The buttery-scent of baking pumpkin pie is reminding me that Thanksgiving is just a day away. Following tradition, I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for. One of the biggest blessings this year has been becoming an aunt.

At the beginning of August, I shared with you the bittersweet arrival of my niece, Anya. I admitted my fear that my sister and I would grow apart when she became a mother. Friends had predicted that the reverse would happen, that my niece would actually bring us closer together. I wanted to believe them but I wasn’t able to until I held her in my arms and stayed up late talking to my sister the week after Anya was born.

In the four months since she’s become a part of our lives, I’ve made two trips down to Alabama to see them. Even though I worked with children in my church’s nursery in high school, I didn’t grasp until now how much having a baby in the family helps you to regain a sense of wonder as you watch her discover herself and the world.

For the first two months, my sister and her husband sent us a picture or short video almost everyday. We were able to feel like we were with them as she discovered the joy of making faces, started cooing and began engaging with toys on her own.

While I’m disappointed that I won’t be seeing any of them tomorrow, I’m looking forward to their visit in a few short weeks.

 These are some pictures from both of my visits that I’d been meaning to share with you.

Feature image by Gabriel Garcia Marengo

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