My Dearest Sully Bear and Kali Cat,

You will be three tomorrow. And as your mom—the woman who ached for your presence before you were conceived, who prayed and loved you into being (with some help from a great fertility team), who endured nine grueling months of carrying BOTH of you in my exhausted womb, who delivered you in the least auspicious of ways, who held your tiny perfect bodies in my arms and gazed upon your scrumptious faces and fell head-over-heels in love with you exactly three years ago—well, I have a whole lot of emotions.

This mixture of emotions is something I had not fully anticipated before entering motherhood. How can I possibly hold so much feeling at once? The endless bittersweetness of melancholic farewells to bygone stages. . . exhilaration over accomplished milestones, jarringly coupled with nostalgia for the pre-milestone days . . . wistfulness mingled with immense pride and joy and amazement over who you are becoming . . . all shrouded in EXHAUSTION because parenting is just so dang hard, and TREPIDATION because there are so many ways this gig could go sideways. . . but topped, above all, with fulfillment in the role of Mother and gratitude for this opportunity to journey with you through all the ups and downs of life.

I don’t mean to be too saccharine. . . or maybe I do. After all, you only turn three once! This is cause for reflection and reminiscing, but most of all for celebration. And I guess that is where I will begin: happy birthday, you two! What a glorious day tomorrow will be to turn three!

I write these little letters to you every month (though not all are shared publicly, and most won’t even be shared with you for quite a few more years), and each month I run into this same quandary: what can I say that will encapsulate all I want to remember about you, that will differentiate you from every other 3-year-old (because you really do seem quite unique) without putting too many ill-fitting labels on you or boxing you in unfairly or inaccurately? I want you to shine for all that you are, and not just as I see you; as your mom, I am a keen observer of all things Kali and Sully, yet there are parts of your behavior and personality and existence that I don’t see or understand or recognize. I have this (bizarre?) impulse to be an impeccable documentarian of your young lives, and I can forget that my neglecting to note some facet of your being does not negate its existence.

And so, here we go; I’m relinquishing my felt need to get this letter perfect and will simply offer what I can: a love letter to you both, with some observations I hope to remember and that I hope you won’t mind my sharing with a few others who may be reading over our shoulders.

When I was pregnant with you both and first learned we would be welcoming more than one baby into our family, I was terrified.  Overjoyed, too, but really I was mostly just scared. And when I first met you in the early morning hours of September 27, 2019, I was still scared, and a little overwhelmed, but it was also one of happiest moments of my life (once the narcotics wore off, that is!). Mothering two infants at once was difficult, but also entirely natural: my arms were created to hold the two of you, my breasts were well suited to nursing you both at once, my heart was designed to hold space for the love I felt for twins, in addition to the love it already held for your big brother. I may not have spent years longing to be a “twin mom” like some women do, but once I was mom to the two of you, there was no question that I was up to the challenge and privilege of being twin mom to YOU.

I won’t paint too rosy a picture, because no motherhood journey is a cakewalk and momming two newborns-turned-infants-turned-toddlers has had its share of challenges and trials and tears. I often feel overtaxed, when you both are pestering me with questions or crying to be held or making equally loud demands for entirely incompatible things. Some days (most days) I question my capacity and sanity. But I never question my love, or the God who chose me to be be your mama and is equipping me for the job.

Often when we are out and about, people will ask if you are twins. When their suspicions have been affirmed their response is usually along the lines of how hard it must be, or how my hands sure are full, or (my very least favorite) “You poor thing, having twins.” I know these reactions are well-intentioned, but I don’t like them: I would never want the two of you to feel like you are a burden or hardship, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I almost always tell these inquisitive passersby how much I love being a mom to twins, what a joy you are and how my heart is doubly full. And those aren’t just platitudes—it’s true! When we run into other twin parents out in the wild, they invariably agree: double the kids is double the work but also double the adventure!

You are not my first kids, and much of your behavior is familiar to me after watching your big brother walk through all these same stages. One thing that is new to me, though, is watching two kids go through it together at once. You take turns with your milestones and your growth, one twin surpassing the other for a while in language or movement or emotional maturity, the other twin then quickly catching up.

Your maturity and behavior are both staggered: just as one of you gets through a phase of extra neediness or angst or rebellion, the next twin enters it. I have no idea whether it would be easier or harder if you went through these stages simultaneously? One perk to your stair-stepped maturation is that we almost always have one “easier” twin who is giving us a little less challenge and grief! You also are so great at encouraging and supporting one another when you are sad or frustrated; it is rare for you both to be crying at once.

Watching the two of you together is just the most remarkable thing. Sometimes you are content just to coexist, but you are always aware of each other and more and more you are playing with one another, having conversations, asking each other questions, explaining things, and in general simply looking out for one another. People often want to know if you fight, and you do on occasion, but it’s definitely the exception: more often you happily share (food, toys, space), play (quite physically, you’re alway hugging or wrestling), or encourage each other’s risky behavior (egging one another on as you jump off furniture and climb onto countertops and sneak into off-limits spots). You can get jealous if you notice the other twin has been granted an extra privilege, but most often seem genuinely happy to witness the other twin’s good fortune.

Just because you are twins does not mean you are alike, and your distinct personalities and preferences continue to emerge. Sully’s most prominent quality is his silliness: Sully loves to laugh and loves getting others to join him with his expressions and antics and baby talk. But Sully is also the bigger cryer, quick to shed tears and whine when there is something he wants. Sully is all about connection and relationship, and he makes friends everywhere he goes: he loves people, and people love him!

Sully has an impressive obstinate streak and therefore gets in trouble more frequently. Interestingly, when he wants to be compliant Sully is my bigger rule follower and (when in the right mood) loves to follow directions. Sully is precise with his toys and particular about his things. He is less comfortable with things being different or out of order.

Sully is a BIG talker, commenting on everything and asking constant questions as he seeks clarity and reassurance. Though outwardly cautious, he is outgoing in social situations, and in general he is more adventurous. And he is sensitive: he likes to playfully antagonize Kali but also is the first to comfort her with some reassurance or a hug when she is truly upset.

Kali’s personality is a little less straightforward; I call her Kali Cat because the name is cute but also because her behavior is so very catlike—like her feline namesake, Kali is independent, has a mind of her own, and prefers to do things on her own terms. Quirky is the first word that comes to mind when describing her!

Kali loves to sing and dance, making up moves and songs and talking to herself in mirrors or really any reflective surface. She loves all things shiny, sparkly, and pink and enjoys being dressed up and told how pretty she is. Kali enjoys collecting and organizing toys, squirreling her treasures away in little hiding spots. She has a hard time staying still and gets from place to place at lightning speed.

Kali can be sneaky (we’ve found her hiding under my bed with a sucker, or tiptoeing behind my back to play with a toy that was taken away) but is so innocent in her approach that it’s hard to get upset about it! When caught she switches to a singsong voice, answering”I just playing. . .” and turns on the charm with a smile.

In new settings and around strangers Kali can be hesitant and clingy and is much more likely to cry at a doctor’s appointment or with a new babysitter; but once comfortable she is loud, rambunctious, and expressive. (We’ve been told on more than one occasion that she has a BIG personality.) Her tantrums are also quite big and dramatic—huge bursts of emotion, in contrast to Sully’s steadier streams of tears.

Kali can be bossy with both of her brothers and petty when not getting her way; thankfully Sully and Charlie both adore her and don’t mind pandering to her princess-like posturing.

While it’s hard for me to keep from comparing and contrasting your behavior, I will say that as a rule you are both pretty fantastic kiddos with challenging moments but more good days than bad. You are quite bright, with broad vocabularies and great observational skills. Nothing gets past you!

You thrive in a structured environment and like routine, but can be easygoing when we need it (though we do pay for it later when we’ve asked too much flexibility from you). You are playful and great at entertaining yourselves, and also pretty great sleepers (still taking 2-hour afternoon naps and sleeping around 10 hours at night) and eaters (though Sully is more adventurous with food).

Time is strange, especially post-pandemic time, so I’m not surprised by the fastness with which you approached your third birthday. You don’t seem like you could possibly be three yet because I gave birth to you just last month, was swaddling you just last week, was waking every two hours to nurse you just last night. But really, three years HAVE gone by and you have the outgrown clothing and checked-off-milestones to prove it.

Of course, in many ways you are still in the baby/toddler stage, perhaps more than other kids your age: you’re still breastfeeding a couple of times each day, still sleeping in your crib (shared crib!) at night and for naps, still in your rear-facing carseats (not for long hopefully, you hate them), still not potty trained (Kali’s getting there, Sully still has a ways to go), still strapping into highchairs at meals. And you are both small for your age (we will go to the doctor for a well-check next week, but my guess is that you are both “on the charts” but definitely trending low).

That said, you fully act your three years: talking in long, thoughtful sentences; independently putting on shoes and taking off clothes; helping out with some chores; playing on your own and alongside others; piecing together puzzles and engaging in imaginative play; and offering up your preferences—so many preferences!

You have strong opinions about food (you both will eat almost anything, but you like to be the ones to make the selection!), colors (pink for Kali and orange for Sully), shows (Daniel Tiger is your favorite), music (we like a mix of music from the latest Disney movies and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse soundtrack), and books (we’re on a Fly Guy and Berenstain Bears kick).

You like sprinkles on your yogurt, the right cartoon characters on your pull-ups (unfortunately the “right” one is a revolving preference), and lights on your shoes (you rarely want to wear anything other than your light-up shoes from Grandma). You want to do things on your own, but also want to yell about not being able to do them while demanding (but still resisting) assistance. (In other words, you are typical toddlers.)

I think I join every other parent in history with my tendency to be completely frustrated with you one minute, and a puddle of affection the next. Your loudness can be so very, very loud and your behavior so very inappropriate and your neediness so all-encompassing. But then one of you will fling your little arms around my neck and proclaim, “I just love you so much!” Or I’ll find a pair of sticky lips pressed up against mine in a sloppy kiss that spreads into a giggle. Or the two of you will erupt in a silly dance far cuter than the trendiest YouTuber, or make a comment that has me rolling in laughter, or demonstrate the sweetest act of generosity. And in an instant, all the irritation is forgotten.

For all your flaws and foibles, you two are my kiddos, my precious offspring whom I adore more than life itself. There are simply no words to express the gratitude I feel over getting to raise you, to love you, to teach you and provide for you and care for you, to watch you blossom into remarkable little humans. I hope you never doubt that you are both deeply, unequivocally, immeasurably loved.

Happy, happy birthday my little three-year-olds!

Love Always and Forever,


FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: looking at books, playing with your play kitchen, Legos, making forts, chasing each other with your airplanes, playgrounds, solo dates with Mom or Dad to get donuts

DISLIKES: having a wet diaper (Sully), meat and vegetables (Kali), oatmeal (Sully), strapping into your carseats, new environments (Kali)

CLOTHING SIZE: Mostly 2T, Size 6 Shoes, Size 4 Pull-Ups

HEIGHT & WEIGHT: We’ll find out at the doctor next week!

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