Letter to Scarlett at Two Years

Dear Scarlett,

You are not Lucy.

I’m sure you know that. You’re a smart kid. But I want you to know I know that. And I don’t want you to be Lucy.

I never want Lucy instead of you. I want you both, but you are never, never second best. Mothering you not only expands my heart, but shines a blinding light through the cracks.

I worry how you will process Lucy’s absence as you grow. What does it mean to you now? Probably not much. Your sister lives in Heaven instead of our house. You have never known otherwise, so why question it?

A few months ago, I began dropping little hints that having Lucy as a sister is different. I told you in simple terms what “dead” means, that the pictures we greet and kiss everyday are just that – pictures.

If you grow into a sensitive child, as I did, this will come to mean a great deal to you. You will feel sad, angry, and cheated. A small part of you might like the attention the story brings your way.

I am almost certain this will all hurt one day, love. You will realize that what is true for your family is not true for all. I am so sorry. I want your sister for you so much. It is so very cruel that you never met.

However, I want your life to be about you. I hope that you will honor your sister’s memory and try to know her. But you are SCARLETT! The most unbelievable blessing. Here are just two of the statements I made about you this past weekend:

“I wish she would just let me kiss her cheeks all day.”

“Can you believe we made something so beautiful?”

So many gifts, dreams, and wishes are bound up in your existence. Your first cry, your first step, your 2nd birthday … all answered and assuaged my cries of pain, anger, and fear.

Max made my dream of becoming a mother come true, Lucy made me the mother of a daughter, but you are so truly my rainbow baby. I have enjoyed you so wholly and completely. Life gave me not just a second chance, but a third, and I’ve poured all the love, hope, happiness, and devotion into you that I possibly can.

You have brought me so much. For the first time, I feel fairly certain I have been a good mother to you so far.

You are sharp and clear and cuddly and ALIVE. You burst with love, confidence, and happiness. I am so excited for you to start school. You will set the world on fire.

Oh, I am just, you are just …. my BABY! I don’t know how to capture this feeling rushing through me. Nothing compares to looking in the face of a child you love. Your face is some special kind of voodoo, little one.

Before I sign off, I will provide some snapshots of two-year-old Scarlett.

You crawl along the walkway from the living room to the kitchen in a mini Boden dress adorned with scenes of London, roaring the word “Roar!” Max commands “Scarlett, roar!” and you happily oblige, triggering laughter every time.

You sitting in your booster seat with it half buckled AFTER you undressed and went to the potty by yourself. Without making a mess!

You learn your first knock-knock joke, a classic. The original goes like this:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Boo who?

Don’t cry, it’s only me.

Your version:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Boo who?


You count to 4 and beyond:

“1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 16”

Your hilarious response to a now-forgotten transgression on Max’s part:

“No, sweetie!”

Your answer to “Who is Scarlett?” Still


And to “Who is Lucy?”


You don’t feel well one day, which slows you down (a little). You sit on the travel potty in the back of our car. I stand guard as usual. My fingers comb tangles until your “Ow” causes them to reluctantly relinquish your silky, golden hair. Then, I smooth your long bangs to either side and kiss your forehead as I cup your cheeks. Unusually, your eyes look straight into mine, rather than eagerly out at birds (“Boids! Boids!”) and red trucks. Your eyes settle on mine with such peace. Their proximity fills my vision with vibrant blue. Despite your stuffy nose and our crazy schedule, you lean into the moment and trust it. For a moment, I do, too.

I love you, my tripping, laughing ball of sunshine.

Love, Mama

Letter to Max at 7 Years

Dear Max,

With every year you live, my feelings for you deepen, while my words to express it do not. How do you describe that feeling when you see your child’s face? Every parent knows it. We can smile knowingly at each other, because we are both in on the grand secret. But I don’t want it to be a secret. I want you to KNOW.

I want you to know that your face is sunshine. When your glasses are off, you still look like little Max. When they are on, I see big Max taking shape. I see your Daddy.

I want you to know that my heart hurts with love for you. When you were young, that love was formless and shapeless. We enjoyed all the time in the world. Hurts, heartbreak, and tough questions all hovered safely in the future. Tomorrow’s problem. But tomorrow has come. In a little over a decade, you will be 18. The time of guiding and letting go bit by bit is upon us.

I don’t want you to know about Hitler, 9/11, terrorists, stranger danger, racism, school shootings, and death. But you do. I didn’t want you to learn at 3 that children can die, but you did.

I am glad that you know how babies are made, that love wins, that black lives matter. I am proud we can have these tough conversations and that you know you can ask me anything. I hope that will continue. I will keep talking to you whether you ask or not, because 2016 has shown us that those conversations are more important than ever and that they must be ongoing. Omitting the bad does not automatically make the present good unfortunately. Spreading a good message once does not automatically counteract a lifetime of bombardment.

We live in a great and terrible time. I feel that all of these horrible tragedies will lead somewhere good. People are realizing this will not go away without action. You are seeing history made.

I want you to be part of that history. I believe your generation is going to do better and be better than any has before. In spite of, or perhaps because of our over-parenting, you will all clean up the mess left by hate and misguided good intentions and move the human race forward TOGETHER.

For now, you are still my little boy, on the cusp of being a big boy. You are bumpy and bony, all elbows and legs, and taller than me when you sit on my lap. But your cheeks retain a remnant of baby roundness. Your smile is still sometimes full of heartbreaking sweetness and innocence. You have fluffy little boy hair that makes me want to postpone each trim as long as I can.

I want you to know that Daddy and I are so proud of the hard work you have put in this past year. The autism diagnosis was a bit hard on you at first. I know you get so tired from ABA, OT, and all the other acronyms. All of this hard work will pay off. It is so much better to do it now, rather than when you are older. YOU HAVE COME SO FAR. You can do anything, kid.

I want you to know that you are still the best big brother ever. Scarlett lights up when she sees you, runs to throw her arms around you, and says, “Hi, Max” before she greets anyone else.

Seven years ago tonight, I received my first inkling that I might finally meet you. Less than 24 hours later, you were in my arms. You made me a mom. You made that dream come true.

I want you to know that no one inspires me to greater heights of silliness and creativity than you. I love that we both love puns and fart jokes. I love that we both love to read and be home with our families.

I want you to know all about life and love, sweet Max. I want to know all about you. Tomorrow, we begin our eighth year on those journeys.

I love you so, so much, with all my heart, soul, and whatever’s left of my brain.


Letter to Scarlett at 19 months



Dear Scarlett,

I love you so much my heart could burst with it. Your squishy cheeks and soft, baby shampoo-scented hair stop time for me during the brief moments you allow me to cuddle you these days.

I cannot believe I have a 19-month-old again. Every “no” from your lips, every squinty-eyed mischievous smile makes my heart soar. You are a ball of unending energy, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed cherub with a devilish streak.

You are a doer and a talker. You have learned to say “Elmo”, but seem to think your Elmo bath toy is still “Ahba”. You can say “no”, “no way”, “happy”, “dang”, “Mama”, “Daddy”, “Angy”, “Max”, “snacks, “mess”, “ok”, “Sis”, “baby”, “yes”, “please”, “thank you”, “sammy”, “cat”, and many other words I can’t recall at the moment. You developed a special laugh for when you want to act as if you are in on the joke. You discovered how to push a kitchen chair over to the high shelf that holds the coveted designer purse and diaper bag, as well as the bar that formerly kept the computers out of your reach. Your first screaming tantrum occurred yesterday and stemmed from my refusal to allow you to bang on Daddy’s computer.

Every morning, I enter your room and you clamber up in your crib, saying either “Baby” while proudly holding a baby doll aloft or “off” while pointing to your white noise machine. I lift you and press my lips to your sleep-warm cheek, breathing you in, as you pat my back in greeting. A chorus of “Angy” and “Elmo” follow as we depart the room and head downstairs.

We pet Angus and turn the TV to Elmo. I change your diaper and then head to the kitchen for your first sippy cup of milk of the day.

No matter what chaos or quiet the day has in store, they almost all start just like this. Sometimes Daddy or Max is in the mix, but it is mostly you and me.

I can’t imagine a day when I don’t have a soft, cuddly, oppositional, delightful toddler waiting for me in a crib upstairs. I don’t want that day to come.

But it will. Change, both joyful and sorrowful, will come. We will bring your new sibling home from China. You will grow big enough for a big girl bed. Then, you will somehow be big enough for your own home.

Until then, I will kiss and cuddle you as much as you allow. I will sigh and laugh over the fact that your daily requests for your swing are invariably followed by your running from the arms ready to place you there. I will talk sternly, hug tightly, laugh joyously, and wonder how I take such delight in a process that breaks my heart. Why it is I try like hell to help you grow into a person who can live away from and eventually without me.

Keep climbing and running, my sweet Scarlett. For now, all roads lead back to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So much love,


When Fear Becomes Too Real

My greatest fear as a child, and an adult, was and is dying: either developing or catching some horrible disease, experiencing a terrible accident, or murder. I think I feared murder the most, with disease a close second. I also greatly feared losing my loved ones to death and I still do.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t frightened of being murdered in my bed at night. Thanks to reading articles I shouldn’t have in my grandmother’s magazines, as well as watching shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “L.A. Law”, I knew about violent crime. I knew about children dying from diseases no child should have to endure. Also, in a well-intentioned, but very misguided act of parenting, my father managed to convince me that kidnappers were constantly waiting in the wings to snatch me. We were to trust no one.

During a discussion of getting in cars with strangers:

“What about Garland and Grace?” (A lovely older couple who lived across the street.)

“No. Not even them. We don’t really know them. Children get kidnapped by people they know all the time.”

On whether I could go to a public bathroom by myself:

“No! Someone might be waiting to snatch you in there.”

He meant to help me learn to be careful. Unfortunately, I simply learned too young that my parents really couldn’t protect me from everything.

I have been afraid while going to sleep in my own home practically every night of my life. The only extended period of time I felt little to no fear of murder in my sleep was the six months my daughter Lucy fought cardiomyopathy. My brain was busy with a fear that had materialized.

Despite these fears, I lived alone for five and a half years in my twenties. It was definitely scary sometimes. Luckily, the worst thing that ever happened was a peeping Tom at my bathroom window in College Station. I felt safer in public than in my own home sometimes. The bookstore, Target, the movie theater, and the mall were my happy places. With plenty of people around, no one could corner me and hurt me.

That has changed now. It has changed so much, that I completely forgot until last week how safe I used to feel in public.

It changed with Columbine.

It changed with 9/11.

It changed with Virginia Tech. (This is a big part of the reason I no longer teach at college level.)

It changed with Newtown.

And Aurora. (Another safe place, movie theaters, forever marred.)

And so many others that I can’t recall any more names at the moment. I feel frightened taking my child to a movie or on an airplane. There have been weeks where I was terrified to send Max to school. One day, at the height of my anxiety before Zoloft, I kept him home. He wasn’t sick. I had a bad feeling I couldn’t ignore.

The last time I took Max to a movie, I noted with relief that we were right by the emergency exit. I could grab him and get out that door before a shooter got us probably. I would probably have that crazy mom strength that comes in a desperate situation, rendering me capable of lifting a 50 pound boy and moving faster than a hail of bullets to get out that door.

I am still afraid at night, but now I feel safer at home. I would have preferred that to come from conquering my fears, not the creation of new ones.

Even with the increase in public shootings in America, I know it is still so very unlikely I or my loved ones will end up victims of one. But it should be much less likely than it is.

Maybe I Will Miss a Day of NaBloPoMo … or the Rest of It

Despite the title of yesterday’s post, I’m starting to wonder if I want to continue with NaBloPoMo. For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you might have noticed that it’s been very quiet. I’ve been working on my first book. Actually, it might be two books. Or three. J

Most days, I only work in about thirty minutes of writing. On Tuesdays, I get two whole hours, since I chose to sit out of Chorus this semester to devote more time to writing. Writing a blog post everyday sucks up that thirty minutes and then some. Now I’m not sure I want to spend a whole month away from my book(s) to do that.

I missed the ready feedback from blogging, as well as the satisfaction of finishing a project. (These books aren’t going to be done for awhile.) But I don’t miss the necessity of churning something out whether it’s the story I want to tell or not.

I want to tell Lucy’s story, as well as my own. I want to try my hand at a mystery. That’s not going to happen if I spend most of the month on blog entries. I have to sit down and do the work.

I only want to continue NaBloPoMo if it’s bringing me closer to my goals as a writer, rather than letting me hide from them. At the very least, I want to have fun with it. I spent most of my life hiding from this dream. I don’t want to hide from writing with other writing.

In the past, I wouldn’t have even considered giving up on a commitment like this. Persistence is a virtue, but I am proud that I am starting to see when it is not. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. All that matters is telling the story I want to tell.

I’m Not Going to Miss a Day of NaBloPoMo (at least, not in the first week)

Popping in with just a quick NaBloPoMo post, because it’s late and I’m tired. I just want to snuggle up with my cute hubs in front of the TV and then sleep.

So, just some short musings on my day today. What I said in the first paragraph is pretty much the theme. I’m tired. It was a hell of an October. I am tired from both good things (family wedding, Halloween) and bad (pregnancy loss, sick kids for the last two weeks). I’m tired from the time change, too, but I’m not about to start a debate about whether Daylight Saving Time is good or bad.

A dear friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl yesterday. She is a fellow heart mom and I couldn’t be happier for her. My heart just yearns when I look at that precious bundle, though. I see photos of precious new life and research adoption and I feel as if my head and my ovaries are pulling me in two separate directions. (My heart just wants another kid and doesn’t care which way we get it.)

It seems likely our future holds another child, but I do not know when or how. I’m not in too much of a rush, despite my yearning. I am, however, trying to be excited by the possibilities instead of frustrated by the uncertainties. I know the answers will come in time.


Living my Childhood Dream

I’ve wanted to pursue many careers over the years – concert pianist, President of the United States, actress, professor, and librarian. I actually did teach at the college-level for several years, but never became a full-fledged professor.

However, my first answer at six-years-old to the immortal question “What do you want to be when you grow up” was “a writer like Laura Ingalls Wilder”. I got the idea in my head that only rarefied talents could be successful writers and that successful meant “rich and famous”, so I only sporadically attempted to write seriously over the years. Keep in mind that this was before the Internet broke down the barriers between aspiring writers and the audience waiting for their words.

I never took a writing class. I tested out of the two required to graduate from a public university in Texas and actively avoided others, due to a terror of criticism. I discovered a talent for academic writing and decided that was the right path for me. Hence, the Masters degree in English that now graces the wall of the office/guest room in our house. I thought the well-defined rules of academic writing provided a framework in which to display my talent. I failed to notice that I was actually using them as a way to hide, until the walls of the prison I created were closing in so tight I could barely breathe.

The horrible anguish of my nervous breakdown ended up releasing me from that prison. I couldn’t bear the idea of entering a Ph.D program. I knew I needed a fresh start and I somehow just knew it was in Austin. A circuitous path through the Information Studies program at UT-Austin, a position as teller at Regions Bank, a receptionist/office assistant at Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, and adjunct faculty in the English department at Austin Community College finally led me back to my first dream. I am finally able to say “I am a writer”. I always have been a writer. I can’t promise that I will never run from it or simply let it go for awhile again. But I will always come back to the words, because I am never more fully myself than when I send parts of my soul to the world through them.

Finally, Some Answers

We finally received our test results today. The baby we lost four weeks ago definitely had Turner syndrome, which means it was definitely a girl. Although the symptoms noted on the nuchal translucency ultrasound made this practically a foregone conclusion, I am relieved to know for sure. Surprisingly, I felt a bit shaken and sad at hearing this.

For those who don’t know, Turner syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that affects only girls. It occurs when all or part of the second X chromosome is missing. Babies that survive to birth can live a wonderful life, sometimes with initial serious difficulties, such a heart defects. However, TS has a huge miscarriage and stillbirth rate.

And what heart disease has Turner syndrome been known to cause? Ding, ding, ding. Cardiomyopathy, the same disease our sweet Lucy battled to her end.

Turner syndrome and pediatric cardiomyopathy are both very rare conditions. It bothers me that two siblings could each have a different rare condition, which have a connection, but share no connection for them. That doesn’t seem likely to me, especially considering my other missed miscarriage and D&C due to unspecified chromosomal abnormalities. The nurse practitioner who delivered the results this morning assured me that TS is non-recurring and that our doctor would encourage us to try again. They are wonderful, knowledgeable medical professionals, but I don’t know if I trust them on this one. Our situation is too weird. The unlikely, awful outcome has happened to us too many times.

Since Scarlett and I were at her pediatrician’s office this morning getting a rash checked out, I decided to ask him what he knew about TS and if he remembered any signs of it in Lucy. He assured me he saw no sign of it in her or Scarlett.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I don’t know if I want to try again. I definitely don’t want to without talking to a genetic counselor and possibly undergoing genetic testing. At this point, I just don’t want to period. Chris and I have discussed adoption on and off for years. Ever since I was young, I thought I would have biological and adopted children in the large family I envisioned. We are giving ourselves time to think, heal, research, and mourn our precious baby girl. We have been calling her Baby Peach, since she was about that size when she died. I think we are going to name her Violet Dorothy now that we are sure she was a girl.

Rest in peace, sweet love. We wanted you so much.

How Do You Know When To Let Go?

This tired, half-hearted feeling reminds me of when I quit twirling.

The beautiful, shiny, sparkly dream that consumed my first two years of high school no longer felt right for me. At the beginning of my junior year, I picked up the baton, flipped open the folder containing the routine written out for me by my teacher, and began to practice.

After a couple of reps, I was done. I halfheartedly tried again the next day. I didn’t feel like it the day after that. And just like that, I knew I was done. The passion that had driven me to practice every night, no matter how late I finished my homework (It’s not easy to practice twirling quietly in your bedroom at 2 a.m., let me tell ya.), was gone.

Amazingly, I don’t think I questioned it. I just accepted that, after trying and failing twice to make the majorette line at my high school, I didn’t want to try anymore. It wasn’t fear of more failure. I just wasn’t interested anymore. The fire had gone out. I feel amazement now that such a passion could be gone so suddenly. Perhaps it slipped away quietly during the summer while I was busy with reading lists and band practice. My heart quietly healed itself as life went on and I went with it. Perhaps I felt a trust in my judgment unusual for the teenaged me, a trust which abandons me still upon occasion.

I’m worried that I am feeling that way again right now, but about something of much greater importance. My passion to have another child might be gone.

The one desire that remained steady through my entire life was the one to be a mother. (Well, except for an exceptionally dark period of self-loathing in my mid-twenties.) Even when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, or ever would be, a wife, I wanted to be a mom. A devoted viewer of “The Brady Bunch”, “Eight is Enough”, and “Step by Step”, I always envisioned a big family.

When I did marry at 28, my husband and I agreed we would wait a year to start our family. That didn’t last long. I knew before we married that I would want to start trying the second the ink on the marriage certificate was dry. I hoped against hope I could hold off. Conventional wisdom says to be married for awhile first, right?

We married in February and conceived our son the following October. At my baby shower, my aunt asked about the number of children we planned to have.

“Oh, three or four, I guess,” I answered. (The reality of pregnancy must have adjusted my ambition a bit.)

Our son Max arrived in July 2009. One terrible bout of PPD, a pregnancy-related herniated disc, and two and a half years later, our daughter Lucy arrived, in February 2012. Every time I gave birth, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. (I now squarely blame that on the fact that I gave birth sans epidural the first two times. If I had it to do over again, I would get the drugs.)

On Mother’s Day 2013, Lucy died of dilated cardiomyopathy, after a six-month battle that included listing for heart transplant. She was 15 months; Max was a couple months shy of four.

From my grief surged an unbelievable drive to become pregnant again. The only thing that could make the loss of my baby bearable was to have another growing inside me.

I became pregnant in June 2013 and experienced a missed miscarriage and D&C three months later. In November 2013, I became pregnant AGAIN and delivered a beautiful rainbow baby, our daughter Scarlett, the following July. Her big brother received the best 5th birthday present ever, four days late.

After another bout with PPD, I went on Zoloft. I feel better than I have probably ever in my life. One fact I need to fill in is that I became certain I wanted three kids after Lucy was born. Like, a week after. Three was the magic number. It just felt right. When I thought about four, I thought, “Whoa. Too many.” In my case, three was enough.

After Lucy was diagnosed, my husband and I struggled with this desire of mine, especially considering that her illness could be genetic. We didn’t know if we would have the necessary time and money for another now that we were parenting a chronically, perhaps terminally, ill child. But we also wanted Max to have a sibling if Lucy died. Due to the unpredictable nature of cardiomyopathy, we did not know if she would die young or when it would be if she did. She could live in to her 50s or not make it to her 2nd birthday.

After her death, it seemed a no-brainer to have another child. We wanted more than one. We wanted Max to have a living sibling. Scarlett is the joy of all of our lives now. The only way life to have life more perfect would include Lucy still living.

When Scarlett was 9 months old, we started trying again. I couldn’t shake the desire for “three all at the same time”. Also, after being pregnant part of every year since we got married, except 2010, I was ready to be done with the pregnancy part. I wanted our family complete. I was done wondering about it and more than ready to make it a reality.

The second pink line showed up in August 2015. I could hardly believe our luck. A spring baby, so I wouldn’t be heavily pregnant during the brutal Texas summer. Scarlett would be a few months shy of two, which would be a challenging, but wonderful, age gap.

Those possibilities vanished with the report from our NT scan. The baby showed signs of Turner syndrome. When we returned the following Monday for an appointment with the maternal fetal medicine specialist, there was no heartbeat. Another D&C followed the next day.

The most recent loss happened almost four weeks ago. We still don’t have the test results to tell us definitely what happened. I have changed my mind about whether or not our future includes another child with practically each passing day.

Besides all of the practical and medical concerns, I just might be having that “fire has gone out”, half-hearted feeling. Of course, it just happened a month ago, my hormones are still in an uproar, and I am on Zoloft now. All of that could be contributing to the lack of the desperation I felt after my first D&C. I have felt it this time, but only in brief spurts.

I just know that considerations that did not unduly sway me before – the newborn sleep deprivation, the demands of a toddler and a newborn, money worries- are enough to scare me away at least briefly now. Or worse, I feel apathy. I don’t want to be housebound and exhausted again. I think about ovulation and pregnancy tests and just do not feel the old excitement and determination. I was willing to do it all one more time to get that last kid, because I would know it was the last time. This loss reminded me that we can never be sure that we have reached the last time. Or, at least, a last time with a last baby at the end of it.

Maybe I wanted the baby I lost a few weeks ago, but don’t want another. Maybe I just feel this way right now. Maybe I’m just done. I’m 36. I’ve been pregnant five times, given birth three times, and buried one child.  Maybe my desire for three came to include a subconscious desire to fill Lucy’s gap, to escape that loss. My heart might have healed once again while life’s duties carried me forward. Perhaps this is the way I am to have three children. I no longer feel sadness when I see three siblings in restaurants. I no longer clench my fists to keep the rage from surging out uncontrollably and searing everyone in its path as I tearfully insist to my husband that I want “three at the same time”.




Letter to Max at Six Years

Dear Max,

Oh, Max. So much of my heart and soul is bound up in those three letters. The letters that represent you – my firstborn, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

The enormity of my love for you fills me more every day, as we approach the sixth anniversary of your birth. I used to watch a television show called “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”. In one episode, the father of one of the teenage characters tells the mother of a toddler that he loves his son “18 years more” than she loves hers. (I’m not sure of the exact quote and couldn’t find it online.) The longer you know your children, the more you love them. So many speak of the flood of love they felt when they first laid eyes on their child or experiencing it as a tide coming in once those first few sleepless weeks are over. Very few talk about the fact that you may well love your child more at 18 than you did when you met them, because it sounds bad. But it makes sense. It is hard to fully and truly love someone you don’t know. The love you feel for your newborn is somewhat analogous to your first love. It is incredibly intense, but maybe a tad superficial. At the very least, you’ve got on rose-colored glasses. The more you love and work on a relationship with someone, the more they mean to you.

My anxiety fog, as I like to refer to it, obscured my feelings during much of your very early years. While I knew, absolutely KNEW, that I loved you, I could not feel it. I already knew what it felt like to love a child as your own. I felt that way about your oldest cousins Madison and Cameron when I cared for them when they were little. I loved them so deeply that it broke my heart to leave them to go to college. I couldn’t stop thinking about them for months after I left. Although it broke my heart, my love for them was one of the most beautiful feelings I ever experienced. It suffused my cells with a rapturous glow that somehow rendered hard work and sacrifice bearable, even easy at times.

By the time you were born, I was a decade older and suffering the effects of a long untreated nervous breakdown. Although I knew that love resided in my heart for you, I could not feel it. Knowing what I was missing made the situation so much worse. Suspecting that you were missing out as well made it intolerable.

As the years passed, I healed somewhat and learned to manage my anxiety on my own. The fog cleared at times and my love for you would fill my heart. But I knew I was still missing something precious.

Going on Zoloft cleared away the fog for good and enabled me to bask in the wondrousness of you. I feel that love, that amazing, all-encompassing love that I KNEW was there all along. I look at your bespectacled, smiling face with the three teeth-widths’ gap in the front and the awe and love overwhelm me. You. Are. Amazing.

I feel as if I discover your sweetness, intelligence, and all around adorableness anew every day. Today is your first day at a new school especially for active, gifted kids. I am so proud, yet I have spent the day nervously waiting to pick you up, wondering endlessly how you are doing, praying that you are having a good day. School has not been easy for you so far. I am so hopeful we have found the right place for you to grow and flourish. It helps that, as I drove away, I glimpsed you standing among a group of kids with a big smile on your face. I’ve carried that picture with me all day.

What can I tell you specifically about yourself at almost 6? You love science, especially space. You love to build with Legos, Play-Doh, Trio blocks, Magnatiles, and pretty much anything you can get your hands on. You read beautifully, even attempting chapter books on your own. Some of your favorites right now are the “Magic Treehouse” series, the “Magic School Bus” series, “Madeline” books, and ghost stories. Instead of wheedling more cuddle time out of me every night, you read until a specified time, then turn off your reading light and go to sleep. (Usually. We caught you still reading at 11 pm one night.)

Although I heard from others how much they enjoy having older children, I don’t know if I quite believed it. Despite the hardships of caring for babies and toddlers, I have always found them irresistible. I wondered if I would be able to relate to older children or if I would be bored to tears by the activities they chose.

I won’t lie. I do get bored sometimes. I don’t like building quite as much as you do, although I love the Lego sets. But I love rediscovering my favorite childhood books, TV shows, and movies with you, as well as new ones. You easily sit through a movie in the theater now. We frequently head to the Alamo and pig out on their buttered popcorn while watching a new kids’ movie. (We are both big fans of their buttered popcorn.)

One of your singular characteristics is your love and patience for your siblings. Since your last birthday, you gained another sister. Your love for her is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. You can’t wait to see her every morning. You grab her leg and kiss it as soon as you finish tackling me with a hug at school pickup. I have only seen you angry or frustrated with her a few times in this entire year. You and she form a mutual admiration society only superseded by your adoration of your parents at this point. I could not be happier that you have a sibling, an ally, living with you in this house once again.

Sometimes, you grab your sister and hold on to her so tight, just refusing to let go, no matter how much she squirms. I’ve realized that you learned that from me. I grab you sometimes and just squeeze, breathing you in, and peppering your face with kisses, as you laugh and squirm. I let go when you ask me, but only then. At times, you are hugging me back and we call it “a hug to last all day” or “a hug to last till morning” or “filling our love meters”. There is nothing in this world sweeter than your smile, your hugs and kisses, your voice saying “Mommy”. You were the first to call me “Mommy”. The voices of all of my children are sweet music, especially on that word, but yours holds the echo of my delight at hearing it first.

You, Max. Amazing, sweet, incredible, loving, smart you. I am prouder of you than ever and I love you more than ever – six years more.

All my love,




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