On Madeline’s first birthday I sat down and wrote her a letter sharing anecdotes and chronicling our first year together. I read the letter aloud at her first birthday party and her grandparents and Dave (my hubby) all agreed that putting down my thoughts and memories on paper was a great idea because even if you don’t think you will, you forget all those little moments that make up a lifetime. Thus, a tradition was born and I have decided to write an annual birthday letter to each one of my children.
I’ve shared Madeline’s third birthday letter below. It’s a little overly sentimental, perhaps, and it certainly breaks all the blogging guidelines about keeping your entries short so readers can simply scan your site. Still, it comes from the heart and is a tribute to my little girl who really is growing up all too quickly….
November 15, 2007
Happy 3rd birthday! Today you were crowned queen for the day. Despite being sick with a fever (you slept wedged between Daddy and me last night radiating heat and asking for frequent sips of water), you took ruling your monarchy very seriously. For breakfast, you snacked on purple grapes and Lucky Charms, a welcome change from the low-sugar, whole-wheat cereal you normally eat (I bought the marshmallow-laden cereal with your b-day in mind). You sipped chocolate milk with magic powder (AKA Miralax) and asked to sit on Mommy’s lap for a special treat. Who needs a royal throne when you’ve got a Mommy to sit on, after all?
As queen, you wanted to color and paint, play with Colorforms, watch a movie, play dress-up (you should see the outfit you put together – the ensemble included oversized, pink pearls, a coordinating pink grass skirt, a floppy blue and yellow top hat, and silly-man glasses with bushy black eyebrows and a matching mustache), spin around with Mommy to music, get lots of lovin’ from Daddy when he came home from work (“I need lovin’” is a refrain you pronounce when you want some extra TLC from us), read books and “type” emails.
You requested egg salad, Lucky Charms sans milk, more grapes and a soft pretzel as your lunch. You wanted a peanut butter granola bar for a snack and a little chocolate milk. For dinner you wanted pizza. Honestly, you weren’t all that hungry today because of your sickness. You didn’t even eat much of the ice cream sundae you’d been dreaming about all daylong. We set up a sundae bar and let you spoon a large dollop of whipped cream, a generous handful of rainbow sprinkles, chocolate syrup and chocolate chips onto a heaping bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I showed you how I used to stir up my ice cream as a little girl to make ice cream soup. This was some tasty soup, indeed. Beats stone soup any day. (Stone Soup by Marcia Brown is one of your favorite books right now and we sometimes make pretend stone soup together.)
Like most days, you made me laugh with your whimsy and your “Maddyisms.” I love this age because you’re such a conversationalist and you come up with the funniest things. Here’s just a sampling:
• My friend Misti called to wish you a happy birthday. You began belting out the Happy Birthday song and then told her you were singing Happy Birthday to yourself. Then you put the phone up to Baby Rae, who was nursing, and made her mouth move by squeezing her cheeks together with your free hand. (You enjoy making her “talk” this way.) Baby Rae “said” to Misti, “Hi. I’m just nursing on the boob. Good-bye.”
• At bedtime, Daddy, you, and I were all sitting in bed after we’d read stories and prayed together. You said you had to go pee and needed some more water. We didn’t reject your stalling techniques. After all, you were still our queen. However, I reminded you that tomorrow we’d be back to reality. You said, “Back to reality. I don’t know this word, reality. Duh. Long word. Duh.” Too funny.
• I called you a goof nut when you were acting silly and you said quite seriously, “I’m not a goof nut. I’m a birthday girl.”
• We were all talking about being a family and how old you’re getting. I said that before we knew it Rachel Marie would be all grown up, too, and Daddy and I would have to make another baby. You said, “I don’t know. I have to decide if I want another baby. Maybe, but I don’t know yet.” After I laughed, I told you it was in God’s hands and you seemed okay with that.
• Now this isn’t silly, but it made both Daddy and I so proud to be your parents. One of Gaba’s friends sent you a birthday card. When you opened it, a ten-dollar bill slipped out. You were very excited to get money (you’re just starting to understand the concept of moula) and you promptly stuffed it into your jean’s pocket. I told you that you could put it in your piggy bank and later pick out a toy with it, but you said, “No. I want to bring it to church to light a candle.” You love paying a dollar and lighting candles in honor of someone (on All Saints’ Day we lit a candle in honor of my papa who passed away in May).
I know there were other funny things you’ve said today, but I’ve already forgotten them. That’s what scares me: That I already can’t possibly remember all the moments when you have made me laugh or smile. What will happen five, ten, 15, 20 years from now? Will I be able to remember how you said “dear” (as if it had two syllables) or the way you giggled when I looked for pit worms? Will I remember what it was like to have you throw your arm across my body at bedtime and plead, “Please don’t go, Mommy”? Or how you practiced ballet by bouncing around and leaping in the air while classical musical played in the background? It’s amazing how our days together can seem long, but the weeks, months, and especially the years are so quickly slipping by.
The other day I was watching you and Rachel Marie sleep in your big-girl bed. Beside your peanut of a sister you looked so grown up. Your body was lean and long with no hint of baby roundness or softness. Your wisps of blond hair framed your face and your long, dark eyelashes brushed against your pink cheeks. You were sleeping on your left side with your head pressed into the blue pillow Gaba made you. Your breathing was slow and steady and as I watched you sleep, I tried to remember what it was like to see you sleeping as an infant. The only vivid image I could conjure up was one of Rachel Marie sleeping, not you. Of course, maybe this had to do with the fact that even as a newborn, you slept very little (life was far too interesting to spend it horizontal with your eyes shut), but I think it had more to do with how old you suddenly seem to me. You’re truly a little girl now, though in many ways you’re still a baby. You look to me to meet all your needs and I still, despite having lost my patience with you more in recent months due to bone-aching fatigue and my first taste of tantrums from you, can do no wrong in your eyes. I wonder when I’ll first really, really disappoint you. I feel like I let you down all the time. You’ll ask me to play with you or you’ll request more loving (“I need some lovin’,” is a refrain I hear more often now that Rae has entered into the picture) and I’ll be nursing Rae or trying to check email or attempting to clean the kitchen and say, “In a minute” or even, I hate to admit, “Not now.” Then I’ll be struck by how fleeting our time together really is, as trite as that may sound, and I’ll regret not having given you what you needed.
That’s what was so nice about today. There were no distractions. No looming freelance deadlines for Mommy to worry about (I have them, but I chose to ignore them for the day), no interruptions other than frequent phone calls from loved ones wishing you a happy birthday (you sure are a lucky girl to have so many people who love you and are thankful you were born three years ago!), no errands to run or tasks to check off from a never-ending to-do list… It was just you and me (and Baby Rae) whittling away the time. You were an easy queen to please, Madeline. Sometimes I think the world would be a far better place if kids like you ruled the world…
Ah, but enough of this boring pontificating. I can’t help it if my memory does me a disservice or if I don’t have unlimited hours to savor your littleness. What I can do is cherish every moment we have together and to remember as much as possible. (The good news is I do write these yearly birthday letters, journal, and blog, so at least some recollections will be preserved.)
Looking back on this past year together, I can think of so many anecdotes I want to share. Some will one day make you cringe (like the times you’ve picked your nose. Gross, I know, but it’s happened). Some will make you laugh. Some will make you wistful (we all want to grow up so badly, but then when we look back on our childhood, we long for the simplicity and uncomplicated happiness we once embraced). However, it’s my hope that the sum of the parts, the big picture, will make you thankful for a happy, fun childhood. I know that despite the challenges (namely the dearth of sleep and the long hours being a mom demands) being your (and Baby Rae’s) mom has made me infinitely happy. I hope you feel the same way about being my daughter.
Now, my dear, little girl, I want to share a few memories, anecdotes, etc. that stick out in my mind as I look back on this wonderful third year together. Here goes:
• In many ways you are the epitome of a little girl. For example, you love to watch me apply makeup and you usually ask me to put on some lip gloss. I always have mixed feelings about this ritual. I know clear lip gloss (I actually trick you into using chapstick that you think is lipstick – sorry!) is harmless and I like how you stare at me in wonder as I powder my nose or swipe mascara on my lashes. Yet, at the same time, I want to tell you to forget about makeup and all these things women do to make themselves look (or perhaps just feel) better. Be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t be in a rush to grow up or to think you have to constantly beautify yourself. Wearing makeup, styling our hair, dressing nicely – there’s nothing wrong with these things – so long as we don’t get too attached to them or hide behind our physical appearance. Remember, you’re made in the image of God, not the image of Estée Lauder, Hollywood, or the media.
• Okay, before you start thinking you’re all sugar and spice and everything nice, I have to tell you, you’ve definitely got a less girly side to you. While your current best friend Ava (you’re only two weeks apart) prefers to wear dresses every day and frilly nightgowns at night, you much prefer t-shirts. In fact, nearly every night you want to wear a t-shirt, especially your Cubs t-shirt (compliments of Gaba), Atlantis tee, or any shirt with a dog on it. During the summer, I’d choose my battles and some days let you pick your outfit. One of your favorite ensembles consisted of red or black cotton shorts accompanied by your Cubs t-shirt and teal Crocs. You make your Cubs-loving Gaba proud.
• Here’s a rundown on some of your current favorites:
o Color: Blue
o Song: You love to sing and I know I’m biased, but I think you’re a pretty talented songbird. One of your favorite songs to sing right now is “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. You’ve never seen the entire movie (I skip over all the Ursula parts because you have a very active imagination and frighten easily), but I frequently sing this song and you know most of the words and sporadically break into song like Ariel throughout the day. You also like to croon “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to Rachel Marie when she’s upset. You’re a very good big sister.
o Books: You love story time and you really don’t have a favorite book, although you’ll go through phases when one book captures your attention. Recently, you’ve wanted to read books with flaps. You’ve also been requesting Miss Rumphius, Spot books, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, a Little Mermaid Colorform book, a nursery rhyme collection, and the Madeline books (Madeline’s Rescue is your favorite since a dog plays a starring role).
o Food: You love pizza. You like to dip sliced red peppers into hummus. Lately you’ve been wanting to eat a lot of Cheerios and Wheat Chex. You went through a smoothie phase a few months ago. We’d make smoothies nearly every day. Your favorite concoction includes plain yogurt, peanut butter, milk, a banana and flaxmeal. You love feta, which seems a little odd for a preschooler. You have a sophisticated palate. You’re a carnivore like your daddy and can put down meat much to my dismay (I’m a former vegetarian and still don’t eat any red meat).
o Interests: If I had to pick one interest, I’d have to say you love coloring the most. You will color or draw by the hour. Again, I am probably biased (I’m supposed to be – I’m your mom for goodness sake), but you really do seem to possess some artistic talent. I never showed you how to hold a crayon or pen the right way, but you hold it perfectly. You color in the lines. You don’t just randomly scribble. Most striking, however, are the people you draw. You sketch faces complete with hair, eyes, a nose, and a mouth. The faces often have bodies and even limbs and sometimes you draw multiple people with their “hands” (circles at the end of lines) touching. You tell me these people are holding hands. I love seeing your creativity unfold. Perhaps you’ll be an artist someday like your Uncle Jason (your papa is also artistically talented and actually majored in art). Aside from art, you love playing pretend with your toy kitchen. I’ll get out my recipe book and we’ll pick our recipes and “cook” them together. You also enjoy real baking. You’ll stand on your stool and help me whisk dry ingredients together or count eggs for a scone or cookie recipe. Of course, your favorite part is licking the beaters after we’ve blended the sweet batter together. Other favorite activities include playing with your plastic figures (animals, Cinderella and the prince, dinosaurs, etc.), doing ballet, playing with a ball outside, “typing” emails, doing school lessons (very laid back homeschool curriculum from a preschool program called Little Saints), going to Totus Tuus (our homeschool co-op) and seeing Hannah, a 7-year-old girl you’re infatuated with, visiting with Ava and Baby Jackson, going on walks with Miss Jessica and her 16-month-old daughter Kinley, spending time with your grandparents, playing with Ivy (Gaba and Papa’s yellow Lab; you dressed up like Ivy for Halloween this year), watching movies on Saturday mornings or something educational (Mommy’s rule) during the week like Veggie Tales or Elmo, singing at Mass (you like to open the hymnal and “sing along” with the choir), building things with your foam blocks, going on beach walks at Gaba and Papa’s, and making Baby Rae giggle by kissing her belly or giving her loud, wet raspberries.
o Friends: Your best friends right now are Ava (Miss Mari’s little girl) and Kinley (Miss Jessica’s little girl). We see Kinley almost once a week. We often go on a walk and then let you girls play together afterwards. We see Ava frequently as well and just this week you had your first sleepover. I stayed over, too, of course. Mari happens to be one of my best friends. She was one of the first friends I made in the second grade when we moved to Georgia from Illinois. We’ve remained friends all these years and now we are blessed to be sharing motherhood together. You and Ava are only two weeks apart and Jackson and Rachel Marie are only two months apart. I’m very thankful God has given me a friend to share the joys and challenges of motherhood. Mari and I often lean on one another when we’re feeling discouraged or just plain exhausted. I hope you’ll have a friend like this when you begin your mothering journey. You and Ava play really well together. You give lots of hugs and say the funniest things to one another. Earlier this week you told Ava you were going to poop on the potty for her birthday present. Not sure if that’s one of her birthday wishes…
o Animal: Dogs top the list, but you also like horses and lately you’ve been telling us that you’d like to horseback ride one day. I grew up atop a horse, so I’m happy to see you transforming into an equestrian-wanna-be. Perhaps someday we can enjoy a trail ride together.
o Letter: M, of course. Probably because you know Mommy and Madeline both start with M. You get so excited every time you see an M when we’re out and about driving around Atlanta. You recognize lots of other letters, too.
• You have not yet fallen prey to the mass commercialism that takes a hold of most kids. Simple pleasures rule in your life. You always pick up rocks, fallen leaves and flowers when we’re outside. Flashy toys do not lure you in (you’d rather color than play with some noisy, high-tech toy). You actually asked for a bobblehead for your birthday after seeing a collection of sports bobbleheads at your Uncle Josh’s sports card shop. Not a typical wish list item for a preschool girl, I suspect. For Christmas, you wanted only an “umbella” for the longest time. Recently, you’ve updated your list and are asking for an easel to satisfy your inner Picasso, no doubt. You have an active imagination and can have fun with just a few plastic animals or a post-it note and a pen.
• You have an amazing memory. You remember the most arcane details like what you wore to a certain event, what pictures are on the back of a cereal box or how many people and animals are on a billboard we occasionally pass when taking a shortcut. I just hope you’ll have a selective memory and will forget the times when I’ve been a less-than-stellar mommy.
• I weaned you just before your second birthday, mainly because nursing was affecting my fertility. We enjoyed a beautiful nursing relationship and sometimes I miss holding you close while breastfeeding. Of course, I now have Rachel Marie to cuddle with and to root onto me. Since Rae’s birth you have asked to nurse a few times. I always nonchalantly give you the green light and you usually just forgot about it and didn’t even try. I think you just want to know it’s still available to you. One evening, however, you asked to nurse during bedtime. The room was dark and you snuggled close to me and began nursing. I expected you to stop right away and to giggle and to say something like, “I’m a big girl. Only babies nurse” as you’ve always done in the past. Instead, for a brief moment, you were my baby again finding comfort and nourishment at my breast. It was a beautiful moment. Later when I was giving you your nightly backrub, you asked me if I’d ever had breastmilk soup. I told you I hadn’t. You paused for a moment and then said, “I bet it would be good.” You occasionally “nurse” your dolls as well by lifting your shirt and cradling them close. You also have a large dog stuffed animal who has intermittently served as a wet nurse to a miscellany of toys. (You make your nana, who’s a lactation consultant and former La Leche leader, happy!) Once I was nursing Rae and she pulled off and my super soaker boob (I make way too much milk) kept spraying and milk splattered all over your face. You thought this was hilarious and asked me to do it again. I declined, but it made for a good laugh. Another time I was pouring pumped breastmilk into a storage container. I filled the container and had just a little bit left. I just couldn’t bear to waste the liquid gold, so I poured the remaining milk (just a drop or two) into your sippy cup. “Mommy, I’m not a baby,” you reminded me. I told you that my milk was still good for you though and you didn’t argue.
• The other day I asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting you to really know how to answer, but without hesitation you told me you wanted to be a doctor. You look up to your daddy. You miss him when he’s at work, but you know that he helps people for a living.
• Mommies are very important in your world. Whenever we’re reading a story about a child or little animal, you always ask where the mommy is. You do the same thing with pictures in magazines, movies, and in your own artwork, you always portray families complete with a mommy, daddy, big sister, and baby. Even the tiniest bugs have mommies in your mind. We’ll be looking a black ant crawling on a blade of grass and it will disappear into its green jungle and you’ll ask, “Where’d it go?” I’ll tell you I don’t know and then you’ll inform me, “It went back to its mommy.” I’m always flattered by your fixation on moms.
• When I was pregnant with Rae, you loved accompanying me to my prenatal appointments. You’d often sit beside me on the crinkly paper covering the examination table and gently place your hand on my burgeoning belly. You’d later tell Daddy we listened to the baby’s heartbeat. You loved Diane, the amazing Catholic nurse midwife, who delivered Rachel Marie and oversaw my prenatal care. You’re typically a tad shy with strangers and can become rather clingy if anyone is too overbearing or in your face, but you immediately warmed up to Diane and would climb into her arms. It might have had something to do with the fact that she always offered you a lollipop. I knew you were going to be a great big sister because you took so much interest in your little sister even before she was born. Likewise, you’ve always loved babies. Mari had Jackson two months before Rae made her big debut and I’ll never forget how proud you were holding him for the first time. Your face cracked into a bright smile and you were just beaming. You couldn’t wait to tell Daddy that you’d held Baby Jackson. When Rae was born, you were the first person we invited into the room. One of my favorite pictures is of the three of us on the hospital bed. You’re helping me to hold your baby sister and your eyes are big and your face is full of excitement. After you met Rae, Daddy took you into the hallway where you shouted to the rest of the family, “Come meet my baby sister!” Even though I know having a baby in the house and sharing your mommy has been an adjustment, you’ve shown Rae nothing but affection and love. You like to hold her and you help me sing to her during her bedtime routine. You’re very maternal and a big helper to me (since she’s a spit-up queen, you’re frequently tracking down burp cloths for me). I am really looking forward to watching your sisterly bond develop. I think you two will have great fun playing together.
• We traveled to Maine this summer. It was your second visit to Camp Loseekum (you were only 9 months old when we first took you to the rustic retreat). You fell in love with Camp and the surrounding beauty. You searched endlessly for frogs. You learned to identify the mournful call of a loon. You had your first s’mores. You sipped hot cocoa by a gaping stone fireplace. You climbed up the ravine by your Daddy’s side. You went on nature walks through the Maine woods. You tasted GG’s (Great Grandmother Jean) sundry home-baked treats including Exquisite Mint Sticks, Snickerdoodles, and Cowboy Cookies. You splashed around in Lake Thompson and tried to catch minnows in its shallows. You even set foot in the outhouse. It was a wonderful, relaxing week, and I am so thankful you had ample time to spend outdoors since we don’t even have a backyard right now. You’ve asked more than once if we’re going to go back to Maine and you enjoy looking through the Maine scrapbook I’ve put together. The good news is Camp Loseekum is a timeless retreat. It’s been in Daddy’s family since the late 1800s. Just as Maine evokes many happy memories in your dad, you will have a place you can always return to, even when you’re an old fart like me and have your own family.
• I can’t recall exactly when you officially were potty trained, but it happened rather quickly. I’d been trying to facilitate potty time for awhile and while you’d occasionally tinkle on the toilet and receive a sticker for your success, you were still resistant to wearing panties all of the time. Then, shortly after we returned from Maine, you wanted to wear big-girl panties and viola! That was pretty much it. You potty trained yourself and had very few accidents. The funny thing is you told me in Maine that you were going to be potty trained in a few days. It was like you made up your mind and never looked back. Of course, we still put a diaper on at night and doing number two on the potty has been more of struggle, especially since you’ve had some major constipation issues. You’re now on Miralax, which is definitely helping, and you have pooped on the potty, with your entire family standing by to cheer you on, I might add, several times. I recall the first time you really pooped on the potty. I was watching and screaming with joy. Never would I have thought seeing my daughter do her business on the potty would make me feel so proud. Things change when you’re a mom…just you wait.
• You’re still our little insomniac. Nearly every night you end up on a Nemo sleeping bag beside our bed (what we refer to as your pallet) or in bed with us. You often call out for Mommy in the middle of the night. There was one night when I was getting ready to leave you alone in your big-girl bed. I kissed you and you told me that God and angels would watch over you. Now when I leave I have to pile stuffed animals onto your bed. You somehow feel safer being surrounded by lots of furry friends. You just don’t want to be alone and even though it’s not always easy waking up to your cries or to the rustle of your sleeping bag when you’ve crept into our room (especially now that I’m always waking up for nighttime feedings with Rae), I know that one day, in the not-so-distant-future, I’ll miss these nocturnal visits.
Oh, there are so many memories I could share with you. We’ve had so much fun with each other (and Daddy and now Rachel Marie), Madeline. We’ve also had some sad times together when we’ve both clung to one another and cried. This past year has been wonderful, but it’s also been full of change for both of us. First, I was tired and sick with nausea during my pregnancy (I threw up nearly every day for 22 straight weeks). Then I was put on modified bedrest because I started dilating early, and I couldn’t hold you or run around and act silly with you. Then we finally welcomed our second little miracle into our lives and suddenly there wasn’t enough of me to go around. At first, I felt like I wasn’t being a good mommy to anyone. I was either meeting Rae’s needs and nursing her quickly and on demand while making you color by yourself….again. Or I was helping you use the potty or getting you more milk in a sippy cup or serving as your poop cheerleader as you tried to poop on the potty and making Rae wait for motherly care. I think we’ve finally fallen into a nice rhythm/balance. It helps that you are an amazing big sister and an extremely empathetic, unselfish little girl and likewise, that Rae is innately happy and an extremely easy-going baby (all you have to do is look at her and her face lights up with the most beautiful smile). Still, there definitely was an adjustment period for us.
In fact, a little while ago (they seem to have abated recently) you were throwing some pretty intense tantrums (kicking, throwing your body down in despair, sobbing uncontrollably as if you were on the verge of dying). Your histrionics took me somewhat by surprise because you’d always been a very easy-going child and had always accepted “no” quite easily (the only thing you consistently fought was sleep). Looking back, I believe they stemmed from exhaustion (you hadn’t been sleeping well at night or napping when they started) and served as a vehicle for expressing your fears and frustrations with all the changes having a baby sister around has meant for you. I think sometimes by throwing a tantrum because I wouldn’t fill up the bathtub all the way (we’re in a severe drought right now and I’m trying to conserve water) or wouldn’t allow you to eat your breakfast under the table on the floor (yes, you once made this request), you were simply wanting a little more control and for everything to be right in your world.
In a way, you were asking, “Will you still love me even if I act like a tiny ogre who’s impervious to rational thought?” Well, the answer, even when I didn’t always show it and sometimes, I regret, snapped at you or threw a tantrum myself, is “YES! YES! YES!” If there’s anything I hope I can get across to you as your mom it’s that I love you unconditionally. I may not always show it. I may let you down (even now that you’re an adult; I imagine you’ll be “all grown up” by the time you read this). You may not always understand the rules I make for you. Sometimes I may be disappointed or hurt by your behavior or bewildered by the choices you make. But no matter what I will always, always love you. And as I’ve told you even now when you’re probably too young to fully grasp it (although your level of understanding, especially when it comes to things pertaining to our faith never fails to surprise me), is that when I do let you down – and it will happen – there’s someone who will never disappoint you and who loves you like a perfect parent – God.
I’m always praying that I if there’s only one good thing I do as your mom it’s that I can bring you closer to Christ and foster a strong faith within you. I can tell you right now that it’s already there in you. You embrace the whole “childlike faith” analogy and believe “just because.” You’re curious about church and Jesus. You eagerly go up to Communion and piously cross your arms across your chest to ask for a blessing. You offer peace to everyone around you. You happily recite a Hail Mary before bed and you add your own petitions (“For Mommy and Daddy and Gaba and Papa and Nana and Pop and Ivy…”). You are so special, Madeline. You truly are a child of God. I hope you’ll always remember this.
I love you so much, Sweet Pea. Today you told me you wanted me to call you muffin. Then you informed me that you are a chocolate chip muffin, Rae is a blueberry muffin, I am a banana muffin and Daddy is a cinnamon muffin. So, my little chocolate chip muffin, happy third birthday! I can’t wait to spend another year with you, exploring our world together, learning new things, hugging and kissing, reading new books, singing songs, practicing ballet, running down grassy hills, playing dress-up, giggling, crying, praying, licking cookie batter off beaters, making ourselves dizzy by spinning around and around in circles, going on girls’ shopping dates with Gaba, enjoying family outings with Daddy and Rachel Marie, dipping homemade scones in coffee (yes, I occasionally let you eat coffee-saturated scones), sharing family hugs (when we all come together to hug at the same time), going to eat at restaurants for a special treat, cuddling together before naps and bedtime and hearing you say, “I love you this much, Mommy” while you stretch your arms as far as they can reach…