TWO – My Baby Volcano!!!!!

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My baby boy is explosive emotion, wild energy, and ear piercing noise. Joyful belly laughter that elicits immediate smiles and torturous whining and screams that have your sisters clasping their ears and weeping because you just won’t stop crying. During the past two years, we have suffered hearing loss because you are the loudest baby yet, maybe the loudest baby ever.

I thought third babies were supposed to go with the flow, be easy breezy, but you rocked our boat completely. As I said, you are loud, it is impossible to ignore our baby. You erupt in fury if you don’t like something and your moods derail the most carefully prepared plans.

You make your third time mama feel like a first timer.

Daddy calls you our Sour Patch Kid, sour and then irresistibly sweet. You revolt and then ask for snuggles. When your sisters cry, you earnestly ask them, “Are you okay?” As you pat their backs and stroke their faces. Then the next minute you are throwing matchbox cars at their heads with tremendous force, grabbing their hair, and hitting them with all your might.

My three children are like magnets, you can’t keep your hands off one another, but then the electro magnetism switches and you repel each other with equal ferocity. Then minutes later you are inseparable and stuck together again. Your biggest sister dotes on you constantly, carries you around the house, and usually allows you to join in her play. Middle sister loves you one second and clocks you in the head the next. The intensity of the love/hate relationship between you and your middle sister baffles me. Your shared sibling bonds are stronger than I ever expected.

Currently, Disney Cars is your passion and you talk about it constantly, though you don’t have the patience to sit through the movie. You love Lightning McQueen, cars with smiley faces are the best, and you carry them wherever you go and sleep with them in your crib.

Much to your dad’s delight, starting at 18 months (maybe younger), you enjoyed shooting hoops in the basement. You love basketballs, throwing balls, toys, anything. You have a mini golf club and endlessly hit golf balls around the yard. You do this all left handed, which I’m learning may be the athletic coup de grace. We beam at your hand eye coordination and laugh at ourselves for thinking at two that each of our children were child prodigies. We are as amazed by you as we were by our first two babies, watching a baby grow and acquire new skills never gets olds. You are all unique little people.

Although we may think you are a baby genius, you learned to walk later than your sisters and managed to bump your head into the coffee table several times a day for several months straight. You love play doh and especially love to eat it. You laugh as you stuff it in your mouth because you suckered mom and dad into giving you play doh, yet again.

Getting out of the house has become nearly impossible, for example, one day as I filled water bottles for school, you made a beeline through the dog door and ran straight for the dog poop in the yard (for some reason you love touching dog poop). “Icky, mama,” you shouted and picked it up and smeared it all over your t-shirt, which led to tardy slips for your sisters and me carrying a toddler in a diaper into each of their schools. As I signed tardy slips and politely conversed with acquaintances, I wondered why we still smelled like poop, left the school, and realized you smeared me as well. This is how we roll, and it’s not always pretty.

The girls had bunk beds until you started scrambling up the ladder and leaning over the guardrail in the mornings as I brushed their hair before school. “Mama, watch me,” you shouted with glee as you leaned over the side. Then one day, you jumped off. We detached the beds to make our morning routine safer.

You are fast and give me heart palpitations. One night as I cooked dinner, you dashed out the kitchen, jumped through the dog door, sprinted around the yard, and attempted to climb the fence into our front yard. “I want to see G.G.’s car,” you said, a smile stretched across your face.

Speaking of G.G., another favorite is your grandmas. You love your grandmothers. If they are with us, you want them to constantly carry you. You talk about them and their cars constantly (because grandmas and cars may be the best combination ever). On Thanksgiving, everybody went around the table and said what we were thankful for and when we got to you we didn’t think you understood, but you stated clearly, “I’m thankful for my grandmas.” As a first time mother, I would have been insanely jealous if you preferred someone other than me, but this time around I appreciate their extra arms and your special relationship with them.

“How are you today?” Is your constant refrain when you see someone new and then you introduce yourself by your first and last name and say that you live in Colorado. “I’ll see you next Thursday,” you tell your teachers. You speak in full sentences and articulate thoughts way beyond your two-years (again, our baby genius).

When your sister played Kion, the elephant, in her school performance of the Lion King, you sat in the audience, shouting her name when she came on stage and then screaming Hakuna Matata throughout the other scenes. Almost immediately, Nana escorted you out of the auditorium.

You had the stomach flu the night before your 2nd birthday. You threw up and lay in my arms, tearfully asking me to make you better. Your family party was cancelled, the freezer broke, and your ice cream cake melted. A birthday two days post Christmas confused you, “I want Chanukah to come to my party,” you told me. When we gave you presents, you thought it might still be Christmas and handed them out to your sisters. “It’s not Christmas,” we told you, “It’s your birthday!” My Christmas baby will wait another year to have a birthday party, but your sisters want to make the next one a big birthday party (since you missed this one) and teach you what birthdays are all about. Christmas baby, birthdays are your own special day. You deserve a special day.

You are more than a handful. You are a mini volcano of love, precociousness, sunshine, rage, fire, energy, earsplitting headaches, tears of happiness, tears of frustration, a toddler jokester, a mini athlete, social charisma, mommy’s boy, daddy’s boy, your grandparents’ baby, and your sisters’ favorite/least favorite little person. You make us happy hermits who can’t leave the house for fear of the most intense and persistent little tantrums. At times we brave it and leave our house and then realize you are supremely charming and do better in public than home. After a successful experience we attempt to leave again, only to suffer an explosion and swear we will never ever leave the safety of our home. You have made me seriously consider buying a toddler leash.

We love you and thank you for making our lives colorfully chaotic and never dull.

Sorry for the delayed birthday note, as you know, things have been pretty busy.

We love you. Happy 2nd Birthday Baby!

SHE IS FOUR-YEARS-OLD

Photo credit - Julie Harris photography

Photo credit – Julie Harris photography

Your hair is still blonde, framing your round face and dark brown eyes. Your round belly peeks out of shirts that are a little too small. Shirts that you still love and I hate to pack away. Shirts that your sister wore three years ago and are now stained pink from years of afternoon watermelon and popsicles.

You are a fish. In swim lessons, you swim across the pool, flipping to your back to catch a breath and then instantly flip to your stomach to finish the traverse. You reach the other side of the pool and you look for me with a giant smile. You wave. You shine so brightly, my eyes sometimes fill with tears watching you.

Every night around 12am, you walk to my room and climb in bed beside me. Unlike your sister, who I carried back to her room, middle daughter, you experience the luxury of my exhaustion. I pull you in bed and we snuggle. Lately, I’ve pulled you in bed and in my exhausted haze, I’ve thought you were your big sister. You are getting so big. People often ask me if you two are twins.

You are an expert cuddler. You snuggle next to me on the couch or bed, and gently pinch the skin on my arm, my cheeks, and my belly. Sometimes you pinch a little too hard, but mostly you give gentle squeezes. “I like to squeeze your squishy parts,” you murmur. Pure love, you make me almost happy to have extra parts.

You were the easiest of my three babies, you were not a screamer, and slept better than both your siblings. Today if I had to put money on who would be the most likely to sleep past 6:30am, it would be you.

My partner in crime, my little helper, we run errands together, you help me do laundry and clean the counters. A homebody, you are happy to stay home and hang out.

When I pick you up from preschool, you give me the detailed run down of every minute of your morning, including who sat with you, played with you, and what everybody said.

You are so proud of your family. When I pick you up from school, you lead your baby brother over to your friends and demand, “LOOK AT MY BABY,” with the biggest smile on your face. On the rare occasion that your big sister was home from school and came to pick you up, you were on cloud nine. “THIS IS MY BIG SISTER,” you told everyone.

Your sister is your best friend. You share a room, a bunk bed, and toys. Some days you choose to match and wear identical clothes. As your brother gets older, you play with him too. You and the baby are magnets pulled together by an invisible force. To my irritation, you cannot keep your hands off of each other. The minute he finds a toy, you steal it and run from him at lightning speed. You silently pinch him behind my back. You constantly push his buttons (and mine too). You make him scream constantly, but the minute you disappear to another room he searches for you.

“Sister, where are you?” he calls in his 18 month-old garbled speech? “Where did sister go?” he asks putting his hands in the air.

He will be tough because he has you.

You love Star Wars and Scooby Doo. When your baby brother was born, I relaxed a little in terms of appropriate television viewing. As long as your Dad kept you and your sister entertained, I was happy. Your Dad let you watch Star Wars. You and your sister are obsessed. For Christmas, you got a Star Wars lunch box and backpack. Much to my embarrassment, you told everyone in preschool (including your friends parents) that you love Star Wars and watched every single one of them. Initially, you loved “Luke,” (because he is handsome?!?!?) but now you prefer the dark side.

Parents approach me, “Wow, she watched Star Wars?”

“I like the Empire Strikes Back,” you announce unabashedly.

“I didn’t know they were old enough,” they state.

“Nope, they aren’t, it’s completely inappropriate for three-year-olds,” I admit embarrassed. “I have lost all control.”

Although initially you may act shy, once you feel comfortable you give everyone the constant run down of everything that is going on. My parents used to tell me that they called me the “Family Narrator” because I would describe everything that everyone did at all times. You are our family narrator. You are good company. I never feel lonely or bored when I’m with you.

You love playing with boys. This year you were a little boy obsessed, which is weird because how could a three-year-old possibly be boy crazy, but you are. You came home from school and would tell me, “Mom, I like playing with the Bad Boys.” When we dropped your sister off at the kindergarten “Kiss & Go,” you always wanted Mr. Stephen to come to the door and grab your sister. You even sang songs about him, much to your sister’s embarrassment. You will be trouble in middle school and high school.

Although an easy baby, at times you were an impossible three-year-old. You are pure charm and naughtiness. You haven’t napped since you were two, but I enforce quiet time while your brother naps. You stay up in your room while I work on my computer. Quiet time is never quiet. You sneakily steal shampoo from the bathroom and wash the Barbies’ hair on the carpet in your bedroom, you pushed toys and stuffed animals down the HVAC vents in your room, and you colored elaborate pictures on the carpet with markers. You make my blood boil, but charm is your super power. You always magically float back into my good graces.

You may be one of the most charming people I’ve ever met. You make everyone feel special with your smiles and whispered words of love. You dole them freely to all those you love.

On the flip side, you are fierce. If something upsets you, you roar mightily, stomp your feet, throw things in rage, and slam doors repeatedly to make your point.

The other day I met you at camp to rock climb. Before leaving for camp that day, you told me you were too scared to climb. When I got there you climbed one side of the wall. You maybe made it a couple of footholds off the ground. Each time you climbed, you got a little higher. You attempted to climb each side of the wall, and one time you may have gotten half way up. You kept trying and getting a little higher. It was hot, 90 degrees, and the wall was set up on hot pavement. Most of the other kids stopped and sat in the shade, but red faced you kept climbing.

The instructor hooked your harness to another side of the wall. You smiled.

“You know what,” she said. “When you keep trying something even though it’s hard, and you don’t give up, that means, you have a giant heart.” I smiled at the truth of the statement.

You are pure heart.

***

This birthday post comes two weeks late. I’ve debated posting it because I began having mixed feeling about posting details about my kids. Now my oldest values her privacy, so I will not publicly post my birthday letter to her this year. I decided posting this one because:

(1) friends and family appreciate a glimpse of the little personalities emerging in our family,

(2) I adore these kiddos and want to remember every single moment.

(3) This is my public love letter to my little girl, I’ve never received a public letter of adoration, but I bet I would like it, and

(4) I love my family so much, I want to shout it from the roof tops and tell the world just how special they are,

For these reasons and more, I’m writing the memories down.

Sweet Baby James

Solot summer 2014-9927

You are only one, but there is so much to say about you.

We contemplated whether or not to have a third baby. Did we have room for one more? Did we have the patience, the stamina, and the mental reserve to have three kids under five-years-old? We didn’t know if we did, but when I looked at family photographs, a part of me knew that someone was missing.

You were missing.

 ****

In April 2013, my dad died and one month later I discovered I was pregnant with you. It was a hard pregnancy. There was my grief. Then your dad tore his achilles tendon and could not drive or walk for two months. That fall, your dad lost his cousin and a childhood friend.  The doctor told me that each subsequent pregnancy feels harder on a woman’s body. My body hurt. Pregnant with two preschoolers and an injured husband, I was exhausted.

People often said, “Don’t worry third babies just go with the flow.” Pregnant with my third, I clung to this adage wholeheartedly.

In my head, I thought you would just roll with the punches. Your dad hoped you would be a garden gnome baby who would sit and sleep in your baby carrier and be toted to all of your sisters’ activities. We did not think to contemplate the alternative, which was the ultimate jinx.

Colic.

You screamed. You cried like a screeching car alarm, hardly breathing. You turned purple screaming. The color vanished from your lips.

The definition of colic is constant and inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week, for at least three months. The definition sounds nice compared to your screaming. You screamed all day every day for months. I dreamed of only three hours of crying.

You screamed at home. You screamed in the car. You screamed in the stroller when I walked your sisters into preschool. You screamed at the supermarket.

“Is he tired?”

”Is he hungry?”

“Does he need to be changed?”

“Is he cold?”

A chorus of suggestions from well meaning strangers followed me wherever I went.

When my four-year-old daughter’s teachers asked about her baby brother, she responded, “He cries a lot,” which may have been the understatement of the year.

Initially, I marveled at the patience of your two big sisters since your scream became the soundtrack of our lives.  We couldn’t hear ourselves think. I marveled at my husband’s patience. He would never have maintained his cool so well with our first baby.

We were all so patient, but then …

Your two-year-old sister lost her cool. As you screamed in your car seat, she put her hands over her ears and started crying and yelling at the top of her lungs, “BABY, STOP SCREAMING,” repeatedly on every drive.

The sheer noise level of our drives was mind altering.  This may have been the point where the rest of us lost our minds.  My hearing permanently diminished.

Was it reflux? We tried gripe water, Zantac, Prevacid, and Chamomile tea. I eliminated everything from my diet.

You cried. You screamed. You didn’t sleep. You were up every hour for months on end.

I worried that you would never smile. I prayed there was nothing wrong with you. Were you in physical pain? Was there something wrong with your brain or your nervous system?  Your screams pierced our psyches.

My spirit wilted. Were we going to be okay? Denial, I kept smiling.

At this point, there were a handful of people that were my saviors, your grandmothers, who were the only people I trusted to watch you as you screamed inconsolably, a couple of friends who listened empathetically, but most of all there was my twin sister.  She maintained my sanity.  I have never been so grateful for our relationship. She had a newborn as well, a daughter two months older than you. Every day I dropped my big girl at preschool and endured the stares as you shrieked in the stroller. I drove around in my minivan, talking to my sister on Bluetooth, as you endlessly shrieked in the back seat. She spent countless morning hours on the phone with me as I drove my screaming baby. She never told me she couldn’t hear me. She never complained. She never told me to call her back. She talked to me about life as you screeched inconsolably in our ears. This is love.

One conversation stands out.

“Having a third baby is not so bad.” I commented as I pulled out of my alley. “You should definitely have a third baby.”

“Justine, are you crazy?” she said. “I talk to you every day.  You may be the reason I never have a third child.  You can’t tell me what your doing is easy. I can’t stand it when my baby screams like that for five minutes. What you’re experiencing is so hard!” She acknowledged what I couldn’t say out loud.  Silly, but her words meant everything.

At two months, you smiled and the family breathed a collective sigh of relief. You laughed. Milestones came and time passed. The colic vanished with the size 2 baby diapers.  Colic became a distant memory.

****

Your beginning makes me think of an Edward Abbey quotation, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

You are the most amazing view.

You are joy, love, and enthusiasm. You stretch your arms and reach for everyone in the family – an equal opportunity spreader of love.

When I cradle you, you wrap your arms around my neck, pulling my face close to your soft cheek.

You give giant open mouth kisses to everyone in the family, sucking on our noses, cheeks, and mouths.

“This is hilarious,” your big sister giggles as you dive mouth first for her nose. (These kisses may have something to do with this being the worst cold season we have ever experienced).

Adored. We swoon in your presence.

You love your big sisters, but they may love you more. This Thanksgiving, the curmudgeony three-year-old proudly told her teachers that she was thankful for her baby brother.

We are all thankful for you.

You have zero personal space. Your two big sisters smother you with hugs whether you want them or not. They grab you, and you either laugh or you scream.

You don’t talk yet, but your desires are known. You watch me fix a snack for your sisters and you shriek loudly until the same snack is placed on your tray. I fill a glass of water and you scream because you are thirsty too.

You scream until your needs are met.

Meals are loud.

Life is loud.

You already know you must fight for what you want. Your three-year-old sister steals your toy and a guttural howl escapes your mouth. Your arm stretches to grab it back. This may be her favorite game, anything you like she takes instantly.

At six-months-old, you saw soccer balls in the grass and kicked your feet wildly with excitement. You chase balls around the house, pushing and throwing them and then crawling after them at rocket speed.

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Much to your dad’s joy, you sit in front of the basketball hoop outside and reach up with your arms to try to place the ball in the hoop.

You and Deets (our dog) are equally obsessed with tennis balls.

You started crawling at 7.5 months.

You are a lover of all things dangerous – stairs, toilets, sockets, and electrical chords.

You don’t know how to walk but you climb step stools and stand on your tippy toes to grab anything elicit from the counter.

You stand on your tiptoes and pull colored pencils off the girls’ art table.

You bump your head on the coffee table at least a thousand times a day. You don’t go around tables or chairs instead you go through them and are constantly stuck in chair legs, rungs, and sandwiched in between end tables and couches.

You see an open baby gate and throw your crawl into high gear in hopes that you make it to the stairs before me. We have started constructing giant barriers of beanbag chairs and toy baskets to block you off from dangerous areas of the house. You summit our manmade obstacles and we make them higher. Cru, our old Basset Hound, barks constantly at the barricades . Again, we are so loud.

The girls screamed angrily in their highchairs when the dogs ate crumbs from their laps. You giggle with delight when the dogs lick your feet.

“Hi,” you wave, so pleased with your ability to communicate. Your wave is an exaggerated opening and closing of the fingers. I say hi, and your fingers immediately respond. I tell you to say goodnight to your dad and sisters, and your fingers open and close dramatically.

You laugh hysterically at my jokes and funny sounds.

You have the hazel eyes of your namesake.

You have a one-year-old mullet of thin old man hair that makes us smile.

You are beautiful.

We survived your first year.  My last baby, every moment is nostalgic. Every milestone is as wonderful as those accomplished by your two big sisters. As I felt with them, you truly are the smartest, most coordinated, most loving, and most beautiful baby in the world.

How did we get so lucky three times?

You put giant smiles on all of our faces. Our hearts soar for you.

“My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” (Tom Robbins)

Five-Years-Old, Kindergarten, and Ripping My Heart From My Chest

For me five-years-old is kindergarten. Today she is five tomorrow she starts kindergarten.  She will be in school all day. For the first time I will drop her off at the curb instead of holding her hand and guiding her to her class. She will be in a room with 26 five-year-olds. For all the new moms out there, this milestone is hard. It seems like it will never happen, but then it happens, and it happens fast.

My shining star, beating heart, quiet, sweet, and innocent baby is going to kindergarten.

Yesterday she spent twenty minutes being assessed by her teacher and maybe said three words – painful, gut-wrenching, grab my heart with your bare hands and rip it from my chest – all words to describe being a mother of a painfully shy child starting a new school year.

“I spelled one word perfectly,” she told me as we left her school assessment.

“Which word?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “N-O-A.”

In other words, (1) her teacher did not learn much in the assessment, (2) I maybe should have spent more time practicing letters with her this summer, and (3) I wanted to grab her (teacher) and shake her and tell her how sensitive, brilliant, and special my baby is. My heart literally breaks sending her into a giant classroom.  I feel as if I am releasing her into a pack of  Wild Dogs.

I fear that since she is quiet her teachers and classmates might miss her sparkle.

I want everyone to see her SPARKLE. She is spectacular.

She is my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, a dark night with no electricity for hundreds of miles. I tilt my head back and look up into the night sky. There is a magnificent carpet of stars and as my eyes skim the horizon, I see the Southern Cross.

She is the cold sand between my toes, quiet, and peaceful with a glowing moon overhead. I tentatively stick my foot into the saltwater and – POW – glowing phosphorescence swirl around my feet. I swipe my toes across the water and a glowing trail follows it.

This is my daughter.

She walks on her toes – a quirk – some say a problem. When she was three-years-old, I asked her P.E. teacher about it. Her reply, “Some of the fastest runners in elementary school are the kids who walked on their toes.”

My five-year-old is fast. She is confident about her speed. “I am the fastest,” she says, challenging anyone to a race. Long legs and endless endurance, she loves to run.

She is an observer. She learns visually. She may be the most observant person I have ever met. I too like to observe. She hasn’t yet learned it’s impolite to stare, but she is watching the way the world works, soaking it all in, and remembering the details.

My girl has been to three new schools in three years. We had bad luck with preschools. She is nervous, introducing herself into each new situation. It is scary going to new schools. She gets anxious. Each year on the first day she does not cry. She walks right in. She says goodbye and lets me leave. She tells me to leave. My daughter is the essence of BRAVE.

She is learning to make friends, learning to ask others to play, and to join a crowd of her peers. She watches. She learns. At the beginning of her pre-kindergarten year, I asked her what she did during free play at school.

“I play puzzles.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I can do it on my own.” At first I considered this a sad response, but then realized this is a SMART response. She knows how to handle new situations on her own. She knows what games she can play by herself and be happy.

First she circled the girls she wanted to play with like a humming bird she gracefully hovered nearby. She circled them until they asked her to play. She was with a group of kids many of whom had been at the same school for three years and she gradually learned to play with them.

 *****

She is generosity. Her heart is gold.

“Wow,” her teacher whispered. My daughter received a chocolate covered strawberry at her end of the year party. When her sister and I picked her up it was untouched. She smiled and offered her sister the first taste. “Most kids don’t do that,” her teacher confided.

She is kindness.

This summer I told the girls they would receive a treat if they participated in their swim class. Her little sister screamed by the pool, refusing to participate. She stayed dry loudly. My oldest swam. She kicked and suddenly her freestyle looked like freestyle. “You get a treat,” I told my big girl proudly as her sister screamed in the car seat beside her.

I gave my oldest a gummy peach. As I put the car in reverse, I peered into the rear view mirror. My daughter bit the gummy in half and handed half to her sister.

She is patience

*****

“She sings like a bird,” a schoolmate whispered to his mother.

First day of school and her pre-k teacher asked her name. I gently elbowed her, pushing her to respond. Silence. Sometimes she hides within herself like a rollie pollie bug, folding into itself at the slightest touch. This year she feared asking for a pencil. She feared asking to go to the bathroom. She had an accident. We (her teachers and parents) were concerned.

But then …

At preschool graduation my daughter stood in front of her entire class and ALL their parents and sang. She sang beautifully. She sang loudly.

“Are you nervous,” I asked.

“No mom,” she rolled her eyes as if I was crazy.

My four-year-old sang. “Peace like a river, I know peace like a river, I know peace like a river in my soul.” The words poured from her mouth and tears spilled from my eyes. She is meant to sing.

Since she was two-years-old she sang in tune.

She is a performer.

The night before preschool graduation, she danced in a recital in front of literally hundreds of people. I was nervous. “Are you nervous?” I asked, dropping her off with over a hundred dancers from classes across the city hours before the show.

“No Mom.” Again, huge eye roll, (I’ve been getting a lot of those lately).

She performed beautifully. Grace personified. She moved across the stage. I underestimated her ability.

“She is a ballerina,” my ex-ballerina sister gushed over the phone after watching the video. “I tease you guys about your dancing, but Justine, she is good.” I let the words sink in.

Acting camp. She knew no one. At the end of the week performance her words rang loud and clear.

My daughter is a star.

Her Elsa rendition – out of this world.

The Hans and Anna duet with her dad – show stopping.

Annie songs – impeccable.

Daring, this summer my daughter jumped on a horse bareback, grabbed its mane, and eagerly kicked it to trot.

A photographic memory, she beats me at memory cards. (I am sleep deprived but her mind is mystifying).

She draws hyenas, foxes, elephants, and portraits of her family in amazing detail.

She is still passionate about hyenas. Foxes are a close second.

This year we read books by Roald Dahl, E.B. White, and Judy Blume. Fudge is our favorite.

She is not scared of spiders or snakes.

She is gorgeous with big brown eyes, curly hair, eyelashes that will never need mascara, dark skin, and long legs. Her looks are a beautiful mixture of her Dad and me.

She is strong. She repeatedly swings herself across the monkey bars.

She will be the youngest in her class. As her mother, I worry whether we made the right decision or whether we should have kept her in preschool for one more year.

But then …

“It’s my turn,” she snapped loudly, pushing herself in front of a group of girls at a birthday party. Her newly found confidence is music to my ears.

We go to the park and she gets on the swing. All of a sudden, her legs stretch out and her body leans slightly back. Her knees bend and she leans forward the slightest bit. The swing gets higher and higher. My daughter soars. Her legs stretch into the trees. A sign.

“Look at me,” she shouts. She’s got it. The monkey bars, the swings, the rock wall, my five-year-old dominates the playground. Back and forth she goes, higher and higher, my baby bird soars free. She is brilliant. She is beauty. She is strength.

Five years ago, she pulled the heart from my chest and this girl holds it there.

“What do you want for your birthday?” I ask.

“Stuffed hyenas, balls to play all different sports, and a bike without training wheels.”

The best answer ever. After this birthday, she will own every hyena ever manufactured.

Wow, she is the coolest.

*****

Dear Teacher,

Please work hard to discover that my daughter is so much more than her assessment.  You will love what you see. Please help her make a friend.

Sincerely,

A mother who loves her daughter fiercely and completely.

P.S.

I know this may be a little helicoptery, but the toilet flush in the girls bathroom at school is really confusing.  I hope you explain it to the kids. (It’s one of those big 1970s circular flushes you kick with your feet).  I am kicking myself that I didn’t take her into the bathroom and show her how it works. I know I am already borderline being labeled “Crazy Mom”, so I am refraining from emailing you about this before the first day of school.

(Instead I am posting a pretend email on my blog – CRAZY).