Showing posts with label memories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memories. Show all posts


A Tribute: For My Grandpa

This morning, my grandpa finally gave in and breathed his last. He fought so hard for his life. My mom has said more than once that he was living on borrowed time, and it really did seem like it. He had multiple heart attacks and eventually lost the function of his kidneys. As time went on, his pain level sky rocketed and he fought for even a few minutes of peace, even if that was all he'd get in a day or week. It was painful for all of us, to see him suffering, but of course we are all sad that he is no longer here with us too. It's hard to put into words, this mixture of emotions. Instead, I'll just recall some of my favorite things about him.

He always had a word of advice. Don't be mistaken, though, he wasn't that crazy old man that thought he knew everything. His advice was good. If he was telling you something that could potentially help you out, you listened. He just knew a little bit about everything. 

He genuinely cared about what was going on in our lives. When my life was all about diapers and feedings and nap schedules, he would reminisce about the struggles and laughs they had as young parents. He was never above any topic of discussion. He just loved to chat.

He really, truly loved my grandma. I rarely saw him tear up, but he did on multiple occasions when it came to her life, well being, and health. I know that he fought so hard to live, even with the huge amount of pain he had, because he was worried about her life after he was gone. Their marriage showed me what true companionship is like. They were together since their twenties, and really only knew life together. It was and is inspiring. I have huge prayers for my grandma now, living this life without him. She's a strong woman, stronger than she probably gets credit for, but it doesn't mean that it will be easy for her. 

He was a pretty great grandpa. My mom often said that he was a lot softer as a grandpa than he was as a father, as is most often the case. He loved to have babies sitting on his lap and would listen to our stories and songs with a huge grin on his face. For being a "tough old farmer", he told me he loved me and was proud of me more times than I can remember, and always encouraged us with our passions and dreams even if he didn't understand or completely agree with them. 

He was a stubborn old farmer :). My memory of him from when I was younger was of a tough broad shouldered man with a hat on his head and a toothpick in his mouth. He'd come in from working hard in the field or in the work shed, hands stained with oil, knuckles swollen from years of hard manual work and eat up whatever Grandma had ready for him. Lunch time always included discussions about this and that (mostly with my uncle, his only son and business partner) and a good solid nap afterward before he got back to work in the afternoon. It wasn't until he retired from farming that I saw him sit back and relax a bit. He was always busy with something, though. Growing up, I'm sure there was something in every room that he had made for me as a Christmas or birthday present. He was a self-taught handy man.

He loved to make bread. He would make bread and give it to my mom since he would end up with too much. He absolutely loved fresh fruits and vegetables and trust me, you knew how he felt about poorly cooked meat. He made sure that everyone knew. There was no reason in the world to cook it poorly and he just couldn't wrap his head around why anybody would do it.

He and my grandma always made a point to come to as many concerts or events as they could for my mom, sister, and myself. They only lived a half hour away from us, so we saw them quite often. Many a holiday was spent out at their farm and we'd stay overnight out there while mom and dad, the teachers, started up work again (the week before our school started). Memories of sitting on their screened-in porch are plentiful. Fresh corn on the cob, apples, and tomatoes were enjoyed. Riding bike on the driveway and swinging on the tire swing was a regular thing. He was always around, working on this or that, and I can just picture him with his "Hiya, Sarah!" and big grin on his face, slowly making his way back to the house to sit down for a bit before finding another big project to work on.

I think what I will always remember most is the time we spent together by my grandma's hospital bed as she slept or did her therapy. We would sit there for hours and I would drill him about anything and everything to do with his past. At first, he just gave me generic, short answers. I dug in, though, because I'm a history nerd and love to hear about the details. Eventually, I proved to him that I was truly interested and he went on for hours with how he got his farm land, how he met my grandma, how their lives were as newlyweds and young parents, and much more. His favorite thing by far, though, was to tell me all the horror stories of their problems with rodents, particularly snakes. You see, my phobia of snakes (it is so bad... so so bad) most likely started out at their farm. Once he learned this, he just had to tell me about all the different incidents that occurred with those dreadful snakes, mice, and bats. I was horrified, and he laughed at my expense for longer than I thought was necessary. Now, though, I'm grateful for the memory of getting to know my grandpa even more. It was worth it.

That is my perspective. I'm sure that my cousins, aunts, and uncles would have many things to add, would maybe say, "No way, that's not how I remember him!" but that is what I think of when I remember my grandpa.

I miss him. I cried more than I thought I would and keep having these memories flashing through my mind. He was a big part of my life, probably more so than I've given him credit for. I'm thankful for the years we had with him, and that I was able to see him at Christmas time, knowing that it might be the last time.

A few pictures that I dug up of him (thank you to my cousins who I hope don't mind me copying these from facebook pages):

The next few are at my wedding. We were so excited to get married at Phelp's Mill, a historic park that isn't far from their home. They would bring their kids here when they were young and had many great memories that they would share with us. At the time, we were concerned with my grandma's health more than his. He was doing pretty well, but my grandma had just a stroke that she wasn't expected to recover from . He was so strong as she leaned on him all through her recovery (which was nothing short of miraculous). These pictures mean the world to me.

Grandma insisted on standing in these pictures, even though it was hard for her. Grandpa had his cane, which he later traded in for an electric wheelchair. This seems so long ago! A lot can change in 4 1/2 years.

My grandpa absolutely loved and respected my hubby. Grandpa was always asking what he was working on now and truly loved to have a good long conversation about the different challenges and techniques my hubby was doing with his various jobs (a contractor who mostly builds high end decks, there are always problems arising and being solved around here).

This particular visit, he insisted on holding squirmy Josie, who was only about 5 1/2 months old. Amazingly, she sat on his lap for almost the entire visit, something she never did for anyone. He made faces at her and tickled her with that huge grin on his face, and she just loved it. I loved it too. He was such an awesome grandpa (and great-grandpa). 

Fishing was a huge passion in his life. I only went with him a few times, which is funny because of all of the things I like and don't like about the outdoors, I really do enjoy fishing. I just never went with him. My cousins, on the other hand, went with him all the time. This picture has been passed around for years, because he was sooooo proud of it. He was always so proud of his grandchildren. None of us ever doubted that. Whether it was for graduating high school, community college or university, joining the army, starting a family, catching a huge fish, performing a voice or instrumental solo, or even learning to crotchet, he was always proud.

Just a mom and pop with their kiddos. ;)

At the lake, another celebration with his family. I think that the lake became one of his favorite places on earth as he got older. Besides his farm, which he would tell me about in great detail, how much he loved the rolling hills, trees, the river, how perfect his land was, etc, my parents' lake place was a true joy for him. He absolutely loved the scenery and fresh air. Nothing made him happier in the last few years.

Celebrating Christmas last year. Audrey was only about 3 weeks old. As always, he was thrilled to hold her and take in all her baby goodness. I'm sure he held her for close to an hour as she happily dozed in his arms.

Celebrating his 85th birthday with his family. Grandma is holding Audrey who is only about 3 months old.
These two were like two peas in a pod. A father and his only son, business partners, best friends. They were always together. 

This is the last time I saw him, celebrating Christmas just a couple of weeks ago. He looks pretty great in this picture considering how much pain he was in. I'm proud of him for always putting on a happy face for us even though he didn't feel like it. He truly loved his family!


A little happy with your sad (A memory)

It's no secret among my family that awkward laughter can almost always be heard through the tears. Sometimes it is just easier to laugh than it is to cry, even though it doesn't make sense on the surface or look just right.

Four years ago, my uncle got stomach cancer and fought for his life. He didn't win that fight, and in April, we headed to the cities to attend his funeral and be as supportive as we could for his family. It was such a hard trip. There's nothing fun about seeing family suffer, mourning someone that you loved, wondering how or where to go from here. 

Amid all of the sadness was one little ray of happiness. It was my sister's birthday. Not just any birthday, though. It was her eighteenth birthday. She was so aware of everything that day, that it wasn't really appropriate to be parading her excitement around, that people couldn't be expected to remember or give her more than a quick "Happy birthday." It was hard on her, and I could tell. She's the kind of girl that loves to celebrate, not just her birthdays, but everyone's. She loves to make others feel extra important and flat out loved. It truly seemed unfair that her big milestone birthday was not to be celebrated.

I grabbed my cousin, the one that my sister adored the most and that loved her back like her very own sister. I told her what was happening and we agreed that we needed to secretly do something fantastic for her. We snuck away to a local Dairy Queen and found the best cake we could. We even had them write on it with icing. This is no small thing, since her name is LARA, frequently confused for LAURA. They even got that right! It was definitely as perfect as we could have hoped for.

After we got this cake, we realized that we had no good way of getting her to see it without awkwardly parading in front of our family after the funeral. We put on our thinking caps and decided that she needed to come to us. As we parked around the block, by the little park just down the street, I got out my phone and gave her a call, "Lara, come down the street to the park. No, just do it. Hurry up! Just do it. Seriously. Just do it." She was hesitant and confused, and I'll never forget the look on her face when she saw us standing there with a big pretty cake just for her birthday. We laughed so hard that we almost cried (typical, no?) and snuck back into the house to enjoy a piece before it all melted.

The cake ended up abandoned in the freezer of my aunt's house and I'm sure she wondered where in the world it came from, but the memory of this was worth all of the trouble. 

Just this past weekend, my mom and I were walking past this same park and I knew I needed to write this little story down so I'd never forget it. Because, you see, my sister is great at birthdays. And she deserves to have great birthdays. It's a happy story, even with all of the sad.

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Loneliness and 2/7

As I sit down to write this post, my mind is blank yet racing all at the same time trying to think of something worthy of writing, recording, remembering. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself in all kinds of areas. This little blog has managed to avoid my perfectionist nature for the most part and I desperately want to keep it that way. It's so easy to get caught up in numbers, stats, the desire to be "popular" or "liked." I don't write to impress people or make friends. I write because it is something I enjoy and it's the easiest way for me to get my thoughts out there, for myself and family. I write about the girls a lot, what I'm doing, what is important to me. Those things are great, but sometimes I just want to write. So today, I googled "writing prompts" and looked for something to inspire me. I found some here


Today's Writing Prompt: Loneliness

Loneliness can happen anywhere, a crowded room or an empty one. How do you combat it? 

I'm not generally a lonely person. I like being around people, sure, but also enjoy having alone time. I've only experienced true loneliness a few times in my life. 

Growing up, I spent time alone happily playing quietly, reading books, doing homework, listening to music. I didn't mind being alone. As I grew up, I enjoyed spending time with my friends and became more and more social. Eventually, I had boyfriends that occupied my time, so I didn't have much time truly "alone" that wasn't consumed with school, work, friends, or family. When I went to college, I struggled to make friends along with everyone else. I didn't feel like I was in the right place, so I started the process of transferring back to my hometown community college to save money until I figured it out. I also ended a relationship that had been too serious, too intense, not in God's plan. That was the first time that I felt true loneliness. I was in between stages in my life, in between new friends and old, single for the first time in years, and moving back home after so many friends had moved on. It was painful but I grew more than I could have imagined. So many of my life lessons came from that period of my life. I look back at it with clear memories of different events and days, those memories stronger than other times in my life because of their impact. 

There are other forms of loneliness, though, that I experience off and on. Even though I am not alone in the literal sense, I still experience it. I spend most of my days with a newly talking two year old and eight month old baby that doesn't say more than "mamamama." My conversations revolve around bathroom talk, what to eat, the ABCs, and childhood books. My chatty husband works hard for long hours every day and is tired when he gets home. A lot of the time, I can be surrounded by strangers, acquaintances, even friends and other children and still feel that hint of loneliness. 

I can't say that this lonely feeling is necessarily a bad thing for me to feel and work through. These moments always bring me back to my creator, reminding me that I am never truly alone. I am reminded to enjoy the moments of true family time, enjoy the moments of baby and toddler days, enjoy the adult conversations I have that much more. I am reminded to be in the moment of interactions and conversations, to not take them for granted. I am reminded to enjoy being in my own company, to enjoy the quiet, to enjoy the stillness. 

Sometimes my heart does hurt. Sometimes I do feel that tug of want, to be around others, to feel outward love, to feel connected. Those moments pass and for that I am grateful. Sometimes, good does come out of feeling lonely. I just have to remember that when the moment is upon me.  


I'm getting my inspiration to post every day from Jennifer over at Conversion Diary.There are a bunch of other bloggers linking up so feel free to read those too!

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Puddle Sleeping Antics

We had an alley behind our house growing up. It had the typical dips and sways that old roads have so water collected all along it when it rained or when snow melted. Particularly, at the end of the alley, it was more like a pond than a puddle. 

Me being the older (4 years) and more mature sister, I was often left "in charge" of my sister even though it wasn't expressed out loud that it was my job. One particular rainy day, we were playing with our neighbor friends that just so happened to live right by that pond-like section of the alley. I so wish that I remembered the circumstances more, but my sister had the brilliant idea to lay down in the puddle like she was taking a bath. I knew with all of my heart that she shouldn't do it, I mean I was smart! I was all of eight years old and laying down in puddles was not cool. I couldn't persuade her to get up, so I went home. I know I didn't try all that hard to get her out of the situation, but still. It's not my fault! I'm still a little bitter to this day.

See, once I got home, things took a turn for the worse for this girl. That's not true. Once my sister got home, that's when things really got ugly. She was soaking wet with muddy puddle water, yet I was given the death glare. How could I let her do this? It was all my fault, obviously. I vividly remember that she was not disciplined for it. She was probably given a lollipop or sticker or something for remembering to come back home. (Ok, ok, it wasn't quite that bad)

I'm sure the punishment was appropriate and obviously not worth remembering, but when I remember this particular incident, my heart pounds a little harder for my poor eight year old self who got in trouble for her mischievous sister's muddy antics.

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Memories: THE Teacher

Describe your teachers at school.

I always had something like a dream of what teachers should be like. I loved the idea of a teacher that you could come to with any problem or concern, thought or good news. I was and am a people pleaser, so as a young child I tried extra hard to get the teacher's favor. Looking back, I'm sure I was a little obnoxious just because of my do-good ways. Once I hit middle school, I wanted that same amount of attention and but it had to be masked. I didn't want everyone around me to get the wrong idea of me and assume that I liked the teacher.

Sadly, my desires were not meant to be met. Most of my teachers had lost their passion along the way and therefore did not inspire me in the least. I continued doing the best I could in every single class but rarely actually enjoyed the subject at hand. At the time, I assumed that it was my own fault, that while everyone else seemed to be learning and loving different classes, it was my own problem that I didn't. I've since realized that my teachers were dull and didn't care about what they were teaching. Other people naturally liked these classes (think history or art) so it didn't matter how the teacher was.

I spent years hating history classes. I enjoyed English classes because I liked grammar and writing even though I didn't want to admit it at the time. I hated science though. Oh man, I did not have good science teachers.

Then there was music. Music is my thing, if you didn't know. I tried in my younger years to not let it define me, but it was meant to be and I could not avoid it. My mom is a music teacher and was determined to have musical children. She really hit the jackpot with both my sister and myself because we have taken and run with it more than she probably would have expected or hoped for when we were just little babes. It's in our blood, but it was our environment too. We couldn't have escaped it if we tried.

 To emphasize my destiny, the only teachers I seemed to enjoy and connect with happened to be the music teachers. I look back at them fondly and love getting the chance to see them to this day. I would go to their offices, joke around, pour my heart out, discuss the day, and just get to know them as well while they got to know me. It continued on from high school into college, and now that I am an adult, I consider them my friends.

I didn't get to have THE teacher, the one that I love so dearly and will always remember with exaggerated greatness. Instead, I get to have a handful. They all shared something with me that to this day is still at the top of my list (what list, I'm not sure...THE list). The great thing about music is that it cannot be outgrown. We'll always have that connection. Maybe that is why they have always meant so much to me. Either way, I'll always be thankful for that part of my education in the small little town where I grew up. After all, it IS my thing.

This is the picture I use for my piano studio flyers, taken by my friend Lacey. Fun, isn't it?

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Memories: Dealing with Death Part Two

Picking up where I left off here. (I've got that itch to write again!)

I ended up getting last minute tickets (wow can you say expensive!) to go to Georgia alone. My mom brought me to the airport (three hours away) and sent me on my way. I had never traveled alone, although I had been around the world a bit already in my life so I wasn't worried about that. It just felt so grown up to be flying alone to take care of my deceased father's affairs. Where did my childhood go?

I stayed with the family that he held so close to his heart, and quickly began to see why he loved them the way he did. They were so welcoming and sweet. They shared story after story about him and I hung on to every word. Remember, I only actually met my dad one time. I was only eight at the time and the little that I did know about him was from what he chose to share in letters and what my mom told me growing up. I craved this information about the man that shared my blood, even if that was all we shared. 

There are a few things that I will never forget. When Andrea and her family met me at the airport, she burst into tears. She said that seeing my smile overcame her and she couldn't help but be reminded of him. It turned out that I looked a lot like him, even more so now than before. You see, my dad had always been a big guy and he always had a huge beard. Four or so months prior to his death, he started cooking healthier and finally lost all the extra weight he had been carrying around all of his life. He shaved that beard off and looked like a completely different man, so the man I was picturing in my mind from all of the pictures I had seen when I was younger was not the man that they had known as of late. Sure, I could see that we were related and I knew I didn't look much like my mom, but I didn't really see it to the extreme that she did.

When I looked down at him in his casket (even though it sounds morbid), I was looking at my own face in an older man's body. Imagine how I felt as I looked down with all of these people watching me. I looked just like him, and could immediately see why everyone reacted the way they did when seeing me there. This daughter that he talked about but that they never got to see.  

The funeral was as awkward as any other funeral. There were a lot of people there, coming up to me to express their grief and say how sorry they were to me. I could tell who knew him well and who didn't, because those that didn't truly knew him assumed that we had been close. Those that did know him understood that I had not been in his life much and did not say those awkward things to me. To be treated like this man's greatest treasure when I had not known him made me feel like an impostor, but I also got to know things about him that I will always hold dear.

Walking through his little rented house and seeing all of his belongings was overwhelming. I knew that I'd have to come back to go through it (overwhelming). I got to meet my aunt (who I had met as a child but didn't remember too well) who turned out to be a sweet older lady that shared a strong faith in God with me. She gave me something I would never forget - she told me that in the last year of my dad's life, he had come back to the Lord. He was in heaven. I didn't realize how concerned I was for his soul until she said that. I know that it is between each person and the Lord and that we can never really know, but that was as close to knowing as I could get and it was such a huge blessing. 

I also got to meet my uncle and his wife. When he took off his sunglasses, I felt like I was looking in a mirror. It was surreal, seeing these people that I shared so much physical resemblance with. I had never experienced that before, and it gave me a bit of a bond that I was not expecting with these strangers. My dad was the youngest of four by 15 (?)  years, a bit of an "oops" baby, so his siblings where quite a bit older than him. He was the first of them to die. It didn't seem fair to me that I was meeting his older siblings that were like grandparents to me, but I was thankful that I got to meet them at all.

It turns out that my father, this man that had chose to stay out of my life, had talked about me a lot. You see, he was afraid to reach out to me in fear that I would reject him, but he so wanted me in his life. Honestly, writing this now kind of breaks my heart. I had been so mad at him for not being a part of my life. I wasted so much time being angry and not writing back to him or taking him seriously. He had suggested that I visit once when I was in high school and had even sent me information about a college in Georgia, but I had blown these attempts off because I already "had my life figured out". How I regret that now. 

He had hoped that I would come to him, that he didn't feel that he could come to me at this point in our relationship. Here's the other crazy part. When I walked into his house, there were pictures of me all over the place. He had printed off every picture he could find of me and had them in most rooms. Seeing that he did care, that he did love me, was a great gift to get from this man I hardly knew. I will never, ever forget that.

Later that summer, my hubby and I went back to finish up little details and bring back a truckload of things that I wanted to keep from his things. I kept an old trunk that had been in the family for years, some appliances, a brand new computer, but the things that meant the most to me were the paintings he had. They were painted by his mom, my grandma, who had been a fairly successful painter in her day. Legend has it that one of her paintings that I have of Jesus was hung in the Vice President's office for a while. Imagine that! I have them all around our house to this day (they match my style perfectly) and am proud of this lady who I did not know. My daughter, Josephine, is named after her, mostly because I love the name, but also because I came from her, even though we never met. She passed when I was a young child, I believe.

It's hard to lose someone that you haven't yet gotten to know. I had to deal with guilt from that for a long time afterwards, and never did figure out how I truly felt about the whole situation. How do you grieve for a father that wasn't a father to you? I had a dad already, so grieving for that role in my life was not necessary. I see a lot of him (that I saw from pictures) in my girls and wonder what he would have thought if he had gotten to meet them, his granddaughters. 

I wish I had known him better, but I am so thankful for the life I have and what I did get to know about him.

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Memories: Dealing with Death

I have the itch to write, but have no inspiration other than the two kiddos I spend my days with. I love them dearly, but I want to still be me and not just mom. I searched around for writing ideas so that I could find something that I was interested in writing about, and came across a list of questions

I love hearing about lives from past generations. I love hearing the little details that most people roll their eyes at. My absolute favorite is getting an older gentleman or lady (those terms just fit so much better for that generation, don't they?) going on a topic and just letting them say whatever comes to mind. I have wonderful memories of my grandpa and me sitting in my grandma's hospital room, waiting for her to come back from therapy or for her to wake up from a nap. He told me story after story of his life when he was my age and when they were just starting out as newlyweds. I couldn't get enough. He loved it too, because really, who doesn't love to talk about themselves and the good old days? It is a win-win.

I assume that my kids and grand kids (and great grand kids if I am lucky) will want to know what in the world I did when I was young. Life now will seem so foreign then. I will have so many things to share. Why not try to remember and record some of it now? So today, the question is:

Who is someone you've lost? What are some of your memories about that person?

The first person that pops into my mind is my biological father. A lot about him is a story for another day, but his death is what I want to write about now. I didn't know him hardly at all. He came and went in my life based around his own schedule, and I was mostly fine with that because I had a father figure. My step dad is who I refer to as "dad" and I never felt like I was missing anything. We'd been in contact here and there while I grew up, mostly by email or snail mail. I even had his phone number saved in my phone even though I'd never called him or received a call from him in my life. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

The summer in between colleges, before going to the university but after graduating from the tech school, I worked three jobs and lived in "the big city" (it's ND, no city is big). After putting in a full day's shift at one of my jobs, I checked my phone and saw that I had over 10 missed calls from him. That was odd since as previously mentioned, I never had spoken to him on the phone. Eventually the phone rang again, and I answered it, nervous to hear what in the world was going on. Imagine my surprise when I woman with a huge southern drawl started talking! 

My father jumped careers a lot. He never knew exactly what he wanted, so he tried numerous things. I believe he worked at a printing shop for a while. He was musical and was involved in theater here and there, but never as a career. He trained dogs, which is what I believe became his passion. He did this up here, in the frozen tundra, for the most part, but when I was in high school, he ended up living in Georgia. He worked for a family that had a "fun farm" with hunting dogs and a huge hunting lodge that needed maintaining when they weren't there. His job was paradise to him - he got to live on a small house on that property and enjoy the great outdoors while training dogs and while having plenty of alone time, something else he enjoyed. The family that owned this farm had a wonderful relationship with him and I admit that I have been jealous of this from time to time. He would cook for them (a hobby he picked up while living there), help them with whatever they needed while they were there, and generally spent time with them like he was part of the family. They seemed to enjoy him just as much.

When Andrea (the wife in this family) told me that my daddy had died (strange to hear him called that since I had never thought of him as daddy), I had conflicting emotions like never before. She expected me to cry, and I did, immediately. I couldn't even comprehend what she was saying and yet I had to. As his only daughter (heir), I was the executor of his estate. I had to deal with it, way down in Georgia, even though I felt like I should be the last person to do it. 

Nobody knew what I was feeling. I didn't know what I was feeling. I talked to my mom about it, and she did her best considering the circumstances (she had her own battle - grieving the death of her ex husband while happily married)  My sister had no clue what to say as she was just a young high school student. My boyfriend? He and I had been dating for one month. That boyfriend? He's my hubby now. Stuff like this makes or breaks a relationship and that summer was definitely defining for us.

To be continued...

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Finally! The pictures you have all been waiting for. I did the best I could scanning them with my tablet. Forgive the quality. How fun is it to look back and see shades of ourselves? I love to see the exact moment when someone starts to really look like him or herself. Fascinating...

I want to tell you what I think but I will wait until you've looked for yourself.

Baby Michael

Baby Sarah 

Really, parents? This is the best family photo you could give me in my own baby book? Sorry - just couldn't resist this comment even though I said I'd let you think for yourself. ;)

And just so you can see some side-by-sides: