To Liza on Her Second Birthday

You turned two this week, roughly five weeks and a day after you turned one. It probably went by so quickly because you’re always in motion. I only thought you were fast when you were one. These days we can track whether you’re coming or going by the Doppler shift of your voice.

You have so many different ways of moving now. Your stiff-legged gait has turned into a flat-out run, your limbs moving as if they all want to go in different directions. You jump around, reaching heights of one or two inches. You sway back and forth as if auditioning for one of Jodie Foster’s old roles. You dance — oh, how you dance. One time I showed you how you could stand on my feet and we could dance together. Now you’ll come over and stare up at me, arms lifted. “Dance?” you’ll ask.

Liza dancing on my feet

That’s all part and parcel of my assigned role of jungle gym. You love riding on my shoulders, even if occasionally you lean over and lick the top of my head. If I sit on the floor, that’s your cue to push me over and climb on top of me, hopping up and down enthusiastically. If I sit in my chair, that’s a different matter. That means it’s time to read.

Not all of your motion is so delightful. You’ve decided that tantrums are often the order of the day. I don’t know why, since they don’t work. You stomp and huff and shriek, staring at your feet like the singer of a bad indie band, and your mom and I just shrug. Tantrums are slightly more effective than The Secret for getting you what you want.

Thankfully you can now tell us what you’re thinking, and your speech is full of marvelous toddlerisms. Your brother taught me that you’ll be speaking plainly before I know it, so I’m treasuring the moments when you smile sweetly and say, “AAAAAAHHHHH! CAAAAAAAKE!” Feel free to substitute “milkshake” for “cake” in that last sentence, given that all of your meals would be cake and milkshakes if we’d let them. Eli may be addicted to carbohydrates, but you’ve learned the pleasures of simple syrup and Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

Liza and her birthday cupcake

We’re past your worst sleep issues, thank goodness. There was a time when I would have happily picked someone off the street and given them you, a gunny sack, and directions to the nearest river if it meant we could have five hours of uninterrupted sleep. These days you go to bed willingly and happily. The first time I was rocking you after read you a story and you said, “I go inna bed,” and pointed at your crib, I double-checked to make sure you were still Liza. You even pick who gets the privelege of taking you to bed. “I want daddy put you a bed,” you say with a toddler’s loose grasp of subject and object. Colds still greatly affect your sleep schedule, as do the sixty-seven new teeth you’ve cut. We’ve got lots of experience dealing with you when you’re tired and cranky. Maybe you have some shark in you and are developing several rows of teeth.

You’ve already well-versed at focusing on what interests you. You draw and draw, scribbling crayon or pencil across pages and onto your little Ikea table, which already looks like it lost a war against markers. You pick up books and stare intently at them, attempting to ferret out the story that you know is in there somewhere. You love stealing Eli’s little cars and driving them around the house making quiet “beep! beep!” noises.

Liza peeking past some felt curtains

The funniest is how you play dress-up. I don’t know if this is really something girls instinctively do or not, but you’re a big fan of dragging everything out of your drawers and putting them on. It doesn’t even have to be your clothes. One morning I turned around and you’d taken a pair of shorts I’d worn yesterday and draped them around your neck.

You’re a big fan of animals, even if some of them do scare you a bit. You’re fascinated by dogs, so long as they don’t move or bark or breathe. If we ask you what a butterfly says, you’ll obligingly flap your hands and say, “Lop lop lop.” It’s especially great to hear you greet insects. “Beeee!” you’ll say excitedly. “Beeeee! Hiiiii beeee!” Last week you found a dead spider in our bathroom. “Hiiiiiii, spidah!” you said, waving at him. “Hiii! Hiiii spidah!” Then you picked him up. “I carry him. I carry him. Hi, spidah.” Mom told you to throw him away, but on your way to the trash can you decided to toss him in the toilet instead. “He swimming,” you told us. “He swimming now.”

Liza and the bug

Your relationship with Eli is coming along nicely. As an older brother myself, I knew what Eli would do, and he’s fulfilled my predictions nicely: he wants you to pay attention to him except when he doesn’t, and he wants whatever toys you have. You love Eli unconditionally. When he’s not around you wander the house calling him. That doesn’t stop you from not wanting him to take your toys. I now know the exact pitch of your shriek that means, “Hey, Eli, give me that back!” Your first words may have been “mommy” and “daddy”, but not long after you were saying “Eli’s”. I didn’t realize how quickly you’d learn about possessive nouns.

Liza and Eli mugging for the camera

Right now you’re an odd mix of bravery and caution. Socially you’re cautious around new people, but physically you’re extremely brave. Two months ago you were jumping on Eli’s bed and fell face-first into the headboard. Your nose and cheeks swelled up while blood trickled down your face. You cried so long and so hard that I was afraid you’d be unable to breathe. This happpened, of course, right before bedtime, so I called our pediatrician’s answering service to find out if he thought you’d broken your nose. While I waited for him to call back, you calmed down. Then you tried to climb on one of Eli’s big bouncy balls and jump up and down on it.

That mix of caution and bravery, of motion and sound, is part of what makes you you. I am so excited and privileged to get to know you and see what kind of person you become. I love to play with you, taking part in the pretend play you’ve started doing. When you fall off the slide and come running to me, I pick you up and comfort you. But I know that won’t last long, and indeed you quickly demand to be put down so you can run back to the slide, tears still streaming from your eyes.

Tonight Pop was pushing you in your swing. Higher and higher you went, shrieking and laughing. “SWING ME! SWING ME!” you told him, and as I watched, I wondered just how high you would go.

Liza and me

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