A Constructed Life

The construction site is slowly turning into a home

It’s been over a month since my miscarriage and overall, I’m doing well. The overwhelming sadness is gone, but I think part of me will forever mourn the child we lost and feel millions of “what ifs” for the rest of my life. No final decisions made on whether or not to have another child. Thanks to everyone for privately checking in and sending your love. 

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It’s been 2.5 months and we’re about 2/3 of the way through our kitchen/hallway/bathroom remodel.

We started with this – my grandparents’ kitchen.

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Wallpaper removed (before we decided to gut the entire thing).

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We bought the house (instead of renting) and decided to go big, removing the wall (and everything else) separating the kitchen from the rest of the house. We started in late January.

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No more walls! This was a huge step, as the wall between the kitchen and dining room/living room area was a load bearing wall filled with heating ducts and electrical wires. Not to mention that the plaster on all the walls, all of which had to be removed, was over an inch thick. Getting to this point took a huge amount of work. Joey and his cousins took down the wall and replaced it with that enormous LVL beam to support the second floor. That beam weights hundreds of pounds. Please also notice that the sink has been removed – which means there’s no running water on the first floor. I’ve been washing dishes and filling water bottles in the basement sink for weeks.

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Drywall! We debated hanging the drywall ourselves, and I’m so glad we didn’t. The guys we hired had it up in 4 hours and taped and mudded in no time. It would’ve taken us weeks and probably turned out like crap.

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Paint and hardwood floors! I thought installing hardwood floors was way beyond our DIY abilities. I got quotes to have them installed and pleaded with Joey not to attempt it. He was dead set on us doing it. And we did it. It was a painstaking process because of all the cuts we had to make to get the floors flush around doorways and stairs, but I think we did well for our first time. We also saved $600.

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Cabinets, appliances and countertops come next, along with getting to move food and pots and pans back into the kitchen, having running water again and eating at an actual table. I cannot wait.


Next Steps

The question I get asked most these days is, “How are you doing?” It is asked with kindness and true concern from family and friends – those who know I miscarried 17 days ago, more than a few of them having experienced the same thing. And my answer is this: I’m good. I think. It’s hard to say.

My life makes it very easy to live in a place of distraction, especially distraction from myself. I spend (almost) all day, every day meeting the needs of my family. Sometimes I feel like I’m living just a few inches outside of myself – close enough to be an active participant, but far enough to avoid getting dragged into heavy emotions. I don’t know how good I am at being present, though it’s something I often think about and actively strive for. And I don’t know that this is a new way of being for me. Rather, I think this is a way of being for me – something I found during adolescence when things got just a little tougher than I liked. This has always made it easier to move on, to carry on, no matter what’s going on around me. But. Despite the miscarriage, despite the whatever that may be making life uncomfortable in the smallest or biggest way, I feel like I’m finding my way back to myself. Oddly, I feel like the miscarriage somehow pushed me back to myself.

Right now, I’m trying to stick close enough to find some clarity. Right now, I am wanting that baby I didn’t get to have. Right now, I am wanting a full, growing belly, a trip to the delivery room, a small new body tucked to my chest and the adventure of watching a child discover the world and themselves. I am wanting the things I lost 17 days ago. The struggle is determining if there’s longevity to those desires – do I really want this? Or am I still working my way through losing a baby? Our decision is to wait. To wait until clarity comes and give it ample time to arrive. But here’s one thing I do know – that this in itself is a distraction. The possibility that maybe I will get to have another baby. That maybe this lost pregnancy wasn’t my last chance. When clarity comes, and if the answer is no more babies, I think that will unlock another step in the mourning process. That those days are over and the what ifs will always linger.

For now, I’m just trying to be here. To stay connected. To take a cue from my kids, who are the most present people I know, and seize every single second and live the crap out of it, whether they’re whining because their pancake isn’t a perfect heart or walking down the street without stepping on a single crack “because the cracks are lava and your feet will burn and then they’ll die and then you won’t ever be able to walk ever ever again so Mommy don’t step on the cracks because then I’d have to carry you and you’re too big and you need to carry me in case I step on a crack.” They throw themselves into every moment. And quite frankly, that sounds exhausting to me. I just want to try really being there with them while their doing it.

See? It’s exhausting.
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Rounding the Corner

I am doing much better. A few days ago, I didn’t quite know how I was going to climb out of my dark, emotional hole. But before I knew it, I was standing outside of it. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive, visiting, calling and frequently checking in to see how I’m doing and sharing their own stories of miscarriage. My children, who have no idea they almost had a sibling, have been the greatest help, reminding me every moment that I’m blessed to have them and they’re getting big fast, so I better dive in to every moment I can.

The whole experience of being pregnant and losing a baby almost feels like a dream now. The most challenging part is switching my brain from “I’m pregnant” to “not pregnant.” I still occasionally find myself resting a hand on my tummy absent mindedly, and then remember there’s nothing in there anymore. I’ve gone on a nitrate binge since it’s only my health to worry about now, gobbling up sandwiches stacked with layers of lunch meat. I can drink coffee and wine by the boat-load now, though I have to say every sip of my first drink brought a little sadness with it.

As for adding a third child to our family? It’s doubtful. We’re charmed by the idea of babies, but are deterred by the high level of work and attention they require. For now, we’ll enjoy the life and kiddos we currently have and stay open to all of the adventures that come with them.

 

 


Emotions, emotions, emotions

The best way for me to process things is to write about them. Right now I’m writing all this mostly just for me, to try to get all these feelings out. I’m having a hard time sorting through this miscarriage, and I will probably be here writing about it until I find some clarity and feel ready to move on. I hope that comes soon.

It’s been 3 days since I lost the baby. I learned I was pregnant a few days before my 36th birthday, so in mid January. We were 100% shocked as we’d been using birth control. A few months earlier, in September and October, we were having conversations about a third child and came really close to pulling the trigger. Our kids were getting bigger, we missed having a baby around and thought we may want that experience again. But as time went on, we both realized a third would be pretty life altering, as we were very accustomed to life with our 2 bigger kids (5 and 3) and things would really change with a new baby in the picture. Back to diapers, even more sleepless nights, hauling a baby to big-kid activities, a baby coming on family vacations, a few more years of me staying at home, having to dig deep to find the patience, energy and time to give to another child. So for all those reasons, we made the choice to not expand our family. And we felt good with that choice. I started giving our baby stuff away. We began planning Joey’s vasectomy.

And then, in early January, I started feeling all my classic pregnancy symptoms. I chalked it up to a weird hormonal shift, but the symptoms never dissipated. Two positive pregnancy tests confirmed things.

It took about two weeks to even believe it was true, and while I had moments of excitement over experiencing the journey of motherhood again, I spent most of the pregnancy feeling completely overwhelmed and wondering how I was going to do it. How was I going to make each of my three children feel equally loved and important? How would I maintain any shred of sanity when my two so frequently tore it apart? How would I not lose myself completely into the demands of mothering three kids? I can’t say that I ever felt truly excited about this baby, just scared.

But now. Now I feel such loss. A loss of possibilities, a loss of what that life would’ve been like with all it’s craziness, stress and joy. An adventure was waiting for us and an opportunity for our family to grow in so many ways, and it disappeared in an instant.

I can’t help but wonder if it was something I did. The baby died around 7 weeks. And right around that same time I carried a heavy table up the stairs from our basement. And as soon as I set it down, I felt an odd pins-and-needles sensation in my abdomen. My doctor has assured me that it takes much more than carrying a heavy table to end a pregnancy. That this baby’s chromosomes were most likely off and nature was taking care of things in its own way. That this was not a healthy, strong pregnancy. That many, many women experience miscarriage. Even in my own circle of friends, about half of us have lost babies. For some reason, probably because I’ve had two healthy pregnancies, I never thought I would join this group of women.

I had a D and C (they remove “the products of conception”) on Monday, 45 minutes after I learned the baby had died. Their was an ultrasound technician in the room helping to guide the doctor in removing everything. I was awake, but numbed up, the entire time. At the very end, I caught a glimpse of the ultrasound screen and saw my empty womb. And I remembered with my other pregnancies, it was always my biggest fear that during the first ultrasound I would look at the screen and there would be nothing. And now that’s what I was seeing.

From the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test, this whole things has been so surreal and emotionally intense. I am eager for clarity – to understand how I really feel about this. Am I happy with having 2 children or do I want 3? Even in writing that my gut reaction is to be done at 2. I think I’m simply struggling with the baby phase of my life being over and stepping into the next phase, which seems to be a wide open space that I’m not sure how to fill. Learning I was pregnant filled that space for me. The future was no longer unknown.

I know I will get through this. That the other side is waiting for me and there will be peace in there somewhere and I will move on. The gratitude I have for my children and friends and family has been so amplified in these last 3 days. All that I love I thought I lost with the baby is still right here.


To the child I never met

Dear Baby,

You would’ve been our third child. You were not planned, your occurrence happened accidentally, despite our diligent use of birth control. And for that reason, you seemed like a message from the universe, telling us our family was not done. It was meant to grow more.

I’ll be honest and say I had a hard time wrapping my head around your existence and saw many challenges with your arrival. We’d need a bigger car. How would we all fit in this little house? Would we ever get a babysitter again? How would I find more of myself to give when I already felt tapped out? There were only a handful of moments when I let myself feel a tingle of happiness over your existence, when a memory from my earlier experiences of motherhood would return and I’d realize I’d get to experience those things again. I started trying to find a name for you almost immediately. I wanted to find the perfect combination of adorable and underused, something that started with the letter B, to complete the alphabetic trio of Adeline and Crosby. Your birthday was meant to fall right in between theirs – September – and your name would’ve followed suit. It all seemed like the perfect fit. Your due date was your daddy’s birthday.

I am sorry you didn’t make it. I am sorry that I never met you. I am sorry that your life was only 7 or so weeks long. I want you to know that even though you weren’t planned, I still loved you. But I think somehow I knew you weren’t going to make it. I hesitated to think about you or to plan for you or to talk about you. And about 10 days before we learned you had died, I told your dad that I didn’t feel pregnant anymore. And shortly after that I began bleeding, which ended in an ultrasound showing your little undeveloped body. I knew instantly that you didn’t make it. I knew what a 12-week-old in utero should look like and you were just so small. I could barely make out the beginnings of your limbs.

And what I learned was that I wanted you, I was just too shell-shocked by your existence to know it until I learned that you no longer existed.

In my heart, I always felt that you were a girl. I had a dream early on about you and I awoke thinking I had felt you kicking. Three solid kicks. I can still almost feel them. I knew it couldn’t be real since you were far too small, but I am so grateful for that dream. To at least have had the sensation of you moving.

I will always wonder about you, about what would have happened if you had been allowed to live – how our lives would’ve changed, how Addy and Crosby would’ve reacted to another sibling. It is hard to let the idea of you go. Cause even while I felt overwhelmed by having another child and caring for and adapting to a third, I did start getting used to the idea of you joining us. And I knew at the moment of your arrival everything would’ve clicked into place. The universe’s grand plan would’ve made sense and we would’ve rearranged our worlds to fit you. And the love – we would’ve loved you so much. And I feel so sad that I don’t get to. I’m so sorry.

A miscarriage is a horrible thing to experience. But it makes me that much more grateful for the two healthy children I already have – that my body was able to have children at all.

So now we will begin the process of trying to get back to a place I thought I never wanted to leave – being a family of four instead of a burgeoning family of five. I will never forget about you and will always consider you one of my children. I just wish our story would’ve ended differently. Maybe in another universe it does. Maybe you get to grow into a strong, healthy baby and we get to take you home and build a life with you. Maybe in another universe there is a photo album of you filled with your pictures and milestones. Maybe in another universe I get to kiss you and tell you to your face that I love you. I like those plans for you and will chose to believe that somewhere out there, you do exist.

I love you and will forever miss not having the opportunity to know you.

Love,

Your Mama


Turning our New House into Our New House Via Sledge Hammer and Crow Bars

At the advent of this blog, another lifetime ago, Joey and I were gutting and rebuilding an entire house. We destroyed that home and spent years rebuilding it into the best version of itself, wrapping up that mega remodeling project just as Adeline was born.

Here I am, circa 2009, super preggers with Addy, showing off our new appliances, “like a knocked-up Price Is Right model,” to quote myself.

Six years later, we’re doing it again to the house we just bought. Except not to the same extreme and with two little kids to help get in the way.

Here’s what my kitchen looks like right now. That black thing is part of our Shop Vac.
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Here’s what it looked like before Joey and two of our friends ripped it apart. (The kids and I evacuated to my parents’ house)

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The walls look so horrible due to wallpaper glue that stuck to them after we peeled off the wallpaper.

Here’s what the kitchen looked like for most of my life, when my grandparents lived here. Except it wasn’t quite so cluttered. This was taken after my grandma moved to assisted living.

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Here’s the current view of the dining room. We’re removing that entire wall, which, unfortunately, is filled with very important things, like heating ducts and lots of electrical wires, that all need to be rerouted. It’s also holding up the second floor, so we have to install special support beams, etc… But the new open concept kitchen will be worth it. Right?

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Here’s what the dining room looked like before Joey tore into the wall.

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And here’s what it looked like before we moved in. It’s chaos, as my family had just moved my grandma to assisted living.

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Of course we let our kids draw on the walls and floors before demo started.
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Marker party! This fun activity came with 100 strict warnings to not ever do this ever again. Not ever!!!

And our first floor half-bath (that has always and forever looked like this)?

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It’s in a dumpster in the driveway.
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We let the kids take a crack at demo to see if they’d prove useful. They didn’t.

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So. After a little break from home remodeling, we’re back at it, living in a construction zone. It sucks, especially now that we have to make sure tools are carefully put away and the dangers of exposed electrical wires are very clearly understood. While living like this is hugely inconvenient and a little stressful, I know it’s only temporary and the end result will be worth it. At least that’s what I tell myself every hour or so to stay sane.


The Big Girl Has Arrived

Dear Addy,

As a five-year-old, you are daily warning me – without even knowing it – of the challenges your preteen and teenage years will bring. Don’t get me wrong, you’re an amazing girl, a mostly sweet and loving 5-year-old who makes friends faster than I can count. And while you’re generally a good listener and rule follower, you’ve always had a mischievous streak. I’m seeing it more and more these days, as you nudge your toes past lines drawn in the sand and essentially give me a big f you by grinning at me while completely disregarding my requests.

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I blame it all on your lunch break at school. A few weeks into the school year, you came home with a revelation to share. “Mommy! Some kids ate their treat first! And then they didn’t even eat their sandwich! And none of the teachers said anything!” I smiled, delighted that in my absence you must’ve still been following our general rule of no dessert until after your meal. And then you gave me a daring look and said, “Mommy. I ate my cookie first. And then I didn’t eat my apple,” as if you were dropping some kind of lunchtime gauntlet, a nutritional Take that, Mom. In your face! I felt you watching my reaction closely. I said, “I trust you to make smart choices when you’re at school,” and left it at that. You looked thoroughly disappointed and confused.

School has brought along kids with older siblings. Kids who are privy to endless uses for the words butt, poop and fart and you, too, have found endless creative ways for this new, highly entertaining vocabulary. And you share it all with your brother.  You have learned such childhood classics as “Trick or treat smell my feet, give me something good to eat” and “Jingle bells, Batman smells, The Joker laid an egg.” You’ve also mastered the eye roll accompanied by an exasperated “Seriously, Mom!” And you are only five! I never expected you to advance so quickly. You’re also trying to master the phrase, “for real,” but keep saying “for real life” and I will never ever correct you because it’s far too adorable when you say it.

Addy, I miss you when you are at school learning new ways to use the word fart. It seems like such a long time to not know what you’re doing. I have a general idea of what goes on in your day, and you’re always happy when you come home and eager to return the next day. You are reading. Not just sounding out words, but real-deal reading books all by yourself. You can write sentences, add and subtract and create incredibly elaborate games that you then dictate to your brother, who is still young and enamored enough with you that he typically goes along with your plans.

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You have started dance classes, and while you don’t especially love them, you are the cutest little ballerina/tap dancer.

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A few weeks ago you kept complaining that your throat hurt. I was going to take you to the doctor, but then you woke up saying it didn’t hurt anymore. But it was in a voice that sounded different – slightly deeper, richer, less of a little-kid-chipmunck sound. I don’t know if it’s related, I just know that it’s so exciting and hard to see these glimpses of you growing up.

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I’m trying to stay on pace with you as you get bigger and older. Your friends are becoming more important to you, you want to make your own choices (like refusing to cut your hair) and seek more responsibility (you want to set the table), but still need your mommy, clinging tight to me in any new setting or as the big kids run by us as we enter school.

I notice you standing up for yourself more and debating rules with us more (you’re quite a negotiator/manipulator already). While I would love for you to just do what I ask, I am glad you sometimes question us. I want you to. I want you to fight for yourself and what you want. But after that, you should still listen to us, okay?

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I remain incredibly proud of you and devoted to helping you become the strongest, truest version of yourself. I want you to always know that you are loved and accepted and safe with us.

I love you, I love you, I love you, my sweet, sweet baby girl.

Love,
Mama


And then we bought a house

Our friends have teased us for months about our saran-wrapped grandfather clock.

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When we moved, well over a year ago, the movers quickly bound it in plastic to ensure its doors wouldn’t swing open as they hauled it from one home to the next.

Even after it was safely settled in its new location – my grandmother’s old house, our temporary home until we found a permanent one – we never unwrapped it. Because why bother unwrapping it when we were just going to move again? Why bother unpacking all the boxes? Why bother settling in when we’re hardly going to live here? Let’s just make do with the bare essentials and leave the rest ready for the next transition, right?

But the transition never came. The next move to the next home never happened, because we just couldn’t find another home to get excited about. All the dozens of houses we looked at never felt like the right fit. We became desperate for permanency. To be able to unpack the boxes, to settle in…to unwrap the clock. And in the meantime, we fell in love with our neighbors, our new friends, the location and our daughter’s school. We grew increasingly tired of being renters and not being able to leave our mark on the space we were living in.

So we bought the place. We bought my grandma’s house – the home we’ve been renting for over a year and never intended to live in for more than a few months.

We’re still not unpacking or settling in…yet. Instead we’re preparing for some pretty major renovations, like a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new plumbing (what’s here is no longer up to code), exterior painting and the list goes on and on and on.

When we moved out of our last house, one we spent 6 years gutting and rebuilding, I swore I’d never buy a fixer-upper again. Now I’ve realized it’s just kinda in my DNA. I don’t think I could buy a house without doing some kind of overhaul as a way to make it my own. And I’ve always had a soft spot for homes with good bones and a need for TLC. All I see is potential.

So, here we are. Home at last…in a home we’ve been living in all along. And while we’re holding off from unpacking, we did go ahead and cut the plastic wrap off the clock. Saran Wrap has never felt so symbolic.

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Practicing for Armed Robbery

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You know those little nylon footie socks that shoe stores leave out for women to use when trying on shoes? They’re way more fun when you don’t put them on your feet. I think that may be one of the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken of my son.

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Dear Baby Boy

Dear Crosby,

Right now, I am praying that I don’t get another call from your preschool saying that they can’t get you stop crying and I need to pick you up. Your first week of school started perfectly – no tears, no hesitation, just excitement for a new, independent adventure.

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That started crumbling on week two, as your time at school became marked by periods of crying, until by week three, you began the school day with tears that never stopped until I arrived to get you.

We’ve had many chats about school and why you don’t want to be there. The answer is always the same. “I want you, Mommy.” And it’s so sweet to hear that, to know that I am loved by you and your safe and comfortable place. But it is time for you to explore without me, because that is where your real growth begins. You can do this. I know you can. You just have to choose to see the new things waiting for you rather than the familiar things that are missing. We have read almost every book published about starting school and leaving Mommy. We have created games around going to school. We have watched videos about going to school. We have playdates with the boys in your class. I don’t know what else to do but try to stay positive and encouraging, listen to you and hold you and then simply send you off without looking back.

This has been a big summer for you filled with accomplishments. You essentially potty trained yourself in July. You tried it out a few times in the spring, then gave it up until one day I told you all the diapers were gone and just like that you started using the potty. Some bribery in the form of candy and toy cars was required, but it was way less stressful than the epic battles that ensued with your sister (who taught me that some things should not be forced, like potty training).

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You also overcame your fear of water in August, when you bravely walked through a wall of water to swoop down a water slide at the local pool. Much different than your trepidation and refusal to get even a drop of water on your head at the water park in June.

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Now, we are both adjusting to a huge change in routine, as we wake up early to get Addy to school then navigate our way through a day filled with just you and me. We both admit that we miss Our Addy, but then have lots of fun.

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And now the biggest adjustment you’ve made so far – getting used to standing on your own two feet without a familiar face to comfort you and finding that your own two feet can support you just as well.

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You are a sweet and transparent boy, telling us often that you love us, squealing “I’m so happy” when you’re excited, burying your face in your elbow if we pay too much attention to you or stomping off to pout when things don’t go your way.

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And your laugh – it bubbles out of you with such pure joy that it cheers up anyone nearby. As does your endlessly wonky hair. You’ve got two very unfortunate cowlicks – one on either side of your head – that I cannot get to stay down, which means your head looks like it may take flight at any moment thanks to your hair wings. That’s what you get for bury yourself so far down in the womb that your hair grew weird against my pelvic bones and I could barely walk during the last three weeks of my pregnancy.

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You are also relentless in everything you do, passionately aware of what you want and fixated on achieving it. Like when you want to get out of bed in the morning. Somehow we have magically trained you and your sister not to get out of your bed yourselves, so you don’t ever just wander into our room and begin harassing us. Instead you lay in your bed and yell, “Mommy! Mama! Mommy! Mama! Mommmmmmmmmyyyyyyy!” until I come and get you. It’s a jarring way to wake up, but when you are up, you are up – giggling and ready to play.

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You will be three-years-old at the end of this month and I cannot wait to keep learning who you are and watch you become self-assured. There’s a whole big amazing world waiting for you and I just know you’re going to charm the pants off it. So go explore, My Little Adventurer. Just make sure you wear your helmet.

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I love you, I love you, I love you my sweet, sweet Baby Boy.

Love,

Mommy.