My niece. My little Munchkin. The little banshee. My little Mariposa - my little butterfly girl. Miniature creator of Chaos, the girl who cries if you sing off-key. The one who shares my birthday number.
The one whose ultrasound picture I plastered in my cubicle wall. The one who caused me to sprain my ankle leaping off a short wall when I found out she was a girl.
The one who hid so well that she originally produced a negative pregnancy test in her mother.
The one who caused me to carry around pictures of a pregnant Kelly, as I tried to explain to my professors in my very first semester of college that I might have to rush out at any time, because it was my job to watch the then-two-year-old when Kelly went into labor.
The one who sometimes makes me want to fill my ears with cotton balls and then wrap duct tape around them. The one who frustrates, infuriates, and melts me... sometimes all at once.
She can't possibly be one year old.
Even though all of the pictures say she is. Even though she's wearing that hat.
Even though there was cake. Lots and lots of cake.
She was certainly more excited about being covered in cake than her brother was when he turned one. The Monkey Boy was horrified at the sight of his hands covered in chocolate that he couldn't get off.
I can relate.
This one wasn't quite so bothered. She lasted almost ten whole minutes before realizing that she was covered in sticky icing. Then she got annoyed.
But the sugar high kicked in not long after that and all was right with the world again. At least that's how it worked for me.
At least that's how it would have happened, if this had been real.
But it can't have been real. because she can't be one. She's just a baby. I'm sure of it.
Just yesterday, she looked like this.
And her feet fit in my hand. And they were beautifully wrinkled, and they still smelled like baby.
And she fit on my chest like that.
Now she fits on my chest like this. But I don't believe it's true. Because she can't be one. Even though her birthday was six days ago. Even though her party was this weekend.
Even though there were presents.
Even though she fell in love with the stuffed Lady dog, looking at it like it was the thing that had always been missing from her life.
She can't be one. Because just yesterday, she was my little ghost at Halloween.
She stuck her tongue out at the camera and we wondered if she was really part Labrador.
She was just a little baby. Just yesterday. Really.
She can't be one. But she is. Sometime while I was off learning Russian and trying to save the world, trekking all over UT and generally doing big-people things, my little niece grew up a whole year.
And it breaks my heart, because she just isn't a baby anymore.
But it's exciting too, because the best is yet to come.
She won't stay little forever, but every day she turns a little more into a tiny person, and I can't wait to see who that person turns out to be.
All I can do is sit back and watch, and try to soak in as much of it as I can, because tomorrow she'll be ten, and the day after that, she'll be 16 and learning to drive and babysitting my children for me.
Next week, she'll be getting married. I'll take pictures at her wedding and cry like a baby, because just yesterday, she'll have been one. That is, if Dave doesn't kill the boy before she marries him.
Then she'll have babies of her own, and I'll snuggle them against my chest and feel really old. That is, if Kelly is willing to share.
She's one, and my life flashes before my eyes, because in half a heart beat, she's changed from a baby into a toddler, and soon she'll be talking and singing and developing interests and thoughts of her own. Some day, tossing her into the air and blowing raspberries won't be enough to make her giggle. Some day, I won't be able to fix all of her problems by feeding her, changing her, and playing Simon and Garfunkel. Some day she'll be all grown up.
And I don't want it to come. But I can't wait.
Happy Birthday Munch! I'm exhausted too. And I love you.
For more birthday excitement, check out Dances With Chaos - where Kelly does her own Chaosy blogging.