I went for an ocean swim in my neighbor's driveway yesterday. I stood shin high in frigid waters at the place where the shadow of garage roof met sunny pavement. My audience requested I sing "Happy Birthday" in my loudest Chuck E. Cheese voice. I obliged ... proudly embarrassing myself in front of anyone on the street near an open window.
... anything for my Jalynn.
I love my daughter. I love that only her right cheek dimples when she smiles. I love that she lights up as though she just won a room filled with bouncy balls and shiny new pens when she sees me after long absences. I love that anything over a minute and a half qualifies as a long absence. I love when she asks me to pour a bowl of off-brand Cheerios for her imaginary dinosaur friend who regularly joins us for breakfast. And I love when she initiates hugs, surprises me with a "Mommy, I love you so much," or takes Malakye's paci out of his mouth just so that she can smooch him on his lips.
Now lest you start thinking that I birthed some sort of little girl superhero, I'll have you know that Jalynn does plenty of things I'm not so crazy about. For one, she's mastering the art of stalling. In fact, her skills have accelerated at a disproportionate rate on each of the past few nights. Last night she looked at Jimmy with those big brown eyes like the cat on Shrek and said, "Cuddle with me, Daddy. Just one more minute." What's he supposed to say? No. I don't want to cuddle with my little girl, the one I'll be walking down the aisle TOMORROW?
Oooo. She's good.
Tonight it was the stuffed animal game. Her bed—already resembling the sixth day of creation— teems with dogs and hippos and donkeys. She had to try hard to think of the one animal not already crowding her pillow: "My turtle, Daddy. Please get my turtle." He jogged down the stairs, tore through four toy bins until he located the little bean-filled reptile, and hustled back up to her room, desperate to beat the clock. 18 minutes past bedtime.
One more round of "Jesus Loves Me." The door an inch from closing, an inch from victory. "My Pluto, Mommy! My Pluto." Daddy and I tag team. He reminds her that this is the last animal for the night. I run downstairs like an out-of-shape bargain hunter the morning after Thanksgiving. 21 minutes past bedtime.
The world's fastest version of Barney's "I Love You" ever not recorded. Door closed. Victory? Nope.
For her final display of tenacity, Jalynn chose the classic fake crying/real kicking duo. Door open. A Daddy lecture. One final "I love you." Door closed ... for good. Victory! 24 minutes past bedtime.
Ehh. We'll start earlier tomorrow.
The girl is amazing. Calculating. Methodical. Irritating. And absolutely, positively, one of my favorite people of all time. I never knew pure, unblemished joy until I met my Jalynn.
I love you, J!
(This started as a video of Malakye trying to crawl. Then Jalynn entered the room. You know that look I described, the one that lights up the room after long absences? This video captures it better than a bazillion words.)
(For all you Malakye fans out there, I haven't forgotten my little man. In fact, every time I begin thinking about all I have to say about my chubbiest love, I tear up. Coming soon ... a post dedicated to His Squishyness.)