Avery turns three, still my baby girl

Back in bed, after her birthday visit

Back in bed, after her birthday visit to our room

We called her “baby girl” for years, but now it’s usually “Avery Gracie” or “princess.” She’s not a baby, as she so often reminds us, but she’s still my baby girl. Last night she came into our room at nearly the exact same time she was born. She doesn’t usually come in our room at night, so it’s almost like she knew that three years ago, at that time, something special was about to happen. Our world was changed forever when Avery Grace was born.

Avery has this charisma and upbeat personality that seems unusual in such a young child. I used to joke that if I were an illustrator, I would make a cartoon of her. Now I threaten to take her to Hollywood and make her get a job, but I don’t want her to end up like Lindsay Lohan, so we’ll keep her as our personal entertainment instead.

My first post on this blog was on Avery’s 2nd birthday. I said she was the perfect baby, which was true. About two months after I wrote that post, she learned how to climb out of her crib, moved into a toddler bed and still escapes a few nights a week. She’s not being naughty, she just doesn’t want to miss anything. She needs one more hug and kiss or a bite of whatever Chase and I are having for dinner.

Last year one of our friends, who doesn’t have kids of his own, made a comment that Avery is going to be that girl in high school that everyone loves because she is up for anything. I have mixed feelings about this (I will be monitoring her friends very closely!), but it’s a character trait I wish I had. If you ask Avery if she wants to do something, nine times out of 10, her answer is “sure!” The “nos” are few and far between and mostly occur when asking her to wear a certain outfit or to sit still to do her hair.

I hope our baby girl has a wonderful 3rd birthday!

Birthday outfit, I didn't have to fight her on this one

Showing off her birthday outfit, I didn’t have to fight her on this one

Siblings: best friends forever

kids ticklesWhichever one of my kids wakes up first, immediately asks about the other one, anxious for him/her to wake up, too. They do almost everything together. Maybe that’s why Avery knows she is two, but says she’s four. She can ride a scooter as well as Clay. She climbs walls (and mountains!) with no fear. Most of the time we forget they are 23 months apart because they are so close.

My dad was 15 months older than his sister, and they were the best of friends until the day he died. My mother-in-law and her older brother have the same age difference and were inseparable. Seeing them, I thought 15 months would be a good age difference for our kids. Nursing for 13 months made that impossible, but when Clay was 15 months old, I found out I was pregnant with Avery.

Clay was not yet two when she was born, but he adored her. As she grew, his excitement when she reached milestones was comparable to (or maybe even exceeded) ours. “Avery can crawl, mommy!,” he said, pride in his voice. When Clay plays soccer or t-ball, Avery greets him coming off the field with, “Great game. I’m so proud of you, Clay!”

He’s also protective. When a boy pushed Avery at school, Clay told me “I pushed Sanjay, because he pushed Avery.” The responsible parent in me told him, “it’s nice to protect your sister, but next time just tell the teachers,” while I was thinking, “heck yeah, big brother, stand up for your favorite girl!”

I had two strangers come up to me this week, commenting on the kids’ relationship and love for each other, after watching them interact. I’m not saying they are perfect because they are not. They fight over toys and make each other crazy sometimes. But most of the time, they are the older brother and little sister that my dad and his sister, and Chase’s mom and uncle, were. I have the family I always hoped for.

I’m sure they’ll fight more as they grow up, but in a time when preschool teachers tell me Clay needs to work on his listening and Avery still sneaks out of her room at bedtime, it makes me think we’re doing something right. And gives me hope that whatever mistakes we make in parenting along the way, they’ll have each other. Those two will be best friends forever.

The Princess Bride

princess bride

This week, Avery got a pile of hand-me-down princess dresses from our friend’s daughter. The wedding gowns are her favorite. We had music on last night, so she wanted to dance with her husband. When I asked who her husband was, she said, “That guy in the green shirt. My dad, Chase.” And then they danced…

Why l love the Disney Princesses

The top row of Avery's toy bin. Hello, princesses!

The top row of Avery’s toy bin. Hello, princesses!

I live with a two-year-old, who, more often than not, is wearing a princess dress over her clothes. She only has two of them (Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) and they are both falling apart at the seams from constant wear. She has a princess stepstool, princess dolls, princess books and most of the Disney princess movies.

I became aware of this “anti-princess” movement a few months before Avery’s infatuation began. I read complaints that the princesses teach little girls that their looks are all that matters and that they should wait for a prince to come rescue them. Some critics even say that the princesses discourage girls from trying hard in school. Really? One princess dress and you’re not getting into Stanford? I highly doubt that.

I’m not going to attack the anti-princess moms, because the one thing I’ve learned in almost five years of being a parent: what works for one family does not work for everyone. You have to figure out what works for you. For us, the princesses work.

I’ve gotten Avery out of the house on slow-moving mornings by allowing her to wear a princess dress over her clothes in the car. I’ve convinced her to take nap by pretending she was baby Rapunzel (from Tangled) going to sleep in her bed. She shrieked with excitement when she got new princess dolls for Christmas, thanking us repeatedly. She’s stayed in her bed at night telling stories to Merida (from Brave) and Cinderella. Even Clay has gotten in on the princess action: he loves the new Disney series, Sofia the First, almost as much as Avery does (side note: the series teaches kids to accept others, try their best, etc. – it’s great!).

The princesses have good manners. They are friendly, welcoming and seem to handle challenges (Ariel losing her voice to a witch, Merida turning her mom into a bear, etc.) well. They aren’t bad role models for my daughter, but they also aren’t her only role model. They are a fantasy, just toys and movies and fancy dresses. It’s not real life. Real life isn’t always easy, and Prince Charming doesn’t always sweep in and fix everything. I want Avery to know that, but it’s our parenting that will teach her those lessons, not her toys.

Avery’s new thing is to put on princess dresses and sing at the top of her lungs. We have video, but I won’t post it here to save everyone’s eardrums. She puts on a dress, becomes someone else and has a blast. Who wouldn’t love that?

Milkshake Super Bowl

For three out of the past four weekends, one (or both) of our kids have been sick. What happened to their great immune systems from all that breastfeeding I did? Preschool happened, I guess.

This weekend Avery has a stomach bug. Sure, milk isn’t great for you when you are sick, but if you have to throw up, you might as well have something yummy beforehand. She and I got milk shakes and are watching the Super Bowl at home so she doesn’t contaminate anyone. It’s not my typical drink of choice for Super Bowl Sunday, but my baby girl loves it. Really hope she feels better soon!

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