Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Birthday Love Letter to a Wild Sweetheart

My Darling Sal,

On the night of your second birthday--after a busy day of ginormous balloons, princess tiaras, and buttercream frosted cakes--I sat down to write a love letter to you.  This is my tradition, I do it every year, so I opened my computer and fully expected the swell of adoration to come washing over me so I could write.

But I waited and waited, and the feeling didn't come.  All I felt was exhaustion.

Perhaps this is something that I shouldn't admit in a birthday love letter.  Perhaps I should skip over the weariness of motherhood and get right to the sweet scene of you blowing out your birthday candles.  But I tell you the truth because one day you will be a mother.  And you will know what I mean when I describe this exhaustion.  Sometimes, you will simply feel overwhelmed and tired, and you might feel guilty that you don't feel all-consuming, gleeful, giddy love for your children all the time.

I want to tell you that it's normal.  It's normal to be exhausted when you have little ones.  It's normal to feel so utterly depleted at the end of the day that the thought of writing a sentimental love letter is just too much.

And so, on the night of your birthday, I shut my laptop and went to sleep.  And in my bedtime prayer, the feeling came.  The awestruck swelling in my soul--the awe that I get to be your mother.  I get to see you grow and learn and become every day.  On my knees by the side of the bed, I smiled into the mattress as I thanked God for the beautiful little birthday girl in the sparkly crown and red-checkered dress.  I thanked God that you are mine.

Today is a new day, and I have a few moments of quiet to come back to this birthday love letter for you.  I want to tell you all about the things that I love about you as a two-year-old.

I love your little voice.  You have started talking so much in the past few weeks.  People comment on your little voice all the time because it is low and raspy--so unusual for a girl your age.  Maybe you'll be a growly alto like your mom and her sisters.  Ha!

You actually do love to sing, and as you walk around the house, you sing the ABCs, Popcorn Popping, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You also sing along to the music in the car, and your favorite song is "Doh Doh" as you call it (Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars--it starts with a guy singing, "Doh, doh, doh" hence the nickname).  You screech, "Doh doh!" every time we get into the van until I turn it on. (Oh the screeching!  You are definitely a determined little lady!)

Your vocabulary is exploding lately, and it's so fun.  When you sneeze, you say, "Bless you, Mom!" even though you are the one who sneezed.  You pretend to talk on the phone and have entire conversations with your favorite babysitter, Ashlyn, using that plastic purple phone.   One of your favorite things to say is "Oopsie daisie!" when you make a mistake. And just this week, you started counting to ten.  I love hearing all the new things you have to say every day. 

When you see babies, you shout excitedly, "Hold eeeeet!  Hold eeeet!"   Like your mama, you love a snuggly baby and grin from ear-to-ear when you are holding "it." Ha!

You love to pray and always ask to be the one to say it when I put you in your crib at night.  I lay you on your pillow, and then I kneel beside the crib and say each line slowly.  You fold your arms but keep your eyes wide open and smile with self-satisfaction as you quietly whisper the last word of each sentence that I say.  Then at the end you shout, "A-men!!"  It is the sweetest.  And the highlight of my night is when you stick your nose between the crib bars and ask for a nuzzle before I leave the room.  Rubbing noses with you and giving you a little kiss is a perfect way to end the day.

I love your bedhead and your sloppy pigtails when you wake up from a nap.  I love how much you adored this birthday card from your Bapa and carried it around the house with you saying "Bapa!  Bapa!"over and over and pointing out the animals:

You are a diva and a girly girl.  You are obsessed with princess dresses and shoes, and you love getting into my makeup.  You came out of my bathroom the other day looking like this, and you thought you looked very lovely:

You are a fashionista with your leopard print swimsuit and signature straw hats that you insist on wearing everywhere!

You also love diva sunglasses, and you yell, "Bright! Bright!" and ask for them every time we go outside.  Ha!

You love being the center of attention.  On your birthday, you insisted that we sing "Happy Birthday" to you about five times, and you sang along, loud and proud, and blew out the candles with gusto each time.  That will probably be one of my all-time favorite birthday memories of my children. 

You are a handful.  You have so much energy and spunk--you are much crazier than your brother Noah was at this age.  You want to try everything and you are super independent.  If I try to help you take your clothes off before a bath, you yell, "No, Mom!"  You want to do things yourself.

You are joyful and mischievous--and not obedient at all.  You almost always have a naughty little twinkle in your eye.  

You climb on everything.  You love to find ledges and walk on them--like the edges of sidewalks or  planters.  You have really good balance and can also climb the tall ladders at the playground.  Future gymnast?  You've started hanging upside down from the handles on the roof of the van and shouting, "Monkey bars!" Ha!  I am always amazed by your strength.  Maybe because you only weigh 23 pounds, it's easy for you to do these acrobatic moves. ;)

I mean, is this normal??

Yes, you only weigh 23 pounds. Noah weighed more than that when he turned one!  You are 10th percentile for height and weight--tiny but feisty, strong, and loud.  You know what you want in life, and you holler until it happens.  We usually let you get away with it because we are suckers and we are tired and you are too cute for your own good.

You adore your brother, even though he teases you constantly and you two fight like cats and dogs.  Aren't you too young to be fighting already??  I must say, sometimes when it's only 8:30 a.m. and you two are already shrieking at each other, I feel like I'm gonna lose my mind.  But then the other day I was giving you a bath, and I had to go grab a towel so I asked Noah to watch you for a minute, and as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard you spontaneously say to him, "Hi, Noah!  I wuv oo, Noah."   My heart melted.  Especially since I've never heard you spontaneously say "I love you" to anyone, not even Mom and Dad.  I hope you and Noah always look out for each other throughout life!

You are super dramatic in your facial expressions.  It is hilarious.  When you see a mashed up banana or something, you will screw up your face into the cutest grimace and say, "Ewww, gross!"  I can always tell by the look on your face exactly what you are thinking, whether it is disgust, joy, love, anger, or sadness.  I love how expressive you are.

You started riding your tricycle this month, and you love it.  You have to wear a backpack so you can reach the peddles because you're so short.  I can't get enough of my little urchin on her bike:

You fill my life and my heart with joy, Sally. Yes, you are a menace (as we still lovingly call you), but overall, I think I am a much more relaxed mom than I was when Noah was little.  It feels great to see that I am maturing and becoming more patient as a mother, more able to enjoy my children and savor the stage we are in.  You are at a needy age right now--where you can't/don't really play by yourself, you hang on my leg all day, and you make huge messes--but when I start to feel really frustrated, I remind myself, "This is a stage.  The hard parts of this stage will pass, but so will the perfect parts."  In those moments, I try to just stop and get down on the floor and look into the eyes of my wild, beautiful, urchin-angel, and soak in every bit of your insane cuteness.

I love you, Sally Grace Nielson.  Every night, not just on your birthday, I thank God that you are my daughter.  Yes, motherhood is exhausting, and when you are a mom there will be some days when you just have to go to sleep and look forward to a fresh start in the morning--but it is so worth it.  Someday you will be a mother, and only then will you understand just how much I love you. 

Thank you for being mine and for filling each day of my life with your wild sweetness.

I love you, to the moon and back.


  1. My kids don't hang upside down at age 2! You have a gifted, spunky, beautiful daughter! Miss you and your kids :)

  2. These beautiful letters will be such a huge blessing to your kids. What a darling, fun little girl. I see so much of you in her!

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