Back to Normal Life

AirplaneHomeOur view on the flight home from Cancun.

It feels good to be home. Terrible-two-girl-tantrums and all.

There is nothing like the anticipation leading up to combined with the time spent enjoying vacation to the fullest.

We definitely milked that vacation for all it was worth. After nearly a week of indulging in gourmet meals (sometimes brought directly to our room), one-too-many drinks during and after dinner, and the lazy, I’m-not-going-to-exercise-I’m-on-vacation mentality, lounging by the beach and pool with fruity, boozy drink in hand for six days, my body was ready for a detox when all the fun came to an end. All good things do end sometime.

 

We’d soon be back to our regular family routines. But first, we had one more day with all the family together to celebrate Father’s Day at the marina where my in-laws keep their boat.

Smiles all around as week took a leisurely ride around the bay before circling back to the dock to gather around the picnic table for a lunch spread fit for a king, three actually, courtesy of my mother-in-law. Owen and Vivian squealed and giggled as they chased each other in the grass, busy bees at work playing while we ate.

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They displayed for us all what was spinning around within my heart: joy and gratitude.

How did I get so lucky with these three amazing, loving, kind, smart, funny, fathers in my life? They’ve each given their children so much in life by just being themselves. And I’m so proud of each of them.

 

Today, I find myself back in my little mothering moments.

Rising early to the sound of my son’s voice at my bedside.

Calming the third tantrum of the day before naptime by the little miss.

Smiling as I gaze out the window above our kitchen sink, washing fruit for lunch.

Piling laundry into the washer, folding the load that just finished.

Blowing bubbles on the deck for over an hour, surprised at how big it seems they've gotten in just a week.

Catching up with friends I’ve been missing, making dates to get together soon because it’s been too long.

Crafting with the kids, snapping pictures of their masterpieces as we go.

Picking up the same toy I picked up a few hours before. Repeat. Repeat.

Pondering what to attempt to make for dinner.

Eagerly awaiting my husband’s arrival home at the end of the day.

These are tiny moments in my day. Each day a little different than the next, but always full of my three favorite people living life within my favorite place to be, always. Home.

 

Linking up with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary who has just arrived with her family in their new home in Austin, TX. Welcome home, Heather!

Memories Captured

MemoriesCapturedcollage I often have to pinch myself.

I sometimes can't believe that I got my wish.

One boy, one girl. My sweet little munchkins who I often catch playing together in the corner of the family room. Building forts, having picnics on our maroon couch blanket all spread out on the beige carpet, or just running around the house chasing each other in their superhero capes.

He leads her in the mischief they get into when I'm not looking. Such a loving, doting big brother. The way he puts his arm around her protectively, leaning in to kiss her forehead which comes up to right where his lips are as he turns his head, eyes still on me. I love how he loves her, how she looks up to him and follows his every move.

The fun they've been having lately playing dress-up is just so silly and adorable. I've found her tangled up in his jammie shirt, while he's running down the stairs with his underpants on his head exclaiming how he is "The Underpants Man!"

When I think back to the year we spent planning our wedding, and the months when I was trying to pick out our first dance song, I smile and my heart swells with wonder. There were two songs we had narrowed it down to: True Companion and One Boy, One Girl....

We ended up going with True Companion and there couldn't be a better description of my love. He is my perfect compliment, my true companion.

But whenever I hear the song we didn't choose, my eyes tear up and I think of how incredibly lucky I am that my dreams came true.

Rainy Wedding Days

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Last night, before turning out the light in the guest room of my brother's house, I pulled a slim white album off the corner bookshelf at the foot of the bed. I knew what the album contained before opening it. Some of the photos were familiar, but I marveled at how I found there were several which I seemed to be looking at as if for the first time.

They looked so young to me. I tried to imagine the emotions they must have been feeling on that day. Fear, excitement, joy, and a little anticipation for a new sort of freedom thrown in for good measure.

My dad, he stood so straight and proud. Decked out in his dress uniform. Short military haircut, boyish grin. His eyes sparkled with an obvious happiness.

My mom, a vision in her long-sleeved, poofy-shoulder white gown. With lace detail and tulle veil. Her eyes gazing nervously into her future.

At that moment, when they became husband and wife, I wonder if they stopped to think during all the buzz and exhilaration of the day. Did their future flash before their eyes?

Did they envision two kids and the single-family house with a white picket fence? Did they ever think, in their wildest dreams, that they’d eventually have a son-in-law and daughter-in-law who so perfectly fit their own daughter and son? Or that many years down the road they’d be the proud grandparents of four beautiful grandchildren ranging in ages from eight weeks to almost 5 - two boys and two girls?

I guess our family has a thing for keeping things in balance.

If my parents felt on their wedding day anything like I felt on mine, they experienced a roller coaster of emotions, tied together with a string of nerves. I just wanted everything to be perfect and so naturally, it rained. Not just a little sprinkle. No, actually, it was quite the opposite. The sky threatened to open up from the second we woke up that Saturday. But of course, it held off until that critical moment for every bride. Just as my dad and I were getting out of the limo to enter the church filled with our friends and family, rain fell from the sky in buckets.

The rain must have brought with it the good luck that everyone says a rainy day wedding brings. It also rained on my parent’s wedding day, forty-two years ago this October. For me, married for almost 10 years, I most certainly feel extremely lucky in love.

And I have a new-found appreciation for a rainy day.

"Love comforteth like sunshine after rain." - William Shakespeare

{It's been raining all day today, my last day here in Florida. It was a perfect day to write, with the melody of raindrops falling fast and furious as I type out and post what I wrote this morning. Tonight it's back home to Virginia, to my little family who I've missed so much these past 4 days.}

Song: Five Minute Friday {7}

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In a few hours I’ll be leaving on a jet plane. Flying down south to meet a shiny new face, the newest, littlest member of our family who was born in March. I have yet to hear the song of her tiny cries, her coos and gurgles. I will say goodbye to my three lovies with kisses and hugs, breathing in their scent in an attempt to keep it with me while I’m gone.

For three nights, four days I’ll hear the song of my brother’s family, a newborn in the house, demanding the attention for bottles, diaper changes, snuggles. I can’t wait to hold her, to spend time just sitting and talking with my brother, sister-in-law, mom, dad, nephew. Because time slows down a little when I’m on vacation, listening to the song of my sweet family which I’ll wrap around me until I have to say goodbye on Monday.

When I’ll return to the familiar song of my own family, waiting patiently for my return.

 

Five Minute Friday

 

 

A Life I Love: Blogging for Mental Health

Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with the reality of what life has thrown at me. Why me?

Sometimes it’s beyond scary to admit that I’m struggling. I feel so alone.

Sometimes I fear that my friends will turn their back on me if they know the whole truth. How am I going to share everything?

Sometimes it’s terrifying to look back at what happened in the past because of what could have been. I’ve changed so much in such a short amount of time.

Sometimes I look around at all I have, the decisions I’ve made, how far I’ve come and I am in complete awe of my life’s fullness. How did I get so lucky?

On days like today, when the sun is so far lost behind the piles of sheer white and grey clouds, I find myself wrestling with my emotions. On days like today it’s so easy to remember if I let myself go there. The dark days, the weeks and weeks of bleak, dull depression that had wrapped its claws around me like a cat that caught a field mouse. The not being able to pull myself out of bed in the morning and the falling asleep on the couch in the late afternoon because it was so much easier to dwell in my grief than it was to push it aside to try to function normally. I haven’t felt that heaviness, the crushing weight of desperation, in seven years.

 

And for that I have so much gratitude.

 

But on days like today, twinges of it come back. And I don’t push them away. I let them come and I let myself acknowledge them, if only for a moment. Because I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to ever forget what I’m fighting for every day.

 

My mental health.

 

Not only for myself. But for my family. For my incredibly laid-back, fun-loving, funny, intelligent and handsome husband. The one who was by my side from the first day it all hit to the present. He is my better half and has all the qualities that I lack which is why we fit each other so well.

 

Together we completed our family with first a boy, and then a girl. Two little people who everyone says look just like us. I couldn’t be more proud of them, of their personalities which shine and twinkle like the stars in a deep black clear summer night sky. Each night, as we read stories before bed and snuggle in close, and every morning, when I nuzzle their still-sleepy noses to wake up so we can start our day, I take time to breathe in their scents. It’s hard to believe that they’re mine. I will always be their mom. He will always be my son. She will always be my daughter. And I want them to always be proud of me.

 

My life is the reason why I keep fighting. My family, my friends, my heart. They all deserve to see me succeed.

 

Each day may be a new battle, but every one I win makes me stronger for the next fight. At the end of the day, when the sun is setting and I see the brilliance peeking out from behind a mess of clouds, I know I’m staring into my future.

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And I’m nothing but enthusiastic for what lies ahead.

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Comfort: Five Minute Friday {6}

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COMFORT

Back then, newly sick and with the fear of a mental illness diagnosis looming over my head, there were few things that brought me comfort.

 

One that was the most strong was her love

and her continued fight

to get me back to well.

 

There were so many tears back then. But we were able to smile when we were together for pictures, even if it sometimes felt forced. Behind the smiles there was silent suffering.

 

No matter what, she never stopped trying to comfort me. To ease my pain. To take the hurt away from her baby, her firstborn.

 

She will always bring me comfort in times of sadness. She’s my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I love you with all my heart.

xoxoxo

Five Minute Friday

My husband, our chef

Saturday morning we were all anticipating my husband's arrival home, as he had been away all week on a business trip in Austin, Texas. It had been a long, draining five days of doing ALL THE THINGS by myself and I was tired. The kids couldn't wait to see their Daddy, especially our son who was anxiously wondering whether his father was going to be bringing him home the Lego City Police Station, a toy carrot he had dangled to ensure good behavior for Mommy. {It really came from his Grandma, but she wanted us to say it was from Daddy and we didn't object.} It worked like a charm. Or maybe that was because I continuously reminded him of the reward he would receive for said good behavior. Hey, I never said I was above bribes.

Swim class that morning was the last hurdle I had to jump over with the two kiddos before I could breathe easy knowing my better half would be home two hours later. And it wasn't even that bad since baby girl wasn't feeling well that meant I didn't have to attend her class with her, giving us both the luxury to sit on the bench and relax, watching her brother splash and float during his lesson.

Home again, I made lunch and the kids ate and then it was time for naps and quiet time. I wanted myself to curl up and take a quick snooze before my husband got home, but instead I began the process of tidying up the house {aka dusting, vacuuming, and re-arranging our masses of clutter} since we were having friends over for dinner later that evening.

A few hours later and all was well in our world. I had raced to the store and back for fresh ingredients, while the kids got to fill their father in on all their adventures during the time he was away. Lots of hugs were exchanged and plenty of snuggles for baby girl who was feeling the unpleasant effects of the massive amount of pollen in the springtime air. Our little man talked his dad into building the two vehicles that came with his Lego police station, so as to appease him until the next day when they could spend a few hours putting the entire set together. Our daughter had fun dressing and re-dressing her Melissa & Doug ballerina magnet doll. {Another new toy from their Grandma. She loves to spoil her grandkids and we let her.}

Then my husband got to work in the kitchen, preparing the meal for the evening once our guests had arrived. It was so nice to see our friends who live close, but not close enough that impromptu visits are easy and frequent. Instead, we have to plan a few months ahead and then pray that kids stay healthy so that we can keep the date. It worked out this time since allergies were the culprit behind our little girl's scratchy throat and sneezy, drippy nose. The kids easily connected around the water table and played together happily as we adults caught up over appetizers and drinks.

I love watching my man cooking dinner. He is very methodical in how he approaches the tasks of the recipe, which he usually follows to a perfect T each and every time. This time we were trying out a new dish, Lemon Garlic Scallops with Rustic Farro Risotto, from my friend's food blog, with asparagus on the grill to accompany it. I try not to impede on the way he moves about the kitchen, but of course I find myself critiquing and offering suggestions on how he should be searing or grilling or stirring, when I really should just keep my mouth shut because his food always comes out delicious.

I know how lucky I am to have an amateur chef as a husband. I've finally come to realize this after almost ten years of marriage. He generally does all the cooking in our house, because every so often when I do try my hand at putting a meal together, nine times out of ten it turns out terrible. Sometimes worse than terrible. I get mad, curse myself for the wasted time and effort, and my pride suffers. Then I swear I'm never cooking another meal for him again because whenever I do, he turns his nose up at it. {This is because it is terrible, remember, so I really can't blame him.} But over the years I have slowly accepted the fact that he's simply better at cooking than I am and I should embrace it rather than try to compete with it.

So with that, I present to you: my husband the chef.

HusbandChef_BML

And now, please excuse me while I go pin some new recipes for him to try.

I love you, honey. Thank you for feeding our family with love.

"Cooking today is a young man's game. I don't give a bollocks what anyone says." ~ Gordon Ramsay

10:35pm - Edited to add:

When Ben got home tonight, I asked him read my post, as I usually do on the days that I publish. Reading over his shoulder as he scrolled through the post, I noticed that I had forgotten something very important when writing this piece.

When I first became sick at the end of 2005, I struggled with eating a great deal in 2006. From the mix of medications I was on to the raging anxiety that had taken over my body, sitting down to enjoy a meal three times a day was a distant memory from my past. Some days I was nauseous from the moment I woke up until I crawled into bed at the end of the night. I lost about 12 pounds, which may not sound like all that much, but for someone who is only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, it's a big deal. I remember looking back at pictures from that summer and my cheeks were sunk inward on my formerly chubby face, my arms seemed like pencils they were so thin. But my loving husband did not give up on me. He tried new recipes he thought I might like, went back to some of our old favorites from college when he used to cook to impress me while we were courting, and kept me smiling with his extravagant baking to appeal to my sweet tooth {and in the hope that I'd consume some calories, even if they were all sugar}.

Anyone who has ever been clinically depressed knows what I mean when I say it was impossible to eat at times. My appetite was squashed by my diagnosis and meds, and my formerly sunny, outgoing personality had also been beaten up pretty badly. If my husband wasn't there by my side, encouraging me to keep trying, taking me on dates to our favorite Indian restaurant at least once a week, I may have lost more than the weight I did that year. I may have lost my power to fight the illness that had knocked me down.

I am forever grateful to my better half, for not only sticking with me, but for feeding me when I needed fed. He fed me with his love, his optimism, and his incredible culinary skills.

I love you with all my heart, honey.

xoxoxo

Help for Yelling

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It happened again. We had another rough morning and I feel horribly guilty for yelling too much, too loud, too mean. Why is it that one awful parenting moment can so easily make me doubt my worth as a mother? Why can’t I stop the cycle of yelling at my kids? I don’t want them to remember their childhood years as a pile full of broken memories of their Mommy screaming at them. Just typing that makes me so sad.

 

This Sunday at church, one of our priests stood by the baptismal font during communion and offered healing prayer to anyone who wanted to pray with him. I walked over after receiving communion, and asked him to help me pray for patience. Patience with my kids, my family, and myself. I needed to start somewhere and this perfect opportunity gave me hope.

 

But I’m quickly learning that I need a whole lot more than hope if I’m ever going to fix my yelling problem.

 

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8:15am this morning. I looked up from the sandwiches and fruit I was tossing into lunch sacks for the kids to check the time. From the other room, I heard her big brother giving a lesson on Lego firemen and how they help people in trouble while she ohhhed and ahhed and asked questions here and there. For the most part, they were playing happily together while I rushed about the kitchen assembling healthy lunches. I was grateful in that moment.

 

With the lunch task completed, I ushered the kids upstairs so that we could all get dressed and ready and out the door.

 

The kids couldn’t agree on a show to watch together on the ipad while I got ready. He wanted Lunar Jim and she wanted Calliou. There was no compromising and so I took the privilege away. That’s when it happened.

 

My little man told me, in the middle of our angry, rotten argument over the fact that I took the ipad away, that he was going to get rid of me. (He also told me that he loved the ipad more than he loved me, but that’s a whole different post altogether.) The kids were still in their jammies, I had no time to take a shower, and it was apparent we weren’t going to get there on time. I should have just given up on trying.

 

“I’m going to get rid of you, Mommy! he threatened, with all the power and might of his little four-and-a-half-year-old voice.

 

His words were like a dagger to my heart.

 

And when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

 

“Oh, really? How are you going to do that, bud?” I retorted as I pulled my sweater over my head.

 

“I’ll put you in the trash can!” he screamed as hot tears spilled down his cheeks.

 

And with that, he forced the dagger in further and twisted it sharply. I knew in that moment that I was failing him as a parent. I could sense the anguish behind his words. I could feel his anger squeeze my heart and wring it out. I had become so worthless to him that he wanted to throw me away.

 

Right then and there, in my mind, silently to myself I vowed to make some serious changes.

 

I finished getting dressed and then got down on my knees and pulled him to me, wrapping him with all that I had left. I cried with him, and we both whispered over and over again our vows to stop fighting and yelling. Baby girl timidly walked over with open arms and joined in on our big hug.

 

This is where the healing begins.

 

I dropped them off at school and came home to start writing. A good friend of mine had forwarded me an email about an upcoming program at her church. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read the description of the free workshop. “The instructor will demonstrate ways to eliminate power struggles and yelling, get kids off video games/screens without a fight and create stress-free mornings.” I immediately signed up, thanked her for inviting me, and breathed a sigh of relief.

I can stop beating myself up. I’m putting a plan in place. Help is on the way and I’m excited about the future.

My fourth post for WhatToExpect.com's Word of Mom Blog went live yesterday. Please check it out if you have a chance.

Thanks so much!

No regrets

DareToJump_BML Last week was pretty surreal. The outpouring of support from my friends and family surrounded me by way of emails, phone calls, text messages and blog comments. From 8:30am until 10pm. All the conversations about my decision to go public with my illness made my heart swell with gratitude. So much gratitude.

But there were two people who were quietly sitting back at home, taking it all in. Without saying a word.

Glued to my computer, watching the discussions take place in real time before my eyes, I longed for their approval in some shape or form. I waited for their number and picture to show up on my phone. The hours flew by and all of a sudden I looked at the clock and realized the day was over. The call never came.

Sometimes when someone is silent, their message comes across loud and clear.

I knew that my choice of words describing their reaction to my diagnosis might have hurt them. But that wasn't at all my intention. I only wanted to take my readers back to those moments when the shock of it all was still so raw for my family and I. After months of not seeing the light, the daze lifted to expose sheer exhaustion. We were all so worn out from the intense stress of trying to figure out what the hell was going on with me. So tired and drained - both physically and mentally - between the three of us we had cried so many tears that our eyes had nothing left to release, though we probably kept dabbing at them with wet tissues.

My mom and dad have a depth to their faith that I have yet to find. I admire that in them. I hope to some day reach that level of connection to God. They both prayed so hard during that year when we didn't know what else to do or where else to go to help me get well. The days crept by so slowly. Tears fell continuously. They had already spent most of their time researching doctors, medications, treatments, alternative medicine, research studies. Anything that could potentially bring me back from the dark hole I had dropped into. Anything that could fix me. A miracle seemed so out of reach and yet they kept on reaching, kept on praying. Praying and reaching for me because I had lost my will to reach myself.

Whether they know it or not, every night I thank God that they had the strength to keep on praying because their prayers were answered.

I probably could have used a better word than "mortified" when I described my perceptions of how they felt about my mental illness diagnosis. That wasn't fair. Fear and bewilderment probably would have been much better representations of their emotional state back then. They've wanted me to hold onto my anonymity because they worry about me the same way any parent worries about their child. I am an adult and I could have made the decision to blog openly about my illness a long time ago and I decided not to. But that changed recently. I've finally reached a point in my life where I don't want to look back and have any regrets. I don't want to wish I had done it earlier. I wasn't able to do it before now. I wasn't ready.

The fact is, parents will worry about their kids no matter what decisions they choose to make in life. That's just the nature of being a parent. So whether I made the choice to go public and become an advocate as I did this week, or I remained anonymous in my attempt to inspire other people living with bipolar disorder through my writing, my parents would have kept on worrying about me, either way. It's part of the job description when you're hired on as a parent: perpetual worry. Just comes with the territory.

I've only been a parent for less than five years, but with many more years ahead of me, I can only imagine how much harder it gets. Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for loving me unconditionally they way you both always have. Thank you for supporting me and for encouraging me to keep writing. And thank you for being there to listen. Even if you may not completely agree with my decision to take this leap.

I love you both so much.

The Little Years

I wish I could freeze time and keep my kids little forever. But, alas, they grow. Mister Man turned 4 & 1/2 last month and his sister is now 2 plus three months. If I lie in bed and close my eyes, breathing slow and steady, I can remember what it was like when they were fresh bundles, smelling of baby powder and spit up. But those first twelve months passed by in the blink of an eye, really. Those were the times when they were so fragile and new and we didn't have any clue what kind of personality they'd have. Now is the fun time, according to my husband. I'd have to agree with him.

Our son has detailed discussions with his sister on what the various rooms in his Lego fire station contain. He says things like, "Vivi, people who are silver and stand still are called statues," while we're driving and my husband and I just look at each other and smile. He's now tall enough to reach the kitchen sink and wash his hands without standing on a step stool.

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He writes his first and last name in capital letters and is working hard at learning the lower case ones. A few weeks ago we were playing Restaurant in his kitchen and he wrote out his very first menu, asking me how to spell things like Hamburger, Coffee and Cheese. Several times a day, he'll hear a word he doesn't know and will ask its meaning. I'm amazed and so proud of how inquisitive he is.

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My little man makes friends easily, but is stingy with sharing his beloved toys. He has a best buddy at preschool, but sometimes on the drive home when I ask him who he played with that day, he'll say, "Nobody. I just played by myself." Not in a sad way. He is just really good at independent play and can become immersed in his own little imaginary world which I love to watch. There are plenty of years of running around with friends ahead of him, I'm not concerned with his preference for solo playtime right now.

He wakes up every morning precisely at seven o'clock. The soft, baby blue security blanket he was so attached to for the first three years of his life has slowly moved to the bottom of his list of favorite toys. It's now trucks and blocks and {gasp!} Legos that he spends his playtime with. The last exchange of our day used to be me singing "Twinkle, Twinkle" while snuggling him tight, tucking the covers around his little frame all curled up. Now, we simply read three books and give goodnight kisses before shutting off the light and sending him into sleepy dreamland. Just like that. My big boy.

His sister is turning into a big kid too, right before our eyes. Her four word strings must have been taking their vitamins because over the course of a week they grew into five word sentences and now six. Just yesterday the little princess amazed me with, "I want to go to the playground, Mommy!" Said like the true firecracker she has become.

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Our daughter literally turns into a fish on Saturday mornings at swim class. Bored of the same old songs and skills which she mastered several months ago, she makes her own fun now, much to her teacher's chagrin. Climbing out to give Daddy a quick kiss, then swan diving back in and flipping underwater before surfacing are her show-off tricks. We've become used to a minimum of two other parents each week asking us how old she is and how long she's been taking lessons.

I love hearing her baby doll voice, her inflections sticky sweet with a cherry on top sometimes, and other times the whine is so sharp I want to pull out some cheese and crackers to go with it. The little miss has a slight obsession with pink lately and when we read her book on colors {which I bought specifically so that I could teach her the rest of the colors of the rainbow} she turns straight to the two pages on pink saying, "I yike pink, Mommy."

Art is a passion of hers, I can already tell. Both our kids are in their element when they're creating, actually. Put a coloring book, some markers and crayons in front of them and I've easily bought an hour of quiet busy time. I can't wait for summer when I'll be able to put them on the deck with art supplies and their easel and small table to see what they crank out for display on the fridge.

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I know they won't always be so small that I need to get down on my knees to wrap my arms all the way around them for hugs. I know there will come a time when I'll no longer have to sort through their entire wardrobe twice a year to purge the outgrown stuff and replace it with new clothes the next size up. I know there will come a time when I'll no longer have to prep and serve every single meal and snack.

I know there will come a time when I'll have to let go. 

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But for now, I'll grab hold of these moments that fly by so fast and I'll do my best to engrave them on my memory for ever.