Heart Day 2.0

A year ago I was falling apart, losing the years worth of strength I’d built up as a special needs mom. The armor dissolving. The walls crumbling. The tightly wound thread of control unraveling. It started on a Friday morning in August and worsened with each passing month, counting down to January 3.

September 3 – This isn’t fair.

October 3 – I can’t believe we have to do this.

November 3 – This better be worth it.

December 3 – I’m not going to make it.

When December hit I was no longer counting down weeks or days. Time was marked by each breath I forced into my lungs. I desperately tried to stay busy, preoccupy myself with work and terrible Netflix shows, but my mind and body couldn’t fight the anxiety. I lost sleep, gained a stress rash, and spent weeks on the verge of a panic attack. In hindsight I’m not sure what I could have done differently because nothing would have made me feel better about Hannah having another heart surgery.

Hannah’s first heart surgery made sense. She was sick. Her life was measured in ounces and milliliters. As terrifying as the experience was, we were in survival mode. Life was a new parent / new diagnosis haze, checking off each weigh in, each echo, each day that brought us closer to Hannah having a healthy heart. We tamped down our fear knowing Hannah would never remember any of it. 

The second heart surgery did not make sense, even though we had known for years it needed to happen at some point. As each visit to cardiology passed without hitting that “some point” we created a fairytale that the day would never arrive. And then it did. Hannah was healthy. She was finally back in school with her friends after a year of remote learning. Worst of all, she was old enough to remember. The guilt and betrayal we felt knowing our girl, who is afraid of having a bandaid pulled off her skin, was about to live her hardest weeks was unbearable.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been one year since the surgery. We achieved our goal to pack the rest of 2022 with so much joy and fun that Hannah wouldn’t remember missing 8 weeks of school. Maybe it was a little bit for us too. December came and went, and I tried to convince myself it was safe to reflect on the experience but each time I was met with tears and a familiar tightness in my chest. Now, with a quiet house and some cupcake-fueled courage, I can finally close this chapter.

A Mid-Year Virtual Kindergarten Update

As the final hours of winter break tick by I find myself thrilled that school is starting tomorrow. Since Pete and I were both off from work last week we were all able to enjoy lazy mornings and extra family time but our household definitely benefits from the structure that work and school provides. Even Hannah seemed to miss school, asking me a couple days ago, in her sweetest negotiating voice, to do sight words and math. As if I would ever say no to that.

The last four months were a humbling and empowering experience. I cried out of frustration over Hannah’s unbelievable stubbornness. I cried happy tears at the look on her face when she succeeded. And we learned more than ever about Hannah’s educational strengths, weaknesses, and ability to learn. 

We always knew Home Hannah was quite different from School Hannah, like she turned off parts of her personality when she wasn’t home. Every report card, progress report, parent-teacher conference, and PPT had the same feedback. Academically Hannah kept up with her preschool peers; she was a delightful student but reserved, chose solo activities, and only spoke up when she was fully comfortable. Aside from the occasional email about an exceptionally good or bad day, that was the extent of our knowledge on School Hannah. Since Hannah never communicated anything about her days and I couldn’t be a consistent volunteer in the classroom it was difficult for me to have such a massive gap in her life. 

With Hannah engaging in remote learning we have the opportunity to witness a whole different version of our child. Now we know she learns sight words quickly because she’s a visual learner and has a great memory. We know she struggles with some math lessons because they’re too abstract unless she’s using manipulatives, but since she dislikes math in general she’ll likely try to toss everything on the floor anyway. We learned that shorter sessions are far better for Hannah’s attention span and that, depending on the look in her eyes, her quietness during a session is because she’s confused, tired, or flat-out refusing to work. We know Hannah behaves differently when she’s at her grandparents’ house than when she’s home with me and which activities are best suited for each location. 

Listening to Hannah interact with her teachers and service providers, seeing the unique relationships she has with each of them, even seeing how she gives them just as much stubbornness as she gives me, turns me into a real life heart-eye-emoji every time. Grandma and I are beyond thankful for the opportunity to work closely with Hannah’s team, to understand the fundamentals of teaching reading and writing, and to learn from them how to challenge Hannah in a supportive way. Virtual kindergarten certainly isn’t fun every day but the team’s collaborative approach has made it a lot easier than I expected. 

Even though Hannah was a quiet kid in class she really loved school and always knew the names of all her classmates within the first few days. My heart does hurt a bit during the virtual class meetings when all the other kids chat with each other and my kiddo is silent because she’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know most of the kids. But I know she’s watching them all, enjoying their company, and she’ll certainly remember their faces when she makes her glorious return to the classroom.

Pandemic Life with Hannah Banana

Five years ago I suddenly went from mother-to-be to special needs mom. There was no warning, no training. Now I’m six weeks into another role I didn’t sign up for – preschool teacher. Well, not just that. Add in special education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Managing Hannah’s school work and keeping her fed, safe, and semi-entertained is a full-time job, on top of my actual full-time job. As independent as Hannah is, she’s still not capable of doing everything herself. That means maintaining a certain level of supervision all day and being ready at any moment to help her. I can tell you a 5 year old’s bladder certainly doesn’t care what’s a convenient time for me.

Every day is a seesaw, admittedly built by my own expectations, bouncing from totally killin’ it to barely hanging on. There’s no work-life balance. There’s no work-life integration. I can’t lean in or out. If I focus on work I feel like I’m failing Hannah; if I focus on Hannah I feel I’m failing my employer. While Hannah’s understanding and patience for the situation as increased significantly since March there are still meltdowns when she begs to outside in the middle of the day and I say no. Some days we survive on Goldfish and coffee. We don’t have a schedule, let alone a cutesy color-coded one, and screen time is out of control. The goal now is to simply not undo the phenomenal work Hannah’s team did since September.

This new life is just as hard on Hannah. No more school or daycare. No more gymnastics. No more spontaneous trips to Target. A big outing these days is driving down the street to see if the cows and horses are outside. Hannah misses her teachers, therapists, and classmates dearly. She scrolls through ClassDojo every day to look at pictures of her friends and re-watches videos of their classroom birthday celebrations. There’s a reason special needs parents fight for inclusion – our kids love to be with their peers and it’s where they thrive.

Now, I don’t want my complaints to overshadow how incredibly lucky our family has been. I truly do try to maintain a healthy level of positivity and gratitude in between the occasional secret sob-fest in the pantry or in the car. We have a house with multiple rooms to make messes in. We have a backyard in a safe, quiet neighborhood. We’re maintaining our incomes and I have the opportunity to work from home at times. Hannah’s grandparents are available the weeks I’m in the office, and to be honest, their homeschooling during a pandemic skills are impressive.

More importantly, we’re lucky to have this time together. Without extracurricular activities and meetings our evenings are more relaxed. The weekends no longer fly by from squeezing grocery shopping, errands, and chores into two days. We’re no longer rushing. Hannah can take her time working on skills like getting dressed, going potty, and brushing her teeth by herself. We hang out in our jammies reading dozens of books and then reading them again. We dance along to GoNoodle or the Trolls soundtrack, usually with Hannah directing me like a seasoned fitness instructor. There’s time for her to help me fix meals, empty the dishwasher, and load the washing machine. She asks a lot of questions, which means learning new words and new ASL signs. While I hope this is a once in a lifetime pandemic that means this time with Hannah is even more precious.

One day we’ll look back and, despite the tears shed and sleep lost, we’ll realize it wasn’t so bad. I look back at those first months with Hannah when I was scared to be a special needs mom, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fight for her or give her the life she deserved, terrified of her heart defect and impending surgery. In the moment it always seems impossible. But every day we wake up and do our best because that’s what parents do.

WDSD 2019

After Hannah was born Pete and I imagined a future based solely on assumptions. Since we had no prior experience with Down syndrome we didn’t know what it meant for our family and the stories we crafted were all based on fear. One of our misguided predictions was that we’d lose all of our “typical friends” as Hannah grew up. The initial surge of love and support would slowly recede and we’d be excluded because our child would be too much for them to handle. As someone who never really felt a sense of community growing up it hurt to think Hannah was doomed to feel the same.

In the last four years I’ve found myself in limbo between “special needs mom” and “regular mom,” not feeling like I fit in either group. In the vast world of special needs, Hannah’s are pretty minimal. Her delays and challenges aren’t “special” to us because they’re so engrained into our daily living. Plus, a lot of our struggles lately are based on the usual shenanigans of a 4 year old. But then we leave the comfort of our home and in the real world I’m “that mom.” The one hovering at the playground. The one letting her child hold up traffic on a staircase. At times I’ve felt like there’s been an ugly neon sign above my head telling other moms that I’m different, warning them that interaction with my family won’t be typical.

Recently, however, I realized that if there’s anyone to blame for feeling like there’s a lack of community, it would be me. I’m the one imagining that neon sign and it’s been blinding me, preventing me from seeing the incredible community we have. Our friends have typical children, children with special needs, children older than Hannah, and children younger than her. We have our families and their friends, our coworkers, and a ton of virtual friends. Hannah has her daycare friends, her preschool friends, her yoga friends, and her leadership class friends. And none of these people care that an extra chromosome makes our family a little different.

Today we celebrated our 4th World Down Syndrome Day with this wonderful community. The day started with Hannah noticing and complimenting my socks as soon as I walked in her room. From there, it was giggles and the biggest smile as we put on her polka-dot leg warmers, one Elmo sock, and one Oscar sock. Then, there were the colorful and mismatched socks everywhere we went. Lastly, we ended our day admiring the flowers and card from her daycare class. If I had one wish it would be for every child, with special needs or not, to be surrounded with this kind of love. 


Yoga with Hannah Banana

At the end of 2017 I was searching for a mommy and me style yoga class but everything in our area was for pre-walkers or ages 4+. A few days later a post popped up on my Facebook feed for a two day children’s yoga & mindfulness yoga teacher training. What started as curiosity turned into six weekends of trainings, all thanks to Facebook stalking my Google searches. I learned more than I ever expected, met some amazing people, and was pushed outside of my comfort zone but the best part has been including Hannah in this journey.

Hannah’s first yoga festival in August 2018

I didn’t have a plan when I walked in to that first training in March, besides a vague idea of yoga playdates with Hannah’s preschool/daycare friends or within our Down syndrome community. I knew Hannah had been introduced to some sort of yoga or “movement” at school because she randomly popped into three-legged dog during a shopping trip; worst case I could learn some new activities to do with her at home. I never would have guessed that day one of training would spark an interest that would turn into an all-out wildfire in my soul by the end of day two.

The beauty of yoga is that it’s a ‘come as you are’ party – even more so when kids are involved. As a parent or caregiver, how often do you apologize that your children are cranky because you turned off the TV, they didn’t get the cup they wanted, or because they had to wear a shirt? It’s okay if your child shows up in a bad mood. It’s okay if your child is utterly overwhelmed by the new people and place. It’s okay if your child runs around in circles and laughs the whole time or chooses not to participate and watches for the entire class. It’s okay if your child performs every pose wonderfully or struggles with balance or coordination. It’s okay…as long as you show up. That’s really the only requirement for yoga.

My goal is to make it easy for parents and their children, of all ages and abilities, to show up. I strive to create an opportunity for children to participate in a physical activity, connect with their peers, stretch their imaginations, and build confidence. That’s far easier to do when there’s no pressure from coaches or teammates, no clock counting down, and no points awarded to those who have the most skill. There’s no competition, no judgement, no stress. And while I work on that creation I’m able to test it out with Hannah.

There are days when Hannah is pumped to see her yoga friends, showing off all the poses she knows before we leave the house, but is worn out and uninterested once we get to class. She’ll stare at me like a bored teenager and not participate until relaxation time, reminding me to be quiet. Then she sings our ‘welcome song’ the whole ride home, naming the other kids from class because she was present enough to know who else showed up.

Some days she’s so eager that she unpacks my bag as soon as we walk in, knowing what I will need for class and what the kiddos can play with before we start. She hands me the chime and bluetooth speaker before toddling off with a bag of scarves or felt squares. When other kids arrive Hannah shares the toys and props and laughs with them as they play.

Playing with scarves before class

But most days she lights up the room with a smile that shouts “Look – I can do it!” During a recent class I played a movement-based song that we’ve listened to at home and I thought Hannah’s eye were going to pop out of her head when she heard the first few notes. She led the class for those 3 minutes and I have never seen her more confident.

The teacher trainings have also helped me be a more patient and understanding mother, learning to respond instead of react. No matter what Hannah’s mood is, my job is to acknowledge how she’s feeling and support her. Using the tools I’ve learned I can practice my own self-regulation and teach Hannah in the process. When I catch her doing “deep breafs” I know we’re on the right track.

Showing off her tree pose. Look at that face!







New Year, New Blog Goal

I have a half dozen half-finished blog posts from this year that were never finished. Some were emotionally too hard to continue, like Hannah aging out of Birth to Three and her week in the hospital. Others were like a transcript of my frantic inner dialogue and far better suited for discussion with a best friend. And then of course there was the token “Hannah is the best and I’m so lucky she saved me from a mediocre life.” For 2019 I set an extremely reasonable and attainable goal of at least one post per month; feel free to hold me accountable and harass me if I haven’t posted by the 28th of each month. To show you how serious I am I’m even starting this month…


A few months ago I wrote a guest blog post about raising a daughter with confidence and self-love. After writing, re-writing, editing, and more editing I finally submitted the piece, complete with a picture and bio. The next morning I re-read my submission, worried that I missed major errors the night before. One thing stood out to me that hadn’t the entire time I worked on the post. I never mentioned, until my bio at the very end, that Hannah has Down syndrome. My frantic inner dialogue kicked in immediately:

Wow, what a bait and switch. I wrote the whole post and never mentioned her extra chromosome? I’m a fraud! How can I write about parenting her if I don’t mention she has Down syndrome? I have a whole blog and Instagram account about her life where I never shy away from her diagnosis. Does it look like I’m hiding the truth about her?

Rational thinking finally kicked in. I wrote about the only way I know how to parent, and that happens to be parenting a child who has Down syndrome. Sometimes I think I’m even a little tough on Hannah because, aside from a few exceptions, she’s very capable of age-appropriate skills. Reviewing my nearly four years as a parent there isn’t anything I would have done differently, regardless of how many chromosome’s Hannah has.

If you’re interested the guest blog post is after the picture.


Raising a daughter with confidence and self-love

Raising a child to be a good person is a daunting task. Raising a child to be a good person, have confidence, and love herself fearlessly is an extreme sport. In an age of everything-shaming it’s imperative that we find ways to teach big lessons to our littles, to build them up before anyone can knock them down, and give them tools to navigate the world. With only three years of parenting experience I’m certainly no child-rearing expert but I know what works best for my little Hannah Banana, and these are seven of the ways I’m teaching her about confidence and self-love:

Praise & Praise Some More

If Hannah had a dollar for every time she received praise she could have retired at age 2. She’s always had a whole squad of cheerleaders between home, daycare, and school that continuously provides positive reinforcement. I throw “good job” and “great work” around like confetti because I think the benefits of praise outweigh the possible disadvantages. It continues to motivate Hannah so much that she’s often heard praising herself.

Set Expectations & Give Explanations

I noticed a change in Hannah’s behavior once I started giving explanations along with my expectations of her. My theory is that my instructions come across in less of a “because I said so” way and she doesn’t feel the urge to do the exact opposite; it’s more of a request than a demand. I’ll gladly take the extra seconds to explain my “why” when the outcome is less likely to result in defiance.

Encourage Decision-Making

If the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day, how many extra does a parent make for their children? I try to reduce my decision fatigue by giving Hannah opportunities to make choices. They key is to phrase the question with options, not as an option. Not only does Hannah make an adorably exaggerated thinking face but we seem to have less meltdowns because she has a sense of ownership over her decision. For example, “It’s time to go – can you put on your shoes?” turns into “It’s time to go – you can pick your pink shoes or blue shoes.”

Promote Independence

Tying in with expectations and decision-making, I encourage Hannah do as much as possible on her own or with little guidance from an adult. Sometimes she makes this easy, insisting on getting her own yogurt from the fridge or unpacking her bags after school. These simple tasks can then take a significant amount of time and patience but the look of pride on her face is worth it.  In true toddler fashion; however, there are times when Hannah needs more a bit more motivation but with creative phrasing and heavy praise I can usually get her moving.

Create Boundaries

I want Hannah to know that, even at 3 1/2 years old, she has say over her body. We don’t force her to hug anyone, even family members. I ask for a kiss goodbye at daycare instead of assuming she wants one. Instead of frowning and cajoling her we counter with blowing kisses, high fives, or fist-bumps. The same rules apply to cuddling on the couch or any physical playing like dancing or tickle fights. No means no; all done means all done.

Embrace feelings

Children don’t cry to frustrate or annoy us; they cry because they’re frustrated. Or scared or hurt. Or they have no idea how they fell. They don’t have the vocabulary to explain their feelings so their emotions manifest as tears or tantrums. When Hannah cries, whether from falling down or because I ended screen time mid-Elmo’s World, I don’t tell her she’s okay. I don’t tell her to stop crying. Under no circumstance will I tell her how to feel.

Model Confidence

I can’t authentically teach Hannah to be confident if I’m putting myself down. The F word (fat) is never said and she never sees me pinch my belly or jiggle my thighs. She sees me own up to my mistakes and clean up my messes but will never hear me call myself stupid. She watches me do hard things and cheers me on. I’m far from perfect but I have a little girl who looks at me like I’m the best mom in the world.

One final tip, and possibly the most important, is to follow your gut. There’s an infinite amount of advice available to parents these days. Read all the books and all the blogs. Join mom groups in real life or on Facebook. Ask friends, family, and doctors for opinions. Then only do what’s best for you, your child, and your family. Do it forever or do it for a week. Trial and error is not failure if you’re learning and growing from the experience. Parenting should be about progress, not perfection.



Lee Ulinskas is a mother, wife, and dog lover. She shares her adventures of parenting a child with Down syndrome on her blog and Instagram account Life with Hannah Banana.Her love for children led her to becoming a certified children’s yoga and mindfulness instructor and a certified nutrition and wellness consultant. When she’s not home with her family or at her day job in the corporate world, she’s continuing her education with various trainings, attending wellness events, or, most likely, at Target.

Pre-K…that’s (almost) a wrap

Pete, Grandma, Grandpa, and I spent yesterday morning at Hannah’s school for the preschool end of year celebration. We finally got a glimpse of this secret life she’s been living since the end of February! 

The transition to preschool has been a challenge for me, and it has nothing to do with PPTs and IEPs. Daycare has been my safe place for Hannah. I know the teachers, the other children, and most of the parents. Birth to Three had appointments there and could reassure me that Hannah was happy and well-cared for.

Public school is a whole different ballgame. As a working mom I don’t have the opportunity to do drop-off and pickup. I’m not able to chit-chat with parents. I don’t get to see Hannah’s classmates say hello to her. Until yesterday I didn’t know a single child or parent and only knew the staff who attended the PPTs. I feel like an outsider to a big part of my child’s life.

Even though Hannah’s teacher and service providers have been great with communication, they can only speak to the moments they witness. The star of the show doesn’t provide much feedback. Every night at bedtime I ask Hannah about her day and the conversation is almost always the same:

Me: Did you have a good day today?

Hannah: YEAH!

Me: Who did you see at big girl school?

Hannah: [teacher’s name], [para’s name]

Me: Who else? What friends did you see?

Hannah: [preschool classmate], [unintelligible name], [daycare classmate]…A B C D E…

I’ve tried asking trick questions like “did you have art today or did you go to the moon?” The response is usually the same enthusiastic YEAH and occasionally blatant refusal to participate in my nosey-ness. It’s excruciating, as a parent, to have no idea if you’re child is enjoying school or not. To have no idea if she’s liked by her peers, if she’s excluded because she doesn’t talk to them, if she gets picked on. It’s excruciating to have little to no idea what your child, thought, or felt for half the day.

Watch out, 2018…Hannah’s coming for you

Dear Hannah,

 You totally rocked 2017. The list of milestones and achievements is almost unbelievable.

You progressed from five independent, wobbly steps to walking around the house like a boss. While you know being carried is much faster you usually compromise with holding hands when we reject your laziness. Couches and chairs are no longer obstacles, unless you’re trying to climb while carrying food. You work diligently at unzipping bags and putting on clothes, hats, headbands, and jewelry. The self-praise when you succeed is a necessary part of the process.

Watching you run or perched at the top of a slide takes my breath away; it’s equally adorable and nerve-racking. Please realize I will never stop saying “be careful.” More important than learning how to move your body you learned that it’s okay to fall. We’ll always cheer for you because falling means you tried. In the rare case you do cry we know it’s bad. I joke with people that I’m starting a toddler rugby or roller derby team for you because you’re the toughest kid I know.

Your tenacity helped you master the art of physical comedy. We noticed your comedic chops when you were only weeks old, looking at us, wondering when we’d get the joke. You quickly graduated to impersonating us (hands on your hips like Mommy, groans of achy joints like Grandma, muscle-man pose like Daddy) realizing it resulted in smiles and laughs. Your interest and ability to imitate us is likely why you excel at learning sign language.

Over the summer you leveled-up with overly exaggerated gestures and pratfalls followed by sighs and laughter. Thankfully the typical low-muscle tone associated with Down syndrome didn’t affect your facial muscles too much. Your expressions, combined with verbal reactions, make you a walking-talking hyperbole.

During this past year you also discovered how to use your voice. We’ve seen you watching our mouths move as we talk, studying how to make those same sounds. Hearing you speak a new word amazes me, even if it comes out sassy as heck, because I know how hard you worked to form it. You sure have figured out how to share your opinions and blossomed into a talented toddler negotiator. It’s not always stubbornness we hear. You can request certain foods and songs and love to point stuff out to us at home or the store. Best of all, the carseat and bathtub concerts are longer, sillier, and more understandable.

Sadly there’s been some communication frustration lately which proves your desire to speak and that your need for new signs is greater than my ability to learn them. Is that why you don’t talk much at school? I promise your teachers and friends will understand you if you’re patient. Your cartoon princess voice masks your underlying determination, whether you’re trying to get someone to laugh or to get your way, so I know you have the ability to bridge the communication gap.

Now, my little love, don’t think 2018 is going to be carefree. You set the bar high and we adjusted our expectations accordingly. You’ll be starting school soon – taking the bus, meeting new friends, learning a new routine. It’s okay to be shy at first but don’t hide that magic for too long. Your classmates will help you grow and learn and you’ll teach them about acceptance and inclusion. Your new teachers and therapists will have big girl goals for you in preschool; I know you’ll crush them all.

We have no doubt you’ll succeed this year. You’re life began with a foundation of perseverance. You’re strong-willed but equally kind and silly. Add in those big blue eyes, long blonde hair, charming smile and you’re the human form of a Disney heroine.

Love you always,


Everything is overwhelming

“Everything is overwhelming. Everything you’ve been through up to this point with Hannah has been overwhelming.”

My dad said that the other night as we discussed Hannah’s upcoming move to public preschool. I explained the transition meeting wasn’t bad. The team seemed impressed by Hannah, who was incredibly well-behaved. The Developmental Therapist from Birth 2 Three helped me and Pete communicate Hannah’s progress and needs. We agreed on a play-based evaluation in January. I was only slightly annoyed with two things said by the school’s team. Overall it was a good start; however, I left feeling emotionally drained.

Hannah started Birth 2 Three at six months old and we’ve been slowly working up to this handoff. Hannah seems too young and little to go to such a big school and take a bus to daycare in the afternoon. She’s never even been on a bus!

We have four more months to prepare her, and ourselves, to leave the safety and comfort of daycare. Four months to prepare for a 15 year relationship with the school district. It’s a little exciting and a lot of terrifying. My day dreams about Hannah’s future go from a beautiful, intelligent, prospering little girl to nightmares about fighting with the school for inclusion and services. The parent advocacy class I’m taking has me feeling prepared for the next era but also anticipating a fight.

I’ve always said my life as a special needs mom is not hard. It’s not sad. It can be lonely and frightening. And the very next day it can be empowering and magical. Overwhelming is the best word to describe it.


Hannah’s birth diagnosis was overwhelming.

The first three months of her life with a heart defect, the surgery, and recovery were overwhelming. 

The transition to daycare and building a relationship with the staff was overwhelming.  

The attempt to give your child a “normal” routine around doctors appointments and therapy sessions is overwhelming.

The transition to toddler life, verging on “threenager” life is overwhelming.

My Dad’s right. Life with Hannah Banana is overwhelming, and every time we come out stronger, smarter, and ready for the next challenge.



My Sidekick

Banana had some serious big girl pants on Monday night. She helped me unload the dishwasher. She put food in the grocery cart. She dictated which songs to sing while we shopped. She pointed to a picture of a boy so she could show me his facial features. She tried so hard to say ears, nose, teeth, and chin. She took the food out of the cart and put it on the checkout belt. She negotiated bedtime on the drive home. She invented a game of running away from me while I tried to change her clothes. She laughed until she couldn’t stand. She knew why it was funny. I loved every moment. And part of me hated it.

Hannah seems to go through developmental growth spurts, the last one starting a few weeks ago. Suddenly she decided that she wants to walk more or, if she’d being held, she wants to help carry stuff for you. She picks up new signs immediately but also tries to speak the words. She wants to get herself dressed and undressed. She crawls onto the couch with a book and reads to herself. It’s truly amazing to see her put pieces of the world together, to watch her try her darnedest to be solve a problem, to see the recognition in her eyes when she answers a question. Her little voice chirps ‘yeah’ or ‘no’ but is full of certainty. Again, I love it and hate it. We wait patiently for these milestones and then she bangs them all out at once, preventing us from savoring each one individually.

I always had an image in my mind of the relationship with my future daughter – my sidekick and little helper. I lost focus of this picture briefly after Hannah’s birth but each day she showed me that she’s the girl of my dreams. All these big kid skills she’s been learning lately were preparation for the moment my sidekick was officially ready to take her place. As we walked up to our house after a long day of work and daycare, my little blue-eyed, fair-haired darling held her hand out for mine, giggling as she stomped up the steps. And I walked beside her beaming with pride.

Hannah walk.jpg