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Me: Before you go and make cake, sit down and tell me your favourite parts of the last year with Gabriel. I am about to write his Pony birthday entry.
Kiff: I don't know where to begin. There are so many moments.
Me: I think of that day he started walking. And how we stretched out on either side of the hallway and let him walk between us, back and forth, for an hour.
Kiff: Maybe you should start with how we have had a full year, pretty much, of sleeping through the night.
Me: Or his love of music
Kiff: Oh! His drawing! 
Me: And the stories he tells us. His language!
Kiff: Too many moments.

Dear Gabriel,
Today you woke up really early - you were shouting in your dreams, and quickly returned to sleep, but I could not. Maybe my body was remembering two years ago -  that long day and night at the hospital before we met you for the first time.

Just as I was drifting off, you were up again, and I was so, so tired that I brought you into bed, and your dad and I sang you happy birthday over and over. And you said, for the first time, "I am two years old!" 

Tomorrow there will be monkey cake and balloons. But like last year, I am spending the last few moments of your birthday thinking about the year that has passed.

Your first year was filled with quiet gestures but this year you started talking up a storm. It started with the regular words like ball. And Daddy. Mommy. Next thing we knew, you'd started singing full choruses of songs. You never stop singing, it seems. I can't wait to expand your repertoire.
How else are you at two? You are so thrilled with the alphabet, you throw your hands up in the air in front of the fridge, with its magnetic letters, and proclaim "ABCD!", like it's the best game in town. You bring me "L" for Lisa or "A" for Abi, "G" for Gabriel.  I am so tickled by your playfulness with language.

Sometimes you hilariously mispronounce things, and Gabriel, I won't humiliate you any further with stories of your inadvertent potty mouth, but you have us shaking with laughter. Remind me to tell your first girlfriend about the big and little clocks you wanted to play with.

Now that you are two, you have started to demand things in your throaty, indignant voice that is so certain that it wants THAT marker. No over there. No! NOT Daddy do it! Mommy do it! And my personal fave: "No Mommy! No look at Gabro's Face! I no like that!" Toddlerdom is like PMS on steroids. I can tell that there is a little part of you that knows you are being unreasonable, but you just can't stop yourself. 

You have started to talk like a kung-fu master. The other night in the bath, I asked: "Are you swimming in the water?"
And you looked very displeased, and said: "No Mommy! Not Like that! Dolphins swim. Fish Swim. Gabro: no swim."

It has been amazing to watch you draw. You started out lying on top of the paper, drawing lines. This evolved into circles and swirls. And then the tiny detailed rosebud-like markings. Your unselfconscious joy in art makes me feel like I remember a time before my doodles and handwriting became so frustratingly styled and consistent.

If I have a day off, I spend an hour or so at daycare with you, just watching you play with your friends. I am so touched to see your ease and compassion with other kids. They way you don't try to dominate, even though you are the most energetic of the bunch, how you share your toys and include everyone in your spirited games. 

Weekend mornings, you stand on a chair and make pancakes with me. I give you your own bowl and spoon. I let you get filthy with flour and really enjoy yourself. Since your eating has been so picky, it is the one food-related enthusiasm I can count on with you. 

You jump on me and your dad like we are bouncy inner tubes. I have had more bashed eyes and noses than i care to count. For a whiie there, you would throw yourself headfirst down slides, but now it seems your fearlessness has been tempered by a love of having the crap scared out of you. Sometimes you run like you are being chased and jump into my arms, wrap your legs around me like a spider-monkey and shout: Tiger coming! Oh no!  or Hopapus! (Octopus).

You are becoming so independent. I am amazed at this hard-wired personality that is emerging. But you are still my baby. I wrap you in a towel after your bath and rock you in my arms and we pretend you are my little baby, still. I sing your special baby song.

I am so glad you are such a cuddle monster, but you really had no choice. I think we snuggled you into submission from an early age. You ask for "family hug" with " mommydaddygabro" - I love that portmanteau. In the mornings, you still love a long cuddle, and we stay that way until the sky starts to promise morning. We put a blanket over us on the sofa and you wrap your arms around my neck, and after a few minutes you pull your head back, look at me and smile, "Mommy!" you say, like it's the best game in town. Happy Birthday, Gabriel.

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