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On February 5, 1988, I was 3 1/2 years old. We had been going through the process of moving to a new house. I don’t remember much about that time period; just glimpses and flashes of memories – an empty house at 2655 Sierra Street, a mattress on the floor, a stuffed animal held tight at night.
On that night, 25 years ago, I went to the hospital with my Dad. Honestly, it might have been the day after, but for purposes of this blog we’re going to pretend it was the 5th, OK?
I was so excited! I was wearing a purple shirt. I walked into the hospital room, and saw my mom. In her arms she was holding my brand new baby brother. I walked into the corner, by the couch, and stood there until she beckoned me closer. I peeked over the edge of the bed, nervous, but excited. I saw, for the first time ever, my youngest brother.
I didn’t know then how much joy he would bring me. I didn’t know the love I would feel teaching him something new - the first thing I ever taught him was how to spell “Banana.”
I didn’t know how much I would tease him, how much he would tease me.
I didn’t know he would have the power to break my heart and yet make me feel more loved than any of my other siblings during a lot of my younger years.
I didn’t know he would love me so much, hold my pinky so fiercely, turn to me in times of need as much as he did. I didn’t know what it was to truly love another person because of who they were before he came around.
I didn’t know how he would drive my mom crazy with his mohawk, I didn’t know how he would live so close and yet so far away and drive me crazy.
I didn’t know he would be my adventure-buddy, my friend without judgement.
All I knew was that this little bundle of joy was my brother; his soft cries made me so proud.
In fact, he made me so happy that I didn’t want to leave the side of his bed, so happy in fact, that I peed in my pants, making my dad take me back home in wet britches.
HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY JAKE!
I have a sourdough starter in my refrigerator. It’s been there for months. When I first made the starter, I had grand visions of delicious sourdough bread. However, life happens and before too long it was placed into the back of the fridge on the shelf of forgottenness. Back when I started the starter (heh!) I named it Goob, after the adorable character from Disney‘s “Meet the Robinson’s.” If you’ve seen the movie, the rest of this post will make sense to you. If you (by random chance) haven’t seen it, drop everything and go watch it. Seriously. It’s amazing.
So at any rate: Goob was good to me, and then I abandoned him, and now he stinks.
I opened the fridge today to put away some pizza, and there sat Goob. My failure out front, in the open, for all to see. I turned to my husband and sighed.
“I’ve got to take care of poor Goob. I’ll try to look it up tomorrow and see if there’s anything I can do to save him.”
My husband immediately pops up with: “Go back in time, don’t neglect him so much.”
I love my husband.
Benjamin – on a natural christmas high from getting presents and being surrounded by family and love all day long.
Various friends and family – scattered throughout the house.
Papa and Nanny bought Benjamin a fake black and decker tool set for Christmas so Benjamin could “help” Papa work on stuff. He had cycled through all of his toys at least twice already that day.
Christmas night, 9pm, at home. Benjamin is playing in his playroom, there’s several people in the kitchen baking cookies and Benjamin’s parents and Aunt Charla are in the living room standing around talking about the days events. The weather outside is, appropriately, frightful. Low 30′s with a severe wind chill.
Dim lights. Three adults speaking to each other in murmured conversation as they hear loud footsteps. All heads turn to see the two year old running towards them, still in Christmas best, wild sugar-fuled eyes, small pupils, a large smile, and his left arm raised into a 90 degree angle with his hand holding a small plastic hammer. The child runs through the kitchen, deftly dodging the cookie-bakers, straight at the small group of adults. At the last minute he swerves to the right, still at full speed, towards the closed back door. Without a word he flings the door open with his empty right hand and starts to push against the cold breeze. The adults watch as the cold temperature registers in his brain and he steps back, slamming the door, and turns to look at the small group of adults who up until this point have been silently watching.
JUSTIN: Benjamin, what in the world are you doing?!
The child looks at his father with the wild, excited eyes of a two year old on Christmas night.
BENJAMIN: I WANT TO BANG THINGS!
JUSTIN: Son, that feeling will never go away.
The child, unaware of why his comments are funny, turns from the adults and starts to hammer away on the closed door. The outside chill, for now, forgotten.
Last years, if you’re so inclined.
Where were you when 2012 began?
At Uncle Scott and Aunt Tina’s house. Benjamin stayed up almost to midnight and LOVED the fireworks. He kept calling them BOOM.
Who were you with?
Justin, Benjamin, Tina, Scott, Serena, Logan and Mandy. We had a LOT of fun!
Was 2012 a good year for you?
Mostly. It was a pretty insane year – LOTS of changes – LOTS of projects – LOTS of weddings – Did I mention lots of changes? Yeah. BUSY.
What countries/states did you visit?
California to see my sisters and best friend get married, and Mississippi to visit some of Justin’s family.
Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
YES! I am SMOKE FREE! Yee-haw!!! But, I’m not really sure I did very well with living a life of balance. This year was really, really crazy.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jake and Reba had their baby Feb 14th, 2012! No one else super close to me, but there’s some friends I have made at church with young ones, but the babies were born before I met the parents, so I’m not counting those.
Did anyone close to you die?
For the first time in a long time, no deaths of anyone close to me.
What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm, Teresa and James got married March 3rd, and Amy and Keith got married May 5th, so I think those days will be remembered fondly each year.
What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Matron of honor (x2!), flew with a 2 year old, become an instructor, taught an 8 hour class, served as a vice-chair on a committee, attended my first “gala”, received my first real promotion, became a supervisor, ran a food truck at a charity event, stood by my husband while he quit a job he had grown to be dissatisfied with, and most recently I sat on the couch while someone I love very, very dearly told me they had been diagnosed with cancer.
Did you have fun in 2012?
Yes. Definitely. I also spent most of it exceptionally tired.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I had trusted God more with my money. I’ve stressed out unnecessarily. No, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not terrible either.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and I worked, and my birthday this year sucked pretty royally. My coworker was irritated at me, which made me irritated at her. The only upside was that my husband bought me a really awesome old desk.
What did you want and get?
To find Cherry Lake!!!
What did you want and not get?
To put some work into my savings account. Life happens though.
Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two people come to mind. My husband, for being my rock, my motivator, and my calm in the storm. My husband, also, for having the strength to quit his job and step out in faith to be the best stay-at-home-dad that Benjamin could have.
This year I’d like to add my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly strong woman who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis with grace and trust in God.
Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I’m usually very non-specific here. However, I’ve witnessed so many people recently be so ugly and judgmental in a negative way. I’m still not getting specific, on purpose. Can we just agree to love and respect each other despite our differences? Respect means the most when it’s towards someone you disagree with. Anyone can love someone who agrees with you. It takes real strength to love – truly love – someone who vehemently disagrees with you.
Did somebody treat you badly in 2012?
Who were some new people you met?
New coworkers, new church people.
What was your favorite month of 2012?
May. My trip to California took up half of that month and it was pure awesomeness.
What was your favorite moment of the year?
Again, as usual, several:
Toasting James and Teresa at their wedding. I cried, but only a little.
Toasting Amy and Keith at their wedding. I cried, again.
Finding Cherry Lake with my sister Jean. That priceless moment when she screamed out the window of her car in excitement.
Finishing up my first SAFVIC for TCPs class. It was pretty amazing.
The look of relief on my husband’s face when we finally decided it was time for him to quit his job.
Getting the phone call with my promotion job offer.
Any of the number of times my son squeezed me and told me he loved me soooo much!
What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Listening to one of my officers call for assistance. It was a recording, and I already knew the outcome when I heard it (that they were all OK), but listening to it gave me goosebumps and shook me to my boots. I love these guys, especially the ones in that recording, and hearing it made me realize how close I came to losing one of them.
What was your favorite TV program?
I worked my way through Monk this year, and I have to say, it was awesome. I totally loved it! Very well acted and scripted. Got a little boring at parts, but not too bad overall. I tried working through the Mentalist next, and while it’s good it wasn’t able to hold my attention in the long run. Now I’m happily watching Dr. Who reruns, when I get the chance.
What was the best book you read?
I reread the Hobbit and that was pretty awesome. I read several training books at work and enjoyed those, but other than work related stuff and blogs I haven’t really had a chance to read anything.
What were your favorite films of this year?
The Avengers and The Hobbit, and yes, I know how nerdy I am.
What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Borderlands 2. I really like Tiny Farm too (I play it on my phone) but Borderlands 2 is the game I play with my hubby, so it wins.
What was your favorite new technology/application?
No clue. I’m getting too old/busy/bored to keep up with it…
What was your greatest musical discovery?
KRISPY KREME! Just kidding. Epic Rap Battles of History! I show everyone when they come visit at my house. It’s becoming a tradition.
What was the best thing you bought?
My desk, and my hubby bought it, not me. I love it!
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Promotion at work!!! I have worked very, very, very hard for this position and I’m VERY proud of myself.
What was your biggest failure?
Gaining back all the weight I lost last year. Fail.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah. I messed my leg up at the end of the year, and allergies continue to be the bane of my existence certain times of the year.
Where did most of your money go?
What kept you sane?
What political issue stirred you the most?
Who did you miss?
My sisters and Amy. Leaving them in California is very difficult each year I get to visit.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? I don’t know, but I never know. This has been a pretty stressful year, and my mother-in-law is facing lots of health issues. I’m about the same, I suppose.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. Ugh. So mad at myself.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer. But, we’re a 1 income family and still surviving. It’s worth the trade-off.
Did you fall in love in 2012?
Every year I say “over and over and over again” but every year it’s true. I love my husband so much, he’s my best friend. I am incredibly blessed.
Did you lose anything important this year?
Immediate family being cancer free, I suppose.
What was your proudest moment of 2012?
My husband deciding to quit his job. It took a lot. I’m very proud of him.
What was your most embarrassing moment of 2012?
Having to admit that the reason for my ankle injury is because I made a stupid, stupid decision to run in the dark in the grass.
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly Good (less good than last year. Too many little things stressing me)
• Physical Health – Fairly bad (Ankle. Nose. Headaches. Need to visit a chiropractor. Weight gain. Lack of exercise most of November/December due to ankle injury.)
• Social Health – Good (I’ve hung out at least a few times a month with at least 1 friend, and participated in several church functions.)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly Good (I’m still a lame slacker, but I’m learning to trust God more.)
• Intellectual Health – Good (Teaching and attending training FTW)
• Financial Health – Fairly Bad (I’ll just say, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do to help this one – maybe next year!)
In the future:
How will you be spending Christmas?
At least part of it at the hospital with my mother-in-law. We’ll bring the presents to her! The rest of it with my brother and his wife and my niece.
How will you be spending New Years?
Working the day before and the day of… so… sleeping!
What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Haha, a second kid, maybe?
What are your plans for 2013?
Get back on track with my health.
Will you make any new years resolutions for 2013?
Last year I resolved to stop smoking, and I did. This year, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll resolve not to buy any candy at the store. Or something like that. Something else challenging and health related. Maybe do 20 push ups a day? Hmmm. We’ll see.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
The world is broken. Evil exists in this world. There is not really a whole lot we can do on a legislative level to stop evil. We can’t increase laws and get evil people to stop being evil – sorry, but we just can’t. It won’t work. On an individual level, I think we all need to do our very best at trying to saturate the world around us with as much love and goodness as is possible. You can turn something like the Newtown tragedy into a sound bite for a law you want to pass, but I don’t think that’s the best we can do. I think we can do better. I am choosing instead not to debate gun control (or even mental health, in spite of how much as I am passionate about it) and choosing instead to try to increase my output of good into my community. We can debate gun control and mental health another day; I think an appropriate response to this type of evil is not legislation, but love.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
These will only be funny to you if you are a Dr. Who fan who happens to watch Super Readers…. but I included links so you can get the gist of it.
From bathtime tonight, two brief glimpses at life with Benjamin:
Benjamin plays with a large camouflage bucket that will fit on his head. He puts the bucket on his head so that the main bucket is over his face.
“Mommy! I got a bucket on my head!”
“Benjamin! Can you say ‘are you my mummy?‘”
So Benjamin holds the bucket over his head, looks right at me, and says (with it echoing in the bucket), “Are you my mummy?“
Benjamin and I are playing Ducky Superheros with his three duckies. I realize he keeps spitting as he laughs.
“Benjamin! Stop spitting, that’s gross.”
“I can’t stop spitting.”
“You can’t stop spitting? Why not?”
Seriously. For anyone who doesn’t have a talkative toddler yet… hang in there. These days are amazing.
This year has been a whirlwind of change, the least of which is not the leaps and bounds my child is growing in. I wanted to write a few memories down, just so I won’t forget them.
- A few nights ago we sang our bathtime song, which goes “Bath time, here we go! / Bath times a good time, you know! / Bath time, everybody LOVES bath time it’s bath time, you know!” and repeats ad infinitum. We sang it before bath time like we do almost every night. After bath, we were downstairs snuggling and playing and I told Justin that we needed to put Benjamin to bed, soon, so we could take a shower. Benjamin proceeded to look at me and say, “No Mommy, I need shower too, it’s shower time. Shower time, here we go! Shower times a good time you know!” Sorry, Benjamin, but it didn’t get you out of bedtime.
- I made whoopie pies for coworkers and as the cakes were cooling I gave Benjamin one. He enjoyed it a lot – “Yum, delicioso!” After a few minutes, he started whining, and I asked him what was wrong. His response? “I don’t have a cookie in my mouth!!”
- Did Benjamin get another cookie? Yes, yes he did!
- I feel bad sometimes, because I work so much and everyone else gets to be home with Benjamin more than I do. To combat that, I try to take Benjamin with me to social events that would drive me husband crazy. So the other day we went to a concert in a local park where they were playing 80s music. Benjamin and I danced and danced and danced. We had SO much fun!
- During the concert, Benjamin got antsy and wanted to get away from the loud music, so we took a walk. I followed him all the way to the edge of the park, where we played around. At the end of the walk I told him it was time to head back, and we could be like Dora and go “through the woods, across the field, to the concert!” So we did that, and midway through I made the mistake of saying “We need to keep an eye out for Swiper! That tricky fox is always trying to get out stuff!” So… we get ALMOST to the concert, and he turns to a random stranger and starts holding out his arm yelling, “SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING!!” I was so embarrassed. Apologized. Moved on. Poor lady was freaked out…
- Last night Benjamin was cranky and overtired. It was a rough hour before bedtime, but we survived, and I was snuggling with him in our rocking chair before bed. I asked him if he wanted to pray, or sing, and he wanted to pray so we did. I said, after our initial prayers, “Benjamin, who do you want to bless?” He said Frankie (our dog). So we prayed, “Dear God, please bless Frankie.” Then I asked him, “who else do you want to bless?” He thinks for a minute. Lucky, he says, the other dog. “Dear God, please bless Lucky.” I ask him who else. He says, in the cutest voice, “Me.” Oh, Benjamin, you want God to bless you? “Yes,” he says to me, and my heart swells and gets all sentimental, and we pray a blessing over him too. I thought how brave of him, to be willing to ask God, but then I realized he doesn’t know any better. He is at the age where he can boldly go to the throne without baggage. What a lesson for me!
Last week you turned the big TWO!! I was reading the letter I wrote you at 21 months and it’s amazing how much you have changed. Even over just a few months you change and grow.
You still talk and talk and talk. You love to run through the house, play with swords, and tickle Mommy and Daddy. The dogs drive you crazy (especially Frankie), and when you and Frankie are energetic and chasing each other you both drive US crazy. We’ve been swimming half a dozen times this summer and if I put you in your swim donut you can swim around the pool yelling “Kick! Kick! Kick!” as your legs frantically propel you forward. It’s a joy to watch.
We had your birthday party the day after your actual birthday. Lots of friends and family came over. I made you chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. You started crying when I lit the candle on your cupcake and everyone started singing. I’m not sure why – maybe the attention? Maybe the singing? However, as soon as we were done and you got to eat the cupcake, you were much better!
You got some neat toys for your birthday and love to play with them. Lots of animals and blocks and cars and trucks. Puzzles and dinosaurs and oh, my, the vehicles. Our house has become a speedway and you are the driver of racing machines darting in, out, and over the couch.
We took a trip to California almost two months ago. We were worried about how you would do in the plane, but we shouldn’t have worried. You love any kind of vehicle, planes included. Daddy sat next to you on the plane and talked about how you were going to go really, really fast, and go up, up, up! You loved it. We rode in the car for ages and ages, and you rarely fussed about it. We drove through random subdivisions in Elk Grove, and you asked if we were going to Mae Mae’s house! It was the cutest thing, and you made Mae Mae’s mom giggle about it when I told her. We went to a wedding for my best friend Amy. You love Amy, and you loved dancing at Amy and Keith’s wedding. We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you had such a blast hanging out with your 3 cousins. We went camping (which you LOVED) at my old camping site in California. It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful to see you scale the same rocks I had scaled as a child. To see you in the “rock club” and down at the water’s edge was an incredible experience for me. Even though the water was freezing cold you stood in it until your feet turned to chubby little icicles, and you loved it. Watching you eat s’mores with your cousins is a memory I will treasure forever.
A few weeks ago we travelled to Senatobia, Mississippi to visit Papa’s parents. Mimi and PaPaw loved you, and we loved visiting them, and you had a good time running around their house and showing off. A mere week after that we went down to Houston for your cousin Austin’s graduation. Each road trip you demonstrated your willingness to sit still when needed, your love of movement, and your love of music. I love how you love music.
Son, I’ll be honest, because it’s my letter and I’m allowed to be: I don’t know what the future holds for you. What I do know is that you capture the attention of people – your joy, your mannerisms, and your movement. Watching you is like watching life take place – it’s like observing the best the world has to offer. Maybe you’re just like every other two-year old on the planet, I’m not sure. I hope that I can teach you to harness that attention-grabbing skill and use it to better the world around you. I know that living with you teaches me every day the meaning of slow down. Observe. Breathe. Love. Be patient.
Your Daddy and I talk about you, often, after you’ve finally given up and gone to sleep. We lay in bed, snuggled, and talk about whether or not we’re doing a good job (most days we think we’re doing OK). Recently we were talking about your exposure to television and video games. We don’t want to shelter you from the world and its issues, but we don’t want to desensitize you either. It’s tough to say “No, we won’t play this video game while Benjamin is awake, because it depicts violence too accurately,” but that’s exactly where we are at.
This world is dangerous and violent and broken, son, and you’ll have your whole life to learn that. I hope that we can teach you about the beauty of the world first, and it’s dark side later.
Eventually, Lucky will die, and you will learn grief. Eventually, you will ask where Mommy’s parents are, and you will see me cry. Eventually, you will ask why Jesus hangs on the cross, broken and beaten, and you will learn about sacrifice.
Our hope, though all of that, is to teach you about love. Love that shines through grief and brokenness, love that taught Mommy how to heal, love that makes Daddy get up even on the days when his depression beats his heart and soul, love that put Christ on the cross and love that triumphs all of the dark things in this world.
However, before you have to learn all of those things, I want you to know joy. I want to continue to see my baby boy, beautiful and full of grace and energy, running around squealing with laughter. I want to continue to love you so much it hurts. I want to see animals for the first time all over again, though your eyes. I want to continue to chase the dogs in the backyard until we collapse into fits of giggles. I want to dance with you in the living room until I’m sweaty and exhausted. I want these good and wonderful things for you so that when darkness seems to sneak in, you can remember the things from the light.
I hope you understand, one day, how hard it is trying to figure all this stuff out. I hope you have enough grace to forgive us when we mess up. I hope I have enough grace to forgive myself! But either way, we’ll muddle through this crazy adventure together. Being a Mommy is quite an amazing experience in general, but being Mommy to you – well – I think that’s my favorite job yet.
I love you son, happy 2nd birthday.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer (source)
My prayers are tiny and my soul weary; I look forward to Lent for the renewal of my spirit.
In honor of Valentine’s Day (which I actually thing is a lame holiday) I saw a few bloggers I read doing this and I thought I’d join them and tell you guys a bit about my hubby and I!