You are a delight to us these days. You’re growing fast in body and mind. You’re such a big girl, so confident and independent and already learning to say whatever’s on your mind. You’re passionate, but we knew that already I guess.
You’re fierce and determined and intense. You climb, you beg, you demand things, you boss me around, you yell if no one’s listening to you. But you do it all so innocently and as soon as I say “Merry, ask nicely,” you change your tone and say “Pee, Mommmy, Dat.” We’ve been amazed at all your three and four word sentences lately and we know by your actual birthday you’re going to be talking more than we expect.
We love your piggie tails. (You do, too.) You love to play with your box of hair stuff which you call “Bows” and you are constantly pulling your piggies out. You also have been putting rubber bands around your wrists or fingers lately, leading me to confiscate those precious “bows” and keep them on a high shelf. But you in pig tails is just too much fun, and so, as you will see, I have been taking way too many pictures of you.
There has been some funny business this month. You showed us your dance moves on the 4th of July while we were at a friend’s very sophisticated party. It was a loft apartment downtown and to say you and Jacob were the only children there would be such an understatement that it makes me laugh. Anyway, you snuck up the stairs and found the room where the music was coming from – big fun, big band jazz. From downstairs where we were all properly drinking our gin and tonics it was ambient mood music. But from that little, dark, carpeted spare room it was as loud as a dance floor. So you danced. You let it hit you like wind in your face and you sank your toes into that carpet and you boogied and shimmied and giggled. I didn’t know it was in your genes. When I’d come back up to check on you I was really coming back up to see the show one more time.
The other night was another hilarious moment of typical Meredith style. You’ve been a piece of work after bedtime these days, sleeping out in the den while our buddies Charles & Lewis borrow your room for a month. We rarely get you in bed before 8:00 and then you still have another hour of party in you for some reason, so you’ve been into all kinds of business and most of it has been the getting out of bed kind. The other night we were already in bed, trying to get enough sleep to greet our 4:30 a.m. alarm clock and we heard voices down on the main floor that did not sound like our teenaged male houseguests. As we came down the stairs you were headed back to the basement stairs with all the speed of those dance moves I mentioned before. You caught the tiniest glance of my eye and I could see you feeling the terror and the Oh Crap all the way down in your toenails and on the very tips of your hair. Down the stairs you bumped, not looking behind you, and we stood there silently watching you, not wanting to give ourselves away until we could regain our Official Parent Faces and stop giggling. Daddy went down to deliver the Official Parent message about staying in bed and he saw the same look I did, and then some.
I just think it’s fair that you know someday that all this crazy business is stuff we laugh to ourselves about endlessly.
You are still perfecting the art of ignoring me and your strong will is becoming so apparent. You are so typical as a toddler, the way you love to color. The coloring happens so fast (like the dancing and the running back to bed) that your paper is full in a moment or two and you’ve moved onto the vinyl tablecloth, or as was the case this morning, the floor. I ignored that one because I was just so impressed to find you busy about your work upstairs when I came looking for you. I’d expected you to follow me to the basement to help with laundry, not wanting to be alone yourself, but you were confident and the sight of the crayons and the paper in your reach couldn’t be ignored. So eventually I will have to clean that crayon off the floor. The other thing you love to do with crayons is pick at them until the space under your fingernails is solid wax and there are little shards all over the floor.
You discovered my cherry tomato plant – the yellow sun sugar beauty potted by my porch chair, the same as every year. Once, w had a little snack, just the two of us, and after that it was impossible to reason with you about saving them for later. So you picked it clean of the ripe fruits and then kept at it. There’s basically nothing left, and over the last couple weeks there have been a lot of half-chewed green tomato remains on the porch or sometimes in my mommy-hand. I’m glad you like tomatoes. Maybe next year we will have a proper crop because you will be a year wiser.
You say everything we say and we never tire of listening. When I say “Here we go!” you say “Here we go.” When I say “Time for naps!” you say “Time for naps.” At dinner last night when we were praying “Lord, have mercy,” you’d always wait for the rest of us and then carefully say “Lo, Aah, MUMMY!” Jacob loves it, and always explains to us the difference between how you say something and how it really goes: “Merry doesn’t say ‘Popsicle’ she says ‘Pop-puh-puh!’” he announces a dozen times a day. He’s right. You do say “Pop-puh-puh,” and not a day goes by that you don’t talk about these favorite treats, always qualified by “green” since apparently that is your favorite color popsicle stick. “Neen POP-puh-puh!” Jacob gave you his little beanie baby puppy when we celebrated your birthday this weekend. He was really excited about the idea of making it yours so you could have both puppies and thus, appropriately, have “One…two…PUPPIES!” since that is another thing you say every day. So now you have just that, and they are collectively named “One…Two…PUPPIES!”
Another funny thing you’ve been saying lately is “Uh!! Me!! POTTY!!!” You say it almost every time Jacob goes potty and almost every time you are getting your diaper changed. You want a chance to sit on the potty and “go.” When I let you, you grin and wait a second, then get bored and announce “Splash” and hop down. Jacob never tires of telling everyone how funny it is the way you yell “Uh!! Me!! POTTY!!!”
You’ve got some new friends this month, chief of whom is Patrick, whose been coming over almost every morning lately. He loads you and Jacob into our running stroller and runs with you to the park of your choosing, where the three of you play your hearts out and then run home. Patrick gets his exercise and his cute kids fix and I get gobs of work done in peace. It has been a huge gift to me in a busy season and I am so thankful. Your other two friends are teenage boys living with us for four weeks of music camp. We connected with them through our church and we love them. You love them, especially, and of the two you have particularly taken to the younger one. You say their names and I am always finding that you’ve run downstairs to hang around while they practice or that you’re sitting on the couch snuggled up next to one of them watching them play games on their phones. It’s been really sweet seeing you thrive with all this company and attention and seeing your own affection for other people. You are positively shaking with joy whenever you see Patrick coming towards us.
The other night was one for the books. You woke six or seven times through the night and every time we had to go downstairs and help you calm down and go back to sleep. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My best guess is that you had a sore throat or something, since all your teeth seem to be in a holding pattern for now. Anyway, the last time it happened I rolled over and sent Daddy down to give you ibuprofen. I woke a few minutes later to hear you positively screaming and came to find that you were refusing medicine. I held you for awhile wondering if you were about to be initiated into the stomach flu club but that proved not to be it. Eventually we just held you and snuck it into your screaming mouth and comforted you while you gagged. Sure enough, you never woke again all night. But to get you back to sleep after that ordeal we ended up lying on the floor beside you, each holding one of your hands, snuggling you back to sleep. Daddy left after 15 minutes and I stayed another 15 till you were asleep, another 5 till I was, too, and another 25 till I woke up with a sore neck. Girlie, we love you to pieces. As we lay there watching you whimper yourself back into peace I said to Daddy that we have a true card carrying toddler, so different from Jacob who we never once comforted and coaxed to sleep in those early months and years.
You cry about a lot of stuff, and it is often a deliberate choice. Sometimes there are big, sad tears, but sometimes I can just see you turning on your faucet, whether it’s because you’re mad that you can’t ride Jacob’s bike or because you don’t like what Mommy told you. I’m praying for grace to know how to handle all these different tears well. I never want you to think twice about crying on my shoulder, but I never want you to think you can control me with it. So I usually just hold you and stand my ground and help you move on to something happier.
You sing a lot and our current obsession with Rock of Ages at bedtime means that is what comes out of your pipes most of the time. It is so precious to hear. You also love to sing our Psalm 95 from Saturday Worship. But my favorite is our Rain for Roots music in the car. You sing most of the songs with a surprising amount of precision, often handling all the vowels and most of the consonants you hear and staying on pitch pretty well. But one particular song, from Matthew 11:28-30, is the sweetest sound in my world these days. Your voice is so sweet as you sing “Come to me, walk with me, learn the rhythms of my grace.” It comes out mushy, but “my grace” is so clear, and it’s clear there’s very little that makes you happier than that song.
We celebrated your birthday on Saturday since Daddy & I will be away when you actually turn two. I hate this, but there was no way around it short of foregoing the opportunity to travel, since our week of singing – the reason for our adventure in the first place – falls right in line with your birthday. I’ve made my peace with it and it’s going to end up that you have three birthday parties, one before, one with Gramma on the official day, and one after. Your Before Birthday, due to your undying love for Eric Carle’s book, was a Very Hungry Caterpillar, complete with a picnic featuring salami, watermelon, swiss cheese, and pickles. You got some pretty great loot, and it’s been fun seeing you delight in it.
It was a disappointing day in some ways. The pool that I thought opened at 10 didn’t open till 11, and I had to be at a friend’s baby shower at 1:00. We were going to get the house all ready with balloons, but in the end the balloons got blown up while I made breakfast and they stayed on the floor this time instead of hanging from the ceiling as has become our custom. Our one planned pool day of the summer ended up being cold and windy and grey and our picnic ended up happening on our living room floor as the rain rolled in. It was pretty satisfying, though, sitting on that picnic blanket with you and your brother and Daddy and two of our favorite people, Patrick and Tabitha. Not bad for a rain plan.
I guess this is the year of the DIY birthday presents. Daddy sanded and painted a doll bed we picked up from a friend. I painted a little chest of drawers I found at Goodwill this spring, and I made you a doll quilt and pillow to go in your bed. When we come back in September for your After Birthday there will be even more painting to do, but more on that later. I have to tell you about the doll quilt, first. For some reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it as the weeks went by and I found myself facing a crazy week with your celebration scheduled for Saturday, after company on the calendar Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I knew there was no chance I’d do the hand-sewing part of the quilt if I didn’t capture the two hours of my weekly Monday night women’s bible study to get it done, so at 3:30 on Monday afternoon I plunged in with a stack of fabric leftover from a project I intended to do last year. Patrick took you to the park and I worked until my whole body was shaking from adrenaline. I got that quilt done, but it was full of poor planning and work done too quickly. Once I sewed a seam wrong and couldn’t find my ripper so I just cut the wrong piece of fabric off, cut a new one, and sewed the seam again, leaving the old edge still attached and hidden in the seam allowance. But I finished that quilt, a true crazy quilt, true not only in how it looks but in how it felt. I enjoyed that process and the reality behind it so much I wanted to record it here. Life has been nuts recently but ceremony, ritual, moments worth observing – they are still too important to miss out on. So I made you a crazy quilt, and sewn into that quilt is the story of the day I decided I couldn’t NOT make you one, and the story of this whole hard summer.
I was thinking the same things today as I paused my day to go dig up the rest of my garden that’s being demolished by our landlords. I didn’t have time. The truth is, I’m doing triage on life right now in anticipation of unexpected wisdom teeth removal two days from now. Did I mention we are less than two weeks away from launching a month of international travel? Our calendars were already spilling over before we realized this surgery had best be done promptly. So now I am trying to decide what I can skip, what I can gloss over. Today I wanted to tackle the list I was supposed to tackle yesterday (which was the day I spent handling my dental problems). But I slept in past 6:00 and chose to observe the cool, breezy, sunny day by spending time with you & Jacob watching cement mixers and playing at the park. And then I saw that the demolition was actually beginning on the garden and I knew today was the day. So after I put you down for your nap I pushed aside the work I had on my mind for another hour and meticulously worked to save bits of plants and a few tulip bulbs, to cut all the beautiful echinechea for a vase on our table so we can enjoy what remains of that artwork for the last days we are in town this summer. It felt right, refusing the urgent and essential for another hour or two (again), to do what had most meaning.
I want to show you what it looks like to live wisely, to choose wisely. I don’t ever want you to find as much on your plate as I have found on mine this summer. I hope never again to live as margin-less as I have in the last year, and part of what I am pursuing next month as I wander Europe with Daddy is the skill and art of making those hopes true for us. But life is always full, and God’s abundance is often more than we can carry. So when you find yourself drowning in the crazy and the busy and the crazy busy I hope you will listen to your gut and make the quilt anyway.
When you do, you’ll be making room for the kind of moment we got to enjoy on Saturday night as you went to bed with your dolly in her bed next to you. You kept getting out of bed to check on her and fuss over her, just like a new mommy. Once Daddy went down to find that you weren’t in bed but sitting in the rocker next to your doll, just watching her sleep. I’m so afraid these past months that my foolish choices that lead to too much on my plate will result in my children having less than I want for them – less of me, less space and time to thrive – so that moment of your quiet love and happiness meant the world to me.
I love you.