Hadleigh Caroline, every year, on the eve of your birthday, I become reflective...thinking back to that night before you were born...the anticipation...the excitement...the tiny bit of nervousness.
And then at 8:07 pm the next day, there was you.
A precious firstborn daughter was born.
And because of you, a new mommy and daddy.
Though we spent countless hours in that rocking chair, nursing and singing you to sleep, I never tired of watching you sleep in my arms. Never tired of humming you lullabies to stop your little cries.
Had I been able, I might have chosen to keep you so tiny...I loved the way you fit in my arms.
But then I fell in love with your tottering first steps, your sweet kisses, the delight of hearing your giggle.
I could lose myself, looking into those big blue eyes...watching you, so curious, encounter the great big world of Texas around you.
photo by Shannon Ho Photography
And then, all of a sudden you were two, with pigtails...and you were an adoring big sister.
No longer a little baby. Ready to be a big helper. Charming us with those little words and smiles.
And my, how that third year, your verbal skills slowly began to strengthen, and there was so much you tried to share...and so much for us to take in.
I remember this was when you stopped taking those good long naps...and it was then we coined the phrase "a nap mess"...because that's what was left in the wake of your naptime. But it was this time that we also saw much creativity and imagination emerge.
At age four, it was quite evident that you would be a lover of all outdoor activities. We would go to the park just so you could go "up steps, down slide".
You loved helping get diapers and toys for your new little sister. And I remember how much you loved to go to Bible Study...even though it took a little while to feel comfortable in a new place.
Oh, I remember that fifth year well...finally settled in our new house in Oklahoma, you felt right at home in our big backyard...and the fields beyond.
You began to really love coloring and learning...but playing with your brother (and slowly your baby sister) was still your #1 favorite thing to do.
One of my favorite memories of you this year was seeing you as a bashful flower girl for Aunt Katy's wedding. Though too shy to walk down the aisle, you were quite in awe of the bride. I think you thought she was a princess.
And then you were a kindergartener. I often wondered what that first official day would be like...and you loved it. You were definitely more a fan of math than reading, but your handwriting was beautiful.
You were so excited to write your name all by yourself. I remember that you would practice writing your name in any medium available...sand, playdoh, blocks, sticks.
We both learned so much from that first year of homeschool...this year, I loved seeing your forgiving spirit, your desire to do well, and your love for including your little brother in what you were doing and learning.
As you approached seven, you made your first "best" friend...an answer to one of my prayers for you.
As a first grader, you loved math...found reading a challenge...and surprised me with your capacity for remembering details from our Bible reading. (And you surprised me with your perfectionist tendencies. Not sure where you get that from...)
You developed a love for gymnastics...and your ability to perform in front of a crowd was a big stepping stone.
As always, your affection, sensitivity, and generosity encourage me...teach me.
And now, I see so much growth in you.
You are a loyal friend. You are trusting and kind. You are sensitive to the needs of others. You have a generous heart.
You are a second grader, and I really see much growth academically this year. You are excited about learning...and I think this year you will really take off reading.
You are rising to meet challenges that don't come easily for you...but you are brave. And I am excited for you.
You are wanting to do what's right, even though it's not always easy or fun. You love Sunday School...and love to fellowship with the families in our church.
Your relationships with Nathanael and Madeleine bring such joy to my heart...they are your closest friends and confidants, just as they should be.
You are your Daddy's girl...you love to spend time with him...whether reading together, playing golf, or doing CrossFit, you treasure your time with him, and I love that.
I love that you still hold my hand. That you want to have special "Mommy-Hadleigh time". I love that you want to talk "just a little bit" when I tuck you in at night. That you want to scrapbook together. I love that you still love to be held in my arms.
just before eight
And while there are still moments where I wish I could turn back the pages of time to hold that newborn little girl...I wouldn't trade a moment (well, maybe a few of the potty-training ones) for it has been a privilege to share all that these eight years of life have given to you and to us.
Happy Birthday, precious Hadleigh!
With each year of your life, you bring more joy, laughter, and delight to my life. You are a precious gift from God...and I treasure you.
I am so excited to see what this year will bring.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, this year and all your years.