Friday, July 1, 2016

Sonrise

Emotionally, this pregnancy wasn't easy for me. Physically, I was fine. Nearly textbook, actually. But emotionally? Psh. I was always on edge, waiting for something terrible to happen. It took us so long to get pregnant with this baby that I thought we'd never get to bring him home. I was so afraid that we'd leave the hospital with a small box of memories and a handful of ultrasound photos. I wanted this baby so much, it hurt. On my way home from the very first ultrasound, the ultrasound that confirmed his heartbeat and that I was indeed pregnant again, I heard this song on the radio, and I clutched the black and white print outs they gave us and I bawled. I'd heard this song before, but it suddenly meant so much more to me. Every time I heard it, I'd stop myself and think about the day I could bring my baby home.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it's the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Time's forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer 'til our eyes meet
You won't ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it's the only thing that I know
I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of you
And it's the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts were never broken
And time's forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the picket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer 'til our eyes meet
You won't ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That's okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won't ever let you go

Wait for me to come home...

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen
Next to your heartbeat where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that's okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won't ever let you go

When I'm away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost back on Sixth Street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
"Wait for me to come home."

--Ed Sheeran

I don't have to wait anymore--he's home.

Lucas Daniel
July 1st, 2016
12:14 p.m.
8 lbs, 9 oz
21 inches long

Wait for me to come home.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rising Son

Dear Sweet Boy,

Your birth day is almost here. I've been waiting for this day for so, so long. I've wanted you and waited for you for years, and now that you're almost here.....I just really can't believe it. Sometimes I feel you moving and wiggling and kicking inside me that I just can't believe you're real. Before your sister was born, I had so many questions, and I have some of the same questions about you, but this time....this time it just feels different. Maybe it's because you and your sister have different triggers--you like grapes and pineapple, she loved chocolate. Maybe it's because I never imagined myself having a son. (And let's just get this out there right now: I am THRILLED to have a baby boy.) Before your sister was born, I just wanted my pregnancy to be over. I wanted to hold her and I wanted "the rest of our lives" to start right away. This time, I've tried to savor every moment. After so much time waiting for you, I didn't want to wish away a single second of this pregnancy (even the morning sickness.) I didn't want to complain, even when my back and hip pains were at the worst, because I was so afraid to jinx myself. (But letsbehonest, your mama is human, and I did complain a few times.) You might be my last baby, and I didn't want to wish away a single second of feeling you wiggling around and being pregnant. I didn't always love that you were most active between the hours of midnight and 3:00 a.m., but I loved knowing that you were still there. You are very real, and you have always been so very important to us.

It's a strange feeling to wake up each day and wonder if it's the day you'll be born. It's an even stranger feeling to sit and wonder if you'll be my last baby. Before your sister was born, I was clueless. I was so, so scared. I didn't know how to be a parent, I didn't know how to change a diaper. I didn't even know how to handle a crying baby. I feel much more prepared this time, but I'm also a little scared. There's been a lot of uncertainty for me with this pregnancy, and a lot of unspoken fears. How will I handle two children? How will I be able to give you everything you need, and give your sister everything she needs? Will I get to shower everyday, or even every two days? How do I change a boy's diaper? What if you have different needs than your sister? I know we will work those things out. I know I won't be able to gaze at you in wonder and fear in the same way I looked at your sister. I know that realistically, that will be okay. You will both know how fiercely you are loved and how badly you were wanted. Six years ago, my biggest parenting fears were dropping your sister or not knowing how to calm her down or forgetting to feed her. Now, my biggest fears are that you leave the house in the morning and don't know how much you are loved.

It's funny, so many parents are afraid before their second children are born. "What if I can't or don't love this baby as much as I loved my first?" The thing is, I have never worried about that from the start. The longer we waited for you, the more I loved you. The day I found out you were on your way, I held on to you and begged you to stay. I haven't ever worried about how I would love you, or if I'd love you as much as your sister, because I loved you for years before you were even here.

Realistically, I know that it will be impossible for you to truly understand the scope of my love for you both until or unless you become a parent. But I really do hope that we never let a day go by without showing you that you.are.loved. You are about to enter a big world. It's loud out here, and it's scary. Frankly,there's a lot of shit happening that is awful, terrible, terrifying...you'll get the idea someday. But no matter what, despite all that, I hope that everyday you wake up and go to sleep knowing that I will always have your back. Like I've told your sister countless times, no one will love you more than me.

I've been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about the kind of mom I'm going to be, and the kind of mom you're going to get. I'm a little more seasoned than the first time around, and a little bit ruined. I know not to worry about the trivial things, and I know that if we both spend the day wearing the clothes we wore yesterday, it's okay. It doesn't mean I'm a bad mom or at all neglectful. It doesn't mean I don't want to take care of you. I know that I will still make mistakes, because for years I've been actually parenting a child, and I know I've forgotten how to take care of a baby. I know that you will be different from your sister, and I apologize in advance for all the comparing I'm going to do--I promise I'll stop eventually. I'm not going to protect you in the same way I protected your sister. You won't live in a bubble (not that she ever did.) You'll crawl and roll and get dirty and eat pieces of cat food off the floor. You'll get bruises and bumps and scrapes. You're going to learn so many things! You're going to want to chase your sister and climb and hop and do everything she can do, and I know you will. I can't promise I'll shake off all my old ways, but I can promise you that we will have fun.

The last five years have taught me a lot, and I promise that I'm probably going to drive you nutty in some ways. I'll fixate on certain behaviors and traits, wondering if we're going down a particular road. There's a very real chance we are. There's a very real chance we're on a different road altogether. There's a lot of uncertainty up ahead. But you know what? If there's one thing I've learned in the last few years, it's that I will fight tooth and nail for my babies to get them everything they need. I will never make apologies for your behavior (unless you're purposefully acting like a little jerk, and then you will be the one to apologize.)  No matter what lies ahead of us, I still love you. I will always love you. We'll climb every little hurdle and scale every mountain. If there's one thing I've learned in the last few years, it's that on my own, I'm weak, but when I'm fighting with my babies, together we're unstoppable.

Your dad....oh, your dad. He's so excited to meet you. In the very beginning of my pregnancy, we agreed on cautious optimism. His cautious optimism lasted about an hour; I wish I was exaggerating. He was so thrilled you were coming, and he was exceptionally patient with me throughout the first trimester when I insisted on absolute secrecy. When I continued to insist on quiet and secrecy during the second trimester (we kept you a very good secret from most people for over 20 weeks!) he was a little less patient, but only because he wanted to tell everyone that you were coming. He's a really great dad. You're going to have a buddy who will help you get messy and muddy. He's going to take you on long walks and he's going to make sure you aren't afraid to go camping. He's so, so excited to meet you.

Your sister, on the other hand, has been desperate to meet you forever. When we finally told her that you were on your way, she screamed and danced and sang "baby baby baby" all over the house. She's been your biggest fan. She always knew you were a little boy, even when I had myself convinced we were preparing for another girl. I know you'll recognize her voice because she hugs my belly everyday and talks to you. Every morning she listened to your heartbeat in my stomach and told me you were still going, "popopopopopopopop." We had a false alarm with you about a week ago where we thought you were on your way. When we learned you weren't coming, no one was more disappointed than your sister. I was bummed, but she was devastated. I can't wait to see the two of you together. You really are getting the best big sister. She loves you so much already, almost as much as I do. She's been making plans for the two of you for months. Fair warning, you're booked up until  November 18th, 2022. She wants to show you off to everyone and take you on walks. She wants to show you her favorite animals at the zoo and take you to a carnival. She wants to teach you to read and talk and walk and ride a bike and kick a ball. You'll learn quickly that your sister has "leadership skills" and likes to run the show. You'll definitely have to hold your own against her, but I think that the two of you will be quite the pair.

I'm going to miss having you all to myself. It's nice to be able to eat a cup of grapes and know that they will make you dance. I close my eyes, and I can almost see your face. I know that our "mommy and me" time is running short, and I'm going to miss feeling you wiggle and squirm inside me. I've got bruises at the top of my uterus where you like to rest your feet and push, but every second with you has been worth it. It's so, so difficult to prepare a place in your heart for a baby that isn't coming, but once we knew you were here, you became a part of the family. I've jokingly called you "Nameless" and "Baby Brother" and "Some Assembly Required," but even though you are presently without a name, you are so very loved and wanted.

In a few more days, we're going to be a family of four. We're going to go to the zoo and the carnival. I'm going to get to hold you and kiss your nose. I get to make you laugh and smile and take you on long walks to the park. I'm going to miss you dancing away inside me, but I'm so excited to share the world with you.

No matter what is ahead of us, you're going to know every single day that you are loved. You have two parents who are already in love with you, a big sister who is crazy about you, and an large extended family who can't wait to meet you. What a lucky, loved little boy you are!

And trust me, sweet angel. No one loves you more than me.

Love, Mom

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trying again.

Why, hello there. It's been a long while, hasn't it? I've been silent forever over here, and I kept telling myself I should blog again, but I never pulled the trigger. I decided a few days ago that I needed to start up again. We're going through a period of change at Chez G, and since I'm a writer by nature, I thought it might be helpful for me to get some things out of my head and into a space where they make more sense. (Right now, a look inside my brain would resemble the chaotic, nonsensical writings of the Unibomber. It's a mess up there.)

So...where did I leave off? Here's a recap of the last year(ish):

Hannah:

  • Kiddo started preschool. Loves it. 
  • She still likes pink, purple, and princesses. 
  • All that said, she isn't entirely "girly." She enjoys being active, climbing, and digging in the garden with her dad. 
  • She's smart as heck. I'm pretty sure she can read independently and has just been playing us all for fools. 
  • Smarts: she loves to read, and she likes puzzles, shapes, math, and science. She is very analytical and isn't content until she has all the answers. 
  • Likes me, but LOVES her dad. Those two....they're BFFs. I love their relationship.
  • Autism. Yup. (More on this later.)
  • This girl has one of the kindest, sweetest, most loving hearts I have ever met. 
Graham:
  • Still teaching in Chicago, still in the public schools. Second grade for the last two years.
  • Somehow manages to grow a million herbs and vegetables in a space barely larger than a postage stamp.
  • Does science and art projects with Hannah. They're the cutest.
  • Still pretending he hates my cat. 
  • Still a kickass dad. 
  • Easily the most patient person I know.
  • This guy has one of the kindest, sweetest, most understanding hearts I've ever met. 
Angie:
  • Still working with the same company. Thanks to turnover, I've climbed the ladder here (mostly by accident, but hey, climbin' is climbin'. I'll take it.) 
  • I like to joke that I've edged out most of my coworkers in one way or another. I'm calling it a slow, un-hostile takeover.
  • Still loving on my cat.
  • Constantly looking for a way to move to Southern California or Hawaii. 
  • Autism mom, caffeine addict, breaks every cell phone I've ever owned.
  • I am not one of the kindest people you will ever meet. How I married one and birthed another is beyond me. 
We bought a second car last fall, and I kid you not, it changed our lives. I can't even get over how great it is. America, man. 

We still live in Chicago, in our little Cape Cod on the SW side. We're always wondering what the future holds for us. A year ago at this time, I thought we'd be in a different place by now, emotionally, physically. Now? Who knows.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Your Fourth Birthday

Dear Hannah,

I don't even know how to start this particular letter. It seems impossible that we've spent 4 years with you, 48-months of non-stop parenting. Last night, as I was putting you to bed, you told me that you were so excited to be four years old, and you immediately followed it up with, "But I'm still little Mommy, don't worry." Oh, my heart!

I'm certain I say this every year on your birthday (and if not every day, then close to it,) but you are one funny kid. Truly, you're hilarious. Sometimes you mean it, sometimes you don't. But trust me, kiddo. You're a laugh-a-minute. Your comedic timing is nearly impeccable, and while I'm certain that it's unintentional 99% of the time, you still slay me with your one-liners and your running commentary about everything under the sun. (Literally. Now that the days are shorter, every.single.day. we have a conversation that starts with you asking me or your dad, "Hey, where's the sun?")

This has been a pretty incredible year for you. You started preschool. You traveled to Michigan and got to stay in a hotel and eat at restaurants, "like a big girl does!" You got your first haircut. You have learned to write your name, and you're learning to read. You're learning more and more how to play with other kids and be around bigger groups. You know all the things you "should" know at this age, and you're constantly soaking up more and more. Nothing gets past you. Eventually, you'll realize this is something that all parents say about their children, and it's probably true. Kids are sharp, and as a demographic, you don't get half the credit you deserve. But you, my dear. You miss nothing. You will ask me questions about people and places and things we haven't seen for months. You ask the tough questions.

"Mommy, how to airplanes work?"
"I dunno baby. Magic?"
"No, Mommy. How do they work?"
"Extra-special magic. Airplane magic."
"Ugh, fine. I'll just ask Daddy."

You keep me on my toes. You always want to know what's next, what's coming. You love your daily schedule and the calendar we keep with you. You also love your independence. You are an independent woman, and you'll be damned if someone will make you do something that you don't want to do. As trying as it is most days, I always remind myself that this trait is a blessing. It's true I always wanted a daughter, but I never wanted her to be passive. You are every bit the strong-willed, stubborn girl I wanted. Don't ever change. Would it be easier if you were more "agreeable" or yielding? Absolutely! But you wouldn't be you, my dear. You are stubborn and strong-willed and determined and every bit the challenge I'd hoped you would be. I never wanted to be complacent as your mom (or as anyone's mom,) and you do your best to make sure that never happens.

I never quite know how to describe you to people. At this stage, you're pretty "girly." Your favorite colors are, "pink and purple and lellow and green and....well, actually, I like ALL the colors!" You would rather wear a dress over pants any day, and your color of choice is pink. All that aside, you still love to get dirty. You prefer when your hair isn't combed or pulled back, and there is literally nothing you won't climb. You're happiest outdoors with Daddy, and when you're reading a book. I think if I dumped you in a princess dress, barefoot, in the middle of the woods on a rainy day, you wouldn't mind a bit. That is exactly the type of environment where you'd thrive.

You and your dad. Daddy and Hannah. You are exactly the pair I envisioned long before you were even born. You feed off of one another and you get sillier and sillier. I can usually find the two of you in the backyard digging up something, planting something, or in the middle of an impromptu session of Nature 101. I'm so glad you have a dad who is not only willing, but eager to teach you all about the outdoors. Because of him, you aren't afraid of animals or insects or anything I hate. You have so much power in such tiny little fingers; you can convince your daddy to do anything or take you anywhere. It's not always that you're foxy, more that you're having so much fun together, you can't stop. I think that's why you have such a tough reaction to any sort of discipline from your dad. I think you expect it from me--you know I'll make good on my promises to pull your privileges or put you in time outs--but I think from your dad, it hurts more. You know you've pushed when Daddy is the one putting you in time out and not me. But really, after a few minutes, you're the best of friends again. The two of you make my heart so happy.

Of all the traits that make you who you are, the most surprising to me is how much you love art. You LOVE to create and paint and draw and color. Those aren't traits or skills that either of your parents have, and truthfully, painting bores me. But you? Oh, you love it. When you get to go to "the studio" at school or when we bust out the finger paints on a rainy day, you are at your happiest.

Music is another one of your great loves these days. I swear, you can hear a song once, maybe twice, and you've got it down. Hilariously, your artists of choice are very Top 40: Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Charli XCX...you know it all. I know it bothers you, but do you know how hard it is not to laugh when you howl with Adam Levine during "Animal" or when you ask for "the boom and clap" song for the fifth time any given morning? I don't care if it's all bubblegum and nonsense, they're you're favorite songs, and no matter where I'm at any time or any day, I think I'll always smile when I hear "your songs" come on the radio. (You still have like, 10 Beatles songs committed to memory, so you're doing okay there. Hilariously, you knew very few nursery rhymes when you started preschool.)

Your imagination never stops, and I love the crazy things you come up with. One minute you're "building a hiding place" with Sofia the First and whatever stuffed animal (your "pets," as you call them) is your second favorite at the moment. The next, you're deep-sea diving or climbing a mountain or huddled under a blanket reading a book. I get so blown away by you sometimes that I forget to join in the fun with you.

You have always been such an active little girl. I don't know that I recall a time where you didn't love moving around and jumping and spinning. My little sense seeker. Even when you're asleep, I feel like some part of you is moving or wiggling. You love to dance and spin and go on adventures--and everyday with you is an adventure! There's nothing you won't try at least once, and if it gives you the chance to jump and get some of that much-needed sensory input, then everyone better stand back! Hannah Grace is ready to have fun! It's one of my favorite things about you.

This past year, we got a diagnosis for you that I'd always suspected. Something in me just knew, long before we knew your name. The thing is, I don't even care. It's part of you, it's who you are. Before you were born, and when you were a tiny baby, it was one of my greatest fears. Before we knew definitively, there were days when I worried how we'd get through it all or what our next steps would be. Would you truly be okay? What if we couldn't give you what you needed? Once we heard officially, I'd made my peace with it, and my primary concern was you. Hannah, I want you to be the best version of you. No matter what it takes or how long it takes, I want you to be the best possible version of you. It's a marathon, not a sprint, but we're getting there, baby. Everyday, we're getting there.

Sometimes you get overwhelmed or scared. Sometimes you don't know what to do, and you insist that you can't do it. Here's the thing: you can do anything you want, and you will. Like I tell you almost everyday, you can do hard things. You WILL do hard things.

I don't want to say what the dx is right now because frankly, it isn't important. We will cross that bridge eventually. But here is what I want you to know:

Your diagnosis does not define you.
You are not your diagnosis.
I will always be on Team Hannah, and I will be your strongest defender.

What defines you is your sense of humor, your impish smile, your full-body belly laugh, your love of reading. You are defined by what you bring to this world, and you have brought so much joy to so many people. You are defined by what you do and share, not by any diagnosis on a chart or in a folder.

You are a smart, happy, curious human being. You are important, not just to me and your dad, but you are important and you have a role to play in this world. You refuse to settle for less than your best. You are active and sharp. You are funny. You are a constant truth-teller, and if there's one thing you literally can't do, it's lie. You are Hannah, and you are not your diagnosis.

You are NOT broken. You are not weird. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you. I know I will spend a lifetime saying this, but you have to trust me here. Everything about you, every little quirk and smile, every giggle and puzzle piece, you are the summation. If anything about you were different, you wouldn't be our Hannah.

There will be days that are hard. You've already had some bad days, and they broke my heart only because I was angry that people couldn't see you. There will be people who only see your diagnosis, people who have their own definition for it. There will be people who see a problem to be fixed, people who will make assumptions about you based on your diagnosis alone. Those people won't see the bright, silly girl you are. They won't see how smart and curious you are. They won't see how much you love to read and dance. They won't see you and they won't see all the wonderful things that make up Hannah. And baby? Those people suck. Trust me on this one; you don't want to be around them anyway.

I can't promise you everyday will be easy. I can't promise you that every child will want to be your friend. The day someone rejects you outright and you realize how much it hurts is still in the future, but I'm already steeling myself against it. The thing is, you're a pretty resilient person, so while I tell myself that I'm preparing for you to be upset and devastated, it's entirely possible you will be comforting me.

I can promise you that everyday (yes, even the bad days where I threaten to leave you at the zoo or sell you down the river,) every single day, I will be on your side. I can't live your life for you, and I don't want to--you'd miss out on so much! But I will be there every step of the way until you're ready to fly. I promise that together--you, me, and Daddy--we will keep working on Hannah. I promise that I will never try to "fix" you, only that we will teach you the skills you need. I promise that if anyone in our lives tries to put you down or insinuate in any way that you are "less than," I will Shut.It.Down.

I can't wait to see what the next year will bring you. You've already had so many adventures! How will you grow? How will you change? How much fun are we going to have together? I don't know the answer to any of those questions right now, but I know that we will have so much fun finding out together. I love you, baby. Daddy loves you. You are loved so, so much.

Happy Birthday, Presh.

Monday, December 17, 2012

No words.

Many blogs are silent today out of respect for the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. I spent the weekend with my family, periodically grabbing my baby and squeezing her tight and making her moderately uncomfortable. I needed her to know that I love her, even though she already knows and is thankfully oblivious all that has transpired since Friday afternoon.

I don't know what to say. I don't have the wisdom or experience or the words to say anything to those grieving families. So many grieving families. Instead, I'm offering just two of my favorite hymns. These have always brought me comfort in times of sorrow. I don't pretend that these words will fix everything. We know that after Friday, everything is different. These hymns won't even begin to fix things. They're simply my way of telling those grieving families that my heart and my prayers are with them.

On Eagle's Wings
Michael Joncas

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life,
say to the Lord:
"My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear.
Under his wings your refuge,
his faithfulness your shield.

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

 For to his angels he's given a command to guard you in all of your ways;
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

How Great Thou Art
Carl Gustav Boberg

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

I think of God,
His son not sparing,
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden
gladly bearing He bled and died
to take away my sin

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance:
'My child! for thee sufficient is my grace'.

 Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
With humble adoration
And then proclaim My God
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

How great Thou art
How great Thou art...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Your Second Birthday

Dear Hannah,

Today, my sweet girl, you are two years old. I can't believe it. You have grown and changed so much in the last year, in almost every way. This has been such a fun year for all of us. We went on trips. We camped. You joined your daddy on the picket line. You figured out how to put sentences together and really tell us what you want and need. You started your second year a confident stander and hand-holder, but afraid to take steps on your own. Much like how you came into this world, I knew you'd do it on your own terms and when you were ready. By Valentine's Day, you were walking independently, finally confident enough in your abilities and curious enough to try it out, falls and bumps and bruises be damned! Selfishly, I was happy that you waited to walk. Even though you were technically a toddler, I enjoyed having a "baby" for a little while longer. I knew that once you started walking I wouldn't be able to contain you--and I was right.

When you got steady on your feet, you took off running. You were never still to begin with, but once you figured out steps, it was impossible to stop you. There's so much to see and do and touch and play with. You know that, and you don't want to miss out on anything. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever see the day where you stop running at lightening speed, but I think I already know the answer.

Your personality has come through in full force this year. Watching you grow has been a joy. Early on you became A Person, and you never turned back. Watching you play and dance and learn, I know that your brain is firing on all cylinders. It has been amazing to watch you learn.

As much as it pains me to say it, you are a master manipulator. You manage to get exactly what you want from almost everyone--except me. I know you hate it when I have to be the Bad Cop, but I see it in your face when you get something you want from your mommy, and I know that you think it's just a little bit better than it was before. If it means that you have a sweeter relationship with your daddy, I'm all for it.

You have always been a talker, and you had so.many.words. even when you had just turned one. A year ago, I knew in my head that you would be a talker. I knew that by this time you would be a chatterbox and you'd share every word you knew. But, I really didn't know. I thought I knew, but nothing would have prepared me for all the words you DO know and all the talking you do all day. From the moment you wake in the morning to the time your eyelids finally droop closed, you are talking. You have full sentences. ("Too-maw-whoa, I be TWO!") You are curious and ask so many questions. ("What's DAT sound, Mommy?") You identify every single thing you see. ("A circle! In da sky! Be-hynd you!")

More than all that, you love to make people smile and laugh. You know that simple things, kisses and hugs, make Mommy smile so much. When you make someone smile, your face lights up and you start laughing. It's a joy to see, and I'm always so happy to be there to share it.

My sweet girl. You are so gentle and kind (95% of the time). You love to share, and you love to make people happy. When you find something that belongs to someone else, you're usually all too happy to return it to them. Finding cat toys hidden under the couch used to be a pain. Now it makes me smile because I know the moment I show you, you will want to run them right to Jane so she can have it back. You're always chasing her down. "Here Djayne, here! Here go, Djayne!" Even funnier is when you are done with something or don't want it. Before you begin tossing and removing the unwanted whatever-it-is from your sight, you offer it to anyone else. Food, toys, sippy cups, you name it! You hold it out, arms outstretched, "Want dis? Want dis, Mommy?" You really do love to share.

I consider it a point of pride that so many people, friends, family, and strangers, have called you the politest baby they've ever met. You always say please and thank you ("Tank yoo!") and will say, "Bless you," even to strangers. ("Besh yoo!") When I sneeze, you say, "Bless you, Mommy!" completely unprompted. In true toddler fashion, you think it's a game. Without exception, when Mommy sneezes, you say bless you and immediately give me a fake sneeze. If I don't say "Bless you, Hannah," you give me a funny cough and say, "Mommy!" You are so impatient and want your kindness returned to you right away. You know it's the right thing to say.

A few months ago, another child at the babysitter's hit you. When it was time for that child to apologize, she told them to give you a hug and say they were sorry. You were so excited for the hug--you apologized and tried to hug. You wanted that hug so much, it didn't matter that the other child had hurt you. It was time to forgive and forget and hug each other! When you bump into anything--a person, a table, a wall, the cat--you say, "Sowwee!" right away. You are always quick with a hug and a kiss and a smile. You love hugs so much, unless you're playing and busy. I am so blessed to be able to watch you grow, and I am so proud of the little lady you are becoming.

I love listening to you sing and talk to yourself in the car. On the way home everyday, you sing songs. Many of them are made up, and it's hilarious to listen to you make up the words as you go along. When I try to join in the fun, you always put me back in my place. "Mommy, no!" You know how the songs go, and you don't want anyone, even me, to mess it up.

Ah, "no". It's become a favorite word of yours. I know I hear it 1,000 times a day. Many times it's a rejection of something--dinner, hand-holding, you name  it--but so many times it's also a rejection of "baby Hannah". You have always had a fierce independent streak, but in the last two months, you have reminded me everyday, "I can do it by self! I can doooo.....iiiiiiiiiitttt.....by self!" There is so much you can do "by self", but when you fall down, hurt yourself, get scared, you come running for me or your daddy. Watching you go back and forth like this is a delight. It's a lovely reminder that even though you can do so much "by self" that even briefly, you're not ready to be completely independent just yet.

Hannah, you keep me on my toes. From the time you wake up to the time you go down to bed, you are busy! You have your daddy's curious, scientific nature. You take things apart to see how they work and get mad when you can't put them back together again. You want to know everything and see everything and do everything. Rare is the day I don't hear you saying, "Uh oh!" or "Oopsy daisy!" after you've gone to bed.

You are still smart as heck. Nothing gets by you. This entire year has been one amazing discovery after another. Watching you learn to identify your numbers, colors, shapes, and letters has been incredible. Watching you discover those same things out of context and in the real world, however, has been both hilarious and mind-blowing. Your amazement at finding the number five painted on the ground, or see a star hanging on a house has brought me so much joy. When you recognize what you see, you have to share it immediately. "A star! A star, Mommy! See da star!" You have been absorbing everything from the moment you entered the world, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon.

It warms my heart to see you loving books. You love to read, and every night we read books together. Often, it's Guess How Much I Love You or Goodnight Moon. You love to read along with me, chiming in at the parts you recognize and pointing out words. Sometimes, I swear you know how to read already. Every night, you go to bed with a book and you read yourself to sleep.

Sadly, you have never been one for cuddles. Recently, though, you've been waking up early in the morning, and either Daddy or myself will bring you back to bed. In those times, you will cuddle up to me and I fight so hard to stay awake so I can soak in these moments. You will pull yourself so close that our cheeks are touching. I want to hear you breathing in and out and watch your eyelids flutter as you dream those sweet baby dreams. I can't keep myself from staring at you and touching your soft curls just one more time. Sometimes your daddy and I find ourselves looking at each other and wondering how we got so blessed. A few nights ago, as I fell back asleep with you curled up against me, I whispered to you that I loved you. You said right back, "I luff you, Mommy." I'll hold that in my heart forever.

You are my fearless little lady. This year, you flung yourself out of your crib, forcing us all to get you into a big girl bed. You swam in Lake Michigan and were fascinated by the waves. You always run far ahead of me, making me chase you down and keep you from running in the street. You love when we go on "adventures". At the playground, you don't want to stay on the smaller structures. You run to the big climbers, the ones you're not big enough for. But you don't care because, in your mind, you are A Big Kid. Older children fascinate you, and you want to be just like them. If anyone asks, I always tell them that you have a Napoleon complex. You want so desperately to be big, and until that happens, you live by, "fake it till ya make it!"

Ever your daddy's girl, we can't go outside until you have shoes and a coat, and you remind me all the time. "Need coat? Need coat, Mommy?" You are so conscious of what you need and when you need  it. While we're working on the difference between "needs" and "wants", and I remind you that no, you don't need your crayons now, you will sigh and say, "Okay, WANT dat noooooooow!" You don't really care how correct or incorrect you are, you just know what you want.

As much as you resemble your dad, you are very much your mommy's daughter. You are a lover, but you'll fight when you have to. You have opinions about everything. You know exactly what you want nearly all the time. You're impatient, independent, stubborn, and so much more. I wish I had cultivated better qualities in myself to pass them on to you, but watching you embody so much of me and your daddy makes me smile so much. I can't imagine you any other way.

If I'm ever having a bad day, I just need to spend time with you, sweet girl. You make every day so much better. Not ever second of 2012 has been wonderful, but if I had the chance I'd live this year all over again, no hesitation.

I try not to wonder who you're going to be as you grow older. I want to stay present and know who you are right now. I know that today, you are a TWO year old who loves music and animals. You love dancing and singing. You always have time for a good book, your crayons, and an episode of Bubble Guppies. You love your baby doll and are always concerned about her well-being, making sure she has had a sippy and is wrapped tight in her blanket. The day is incomplete unless you have laughed and played and sung a song. You love going to church to see Jesus, and you love your little baby Bible, your "Jesus book". Surprisingly you are a toddler who loves "bwocowee" and "gween beans". You love your parents to the moon and back, and I hope that every day we are worthy of that unconditional love you offer.

Hannah Grace, I never knew how much my heart would grow until I met you. You're everything I ever thought I wanted in my daughter, and everything I didn't know I wanted until you showed up. I will never be tired of you, and I will always love you to the moon and back. You made me a mommy and opened up a part of my heart I never knew existed. More than anyone else in the entire world, you taught me how to love unconditionally. Every day, I am blown away that you belong to me and Daddy. Sometimes I find myself looking at you and marveling at how that tiny little bean in my first ultrasound grew into this tall, smart, inquisitive little daughter of ours. If you aren't living, breathing proof of God's love, then I don't know what is.

I cannot wait to see what the next year brings us. I know you're going to continue to grow and change, and I know already that you are going to be an amazing human being.

Mommy and Daddy love you to the moon and back. Happy Birthday, Presh.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For Rebecca

Environmental Club, Spring 2000

On Sunday afternoon, I got some devastating news. My friend Rebecca, a beautiful soul and one of the most genuine people I have ever known, had died the previous day. To say I was shocked is the understatement of the decade.

Rebecca was easily one of the most vibrant people in the entire world. I don't say that lightly. She had this amazing ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room. She never had an enemy. Rebecca was one of the few girls in our entire high school who could get along with anyone. She could draw you in and make you feel like you had been friends for years. She had perfected the arts of the casual touch and the side nudge. I'll always remember sitting next to her, listening to her tell stories and crack jokes, and then nudge me with her shoulder, usually with an, "Am I right?" She was a great listener. She was truly interested in who you were and where you were going and how you hoped to get there. She didn't judge and she wasn't ever mean. She is, quite possibly, the only person I have ever met who accepted everyone without condition.

She was easily one of the smartest people I have ever met. Where I was terrible at math, she excelled. She loved it. I would complain about my basic algebra, and she would be able to explain it to me in a way where I understood it. She was incredibly talented in pretty much every area. With all of that, though, she wasn't arrogant. At least, not to me. She wasn't full of herself, and she never made you feel like a dummy for not understanding. She went out of her way to help everyone. It was as though she had made it her mission to be of service to everyone, no matter who they happened to be or whether or not they were her friend.

What stands out the most in my mind is Rebecca's determination. It seemed like she accomplished whatever she set out to do. If you had a dream or an idea, she got excited for you. She didn't accept being lazy. If you had a dream or an idea, she found a way to help you make it happen. She was unstoppable. At the beginning of our sophomore year of high school, Rebecca was the only member of the Environmental Club. In the mornings before class, I'd sit with my friends Kate and Erin in the cafeteria usually. We'd snack, study, finish homework, talk, tell jokes, complain that the world was ending....the usual. One day Rebecca came to our table and said she was the only member of the Environmental Club, and she wanted us to join. I can't remember, but I feel like we all laughed at her. I, for one, didn't want to join the Environmental Club. I wanted nothing to do with it. And yet, I ended up in Ms. Zitlow's classroom every Friday morning, with Rebecca smiling the whole time.

In the picture above, Rebecca is spinning us all on the tire swing. We had spent the day cleaning up with the Friends of the Parks, in some god-forsaken park somewhere in the suburbs. Kate, Erin, and Rebecca had spent the night at my house and we stayed up all night--naturally. We were up too early and assigned to some park somewhere on the south side. We spent the morning up to our knees in mud and garbage, cleaning and weeding and being friendly to the park. At the end of it all, we rewarded ourselves at the playground. We crammed ourselves on the tire swing and took turns pushing and running each other around. At one point, Rebecca hopped off. "You guys suck at this!" She took the reigns and made us all nauseous, running in circles and making us dizzy. In my memory, that's Rebecca. She could take the reins and before you knew it, you were following her anywhere.

During our junior year, she flexed those muscles again. One day, she happened to mention she was on the school newspaper and that the staff was quite small. When she mentioned the room was air conditioned, I said something to the effect of, "Shoot, I'll join the newspaper if I can sit in the air conditioning!" The next thing I knew, I was standing in Ms. Gabel's classroom talking about The Amity and just like that, Journalism was on my class schedule.

I clearly remember one night where the four of us, Kate, Erin, Rebecca, and myself, all decided to see a movie. I don't remember if we ended up seeing the movie, or if that was even part of the original plan. What I do remember is Rebecca trying to convince us that bowling was cool. She loved to bowl and wanted us to bowl together. We spent hours driving around, looking for a bowling alley between Ashburn and Merrionette Park. It was a Friday night in the fall. It was easily after 10:30 by the time we found a place that had open bowl. We wasted hours, getting laughed out of every bowling alley we tried. At the same time, we had one of the best nights, laughing and joking and singing in the car. When we finally did find that bowling alley, she kicked all our asses.

Rebecca had a deep, deep love for The X-Men. She gushed almost daily for close to a year before the first movie was released. We went to see it the day it was released in theaters, and I spent the next two hours sitting next to Rebecca, with her whispering in my ear, "That's Rogue! That's Wolverine! What they didn't tell you was how Cyclops became a cyclops...I'll tell you later!"

To connect with her heritage, Rebecca started taking Italian language classes. She was so excited to start, and when I expressed interest and jealousy, she tried to get me to sign up with her. If she'd had her way, I'd have been right next to her practicing and preparing for a trip to Italy. She went to Rome in the spring of 2002 and could not have been more excited.

As news of her untimely death spread among the members of our graduating class, everyone said the same thing. "No, not Rebecca...she was so sweet, so friendly, so nice, so genuine." I think it really speaks to her character that, in a class of 300-something girls, not one person has said anything terrible about her. I know we're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but truly, everyone loved this girl. She had this beautiful light inside her that you couldn't ignore.

I can't believe she's gone. I hadn't seen her in a while--we all got busy with our lives and jobs--but I have always considered her a friend. I know I'll always remember her smile and her laugh and the way she'd crack a joke. It seems unfathomable that her beautiful light has been extinguished. I know the last few years hadn't been the easiest for her, but I just can't wrap my mind around the very idea that she no longer exists in this world.

I'll miss you, my friend. I will miss your smile and your laugh. I'll miss your nudges and your jokes. I'm sorry that you were hurting. I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend to you. You were a beautiful addition to every life you touched. I hope that you have found peace. We were blessed to know you and love you.