Thursday, April 7, 2011

To my baby girl on her first birthday:

Words cannot describe how much you have changed my life in the last year. Around this time of night just one year ago, I was hunkered down on our then green couch watching episodes of Friends, trying to keep my mind off of the momentous task ahead of me, and counting down the minutes until Daddy was going to get home. A million questions were running through my mind - all unanswerable - but mostly I was just wondering what my new life would be like once I walked into my house again. I was scared, and I even remember letting just a few tears escape before taking deep breaths and holding my head high. I remember turning over in bed, nudging Travis and saying, "Okay, I think it's time to go." In a half daze mixed with adrenaline and an intense fear of the unknown, I slipped on my shoes and took one last look around before heading to the car. I knew it would all look different when we got back.

One day shy of a year later there I was, sitting in our living room chair (which is now brown, and much more comfy) rocking and bouncing my crying baby with the smooth skill that came slowly after months of trying and failing and trying and succeeding in the task of soothing a colicky baby. But this time it wasn't colic upsetting you. This time, we had no idea what was wrong. I let a few tears escape, a lot more, in fact, than I had the year before, before turning to Daddy and saying, "Okay, I think it's time to go." In that same half daze, mixed with exhaustion and an entirely different fear of the unknown, we set off to try and find out the cause of your distress.

It was clearer than ever on that night, slipping on the same pair of shoes at the same time of night (or morning?) that things had changed in almost every way for me over the course of the last year and at the same time, many things stayed almost eerily similar. The thing about children that is both amazing and frightening is that they change before your very eyes. Something you couldn't live without one week - like, say, a bouncy seat, gets stacked up into the attic another week because suddenly you found it offensive to be put in such a restrictive place. The exersaucer that I at one time wished I had 4 of has a seat right next to it. Foods you coughed and choked on because they were too hard to chew you now eat by the sticky handful. Clothes I remember hanging in preparation thinking, "This looks monstrous" getting packed away and slid next to the other boxes of outgrown clothing with a wistful hope of someday being used again.

Nearly every little thing I do, I do differently now. When I sit down to eat, I immediately assess which foods I will eat in which order based on whether or not it's a hot or cold food, whether or not it's something you could take a bite of if you wanted some, whether or not it could be eaten one handedly, and whether or not it would make a huge mess if you managed to sneak attack the plate with a karate chop. I strategize and prepare for bathroom breaks to assure that I can get in there and get done in less time than it takes for you to follow me and get into the tub or under the sink.

And yet, some things will never change. I'm fully aware that we'll never be expert parents and we'll never get to the point where we have an answer right away to the ever floating question, "Well, now what do we do?" But I guess that's life -- it's not having all the answers, it's finding them.

I can say what I do know. I do know that this has been, without a doubt, the best year of my life. Watching that tiny wriggly little peanut grow into the little person you are today has been a daily miracle. In just one year you have learned what it is to feel pride in yourself when you accomplish something new, like stacking three Campbells Soup cans on top of one another (complete with a "Ta-Dah!" with your hands when you're done, waiting for your applause). You have learned how to be funny, and how to receive applause graciously. You have learned how to love and how to show it with big, sloppy kisses and strong, hard hugs. You have learned how to fall and how to get back up. You have learned how to close the garage door and how to make me feel guilty when I accidentally close it first out of habit. You have learned the best way to maneuver out of a pair of socks, sometimes without even needing your hands. You have learned how to dance (sorta). You have learned how to giggle - that breath-taking, escalating giggle that echoes through the house whenever we catch your armpits with just the right amount of tickle or hang you upside down by your ankles.

And I have learned too. I have learned that I do have time to cuddle with you, every day, even when I don't think I do at first. I have learned that independence is a great thing, but trusting you with a bowl full of cereal is just plain foolish. I have learned that distracting you with mindless chatter about my day is the best way to confuse you into forgetting that you are getting your diaper changed. I have learned that it's really not that big of a deal if I don't change into real clothes, comb her hair, put on make up, or even shower some days until after dinner time. Or never at all. I have learned, or at least been reminded, that the simple things in life are sometimes the best -- that a piggy bank made out of baby food jar lids and a Pringles can is just as exciting (if not moreso) than the fancy ones bought at a store. I have learned that you cannot worry about the future when it's impossible to know what it holds, so the best you can do is look to tomorrow and, if you're really ambitious, the day after that. I have learned the alphabet song in Spanish. And I have learned what it truly means to love someone more than your heart can hold -- everything they are, everything they are not, and everything they will be.

Thank you, Evalee Ann, for being such a gift to our family. You amaze me more than words can say. Happy first birthday Ernie.

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