*I wrote most of this letter to Hannah the night before her first birthday, exactly one month ago. It is fitting that it has taken me almost a month to sit down and finish it. When you're the third, you're born into a busy little family. So, I'm posting this one month later, solely for lack of time and certainly not lack of love. I'm not sure it's possible to love little Hannah more without my heart exploding.
How do I begin to describe you? The words smiley, cuddley and toothy grin all come to mind. When I think about you, I smile. When I look at you with her seven (well, as of yesterday, eight) teeth, I smile. When I hear you babbling away or muttering under your breath when you're angry, I smile. When I see you dancing on your knees to Lilly and Jack singing "Domick the Donkey" or "I Like to Move It," I smile. When I see you sucking your left thumb (or your right thumb, but it's clearly the "wrong" way as you turn your hand backwards to make it feel like your left thumb), I smile. When I describe you to others, you sound too good to be true, but I'm still waiting for the catch.
The first year of your life has gone by too fast, as all years with so many happy memories have a tendency to do. I often think back to the minutes after you were born, holding you on my chest in disbelief that such an amazing, perfect little person had just joined our family. I wondered what role you would play in our family and what life as a family of 5 would be like. Now, as I look back, it's hard to imagine our Little Clark Family (or LCF, as Gigi and Papa call us) without you. Every month, on the 18th of the month, I would stop and shake my head in disbelief that you were another month older. But as I look back on this year, I have no regrets. I fully enjoyed your first year. I appreciated all the newborn snuggles and night feedings--I never wished them away but before I knew it, they were gone. I had a much clearer perspective when I became a mother for the third time. Instead of counting down the days until the night feedings came to an end, I saw them as times when we would snuggle and you'd fall asleep on me. They have been my only real quiet times with you. Don't get me wrong, when you started sleeping all night, I was happy to get full nights of sleep again, but I still miss those still, quiet times that I had with you. I loved the swaddles and the tiny diapers and your perfect little fingers and toes that looked too small to be real and your first smile and first giggles. I loved your spiky hair--which is so fitting now that I know more about your little personality one year later. I loved your chubby little cheeks and thighs, and I fully appreciated the extra month of sitting-but-not-yet-crawling that you gave us. I loved watching you learn to crawl and still laugh when I see how quickly you can get across the house when you want something--your head down and your little hands slapping the ground so that I can hear you coming from the other side of the house. I love watching you walk with your little straight legs while holding onto two grown-up's fingers. I know that once the walking days start, those few months of crawling are over forever so I'm cherishing your motoring around. I loved making you pureed fruit and veggies and I still enjoy watching your determined face as you pick up blueberries with your little pincers. I'm hanging on to those last breastfeeding days, as I know they're numbered and just as the night feedings came to a natural conclusion, these last little feeding sessions will soon be over.
You have brought nothing but joy into this world. Everyone who looks at you smiles--and you have quickly learned that you have this ability to make people smile. You rub pear through your hair at breakfast so that your hair sticks out in every direction. Jack and Lilly think is hysterical, so you do it again and again and again. You crawl over to the back doors, pull yourself up and start knocking and waving (still with your hand pointing towards yourself) whenever you see anyone walking in from the driveway. You smile and wave to all the shoppers and cashiers at Trader Joes, from your little seat in the shopping cart. In return, everyone stops and waves and smiles at you, and comments on your sweet smile or your pretty blue eyes. I watch you turn peoples' heads--people who think they're too busy and important to stop and smile at a baby always stop and smile at you. When Dad gets home from work, you bounce up and down on your knees and clap your hands in excitement. You crawl over to him as fast as you can and immediately pull the glasses off his face (which you then try and put back on, but usually you end up poking him in the eye). Your bright blue eyes light up a room. You touch your mouth with your little pointer when you look at Papa, asking him to make his "popping" sound again. You say more at 1-year old than your older sister or brother did, which leads me to believe our house isn't getting any quieter in the years ahead. You say "Mama, Dada, Papa, Pop, Jack, yuck, wow, oh-oh, hi, woof and cheese" just to name a few words.
Anytime you are angry, food is usually involved. In the car, while we're waiting to pick up Lilly from school and I turn to check on you and Jack in the back seat, I see this little arm sticking out from your car seat, with your hand wide open--as subtle reminder that you'd like a snack or some milk. At mealtimes, if you see food on Lilly and Jack's plate and not yours, you get angry. And heaven forbid I try and slip the older two ice cream for dessert without you seeing--your little hawk eyes know that any food that comes out after dinner is good. So, at a whole 12 months old, you get to partake in our nightly dessert ritual. You eat the entire top off the mini ice cream cone in one bite, shake and shudder because it's so cold, and then grin with a face covered in ice cream.
I have to agree with one of Papa's comments on a photo of you a few weeks ago when he said, "Babies do not get any better than Hannah." It's so true.
Thank you for your laughs and your cuddles and dancing. Thank you for making our lives more fun than I thought possible. Thank you for being our daughter. I can't wait to watch you grow up. While the first year of your life has been amazing, I know it only gets better from here.
Happy First Birthday, dear little Hannah.