Dear Miriam


 
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Dear Miriam,

You're not in this picture because you're sitting on the bumper of our Subaru eating bean dip and oranges with your Dad. But you gave me a high five when I came back, because this fish signifies four years of catching a fish a month. 

When your Dad and I decided to try catching a fish a month it was a welcome distraction from the many years and even more heartaches before we finally met you. 

We needed tasks to take our minds off the struggles, so we vowed to catch a fish a month -- at least for a year. Better anglers than us have spent decades detailing a trout each month in their fishing journals. But we knew a trout a month might be tough in our little spot in northeast Wyoming, so we broadened it to a fish a month. One time I caught a flounder. Another a northern pike. Another a bass so small it fit in the palm of my hand. 

We fished in blizzards when you were still a tiny clump of cells in my belly. We cast to spooky trout in a little creek when you were kicking my insides and I needed a break from turkey hunting. We went fishing when you were hooked to tubes in the NICU, and we took you with us weeks after we broke you free. 

The streak has been frustrating sometimes -- like the last day of so many winter months when the sun was setting and fish weren't biting. But we always made it. 

We hope you have patience with this fish-a-month challenge as you grow up. I think you will. And when it's time, I hope you open a journal and begin recording your own streak. 

Because when life becomes unexpectedly dark, it helps to have something to force you out the door. 

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

Someone told me recently that you're a "girl's girl." You're fascinated by bracelets and rings and dolls. You love things that are shiny. 

I felt caught off guard. I wanted to defend you, as though being a "girl's girl" is something that needs defense. I wanted to tell her how much time you spend covered in dirt and how nothing makes you go crazy as fast as too much time inside. 

I wanted to tell her you look like a ragamuffin most of the summer and fall and neither of us know what to do with your hair.

Because in my mind, being a jungle baby, a wild, little one raised as much outside than in, means you can't be a "girl's girl." It means you won't like dresses and makeup, you won't care about shoes or jewelry or shiny things. It means your natural beauty will shine through with no effort at all. 

But why are those things mutually exclusive? 

Sure, there's little place for hair sprays and makeup on backpacking trips and stalking elk. Good luck finding somewhere to plug anything in. 

They feel mutually exclusive because society tells us outdoor women aren't supposed to care what they look like. 

They're supposed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. ready for a hunt or step on a boat at 6 a.m. ready to cast a fly looking like they stepped out of a J Crew shoot -- "natural beauty" and all. 

They're supposed to meet all of society's beauty standards while pretending like they don't care. They're supposed to brag about a lack of makeup or ineptitude with their hair while clearly still thinking about both.

But so what if makeup, bracelets or a camouflage shirt that actually fits you is what makes you happy? So what if you swipe some mascara on your lashes before you step out of your down bag in the morning?

Be a "girl's girl" who plays in the dirt and water. Paint your nails before you pick up that bow. Wear your lucky earrings when you ski race. 

And smile because the joke's on them -- you really don't care. 

Love,
Mom 


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Dear Miriam,

You were a different person when we started this year. A completely different person. Your hair fit in a tiny ponytail on the top of your head that stuck straight up and reminded me of Pebbles from the Flintstones. You knew what you wanted, but still had a hard time telling me. The beginning of 2018 was nearly half your lifetime ago, and half a lifetime is plenty of time to become a different human. 

And what a wonderful human you're becoming. 

In the past year, you've learned the joys of sledding and rolling in snow, hunting and sleeping in backpacks. You learned to ice fish and fly fish and spin fish. You caught your first cutthroat trout and brook trout.

You ate a tube of club crackers on by back while touring a ghost town for your first newspaper assignment, and you cuddled with your dad watching fly fishing videos while he recovered from knee surgery. 

You read hundreds of books and learned to identify elk and deer. 

You gave me the courage to leave a job I knew and loved to go out on my own.

You helped plant a seeds in the spring and pull carrots in the fall. 

You went fishing and hunting more times than I can count, and slept in a tent so often you started calling it "home."

You went to Newfoundland and Hawaii, Idaho and South Dakota. 

Your hair fits in two ponytails now. You know what you want and struggle significantly less telling me what it is -- over and over and over again. 

Your evolution has been incredible to watch. I can't wait to see what 2019 brings. 

I will promise to slow down and enjoy each phase a bit more, and if you could slow down a little too, I wouldn't mind. 

Love,
Mom

PS tip for next year: When you ask for something once, repeating it a dozen times at increasing volume won't necessarily make it happen :)


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Dear Miriam,

Writing you a letter about childhood wonder surrounding Christmas feels like a cliche. Santa, by creation, is magical. The absurdly-long month leading up to Christmas is filled with overwhelming numbers of twinkling lights, bright, white snow, parties, cookies and gifts. 

How could a 2-year-old not be excited? 

I expected enthusiasm about the guy in the big red suit. And I expected enthusiasm about cookies the size of your head. But you always add in a little bit of the unexpected to our lives. 

Two weeks ago, a dear friend's mom gave you a copy of "The Polar Express." It was the very same book she read to her daughters when they were little, and we are now reading to you. 

In it a little boy rides the train through dark forests and over snow-covered peaks on a journey to the North Pole. Santa chooses him to request the first gift of Christmas. Anything he wants. 

He asks for a bell from one of the reindeer. 

You love the book, and demand multiple readings each morning and evening. You call it your "choo-choo train" book. I can never tell how much you understand when your attention centers much more on the train than on Santa, the boy and the gifts. 

Then on Sunday, you went for your very first train ride - a replica 1880 steam engine took us all to the North Pole and back. You stared at each part of the journey -- the snow-filled draws, the hot chocolate, the massive cookies -- with the same wide eyes you gave to the pages of the book. 

When we reached the end, and picked up Santa, you had your first chance to ask for anything you could want. 
"Bells," you whispered. 
And he gave you one. 

Love,
Mom


Dear Miriam,

We found a Christmas tree today. It's a beautiful Ponderosa pine that has filled our living room with a fresh, forest smell. 

The day was perfect. Snow coated the ground and trees. Tracks ran down the mountain roads from early-morning deer hunters, but we saw almost no one. 

It's hard sometimes to decide which stories to tell. Do I write about the wonderful parts, how we sang "Going On A Bear Hunt" modified to be "Going On A Tree Hunt?”

Do I write about how the sun finally peaked through the clouds, exposing blue sky and making the snow glitter like stars?

Should I tell people about how we looked at dozens of trees, knocking the snow off of the branches of some, before finding one to take home?

Or should I write about how your gloves wouldn't stay on and I fell carrying you back to your backpack? How you cried in my ears and I worked to shove your hands under my coat, trying to convince a squirmy toddler to hold still long enough to warm them up?

Should I write about how when we finally reached your backpack, half a mile of snow and downed timber away from where we found the tree, I realized we were missing not only one of your mittens but also my phone? How your Dad went back to look, and I started to say so many words I don't want you to repeat one day?

No, I think I'll stick with the good stories. 

Because your dad found my phone, and we found your mitten. You stopped crying when we dug out the banana chips and got your hands warm. By the time we started back down the mountain, you were smiling and chatting again. You told me that big girls wear gloves and drink coffee at tea parties, and you were a big girl (though your coffee will remain imaginary). The tough stories are important to remember only briefly, then leave behind in the snow. They're a part of the journey, and a way I learn as a Mom and you grow as a human. They're important to share so when someone else goes out with their toddler, and the happy day is broken by tears and whines, they know it's not just them. They're important to share because they don't last forever -- and good times come back. 

You certainly don't remember, so now I won't either. 

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

You met a game warden this weekend. He was both surprised and impressed you were outside in the snow, pheasant hunting with us. 

"Starting her pretty young, I see," he said. 

I told him this is your third season. 

The first year you snuggled under my coat. I didn't carry a gun because you were too young. I didn't carry one last year either, because I didn't trust you to keep your ear phones on. 

What the warden didn't realize is that it's never really too young to bring kids along -- and 2 years old is a pretty great age. 

You are old enough to know why you need to wear your ear phones and sunglasses. You're old enough to know we're trying to "catch birds" (I'm still not ready to tell you we're shooting them, even though you clearly see that's what we're doing).

You're obsessed with the moon. It was out during the day, looking a little pregnant and hanging just above the horizon. 

You told me a girl lives there. Her name is Princess.

She's riding the moon, you said. When I asked you what she eats there, you told me potatoes -- baked potatoes, specifically. 

Then you spent half an hour quietly singing a mashup of the ABC song and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." I didn't realize until recently they're the same tune, so the re-mix is understandable. 

You call Tuco when he runs too far, and praise him when he finds birds. At one point you told me I was doing a good job carrying you. 

In return for your good humor, we didn't hunt nearly as long as we would have without you. We were careful to stop and eat lunch and planned for your nap. We brought banana chips to keep you fed. And we dressed you in all the warm clothes we could find. 

You keep singing and telling me stories, Miriam, and I'll supply the snacks.
Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

I’m sorry I haven’t written you a letter in weeks. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been busy or because nothing much has happened, but really it’s because we’ve been having too much fun.

You’re curious about everything. You’re a constant stream of “Mommy, what is that” punctuated by discussion.

You narrate every move we make.

You’re brave – sometimes braver than I would like – and you cry when you fall but immediately want to try again.

You ask almost every day if we can go camping. When I tell you we are, you wave your hands in the air and stomp your feet with some kind of inner joy that simply can’t be contained.

You’re easily bribed by graham crackers and applesauce or a promise to go outside.

You still love your dog more than anyone – or anything – else.

And tomorrow, you’re going to stand in line with me to learn one of the most valuable lessons of your life, one of the most sacred responsibilities of being an American. You will go with me to vote.

You came with me two years ago, only a few months after you were born, but you slept through the process. This year I will explain what I’m doing, if only so you begin to understand the gravity of what it means.

I’m voting for you. For your future. For your right to play outside on lands that belong to everyone and for a future with clean air and clean water and fish and wildlife. I’m voting so that when you are old enough you can do the same.

I’ll explain that sometimes you have to come out of the hills, mountains, plains and forests to learn about history and politics and vote for what you believe in. But don’t worry, we’ll go back soon.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,


You caught your first brook trout on Saturday. And then you caught another, and another, and another. You tried casting at first, but fly rods with dry flies in strong winds are tough for 2-year-olds.

So you quickly commanded your Dad or I to "catch a fish" and you would bring it to shore. 

We were on the edge of a beaver pond in the mountains after a morning of elk hunting. The aspen were turning golden and grass a rich brown that meant winter was coming but wasn't there yet. 

The brook trout were stunted and hungry. There were thousands of them, maybe more, mostly between 3 and 6 inches. You didn't care. They had beautiful spots and striking white stripes on their fins. 

Each time the fly hit the water, one would bite, and you would squeal.

You spent most of an hour alternating between yelling "catch a fish," "touch a fish," and "bye bye fishy." Your hands were slimy, and you didn't care.

Your shoes got wet, and you didn't care.

Your shirt smelled like fish, and you didn't care. 

I hope I never forget your giggles that day, how you looked at your Dad like he was the greatest magician in the world, and how all you wanted to do was hold one of those beautiful, wriggling creatures in your hands. 

I hope I never forget the low light on the granite mountains in the background and the silly beaver pond with more fish than water. 

I will certainly never forget how you spent each weekend in September sleeping next to me in a tent, waking up each morning ready to play outside. And I'll never forget your first brook trout.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

Your first car ride home from the hospital took almost two hours and you slept the whole time. 

Endless streams of towering Ponderosa pines and scraggly junipers, giant rock formations and rolling hills passed by your window. We only went through two small towns on our way from the big city to our house, but you didn't wake up for the stops.

Even if you had opened your eyes, you couldn't have seen most of your new playground from your perch in that impossibly large car seat. 

You only sleep during nap time now, and if we go more than a day without traveling, you ask if we can go somewhere in the car. 

Each weekend we buckle you in, give you a sandwich of your choosing and drive. Sometimes it's to visit family, sometimes it's to go fishing, most of the time it's to go camping. 

You ask for your window to be down when we hit to the bumpy, dirt roads, then you crane your neck as high as you can and watch the prairie and mountains roll by. 

You say hi and bye to cows. You practice saying antelope. You tell us we're going to sleep in a tent, and that Dad is going to "get an elk” or “catch a fish,” depending on the season.

Since that ride home from the hospital two years ago, you've driven tens of thousands of miles, flown in bush planes and 747s, helped your Dad drive a fishing boat and held onto the tiller of your Grandpa's sailboat. As I write this, you’re clapping between bouts of playing hide and seek with your coat. You occasionally announce you see our campsite and sigh when we tell you we’re not there. I can tell you’re bored, but you’re still playing along. 

We’re training you for a lifetime of road trips. 

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

Each morning, I ask you what you dreamed about and you say "elk." Then you smile and pull your shoulders to your ears and give me that look that says you're pleased with yourself, and you know I'm pleased with you. 

Elk was the third word you said, behind "dog" and "duck." Your dad talks about them a lot, and the two of you spend considerable time looking at pictures of elk in hunting magazines. 

Two weeks ago, as we walked through the woods, we talked about elk sign. We showed you elk droppings and elk hoof prints. We showed you wallows, the places where elk roll in the mud and water to cool down in the hot summer sun. And we showed you little lodgepole saplings that had been beaten to within an inch of their lives by bull elk frustrated by, well, we'll have that talk later. 

The next morning, you told me you dreamed of elk. 

The theme has continued as archery elk hunting season opened last weekend with three days of camping and talking about the majestic ghosts that wander Wyoming's forests. 

I hope you always dream of wild creatures. I hope when you close your eyes you see elk and moose and geese and fish. I hope the images that fill your mind are created by ones you saw first hand because you have been spending time in wild places.

I'm sure you don't remember that when you were just 6 pounds you spent hours sleeping on my chest while I processed an elk that would feed us for the year. We listened to Beryl Markham's incredible stories of flying planes across Africa in her memoir "West with the Night". You also may not remember last year, when we helped your dad carry out another elk, one that would feed us for the past year. 

You likely won't remember this hunting season either, or even next year's. But those experiences sleeping in tents, climbing on rocks under the warm sun and practicing blowing on elk calls around a campfire will be in your brain somewhere.

Maybe they're what you see when you tell me you dream of elk. 

I hope so.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

I used to think when people said little kids taught them lessons they were being cliche at best and disingenuous at worst. But adults think plenty of things about kids before we have them. 

Last weekend, you and your Dad met me in the Bighorn Mountains for a quick backpacking trip to Firehole Lake No. 2. It's nestled next to Firehole Lake No. 1. I'm not sure why they didn't come up with a more original name for a twin lake surrounded by sheer granite and year-long snowfields, but maybe Firehole was simply too fitting for both. 

We planned to pack 5 miles into the lake to fish for golden trout and take a picture on a flat rock that we visited just a couple weeks before you were born and again last year. It's a silly thing, but one we now consider a tradition. 

But Friday night, at 12:30 a.m., you filled your little red sleeping bag with the contents of your stomach. You took it in stride, upset mostly because your hands were dirty. We cleaned everything up, unearthed the down bag we planned to bring with us backpacking and went back to sleep. The night went the way nights do when struck with a stomach bug. 

Your Dad and I planned to pack up with first light and drive 2.5 hours home. We would give in. We wouldn't push it. 

But then the sun came up. You wiggled into your clothes and ran outside. You played with your dog. You even ate a little breakfast. 

So we went. You slept much of the hike in your backpack, but stayed awake long enough to spend an hour catching imaginary fish and giggling while you fed them to your ever-patient Labrador.

Most adults would have stayed in the tent, then moaned all the way home feeling deeply sorry for themselves. But not you. The second you felt better, all was forgotten. 

Thank you for showing me that even a bout of stomach flu doesn't have to prevent an adventure. That a bad night doesn't lead to a bad day. And thanks for finding so much joy in the outdoors. 

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam, 

I am leaving on a trip into the mountains today, and I can’t take you with me. 

I’ll be gone for a week. And because I will be in the backcountry, I can’t even talk to you through your Dad’s flip phone to tell you I love you and ask you how your day went. 

I miss you something awful already. 

For a week, I won’t be able to walk into your room in the morning and pick you up out of your bed and ask you what you dreamt about. I won’t be able to tell you how silly you are, or ask you for a hug. I won’t be able to walk next to you after school and feel your little hand wrap around my finger. Guilt is too mild an emotion.

But they say we are supposed to model what we want for our children. And I want you to know that your Mom can ride a mule in the mountains with a group of biologists for a week even though she doesn’t know anything about mules. 

I want you to know that women should not be afraid to travel by themselves, to start their own businesses, and to go it alone when they need to. 

I want you to know that sometimes Dad stays home and takes care of you, while Mom goes to work. 

Know you are the first person that I consider when I decide what assignments to take. Know that while I scan the rocky mountainside for bighorn sheep or am curled up in my sleeping bag at night, I am thinking about you and all of the stories I will tell you. 

I am also thinking of the woman you will become: Is this something you will enjoy one day, will the mountains bring you the same peace that they bring your Mom and Dad, and will you relish every chance you have to wake up with a thick frost on your tent surrounded only by nature?

I’ll see you soon, and by the time I meet you and your Dad in the mountains for our own backpacking trip in a week, you will have forgotten I was gone for so long.

Take care of your Dad and your dog.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

We came home tonight after your first summer on the road. Since the end of May, you’ve been home less than 2.5 weeks, camped and fished in three states and covered almost 8,000 miles.

I worried how you would deal with constantly moving. You weren’t in school much, and you rarely slept in your bed.

he books say kids like routine. They say kids like stability.

And they’re right.

But routine and stability can come in various forms.

So in almost 2.5 months of living out of the car, camping more nights than I can remember, visiting friends and spending days playing with your grandparents, we kept a routine:

  • You napped between an hour and two every day – except on our way to fish in Idaho, and we learned a valuable lesson on that one.

  • You went to bed around 8 p.m., whether you thought you should or not.

  • You ate dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because they’re easy, you love them and your grandma gave us a jar of homemade pear jam in early June.

  • You went swinging in every town where we could find a park.

  • I worried about a lack of socializing with other kids your age, so we tried to make sure you had friends everywhere we went.

  • I worried you wouldn’t learn enough - that we wouldn’t play the right games or work with you on the right activities.

  • I’m not sure what you missed being gone, but I can say you learned that rocks sink and sticks float;

    • that trout have spots and whitefish have little mouths;

    • that water soaks into sand but doesn’t really go anywhere when you dump it on a restaurant floor;

    • that you have to wear a lifejacket on boats and a helmet on bikes;

    • that when you count to five, mom and dad will swing you while you walk;

    • and that popsicles are delicious on a hot day.

Thank you for traveling so well. Thank you for spending hours throwing rocks and sticks into creeks. And thank you for showing us that having kids doesn’t mean you stay home.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

When I was little, my mom would kick your Uncle Peter and I out of the house for hours at a time. A creek ran behind the yard, which loosely joined three parks spread out in our neighborhood. We ruled the drainage like kings, catching tadpoles and crawdads, swimming in the deepest holes and running from teams of imaginary bad guys. 

Our mom checked in on us occasionally, listening through the trees for our giggles. 

It made us who we are. It formed us into creative people who read and dream. It gave us the confidence and curiosity to wander the world. 

I've spent most of my life telling myself that when I have kids, I'll do the same. I've read article after article about the importance of playing outside and letting kids eat a little dirt - about how critical it is for you to feel fresh air on your face, look underneath rocks and play games with stumps for horses, sticks for swords and caves for palaces. 

You can do all of those things now, with me or your Dad. We feel confident in your time outside -- and feel safe knowing we're always with you. 

But when you're ready for your own freedom, will I give it to you? 

Will I be able to kick you outside and tell you to play? Will I let you roam the creek behind the house when you're old enough, checking in occasionally to listen for your giggles? 

I hope I will, though I worry I won't. And then I worry about my worry. 

I want you to be strong and creative and fearsome. 

When the time comes, remind me of that. 

Love,

Mom


Dear Miriam,

We brought the wrong car seat. We didn’t let you play in Idaho Falls like we should have. I let more mosquitoes bite you than is acceptable.

But we all learn, and you’re the forgiving type.

So here are some of the lessons we acquired after 8 nights of sleeping in a tent with you, our adventuresome 2-year-old.


  • Respect naps. You usually sleep so well in the car, that we pushed driving across the state and didn’t stop enough places to let you properly sleep.

  • Bring the right car seat, the one that doesn’t make your head fall forward like a drunken sailor when you fall asleep.

  • Pay more attention to the heat. It’s hard to find a spot to nap when it’s 90 degrees, even in the shade.

  • Liberally apply bug spray. Mosquitoes love you. A lot. So do flies.

  • Don’t assume what once worked will always apply. When you refused to sleep at midnight and I made your Dad get your Pack ‘N Play out of the car so you would stop free-roaming the tent, you learned how to climb out. And landed on your head. On my stomach. Then laughed and flung yourself back in. You can no longer be contained.

  • Camp with friends. As much as you seem to like spending time with us, you really like other kids.

  • Hide in the car. Thunderstorms are scary, but apparently not if you’re in the car with us.

  • Just keep reading. If you want to hear Mercer Meyer’s “Going to the Dentist” 30 to 40 times in a row before bed, and again in the morning, and again that night, we will oblige.

  • Playing in water fixes nearly everything. Add a fish to the mix, and no amount of hunger or tiredness will stop the interest.

  • Make time to play. You can no longer spend most of a day in the car without complaint. I get that. We’ll find more parks now, or fields, or rivers – somewhere you can roam free.

  • Bring snacks. For you. And us.

  • Bring beer. For us.

    Thanks for your patience with us. I won’t pretend like it was the easiest road trip your Dad and I have done. But it was worth it, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    Love,
    Mom


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Dear Miriam,

Happy Birthday! You’re two years old now, and you spent the weekend camping on a place called Muddy Mountain. 

It’s where I went camping when I was little, and where your Dad and I went camping together for the first time, just us. We forgot all our eating utensils so we whittled spoons out of pine branches and ate baked beans from the can. It’s where views of dark red earth mix with equally rich green trees and the camp spots are far enough apart you can pretend you’re all alone. 

You spent the weekend outside with your family, something that seems to make you happier than anything else. 

Two years in an adult’s life is so minor. We’re caught up in work and deadlines and schedules and activities. We rarely stop to notice the time passing. But you, you’re a reminder of just how much can happen in 730 days.

Because two years ago, your Dad and I listened to doctors assure us all would be well while mentioning possible complications like blindness and brain bleeding and respiratory issues. 

Two years ago, a nurse scrawled a note on a whiteboard in my room that said the goal for patient Christine was to “stay pregnant.”

Two years ago, I didn’t meet that goal, and you were born a tiny bag of tiny bones two months before you were supposed to arrive and were whisked away to a sterile room with monitors, medicine, IVs and tubes. 

Two years ago, we looked at your impossibly small rib cage heave up and down in an impossibly small plastic box. 

But even two years ago, you showed you were fearless. You wanted out into the world, and you wanted out of the hospital, so you learned to eat and you put on some ounces and somehow we fit your 4 lb 15 oz body into a car seat made for chunky newborns. 

Now you run nearly everywhere and climb on most anything. You watched your Dad field dress an elk and caught your first cutthroat trout. You play with worms and pick raspberries. You’ve been sailing and backpacking. You rode in a bush plane in Alaska and looked for icebergs in Canada. You’re fussy when you’re tired and almost impossible when you’re hungry.

Not every day is perfect, but every day is a gift. You remind me to savor each one.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

You're so happy in this picture, but you weren't just a few minutes before. I had pushed it, trying to take a couple last pictures before lunch, and the combination of stopping in the wind and me not heeding your first dozen calls to "eat" meant I paid with screams in my ears.

But as soon as the crying started, it stopped. We shared an apple on a rock. You giggled and talked to the dog. 

We were hiking on a ridge called Skull Rim in a place called Adobe Town in the southern end of a mass called the Red Desert. We'd never been there before, not you, your mom or dad. 

Most people know about Adobe Town, but -- judging from the rough, hard-to-find two-track -- few people have visited Skull Rim. On paper it's a place of controversy. It's the flash point between energy development and wilderness, jobs and wild. 

In person, it's surreal. The landscape is somewhere between the faces of the moon and Mars, not that I can say with certainty what either really looks like. Thousands of years of wind and rain have carved delicate formations in the rock. Remnants of a seasonal river scrolls through the middle like an untouched desert highway. 

The wind blew strong enough to keep away the biting gnats but not so strong it kept you up the night before in our tent. You saw your first horny toad and appeased your mom by saying "pretty" every time I made you look at a pale yellow cactus flower. 

We didn't see another person, or sign of another person, for two days. 

We'll return one day when you're old enough to remember, to the spot where peregrine falcons nest, wild horses roam and pronghorn race our vehicle just because they can. 

Next time you'll remind me to bring lunch, and when we're hungry, we'll share another apple. 

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam, 

You caught your first fish on Sunday. It was a Colorado River cutthroat, in its native drainage, nonetheless. 

Your Dad helped you cast just a little bit. But when the little guy rose up out of the beaver pond and grabbed your big dry fly off the surface, you held tight. And you giggled. A lot. 

We are working on you keeping the fly rod tip up. You seem to want to put it in the water, which isn’t really the right idea. But in your defense, you’re not quite two years old. 

And you caught a fish. 

When we help you reel it in and land it, you were mesmerized. You held it with both hands, and gave me the biggest grin you could muster. We could see all of your teeth. 

Your Dad put it back in the water, and you waived and said bye-bye, just like you do when every fish swims away.

And then you caught another. Your interest eventually waned a little, replaced by picking up rocks and sticks. And then throwing rocks and sticks in the river. But neither your Dad nor I will ever forget the look on your face when you caught that fish. 

Thank you for embracing this life outside and all the mud, slime and bugs that come with it.

Love,
Mom


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Dear Miriam,

You woke up Saturday with both eyes crusted shut. A perky doctor told us Friday night that you had pink eye and an ear infection. We guessed you had pink eye, the ear infection was news. You were in such a good mood, you didn’t even throw a fit when I took the half-sucked rootbeer lollypop you found on the floor at InstaCare away from you before you also tried a lick.

We wandered the grocery store for an hour waiting for the pharmacist to fill your prescriptions. You sat in the cart, and we went up and down each aisle talking about everything we saw. You responded with proper enthusiasm to each item, even the toilet bowl cleaner and hot sesame oil.

But this morning I found you standing in your crib at your grandparent’s house with your eyes glued shut. You weren’t crying, just asking for me. We cleaned them out enough to get them open and dropped in the medicine. You got pink eye once before as a baby. Now you seem to think it’s a game -- please don’t decide it’s medicine and you would rather not play.

Despite the strong antibiotics that were probably wreaking havoc on your little tummy, and the goop oozing out from your eyes, and the rain dropping on the roof, all you wanted to do was play outside. So you found your pink and green Hawaiian rain coat, and we stomped around in the grass until it seemed too cold to stay any longer.

Sometimes you fuss and I don’t know why. It’s frustrating -- for me and probably for you. But today you had every right to cry. I would have understood. Instead you laughed and squealed in the drizzle.

By the time we got back home, the sun was out and cotton falling. You still didn’t want to go inside, so you stayed in the backyard and played with the cotton. It looked like snow, and you were fascinated.

Love,
Mom