(Photos courtesy Alison Lea Photography, a very dear friend and incredibly gifted artist. You can find her here or on Facebook.)
A week ago, Karen asked me what it means when you cross your arms over your chest.
You were home with Karen that day, mostly all alone at the time, the older kids all playing outside in the sunshine. She said you were walking across the living room when you paused, crossed your arms on your chest, and looked at her expectantly.
She didn't know what you wanted.
And neither did I.
The next night, I was rushing through your bedtime routine. A single mom for the week (Daddy was out of town for work), I was running behind. Your sister was hungry. The dog needed to go out. The laundry had been sitting in the washing machine too long and, as luck would have it, the basement got more than a wee bit damp the day before so I had some downstairs cleaning to do as well.
I'd planned to quickly put you down and start my to-do list.
So I turned off the lights, turned on the noise machine and gently laid you in your crib.
As I turned to leave you smiled at me.
And then, very pointedly, crossed your arms.
A few beats later, I still wasn't sure what you wanted.
And then it dawned on me.
I quietly started singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and you grinned, pulling your "cuddles" up to your chin and listening, watching my face and almost imperceptibly moving your fingers along with the words, tiny mirror images of the hand signals we do during the daytime.
I finished singing and you instantly signed for "more."
Twice through, that's our deal.
You constantly teach me, remind me, to slow down.
To stop racing.
To just be.
Here we are, days away from your second birthday. You're now walking, toddling around in Lola's wake, chasing after Mustang or Lucy, and out to find some mischief.
You got your first pair of skinned knees this past weekend, thanks to playtime in the back yard. You fell a couple of times trying to walk around the driveway. Mommy tried to get you to hold her hand but you insisted on doing it yourself, which is great.
Even when you fell down, you whimpered for a second or two, but then you were right back up, trying again.
You are so determined.
But not in an ultra-serious way.
Really, you're never all that serious. You're our Silly Millie, always wanting to share a giggle or belly laugh with someone. You play peek-a-boo with the dog when you think no one is looking. You like to pull his tail just to watch him spin in circles, laughing as he tries - always unsuccessfully - to catch it himself.
You purposely push people's buttons just to see them react. You're not mean; there isn't a mean bone in your body. You're just goofy, the jokester of the family. You poke Lola in the arm, just to watch her squirm. You jump on Daddy when he's not watching, just to catch him off guard. You throw remote controls, toys and socks behind the couch just because you can.
Before you were born, Daddy, Mommy and Lola were sitting around the dinner table as Daddy and Mommy were talking about maybe having a new baby. Daddy said he knew it was time because he felt like someone was missing.
That someone was you.
I thought of that again the other day, all of us gathered around the dinner table for pizza. Lola was picking off all the "ickies" (the veggies, of course) while you were taking them and not-so-discreetly throwing them on the floor. I'm not sure if you were trying to feed the puppy or just make a mess.
I caught your eye, and you knew you'd been caught.
You just held up your outstretched hands in a "What did I do?" shrug of sorts.
Then you grinned.
And we shared a laugh.
Soon, Daddy and Lola were laughing too.
That's what you do, Millie. You bring all of us together.
You were our missing piece. And we're so glad to now be whole.
So happy (early) birthday, Princess.
Mommy, Daddy and Lola all love you so very, very, very much.
Our little Angel girl.