My Niece’s Love

I received a gift beyond measure today. The gift was so meaningful and so powerful it brought tears to my eyes.

I have loved and adored my niece for more than 13 years. I am so proud of the intelligent, caring, beautiful young woman she is becoming. My sister is one heck of a mom to raise this girl on her own.

I was only 13 years old when she was born, and I didn’t know the first thing about being an aunt. I loved dressing her like a mini me and playing with her. As I grew into the person I am today, and my nieces life changed, our relationship evolved.

I am proud to say that she is one of my closest friends. I’m honest with her even when the questions are tough. I tell her what is right, not what is easy. I don’t always tell her what she wants to hear, but she knows I mean well. And she knows that she can tell me anything. And as long as it isn’t anything dangerous or harmful, I keep her secrets.

I’m so grateful that HOS understands our bond. I told him once that if – God forbid – anything were to happen to my sister, I would fight tooth and nail to keep my niece with me. I would never lose her. He would fight for her by my side.

My goal, especially since becoming an adult, is to be a role model for my niece. I want to be someone she can turn to. Someone she can look up to. And someone she can be proud of.

Most people spend their whole lives never knowing the impact they have on another person. We never really know what sinks in or what matters. … But today, I learned that I am exactly who I wanted to be for my niece.

I received the greatest gift today in the form of a PowerPoint. My niece’s teacher sent it to my sister who shared it with me. The presentation was all about my niece – who she is, what she likes, what she wants to do when she grows up…

And on one of the last slides she wrote this:

“My Aunt taught me that if I’m not happy with something in my life that is in my control then change it – therefore I’m never unhappy with anything that is in my control.”

When I read that, I knew my mom would be proud of who I am. And I cried happy tears.

Taking Advantage of Rare Free Time

I used to think the worst thing to happen to a weekend would be no plans.


I pray for just one day for one day free from activities and schedules. And then I realize that my daughter is one-year-old. The schedules will only become exponentially busier.

I’ll be trying ducking and weaving through panic attacks in my future, but today I’m simply struggling to balance my family-faith-friends-work-volunteer balance. As you can understand, this is no easy feat!

Last weekend, I was constantly on the go. Looking back at my time – Friday through Sunday – I can isolate four, maybe five hours of quality time with Charlotte. … And that makes my heart ache. I find myself sneaking into her room to swoop her up for extra hugs and kisses.

In order to make up for missing out on the precious time offered on the weekends, I let dinner cook in the crockpot so I wouldn’t need to cook today. I designated all night as family night!

We all three enjoyed a meal AT the dinner table. This was huge for us! We rarely eat the same meal, let alone at the same time. Enforcing the family meal time isn’t a possibility with HOS’ career, but I’m happy to take advantage when I have the chance!

After dinner, we let Charlotte paint her first pumpkin! This was another example of cute ideas online that never turn out as expected in real life.

First, Charli decided to taste the paint and then spent a good five minutes gagging, coughing and spitting.

Second, painting MY pants turned out to be far more amusing than painting pumpkin.

Third, Charli wanted to actually paint. … With a brush! We now have some nice purple and blue splatter on the kitchen walls.

Most importantly, though, we had a happy baby girl covered in paint and smiles.

We ended the night with a bath, play time and reading.

Life isn’t going to be slowing down any time soon, so it’s up to me to take advantage of what little time we do have as a family. I guess that means more scheduling? 🙂

What do you do to take advantage of rare free time with your family?




There She Goes Again

A lady today told me that if babies stayed itty-bitty, cuddly, babies for a longer time period, people would have fewer kids.

I agree.

Charli has changed so much, so quickly.

Just when I start to feel like I have a handle on Charlotte’s new stage, and I’ve stopped pouting about how old she looks, everything changes again!

I’m still reeling from her first birthday. I keep looking at the hundreds of pictures we’ve taken since July 26, 2012. Teary-eyed, I force HOS to participate by shoving pictures into his face and asking if he removes the time she did this or her first that. *sigh* I’m not ready to accept that my precious baby is one, and she goes and does this …

Don’t get me wrong! I’m so proud of her. I’m amazed at how quickly she learns, and how strong she is. I’m so happy for her. … I just feel bad for myself. My baby isn’t a baby, baby any more.

And I’m too out of shape to chase this little walking machine!!

Miss Talkative

My daughter is talkative, animated and waves her hands around wildly while speaking. … She must have gotten those from her daddy. 😉

Moments To Remember, And Those to Forget

We all have moments in our lives that we hope to never forget. Moments that touch us so deeply, and fill us with so much joy. We wish we could capture the memory, like if it were a home video – something we can replay again when we need a smile. Sadly, these happy moments often get lost. We cling to then like tattered old photos, hoping to regain a glimmer of that moment.

We also have those moments we wish we could forget. And no matter how hard we try, or how many happy memories come after, we just can’t forget. These are the memories that become like home videos.

Last week, Charlotte needed a bath so I brought her into the shower with me. At one point, she placed her little hand gently against my cheek and looked up at me with her big blue eyes. She looked at me like I was the most beautiful, amazing thing she had ever seen. And seeing her look at me like that made me feel like the most beautiful, amazing woman.

I pray that I never forget that moment for as long as I live.

Tonight, the exact opposite happened. I ran downstairs to grab some clothes and forgot to close the gate behind me, knowing that HOS was a couple steps away from Charlotte. It was an awful, terrible, heart-wrenching mistake. Charli has been following me every where lately, so I should have known she would try to follow me downstairs.

I heard a thump on the stairs and then I saw my precious, beautiful, innocent and unprotected baby fall. She fell all the way down our stairs. My heart stopped. In a split second, I envisioned every possible tragedy. And all feelings of being a beautiful, amazing women were gone and I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world.

Charlotte didn’t cry for more than a few minutes. She wasn’t even bruised. All I know is that God protected my baby girl in a moment of my own failing. And while I am forever grateful that she wasn’t harmed, my mind keeps replaying the image.

A constant reminder that every good memory is tarnished by any bad memory that can’t be erased.

Despite it all, Charli still gets excited when she sees me and cuddles into my arm when she’s tired. She still looks at me like I’m the best thing in the world. And I feel a little better.

Still Amazed

Every day I stare at my daughter in wonder.

It’s been nearly nine months, but I’m still amazed that HOS and I created that precious little girl. And I feel so blessed that God gave her to us, happy and healthy.

Each day, I learn new things about her. She frustrates me at times – when she gets into the shoes, pulls on cords or eats Bear’s fur – but I’m mostly overjoyed.

I don’t know if I’ll spend my whole life looking at her, knowing that she’s my greatest accomplishment, and being surprised that she is mine, or if I’ll some day find some feeling of … acceptance … or peace. I don’t know the right word for it.

But right now, it feels like I’ll spend my entire life looking at this beautiful girl in complete and utter amazement, thanking God that she’s in my life.

Do you share this same feeling of wonder when looking at your child(ren)?


Puppy Love or Something Like That


Today I had the dreadful experience of watching my precious daughter scream out of fear.

My only reaction was to instantaneously switch to “overly protective mom” mode and swoop up my crying baby.


My heart ached! But then I realized that I need to toughen up my kid.

Here’s what happened. …

Nothing about Charli’s day was routine, so the poor thing was just unsure about things. She went to work with me in Manhattan instead of going to daycare. My friend, Steve, picked her up and they spent the day together. Steve and Hillary have a small dog, Maggie.

Don’t worry, Maggie didn’t bite her! Quite the opposite. Charlotte apparently pulled a chunk of fur off Mags and tried to eat it.


Despite that indiscretion, Maggie was loving on Charli by the end of the day.

Steve and Hillary dropped Charlotte off with me at my friend Andrea’s apartment. Andrea also has a small dog – an itty bitty dog, actually. Zoey is a mini dachsund, and the sweetest dog EVER.

Zoey also loves babies.

In typical tiny dog fashion, Zoey got very excited and decided to run when she saw Charlotte. Unfortunately, she ran right at my tired, hungry Charli and got in her face. …

I know it’s part of parenting, but I would wish that sound on no one. Hearing your baby scream and then cry from fear is one of the worst sounds I have ever heard. My heart broke for my little girl in that moment.


Charli was scared of a dog that is smaller than our cat. This will not do. Charlotte and Zoey

I, myself, have only ever been bitten by one dog – a fat weiner dog – so I understand a little apprehension, but Charlotte was quick to cry around Zoey the rest of the night.

I would like to point out that Charli was being far too emotional and dramatic. … Then I have to wonder where she got it from. …


Obviously, not her mother!

What Goes Up…

Charli and I had a pretty lazy afternoon. … To be fair, I was lazy. Charlotte played with her toys, cooed and was her adorable, intelligent self.

She loves this bucket toy she received for Christmas from some friends. There are shapes she will eventually be able to fit through the appropriately shaped hole in the lid, and there are stacking cups. As she was playing, I attempted to stack the cups, but she would so sweetly knock it down each time.

While laughing at her little giggle, I had an idea.

We have been testing Vine videos at work. The Vine iPhone app allows you to film a 6 second video. The video can be stop-motion or a flowing video (I don’t know the correct terminology). It’s very simple to use, and you can share the video directly to Twitter and/or Facebook.

So, after several failed attempts on my part, and several successful demolition attempts by Charlotte, I finally finished a simple stop-motion video. Alas, what goes up must come down!

Time Without Baby

It has been 48 hours since I’ve held, kissed, snuggled or just looked at my baby girl.

I left Kansas on Tuesday to attend a social media conference in Las Vegas.

I know hat you’re thinking. Rough life, right? I’m not complaining about the conference. I’m really enjoying myself. I just wish I could have packed Charlotte in my carry on.

I’m doing better than I thought I would. I haven’t cried yet, and I haven’t bored my co-worker to death with stories and pictures of Charli.

BUT there was a toddler in the flight from Dallas to Las Vegas, an the poor boy just wanted to be home. He started crying a couple times and my heart just ached. It made me want to go straight home and never leave Charlotte again.

So for the last 48 hours I’ve been baby free, and while I’m having fun, I’m punting the hours until when I get to go home.

It’s still another 36 hours until I can hold, kiss, snuggle or just look at my baby. And you bet your ass, I’m going to wake her up to do it.

One Last Reason to Smile

On Friday, my aunt sent an update to our family group on Facebook that my grandpa’s most recent stay in the hospital had taken a turn for the worse.

I immediately decided that I should visit. I didn’t know if HOS would want to be in that situation – hospitals, sick grandpa, etc. I can see how that would be uncomfortable for someone new to our clan. The big question was whether or not to take Charlotte.

My sister called and we planned a trip for Sunday, but after talking things over with HOS, I decided that Charli would be a welcome distraction for my grandma. And HOS wanted to come along. So, I told my sister we decided to go up yesterday – Saturday.

The trip is about five hours without stops. During the drive, I thought about my memories of my grandpa and all the things I wanted to share with Charlotte. I thought about what I would write in this post after the visit.

We arrived at the hospital shortly after 4:30 in the afternoon. We talked to some of the family who was there visiting, but leaving for Mass. And then we went in to see grandpa.

He seemed so uncomfortable, and reminded me so much of my mom when she lay dying in her home hospice bed. The room even smelled the same. I felt somewhat claustrophobic, but I wanted to be there. I wanted him to see me and Charlotte.

Grandpa woke up. He talked to us and recognized all the visitors. He teased Charlotte, growling and smiling at her. She tossed her toy at him and he picked it up and shook it at her.

I couldn’t have asked for a better visit.

The nurses came in and asked us to leave so they could move him and change his bandages.

It wasn’t five minutes later that an alarm went off, and a nurse asked my grandma the hardest question I could ever imagine – Do you want us to so CPR?

We all stood in shock, and the. Broke down in tears.

My precious, loving grandma had never looked so frail and so broken. After 59 happy years of marriage, she had to honor her husband’s wishes. She had to let him go, completely and utterly unprepared to do so.

The next week will be filled with tears for the loss of a loved one and smiles for the wonderful memories. We will be strong and weak, hopeful and sad.

Above all else, we will still be a family created by an amazing man and his loving wife.

HOS made a comment that he was so happy that we and Charli were there to make his last moments happy. He just wished she would remember. She’s too young, but she’ll always know that she was one of the last things to make him smile before he went to join his daughters – my mom and my aunt – in Heaven.