Yesterday I packed the girls up and headed the 20ish miles from our home to Brent's parents' home. Brent stayed at our house to finish preparing a sermon he was to preach Sunday as a fill in for a little country church near us. I was giving the girls time with their wonderful grandparents, and giving Brent a little peace and quiet.

Our little girls' trip included supper, with green beans fresh from the garden, book reading, pretend swimming on the living room floor, and some splash baths before heading home.

As I walked out to the van, girls and a bag of leftovers and garden veggies in tow, I breathed in deeply. I wanted to smell the familiarity of this family-- a family that was once not mine but now felt like flesh and blood, my mother-in-law's kisses fresh on my cheek. I wanted to experience the sticky, sweet humidity in the summer air as the sun faded over the pasture where I'd had bonfires, laughing with friends into the twilit evenings of fall. As I drove home, answering my two-year old's questions about the corn fields and cows and moon and cars and songs and her toes, I glanced in my review mirror.

There they were, my babies and my memories.

For the past ten years I've been driving that pot-holed, two lane road. Ten years ago I sat in the small front seat of a red Ford escort, the touch of his lips still warm on my own, my heart beating wildly in my 18 year old chest. I raced the darkness home, trying to squeeze in the driveway right at curfew, rarely making the cut but always worth the extra ten minutes I'd spent in his embrace.

I drove away from a boy who made me giggle and feel beautiful; a boy who I ached for in his absence. I drove away from a family I was growing to know and love, back to a family who was watching me fall in love, hoping they'd taught me all I needed to know before the inevitability of our marriage happened.

 In those days, as I cut through the country roads, lit by summer's stars and tractors' headlights, I was exhilarated with a fresh and exciting kind of new love, exhausted from the late nights of dating and staying up late dreaming and reliving each moment.

And last night, as I travelled those same curves and bends, saw the same fields that had been harvested nearly a dozen times since that little girl I used to be sped past them, I looked in my review mirror and realized I was still exhilarated with a fresh and exciting kind of new love. But I also carried with me the quieter, trusted love of that boy who became a man with me over the years. And I realized I was still exhausted from late nights of rocking babies and waking early to feed them breakfast.

Last night I drove away from in-laws that have become grandparents to my girls; from a family that has become my family. Last night I drove away from a small town to another small town that has become my home all over again in new ways as I raise my own family within its borders.

Last night I realized I've traded my cute little escort for a mini-van. I've traded fresh, young love for a deeper, quieter love. I've gained family. I've made family.

Last night I took a moment, and that moment filled with years of moments.

And that moment reminded me that this life ebbs and flows in and out of little and big things, messy and beautiful things, difficult and easy things. But most of all it gives us people to love through it all.

And when you aren't looking your review mirror gets kind of filled up with lots of love if you let it.

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how our hearts grew

How are hearts grew:
a story in three pictures

September 2013

March 2014

July 2014

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chunks of time

I have been fairly honest about my not-so-wonderful relationship with nursing. I will say this time has been much better though. But this post is not about nursing-- you're welcome-- it is about the ONE thing that I do like about it: 6 or 7 times a day I have to sit down for around 20 minutes…AND READ. [Usually. Sometimes I am singing to Blythe or playing play-doh with one hand, or when things are really crazy wiping a toddler bum whilst feeding…] But at least for a few of those 6 feedings I GET TO READ! And I have been plowing through books. It's so fun! 

All images in this post are from google images

The last post I wrote about a book is HERE

Here are some I've read in the last month or so:

Because I typically write up my own "blurb" about the book and it takes me awhile and I have limited DUAL-NAP time to blog, I'm going to pull all the blurbs from goodreads.com.  All portions in italics are from their website.

Cold Sassy Tree:
"On July 5, 1906, scandal breaks in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, when the proprietor of the general store, E. Rucker Blakeslee, elopes with Miss Love Simpson. He is barely three weeks a widower, and she is only half his age and a Yankee to boot. As their marriage inspires a whirlwind of local gossip, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy suddenly finds himself eyewitness to a family scandal, and that’s where his adventures begin."

 This book was recommended to me by someone who knows my love for To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help/ good southern literature. While I can easily say I didn't enjoy it as much as those two books, it was entertaining in it's own right. It was hard for me to get into; I felt like I kept waiting for the story to begin. Finally about half way through, I was "in it", and enjoyed it from there. The characters are entertaining, and I did fall quite in love with Grandpa Blakeslee.

Breaking Night:
"Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls' home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.

When Liz's mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman's indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds."

This book has been on my "to read" for awhile. I try to read different genres, and I always love finding a good memoir. This one is incredible. You know the saying: The truth is stranger than fiction. It's hard to believe what young Liz survived, let alone where she ended. As an educator, stories like these are especially illuminating, as I always think of my own students. Even though I'm not currently teaching, I can't help but have that part of my heart touched when I hear stories like Liz's, and realize that teaching students is much more important than covering subjects. I always tried to get to know my student's stories, and even though they may not have understood why some of them were sometimes allowed to rest in my classroom while others were reprimanded for it, this book reminded me why-- I knew for some of them my classroom was one of the only "safe", quiet places they had. I wonder how Liz's story may have been different if some of her early teacher's would have taken the time to get to know her, instead of scolding her for having lice. 

This book was touching in many ways, heartbreaking in many others, and one I would highly recommend if you like memoirs. [I also found the Lifetime movie that was made over her story! Win! :)]

Heaven is for Real:

When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren't expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed--a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy's trip to heaven and back.

Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery-and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.

With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels, how "really, really big" God is, and how much God loves us. Retold by his father, but using Colton's uniquely simple words, "Heaven Is for Real" offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, "Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses."

 I'm sure you've heard of this book or movie by now. I was hesitant to read it at first, but my mom had just read it and I was stuck nursing in her bedroom one day and picked it up. I was two or three chapters in by the time Becks was done eating and finished it the next night.  It is a quick read, and I definitely had moments of goosebumps. I do believe that God works in mysterious ways, and I do believe in a very real heaven and a very real Jesus who will meet us there. But I just don't know-- I liked the book, but?

Part of the hang up for me was that every time the dad would describe what Colton told him about, he would automatically jump to defending it with something from scripture. Which is fine. I would probably do the same thing if my kid was sharing these experiences, but I felt like that interrupted the story and the writing. I've talked about it before, but my big thing in writing is that the author should trust their readers. I know the dad, Todd, is a pastor, and his role is to teach, but I felt like in automatically sharing his translation and application of what Colton was sharing he took away from the opportunity for me, the reader, to digest it and dissect it myself-- he didn't allow me to go search the scriptures on my own. I don't know, probably a minor detail for most people who will read it.

The first several chapters, though, about their journey to the hospital and their experience there left my heart broken wide open and left me praying for my wisdom as a parent if my children are ever that sick. And if you've read it, the part about the picture of Jesus? Chills. I actually had to shut the book and just be still for moment. It's definitely worth reading and I'm glad I picked it up.

Anne of the Island: 
New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs  her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for  Redmond College. With old friend Prissy Grant  waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and  frivolous new pal Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks  her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers  life on her own terms, filled with  surprises...including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow  imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a  tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But  tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move  into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals  her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome  Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly  Anne must decide if she's ready for love…

 I shared last time that I was reading the Anne of Green Gables series. I always loved the show growing up, but I never read the entire series. I'm so glad I am now. Just like the previous two, this one is quaint and lovely, and the world of Anne Shirley is a world I want to jump into this very moment. And this book? Oh in this book Gilbert Blythe is even more wonderful.

My time in college was such a good one, and one that shaped me in pivotal ways, so I really enjoyed this time in Anne's life. When I finished it I was ready to start the next one so I downloaded "Anne's House of Dreams" immediately and started. About a fourth of the way through I realized I had skipped over Anne of Windy Poplars [which was written later, but chronologically fits in fourth], so I'm stalling right now and will come back to this series soon.


When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.

 I have been a Dave Eggars fan since college. [WARNING: he is not for everyone.] Zeitoun was another book on my "to-read" list for quite sometime, but I just kept forgetting about it. I'm glad I remembered it.

The reader quickly falls in love with Zeitoun and his family. I was a sophomore in college when Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, and I still remember so much of the footage and pictures I saw after the storm. I had a friend who had to take a semester off and work down there. So much of Zeitoun's story is horribly tragic, but so much reminds me of the beauty that can be found in most people if we were willing to look. There are portions of this book that border on "political", but it is really well done. Anytime a book makes me start researching googling and thinking about something bigger than the book itself, it's a winner to me.

Loving the Little Years:
I didn't write this book because mothering little ones is easy for me. I wrote it because it isn't. I know that this is a hard job, because I am right here in the middle of it. I know you need encouragement because I do too.

This is not a tender reminiscence from someone who had children so long ago that she only remembers the sweet parts. At the time of writing this, I have three children in diapers, and I can recognize the sound of hundreds of toothpicks being dumped out in the hall. 

This is a small collection of thoughts on mothering young children for when you are motivated, for when you are discouraged, for the times when discipline seems fruitless, and for when you are just plain old tired. 

The opportunities for growth abound here but you have to be willing. You have to open your heart to the tumble. As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like, and feels like, to walk as a mother with God.

I re-read this little beauty. I did a large post about it HERE when I read it the first time. I think I learned even more this time…or at least different parts spoke to me as I am now a mother of TWO, which also involves parenting a TWO YEAR old. The portion about grabby-hearts making grabby-hands is so spot on for Blythe right now, and I am trying to remind her, like Jankovic does in her book, that the thing is not as important as the person behind it. We have a ways to go, but it is nice to have some tangible ways to look at this parenting thing.

I could write another twenty pages about this book, but I guess just go read my last post :). Trying to remember that the state of my heart is the state of my home. 

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

Then it was time to steer away from the non-fiction for awhile. I found a list of "books to read before they become movies." I had already read several, but hadn't heard of this one. And Jennifer Lawerence and Bradley Cooper are to be the Pembertons [Will they be filming every movie together now?] Serena's character is one you love to hate to love to hate to love… ya know what I'm saying? I love how the story jumps between the timber camp and the Pembertons to the mother and son. There were parts of the story-- the logistics and politics of the timber business-- that moved slowly for me. However, it is a unique story with a pretty great ending. I'll stop there so I don't ruin anything. :) [FYI- a little language and some sexual scenes, but nothing that made me overly uncomfortable which means they aren't too bad because I blush pretty easily].

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:
Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in ten years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

I know, I know.  You're either thinking: "You've NEVER read Harry Potter?!" or "I can't believe you would read Harry Potter!" Regardless, I am giving them a go. I feel like I should have read them by now as an English teacher. I'm not a huge sci-fi person, but I did like Lord of the Rings, so I thought, "Let's do this!"

It is definitely a book written for the "young adult/children" audiences, in that the storyline is fast moving and simplistic. But I enjoyed it and it kept me entertained. I don't know how, but I have managed to know nothing about any of the books or movies all these years-- or very little at least, as I am vaguely familiar with the names Hermione and Hogwarts and I knew there was some game in the books involving flying on broomsticks….but that's it. So it was all new to me and Rowling has created a fantastic line up of characters and adventures. I'll keep reading.

Same Kind of Different as Me:
Meet Denver, a man raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana in the 1960s; a man who escaped, hopping a train to wander, homeless, for eighteen years on the streets of Dallas, Texas. No longer a slave, Denver's life was still hopeless—until God moved. First came a godly woman who prayed, listened, and obeyed. And then came her husband, Ron, an international arts dealer at home in a world of Armani-suited millionaires. And then they all came together.

But slavery takes many forms. Deborah discovers that she has cancer. In the face of possible death, she charges her husband to rescue Denver. Who will be saved, and who will be lost? What is the future for these unlikely three? What is God doing? 

 It was time to jump back into some nonfiction, and this book caught my eye years ago in the bookstore at our church in Louisville but I just never got my hands on it until now. I'm currently reading it and am really enjoying the dual story telling and the different voices of Denver and Ron as they tell their stories. I am not yet to the point where their lives intertwine, but am enjoying the journey of getting there. Not even half way into this book I can say that I recommend it.

And then what? 
I recently had a friend ask for some recommendations [she wanted something non-fiction and "inspiring"] so I pointed her towards two of my favorites: Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I devoured both. I have revisited Traveling Mercies many times, but have yet to read Miller's book for a second time, so I think I will do that next.

And THEN I plan on purchasing this beauty: 

I rarely BUY books anymore, but I will most likely buy this for a few reasons: 
A friend of my sister's who I have gotten to know through blogging highly recommended it, and her last recommendation [These Is My Words] instantly won me over, so I trust her judgement. 
Also, it's Elisabeth Elliot. So…duh. You can't go wrong with her. I own many of her books and can recall specific times in my life reading each one. I have read Passion and Purity so many times the pages are literally no longer attached to the binding. 
Also, my library doesn't have it. 

And I am on a very large wait list for All the Light We Cannot See and I believe it is for good reason as I have heard very good things about it! Can't wait! 

Any others I need to add to my list? What have you read this summer? 

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[If the font is showing up weird or small for you, sorry. I can't get it changed on the first section]. 

Brent has been participating in a triathlon in a nearby town for the past couple of years, and it is one of his favorite events that he gets to do. "Gets" is in italics, because I would have to be forced. [I have let Brent know that this event is off limits to all future bets we make with one another.]

This year:

Brent was pumped about this year because last year he convinced my dad to give it a go, and he was going to be back out on the course, and together they had convinced Paige and Torri to race. They spent the past couple of weeks finding bikes and "fitting" them for the girls [road bikes are in a league of their own and involve "fitting", I guess]. They had swam together, run on their own, and even practiced their transitions to try and get their time slivered down as much as possible. 

So when 5:30 rolled around Saturday morning, Brent was decked in spandex and loading up his stuff. 

Mom came to pick the girls and me up around 6:30, and she was wise and brought me coffee. My girls are wonderful, wonderful children and don't get up at this time on a normal basis, so it was a little rough and slow moving for all of us. We got there around 7:10 and Brent had just jumped in the pool and Torri was already almost done! 

This event is a super- sprint triathlon, meaning the swim is 200 meters, the bike is 8 miles, and the run is 2.1 miles. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of movement. 

I snapped a picture of Brent in the pool, and then got one of Paige, but Torri was already out and I had to head over to the bike transition before I could get one of my dad swimming: 

Swimming is no joke. If you have ever gotten in a pool and done more than lay on a float [ahem, that's me], you understand it is a workout! They all said the last 50 meters basically feel like you're drowning. I felt like I was drowning just watching them, so I believe them. 

Torri had a ridiculously fast swim time, coming in fourth overall for the women. Dang. 

They then had to jump from the pool, run over to their bike station, put on shoes and a helmet, and take off on their bikes [uphill!]. 

Brent claims he couldn't find his shirt, but I think he just wanted to be shirtless ;). Just kidding. He hated it. Cause that's the kind of guy he is. 

FYI, if you ever see me in spandex shorts like these girls you will realize just how good they make them look. 

They all did really well on the bikes. Paige and Torri hadn't been on road bikes until the week prior to this event, and they take some time to figure out, so this was impressive. My dad is like a professional bikesman, so obviously this was his best event. [He left a few hours after the triathlon for Iowa to ride 140 plus miles over two days in RAGBRAI. Like I said, professional. He owns spandex and bike jerseys and DVRs the Tour De France. So there's that, too]. 

At this point Becks finally got to eat for the morning… but was not very happy it came in the form of a bottle. Girlfriend, softball season is around the corner and you better get used to it!

My mom was a tremendous help because, honestly, I wouldn't have gotten there and unloaded and squared away with the girls until they were all crossing the finish line without her. 

 Not only did I have to wake up Blythe about an hour and a half before she normally gets up, but she had a cold. She didn't mind being lugged and wheeled around all morning. She finally started to wake up at about 9 or  so for the awards ceremony [mainly because there was food]. 

Blythe wore a Nike onesie to Brent's first tri, and it is still packed away so I had to bust out the Under Armor for Becks. Who knows, maybe she will be our little athlete? [It's okay if she's not… as long as she doesn't become a cheerleader ;)] 

Okay. Where was I? Oh yes, they were on the bikes. 

After the bikes, another quick transition [Brent looked for his shirt again, to no avail], and they take off on the run. [I must note here that Torri was the fastest female and only had three men ahead of her, Brent included, for this transition]. 

For most normal humans, this is the dreaded last leg. 2.1 miles after swimming and biking? No, thank you. But for Brent? This is his dream. As soon as he took off running, I knew I should start making my way to the finish line because I didn't want to miss him. Translation: it would take me about as long to push a stroller a half a block as it would take him to run sprint two miles. 

And sprint he did. He finished his run in 12 minutes and 52 seconds, for the fastest run time of the day out of all 117 participants. Without his shirt on. He would tell you, "The numbers were down this year…" ya da ya da ya da… but I think, no matter how you slice it, running six and a half minute miles after swimming and biking is a pretty incredible feat. 

The other three would back this up, I'm sure, as they all said quite disgustedly, "The run sucked."

If you've never been to an event like this, the finish line is such a cool place to be. I'm finally almost to the point that I don't get emotional over random people finishing with a look of utter amazement, exhaustion, and pride. And sometimes a vomit-face. I've learned to detect that early and look away.

As these four finished, and several others from our small town, it was so fun to hear their stories from "out on the course" and watch them compare notes with lilts in their voices that only comes from an adrenaline high.

Blythe showing her muscles. I had these pictures pulled up and she saw them and she said, "Papa runned. And Paige runned. And Torri runned. And Daddy runned. And Blythe had crackers and went down the big slide!"

She remembers the important things, people.

It's pretty cool that several people from our small town drive over for this event each year. It's quite an accomplishment.

Torri finished 9th overall for the women, and 2nd in her age group with a final time of 54:02

Paige finished 20th overall for the women, and 2nd in her age group with a final time of 59:43

My dad finished 30th overall for the men, and 1st in his age group with a final time of 57:39

Brent finished 4th overall for men and women, and 1st in his age group with a final time of 43:45

They're already making plans for how to shave off some time next year.

It's incredible to see people tackle things physically, and push themselves just beyond what they are capable of doing. Paige and Torri didn't decide until a couple weeks before that they were going to do this. And look what they did? My dad is 57, and look what he did?! And Brent, well, I never will get over how hard he works and how disciplined he is and he is always incredible to watch. Great job, you guys!

Blythe has also been to this even for three years in a row now:

Blythe's First year:

Blythe's Second year:

This year:

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these days...

These days I am:

- asking, "Do you need to go potty 23,098,237 times a day.
- using any "free time" aka "dual nap time" I have to sit outside and sweat and tan and read [it usually lasts for ten minutes].
- thankful that Becks is a better nurser than Blythe was and that prayers were answered in that regard
- trying to do Ab Ripper X [from the p90X workouts] with Brent, and it's comical
- trying to live fully and be thankful in the present
- going to push myself to write more- either on this blog or in my "Grandma Pat" project
- thankful for a husband who actively helps me with the kids, a 2.5 month old who sleeps through the night, and a toddler who makes my days so.much.fun
- gearing up for fall softball.

These days Brent is:

- working like a maniac at the bank to get ready for their big compliance exam in August.
- working like a maniac, physically, and getting ready for his third sprint-triathalon this weekend.
- hilarious. Seriously, the guy cracks me up on a daily basis. Maybe I just find him funnier because I'm more tired?
- enjoying getting to know Becks more and more.
- wrestling, racing, coloring with, feeding pancakes to, and running around town with Blythe.
- singing and guitar-ing in the band at church.

These days Blythe is:

- potty training. We're doing all or nothing. She does best with "nothing" in regards to undergarments [ahem], and is doing quite well. Occasional accident, but overall impressive.
- talking non-stop. From the moment she wakes up, her mouth is going. I love it.
- loving a little more independence. "Move back, please."
- into stickers, tea parties, her doctor kit, and reenacting bible stories [her favorites to play are "the lost coin", "Jesus calms the sea", and "Daniel in the Lion's Den"]
- eating green beans!!!!!!
- asking for "noodles" for every meal. [me too, let's be honest].
- randomly quoting Frozen. I promised myself this would not happen to my child, but I think they've laced that movie with hidden messages to brainwash children. Yesterday she said, "All good things, all good things," [Olaf], and today she said, "Wake up, it's coronation day!" [Anna].

My caption for this picture is, "Oh, hey Mom, while you were sleeping I became a teenager." 

These days Becks is:

- just finishing another growth spurt and sleeping like a champ for naps and at night.
- randomly being finicking about eating. She'll eat for about 3 minutes and then just want to talk and smile at me. Okay.
- starting to start to laugh. It's the best.
- becoming more of her own person.
- getting rounder in the face and losing her hair, just like her sister did.

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