This Is Not Our Home

In the middle of March, we closed on my mom’s house. It was St. Patrick’s Day and a whole bunch of crazy on my part. Even though I had Power of Attorney for the house closing transaction, it was quite the signing extravaganza. Rather than me signing one signature for her estate as I had hoped it would be, I had to sign a ridiculously long phrase for each of my brothers and myself. It was as follows: My name, Heir-At-Law; My first brother’s name, Heir-At-Law by My Name, his Attorney-In-Fact; My second brother’s full name, Heir-At-Law by My Name, his Attorney-In-Fact. Every. Single. Time…….times about 30-ish times. All this while one of the amazing realtors that I worked with put my baby girl to sleep for her nap out in the lobby. Oh, and did I mention that the lending company for the buyers wanted extra proof that we were my mom’s only kids? Well, they did, so last minute they sprung on me the need for two people to verify and swear to the fact I am her daughter and that she only had me and my brothers, no living spouse. It had to be notarized. And they had to know our family for 5 or more years, And they couldn’t be family. Good thing I know a lot of people, right? I had spent so much of my days there after she passed cleaning it out, setting it straight, checking on it, and all the other type of things that go along with a house. It was a massive amount of time and energy. My kids were neglected at times, being left to figure out something to entertain them while I cleaned, or there was copious amounts of attempting to not suffocate them from the piles of Goodwill donations that surrounded them in the van while on one of our bajillion trips. Before I said my final goodbye to the place, I took one final picture on those blue steps, as well as one of the outside: IMG_5219 IMG_5217When all that was done, what I viewed as the last and biggest step from being able to fully breathe and consider my mom and her passing was over. Yeah, there were some things in my garage from her home that I couldn’t find or figure a location for, whether it be physically or emotionally, but really that was it. Her estate was basically done and could be closed. I could begin, to me, what was the true beginning of healing. One night, while sitting with Thomas on the couch, I told him how I wanted something to signify that this phase of the grief journey was over. I wanted something to represent that stage of estate closing, house clearing, emotional strife, etc. I told him “I want something to represent this moment, just like people do with jewelry….but I don’t want any jewelry.” He suggested I commission some artwork, and he suggested a girl I went to college with who has quite a beautiful business and ministry with her passion in art. I told him that was perfect, and although I didn’t know what, I knew I wanted something from Laura. A quick Facebook message later, I had told Laura of my desire to represent everything that was the cleaning out and selling of my mom’s home, the house where I mostly grew up, the home where she died, a place that will always have a small piece of my heart, but also a place that is now no longer mine or hers. Laura, having lost her mom to cancer a few years back, shared with me a picture of what she made for herself when she closed on her mom’s home. I told her it was exactly what I wanted, without even knowing I wanted it. She asked a few questions and then she set to work. IMG_6044Can you see it? There are so many layers here. It’s just amazing really. First, the fact that “This Is Not Our Home” is writing over a home on a canvas that will sit in my home is just brilliant. It’s not mom’s home, cause now she IS home. It’s a hard fact to swallow, but it’s one I believe to be true. Away from this world is a believer’s true home. It’s not hers, it’s not mine, and if you believe, it’s not yours. No house is your home, not even this world. “This Is Not Our Home” Hebrews 13:14-15  While cleaning out mom’s, before I knew I was going to have Laura create this piece, I had sent her some old hymnals that mom had collected. I knew they would be fitting in Laura’s artwork. When we decided on this concept, I had asked if she could use some of those hymnal pages to create my piece. So, the hymns you see that create the white house were actually my mom’s possessions. The ones chosen here were songs sang at her services. The green roof, the letter T, the #250, all perfectly crafted to represent “the house that built me.” I had secretly hoped to have this custom piece by Mother’s Day, and it turns out I do! I don’t know yet where it will reside, for I am still just so happy about it and everything it represents. I also take great comfort in the fact I know the hands that made it, and I know that she prayed for me as it was designed, knowing all too well the hole that losing a mother can leave. Thank you Laura at Pitter Patter Art. It’s simply perfect. Although it’s true that “this is not our home….”, I will truly miss her until the day comes that I get to go home and see her again, and I am grateful to have such a depth filled piece to remind me of her and this journey.

Tender Hearts and The Grief Journey

I am realizing that some days, my heart is more tender than others about my mom. I really do think of her every day. On some days, it’s just a small thought, a quickly fleeting one. On others, it is a heavy weight, a sinking feeling that persists. Although my dad has been gone since I was 4, I find myself thinking of him more since she has passed than what feels like all the years before. Anger builds in me when I think that I have no parents. I know I’ve said that before, but that’s the thought that goes through my mind over and over. Neither one is here with me any more, neither can see my children grow….I have no parents, and I feel too young to have that status. I am the start of the living in my family lineage. No parents, no grandparents……it feels heavy to me.

2014-04-20 00.07.50When Easter approached, I kept thinking of the Easter before. Last year, mom was still with us. In fact, she looked great, seemed to feel good, and was all-around seeming as if she was winning this cancer fight. Even though she had just recently been released from the hospital, she had energy. Her hair was growing back, her face was round, she smiled a lot and her smile was still hers, not the one where a stroke had robbed her of its normalcy, and her voice was vibrant, not one burdened and crackled by tumor pressure.2014-04-19 23.47.14

I have a voicemail saved on my phone from my mom from last Easter. Although not a message filled with fluffly thoughts, it is still a recording of her voice. It’s preciousness to me is extreme. On it, she tells us to come to her house and get our Easter baskets. And by OUR, she meant everyone, even me and 2014-04-20 00.06.44Thomas. She just couldn’t leave anyone out, grown adults and all. At the close of her brief message, she said “love you” before hanging up the phone.

When we went to retrieve our baskets a few days after Easter, we took this picture.2014-05-25 15.00.44

It was almost right after this that everything began to fall apart.

I wrote that first half of this blog post, everything above this point, and then I paused. Now, I can’t remember my train of thought. I can’t seem to find the vein of those emotions that got me to begin writing it. Yet, I’ve never stopped thinking about it. Somehow, that seems extremely fitting, for as I wade through this grief process, that’s how everything seems to be to me. My heart feels one way, and then it is changed, on a whim. A pressure on my mind and heart. My spirit feels one emotion, and then it is adapted, placid to a storm. Everything swirls from okay to horrid. It affects all things, and the worst part about it is that you don’t know it until its too late and it’s already happening, and those around you feel ashamed to want to blame your actions or feelings for the day on grief. It’s almost like that cliche of the man wanting to blame his crazy wife on it being “that time of the month.” You don’t want to say it, but you think it, and it’s usually right, and you can’t claim it to be true, cause it feels like a cop out to want to excuse your emotional whirlwind on grief.

I wonder when it will stop.

Nothing about the grief process is linear. You don’t go from one stage to the next and never back to that stage. One isn’t conquered to never be experienced again. I’ve always taught this about the writing process, encouraging students that even once it is “published” or turned in to me, changes still need to be made, ideas revised, errors adapted, materials deleted. It’s never “done” as a piece of writing, hence multiple editions of a book. That’s the grief process it seems, and it is troublesome. You feel like the loss shouldn’t have that effect on you. But it just does. Eventually, I will hit a year without her, which will mark making it through most all the “firsts” without her. After that though, I assume it just turns into something else that can bring the sadness.

This Easter just enters into another one of those “firsts” without mom. I wouldn’t have ever thought “yeah, Easter is going to be hard without her!” but yet it is. I didn’t know it mattered so much, yet apparently it does. I think the contrast of the two is what hurts so much. My littlest is a whole year bigger, which is extremely noticeable at her age. She’s grown so much and mom can’t enjoy it.

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DSC_0008My boys have grown so much and she can’t participate in that either.

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DSC_0040In my mangled sadness, I occasionally have the foresight to grab my emotions and ask for help.  I asked one of mom’s friends that spoke at her funeral to pray for me on Good Friday. As we traveled to get Wesley’s cast off, I knew mom would be excited about that venture. She would be likely right in the middle of our day, lavishing love on our littles. On Saturday, our church’s Children’s Pastor, Bridget, texted me that when she saw me at our Saturday night Easter service, she nearly cried. She wondered if she was in tune with something, channeling mom. I shared with her how it has been such a hard few days, cause I keep thinking of the extreme differences from this Easter to last.

I stopped by the graveyard this week, which I normally think is a stupid thing to do. It just seems like a waste of energy to me, and I have never cared to ever do it before. I find myself now wanting to take pictures with my kids standing next to her and my dad’s grave, just like she use to make us do next to my dad’s tombstone. What it profits, I have no clue, yet I feel like I want to or need to do it.

But this Easter weekend, there were a few things that really stood out to me as “she’s still here and loves you” moments.  After coming home from eating Easter lunch with my family, I put the spoon which I had used to serve our green beans on the counter. And there it was, faded but still present: Boyd.IMG_5643

It had actually been her  spoon. It was one from her house that I had brought into mine, and that was the spoon, out of all my spoons, that I took with me that day. It made me crack a smile.

Then, a picture of me holding Hazel. One that a my cousin’s mother-in-law took of me at the close of Easter Sunday service. My sweet Hazel had fallen asleep on me, and I just sat and lingered at the close of service in order to let her get as much snoozing as possible. And at that moment, on the empty pews, me, Hazel, and my mom’s rings on my fingers. The way I am holding my hands, I could have had my left on top, hiding hers and showing my wedding set……but I didn’t. That makes my eyes fill with tears.

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Little moments, sweet elements of her.

I know she’s not still here but when I say “she’s still here,” it is the whole “her memory is alive and that love never goes away” type of here.

Just like the name on that silly spoon, “faded but still present.”

Cast Off!

After a month of healing, Wesley got his cast off this morning! To say he was excited is an understatement. In fact, Daniel came downstairs last night after bed time and told Thomas, “Wesley can’t sleep; he is too excited about tomorrow!”
FullSizeRenderAfter some sound counsel to “count Pokemon” in order to fall asleep, we all woke up bright and early this morning and headed to the hospital for the appointment.

We ate breakfast in the cafeteria, and I, for better or for worse, told the kids “Pick whatever you want to eat” and gave them no restrictions. This is not something I do, like ever. So, a package of smores Pop Tarts, a cup of Lucky Charms, and container of chocolate milk later, the boys had chosen their breakfast. Oh my…..

Being the kind hearted boy that he is, Wesley, with the help of Daniel, made some Easter eggs filled with candy for the hospital workers. He gave out several as a way of saying thanks. He is a child with gifts as a love language, so giving some out made perfect sense.

The pin removal was swift, thankfully. They brought in an iPad for him to play with, and while in distraction mode, they tugged with their sterile pliers and pulled  out the three inch piece of metal. Wesley didn’t cry a bit, although he did turn a bit red faced and scrunched up his body in resistance. It was quite gross to see it. We didn’t take a picture, so you will have to take our word for it. I wish I had though, cause Wesley didn’t really look, and now he is curious about it. There was quite a bit of blood, so he is suppose to keep the white bandage on for 12 or so hours and not get it wet for 24 hours. The hole in his arm which previously housed the pin will scab over and heal soon.

Right after the appointment was finished, I was scheduling the month out visit while Thomas walked out with Wesley. Suddenly Wesley started to run in order to catch up to me. At this, Thomas said, “Wesley, let’s just be careful when running, okay?” Wesley then replied, “Okay, I will run like a pregnant girl then” I am not sure if that was the excitement of the cast/pin removal or the breakfast sugar talking, but regardless he was a hoot all morning long.

For now, he is free to do most anything he feels comfortable doing. Orders do exist for him to not jump on a trampoline, climb the rock wall at school, or do any monkey bars. He also needs to complete a few exercises each day to regain function. In one month, we go back for a final follow-up to see if he has regained full mobility. If he clears that, we are done for good!

(Take special note of the shark tooth necklace. He and Daniel each got one as their souvenirs while on our trip to see my friend Jennifer at the beach over Spring Break. They have become outfit essentials in the days since. LOL)

Hazel’s First Party

Well, before the month is out, I need to be sure to post about Hazel’s first birthday party! We had scheduled her party for her actual birthday month, which is February, but some less than stellar weather made us delay it until March. Good thing she was turning one and had no clue and couldn’t get upset about it!

Being that I now have a GIRL, we went girly with the theme. Some clearance items at Target helped me officially decide, so cupcakes, pink, burlap, and lace were the go-to decorations, and most were handmade goodies by me, so don’t look overly close at these pictures. You will certainly see lots of flaws!

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DSC_0073I took a plastic table cover and used it to decorate Hazel’s highchair, so she will be all pretty for her happy birthday song and smash cake.

DSC_0074Hazel was in joyful spirits for her day, thankfully. You just never know with kiddos what the mood might be like! I did, however, plan it to be right after her afternoon nap!

DSC_0079DSC_0085We opened gifts first.

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Hazel stayed pretty confused most of the time. “Why are all these adults so happy? Why is everyone saying my name? Why am I being encouraged to rip this paper? Am I suppose to eat this?”

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She did get pretty excited about her Daniel Tiger toy that Thomas and I got her, only after staring at it blankly for a bit first.

We moved on to eating and then pretty quickly to cake. I drug Hazel’s highchair into the middle of the floor so she could be front and center. With a small candle on her homemade yellow cake with chocolate icing, we began to sing to the sweet girl, which made her grin from ear to ear.

DSC_0110She was quite the proud little girl!

DSC_0111And then she got super intrigued by the glowing little light in front of her that was flickering and begging for her attention…..so she grabbed it.

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And then she cried.

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But I am not sure if the tears were from pain or from being scared, cause every family member present gasped when she did it. Regardless, the plan of action was comfort from momma.

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I can’t believe I let my one year old grab fire. This is just another sign that Hazel is totally the third child! In our parenting defense, her brothers were all up in my personal space and hers, “helping” us with the moment, which was anything but help. I had stepped back to take a picture with my phone (my sis-in-law was taking with our real camera) and then suddenly she just moved and grabbed it. Ooops. Poor baby! All in all she was truly fine though, thankfully. IMG_4765

She did not, however, care too much about the cake, which was the same status for her one year photo shoot experience.

DSC_0123We even tried with a fork, but she was still underwhelmed. At one point, she even shuddered with disgust. I suppose that is a good thing to not like sugar!

We were so blessed that people took time out of their busy schedules to come celebrate our baby girl.

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He Fought the Foam Roller…..and the Foam Roller Won

Wednesday we went out to eat to celebrate Thomas’s birthday. It isn’t until next week, but the kiddos and I have plans to go out of town to visit a friend in Florida for “spring” break, so an early celebration was the plan. When we got home, the boys were taking turns helping Thomas build his birthday present, a new Lego set. While one sat at the table with Daddy, the other hung out in the living room. I was prepping to nurse Hazel and put her in bed. As I went to walk into our bedroom to change into comfy clothes, I saw Wesley playing on a foam roller that I had left in the living room. And since some people have asked me, “what’s a foam roller?” I present to you the object of Wesley’s demise, put next to a baby’s board book to show its non-intimidating scale: IMG_4861 Note that it is smaller in height than the board book , maybe about 3 inches off the ground. Foam rollers are good for rolling out sore muscles from a run or a workout. I was using this the other day because I had read an article on how it helps your posture when you do certain exercises, and as a person with a hunchback tendency, I was wanting to give it a try. Afterwards, I did not take it back to the garage. I told Wesley, “Please do not play on that son; it is not a toy!” as I walked away. Less than a minute later, I hear Wesley say, “Daddy, I want to go to bed. Now.” Thomas asked why, to which Wesley replied, “I just do. I want to go to bed.” Thomas said it was okay, and Wesley headed to put up his shoes. As he walked by, I asked him if he was okay, and he immediately said, “Yes, but I just want to go to bed.” My momma radar went off. I squatted down and said “Wesley, if you hurt yourself on the thing Momma told you not to be on, you need to tell me. You will not get in trouble.” His voice began to crack a little as he told me yes, his arm hurt. Thomas began assessing, in full nurse mode. Wesley could do most of the things he asked him to do. Everywhere Thomas touched Wesley said it mostly didn’t hurt. He begged again to go to bed. I tried to get him to choose a pain scale face, but he refused. We allowed him to go to his room. After he walked away, Thomas and I shared “that look” with one another, the one that says “everything isn’t okay.” I asked Thomas to go back upstairs to check more. As Thomas ascended the stairs, the wailing from Wesley started. He didn’t want to move his arm. He would not pick it up off the bed. He said it hurt so much. He would not put it in a scarf, as a make shift sling. He didn’t want to sit in Momma’s lap. He just cried big tears that soaked his pillow. My suspicion was that he had rolled on the roller, as I had seen him doing, arms on it, arms extended out, and that perhaps he had at least hyperextended it, if not broke it. He couldn’t remember exactly what he was doing when he hurt it, but I know he wasn’t standing on it and jumping. That said, he had fallen less than three inches. We decided to take him to the ER. Thomas said he would go alone, but I didn’t want to stay away from my baby boy during this time, so we called up some friends, Michael and Kelley, and they agreed to watch Hazel and Daniel while we went to get things x-rayed. On the way, Thomas told me where he suspected it was broken (which turns out, he was right!). As we journeyed the interstate, we were traveling in rain, which was planned to convert to snow and ice as the hours passed. Jokingly I said  “Well, we sure know how to do it big…..broken arm in an ice storm!” Thomas chimed in with, “We could have taken an ambulance!” Next, we both said “Or a helicopter!” and followed it up with a few chuckles. By now Wesley had ceased crying and had actually fallen asleep.

After this point, he never cried again! At the ER, Thomas was checked-in and sent back with Wesley before I could even park and get inside. Turns out, when “ice storm” is called for, no one really goes to the ER for those minor things, such as a sore throat and cough, that tend to clog up the efficiency. As we waited and Wesley watched cartoons on the TV, a nice and unsuspecting lady came to get our insurance information. As we rattled off Socials and phone numbers, she asked, “Can I please have the name and phone number of a person outside of the house that can be contacted if needed?” At this point, I put my head down and started to cry, for my instincts had led me to start saying my mom’s name. Thomas rubbed my back and explained to the poor lady how my mom would have been our response but that she recently passed away, and that this moment had taken me off guard. She apologized profusely, while I reassured her it was okay and there was no way should could have know.

A few X-rays later, the doctor came in to deliver the news, as we suspected, of a broken bone. We asked some questions that yielded us a “Are you two in the medical profession?” Thomas said, “Yes, I am an Nurse Practitioner” and I just added “No, but I suppose I am just a person who breaks a lot of bones!”  What we didn’t suspect was that they wanted to keep him overnight and perform surgery first thing in the morning! Being that we were in one car, kiddos separated from parents, with the winter weather in progress, it was a bit problematic. Since I am still a milk maker for the baby and Thomas is more medical, we opted for him to stay and for me to go. I drove home easily in the weather, even at 11PM, but ice was forming on the door handles and the gas pump that I had to use to fill up my tank. We all settled in for sleep at home and hospital.

This morning, I awoke to this: IMG_4851

What isn’t covered in the snow is actually covered in ice. I don’t really have the confidence to drive my mini-van with my two other kiddos in this. Thomas has a Land Rover, which would travel nicely, plus he feels comfortable in this mess, but he was at the hospital, watching Wesley get prepped for surgery….without a way home! The TV newscasters were begging and urging people to stay home. Visuals of the interstate were pretty nasty. I then began operation “find someone brave enough to drive and kind enough to do it.”Turns out I didn’t have to look too far! Our friends Randy and Tracy, who have been such blessings to us before, especially after my accident, offered.

Wesley’s surgery lasted less than an hour. The pin in his arm was needed because the break was a “floating break,” which would serve to have issues in healing correctly if just casted. The surgery was considered quite simple and very common, so we felt comfortable with the process. The pin is partially internal and partially external in one small place, so at removal time, they will just pull it out. The thought of that hurts my stomach more than the fact he broke his arm. IMG_4855

IMG_4854He chose a camo cast! When they had told him at the ER that he was going to get IMG_4856one, he initially wanted black. I asked if he even knew what a cast was, and he replied with a hearty “YES!” “Is it soft? Does it come off?” I questioned, to which he replied again with a hearty “Yes!” Poor fella. He was in for a bit of a wake up call when he awoke with a cast from fingers to right near shoulder on his right arm. By the way, he is right handed. Thomas said everything went super smoothly. It was very hard to be away from him while he had SURGERY! But I knew it was the facts of how things had to be. He was in good hands at one of the best hospitals around, not to mention being with that amazing hubby of mine! Around 10:30 AM Thomas updated people and said: “We are on our way home. We have one broken humerus (at the elbow), one pin, a camouflage cast, and 2 fresh cherry icees for himself and his brother. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.” They were delivered home by our friends by noon! IMG_4857 So, in one week we go for an initial follow up appointment. In 2-3 weeks, he will go to have the pin removed, at which point he will be re-casted for another 2-3 weeks, depending on healing. He is not suppose to get the cast wet, so we are planning to borrow from a cousin a waterproof cast cover for bathing and such.

As of now, our plan is to still go to Florida for our visit. This momma needs some sunshine, beach time, friend time, and hopefully some sanity saving adventures.

I just can’t believe how fast it all happened and how smoothly it went, all things considered. I have never thought differently, but this is just another one of the many circumstances that have happened in the past few years where I am reminded of how stinkin’ blessed I am to have some of the very best friends, church family, and real family. It is just amazing. Tons of texts, lots of calls, messages of all sorts have been sent to check on him. So many are concerned for us. When our senior pastor called to check in, we discussed how wonderful being a part of a body of believers is for your well-being, in good times and in bad. Thanks so much for every prayer, all the offers, the kiddo watching, and ESPECIALLY the driving to Nashville in the ice and snow! Thomas and I, as well as one very special, precious and extremely tough 5 year old are very grateful.

All Ice, Little Snow, Lots of Family

We have had quite the winter weather here lately! Rather than being all snow, it was mainly ice, so life sorta shut down for a few days. For a whole week, we didn’t travel anywhere by car (other than the short trip up the street in Thomas’s car to go sledding, which you can see below—oh and guess who tumbled–me!). Thomas didn’t go into work one day, he had no patients show another day, and a very low number make appointments on a third day. Schools have been out for 5 days so far, and tomorrow’s attendance is a bit questionable.

4 go sledding. Only one tumbles. #toobaditwasme #icestorm #wewantedsnow

A video posted by Summer V (@vremmus) on

It is times like this I am grateful for the neighborhood feel and community I have right around me. I took soup and baked goods to two single people near us. We had two sets of neighbors come over and play, we rode the 4 wheeler and went sledding with another set of neighbor friends. Being a bit “stuck” has brought back big reminders of what it was like when I was without a car and on driving restriction not too long ago! All in all, however, the brief visits with friends have made the cold and yuck more bearable. In the middle of it all, Hazel had her first birthday, so we ate clean pumpkin muffins with an adapted version of this cream cheese frosting, which was an amazing combo (thanks Pinterest!). I did venture out on Friday for Hazel’s 1 year check-up and to eat at Cracker Barrel, but that afternoon the weather brought another dose.

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I’ve loved having the kids home, Thomas being “off” a bit, taking it easy, wearing layers of comfy clothes, eating lots of soups (like this clean eating sweet potato chili, which I adapted slightly but everyone loved, along with vegetable and potato soups–yum!), making baked goods (like those muffins above and this clean paleo banana bread) , and matters of the like, but I am ready for spring! Things *are* thawing out, and I did manage to run 5 miles yesterday, since our road wasn’t a full sheet of ice in both directions finally. Just holding on a bit more until warmer days!

One Full Year

Right around noon today, our sweet Hazel will have officially been in our lives for one full year.

Today is truly something special.

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Hazel, we are so glad God decided to let us have you, and that he saw fit to let us keep you, even when the odds said you shouldn’t have survived momma’s wreck. Even without that fact, you would be an amazing daughter, but there is truly something special about you, dear one. You are a fierce little girl that will overcome anything. Your laugh is infectious, and your curiosity is exhausting. We can’t believe how much you have grown and changed in one year’s time, from hair to bald to hair again, and everything growth change in between. You are the first child of ours to walk before her first birthday, even if still a bit shaky, and honestly that comes as no surprise. Likely you will always be a trailblazer. There is so much love for you little girl, from those near and those far, those present and those gone. Your story has only begun and it is already a lovely one. We can’t wait to see what the next chapters hold, but please go a little slower as you fill up the pages :)

hazel collage 1 hazel collage 2IMG_7478 IMG_7645 IMG_7668*Very pretty photo credits go to our two photographer friends from college, Simply M Photography and Alison Weakley Photography.