Stella turned three years old right in the middle of our move so, of course, we celebrated multiple times. Once in Hawaii, at the same restaurant where we’ve celebrated all of her birthdays.
Then a big party, surrounded by her entire family when we got to Vancouver. We had the cake we always get for the kids’ birthday and the weather was nice enough that she could wear her favorite dress. No beach this year, but I think have grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins more than made up for that.
On her actual birthday, we woke up early and went to a restaurant where you can make pancakes at your table. Stella loves pancakes and would probably eat them for every meal if I let her, so this was the perfect way to start her third year. We bought her a bike and she got enough toys to keep her occupied until our things arrived.
The other day as we were getting ready for school, Stella ran into my bathroom. “Mooooom,” she called as she ran. “I want to sleep with my sleeping bag tonight,” she said as seriously as possible before adding, “because I’m suffering and I’m cold.” She used her sad and cold faces to emphasize how much she was suffering and how cold she was. No matter that she sleeps in the warmest room in the house and regularly wakes up covered in sweat. As soon as the word “suffering” popped out of her mouth I started to laugh, a strange mixture of sadness that my baby knows this word and can use it in context (however untruthful it might have been) and pride that she knows this word and can use it context.
I use Google photos to back up my pictures and videos and every day it shows what I was documenting on that day one year ago, two years ago, etc. A few days after Christmas, there were some videos of Stella, snippets of longer conversations I didn’t manage to record. Just Stella, dressed in the fairy costume we had given her for Christmas. Her voice is so little. I sent the video to Wes and he said that was her voice, and yes, of course it’s her voice. But it’s the voice of a 2-year old who is still learning how to say a complete sentence and what things are called and how to describe something new.
I see the changes daily, which is to say: I don’t see them at all. They are subtle and slow when you’re around her all the time, but comparing the Stella of one year ago to the Stella of today and I’m stopped in my tracks. She still seems so small to me. How is it possible that she was even smaller? She still has so much to learn that it’s hard to recall how much she’s already discovered.
She regularly has to pee as soon as she sits down at the dining room table for any meal and as she’s running to the bathroom she always looks back and says, “Make sure James doesn’t get any of my food.” I would scoff at the idea that James wanted what Stella had when his plate was exactly the same but a few months ago we switched him to a booster seat so now he can climb out. Without fail, once she’s in the bathroom, he’ll climb down from his chair, walk to her seat, and try to steal her food. I try to tell her that it’s because he loves her so much, but I know how annoying it is to have to share with someone just because they love you.
We’ve stopped nap time after a month or so of terrible sleep all around. The first week or so was a little rough, but we’re in the swing of things now. She’s sleeping better and going to bed easier (yeah, sure, Dad had to step in and play Tough Parent for a while because I just couldn’t stand the tears and screaming) but every third or fourth day she hits her wall and needs a good nap.
She’s in preschool near our house and loves it. The first day, she ran in without a glance back. It’s hard to get her to tell us what she learned, but when she sits down to play teacher with her dolls, or points out letters and numbers that she’s learned, I’m glad we enrolled her. James misses her while she’s gone but the school also has an area for kids to play, whether they go to school or not, and he loves that.
She’s starting to play by herself and use her imagination to create scenes for her ponies, or dolls, or cars and I’m tempted to hop in and play, but don’t because learning how to play alone is just as important as learning how to play with friends.
This morning she snuggled up in my arms and told me, “I love my mama.” She does this often and it’s the best part of my day. It reminds to take a step back, slow down, and work on being a better person.