Dear Ellis: welcome to three

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Dear Ellis,

We met you three years ago today. You blew into our lives like a hurricane: breakneck and wild. I was only in labor for 2.5 hours and you were almost born on the gray rug on our bathroom floor. You were delivered 10 minutes after I told the ER receptionist, “I’m having a baby right now!” Later as the nurse checked me in, you already lay heavy on my chest, wet and warm.

From the beginning, my girl, you were untamed.

The first few months of your life were a blur of tears, witching hour meltdowns, and 40 minute (never more) naps. Unlike your brother, you did not eventually bend to my BabyWise will. You had your own agenda and kept your own schedule. When I dropped you off at daycare that first morning, I felt a guilty sense of relief as I told them, “Maybe you can get her to sleep.”

As the months went on, you leveled out (as most babies do) and transformed into a bubbly ball of delight. Complete strangers would comment, “She’s such a happy baby!” And you were—in your own time. That’s how you have to do most things.

Today, you’re three.

It’s hard for me to remember you’re only three. You already speak like a five-year-old, which isn’t surprising since you try to keep up with your brother in every other way. Last week you told me, “Mommy, I do not have the appetite for this dinner,” and I was so impressed by the phrase I wasn’t even annoyed that you refused to eat anything other than shredded cheese and fed your sweet potato to the dog.

You are a fighter. Your body is a map of bumps and bruises from foolish feats of bravery and stubborn acts of defiance. Your eyes flash with mischief when you’re about to disobey. When I try to shield you from bodily harm (also known as “Anders”), you push my hands away and dive back into the fray.

You are also loving and empathetic. When something bad happens to a character in one of our books, your brow will furrow with concern: “He’s sad, Mommy,” You thrive on physical touch—putting your feet on my knees at dinner, pressing against my side when we read. You are rendered fully immobile by a good back scratch. Sometimes you cup my face in your hands and press your nose against mine. Your unblinking blue eyes hold a magnetic pull, as if to say I am yours and you are mine.

You are noise. Our car rides to daycare are punctuated by gibberish songs sung at ear-splitting volume. At night I hear your voice through the monitor after the lights are turned off, singing and swapping stories with your stuffed animals. I say “Please don’t yell,” and “Use your inside voice!” on repeat, but deep down I hope you never let anyone silence you. Your voice matters. You matter. I will go to battle with anyone who says otherwise.

Can I tell you a secret? I felt a mixture of joy and fear when your brother pulled that pink piece of paper out of the envelope three years ago. Deep in my heart, I was terrified to have a girl. The responsibility to raise strong, self-assured little women can feel heavy. But as the news sunk it, I realized I had never wanted anything more.

If anyone can rise, it’s you.

I admire your bravery, your tenacity, and your strong will—even though these things drive me crazy sometimes. You will rule the world.

After 30+ days of you waking up saying, “Is it my bur-day!?” I am happy to finally say YES. Happy third, my sweet girl.

My girl is one

One year ago, this child came rushing into the world with speed and fury.

My first contraction was at 1:10 a.m. and within 30 minutes I could no longer stand up. Birth plan? HA. We barely made it to the hospital. Ellis was delivered 10 minutes after we arrived by an ER doctor whose name I don’t even know. The birth happened so quickly she was still fully encased in her amniotic sac. Being born “en caul” is extremely rare (1 in 80,000 babies) and carries historic superstition about good luck and a destiny of greatness. I didn’t buy into the hype, but I couldn’t help feel that she was marked as special.

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But our first three months were mired in the deepest exhaustion. My special baby was beautiful and healthy, but she was inconsistent and stubborn. She wouldn’t nap. She wouldn’t fall into a routine. She screamed bloody murder every night from 6-10 p.m. Nothing soothed her and my nerves were shattered. I felt the constant weight of failure. Every two steps forward meant three steps back. I was stretched to new limits of patience and grace, drowning in joy and despair.

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Then, the haze cleared. Suddenly my unhappy baby was easygoing and full of giggles. She (FINALLY) slept through the night. She smiled quickly, delighted everyone, and settled into her role as amenable second child. Complete strangers would say, “She’s such a happy baby!” and they were right. She came into her own with fervor, all joy and light. Our life wasn’t easy but it was wild and beautiful.

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Which brings us to today. This little girl is ONE. Just like that.

My love for her has grown in leaps and laugher. She’s a ball of energy and mischief. She refuses to be left out of the action. She adores her brother and Daddy and will follow them anywhere. She never stops moving unless on my hip.

I sometimes feel compelled to devour her chubby little hands, her bright blue eyes, her adorably deranged six-tooth smile. “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.”

Life with two kids is no joke. It’s chaos and movement and intensity. There are days I sink to the floor in exhaustion after both are in bed. I make a lot of mistakes. This little one still baffles me with her strong opinions and inconsistencies. She reminds me that control over life is a laughable fallacy. But I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t trade her.

We love her so much. Happy birthday, my little.

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So I Have a Two-Year-Old

There was a time I was afraid to become a mother.

I knew I wanted a family, but I didn’t really like kids. At least other people’s kids. They were sticky and loud and OH MY LANDS the millions of asinine questions. I didn’t have a natural rapport with them. If trapped in conversation with one, I would find myself asking, “So. Um. Read any good books lately?”

And then we got pregnant. I was going to be a mom. The thing I wanted the most was also the thing that terrified me to my core.

What if I wasn’t ready to become a mother? What if I was just as socially awkward with my own child? What if I tried to talk about the weather or politics? What if I couldn’t figure out what to do?

These thoughts plagued me my entire pregnancy as I read every book I could get my hands on. How to sleep train. How to breastfeed. How to be more French. How to raise kids that will become world leaders someday. I so desperately wanted to be prepared.

Then, ready or not, I went into labor. Two years ago today, Dairy Man and I woke up in a hospital room (after five blissful hours of sleep thanks to the modern miracle of an epidural), feeling woefully unprepared for what was to come.

But he was born. Anders Knox. Pink-skinned, blue-eyed, and boasting an impressive set of lungs. From the first moment he was placed on my chest I felt the heavy weight of love.

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I didn’t love him because he was a baby. I loved him because he was my baby. This love was instinctual, carnal. In those first few weeks of sleep deprivation, diaper explosions, and constant fear of doing things wrong, this love sustained me. This love kept me moving forward.

Today my sweet boy is two. He has a personality and independence. He talks constantly and is obsessed with farm equipment. He is very particular about his shoes. He isn’t afraid of cows and gives the biggest hugs.

I’m starting to realize that I’ve gone beyond loving him just because he’s my son to loving the person he is becoming.

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I feel it when he clearly articulates which stuffed animals he wants in his crib.
“Blue bunny. White bunny. No thank you, sheep.”

I feel it when he races ahead of me to say hi to the baby cows.
And when I have to keep him from climbing under the fence to pet them.

I feel it when I ask him what he wants for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.
Bread. Bread. Salmon? And bread.

I feel it when he puts an injured finger up to my lips and says “Mama, kiss it.”
Though I do draw the line somewhere. That time he sat on a toy truck and went into a downward-facing dog position so that Mama could kiss it? Sorry. Not happening, buddy.

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Today, I don’t feel any more prepared than I did two years ago. I still can’t believe the hospital let us leave with a baby when we literally had NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT WE WERE DOING. I still feel the weight of responsibility when I remember we’re literally raising a little human.

But I learned, my love grew, and that squishy baby is becoming his own little person. Sometimes he pushes my hand away. Sometimes he runs into the safety of my arms. He desperately needs me but is also learning how to navigate the world on his own.

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My love will always be unconditional (thank goodness, because I hear the high school years can be a doozy #hormones), but it’s growing into something deeper based on who he is.

He loves the dairy. He is obsessed with books. He is polite and appreciative. He has boundless energy. He knows the names of more pieces of heavy equipment than I do (what the heck is a motor grader?). He is pretty sure we should have bread salad with bread casserole and roasted bread on the side every night (and bread cake for dessert).

You guys. This kid is the absolute coolest. He makes us laugh every day. We are so grateful that God has entrusted him into our care.

I can’t wait for the next year. I can’t wait to see how Anders continues to grow more uniquely himself. I can’t wait for the twos, even if there’s a side of terrible thrown in. Because I know my heart will be right there, growing alongside him.

Happy second, little bug.