The scene: The Foodtown grocery store across the street from our apartment. You and Baba were browsing through the cucumbers, trying to select the best one, when suddenly there is an avalanche of cucumbers tumbling out of the bin and onto the floor! "aaaaaah!" you screamed, "it's a Cucumber Catastrophe!!!"
You giggled hysterically for about five minutes after that, constantly trying to choke out something about that cucmber being just so silly, but you couldn't get the words out over the laughter. I figured out what you were trying to say during the subsequent five or 10 minutes where you were forcing yourself to keep laughing, while you gasped that you just couldn't stop laughing because that cucmber was SO silly, mama, just SO SILLY!
Which pretty much sums up your sense of humor right now. The silly phase, coupled as always with your thoughtfulness, intelligence, and truly sweet nature, has hit full force. You seem to find it quite amusing to stick your butt at someone singing "butt! butt! I butt you!"
I think, however, that the intelligence, bravery, and thoughtfulness you've displayed this month offset the sillies so much that you still seem like a child well beyond your years. Sometimes you seem downright adult, and I often find the need to remind myself that you're only 2. You're such a gentle, wise soul, and you take everything we throw at you in stride.
Sometimes you even call us out when we deserve it. One evening not long ago I spoke quite sternly to you, about what I can't recall, except that you were somehow inhibiting my ability to accomplish some task, and thus I admonished you. While I was in the right to ask you to stop, I was perhaps more gruff than I needed to be, and it wasn't really fair. The next morning you meandered in while I was doing the laundry, and broke my heart by saying, quite earnestly: "Mama, you're nice. You shouldn't yell at me if you're nice."
We talked about the incident, and I explained the difference between being stern and actually yelling (which, thankfully, we do very little of these days) but acquiesced, and apologized for being unfairly sharp the night before. I was totally amazed at your bravery in coming to talk to me about it. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to someone in a position of authority, especially to voluntarily reopen closed emotional wounds to fix them. I had so many mixed emotions in that moment; I felt ashamed for having snapped at you, grateful that you felt comfortable enough to talk to me about it (albeit you did tear up slightly after you'd breached the subject, but that just lends credence to your bravery) and so proud of you for sticking up for yourself, and for actually thinking about and talking out your problems...You really are a truly amazing person Cadence. And that is precisely what makes it so hard for me to remember that you're still considered a toddler.
Another phase that I knew would come eventually, but was slightly surprised to witness in full force this month was the picking-up-the-cats-and-carrying-them-around phase. Credit where credit is due; this is largely due to the fact that we have awesome, tolerant, gentle cats, and you are incredibly gentle yourself. Don't know what the moment specifically was (though I suspect the day Hazel was born and you held Lily's paws off of my stomach so she wouldn't step on & hurt me!) but you realized that you were bigger than they are now, and could potentially pick them up. They're pretty good at keeping themselves out of reach when they really don't want to be manhandled, though sometimes you catch them unawares, or they are willing to play along for a bit, cautiously trusting you. Other times, I think they enjoy the chase as much as you do, they could easily hang out on shelves and such well out of your reach, but instead they zoom about, waiting until you aaalmost have them, then zip right past you, to lay in wait in the other room.
You have also taken an even stronger shine to dancing than you already had. Now, we don't really watch that much TV-a couple kids shows like Sesame Street and Sid the Science Kid, plus Food Network Challenge, Glee, and So You Think You Can Dance? pretty much sums up our weekly tube time, but I have to say, that little bit seems to have a pretty profound effect. The only show you have never asked to watch independently, haven't recreated, and frankly don't always pay much attention to is Glee...and I guess that is really more of an indulgence for Baba and I that we try to get you interested in so you won't feel left out during the hour it's on.
But I digress...I bring this all up just to say that I think watching So You Think You Can Dance? every week has actually been a really good influence on you. It has definitely fueled your interest in dance in general, and it has exposed you to all sorts of different styles, different genres, and you're certainly taking it all in. Not one nuance is lost on you, and how I wish I had a video of the dance concert you put on for me the other day, because it was EPIC in its depth and awesome-ness.
It was an extremely well composed performance. There were at least five different, distinct numbers in it, each lasting several minutes, but each with a distinct beginning and ending. Each dance had its own, very distinct style - lyrical, hip hoppy, contemporary, tap, and there was even one dance that was an afro-haitian type. Your choreography was quite well-rouded, incorporating levels, tempos, moments of stillness, sharp vs. soft movements...it totally floored me, but at the same time...well, it was just you, doing what you enjoy, and you never do anything half way.
Take, for instance, reading! Now that you know all of the letters in the alphabet (at least the capital versions, lower case letters still give you some trouble, especially when faced with funky fonts) you have moved on to actually stringing them together to learn how to read. You get what it is now, and are totally chompin' at the bit to be able to do it one your own. You now read your books to us...the ones you know by heart, anyway, but you follow along the words with your finger sometimes, as if trying to pick up the secret to reading by looking at a word as you're saying it...guess what, that will eventually have an effect...shine on, little star!!
But it isn't just your books. For the first time you seem genuinely interested in the 'grown up' books in the study, frequently asking about them and occasionally asking to see one or have one read to you. (Sometimes you even have Baba read to you from his law books. You inevitably last longer than we expect you to in this endeavor, which results baba reading entire sections aloud and only stopping when he's finished what he needed to do for the day, or needs to use what he'd read in a piece of writing he's working on...and sometimes you'll even through little tantrums when he stops.)
A favorite lately has been Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think you initially picked it out of the many books on the shelf because of it's pinkish-purple cover, but you took a serious liking to it and I even discovered you 'reading' it to Hazel on day. For the record, she seemed pretty engrossed, too.
So yes, you are remarkably precocious and smart! You've known how to open the refrigerator for quite some time now, but it hasn't been an easy task to accomplish. It's hard to get that thing open, it takes a great deal of force, so I shouldn't have been surprised when, early one morning, as I was trying to comfort a disquieted Hazel, you called for help demanding that I open it for you because it was "too hard" and you just couldn't do it. I was, admittedly, a bit annoyed with your sudden retreat into helplessness, more for the precedent set by catering to your declaration that "I'm just a small girl so I can't do things" when those things are already established abilities...this is perhaps not the best example of that, but you do have a tendency to try to get out of doing things you don't want to do by declaring yourself too weak, too helpless, etc, when in reality you're anything but. I find it truly grating. I guess I just don't like seeing you get into the habit of putting yourself down, even if you are doing it as a way to manipulate others into doing your will. Saavy, that's another word that would describe you.
But back to the fridge...I opened it for you, but declared as I did so that I KNEW you could do it, because I'd seen you do it before. Evidently that was enough of an admonishment for your sensitive soul, because later that morning you wanted something else, and snuck into the kitchen without saying a word, determined to do it on your own and avoid involving me at all.
After trying again to pull it open by the handle and getting frustrated by it, you growled, breathed, then looked hard at it for a moment before moving in for the kill. Evidently you figured out how the mechanism functioned, because your next move was to swiftly move in close to the fridge, crouch down near the bottom and slip your teeny fingers between the door and the frame, breaking the seal and making the door effortless to open. It was so simple. And so carefully thought out. And well executed. I was absolutely impressed with your problem solving, ingenuity, and general smarts...of course that pissed you off and you got really mad at me for mentioning what you'd accomplished. Compliments are still mostly off-limits. Though we are able to sneak a few in here and there these days.
You also take an active role in making things happen for yourself these days, in a way I couldn't have expected. The other day you spilled some bubbles on yourself, and while I worked on cleaning up the spot you'd been sitting in, you went and held your shorts up in front of the fan, so they would dry.
Sometimes you will be playing, and suddenly you'll disappear, gone to wash a dish you'd finished using or get a wet paper towel to scrub the floor where you'd made some mess or other...then you'll bring the clean objects back and stick them in the sun on the windowsill to dry. You never cease to amaze me.
This, coupled with your ability to operate both the deadbolt and knob on the front door (which you've actually been doing for a long while, I just never mentioned it) leads me to believe that you will be running your own household by this time next year.
And that doesn't even take into account all the other amazingly helpful, wonderful things you enjoy doing. If Baba or I mention that we're going to do some sort of chore - really, anything - you shout "I will I will!" and then either do the task for us, or at the very least act as a truly capable assistant. Whether it's helping to clean, retrieve things, put away laundry, get the phone, watch the baby...you name it, you do it, happily.
Oh, and then there was the time I gave you one of Hazel's diapers (clean, obviously) to play with, and watched in amazement as you diapered and then 'changed' your 'baby' (a puppy in this instance). You did it perfectly, and didn't miss a step. The tail threw you a bit, but that would throw me, too...regardless, I was very impressed with how competently you navigated everything from wiping to gently lifting baby's feet to move the diaper on or off and then lowering them before expertly fastening it. You know your Baba didn't know how to do that until after you were born? Kir taught him how to do it while she was visiting us in the hospital. You still have a goal of growing up to be a Mama...you're well on your way kid. No need to rush things, K??
Even your disappointment and sadness is taking on a much more adult character. Take, for instance, the Baby Bell Cheese Incident:
You love the little cheese wheels, and in the past you've enjoyed the sharper red-wax-coated ones. You hadn't had any in probably 6 months or so, though, and as we all know, tastes change. (You also used to love spicy food and would beg for ginger candies. Now you claim not to like chicken or corn because "they're too spicy." No amount of talking can convince you that they're only spicy when spiced, the heat isn't inherent, and that you sometimes like the flavor anyway. But I digress:) You saw some at the grocery store and asked to get the yellow-coated kind, and so we did. You ate them all in two days, and probably would have downed them all in a single sitting had we let you. Since they had been such a hit, we agreed to get some more the next time we went to the store. This time, you got the red kind. Sadly, however, you eagerly tore into one at home, only to find that you didn't like it. The disappointment was devastating, and despite yourself, you broke down and cried. Luckily for you, however, you have an awesome uncle who is totally smitten with you and happens to live with us. Andrew offered to go to the store to get you some yellow ones, and suddenly the world didn't seem so bleak.
Afterwards I was somewhat absent-mindedly balling up and playing with the wax from the red one when you came over and looked at it like it was bringing back horrible memories.
"Do you want me to throw this away so you don't even have to see it anymore?" I asked.
"Yes," you admitted, before walking off down the hall, head hanging. You hesitated as you passed your wagon, and then, with a dejected sigh and matching arm gesture, you lamented "even my wagon is red!" and walked off into living room.
I don't know what it is about you and food. The way it seems to affect you, you'd think we never fed you, when in fact just the opposite is true. You have a fantastic appetite, which is wonderful and gives you plenty of energy for your myriad adventures throughout the day. But lately you've been having a surprising number of nightmares about not being in control of your food.
The first one I thought was just novel, and sadly cute. You woke up screaming in the middle of the night and when I finally got you to respond to my desperate pleas to tell me what what wrong, all you could choke out through the tears was "I didn't want Andrew to cut my favorite chocolate in half!" Then there was a similar incident where you woke up repeating "I want my cheese!" over and over through the sobs, and most recently was the one where you screamed for half an hour straight beginning at 3am because you "didn't want Baba to drink all my orange juice!"
Those dreams mostly subsided, thankfully, with the advent of a new nighttime ritual...over the past few months, when confronted with hugs or kisses you weren't in the mood to receive, you'd taken to 'eating' them; Baba or I would give you a peck on the cheek and you'd pluck it off, and make a great show of stuffing it all in your mouth, chewing it up, and swallowing. This little game has saved us from many a potential meltdown...plus it's really cute. Lately it's expanded to include any warm fuzzies floating about in the air when you're feeling a bit surly, which is kind of a lot, 'cause hey, we reeeeeeaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllly love you, a lot, so there is plenty of love swirling around you at any given moment...
One night, you were in a rather contrary mood at bedtime, but Baba was determined to give you your goodnight hugs and kisses anyhow. You ate every one he tried to give you, but that gave him an idea. He gave you lots and lots and lots of hugs and kisses, so many that you couldn't possibly keep up with him, and he told you that if you got hungry during the night, you could just eat up all the love you were covered in. You loved it, and now its part of the bedtime routine.
Blessedly, the love in this house is not unidirectional. We are so lucky to have as loving and wonderful a family as we do, and I give thanks for that fact every day...so it was just earth-shatteringly beautiful and such a happy moment for me when I witnessed you turning that special game back on Baba a few days later. He'd just finished filling your overnight stash of hugs and kisses and was getting up to leave when you called him back. "Baba," you said, "if you get hungry during the night you can eat all the love all over you! Even here!" and you indicated the inside of his nose! Baba laughed heartily, thanked you, and told you that he loved you. You responded by declaring, coyly: "I think I'll keep you."
Oh, my little lady, such a special little girl. You have a few quirks that make us worry, just a little bit, like your fear of messes. Sure, sometimes you make messes like any other kid...but then there are times where you spill something or encounter a mess someone else has made and freeze in your tracks, not screaming exactly, but emitting loud, terrified or pained groans and screaming for it to be cleaned up! now! uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhh!
The most common unsavory mess that you stumble upon is cat vomit. Lily has a weak stomach and will often throw up if she eats too fast or eats something that's too rich for her, and somehow you almost always manage to be the one to find it. "Oh no, cat puke!" you shout as loud as you can, and if we don't respond quickly enough, you stand there screaming "caaaaaaaat puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke!" at the top of your lungs and with increasing urgency until we rescue you from the offense with our trusty cleaning supplies. Recenlty you leanred about hairballs, and I couldn't help giggling to myself the other day when you found some cat vomit that turned out to in fact be a hairball, your usual cry giving way to "oh no, cat balls!" This is really just one somewhat gross example of many subtle differentiations you've been able to make lately.
Another favorite pastime you've adopted is serenading people on the bus. We take the bus down to chelsea every day to walk charlie, and it is a looooong ride for someone your age. You have come up with a wonderful way of combating the boredom, though, and you turn around in your seat and sing to whomever happens to be behind us. Usually, you start with the ABCs and then move on to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and sometimes row row row your boat...and when your audience disembarks, you start over again from the beginning with the next passenger to take that seat.
I'll conclude this letter with your own words. You've grown very articulate, and you have quite the imagination, and so it's not surprising that you've begun to take it to the next logical step: Storytelling. Not only do you invent stories with great fervor, you remember them and retell them many times. Once we can teach you about story archs; I think you'll be unstoppable. Here's a story you've retold a few times recently:
"I'm going to tell a story about my sister. Once upon a time I had a little baby sister named hazel, and she went wee wee wee all the way home to new york. And then the itty bitty one went wee wee wee all the way back to town. And the mama and baba ones went wee wee wee all the way back to New York City. And that's the end of my story."
We love you, amaze-a-bug, and I totally love watching you grow up in every way. Keep on enjoying life, little lady.