Dear Sadie: One.

Oh, my sweet girl.

I don’t have enough words to tell you everything I feel about you turning one, but I’ll try.

On the eve of your birthday, I couldn’t sleep. So I pulled out my phone and did what I often do when a bout of insomnia hits: I looked at your pictures. I started with the current ones that feature the face I see every morning, and the toothy smile that lights up my days. And I scroll back and watch your life in reverse. I see you at nine months, just after we moved out of our old house, learning to crawl on the slate floor of a mother-in-law apartment. I see you on the beach in Kauai at seven months, and recognize my favorite outfit you wore at six months. I marvel then at how round your face was, and how much smaller you were. I keep scrolling and relive your first Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween. I tear up when I arrive at the photos of you in your puffy duck costume. You looked so damn cute it actually hurt. I saw a photo of your first trip away from home and your sweet, innocent face took my breath away. It still does. I looked through photos of your first month, stunned at how quickly you changed in those early days, and how foggy and distant they feel in my memory.

I arrived at the pictures of the day you were born—7 lbs, 7oz and perfect. I recalled the pain and the anticipation and the absolute elation of meeting you for the very first time. I scrolled to the last photo taken of me while I was pregnant and struggled to believe that the same baby who wobbled and kicked in my belly was YOU. The one who wedged her whole body into my right side, up under my ribs, was YOU. The one who danced on the ultrasound screen and first appeared as a faint pink line on Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

It was you, all along.

I want you to know that when I look back on my life, on all of my hopes and dreams that never came to be, I’ll know that much. I never got to be an Olympic figure skater or famous country singer.  I may never be a successful writer or even that good of a therapist. But I get to be your daddy’s wife. And I get to be your mom. Of all those dreams, kiddo, you and your daddy were the ones I never let go. The ones I couldn’t give up on. I didn’t know who you’d be or when I’d get to meet you.

But it was you. All along.

I wish I could stop time. I wish I could go back and feel your newborn body on my chest, just once more. I wish I could go back through your first year, and put my phone down a little more often. I wish I could do it all again, this time with the knowledge that it goes SO FAST. But as you’ll learn someday, my love, we can’t go back. Only forward. My little newborn angel has turned into a busy, talkative, opinionated, JOYFUL one-year-old. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Sadie, thank you for being mine. Thank you for the best year of my life, and for the knowledge that it’s only getting better. Thank you for your continued patience as I fumble my way through this journey of motherhood. I promise I’ll do my best not to screw it up too badly.

You are our whole wide world.

Love you forever,

Mommy and Daddy

SadieBirthSadie is 1 year (32) (1)

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Dear Sadie: 11 Months

Dear Sadie,

Your first birthday is now only EIGHT days away. Someday, when you are older and have a baby of your own, you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you that it’s been the slowest and fastest year of my life. Most moms will say things about their babies like, “I can’t even remember life before he/she came along.” Me? I do. This month especially, I’m remembering so clearly how life was exactly a year ago. Enormously pregnant, calling the midwives at every cramp and headache.

A year ago this week, I was following my typical “end of pregnancy” routine each morning. I slept horribly every night—I’d generally wake up around 4:30am and wander downstairs, where I’d drink a cold glass of water and lie on the couch until I felt you wake up and start to wiggle around. I’d watch an episode of “Orange is the New Black”, a show that was/is very popular but I could never quite get into. I’d eat a bowl of cereal and see Daddy off to work, finally succumbing to sleep again around 7:30. I’d snooze for an hour or two and then come back downstairs for another bowl of cereal and my daily allotted coffee. Eventually I’d shower and put on the same black maternity leggings I wore every day at the very end of pregnancy and one of 3-4 solid color t-shirts. My maternity jeans had stopped fitting around week 36, and my shorts had a way of wedging in between my swollen thighs that made leaving the house in them a no-go.

I didn’t have a lot to do in those last days. I’d stopped working in June because chasing kiddos was getting pretty challenging and I didn’t have the energy level I needed to do well at work. I wanted to have the time to rest before you came along, too. But in the absence of my job, I did a lot of TV watching and napping. Grandma and I hung out a lot, and I made sure our house was ready for you. Your clothes were washed and folded by this time last year, and our hospital bags were packed, along with snacks. It’s bittersweet to think about preparing our old house for your arrival. We couldn’t have known then that we’d decide so soon after you were born that it wasn’t going to be the home we’d raise you in. In our last days of sharing my body, I spend a LOT of time at home. I was anxious, apprehensive, exhausted, excited, terrified…and our house was like a giant blanket that wrapped around me. I still remember how it smelled, and how the floors felt beneath my enlarged feet. Plus, it was July, and our house had Air Conditioning. To a constantly sweating pregnant woman, there was really very little reason to leave.

By the way, little girl, we just had an offer accepted on a new house. God willing, when you read this someday, this house will be the one you have always known as HOME. We won’t be moved in until after your first birthday, but we can’t wait to get settled and start making more memories with you.

Anyway, my love, the point of all this rambling is that I very much DO remember what life was like before you. But now that you’ve been ours for almost a year, I can’t imagine life without you.

More and more every day, you’re becoming my tiny sidekick. You’re so expressive and interactive now! You shake your head “no”, you wave, you clap, and you point to things so I can tell you what they are. You’ve been discovering the world around you for months, but I love being included in it now. You’re pulling to stand on absolutely everything- my legs, the stair banister, the fireplace (gulp), walls, chairs…you’re cruising along the furniture, but require a little extra motivation to do so—usually a phone or TV remote. Just a few days ago you started climbing full flights of stairs, and you’re getting into absolutely everything.

You still have four teeth, but I can see two more just beneath your gums, and I can tell they’re giving you trouble. You’re also getting over your first cold/virus, and I am SO happy to see you doing better. I know illness is something we’re going to have to get used to, but it broke my heart to see you sick. It makes me so much more grateful that you are generally a very healthy girl.

In another 6 weeks or so, I’ll be going back to school a few nights a week. I’m getting REALLY nervous about the time I’ll have to devote to school, and the time it will take away from you. Between Daddy, Grandma, and friends, I know you’ll never be lonely and will always be with someone who loves you. But still, I’m going to miss having nothing to do but read you stories and push you on the swings. I promise, baby girl, you will still come first. But knowing that our lives are changing is keeping me accountable in being present with you in these sweet days. It’s been such a tremendous blessing spending every day of your first year with you. For Daddy’s birthday on July 9, we had our first overnight away from you…and it was so surreal waking up without a monitor on my nightstand, without your babbling in my ear. I know we needed the time away, but boy…I missed you.

Sadie-girl, I am so privileged to be your mama. Thank you for these first 11 months and 21 days of motherhood. I’m not ready for you to be a toddler, or to move, or to start school. But life keeps moving, so we keep moving with it. I’m so thankful for a front-row seat to yours.

Love you forever,

Mommy

Dear Sadie: 10 months.

Dear Sadie,

Double Digits, baby! As I write this, you are (of course) closer to being 11 months old than 10, an age that is a little too close to AGE ONE for me to manage at the moment.

As far as the past month goes, I’m going to utter the words spoken by every parent in the history of forever. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last time I proclaim that “THIS IS SUCH A FUN AGE.”

But it is, it really is! You have grown in so many ways in the past few weeks. I always feel like a bit of jerk when I say things like, “I love you more every day”, because I never want to make you think that I wasn’t madly in love with you when you were a little peanut who slept 80% of the time, and spent the rest of the day lying on the floor, staring around the room. I was crazy about you then, although to be perfectly honest those days feel distant and fuzzy to me now, as now your days are filled with so much activity.

You have the cutest crawl I’ve ever seen. When you really want to get somewhere in a hurry, you put your head down and take off, your little limbs moving so quickly it’s reminiscent of some kind of spider or crab scurrying across the floor. Your hands smack the ground rhythmically and with such force that if I’m downstairs and you are crawling upstairs, I can pinpoint your exact location. It makes me and Daddy smile, every time.

As you did with most of your major motor milestones, like rolling and crawling, you have been working on standing for quite some time now. And like all those other milestones, the constant rehearsal of this skill has disrupted your our sleep a bit. Each time you learn a new skill, you practice it for what seems like forever. When you were learning to crawl, you’d get up on all fours and rock back and forth, and I could just tell you were physically ABLE to do it, but needed to be sure you’d get it right before you went for it. And then one day, off you went. You just…did it. The same has been true of standing. For weeks now you’ve been pulling yourself up on your knees and sticking a leg out. You would pause, think about it, and then drop back down. There were moments I worried…is this taking too long? Is she going to get this?

And then yesterday you were like, “Mom, whatever” and starting standing up on everything, out of nowhere, like you never DIDN’T know how. And that’s you, my girl. Reminding me to trust you, and showing me a little more of who you are, and who you’ll be. When I see the way you carefully consider big things before you leap, I’m somewhat convinced you’ll be…well, your dad. But as my daughter, I am SO grateful for this “look before you leap” mentality of yours. I’m okay with the fact that you may take a little while to be ready to try something new. I do wish, for the moment, that this would apply to electrical outlets, crawling headfirst off the couch, etc. I love that you think it through. I love even more that once you’re ready, you just take off and don’t look back.

Your cautious and curious nature had me thinking that maybe you’re more like Daddy than me for a while there. And then came the babbling. You’ve been doing it for months now, but it’s really taken off. Sweet child, you never shut up. And it’s my favorite thing ever. You are babbling, singing, yelling (happily) from the moment you wake up. Your voice is my favorite sound in the world. I’m sure once you learn some more words (right now “Dada” is the only recognizable word in your lexicon) and are asking incessant questions I’ll be a little less thrilled, but for now I think it’s the greatest. I’ll be pushing you around the mall in your stroller, and you just sit there with your feet up on the bar (a trademark move, people love it) going, “Buh-buh-buh, shhhh, a-bah-bah, DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DAAAAAA” at passersby. Thank God you’re so damn cute, or people would find it a whole lot less endearing.

You are also turning out to be quite social, which is a bit of a turnaround from your previously stoic nature. Now you smile at pretty much anyone, and laugh for no good reason. You are becoming so interactive…You wave, clap, point, and shake your head “no”. You clap when anyone around you claps, including TV characters, and any time you hear the word “no”, the start shaking your head emphatically, and I can barely handle it. You are completely enamored with your Daddy; He is something of a celebrity to you. Whenever he arrives home from work or returns from the bathroom, your face lights up and you point at him like, “Daaaaaaaddddy! I KNOW HIM!” He feels the same way, and I love watching you two interact.

In short, kiddo, you are SO MUCH FUN. THIS IS SUCH A FUN AGE.

We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Sadie 10 months

(This was obviously not our most enthusiastic monthly photo shoot. There’s always next month)

Love you forever,

Mommy

Summer…and Sadie.

It’s the first day of summer. Oh, sweet summer.

I have written about this season so many times. Unsurprisingly, the first time I blogged about summer, I wrote about a boy. It was an entry in my long-dormant LiveJournal, which shall remain a secret to save my 30-year-old self the embarrassment of my 18-year-old self’s whiny drivel.  Anyway, the entry was about a boy, and the summer of freedom most teenagers experience between high school and college. One chapter closed, another yet to begin. That summer was a blank slate, and I filled it with a denim skirt (Abercrombie, Holla!) and dusty feet in cheap flip-flops, dancing to Kenny Chesney at a bonfire party. I filled it with an impromptu camping trip with a boy I’d met at said party, jumping off bridges into an icy river, drinking Smirnoff ice and relishing Bud Light-flavored kisses (ew) like only a good girl in a bad boy phase can. I filled it with driving over Snoqualmie pass at sunset with every window rolled down and Tim McGraw’s greatest hits at full volume, sunburned and certain life couldn’t get any better. And inevitably, I filled the last days of that summer nursing a broken heart…like only a good girl in a bad boy phase can.

I’m not sure where he is. Last I heard he still lives in that small town and is marrying his long-time love. If I ever run into him, I’ll be sure to thank him for that summer. Though I could have done without the heartbreak, everyone needs one summer in this life to be a little reckless and free, or at least to believe that they are.

Every summer since that one has been different. It was the last summer in which I wasn’t attending school, working, or both. But every summer, no matter what, I find myself driving with the windows down and the sunroof open. The summers since 2004 have held adventures and heartbreaks of their own, both decidedly missing the innocence of a simple summer romance. June 2008 marked my graduation from college. August 2009 saw my best college friend moving to China, and though we’re still in touch and both SO happy, I haven’t seen her since. In July 2011 another close friend passed away at the age of 26. In August 2012, I took a backpacking trip with my now-husband and some of our closest friends—an experience I still count as one of the coolest things I’ve done. In August of 2014 I learned that my first real, grown-up love had taken his own life.

And on July 29, 2015, Sadie Lorraine burst into our family; Screaming, squirming, perfect.

Summer, you haven’t changed a bit. But I have.

I’m learning that as a parent, you get to experience so much of life over again through a new set of eyes. An older, wiser, squintier set, but a fresh perspective nonetheless. When you’re young, every summer seems like it’ll last forever, just like every romance along the way. You can stay up late and sleep in, and eat whatever you want because you have the metabolism and energy level of a Hummingbird on Mountain Dew. When you’re young, summer is swim meets with your events scrawled on your arms in Sharpie. It’s going to camp and inner-tubing without fear of death, executing what you’re pretty sure is the world’s most graceful dive into the lake, and finishing the day with a hot dog and popsicle, both containing ingredients you couldn’t pronounce. It’s talking to your friends for hours (about what? WHAT did we talk about?) on your purple cordless phone, and catching up on the many episodes of The Price is Right you’d missed during the school year. It’s vacations with your parents, which may have seemed lame at the time, but you’d give anything to do them over again now. I can remember a lot from the autumns, winters, and springs of my childhood, but summer memories are still and will always be the most vibrant.

And now, with a plastic inflatable pool and a swim diaper, it begins again. I get to watch my girl experience it all. Hopefully I can show her that this season (like all good things) is best enjoyed unattached to a screen. Watching your child experience what you remember so fondly is very much like reliving it, with one crucial difference: This time around I know how fast it goes, and that every summer does come to an end. While I can’t say I look forward to the day she meets a boy with tattoos or drinks Smirnoff Ice, I hope she savors every single summer she has between now and then. I know I will.

 

Sadie, meet summer. Let’s have some fun.

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Orlando.

This morning, I woke up to my baby babbling through the monitor on my nightstand, and my husband stirring next to me. Together we changed her diaper, which is frankly a two-person task these days, and fed her breakfast. We played with her and got her dressed—yet another team effort, before putting her down for a nap. We did our workout DVD together, and while he showered I made my protein shake and sat down for a quick Facebook scroll. Just like most Sunday mornings.

And there it was. “Prayers for Orlando.” I didn’t have to wonder what had happened in Orlando, because every time we read “Prayers for ______”… we just know. We are conditioned now to just KNOW that when prayers are sent to a specific place it’s because senselessly, lives were lost. No, sorry. Taken.

And then in phase two of “learning about yet another shooting”, I left Facebook and visited my news outlet of choice for details, hoping maybe it wasn’t “that bad”, knowing full well that even one life lost is absolutely THAT bad. And the reality was that this time, Orlando, was so much worse than any before. And I just started to shake.

I set down my phone for a moment, put my head in my hands, and whisper-yelled, “GOD DAMMIT!!!” I willed myself not to scream. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat, I told myself. And then I posted the following status:

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It felt like I’d said the right thing to share my heartbreak and rage over this, but after imploring my fellow Facebook users not to stay silent, I realized that I have no idea what to say.

And I really, really, don’t know what to do.

Every time this happens, I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel afraid. For weeks I’ll survey every public space I enter, plotting my exit strategy should it happen again there. I’ll engage in discussions about gun laws and mental health until I’m blue in the face and exhausted because the problem feels much too big, the task insurmountable. Time will pass and Facebook, Twitter, and CNN will move on. I’ll start to walk the mall with my daughter again, sipping a latte from the cup holder of my stroller, and forget to keep an eye out for suspicious persons. I, along with pretty much everyone, will position my head right back in the sand and hope for the best.

Columbine.

Virgina Tech.

Sandy Hook.

Fort Hood.

San Bernadino.

Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Denver.

Orlando.

Friends, above is just a mere sampling of the many, many communities affected by this big, huge problem.  This has happened with such regularity that the only way to distinguish one horrific event from another is to refer to them by the location in which they took place. And even then, it’s getting hard to keep them all straight, isn’t it? Sure, we pray for them, and we post memes of memorial ribbons, and we tint our profile pictures in solidarity.  But if you’re like me, you’re mostly just hoping like hell that HERE is not the next place added to that list.

It’s so easy to let that be our response. But as a mom, and a HUMAN BEING, I can’t bury my head deep enough in the sand to block out the cries of grieving parents and children. I can no longer numb myself to their pain.

As usual, we were running late to church this morning. I had the unpleasant task of waking our daughter from her nap. I crept into her room and to her crib without giving my eyes time to adjust to the darkness. I fumbled for her, and my hand found her tiny belly, rising and falling. I picked her up and breathed her in while she nestled against me. As she woke up, she smiled up at me with such innocence that the anger in me welled up all over again for every mother who will never see her baby smile again.

And as we drove to church, the fear crept in too. I told Ryan that I was afraid to put her in the nursery today. My daughter being away from me didn’t figure into my “just in case” escape plan. The same goes for my husband. I wanted us together, close, safe. The women who run that nursery are phenomenal caretakers, but I wondered what would happen, “if it happened here”. Would they pick her up and run like mad in a zig-zag pattern like I would? Would they cover every inch of her tiny body with theirs, like I would?

Ugh, fear. What an asshole. I kept reminding myself that in the end, fear doesn’t win. Love wins, as difficult as it is to believe today. So I swallowed hard and smiled as we left our daughter in capable hands. And sitting the auditorium, while our pastor guided us in breathing in and absorbing the fear, hatred, and pain of the world while breathing out love, I still squirmed and checked the clock incessantly. But I talked to people. I smiled at people. I looked people in the eye. I guess that’s the thing about burying our heads in the sand when things get scary and overwhelming. It keeps us from seeing the bad for a time, but it also keeps us from seeing the GOOD—an even more terrifying prospect, if you ask me.

I still don’t know how we fix this. It still feels all but impossible, but I know where I’d like to start. I’m going to pull my head out of the damn sand. I’m going to see the suffering and all of the kindness that rushes in to heal it. I will square my shoulders and stand up tall (er, as tall as a 5’2 woman can) and smile at strangers. I will breathe in the evil and exhale love.

Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat.

 

 

Hummingbird Shadows

In our ongoing saga of Selling Our House Without Buying a New One, we recently moved in with my parents. If you know my parents, you know that this is something they agreed to in a heartbeat, because they love us and want us to be in a safe place that doesn’t cost a king’s ransom every month. Many people have said, ” I bet they just LOVE having you and Sadie there.” And believe me, they do. But I feel the need to emphasize that while we do bring a very sweet baby to this new living arrangement, we have also brought a rather massive amount of stuff. When my parents bought and remodeled their beautiful home five years ago, I doubt “baby proofing” was on their minds. Still, they have been more than accommodating to our many needs and restrictions when it comes to keeping Sadie from toppling headfirst down the stairs or guzzling Windex, which our active, curious child would most certainly do if ever given the opportunity. And sometimes, she even cries. She’s generally a VERY happy kiddo, but happy does not equate to quiet for my girl, so she spends her mornings and evenings around here speed-crawling around, babbling and “singing” at full volume.

So all that to say, my parents are making a huge sacrifice for us to be here, and we are so appreciative. And there are many perks to living here, to be certain. Getting to hang out with my parents, built-in Grandma assistance, a shorter commute for Ryan, etc. But the perk I least expected but am enjoying so very much?

The Hummingbirds.

I’ve always found those little guys fascinating, the way they arrive in a flurry of activity, their wings a blur, yet they move with so much grace. They are beautiful in their movement, but if you can catch them sitting still, they are stunning. And unlike the ever-pervasive crows that seem to have usurped the Goldfinch as the state bird of Washington, they are generally a rare sight to behold.

Except at my parents’ house. My mom is a natural caretaker of all things…people, plants, and apparently birds. I did not inherit this from her. I have never kept a plant living for more than a few days, and keeping myself and my daughter alive and well takes enough energy for me. But my mom has a thriving garden and well-stocked bird feeders, including two for the hummingbirds. They hang outside of her west-facing kitchen window, and to my absolute delight I see several of those tiny creatures every day. There’s literally one perched outside as I type this sentence.

On one of our first evenings here while my folks were out of town, Ryan and I had put Sadie to bed and were cleaning up after dinner. The sun was close to setting and blinding us, so we pulled down the screens over the kitchen windows. A few minutes later, a tiny shadow appeared on the screen, with a pointed beak and fluttering wings, hovering outside. A hummingbird shadow. To see something already so delicate and precious reproduced on that screen was, I don’t know–moving. Really, how many people get to see a hummingbird’s shadow? I’ve seen them every day since then. And last night I caught myself glimpsing it and turning away, thinking that I’d seen it before and would see it again.

Huh. We do that, don’t we? So many aspects of our lives–our things, our homes, our spouses, even our children, start out so novel, so new and spectacular to us. And then time goes by and life gets busy and the spectacular becomes commonplace. But life is short and so many of those things and people go away, and you’d give anything just to see even their shadow one more time.

It’s been a difficult season, leaving our home and waiting for a new one. Everything in me wants to fast-forward to a time that feels more settled and comfortable, but those itty-bitty birds are reminding me that this season is precious too. Someday I won’t live here anymore; My baby will be a toddler and myself, my husband, and those we love will keep getting older, God willing. I’ll miss these days, and the hummingbirds too. Because we all know there won’t be a feeder at my house.

As I began this post, it occurred to me that clearly, hummingbirds must be my spirit animal. Well, them and Amy Schumer. So I did a quick (<5 minute) search on the internet regarding their significance. One of the rather crunchy websites I visited told me the following:

“The hummingbird generally symbolizes joy and playfulness, as well as adaptability. Additional symbolic meanings are:

  • Lightness of being, enjoyment of life
  • Being more present
  • Independence
  • Bringing playfulness and joy in your life
  • Lifting up negativity
  • Swiftness, ability to respond quickly
  • Resiliency, being able to travel great distances tirelessly” 

And another:

“Because they need so much nectar, this could be a sign for you to always watch your sugar levels and make sure you’re eating a balanced diet.”

( I was almost convinced with the first list, but the nectar tidbit made it abundantly clear. Thanks, http://www.spiritanimal.info and some other page that was probably some kid’s 8th grade science project!)

Obviously I’m not well-versed in spirit animals. I’m honestly not even sure that’s a thing. But I am grateful that God is using one of His tiniest creatures to teach me one my biggest lessons.

Hummingbird Shadow