Being a Mommy with not-so-much creative juice (ie; scrapbooking, memory books, etc.) I decided early on to write Clara a letter each year so when she is all grown up and I’ve forgotten everything, she will have a letter to read and know what she was like, what was happening in our lives, so on and so forth. This year has been so nutty that I haven’t yet gotten around to writing her letter and, in the interest of killing two birds with one stone, I thought I would go ahead and write it here for the world to enjoy.
It is difficult for me to believe your second birthday was spent in Colorado with all of our dear friends. What a celebration that was! We ordered you a huge ice cream cake from Josh and John’s ice cream and you wouldn’t take one single bite! Everyone else enjoyed a little extra on your behalf. At two, you were just beginning to speak- but I think I was the only one who could understand you.
Between two and three, you went from staying home full-time with me, to being in school full-time in Virginia, to being in school part-time here, in Rome, Italy. You went from living in the shadow of one of many “14-ers” in the Rockies (Pike’s Peak) to living in two very different, crowded cities. It makes my heart hurt (still) to think that your days of running out our front door to a place that is safe for you to explore without holding my hand has come to a close. I truly, truly hate that. I so wanted that for you, sweetie. And although you will not remember, I will remember in vivid detail how much you adored being outside. In your element, for sure.
Maybe that’s why I’m so late writing this letter, because I am still smarting from the losses and reeling from the profound changes that have necessarily altered the course of your childhood. I know less this year about how you made the strides in your development, because many of them were made in someone else’s care. The teachers at Children’s International were so wonderful with you and celebrated your unique, kinesthetic way of being in the world. I am truly grateful that we found that place for you!
After driving across the country, watching endless repeats of Fraggle Rock, Barney, and Angelina Ballerina, we arrived in Arlington. Living on the third floor of what I have always not-so-fondly referred to as “habitrails” (enormous, soul-less, apartment complexes) we didn’t even have a bedroom for you. Not that you minded. We are dedicated co-sleepers and, well, you were still nursing at that point, so it was not a problem. The whole apartment, really, was a shrine for your toys, although you didn’t play with many. You were generally worn out after school and would help me in the kitchen or watch a movie. This year you have definitely cultivated a strong love of the big screen and I often wonder if I will eventually wean you off. I try and limit your time watching movies to 2 hours, but I know that is still too much for you to be watching. But I digress. Arlington.
Your first trip to the ER was in Arlington. You fell at school and hit your head on a play table, putting a 3/4 inch gash right above your eye. You were strapped down while they glued the wound shut, but I don’t think they did a very good job. You will definitely have a scar for the rest of your days. Your second trip to the ER was also in Arlington, for a very nasty bug bite that started taking on the classic bulls-eye shape of a tick bite. Thank goodness it wasn’t!
Our time in Arlington is such a blur of driving (god, the traffic!), heat, mosquitos and for me, grief. Erick was so happy to finally be out of the job he hated so much in Colorado, which made my sadness hard for him to bear! Bear it we did, and we did some really fun things in Arlington. You loved Roosevelt Island, which was right down the street from our apartment. One day, you ran almost the entire circumfrence of the island with me! It was so much fun to run with you. We went to the Smithsonian museums- a lot. You always got a kick out of running around the museums and having your Daddy chase you on the Mall. At least a few times we went on bike rides- the bike paths in that area are just phenomenal! And then, near the end, we found the park to end all parks and most weekends were spent playing on a park in the Clarendon area. With a water feature and great Danish play equipment, we met lots of great people and other kids.
Then it was time to leave.
We are in Rome now, and you are in a local school. You refuse to speak Italian, but slowly, you are picking it up. You throw Italian words into your setences without even realizing it. You have also translated for me on a number of occassions when people ask me questions and I don’t understand. In the Fall, you will go to a British school with a great outdoor space. Unlike the Italians, the British believe in kids getting dirty and going outside every day. I am relieved that you will have that opportunity again very soon. I want you to feel comfortable with dirt under your fingernails again, I want you to be comfortable outdoors, so you are ready for our eventual return to a place where “outdoors” is more of a reality.
Don’t get me wrong… Rome is shaping up to be an amazing time in all of our lives. We have already visited some really special places and I enjoy traveling with you more each passing day. Orvieto, Naples, and Bracciano were all fun and beautiful places- we have many adventures to come. I am so grateful we will be here for three years. All of us have a chance to settle in and take a deep breath. My guess is your first memories will be of Italy. That is a wonderous thing, Clara.
Notable facts about you over the last year and now are…
*About a month after you turned three, you stopped nursing. Well, you still would if I let you, but my trip to the hospital dried my milk supply up.
*You are in the midst of potty training and doing a great job! I am so proud of you!
*You speak in full on sentences and you are so polite and well mannered. Not to say you don’t have your moments of being a bossy little three year old.
*Tantrums became a regular part of our lives this year. Age or circumstance, we will never know. I’m looking forward these tempestuous storms of toddlerhood fading away…
*You still love to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Although you have a lovely bed and enjoy playing in it, on it, and around it- you only sleep in it about half the time. But, I am all too certain that your days of co-sleeping will fade away sooner than I might imagine.
*Still, you remain cautious in new situations. It takes you (painfully) long to accept a situation. Sometimes I forget and try to rush you. I am finding that as we settle into our routine, it is easier for you to be a bit more flexible. You certainly come by this trait honestly, and I try to let you work through it your own way. You truly aren’t shy, and I work hard to keep that label away from you.
*You are always telling me that you need patience. When I am cooking and you keep asking (and asking and asking again) for your food, you will more often than not answer your own question, “I need patience, Mommy.”
*You love to run, skip, hop, and play dress up. Your imagination blossomed this year, which is a delight to see. You are getting so good at playing ball in all it’s forms- you can almost dribble a ball!
*Your favorite book right now is Madeline!
*You know almost all your letters and you are a number wizard! You have started doing little fractions when we are cooking… it is so cool!
*You wear a size 4T and size 9 shoes. You still have not had a haircut yet and your teeth are a bit crooked, but it’s so sweet and cute.
*You love to give Mommy, Daddy, and your baby doll, Isa, kisses when we “hurt ourselves”. You hate band-aids, but you love to pretend to put them on yourself and us.
*One of the joys of my life is cooking with you. Sometimes it’s sort of a disaster, but it’s always fun. You are great at dumping, pouring and mixing. You are also a great helper with washing dishes and, consequently, the floor around our sink is always spotless. Or wet.
*You adore your Father. And he adores you. You guys have such fun together! He is your favorite companion for the park and the playground. He plays the best games. He is your top choice for bath time. He makes awesome submarine sounds. You are his favorite helper for projects…
*Your food choices have become pretty limited in the last year, so I’m grateful that you eat a varied diet at school. At home, you eat a mono-diet for months on end and then it changes and we don’t know what to feed you for a few weeks!! The constants in your diet at home are avocado, olive oil, fish, and bread. At least I know you are getting your healthy fats!
I’m certain there is probobly a whole novel of things I have missed or forgotten, which is the downfall of writing a letter once a year. As much as I believe I will remember EVERYTHING, I don’t. What you end up with mostly is a snapshot of who you are the day I write the letter and snippets of detail that have lodged themselves in my memory. With any luck, your Dad will remember more than I, so when you have questions as an adult, someone will know the answer!!
Through this year of transition and change, you have been tough. Tougher than I expected. I am proud of you. Insanely, fiercely proud of you and all that you are and all that you are to become. My deepest, sincerest wish is to be exactly the Mother you need at all times. Impossible, I know, but a Mommy can aspire! You are sweet, thoughtful, intelligent, strong, tenacious, flirtatious, funny, athletic, curious, helpful, polite, adventurous, and oh-so-beautiful. I am lucky to have you as my daughter. You have taught me much about myself and about how to best parent you. May I continue to listen and respond in ways that will help you grow into the woman you are meant to be.