Letter to Bella, month sixteen

Dear Bella,

You had a string of firsts this month that exemplified how quickly you've moved from babyhood to toddlerhood. I watch you chillaxin in your pink bean bag with your big Dora cup and think ... you're only a few years away from kindergarten, from wanting everything you see on tv, from crying when we won't give you more quarters to throw at games in the arcade, from drawing stick pictures of your family...

Insert little sigh here. Everyone talks about the twinge of sadness you feel when babies start growing up. I must confess: I didn't feel that twinge with Javi. I think that's because I was so young when he was your age and I was very focused on the future. These days, I'm firmly rooted in the day-to-day. You're here with me most days and I have witnessed first-hand your blossoming from a wee lump to a big ol' girl.

For instance, you had your very first hair cut this month. You handled it pretty well, but you enjoyed running around the hair salon and trying to pull old hair out of the trash can more than you did having to sit on a box in a chair and have some strange lady touch your hair. Your dad wasn't very impressed by your little bangs trim, but I think it looks great. Your hair is still crazy in the back, but it's not tangled in your eyelashes and it doesn't hang into your food - that's all it takes to make me happy!

You've also become a little escape artist. It started the weekend your dad and I went to Gatlinberg. You were supposed to sleep in your pack and play at Grandma's but after much huffing and heavy breathing, you learned to hoist yourself out. No matter how many times she put you back in, you climbed right back out. That was the end of the pack and play.

It took you a few more weeks to attempt climbing out of the crib, but you figured it out. Luckily, you've learned that I'll just pop you right back in so your escape habit is tamed ... for now. We've tossed around converting your crib to a day bed, but I know that you'd never just lie down and sleep. You need to know there's no escape, so we've tabled the discussion until at least Christmas.

You also began daycare this month. It's been a difficult process, though you were great about going the first week. You'd ignore me and busy yourself with toys, not caring whether I stayed or left. But the second week and the subsequent weeks have been much different. You begin whining when we pull up the driveway and then bury your head in my neck until I can pull you off of me and hand you over to the sitter. Then you cry like I just tossed you into a dumpster instead of putting you in the arms of a little granny who seems to adore you.

Every day gets a little better though. You love playing outside and the sitter has a whole little playground full of your favorite things. There are two slides, a swing set, a climbing house, and two ride ons. When we need to distract you so that I can leave without feeling like the scum of humanity, the sitter walks you over to the playground and you stop crying so hard. You're still pitiful, but it's as if you've resigned yourself and will make due by playing. I should point out here that when your dad picks you up in the afternoon, you don't want to leave. So, it's just the dropping off that's crazy.

I credit daycare with your new talkativeness. You've started saying more words and babbling as though you're having a conversation. You've started saying In, Dora, That, This, Hello, Elmo, Up, Down, Right There and Later. This brings your grand total of words up to 15! We're proud of you and can't wait until you say No for the first time. Now THAT will be funny. Right now you give us gobbledy-gook when you have no intention of doing what we want.

Your other firsts are the small things that I'd probably forget had I not written them down. For instance, your brother taught you to drink from a straw, you learned to walk down the stairs instead of bumping down on your butt. You hate milk but you have a new appreciation for chocolate milk, so that's our go-to option for your morning drink. You'll suck down half of it before you realize there's milk mixed into that chocolate. You also attended your first Durham Bulls game. Suffice it to say we won't be doing that again anytime soon. :)

My favorite part of this month has been your growing attachment to your bed mates: Diego, Tasha, Elmo, Tinky Bear, and Donkey. Every naptime and nighttime, we lay you on your pillow and say goodnight to each of your toys before tucking them into your arms. First we kiss the toy and then you kiss the toy. When everyone's in your arms, we cover you up and say "night-night Bella." Of course, that's when you throw everyone down and try to convince us not to leave ... but in the morning your friends are right beside you again.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that you're a biter. Yep, the first granddaugther and great-granddaughter and you're the only one who people are careful with because you'll rip a chunk out of their arms if given half a chance. I think it's funny because a) no one has been seriously hurt, b) we're slowly breaking you of the habit, and c) it means you're just like I was at your age. I didn't bite, but I did pinch! People exclaim about you that you are so cute and sweet ... and then you try to bite their fingers off. Swap in pinching and it's a case of like mother, like daughter!

Every day that passes I see more of our genetic and environmental stamps, but you are such a unique combination of your father and I. When you're being devilish, I see myself in the way your eyes sparkle and your father in how you get really quiet and peek around to see who's watching. When you're being sweet, I see myself in how you lay quietly and your father in how you want to snuggle.

Everyone that meets you can't help but become a little smitten. They watch you climb or giggle or flirt and can't stop themselves from smiling. Strangers come up to you in stores and restaurants just to say hi. My goal is to raise you in such a way that your little personality remains unchanged. I hope that the woman you grow up to be will read these letters and think: I am just as funny, smart, charming, and sassy now as I've always been.

Because you are all those things, baby. You are amazing and smart and bring such joy to our lives. I pray that you will look back on your life with us and be able to say that rather than tamp down your spirit, we helped it thrive, rather than break your heart, we buoyed it and rather than force you to be someone you're not, we loved you enough to let you be the wonderful person you are.



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