Life’s a Beach

April 25, 2012

The Easter Bunny thought it would be a fun idea to put a kite in Lil’s basket this year… a last-minute add, but I think a stroke of pure brilliance!

There was a nice warm snap the following weekend and Steve, Lil and I decided to spend a little time at Jennings Beach in Fairfield.  It was super windy, so perfect for getting Lil’s new kite up in the air…

Steve and I did most of the flying but of course, true to form, Lil’s demands of “I DO IT, I DO IT!” were difficult to resist… so we gave her a shot at flying her kite all by herself.  Well, okay, maybe a little help to make sure it didn’t fly right out to sea.

The tide was out so Lil had so much fun running around, jumping over the little tide puddles, and exploring the beach.

The beach also has a little playground, so Lil enjoyed some swing time.

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What was I thinking 2 and a half years ago when I named this blog the “Daily” Lil???  I suppose that works out great when you can place a baby in a swing and write away to your heart’s content… and maybe it even works when you are on vacation, or when the kid is starting to be mobile. But when you have a jumping, singing, dancing, whining, screaming, running, questioning, exploring and constantly talking toddler?  Yeah.  “Daily”.  Ha!  What was I thinking??

So perhaps this is better suited to the “quarterly” Lil?  As these days, it almost seems too much to commit to weekly or even sometimes monthly, as demonstrated by the fact I haven’t written or posted on here since January.  Promises, promises… I’ll do better.  And honestly, I must.  This is the record of my girl.  I’ve kept no baby book… no photo albums… no journals.  Only this.  (Backed up, over and over, of course!)  But still… this is the document of my miracle — I’m disappointed in myself that I haven’t prioritized it. 

Lil is now two and a half.  I just sighed after I wrote that… words that are so awesome and yet heavy on my heart because she will never be a baby again, and there is no sign — save for diapers! — of the baby who preceded this little person in my home.  Now, just a little girl… a wonderous little girl full of personality and promise, quirks and imperfections… a little being with fire in her belly and a mind developing at a speed I’m not prepared for.

My Lil.

This will be a long post I hope will catch you up… and by “you” I suppose I mean my own memory as much as anything… I am finding time running by so fast, Lil developing so rapidly and expanding her world every single day.  It seems like I sometimes need to freeze time.  This blog had always been a great way to do that… to be able to capture my baby in a moment, and have that moment preserved. 

So much has happened in the last few months… and yet, it all seems like a blur in some ways… a blur that has somehow run into this beautifully clear picture of who Lil is — right now, on this day, in this very moment.

But then it blurs again, and I’m left with a memory card full of photographs that I must remember what it was she said right before I snapped the photo, or what her squeals sounded like, how thrilling it was to watch her do something new or by herself for the first time, or even what all the fuss was about post-meltdown.

All I’m left with is a photo of this beautiful creature before me at that moment, captured in a whirl of sunlit curls (or tangles), the blue blur of her jean-clad legs running a mile a minute, and the wash of her turning head as she smiles for the briefest minute and then runs off, quicker than my shutter can close.

So how would I describe my Lil? She’s energy personified, lively and vibrant… she’s tender at times, then defiant at others; she seems to know everything but then questions everything; she is tiny compared to the world, and yet somehow holds the belief she’s no smaller than anyone else.

She laughs with her whole body and smiles with her whole face; she performs for laughs — hamming it up as soon as she gets one; and she crumples into a pile of tears and wails the moment she’s not granted what she seeks.But she never stays crumpled for long.  She’s easily distracted from her devastation, and quickly on the move again toward happier things — like giving all her dolls a “change-o”, burying herself under a blanket to pretend to nap only to jump up and scream, “It’s MORNING TIME!”, or hiding from “the munstah!” who is most often orange for some reason, and nearly always after her Goldfish crackers.  She grabs new experiences with enthusiasm and seems fearless to try new things and admirably comfortable in her tiny skin and at ease in whatever she’s doing — the louder and more interesting, the better!

She loves to be in the mix — to keep up — to be in the center of it all; but in chaos, she seeks out her anchor in subtle ways — standing close to Grandma after a chaotic Easter egg hunt, approaching me in the midst of a party with her arms aloft and saying, “Mommy, I hold you”… small signs that despite her growing independence, she still needs to feel connected to something safe and sure. Which is more than fine with all of us…

I call to her, “Lil!!?” and she calls back “No!” without even knowing my question or request.  She is of her OWN mind, her OWN direction.  She is overall very affectionate — she gives hugs and kisses, and in the case of her Grandpa, a whole predetermined choreographed routine of affections including eskimo kisses.  But then just as quickly, she’ll refuse the whole routine… refusing to say good bye at all. 

She is a nurturer… with her dolls and stuffed animals, with Simon and increasingly with “real” people.  My brother’s girlfriend, who Lil refers to as “My Jenny” was recently unwell… when Lil saw her weeks later sitting gingerly on the couch and still in discomfort, Lil brought her precious blanket (“my blankley”) and placed it carefully on Jenn’s lap to cover her up.   She is protective of a classmate with food allergies… informing us she can’t share her food with Augie because “Augie have alla-gee!” 

At the same time, she is a rough and tumble tomboy — she loves to dig (sans shovel), run and roll, climb and get in the mix of whatever physical action is happening.  She will not be left behind.  She’s a “go for it” type — she’s very physical and very strong.  She lifts things half her size, plays soccer with cousins twice her age, and show no sign of trepidation of challenges before her — be it a tree to climb, a new task to master or a new person to befriend. 

Her confidence astounds me — very rarely do I hear her squeaky, “Mommy, help me!” — more often, it’s “Mommy, I can do it!”  If she doesn’t succeed at first, she takes a deep breath and says, “Let’s try that again.”  It’s beautiful to see her show patience and persistence, but at the same time, I admit that I relish when she needs my assistance and am often grateful for the chance to feel needed if only to reach something or finagle a buckle.  It doesn’t happen often enough — her independence is good for her, but a little sad for me.

She continues to LOVE the play kitchen and is now also enjoying helping me in the kitchen — pulling her stool over to the counter to help me stir things or pour ingredients into a bowl. She sings her way through every day — and often will just dance her way to whereever she’s going. 

She has a great appetite — she’ll eat nearly everything we ask her to try; and her tastes are varied.  She likes flavor — chilis, curreys, things with a bit of a kick — which is sort of fitting when it comes to her personality.

Lil is a free spirit, it seems… she doesn’t like to be encumbered by anything.  She prefers her feet bare, her hair unleashed and her spaces open.  Just like me, she doesn’t like her feet covered by blankets, and will kick them off shouting, “Get m’ feet OUT!”  Recently, she ordered Steve to “Rub my feet, Daddy” — adding to her repertoire of preferred massage points (also enjoyed: her back and head.)

She has moved on a bit from Elmo and is now obsessed with Olivia and Curious George.  She loves to watch the programs and play with the corresponding toys.  She also loves playing with my iPhone or Steve’s tablet — she can navigate all her apps with no assistance from us — and even has moved into letter matching apps.  She knows “L is for Lily” and “E is for Eli” and “C is for Charley” — all the letters from her daycare friends.

Lil’s daycare is affiliated with a local nursing home, and multiple times per week, the toddlers visit the residents, bringing cheer and some levity to those who don’t receive visitors.  Her favorite resident to visit is “Mr. Karl” who is a centenarian (!) with no family.  The children visit him frequently, and make him drawings and sing for him.  I’m told that Lillian is one of his favorites because she is so funny and because she is not afraid to get close to his wheelchair — likely since she’s so used to my mom’s.  Lillian always tells me about her visits to Mr. Karl (“my friend Mr. Karl”) and how she greets him with a gentle handshake (“No high fives for my friend Mr. Karl, mommy!”)  Once a month, the home arranges a character to come to a big open room  (Elmo, or Cookie Monster, usually) and all the residents are invited to gather in a circle with the children in the center, and they watch them play and dance with the character.  After the little party, they all have snack time together.  I’m told Lillian is a crowd favorite because of her unusual hair, her silly dancing and loud singing; and also her concern that the residents all get their snacks before she consumes her own. 

I love this whole intergenerational concept and believe it is good for young and old to have this type of interaction — in fact, it’s one of the reasons we chose this center.  It makes me feel good to know that Lil is learning about kindness and the importance of companionship and that she has the ability to bring joy to other people.  It’s nice to know that my girl can be a bright spot or provide some fun moments for someone who may otherwise not have a lot to smile about on any given day.

Lil’s teachers tell us that her spirit is downright infectious — that the other children flock to her and go along with whatever she’s doing naturally and happily.  They tell us that Lil has no need to be bossy to others because the others naturally look to her and follow… the word they used was “charisma”…

This thrills me and scares me… because alongside that sort of charisma comes a responsibility to use it for good things — positive things; and to recognize the impact you have on others and respect the power of that; to act with humility.  And Steve and I — we’re responsible for teaching this little person — with all her energy and charm and natural gravitational pull — that she has choices about how she uses these gifts. 

Sometimes I fear that her natural fiestiness and (at times) defiant strongheadedness will turn her into a bully, or someone who is closed to other people’s ideas or ways of doing things.  I fear that after being surrounded with so much praise and positive reinforcement — perhaps being already in her own right a little overachiever —  that she will be unable to accept criticism or that she will develop a need to always be right, or a need to always have the upper hand.  I fear that she will think her way is the only way, always feel she deserves the last word, or struggle with being open to the possibility of being wrong or God forbid needing to actually admit it and apologize to someone else. 

I guess in short, I fear some of the things I most dislike about myself; and it makes me understand maybe for the first time how my mom so desperately wanted me to avoid mistakes that she had made, or characteristics that had proven troublesome in her own life.  I understand now — because I see in my own life the very fine line that can be crossed between strength and weakness; between “a good thing” and a liability — and I so desperately want Lil to be spared those lessons… and for this little person who is developing under my watch to never be hurt or disappointed in ANYONE, much less HERSELF. 

But that’s not reality; and I can already tell that the hardest part about parenting won’t be that all these small moments pass so quickly, or that I can’t possibly preserve every moment and memory of my little girl. No, the hardest part is worrying that I’ll somehow screw her up — despite my best efforts — somehow disappoint her or not do justice to all she deserves; or that a choice I make will be remembered only for its idiocy, something I say will darken how she looks at herself or the world, or a negative judgement I make will stifle something in her I didn’t even know was budding. 

And because she’s no longer a baby — she’s indeed a little developing PERSON — that as the days and weeks and months go on — the mistakes I could possibly make become weightier and somehow less un-doable than before.   Now, she actively asks questions and gets herself into situations that make me stop and say: “Whoa.  Aimee.  Don’t screw this up.”  Like the time a few weeks ago when she first informed me that she had white skin and her classmate did not.  Or the time that she informed me she didn’t like a classmate and when I asked why not she said “because they’re not my friend.”  Or most recently… just the other day… when I said someone was beautiful and she asked “Why?”  And before I blurted out my personal truth, “because she’s thin”, I stopped for a moment to think about how I wanted Lil to form her definition of the word beautiful, and instead replied, “because she smiles at people alot, and I think that’s beautiful”… which, by the way, was equally true.

And as she grows older and has more ability to analyze, feel and discern; that she will call my bluff… that she will look at me one day and think or maybe even have the moxie to say aloud, “My mom has NO IDEA WHAT SHE’S DOING.”  And that she will be right.

I know all parents think their kid is destined for great things… and I am no different.  When I look at Lil — all her strengths and even her imperfections, witness how she navigates and interacts in real-life and in her imagination, and when I hear what others who know well her say about her… I swell with pride and think about all she will do.  And if I let myself, my knees could buckle under the weight I sometimes feel to “get it right”… to succeed with the most important responsibility I have as her mother — which is not only to help her reach her potential, but to help her realize it is there in the first place.

I know it is corny and may even put me in obnoxious parent territory, but I truly believe she will someday have a profound impact on other people and on her world… I wonder (sometimes aloud) what she will do?  What her mark will be?  What she’ll feel passionate about, or what she’ll believe in or work toward?  I think about what will inspire her, what goal will drive her, or what injustice will move her?

I hope whatever it is, that she will always feel capable.  Empowered. Good enough.  I hope she will always look in the mirror and say, “Let it begin with me.”

Stepping Stones

January 2, 2012

Steve and I took Lil to Stepping Stones in Norwalk today… what an awesome place for a curious and busy toddler!

One of the things I noticed today is just how purposeful my girl has become.  She has always been like that, but it is so fun to see how she carries herself with such confidence and energy… I just love how she strides toward whatever peaks her curiousity.

And here’s a great gallery of all the fun she had!

Happy Year!

January 2, 2012

Happy Year!  That’s Lil’s version of Happy New Year!

We hosted a slumber party for our friends (and Lil’s) at our place, with a kid’s “pre-party”.  We made our own noisemakers by covering empty water bottles with tissue confetti (yay, Gluesticks, says Lil), and filling them with dried beans, pasta and rice… and when everyone woke up the next day, we had yummy French Toast for New Year’s morning brunch.  Here’s a gallery of some great shots of Lil and her friends Lydia, Vivian, Hattie and Henry.

Christmas in Connecticut

January 2, 2012

We celebrated our first Christmas in our new house… which was very exciting, and we hosted Gramma and Grampa and Scott for presents and breakfast, and then Great Uncle Bob and Auntie Cindy came for dinner! 

Lil thought that Santa did pretty well, and it was clear she’d been VERY good!

Lil received a beautiful table from Gramma and Grampa!

And a high chair and new baby doll from Santa!

She got new cooking stuff from Scott and Jenn… and she LOVES her new condiments… ketchup being her fave, of course…

Grampa got a Giant’s Pillow Pet (and Lil learned to say, “GOOO GIANTS!”

She really enjoyed ripping open all the presents…

Especially her dress up clothes and tiara from Scott and Jenn!

Lil even got the traditional scratch off cards (a White Family tradition for Christmas… a dollar and a dream, people!)… and she took to that like a duck to water.  She LOVES coins, always wanting to carry around “my monies”…  by the way, she won $2!  College fund!

 

Uncle Bob and Auntie Cindy got her an Aquadoodle, which she LOVES.

 

One thing that struck me as I was saving all the pictures from this year was how incredible the growth and development has been with Lil since last Christmas… check it out…

 

 

Because Lil thinks they are the reason for the season.

She also thinks it’s about sticking stickers onto “Aunt” Pat’s nose… (hopefully, by this year, Lil will get the difference between Aunt and Uncle!)

She was very into the season of giving, starting with opening a gift on Simon’s behalf on Christmas Eve…

Auntie Sue also helped with gift-giving for Simon.

And of course Christmas Eve is about being surprised… Auntie Jenny (aka, “My Jenny” was glad to help out…

Christmas Eve is also about your teddy bear coming to life and talking, courtesy of your “Aunt” Scott.

 

And Christmas Eve is of course about Gramma’s house and everyone gathering there to have fun, eat and kick off the official holiday!

And later than night, we went home to get Lil in bed so Santa could come… Steve and I took a peek late at night to make sure he came… and DID HE EVER.