April 19th, 2010
I don't know how it's possible, but today you turn four years old. If we’re judging by your actions and words, though, I would have to say you’ve been four at least a couple of months already. Always my baby you’ll be, but with each passing day you make it more and more difficult for me to fool myself into thinking of you as such. You have grown up so much in the last year.
Last week, after we had tucked you into bed, Daddy and I were talking and laughing about something you had done earlier in the day. You’d probably be shocked if you had any idea how often we find ourselves sharing stories about something crazy you did or something even more ridiculous you said over the course of a day. One of the hardest parts of being your mommy is holding back those laughs or giggles when you and I are engaged in a tension filled moment. Something about the way you approach situations just strikes me in a totally different way than I am used to. Typically outright disobedience makes me boil; more and more though you find a way to break through my frustration in a way that elicits the complete opposite reaction from me. You know it immediately when it happens too and dive right in for the kill. You know even before my face breaks when you’ve got me. I wouldn’t have ever thought it was possible, but there are times when you truly make it impossible to be angry. Is this irritating? Yes, of course. But, oh, how I love that about you. I need people like you in my life to remind me to just chill out. There is no doubt in my mind that you being my daughter was meant to be from the very beginning in huge part because of your ability to keep me from getting too bogged down in the stresses of life.
Your flair for drama is more finely tuned now than ever before. Your imagination continues to soar and when you commit to a role you embrace it whole heartedly. Whether it’s dressing up as a princess, traveling to the land of Narnia as Susan or Lucy, crawling around on the floor pretending to be a cat, adopting McKenna’s imaginary friends as your own, you embrace a role with all you've got. It should also be noted that you are capable of throwing a diva fit that even Mariah Carey would find impressive, throwing yourself into that moment with all the passion and energy your little body can muster. As you can imagine, this is both hilarious and infuriating. My favorite part during these times are the phrases you spit at us when you’re having “a moment”. There’s little that’s more amusing to me then watching you in a fit of (often mock or exaggerated) anger making proclamations like, “Do you sink dis is a JOKE?” or “FINE! I’m nevuh doing dis EVUH AGAIN!” or “I don’t WIKE to do dat!”. I could do without the whining, although you are so adept at it that it should almost be appreciated as an art form in and of itself.
One small note as you turn four that I feel should be chronicled: you are still loud. I’ve come to the realization that your DNA has to be arranged in such a way that just renders you incapable of using a quiet voice no matter the setting. Sure you can bring it down to indoor voice level when given verbal prompts like, “I’m standing right here, Lainey” or “Elaina, where are we? And what kind of voice should we be using?”, but your perpetual outdoor voice just muscles its way right back in a matter of moments. I’m trying to learn to embrace your voice and be thankful that I’m not constantly asking you to speak up as I am with your diminutive speaking sister. At the very least, I can rest easy knowing that I’ll be able to locate you quickly should you ever sneak away from me in Wal-Mart so long as you have someone else to talk to. Should you choose this path, you would make an outstanding cheerleader someday.
I came to a conclusion the other day and I’ve hesitated including it in this birthday letter, the biggest reason being that I don’t want it taken the wrong way. I think it’s an important part of your personality and accurately describes how I’ve seen you continue to grow as an individual in the last year though, so I’ve decided to say it anyway. Although we’ve known it from the minute you were born, I’ve come to realize lately that, simply stated, you are everything your sister is not. This isn’t to say one of you is better than the other or that one of you is loved more. Neither of those ideas could ever in a million years be farther from the truth. What I mean is that this observation is part of an ongoing examination into how different you are from your older sister. For example, while McKenna has always excelled in verbal skills, your strength lies in hands on tasks. Now, don't get me wrong - you can talk until you're blue in the face and carry on a conversation like nobody's business with speech completely devoid of an /r/ sound anywhere (p.s. "sure" and "more" are two words Daddy and I could listen to you say all day long). It's just that it has been well documented through the last four years that you are adept at fine motor manipulation, the ability to maneuver a zipper around or unclasp a safety pin from a very young age being a prime example. You have suddenly shown some impressive artistic ability as well which is not something McKenna has ever really shown interest. You love to make Play-Doh creations, and you like to draw especially on your sister’s white board or my grocery list. It’s not unusual to find you lying on the floor coloring quietly in the middle of the living room. Recently you have shown an amazing knack for putting puzzles together, a task that still causes your older sister some difficulty. Although you both show an appreciation for music, your love for any song with a heavy beat and guitar solo far exceeds that of your sister. In the last couple of weeks you have taken to singing "Elaina originals" - made up songs using a familiar tune but spicing it up with your own lyrics. I can also safely say that while it appears as though McKenna has inherited my white girl moves on the dance floor, you possess the “blue eyed soul sister” genes similar to those of your daddy’s (although his genes would naturally be of the “brother” variety).
McKenna is the kind of individual has to process a situation or scenario, mulling it over sometimes several days before or after the fact. You, however, tend to jump right in without a second thought as to what the end result might be. You live life with spontaneity and your zest for life is so contagious. When you feel wronged or get upset your reactions can best be described as explosive. Your outbursts tend to come out of nowhere, take over a room or situation, and then are over as quickly as they reared their ugly head. Your main mode of displaying your emotions is through loud – very loud, to be more accurate – verbal and sometimes physical proclamations of unfairness or injustice while McKenna tends to have more of a slow burn, letting things build and build until one minor event sets her off into a tizzy of hysterical sobbing. Basically, the two of you could be poster children for yin and yang.
Another observation directly tied to those made above is this: you are so much like Daddy. It amazes me how similar the two of you are. Your outgoing and friendly personalities, how you react to frustrating or adverse situations, the ability to make others find humor in even the most stressful situations, a talent and love for the arts . . . it is definitely safe to say the two of you share so much more than just a birthday. This fact is at the same time sweet, endearing, heart warming, and bone chillingly frightening for reasons which I’m sure I’ll examine in depth in a birthday letter addressed to you during your teenage years.
You love so many things. You love to eat: candy, chocolate, tacos, chicken, “spagaragus,” broccoli, noodles in any shape or form, ice cream, orange soup, ham and “tuhkey”, barbecue, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, any kind of cereal, yogurt. Meal time with you is typically a breeze because you’ll at least try (and then usually like) almost anything. You love to play outside riding a bike or your scooter, playing tag, going for walks, and blowing bubbles. You especially love to swing and for you the motto is the higher the better. You love the library, the park, your babysitter’s, the grocery store, going to church, spending the night at Grama & Papa’s; basically, if there’s somewhere to go, you’re in. Almost every morning you’ll ask, “Do we have to go anywhere today?” and when the answer is “no” your next question is typically, “But WHY?”. You love to be busy and you love your adventures.
Among your greatest loves, though, is that you show for your sister. As I’ve already pointed out – and which other friends and family members accurately comment on as well on a nearly daily basis – the two of you are different in almost every way. Despite those differences, though, the two of you are so very close. This has been the first year that you’ve spent the majority of your day away from each other with McKenna starting kindergarten. I was initially concerned with how you would adapt to being home without your wing man, but you’ve adjusted remarkably well. I think you enjoy having the house – especially the toys and television – all to yourself, but I also think that the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” works in this case. Sure the two of you still get into spats now and then, but in the last year I’ve seen your relationship grow leaps and bounds. The two of you will escape to one of your bedrooms and play so nicely together on your own for an hour at a time, and the two of you can make each other laugh more than anyone else. You look up to your big sister and still hold tight to the idea that if she’s doing something than you can do it too. As a result you’ve skipped over some more developmentally appropriate avenues to keep pace with her, but it’s more important to you to be right there side-by-side with McKenna. I love that you look up to her as much as you do, but I think you should also know how lucky she is to have such a fun little sister to share life with. Watching the relationship between the two of you grow is probably what I most look forward to as the years continue to fly by. Among the many hopes and dreams I have for the two of you, the biggest one is that throughout your lives you will continue to be each other’s best friend.
You and I don’t get to spend much time one-on-one together, but when we do I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy those moments. I love hearing your stories and adore your zest for life. I admire how you march to the beat of your own drum and cherish the many impromptu hugs and kisses you give. I continue to be astounded by your sassiness and dream that you will demonstrate the confidence you have now throughout every stage of your life. I am fascinated by your determination and proud of the kindness you show others. I am amused by your stubbornness and grateful for your silliness and effortless ability to make me laugh.
There’s not a day that goes by where you don’t surprise me in some way. You definitely know how to keep life interesting, and because of that you have enriched my life in ways you will never know, Lainey Rae. Your are my sunshine every single day, my go-to girl for fun and adventure.
Happy fourth birthday, baby girl. I love you, I love you, I love you.