She twists her hands up near her face real angel-like and you know she has said something cute even though I didn't catch a word.
She smiles coyly and her little eyes light up, and the video ends. All I can do is just replay it - only a few seconds captured on my iPhone from my last visit with Kylie.
Last March during our week-long vacation, my husband and I were determined to stop in Ann Arbor to visit my brother, Artie, and his family. Nestled near a little pond in a cozy home, we walked up the steps to see Kylie's face poking over the window ledge. My niece, just 2 years old, smiles cautiously at these strangers approaching her front door.
I haven't been able to spend much time with Kylie as we live so far apart, so I was super excited for my encounter with this adorable child. It was only the second time I had ever seen her, the first being just a few weeks after she was born.
So, I consider myself someone with a rather rough exterior and I try not to carry my emotions on my sleeve. However, much like my nephew, my niece has the ability to melt me into a puddle in her little paw. When I interact with her, the rest of the world stops around me and I think about how lucky Artie and Melissa are to be able to interact with her every day.
As we approached, she ran behind her daddy and peered at us through his legs. She even briefly hid from Big Papa and Grandma Lou, who we had in tow.
As the minutes ticked by, Kylie would inch closer to me, mumbling an occasional word and wringing her little hands in front of her. Within an hour, we were running around the house playing some simple game we made up on the spot - grab Kylie, spin her around in the air and toss her on her parents bed where she would jump a little and then back into my arms. I think I could listen to her giggle all day.
Then we head to her bedroom, where she describes the use for every toy, from pink-colored blocks and dolls to plastic food and books with big pictures. Although I can understand only every third word she says in her small voice, I'm suddenly very engaged in what she has to say. She places a certain importance when explaining each of her valuables and she gently carries around stuffed animals as if they are real.
Ah, to be young again.
The next morning, I anxiously waited for Kylie to crawl out of bed. Quietly, I crept to her bedroom to find the youngster missing. As I walked back into living room, I catch a glimpse of the munchkin, dressed in her pajamas, pulling a blanket and rubbing her eyes with her fists as she walks from her parent's bedroom. Already she is interested in playing with my iPhone and running around the house as her tired daddy makes breakfast. The rest of the day was consumed with art projects and flash cards - she's a bright child - before we prepared to leave for the Upper Peninsula.
And then out comes the pouty lip and I fall in love all over again.
Since seeing Kylie in March, Artie and Melissa have welcomed a new baby daughter, Kenna. Here's to another sweet child to bless the world. Here's to my nieces, who I had the pleasure to spend time with a few weeks ago.
Here's to Kenna, who will undoubtedly also have me wrapped around her little finger just like Kylie.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.