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Little Girl,

Today you are eleven months. And I have exactly 25 minutes to write this, so that Daddy can go for his run and we can get your big sisters out of the house and to school. But I will take these 25 minutes and I will use them. My fingers will fly, my mind will race, my heart will swell.

It is 6:06am. You are at home, still asleep in that white crib your sisters slept in. Soon, you will stir and depending on when, Daddy or I will come get you, smile from the door as the lights go on, scoop you up. Your smile will be vast, your blue eyes tired but wide, your blond hair an exquisite and unruly and static-filled mess atop your sweet head. There will be giggles and a diaper change. There will be conversation. The kind that no one else would understand. The kind that I understand and cherish.

You are eleven months and every day you are starting to look less baby and more kid. This delights me because it is as it should be, but it also stirs something in me, something like sadness. It's the good kind of sadness, the welcome kind, the tangled kind that reminds me of what it is all about, this role we play so lovingly, so imperfectly. The kind of sadness that feels like an ache, that feels like love.

In the last few days, your army crawl has morphed into a one legged crawl of sorts. You keep one leg straight and drag it as you speed across our white wood floors. It's an image that makes me giggle every time. I imagine it will never get old. The thing is that you will not do it for long because you are already pulling up, standing for stretches at a time, threatening to walk. I know that it's just a matter of time. You do too.

You have become quite the eater. We scatter your tray with tiny bits of everything - bits of pasts and veggies, blueberries, beans, chicken - and you eat it, plucking with purpose. Last night we gave you some Super Bowl snacks - a mini pizza and a pig-in-the-blanket. You seemed to enjoy these things, these new tastes. You have been using your left hand a whole lot and I know it's far too early to tell, but I wonder if you will be our only lefty. Your grandfather Potsy was a lefty, you know.

You are smart. When we ask you questions, you often tilt your head, widen your eyes, and nod. It's a knowing nod, a nod that says I might be the littlest, but I get it. I am here and I am aware. Just give me time. And we will. We will give you time. All the time you need to become who it is you are becoming. And all I ask is that you give me time, too. Time to come to terms with the fact that you are my baby, my final bundle, my last chance to speak nonsense and wax nostalgic about chubby thighs and baby toes and words that aren't quite words.

In a month, you will have a birthday. A big one. There won't be a big, fancy party like we had for your sisters and for this, I apologize. Things were different then. Back then, I ran around pushing the stroller and looking for friends. For them. For me. Back then, there was a beautiful anxiety deep in my chest, a longing to understand what it means to be a mother, a longing to belong. Back then, there was a ruling confusion, a sense of frenzy, a belief that if there were enough balloons and babies stuffed into one small room, everything would be good, great, okay.

And now. Now I am a different. The same person, but different. For your birthday, we will buy you a cupcake. It will be yellow because your big sisters are convinced this is your favorite color. We will strip you down to your diaper and place you in your high chair and we will put the cupcake in front of you. And we will surround you and smile and watch and cheer as you dive in. When you feed us frosting on your fingers, we will take it and taste it, and say thank you, baby. It will be a good birthday. The simple kind.

Eight minutes to go and so much more to say. But the thing is, the wonderful thing is, that I can say it, these things that occur to me and blow me away and make me well up with tears, every single day. And I vow to do this, kid. When I think it, I will say it. I will shout it out, I will sing it, I will whisper it, I will write it. Because I want you to hear these things. I want all of you girls to hear these things.

I want me to hear these things.

Because this thing? This motherhood thing? It's beautiful and brutal business. It's tiring and it's inspiring. It's everything to me though. Know that.

I wonder if this Starbucks in which I sit will still be here when you're older? I hope so. I hope so because then I will bring you and your sisters here. And after you beg me for coffee and I tell you you are too young, I will sit you down at this little round table and I will say it, I used to sneak out of the house in the mornings when it was still dark and come here. I would sit right here and drink coffee and I would dream. I would think of you guys and your daddy, and of life, and change, and time. Mostly though, I would think of the most confusing and amazing thing of all, of all: Love.

Love. That's it. That's everything.

That's what it says on my big coffee cup. There is a red heart and in its center, in its heart, it says, in all caps: LOVE. And there are little skinny arrows flying all around it, pointing to it. And little cursive words dance around. Some of my very favorite: Motherly. True. Forever.

Motherly love. True love. Forever love.

Yes.

I love you tiny thing. To itty-bitty pieces.

Love,

Mommy

Have you experienced that beautiful, achy sadness watching your little ones grow? Do you have a spot where you go to write? How did you celebrate your kids' first birthdays? Any advice on how to deal with the fact that my baby will be one in just one month?

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Super Bowl Sunday