It's All Good

I am not an inherently optimistic person, but I think it's a virtue worth cultivating and I'm always working toward it.  I don't like to think of myself as pessimistic, maybe more semi-cynical, or maybe just a little irritable and cranky since I've only slept through the night a dozen times in two and a half years.  The first three newborn months are the hardest for me, with my little one nursing every two hours, and morning arriving way too quickly.  And lately I've been noticing my patience dwindling, and frustrations mounting over little insignificant things.  I notice the muscles in my shoulders shortening and my jaw tightening, and my voice rises several pitches attempting to feign kindness and convince Milani (and myself) that I'm not about to go off the deep end.

Coupled with my all-or-nothing-go-big-or-go-home attitude that lends me to be disappointed in myself with any grade below an A, or become obsessive about my diet when I attempt to make healthier choices, I have a crippling habit of labeling my day as bad at the first meltdown or frustration.  Like when Milani wakes up tired, and teary, and clingy, and I think to myself "It's going to be one of those days huh?"  And then I childishly cling to, and defend, and protect my bad day.  Like I'm five and pouting after being told that I can't have a candy bar, and then someone tries to tickle me and make me laugh, and I resist it as hard as I possibly can because I'd rather be mad than give in, get over it, and laugh. Yeah, I cut off my nose to spite my face.

I'm learning, though, to loosen my death grip on the tough moments and open myself to a change of attitude.  Even a small shift can change the course of the day, and in retrospect the positive moments heavily outshine the crappy ones.  Some days something as small as a booty shakin' session in the kitchen to "Moves like Jagger", or some time on the floor really connecting and playing with my girls can swing the energy in a much better direction.

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tummy time

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these eyelashes are insane, I can't get enough.

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"look mama, I have lashes too!"

Other days it requires rallying the troops, packing snacks and the diaper bag, bundling babies, putting effort behind the transformation. It's rarely easy, sometimes there are tears and meltdowns, but when I keep my eyes on the prize it's always worth the effort in the end.

Like when we get it together for a walk up the hill, and I huff and puff with a twenty five pound kid in the stroller, an eleven pounder strapped to my chest and a seventy five pound dog on the leash.




The sun was warm on our faces despite the chill in the wind, and the fresh air breathed new life into the four of us.  And this little face peeked at me through the back of the stroller whenever we paused.




We got to spend more time with the cousins.  **Most of the following pictures were snapped on my camera by Ariana or Jake.  They turned out great!**

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Jadon's whistle face

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Paisley girl's got the lashes too!

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The afternoon included a dance party in the living room, good natured rough housing, and some cuddle time with Grandma Debbie.  And I don't know a kid who doesn't love plucking at a guitar.

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Milani has always loved music, it was one of the first things that stopped her crying as a newborn.  She could pluck the strings on Jon's guitar before she could crawl.  Now she points to the kitchen radio for me to turn it on, and immediately gets her groove on.  If a song with a good beat comes on while she's in her highchair her eyes close and her head sways side to side, nodding here and there, her eyebrows furrowing with emotion.  It's clear that music moves her in a very real way, she rises and falls with it, soars on the notes.  Both Jon and I have music in our background, but I think she gets the real raw passion for it from Jon, he's the only person I know who can get excited about the riffs on a plastic toy guitar.

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The occasional nap time meltdown aside, Milani is really beginning to step into and embrace her role as a big sister.  Big sissy is starting to want to help me take care of little Berkley; she helps me change diapers, and change outfits.  She covers her sister with blankets, and helps me give her baths.  I know that with these two sisters, the best is yet to come.

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Even though I can't see any reason not to make heart shaped cookies on a random Wednesday, or pick up some balloons just for the fun of it, when the calendar gives me a reason to make a day more special, and create memories with my cuties, I want to make the most of it.

When else can you get away with wearing a pink tutu, and pink stripes with a tulle heart?  Oh yeah, we took Valentines Day that seriously. 

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We hit up the  grocery store for some sugar cookie decorations and the dollar store for balloons.  Milani was an amazing sous-chef, helping me every step of the way through the heart shaped cookie making process. 

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It occurred to me that she was only interested in helping because she knows the house rules on baking, but it was so clear that she was actually enjoying helping me.  From the moment she was born, I've looked forward to the day when she would want to help me bake, to dump the flour into the mixer, and spoon cookies onto the sheet, the way I helped my mother.  Today was that day, and I couldn't have imagined a better Valentine's Day gift.

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"come 'on cookies!"

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"I want a cookie so bad I'll eat a balloon"

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She iced the cookies, and sprinkled the cookies, and helped herself to some heart sprinkles of course.

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I can't speak for Milani or Berkley, but my Valentine's Day was perfect, everything I hoped it would be.  The effort to make it special was so worth the amazing afternoon we spent together, and I hope that my girls will feel and know the love behind our afternoons together.

This morning we all awoke with stuffy noses, and scratchy throats so we nestled in for a quiet day of rest.  We came down off our holiday induced sugar high and welcomed the downtime that balances out activity filled afternoons.  The grey sky left the house dim and cozy and perfect for an afternoon nap.  And all I can think is that frustration, and exhaustion, and short patience can't even distort my view this evening, these days are nothing but good.  It's all good.

Ringing in the Newness

My heart is full as I find myself at the dawn of a new year, cradling in my arms a brand new life, while my sweet Lulu breathes steadily, slow heavy breaths, napping next to me.  It wasn't so long ago that I would have rung in the new year at a party, wearing sparkly heels and toasting champagne, and that side of me isn't long lost, but this year I watched the clock strike midnight in the quiet darkness of my bedroom, nursing a newborn, and couldn't have been more content.

In some ways my life looks nothing like I imagined it would, I'm not sure I ever could have pictured myself the mother of two gorgeous sweet little girls, and yet it still feels perfect, it was meant to be.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a mother, and that Milani, and now little Berkley, are actually my daughters not just these amazing littles I hang out with.  And every time I have this crazy revelation, it has the same enlightening, awe inspiring affect on me.  Holy crap...I'm actually a mom!  I usually don't feel like a mom, at least not the way I imagined motherhood might feel, and I wonder if I'll always notice this curious little inconsistency.  Regardless, I've never been more certain that this is, at least for now, one of the reasons I was put on this earth.  I am mom, hear me roar!

Little Berkley's birth story will be written, hopefully before we celebrate her first birthday, but for now I am just enjoying the settling, the nestling back down into the comforting rhythm of our lives as a new family of four.  I know it will take some time to really feel rooted and sturdy in our new roles, but we get a little closer to normalcy every day.  We've already overcome the bogus "Baby lost too much weight, start supplementing with formula" hurdle, and the "She hasn't pooped in three days" obstacle, and the fog of the first of many sleepless nights with a newborn is lifting ever so slightly.  Every day I get a little better at balancing the needs of both my girls, which often times means literally balancing both my girls, one in each arm.  And while I'm certain of the strength and depth of my love for both of them, I sometimes feel like I need another me in order for them each to adequately feel my constant love.  Another pair of arms to wrap each girl in close to me, to rock both of my girls tightly until their bodies wilt and their breaths slow into slumber. Another me so i can nurse one and cuddle the other, so I can shower them both with kisses.  It's so hard to try to be everything to each of my girls all the time, near impossible.  Before we know it though, we'll find that we've stumbled upon our groove somewhere along the way without even realizing it; everything will fall into its place.

All this change makes it seem as though Christmas was a lifetime ago, but I don't want it to get passed by completely.  Santa was good to Milani, bringing her jumbo Legos, a new baby doll, some books, and a potty chair she is strangely attached to.  I'm glad Santa didn't bring her more because she gave up on opening presents after her fourth gift.

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And this little angel, reminds me of her sister in so many ways.

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So many of her facial expressions and noises take me right back to when Milani was a newborn. Her "baby grinch" face, her fake little impatient cough when she wants milk faster than I can give it to her, her stretchy face.  At the same time she is so unique, with her own little endearing quirks.  Her "Oh" face, her little cat shaped eyes, and the little raspy hum that accompanies her sleepy breaths. 

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I used to tell people that Milani was laid back, but little Berkley has her beat.  She is so chill, always.  I can put her down to help Milani and she doesn't make a peep, Milani never wanted to be put down ever and she let you know it!  Berkley can make it through an outfit or diaper change without getting spitting mad and turning purple like her sister used to.  And I may be jinxing myself now but she doesn't have a fussy time like Milani did every evening.  She is really making the transition from mother of one to mother of two pretty easy on me (knock on wood).

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And big sister is making me so proud!  She has been so sweet and patient this week, so accepting of her new little sister.  She can say Berkley, it comes out "Burkeee"She hops on a chair to help me change diapers and shows great concern anytime Berkley is upset.  And she keeps us and herself entertained.

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And although I hear that this only ever happens in newborn/toddler fairytale land, I have two sleeping beauties napping at the same time.  My pillow is calling my name.

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Christmastastic Fabulousness

Even though I am regularly comforted by family and friends with the reminder that Milani is too young know any different if this Christmas isn't perfect; if I spend more time with my feet up than spreading holiday cheer; if the baby conveniently decides that Christmas Eve or Christmas Day seems like the perfect day to make his/her grand entrance and I'm stuck in the hospital forcing us to celebrate our Christmas a week late, I still don't want this Christmas to be a complete dud for my girl.  Because sitting on the sidelines monitoring every sensation below my shoulders for any indication of impending labor is about as eventful as watching paint dry.  The baby's going to come when the baby's going to come, and there's no good reason why I can't be cultivating holiday traditions and etching new Christmas memories with my Lulu in the meantime.  So, I've been trying to make the conscious shift from focusing on only seven more days until my due date and when is baby going to come?, to embracing and celebrating the season we're in.

In previous years my holiday cards would've hit the post office the week after Thanksgiving, at some point every flat surface in my kitchen and dining room would've been covered with cookies destined for goodie baskets or a cookie swap, and I would have been organizing the house and planning a menu preparing to host our family for Christmas dinner.  I am accepting the reality that our experience of the season this year will feel a little different, but will be no less rich with laughter and love and time spent together as a family.

It is so fun to watch Milani's reactions to holiday traditions that are so new and foreign to her; to watch her laugh and run and stomp her little feet in excitement when Jon brought our Christmas tree into the house; to see her wonder grow with each ornament she pulled out of the box; to watch her figure out how the ornaments get hung on branches; and to see her face glow when we plugged in the lights.  There is magic in this season and it can be seen so clearly and purely reflected in the eyes of our littles.







This week Milani and I pulled out of the attic the train set that my family used to put around our tree when I was young.


I'm not sure how I managed to inherit this train, and hadn't gotten it out any previous Christmas', but if I'm to infuse our days with more holiday wonder this would be a perfect starting point.  Milani skittered around me examining the passenger cars and engine as I pieced the track together, and gawked excitedly as I turned the power dial instructing her to "Watch, watch, watch...check out what's going to happen when I turn the dial!".  And nothing happened.  And I was so bummed.  And Milani lost interest, and went on to playing with a stuffed animal.


After some Googling and troubleshooting, and a quick scrub down of the track rails with a brillo, I managed to convince Milani to give the "Choo Choo" a second chance and her gaping mouth and shrill squeal made the whole project worthwhile.  We watched it go in around and around in circles, Milani insisting on being held the whole time it was running, simultaneously thrilled and terrified that it could move by itself.

Last night Jon went to bed early and I found myself in a quiet house, lit dimly by the lights on the tree and cast in a golden glow from a lone candle.


I was taken aback by the sense of peace that blanketed me as I sat at the dining room table writing out Christmas cards by candle light, with the melodies of Christmas carols drifting faintly from the kitchen radio.

This evening Milani and I whipped up our first batch of holiday cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms.  My girl climbed up onto the chair next to me and stirred her bowl full of Hershey's Kisses, whipping up her own imaginary batch of treats.

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And because, at our house, helping to bake the cookies entitles you to a sampling of the ingredients and cookie dough, she devoured no less than nine kisses, licked the peanut butter spoon, and ate a spatula full of dough.

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She's no stranger to this rule; the whole time I was mixing up the ingredients she pointed anxiously at the spatula repeating "poppy...poppy" - her word for lolli-pop - be still my beating heart, this girl can't get any cuter.  She may not have had any appetite left for dinner, and she may have bounced off the walls like a maniac right up until bedtime, but my girl and I had a blast baking side by side and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I still have errands to run, projects to finish, and presents to wrap, and depending on the moment I oscillate between feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and feeling eerily calm.  But I'm becoming more comfortable with knowing that I will accomplish what I can before my little sweetie's arrival, and postpone the things I can't, and it will be a Christmas to remember regardless how it unfolds.

Sweet Summertime Continued

Forth of July

On the average day, I have to admit, I don’t really think much about what it means to be an American.  I’m not exceptionally patriotic, and don’t involve myself in politics.  I typically scurry around in my little corner of the world, blissfully naive and pathetically ignorant to most of the inner workings of the country I call home.  But on one pinnacle day a year, when we’re all called to drop the petty differences that separate us into “I” and “you”, and “us” and “them”, and instead join hands with our sisters and brothers in stars and stripes to become “We the people”, well that I can get on board with.

Our day was filled with family and friends, sunshine and tasty treats.  We splashed in the pool;

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And played;

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And nibbled on goodies until we were stuffed. 

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It was the quintessential Independence Day celebration.  And because we had already been dazzled by the Pittston fireworks, we headed home before the sun set with a little girl who wasted no time passing out from exhaustion in her car seat.  Jon and I watched the fireworks erupt across the horizon as we drove, ready to pass out from exhaustion in our bed, thankful to be American living in the land of the free and the home of the very brave. 


Backyard Splashes

The sun has grown strong and the temperatures are soaring, and while we love to branch out to visit nearby pools or the lake, sometimes we find ourselves going only as far as the back yard.

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Milani loves water.  Bathtub water.  Lake water.  Even baby pool water.  She's even climbed into her baby pool in full clothing.  It makes no difference as long as she gets to splash and swoosh, and fill her blocks only to dump them again.

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Maybe someday we'll have a real pool, or a boat, or a house on the beach (wishful thinking) but in the meantime we'll beat the heat splashing in the backyard.


Blueberry Picking

I know I've already preached my sentiment on these plentiful summer months, my love of harvesting the fruits of our labor, and sometimes other people's labor.  And that craving for the satisfaction of picking produce with my own hands, and finding ways to preserve it to be savored months from now, is the reason we've raided the blueberry patch twice already.

We visited Bill's Blueberries, a quaint little gem of a blueberry farm, run on an honor system by a friendly old man (who I can only assume must be Bill) and his sweet wife.  Handmade signs mark the driveway and decorate the shed, and rusty antique farming equipment adorns the lawn.

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Random trinkets like old milk jugs in a rusty wire rack, a weathered barrel, dirty leather yolks, that would look like trash anywhere else, fit perfectly into their places around the farm lending an air of nostalgia.

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From a single speaker, oldies drift faintly across the farm, carried on the breeze so that songs seem to fade in and out as you pick.

True to standard picking procedure, pounds of blueberries plunked into our buckets, and an ounce or two (or three) went directly down the hatch.  Milani climbed among the trees, and sampled some green blueberries.
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Curious to understand what was so appealing to her about those little green blueberries, I sampled one, and oh my goodness are they beyond sour.  The awful aftertaste lingered for hours, and I can't imagine how she managed to continue popping them in her mouth one after another.  Let's just assume she's still developing her palate, and of course she still managed to eat her fair share of blue ones from the bucket.

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The boys found other ways to fill their buckets.

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Bill even has a little patch of raspberry bushes, and I managed to scour them for enough berries to turn into sweet and tart raspberry jam.

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Another preserve checked off my grand canning plan.  And as soon as the sweltering temperatures return to a more bearable level, blueberry lemon preserves are next on the list.

Ok, so maybe I have one more rant about canning, but I can't freaking help it, I'm hooked!  Every time I pull my little jam jars out of the boiling water, and listen to the lids pop down one by one as they cool, I gain such a sense of satisfaction.  It's like I've sealed away a piece of this summer.  Like I've filled a jar with sweet memories, and a little sunshine.  Like I've managed to capture the love and fun and energy of these days, and tuck it away for a cold rainy day.  And since fewer people can and preserve these days than was done years ago, I feel like I'm part of an effort to resurrect a dying past time.  To stand next to a massive pot of boiling canning water, stirring bubbling jam the way my grandmother or great grandmother might have, is pretty satisfying in itself.  End of sermon.


Dalton Carnival

Jon and I used to visit the Dalton Carnival beer tent every summer.  We used to drink pitchers of Miller Lite from little plastic cups, and catch up with friends we hadn't seen all summer.  We used to stay long after the stars came out, and the families with little ones headed home to read bedtime stories, and strings of little yellow bulbs illuminated the tent.

Maybe out of habit, or an attempt to hold true to tradition, we headed to the carnival last week.  We went on a Thursday instead of Saturday.  We arrived at six instead of nine, and left well before sunset.  Water was the only beverage we guzzled.

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Milani enjoyed a sampling of roast beef, potato pancakes, and pizza.

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She looked wide eyed at the lights, and rides, and games with bright colored prizes.

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This year she was content to observe, but next time I'm sure she'll be begging to ride the rides, and play the games.

And my girl is a flirt!  She will scan a crowd for anyone who will make eye contact, and then girlfriend turns on the charm.

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She grins, and laughs, and plays shy.  She'll spin, and dance, and put on a show for anyone who will give her the attention.  We stayed long enough for her to elicit some smiles and chuckles, and headed home with a full belly and bolstered ego.

To be honest, I didn't even miss the beer tent.  I'm happy to forge new traditions, and I enjoy watching my girl soak in new experiences.  And I love that we've become the family with a little one who heads home well before the stars come out to read bedtime stories.


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There is something amazingly refreshing about breaking away from the day-to-day routine.  About abandoning everyday life and stepping into nature.  Changing the scenery and changing the pace.  Leaving behind cell phones, laptops, and obligations.

Over Memorial Day weekend we traded our house and our bed for a tent and sleeping bag.  Our neighbors were towering hemlocks and an expanse of blue sky and matte clouds served as a roof.  We gathered with family around a picnic table instead of a kitchen table and laughed by the flickering light of the campfire instead of a TV.  It was our annual Memorial family camping weekend.
The weekend is a collection of activities strung together by custom and popular vote, and the atmosphere is relaxed, where at anytime, anyone can opt out of the current adventure to swing lazily in a hammock kept company by the dogs.

Being Milani's first camping trip, I wasn't sure how she would  like it, but girlfriend rocked it!   
She jacked her crawl into four wheel drive and scoped out the campsite, scavenging under the picnic table for treasures, examining the underside of rocks, and sifting fine gray dirt through her fingers.
She enjoyed time with Grandma Debbie, accumulating hugs and kisses and cuddles.
And tried out some new shades.
Big cousins taught little cousins how to throw, and catch, and the way to blow bubbles.
Big cousins showed little cousins how to hug and kiss and love on each other. 
And cousins exchanged tumbling fits of contagious laughter.

Sunday afternoon we hiked over wooden bridges and past thorny brambles to set eyes on Little Falls, debating over the identity of each three leaved plant along the path (Poison Ivy), and the species of origin of a pile of...droppings (Bear).
I was sure that Milani would have been rocked to sleep on Jon's back as we hiked, but those big chocolate eyes didn't miss a thing.
She lounged in the carrier, comfortable as could be, and took everything in.
We finished our hike next to the lake and enjoyed our picnic lunch with our eyes glued to the treeline, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the resident bald eagles prowling for fish.

Certainly no camping trip would be complete without the men tapping into their caveman instincts, attempting valiantly and exhaustively to start a fire by rubbing sticks together.  Their best efforts produced a few promising wisps of white smoke, but no glowing embers or orange flames.  MemorialCamping161-Edit
So we busted out the lighter and stoked the campfire to cook our ceremonious feast of burgers and dogs.  The picnic table was loaded with a smorgasbord and we heaped our plates with pasta salad, green salad, and fruit salad, nibbling on pretzels and chips and Memorial Day cookies.

Despite the gross amount of food we consume at dinner, as soon as the sun dips below the horizon we break out the marshmallows, Hershey's bars, and graham crackers.  We share our tips on roasting the perfect 'mallow, and making the best s'more, and play musical chairs to avoid the campfire smoke.  We take turns throwing wood on the fire, and poking the embers, and discussing how each log burns.  We share new stories and recite familiar old stories that still produce an eruption of laughter, until one by one we retreat to our tents.

We drifted to sleep under a clear star filled sky, and Milani slept like a log until we awoke at 3:45 to distant thunder, and managed to cover the tent minutes before the rain came.  The wind howled through the trees and the rain fell in sheets, and I worried my girl would get frightened.  I worried this thunderstorm would make her hate tents and sleeping bags and all things camping related, but she proved me so wrong.  Sister just snuggled in close to me, clinging like a koala, and listened to the storm.  Her big eyes scanned the tent and watched quietly as it bowed in the wind, never a peep or whimper or cry, and just as soon as the storm started to pass she fell peacefully back to sleep until 8:30. (Why doesn't she sleep like this at home??)

Monday morning we headed back to the lake with fishing poles and some of us actually fished, displaying the patience and persistence of reeling and casting, watching and waiting.
But some of us just fished for seaweed, and tossed pebble after pebble into the rippling water.
And the rest of us just watched and played and savored the fresh air.
 I'm not sure how many years an annual event must occur before it can be titled tradition, but if our Memorial weekend family camping trips haven't hit tradition status yet, I sure hope they will.  I hope maybe Milani will someday fondly look back on the memories forged on our weekends in the woods; the laughter, and hikes, and time spent with family.  Sure someday she will be sharing her own funny stories around a campfire, but maybe they'll include stories born on some future Memorial weekend where she and her cousins laughed until they cried.  Maybe our family camping trips will transcend the title traditional, and truly embrace Memorial.

One Year

One year ago.

I anxiously and nervously awaited your arrival.  I couldn't wait to hold you in my arms.  To shower you with hugs, and kisses, and tears of joy.  At the same time I knew I'd mourn carrying you safe and snug inside.  I would miss the you and me time, with the kicks and flips and hiccups.

I was terrified of labor and delivery.  I was also terrified that the labor and delivery would be the easy part.  I was afraid I wouldn't know how to care for you.  I was afraid I wouldn't know how to love you.  I was afraid I didn't have an ounce of maternal instinct in my body.  Oh and dear God what if I hated motherhood? What if I ended up regretting the decision to have a baby.

One year ago you were born and my world was turned upside down.  Every uncertainty and insecurity dissolved one by one.  Caring for you was a joy.  Loving you came as naturally as breathing.  And as for maternal instinct?  Baby do I have it, and its fierce!  I love being your mother more than anything, and the decision to have you was the best one that I have ever made.

This past year flew by in the blink of an eye, but it was undoubtedly the best year of my life.  You taught me how to love unconditionally.  How to step back and breathe.  How to fight through the tough times.  And how to stop and enjoy the little blessings that surround me daily.  To marvel at the little things I would normally have taken for granted. 

If I had been struggling for purpose before you came into my life, I can rest easily now knowing that you are purpose.  To have brought you into the world so that everyone can know you, and love you, and see your light, well I'd say my purpose is met.  I am so unbelievably blessed to have you for a daughter, and enormously grateful to be the one you call mother.
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Happy First Birthday to my Little Angel!

I Love You!