Dear Alex & Olivia,
I used to be really good at writing regular posts to you guys. Then again, you were both younger and, well, in Alex’s case, not moving around. The fact that I haven’t been writing is actually a testament of how busy you guys keep things around here.
Olivia, you are growing up and it’s happening way too fast. I feel like earlier this year you were still sort of in the older toddler stage. In the last few weeks especially, you seem to have exploded into a full on little girl. Your face has lost it’s baby chub and thinned out, and when I look at you I can imagine what you’ll look like 10 years from now. You are already beautiful, but I have this feeling we’ll be wanting to cage you because the boys will be following you everywhere.
In the past few weeks you’ve decided that making the house look “pretty” (as you call it) is actually fun, so you’ve taken it upon yourself to tidy up. This means getting the broom and sweeping, wiping the table, cleaning up toys and stuff, and even learning how to wash the dishes. Granted, you tend to use half a spray bottle of surface cleaner on the table and the dishes aren’t quite clean, but it’s a start. And, it’s a start that we will not discourage! I know we’ve got many years ahead of us where getting chores done will be like pulling teeth, so we’re going to enjoy the enthusiasm while it lasts.
You’ve taken on the responsibility of being a big sister on full force, which is good considering that when I was pregnant your typical response when we’d ask you about the baby was, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Sometimes you instigate things, but most of the time you try really hard to look out for and help your little brother, and that makes my momma heart melt.
You’re learning to read and write and it’s so fun to watch you discover the wonderful world of words. I love that I see your confidence soar when you figure out what a word says and know that you read it all by yourself. I’m so proud of you!
I think the biggest thing that drove home the fact that you’re growing up happened just two days ago. It was early and you walked out of your bedroom and said, “Mom, one of my teeth is wiggly.” You’ve had this fascination with losing teeth lately because a bunch of your friends at school are sporting holes in their smiles, so I thought you were just joking around – until I checked it out. I almost started crying. I wasn’t ready for that. The nail in the coffin came a few minutes later when we realized that you actually had two loose teeth. I don’t think I’m ready for you to start having “grown up” anything on you or in you, but ready or not, here we come! Since then it’s been fun to see how excited you are about this new thing and to talk to you about how it all happens and what to expect. In those conversations Daddy and I realize that not only is your body growing and changing, but that your person is too. We can have conversations with you and explain things and you get it. And it’s so fun!
As you grow up I think the weight of the responsibility that we have as parents is more and more apparent to me. This is a big job we have before us. As a mom, I want to show you what it means to be strong and confident, even when I don’t always feel that way myself. I want to teach you the traditional things of being a wife and a mother, but also show you that you don’t need to be limited to those things. I want you to learn that being feminine is a good thing, but that you can be strong too. I want you to see that you are beautiful, which means I need to be okay with who I am so you can have a good example of what that looks like. I want you to know how to love, so Daddy and I need to always be working at showing the two of you how to do that. Sometimes we’ll fail miserably, but I hope that we get some things right. You need to be able to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas which means I need to be willing to listen and just let you be, even if I might disagree or feel pulled between stopping for a few minutes and doing some other task. I hope you’ll be willing to give us a lot of grace along the way, because this parenting thing is hard.
Alex… In the past month or so I feel like we’ve stepped into a new phase with you, and I’m so glad. Don’t get me wrong, this whole baby thing is great and all, but you and your sister were entirely different baby experiences. Where she was chill and relaxed and willing to watch the world go by, you have been more needy and louder and busy. The last 6 months or so have been kind of draining, but I feel like we’re falling into a new rhythm and it feels good.
You’ve started trying to communicate in earnest, and it’s been so fun to see you go from babble to attempting words. It amazes me how fast your vocabulary is growing. For a while you were speaking equal parts Creole and English and we were waiting to see which one would be more prominent for you. In the last couple of weeks English has raced ahead and every day you surprise me with a new word. The best part is how excited you get when we understand you. Often you’ll say something waiting to see what we do, and when I repeat it you start to giggle and break out in a huge smile. It’s nice to have fast affirmation that we’re on the right track.
It’s interesting for Daddy and I to see our different personalities reflected in you. I wondered how that would play out. Daddy worried that you would be very intense like he was when he was your age, but so far you’ve shown yourself to be a great blend of the two of us, while being your own little self too. You need the physical contact that Daddy needs, and yet also need that with some quiet time after waking up, just like me. Daddy can jump out of bed and be ready to go, but not us. Nope, we need a few minutes to get our bearings before we’re ready to face the world. You like routine, like me. You are very mechanically minded, like Daddy. Watching you figure things out is like watching Daddy work through a problem. You love to eat all kinds of vegetables – definitely not like Daddy, thank goodness.
You’re becoming more independent. You’re getting more and more content to play by yourself and will go outside for hours at a time. You love to have stories read to you, but they aren’t just words. You are taking in everything on the page and associating it with what you already know. You watch everything going on around you and imitate, which is so fun. You love to be in the center of the action. When I mow the lawn you get excited, because it’s a machine, and you’ll sit and watch from a safe distance. When the mower comes near you, you run away to safety again. You love going for a ride anywhere, whether it’s in the wheel barrow or one of the trucks. I wish I would have taken a picture of your face when Ryan let you sit in the white truck while he drove it across the yard. It was obviously one of the best things ever. When I get out the mixer you come push a chair up to the counter just so you can be close to the action.
You have a wonderful sense of humor. For a while you decided that blowing zurburts on any bit of my exposed skin was fun. The more I laughed, the more you did it. When we say, “Smile like Grampa!” you make smile and scrunch up your eyes and look exactly like Grampa Jerry. You love to laugh. We recently had a pizza and movie night and watched 101 Dalmations. Several times you were cracking up, even though the rest of us couldn’t figure out what was so funny. You like to play dress up, whether it’s wearing your Super Alex cape from Auntie Andrea, or your sisters tutu. You are smart. I’m not just saying this because I’m your mom. You really are. Already we can see you reasoning through certain things. We can give you instructions like, “Go to your room and get your shoes” and you do, and if they aren’t in your room you know the other places to look.
Daddy and I have had to learn the art of relaxing with you too. You see, you’re a climber. You climb on everything. The car, the counter, the ladder to the roof or guard tower, motorcycles… you name it, you’ve probably tried it already. We’ve come to learn that you don’t do something that you aren’t comfortable with. And, that it’s okay to let you fall sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to let you fall off the roof, but it’s okay to let you learn that there are probably things you shouldn’t do. So far you haven’t done any major damage, so I’m going to chalk that up as a win. All in all, you are a fun little man that keeps life very busy.
I just want you guys to know how much we love you. Just the other day Daddy said, “You know, if we do this right, we could end up having a lot of fun as a family.” You guys bring us a lot of repeated sentences, fatigue and frustration, but that’s minor to the amount of joy, fun and laughter that you also bring to the table. It’s so fun watching you become little people and I find myself wondering what you’ll be like down the road.