I regret that I didn't write and share photos more in 2017 in this special space. The loss of Grandma Mary at the end of 2016 extinguished a spark in my heart. I worried that the spark could never return. I now know that her death changed me, Leah, as I know myself, evermore. It feels like I had to get used to this new version of me all year long. If you should lose a physical part of yourself--this is what I imagine it would feel like. How does one begin to live anew without want for what was lost? A leg, hands, sight, or hearing?
I find my motivation to keep going and learn how to live this new way comes from the truth that I am not alone. I do feel alone in grief. However I try to focus on the logic that there is a togetherness for us all. As humans we hurt, despair, weep, disbelieve. And if any other human can feel what I feel and keep going? Well, then I can, too. So that is what I can tell you about this year for me. It probably sounds horribly depressing, but you have to find the hope I have there inside it. The spark.
2017 began in a wake of grief, and 2018 will, too. But let's keep going. There are joyful moments yet ahead.
In 2017 - Daddy solidified his place as your best friend. You would never admit this; daddy might not even agree. You spend more time with daddy than anyone else. Because he is now a stay-at-home dad, he keeps your world in order. He cooks your meals and is your chauffeur, supervises your schooling and makes sure you do your homework, takes you out for adventures, plays video games with you, and also steadfastly continues to count down from 300 every night to help you fall asleep. Already in your short life, he has taught you what you need to look for in a best friend: devotion, humor, and companionship. We are still working on the quality of compromise.
In 2017 - You hit your independent stride. By the end of the year, you learned a lot at school but also taught yourself that you can enjoy doing things on your own and take the lead when you want to. You wake extremely early but don't expect much from us. You enjoy your alone time; talking to yourself in the bathroom, dressing yourself (this part is so entertaining to me), brushing your teeth, and playing by yourself. You are comfortable entering a room of children that you don't know and making friends. If we let you, you'd already be riding your bike to school by yourself or just getting your drivers license already so you can go to your cousin's whenever you want. You taught yourself how to play more video games and puzzles. You LOVE word searches. You strongly believe that you know everything about everything, especially now that you learn more in school. You inform me when your artwork is pointillism, about the traumatic plight of the pilgrims, and the right way to sing songs. Most exciting for daddy and I? Your ability to read on your own. You grew leaps and bounds with your reading this year. I'm a little proud to brag that you read at an intermediate level already at the age of 6, along with only 2 other children in your first grade class. You went from reading your first book to us in May (I cried) --Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham to plowing through chapter books like the popular Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. (And don't EVEN ask me why adults want to CENSOR this book from children like you. Goodness gracious. These are the times.) We have throughly enjoyed the pleasure of telling you that you may read in bed until you fall asleep, when you are unwilling to stop after we read as a family, or because you are just having a hard time falling asleep! I also cried the first time that I walked in to check on you and you were asleep with a book on your chest. Clearly, daddy and I value reading.
However, looking ahead to this new year, we've got a squad goal: greater independence in the kitchen. Daddy and I tend to spoil you by serving you like we are your slaves. Let's get you making your own bowl of cereal for crying out loud.
In 2017 - You are having the time of your life. I am amazed at how much FUN you have at your fingertips. Dare I say, you are super privileged. You've got a crew of neighbor kids to run around with, opportunities to travel, go camping, and explore museums and parks, as well as enjoy your hobbies - biking, reading, playing video games, and training to be the next American ninja warrior. We are doing our best to keep it all balanced, as parents our age seem to obsess over. You know, SCREEN TIME. It's a thing. You are also learning to enjoy food beyond your sweet tooth. We are so proud that you are willing to try anything that daddy cooks or any restaurant we take you to. This is also something parents our age seem to obsess over. PURE, ORGANIC, NATURAL, DON'T EVEN CONSIDER A HOT DOG OR SODA. I think we are teaching you something in between the extremes, but if there is one thing I could name that is maybe the top joy in your life -- It's a serving of ice cream at the end of a long day. Well, actually, ice cream anytime of the day, of course. But ice cream before bedtime is a ritual from my childhood that you gladly embrace today.
In 2017 - There are some tough life questions you are continually contemplating. You are learning what pain, loss, and suffering are. You know daddy has cancer and what different things happen to people when they have cancer. You understand the concept of history and know what war is, which means you are very interested in learning how to discern what is real and pretend. Seeing commercials and knowing more and more people reveal more to you about death, illness, disabilities, and injustice. You process these by observing my lead and then asking questions at random moments where I am so caught off-guard that it almost makes me laugh. I hope you will always talk to me. You also have your cousins who are trying along with you to make sense of these things, and they had to learn about illness and death even earlier than you. Mostly, we show you that there is much to be learned in nature about peace and strength. There is the comfort in the science of our world as well as hope in what is mystical and we just can't explain. And when we talk about death, we talk about love.
In 2017 - I'm pretty sure I am a solid 2nd place for the best friend category.
I am always treading water as your mother; I get pulled under by my health issues but fight to stay above water for moments where I can be childlike and joyful with you. I give you my best when I have it, and that seems to make you happier than ever. When I don't have my best, I hope you don't notice. But I know you do. Still. As your 2nd best friend, you like when I am lying with you and we are cuddling. You appreciate that I take great care with the pain you have in your legs. When you have strong emotions, I don't ignore them or tell you how you "should" feel. I am willing to help you maybe go a little wild and crazy at times? I have taught you already that a good 2nd best friend is a little wacky, creative, affectionate, and ready to fill in when best friend #1 is down for the count. I've got daddy's back and I've got your back, buddy.
When I think about all of these attributes and adventures that have developed and taken place in just this one year for you, it is so unbelievably hard for me to imagine what I would share with you on January 1st, 2019! I am looking forward to more joyful moments. We are so blessed by everyone in our lives and the beauty around us. Here we go...