three-night sleepover. You go to multiple playgrounds, and Pops makes you animal pancakes. Mema finds an old puff paint t-shirt I made in 4th or 5th grade and sends a photo of you wearing it to bed, your face overwhelmed with glee. It nearly reaches your ankles.
We brave the Trumansburg Fair, pulling you and Gordie in a red wagon. We go in the Fun House and pet some goats, and you go on the spinning bear ride with Mema. Not nearly as exciting as the NJ fair, but an hour of something different.
We drive seven hours to Vermont for a Jacques family vacation. You spend the entire four days completely blissed out—chasing dogs, flitting from person to person, completely at home. Quite miraculous, and a true testament to intuition. You know everyone is safe. The running joke: You sit at the head of one dinner table. Every night, you choose who would join you at your table—and, the biggest honor, who would sit next to you. You connect with regulars and newbies, making everyone feel welcome and loved. Beautiful.
You also eat an entire piece of adult-sized ice-cream cake yourself. Cam, Christina’s now-fiancé, says, “That was one of the top five most impressive things I’ve ever seen.”
However, my personal favorite: One evening, Uncle Dan and Carly make you a “cocktail” in a fancy glass with seltzer, a maraschino cherry, and an orange wedge. As you drink it, licking your lips, you muse, “I nevo had cocktaow.” The next morning, you sy to me, “I wan a foxtaow.”...”You want…a cocktail?”...”Yes. I wan a cocktaow.”
You are the only toddler I know who doesn’t nap at all in the car, but you only watched one movie each way. That means you entertained yourself for more than four hours. On the way home, you spent about the first two hours playing with your Anna and Elsa dolls. Unbelievable.
We attend your first wedding, just a few miles away. You wear black tights, your sparkly “weddin shoes,” and red and white plaid dress (with a sewn-in sash and front-side bow) I found at Mama Goose and showed to you that day. I pull it out to show you, wondering if you’ll be excited about it. I have a backup dress in my wardrobe, a sparkly rainbow number. After all, it’s your first wedding, and I want you to feel like you’re wearing something special. However, you surprise me by smiling with your mouth wide open, thrilled about the red and white dress. Just goes to show that toddlers are a mystery in many moments.
Your language…Remarkable. My face continues to hurt from smiling and giggling under my breath at what emerges.
You have some relatively consistent linguistic patterns right now. For example, “sp” is “b," "st” is “d,” as in “dohn” [stone], and "sk" is "g," as in "gool" and "guy."
A few words that make me chuckle as of late:
boo nest: birds nest
Here are some monthly quips:
Someday I will be a gohwn up. But wight now I’m dust an kid. And I can talk like pease May I have a snack? (Snack mix)
I’m good at suckin Cohn. I wowk wewy howd suckin cohn…I’m wewy tong and I’m wewy hefful.
I’m tyin to make a bun and it’s not wohkin. But you make da mos wonderfow buns.
See dat boo-boo? And dat widdoo boo-boo? But you can’t wewy see it vewy wew…but it’s geddin beddo.
I know All my letters. E. X. and even 9.
Is dis Rosemawy chicken?
I need to reboot. [the Roku]
Mawy Poppins Wetohwns is a liddo too soht.
What’s dat comin out of yo butt, Papa?
Whew did you get dat boofil chin?
Dis is a feas! (Feast)
We haven’t read this book in a lon lon time ago.
Mama, you want a sack?
Okay, dis is da pan…[plan]
Mema can you town da waddo on? Someday I can do it when I’m a gohwn up.
(practicing cornhole) Oh, down it! [Oh, darn it!]
I’m gonna doin da lean pate cub. [I’m going to join the Clean Plate Club.]
I’m gonna dooz a geen daw.
Da guy is awake, so I am awake, so I have to go out and pay!
I’m dawin a sexchur fo you…? [structure]
(Papa walks in during our weekend morning snuggle fest) Das mine and Mama’s bed, Papa. You can go in laydo. [That’s mine and Mama’s bed, Papa. You can go in later.]
(We see a woman who reminds you of your teacher.) Me: Her hair looks like Lauren?...No, ho mouf. [her mouth]
Da one dat havs…[The one that has…]
Papa! I want you to weed za uzzer book, please!
(Pops asks you to do something.) Wew, I’m piddy busy wight now. [Well, I’m pretty busy right now.]
Tip a light ontastic [Trip a Little Light Fantastic, from Mary Poppins Returns]
(Me: What should we get Pops for his birthday?)...A vewy speciaw toy. A vewy big toy. A gohwn up toy…Fancy Nancy and Jungo Book. ALL da movies…AND Zootopia…AND Coco.
(I have a few strands of hair in my face as I lean over to kiss you goodnight.) Get yo haow off yo face and on yo head. [Get your hair off your face and on your head.] (You sweep it back for me.)
…But you must exercise!…(Me: Why?)...Well, I want to watch some TV…
Please, please, everyting please. Did you like dat?…(Because I sing-song, “Everything please!” as a gentle reminder at times)
(Me, as you sit down on your potty: Pull down your undies!) Uhzerwise I will pee in my undies.
(“Braiding” Gordie’s hair at the wedding) I was makin it into a baid so it could be pitty. But he kept movin. He was wewy movin.
(After opening the fridge, getting your vitamins, and closing the fridge) Oh! I fogot to kose it kietly fo da neighbos! [I forgot to close it quietly for the neighbors.] (While thoughtful, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that one door closing that woke them up this morning.)
Mama, do you know wew my popo bayo is? Da one you bay outside? Ow you undotayndin me? [Mama, do you where my purple sprayer is? The one you spray outside? Are you understanding me?]
During dinner one night, I ask you a question, and you say you lost your voice—so you don’t reply. I say, “Well, I guess you can’t have a fig newton if you don’t have a voice.” You promptly reply, “…Oh! My voice came back!”
Your desire for independence continues to reach new heights, as do your skills and the ensuing pride when you do anything yourself for the first time. You are as goofy, as attentive, and as passionate as ever.
One evening, Papa and I need some space from one another for a few minutes. He's sitting in the living room, and I'm in our bedroom. I decide to ground myself by reading the journal I wrote to you before you were born. The entries are from August, almost exactly three years ago. I suddenly hear you singing your heart out to Frozen 2. "Ah ah, ah ahhhh!" Reading my words to you as you grew in my belly, listening to your voice singing from the room next to mine...I can't quite find the words to express how that moment— that juxtaposition, if you will—captured me. Your voice echoing phrases and giving it your ALL, absorbed by the music.
I call your Papa in and lead him outside your door. We listen together, laughing silently, our hearts joined with you, awestruck, instantly healed. Thank you.
Here are some more monthly snapshots:
Wrestling with Papa and doing “body slams,” your cackle of glee filling the room
Your hand up when you say, “No, don’t hewp” or “I need pivacy” (accompanied by a “please” if we’re lucky).
Paca’s trip to the “salon” (aka we can’t find Paca and so pull out the OG, slightly fuzzier version hidden away for emergency situations): We pray we can still get away with a switch, and you affirm that we can. You can’t get enough of the fuzzier Paca, snuggling with it and talking continually about how much you love the enhanced fluff. PHEW!
Doing Hidden Pictures in Highlights magazines (“I by…”): You progress from giving a “clue” by pointing right next to the item to giving the clue without pointing! This seems like a tremendous developmental leap.
Patiently twisting your shoelaces or hat tie to “tie” them, not letting us help
Taking the tiniest imaginable bites of “Anna” cookies to savor them (just like I used to do when I was little)
Walking home with you all the way from Viva’s, you chattering pretty much nonstop: I’m not gonna be sy tomorrow. [shy] On Tuesdays I’m sy…Why don’t you hahv yo (wedding) wing?...Papa uzy sleeps wid his wing. [Papa usually sleeps with his ring.]...I didn’t weaw dis for a lon lon time ago! [I didn’t wear this for a long, long time ago!]
Watching you wipe yourself, switching between front and back, bent over until your head practically touches the floor, for minutes straight. Hey, it’s good to thorough.
Counting to 13!!!!
One of your new trends is asking, “Ow you happy?”—often when Papa or I feel frustrated. After arriving home from Maine, I’m trying to get you out the door to take a little walk with me, to pick up dinner. Having not napped in the car during a seven-hour trip, you’re beyond. Sobbing, screaming, a hot mess. I finally lose my cool a bit. I sit down, look you in the eyes, and say quite firmly, “Emmylou, I need to leave right now. You can come with me, but we need to go now. Otherwise, you can stay here with Papa.” Sobbing, you exclaim, “Mama, ow you happy?” I respond, “I’m frustrated, but I’m always happy when I’m with you.” You reply, “Ow you sad AND happy?” My heart breaks a little. Papa says later, “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Another trend, this one just precious: You snuggle me or snuggle Papa, and say, nurturing, “Come hee-o…” [Come here…] Just like I say to you when you’re upset, so I can give you snuggles.
Fun fact: You finally get out of bed for the first time. Around 7:30 pm one evening, we hear your door open. We look at each other, you almost as shocked as I am, and ask to get a tissue. You get one and go right back to bed. Papa and I look at each other: “A whole new world.” Yet you don’t get out of bed again at all for the week following that. You are a curious little being.
Bedtime feels better overall, but a few weeks ago…not so much. We have a new morning routine. If you wake up before 6 a.m. (too early), I tell you to hang out in bed until you hear me knock on your door. At that point, you open your door yourself and run out to me, a barrel of joy with eyes alight and a grin cracking your face open, ready to dive headfirst into another day.
On the flip side, the WHINE is quite strong these days. I try to talk to you about it, and I sometimes try to ignore it, but it’s sometimes enough to make a person go crazy. I’m still working on a helpful strategy for switching it off, besides the whole, “Okay, let’s be goofy and distract you.” That works well, but I don’t always have it in me.
We’re all continual works in progress, my love.
You started school two weeks ago. Monday through Thursday, you’re attending Namaste Montessori School from 8:30-12:30, after which you spend the rest of the afternoon with the Mema and Pops (and Lilly) or with Viva. (Fridays are Mema and Pops days.) I pack your purple lunch pack every morning, and you carry it to the car and into school wearing your little green backpack. I’m in awe of how we’re already here. You’re still technically two years old, but you are a little girl. Wise beyond your years. Tall and not-so-pudgy at all, your belly only slightly round, your legs nearly devoid of baby fluff.
I love when you eat breakfast at our kitchen island, with a snuggly friend or two, as I make your lunch. I am fully present in those moments, living the dream.
Now you’re in a classroom of 3-6 year olds, fully immersed in exploration and community. I see photos of you sitting in a circle with your little legs crossed, your hands in your lap, taking it all in, and my heart dances. I see you learning new things—like how to use a funnel, or how to stack blocks in size order—and I think, “Well, you’ll have that figured out in about three days and wonder, ‘Okay, what’s next?’”
The transition has been rough, but I knew it would be. You’re a very routine-oriented toddler, and it’s a big change. School requires a lot of energy, and it can be exhausting, especially at first. And you are still so little, which I need to constantly remind myself. I’ve had to leave you at Viva’s sobbing and screaming for me, and we spent fifteen minutes outside school the other morning because you didn’t want to go. My heart breaks, but I know that the recovery happens quickly. Still, knowing it’s “normal” doesn’t make it easy. One day at a time, for both of us.
You’re at Namaste because, after three years, we officially decided to stay where we are. Time works wonders on your brain and heart. One year ago, I was ready to move elsewhere. Now, we are starting to develop a community of friends in addition to our family circle. This really is a beautiful place to live. As much as I’ll always miss the city and other possibilities, there are too many extraordinary gifts to leave. You thrive here, and I can’t imagine taking you away.
In short, my love, it has been a month of movement and grounding. A rather lovely transition toward autumn as we prepare for what’s ahead. Not quite slower yet, especially as we have three birthdays to celebrate in October, but a comforting shift into something that feels right.
With that, we adventure forth into your final month of this journey around the sun.
I love you.
Love, Your Mama