Gosh. I can barely write this.
How has a whole year passed already? It seems like both yesterday and a million years ago that you were first put in my arms. Like you've always been a part of our lives but also like some wistful dream that's so wonderful it could hardly exist--or last.
I love you so much. In fact, I love you infinitely. As I rocked you for a few moments before bed last night, you sleepily looked up at me with those same wise eyes that first glanced at me one year ago today, and even though it's hard to put into words, it was so emotional because it felt like you--from your very first moments of life and breath, you were in those eyes; you, my little girl with whom no one else will ever share such a deep secret and connection, were looking at me in both instances, and last night the dejavu was like a drug. I was in heaven. And then I was in tears.
I cried because it felt like it was the last time I'd ever hold you as a baby. I knew that I wouldn't awake in the morning to anything truly different than the day before, but passing the milestone of counting your age by tiny, little months saddens me; now we've moved on to years, and as time passes by, we'll recount your life in decades.
Emma Vance, I'm not ready for you to be a child yet! I'm still reveling in your baby-ness--your snuggles, your chubby thighs, your weak little cries for me in the middle of the night... You're growing up so quickly these days, dear little one, learning new words and discovering new things each day so much that each day you are literally a different person. I want desperately to slow things down, to freeze this moment in our lives forever because everything seems so...perfect. I know that I'll always feel this way, simultaneously eager for and full of lament over your growth. I have loved every second of this past year, though, and can't imagine what the coming days will be like. All I know is that you'll soon truly be a little girl and will leave babyhood behind you without a second thought, whereas I, in contrast, will give it my second and third and fourth thoughts...
This year has truly been a whirlwind, and you have changed in countless ways. You've gone from a helpless little bean, wrapped in swaddling cloths and sleepy beyond measure, to a ball of energy, desirous for independence but desperate for companionship. This past month in particular you have blossomed in many ways: You speak in baby babbles, in incoherent words that seem to make all the sense in the world to you. You babble to yourself, to your toys, to your dogs, to us, and when your dad and I talk back to you, you act as if you know exactly what we're saying to you. These conversations seem to be one big game to you, and you (of course) are an expert. Your vocabulary (of actual words) is also growing by leaps and bounds. "Wow" is be far your favorite word, and when you say it to strangers they always get the biggest kick out of your wittiness. You also say "mama," "dada," "nana," "baba," "hi," "yay," "dog," "kitty" and a variety of variations of those words (like "duck" which pretty much sounds like "dog," but we'll count it anyways).
Also, you're so close to walking, Emma Vance! This month you decided (or, rather, your grandma decided) it was time to practice your stepping skills, so you took off with your walker. You zip around behind that little plastic toy, songs and sounds a-blazing. I always end up having to walk alongside of you, fearful that one bad step will have you crashing into the fireplace; plus you can't yet turn around, so the 20-or-so feet of our living room doesn't keep you busy for long without help to make the return lap. The other day you took a half-step toward me but lost your balance, and I was sooo excited. Like embarrassingly excited. Then, this morning, you took two big steps toward me all by yourself. Oh, how I can't wait for you to walk! (I already have visions of you pushing one of those miniature shopping carts next to me in the grocery store.) For now, though, you are a crawler, and, man, can you crawl! It seems that everywhere you go is exciting, so you beeline ahead, panting with joy as you crawl. Your favorite destination is the stairs, and on more than one occasion this month I've found you halfway to your nursery before I've discovered you. (You are so stinkin' fast!) In those moments that I catch you, you always look at me through the stair rail with the most innocent puppy dog eyes, and I can't help but forgive you as you plead with me from behind imaginary bars.
Speaking of mischief--you are full of it these days! You are obsessed with cabinets (and pulling treasures out of them), glass objects (or really anything dangerous and breakable) and the dogs' bowls (as usual). You still love your toy corner and will play there nicely by yourself for a while, but it seems that nowadays you remember how fun grown ups' things can be, too. Like the toilet. Especially mid-flush. (We've also done a lot of post-mischief hand washing lately, BTW.) :) It seems that the only time you will sit still is to watch "Sesame Street" while you drink your bottle, meaning Mom and Dad have many of the episodes memorized already. Sigh. You've been much more boisterous in public over the past few weeks, too, so I've devised a plan to counteract your mischief: While in a store, when you get antsy from sitting too long, I put down a mat and let you stand at the end of the shopping cart. You hold onto the edge and march in place as I walk alongside of you, pulling the cart next to me. It's amusing to you to feel like you're walking up and down the aisles on your own, and it always brings a grin to your face...which brings a smile to mine.
You are drinking a lot more formula these days. In the past it was a pain to get you to take a bottle, but now you love to hold it yourself, drinking away happily as Abby Cadabby floats across the television. You don't eat baby food very much anymore; really the only one you still like is spinach and potatoes (yuck!), but I don't argue because, well, how else do you get a toothless baby to eat spinach? Your favorite foods are bananas, cheese, yogurt bites and organic cheese puffs. The cheese puffs are my secret weapon in public because they make you happy and keep your mouth too busy to fuss. :) We're in a phase of constantly trying new foods, and it seems that you may have gotten your mother's taste buds because you really only like bland foods. Your dad and I are working very hard to give you a good nutritional foundation, full of organic foods with lots of good, earthy varieties of things to eat. I hope that you will appreciate it one day as an adult. Your health is of the utmost importance to us, and we are doing everything we know how to in order to help you develop well.
Your top four teeth just came in, having made you a bit miserable for almost a month before finally breaking through. This has made for some mid-night wakefulness, and you're always so pitiful when you're in pain. :( Other than that, we're still utilizing a flexible schedule to give predictability to your daytime routine, and it is wonderful. Each day you wake up around 7 a.m., nap from 10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., and go to bed at 8 p.m. It makes you a happy baby to be on-schedule, so your dad and I work very hard to keep our little one happy. You don't cry much anymore at nighttime, but rather prefer to babble yourself to sleep (so sweet sounding!). However, for your nap times you will try anything for a few more moments with us before having to fall asleep--including pooping your pants Yep. Pooping. It feels like everyday you poop while in your crib, making us take you out to change you before getting stern about your actually napping. It's quite the trick, so use it while you can; once you're potty trained, we won't find it so amusing! Ha!
E.V., you are so beautiful. Everywhere we go, people tell you so. ;) You bring joy into everyone's life that you touch in such a way that I'm amazed when I see it happening. Even as a small baby God has given you a very special gift--one that your Dad also shares: the gift of connection. You have a way about you that is unabashedly loving toward others. You have no fear of strangers, a desperation to befriend other children and a smile that brings joy to everyone around you. I hope you never lose this gift, but that it stays with you all your life. It surely is a blessing, just as you are.
You are the best thing that has ever happened to your dad and I. We love you fiercely, unconditionally, limitlessly. We believe in you; we are rooting for you; we would do anything--anything--for you.
Today we wish you the happiest of birthdays for the first time, and tonight I prayed for God to give you one hundred more to celebrate--although even a hundred years is insufficient time for me to show you just how much I love you.
Love you always,
Me (and Dad)
Thank goodness these photo shoots are over! We had to resort to distractions here at the end to keep the little wiggle worm still... ;)