For a little while, it seemed like Kara would only say a word if she knew she could say it right. As her boldness increases, so do her mispronunciations. Some are singular and melt-your-heart cute (“fingersnail” instead of “fingernail,” for example), but some follow a pattern. The letter “R” is hard to pronounce. While she sometimes replaces it with the “W” sound, more often she replaces it with “L.”

This can be confusing, and it can also make our day seem much more violent than it was.

“Kara, what did you do today?”
“Duck pond.”
“Oh, you went to the duck pond? What did you do?”
“Um… Ducks! Ducks bled!”

What she means, of course, is that we fed the ducks some bread, not that there was a mass slaughter of the botanical garden’s water fowl.


Kara’s Big Week

This week, Kara turned two.

It’s a pretty big milestone. For starters, it means when people ask how old she is, we get to give the same answer for a whole year, rather than adjusting every month. She is now “two,” not “24 months.”

It means she’s a toddler. She uses the potty, sleeps in a big girl bed, helps Daddy with the dishes, and helps Mommy put the laundry away.

It also means, of course, that she had a party. It was a very small one, just the three of us, but we had a great time. As soon as she woke up, we got ready to go to the beach. We’d been building it up since the day before, so she was already pretty pumped. We stopped at the store and let her pick out her cupcake. The bakery had many to choose from: there was a pig, a monkey, a panda, one that looked like a beach scene… and one with piles of chocolate frosting. She picked the chocolate (that’s my girl!). She also picked out an Elmo balloon. We sang “Happy Birthday” all the way to the beach, because whenever we’d finish, she’d smile and say “More song?”

Then we spent about an hour and a half playing in the water. Then we sang “Happy Birthday” again, and she ate her cupcake. We played for another hour, in the water and on the playground there, and then it was time to head home despite the birthday girl’s protests. After her nap, we were even able to squeeze in a visit to Mrs. Mary and Mr. Ken before a quick trip to the thrift store, where Kara got her final birthday present for the day: a baby/toddler chair. She sits in it when we read books at bedtime.

Turning two also necessitates a wellness checkup with the doctor.

Since it’s been a while since she’s been to the doctor, Steve decided to show her some videos about what to expect at the doctor’s office. The whole way there she talked about what the doctor would do (“Look eyes. Look mouth. Look tummy.” etc.). Unfortunately, she’s still small enough that the nurses measure her height by laying her down on the patient’s table and marking the tissue paper, then measuring that, rather than having her stand against the wall. Laying down on that table is torture in Kara’s book, so we did not start off the visit on a high note. Fortunately, she calmed down very quickly as they took her weight.

Then it was time for the actual doctor checkup.

It was heartbreaking and hilarious.

She tried so hard to be brave. It was ok while he was looking in her eyes and ears. Then he put that cold stethoscope on her chest, and the frown started. Then he put it on her back, and the frown deepened, and her chin wrinkled, and she looked at Mommy and Daddy with such big, unhappy eyes, but she still wasn’t crying. Then she had to lay on her back while he looked at her tummy and took her pulse, and finally she couldn’t hold back the tears.

Oh, that frown. With those huge blue eyes. It could melt Scrooge’s heart.

All good news, though. She’s awesome and healthy and doesn’t have to go back for two more years. Unless, of course, she doesn’t stay healthy.

Watching Them Grow

I burst with pride every time I watch Kara master a new skill, whether it’s feeding herself or stacking beads on a stick. Even before her second birthday, she’s mastered the use of the potty. Just recently, we converted her crib to a “big girl bed,” and she seems to like being able to crawl into bed herself and letting me tuck her in. (And I like being able to reach that sweet face with a good-night kiss!) She’s starting to socialize with other people when we go to church or the playground. She’s learning to count, and she’s singing songs on her own. She’s growing up, and she’s doing it with flair and style.

I’ve heard many parents talk about how bittersweet it is to watch their babies grow, and I know my young one is still very young, but so far for me, there’s been no “bitter” in my “sweet.”

Maybe it’s because my mother impressed me with something she said when I was still pretty young: “So many parents have specific goals for their children, but I was just happy and excited to see what you liked and hear what you wanted to be.”

I have no desire to rush my baby into toddlerhood, or my toddler into a child, or my child into a preteen. But every step towards self-reliance she takes on her own, of her own accord, just tells me that Steve and I are doing our jobs well.

The Difference Between Pets and People

I’ve been there: I’m a pet person. I’ve been the one relating to people with babies by thinking about my ferrets/cats/dog. My animals were my fur babies.

Are my fur babies. We finally have a pet in the house again. He is a Guinea pig named Iceberg. As in the lettuce.

The importance of having and loving fur babies should not be underestimated: as kids, they teach us invaluable lessons about taking care of things weaker than us rather than taking advantage. They teach responsibility, paying attention to nonverbal cues, and a million other life lessons. As adults, our pets become our family.

But here’s the thing: even for the nuts like me that treat animals like family, animals stay “babies.”

And there’s the fundamental difference.

Parents of fur babies don’t have to worry over much about whether their darlings are going to grow up to be polite, contributing members of society or whether they’re going to be manipulative sociopaths. They don’t have to worry that how they deal with this tantrum is going to forever warp your child’s understanding of a parent/child relationship. They don’t have to worry about indulging that baby’s sweet tooth too often and setting their child on the road to using food as comfort and, as a result, getting diabetes and dying young and alone.

Parents of human children don’t have to worry about those things, either, I suppose, but oh, do we ever!

So do us a favor, parents of fur babies: know the time and place for comparing your young ones to ours. When we’re talking about happy times, please, go ahead and pull out the wallet pictures or iPhone pictures of your miniature pooch in her sweater. But when we’re talking about grueling, hours-long tantrums, days-long fights about food, and difficulties sleeping, do not, under any circumstances, try to compare your fur baby’s circumstances to ours.

What a Time!

I had just enough time to write a title for this post before Kara woke up and my day began in earnest. I had planned on talking about how amazing Grandkids’ Week 2013 was. How Kara loved playing with all of her cousins and being adored by all her other relations—uncles, aunts, and grannies galore. How she immediately learned everyone’s names and got over her “mommy is the only one who can hold me” phase. She didn’t even notice when I’d disappear to do things like shower or exercise! It was beautiful.

But then, as I said, Kara woke up. And she spent the first three hours of her day crying for anything she didn’t have. (“Apple! Apple! Apple!” I give her an apple. She shakes her head and starts screaming, “Outside! Outside! Outside!” And so on and further.) The title of this post seemed just as fitting for a post about that.

What it comes down to, I suppose, is that I have a toddler, and “What a time!” is all that can be said of all toddlerhood, I imagine. It’s a time of higher highs and lower lows (and often in the same day) than I’ve ever experienced in my relatively even-keeled life. Somehow, my family of three will learn how to sail these waters, as families have since the beginning of time. If we can enjoy it more often than not, I will consider my life a success.