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At 6:20 I hear you. Always before 7. Little stinker. You are standing at the foot of your crib watching the door. Watching for your mama. Waiting. Anticipating. And hollering. I lift you into my arms. Smell your sweet baby smell. Kiss your head and your neck and your cheeks. Your fat cheeks. Such an early hour. But your sweetness overwhelms me and the hour doesn’t feel so early anymore. We settle on the living room couch. You lay between me and the back of the couch, eager to nurse. I snuggle you close and drink in the beauty of your face, your fuzzy brown hair, your chubby thighs, your puckered lips as you drink. I love the sight of you and the sounds of you. I close my eyes and drift between sleep and wakefulness. You lay peacefully for awhile. Slowly you begin to wiggle. And babble. Eventually you sit up. Then you stand. “Mmm mmm mmm”, I hear from you, like the milk is so good you must vocalize your pleasure. You roll and grin and babble some more. And all this while you want to nurse. An hour passes in this quiet couch land.

Eventually your siblings wake and the house comes alive. Yells ring out. And laughter. And footsteps. We move to the den, turn on a movie for your brothers. Find a bottle for Canyon, a bowl of cereal. A banana for you. He shares his cheerios with you, puts the cheerios in your mouth. You gobble them up. Make faces at him. He grins at you, dotes on you, calls you “sweetie”. We are big fans of you, Queen Bee.

Another hour passes, you, me, your sister, your brothers. All cuddled in the den, movie on, cereal munched, shades drawn. It is a lazy Sunday morning. I remember this day one year ago, as each hour passes. Sweet memories. Hard memories. Has it been a year already?

Near 9 we decide it is time to wake up daddy. I take you to our room. He is up, getting dressed. You give him a grin. I love how much you love your daddy. We talk about the plan for the day and decide to get this train a movin’. Together we work to get us all out the door. Breakfast is eaten, clothes put on, your diaper changed, socks and shoes found. Your daddy and your siblings take one car. You and I take the other.

They are birthday gift shopping. You and I head to the grocery. You are in a goofy mood. My favorite. You make faces at everyone we pass. Most of them smile or laugh. A few make comments. Your toothy grin and chubby legs are hard to ignore. I push you through the store. You sit near me in the cart. I pause every few seconds to kiss your temple.

We head home with a car full of groceries, for the week and for the party. The afternoon is busy. Cleaning, cooking, keeping up with the four of you. Daddy spends most of it working on the yard. Meadow and Granite are mama’s big helpers. You take a great nap. Canyon takes no nap. He helps at first. It isn’t until 4ish that his skipped nap really takes effect. His behavior worsens every hour after, with pleasant moments interspersed throughout.

We settle in your room at naptime. You nurse yourself to sleep. Almost always you do this. I can’t remember if I nursed your siblings to sleep. I don’t think I did. But this has become our routine. I read and rock. The fan is on, and the lamp. Your shades are closed. We rock and I read and you nurse until you are fast asleep. Or at least nearly. Then I lay you on your belly, you pull your knees up to your chest and I cover you with a blanket, grab my book and anything else that needs grabbing and quietly close your door. Sometimes I see you an hour and half later. Other times it is two and a half. I prefer the latter, truth be told.

You wake and nurse again. Then your siblings and I pass you around until the party starts. Your grandmommy and granddaddy and Aunt Tammy stop by to kiss you and tell you Happy Birthday and leave you a present. Honey and Papa and Grandma Great, Star and Taylor and the boys and your BFF Addi and cousin Asher all stay until bedtime.

It is beautiful outside so we sit on the patio and eat delicious chicken that your daddy has grilled, and sweet potatoes in honor of the birthday girl, Caesar salad, fruit and veggies with hummus, chips and fresh salsa. It gets late quickly. The cousins play. You sit on Uncle Taylor’s lap through most of dinner. He feeds you bites of whatever is sitting on the nearest plates. You are a big fan of his. As the sun begins to set we move inside.

You have a pile of presents. Mostly clothes. A qiant box of wipes that your daddy bought. A foam puzzle, a toy computer, a ball toy that Canyon picked out for you, a toy puppy from Granite, cute clothes from Meadow. Watching you pull the tissue paper out of each bag and reach in to retrieve whatever present awaits you, is delightful. Somehow you know exactly what to do and how to respond. You sit in my lap. We are all captivated by your smiles and your sounds.

After presents we sing Happy Birthday and Ezra helps you blow out your candle. Yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing and pink sprinkles from Auntie Star. You are the best cupcake eater of our four. You immediately dig in and eat almost every bite. You wipe your finger through the frosting and lick it off your finger. Over and over you do this, until it is gone. Then you break off little chunks of cupcake with your right hand and put them into your mouth. At some point we give you water, which you drink, but which you also dump all over your tray. So then you end up with cupcake soup. Everyone thinks this is so gross. Except for you. You eat your cupcake soup happily.

Finally you are ready to move on, you grow tired of your cupcake soup. Daddy lifts you from your cupcake covered seat, removes your cupcake covered clothes and plops you into the bathtub. You love the bath and play and splash happily as he washes the day off of your hands and arms and face.

Mama gets you a clean diaper, clean jammies. We tell your siblings and your daddy good night and settle, once again, into your rocker to nurse and rock. And read. It is quiet in your room. I lay my book down and just savor the sight of you. My precious girl. My gift. My redemption nurser. This year has been so hard in so many ways. So exhausting. But you are such a bright spot in my heart and in my days. You have restored much of what was lost. Watching you turn one today was so incredibly bittersweet. Like you crossed some imaginary threshold and are now no longer my baby. The memories of your birth and the nine months leading up to it are still so fresh. My mind can hardly comprehend that a whole year has past since I first held you in my arms.

I lay you in your crib. Pause over your bed before I turn off the light, trying to remember every detail of this moment, every detail of you. If a heart can burst with love for another, then my heart just may. I love you now and always, my Haven girl. Happy birthday.

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The night before was a late one, up until 11 with a sick Wild Man. Then again from 2am-4am for the same reason.

And this morning, before my eyes have opened for the day my Quiet One is asking me what I want for breakfast then hanging a sign on my bedroom door instructing me NOT to come out, before relaying my requests to my Right Hand Gal. Half an hour later the Quiet One is back, hanging a new sign instructing me TO come out.

I walk into a dining room that has been adorned with streamers and a Happy Birthday sign, a balloon, 3 gifts and a plate of breakfast. All 4 of mine are sitting at the table, breakfast bowls in front of them, smiles on their faces, Happy Birthday on their lips. They talk excitedly, show me each of the decorations and gift bags and the balloon. We eat and chat and soon I realize that the Baby needs her diaper changed and that half of the cereal they have poured for themselves is scattered across the table and all over the dining room floor. Oh well.

We move to the living room where I change the Baby’s diaper and listen to the oldest 3 argue about who’s gift will be opened first and who’s gift will be opened last. I listen for awhile and sigh and debate how much to lecture on this morning and then we decide I will eeny meeny miny moe it and that takes care of that.

The gifts are precious and priceless and nearly bring tears. A movie from my oldest, chocolate from my wildest, money from his piggy bank from my quietest. The baby didn’t get me a gift but she did scribble a bit on a piece of paper that her sister then signed and wrapped to give to me.

We read library books on the couch. We make it through half a book, with Wild Man talking all the while and the Baby hamming it up in my lap. My Right Hand Gal reads the second half. We finish that one but decide to wait to start another.

A dance party follows, as well as a bit of fighting when Wild Man changes the song before my Quiet One is ready for the song to be changed. Our party breaks up and my Quiet One remarks, “That was a really short birthday…”

They run and chase and wrestle and holler while I get dressed and pour my coffee and try to read 1 page of the book I am in the middle of. But the volume continues to increase so I lay down my book, put my ice coffee in the fridge and tell them all it is time to go outside.

The older 2 ride bikes, the younger 2 ride in the stroller and I walk up and down our street, up and down, up and down. The Baby falls asleep. Wild Man whines. My audio book plays through its last chapter.

Under the carport where I can see her, the Baby sleeps as I make lunch and the older 3 play. But she doesn’t sleep long so her brothers entertain her while my Right Hand Gal helps me get lunch on the table. Veggie burgers and homemade hummus and carrots and green grapes. We chomp and chew, lunch is oh so good. We play lunch games (games with no pieces) and talk about the plan for the rest of our day.

Chores are tackled, another diaper changed, much more whining and many more tears come from the semi-sick Wild Man. Then it is rest time for all.

The older 2 take the youngest to “space” and close the door. I read to Wild Man, sing 9 songs, smother him in kisses, remind him to hug his mama, and hope, as I walk out the door, that it will be as easy as that. Today it is.

I sneak out to the backyard to complete my 100 burpees, ask my oldest to give me just 5 more minutes when she wanders outside, with the Baby on her hip, before I have gotten to 50, then head back inside, burpees accomplished, sweat pouring, legs and arms shaking.

I clean the kitchen, guide the older 2 through the last of their chores and take the Baby to her room to nurse and nap. She nurses. She does not nap.

We eat popcorn in space and watch Planes. The Baby plays on the floor. Wild Man sleeps. The clock hits 4. It is time to shower and shave and spend more than my usual minute on my appearance. Tonight is a birthday date with my hubby.

Wild Man wakes up. He and the Baby sit on the floor of the bathroom playing with cars and Legos. The Baby forgets I am there until she pulls up on the tub and peeks her head around the curtain. Then she is suddenly desperate for me to hold her. Wild Man has barely stopped fussing since the moment he woke up. I call for my older 2 and ask that they intervene. My oldest takes the Baby. My Quiet One tells Wild Man to come play in space. My girls stay quiet. My boys are fighting within minutes. Sigh…

I dress. Make-up and mousse and a bracelet. Sandals with a bit of a heel. The wild one keeps crying, nose running, hair as wild as he. The baby is tired. The older 2 help. I settle the Baby in her crib, close her door and my hubby is beside me. Relief.

“This day, babe. Oh this day! So sweet and so crazy.” I say. He asks me what I want to do. “Lay down.” I reply, as I finish getting ready to go.

His parents have come to take care of our 4, while my hubby takes care of me. Hugs and thank yous and the door closes, we drive away.

He surprises me with Fidos and my parents, my grandmother and my siblings. Gifts, flowers, a book and a photo album filled with old snapshots. All of my favorite things. We share a meal with my family for my birthday. The sweet tradition has carried on. Chicken and eggplant and sweet potato and spinach. Every bite is savored. So is the cinnamon latte that follows. The drive home is peaceful.

I come home to nurse the Baby to sleep. Read books to my Quiet One and listen to his thoughts. Right Hand Gal learns division with her daddy.

The house is quiet. All 4 of my babes are asleep. My hubby is near me.

Days are long and sweet. I am loved. Life is good.

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