Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Silence of a New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve, 2014.

I found an artifact from the past, a scribbled piece of notebook paper headed with the words:

Retreat: Holy Cross Abbey, December 1989

The last three days of December, twenty five years ago.

Let that soak in for just a moment. 1989 was twenty five years ago.

And I was about to turn twenty seven years old. I was a graduate student living in the Washington D.C. area, and this was my first visit to the Cistercian monastery in Berryville, Virginia that would become so very important and dear to me nine years later.

It was an "undirected retreat," which means that I checked into the guest house outside the enclosure, and was able (but not required) to follow the monastery's liturgical schedule in the abbey church. The guest house had its own chapel and dining area, and a monk brought food to the guests three times a day. We ate in silence while he read spiritual reflections.

One of the fathers came to hear confessions and give private counsel to those who desired it.

Otherwise, we were free to experience solitude, to pray, to read in our rooms, or to walk through the farmlands and woods on the monastery property. I did a lot of walking.

The simple Cistercian abbey church in the morning.
I also followed the monastic schedule, including the vigils at 3:30 AM.

I scribbled a few notes on the notebook paper, thoughts that passed through my head. Now, twenty five years later, the words pass before my eyes.

I want to end the year 2014 with the words of 1989, words about a Valley that was destined to be the place I would make my home, where I would raise my children, words about my search for God on the threshold of a new decade.

I was just young, and it is a marvel to remember so long ago. I was praying to know God's will for my life. A few weeks later I met Eileen for the first time, but that's another story... a whole collection of stories.

So many things have changed in twenty five years, but the Mystery of God remains, and in the presence of God I remain a child.

"Dogs bark back and forth across the valley, and I hear -- between surges of the hum and thump of blood in the tissues of my inner ear -- holy silence.

"A distant train whistle slices the night mist, and as the abbey bell shakes the roof timbers in the church the monks pass in procession before the abbot to receive his blessing, their practiced feet in an orderly dance over the creaky wooden floors.

"After the night vigil I prostrate myself on the carpet at the edge of the cloister in the abbey church, pressing my forehead and nose against the floor -- 'O Lord, see how I abase myself before You?'

"Dawn and Christ come in the morning Eucharist: 'John, see rather how I abase myself before you.' "

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

He Still Comes to Dwell With Us

Christmas is an invitation to faith, trust, and love.

In our world that is so violent and selfish, that seems so hopeless in so many ways, God still comes to dwell with us.

Christmas calls us to reaffirm our faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, in God’s definitive intervention into the story of the human race; God making Himself present in the midst of human cruelty, barbarism, blindness, idolatry, and willful ignorance of His compassion and love.

Sometimes Christmas can seem a little abstract, as the world seems to go on in the same way as ever, with all of its conflicts and pride and grasping for power.

We also don't seem to change much. Our lives are still a mess. We've spent another year going around in circles, seeking our own satisfaction, accumulating new grievances, complaining, gossiping, screwing up the relationships that matter most to us, hurting the people we love.

And now it's Christmas and we stress out over gifts and food, and then we go to church and kneel before the infant Jesus and maybe it strikes us:
"Gosh, I have to admit that God is just not very important in my life. For me, being a religious person means regarding God as the Cosmic Policeman. I try not to disobey the rules. I respect Him. But I live my own life, and, frankly, I'm more comfortable when He's not around. I pray: 'Dear God, I'll be good. Okay? Protect me. Give me the stuff I need. And give me some goodies too, some nice stuff. And then leave me alone. Let me have some fun. Please?'"
But who are we talking to? A baby.

Doesn't that surprise us? We pray to God and gaze upon the image of a baby. Not because we thought it would be a good idea to represent God as a baby, but because God really became a baby.

We didn't make this up. It happened. God came into the world. He made Himself "small" so that He could enter into our lives. 

What does this mean for us? We can only grasp this by faith. We can only live the reality of this by trust and love. Let us ask the Lord to stir up this faith, trust, and love in our hearts.

If we let God into our hearts -- the God who has become so small for our sake -- we will begin to discover what this is all about. God has come to us. God has given everything. He has poured Himself out in Love. He can do this because He is Love.

And He has come to be the One who accompanies us in our misery and leads us out and beyond all of it. The fullness of the revelation of God’s love is mercy.

This baby is God's mercy. The God who is Love wants to be close to us, to save us. His name is Jesus.

Jesus is the gift of God’s merciful Love to the world, to restore -- indeed to transform -- human beings into His image and likeness. He is the reason for the joy that calls out to our hearts at Christmas.

He wants to take care of the messes of our lives, to come to us not as a threat to our humanity, but precisely as the One who generates that humanity, who creates love, who creates freedom, who makes me to be me.

The "real me" is created and redeemed in the image and likeness of God. The "real me" is not found in distraction and evasion born of fear, or the graspings of pride. The "real me" is made for freedom, for love, for self-giving in a relationship with the God who is Freedom, Love, Gift, who gives Himself to me -- and with all my brothers and sisters among whom I find Him again, the One who comes to be with me, the One who gives, Jesus, my baby brother.

Let us believe in Him, trust Him, love Him, knowing that all has been accomplished, that in the risen and glorified Jesus and Mary the New Creation has already begun in its fullness.

Meanwhile, let us live our faith in this present age so that we might grow into the fullness of trust and perfect adherence to His mercy, and so that we might witness the gift of God’s love in a world of sin, a world of confusion and violence, a world that is afraid of God, that wants to forget God.

The world strives to live without God, and then groans with the awful anxiety of the darkness, the dread of being alone, the failures and the guilt that cannot be fixed, and the dying without knowing why.

Yet "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." and God still loves the world through this irrevocable gift.

The gift is Jesus.

He has come to dwell with us, and He offers Himself to everyone who will receive Him with faith, trust, and love.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Tremor of Bliss

Martyrdom of Thomas Becket, December 29, 1170. Detail, window in Canterbury Cathedral.

"They shall find the shepherd here; the flock shall be
I have heard a tremor of bliss, a wink of heaven, a
And I would no longer be denied; all things
Proceed to a joyful consummation"

~Spoken by the character of St Thomas Becket from the play Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Janaro Christmas: Pictures and Reflections

Early Christmas morning. The Janaros went to midnight Mass, and the family picture (below) was taken at 2:00 AM!

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas season! Here are a few pictures. You all understand, of course, that the adolescents in this house are rather particular about appearing in photographs. I've been sneaky a few times but I won't press my luck here. That means that the people you'll be seeing (for the most part) are the usual camera hams in the family.
The stockings were hung on the sofa with care. But the sofa blocked the way from the chimney to the living room. Sorry, Santa!

"No problemo" for Santa. (n.b. even Josefina knows that St. Nicholas doesn't come down the chimney, but we have fun pretending!)

In fact, it turns out that "Santa Claus" is a Washington Nationals fan!

Children and young folks and old folks too made short work of the present opening, once we finally got up!

Teresa got this... umm... twenty-first century skateboard thingy. Whatever it is, she loves it!

Here are a couple of monkeys!

Oh, John Paul is in this picture. But if he sees it, I expect he won't care that much.

And food-glorious-food we had in abundance. Pepper slices filled with goat cheese and tomatoes and scallions. Yum, yum!

The main dish was a pork roast that totally rocked! The gravy was made with apples and onions.

And it was this wonderful lady who made it all happen, again! I love you, Eileen Janaro!

 The true Gift of Christmas is the source of our hope and joy. Jesus holds us together and enables us to help one another.

In my Christmas dinner toast I said, "Jesus, thanks for coming!"

Truly, Jesus, You are everything to us. Thank You, above all, for the hope of eternal life, which enables us to see Your gift in everything, and which is teaching us to hunger and thirst for Your beauty in all the joys and sorrows of this life, confident in the hope that You work all things for the good.

Pictures on a blog might lead one to believe that "everything is awesome," that a family is chipper all the time and has no problems. But anyone who reads this blog knows that our family and our friends are on a journey, full of work and stumbling, full of failure and suffering, but also full of Someone who has come and who wants to be with us always.

There is joy, unconquerable joy, that consists in Him, in His presence which draws us to stay with Him, to adhere to Him, to believe in Him, trust in Him, love Him.

God is with us. God has come to be with us because He loves us. And to reveal that He IS Love. At the center of life, sustaining everything in being, is the One who is Love. The promise that stirs within our hearts is true: Gift, Goodness, Beauty, Truth, Love are the meaning of everything.

And this meaning has come because He wants to be with us. The meaning of everything has a name: Jesus.

Never give up.

And Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Christ is born.

Come, let us adore Him!

William Congdon, "Nativity" (1960)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why is Christmas So HARD?

Dear Santa Claus: It would be a lot easier if you REALLY DID do this job!
It's Christmas Eve.

Many of us are stressed out. There are all these things to do, and we are all running around to fix every detail "just right" and to meet every expectation. We are determined that we are going to make our Christmas MERRY!

We may be troubled, broken, confused people; we may have dysfunctional families, or families separated by distance or rife with division, but we are going to do what we think we're "supposed to do" in order to construct a kind of ritual happiness. We will have gift-giving, and a big meal, and we will try to hold our tongues and not fight with one another.

Or when relationships have been severed beyond our hope, or when loved ones have died and are painfully missed, we will struggle to build new Christmas happiness rituals, holding back the tears as best we can.

We stress out and work so hard to make Christmas happy, or at least to make it look happy.

This is understandable. We want so much to be happy. And this time of year can feel like a weight, an obligation to be happy even if we don't know how, or don't think we can be happy. Still, we try so hard!

We try to make Christmas joy happen. Or, at least, we try to make something happen that feels like joy.

Why is it so hard?

We must take time to remember that the real happiness, the real joy of Christmas, does not have its source in anything we make.

The joy of Christmas is a gift. It is a gift freely given to us. A wonder. An utterly surprising, amazing, unimaginable gift that has been given to each and every one of us without exception.

Of course we work hard, make sacrifices, and try to set aside our disputes for the sake of a celebration. It's human to seek happiness, to hope for it, and to celebrate it.

But let us remember that our celebration is not a desperate, exhausting, confusing effort to build a great tower that will somehow reach and grasp that mysterious happiness that always eludes us.

This effort always leads to disappointment. Even if we have vacations and smiling pictures and fun and great memories, we will still -- in the end -- find ourselves empty when the lights come down and the long nights of January stretch out before us.

Disappointment. For some it triggers or exacerbates illnesses of mind and body. Others find ways to forget it, suppress it, or return to the (always temporary) truce that human beings make with boredom and mediocrity in their daily lives.

Christmas is not meant to lead us to disappointment. We must remember, again and again, that we are not trying to build a tower reaching up to an unattainable happiness.

We are preparing a place to welcome a gift that has already been given to us, to celebrate this gift, to rejoice in it. The gift belongs to each one of us, and nothing can take it away from us.

We can ignore it. We can run away from it. But the gift remains. It waits for us. It promises joy if we will only receive it. And the gift is so great that it will heal and open our hearts and enable us to receive it.

Whatever we may be suffering, the gift of Christmas is a triumphant Joy that opens for us a path and gives us the steps that lead from joy to joy, so that we can walk the road of joy and learn how to give ourselves in turn to this gift of Joy that never ends.

Let us remember: The Joy of Christmas is a Gift.

Let us welcome this Gift in a celebration of wonder and gratitude.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Oldest Daughter Turns Sixteen

December 21 was Agnese Janaro's 16th birthday. She is a beautiful and very talented young lady, with a big, big heart. I'm so grateful for her and I love her so much.

Many saw these pictures on social media posts, but I'll post them here for the sake of her grandparents if nothing else.

I made a virtual photo frame with pictures of Agnese as a baby, a toddler, and current:

And she made this amazing cake. She conceived it, designed it, baked it from scratch, and put it all together. The figures are from a Lord of the Rings collection. Behind Bilbo Baggins's round green door is dark chocolate cake which was moist and delicious.


Amazing cake, amazing kid. She's a beautiful child with a great soul. Happy Birthday Agnese!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Josefina-in-a-Box" - THE MOVIE!

Yesterday we got Christmas package that came in a pretty small box. We unpacked the box and looked at the stuff. Soon after that, Josefina found her way into the box; some readers may have seen this picture yesterday on social media:

I thought it was really funny. But I didn't expect her to be quite so creative in playing with the box. She turned it into her "bedroom" and made herself comfortable. I could never be comfortable in a position like this, but little kids are flexible.

She fixed up the environment quite nicely, and pretended to be asleep:

Then she started trying to hide, read books, or just act goofy:

Taking advantage of the hammy atmosphere, I attempted to make a video. I turned out to be the bigger ham, but the video is still cute.

With that assurance, I bring you Josefina-in-a-Box: THE MOVIE! This is a "short" -- only about a minute, but it features a special guest appearance by James the Purple Unicorn. Lots of fun! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Eloquence of Weakness

No doubt you heard and/or read today's gospel and thought, "I wonder if anyone has some good reflections on this. What does Zechariah's predicament have to do with ordinary human experience?"

Good questions. Your Magnificat Advent Companion 2014 addresses those very questions! (Subscribe to Magnificat. Help feed the Janaro family. Click HERE!) Below we present the Great Thoughts of one "Professor Janaro" ("Emeritus" -- which used to sound cool and important until Benedict made it a household word).

Actually, Janaro writes simply here, for he too has been slow to believe the promise. Will the angel of the Lord one day restore the energy and vigor of his voice? Whatever may be, he struggles now to be open to the eloquence of weakness.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stretch Out Your Mighty Hand

        O Adonai
       and Ruler of the house of Israel,
       who showed Yourself to Moses
       in the burning bush,
       who gave him the holy law
       on Sinai mountain:
       Come, stretch out Your mighty hand
       to set us free.

                       ~Antiphon for December 18

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grateful For Green

It's showtime for pines and firs and cedar trees and all the vines and shrubs that stay green all year. We've been ignoring you from the time of the first blossoms of spring all the way through the glowing colors of fall.

Now you're the only ones who haven't abandoned us. You remind us that there is life all through the soil even while so many other growing things sleep.

Thank you, evergreens, for your quiet company.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy is More Than a "Feeling"

Rejoice! The Lord is near.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, known as Guadete Sunday. The birth of Jesus is near at hand.

Light breaks through the long Advent of our lives too. We are on a mysterious journey, but we are sustained by the One who accompanies us, whose Father's house is our destination.

We can lose sight of joy if we confuse it with a mere feeling. Joy comes from a place more profound than our temperament or emotional makeup, or our psychological "personalities," so frail and subject to affliction.

The joy of the Holy Spirit is an affirmation of the heart (in the sense of "the whole person"). It is the affirmation that says, "God is good! God loves us!"

Joy affirms here and now that this present moment is a gift from God through which I am being shaped and drawn to the fulfillment of my destiny in Jesus Christ.

This is a moment when Jesus comes to be with me. All the more when it is dark and painful, full of suffering. Jesus is with me here, in these places of affliction. And I can affirm His presence even in the experience of sorrow. I can affirm that He is with me, that He is sharing my sorrows, that He is redeeming me through His presence herein.

Remember the love of God in Jesus, in all the places of our lives. Believe in Him. Trust in Him.


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Virgin of Guadalupe in Her Own Words

It has become the custom of this blog to post, on this great Feast Day, two excerpts from the original account of the events of December 9-12, 1531, as dictated by Saint Juan Diego in the language of the Nahua peoples and recorded by an indigenous Mexican, Antonio Valeriano. These are Mary's words to Saint Juan Diego and to all of us, and they are an important complement to the singular icon that accompanies them.

Three times I have been a pilgrim to the Villa de Guadalupe, in 1999, 2002, and 2003. I have spent hours upon hours in her company, and I know the truth of what she says in these words. The icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not just a picture, and the greatest wonders that are worked through her are beyond all the observational and measuring techniques of the sciences.

The testimony of science to the inexplicable nature of the image and its preservation are enough to impress us and gain our attention.

But what matters above all is the dialogue that our Merciful Mother carries out with each of her children who seek her, cherish her, and bring to her their needs.

Readers will no doubt find this version slightly different from other versions they may have read. The Guadalupe account is translated in various ways from various sources (usually from Spanish translations of the original). I am using here the translation of the late Father Martinus Cawley, O.C.S.O., a lifelong scholar of Nahuatl and native Mexican texts, above all the critical edition of Antonio Valeriano's original account, known as the Nican Mopohua. Father Cawley endeavored to render into English the poetic cadence of the text, which corresponds to the rich aesthetic quality of the image.

To communicate herself and her Son, Mary entered a particular place, time, and culture. In the same way, she desires to dwell in a particular way with each one of us, in our families, our homes, and our communities.

In her company, we always find her Son and our Brother, Jesus. And through her we learn how much Jesus wants to stay with us.


The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego
(as presented in the Nican Mopohua):

"Do know this, do be assured of it in your heart,
My Littlest One,
that I Myself, I am the Entirely and Ever Virgin, Saint Mary,
Mother of the True Divinity, of God Himself.
Because of Him, Life goes on, Creation goes on;
His are all things afar, His are all things near at hand,
things above in the Heavens, things here below on the Earth.

How  truly  I wish it, how greatly I desire it,
that here they should erect Me My Temple!
Here would I show forth, here would I lift up to view,
here would I make a gift
of all My Fondness for My Dear Ones,
all My Regard for My Needy Ones,
My Willingness to Aid them,
My Readiness to Protect them.

For truly I Myself, 
I am your Compassionate Mother,
yours, for you yourself,
for everybody here in the Land,
for each and all together,
for all others too, for all Folk of every kind,
who do but cherish Me,
who do but raise their voices to Me,
who do but seek Me,
who do but raise their trust to Me.

For here I shall listen to their groanings, to their saddenings;
here shall I make well and heal up
their each and every kind of disappointment,
of exhausting pangs, of bitter aching pain."

. . . .

"Do listen,
do be assured of it in your heart, My Littlest One, 
that nothing at all should alarm you, should trouble you, 
nor in any way disturb your countenance, your heart.

And do not be afraid of this Pestilence,
nor of any other pestilence, 
or any rasping hardship.

For am I not here, I, Your Mother? 
Are you not in the Cool of My Shadow?
in the Breeziness of My Shade? 
Is it not I that am your Source of Contentment?
Are you not cradled in My Mantle?
cuddled in the Crossing of My Arms? 
Is there anything else for you to need?

Nothing else, though, should trouble you,
should disquiet you." 

Flowers in December

On a chill morning, in the first light of day, on a barren hill, there were flowers.

It was no place to find flowers, or anything of value.

There was just one small man who had nothing in this world, nothing but a love for a beauty and a goodness and a presence that he encountered on his path. A beauty that won his heart. A presence that he could not deny; that, indeed, found him even when he tried to hide from it.

That small man followed; He let himself be loved. He listened and obeyed and did things that appeared to be foolish and useless.

And he found flowers in December.

Blooming in the barren wastes. It was a wonder, a surprise.

But he had learned how to be surprised. So he picked these flowers and gathered them in his cloak. It was enough for him to know, in that moment, that he would be able to share some sign of the wonder he had seen, so that others too would be convinced and drawn by beauty and love.

And there was to be yet another surprise.

We can be surprised. Something new can happen, beyond our calculations. And then, new possibilities open, a path stretches before us, and there is communication where before there were only inadequate words and the failure to understand. Something new can happen.

It already has happened. It is forever new. Again and again, it surprises us.

The night does not last forever

At dawn comes the opening of the eyes, and a miracle is given to us.

One day, from a place where no one was looking, something happened... something that was a new beginning, a healing, a changing of hearts, and -- slowly -- a new culture that arose from out of the ruins of the old.

What happened on December 12, 1531 was a sign of the miracle that happens everyday, every moment: She brings Him to us.

This is why we must "never give up." Our hope for our salvation, and for our society, is Him.

Nothing less.


And He is here, right now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Forever Humble: Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Today was the feast day of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. You may have missed it, because it ranks as "only" an optional memorial.

Who is Juan Diego? Even now, he is largely hidden from us.

He was always loved by the simple people who came for centuries to the church on a hill in Mexico City to see his wondrous cloak.

But not much was said about him in the past. Some tried to deny that he ever existed, though most didn't go that far. After all, we had his cloak.

When I was young and Catholic in the United States, he was just "the guy" in the story of the amazing and scientifically inexplicable image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Wow, the incredible tilma and its image! There were the studies, the cactus fibers, the miraculous preservation of the cloth, the mysterious colors, the eyes, etc. And millions of conversions, of course. (All of these things are fascinating and important, I hasten to add.)

But who was Juan Diego?

I must say, it never seemed to matter much.

I can recall that it flashed through my mind: "Just 'plain' Juan Diego? These Marian visionaries are usually saints or at least blessed, but he's 'just plain Juan Diego.' Seems odd. Wonder why."

But I didn't give it much thought. Nor did I think too much about this particular way that Mary had chosen to be present as a merciful, loving mother for me in my own history, on my own continent.

Only later did I begin to learn that the Virgin of Guadalupe is an enduring and vital presence at the center of the American continent, and indeed a profoundly personal presence for me, just as she wishes to be for every person who visits her in that place.

As with so many other things, the man who taught me to love Our Lady of Guadalupe was the man who taught me to love Jesus Christ, to love the human person, to love my own life. Saint John Paul II made five pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during his pontificate. He brought to her a love that convinced me there was a person there, not just a remarkable artifact.

The tilma is Mary's way of "using media" to be present to her children.

But you see, whenever I try to talk about St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, even now, it seems natural to pass him by and go right to Mary.

I don't think he has a problem with that.

Here is a "saint" who is so humble that his identity is almost entirely transparent to the Mother of God. It is true, he is a patron of indigenous peoples of America, as well as all lay persons. He is an exemplar for the New Evangelization.

But he was just a poor man who encountered the beauty of Jesus living in Mary, and followed. He gave himself over to a humble place in a great and mysterious story. And he remains standing behind the Merciful Mother, giving her a place where she can give Jesus to us.

I pray to him every day. I am convinced that he is one of the greatest saints of the Church. He stands forever in a humble relationship to Mary, her "dearest and smallest son" and in this way so much like Jesus.

John Paul II brought Juan Diego out from behind the tilma. I was there in the plaza of the basilica on July 31, 2002 along with millions of pilgrims throughout the city. And I was convinced that I was watching a saint canonizing another saint.

Saint John Paul II was suffering so much at that time, it was painful to look at him even from a distance. But on that day, there was something luminous about him. I can only describe it by recalling my impression at that time; I saw John Paul as though he were pierced with the form of the Cross on his whole body. And yet, he moved -- almost miraculously -- for it was Crucified Love that carried him.

John Paul II came to Mexico because he loved Our Lady of Guadalupe and he loved "America" -- which for him was one great continent -- and he loved the "Ecclesia in America."

It was love that transfigured him in those moments on that day. And I thought to myself, "This is what it must have been like to see Saint Francis of Assisi." This was the impression that came to me, spontaneously, as I watched this magnificent, wounded, broken lover of Christ, the man who was the outstanding witness to the Gospel in my lifetime: Saint John Paul II.

He left an unforgettable mark on the Church in America during that journey. Many remember it primarily as the occasion of his last international World Youth Day celebration, held in Toronto. But Toronto came after the pilgrimage to Mexico to be with Mary and to honor the one she called "Juanito."

It strikes me that poor Saint Juan Diego was "overshadowed" -- even at his own canonization -- by the stupendous presence of the great Saint John Paul II. But once again, I don't think that the humble Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin had any complaints about that.

These two great saints, and our Merciful Mother, are my hope for the future of our land.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Teresa Turns Twelve Today!

Since pictures are worth a thousand words each, I won't add too many here. Teresa is twelve years old today. Happy Birthday Teresa!

I got my first digital camera in the summer of 2003, so that is where our "life tour" must begin. Here she is in the crib, already showing her irrepressible personality. I used to sing to her "Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, you're only the size of an extra large Pizza!" And so she was:

And here she is, curious as always, in the arms of her clean-shaven, forty year old father (ah, my lost youth...):

Now she's crawling and wearing Daddy's fishing hat. By this point, I had upgraded my camera:

Soon she's standing up (even in her high chair). You have to keep an eye on her to make sure she stays out of mischief:

And before you know it, she's starting to become a pretty little girl:

Here she is in 2005:

Soon, something big happens in Teresa's life. She becomes a big sister! Here she is with Josefina, when Jojo still had a nasal-gastric tube (Summer 2007):

Dressing up for her oldest sister's first communion (2007):

And she keeps growing and expressing her lively, enthusiastic, and sometimes wacky personality. This is in 2009:

And in 2011:

I've assembled these pictures because soon Teresa will be a teenager and I won't be able to get away with doing this (I'm not sure I'm gonna get away with it even now, haha). But I'm just so proud of her. She is maturing into a wonderful young person. She's so full of life and heart. She's our outdoor-lover, she's everyone's friend, she's generous, she's the karate kid, the soccer player, and so many other things.

She's a tree climber:

A popcorn eater:

A smiling face:

And a terrific Big Sister. She and Jojo are always hanging around together, often squabbling, sometimes driving their parents crazy, but also keeping us young:

Happy Birthday, Teresa! We love you so much!