Dear Sullivan and Kalinda,
Happy birthday to my no-longer-babies! It’s nearly impossible for me to believe that one year ago (as of last Sunday) I was meeting you two for the very first time. After years of longing for another child, many months of painful fertility treatments, thirty-six grueling weeks of pregnancy, and a delivery that was not at all what I’d hoped for, you entered this world with great drama and fanfare, and my world was forever changed.
This year with you has not been without its challenges, but they don’t hold a candle to the humor, fulfillment, and joy you have brought to our family. I hate that COVID has kept us from getting out much, and prevented you from meeting all but close family; it’s a crime that the rest of the world hasn’t gotten to experience your delightful personalities. But eventually you will get to participate in life outside our home, and for now I am just so thankful that we have gotten to have you here with us as bright spots in a generally dark year.
I could easily dedicate this whole post—and countless more—to sappy reflection, but these letters are intended to be a record of more than just my sentimentality. In keeping with the spirit of these posts, let me offer a twelfth and final recap of who you are and what you are like at this moment in time. Let’s get the basics out of the way, because as mundane and inconsequential as they seem now, they are the types of things I’ll want to remember one day. Your schedule has remained fairly consistent: you go to bed at 7:00 and wake up around 6:30 (sometimes later if I’m lucky, and sometimes a little earlier). You haven’t been sleeping through the night, waking at least once and sometimes three or four times to nurse; thankfully it doesn’t take me too long to get you back down. Your naps have moved slightly later—usually 9:45 and 1:45—and the length of your naps is inconsistent, with one of you usually waking first and then waking the other. (If you wake up after less than an hour we move you to your swings to help you get some more sleep.) Kali still has a hard time going down and Sully is never a happy camper when you wake up, but in general you have been doing much better when it is time to go to sleep: you play in your crib for a while, throw your stuffed animals at each other and out of the crib, climb over each other a time or two, then eventually settle onto your tummies to fall asleep. You follow a similar routine when you wake up—playing, chatting, and laughing—and your daddy and I chuckle as we watch you two through the camera for as long as you’ll let us before you start getting fussy and we need to come get you.
While your sleep habits haven’t changed too much (despite the departure from sleeping through the night), mealtimes have looked quite a bit different lately. You are still self-feeding at breakfast, spoon-feeding at lunch, and doing a mixture of both at dinner, but the quantity of food you are eating has decreased, as has your receptivity to new foods. You will readily eat any type of fruit (blueberries, watermelon, and grapes seem to be your favorite), but your willingness to eat anything else varies by the day. Once my stellar eater, Sully has gotten fairly picky and would often rather play at mealtime than eat: he has acquired the bad habits of throwing food off of his tray and taking off his bib, behaviors Kali has begun to mimic. One fun addition to mealtimes has been the introduction of water in sippy cups: Sully caught on to this skill right away, and it took Kali a bit longer to figure out the cup, but now you both are able to enjoy water with your meals.
I am so happy to report that breastfeeding is still going strong. Nursing the two of you is often challenging, as you are quite active and also like to switch sides throughout the feeding. I nurse you in the glider at nighttime when you are sleepy and calm, but the rest of the time I find it easier to sit on the floor with you sitting on all fours in front of me. Yes, I feel like a mama dog with her suckling puppies, but it gets the job done! I have no idea how long our nursing journey will continue, but I don’t see it coming to an end any time soon, and that’s fine by me: the moments when the three of us are snuggled together are some of my favorites, and I tear up just thinking about how they will eventually come to an end.
Neither of you are walking yet, but you have given up your army crawls for crawling on all fours. (An exception is when Kali is carrying a toy and army crawls so that she doesn’t have to let it out of her hand.) You are both insanely fast crawlers, and it makes me so happy to see you keeping up with each other. You are both able to pull to standing AND get down (something Sully only recently started to do, after weeks and weeks of getting stuck) and it’s fun to see you pull up on furniture, in your crib, or on my legs (though having you two hanging off of me does make it hard for me to get things done around the house). You like standing at the train table playing with toys there, or at the windowsill looking out the window. You also are not above using EACH OTHER to pull to standing, something neither of you really seems to mind.
Your playtime continues to evolve. One very welcome change is that you are now able to play independently in your room (Daddy and I keep an eye on you through the camera). You entertain yourselves by pulling toys out of your toy box and yanking books off your shelf. You often interact with each other, passing toys back and forth or making each other laugh, sometimes getting upset one one twin takes the other’s toy; but you do your own thing a lot of the time too. Of course, the minute we open your bedroom door, you can’t wait to escape. Your favorite activity is roaming the hallways, peeking into each room (and getting into mischief whenever you can—Arlo’s crate and water dish are guaranteed hot spots!). When we can’t supervise your meandering (like when I’m doing school with Charleston), you do well playing with your train, blocks, and toy xylophone on the floor of the office while Daddy works. You each have your favorite toys: Kali enjoys playing with toy hammers and wanders around the house with a Snoopy bath toy in her hand. She also loves looking at books. Sully is easily entertained when he has a ball to play with, and is pretty good at playing catch! He also enjoys looking in a hand-held mirror and sucking on burp rags (must be a boy thing, as Charleston loved those rags as well!).
You are happiest when you are playing alongside Charleston, who just can’t get enough of the two of you. You like standing at the table or chairs or whatever surface he is near as you watch him and Arlo run around, and you don’t mind at all when he smothers you with hugs and kisses. He was so excited for your first birthday and did all he could to make your party special. And while your Mickey and Minnie party wasn’t as elaborate as I had hoped it would be (given the pandemic), you both seemed to enjoy the decorations and time with family, and didn’t mind wearing your adorable Mickey and Minnie costumes. It was fun to watch you both dig into your birthday cakes! (Kali was so cute using the “1” candle as a fork and even stole Sully’s candle for a second utensil.)
While you each have your own mannerisms and “cute moments”, there are some adorable habits that you share. Grandma taught you both to put your hands on your heads and shake them back and forth when we say “ay ay ay.” (I didn’t know she had taught this to you and you surprised me when I said it randomly one meal time!) You both love peek-a-boo (though Kali prefers to play with a towel or cloth and Sully likes to use his hands) and you both proudly clap when we say “yay” (Kali had been doing this for a while so it’s been fun to see Sully pick up on it).
It’s fascinating to see you pick up new habits from each other. I never know whether you are mimicking one another’s behavior or simply progressing in the trajectory of all babies, at different paces. Even when you are teaching each other “bad habits” (like Sully copying Kali’s head-to-the-ground tantrums), it’s still neat to see you learning from one another and I can’t help but wonder what that will look like as you get older. Kali generally learns a skill before Sully, but not always, and I’m thankful that you seem to have such different skill sets AND personalities.
Kali Joy, you are the daughter I always hoped for and never dreamed I would have. This past year I was initiated into the life of a girl mom, with bows and dresses and the occasional frilly toy; I’m looking forward to deepening your relationship with all things pink and princessy in the future. . . although I wouldn’t be surprised if you reject all the girly things, as thus far you you have proven to be more of a tomboy than either of your brothers.
You are always on the go and SO close to walking. You pull to stand on everything in sight and cruise between pieces of furniture. You can stand on your own for almost twenty seconds and proudly sit down without hands, or you hang out kneeling on your knees or in a squat.
You are adventurous and a leader, definitely the more dominant twin, although you also experience more stranger danger than Sully. Your personality has certainly mellowed as the year has progressed, but you still really like to have your way: when we take a toy from you, or you aren’t getting the attention you desire, you hurl yourself to the floor, rolling around in circles in the cutest little tantrum I ever did see. While adorable, those tantrums aren’t nearly as cute as the little fake sneezes you give whenever we say “bless you”—a trick you are so proud of, and that I’m certain you do in order to entertain us!
Theatric moments aside, you are generally very serious, which makes your smiles and giggles a rare and special treat. More frequent is your somber-faced head-shaking, which you do whenever we tell you no. Your stoicism does not translate to your vocal chords: you no longer grunt, but you do squeal and scream much more loudly than seems possible for such a tiny girl
You have become quite chatty, and your language has developed a lot this past month, transitioning from “alien talk” (made by moving your tongue in and out of your mouth) to something that sounds more like real words. You love blowing raspberries, smacking your lips, wrinkling your nose and sniffing/snorting, and clicking your tongue. And you definitely know that I’m “mama”: you call my name whenever you see me, which of course melts my heart.
And speaking of heart-melting moments: I just love the way you move your hands across my face as you gaze into my eyes, the way you use my hair to play peek-a-boo with me, and how you nestle into the crook of my arm when you nurse. You may be feisty, but you are a sweetheart too—MY sweetheart, whom I positively adore.
KALI’S LENGTH: 26.5 inches (less than first percentile)
KALI’S WEIGHT: 18 pounds 3.5 ounces (25th percentile)
KALI’S BMI: 18.04
KALI’S HEAD CIRCUMFERENCE: 17.75 inches (55th percentile)
CLOTHING SIZE: 6-9 months
KALI’S DIAPER SIZE: 3
KALI’S EYE COLOR: brown
KALI’S TOOTH COUNT: zero
KALI’S NICKNAMES: Kali Joy, Sister Bear, Lindy Lou
KALI’S FAVORITES: Snoopy bath toy, hammers, books, Arlo’s water dish, looking out the window
KALI’S DISLIKES: diaper changes, baths, having toys taken away, getting into the carseat, going to sleep, taking pictures
KALI’S MILESTONES: shakes head “no”, drinking from a sippy cup
KALI’S CUTEST HABITS: fake sneezing, “ay ay ay” with hands on head, army crawling with a toy in hand, crinkle-nose sniffing
Sweet Sully Bear, how far you have come this year! You have grown from a scrawny newborn who constantly had me worried into a hardy one-year-old whose stamina, strength, and joyful spirit never cease to amaze me.
You got your first tooth this month, and teething was rough for you. You ate less less, had difficulty sleeping (which meant that Sister had more difficultly sleeping), and chewed on everything in sight. I’m just glad you haven’t taken up biting me when you are nursing!
Though technically the older twin (by a minute!), you definitely seem the younger/less mature of the two of you. You aren’t as dramatic as Kali with your needs, but you are more likely to whimper and whine when you want to be held, and you are always very cuddly. But you are also much easier to make laugh and smile. Your goofy grin is contagious, and your very best feature.
You enjoy being tickled and mimicking faces, and you are starting to appreciate adventurous activities like going on the swing (something you like more than Kali) and flying in the air. It makes me so happy to see this courageous side of you emerge. You are our little musician and bob your head and dance whenever we turn on music. We all adore your sense of humor—something that seems very intentional. You like to copy Kali’s fake sneezes (smirking as you do so), her “no” head shake (which you do giggling instead of somber-faced), her crinkle-nose sniffing, and her dramatic “crawl dive” (though when you mimic her, you just raise your hands into the air and laugh).
You’ve been less talkative this month, and a lot of your language is starting to sound more like Kali’s, though you still are better at “words” and engaging in back-and-forth “conversations” with me. You like making mouth noises and are great at them, except blowing raspberries, which looks like a sputtering through pursed lips and is SO VERY FUNNY to see you attempt. My favorite habits of yours are the affectionate ones: how you hold Kali’s ear while you nurse, how you pat her while you are going to sleep, the way you hold tightly to my arms when I hold you. You are such an incredibly sweet boy, and an absolute joy to be around.
SULLY’S LENGTH: 27.25 inches (less than first percentile)
SULLY’S WEIGHT: 17 pounds 4 ounces (3rd percentile)
SULLY’S BMI: 16.33
SULLY’S HEAD CIRCUMFERENCE: 18 inches (39th percentile)
SULLY’S CLOTHING SIZE: 6-9 months
SULLY’S DIAPER SIZE: 3
SULLY’S EYE COLOR: greenish/hazel
SULLY’S TOOTH COUNT: one!
SULLY’S NICKNAMES: Sulls, Sully Bear
SULLY’S FAVORITES: balls, mirror, Arlo’s crate, toy piano
SULLY’S DISLIKES: diaper changes, waking up from naps/nighttime
SULLY’S MILESTONES: clapping, shakes head “no”, getting down from standing, drinking from a sippy cup
SULLY’S CUTEST HABITS: dancing to music, “ay ay ay” with hands on head, holding Kali’s ear during nursing, attempted raspberry sound
Kali and Sully, I’ll admit that this letter was hard for me to write, and I put it off as long as I could. Your turning one is a momentous occasion, one to be celebrated! But this milestone has been difficult for me. You are no longer my babies, and since you’ll likely be our last children, your crossing into toddlerhood marks the end of an era for our family—one that, despite its challenges, I have enjoyed so very much. I know my memories of this first year with you will fade, and part of me wants to keep you little for just a while longer.
I keep reminding myself that although your turning one is the end of something good, it’s also the beginning of something even better: your toddlerhood, and your childhood, and the rest of your lives. I look forward to the incredible adventures that lie ahead for you two—for our whole family! You will continue to grow and change, and I have no doubt that you will get into all sorts of trouble and cause your mama all manner of heartache. One thing that will never, ever change is my love for you.You two are the miracles I longed and prayed for for so long, and you are even more amazing than I could have imagined. This first year with you has been rewarding in ways I didn’t know were possible and you have filled my heart with more joy and more love than you may never fully know or understand. I am overcome with gratitude for the opportunity to call you both mine.
To be clear: being a mom is always incredible (at least it has been for me in my 5.5 years on the job). But being a mom to twins—specifically to the two of you—is indescribably magical. How I love seeing the two of you together, playing and laughing, sharing and mimicking, sometimes being yourselves side-by-side, and sometimes seeming to meld into a single entity oblivious to everyone and everything around you. I have never been a twin so I can’t pretend to understand your experience of growing up together like you are. I pray that you will always be the closest of friends and that you will see each other as a blessing and a gift whose presence offsets having to share everything (including my attention) as you grow up. Kali and Sully, Sully and Kali—such remarkable individuals, and even better as a pair!
In the coming years, we will face hard times. You will try my patience. I will let you down. But my prayer is that love and grace and God, in His lovingkindness, will carry us though. More than anything else, I hope you will always know how very much you are loved and cherished, how proud I am of both of you, and how I adore being your mom.
Love Always and Forever and Ever and Ever,