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lulu letters: winter 2024

Updated: Apr 12

Dear Lulu,


Hello again, my dear.


“Oh! Hello, Mama.” 


That’s what you would say in reply. You would then either ask me a question or say something like, “I’m dust…[geddin dwessed, feedin my babies, pohwin some tea, etc.].”


The other morning, I dared to cut off your fruit consumption and force you to choose between forms of protein like an egg, yogurt, or nuts. You sighed and exclaimed with exasperation, "MOM! Your ruinin' my life!"


Here we are: You're three and a half (as you so aptly remind us), and we made it through winter. Another three months of adventures.


I turn 40, and we go to NYC to celebrate. We set a record at the Wolff-Mariani apartment: 10 people around their dinner table. The next day, you, Papa, and I have a full family day before my grown-up party. We have breakfast at an adorable cafe, we ride the bus across town (your favorite part), we go to see the statues from Enchanted (Columbus Circle), we go to a toy store and you choose an Encanto water bottle as your “toy,” and you see your first movie in the movie theater, Wonka. (“Mama, dis is a rewy long movie.” It’s the most you’ve ever watched in one sitting, and yes, it was also a really long movie.) 


You have a blast in our hotel with your babysitter, whom you’ve never met before. The next morning, you meet my dear college friend, Catherine, which is incredibly special. 


At home, we have a little party. You refuse to sing Happy Birthday to me until we have cake.


You have your first school concert. Leading up to it, you repeatedly say, “I’m not going to sing.” And you hold to your word. I walk you, a bit shell-shocked halfway up the aisle when it’s your class’s turn to sing, and your teacher walks you the rest of the way. You stand right in the middle, a stone statue, the tiniest hint of an unsure smile on your face, frozen and silent for the entire song. But you do it, and we couldn’t be prouder. Or laughing harder.


You see your first Tburg school musical: the high school production of Honk! You are quiet and still for about 85% of it, which is rather impressive. Right at the end, as the seniors are saying their tearful thank yous and so forth, you burst into tears because you want to stand next to your friend, Wally. I try to console you while burying your face into my chest in a futile attempt to muffle the screams. You continue to sob pathetically all the way up the aisle when we leave. An older couple across the aisle smiles and comments, “You did such a great job!” 


I finally get to build a snowman with you and play in the snow. You and I spend an afternoon with Mema and Pops, which reminds me of so many quiet afternoons there when you were just a wee thing. I motivate us all to go outside and play in the snow, which I have yet to do with you for an extended period of time this year—a pathetic year for snow. We build a small Olaf, whose nose you later eat right off his face. We explore the woods. I pull you around in the sled so fast and fall on the ground. Your deepest giggle takes over. What a beautiful afternoon.


You choose an astronaut costume at the toy library with Mema, and I create a “rocket ship” out of a box. Later that evening, we board your costume chest “boat” and steer it to the North Mountain together. (The North Mountain is where we “fly” when you want to drive the long way home from Viva’s.)


Oh, what incredible fun we have.


We spend Easter at Pepa’s house, and you’re Josie’s shadow. Wherever she stands, you sidle right up next to her. You also get to finally meet Aunt Ann, who has sent you so many thoughtful gifts and cards (for nearly every conceivable holiday, it’s remarkable!) since your birth (and before).


On April 8th, the three of us venture to Geneva to see the total eclipse. Of course, it’s cloudy all afternoon. Still, we have fun playing in the park until the 2+ minutes of apocalyptic darkness before gradual lightning. What a surreal experience. 


When you contemplate parking in the hotel lot right near the park, I say, “We probably need a pass…” You exclaim with urgency, “I have my moon stickos!” (aka our “pass”) The fairies who sometimes leave things in your cardboard mailbox on our island left you some moon stickers that morning, and you refer to them as our “pass” for the rest of the afternoon.


But a few of our endless adventures.


Errands often include grocery stores—you now like to put things in our cart—and Mama Goose. If Papa joins us, we have lunch somewhere. That’s a typical winter Saturday morning for us.


You continue to cherish your time at “Mema Camp.” Gordie now attends on Friday mornings, and Mema sends photos of the two of you doing all sorts of art activities, etc. (His first painting and watercolor experiences!) 

 

You seem to enjoy school more and more, so much so that you remark on several occasions during break, “I miss school.” Heart smiles.


We get your progress report, mostly rated on a “scale” of 1-4. You’re “actively working on” tolerating frustration and a few other pieces. I see photos of you washing windows, doing activities with friends, helping friends…One of your favorite “works” is “scwubbin chaow wohk” (scrubbing chair work). 


One morning, you flip your little wooden chair upside down and lean it against the table. You get a cup of water and a sponge and lay a towel down under the chair. Granted, yes, it’s too much water. Luckily, you accept my idea to put some water in a bowl and dip the sponge in that instead. Still, I have to admire your thoughtfulness in laying down the towel.


You are remarkably clean. One Saturday, you, me, and Mema go to Ithaca Bakery for lunch. I make the mistake of ordering you a toasted PB&J bagel, which is a hot mess to eat. You can’t stop licking your fingers long enough to actually take a bite. I finally suggest eating it with a fork, which solves the dilemma.


Your independence continues to reach new heights. You dress yourself most mornings, choosing stylish or…creative…outfits. One morning, neither Papa nor I are ready to get up, so you say, “I can get my bweakfast all by myself.” We indulge you and listen to the fridge door open and close. A few minutes later, I tiptoe out to find you seated at the kitchen island, eating an apple.


One photo from school is you completing, totally on your own, a human body puzzle. Another photo from the day is a circle of your classmates’ hands, all different shades. The caption says you talked about melanin and compared skin colors. I’m so grateful for that school.


You’re still a bit hesitant to choose work at school, but your teachers see progess. Mema says you’re always taking it all in. You’re so attentive to other people—what they’re doing and their emotions. Such an empath. Perhaps that’s why you’re initially so quiet and hesitant in social settings. There’s such hesitancy to connect. But then you open up and come alive!

 

How I will forever cherish our happy dinners together, you sitting on a grown-up chair, eating your vegetables, and often proudly joining the Clean Plate Club. Chosen dessert ranges from applesauce (a common selection) to ice cream with “spwinkles” to rice cakes or Cheddar Bunnies. You alert me if there’s no washcloth for your hands, you pour yourself water, and you sometimes even ask us how our days were.


When you need to use the bathroom, you simply get up and go.


You spend about five minutes most bedtimes arranging your animals and dolls around you in bed: at least one on either side of you and at least one (usually multiple) under the blankets, on or between your legs. 


Baby dolls are an important part of play. You are your babies’ mama: sitting them on the toilet and wiping them, telling them that “We don’t talk potty talk,” and putting them down for a nap. The nap ritual includes wrapping them up in a blanket on your bed, getting them a bottle, turning on your fan, playing music on Alexa, and setting a timer. “They sleep for 5:40 minutes…Oh—I’m comin'!” (and you run into your room, responding to their calls for you).


You sing so much more these days—in the car, to your babies, in bed…How I love hearing you sing Mary Poppins tunes like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Jolly Holiday. Favorite bedtime songs include Mary Poppins/Returns, The Lion King 2 (We Are One), and The Sounds of Music. Frozen/2 also make appearances, of course.


You love to act out Stay Awake when I sing it to you in bed. You smile when you realize I’m singing it, then sit up in bed and pretend to be sleepy like Jane and Michael in the film. You maintain a serious expression, start blinking your eyes rapidly as they do to fight sleep, then slowly lie down and close your eyes. It’s all I can do to just keep singing, so honored am I to be whisked into this sacred performance of yours.


Puzzles remain a favorite, and you’re so good at them. We start a big 48-piece floor puzzle together one morning, doing the edges first. I leave for a few minutes and return to find the puzzle complete, you working silently the entire time.


You can count without pointing, and you’ve caught the letter bug. “Apple starts with A!” You can identify the beginning letter of more words each week, and you point out more and more letters you see. You love to "write" your name and get all letters, though many are backward. You can also spell it verbally.


And you can count to 29—though there are two 14s and no 13.


Your brain! I can’t believe what you know—and your general command of the absurd English language:

  • Me: We’re staying in NYC today and tomorrow!…You: Two days!!

  • Remembo the alligado…alli…elevado? We took one of those to go up to their apartment!


 

Your chatter is constant, your grammar nearly perfect. It astounds me:


  • I’m so exiged to have a convosayson!

  • I care to watch…[movie]

  • Ahm not lookin cuz dayow doin’ daynzo. (Fight scene of Frozen 2: “I’m not looking cause they’re doing danger.”)

  • Das a quite yummy waddomelon I evo had!

  • I was lookin for a blanket then all of a sudden I did pee pees.

  • Mema says we can’t go to the doh (store) because it’s not available.

  • Mama, I want my hair in a wubboband, but it will hohwt. So please do it carefully please. And if it hurts I won’t be able to use it. So please do it slowly. 

  • I want mom. Because mom is easio.

  • Nake you for you to give me dis beautiful flowo. I love it.

  • (inspecting the toilet) I guess I ate sumpin funny today…Dat’s a cawwot poop.

  • (doll) Rapenzo’s sick. She dweamed about snakes last night. (*You’re still carrying those feverish snake hallucinations.)

  • (washing sink, wearing your purple cleaning gloves) Mama, you pretend to be a kid and I pretend to be yo Mama.

  • I’m snug as a bug as a wug.

  • We can’t howdly see the sky!

  • Me: I don’t know what part this is…You: Oh. Let’s find out.

  • I’m gonna take so caow of my monkeys because they got booboos on dayw legs. The pobbly went to the tsim (gym). *(A few days after I get a big boo boo while working out)

  • I slept all day night!

  • Bunny, you’re so mistiviss.

  • Be caowfo of yoself! (as Papa breaks up hot chicken with his fingers)

  • I befuh…(prefer)

  • What was that?…My dwoh-in bode. You don’t have to wowwy about it.

  • Me: It looks like you’re having fun with my special things!…You: I’m bein so caowfo with them.

  • Papa dust said butts. I love when Papa says butts!

  • Das ho boob. 

  • Andy (Russell) is my best fwend. He plays all kinds of silly things with me.

  • (I check on getting dressed) Well, I’m decidin’ if I want to wayo my sweddo.

  • Have anybody hode of a yellow taxi cab?!

  • Das how it wohks!

  • You get what you get and you don’t tell a fib!

  • That seems twicky to me, but I can do it.

  • (Talking to imaginary Woody) Seewiously? Seewiously?!

  • I’m gonna have a gole when I grow up…And she’ll be dust about my age. 

  • What’s da plan, stand?


Common phrases include:

  • Uhh…no. (You thoughtfully ponder before making a decision.)

  • Okahy. (ready agreement)

  • Okay, fine. (not so ready agreement)


Snuggling in our bed one morning (after I warn you that it’s very early, so we need to lie still and stay quiet), your whisper breaks through the silence: “Papa! Papa! Feeo my muscles!” I agree: You’re so stwon. We’re all so stwon.


Bedtime is always among the sweetest moments of the day:

  • Me: Should we call Papa in to rub your back?…You: Not yet. I’m still geddin situated. 

  • I’ll dweam of you and Papa and we’ll have cahhsants (croissants, which is what you always get when we go to our local coffee joint).

  • I’m going to dweam about being five because then I can go on the fewwis wheel.

  • I’m matzic because I make people feel beddo. (I say because you bring joy. Papa says you heal his soul.) And you heal my soul, Papa.


Stopping to get gas, Papa opens his door. You say firmly, with a most serious expression, your eyebrows lifted, “Papa, you can’t open the doh or window. It’s not safe. You have to listen to me and Mama.”


The next morning, you shout, “Papa, I want to put on my mawwy dwess!” I watch the beautiful ceremony:

  • First, he shows you how to hold your flowers and walk down the “aisle” toward him.

  • “Okay, now we say loving things to each other…I love you so much, Lulu.” “I love you, Papa.”

  • “Now we give kisses.” He smothers your cheeks.

  • “Now we go on a honeymoon!”


Words like:

  • foestee: Thirsty

  • woodtsuck: Woodchuck

  • gobiz: garbage

  • tsildwin: children

  • tupposed to: supposed to

  • Tzotza: Georgia

  • flyerfly: firefly (personal fave)


I cherish you trying to pronounce something, or, on the rare occasion when we can't help but repeat a word the way you say it correcting us with a pronunciation exactly like the one we used. ("Papa, it's baftime!"..."Baftime!"..."NO, BAFtime!")


One night, you ask me what a "cafeeduhl" (cathedral) is. I explain, and you try several times to pronounce it. I finally say, "That's it!" and you reply, "That's it!" and smile proudly.


“Sh” is still “s.” “Th” is still “z.” “J” is still “ts.” The other night, while reading Dr. Seuss’s ABCs, I couldn’t help myself. I read, “Jerry Jordan’s Jelly Jar, J, j, J”—then asked if you could say it:


“Tsewwy Tsodan’s Tselly Tsaow, Tsay, Tsay, Tsay!”


How I will miss that. All of it. All your little, big, beautiful words. Upspy down, bursday (birthday), oat (art)...


During grace: “Emmylou, what are you thankful for?”... “I’m nake you for…” 


I want to record all your words so I can make them into my Siri and listen to them forever.

 

Your outfits. You can’t wear costumes to school, and I always put your hair up, so weekends are often filled with costumes and wild child curls flying free.


One outing in a Rapunzel dress, another in your poofy unicorn costume. The image of you carrying a giant bucket for Papa wearing your Anna costume. Test-driving cars in your Dorothy costume and red cowgirl boots. Your sheep legwarmers a common addition (over leggings and mismatched socks), not to mention the 20 or so clips you carefully add to your hair after I put it up.


You’re truly a fashion icon, and you’re growing like a weed. An inch and a half in six weeks? Your size 3 pants are all highwaters. My heart breaks when, after explaining that about six dresses in a row at Mama Goose are either too big or too small, you exclaim, “I don’t want to be free (3) anymo.”

 

And I get lost in your face about 50 times a day. I still don’t quite understand how that DNA aligned in such a spectacular way. That face holds so much. So much emotion, so many thoughts, and endless expressions. The shy smile, lips ever-so-slightly pursed. The mischievous side smile with eyebrows raised. The crinkled “no thank you” nose. The deep stare straight into the depths of my soul.


How I love saying, “Emmylou, come here. I have something to tell you…—then, looking into each other’s eyes, telling you how proud I am of something you did or how you behaved, or how much I appreciate your patience or help or playing quietly by yourself while Mama and Papa cooked dinner, or whatever it is.


We still have moments of great passion, exasperation, and defiance. However, the recovery is quicker, and you know when you’ve crossed a line. Papa or I can usually sit down and talk to you calmly or help you find a different way or reach some kind of agreement together.


In short, we’re a family—and, as Papa said recently, “ I have a new favorite moment every day.” 

 

I finally cut your hair for the first time last month. After sitting there, combing it carefully for minutes straight, I ran the scissors across the fuzzy ends. About 1 ½ inches. A relatively clean cut, though your curls are forgiving. I kept a clipping, mourning the loss of that magical baby hair. It was time. 


I love you.


Love,

Your Mama

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