And all of a sudden, Elena and Yael are turning one.

It feels so surreal. Yes, time flies. Yes, it’s one of those things that everyone says more and more as they get older. Yes, for those of you with children of any age (even adult children) I am preaching to the choir. It still doesn’t make it any less emotional that my babies are officially ending toddlerhood. It has been an amazing and gratifying experience thus far, while also being the most difficult.

Let’s be honest, it is easy to look back and only remember the good, which is why I think people are able or willing to have another child, but the reality is that there are moments when you want to throw in the towel. Those first three months, especially, are brutal.

I have this vivid memory of a Sunday night where Elena had been crying for what seemed like hours. It wasn’t crying as much as it was screaming. Nothing calmed her down for more than a few minutes: the sound of running water or the AC worked until it didn’t. I was sleep deprived and all I kept thinking was the estimated amount of time left before Yael would wake up for her next feeding. My mom was with me that night and I remember crying as I held a screaming Elena and saying, “Can I return her?”

Nights like that seem like a distant memory now. Sure, we have bad nights here and there, but nothing compared to what it was.

What I truly remember about the past year, though, is the amazement as one or both of them do something for the first time. Yael’s squeal of delight as she stood on her own for the first time in her crib. Elena triumphantly spitting out food when she realized she could do that if she didn’t like what was in her mouth. The two of them exchanging pacifiers and laughing hysterically. Each of these moments make my heart fuller. I don’t know how else to describe it because it’s truly this warmth or pull I feel in my heart and gut. They bring me joy just thinking of their cute little smiles.

From day one, each girl has had their unique personality. That personality has and continues to shift as it forms. One day Elena seems like the extrovert, while other days it is Yael. What I can tell you for sure is that Yael looks at everyone quizzically at first; she needs to determine whether she can trust you. When she decides you are worthy, she smiles at you with her eyes. People think she’s toothless because she rarely gives a wide open smile. She will, however, happily observe her surroundings without necessarily needing me nearby. Elena on the other hand will smile at you just for looking her way. She also laughs loudly when I tell her not to throw food. She does get antsy if she realizes I am not around.

Yael cries when someone else gets hurt. She gets frustrated until she can do something well. And she uses any means necessary (rolling, dragging, crawling) to get where she wants to go. Elena turned out to be the laid back one (after those early months of hysteria). She could care less if she stays in one place. I thought she would never crawl. She is very verbal though and gets her point across.

They both love books, their walks and the bath. They are pretty good eaters (when not throwing food on the floor). Salmon, lentils and pancakes are some favorites, while overly lemony chickpea burgers are not. Yael squeals a lot and Elena says “mas”, “bye” and “oh, wow.” They cover their eyes or at least their nose when we play peekaboo.
Ultimately they have changed my life for the better in ways that I could never have imagined. There were moments in the year where I thought there was no way I was going to make it through as a single mom, but somehow I did and will.

I can’t wait to go in their room tomorrow morning and wish them a Happy Birthday. It feels incredible to have made it. In the words of Elena, “Oh, WOW!”