Dear Minna,

I’ve had a bit of trouble getting this letter started. It feels like a lifetime ago that you joined our family, even though it was just one short year. Maybe it feels that way because your first year was one of the busiest, most jam-packed of our entire lives. I don’t think we stopped moving at all between March and September of 2016, and before that we were trying to adjust to the new normal: being outnumbered by our children forever. Luckily, you were one of the sweetest, most placid babies I’ve ever met.

ABC / Easy as 1, 2, 3…

It’s hard to pin down why parenting you feels so easy right now. Is it because you’re the third and we know that whatever difficulty you’re going through, it will pass? Certainly we were less hasty to attribute our skills to your achievements and challenges this time around, knowing that as long as we feed you and shower you with affection you’ll clear the bars in your own good time.

Easy, just like counting up to three

That said, I do think you were a special baby. Everywhere we went this past year, people commented on how quiet and even-tempered you were, how content you were to stay in the carrier and observe everyone and everything around you. You literally exuded calm, actually. You would go to anyone, with a giant gummy smile, and cuddle up on anyone’s shoulder. You still had that singular newborn smell well into your sixth month, and a pregnant friend who was overdue swore up and down that a good cuddle with you and the smell of your head helped rush those happy oxytocin chemicals right into high gear (she delivered not long after).

You just have the sweetest little face. It has been magical watching you transform your sisters. They are the best versions of themselves when they are with you, and you adore them right back. It’s hard not to give you anything you want. People don’t always realize your placid exterior covers a stubborn temper. 95% of the time you’re calm and benign…and that other 5% you’re wiling to scream and holler and bite and slap to get where you want to be. One time you actually pushed up on to my shoulder to babble/holler at your aunt, who had the temerity to dress you after your bath and hold you until I was done with the other kids. Everyone stopped to look. “Did…did the baby just cuss you out?” “I think she did!”

Sing a simple melody / That’s how easy love can be

In your first short year, you’ve been to six countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, the US, and the UK–hey, everyone gets one!) and spent countless hours in the car. Sometimes I feel guilty that you see so much of the ceiling of our van as I shuttle your sisters to and fro to their various things, but I know you benefit from being surrounded by so many big kids and grown-ups who love you. The best part is that you are usually so happy and sweet that I really can take you anywhere. I had the three of you by myself for two weeks this summer while we visited friends and family, and it was just a spectacular time. You were so good and sweet, and just a pleasure to be around.

We really didn’t know what having three was going to be like. Someone told us that three was when you “go from man-to-man coverage to zone defense.” I must say that I love having three, and that you’re just the perfect fifth to complete us. You’ve taken a few steps, but prefer crawling. You love to cuddle until you’re all done, and then you love to go and entertain yourself. You hate bananas, but love strawberries. You love broccoli and you think your sisters hung the moon. You’re our BEANS, so named because you were string-bean skinny at first, and then Minna Beans, and then sometime around February your sisters stopped calling you Minna at all, and now you’re just BEANS to everyone.

Simple as do-re-mi / A B C / 1 2 3 You and me…

Minna Beans, you are our delight and our sweetest little baby. I can see flashes of older toddler you in there, and I know the day is coming when you’re more independent, when you won’t always put your head on my shoulder and nuzzle when I ask “Hugs and snugs?” But until then, thank you for staying my sweet little one for just a bit longer.

That’s how easy love can be.

Happy (slightly late) birthday, baby.