WHITNEY: Happy birthday, Olivia

Dear Olivia,

Two years ago, I was really ready to meet you. In fact, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. thinking you’d be here before the end of the day, an exciting enough idea on its own, but extra special because that would’ve made your birthday 10/11/12.

We missed the mark there. You were stubborn, and you refused to arrive any sooner than 30-or-so hours later on 10/12/12. No big deal. We were even more ready to meet you by then.

Two years later, you’re still stubborn. You’re strong-willed, full of proclamations of, “No, I do it!” and you’re fiercely independent (until the moment when you’re not and you’re reaching up asking to “hold you”). You’re also very fast — as both a learner and a runner — and all these attributes combined leave me exhausted.

I can’t keep up despite my best efforts, and more often than I’d expect, I find myself collapsing into a chair and wondering if I’ll be able to get up again.

After your debut in our lives two year ago, when our friends learned your name, “Olivia” books started flooding in with the rest of the baby gifts. The first in the series begins with these lines:

“This is Olivia. She is very good at lots of things. She is very good at wearing people out. Sometimes, she even wears herself out.”

The pages are illustrated with the title character, a stout and adorable little pig, warbling proudly while holding a book titles “40 Very Loud Songs.”

That’s you. Loud and proud and exhausting and entertaining.

One day you’re talking to me about how the half moon is broken and the round moon has a full tummy. The next, you’re rocking a baby doll, feeding her a bottle, and putting her to sleep in her crib. In between, you’re talking our ears off, pointing out all the colors and counting, “2, 4, 6, 8, 9!” all the time.

Every day, you’re doing something new, leaving your dad and I scratching our heads and asking each other, “When did she start doing that? Where did she learn that?”

You talk to animals and seem to care how they feel. “Scuse me, Lulu. Sorry,” you say as you walk around our laziest cat. “Chickens seepin? And cows?” you ask me each night before bed. The well-being of all fauna concerns you greatly.

Oh, and you love a mess. You love a dirt mess, a marker mess, a crumb mess. Just tonight, you reached onto the counter and grabbed a fistful of brownie. When you rounded the corner and I asked what was in your hand, you replied, “A mess.” It’s your favorite concept, and you work pretty hard to bring it to life on a daily basis.

These are all the things about you at 2 years old, and I know there’s more to come, more to watch unfold, both slowly and at the speed of light.

Happy birthday. We love you so much.