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As I reminisce on the past two years, I find myself methodically recalling the highlights that Ellie has brought to my life. I remember the intense love that surrounded us on the day she was born, when she stood on her own for the first time and when she took her first steps. We’ve shared magical moments together like hiking to the summit of Mt. Humphreys Peak at 12,633 feet, playing with the fall leaves in the heart of the aspen groves, soaking in the sunsets on evening runs as I pushed her along in the jogger and splashing in the creek as we basked in the summer sun of Sedona. I’ve taught her how to kick a soccer ball, how to balance on my longboard and how to rock climb. She’s found the joy that comes with loving animals; she understands to handle them with gentle care and she’s fed a giraffe from her own hand. We’ve traveled and found that it brings new light to ones mindset, new tastes to ones mouth and new experiences that we would have never found under our own roof.

I’ve reached my original ambition of breastfeeding her until her second birthday and in my own mind I’ve always known that achieving that goal would be my silent gift to her this year. I’ve put continual effort into selecting nutrient rich foods and facilitating a healthy lifestyle for her and with all my heart I hope those efforts benefit her health in the years to come.

Memorization of counting numbers does not impress me much but seeing her point to the objects in the yard and say “Three balls!” or hearing her say “Two!” as I hold up two fingers makes me smile. I glow as I watch the progression of her learning and I marvel at how fast children take in and process new information. Perhaps the greatest gift has been seeing life through the eyes of a child once again. We as adults can get set in our adult-like ways and watching life through the eyes of a child can be a reminder to live in the moment and bring the qualities of awareness and mindfulness back into our lives. I’m learning once again to appreciate the little things… that we often forget are everything.

I’ve never spent so much time sitting on my living room floor but did you know that while sitting on the floor I learned to race tinker cars again, I stacked FIFTEEN building blocks on top of each other before the tower fell over and I went on an adventure at story time while we read about Curious George and his exploration through the tropical jungle. Zak and I gave Ellie her first train set this morning and I could hardly contain my excitement these past few weeks as I anticipated her reaction to the gift. I specifically picked out a quality wooden train set by Brio and I took my time choosing the right pieces for it. I made sure that there were at least four tunnels, a few bridges, plenty of wooden tracks to cover the entire floor, the spiffy looking euro tram and a classic engine that runs on a battery so that she could make a circular track around the Christmas tree this winter and watch the train chug along on it’s own under the lights of the tree.

I want to give her a beautiful childhood while also guiding her to be strong, independent, compassionate, grateful and happy. I want to live that dream with her; see the happiness through her eyes and be a part of that experience myself. I want to open up doors filled with opportunity. She’s proved to me that there is no limit on age when it comes to being an athlete. We were at the park just last week and she ran well over a mile with me. She wasn’t running after the soccer ball or chasing a dog… she was running to simply run because that’s what she’s seen me do, because that’s what’s feels good, is natural and because it’s what Zak and I have encouraged. The smile on her face as she ran through the grass put a contagious smile across my own face. I ran along side her marveling at her existence and the fulfillment she brings to my life. We eventually gave up, collapsed on our backs in the grass and the day ended in a fit of giggles with exhausted breathing and fast heart rates as we recovered from the run. It was a fairytale ending to a perfect day and here I was sharing it with my 23 month old as the sun disappeared behind the mountain.

She was not in my life two years ago; she was only a dream of what I imagined my future baby would be like one day. As for her personal journey with climbing, she seems to be finding many of the same benefits I’ve found from the beloved sport. She’s finding that she’s stronger than she thinks and she’s learning to trust that strength and allow it to take her to the top of the wall. She’s found patience and focus and that if you fail you can get back up and try the route again. She’s learning how to work through frustrations and cope with the reality that climbs don’t always go as easily as we anticipated they would. I think that as she grows older, she will also realize that there is beauty in that process of trial and error. Her love for climbing has amazed me and I’m thankful that it has come from within her own being because although it is something I have shared with her and gently encouraged, it is something that I will never force upon her.

To those of you that have been supportive over the past few months, I cannot thank you enough. Her climbing video going viral at 19 months old this past summer was unexpected and being in the spotlight came with its own excitement, hesitation and concern. Being on the front page of CNN, The Ellen Show and media markets worldwide came faster than we could fully process. The wave has been an exciting ride but one that we also wanted to gracefully come out of without changing who we three truly are at the core. As many of you know, Zak has made the decision to step out of nursing school. We feel that we have an opportunity to pursue a family company where we can encourage other families around the world to find their passions and reach their potential. We want to focus on climbing, traveling, new adventures and spending maximal time together as a family of three. Along those same lines of thought, we want to find deep and lifelong happiness. We want to reemerge ourselves into the outdoor industry, support affiliate companies and pursue the dreams we have in our hearts.

We are thrilled about this new path in life as it will allow us to have more time together with Ellie, avoid difficult decisions like daycare and connect with others in our world who are looking for motivation and support within the same realm of raising children and continuing to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Our first step in this process will launch in the coming weeks and we will be sure and share that information in due time.

Ellie, you are worth the sleepless nights I’ve had, the boogers you smear all over my shirt when you’re not feeling well, the frustrating moments when you test my patience and the forgotten workouts I’ve left behind so that I could spend quality time playing with you. You are worth it because that time I’ve spent playing with you has brought new meaning into my life. I’ve invested an irreplaceable piece of my heart into who you are as a person. I love you, I learn from you and I strongly feel that our future holds even more passionate moments, more adventures, more world travel and deeper love, conversation and appreciation for one another.

As for this moment here and now, I’m going to enjoy the smile, which I cannot contain while I watch you energetically frolic around on your second birthday. You’ve lived up to the meaning of your name and you certainly are the light and the shinning one in my heart. Daddy and I are proud of you, we are thankful for you and we love you more than I can put into words. I look forward to the adventures your third year will bring.