She talks up a storm, and you can't grin at her without getting a smile back.
She's very bossy ("stand up! or I won't sing to you!"), is constantly singing or talking, and will repeat the same things over and over. (Every time she puts on her shoes, she'll say, "Is this the wrong feet?" I'm not sure what the answer is supposed to be, because when I say no, it's the right feet, she'll often switch them, but she also usually switches them if I say yes, it's the wrong feet.)
She lets us (and we do) call her Belly and Bel all the time, but if someone refers to her that way, she'll protest, "No, my name is Annabel."
She has a terrific, always-at-the-ready sense of humor, but is intensely serious if she's focused on something.
She loves going to school, which until recently she called "sook" and then "soolk," because it took her until a few months ago to conquer any dipthongs involving s's (i.e., she used a "foon" to eat her cereal, worried about whether food would be "ficy," and wanted me to push her on the "fing").
When I first started writing this (back in the summer, months ago now), I wrote that I didn't know how we would get her weaned from her beloved binky. I wrote:
Last night she had one in her mouth while she was taking a bath, and later it disappeared. I couldn't find it right away, so I pulled a second one off of our bedroom dresser and gave it to her. Then we brushed her teeth, and suddenly she was binky-less again, so I told her - frustrated - that was it, that was all the binkies, she had had two of them and now there were none, so she was just going to have to sleep without a binky. She sighed sadly, whined that no, she wanted a binky, and when I said that it was too bad, but she was going to have to do without, she started to sob in earnest. I asked her why she was so upset, and she said, "I'm crying because I'm sad because I want to sleep with my binky!"
I have talked to lots of people about how they got rid of the pacifier, and they include: 1) simply saying that they are now too old for a pacifier, and that is that; 2) purposely breaking the pacifier (usually by cutting the end off so it can't really be sucked, at least not enjoyably, I guess) and then explaining that it was broken - this seems to often culminate in throwing the broken binky in the trash; 3) creating an elaborate scenario about sending the old pacifiers to needy babies in other parts of the world and/or about having them taken by some sort of Binky Fairy who leaves a present in exchange. No one has so far admitted that they or their child has had a difficult time giving it up, so maybe it won't be as hard as I think it will. But Annabel is committed to what she wants, has a memory like an elephant, and is very matter-of-fact about what she knows. For instance, I am 100% confident that if her binky is broken, she will simply instruct us to go to the store to buy a replacement, and that will most definitely not be the end of that.
But now I think that one of these days she will just decide to give it up when she is good and ready. Shortly after writing the above, I told her that we had a new rule: the binky was only allowed in the car and in the crib - nowhere else. I expected her to protest, if not initially, then later, but nope. Surprisingly, she has never once challenged that rule, not until last week, when she suddenly announced, "I'm a mom now, so I don't need my binky in the car. Just for sleeping." (She's a mom to her doll Sally, which is actually Katie's doll, and on a regular basis Katie will say, "Ok, Annabel, tomorrow I am going to play with Sally, ok?" And Annabel will say ok, but then when tomorrow comes, she refuses to hand it over, and since Katie gives in, she gets it for another day.) She hasn't asked for a binky for anything but sleeping since then.
Katie is so often my reflection, for good and for ill. She looks a lot like me. She goes through somewhat wild and obvious roller coasters of emotions, all worn on her sleeve - so much like me. She is also eager to please, and would try almost anything if she thought it would make you laugh or would make you like her. She wants everyone in the world to like her, and she is deeply hurt if she knows that someone doesn't. Her speech is rarely matter-of-fact, but is more likely full of hyperbole - again, for good or for bad. She'll swing from "you never want to play that with me" to "you're the best mommy in the world" within seconds. Katie is so much like me that usually, even when I don't like how she's acting (especially when I don't like how she's acting?), I understand it. This doesn't necessarily mean I'm more patient with her, though; often I think I'm less patient with those flaws of her that I'm already so tired of and frustrated with in myself.
If Katie is my treasured not-exactly-doppelganger, Annabel is my cherished mystery, so often surprising and delighting me. She is different. She is straightforward, and she will not be manipulated into doing something just because we'd like her to; she'll do it if she wants to, thank you, and not otherwise. I am not too worried about Annabel succumbing to peer pressure when she is older (Katie, on the other hand, I can easily imagine going along with something that she doesn't really want to do if she thinks it might make people like her). Annabel is even keel, especially for a 3 year old: when she's at her most upset, she'll scream and fuss and protest loudly, but two minutes later, she'll be calm again. Well, that didn't work, I imagine her thinking. Might as well move on to the next thing.
She will hardly ever be persuaded to agree with you, though, if she started out disagreeing, or if you believe something that directly oppposes what she wants to do. My mom was here for Thanksgiving, and at one point she went into the bathroom and started to shut the door. "I don't want you to shut the door," Annabel said. "I want to see you when you're in there." My mom told her that she'd rather have privacy and be alone in the bathroom, but Annabel insisted on coming in, and my mom relented. "Ok, but at least come in and shut the door," she told Annabel. Annabel went in the (tiny) bathroom and shut the door behind her, and I heard my mom say, "I like to have privacy when I'm in the bathroom." I could picture Annabel nodding in a placating way as she said, "Yeah, sometimes you do." (I laughed out loud when I heard that.)
She can be very sweet when she feels like it, and she has a very definite sense of her own strength and value. The other day she told me that when I am sad and she talks to me that it makes me feel better, and today when I was whining & actually crying in frustration over a stupid computer issue I was unable to solve, she came over to me, said "I love you," and gave me a hug.
Up until she was 10 months old, she was a pretty terrible sleeper, waking up more than 4 or 5 times a night until well after she was 8 months old, and still waking up at least once every night (and often 2 or 3) until April 2009, at which point I was diagnosed with pneumonia and was prescribed antibiotics that were not breastfeeding friendly. After 2 or 3 nights of Geoff being the one who went to her in the night, she apparently decided that it was simply not worth waking up if she was only going to be offered a bottle, and she started sleeping through the night. She has never stopped, and in fact her sleeping habits are still somewhat miraculous to us. Unless she's sick, she sleeps all night, every night, except for an occasional wake up from a nightmare, between 9 and 10 pm. If she stays up late or misses a nap? She makes up for it by sleeping in. (This is the opposite of Katie, who routinely gets up before 6 if she's been up past 9 or so the night before.)
Have I written this before? About how before Annabel was born, there was a part of me that was afraid that I would not be able to love her as much as I loved Katie, but that instead, from the day she was born, I loved her just as much, just like that (which in a way seemed unfair, since Katie had already had more than 4 years to work her way into my heart; but I know that love doesn't always - ever? - work in a logical, incremental, rational way), just the way people had said it would be: I loved her as much as Katie (inasmuch as my love for either of them can really be measured), but in a different way.
I have not written nearly as much about Annabel as I have about Katie, and I have felt guilty about that (how motherly of me), as if by not documenting her amazingness, her quirks, her whimsy, her incredible vocabulary & her extreme gregariousness, that I am appreciating her less. And honestly, in some ways, I think that might even be true: I look back now and read old posts about Katie and am reminded of things about earlier phases of her life that I would have forgotten about if I hadn't written it out. I am sorry that I haven't written more about the specifics of life with baby Annabel, but if Annabel ever reads this, I hope she knows that my not writing about her had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me (and a lot to do with how difficult the past few years have been, which have made it hard for me to write the way I'd like to have written).
If you read this someday, Annabel, I want you to know that I love you now, have loved you since before you were born, and will love you always and forever. I love the way you often greet me in the morning with an excited, "The bedbugs didn't bite me!" and I love how when I knock on your bedroom door, you call out, "Are you home?" I love the way you run so fast & so hard, so often, on your own or alongside your sister or cousins on their scooters or bikes. I love how determined you are and how difficult it is to dissuade you from doing something you've decided you want to do (even though your determination sometimes makes some days more difficult). I love the weight of your little body on mine when I rock you in your bedroom rocker at bedtime, and already I miss that tired, relaxed weight, since most of the time these days you are still wide awake enough at bedtime that instead you sit up away from me. I love how much you love school, how much you love drawing and cutting and pasting and folding, and how you can count to 16 in Spanish (and how today when we watched The Muppets you wouldn't stop repeating "Hola!" after one of the muppets said it). I love that your artwork is, first and foremost, for you: so often you bring home little personal art projects that consist of a piece of paper on which you've drawn, colored, or painted, that have then been folded a few times, glued together, folded more, then taped together on the outside. You won't let me open them up; you insist that the taped-up, folded-up version of the paper is exactly how it's supposed to be seen. I love how you go crazy for particular foods - the other day you ate 6 or 7 clementines in a row; some days you will eat 4 bananas one after the other, and you will never turn down a mashed, salted avocado with a few tortilla chips.
Oh, Annabel, I just love you, almost everything about you, so much. It is my hope and my belief that, regardless of what I write now or have previously written here, that you will already know how I feel about you simply from the history of our relationship with each other, but just in case there is any doubt: you are my sunshine, my entertainer, my stubborn & beloved little Belly girl, who impresses and delights me every single day.
Today you are 3 and a half years old exactly, and already I am so proud of the person you are. I feel joyous and blessed that I get to be around to continue to help you grow and mature as best I can, and to see how you change and develop. I am so very, very thankful that you're my daughter.