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Happy birthday dear Ava

Ava was awake when I first met her. She was 27 hours old, and babies that new are always asleep, but not Ava; her eyes were wide open for the full hour I spent with her, looking all around like the world was way too big and exciting to ever look away from.
Jill was pregnant when I met her, so I was completely used to the idea of Ava being this invisible tiny person who lived inside my friend, but now here she was, a real tiny person lying in my arms, looking up at me with two real eyes and wiggling ten real fingers like she was trying to figure out what they were for.

Then when she was six months old I got to start taking a day off from a job I didn’t like so I could come take care of her, and when she was nine months old I quit the job I hated so I could watch her all the time. So now I have a job that I love.

She is a whole year old today and I love her further to pieces the bigger she gets. She’s the best snuggler, especially when she wakes up from her nap and she’s still half asleep, she listens so carefully when you talk to her, she loves to click her tongue, and sometimes she growls for no apparent reason. Like she’ll just be crawling around looking for a toy and growling like a puppy all the while.
I’m convinced that no one has ever been this smart or this funny when they were this little.

One day I was rocking her to sleep and singing Jesus Loves Me to her, and I thought how she’s just so so loved by everyone who’s ever met her right now…and when she gets older and people tell her that Jesus loves her, she’ll never wonder what that means because she’s surrounded by people who love her and love Jesus. Then I started thinking how she’ll be bigger someday and might meet people who don’t like her, or have teachers who don’t get how brilliant she is, and I got so sad that I held her for her whole nap instead of making her sleep in her crib. I can’t make there not be mean people in the world, but I sure can fill up her unbroken little heart with all the love I’ve got while she’s still perfectly innocent, and I still can’t believe that that’s my job.

When I worked at camp, I’d always be sad to send a few of my favorite campers home because I didn’t know who would love them when I couldn’t(in some cases, I knew no one loved them at home). But as much as I love Ava and I miss her on the weekends, I’m thankful that I never worry about her when I walk out her door at the end of the day. Her parents love her more than I do and that’s how it should be, and she is just the most blessed baby.

Other things about her that may be boring to people who don’t know her(but which should be written down in case anyone forgets when she’s a teenager):

She LOVES her doggy(for the longest time she just called her “daw”)
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She loves to feed her food to the dog when she thinks I’m not looking, and she loves to toss her toys into places she isn’t allowed to be(just to see if the adult in the room will notice if she goes and gets them herself. It’s the cleverest little trick).
She loves books. When she was tiny I’d try to read to her, but she mostly just wanted to chew on the pages. Now her favorite part is pulling all of them off the shelf(never only one), but she does like to be snuggled and to turn the pages herself as fast as she can.
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(I can read Brown Bear over and over for 20 minutes before she finally gets bored. She points to every animal and calls it a dog, and thinks it’s so funny when I try to correct her)
She also loves Phineas and Ferb, and she loves any show that I laugh at because she thinks it’s funny when I laugh.
She can say Da-da and doggy, and I really think she could say Mama, but she just thinks it’s too funny to say Dada instead.(I won’t teach her to say Linda until she’s said Mama, so I’m getting impatient) Last week she learned to say “ball,” but for now she calls all of her toys a ball. Much like Boo from Monsters Inc, she talks all the time, just not in real words, and she’s a very good listener. Even though she can’t repeat most of the words I’m saying, you can tell she’s really trying hard to learn.

She does not like to sleep, but look how cute she is when she does.
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She does not like meat or bananas.
She does NOT like non-living things that can move by themselves. (She has a dancing Peppa Pig that she won’t even touch for fear it might move. She also has a cute little car with an alien face on it that rolls when you push its head down, and she screams if I send it across the room to her. But she does like to push it and let it roll away from her, as long as I’m holding her so she’s safe from it)
She loves to wave; especially at me, when Jill is leaving in the morning and she’d rather me be the one leaving.
She loves it when you share your food with her; anytime I’m eating anything, she’ll come over and open her mouth for me to give her a bite. (She still has no teeth, so I can’t share most things even if I wanted to)
She LOVES playing with boxes; one day I was eating Triscuits and she really wanted me to share, so I gave her the empty box instead. She spent the better part of the next half hour putting various objects in it and shaking them around to see how they sounded.
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She likes it when I build block towers for her, and she CAN stack two together herself, but she’d rather chew on one while I build the rest and let her watch. (Once I read a study about these two year olds who’d watched so much TV all their little lives, that the doctor gave them blocks and they had no idea what to do with them. So since the first day I ever babysat her, I’ve been showing her blocks, because she’s a smart kid, not a scary kid)

She can crawl as fast as other babies can walk(so even though she can take several steps when she feels like it, she usually chooses to crawl).
She loves music more than anything and she’s always been able to keep time; she’ll bounce or slap the floor or clap every time she hears the Miffy or Hey Duggee theme songs(and almost any other music, but those two she drops everything to listen to every. single. time. I’ve tried to get a video, but she gets distracted by the camera and stops).
She likes The Price Is Right, especially when they spin the wheel. We watch it every morning when she wakes up from her nap and is too tired to not be in my arms but too awake to be alone in her crib. I think she’s an extrovert.

She is kind, she is smart, and she is so so important.

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Married people are the best kind of people(and other things I realized this weekend)

-If you had told me that I’d be the only single person when I joined my Lifegroup, I probably would have laughed and gone to our downtown church instead of Lexington. But that turned out to be a gift.

Once I read an article by a single woman that was basically an open letter to churches saying how single people feel invisible there.
It made me sad because I never feel invisible at Midtown and I don’t feel like the few others do either.

While we were all in the mountains with most of the rest of our church family, I kept thinking how much I love all of these people and all of their kids so so much and it hit me that this is all that single people need.

You need to watch tons of good dads in one room so you can know that they exist. You need to occasionally steal people’s kids so they can have a break. You need to see what real marriages look like so you can erase everything Disney ever taught you about love(except the part about how true love puts someone else’s needs before your own; Frozen is great). You need to be surrounded by wiser people who can teach you things(I’d say older and wiser, but I know far too many wise people who are younger than me).

-Meeting new people and learning new games are the two things that feed my soul the most. It’s Monday and my soul is still full.

-People ask me all the time what I want to do if I don’t want to be a manager at Moe’s or go into full time ministry. I’ve always said that I wish I could have a job that I love and that gives me enough time to serve with a church that I love even more than my job.
Sunday morning, sitting with all these people that I love, I realized that’s exactly where my life has landed. It doesn’t look much like I expected, but like everything God has ever done for me, it’s perfect.

-Months ago when they first announced that family vacation was happening, I asked at Lifegroup that week “How does that work if I don’t have a family?” All I meant was that I didn’t want to sleep in a room by myself, but what I didn’t hear myself saying is that not having kids or a husband means I don’t have a family.
That’s a lie that makes me feel much more alone than I really am.
I’m not at all alone and I absolutely have a family.
——

Life with these people is my favorite thing.
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