Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Squirrel!

To my dear, sweet Squirrely-girl:

You are FINALLY four! I say finally because you have been looking forward to this day for a VERY long time. In fact, since the day after your third birthday, you have been telling people, when asked your age, that you are "almost four." Already, you are beginning to inquire when you will be five. This characteristic, though funny in itself, is also pretty indicative of your personality as a whole. Since you were tiny, you have always focused on doing the next thing, whether it be rolling over at days old, standing up in my lap at weeks old, crawling at 5 months, walking at seven months, etc, you have always had your eyes on "the next big thing." Even now, you have started asking when you can go to college, have a boyfriend, or get married. (You are obviously already trying to tear my mommy-heart to pieces.) We said before your birthday that you were 3 going on 13, and now I suppose you are 4 going on 14.

You are, as you always have been, full of silliness and wiggles. I sometimes lament to you your inability to stand still as I attempt to wipe your face or comb your hair, but really I do love that inexhaustible fire inside you. It seems that there is some sort of engine in your body that keeps you wiggling and moving, laughing and squeaking--too much energy being created that must come out in combustible bursts of positively insane laughter, bird-like squawks, and full-body wiggles. For the most part, you are still only when you sleep (which you still fight like a ninja...). We signed you up for ballet this past year in hopes that it would help to channel some of that energy. Mostly, you just acted like yourself in ballet class, relishing in the moments you could "freestyle" and dance to your own beat in class. At home, it added a few moves to your repertoire. At your recent ballet recital, I giggled through your dress rehearsal as you watched the other girls and spun your own circles, but was amazed at the way you transformed for the actual performance. You knew your moves and danced from memory--I saw then that the performer in you may perhaps be more real than I had thought. You like to stand up on "stage" and sing and dance, or hold a circus or talent shows, but not until then did I really see you "turn it on."

You ask a great many questions about everything from heaven to earth and in between. You are sensitive, asking questions about others, worrying when you see other kids cry. One of my favorite things you have started doing over the past year is talking out and wishing for things in abstract. Sometimes, usually when we are riding in the car and you have to sit still for more than a few seconds, those gears start to turn, and you let me know what is going on in that head of yours. Things like, "I wish that all my stuffed animals would come alive and play with me!" or "Mom, wouldn't it be great if I could have a unicorn and he could ride me up on a rainbow where we could play and slide?" (And yes, those are actual thoughts you have shared.)

You are a glamour-puss. You love clothes and shoes and purses and jewelry, and your favorite color is pink (and purple...and if it were a color, also sparkly). You are endlessly addicted to sweets. When asked your favorite food so I could cook it for your birthday, you replied, "Candy, Mom. Of COURSE." (Of course. Really, it was silly of me to ask in the first place.) Your imagination is superlative; you have a barrage of imaginary friends, along with their assorted family members. I regularly hear you conversing with them, playing the part of yourself and numerous others all at once. You have started making "real" friends too. Aside from the dorm girls (whom you adore and who adore you in return), you also love to play with other kids your age. You are at times shy, but I can see your desire to overcome this and make friends.

Your favorite books are from the Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy series. I am sure this is because you relate so well to their characters! Your favorite movies are Cinderella and Bambi, and when you are actually playing with toys, it almost always involves princess dolls. Since the weather has warmed, you will happily spend every minute possible out of doors. In fact, I think you'd do this even in the dead of Idaho winter if I would let you. You love to create and make art; in fact, you are a world-class mess maker when it comes to anything art related, as you love paint, tape, markers, crayons, and any type of paper you can get your hands on.

You are delighted so easily by the smallest things, that it sometimes makes me question where my own wonder went to. Puddles, dandelions, bugs, clothing racks, clouds--all these things provide endless amusement for you and give me the much-needed reminder to slow down, to stop, and to marvel at you.

Your brother is at times your best friend and at others, your worst enemy. I absolutely relish the times that you play nice together, the nights I peek in to see you curled up together in the same bed, the times I catch you teaching him, working out sneaky plans together, dressing him up, or encouraging him. Those are the times that make me realize how grateful I am that you two will have each other after Dad and I are gone. There are other moments, less associated with lifelong love, and more associated with having a toddler and a preschooler: you fight, you taunt, you push, you hit, you steal, you scream and cry. But I try to teach you in those moments. I know I am not always perfect, but I hope that some of it sticks and as you two grow older you will also grow closer.

You are your daddy's joy. Since you were born, you had that man twisted around your finger and you still do. You have his rambunctiousness, that little streak of devilish mischief, his expressions, and his heart. There are times I see a heaviness in his eyes because of the love and responsibility he feels for you. He wants nothing more than to protect you from this big scary world, and he works so hard to teach you right from wrong, how to make choices, and how to be kind.  You are everything to him. And you adore him in return. No one, not a soul, can make you laugh in the way your Daddy can. No one holds your attention like he does when he takes quiet moments to teach you. He is a superhero in your eyes, and you have said as much.

When it comes to you and me, I am grateful everyday for you, my first gift of motherhood. There is a lot of me in your personality. And luckily (unlike your father and brother's shared traits), those are the pieces that go well together; we don't often butt heads and just genuinely enjoy each others' company. Sometimes, you make my heart absolutely soar with proclamations like, "Mommy, you're my best friend," (oh, I hope I always am) and "You're the best mommy EVER!" (I sure try) I could spend the whole day observing you just being you--watching your silliness, your performances, your wonder. I think I will always love watching you, no matter how old you get or what your activities turn into. I love our conversations (which in the past year have actually become that), the questions you ask, the jokes you tell me. (Recently, someone must have taught you about knock-knock jokes...which you love even though the punchline often evades you. Example: Knock Knock | | | | Who's there? | | | | Banana! | | | | Banana Who? | | | | BICYCLE!!! | | | Hysterical laughter.) You never run out of surprises for me. Some days, it might be something you know that I didn't realize you had learned; other days I am astounded by your capacity for love, your understanding of the world around you or the suddenly more sophisticated sense of humor. I think so often that you were sent here to teach me, and worry I am not doing as good a job at teaching you. I cherish the moments between the two of us, the time we have to laugh and play, snuggle, or simply lay and watch the clouds. I am so grateful each and every day to have you as my daughter. I love you. Happy Birthday.

All my love,


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