My sweet girl, that’s just it. You’re a girl now. Gone is any trace of baby fat, you are, hands down, the skinniest little wood nymph I know. Your hair hangs long down your back, blonde and shiny and straight, still wanting to be parted only on the side. You detest having it brushed, only solaced by a video; otherwise, it sounds like I am performing an exorcism. You prefer it down, or occasionally in two french braids, like Princess Anna. You run around in the most exuberant outfits, like when you came downstairs last week, dressed in bright floral leggings, a magenta tu-tu, a Minnesota Twins t-shirt, and sunglasses, wanting to be fancy for Dad’s birthday. You are almost always in pink. You like necklaces and pizzazz. You have all these opinions about what to wear – how to accessorize, shoes, hats – on a given day. You regularly pair things like a flowing tunic of orange and pink with pants of the same color, kitten socks, and a unicorn necklace, and it is overwhelmingly colorful and utterly you. You are taller now, your legs have stretched out, but you are just a skinny minny, as I call you.
Your dad is already prepping for your teen years, worried that all the boys will be drawn to your beautiful eyes like we are. They are hazel green, large, with the darkest, longest eyelashes. You look like a fawn, your eyes large for your face. This year you had some freckles appear across your nose and cheeks, and I just love them. Maybe because I feel like it connects you to me, your freckled mom. But mostly because you’re just so incredibly beautiful. I can’t believe you are ours.
The last letter I wrote was when you were three. And now you are just months away from five. And I apologize. I am really behind on these. But I’ve been keeping ample notes on my phone whenever I’d notice something spectacularly you or you’d say something funny, like when you heard church bells the other day and said, “Oh listen! It’s the Taco Bells!”
It is just an absolute pleasure having you as a daughter, Elsa. You run on tiptoes everywhere in our house. You sing, all the time, making up songs. I constantly find you engrossed in a pretend world of Paw Patrol characters mixed in with your doll house gang, with a lego guy or two thrown in for good measures, in a high-pitched whisper voice, creating interactions between them, moving the story along. Often, Owen will come along and want to join in with a superhero or Star Wars lego, or Lewis will want to join in, much to your dismay, with his Godzilla-like fine motor skills.
And the way you pray, Elsa. I keep telling Dad we need to record it. You talk to God, like He’s really there, which, of course, He is. Dear God, I just love you. I worship you. You created the WHOLE world. You made the cardinals. And this food. Thank you, God, for this food. You’re the best God. Soooo powerful. I love you, God. You finally conclude with a subtle hint from your dad with a hearty Amen!
You are a source of light and fun and zest in our house. You love to be involved in the elaborate imaginary scenarios Owen creates: catching The Creature, or your endless games of Don’t Touch The Kryptonite (lava). You astounded us all with how high in the tree you can climb. You took endless trips up and down our sidewalk this summer, on your pink scooter, often in a tshirt and tutu, or maybe in just a swimsuit, and always with bare feet. Your hair would be flying behind you as you raced down the sidewalk. You love to ride bikes and would use your blue bike with training wheels to race Owen on his scooter, and you got surprisingly close to riding your bike without training wheels by the end of summer. You lived for any moment that I would hand over to you the power of the hose, watering the grass, the plants, the sidewalk, the car…your brothers. You are a fish in the water and have just learned how to put your face under. You and Owen and I swam out to the dock at the little beach on Lake Nokomis the first time this summer, and in deep water you flip and turn, and swim like a mermaid in your floaties. We tried out a waterpark for the first time, and you were ALL-IN to climb the sixty steps up to the high slide with me, and wanted to go again and again. You have so little fear, and I admire that so much about you!
You spent hours outside hitting balls off the tee with your dad, and enrolled in your first tball class this summer. You enjoyed it, especially when you got to hit. And girl, you’ve got a good swing. Although, when it came time to practice catching and throwing, I’d often find you sitting in the sand, drawing with your finger.
And you’re in your second ballet class with Miss Bri. You are always excited to go…you dress in your ballet clothes, and your ballet shoes, and it is just so incredibly cute. This year, you’re learning to plie and the positions, and you teach us at home, loving to play the teacher. Your recital last year was just an overload of cuteness, with free dance, and walking across the balance beam. I love watching you so much. Your body is athletic and graceful and coordinated, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it.
You love to play with your dolls and make them talk to each other. For a while there, we could not leave the house before you stuffed 7 “guys” in your pockets…Paw Patrol characters, a random dinosaur, etc., making buckling your car seat an impossibility. Your bed is almost invisible under your colony of stuffed animals: Bunny still chief among them, as well as Bueffey the enormous dog. You love music and playing the tiny guitar and the harmonicas, and making up songs as you beat the hand drum. You’re just such a girl. You got interested in my makeup this year and always ask me to put some on you (I usually add a touch of mostly invisible powder to your cheeks, and a slight shimmer to your eyelids). You love your “lipstick” (chapstick). We paint our nails together. This year you were a fairy for Halloween; last year Fancy Nancy after months of singing a made up song of “I like being fancy ALL the time!” that you’d sing at random throughout the day. You love babies and love holding and “helping” Baby Winnie, and you and I delighted over the baby tapir born at the zoo this year. After viewing a recent video of the new baby sloth at the zoo, you just squeaked over and over again: “Awww, it’s soooo cute! Look! It’s the babiest baby!” I just loving having another girl in the house, Els.
Some Elsa-isms, old and new, that I just have to record here:
-You call Mayberry the Cat, Marbarry
-You and Owen got in a phase of singing “Humpty Dumpty had a great ____,” and we could always count on you for a timely reply of toot or poop, as you and Owen would dissolve into laughter. Same with, “Like a bridge over troubled…poooop!”
-You had a phase of saying, in an annoyed voice, “Ugh…gotta pump the milk…or Ugh..gotta mow the lawn…” So funny.
-Just before you turned four, you would use the words anywheres and anymores…as in “I never see them anymooooores!”
–Thas not gweat! In response to my magnatiles creation…as well as when you witnessed me having to stick my (protected) hands into a dirty toilet to retrieve something
–Fer daaays – as in “I can’t clean my room, thas gonna take me fer daaays.” or “I haven’t seen them fer daaaaays.” Very dramatic.
-At the end of your third year, you were always saying, “When I turn four…..I go a school.” or “When I turn four…I have a snack!”
–I Fink So as in “I fink so I’m gonna go outside.” or my favorite, “I fink so, I’m gonna have a snack.”
-Malomelon for Watermelon. Your best sentence ever might be, “I love malomelon! I berry like it!
–I feel like there’s a baby in my belly. (sticks belly out)
–Giraff-ez for giraffes.
–Loop-de-loops for roundabout intersections
-As we pull clothes out of our bins for a new season, you sit by my side, exclaiming, over and over, “Ohhhhh! That shirt is SOOOO cute!” And once, when I told you, “I like that shirt Elsa.” You replied, “Sorry, there’s only one.”
-Once, when reading Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you see? We got to the teacher page, and you read out, “Homeschool Guy, Homeschool Guy, what do you see?”
-The way you say “sausage” is my absolute favorite. I keep trying to record it. Shaushage.
-When asking for a drink, you used to say, “I’m kinda watery” instead of thirsty.
-One night, you’d fallen unwakeably asleep at 5:30 but then woke up when your dad and I were watching TV around 9 pm. You overheard someone on the show mention “Slum Dog Millionare,” and you incredulously responded, “Slum Dog Millionare?! That’s not a DOG!”
-As others around you chanted “Green Bay Stinks!” I overheard your high-pitched voice squeaking out, “Green Means Go!” matching their enthusiasm. –Becept for except
–Grunch instead of Grinch – one of my favorites that still makes me laugh
-During our family’s heavy heavy phase of knock knock jokes, your go-to was the punchline “ZOOM!” as you shot your right hand to the left across your chest. Like “knock knock”…”who’s there?”…”cow”…”cow who?”….”ZOOOOM!” And you’d dissolve into a fit of laughter along with us.
-The way you made Owen die laughing when you suggested the name Snorkel for a pet.
-How you wanted to name the dust particles that you and Owen “caught” in a jar Henry and Fank, like the storied raccoons of old your dad and I had told you about. I almost died laughing then because it was so unexpected.
-One time we all went sledding at night last winter after a massive blizzard. I sent you down a hill and accidentally over a significant jump. It flew you into the air, surprising us all, and you spun your way to the bottom. When you got to the bottom, you yelled up at us in this incredulous voice, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!”
-And of course, this conversation:
Me: What’s your first name?
You: Elsa…and daughter
Me: What’s your last name?
Me: What’s his name? (pointing to Lewis)
You: Lewis…aaaand Muffin (his regular nickname at the time)
I know that was a lot. But you just say so many accidentally funny things, I can’t help but write them down. One last interaction came after a season in which you decided to give lying a try. You and I had some duels over whether or not you truly peed on the floor or not, or lying about sneaking things out of the pantry when I was putting Lewis down for nap. For the most part, you’ve outgrown that instinct, but once I found a snack wrapper up in your room. I asked you, “I wonder who snuck some snacks up here?” You shrugged, and alarmingly casually, replied, “I don’t know. Maybe a leprechaun? Or the Creature?!” (the mythical creature you and Owen were always trapping at the time). I can’t tell you how often I have to look away and hide smiles in moments like that.
You, Elsa, are a girl who loves her life. You are not without your tantrum moments, moments in which I’ve found it’s best to let you cry and just to be with you. It’s admittedly hard to get you to take deep breaths and calm down, but more often than not, you just want a hug and some sympathy….and maybe some graham crackers and milk. You love your friends – Addi and Junah and Annaliese and Addelay and Constance and Archie and Ollie. You love your cousins: Luke and Hannah, Sosie and Henry, Ole and Winnie. You’re forming friendships in our homeschool co-op, specifically with Rebekah. You still love TheaBelle Johannsen, and used to regularly say, “”Feebelle is my best fwiend. I wuv her. She berry special for me.” TheaBelle has invited you to her last two birthday parties, inviting you into her circle of older friends, and it is so sweet to witness. But your best friend is definitely Owen. He can’t wait to play with you when you get home from preschool. The two of you egg each other’s imagination on like crazy. The bouncing and yelling and running we hear from your room at night is unmatched. Your relationship is one of my favorite things about our family. As for Lewis…we’re still working on it. He frustrates you because he wants everything you have. But you egg him on too, taking things he’s just about to grab. I’m praying with a little more time the two of you will really begin to play together well as you both get a little older.
As for preschool, you love it. Literally, on day one at dropoff, you waltzed into the classroom without even saying goodbye. Like I had to walk in after you because I needed a hug. You love your teachers and recess and the gym you use on rainy days. A few weeks in, you asked for a ponytail and not a bun because you wanted a bouncy pony tail on the trampoline like one of your friends. You and Ollie are buddies there, but you’re branching out, attending Milly’s birthday party, talking about the twins Olive and Ivy. Your teachers tell me you know more letters and their sounds and numbers than you need to at age four. You love to read books both there and at home, and you’ll sit for almost an hour, surrounded by books you’ve paged through.
You love to help me cook, particularly if you’re sitting on the kitchen counter. You love to stir and pour and play with all the wooden spoons we’re not using. You love to wear your pink polkadot apron. It’s so sweet, and I love sharing that with you. I pray it’s something we can always share. You and Owen crack me up at lunch, creating “sandwiches” out of the apples and cheese and crackers and nuts and cucumbers. It’s very inventive. But to be honest, you’ve become a little more picky this year. You still love vegetables and hummus. You still love fruit. I think you will always love bread and butter. And salad. You always want more salad. Even kale. But you don’t really like meat. Or most dinners I make. It’s a process. In the mornings, you need a bowl of cereal with milk asap. And then you love to climb up on the counter and make honey and butter toast. By. Your. Self.
This year, you’ve begun begging for a pet. Regularly. And you don’t want a fish. No, you want a girl pet. When pressed for more explanation, you want something fluffy that you can hold and cuddle. And the thing is, I get it. I 100% get it. I longed for a pet as a kid. We talk about the work of a pet. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit googling weird pets that don’t require a lot of work. Your dad and I have thoroughly discussed the merits of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and even chinchillas. I would LOVE to surprise you with a pet for your birthday. But I’m not sure I’m ready. For the mess. The hair. The poop. The expense. The responsibility. I keep telling you, maybe in a couple years, when no one in our family pees on the floor. But we’ll see. I hope you know I hear you and how much I hate disappointing you.
Elsa, you are just wonderful. You bring so much happiness and silliness and joy into our family. The way you run to greet your dad and wrap your arms around him in a big hug is one of my favorite things. Your compassion and empathy go beyond your years – in small things…like giving up your cinnamon applesauce to Owen when you saw how upset he was about his plain pouch…and in big things…the way you care about the hurts in the lives of people we pray for and ask about them and remind us to pray for them.
I feel so lucky that I get to be your mom, that I get a daughter. It’s an overwhelmingly heavy burden when I think about how much I’m modeling for you, but it is also one of the most joyful aspects of my life. I pray regularly that God will give you and I a close relationship, now and always. This year, I’m scheming with your dad about starting a birthday tradition in which we go away for an overnight or something together. Twenty years from now, I hope that looks like a trip to California with wine and cheese and coffee and beaches for our January birthdates.
I pray often that God will only increase your love of him. That the way you talk to Him when praying will always be a marker of how you relate to Him. That He will bring friendships, specifically strong girl friendships, into your life. Girls that will be your missing sisters, who will make you laugh, and dare you to do dumb things, and who will point you back to your Creator. I pray that you will know Him all of your days.
I can’t believe all of these days we’ve gotten with you.
You are special and loved and spectacularly Elsa.