Oh, thank GOD she’s FOUR

Lillian and I have been in a war for the past year. A war of the THREES. Any parent that I’ve talked to has agreed with me on this one point: Terrible Twos don’t exist. TERROR-FILLED THREES are what you have to worry about.

The calm before the storm...don't let the sleeping fool you. Look at the FORM. She's NUTS.

The calm before the storm…don’t let the sleeping fool you. Look at the FORM. She’s NUTS.

Lillian has been three for WAY. TOO. LONG. She’s saucy. She’s opinionated. She’s obstinate. She’s stubborn. She’s given me more grey/falling out hair than anyone. And she’s CRAZY.

All cute.  And innocent(-looking). She's a sneaky, sneaky terrorist.

All cute. And innocent(-looking). She’s a sneaky, sneaky terrorist.

She’s three was my mantra for the whole year. She’s three. She’s three. Don’t kill her. She’s three. Don’t toss her into a snow bank. She’s three. Don’t throw a temper tantrum back. She’s three.

She’s three.

Determination is her middle name. But her first name??? Spider-Man. And don't you forget it.

Determination is her middle name. But her first name??? Spider-Man. And don’t you forget it.

But today? TODAY?!

Today she is FOUR. And I can tell you that I’ve been looking forward to this day like children look forward to Christmas, like Ben looks forward to the first game of the NFL season, like Isaac looks forward to breakfast – with EVERYTHING I’VE GOT.

Because three? Three almost KILLED me. (No, I’m not being melodramatic.) (Seriously.)

Surprise! She's a loon!

Surprise! She’s a loon!

Three was when we started potty training with earnest. Three is when I cried about potty training practically daily. Three was the time where if I had a million dollars, I would have HIRED someone simply to potty train Lillian. Three made me wince when the pediatrician asked me if Isaac was ready to be potty trained (I’m not even THINKING about it at this point. I need a vacation, first. And a stiff drink. Followed by hibernation. Then, and only then, will I consider potty training a BOY.). Three and poopy underwear and puddles and bringing 7 changes of clothing only to have all 7 soiled halfway through our outing brought this mama to her knees.

Who me? YES YOU.

Who me? YES YOU.

Three was when Lillian started her stand-off life view. Where she decided she wasn’t handing over any control over anything to anyone, DAMMIT. Three was the time where Lillian said, “I’m not peeing anymore!” And she didn’t. For the whole day. Three is when Lillian would refuse to eat anything that she didn’t like the look of. “I don’t like it.” And that, folks, was the end of the meal. Three was when Lillian would say, “I don’t want to.” to going to the bathroom, to picking up Sophie from school, to getting dressed in the morning (she’s now the reigning queen of pyjama days because I refused to pick this battle), to cleaning up, to sitting down to eat, to wearing underwear, to wearing a pull-up diaper, to ANYTHING at ALL at ANY moment.

"I don't like breakfast, ANYMORE."

“I don’t like breakfast, ANYMORE.”

Three was when Lillian came into her own with her vocabulary. Which simply means, it’s the time where she could clearly articulate exactly what she didn’t like about what I was doing. Or not doing.

Strong. And shy. Until she knows you. Then watch out.

Strong. And shy. Until she knows you. Then watch out.

Three was when she fell in LOVE with Scooby-Doo on Netflix and Spider-Man in daily life (“No! My name is NOT Lillian! My name is SPIDER-MAN!”).

Her super hero identity

Her super hero identity

Three is when conversations like this happened EVERY morning:

Me: What would you like for breakfast?
Lillian: —
Me: Lillian. What would you like for breakfast?
Lillian: Toast.
Me: With what on it?
Lillian: Banana and peanut butter.
Me: Perfect!
Lillian: NO! I don’t want anything on my toast. I just want peanut butter. And banana.
Me: So nothing, but peanut butter and banana?
Lillian: NO! I don’t want anything on my toast! I just want peanut butter and banana. And honey. And apricot jam.
Me: Okay.
Lillian (after receiving said toast): I don’t WANT toast. I want CHEERIOS! (Cue sobbing because I’ve ruined her life).
Me: Kill me now.

Dirty. Happy. Nutty. Buttly.

Dirty. Happy. Nutty. Buttly.

Three was a war zone of wills, a battle to the death of the most basic of things, like socks and a coat and snow pants and mittens in -30 degrees Celsius weather. It was a knife fight, where I brought a soft plastic baby spoon and Lillian brought the weapons of mass destruction that Bush dreamed up in his sleep.

This is how she watches TV. No, really.

This is how she watches TV. No, really.

It was a painful, brutal, exhausting year, because my ferocious, energetic, stunningly smart, heart-breakingly strong baby, the one who ripped IV’s out of her arm and bounced back from implant surgery, the one who went from no hearing and no words to NEVER FINDING AN END TO THE CHATTER, the one who has been dealt a tough hand and has cleaned out the pot and all of the players, found her inner THREENAGER and OWNED it, like she’s OWNED everything ever in her life. She refused to be born. She refused to be knocked down by a hearing loss. She refused to use the BLEEPING potty. She refused to give in. EVER. She refused.

Sauce-pot to the max.

Sauce-pot to the max.

And yet?

She’s still the best hugger I know. She’s still the sweetest when I’m hurt or sick. She’s still the one that covers me with her special, Lillian-only blanket when I nap in the afternoons. She’s still the kid that wants to help all the time in the kitchen. She’s still the fiercest lover, fiercest runner, fiercest fighter ever. She’s still awesome and incredible and smart and tough and strong and crazy.

Chatting the ears off Grandpa...he never has any clue what she's saying or why she's saying it and she will never let up.

Chatting the ears off Grandpa…he never has any clue what she’s saying or why she’s saying it and she will never let up.

But ONLY when it’s her idea.

And today? Today, she is FOUR.

Isaac used to hate waiting for me to get the stroller inside after the walk home from school. Every time, Lillian would lie there with him, making him giggle, making me less likely to toss her out a window.

Isaac used to hate waiting for me to get the stroller inside after the walk home from school. Every time, Lillian would lie there with him, making him giggle, making me less likely to toss her out a window.

So, my dear second baby, my dear troubled middle child, my dear girl who puts the butt in buttliness, the girl who demands to be treated with the respect that Spider-Man deserves, happy happy day. Here’s to another year, where we will go to school, and tackle the world, and win all the battles all over again.

Being herself. Her awesome crazy brilliant tough self.

Being herself. Her awesome crazy brilliant tough self.

Because heaven help your teachers and your classmates if they get in your way. And Godspeed to them. They have no idea what’s coming for them, and there is simply no way to prepare them…except to hug them and thank them for taking you off my hands.

Oh, my heart.

Oh, my heart.

I love you, Lillian. With everything and through everything. Always.

My monkey-butt

My monkey-butt

Love, Mama

~ Julia

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It is real

Soldiers, war, veterans, the military – all of these were abstract concepts growing up. They were pieces and parts of other people’s lives, other people’s histories, other people’s experiences.

Sure, our Pepere, our mother’s dad, served in the Navy. And yes, our Avô, our father’s dad served in the army. But that was ages ago, long before our parents were married and before any of us were twinkles in eyes (EW).

It wasn’t talked about in great detail. The sepia pictures of them as young men in uniform adorned shelves in their respective living rooms, certificates were brought out sometimes, but the idea, the concept, the reality never ever sunk in for me. It happened then to them. Such a long time ago, such a great distance ago.

In school, Remembrance Day was a time for us to reflect on the sacrifices of others who did heroic things in the name of our freedom that we enjoyed in the present day. History class was filled with complicated explanations of politics that lead to wars that lead to young men and women serving in capacities that are beyond understanding for someone like me who has never had to endure any sort of conflict of that scale. And literature was filled with imagery and emotion and recollection spun in story and portrayed again in a distanced sort of way. Out there, back then, not here, but for us. 

And then I met and fell in love with Ben and his family. His military family. The family where most of the men, the majority, the rule not the exception, had served in some capacity in the army. Overseas and here at home; in active duty and in the reserves; in the middle of a war zone far away and training troops a province away; in the past, now retired and presently, currently as I type; fathers and sons; cousins and brothers. It was no longer an abstract concept. It was real. It is real. 

Nathan - Military

Nathan and crew

When Ben and I got married, his brother-cousin, Nathan, was in the bridal party and almost had to be in his military dress for the ceremony because he may not have had time to get his tux before coming home from training for the wedding. Brother-cousin Olen trained troops in Manitoba and served in other capacities as a reservist. We attended Ben’s cousin, Albert, and his beautiful wife, Becky’s wedding on the military base where Albert was serving (they’re now in Alberta on another base serving in a new capacity). Cousin Chris served in Afghanistan. Both of Ben’s uncles have served and since retired from the military. Both Ben’s brother Todd and his cousin Alex survived basic training and worked as reservists. It is real. 

Albert - Military

Albert and crew

These are not small things, even though they didn’t make headlines and no one is in the middle of a war zone at this very moment. And beyond that there are men and women serving right now in various capacities, in various countries and regions and situations, trying to make a difference, fighting for freedoms that aren’t obviously in danger, helping people shore up against famine, disease, disaster, and political upheaval. Lending hands to the world and serving us at home, away from their families and their homes and their comfort. Dying and living in service. They have been, they are, they will be. And it is real.

Chris - Military

Chris and crew

Remembrance Day means something more for me now than it used to because I have faces and names to people fighting and fought, serving and served, but the thing is, it should have always meant something because for every troop and their family it is real. Even if you don’t agree with the battle being waged, the reasons for the serving, the government that sent them, or even the people that are being served, it is real. 

This year, every year, every day remember that somewhere someone is giving of themselves for a greater something and their loved ones are left behind, sacrificing along with them without them. And that they are not treading a new path. That they are walking in the shoes of all those who fought and served before them. And that they are lighting the way for future service.

It is real. And it is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pin your poppy and stand in silence tomorrow, but remember always.

~ Julia

P.S. I know that this video is a Christmas song, but the voices of the troops sending love home makes it real for me over and over again. I pray for the day that they’ll all be home, all at once. I know it’s a fool’s dream, a wish for heaven, essentially, but it’s in my naive heart all the same.