Today, my sweet girl, you are two years old. I can't believe it. You have grown and changed so much in the last year, in almost every way. This has been such a fun year for all of us. We went on trips. We camped. You joined your daddy on the picket line. You figured out how to put sentences together and really tell us what you want and need. You started your second year a confident stander and hand-holder, but afraid to take steps on your own. Much like how you came into this world, I knew you'd do it on your own terms and when you were ready. By Valentine's Day, you were walking independently, finally confident enough in your abilities and curious enough to try it out, falls and bumps and bruises be damned! Selfishly, I was happy that you waited to walk. Even though you were technically a toddler, I enjoyed having a "baby" for a little while longer. I knew that once you started walking I wouldn't be able to contain you--and I was right.
When you got steady on your feet, you took off running. You were never still to begin with, but once you figured out steps, it was impossible to stop you. There's so much to see and do and touch and play with. You know that, and you don't want to miss out on anything. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever see the day where you stop running at lightening speed, but I think I already know the answer.
Your personality has come through in full force this year. Watching you grow has been a joy. Early on you became A Person, and you never turned back. Watching you play and dance and learn, I know that your brain is firing on all cylinders. It has been amazing to watch you learn.
As much as it pains me to say it, you are a master manipulator. You manage to get exactly what you want from almost everyone--except me. I know you hate it when I have to be the Bad Cop, but I see it in your face when you get something you want from your mommy, and I know that you think it's just a little bit better than it was before. If it means that you have a sweeter relationship with your daddy, I'm all for it.
You have always been a talker, and you had so.many.words. even when you had just turned one. A year ago, I knew in my head that you would be a talker. I knew that by this time you would be a chatterbox and you'd share every word you knew. But, I really didn't know. I thought I knew, but nothing would have prepared me for all the words you DO know and all the talking you do all day. From the moment you wake in the morning to the time your eyelids finally droop closed, you are talking. You have full sentences. ("Too-maw-whoa, I be TWO!") You are curious and ask so many questions. ("What's DAT sound, Mommy?") You identify every single thing you see. ("A circle! In da sky! Be-hynd you!")
More than all that, you love to make people smile and laugh. You know that simple things, kisses and hugs, make Mommy smile so much. When you make someone smile, your face lights up and you start laughing. It's a joy to see, and I'm always so happy to be there to share it.
My sweet girl. You are so gentle and kind (95% of the time). You love to share, and you love to make people happy. When you find something that belongs to someone else, you're usually all too happy to return it to them. Finding cat toys hidden under the couch used to be a pain. Now it makes me smile because I know the moment I show you, you will want to run them right to Jane so she can have it back. You're always chasing her down. "Here Djayne, here! Here go, Djayne!" Even funnier is when you are done with something or don't want it. Before you begin tossing and removing the unwanted whatever-it-is from your sight, you offer it to anyone else. Food, toys, sippy cups, you name it! You hold it out, arms outstretched, "Want dis? Want dis, Mommy?" You really do love to share.
I consider it a point of pride that so many people, friends, family, and strangers, have called you the politest baby they've ever met. You always say please and thank you ("Tank yoo!") and will say, "Bless you," even to strangers. ("Besh yoo!") When I sneeze, you say, "Bless you, Mommy!" completely unprompted. In true toddler fashion, you think it's a game. Without exception, when Mommy sneezes, you say bless you and immediately give me a fake sneeze. If I don't say "Bless you, Hannah," you give me a funny cough and say, "Mommy!" You are so impatient and want your kindness returned to you right away. You know it's the right thing to say.
A few months ago, another child at the babysitter's hit you. When it was time for that child to apologize, she told them to give you a hug and say they were sorry. You were so excited for the hug--you apologized and tried to hug. You wanted that hug so much, it didn't matter that the other child had hurt you. It was time to forgive and forget and hug each other! When you bump into anything--a person, a table, a wall, the cat--you say, "Sowwee!" right away. You are always quick with a hug and a kiss and a smile. You love hugs so much, unless you're playing and busy. I am so blessed to be able to watch you grow, and I am so proud of the little lady you are becoming.
I love listening to you sing and talk to yourself in the car. On the way home everyday, you sing songs. Many of them are made up, and it's hilarious to listen to you make up the words as you go along. When I try to join in the fun, you always put me back in my place. "Mommy, no!" You know how the songs go, and you don't want anyone, even me, to mess it up.
Ah, "no". It's become a favorite word of yours. I know I hear it 1,000 times a day. Many times it's a rejection of something--dinner, hand-holding, you name it--but so many times it's also a rejection of "baby Hannah". You have always had a fierce independent streak, but in the last two months, you have reminded me everyday, "I can do it by self! I can doooo.....iiiiiiiiiitttt.....by self!" There is so much you can do "by self", but when you fall down, hurt yourself, get scared, you come running for me or your daddy. Watching you go back and forth like this is a delight. It's a lovely reminder that even though you can do so much "by self" that even briefly, you're not ready to be completely independent just yet.
Hannah, you keep me on my toes. From the time you wake up to the time you go down to bed, you are busy! You have your daddy's curious, scientific nature. You take things apart to see how they work and get mad when you can't put them back together again. You want to know everything and see everything and do everything. Rare is the day I don't hear you saying, "Uh oh!" or "Oopsy daisy!" after you've gone to bed.
You are still smart as heck. Nothing gets by you. This entire year has been one amazing discovery after another. Watching you learn to identify your numbers, colors, shapes, and letters has been incredible. Watching you discover those same things out of context and in the real world, however, has been both hilarious and mind-blowing. Your amazement at finding the number five painted on the ground, or see a star hanging on a house has brought me so much joy. When you recognize what you see, you have to share it immediately. "A star! A star, Mommy! See da star!" You have been absorbing everything from the moment you entered the world, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon.
It warms my heart to see you loving books. You love to read, and every night we read books together. Often, it's Guess How Much I Love You or Goodnight Moon. You love to read along with me, chiming in at the parts you recognize and pointing out words. Sometimes, I swear you know how to read already. Every night, you go to bed with a book and you read yourself to sleep.
Sadly, you have never been one for cuddles. Recently, though, you've been waking up early in the morning, and either Daddy or myself will bring you back to bed. In those times, you will cuddle up to me and I fight so hard to stay awake so I can soak in these moments. You will pull yourself so close that our cheeks are touching. I want to hear you breathing in and out and watch your eyelids flutter as you dream those sweet baby dreams. I can't keep myself from staring at you and touching your soft curls just one more time. Sometimes your daddy and I find ourselves looking at each other and wondering how we got so blessed. A few nights ago, as I fell back asleep with you curled up against me, I whispered to you that I loved you. You said right back, "I luff you, Mommy." I'll hold that in my heart forever.
You are my fearless little lady. This year, you flung yourself out of your crib, forcing us all to get you into a big girl bed. You swam in Lake Michigan and were fascinated by the waves. You always run far ahead of me, making me chase you down and keep you from running in the street. You love when we go on "adventures". At the playground, you don't want to stay on the smaller structures. You run to the big climbers, the ones you're not big enough for. But you don't care because, in your mind, you are A Big Kid. Older children fascinate you, and you want to be just like them. If anyone asks, I always tell them that you have a Napoleon complex. You want so desperately to be big, and until that happens, you live by, "fake it till ya make it!"
Ever your daddy's girl, we can't go outside until you have shoes and a coat, and you remind me all the time. "Need coat? Need coat, Mommy?" You are so conscious of what you need and when you need it. While we're working on the difference between "needs" and "wants", and I remind you that no, you don't need your crayons now, you will sigh and say, "Okay, WANT dat noooooooow!" You don't really care how correct or incorrect you are, you just know what you want.
As much as you resemble your dad, you are very much your mommy's daughter. You are a lover, but you'll fight when you have to. You have opinions about everything. You know exactly what you want nearly all the time. You're impatient, independent, stubborn, and so much more. I wish I had cultivated better qualities in myself to pass them on to you, but watching you embody so much of me and your daddy makes me smile so much. I can't imagine you any other way.
If I'm ever having a bad day, I just need to spend time with you, sweet girl. You make every day so much better. Not ever second of 2012 has been wonderful, but if I had the chance I'd live this year all over again, no hesitation.
I try not to wonder who you're going to be as you grow older. I want to stay present and know who you are right now. I know that today, you are a TWO year old who loves music and animals. You love dancing and singing. You always have time for a good book, your crayons, and an episode of Bubble Guppies. You love your baby doll and are always concerned about her well-being, making sure she has had a sippy and is wrapped tight in her blanket. The day is incomplete unless you have laughed and played and sung a song. You love going to church to see Jesus, and you love your little baby Bible, your "Jesus book". Surprisingly you are a toddler who loves "bwocowee" and "gween beans". You love your parents to the moon and back, and I hope that every day we are worthy of that unconditional love you offer.
Hannah Grace, I never knew how much my heart would grow until I met you. You're everything I ever thought I wanted in my daughter, and everything I didn't know I wanted until you showed up. I will never be tired of you, and I will always love you to the moon and back. You made me a mommy and opened up a part of my heart I never knew existed. More than anyone else in the entire world, you taught me how to love unconditionally. Every day, I am blown away that you belong to me and Daddy. Sometimes I find myself looking at you and marveling at how that tiny little bean in my first ultrasound grew into this tall, smart, inquisitive little daughter of ours. If you aren't living, breathing proof of God's love, then I don't know what is.
I cannot wait to see what the next year brings us. I know you're going to continue to grow and change, and I know already that you are going to be an amazing human being.
Mommy and Daddy love you to the moon and back. Happy Birthday, Presh.