A Letter to My Girls 

  
Dear Darling Daughters,

Words can’t begin to express the joy that fills my heart when I watch you play.  There’s a closeness you have that I pray you will keep forever!  Once I worried about adding another baby to our family, and I find myself in that place of contentment and happiness again.  How could life ever become better, sweeter, than it is now?

This morning I snuck downstairs to start making breakfast while you snoozed happily away.  I don’t worry as much about leaving now that you have each other to keep company.  I cooked, cleaned the kitchen, mopped, and then you, my sweet big girl, appeared.  “I was sleeping,” you said, laughing, “and then Josie woke me up!”  Together we went to get our smiling happy baby ready for our day.

Tonight we sat together looking at photos as I prepared Josie’s paperwork for her American documents.  We exclaimed together over photos of our first baby learning to “read.”  We watched videos of you crawling, eating spaghetti, laughing… And, in a matter of minutes, we watched you grow all over again!  Time passed before our eyes, and while you were busy, your daddy and I talked.  We talked about life before you–how young and skinny we were. We talked about the stories behind the photos. We talked about today:  “Mama, I love you,” you said.  “I love you too, honey,” I replied.  “That’s music to my ears!” you fired back with a sweet smile.  We talked about you playing with your friends and trying out your Spanish for a while.  We talked about you being “too busy to play caballito with Josie.”  

Ahhh… My heart is so full! My cup runneth over!   

Sweet babies, I look forward to what tomorrow might bring: your sweet giggles, the cuddles and kisses, and the memories being made.  I know that tomorrow there will also be a point where my frustration will rise as my patience slowly fades.  I hope that isn’t the moment that you or I remember.  Even as I write this, I remember a moment last week. While grumpy, I managed to keep an even voice as I corrected you.  “Okay, mama,” you said, “I can do that.  Thank you for talking nice to me.” 

You, my girls, are growing before my eyes, and I want to remember every touch of your hand–holding onto mine as you nurse, grabbing my face as you kiss me goodbye…again…and again…  I want to remember the twinkle in your eye when you ask for pancakes.  I want to remember the grunt you let out as you demand attention, and the fullness of your smile when you receive it–pushing up onto your hands, ready to crawl. I want to remember the way you talk to yourself as you play.  And those moments of you together, when you ask me for the millionth time what your sister said with each coo she emits. 

You, my dear, sweet girls, are the sun in our day.  Shine on us.  Let us revolve around you a bit and collect your warmth.  You help our family grow.  You give us light and life.  Shine on, sweet girls.

Until tomorrow, sleep tight in my arms.
Love,
Mama
   

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The Golden Hour

Any parent can tell you the golden hour of the day is when the kids fall asleep.  Freedom!  It’s that time where you can read, watch a show, or maybe even just clean up the uneaten food they left all over the table in various bowls… 

This week our oldest had some kind of stomach virus.  (I swear it is because she won’t stop drinking the pool/bath water.) In addition to tummy troubles, she was restless, unable to sleep well, whiny, and overall, not very fun to be around. 

The third night, I literally gave my husband a high five as we walked home from a friend’s house.  The girls BOTH fell asleep in their strollers on the way home.  I began mentally planning what to do to fill up my golden hour.

Then the little monsters woke up.

I tried all my normal tricks: breastmilk, singing, fake sleeping, the silent treatment.  We took them out for another walk at 11:30pm, hoping they would fall back asleep.  Immediately I should have known we were in for a long one when Ale, looking around at all the dark houses, exclaimed loudly, “Heeeeey! What’s going on here?!  Why are all these people asleep?!”

Here are my monsters today. They took a break from plotting my nervous breakdown to be sweet with each other.

Pure Joy

There may be no greater delight than…

  • Watching my girls giggle together
  • Seeing them cuddled next to one another with arms slung above their heads fast asleep
  • Hearing the old one talk to the new one 
  • Hearing the new one coo at the first one
  • Dreaming of the fun they’ll some day have–telling secrets, sharing sorrow, growing in love

  Ahhh…how sweet it is!
  

Mommy Sandwich Every Night

  
This week my kid had her first ham sandwich.  I don’t typically buy sandwich meat from the deli counter, and if I ever do–it is turkey.  But my first day back to work called for a sandwich, and after a bite, Ale was a ham lover.  She seems to sense when a sandwich has been made, and after a bite or two, she slides over to snatch it from my hands.

Today she asked for a sandwich, and I told her we were out.  She said, with more than a little exasperation in her voice and eyes slightly buggy, “Do we have peanut butter?  Do we have jelly?  Put it together, and that’s a sandwich!

Now it is the finish of a long day, and I am lying in bed with my sweeties on both sides.  I can’t help thinking that this is the only sandwich I want: a mommy sandwich.  I can hear both of them breathing, and every once in a while, a little snore.  Ale is cuddled in her “big girl bed,” which is flush against our bed.  She has her Barbie (with wet hair after her bath) and her baby lying beside her.  (Baby had to come to bed with us tonight, because she wanted chichi.)

My chichi monster is on the other side of me.  She’s propped up on my boppy with her arms thrown up in the air.  Her binky is lodged between her ear and the pillow, where it fell when her suckling stopped.  She’s already kicked her blanket down below her feet, but soon she will be recovered to ensure her warmth in our air conditioned bedroom.  Her breathing is a bit erratic and is interrupted by little grunts.

Some people don’t like sleeping with others.  They say they sleep better alone.  Babies sleep in cribs with monitors allowing the parents mothers to listen from afar.  It is true that I will wake up half a dozen times tonight.  Josie will nurse at least twice.  But sleeping with Mama means that her stretches of sleep are around five hours.  Ale might have a nightmare; that has been happening lately.  Mami can soothe her right away with a little pat or a song.  Victor will come to bed in another hour or so, and that will wake me up too.  Someone may need a diaper change or a drink of water.  We can’t all sleep like a baby husband, so I will be awake at the slightest change in breathing.

I don’t mind.

Being the middle part of a mama sandwich is the best job around.  In fact, you might say that despite the love we have been showing sandwiches these days, a mama sandwich is still the most popular sandwich on the menu.

A Letter to Our New Baby

Dear Sweet Baby,

I am lying in bed in the middle of the day with you at my side.  You are starting to drift off to sleep, and your eyes keep fluttering shut.    Sissy is busy, and Daddy walked to the store, so we have a few minutes of just you and me. 

   

I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in nearly eight weeks!!  You have started to fill out, and your cheeks are so chubby!  I love watching your dimples when you flash a big smile at me when I talk to you.  

Tomorrow I leave you and Daddy for the first of many days where I have to go to work.  I don’t want to leave you, precious baby.  I don’t want to think about you growing without me, but I’ve been through this before:  Your first laugh will probably be at your silly daddy.  You will roll over with him as a witness.  You will reach out and grab his nose in wonder.  You will push up on all fours with Daddy watching you.  You will walk with Daddy, talk with your daddy, and play with Daddy at the park.  One day soon, I will come home and hear how big you are because of something new that you’ve done, and my heart will burst.  I will have to fake happiness, while secretly hiding my jealously.

For the next year, you and your daddy are going to be best friends. You will reach for him when you need something.  He will be the one to dry your little eyes and comfort you when you fall down.  Daddy will be your hero, and that’s okay.  He’s my favorite too.

Mama will steal moments with you at night while everyone else is asleep.  You and I will put your sister and daddy to bed; when they are fast asleep, we will get up and sneak out of the room.  We will cuddle together on the couch, and I will nurse you until the sandman visits you with dreams too. 

  
You’re asleep now, my love, and I hope you’re dreaming of me, because you are what MY dreams are made of.  

Love,

Your mama (on the eve of her return to work)

A Birth Story, Part Four (The Birth)

When I booked the reservation at the hotel, something told me that my little girl would cut our visit short.  I completely relaxed during that final day, and perhaps that is what coaxed my littlest love to arrive: a mommy’s body doesn’t cooperate well when it is in a stressful situation.

(*See footnote for explanation of “Ding Dang Baby.”)

My contractions began at around 11pm, and I just continued to read while relaxing in bed.  They seemed pretty steady though, and I mentioned them to Victor about an hour later.  He asked if I wanted to go home.  I didn’t really see the need of abandoning our hotel room until we knew for sure this was it.  I also wasn’t in a hurry: Ale took forever to be born, so I thought we had plenty of time ahead of us.

Ale was asleep, so I just continued to monitor the situation without waking her.  Finally, I decided I would use the app on my phone.  It helped me to realize that maybe we were further along than expected.  Around 2:30am we started the process of cleaning up and packing up the hotel.  Ale awoke and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t go swimming.  She had started the day wearing her swimsuit and tutu, and at this point was dancing around the hotel room wired.  I had been telling her for a month that her sister was “coming soon,” so she was pretty unphased.  That is until the contractions were strong enough for me to need to stop and breath.  “Mama, stop!  Stop doing that!” she said more than once.

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This was our last family photo before Josie was born.  Victor was a little irritated that I wanted a photo during my labor–so there was no time for a retake!

Victor called his mom to let her know I was in labor, and I called the midwife as we were leaving the hotel.  I also notified my mom and sister, as promised.  Clearly it was the middle of the night, as both of them asked me if I was going to go home…  Umm, no, I thought I would I would just use the bathtub here.  

This chat spans a couple of hours.

I not-so-patiently checked out of the hotel.  Contractions were pretty strong, and I had to stop to breath through them several times during the process.   I would feel one beginning, and tell the middle-aged man behind the counter, “Excuse me.”  Then I would turn my back on him, walk to the wall, hold on, and breath for a minute.  When the contraction subsided, I walked back, smiled, and apologized.

The taxi arrived and I joined my family outside.  (My husband must have been a little nervous.  He let my toddler pee in front of the hotel before getting in he taxi.  No time for a bathroom break! No sir!)  The ride home was pretty quick.  I sat in the front seat just to continue making middle-aged Mexican men uncomfortable.

We arrived home and began getting the room ready.  Remember when I said I thought we had plenty of time?  Well, we didn’t prepare the room before leaving for the hotel… So there we were, 3:30 in the morning getting everything in order.  I went through the baby basket and cleaned off the table in our room.  (By “cleaned off the table,” I actually mean I swept everything into a bag and stashed it in the closet.)  I am pretty sure Victor swept and mopped.  Finally, I took a permanent break from getting the room ready to concentrate on getting my body ready.

 My contractions were strong.  I know this next part sounds crazy, so don’t judge me: As a contraction would start, I would imagine a tall skinny man.  That’s what it felt like.  The contraction was like a long line that went down my back.  With my hands braced against the wall, I would start at his head and breath my way down his body.  Weird, I know.  It helped though, a coping mechanism of sorts.  I also nodded my head as I breathed, so I am pretty sure I looked nuts too.

The bathroom was nice because it was dark and private, but at this point it felt good to stand up.  I didn’t want to bend over, lay against the sink/wall, squat on the toilet, etc.  It felt good to stand straight pushing out to my sides with both hands against the doorframe.  My midwife arrived and did a quick check on the baby.

She, her crew, and Victor worked in the bedroom to get the pool set up and filled.  I literally didn’t see my husband again until the baby was born.  My labor was requiring all my concentration, and I didn’t have a break or all the time in the world to chit-chat like I did with Ale.  Finally I asked if the tub was ready, and continued my labor there.

I have sweet memories of Ale during this time.  She would check on me during contractions.  A couple times I remember her getting right down in my face and smiling a big, fake, slightly terrified looking smile.  I was aware that she was there and needed some reassurance.  I would smile back (I think, although it was probably more of a grimace.), tell her I was fine, and let her know baby sister would be there soon.  She joined me, bathing suit and all, in the birthing tub.  My midwife showed her how to pour water on my back during the contractions.  At some point, she got out and fell asleep in the next room.  Later I found out that she refused to remove her bathing suit before sleeping.

In the pool my contractions changed.  They weren’t a tall, skinny man anymore.  They morphed into a short, fat man.  Instead of long pain, it was horizontal and stretched across my back.  The short, fat man wasn’t nearly as nice as the tall guy. The coolest thing is that depending on my pain, my midwife knew where the baby was.  She didn’t make me get out of the water to check the progress, because she could tell the labor was progressing.  She also didn’t check to see that I was dilated, so I have no idea how far along I was.

It seemed like I was in the birthing tub for hours.  Later, Tirsa (the midwife) told me it was only about an hour.  I laid down a while, like one might in a bathtub.  Then Tirsa said it could help to change my position and move my hips.  I would ask questions like, “Why is there no break?” “Why does it only hurt on one side?”  She would just answer, and we would rest until the next contraction.  She applied counter pressure to by lower back and hips during the contractions, as well as pouring the warm water over my back.  I was on my knees while lying against the side of the tub.  I remember somehow working my way from one side of the tub to the other.

I didn’t voice these thoughts aloud, but in my head I thought, “Never again.” “I understand why women like drugs,” etc.  When I started getting the urge to push it seemed unreal.  With Ale I would push, then fall asleep in between contractions.  With Josie, there was no time!  I remember telling everyone I felt like I needed to poop.  (A bit embarrassing now…)  Tirsa said, “That’s because your baby is coming!”  Someone got my errant husband, and he held me at the end.  Three contractions back-to-back and Josie arrived!  I was on my knees, so they helped her swim between my legs to the front.  I laid back, and put her on my chest.  Wow.  That feeling.  Even writing about it now makes me tingle inside.

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The hours after her birth were amazing too.

I had watched this really inspiring video about the breast crawl, and I wanted to see if it worked.  We moved to the bed and placed Josie on my chest.  It was totally cool!  Within 30 minutes she latched onto my breast.  I delivered the placenta, but it was just placed into a bag alongside of us.  I don’t remember when we cut the cord, but it was so calm in the room, it wasn’t a big deal!  I moved to rest against the wall, and we continued to work on breastfeeding.  I had (mistakenly) thought that after nursing Ale for 2 years and 4 months, I would be a pro.  Wrong.  Feeding a newborn is no task for the faint-hearted!

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I feel like I should reiterate how calm it was.  Maybe I felt calmer because it was my second baby, but the general atmosphere of the room (and the people present) was peaceful with Josie.  I had a home birth and water birth with Ale, but it wasn’t exactly the calmest environment.  In fact, Josie’s entire labor was MUCH calmer.  When it was over, I almost immediately felt like I could do it again.

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Ale meets her sister, Joselyn Victoria.  (Josie’s name is a combination of my brother, Joseph, and my sister, Jenny Lyn.  Her middle name is in honor of her Papi, Victor.)

I have so enjoyed looking back over the photos.  The following photos are of the hours/days following Joselyn’s arrival:

 

 

 

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Josie is one day old! (Yes, she’s at McDonald’s.  We took her sister there after registering Josie’s birth with the powers that be…)

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Ale’s special Big Sister cake that she helped to make. (Because only BIG girls get to cook with Mami–not babies.)

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Daddy and Josie!

 

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Sister still likes to poke the baby’s cheeks! I blame that on old Mexican women who always grab her cheeks. 😉

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Abuela and Josie; My mother-in-law is something special.  Upon meeting Josie, she THANKED me.  It still makes tears come to my eyes to think about it!

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Los Abuelos! Having them here for Josie’s birth was really special.

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Sweet girl…

* “Ding Dang Baby” is from a Jacqueline Woodson book, Pecan Pie Baby.  I read the book when I was pregnant, and I sat and cried in my office.  It is all about a sister who isn’t overly excited about the birth of her sibling.  She calls him a “Ding Dang Baby.”  I was really worried about Ale being hurt or feeling replaced by Josie.  After reading the book to my mom, we often referred to Josie as the “Ding Dang Baby.”  This is an AMAZING book, by the way.

** I am SO happy I have these text messages with Mama and Jenny.  Not only do they remind me of details, but they provide quite a bit of comic relief!

A Letter to My Baby on Her First Birthday

My Dearest Alita,

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love

I can’t believe it has been a whole year since you brightened up this world!  I’ve spent the last three days looking at photos from your birth and those early days.  You were so small!  I see the look on your Papi’s face in those photos and it brings tears to my eyes.  He was so nervous, little girl, but oh-so-excited for your arrival.  And now, a year later, you are still his whole world.

And the first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hands
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love

Ah! kisses! You make me smile and giggle with glee when you give us kisses, baby.  Those open-mouthed slobbers are the sweetest kisses I’ve ever received.  Daddy asks in Spanish, and you happily oblige him–climbing on his chest, then standing up beside him with pride you clap your hands.  Sometimes you pat my tummy or blow raspberries on it.  How I wish we had more moments like this: laughing and giggling together.  These memories are more precious than all the treasure in the world.

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time, my love

When I think of your birth, there are some things I am sure of:  Having you at home was one of the best decisions I’ve made.   That first day was bliss.  I carried you next to my heart with the greatest pride!  God gave you to me–and you grew strong inside of me.  YOU are my greatest accomplishment!  I remember snuggling you, touching your soft skin in wonder, and waiting for you to wake up and need me.  Now you are sleeping soundly in your spot (mostly taking over my side of the bed) with the covers kicked off.  

The first time ever I saw your face…

A year of loving you isn’t enough, my littlest love.  I need a lifetime more.

Love,
Your Mami

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Hours after birth…

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One year older!

Bad Mom?

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I have a theory. I think that every mom and dad must have moments like the one I had yesterday. But they are so worried about what someone will think–that they don’t share them. And so instead, a cycle continues where new parents feel like they are the worst parents in the world…

The story begins on Sunday. My little family went to the mall, and decided to stop in the toy store. My daughter doesn’t have that many toys, and now that she’s super fun, I wanted to find some development appropriate toys. Nothing expensive. Nothing the requires batteries. Something to help her brain grow.

My husband, ever the practical one joked, “You know that most moms who buy lots of toys feel guilty. The baby doesn’t need toys–she needs you to play with her.”

And then my eyes sprung a leak.

The next day, after walking out of the store empty handed, I tried to explain to my husband why what he said hurt the feelings of this teacher mom teacher-mom. After being with 18 other children all day, I get home tired. I sometimes need a break. And that means that regardless for the great love I have for my daughter, sometimes I don’t want to play. That conversation ended with frustration, but with a resolve to give more to my baby.

Which brings us to yesterday. I need exercise to give me energy and keep me healthy. I need to spend time with my littlest love. Why not combine the two? Into the jogger went Ale. I buckled her in then headed out. Along the way we sang songs (she sings when I sing), and I talked to her about all the neighbors. We stopped at a co-teacher’s house, and I parked the stroller. I turned around to ring the doorbell. Can you see where this is going?

I heard a strange noise, and turned quickly to see Ale’s stroller rolling. And falling. And crashing.

This story could end very differently. This careless mother could have greater sadness in her heart. Lucky for little Ale (and her Mama), she crawled (almost!) away with a little scrape on her forehead. I sat down, held her, rocked her, nursed her, and prayed through my tears. We brushed ourselves off and continued our outing. All the while I debated if this was a story I should share with my husband.

I’m glad I did. He said, “Things like that happen sometime…” Which leaves me wondering, Why did HE start using the brake list week?

Customer Service: It’s Important, People

I could have been convinced by United’s introductory video that customer service is important them. I could have been convinced, but then the stewardess on my first flight yelled at an elderly Spanish speaking woman to sit down and wait to board the plane. Of course she didn’t understand, but with childlike puzzlement, she knew that she had done something wrong. She glanced around helplessly, so the stewardess repeated herself…louder. Because, after all, it must be that she didn’t hear–despite the fact that the flight departed from Torreon, Coahuila MEXICO…

I could have been convinced that United cared about their customers, but upon arriving late into Houston on my return flight, I was greeted with, “EVERYONE missed their flight, you should travel with enough money to pay for a hotel in case you have weather problems.” No “I am sorry that you’re stuck in the Houston airport at night with your infant–let me help you find a hotel.” When I asked about other ways to get to Torreon, my “customer service” representative told me that she didn’t have time to wait on the phone to ask about flights. She couldn’t “hold the line” for that. See, doing things like helping seems to be beyond United Customer Service employees. That must be why a twelve year old child was crying while trying to find a hotel for her family. She was the only one who spoke a bit of English, but did the ONE Spanish speaker (the same agent who “helped” me) offer to help? Obviously in distress, other passengers offered food, water, and money to the woman and her two children.

I could have been convinced by the lady who did finally help me get a hotel. It was then apparent at nearly 10:30 that evening that my flight had only been delayed. But due to the misinformation I was given, my baby and I went on a wild goose chase to track down new flights and luggage. She could have convinced me if she didn’t keep looking at the clock while telling me she needed to go home…

I could have been convinced the next day at the Houston airport that employees received training on how to talk to customers. However, the “gentlemen” sitting next to me talking about “having sexual relations” (it wasn’t worded like that) with a girl who “wanted it,” made me think otherwise. When I asked them to save their conversation for their break room, I was questioned, “We’re we talking to you?” Ummm…no, sir, you were apparently not raised to bite your tongue around ladies and children… Actually, the fact that you keep staring at the children you are supposed to be caring for while they wait for their grandfather, intermittently saying, “Sit down!” explains a lot too. Forget the fact that a eight year old and her six year old sister are nervous and excited to be so far from home alone. Forget the fact that their parents paid a lot of money for United to “escort” them to their destination.

While waiting to get on the plane, I thought perhaps I would be able to ask the lady helping board the plane about my seat. After all, breastfeeding on a plane is difficult enough–proper seating with space if allowed makes it much easier to travel with a four month old baby. I could have been convinced that passengers could go to her for questions regarding flights, but after being turned away once because she was busy, waiting until it was time to load, hearing her help another young parent, instead she says to me, “They”ll probably have to move your seat anyway because you have a baby.” Appalled not by her words, but more by the way she said them with heavy agitation dripping in her voice, I asked her name. “Maria ____,” I said, reading her badge. “Really!?” she said loudly and indignantly, “Really? Because there aren’t any window seats?” I was shocked a bit beyond words at the tone of her voice and the challenge I heard there.

Despite the fact that priority seating is not given to parents with small children, another young mother asked, “Why?” politely. “United has their reasons,” she was told. “We give priority to our premium customers.” Perhaps United doesn’t want parents with children to fly with them?

I didn’t have any guitars for United to break. I am not musically inclined enough to write a YouTube hit. But I am equally distressed by United’s customer service. It’s apparent to me that no, customer service isn’t important to United. For every helpful employee there are three more equally hateful. The propaganda video that I watched three times wasn’t enough to convince me. After all, actions speak louder than words, people…

Something to Smile About

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I made my way to the highest point I could, and I waited.

The anticipation builds, but your eyes stay glued to the horizon.  A tiny pin-prick of light appears on the other side of the dark mountains in front of you.  It spreads across the sky as if the sky is cracking open–lighting up the clouds with beautiful blues and purples.

It takes your breath–and you can’t look away for fear of missing something extraordinary.  I used to think that there was nothing like a Tennessee Sunrise in the morning.  Until now.

By far, the best thing about sleeping with my baby is when we wake up.  This morning it was with eyelashes fluttering against my arm where her head was rested.  Some mornings it is with her rooting for something good to eat like a little piggy–soft snorts and whistling letting me know how hungry she is.

Sometimes my baby wakes with a startling cry–and I wonder if she had a bad dream.  Maybe a nightmare that she was all alone (because bad guys with guns don’t exist yet in her world).

Occasionally, she’ll start cooing and talking.  Sometimes a bit of whining.  Every once in a while, I will feel her hand slapping against me with erratic movements–as if to say, “Hey, Mama! It’s morning!  Time to wake up!”

Today it was eyelashes.  So I opened my eyes and stared lovingly into her great big brown eyes.

“Good morning,” I said softly, “Good morning, sweet angel.”

Then, it was the moment that I wait for.  A little twinkle appeared first, then the sweetest smile spread across her face lighting up the room.  And I couldn’t look away for fear of missing something extraordinary.

It used to be mountain morning sunrises.  Those sunrises have got nothing on my sweet sugar’s smile.