I don’t have a lot of time to write today, so it’s a good thing this is going to be an easy letter. You are endlessly cute these days and I have been feasting on all your delightfulness.
First there’s the tiny baby at our church. His name is Cooper and you are completely in love with him. You talk about him a lot and get excited when you know you’re going to see him. You always ask “Can I pet the baby?” You do this not just to him but to every baby. (And to every puppy and kitty, too – you are a never-ending fount of affection. I am guessing your love language is touch.) The cutest thing about this Cooper baby is that you have come to use his name as a common noun, referring to your own babies as your “Teeny Coopers.” Sometimes you offer me one or ask me if I’d like to pet it.
You carry those babies around in a little plastic yellow bucket you got on Easter for gathering eggs after church. Usually you throw in your two puppies as well, and maybe Pooh, too. You call it your “basket” and you bring it anywhere I will let you. The other day when you were going to sleep you had all 5 of those little friends lined up on the pillow next to you, all about 6 inches tall. Perfect cuteness.
Your love for puppies has grown because of the presence of our contractor’s dog at our new house. Mocha freaked you out pretty bad at first. You wouldn’t go near him. Now you talk about him when we’re away, asking if you can see him and if you can pet him. When we’re around you two are thick as thieves. In fact, yesterday in a moment of inattention I left you unchecked a little too long and suddenly we couldn’t find you or Mocha. Patrick and I were outside screaming our heads off calling for the two of you. You were just standing out in the far north corner of the yard looking innocent. I don’t know what you crazies were up to but you definitely bonded with that dog.
Where do I even start? You are just all toddler in some ways. You ask over and over again for “The crazy song” (Trepak from the Nutcracker) and when it’s on you grab the ribbon kites I made for your first birthday and you jump maniacally around the room swinging the kites. As soon as the song ends you ask for it again. You randomly sing things that are on your mind – words you’re thinking about, things you’re doing, or one day just, simply, over and over “I know the words, I know the words, I know the words.” You have a deep faith in bandaids. You hold food in your mouth – such a classic! – sometimes for a half hour if I haven’t noticed, and not just the ones you don’t like, but candy. I think you just don’t want the taste to be over, and soon I see it beginning to drip down your chin.
So much that’s been endearing or hilarious this month has come in the form of things you’ve said, and the list is endless, growing every day. Yesterday was horrifying and hilarious all at once. I was explaining to you how our dear, precious friend Patrick will be moving to a faraway place in a few weeks to have a new job. You are not too happy about the prospect of losing your running buddy, since he takes you and Jacob on his runs in our jogging stroller, usually stopping at the park. When I suggested as we were talking that perhaps when Patrick leaves then Daddy can run with you your response was instant and confident and heart-breaking: “No, Daddy’s working,” you explained. “Oh honey,” I answered, “Daddy won’t always be working so much. This year he is working so hard to build us a new house, but when it’s all done he will hang out with you lots.”
A couple weeks ago you surprised me with your wise understanding of your own heart, and your calm ability to deal with it sensibly. I wish I were wise enough to handle my own emotional needs this way. We were hopping in the car after a quick errand and I told you’d I’d help with your seatbelt. Your simple, earnest response: “Oh, but, I will get sad.” “Oh,” I answered, “Do you want to do it all by yourself?” “Yes,” your eyes lit up. And your problem was solved.
You play the “I will get sad” card a lot lately, saying so matter-of-factly “I’m just sad about that.” There are times that I’m teaching you it’s inappropriate, like when Mommy gives you an instruction that you don’t want to obey. This morning, for example, you were getting all sad about the clothes I wanted you to wear. That in itself was darling – it’s so sweet and fascinating to me how engaged you are with your little world, since your brother has always been barely aware of his physical surroundings, deep in his own thoughts about the meaning of life and plumbing and fire engines. You, on the other hand, have your opinions, and you know how to articulate them. This morning you were bummed because you wanted to wear your “bootiful flower shorts.” But they were dirty and I was firm. You got pretty grumpy about it, and so, hoping to cure you, I sent you upstairs on a mission to ask Daddy if you looked beautiful today. You weren’t really playing along, but I tried.
(Tangent, on a related subject: You have a budding awareness of beauty that satisfies me down to my deepest soul. You point out things that you think are beautiful and you readily, un-self-consciously acknowledge and delight in your own beauty or the beauty of a favorite dress or outfit. The other day we were sitting on the steps at a new house enjoying a quiet moment together and your eye was drawn to the tiny tufts of bright green pollen on the porch beside us. “Mommy,” you said earnestly, “those leaves are very very bootiful.”)
Back to this morning: you stayed grumpy, being grumpy at breakfast, too. Pretty soon I laid down the ultimatum: You needed to get happy. I offered that you could choose to be happy, you could pray, or you could have a spank if you continued to be grumpy at everybody. You chose to pray, and then launched into this darling little prayer, “Dear God. Thank you for Jesus to come. And thank you for Patrick to come and Mommy to come and Jacob to come and Daddy to come. Amen.” And then just like that, you were happy. See, you are an extrovert of the highest order. You thrive on interaction with people. The thought of hanging with your people cured you.
One of your all-time favorites is Haxton, or, more respectfully but not nearly as cute, Mr. Haxton. He is a single dad we know here in town and he has captured your heart, along with his middle-school-aged daughter. When you heard on Tuesday that we’d be hanging out with them that evening you talked about it all day long. And one time when I was coaxing you into doing something or going somewhere your protest was simple: “But, I like Haxton.” You meant, “No, I want to hang out with Mr. Haxton now. Why is he not here?” That same sentence gets used in other various ways, like when you want to do something, for example: “I like Lowe’s” means “Can we go to Lowe’s?”
The best part is that you can’t form Ls properly yet and they usually come out as Ys. This is super-cute when you are saying “I Yike Patrick” and it’s even cuter when you announce to whoever will listen that “Mommy has a baby in her bewwy.” Best of all is in the car, how you always, always, always ask for the music to be “YOUDER.” I can already see you driving down the road with you hair blowing in the wind, windows down, music cranked all the way up, singing to the radio with your besties. It just can’t be “Youd” enough for you.
(Tangent #2: I recognized in a passing moment the other day how much your spirit captures my own. We were driving home from Menards (of course) and you were begging for the music to be louder, of course. Jacob was moodily mulling over something in the seat next to you. I was stressed and had been pretty irritated with you both throughout the day. Suddenly there was a flash of clarity and affection that made its way through my internal anxiety, and I saw you both for who you are and for who you will be. Jacob is my kindred spirit and I can see how he and I have potential to be deep soul mates over the years. You are going to be my Bestie – my girlfriend who likes life to be as loud and fast and crazy and happy and fun as possible, always. We are gonna do stuff together, girlfriend.)
The missing L is one of the only things yet to develop in your speech now, the other being your skewed short i sound, which comes out very, very long. Way back in the fall you used to say “I DEEED!” instead of “Yes.” That disappeared, but it’s reappeared a bit in your constant comment “I deeed it all by do myself!” The other hilarious manifestation of that is the constant discussion of who will be the winner. This usually has to do with driving in our two cars between our two houses, going up or down the stairs, or getting dressed or undressed. Whenever you win you shout with enthusiasm “I was the WEEENER!!!” It’s hard not to bust up laughing at you, you weener.
Mostly, I just love how articulate you are in your speech, and how effective at communicating exactly what you want. It’s not just fascinating to me that you KNOW what you want, but that you know just what to ask for and that you don’t think twice to ask. It’s like you think you deserve it, and that in my book is the best thing ever. You ask for such specific things, like your purple flip flops that are three sizes too small. I won’t let you wear them because they hurt your feet but you ask for them most every day, anyway. You end up settling for some other pair of shoes, but you are always quite particular on which one it will be. You come in the kitchen with such focused requests: “Mommy, please can I have some milk in a straw cup? And I want blue because I YIKE blue!” or “Mommy, I want to go to BUGS with you, and that will be my present.” (This because we went to BUGS on Jacob’s birthday.) or “Please can you scooch me in.”
Or perhaps my favorite, “Mommy, please can you snuggle me for a little bit?” You said this last night when I tucked you back in bed after a nightmare. You said it through a quivering, sleepy voice, but it was so clear, precise, articulate, calm, confident. You love to snuggle and I see you identifying it and drawing on it as your source of emotional energy, and I love to give that to you. Sometimes when it’s time for a nap you say you aren’t going to take a nap, you’re just going to hang out with me. When I hold my ground you ask to snuggle, and these days it has become my strategy for getting you to actually sleep. I snuggle you for a few minutes and then sit beside you rubbing your back or holding your hand or stroking your hair. Sometimes I crochet or type next to you and you touch my arm and drift off to sleep. It’s becoming our special Mommy and Merry time.
A few weeks ago we were snuggling thus and I was singing you a song. You asked for “your special song” which several months ago I finally realized was your appelation for Shall We Gather at the River, a hymn I’ve sung to you a million times since you were born. I don’t know why or how it became your song, but I think it was one of the things that spoke deeply to my own heart in those early months of your life – met some of my own internal struggles with hope and happiness. So now it is your song. I finished singing it and as we lay there snuggling I told you about the River. Told you the River is where Jesus is, and someday we’ll get to go there. I asked you if you wanted to go to the River. You said yes, but then with some timidity qualified it: “But I want you to go with me. And I will hold your hand.” And then, amazed a millionth times at the things you say, your mommy squeezed you tight and spontaneously burst into tears, crying big quiet crocodile tears right down her cheeks. You didn’t see them, and that’s probably just as well.
I love you.