Happy Birthday, Annie

Dear Annie, 

Happy birthday, big girl. You’re six! It feels like you should be ten already, but also like you should still be small enough to strap in a carrier and be toted around the grocery store. The other night, your daddy said, “Do you think she’s getting too big to be carried?” It was an honest question, not accusatory in the least, especially because he’s the one who’s carrying you around. I replied, “Not as long as she’s asking.” You ask him to carry you from the car into the house pretty frequently, even when you qualify it by saying you’re tired or that you don’t want your shoes to get wet. Really, I think you just want to be held tight in your daddy’s arms, and we’re fine with that. I can barely hold you, and when I do, your impossibly long legs dangle along mine so that we look almost comical. I know you’re growing so quickly that I’ll pick you up and put you down for the last time one day in the near future, and I’m not ready for it to be the last time. 

I do love seeing you grow, though. You started kindergarten this year, your first experience with full-time school. Your teacher said she wishes she could have a classroom full of kids like you. You’re kind and smart and always willing to learn something new and try your best. That’s really all I’ll ask of you, now and as you grow. You love school; you always look forward to going. You’ve got a cute little girl-gang of friends, and it’s so neat to see you blossom and create your own section of life that I’m just not a part of. It stings a little, too, of course. But it helps me stay focused on making the most of the evenings and weekends and paying attention to those little teaching moments, where we talk about who might have been mean that day or who was extra helpful. 

We are aging out of the stage in which I just help you stay alive. I do that, too, but we’ve passed survival mode. You’re already pretty self-sufficient, so I don’t have to make sure you’re eating every bite or brushing your teeth.You recently started making your bed every day, without my request. Still, mothering you feels harder these days. Instead of cutting your grapes, I’m worried about how you observe relationships and the behavior of those around you. Are you taking in the good stuff? I hope so. I try to answer your questions about everything, even when it’s bedtime and you’re asking me things like. “Why is holding up this one finger bad? Emma said it was bad!” Yikes. So it begins. I hope I’m giving you the right answers, and showing you that it’s okay to make mistakes. 

You’re my first baby, and so each new stage is experimental. You’ve always been accepting and patient when it comes to my trial-and-error methods, and I’m thankful for your good nature. I’m so proud to be your mama and introduce you as my mini-me. You look and act like me in so many ways, but you’re already much braver and stronger than I was as a girl. I love that, and I love you. Happiest of birthdays to you, my girl.


Annie Says

Just for me to have together — here are a few things Annie has said over the last several months. 

July 2016 

Moon! Where are you? I’s talkin’ to you! I can’t see you!
(When trying a new food she doesn’t like)
Mmm, no, Mommy. I can’t wike it. 
Me: Annie, can I please have some of your popcorn?
Annie: Um, you can have just a widdle bit, Mommy, ‘kay?
I so mix-cited!


August 2016
(Watching beauty and the beast)
Wow, Mommy, this is a reedy pwetty show!


November 2016

(During bedtime prayer)
Thank You for my cuh-tens, my cwock, my fant, and too many blankets.


December 2016

Annie: You and daddy go on a date? I want to go too.
Me: Well, a date is just special mommy and daddy time. 
Annie: Oh. I go on a date when I bigger?
Me: Yes, when you’re about 25.
Annie: Okay. I go on a date when I 25, okay, Daddy? Right now I just 2. 
Adam: Sounds great.


January 2017
Annie: Our father in heaven, thank you for this day. Thank you for our fam-wee. [Incoherent…] pwease keep us safe tomorrow. Thank you for Jesus. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Me: Annie, that was such a good prayer, that made mama and God so happy. 
Annie: [hugs me so tightly] I happy too, mommy!

Dear Baby: Month Nine

Dear Baby,
Hi, Annabelle. You are nine months old now. You’ve been out of my belly as long as you were in it! Time has flown. No, that’s not right. Maybe we just teleported from there to here. Surely we didn’t experience the last nine months in real time, did we? My word. Either way, here we are, and here is a lovely, magical place.
In the last two months, you have begun to:
sit up
hold your bottle
feed yourself
stand on your own
cut your third tooth
take steps with your walker
say “Mama”
say “Dada”
make your mama cry every time you do one of the above things (because you’re supposed to still be a newborn, and newborns don’t do any of those things, Annie)
So yes, I’m a little overwhelmed with pride and joy and love, because you’re growing and learning every day. I’m also ridden with anxiety and mini heart attacks, because you have zero fear and are determined to get into everything you shouldn’t.
You love to eat (mama’s girl, yes?). You will eat anything we put in front of you, but you’re particularly partial to bread and potatoes. Bonus points if we let you pick it up and feed yourself. It’s terribly messy and adorable.
You’re still sleeping well. Good job, baby! Naps aren’t the most fun – because surely there is something more fun going on, right, Mama? But when you’re done playing for the day and ready to go down at night, you just tell us. We give you your bottle, read you a story, and then Daddy will rock you to sleep. You have your moments, of course. And I do, too. You know if you’re saying my name over and over, I’m going to come to your rescue. So we have to work on that a bit. Overall, though, you love to sleep! Yay!
Most of all, you’re happy and sweet. You’re so happy and sweet. You’ll stop what you’re doing to turn around and smile at me. You’re learning how to return affection, and even if it’s something small like touching your forehead to ours, it’s still the biggest love we’ve ever known. Thank you for loving us, baby.
Love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Slow Down, Mama

This evening, I left work and headed to pick up Annie. She was with my family at my sister’s softball game, and I was going to get her there early so she wouldn’t be out in the heat long. I got there a little after the game started, and she was content, drinking her milk, just peering at those around her. I sat down next to her and said, “Hi, baby.” She turned to me, and I picked her up. She laughed and put both of her tiny hands on my face. My sweet daughter, who I’d missed all day, had missed me, too. Any stress I’d felt at work quickly faded, and we were content.

We loaded up and started the forty-five minute drive home. Annie was restless and cried, loudly, from the moment I put her in her car seat. I needed to get home, so I could unload the dishwasher, start dinner, pick up the house, feed Annie again. Instead, I pulled over and got Annie out of her seat. She looked so relieved that I had come to rescue her! She needed me. We sat in the driver’s seat, and she gnawed on the steering wheel and laughed at the cute baby in the mirror. We sat there for about ten minutes, and when I put her back in her seat, she fussed a little, but quickly calmed down and fell asleep.

I work full-time, and at 5:00, I switch gears. I put my remaining energy into being a good mama and a good wife. Those last five or so hours of the day is what I have with my family during the week, and I try to make the most of it. At the end of the day, I’m tired. And I sometimes feel like I haven’t done enough. My kitchen floor desperately needs mopped, and the laundry is piling up (how is it so endless?). However – not always, but usually – I have loved. I have loved my husband and I have loved my girl by taking care of them the best way I know how. Tonight, that meant pulling over and holding my baby for a few minutes before we hit the ground running again.

Annie has taught me so much already. Every once in a while, she gives me a gentle reminder to slow down. And then she rewards me with her lopsided smile.Thank you for that, lovie.

P.S. I have ideas on a post on being a working mother rolling around in my head, but surprise – haven’t found time to put it together! But for now, I’ll leave you with this: I really believe we’re all working mothers, whether you are away from your baby forty hours a week, or if you’ve taken on the full-time job of raising your baby. I think both ways can be so hard. So whatever you’re doing, if you’re doing the best you can, you’re doing a good job.

Dear Baby: Week 21

Dear Baby,
Hi, my love. You are five months old today. Five months! How is that possible? You weigh about 11 and a half pounds and have grown to about 23 inches in length. Your hair is coming back in, a little bit lighter than it was when you were born. You have the prettiest brown eyes, and even though they’re very dark (like mine!), they sure sparkle when you see your daddy.
Sometime in the last few weeks – maybe it happened overnight, it was so sudden – my newborn baby has disappeared. You’re turning into such a big girl with the sweetest disposition. You rolled over from your back to tummy last weekend, and we were so excited and proud of you! You smile and kick your legs when you get excited about something. You get excited about a lot of things: tickles, our faces, your bottle.
You’re very curious and alert. You get bored after playing on the floor for a while, and you let us know about it! I just carry you around the house on my hip, doing everything one-handed, and you’re perfectly content to watch me cook dinner and sort laundry. But outside, oh, man. Outside is your favorite place. Anywhere outside! Looking at the dogs, gardening with Daddy, rocking on the front porch.
You’re a joy all day. As long as you get your naps, of course. I love seeing your smile and hearing you talk. Right now, though, I think my favorite time of day is bedtime. Not because I’m ready for you to sleep, but because that’s become a sweet way to end a crazy day. You’ll rest your hand on my cheek, snuggle up, and drift off with the most content look on your face for a while before we transfer you to your bed. Before I close your door every night, I tell you, “love you more than life,” and I mean it.

Dear Baby: Week Ten

Dear Baby,
You’re ten weeks old today. Your first ten weeks have been the very best of my life, and I bet it somehow gets even better from here. At your two month check-up, you were 21.5 inches and 8 pounds and 5 ounces. You’re still a dainty little thing, and I love it. Your tiny features are the prettiest, and your little personality is starting to shine through a bit. You have been trying to smile and laugh for a couple of weeks now, and just in the last two days, you seem to have gotten a small hold on it. For a week now, you’ve slept through the night (!!!), which is amazing. Good job, lovie! When you wake up in the morning, you stretch your tiny limbs as far as they’ll go, and then you smile the biggest smile at me while my heart bursts into a million pieces. Every time. Right now, you love your play mat, and have started to reach for the toys hanging above you. It’s so much fun to watch you play and learn. Most mornings, we haven’t even made it out of our jammies before it’s time to play. This evening, I took you outside to watch Daddy work in the garden. You were so alert and were taking it all in; the sky, the trees, the sound of the birds. I’m so proud of you, of every move you make. Watching you grow is so good. And so fast! I want to freeze this time, but I’m also so excited for you to develop and interact with us a bit more. We love you a little more every day, sweet girl.

Love, Mama

An Open Letter to Those Who Currently Do Not Have Small Children

This letter is to those who currently do not have small children, possibly falling under one of the following categories:
Single and ready to mingle
Newly married and obliviously blissful
Married for a while without kids
Basically: single/dating/married folks who would maybe, possibly like to one day have children
Dear One or More of the Above,
One day, you may like to become a parent. Recently, I’ve been blessed by becoming Mama to a little angel baby named Annie. She is my heart, my world, my everything. And seeing my husband become a father is pure joy. Really, parenthood is the best thing ever.
During pregnancy, people were always telling us all these negative things, like: “Your lives will never be the same. You won’t be able to do the things you used to do or want to do because of that baby.” First of all, hey, you Negative Nancy! Enough! Second of all, it turns out they were sort of right. Great.
But it’s not quite what you think. Yes, before you have children, you should go to late movies, go out to eat, travel the world, whatever. You can do these things with small children, but it gets a bit more complicated. It takes me an extra hour to get ready to leave the house, and then Annie will still probably decide she needs a new diaper right before leaving, so traveling the world may be a bit much right now.
So do all those things and enjoy those bits of freedom – but most of all, I am here to tell you that first and foremost, before your little bundle of joy arrives, you need to SLEEP ALL THE TIME. SLEEP, my friends! That is what you cannot do when you have a baby, and that is what you’ll miss the most. I promise. And ladies, if you plan to be a nursing mama for any amount of time, go ahead and sleep a little extra. Your little angel baby will wake up hungry every two hours for a while. Around the clock. No matter what. That means you may get an hour or so of sleep in between, if you can even fall asleep. Annie now takes a bottle, so Adam can help feed her, which is awesome. However, even by taking turns during the night, it’s still tough to get more than 3 or  4 hours of sleep at a time. I may even grab a nap during the day, totaling about 6 or 7 hours, which is swell. But I can’t remember what it’s like to sleep through the night, and from what they say, it will be several months before that happens again. I took it all for granted, those nights of sleeping for ten hours straight. Ahh, bliss.
So, friends, if you want to have children one day, please know good, solid rest will no longer be a part of your life. However, it is so worth it. You’ll love your little one so much it hurts your sleepy heart, and when she finally goes to sleep, you may even skip that precious cat nap. You’ll want to pick her up and cuddle her because you miss her. You’ll stay awake and stare at her sweet face. Then you’ll kick yourself a couple of hours later when she wakes up and you’ve still not slept. Still worth it, because – newborn sleep smiles, y’all. Nothing better.  

Dear Baby: Week One

Annie: 9 days old

Dear Baby,
You’re here, my girl. And you’re perfection. I knew you would be, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it. It hit me so hard, in the very best way, the second we met you.
You’re just over a week old. It gets a tiny bit easier day by day, this parenting thing. Thank you for being so patient with us. We’re learning. The first 24 hours of your life were a big, happy, tired, blur. You were born in the afternoon, and once all of our family members left for the evening, it was just you and me and Daddy, all alone in our hospital room. I hadn’t slept in over 36 hours, but I still couldn’t sleep at all that first night. Every time you made a peep, I was up to comfort you. If you were too quiet, I was up to make sure you were still breathing. I wanted to hold you all night, but I was too afraid to fall asleep with you in my arms. Just before seven o’clock, the sunlight peeked through the window, and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it through your first night, and I thought, “We can do this.” I should have rested then, once the doctors and nurses and other family members were there to help us take care of you, but I couldn’t stop staring at your tiny, lovely features.
Since then, we’ve gotten better at taking care of you. Daddy loves to cuddle you. I love to kiss your cheeks. With each diaper change, every-two-hour feeding session, the rocking, the consoling—with those things come a cuddle, a newborn “grin,” your sweet voice, and the way you nestle into one of us as you fall asleep. Those are the golden moments, my girl. We love you.