3 1/2 years old: Halfway between big and small

Over Christmas break, Peeper and her cousin were sitting on stools in the kitchen. “You’re so big already—don’t get any bigger!” her Aunt Meghan teased. Everyone laughed—everyone but Peeper. She burst into tears.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.

“I don’t want to stay small!” she wailed.

Peeper loves to be a big girl, but she also craves the security of being our baby. This push and pull between big and small colors every day. Just as she’s halfway between 3 and 4, she’s halfway between big and small.

A beautiful flower crown for my preschooler daughter. Ten Thousand Hour MamaMy preschooler and my husband have a special daddy-daughter bond. Ten Thousand Hour MamaMy preschooler's curiosity is wonderful to witness. Ten Thousand Hour MamaHalfway between big and small at 3 1/2 years old, I love my daughter more each day. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Halfway to big

Peeper is at the stage where she revels in getting bigger. We persuade our picky eater to try vegetables and take a few more bites because, as she believes, vegetables make you grow. She stretches her arms as wide as they’ll go after meals, showing us just how much longer her arms got after a meal of spaghetti or peanut butter banana. And she jumps with all her might—”Look how high I can jump!”—to test just how much she’s grown in the last 15 minutes.

She also enjoys being a big sister. “Kiwi is saying a new word!” she’ll exclaim. “She’s trying to say blueberries. That’s right, b, b, b, blueberries, Kiwi!”

She also loves to teach Kiwi new skills, whether it’s blowing spit bubbles (seriously so gross), spinning, eating cereal (“You go like this”—crunch crunch) or climbing the elliptical machine. Peeper is her little sister’s biggest cheerleader, applauding her every milestone.

Whether they're dressing up or playing gymnastics, my girls are inseparable. Ten Thousand Hour MamaAs a big sister, my daughter takes good care of her little sis. Ten Thousand Hour MamaMy preschooler is her little sister's biggest fan and cheerleader. Ten Thousand Hour MamaSisters in the snow

Halfway to small

Yet being big isn’t always part of Peeper’s plan.

Every so often, she becomes Baby Peeper. She’ll crawl into Kiwi’s crib or lie down on the changing pad. Once she even insisted on wearing a diaper over her undies.

“Gagagaga,” she’ll say, copying baby talk. But then she’ll do a remarkable, spot-on impersonation of her little sister. She’ll point, make Kiwi’s signature “mmmmn” sound and scrunch up her nose in the perfect imitation of her sister’s smile.

Seriously, she could take this act on the road, it’s so good.

And every so often, Peeper will become a baby again, snuggling in my lap in the rocking chair. She’ll tuck her head under my chin and pull her knees up to her chest. While she’s resting on me, I sing her favorite lullabies and marvel that this child, halfway between big and small, ever fit inside of me.

Peeper is all lanky limbs these days. I laugh when she shows us her impressive wingspan (“Look how long my arms are!”) because she takes after her dad, whose arms are so long he needs a specially fitted golf club.

She is changing into a big child. She has lost the baby fat that gave her such beautifully chubby cheeks. She may be halfway between big and small, but she’s hurtling toward big at a pace that takes my breath away.

Halfway between big and small, my preschooler is growing at an astonishing pace. Ten Thousand Hour MamaMy little girl is halfway between big and small. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Staying big and small

Unlike her joking Aunt Meghan, I don’t want to keep Peeper small. I love witnessing how she grows, develops and changes every day.

She wakes up each morning a new person. Although some things are consistent—her favorite color remains purple, she still hates washing her hands—the dawn could bring any other new development.

Tomorrow could be the day she finally lands a perfect cartwheel or

While I wake up just as excited as she does to see what the day brings, I cherish the times she turns back into Baby Peeper. Those moments, whether she’s a goof copying her sister’s baby talk or a cuddlebug who finds a cozy spot on my lap, remind me of the days when she was my everything, my all. When I was her world and she was mine. When the universe shrunk to the size of just us—a mother and a baby halfway between big and small.

No matter how big she gets, my daughter will always be my baby. Ten Thousand Hour MamaWhether she's big or small, she'll always be my baby. Ten Thousand Hour MamaHalfway between big and small, my preschooler is just where she's meant to be. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Kiwi is 18 months: 10 memories of my big little toddler

Kiwi is 18 months old—a whopping year and a half. She runs, she throws a ball, she does her darnedest to jump, she understands so much. I can hardly believe how big my littlest has become: a big little toddler.

My big little toddler - Ten Thousand Hour MamaAt 18 months, my toddler loves to go on hikes. Ten Thousand Hour MamaEat dirt? Sure! But good luck trying to get this toddler to eat real food. Ten Thousand Hour MamaThis 18 month old toddler says, "Let's go outside, Mom!" Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I recently read a few past milestone pasts about Peeper. The posts reminded me of some things I’d forgotten (that she used to call oatmeal “wee-mo,” for example). I also realized that I’ve slacked lately on keeping Kiwi’s milestone posts up to date.

This month, as Kiwi turns 18 months, I captured ten things about my big little toddler that make her uniquely her.

At 18 months, I'm capturing memories of my big little toddler. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Kiwi is 13 months: Always on the move

The other day, Kiwi sat at her high chair with a washable marker clutched in one fist. Using wide, sweeping motions, she moved her entire body to cover the paper in bright stripes. Her coloring was like an energetic dance—and that is how she approaches everything.

If she’s awake, my 13-month-old is moving.

This 13 month old cheered on Team USA during the Olympics! Ten Thousand Hour MamaNow that this toddler can walk, she loves the splash pad all summer long!Now that she's mobile, the beach is even more fun for this toddler. Ten Thousand Hour MamaThe beach is full of fun—and opportunities to dig sand!—for toddlers. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Kiwi is 12 months old: Leading me

Not long ago, Peeper came home from gymnastics. She ran into the bedroom, where I was changing Kiwi’s diaper.

“We learned frog jumps!” Peeper exclaimed—and began bouncing up and down, landing with her hands between her feet.

Kiwi squealed. She rolled over. Coming up to her knees, she started to bounce, too.

The two sisters laughed and jumped like frogs and laughed some more, all the while watching each other.

That little scene perfectly shows the core of Kiwi’s personality—her exuberance. She is so in love with life.

At 12 months old, my baby (wait, toddler?!) is the one leading me! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Peeper is 3

It’s hard to believe that 3 years ago, my beautiful Peeper made me a mom.

I will never forget that day. Early that morning I woke with contractions. A bit later, Eric, my sister, Finn and I went for a hike. My water broke on the car ride home. At the hospital, I endured excruciating back labor that made me wild with fear. But just after 9pm, I met the tiny person who had grown from two joined cells to an entire person, and my life broke open in the most joyous way possible.

This preschooler is 3 years old and brings me so much joy. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Peeper’s third birthday marks a division in my life—a clear before and after. But she continues to rock my world every day we spend together. Read more

Kiwi is 11 months

11 month old baby bruises

If my kid is covered in bruises, please don’t worry. It’s just that her ambitions are outpacing her motor skills.

There was one week when Kiwi had several bruises on her head, a goose egg above her eye and a gash on her gums. She had taken several headers, pulled both a chair and and end table on top of herself, and slipped in the tub—twice. All the bonks made me feel terrible, but it’s hard to rein in an 11-month-old baby who is set on cruising and climbing. Read more

Kiwi is 10 months: Time to play

baby play trampolineThis month, someone must have hit the “play” button on Kiwi, because she just can’t stop playing! (Ok sorry, terrible pun.)

One day, I put a plastic cup on top of my head. (Why? No idea. Seemed natural at the time.) It fell off. And Kiwi nearly fell over, she was laughing so hard. She made a game of it: She’d hand me a random object for me to balance on my head then giggle uncontrollably when it toppled off.

My favorite game? After she finishes nursing, Kiwi faceplants on my bare belly and blows raspberries. The first time she did it, Eric had to stop what he was doing in the other room to check on us because I was laughing so hard.

Her favorite game is chase. She’ll crawl away from me then pause, peeking behind her to see if I’m following. When I come after her, she squeals in delight and motors away—until I catch her. As I tickle her belly and nibble her cheeks, she surrenders in a fit of laughter—until setting off again.

10 months play crawling

The bruises on my knees from crawling on hardwood and the drool-covered belly barely register. She is happy and I am happy.

I’m even more grateful for this ease of play for both of us because our time together wasn’t always this carefree. In Kiwi’s early months, everything was hard. She cried, and I cried, and neither of us smiled all that much. She was in pain and I was unhappy. On the worst days I had to force myself to play with her—singing nursery rhymes or doing This Little Piggy on her prehensile toes—even though I felt no joy.

The contrast to today is striking—like walking out of a dark movie theater into a July day, it’s almost blinding in its brilliance. Now Kiwi can light me up, and her smile sparks a glow within me that grows with every tickle fest and game of airplane.

baby dog playing

baby play toy carBaby's first taste of apple I thought of her recently when listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour. The hour-long show explored the benefits of play. The experts made me realize that when I get down on all fours to crawl-chase Kiwi, or when we do pattacake, or when I have puppets act out a scene from Downton Abbey, I’m growing, too.

Putting me in closer connection with my own inner child is just one more gift Kiwi is giving me. As she plays, so do I, and we’re both better off—and happier—for it.