Of Julianna, upon turning two

Miss Julianna has a couple of new nicknames: “Miss Sneaky” and “Superspy.”


We call her this because she has no prayer of ever sneaking up on anyone. Because her nerve endings are not as sensitive, she needs greater feedback on any action she takes—which means she does it hard. Thus, Julianna crawling around the house sounds like a baby elephant on a rampage. J (Yes, I am exaggerating…but not by much.)


On Saturday, I was getting ready to go grocery shopping with the two kids. While I was distracted getting Alex to put on his socks, she moseyed over to the basement stairs and turned around, getting into position to slide down. (The basement is the toy room.) “Julianna, you are NOT going downstairs!” I called sharply, but I could see from the tension in her body as I spoke that she WAS going downstairs, and posthaste.


My big belly and I lunged across the living room while Christian sat at the computer laughing. I kid you not, the girl had gone SEVEN STEPS before I got to the top of the staircase! She just gets on her belly, pushes off, and slides all the way down. She doesn’t even go step by step anymore.




She loves books. LOOOVES them. She’ll put her hands together and sign “book” at the most random intervals, but particularly in the ritual moments, like sitting on the toilet, which always comes right before bedtime story. What to do with the books in her room was one of our biggest challenges in transitioning her out of the crib. We don’t have time/money/fill in the blank to go get a book shelf yet, so they tend to live on the floor. Everywhere. That’s what she does. She goes upstairs and looks at books. And throws them.


We ended up putting the books in the crib, where she couldn’t get at them at bedtime. So today, I put her on her mattress for nap, got her snuggled down, and went to take care of Alex. I could hear her moving around, so I came back, and that little stinker had managed to pull Good Night, Moon through the crib slats and was sitting on her bed reading! (Maybe she IS “Miss Sneaky”!) I scolded her and put her down again, then went back to Alex. We read about King David for a few minutes. There was a suspicious THUMP from Julianna’s room, and then…even more suspicious silence. After I put him in bed, I went back in. TWO books. Diving for the bed. “Yes, Mommy, I’ve been asleep this whole time. Cross my heart!”


She’s a real beggar. She’ll be “all done” with dinner and tell you that she wants to get “down,” but only so that she can pull up on your leg and stare at you until you give her some of your food. Especially if it’s dessert.


Favorite toys? Whatever Alex has at the moment. Puzzles, the Tonka dump truck. She loves her baby doll—which, considering the imminent expansion of our family, is very good timing (yay God!). Then, of course, there is her first and continuing favorite: beads. Her second, and to our chagrin, also continuing favorite: underwear. Yes, you read that right: underwear. Sigh.




She’s started testing the limits of her universe…and all the people in it. She and Alex have competitions to see who can make the loudest larynx-ripping noises. Every time Daddy puts her on the toilet, he says, “Push, Julianna!” She bends her elbows, sticks her legs straight out, and goes, “EEEUUUGH!”, grinning madly because she knows it cracks us up every time.


When we tell her “no,” she throws a tantrum…for about 5 seconds, until she sees that we don’t really care, and then she just gets on with her life. During OT, Miss Kim will say, “Are you all done, or do you want some more (puzzle) (beads) (etc.)?” Julianna stares back and then grunts. You can see the gears turning. Will she let me get away without signing? (In case you’re wondering, the answer is “no.”) She finishes her peanut butter sandwich and grunts. “Do you want some more?” I ask. “Say ‘more.’” She reaches for my hands and tries to make ME sign it. It’s not that she can’t—she just doesn’t want to!


Yet for all that she’s two (and how!), most of her development is back around the year- to 15-month mark. She’s still not walking independently (that’s psychological; she’s capable, she just won’t); she’s still very sketchy with a spoon; and she’s only doing rudimentary imitation, with very few consonant/vowel syllables. It’s a very interesting mix.


We celebrated her second birthday yesterday—a day early—and mixed it up with the Superbowl for those who felt the need. I didn’t, so when the crowd left I put the kids to bed so Christian could keep watching. Alex and Julianna were totally overstimulated, and completely shot, so you can imagine there was a lot of shouting, crying and hysterical giggling in the process of going to bed. This was Julianna’s final expression of the day.



(Yes, I’m a Mean Mommy, I took a picture!)


I share all this hilarity—and, if you notice, normalcy!—thinking of this day two years ago…the high drama; the fights with doctors and nurses; the overwhelming mountain of practicalities that had to be dealt with, even though our hearts were breaking; the exhaustion of exclusively breastfeeding a child with a hole in her heart…


How far we have come in two years—what healing we have all undergone. Julianna’s heart, and our hearts, are whole again—more so than they were before she came to us. The suffering of those early months, the stress of adapting to a reality filled with echocardiograms and ICUs and therapies…all these things crowned our hearts, patched the broken places with a tender, yet sinewy web of strength. Our capacity for suffering increases our capacity to love, to appreciate the exquisite beauty of life and creation. Our hearts are bigger now than they were two years ago.


I dedicate this post to all those just now starting down this road. I hope that you stumble upon these inadequate words and find comfort in what tremendous beauty you have to look forward to.