It’s been a year since Cota Rayne Holtzleicer entered the world at 4:28 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.

Named as a combination of her parent’s names, Tara Fries and Cody Holtzleicer, both of Aitkin County, the swaddled, red-faced little newborn has grown into a chubby-cheeked and active toddler. Little Cota has the distinction of being the first baby born in Crow Wing County in 2019.

Jokingly referred to by her mother as a “red-haired devil” and “boss baby,” Cota has developed into a spunky 1-year-old with precocious intelligence and a strong-willed penchant for doing her own thing at her own pace. As the fifth addition to a group of five daughters between the ages of 1 and 16, her rambunctious personality adds another twist to home life.

“It’s very hectic and a lot of times it’s more than I bargained for,” Tara said. “But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

That said, this is hardly Tara’s first rodeo, not after raising older children Taylor, 16; Shelby, 13; Kylie, 10; and Marley, 8. It’s been an arduous journey gaining that experience and perspective, but now that she has it, Tara said it’s been a steadying force in their family.

“There’s a calmer atmosphere. There’s not really much to be learned in the technical aspect of parenting, so it’s a bit more comfortable,” Tara said. “With four older sisters, it’s a lot easier. There’s never not one who is available to take care of her. The bonding is amazing to watch.”

Back in January, 2019, Cota’s oldest siblings expressed excitement at the prospect of welcoming a little one into the household. Now that it’s been a year, how was the experience?

“Crazy,” Shelby chimed in.

“It was a good experience. I’m happy I had the experience with her at my age, because I don’t really remember any of my other sisters being that young. I think she’s taught me a lot of patience,” said Taylor, who added with a smile: “I think I’m her favorite.”

“She cries just as much as I do,” said Tara of Taylor, when the two of them are there to watch Cota reach milestones in her young, tiny life.

Following in the footsteps of her blonde siblings, Shelby and Marley, Tara said Cota was a bit more crabby and needy than she might have hoped. As long as you’re holding Cota, she’s often content, Tara said, but it can be a challenge to contend with a demanding, strong-willed tyke already walking by 9 months.

One highlight? A family trip to a campground by Lake Washburn in Cass County — where little Cota first discovered swimming and loved it — stands as a particularly memorable moment for Tara.

“It was a lot of great moments for the family,” Tara said. “When it comes to water, Cota thinks she can just walk right into the pool.”

But, then, she was quick to point out that infancy and childhood are fleeting. Even the most frustrating moments can become nostalgic and colored with love later in life, Tara said, so parents should always be conscious of the moment and remember to cherish it while it lasts, because it doesn’t last long.

“Cherish every single moment, even the bad ones, because it can be taken in the moment,” Tara said. “If you can’t slow down and take in the moment, then what’s the point? She’s really made me realize a lot about life. I’m not as nervous, I’m just kind of laid back. Every day with her, I look forward to it. It’s a bad day, you’re kind of crabby, she smiles and your whole world lights up.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch.