A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on Your 3rd Birthday

You are 3 years old today, Violet.img_0055

You’ve grown so much over the past year and your personality has really shone through lately. Violet, you are still incredibly sweet and surprisingly considerate for someone your age. You can be stubborn and selfish, to be sure, but you also spend a lot of time making sure others are happy or comfortable. If you see something red you’ll say, “Dad, look, red! You’re favorite kind!” Or you’ll say, “Dad, look, that’s turkwiss (turquoise), Amelia’s favorite kind!” Your mom says her favorite color is rainbow—which I think is a copout, but whatever—so she never really gets a shoutout.

You’re fiercely independent and adventurous. For a while you did this thing where you’d start to do something and to dissuade anyone from stopping you from doing it, you’d say, “don’t worry ‘bout me, okay?”

You’d start climbing on the counter in your bathroom to get the fish food you know you aren’t supposed to touch. “Don’t worry about me, okay, Dad? Don’t worry about me!”

For your second birthday we were visiting family in Portland and we bought you this toy dump truck that made a lot of rumbling noises and drove. You loved it. You still like big trucks and tractors, but you also love motorcycles. You called them monkle-shidles for a while, but just the other day you said, “Mom, look at those motorcycles!” and I realized I needed to write it down or I’d forget.

I love seeing your brain work through things. In the mornings you say, “I waked up,” and when we’re playing catch you say, “I catched it!” You’ve got the rule right, but English is hard; you’ll figure it out soon enough.

Your favorite color is blue, but sometimes you tell me that I have to share red with you and Amelia has to share turquoise with you. You love the music from Frozen. But it’s not just the music. You love to reenact scenes with your dolls and tell us the play-by-play when you’re singing the songs from the movie.

“Dad, here’s where she runs up the stairs!” or “…and then she shoots her with ice!”

What’s amazing is you’ve only seen the movie once or twice and remember it scene for scene. You also love the movie Zootopia. You pronounce it “Topia” with the emphasis on the “pi” (toe-PEE-ah).

You love swimming. You hate wearing any sort of safety device. The other day you caught a grasshopper and were so proud. You just stood there beaming as you told me all about how you caught it and how it lost a leg in the process. You’re a great runner and are still learning how pedals work. I love how much you love being outside. I’m looking forward to taking you hiking without having to carry you, though I think you might have some trouble staying on the trail…

Violet, I’ve been trying to write this for a month and it just keeps getting harder and harder. None of this will make sense to you right now or even a few years from now, but this has been a crazy year and I have no idea what the future holds. You’re Latina. And while I’m very proud of that—and I hope you will be, too—you will be treated differently because of it. I want to tell you that as you get older it won’t matter and the world is a better place, but I don’t know that. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We live in a country that tells you you can be anything you want, and I want to believe that. I want to believe that if you work hard you can be President. I love this country and I know humanity’s better angels will win the day.

Eventually.

It won’t happen automagically. We’ve got to do it together. So here’s the ask, Violet. Whenever you read this, please remember: be kind. Be compassionate. Demand better. In the face of insurmountable odds, be courageous and live with fortitude and determination. You come from a family of veterans, union organizers, activists, artists, and lots of strong women. Live that legacy. And always remember, we’re all in this together.

2016-07-24-10-54-48-1I love you, Violet. Happy birthday.

A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on Your 2nd Birthday

img_0043How much you’ve grown!

This last year we moved–again–from Dallas to Arizona. Every box was covered with little drawings of cats because anytime you saw a marker or a pen you’d say, “taaa taaa” until someone drew you a cat. That was 6 months ago and your words are already better. Now, instead of cats, you ask for us to draw a sad baby. Then, once the sad baby is drawn, you ask for a grandpa to come and hold the baby until the baby is happy.

Which reminds me, Violet, you love your grandpas. You LOVE them. You like talking about them and seeing them. Tonight, when grandma FaceTimed with you, you asked to see my dad. That’s all. You just wanted to make sure he was there and okay. When your mom’s dad stayed with us for a week you wanted to sit with him and hang out with him.

I love that you like going to Home Depot with me. You say hi to EVERYONE. And not just a, “hi,” but an aggressive, “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” You do this until they respond back to you. Then when they try to engage you in conversation you immediately start talking about your sister, “yaya.”

“Yaya on the but.” That’s how you say, “Amelia on the bus.”

You’ve got this hilarious little sense of humor. The other day you stuck a pencil up your nose, turned to your mom and said, “B.Y. boober.” Which translates to “pencil booger.” The sheer simplicity and yet brilliance of a pencil booger gag from a 1 and a half year-old cracks me up. (Note: B.Y. is the catchall phrase for pen/pencil/marker because, I suppose, you write Bs and Ys with them.)

Violet, today you are finally two. For the past six or seven months you’ve been telling everyone who would listen that you are two. And now, it’s actually true. You have learned how to count. You’re accurate to about 4 or 5 and then you just start saying numbers. You’re incredibly polite. So many pleases and thank yous. My mom will be happy to know that you love shutting cabinets that are left open. She will be unhappy to know that you learned “holy crap” from someone. It came out, “hopey crap” but it was pretty clear.

img_0044You love cereal. You don’t have a favorite color just yet. And you are a little fish. You would swim all day every day if we let you. You’re fearless in the water. It’s amazing and terrifying to watch. Oh and you love motorcycles and trucks and cars. You get really excited when you see motorcycles and big trucks on the roads. You won’t understand this until you’re older, but I love seeing your enthusiasm for even the simplest things.

The sweetest thing you like doing is checking in with everyone. “Mommy happy?” “Daddy happy?” “Yaya happy?” I like to think your concern says something about who you will be, but right now, I’m just happy you’re happy. Happy birthday.

A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on Your 1st Birthday

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You were born on one of the snowiest days I can remember Lubbock having. Your mom had been having contractions for a while, and we just couldn’t figure out if it was time. Finally, all of the pieces sort of came together. The midwife and her apprentice were in town. They would check on your mom, then go back to the hotel to wait for the call. It was nice to have that space. But as the weather got worse, I started to worry if they’d make it back the next time. So I called her right after they’d left and said, just stay, it’s time.

Your Grandma Liz was visiting. She and your sister had gone to bed, but it was still early so they were probably reading. The house was nice and warm and the snow had been getting worse as it got later and later. Your mom did such an amazing job. Every now and then Dawn, the midwife, would help her focus or help her if she needed something. But like with your sister, she just sort of did it on her own. So strong and brave.
I caught you and I was the first person to hold you when you were born. You were so tiny. Right when you started crying your grandma brought your sister in. Amelia was so happy to see you.

And now you’re a year old. You’re walking, talking, and feeding yourself. Your favorite song is Itsy Bitsy Spider. You don’t get all the motions. You can do the spider going up the water spout, but your favorite part is the water washing the spider out. You sort of shake your whole body when we get there. You’re so happy to see me when I get home from work–it’s the best part of my day! You say hi to strangers, hug stuffed animals and dolls when they’re given to you, and you give these really slobbery open mouth kisses on the cheek. My favorite thing is when you give hugs. You turn your head, rest it on my shoulder, wrap a chubby arm around my neck and sort of squeeze with your whole body. It’s unbelievably sweet.

You like to pick up books, open the front cover, and put your whole face in it. Sometimes you’ll talk when you do it. I’m hoping this means your sister’s love of books is rubbing off on you.

You’ve also started picking up our phones and scrolling with your little fingers on the screen. Other times you’ll pick it up and say, “hi,” and try FaceTiming with the blank screen. It’s adorable, Violet, but it just means I should spend less time on my phone when I’m with you. I promise to work on that.

You did great camping and when you flew with your mom and your sister. We haven’t found any foods you don’t like…yet. Raspberries are a favorite. You want to do everything your sister is doing and you seem pretty adventurous. The funniest thing you like doing is going down slides backward. You climb the slide, then sit down, lean forward, and ride butt first down. It’s the funniest and most terrifying thing to watch. You’re just a sweet kid. I’m excited that we get to know you.

Happy birthday, Violet.

A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on the Day You were Born

img_0041Today is your birthday.

No, today is the actual day you were born.

Hi, we’re your family.

Laura–you can call her mom–is going to teach you how to draw, and sew, and cook from the heart and lots of other really amazing things. She’s sweet and generous and has a mouth like a sailor. You’ll figure out pretty quickly that there’s grown-up words and kid words and you should stick to kid words. For now, at least. Your mom is going to teach you how to swim, too. Pay attention.

Amelia, your sister, is rad. She is going to read lots of things to you and probably dress you for the first few years of your life. She’s got a 5 year head start, but she’s basically brand new, too. She is hilarious and will probably try to tickle you a lot.

I’m your dad. I don’t really know what I’m doing a lot of the times, but I promise you I am doing my best. I’m going to try to teach you some cool stuff, too. How to ride a bike. How to use a hammer properly. How to bake. Your sister is getting pretty good at that stuff, so I have no doubt you’ll do well, too.

You have some amazing aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, great aunts, great uncles…the list goes on and on. (I’ll be honest, you have some aunts and uncles who aren’t technically related.) Every one of them is awesome. And I can’t wait for you to meet them all. You’re going to have so much fun with them. You will learn pretty quickly which ones can get you into trouble and which ones can get you out of it. Figuring it out will be half the fun.

It breaks my heart that you will never have the chance to meet my dad’s parents or his brother. Your great grandmother, Juanita, was amazing. When I was growing up we lived next door to her and your great grandfather, Hermilo. We would have dinner at their house a couple of nights each week and have a big meal together on Sunday afternoons. She never came right out and said so, but I learned that cooking for someone is a very simple way of saying, “I love you.” She would whip up a little snack for me after school and she would take her time and make it just how she knew I wanted it because that’s how she was.

My grandparents also taught me what it meant to have an open door. My grandparents welcomed everyone in at any time of day. They had so many visitors at every hour of the day. Every Thanksgiving we would eat at my grandparents’ house. Every Thanksgiving my dad would tell us about a friend of his at work that didn’t have a family in town so he’d invited them to come eat with us. I don’t remember any of them ever coming, but my first year in college I did the same thing. My friend Daniel came to Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house and they welcomed him like one of the family. This is how I’d like our house to be.

One time a few of the grandkids accidentally knocked over my uncle Adam’s motorcycle. If anyone found out about it we’d be in so much trouble. Grandma came out and put it right side up for us. I’m not sure if she ever told or if my uncle Adam ever found out about it, but nothing ever happened to us.

Your great grandfather once told me it was bad luck to drive past your own house without stopping. When I mentioned this to my parents a couple of years later, they laughed at me because I should have known he didn’t believe in luck. He was, however, a man of immeasurable faith. When he went in for one of his many heart surgeries, the surgeon carefully explained what the procedure would entail and were very frank about the gravity of the situation. My grandpa said simply, “just do your best.” His faith rested not in the hands of doctors, but with God. It is a faith that I’ve never found. He was funny and smart, kind and caring. He once told me he used to be a better sheet metal worker than your grandpa. One day I’ll ask him what he thinks.

Your grandpa’s brother is a whole different story. I’ve known him my whole life and I still wish I had gotten to know him better. My Tio Junior was a lot of fun. I’ve always thought your uncle Aaron reminded me of him. He might seem quiet but once you get him going it’s a lot of fun. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around playing cards with the family and he is always there. You’ll never really get to know him, but I promise if you listen, you’ll hear some great stories.

I don’t mean to be a downer; we normally try to focus on the positives around here. You have a great family. You’ll soon figure out there’s the family we’re born with and the family we choose, and they’re all important. You have a family name just like your sister. This is who we are. We carry with us the hopes and dreams of every one who has come before us and there’s a responsibility that comes with that.

I’m not going to ask for much from you. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Try new things. Always try to do the right thing.

One last thing, we are not always going to get along. We’re going to disagree and we will argue. There will be times where you might be afraid to tell me something because you’re worried I’ll get angry or I’ll be disappointed, but no matter what, I love you just as you are and no matter what you do. The rest we’ll figure out.