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Dearest Molly,

As I was assembling the cupcake toppers for the cupcakes for your playdate tomorrow afternoon, it took me a few minutes to comprehend those cupcake toppers with the number “three” on them were for YOU! How did that happen? I am not the first mom to say this, but it’s so true that the days can sometimes be long and the years quick.

Your dad and I joke that you are turning 13 or even 23 instead of just three, but now that I’m typing this, tears are forming when I think about how soon 13 and 23 will come.

There are so many things I want to say to you today, on your birthday, but it boils down to this: I love you. I love you. I love you.

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You are so wonderful, Molly. You are pure joy, pure passion. You have such an intense spirit and are one of the most compassionate preschoolers I know. The other day, you asked me if there would be decorations for your birthday. To be honest, I hadn’t planned on doing much; Aunt Beverly and I planned a family pool party for you and Addison, and I invited some of your playdate friends over for cupcakes for your actual birthday. But after you asked me about the decorations, I told Beverly that I needed a banner and cupcake toppers, and I bought some pink and green ribbon and let you pick out cupcake liners.

Tonight, after I printed and assembled the cupcake toppers, you sweetly asked me, “Are those for my birthday?”

“Yes,” I replied, “they’re cupcake toppers.”

“Thank you, Mama, for making those,” you said and my heart soared at your sweet declaration of thanks.

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You are so very clever, just like your dad, and you seem so grown up a lot of the time. You already know who to ask for what and you always have “an idea.” Tonight, we were trying to decide what to eat and we originally thought pizza, but then changed our minds to Mexican. When I asked you if you’d eat a taco instead of a Mellow Mushroom pretzel, you said, “Dad, I have a question. Would you like to get pizza and pretzels? Instead of a taco?”

And then, in the blink of an eye, that grown-up girl becomes silly and loud in the bathroom of Mellow Mushroom, shrieking at the automatic flush toilets and very loud hand dryers, and then bouncing up and down on the bench with a fork in your hand and pretzel in your mouth.

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Molly, I hope and pray that you will have a happy, healthy and fulfilling year. We love you more than words could ever explain. You fill my heart beyond capacity every day and I am so grateful that God chose me to be your mother.

Happy birthday, my sweet peach.

All my love,

Mama

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Dearest Molly,

Your aunt Beverly, Nana and I started designing your birthday party invitations in the airport on the way home from visiting aunt Whitney. It’s still so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that in two months you will be TWO. Two seems so young, yet so…what’s the word? grown…at the same time. You are a walking, talking, laughing, mischievous person. Maybe it’s because I have been gone the past four days or maybe so much really does change overnight, but you seem taller, prouder, funnier than you were last week.

I continue to be impressed by your vocabulary and formulation of phrases and short sentences. I am amazed by your recall and keen observation and persistence. I am equally exhausted by these qualities, too. This morning, you wanted to do something, anything. “How ’bout stroller? How ’bout swing? How ’bout bubbles? How ’bout water table?” I love the way you drag out the “how ’bout” into multiple syllables; I can’t help but laugh every time you say it. This afternoon, aunt Bev asked you if Pro came over to help Daddy with the deck and you gave her a look that screamed “duh” and simply said, “Yeah” with a long, slow blink. Beverly and I just looked at each other and cracked up.

You are figuring out social relationships with adults and other kids. It still takes you a while to warm up, even to people you see regularly, but once you’re comfortable, all bets are off. Last week at Graham’s house, you kept taking whatever he was holding and creating a pile with the taken objects; you weren’t playing with them, but didn’t want Graham to, either. “Mah-ee’s turn” is probably your favorite phrase right now. Today, you couldn’t decide which of Addison’s push toys to play with but you finally decided on the car and she had the shopping cart; you haphazardly dropped the play vacuum in the path of your track and when I asked you to pick it up so you, Jackson and Addison didn’t trip or run over it, you knew very well that if you left the car to pick up the vacuum, Addison would take it from you. I love watching you problem-solve these situations, and I try not to step in too much. I want so much to teach you right from wrong and empathy and compassion, but I know that it comes more so from your own experiences and observations than from anything I can say to you.

I’m looking forward to a fun summer with you; I know it will go so quickly and that you will change so much before August 6. I already miss the baby-ness of you, but I can’t imagine not knowing this awesome toddler you are now. I feel like the moon and the sun rise just for you. I love you!  xoxo

Love,

Mama

I didn’t take any pictures today to mark your 22nd month. I was too busy trying to catch up on missed hugs. Maybe tomorrow.

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Dearest Molly,

You are 20 months old today. You are in the throes of learning who you are, constantly testing your limits and asserting your independence. “Milk!” you cry. So I hand you milk.  “No!” you yell, throwing the cup. But when I walk away,  you pick up the milk and grin as you gulp it down.

“Down, down,” you chant when I pick you up. “Up, up,” you beg when I put you down. “Ma-ee walk,” you say when I carry you across a parking lot. You still refuse to eat meat or any vegetable that’s not pureed; cereal bars and yogurt are your current favorites. Miss Jeana and Miss Molly think it’s hilarious that you want a snack at 9:10 every morning, even though you eat two waffles or pieces of toast some mornings. Then you ask for lunch at 11 o’clock, a full hour before you’re scheduled to eat. I sure do wish you’d eat some protein – then maybe you wouldn’t be so hungry all the time!

You love to wear your sunglasses in the car like mommy and daddy. You tell your baby dolls “night, night.” You give hugs and open-mouthed kisses. You drink the bowl of syrup at breakfast. You love to swing. Allie’s bark scares you. You yell “cookie” when we pull into the Harris Teeter parking lot. You love books.

You are becoming quite the comedienne. Your teachers tell me that you have them in stitches all day and I tell them that you have your father’s sense of humor. Last night, after hours in the car without sleeping, you started cracking up. I would turn around to see what you were laughing at, and that just made you laugh harder. You do something – anything – and you laugh and clap and wait expectantly for your audience to respond in turn.

I love to watch you figure things out and imitate others. This morning, your dad said you found a lovey and started “dusting” the furniture in our bedroom with it. Tonight, when I was getting dinner ready, you brought food and pans and utensils from your play kitchen into the kitchen so you could cook, too. When I brush my teeth, you want to brush yours and when I dry my hair, you stand at the bathroom door so I can blow dry your hair. You love to clink glasses or crackers and say “Cheers!”

You know your colors {I love to hear you say “purple”}, can “read” the Happy Baby book to us, and today you counted the front steps, “1, 2, 3.” Of course, I think you are the smartest kid ever. You repeat everything we say, except “I love you.” I asked you the other day, “What’s a mom got to do around here to hear ‘I love you’?” and you practically doubled over in laughter.

Some days I simply cannot believe that you’ve been part of my life for 20 months, but mostly I just feel like I was meant to be your mom. Having you in my life has been the most amazing thing. I am infinitely proud of you and love you more than words can say.

All my love,

Mommy

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Dearest Molly,

Today you are 19 months old.  I almost let the day slip by because you’ve been so sick, but that’s a story for another day.  I was talking to your dad today about something I’ve wanted to work on since before you were born, and it took me a minute to process exactly how long ago that was!  As I am ordering you spring and summer clothing, I keep selecting 12-18 month sizes and then have to correct myself – you are most definitely not 12-18 months in age or size.

When I picked you up from school last Wednesday, your teachers Jeana and Molly told me how talkative you were and what a big vocabulary you have.  All I could think was, I know!  At Starbucks last weekend, you wanted to sit in the chair while we waited on my coffee and the barista got a kick out of your chatter.  She asked me how old you were and when I told her 18 months, she said, “Wow!  She talks a LOT for an 18 month old!”  You are quite quiet around new people, but your eyes and ears are always open, taking it all in.  I am constantly surprised at your recollection, even days after we’ve experienced something together.

Your new favorite toys are your Fisher Price mailbox {I don’t turn on the sound, but know that Nana and Renee do!} and the wooden alphabet blocks.  You love to look at the pictures of the animals on the blocks and you can name almost all of them.  You recognize all of your caregivers {Nana, Renee, Miss Lisa, Jeana, and your new teacher Molly, as well as your dad and me} and you know the names of most of the children in your class.  The last time we went to the park, Cam called out, “Molly!  Molly!” as we walked towards the swings and you pointed and said, “Cam!”  You love to give hugs and kisses to your dad and me, but you also love to tell us no.  You don’t like to have your clothes or diaper changed and you are still SO picky about your food.  You also love to swing and play on your slide.  We had the slide in the front yard but I made your daddy take it to the back yard.  You had to go down the slide every time we came and went!

You are such a smart girl, and you usually know exactly what we are saying to you.  Today, I told you that your paci was only for your crib and you walked over to your crib and threw the paci between the slats.  {Although you did go back and get it a few minutes later!}  You still won’t watch a television show – even when you’re sick! – and you still love to read.

You constantly test your limits and somedays I have to work hard to keep you safe and myself sane.  I love that you’re exploring the world around you; I find so much pleasure in your small accomplishments and discoveries.  You are such a sweet child.  I am beyond proud to call you my daughter.

I can’t wait to see what this month holds for us.

All my love,

Mommy

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No…I didn’t forget MJ’s 18 month day…I just didn’t get around to finishing my letter or taking a picture of her yesterday.

Dearest Molly,

Our life is so much more fun with you in it. I know I’ve said this before, but seriously?  What did we do before you? I love how you look at me and grin when I turn on the music in the afternoons, and most days it doesn’t take much prompting to get you to dance with me. You love to identify your body parts, and are always so proud to add news ones to your list (this month was eyebrow, elbow, back, shoulders, and forehead). Last Monday, you carried your bag into school when Dad walked you in and were SO proud of yourself. So proud, even, that on Sunday at breakfast you wanted to wear your backpack while you were sitting in a highchair.  I just love, love, love your grin when you know you’ve done something to make us happy or proud. {Which you do quite often.}

Your vocabulary is growing exponentially.  I can barely keep up with all of your new words, but you have uttered a few phrases so far, including “Mommy car,” and “Milk peas {please}.”  We started going to My Gym on Saturdays this month and the first time we went, I left crying because you did not want to be there.  Each week has gotten better {yes, we took you back!} and we’ve actually signed up for two more months. You love to brush your teeth, which if you’re anything like me and your aunts, will become a lifelong obsession.

Last night, we went to Aunt Bev’s house for a SuperBowl party and you finally walked away from me long enough to play in Addison’s new playroom with her kitchen and dolls.  You two sure were busy in there and paid no mind to Jackson and Benjamin and the other older kids running around.  You love to play with your dolls now and will let each of them have a turn in the highchair eating and taking stroller rides.  You are finally starting to figure out puzzles, but get so frustrated when the pieces don’t float right into the right spot.  You still enjoy books, but won’t sit still very long to listen to stories like you used to, but that’s ok because I know exploring and talking and running are equally important.

You still won’t eat anything of substance. One day last week, you asked for a “bar” at every meal. Being the crazy mom that I am, I tried to give you a peanut butter sandwich for dinner and you threw it and exclaimed “BAR!”  So, you had your third cereal bar of the day.  Other days it’s Ritz crackers, a banana or some berries, maybe some cheese, and a waffle with syrup.  Every day.  However, I used to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day – your dad actually got sick of making my lunch at one point because he had made a peanut butter sandwich every school day for three years – so I can’t blame you:  You like what you like and that’s ok.  I just wish you liked something kind of healthy.  You know, like with nutrients or protein.  We will go see Dr. Holladay next week and I know he’ll reassure me that this is just a phase and that you are perfectly healthy.  Until then however, I will continue to be concerned.

But my favorite thing so far? You give hugs and kisses freely and I never tire of you leaning in for a kiss.  When I’m fixing my hair in the morning, you run into the bathroom to hug my leg. If I’m getting clothes out of the dryer, you hug my back. When I leave for work in the morning, you say “buh-bye!” and blow me kisses. I store up each hug and kiss in my heart, knowing that one day you’ll be embarrassed by me; when that happens, I’ll have a stockpile of your toddler love to see me through to the other side.

You’re amazing and we love you so much!

All my love,

Mommy

xoxo

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Dearest Molly,

What a month!  You continue to amaze me.  Your dad and I can literally see you growing and changing.  We put you to bed and you wake up happy the next morning, with a much rounder face.  Or you reach for a graham cracker and I swear your hand grows with each one.  Over Christmas break, I heard your dad laughing as he dressed you and when you came around the corner, I started laughing too; so we went out that very day and bought you bigger jeans so that your ankles wouldn’t be cold.

You love to go to school and sometimes cry when Renee or I pick you up in the afternoons.  Yesterday, you were covered in marker and your substitute teacher said to me, “Molly is just so much fun!”  I agreed.  Your vocabulary is growing along with your hands and legs.  Some of your favorite words are:  shoe, car, bird, ball, cracker, door, no, and you’re starting to say {or attempt to say} some of the different food words from your kitchen:  banana, watermelon, blueberries and apple.  I love to hear you talk and am ready for you to express more in words instead of just “nos” and other screams.

You are in a bit of a hitting/biting/pushing phase.  I know that it’s completely normal, but it still mortifies me.  And when the hitting is repetitive to one person {like ME!}, it makes me angry.  At the advice of my friend Karen, I’ve started putting you down or walking away from you if you’re hitting me, and you don’t like that one bit.  But you obviously don’t mind it that much, because the behavior hasn’t stopped.  This morning, you ran into the bathroom and hit your head on the door.  You couldn’t decide whether to cry or pretend that it hadn’t happened, so you decided to get mad and push me instead!  I told you “no pushing,” but I was laughing in my head at the connection you made between hitting your head on the door and me standing in front of you.  I’m sure it made perfect sense to you that *I* had somehow made all of that happen!

Constantly in motion

You’ve learned to sign “please” and it knocks me to my knees every time.  You get this grin on your face and look up at me through your eyelashes as you’re signing and in that moment, I’d give you anything you asked for.  You still love to read and I’ll often poke my head in your room while I’m getting ready in the morning to find you on the floor with a pile of books.  But some mornings, it takes me twice as long to dry my hair because you want me to read to you non-stop.  {Always on the mornings we’re running late, too!}  When we read Are You Ticklish?, you knock on the front door of the picture of the house on the last page.  It’s hilarious and I’m not sure where you picked that up, but you sure are proud of yourself!

As a baby, you’d eat anything and everything we attempted to feed you, but as a fierce and feisty toddler, it’s mostly crackers and fruit.  And cookies, of course.  Some days I get lucky and you’ll eat a veggie “chicken” nugget for dinner, but only if it comes with lots of ketchup!  You tell me when you need your diaper changed, and if I don’t do it right away, you take my hand and lead me to the changing table.  You still love to take a bath and think it’s so fun to splash Daddy.

Molly and Allie have a love/hate relationship

Peaches, you’re awesome.  We love you more than words could ever say.

All my love,

Mom {aka “Mimi”}

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Dearest Molly,

16 months doesn’t seem that different from 15 months…you are still chattering away, toddling around, and learn new things every day.  However, your chattering is slightly more discernible and your toddling is more sure-footed and quicker than ever and you soak things up like the sponge you are – you imitate everything!  One of my most favorite things you learned from watching me is wiping your mouth, the table, and the floor with anything that resembles a towel, washcloth, or paper towel.  You are so proud of your cleaning abilities!

Yesterday, I set a cup of cranberry juice on the side table in the family room and made a mental note to move it to the kitchen before you woke up.  Well, I didn’t move it and you made a beeline to that cup of juice before we could get your smoothie to you.  I walked into the room just in time to hear it splash on your face and the rug.  The look on your face was priceless!  You were in complete shock and did not like being covered in cranberry juice at all.

Something else you’ve learned this month:  “uh-oh!”  I love to hear you exclaim “uh-oh” when you fall or when I drop something.  I’m so proud that you can realize a mistake – mine or yours! – and respond accordingly.  The Christmas tree is up and decorated, and while you are fascinated with the lights and sparkly ornaments, you seem to understand that it’s for looking and not touching.  Most of the time, anyway.  We hung a few non-breakable ornaments at the bottom just in case you forget not to touch it.

You still won’t eat meat or vegetables, and you only drink milk.  When you get up from nap, you are excited to see me and call out “Mimi!”  When we come out of your room, you look around and say, “Dad?”  It’s so cute to see you look for and ask for him.  Your daddy loves you so much and you have so much fun with him.  You love to go to school but don’t like to go to nursery at church, and every time an adult comes to visit, you think I’m going to leave you alone with her.  You are cuddly and love to give out hugs – and I take as many as you’ll give!

I love you so much, Molly Jean and I am so proud of you.

All my love,

Mom

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