Dear Katie

Today is your second birthday. It’s 11p ET and you have had a wonderful day. We sang the happy birthday song for Peyton last Friday and you became obsessed with it. Little did you know that it would be your song in just five short days and yet, here we are and here it was.

You woke up your usual sunny self this morning. Ben and I sang to you first thing and you danced around in your crib. Yes, you still sleep in a crib. I think you’ll be out of it next year at this time, but we’re not ready yet and neither are you. You wore your new two shirt for the very first time today and you were so proud. You showed Ben your shirt and made sure he saw the 2 on it several times. Ben made his first pancakes yesterday and saved two for you this morning for your breakfast. You were very, very happy.

He was shocked to discover that I hadn’t planned a cake for you, but unless your tastes have changed, I suspect that you’re not surprised. He tried to talk me into making you muffins or cupcakes, but I knew, just knew, that you would want a pie. So, when you went to take your nap, I baked your favorite pie — buttermilk. Yes, buttermilk. I also wrapped a couple of presents for you.

When daddy came home we had presents and pie and you had a wonderful day (even if you had to practice Dr. W’s homework, which I’m pleased to say you now know cold). I have great pictures and great memories of today, and I hope that you have them too.

You’ve been through a lot in the first two years of your life. A lot more than some kids ever have to go through. You are strong. You are beautiful, inside and out. You are a fighter. Never, never let anyone tell you that you aren’t or that you’re not worthy or that you don’t deserve to try or to have because you so absolutely do.

Your smiles are amazing. You light up the whole room when you flash that grin of yours. Your laugh is contagious and your determination to try everything that your brother does is admirable (if occasionally foolhardy). You love cars and books and dolls and Tinkerbell and blocks. You want to build — you spend whole afternoons playing with Duplo blocks.

You are so loved. The most important thing for you to know today, and everyday, is that daddy and I love you completely. No matter what you do or where you go, we will always love you.

Love, Mom

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Twelve Years Old

Dear Sam:

It’s so hard to believe that you’ve gotten here, baby. Part of me keeps thinking I’m going to wake up and you won’t be here. You’ve defied the odds and proven more than one vet an idiot. For that I am grateful.

You are stubborn, challenging, willful, difficult, and one of the main lights of my life. You’ve taught me so much about handling difficult situations with grace. When to back down from a challenge and when to stand up (though, I still don’t think I can bite someone). You are the quintessentially difficult dog, but I love you all the more for your quirks and your bad habits.

Without those quirks, I would not have been ready to handle some of Ben’s. I would not have known that responding to aggression with aggression is the wrong thing to do. I have scars from the lessons you taught me about that, and while I don’t always love them, I will always wear them as a badge of honor because I learned how to work through with you in a way that I would not have otherwise learned.

You’ve had a hard life. Some would argue that it would have been kinder to you to put you down years ago. I know that you’ve suffered and that you will suffer unspeakable pain. I’m sorry that I’m so selfish as to keep you here and feed you drugs to keep the pain at bay. I’ve promised you (and myself) that the day the medicine no longer works, I will make the call and get you permanent relief.

We have a deal, you and I, you give me the sign and I will make that call. It’s the last loving act I can do for you (well, before you go, I promise you’ll get the cheeseburger, the chocolate, and the tortilla chips that you love, but that don’t love you, and I’ll play “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Wrapped Up in You” on repeat all the way to the vet’s office).

But on the balance, you’ve had a really good year. You’ve been healthy. You have passed all your health screens with flying colors. You’ve played with your ball with Ben (and I have video to prove it). You have watched over Katie as she’s learned to crawl. You’ve defended your children against Peyton (and other hostile invaders).

You have a wonderful heart, Sam. We love you so much. We wish you a wonderful day and will have cheeseburgers tonight. I hope you really, really enjoy it.

Love, Mama (yes, I”m my dog’s mama, want to make something of it? I didn’t think so)