My baby turned two on December 17th. And she is really, truly two: a spunky, mischievous, affectionate, willful, gregarious, opinionated chatterbox.

Today we went for her well-checkup; she insisted on wearing her bejwelled hot pink movie star sunglasses for every last second of it. Apparently they were an indispensable part of her outfit. I walked into the pediatrician’s waiting room and was momentarily puzzled when all five nurses at the desk looked past me and started laughing. I turned and beheld my daughter trailing me: a minute apparition in a hot pink coat, the furry hood framing her white ski hat and Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. When I picked her up she inserted her face between my shoulder and neck and announced, “I be shy, Mommy.” I don’t believe it. Can anyone who dresses like that be shy?

It was actually remarkable that she appeared at the doctor’s office in anything that normal-looking, since every morning involves an epic battle over the pajama pants that she would strongly prefer to wear at all hours of the day and to all social occasions. I’ve wondered whether it’s a comfort issue, but I really can’t see how soft cotton leggings could feel any worse on one’s legs than soft cotton pajamas. I think it’s just one of the spots on which she has decided to put her tiny size-5 foot emphatically down.

She loves books (especially the nice books that I am terrified she will rip), kitty-cats, long walks outside, pretty dresses (almost as much as she likes pajama pants), and removing all her dolls’ clothes in order to repeatedly “change” their diapers. I find the living room strewn with kleenex that have been used as wipes. It used to be actual wipes, but I effected a substitution–kleenex are less expensive and don’t leave wet spots on my floor.

She loves chasing her brothers, interfering with them, imitating them, and generally being in their business. She has perfected the strategy of a girl with two older brothers: grab the toy, emit a piercing scream, and run. And she is willing to take the repercussions; after all, this is the girl who routinely greets Daddy with a cheerful, “Tackle me!” Mama’s household tasks are regularly interrupted by little explosions that begin with “Nooooo, E!!!!”, mount quickly into a chorus of screams, and end with me running up the stairs hollering, “Don’t hurt your sister!” Because the pint-sized warrior is probably not quite as tough as she thinks.

She comments on everything. When I got her up from her nap today, she noticed that I had changed into running clothes: “Took pants off, Mommy?” She guesses what we’re having for dinner by smell and utensil, dropping off-handed comments like “Chicken!” as she comes down the stairs, or remarking “Oh! Rice!” when she spies the usual pot on the stove.

And she shares her opinions freely. A couple of Sunday mornings ago she sauntered into the bathroom and patted my skirt appraisingly. “Your dress?” she said.

My heart melted. What a sweet moment, I thought: my daughter admiring her mama’s pretty clothes. “Yes,” I said. “Do you like it?”

“Nope,” she said, with decision. “Pants.”

I tried again. “Is it pretty?”

“Nope. Pants.”

We had a little family birthday celebration (we do belated parties with these birthdays being so close to Christmas). Here she is making a dainty attempt to blow out her candle–according to my family tradition, the birthday child gets one candle mounted on the back of a little glass rocking-horse. But they get the appropriate number of little candles on their cake.

We opened presents, generally “kitty-cat”-themed. (I especially love choosing a new book for each child’s birthday and Christmas, and this darling little one didn’t disappoint me or her.)

And then Daddy made a grand entrance with the big surprise:

I have never seen a little girl get up so fast; for a few minutes, the only pictures I could get were pink blurs as she sprang up, ran over, and rejoiced.

She finally settled down at the altar so I could get a better shot.

I had thought she would like it, and hoped she would be excited, but I hadn’t been sure if she would know what to do with it. Oh, but did she.

See, you set the people up in their house…

…and then you fight the interlopers, tooth and nail.

Happy birthday, my sprightly little girl. You fill my heart with joy. And our house with screaming, sometimes–but mostly joy.

We love you.