Well, it took 19 months, but I officially missed the mark on your letter. I'm a day late. Years from now, I hope this isn't the first thing you mention to a therapist as the turning point that pushed you into a life of criminal activity.
To explain the lapse, I have been a bit busy this month. I'm starting a photography business. Every spare ounce of energy has gone into getting it off the ground. And I hope by the time you're old enough to read and understand these letters, you'll know it turned into something that is going to help put you through college. That is my biggest wish.
You should also know that you were my very first portrait. Even though you're not interested in the slightest when I have a camera slung around my neck, you're always a good sport. You love going upstairs to get funky on the dance floor -- otherwise known as my backdrops -- and play with the quickly growing pile of props.
Eventually you'll probably hate going up there as I ask you to help me try out a different lighting setup or practice with a new prop or backdrop, but one thing's for sure, there will be a ton of pictures of you over the years.
Thanks for being such a photogenic muse.
Since all of my head space has been taken up by worrying about what to name my company, scheduling sessions, making business cards and mastering all of the manual settings on my new camera, I haven't really thought about what I wanted to tell you this month. Normally I spend the days leading up to your letter jotting down little notes of things I want to mention.
But lately my jottings have included reminders of what I need to tell my web designer.
So I'll just wing it. You always give me plenty of material.
I've noticed how meticulous you are with your food. If we serve you something in a little glass bowl, you take a bite then take everything out and pile it on the side of your placemat. Then you take another bite and pile it everything back in the bowl. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
It's fine with something like honeydew chunks or Cheerios and raisins, but meatballs with sauce gets a little messy.
You've also stopped eating meat for the most part, which is driving Dad crazy. He's worried you're becoming a "stinking vegetarian." Because, to him, who would voluntarily want to give up the best food group? The one with hot sausage and steak and bacon? If he was forced to choose, he would easily give up everything else and just exist on meat for the rest of his life.
When something tastes good, you now say "nummy, nummy." One of the songs on your Wiggles CD talks about making fruit salad, and at the bridge they sing, "yummy, yummy."
One afternoon this month, in the space between that song and the one before it, you looked at me and said, "NUMMY! NUMMY!" It was amazing to realize that you knew which song was coming next. I'm constantly wowed at what you comprehend when you're able to convey it.
When it's not nummy, you're Mmming. A bowl of blackberries at breakfast? I get serenaded with Mmm Mmm throughout. The same goes for any kind of fruit.
Your friend Jackson came to visit last weekend and his mom brought some mandarin oranges that she was kind enough to share with you. When it became clear you would not be content with just one or two wedges, she offered you the whole container. And I'm not kidding, you ate it in two fistfuls.
Then, with your mouth jam packed with oranges, you looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked for more.
What you lack in meat, you certainly make up for in fruit.
You're still saying Mommy frequently enough to make my ears bleed, but now it's interspersed with "more." Only when you say it, it sounds like mir.
Mir? Mir? You always want mir.
Mir grapes? Mir swimming? Mir milk? Mir music? Mir books? Mir juice? Mir everything?
But sometimes there isn't mir. Sometimes that's the end. And when that happens, you still shrug your shoulders and say "go." Which means gone.
Toddlers really should come with an interpreter.
You aren't old enough to argue with me yet and I'm really thankful. You can't say things like, "Actually Mom, there's more juice in a container in the fridge. Nice try." You just accept that when I say it's gone, it really is gone. Then in miraculously regenerates itself overnight so we have mir juice the next day.
You did, however, say two full sentences this month. You said, "I got it." And "What is that?"
The first sounded like "Eyegoddich!" But the second was clear and concise.
You've been waking up with nightmares, which probably scare me more than they do you. When that happens, I try reading you a story then putting you back to bed.
The latest was a bit tougher than usual, but once you calmed down enough to sit in my lap, I cracked a book to a page with a lot of pictures of individual items. We've read this book a thousand times, and I always ask what each item is because you know enough to say most of them aloud. Cup. Nana. Spoon.
But this time, when I opened the book, you pointed to the banana and said, "What is that?"
I'm sure you'll understand when I tell you it took me awhile to respond. I had to regain my composure first.
No one would've needed an interpreter for that one.
Another word you like to use is "tee" for teeth. You love to brush your teeth, which probably has more to do with the taste of the trainer toothpaste than it does the actual action itself.
We keep a cup with your toothbrush and your paste on the dresser above your changing table and we ask you to brush in the morning after breakfast and at bedtime after your bottle. But you want to brush every time you get your diaper changed.
During that time all I get asked is, "Tee? Tee? Tee? Tee?" When I say no, you still ask again.
"No? Tee? No? Tee? Tee?"
A lot of times, you know when the answer is going to be no, but you still ask anyway. You'll stretch your hand toward something you're not allowed to have and look back at me and ask, "No?" Like you need confirmation.
You use the word no in lots of different ways, but my favorite has to be nokay. You love saying OK when I ask if you'd like to do something, but when you bump your head or if something doesn't meet your approval, you whimper, "Nokay" and run over to pat my back and say "huggie." You take comfort in comforting.
I'm sure the next phase of language development will be honing your vocabulary to make each sound correctly, but nokay is so cute I don't want you to lose it.
I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but your favorite thing in the entire universe besides Bunny and Bear is the TV show "Yo Gabba Gabba."
I'm not sure how your father stumbled upon it, but he decided that would be the show you guys would watch together and now it has morphed into an obsession. You have stuffed animals of all five characters and scream like a 10-year-old girl meeting Hannah Montana in person when I turn on an episode for you.
The whole neighborhood hears it.
You love that show so much that when we ran errands last week and I told you we were all done and going home to see Toby, you looked at me from your spot in the shopping cart and asked, "Gabba? Show?"
Screw Toby, right? He can't dance and sing about not biting your friends.
In fact, that's one of the few words you say very clearly. And often. I figured Grandma wouldn't be too far off from Gabba, but apparently I'm wrong. Maybe if we could get your grandmothers a guest appearance on the show, you'd be able to say it.
Until then, I'll tell them to put on a red suit with one eye and dance around saying "Grandma."
Short of that, they're shit out of luck.
We have so many Gabbas on our DVR that I've learned all the songs by osmosis. I like to use those 20 minutes to get things done around the house without you trailing behind me tearing up what I'm trying to clean, but the songs are so repetitive, they're impossible not to pick up on.
The lyrics to one song, and I'm not making this up, are: Snacky snack snack snack snack snack. Snacky snack snack snack snack snack.
The songs have become something we sing to you in context during the day, and every time we do, you light up like, "Whoa! You guys GET my magical Gabba universe."
In the process, you've also started to sing. We ask you to sing a song about Toby and you tilt your head back and forth as you sing the word Toby amid indiscernible garble. Then we ask you to sing about a cup and you'll do the same with cup as your primary lyric.
You have the sweetest singing voice. It's soft and lovely.
In contrast, however, you also know how to sing to Daddy's music. When he puts on a metal song, you start head banging, pumping your fists and growl "Raarrr, rarrrrrr, raarrrrrr."
I've tried to get it on video, but you like to watch yourself as soon as I pull out the camcorder. But now I have a secret weapon. My new camera takes video. So there.
Lady, this month has been just as wonderful as the rest. Well, besides the tantrums, of course, but we're working on that.
You are an absolute joy to be around. You are constantly becoming more and more of a little girl and less and less the baby I cooed over. But you're not grown up enough yet to resist when I ask for a hug or a kiss. You still lean your head on my shoulder when I carry you up the stairs when you're exhausted. You love sitting in my lap.
After a day of shopping with you and Jackson and taking you guys to the park, Courtney and I stayed up late talking about how much our lives have changed since high school. And how much you guys have changed them for the better.
I admitted that there was a time I didn't want kids. Until my early twenties, I sort of cringed at the thought. It really wasn't something I pictured in my life.
Perhaps I just hadn't met the right guy yet because when your Dad and I got married, I knew we would have you.
Courtney and I wondered aloud why anyone would willingly pass up the opportunity. Yes, raising you is the most demanding job I've ever taken on. But the joys far outweigh the responsibilities.
You bring another dimension to life. You've reintroduced me to the simplest pleasures.
Even if it's just how nummy blackberries are.