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Dear Kalinda and Sullivan,

Happy second birthday to two remarkable humans who just happen to be my own darling babies. You’re really and truly big kids (well, big little kids) now! Never mind that it was just last month (I’m sure of it!) that you made your dramatic entrance into this world—an entrance that was not at all according to plan, but that resulted in the most incredible double blessing of my life. I loved you long before I first laid eyes on you, and today, two years since that beautiful first meeting, I somehow—impossibly—love you even more.

I won’t pretend that my words in this letter will do justice to the miracles that are Kalinda Joy and Sullivan Luke, but in my feeble attempts to capture you at this moment in time, I’d love to reflect on who you are today, at two years old. The best way I know to do this is to walk through a typical day in your lives.

Our mornings typically begin a little after 5:00, when one of you (never the same one) wakes and you both begin to stir. Kali is a cheerful riser, but Sully wakes up grouchy, and his cries of “where’s Mama? I want Mama!” ring across the house, rousing me from my sleep. The cries turn to requests for “light! light” as soon as I come into your room, and by the time our eyes have adjusted to the light I am greeted by two smiling faces and comments of “good nap.” You each gather up the stuffed animals, blankets, or books that were keeping you company in your crib, and I scoop the two of you up from your crib for our morning milkies session (which Sully calls “nonnies” and Kali has transitioned to calling “nockies”). We had to move the glider out of your room because it was becoming a climbing hazard, so you sprawl out on my lap while I sit cross-legged on your nursery floor, stroking your heads as you nurse.

When you’ve had your fill, you wander over to your bookshelf to collect a book (or two or ten) for us to read, insisting that I lie down (“go night night”) with you on the floor as we look through books. You never tire of hearing your favorites: Goodnight Moon, My World, Sandra Boynton Books, I Love You Through and Through, and Brown Bear top the list, and though we have hundreds of other books, you always want to read these first. You point out favorite pictures, naming animals and colors and shapes and mimicking the poses and facial expressions of characters in the books.

Between titles you take turns nursing or requesting songs (favorites are “Jesus Loves Me”, “Twinkle Twinkle”, and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”), which you dance and sing along with. At some point, one of you will get out your Duplo Legos and begin to build, or you will start chasing each other around the room or engage in a game of peek-a-boo. We hear Daddy get up and head out the door for a walk and you smile and squeal “Daddy! Arlo” as you hear them walk past your room. Mornings are your happiest times and though I’m not a morning person myself, I’ve come to treasure these pre-dawn moments shared by just the three of us.

As the sun begins to rise, I dress and change you both, honoring your requests for diaper cream (which you both love). Neither of you are fans of diaper changes, but playing with the camera on my phone while you’re changed helps keep the tears at bay. When you are dressed for the day, I put some Wee Sing music on your speaker and you wave and tell me “Awa Awa Alligator” and blow kisses goodbye, then settle into an hour of independent playtime while I get ready, make breakfast, and spend my morning time with God. I love how well the two of you play together, sometimes side-by-side and sometimes with each other; we keep an eye on you through the camera but rarely have to come into your room to soothe tears or intervene in a squabble. Charleston joins you in your room when he gets up at 7:30, and the three of you play until breakfast at 8:00.

You squeal and run out of your rooms for hugs with exclamations of “breakfast!” when I return to your room to fetch you for our meal. If Daddy is around, you run to him and give him a squeeze, and the two of us situate you in your high chairs. Before distributing your food, we pray as a family, and you reach for one another’s hands and bow your heads as Charleston or I pray, closing us out with a resounding “amen!”

Breakfast is your biggest meal and you happily munch down fruit, yogurt pouches, sausage or eggs, mini pancakes or waffles (slathered in cream cheese), and water (with ice, per your insistence) while we listen to an episode of Adventures in Odyssey—something you love and ask for the second your booties hit your high chairs. You are able to use forks to eat your food, but we haven’t mastered using a spoon just yet. Throughout this and every meal, you pass food back and forth between your trays, so I never quite know who eats what, but by the end of the meal, all of your food is gone. Sully tells me you are “all done, tummy full” and you both help me clean up by wiping your trays and placing any trash or crumbs onto a plate.

We wrap up the meal by 9:00 and head to the car. You both HATE walking into the garage and tearfully insist “carry! scared!” until Daddy or I concede to picking you up. (This is quite a challenge on mornings when Daddy is in a meeting and can’t help out, but we make it work). Once you are in your car seats, we make the 15-minute drive to the Rec Center where I work out. This has become one of your favorite places. We take our time walking inside, and you pick flowers, run along the paths, chase each other, and wave to people walking inside. You always make a stop by the vending machine at the entrance to point out the appealing snacks, then we check in and I bring you to the child care room. You adore the babysitters and enjoy playing with them for an hour while I go to work out.

I’m thankful that you never cry or get upset when I leave you with the sitters, AND that you are always excited to see me when I pick you up (once you notice I’m there—usually it takes a bit because you are too busy laughing and running around, chasing bubbles or playing tag). Back outside the Rec Center, we play for a while. Charleston loves for me to time him while he runs laps around the outdoor paths, and you chase after him with happy shrieks of “time me!” and periodic requests for me to take a picture as you stand agains the wall saying “picture! cheese!” You point out every bird, rock, or piece of trash and touch as much as I’ll let you, and you bring smiles to the faces of everyone who passes by—many asking “Are they twins?” and commenting, “You have your hands full!” My standard response is: “We’re busy, but happy!”

You are always reluctant to get into the car when it’s time to head home, and Kali especially throws a fit. With Charleston’s help, plenty of rocking and singing and hugs and cajoling and promises of water and Cheerios once you’re in your carseats, we eventually do get into the van, and within minutes you are both asleep. You snooze the whole drive home, which gives just enough of a catnap to carry you through to the afternoon; if we let it go longer than twenty minutes, you won’t nap later in the day, so once we’re home, Daddy helps me get you inside as quickly as we can. We take your shoes off and you both wave your hands in front of your noses saying, “pee-yew, smelly!” (because you really do get some pretty smelly feet!). I change and nurse you both and we read a couple of books together, then I leave you to play in your room while Charleston and I do some school.

By 1:00 you are ready to come out for lunch. The two of you join Charleston in eating fruit and quesadillas or sandwiches (which you pull apart) while I read aloud from our Bible and chapter book. I know the reading is over your heads, but you don’t mind listening and are usually quiet enough for you all to hear. After lunch, it’s “free range” playtime. Sometimes we go out into the yard or go for a walk around the neighborhood, but usually you play in the playroom or living room or follow me around from room to room as I do housework. You aren’t especially into any of your toys and occupy yourselves by pushing furniture around, climbing on chairs or the couch, or chasing each other up and down the hallway on your ride-along planes. You love going into the pantry to pull out water bottles, which you stack on the table or chairs. I occasionally stop to play with you, but usually I am cleaning or folding laundry or preparing food, and you three are great at keeping each other entertained—and coming to me when you need someone to share or are hurt.

At some point in the afternoon, you both end up shirtless: this began one day when Charleston got his shirt wet and asked to take it off, so Sully dumped water on his shirt and said he was “all wet” and wanted his off too. . . and then of course Kali followed suit. After a few days of this water dumping, Sully started just saying “all wet” in order to have his shirt removed. And then, a few more days passed and this evolved to simply asking for the shirt to come off. I’m fine with you both being shirtless, but when you begin tugging at your pants and trying to pull off your diapers, I switch you into onesies (which are known in our family as jammies) to prevent any diaper removal mishaps.

At 3:00, it’s time to clean up. You are really good about helping me put toys away and going into your room for diaper changes, nursing, and another book. Then you happily go into your crib, asking for stuffed animals and a few board books to play with before you fall asleep. (If I don’t provide you with books, you’ll reach your arms through the slats of your crib to pull some from the shelf.) Once I’ve closed the blinds and shut the door behind me, I monitor you through the camera and have caught some of the sweetest and most hilarious naptime moments. You dance and sing together in your crib, take turns riding each other’s backs, and frequently hug and kiss each other. You look at picture books side by side or dance with your stuffed animals, or put little blankets over each other. Eventually one of you will grow tired and lie down and the other will snuggle in too. This doesn’t always go smoothly—sometimes only one of you is tired and you keep each other awake—but for the most part you sleep well together, either sprawled on opposite sides of the crib or—more often—squeezed next to each other, Sully’s arm flung around Kali’s back and gripping her ear.

You are often both still asleep when I come in to wake you at 5:00. This begins our most challenging couple of hours of the day. Neither of you wakes up well from this nap, and despite having full attention from Charleston, me, and Daddy who is done with work, you are grouchy and fussy, and little will make you happy. When the grumbling has settled down a bit, you join Daddy in the shower—a bath alternative you have grown to tolerate and even love. (Throughout the day you will point to the bathroom and say “shower night? Shower night!”) Once clean, I greet you at the shower door and wrap you in towels. I love seeing your naked little bodies, totally free of any awkwardness or self-consciousness, confident in your skin and oblivious to shame. I wish I could preserve this for you, this absence of any hangups regarding your bodies, and you inspire me with your body contentment and freedom.

We eat dinner at 6:00. You tend not to eat much at this meal and are often fussy while I read picture books to you and Charleston as you eat. Most nights we give up after a few minutes, leaving Daddy and Charleston to finish the meal on their own while I clean you up and bring you into the bathroom to brush your teeth. You don’t love having your teeth brushed, but love brushing them yourself, so getting to hold the toothbrush once your teeth have been cleaned is a reward you look forward to.

At this point in the evening, Charleston is done with his dinner and it’s time for his nightly chore of feeding Arlo. You LOVE watching Arlo eat, and are glued to the cage until he finishes, then shout “Arlo all done!” With that, it’s time for bed. We head into your room by 7:00 and you two run and roll around for a bit, getting your nightly sillies out before Charleston comes in for blessing and prayer time. Then we turn off the light and you nurse as I sing to you and talk about our day. You are pretty distracted during this bedtime nursing so it generally doesn’t last long. By 7:30 you are asking to go night-night, so I transfer you to your crib, showering each of you with dozens of kisses and hugs and group hugs and high fives. Then we wave goodbye and I leave you for the night. It often takes you a while to fall asleep, but I almost never have to come in to soothe you, and rarely hear from you at all until the next morning. Daddy and I have had endless discussions about if and when to move you out of a crib and into separate beds or even separate rooms, but at this point you are still doing well together and we don’t want to mess with a good thing!

As detailed as I’ve tried to be in recounting a typical day for you two, there is so much that this simple snapshot leaves out. Like Sully’s adorable sentences and ongoing commentary throughout the day; Kali’s expanding vocabulary (mixed with quite a bit of Kali-ese) that she sprinkles between Sully’s narratives; the dancing and hilarious gestures and eagerness to snuggle, laugh, and please. Then there’s those magical twin moments, like Sully’s calling out “Kinda (Kalinda), where are you?” the second you two are apart, and the way Kali is always patting a spot next to her and saying “Sully! ‘Mon Sully!” for him to join her. It’s difficult to describe or explain, but the bond between you both is strong and I pray you can hold onto that as you get older.

For the most part you are both content, happy toddlers, and when one of you is upset or crying, the other generally watches quietly or comes in to offer hugs and kisses and make it “all better.” You show concern for each other and for others, too, always pointing out owies with an “oh no!” and tearing up when you see a friend for family member who is sad. You love snuggling your stuffed animals and making little beds for them and giving them kisses, and you kiss characters who seem sad in the books we read.

In some ways you are becoming more like each other, especially now that you have both reached milestones of walking, talking, playing, and following directions. You tend to mimic each other in ways that are usually good but sometimes troublesome. But you each have you own tendencies and quirks. Sully is our little clown, making faces and doing tricks he knows will make us laugh. Sully gets upset more easily, and is just starting to enter the tantrum stage. Kali is goofy in her own way, but less self-aware about her silliness, often dancing or moving to a beat all her own. She doesn’t cry quite as easily, but throws epic tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. . . although these have grown more muted of late. Kali loves accessorizing with bows and purses and necklaces, and she has become more of a cuddler and a mama’s girl than Sully. (You both do great around other people, but Kali is more likely to cling to me when meeting someone for the first time.) Both of you are active but in different ways: Sully is into throwing balls and kicking and wrestling, Kali does a lot more dancing; and Sully has better fine motor skills, while Kali takes the lead with gross motor skills. Sully does a lot more interacting and dialogue WITH us, and Kali is more in her own world and talks just to talk.

As your mom, I of course think you are both brilliant and have loved seeing your little minds expand. You know most of your animals and their noises, can follow simple instructions, use words like please and thank you and share, are aware of when you need a diaper change, are starting to be able to dress yourselves, can stack blocks, are starting to count, and can point to colors and shapes that we name. You have mastered too many words to record, and even some of your baby terms for things are starting to slip away (which is of course a good thing, but breaks my heart just a little bit each time you say a new word the “right” way). You notice anything and everything and are quick to point out anything that is out of place. Sully especially is a creature of habit and insists on following a routine and keeping things where they belong.

Sully Sulls, you are a boy who is impossible not to love. I fall even harder for you every time you flash that goofy grin or snuggle into me with an “I love you Mama,” when you pat my back as I hold you close, or you turn to me with that grandpa face you know will make me laugh and try to hold back your giggles as I howl with laughter. You are both loving and strong, soft-hearted and confident. You will always be my beloved baby bear.

Kalinda Joy, you are our girl of many names: Kali Joy, Sister Bear, Princess, Lindy Loo (to Daddy’s family), Kinda (to Sully), Kaylee (to Charleston). You are our rose that by any and every name is just as sweet, the precious jewel in our trio of children, the daughter I ached for and now hold so dear. I cherish your sloppy wet kisses, and the moments you hold my face in your hands and say “Mommy! Love you!,” and the simple gift of seeing you mimic everything I do. My darling princess, I love you mightily.

Kali and Sully, this stage with you both is just the best and I wish I could pause you right here for just a little while longer. But we have so many adventures ahead of us, and I love that I get to be a part of it. Happy birthday, my loves!


FAVORITES: Wee Sing Music, Marine Life (especially Nemo and Baby Dory), Toy Story, Fruit (especially watermelon “awameena” and raisins “finis”), Condiments (especially Ranch “oochie” and cream cheese), Pickles, Pizza, Scrambled Eggs, cereal bars, Books (Sandra Boynton, Goodnight Moon, My World, No No Noah), Water Bottles, Ride-On Toys, Bubbles, Playing Outside, Polka-Dots, Ollie the Owl

CUTE WORDS: shwaps=straws, ‘mon=come on (Kali), ‘sway=this way (Kali), Arlo=all dogs, baby=blankets, yucky poopoos=anything you don’t like or that bothers you or seems out of place, daddy=all men

DISLIKES: Sharing Toys, Diaper Changes, Walking Into the Garage, Vacuums

TOOTH COUNT: 12 each (two of Kali’s lower teeth are just starting to come in)

CLOTHING SIZE: 18 months

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