Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On Saturday morning my baby turned two.

I have a daughter. We have a daughter.

Sometimes I'm in disbelief of that and I have to really try to wrap my mind around it - that I'm not just watching someone else's kid all the time. She is mine and I'm her 'mom mom.' It's unbelievable and heart wrenching and terrifying, but the most joyful thing I've experienced all rolled into one. I've been thinking about what I would write on this day for months now. This letter started out as a list of one hundred things I wanted to teach you, but as I rounded out the list and finished number 97, my heart just wasn't in it anymore. Most of the things I wrote down were really things that I need to learn for myself before I can teach them to you. If we're all honest, a lot of them are things that we just learn over and over again through out life - a perpetual process of shaping ourselves. If I'm lucky, I'll have my whole life to show you what I want you to know, not just leave it here in list form. As much as I want to force important lessons and confidence and joy into you somehow, I can't. All I can do is keep showing you what I want you to know through my words and my actions and sometimes, my writing. I know I won't get it perfect, but I'm making a wild and passionate go of it. That's all I can do.

Papa had to work until two, so we spent the morning together, just us girls. I have this super secret tradition that I do each year on your birthday (well the last two at least), and by super secret I mean you and Papa are always laying next to me, spider legs hanging off the side of the bed and mouth gaping open, fast asleep. I set my alarm for 8:03 and I lay there and think. It's usually along the lines of two years ago, I woke up in labor at this exact moment and I get all the sappy out before you wake up so I can just turn on the fun. I'm never as sad as I expect to be when milestones come along, but I'm taking this one especially hard. Maybe it's all the uncertainties we're dealing with and the desire for a home that I've been swallowing and the guilt that comes with moving you away from everything you've ever loved, but I'm just extra emotional these days and you are too. I think about the days when you were an itty bitty baby and a little part of me wishes them back, for just a moment. I dealt with so much after you were born that looking back, most of the first few months are just a blur. I hope that doesn't make you sad to hear one day. I do remember one day in particular - you were just two days old or so. We were sitting on the couch, you were sleeping as I held you and Papa was playing the guitar in a chair across the room. I don't know what it was about that moment - my emotions were stable and the sun was shining and the anxiety was gone and the stars just aligned, I guess. It was the first time I had been able to really sit and look at you and realize you were here and mine. We clicked together like two puzzles pieces and it's been mad love ever since.

All you do is grow now - it's expected and even celebrated, but it still always catches me by surprise. Everyday is filled with new phrases and skills and facial expressions and they're all funny - you are such a character. I know I use the word 'joy' a lot, but you just exude it. I tried to think of ways to make this day special for you, because you deserve to feel special even if you're only two and won't remember my efforts. What it really resulted in was a special time of reconnection for Papa and I. Papa and I spent the night before your birthday putting together a play kitchen and wrapping a few presents. We covered the play kitchen with a sheet and hid it away in the corner of the living room, hoping you wouldn't find it until he's able to come home from work. We stayed up way too late, enjoyed drinks and sat around laughing like kids, reminiscing of favorite childhood birthdays and memories of you.

Before we moved, we sold your crib and transitioned you to a mattress on the floor. One of my favorite things about this is waking up to your two bright eyes and little nose peeking up over the edge of the mattress each morning and an exuberant 'Hi, mom mom!' Sometimes you just wake in a daze and stumble over to my side of the bed, asking for 'mama milt.' I've been lifting you in a sleepy daze over myself and into the space between your Papa and I for almost a year now and the novelty of it hasn't worn off. The morning sun greets us and you excitedly nurse - once you're done, you're up! And ready for the day to start. 'Mapa EAT! Tup milt!' you yell - Mapa or Pama is what you say when you're talking to Papa and I both. We just moved away from New Mexico last month and we're staying in Washington D.C. temporarily, until Papa finds out when he'll be leaving for training. Everything has gotten so weird and grumpy and out of sorts lately that I look forward to seeing that same smiling face that I've seen each morning for the last two years, before the onslaught of tantrums and no's and parenting mistakes I continue to make.

If we had the entire day to devote to your birthday, I would have surprised you with a room full of balloons - I had plans to record your reaction (I'm sure you would have been ecstatic!), but you woke as Papa was trying to shuffle balloons through the door, so we'll try again next year. Like I said, Papa had to work until two, so he was up early. Luckily you woke up just in time to see him before he had to go, but he had recorded a message on the iPad just in case you slept in. Papa shared his cereal with you and you exchanged milky kisses in the morning light. Then you and I set to work making your birthday cake. You really love helping me in the kitchen, so you happily climbed into the 'big chair' to watch me. It took all morning and the cupcakes were a bit dry, but the frosting was delicious - one out of two isn't and when you're making things from scratch, I guess. I've almost given up making birthday cakes - I think we're just going to buy doughnuts next year! While the cupcakes were baking, I took you down to the playground behind the apartment and let you get some energy out. (You have a lot these days!) I brought you back up for a nap and decorated cupcakes while you slept. Papa came home and you woke up instantly. You always do! You have this sense that awakens you as soon as Papa gets home. He cuddled up to you and managed to get you back to sleep and fall asleep himself, so for a few minutes I sat and just thought . . . about everything, about this life we're hoping to build for you, and about more babies, and all my hopes and dreams for you, and all the wonderful moments I get to spend with you each day, and all the exciting things that lay ahead for us. There are so many complications in our lives right now, but I really only see the good things on days like this.

When you woke up, I placed your birthday crown on your head and let you open one present (a crocheted sweater and hat from your Grandpa and Grandma in Arizona). You exclaimed 'mo please, mo please!,' but we hurried you out the door to get some food before you could start in on another one. Papa and I talked about how to deal with the terrible twos over Thai teas and Pad Thai while you squirmed and fussed while simultaneously making friends with our neighbors (stinker). We came home and let you open your presents, a coloring book and play kitchen. You were so excited about the coloring book Papa picked out for you, but the play kitchen blew your mind. While you shouted and exclaimed at the coloring book, you timidly looked at the play kitchen for a few minutes and quickly began giving yourself a tour, opening all the doors, turning all the knobs, touching all the pieces of fruit and vegetables for a just a few seconds each, whispering 'wow' over and over again. It filled me with so much joy to make you feel so special. We had to tear you away from the play kitchen to take a picture in front of the clock at 7:35 (the time you were born). When I uncovered the cake, you hopped in your chair with excitement, in disbelief that all the animals on the cake were yours. We lit the candles and sang 'Happy Birthday' to you twice, because Papa hadn't finished lighting the candles by the end of the first song. It took you three tries, but you blew out all of the candles by yourself, then happily licked all of the frosting off of your cupcake and ate more raspberries than cake. I knew you would. We put you down for bed reluctantly, not wanting your last night as a one year old to end. The next morning, the birthday festivities weren't over. We too you to Bob and Edith's Diner for breakfast and treated you to pancakes, then took a long walk home.

It is so fun to celebrate your life each year. I look forward to many more birthday days with you - I love finding ways to make you feel special. You really are the best two year old I could ask for. Papa and I feel so lucky to be your parents!

All the Love in the Universe,

P.S. Ev's first birthday party and a letter on her first birthday party and our first picture in front of the clock.


  1. This post is beautiful :) Happy birthday little girl! Also, my daughter calls her grandparents mom mom and pop pop and when she's talking to them both she calls them MaPa hahaha!

  2. Love the photo of you and little miss. :) Happy Birthday!!



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