Happy Birthday, Alice! You're one year old! What a fast year it has been too, and I can say that it has been the best year of my life (yours too ;D).
One year ago I delivered you into the world - it was excruciating and completely worth it. Already my body has helped me forget the pain. Your daddy was right there with me. He even cut the cord - a "real gusher." Gramma Jo was there too, waiting anxiously to meet you. Papa Bear and Aunt Lynnie woke up in the middle of the night to come see you. You were born at 3 a.m. weighing 7 lbs 15 oz and were 20.75 inches long. It was a whirlwind few weeks after that as everyone and their moms came to our home to meet you and bring you gifts. I wrote an incredible amount of thank you cards - people really love you.
When we brought you home we were terrified. In my fear I contemplated begging a nurse to come with us and wondered why on Earth they didn't give us a manual. This baby is important stuff! But we figured it out. You were so little and light and you slept all the time. You got up to eat all the time too, but when you weren't alert and taking in your new home, you were gently snoozing on someone. Even the crying and midnight feedings have been sanded down to smooth, vaguely fond memories. It's amazing how the mind romanticizes our trials. Must be a survival instinct.
You have gone from being a peanut to a newborn to a one year old. You jabber. You imitate noises. I just taught you how to make a popping noise with your lips and you're over-the-moon-delighted with it. You hug. You crawl at top speed - no walking yet, which I'm happy with. You're already fast; just wait 'til you get your legs. Your first words are: "mama," "more," "thank you," "no," "milk," and your new favorite "Amen!" You love to pray and shout "Amen!" or any two syllables you fancy to string together with an exclamation point at the end. I love it, and it makes my heart burst every time you say it after we pray. I can't wait for you to know what it means to talk with God.
You scream like a baby pterodactyl when you don't get your way. Or bury your face in the carpet, body on the floor. You smile mischievously when you do something you know you shouldn't - like, eat toilet paper. You love to take mommy's shoes out the boxes. All dozen of them. I can hear you gulp water out of your sippy cup clear across the room. You love to eat ice cream with us on the porch swing. Let's face it, you like to eat ice cream anywhere - totally my daughter. You nap twice a day and it's a breeze to put you down. We nurse, read books, and then I lay you in your crib and tuck you in. Tucking you in is your favorite. You get so excited and then you lay really still with a smile frozen on your face, eyes glittering, just waiting for me to lay my baby quilt on you. Then comes the tucking while you giggle. It melts my heart for about the 50th time of the day. Then I whisper "I love you I love you I love you" and you try to say it back. Your eyes start to get heavy as I tip toe to the door and you're asleep within minutes. It's wonderful.
You sleep for 12 hours a night - 10 of which are straight through. You usually awake at 6 a.m. demanding milk, so I feed you and put you back down. A little breakfast appetizer, if you will. Or first breakfast if you're of the hobbit persuasion. Now that you're a year we will start weaning soon. We're already down to 4 times a day. I've started reading you books right after nursing and you're so excited to see me reach for the book that you usually forget about milk entirely, sitting up to turn a page. I'm hoping that, after a bit more of this, you will be ready enough; however, I'm also dreading it. Sure, it will be nice to not have to think so much about what I will wear in public or how your schedule will work if someone else is watching you around nap times, but I love our special time. It's so sweet getting to nourish, satisfy, and be so close to you. I'm the only one that can do that. But alas, I think you will be ready soon and will not need me in that way. I understand now why women tend to nurse their last child longer. It's a hard thing to let go of, especially knowing you won't get to again. At least we have the hope that we'll have more babies someday. Your brothers and sisters! But we're not talking about them yet. This is about you.
Everyone talks about how alert, observant, and studious you are. You are always looking. And sometimes rather seriously - when we are someplace new you look downright suspiciously at everyone. Some have likened you to a Buddha baby that will enlighten us at any moment. A complete stranger came up to us at Five Guys the other day and said they'd never seen a one year old so alert. We know you're a smart baby, but it's always encouraging to hear it from others. The other day you were playing in my studio, and when I turned to see what you were doing you had upended my empty wastebasket and situated your round toy-sorter on top, and perfectly balanced all 6 wooden blocks on top of that, none in the holes. It was almost eerie. And then you do something like try to eat a plastic egg or fall over when you're sitting, and I'm reminded that you're a normal, human baby.
Oh Alice, we love you so much. Getting to be home with you everyday has been the biggest blessing, and I love every minute of it. You are a wonderful daughter, and even though this parenting business is getting harder, we love it. It's so much fun (and a little scary) getting to shape you - your values, your personality, what you learn. It's a privilege to be your parents. And we cannot wait for you to know Jesus! He's our core - what holds us together.
The other morning at church, we were singing "In Christ Alone." One of the verses is "From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny." It made me think of you - having been there for your first cry and thinking of your (and our) inevitable last breath, and that Jesus is The Author of our lives. He knows when and how they will be, but what a relief that they are safe in His hands. The One who was fully God and fully Man lived a sinless life to be the only sufficient sacrifice to make us right with God. He loved us so much that He died for us so we could be with Him. And then He went and beat death and is now preparing our eternal home. Even if you had been the only one who sinned, He would have done it anyway, because you are worth it. You are worth death and humiliation on the cross. My prayer of all prayers is that you will choose Jesus. That's the other thing - He loves you so much, you get to choose. If you didn't get to choose then it wouldn't be real love. That's where your dad and I come in: we will raise you to want to choose Him - to model for you and show you what a life with Jesus looks like and that you would want it for yourself.
Alice. Alice Sophia. Ali Zoe. Peanut. Wiggle Worm. Grumpus. Alice Bananagrams Hall (your daddy came up with that one). Sunshine. Sweetheart. Ours. We love you. Happy Birthday.