Twelve months

June 13, 2015

Dear Eva,

One year ago, I met you for the first time. You were so tiny, laying on my chest — this strong, beautiful, perfect little person. Over the last 12 months, we watched as all the parts of you unfolded like a flower: your features, your body, your personality, your voice. I know this is only the beginning, but I also know that I will look back at this day in years to come amazed at how much you were already yourself.

You are the epitome of a one year old: pointing at everything, starting to wave hello and goodbye, smiling with eight little teeth, babbling for minutes at a time, right on the verge of walking, able to answer questions like where’s the lion? and which one is the dog?. You also happen to be exactly the same size I was at 12 months: 27 pounds, 32 inches, in some percentile that doesn’t even have a number.

You had many adventures this month, including your first trip to the zoo. Granny and I held you up so you could see all the animals, and you pointed and squealed — especially when you saw the elephants, even though they were so far away.

We also took you on your third camping trip, this time with two of your favorite people (and ours too). Our beloved camp baby from last summer returned, and your highlights included crawling around to gather sticks and rocks, napping outside, and playing on the playground.

And did I mention how much you love your Auntie Krystal? You think she’s pretty much the best.

The grand finale of your first year was your best adventure yet: our week-long trip to Tahoe with the Rices. Seven days of exploring new places, swinging at parks, splashing in the water, and figuring out ways to be your cousin’s partner in crime.

On your birthday, we got onto the guest list for a residents-only park and had the most perfect day there, sunbathing and standing in the lake and playing in the wading pool.

We came home and had your first cake, a funfetti cake that Aunt Lindsay decorated with sprinkles and your name and the white bear candle holder that granny bought for you nearly a year ago. You cried when we sang Happy Birthday, too overwhelmed by the commotion, by being the center of attention. But I think the cake made up for it.

Everyone brought you such sweet presents — books and toys and new clothes — but you were particularly smitten with one toy in particular: a little stuffed dog that I’ve been waiting to give you for months. As soon as you saw him peeking out of a bag on the table, you had to have him. We named him Uno, and he’s the first toy you’ve really seemed attached to. I’m sure it’s my own childhood affection for my own stuffed dog (his name is Brandon and you can meet him someday), but it brought such joy to my heart to watch you carrying him around all night.

When you’re older, I hope you look back at your birthday and think, wow, I was so loved. Because you are, profoundly, by everyone around you. You are constantly charming them all, strangers and friends alike — and then when you’re done being our little people person, you crawl over and curl your body into mine and press your cheek against my chest and you’re my baby girl for a few more minutes. The independent moments and the astonishing moments and the mundane moments and the tender moments alike, I tuck them all away in my heart, thankful for the way each one is a part of who you are, of who you will be.

I love you with my whole heart. Happy first birthday, Eva Joy.

Eleven months

May 13, 2015

Dear Eva,

There are hundreds, thousands of things to love about you. But here are 11 things I’ve especially loved about your 11th month — and especially love about you as an 11 month old.

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1. You started swim lessons this month, and I love the way you push off the edge of the pool into my arms. We’re supposed to sing a little song — Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a big fall! — and you’re supposed to come in on the last word. But now that we’re four lessons in, you can never wait that long. My little water baby.

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2. I love that you always want to do the next thing, to be in the next phase. You’ve been practicing your free standing and walking while we hold your hands, and sometimes you try to crawl so fast that you tumble over yourself because all the parts can’t keep up. You just always think you’re a little bigger than you are.

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3. You’ve discovered that you can sit on the floor and spin yourself around and around with your feet. It’s pretty much the best.

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4. When you’re really tired, or when I pick you up from school, or when you don’t feel well, or when you’re playing at being shy with strangers, you curl your little body into mine and rest your head on my chest. Please keep doing that forever.

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5. All of a sudden, your cheeks got so much softer. They still look the same, but daddy and I know the difference because we kiss those cheeks about a million times a day. I loved those firm baby cheeks and I love the squishier toddler cheeks too.

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6. You are constantly finding new treasures — an applesauce lid, a pen, a bookmark, a small flashlight, coasters, the remote for your canopy lights, a ponytail holder, in rare cases a toy from your What’s Inside box or an animal from your Canada train — and because you are a woman on the go, you have to find new ways of carrying them. It’s not uncommon for you to crawl around with something in each fist and some other item in your mouth. If you could find a way to crawl with daddy’s shoes in your hands, you would do that too. It is pure delight, watching you devise new ways of doing things every single day.

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7. I love all of the little summer jumpers you’ve started wearing, although the emergence of the 18 month wardrobe (and, in some cases, 24 month outfits) means bidding farewell to the 12 month clothes, to which I have become much too attached. Goodbye, little constellation jammies. So long, little geometric flower romper. I will miss you, little floral peasant blouse.

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8. We are all very excited about your new high chair (as opposed to the old one that attached to a dining chair and which I knew you would inevitably tip over backward one of these days) and less excited about your increasingly discriminating palate. You are well on your way to a reprise of the Allison Towers Hunger Strike of 1986, in which I ate nothing but Cheerios, yogurt, and cheese for months. Your list may also include applesauce and cheese crackers, plus salmon for Granny and mandarins when you’re in the mood, but not much else (unless it’s a bit of goodness knows what that you found on the floor, in which case you eat it immediately). You even rejected cookies on your first visit to our favorite cookie bakery in Hood River. That was weird.

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9. I love that we have conversations. Even though I have no idea what you’re telling me. Even though you know nothing of indoor voices. Especially when you laugh at yourself or gesticulate wildly or clap while you’re talking or babble with a cadence that feels like sentences, like thoughts strung together. I feel like I can sit and watch you learn language, word by word, far beyond what you can say yourself.

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10. You’ve been going to music class for a few weeks now, and you clearly have favorite songs (and not so favorite songs). When it’s time to put the instruments away, the bigger kids all help push the tub of drums and tambourines to the other end of the room, and you crawl right after them, trying to be big as always. You especially like when the teacher lets you pluck the strings of her ukulele. Maybe you’ll learn to play the guitar just like your granny and grandpa.

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11. You are passionate and fearless and strong, feeling every feeling with every part of yourself. This is my favorite thing about you, but it’s also the thing that scares me — because I don’t like when your little heart hurts (and some days come with a lot of tears), and because I don’t always know what to do with such big emotions in such a small person, and because I don’t always feel like I can be the mom you need, the mom who guides you and encourages you and shows you how to wield that passion and boldness without suffocating it but also without letting it control you. But then I’m reminded that I’m this way too, and so is your granny, and so was your great granny, and it is this legacy that is yours, generations of strong women who were also thoughtful and gentle and gracious and tender. And we pray and believe that the Spirit — the same Spirit who we prayed would rest on and dwell in you — will make you this kind of woman too.

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It feels like you come more alive, become more your own little self, with each passing week. It has always seemed fast, but this feels different in ways I can’t explain. I can’t ask you to slow down, but I hope I can so at least I can watch it all happen.

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Happy 11 month birthday, Eva Joy.

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Ten months

April 20, 2015

Dear Eva,

If you were writing this month’s post, I think you would entitle it, “Look at my body and all the amazing things it can do!” And we all agree.

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It started with the week of shrugging. Every time someone would shrug at you, you would imitate with a big smile on your face. Then we had the week of clapping. Everything was claps. Play time claps, changing table claps, bath time claps, high chair claps. Soon after clapping came shaking your head (and, every once in awhile, nodding). You have no idea that it means no, but we laugh like you do.

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And finally, after weeks of scooting and rocking and lots of frustration, you started crawling. It began with the wounded soldier — one leg out to the side, pushing off with your toes — but quickly progressed into legit crawling, with such confidence that it seems like you’ve been crawling for months. Over, under, and through, around the dining table, between the arms of the jumperoo, on top of daddy’s legs when he’s sitting on the floor.

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Easter was especially delightful as we helped you discover all the eggs we “hid” for you. And two days after Easter, when you realized there was an egg in the dining room that you missed, you crawled right to it, opened it up, and ate all the Cheerios inside.

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Was it even days before you started pulling up? It feels like only hours. Because standing is your favorite, I think you were even more excited about pulling up than you were about crawling. Now the living room is like circuit training. Crawl to toy basket; sit and pull all the toys out. Crawl to ottoman; pull up and put anything within reach on the floor. Pick items up from the floor; drop them back onto the floor. Cruise around the ottoman; experiment with free standing at intervals. Transfer to the sofa; try to climb up (unsuccessfully, for now). Sit down; get stuck or hit head; workout complete.

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When you aren’t pulling up, it’s because you’re preoccupied with pulling things off or out — magazines off surfaces, books off shelves, toys out of bins. You’re learning about bookshelves that are yours (where you can pull books off whenever you want) and bookshelves that are mine and daddy’s (where you can touch but can’t pull books down). And your sense of how things should be continues — like when a toy is trapped inside another toy. That is simply not to be tolerated.

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You’re also learning about toys that are much more complex, like the stacking rings and the What’s Inside box. Every time you pull the frog out of the box, you squeal excitedly. Not for the car or the fish or the butterfly — only the frog. You love to turn the pages of the books while we’re reading, and you adore the little plastic books that fit your hands. You also hold onto the yellow square for the stacking rings while you use the other hand to empty all three pegs. I wish I knew what made the frog and the yellow square so special, but I guess that’ll have to stay your secret.

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Your limbs and mind aren’t the only things that have become more discriminating this month. You are suddenly very aware of foods and their textures, performing fun feats like picking bits of fruit out of yogurt or separating chunks out of a mashed mixture. I can’t blame you for rejecting slimy foods; they aren’t my favorite either. But while you’re taking things out of your mouth, you’re also now quite adept at putting the pacifier into your mouth. That does make car rides much easier, so I guess it’s a tradeoff.

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Of all your achievements this month, sleeping through the night is undoubtedly your least favorite, but it’s a real crowd-pleaser. I still wish we were all as bright eyed and bushy tailed in the early morning light as you, but it’s hard to complain. Because every morning, when we walk into your room and find you kneeling or standing in your bed and watch your face light up with a big smile the moment you see us, it’s impossible to complain about anything.

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Happy ten month birthday, baby girl.

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