Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dear Evie,
For some reason, this has been the hardest birthday of yours for me to face. The three before this were met enthusiastically, but this one - it has me. I want to sob. I want to crawl in bed with you in the middle of the night and run my fingers through your hair, inhaling the scent of the top of your head. I want to grab a box of tissues and spend hours taking in every detail of your baby pictures. Besides the way you pronounce your R's and L's and the dimples in your knuckles, there isn't a trace of baby left in you. Four sounds so officially 'little girl' to me. You are finally filling into the clothes that are the correct size for your age. Your legs have lost their chub and they're becoming long and lean, the hem of your jeans creeping up over your ankles. I really didn't think your personality could get any bigger, but it has. You are generous with your joy, always laughing, jumping, and asking questions. You are brave and full of gumption. You often say, 'I love everyone and everything in the whole world, Mama,' and I really couldn't think of a better phrase to describe you than that. You've never met a stranger. You make friends everywhere you go. The whole world is yours for the taking and I have no doubt that's exactly what you'll do.

This past year was the hardest that you and I have faced together. I didn't know the extent of my selfishness until I had to raise a three year old. . . in 200 square feet. I didn't know how angry I could be, how quick I was to keep a list of the wrongs done to me that day, how unrelenting I could be in my expectations of one small person. Each day I face a flood of uncertainty, battles to understand you, and the desperate ache of wanting to do it all right. I am slowly learning to give up the pieces of myself that I thought I needed to make more room for you, to lay down my life in ways I never thought were necessary or possible. The more that I cry out for answers, the more my soul hears whispers of words like grace (her image of God is directly related to how you model grace in your home), patience (be patient with her - she is still learning so much), kindness (she will be as kind to others as you are to her), and joy (all she wants is a Mama who plays and laughs and dances with her no matter the circumstances of life). After our recent move into a more suitable living space, I feel like you and I are on the mend. We are slowly getting back into our groove that we once had. We read. We paint. We color. We bake. We clean. We sing. We dance. Our days are full of nothing and everything that matters at the same time. You've started calling me your best friend again and it feels like my face would split apart if I could smile as big as I want to when I hear you say that. Being a mother is hard for a lot of reasons, but one that I think of most often is this - I am my own person and your person all at the same time. Some mornings, Andrea wakes up and she wants to write and travel and paint and run and more, but Mama is needed to do the house work and change diapers and feed mouths and read stories and more. I've been putting forth an honest effort to combine the two, to find joy in the rhythm of our day, to be creative in my homemaking. I want so badly to raise you in a home that nourishes you in all the ways that you need.

You started gymnastics this year and you really are flourishing. Every week, you're so excited to be there that you can hardly even stay in line to wait your turn. You bounce and you twirl and you talk the instructors ears off. You love to help me cook and 'do chores.' You love to color. You love to paint. You love to read stacks of books with anyone who will oblige you (just ask any guest who has ever come into our home). You want to go to any playground, anywhere, every day. You live with reckless abandonment and dare I say, my twenty-five year old self wants to be more like you, my four year old. You give freely and try to send one of your toys home with any guest we have in our home. You talk a lot about what you want to be when you grow up lately and of course, it changes often, but my favorite one was that you wanted to move to Africa and be an astronaut. I've never met a kid more obsessed with birthdays. You talk about every birthday celebration you've ever been to at least once a week, but it is never about the presents. All you ever want is a balloon and cake, so a balloon and cake you will get. We usually try to keep it as simple as that, but four feels big to me, so I planned a surprise party for you. I love you more than blueberry pancakes.



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