What American Sniper Taught Me

A few years ago, my husband and I read a wonderful book, American Sniper. It was co-written and about the U.S.’s deadliest sniper, Chris Kyle. The book was an emotional read and it truly gave me a newfound respect for the men and women who serve this country, their sacrifices and those of their families.

This past weekend was the box office debut for the movie. My parents came to watch the kids, so that my husband and I could have a date night and enjoy the movie.

First off, I must give two thumbs up to Bradley Cooper. His portrayal of Chris Kyle was spot on. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see Bradley Cooper while watching the movie. I saw Chris Kyle. Every interview I’d ever seen Chris Kyle in, Bradley Cooper was able to flawlessly imitate this man. It was eerie.

Second, I’m so excited and pleased to hear that the movie smashed box office records for a weekend in January, beating out Avatar, which I also saw opening weekend in the theaters. It’s nice to see that a story which can seem somewhat controversial in this day and age, was able to receive such astounding support from the general public. It’s nice that a true story can trump fiction.

All weekend I’ve relived scenes from the movie in my mind. I’ve thought about what he endured, what his family endured and how tragically life can be cut short. It’s made me appreciate what I have more and focus on not taking it for granted quite so much.

The movie ends with Chris telling his family “goodbye” as he goes to help another veteran suffering from PTSD. He tries to entice his wife into a quick 4 minute lovemaking session, but she playfully pushes him away. Little did she know that she would no longer be able to feel his arms around her again. His son wants him to play video games with him, but Chris tells him he doesn’t have the time, but maybe later when he returns. He never got the opportunity to play another game with his son, or cuddle his little girl. He never thought that once he left the house that would be the last time he saw his family again.

How often do we all just assume that our family and loved ones will be home when we get back? How often do we put off doing things with our children because we assume that we have tomorrow? How often do we women feign a headache when our husbands want some intimate time with us because we always have tomorrow? Yeah, these questions have crossed my mind and it saddens me that I’m guilty of all of these.

Yesterday I made the effort to hug my husband more, to kiss him more, to be more affectionate with him. I made a point of telling him how blessed I am that he’s my husband, that he comes home to me, and that I get to share this life with him. When our oldest wanted daddy to go play outside with him yesterday, I reminded my husband that he can’t put it off to tomorrow just because he wants to watch football. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

It’s highly unlikely that I won’t have days where I “put it off” until tomorrow anymore. I know the boys will get under my skin or that I’ll really just want to take a bubble bath in peace and quiet instead of enjoying family time. I’m aware that today I’ve already told Davey that I can’t color with him because I have to work, but I can promise to do better.

So many people took away from this movie a story about a man killing insurgents. So many people didn’t see the movie for what it really was. It taught me a lesson we all know so well…life is short, it’s not guaranteed, and that some things in life are “trivial” and shouldn’t be considered.

I’m two years older than Chris Kyle was when his life was tragically cut short. I may live until 90 and experience a house full of grandchildren one day. I may also walk out the door, climb into my car, and be involved in a tragic car accident. Live life to it’s fullest. Appreciate every second of every day that the Lord has given you on this earth. Love like it’s your last day to love. Hug those who need a hug and even those who don’t.

Appreciate your life and those who are in it. That’s what Chris Kyle and American Sniper taught me.

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Creating Healthy Friendships

Being a mom is tough stuff. We keep crazy schedules, maintain households, and serve as the nurturing bond for our family (most of us do, anyways). Some of us work outside of the homes, which can only add more “crazy” to an already crazy existence. Trying to squeeze everything into the small 24 hours a day allotted to us can be a bit overwhelming and some days just impossible. I don’t need to describe a possible schedule, you’re all living it. So, what, you ask, is the purpose of this blog? Some of you may not even have the time to squeeze in for reading this blog. Time, time, time…it’s all subjective. One thing that we should have time for is friendships. When some of us hardly have time to spare for our significant other, how are we to create healthy friendships? It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

First, let me start with a blog I read the other day. It was titled, “The 3 Second Pause That Can Save a Morning & Spare Some Time.” I shared it on my Facebook page, Dreaming of Mommyhood, but if you haven’t read it, please take a moment to indulge yourself. Here is the link: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/01/12/the-3-second-pause-that-can-save-a-morning-spare-some-pain/

After reading that blog, I found that I too have the same problem at times as Hands Free Mama. There are days and instances when I feel that I don’t have the time to do a 3 second pause, but I need to find that time. I need to find that time if for no other reason than the sheer fact that it will make ME feel better.

Sure, sure we all cast away ourselves when we become mothers. Suddenly things that seemed so important, instantly seem trivial and not worth our efforts. We find ourselves forced into trying to be a vision of this “perfect mother”, perhaps the June Cleavers of the world. These days it’s virtually impossible, but what is possible is that 3 seconds. In that 3 seconds we have the opportunity to become our nurturing selves again. In those 3 seconds, we have the ability to feel good about ourselves which leads me to creating healthy friendships.

In this day and age, it’s hard to maintain friendships. I have some friends, who’ve maintained close friendships with people with whom they were friends for over 20 years! 20 years! That’s crazy! I don’t have friends from 20 years ago. In most cases, these friendships are healthy and are conducive to their lifestyles, especially when they all have kids together. They can create weekend outings with each other and their families. I know one group who have a “mountain weekend” together every year. It’s a wonderful time for all of them, spouses and children, included. It’s a healthy friendship.

Thanks to the era of social media, we can all be “friends”. It’s my way of keeping in contact with my friends from high school and college. It’s great and easy, because I can see what they’re up to without actually investing the time into a conversation that would tear me away from something else. Is that healthy? NO! Truthfully, some of them I no longer want to invest the time with and I’m actually thankful that we have other ways than the telephone call, but maybe that’s what we need.

I can remember my mother sitting in the kitchen talking to her sister-in-law, her best friend, in the evenings after dinner. It was just the two of them. They were able to hear the inflections in each other’s voices. They were able to convey their true feelings, and they were able to have a friendship, one that was healthy especially when asking for advice was broached. Social media doesn’t allow for this type of interaction anymore.

Social media is great at allowing us to be a bit nastier to each other, to take away some humanity at times. Hey, I’m not bashing social media. It is my livelihood and allows me an outlet, this blog. Social media; however, has allowed “friends” and strangers to become your worst enemy, your greatest nagger, your grandest criticizer.

The thought for this blog originally stemmed from a post on Facebook from Parents Magazine. On it, there was a picture of Kelly Clarkson’s daughter with a set of head phones over her ears with the caption of her “dancing” to mommy’s music. It was an absolutely adorable picture, but it was met with harsh comments on Clarkson’s mothering abilities. Most were upset that a child was wearing headphones, and the remarks were just mean.

What a world we’ve become when we, as mothers, instead of bonding together for the betterment of our children and society, choose to tear each other apart and sit in judgment of each other. Hey, I’ve been guilty of it, and on extreme cases i.e. a mother leaving a child in a locked car with over 100 degree weather, I’m still guilty of it…that passing judgment. Why do we do this to each other and more over, why do we allow others to do it to us?

I asked my mother about criticism, healthy and unhealthy, she received while as a mom. She said it was rare. The occasional family member would pipe in from time to time, but it’s nothing like today. The world knows your every move today and feels that it’s their job to chime in with some advice, warranted or not. She brought up my blog. Instead of wearing my emotions on my sleeve, I wear them on the world wide web. I open myself up for the criticism. And she’s right, but it shouldn’t be this way.

This all leads me to what further pushed me to write this blog, and that was Tuesday night’s Bible Study which was titled “Healthy Friendships”. The study opened with this passage, “A friends loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17. It went on to discuss the unhealthy friendships we create. There are times when I consider cutting off all friends and going at motherhood alone (not without my husband, though). There are times when I think I don’t want to invest in friendships. They’re tiresome, judgmental, gossipy, and all around unhealthy. Perhaps that just some of the friends I choose and I should purge them from my life.

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, the teacher states: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”

The Lord never intended for us to be alone, otherwise he’d never created Eve for Adam. Of course, I don’t believe the Lord ever intended for us to be as condescending and nasty to each other as we’ve become. The Lord created people to serve Him, and while in serving Him to create a fellowship with each other. Today’s “fellowship” is so skewed that there’s hardly a true definition which we’re all living up to.

Who are your friends and are they healthy for you? If you only count the ones on Facebook, then you’re not having a true, healthy friendship. We all need to find the time to be friends to each other. We all need to find a way to help each other when we fall down. We all need to find a way to go back to the days of our parents and investing time with a friend.

I encourage you all to take that time to make friendships. A strong, healthy friendship can encourage you in your 3 seconds. Get outside, be adventurous and open-minded. Be loving and compassionate. Find that friend who complements you and build each other up. Be a friend and find a friend. It could save your life and your sanity.

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business.” Ecclesiastes 4:8.

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Has It Really Been 13 Months?

Yesterday marked the 13 month birthday of my youngest, Henry. 13 months?!?!?!? It doesn’t seem like 13 months have gone by. Why last year, I was getting used to operating on 4 hours or less of sleep.

This time last year, my oldest wasn’t impressed with his new little brother. After a month of being on this earth, Davey felt that Henry should have more substance to him other than being 10 pounds of screaming and pooping flesh. It was this time last year, when Henry was turning a month old that Davey exclaimed, “Mommy, I’m going to need you to put Henry back.”

His new chair from Santa.

His new chair from Santa.

Put him back? Surely he was joking, hence the reason I laughed, which then elicited this from Davey, “Mommy, why are you laughing? I didn’t make a funny.”

In 13 months, we’ve grown as a family, melded into a unit that for the most part operates as it should, each cog of the wheel turning and hopefully encouraging the other to turn. Of course, we have our meltdowns, and by “we”, I mean Davey. Perhaps we all (grandparents included) spoiled him too much. He WAS the only grandchild for a little over 2 years and what a grand title to have and then to relinquish in such a short time.

Enjoying a breakfast of cheerios.

Enjoying a breakfast of cheerios.

As for Henry, about whom is the true reason I write this post, well he’s a chubby little man, teetering along in happy contentment. He loves to hug our dog. He can even say “Dix”, short for Dixie. As a matter of fact, EVERY dog is Dix. He has an affinity for blowing kisses even to the strangest and often most repugnant of people. His brother is his idol, although Davey seems to be oblivious to this. He loves cars and books, dinosaurs and FOOD! The child eats, and he eats, and he eats. He is my little porker.

So, 13 months, where have you gone? What have we done with the time you’ve laid at our feet? Some days I feel we’ve trampled over the time with disdain, or maybe I’VE trampled over it with disdain, with my impatience at wanting to have two perfect little boys living in happy harmony. For the most part, I’d like to think we’ve not taken you for granted, 13 months, and that we’ve found at least one moment in every day to relish the time.

Celebrating his actual 1st birthday eating breakfast at Harry Caray's at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Celebrating his actual 1st birthday eating breakfast at Harry Caray’s at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Happy 13 months to the sweet little boy!

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A New Year Has Begun

And we’re back to the daily grind.

I’ve been a bit tardy, or possibly the word I’m searching for is negligent, with my blog. I’ve done so well in posting on a near daily basis, but with the holidays it became quite difficult. Each day, I’ve thought of new blog posts, but there was always a family engagement to attend, a three year old who was sick, then a one year old who was sick, a house to sanitize, and family fun to be had. You see, for two weeks my boys and I have lived in a state of pure bliss. My husband hasn’t travelled. There have been no 5 am drives to some Podunk town with a return hour of near midnight. There have been no overnight visits in which my husband has been called. He hasn’t even worked full weeks for the past two weeks! What a true treat it’s been for all of us. Unfortunately, our little fairytale world came to an end and reality reared her ugly head back at us this morning. How sad.

I’ve found myself becoming a bit nostalgic over the past couple of weeks. I’ve thought about our holidays before we were parents, our New Year’s Eves of partying until 2 am, and our days off when we did nothing but sit at home and binge watch old episodes of Fringe and 24 or a Harry Potter marathon. What grand days those were, but none as grand as what we have now.

No longer do we go out on New Year’s Eve. With the chiming of the 10 p.m. bell, we’re usually fast asleep. Of course this year we dealt with the younger crowd of our neighborhood, those who still party like it’s 1999 and have zero respect or concern for those around them. Am I still a bit bitter? Why, yes, I am. But as I sat listening, angrily I might add, at the continuous fireworks and drunken stupors of our neighbors until 1 am, I found myself thinking back to last year’s New Year’s Eve and even a few prior ones.

I’d only become a mother for the second time and my sweet, precious Henry was just a few weeks old, three to be exact. He was a hard little bugger to get to sleep, much harder than Davey. We used to rock him, swaddle him, sing to him, turn on white noise, and even just pray that he would give us a few hours of sleep. Two at a time was usually his preference, which obviously didn’t allow much in the way of fun for us.

My original intent last year was to actually stay awake with my husband and ring in the New Year watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. We did that at a party on our very first New Year’s Eve together. Hall & Oates were the huge performing act that night, and no it was not 1985 for all of you smug little people. It was New Year’s Eve 2003, and we sang “Maneater” right along with Hall & Oates. Any time I hear a Hall & Oates song I’m immediately transported back to that night. They’ve actually become quite a favorite band of my husband and me.

Instead of the champagne we’d had nine years earlier, I’d bought a bottle of sparkling white grape juice. We were going to have a quiet evening together, just the two of us. Of course, Henry wouldn’t dare think of maintaining any level of peace in the house, so being much too exhausted to follow through with our plans, we went to bed when Henry did…8 o’clock.

True to form, he slept a couple of hours. I nursed him, put him back to bed, and crawled back alongside my snoring husband. 11:30 flashed on the clock when Henry’s whimpers turned into cries and I arose once more to nurse him back to sleep. Sleep was not on his agenda. I decided that since it was so close to midnight, I’d take Henry downstairs and we could watch the ball drop. When I rolled over to ask my husband if he’d like to join me downstairs to ring in the New Year, he’s gruff reply was, “No. Leave me alone. I wanna sleep.” Jerk! I wanted to sleep too. So I rang in 2013 with my second son smiling up at me, or maybe he was just gassy.

This year I contemplated having something special for Davey. Perhaps buying hats, noisemakers, and streamers. Nah! I really didn’t want to deal with all of that, but we did celebrate early and my three year old drank out of his first champagne flute…filled with sparkling red grape juice. He actually became quite the lush and continued to ask for more. Hopefully, that’s not a sign. We watched some of the New Year’s Eve programming. I giggled as Davey sang right along to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” while she performed it. He’s a huge fan of Tay Tay! And truly it was our most memorable, relaxing, and enjoyable New Year’s Eves in quite some time. It’s reminded me of the little things that are important, the things I take for granted, and the happiness I have with my life.

Dave and Davey enjoying their "champagne".

Dave and Davey enjoying their “champagne”.

So, with this new year beginning, I want to wish you all a joyful, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Thank you all for your continued support in the four years I’ve been writing this blog. I’ve found that I have followers in 56 countries! My, my, I can’t even think of 56 countries off the top of my head! Thank you again and I look forward to a wonderful 2015.

me and my oldest.

me and my oldest.

Happy New Year!

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Goodbye, Christmas.

I am sad, truly sad. I hate when Christmas is over. I adore the feeling of love, hope, and celebration. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Alas, all good things must come to an end and with that here’s a quick glimpse of how we spent our Christmas.

I expected Davey to be difficult. He is, of course, at that age where he wants to open EVERY present, but thankfully he asked everyone’s permission to help them. In most cases, his “help” was really just him devouring the paper all by his lonesome. This year; however, was truly different and my oldest made me beam with pride. For every gift he received, BEFORE he opened them, he thanked every one with huge hugs for getting him a gift! How crazy is that? He didn’t even know what was in the gift, but yet he was so ecstatic to receive one he immediately had to thank the recipient. And what’s better than that? When he opened a box full of clothes, he didn’t once complain about the clothes not being a toy. He gave even bigger hugs! What’s wrong with my child?

Decorating trees

Decorating trees

Henry wasn’t interested in any gift. Surprise, surprise! He wasn’t even interested in tearing apart the wrapping. This worked well with Davey as it gave him more gifts to open. I guess what surprised me the most; however, was Davey sheer excitement over one particular gift…SOCKS! Yes, I just typed that word. My three year old was excited over socks, but here’s the kicker, they were not just ordinary socks. These socks had Lightning McQueen on them. You can never go wrong with anything Cars or Planes. Those Disney movies, and their spinoffs, are winners in my household.

Decorating Trees

Decorating Trees

The funniest and almost most mortifying (at least for me) part of Christmas Eve was the moment I opened a gift with Davey’s help. Inside the gift were two new bras to which my son exclaimed, “Mama, look, these hold your nipples. Aren’t you excited?” Yes, my three year old blurted out those words. If I hadn’t been surrounded by family I would have been mortified.

Decorating cookies

Decorating cookies

All in all, Christmas did not disappoint. We continued with old traditions, started new ones, and celebrated our lives and the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This year, Davey new more about the Christmas story and could practically repeat it himself. He was eager to tell everyone the true meaning of Christmas and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We baked cookies together, decorated trees, and gave each other love.

Helping in the kitchen.

Helping in the kitchen.

And all though this mama slacked with her Elf on the Shelf responsibilities, all of your posts and pictures have encouraged me for next year.

putting out reindeer food.

putting out reindeer food.

Now it’s onto the tedious and saddening task of undecorating my trees and placing them into hibernation until next year.

So, from my family to yours, we hope you’ve had a very Merry Christmas. I pray that you’ve all remember the true meaning, and you celebrated it. For the New Year, I hope it is a blessed one and that if you’ve never experienced our Lord’s magic and gifts that you find a way to Him.

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So This is Christmas

I awoke this morning to the news of so many children losing their lives at the hands of armed gunman. It’s not an unusual story to hear about on the news. Two years ago, a deranged young man took the life of his mother along with numerous elementary aged children in Newtown, CT before eventually ending his own life. Hearing these stories at a time when we, as Christians, celebrate the birth of the greatest child to be born, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is extremely heart breaking.

We are exactly nine days away from celebrating the birthday of Jesus, a child born unto this world who would ultimately die for our sins. This is a time of love, happiness, and joy, but yet it’s hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm when we’re inundated with so much evil and hatred.

As I continued to listen to the news reports throughout the morning of the children who died at the hands of Taliban terrorists, I evolved from a state of anger to a state of sadness. As a mother, my perspective on life and society is much different than what it once was. I find that I put myself into the shoes of other parents, that I find a way to empathize with them, and I pray. I pray that the Lord guides these parents. I pray that He helps them to heal and forgive. I pray that they never feel His absence.

And then, when I can no longer stay in the shoes of other parents, I look at my children and think back to my childhood.

Christmas was always a magical time. The days seemed infinite. The minutes ticked by slowly on Christmas Eve as we sat alongside the fireplace and watched television, listened to music, and told stories. I always worried we wouldn’t make it home in time for bed and that Santa would bypass our house. After all, he did have a lot of packages to deliver and he needed to get a head start.

When I was the age of many of these children killed in Pakistan today, the worst thing I’d ever seen happen was the Challenger explosion. It made me cry because it had been such a huge thing to have an average American, a teacher, going up in space. It was mechanical failure, not failure of society or the human heart like the majority of the tragedies are these days.

When I was the age of many of these children, I didn’t worry about my education. I didn’t worry about my safety at school, or that someone would try to deny me of it. I didn’t fear that at any point my city or town would be bombed. I was a child, living a carefree life. I was a child doing exactly what a child should be doing…not fretting about the insensitivities and violence knocking on my door.

When the shooting of Newtown happened, Davey was just over a year old. I cried for the longest time as I watched parents with children who would never open presents on Christmas morning. I sobbed uncontrollably at the thought that these parents would wake up the next morning and not see the smiles of their children, their laughs, and inquisitive natures. I thanked the Lord right then for my blessings and I hugged Davey harder.

This morning, I found myself doing the same thing once again with both Davey and Henry. What a gift these boys are to me. How wonderfully blessed I am to have them in my life. I can’t imagine waking up one day to the realization that their little lives were snuffed out at the hands of selfish, inhumane monsters. I can’t imagine how or why anyone would want to hurt children, the most innocent and pure of society. A child shouldn’t have to carry the burdens of this world. Jesus Christ did that for us. He suffered for our sins and yet we are still a horribly sinful world when things like the murders of innocent children is occurring.

On days like today, I find myself playing John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” in my head. How many of you have actually listened to the words? I’m not a huge fan of John Lennon, but what a wonderful song he wrote. He asks, “So this is Christmas. What have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun”. What have we done, as God’s children, this year? And then the tears start to fall when I hear him sing, “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”

As a Christian, I implore all of you to please think beyond yourselves. Think about, “the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, for the road is so long.”

Don’t take a day for granted, don’t miss a moment. Hug your children, love them, and set an example for them. Think about those children who won’t get a Christmas this year, or for those who won’t breathe life again. Think about your childhood, be it good or bad, and want more for those who’ve come after you. Let the true spirit of the season overwhelm you and fill your heart with more love than you ever thought imaginable.

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Another First

I close my eyes and I can still see it all, vivid and clear. If I’m quiet, I can still feel the pain, the anxiety, and the sheer impatience.

I arose much like every morning, perhaps a bit earlier. My excitement was getting the better of me. I couldn’t wait to meet my new little baby. He’d been baking for what I felt to be much too long, plus I’d started experiencing something with him that I hadn’t felt with the first…CONTRACTIONS. It was something I could definitely go a lifetime without having to experience.

Nearly six hours later, and after much discomfort, Henry was finally here. My lucky little baby on what is normally considered an unlucky day…Friday the 13th. During the C-section, I had a localized pain in my right shoulder, that apparently was like an air bubble. I became nauseous, and found myself heaving, eager to expel any demons that were inside of me. I didn’t hold my baby for a long time, not because I didn’t want to but because I physically felt in capable. If I meditate for a moment, I can still experience all of this…a year later.

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What a year it’s been too! Henry came just in time for Christmas, but had no clue what was going on. He rang in the New Year with me and a bubbly bottle of grape juice while everyone else in the house slept. His older brother wanted to send him back because he lacked a personality for quite some time.

He rolled over, he crawled, and he walked all ahead of schedule, but perfectly in line with his older brother. He developed a love of cars and his thumb, began sleeping in his crib much earlier than his brother, and even had the bed lowered sooner! He learned to climb steps, baby gates, chairs, beds, and even his pack and play. He found out just how ticklish doggy kisses can be from our dog, Dixie.

He’s brought a smile to everyone’s world, a laughter that you only find deep within the depths of your soul. He’s infectious with his laugh, and you find yourself giggling just as hard. He makes friends everywhere, hugs everyone, blows kisses, and eats chili cheeseburgers!

He hates car seats and strollers, loves to run as fast as possible. When he cries, which is rare, his brother sings “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to him, eliciting a calmness. He’s cuddly, loveable, and has developed a personality unlike anything. He loves to perform, to be the center of attention, and unlike his brother, he’s all my side of the family…a Bruce through and through.

This weekend commenced a fun-filled three days of celebration from my second born on his first birthday. He had multiple cakes, numerous presents, and created a new set of memories we’ll all treasure for a lifetime.

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Happy Birthday, Henry! You are my second gift from God, a precious little angel I never thought I would be capable of loving this much. You make me smile, you make me laugh, you make me cry, and you may think. You encourage me to take my parenting to a whole new level. I am the most blessed mother in the world to have not only you, but also your brother. I love you, my sweet, sweet little baby. Here’s to a lifetime of love, happiness, heart ache, and memories.

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