Today is a pretty special, unusual day for our family, and since it’s also the 16th, you get to hear the story. Daddy’s new church had a single combined service instead of its usual 8:30 and 11:00 routine so we went together and we were home by 11:00. Walking into our house at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning already finished with church is the stuff of our dreams, girlie, because these last few years our Sundays are so busy and complex that it’s a good day if we’re home by 1:00. But today we are sinking our toes into these seven beautiful hours. You’ve just gone down for a nap and there are chocolate chip cookies on the baking stone in the oven. For the first time in months we made homemade pizza. We were all in the mostly-clean kitchen sharing in the work of putting on pepperoni and mushrooms. Daddy and I were sipping the Malbec we’d used to make the sauce just today. While the pizzas baked we snuggled on the couch watching the Jonah Veggie Tales movie. Maybe by the time you read this you will be surprised to think this is such a big deal. Maybe eventually we will live this way (the way we imagine) every week.
But these days, lately, are long and slow and often hard. The laundry is often finished in the dryer but rarely folded. The dishes are never done. There isn’t much margin for us, and early winter has already mostly confined us to the house. (As I write it is starting to snow.) And on weeks like this I’m reminded of what a good place it is, far away from the germs of the grocery store and the play group. We’ve had at least two different bugs going through our ranks this week. And while you and Jacob and I snuggle up at home, Daddy is working so far from home that he spends three hours a day in the car. He usually leaves in the morning before I’m even out of bed, but he never goes without preparing you and Jacob a present – a unique creation of cheerios and raisins at your seats at the table for you to discover when you wake up. And every night when you go to bed you tell him what you want your present to be. The other night when he asked you there wasn’t the slightest hesitation before you shouted out “A motorcycle!” You’ve been thoroughly trained in the ways of motor vehicles by your brother and you love a good ambulance or helicopter or motorcycle at least as much as he does.
A lot is different these days, but I’m here to tell you that you’ve seen nothin’ yet. The big news of the season is that you, my Big Little, are becoming a Big Sister. For now that means you have ample opportunity to snuggle with Mommy, since I haven’t been good for much else recently. It also means that I am getting big eager kisses on my belly many times a day. It’s so different how you just “get it,” not like Jacob who we trained a few months before your birth to point to my enormous belly when we asked “Where’s the baby?” I think you already know what’s coming on a pretty remarkable level. I think by your third birthday (the baby will be two months old then) you will have put most of the rest of the pieces together.
For now, I just have two things to say: First, I love that you are a snuggler. Who knows, maybe this baby will be joining our snuggle party. Maybe that won’t be his or her cup of tea, like Jacob. But either way, you will always be my Snuggle Bug. I had no idea how much I needed a snuggler or how much I would love it or how much it would teach me. There’s not much more special than my sweet little girl getting down from the breakfast table after I’ve put on some good, quiet hymns just because she wants to be with me. And then there we were, tummy to tummy with your head perfectly tucked into my neck and your arms around me, and there we stayed for half an hour, just the way you wanted it. I hope you won’t ever change, because I suspect I’m going to be loving my big toddler snuggles this time next year when I’m awash in a sea of new baby sleep loss and unexplained crying spells.
Second, Please Stop Knocking The Babies Over. Seriously, child. Every chance you get to be in the same room as someone smaller than you – even smaller by a couple months – you turn into a linebacker with a grudge. Sometimes you settle for taking a toy or pushing. Often you pull out your signature Meredith Face Grab. (This is not reserved for tiny people, and has been tried not only on your brother, who was sporting a couple nicks under his eye last week, but your mommy too.) But most of the time you go for the body slam, and last week after church you gave it a good running start, toppling over your almost-2yo buddy. Now, I don’t think there’s as much meanness going on here as just Crazy Stupid. But either way, it is time for you to learn what Jacob mastered at 14 months, as he began losing my lap to your growing body: BE GENTLE TO THE BABY. You have less than seven months to ace this test if you want a shot at holding this baby of ours when we finally meet.
This month has been so intense. The days have been shortening rapidly. The nights all bring hard freezes. We’ve all been all kinds of sick. Daddy’s been commuting. On top of it all we took a road trip – 9 hours each way – to a wedding and lived out of a hotel for three days. Two things to report from this adventure: First, you are a champ in the car. Second, you’ve got some serious dance moves, girl. You were out on the dance floor all night at that wedding, and as the party was ending and you were too tired to walk straight you nuzzled into my neck and I held you and we danced on my high heeled shoes together till the bitter end.
And then about a week after we got home we added a new dynamic to Crazy Town and started putting you on the actual potty. It is high time, because it’s been months since you first started grunting “Uh! Me! Potty!” every time I changed your diaper or helped your brother go pee. Now you are finally in on the action and you are so proud of yourself. You are totally kicking butt, too. And have more successes than accidents after barely ten days of on-and-off-again practicing. Your most common phrases are “My poopies are coming out!” (oddly, this actually means pee.) This is usually immediately followed by “Better run to the potty!” You are so good at the whole routine and you’ve thoroughly taken ownership of it. Your other common line is “Read me a story!” and sometimes I’m pretty sure you claim to need to go potty just because you know it earns you the right to demand a story. The other day Daddy was headed for the bathroom and you raced along with him, offering to help him, offering to read him a story. When he opted to close the door and enjoy some privacy, you plopped right down on the floor outside the door and went ahead with the story you promised him. Anyway, all this combined with the enormous amount of Naked that’s been happening around here lately has made our days always exhausting, sometimes tedious, and often completely hilarious. Not to mention the laundry. And your deep love of being “Nakey.” (And the small handful of scandalized visitors.)
I could say a million things this month: Stories of the first snowfall and the ridiculous number of hours I’ve spent sleeping in your bed at night for a dozen reasons and all the stupid arguments you get into with your brother, usually at your instigation. Reports of the full paragraphs (albeit missing a lot of consonants) you’ve begun to speak and the early onset of the “Why?” stage to keep up with your brother, or the hilarious moments when you try your hand at a “Because…” sentence. Or the way you impress your grad student friends by singing whole songs, reciting all the ABCs, or explaining things in perfect clarity and detail. There is also a lot to tell about your inner grump and how you put on your stormy pouty face when things aren’t going your way. (Often this has to do with our choosing a song other than Blessings Flow.) Also, I’m pleased to report that you’re beginning to notice your own ability to “not be grumpy anymore” the same way you notice the guy in Green Eggs and Ham, whose face you point to on each page with the perpetual commentary: “He’s being grumpy!” or the triumphant “He’s not being grumpy anymore!”
But mostly what I’ve been marveling at about you is your remarkably healthy relationship to food. I want to be like you when I grow up. Sometimes you are a couple bites shy of a clean plate and something just changes and you decide you are done. Even if it’s something you love, you know when your belly is full and nothing will persuade you to over-fill it. Then there was the day you turned down a candy in favor of an apple simply because you just wanted the apple more. (You’ve got a refined palate, to say the least: today when we put a teaspoon or two of our very dark, full-bodied, dry Malbec in a champagne glass so you could toast with us you took your first sip and then tipped the glass up, guzzled it emptym.) But perhaps the perfect vignette for who you are these days happened this morning as you stood, naked, in your chair eating your breakfast. You’d selected an orange jelly bean as a potty reward and from the kitchen I heard you call to me: “Mommy, I don’t really like this.” I came to see, and you handed me the jelly bean and sent it away. I just can’t stop giggling about your precious, smart little sentence: “I don’t really like this.” And I’m so proud of you for listening to your body instead of being greedy.
I love you.