Jun 26, 2011

Birthday Letter

Dear Radha and Prasad,

You have been on my mind for several weeks and I am happy to finally have an opportunity to write to you again. It is remarkable to me that Haley has grown and learned so much in only 6 months. Her personality has not changed so much as it has been enriched by new skills and language. She is still a delightful and energetic young girl, and quite charming too. We will post new photos and videos soon for you to see.

We had an eventful first Australian summer. You may have heard about the 100-year flooding in Queensland earlier this year, because I suspect that it made world news. The early images of flash flooding that circulated the media represented isolated events in the area. For the rest of us, the floods came very slowly and with a calm determination. We live in one of the suburbs that was largely affected, but our townhouse is at just a high enough elevation that the water only reached to the adjacent park.

According to the Australian government, we were technically “flood affected” only because our power was turned off for about a week. In the first couple days of the outage, Haley had lots of fun running in the house with glow sticks and “torches” from our 72-hour emergency kit. We picked up ice daily from the gas station nearby and had plenty of dried foods that we cooked on our gas oven. We felt very grateful for our church that has always encouraged us to be prepared for these types of events. After a couple days, we were evacuated to a family’s home for a night, after which we left town altogether and spent a week at a condo in Cooloongatta (a famous surfing spot, south of the Gold Coast). It was just too hot to be sleeping 3 to a bed in a hot room. Besides, that family lost power too eventually. The beach trip was a wonderful and unexpected break from our normal routine.

Later in January, I attended an academic conference in Washington DC, so Miguel and Haley had a couple weeks on their own. During that time, we were approved for a visa that required the whole family to leave and reenter the country. Since I was already away, Miguel and Haley took a trip to Christchurch New Zealand for a long weekend. They were very fortunate to be able to visit that beautiful town before it was devastated by an earthquake a week later. It seems that the world is falling to pieces all around us, but we are thriving. It has been a surreal experience, and we feel grateful for our fortunate circumstances. We pray that you are also well.

In the past few months, Haley’s language skills have increased dramatically. I still remember the day that she finished a drink bottle, then handed it to me and said, “I want some more please” with her quasi-Australian accent. It was the first full sentence that came across so clearly that I couldn’t second-guess it. I’m sure that she had spoken in full sentences before that, but they weren’t always with such a meaningful context. Since then, she hasn’t stopped talking.

She likes to tell stories about any little bumps or scratches she has (or invents) on her body. For example, one of her favorite stories is about the time a few months back when a friend’s puppy, named Harry, stayed with us for a weekend and took a nip at her toes when she put her foot in his food dish. She also likes to talk about a hurt finger that needs a band aid, and I know for certain that she invents the injury because she likes stickers. Her stories are very convincing because she has such serious facial expressions. Her fascination with bumps and scratches (on her own or other people’s bodies) makes me wonder if she’ll take up a medical profession someday. She shows real concern if she thinks that someone has been hurt, and has a supportive bedside manner.

It isn’t surprising that Haley enjoys telling stories. As part of her bedtime routine, we read books every night, and Haley has learned some of them well enough that she can almost tell them to us. Although she loves books, she is also quite adept at using electronics and seems to take after Miguel in that way. She is able to intuitively navigate his iPad 2, finding, opening and playing games and books especially for toddlers. She can also find dvds that she likes to watch (Shrek, Tangled, and Finding Nemo) and load them in the player. I’m not sure if she’s figured out the remote controls… she must get that from me.

Haley is also quite athletic, although she may be too much of a girly girl to pursue athletics at a collegiate or professional level. She is amazingly coordinated and loves to bounce on a balance beam (or the sofa) and to dance. She’s getting too big to throw up in the air the way we used to, but she enjoys playing see-saw-up-down while clinging to one of our legs. That’s good exercise for the see saw too!

It may be her outgoing, talkative, athletic qualities that make her quite popular with the other children at kindy. Her best friend is Sienna Edwards, a sweet little blonde girl who is much quieter than Haley. Because they are such good friends, they are able to learn things much faster and more easily together than by themselves. For example, Haley saw that Sienna was sitting on the toilet, so she wanted to try it as well. We haven’t officially started potty training (in part because her bum is too small even for the baby potty seat) but she has shown an interest and I’m sure she’ll have no problem. She also gets on well with the little boys. Parents regularly tell me that their little boys fancy her. She really is quite charming and beautiful so I’m not surprised. Miguel will have quite a job on his hands when Haley reaches dating age (at least 16) and he has to screen her suitors.

Although Haley has a nice group of friends, her favorite companion is a turquoise stuffed bunny she calls “Bubby”. Haley has a creative imagination and is able to have full conversations with Bubby and to take care of his physical and emotional needs. For example, she calms him when he gets fussy by patting his back and putting his head on her shoulder. She sets a place for him at meal times, ties a bib on his neck, changes his diaper, and walks him around the room in a tiny pram. Basically, she does all the things that we do with her. I consider her mimicry flattering.

The terrible 2s aren’t nearly as terrible as I expected. I’ll admit that I sometimes wish Haley hadn’t learned how to say “I want” and we hear our fair share of temper tantrums. Haley is a strong willed girl and she has a powerful set of lungs when she wants to get our attention. However, more often than not, Miguel and I note how she keeps getting more fun to be around and how much we like her (in addition to loving her). We look forward to seeing her grow up, but we’re happy for her to do that at her own pace and will celebrate every milestone.

Since Haley isn’t quite ready to write to you herself, I’m happy to send her love and affection on her behalf. In due time, you’ll hear those sentiments directly.

Kind regards,

Kelly, Miguel and Haley

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