My dear girl, I start with apologies. I straight-up missed your 21-month letter while in the throes of morning sickness with your baby brother. I started writing your two-year letter well before your birthday, but then we all got the black plague for all of January and most of February, and here we are in March, and I’m just finishing it. I’m so sorry, my girl, but I’ve been faithfully taking notes on all of the ways you’ve been growing and changing, and I plan to write them all out here in this novel of a letter. I hope this doesn’t serve as your first evidence of what being a middle child is like.
You have learned to talk in these past months; you’re still in that stage where your Dad and I understand you best, and even Owen can translate pretty well. But you’re speaking in short sentences, saying and trying out all kinds of words. Sometimes it takes us several attempts, and often I’m telling you to take out your paci so I can understand you better, but you really can say so much. You’re constantly saying, “I waaan ___,” telling us what you want. I have it, I do it, and oh boy! are your catch phrases. Your first words were Owie for Owen, juice, cacka, cheese, Nunny for Bunny, bapi for paci, gama for Grandma, and an enthusiastic paygoun! every time we’d drive by a park. Your favorite words is viyeeo, and you are always asking to watch a video, like I waaan viyeeo, mom. You try out the ABC song, hitting about 6 recognizable letters, and you count, often before jumping off the ottomans – 1, 2, 3, seven! Throughout the day, you ask me, Where da-ee go? and Whas tha soun, mom? over and over.You had about a two-month phase of constantly saying, “Uhh, Sa-ee!” which always made me feel like you have just done something you shouldn’t.You’d say it if something fell off the table or a tower fell down or if I dropped the kitchen towel. It was so sweet and cute. I hope I never forget the way you say, okay. You’ll ask for something, and I’ll say later, and you give me this resigned Okaaay. It sounds like a shoulder shrug. It’s so clear that you’re proud of what you’re able to communicate. We are working hard with Owen to remind him that you too have a voice now and need a chance to speak because your brother can talk non-stop, but you’re finding your voice and finding your place slowly but surely.
And with talking has come singing. You love to sing, Elsa. You are regularly breaking out into your version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which sounds something like, Ginkel Ginkel saaar, how won aaaaare, up bove hiiiiigh, ike dime! What’s funny is you have the melody down. I hear you softly singing EIEIO in the backseat of the car, over and over again. And you’ve just started to make up your own songs. A few weeks ago, you asked me to sing an Olaf song, and when I told you I didn’t know one and that you should sing, you immediately and confidently busted out: Obaf! Obaf song! Obaf Song! Fozen, fozen, fozen, fozen! Anna! It is so cute.
You are constantly asking me to sing songs that do not exist. A football song (in which I sing about you and your dad watching football), Owie/Khari/Daddy/Sosie song, in which I converted a music class song about animals: “I love my little Daddy, and my Daddy loves me, I’m gonna kiss my daddy ‘neath the old pine tree, my daddy says, ‘ElsaBelsaBoo, Belsa Boo, Belsa Boo.” You love it and ask for it on repeat, with name after name of people you love. Our naptime song routine has gotten a little ridiculous. You ask for a song, “Ginkel, Mommy,” and a third of a way through Twinkle Twinkle, you shake your head, smiling, and say, “Nooo!” Then it’s “Jeeeez,” and I start singing Jesus Loves me, and you do the same thing halfway through. An on and on it goes, usually ending with the Penguin song, a song I made up about your movie of choice these days – the Penguins Movie.
Elsa Girl, you love your technology. You always want to watch videos, and when I finally consent, you clap your hands with glee and laugh this funny stuttery laugh, often stomp-dancing your feet in excitement. It’s ridiculous. Your favorites are the Penguins (you walk around our house saying, I wach pingins, Dave! Ocpus! in fact, you say “Dave” instead of “octopus” when you see pictures of octopi in books), Frozen, Oooh Why (Super Why), Chuggington, Tiger (Daniel Tiger), and Ocnots (Octonauts). Closing the computer after a video has become a teaching moment, every time. You cry tears of devastation, big tears rolling down your cheek, even as we coach you to say thank you and calm down. You live for a stolen moment with one of our phones, and the same devastated routine happens every time you find one, and every time we take it away. After many quiet moments, I will often find you tucked in a corner of the house, quietly pressing buttons on the Pie-pad you’ve somehow found and sneaked away with. Your dad and I have committed to not allowing you to have a cell phone until you’re at least 27 to try to curb what seems like a God-given addiction to all things screen.
But you’ve also found your way with books in these months, ripping them less and less. You will quietly sit and look at book after book, and your ability to do that quietly and on your own still amazes me after going through year #2 with Owen. Your favorites are Elmo books, Hungry Caterpillar, Tumble Bumble, Moo Baa LaLaLa, and of course books illustrating Twinkle Twinkle and EIEIO I found at the library. You really love the No, David Books too, often asking for it with a Nooooo, Dave!
Overall, Elsie Belsie, you are a much quieter spirit. You love to snuggle; you give these fabulous hugs still, at random moments throughout the day, wrapping your arms around my leg, or resting your head on my shoulder, patting my back when I pick you up, nestling into my body as we snuggle and sing before nap. You are content to play on your own so much more than I remember with Owen. You love to play with the castle, moving all our little guys (especially Daniel Tiger and “Whoo Whoo” O the Owl) in and out of the compartments, giggling when they tumble to their demise on the floor. You find your dolls and walk them in their stroller through the house, heading to the park. You love to carry your babies around, laying them down on blankets around the house to change their diapers, even wiping between their legs. You are such a little mama, delighting at all things baby. You regularly ask me to lift my shirt so you can pat my growing belly, saying Hi, Baby in this sweet high-pitched baby voice you have. You give my belly hugs. You LOVE to sit near Emerson and Lawson, giving them pacis and toys and touching them and kissing them. It is just the sweetest thing to watch, and I can’t wait to watch you become a big sister in a few months. I joke that you’ll be more of a Smother than a mother, but I think you’re going to love having a baby around to take care of, Els.
But you are not always this quiet girl. You have a silly side to you. You run, your little legs pumping out these staccato steps, from the kitchen to the living room, yelling, “I fast!” You love to climb into your Dad’s armoire, onto Owen’s bed, onto our bed, up the couch, jumping off of chairs and ottomans. After baths, you love to run naked through our house, chasing and tackling Owen, or doing baseball slides on the carpet, yelling, “Ow!” For a while in December, you and Owen would naked dance, singing “Monkey Dance! Monkey Dance! Monkey Dance!” dancing like two crazies, banging on our drum and pounding on the piano before falling down together and giggling, almost like you were putting a show on for us. It was so funny. At playgrounds, you are fearless, climbing up things much too hard for you, going down slides with abandon. Your gusto landed you and I in the ER this summer, as you scooted around our house on a Tonka Truck, hitting a crack between the kitchen and dining room, planting your chin on the floor first as you fell. You bled and bled, and we spent a few hours waiting to get your first stitches. You were brave and mostly calm and serene.
And you definitely have become two. You have so many opinions and definitely let us know when things don’t go your way. You get made and throw whatever’s in hand. You immediately stick out a pouting lip to let us know what you’re unhappy. If you’re ever spurned (or pushed!) by Owen, you are devastated and let out an angry wildcat cry. Timeouts in your crib calm you down (if we give you your precious paci); when we lift you out, you are usually crying a sad “Sa-ee!” and usually just the mention of a finger flick hurts your feelings enough to make you stop whatever it is you’re doing. Your most regular moments of mischief include: eating dry rice out of the sensory box, coloring on surfaces that do not call for it, playing in bathroom water when you’ve been told not to, sneaking out the back door, running away in parking lots or into the alley as we get in the car, and taking our phones in secret.
You love to be involved, to help. At least once a day, I hear you singing “Ceem Up! Ceem Up!” as you take the initiative to put the blocks away. Which is helpful, because you are the Master of Entropy, Elsa. You take everything out, you love to dump buckets of toys out. You love to help me do dishes or to help me cook. Possibly your favorite pastime is to dangerously stand on top of the toilet and play with the bathroom sink water, washing your hands, using cups to fill and dump water, walking around our house with cups of water, leaving puddles for us to step in. You LOVE water. You went through a stage of loving to turn lights on and off, of sticking things down my shirt (bunny, paci) and laughing hysterically when I popped them back out of my shirt. We would play this over and over again. You are just so fun right now, Elsa. You delight in dogs and cats, squealing with delight over mud and flowers and the hundreds of pairs of shoes you try on every day (your favorites are your hello kitty shoes and rain boots). You have ideas about what you want to wear, and you bring me wardrobe changes throughout the day. You are drawn to pinks and purples and your Frozen apparel.You love your assortments of winter hats. You let me do your hair, and you are safely past the mullet stage. You rock a pair of pigtails and have strong opinions about which barrette we should use to pull back your bangs out of your eyes (your favorite is the owl one). I recently started putting a little messy topknot in your hair, and there are moments you look 16 with that look. It wigs me out. You love it when I put “lipstick” (chapstick) on you. Your eyes are still bright and beautiful and noticeable, and your smile is broad. You still give us that wide open mouthed smile, especially when you’re surprised. I hope you always do some version of that.
I don’t want to forget your feelings about food. I wouldn’t say you’re picky. There are certain things you eat with gusto – cheese, grapes, jigse, pasta, mac n cheese, crackers, cheerios, ‘cados, applesauce. But you don’t always love meat. You want to eat the second you wake up, asking “Cheerios?” the second you see your dad or I in the morning. You eat the entire bowl, handling utensils like a pro, sipping out the milk alongside your dad in the morning while your brother and I slowly wake up and think about eating breakfast sometime later. You are a creature of habit, and if we wait too long to eat dinner at night, you kind of fall apart, spazzing if we move your plate away while we pray. But most often, you fold your hands quietly and proudly look around as we pray, so happy to be participating.
We’ve had a busy fall and winter, going to Gleason’s gym where you hang off of every surface and bounce more and more confidently on the trampoline. You love to jump in the foam pit. We flew to Colorado on your first flight for a family reunion this summer, and you napped on my chest like a tiny baby on our return flight. You love to attend our music class, delighting in the instruments and movement as you still love dancing. Probably your favorite destination is the zoo – you love to see the animals. We stay busy seeing your friends – you love to see Rachi (Archi), Ollie, Stella, Khari, Lawson, Em’son, Mi-oe (Milo), PeaBelle, and Binkin’. (Almost every day before nap, you hug the pink bear that the Johannsens gave you at birth and say, “Give me PeaBelle, Give me Binkin, Give me Accus! Give me Dekrick!” You LOVE the Johannsens.)
One of my favorite recent moments with you was as we walked up the stairs to our music class. We had been quarantined at home for weeks, all of us taking turns getting sick throughout January. As we slowly walked, step by step, up to the second floor, this herd of fourth graders stampeded past us. Owen immediately stopped, ducked his head down, and screeched. You lifted up both hands and jubilantly yelled, “KIDS!” You love to say hi to other kids and are so friendly to people in grocery stores, giving smiling waves to anyone who initiates.
And you love us, your family. Anytime the phone rings, you shout an enthusiastic Haawo! Da-ee? You blow kisses when your dad leaves, often asking, “Hug? Hug? The minute he’s out the door.” Anytime you see the gmail screen up on my computer, you are asking Da-ee? Daee? You kiss screens when we video chat with family members or dad during lunch. You blow kisses and give out Ove Yous to me as I leave you to nap. You run to the door on your dad’s return.On the rare days that you wake up before Owen, your ears perk up at the first sound he makes, and you cry, Owie wake! as you sprint towards his door. You desire closeness and sometimes have it in you to snuggle with me in bed upon waking up before heading off to your beloved cheerios. You are full of love, Elsa Girl.
For your second birthday, we kept things a little simpler. The Johnsons, Propsts, and Anikpos met us at Gleason’s Gym, where we took a sprinkle donut break. We had mac n cheese for lunch, and later that night, we ate pizza (with your beloved Manch dressing) with your Grandma Karen, David, Julia, Emerson, and your even more beloved Sol. You knew the night was about you. You smiled and chased Sol around. You beamed while we sang happy birthday to you. You tore through your presents, delighting in each one, oohing over the art supplies, tightly hugging the cat your cousin Sosie got you (which you now sleep with every night).
We celebrated you that night, and all you’re becoming. So often I look at you and just silently whisper a prayer of thanks. You are everything I could want in a daughter, and now that I think you’ll probably be my only daughter, I find myself praying regularly that you and I will always be close, that we will always be able to make each other laugh, that your sweet spirit will grow with you. When I envision our family a few decades down the road, I see you as a connector, the glue who draws us back in. You are full of light and life and fun and love, and I’m so thankful I get to be your mom, Elsa.
I love you with so much fierceness and so much gentleness.
Things You Love: videos, books, paci, bunny, Frozen (show and apparel), music, singing, dance, other kids, your friends, us, your grandparents, babies (Emerson and Lawson), all animals (especially dogs, cats, penguins, rabbits, octopuses, birds, squirrels, and leapords), bringing me food from your play kitchen and singing happy birthday, snacks, treats (ice cream and popsicles), running, playgrounds, swimming, having your two blankets on at night, Baby Stella, Missy Cat, Pink Bear, Bunny, Little Puppy (your sleeping gang), screens of any kind, your dad’s guitar, taking “me-i-cine,” stickers, paint, doing art, coloring, playdough, playing with Owen, jumping on the bed or couch, yelling, “Cow, Cow, Duck,” and falling down on “Pirate!”, going to see your dad at work, going to “gapa’s” house, baths, being naked, playing outside
Things You Hate: diaper changes, when Owen won’t play with you, ending a video