Dear Benjamin,

Happy birthday! I have to tell you son, the years just keep on getting more and more fun.  This year has been a whirlwind of activity and I am so happy to be able to call you mine.

We have been BUSY this year. This was the year of helping others; the year Uncle Jake and Aunt Reba and Chloe and Dakota lived with us for several months; the year Eli started walking (thus increasing your fun!); the year you started Piano lessons, the year you started sleeping on the top bunk.

I don’t even know where to start.

Here are some random facts about YOU at 5 years old:
Your favorite movie is “Big Hero 6″
Your favorite food is Chicken nuggets and fries from Chick Fil A.
Your best friends are Aedan and Kaley and Eli.
You have the best, sweetest prayers to God.

You dressed up as a fire fighter for Halloween, and made a Mario pumpkin (with Mom’s help!)

cutest firefighter ever!!

You’re obsessed with American Ninja Warrior. It’s not just them, though – your favorite superheroes are Thor and the Hulk – because, as you say, “They’re strong!”

We’ve spent a lot of time at Sea World – you love, love, love roller coasters. This season you’re tall enough to go on your own onto the kid rides, so you usually want to go without us.  It’s bittersweet – we’re happy you’re confident and independent, but man, did it have to happen so soon?
Benjamin at Sea World

Your personality has started to shine. You are excited and talkative and happy and talkative and did I mention you like to talk?

I apologize. You are just like I was at your age. Talk talk talk.

You were the ring bearer in your Great-Aunt Charla and Brad’s wedding. You were SO CUTE! And you proved that you are capable of standing still for a small period of time.

We went to your school orientation and you felt the need to tell the teachers all about how you were going to have to go to bed early for school 5 nights a week and how your Mom practices sight words with you and and and… I just sat there laughing.  You reminded me so much of me!

So full of energy and so much to say and bright enough to know you’re smart but also not quite smart enough to know NOT to be a know-it-all.  Hopefully we can instill some grace in you before you go to school.

We have been trying to teach you phonetics, but every time we try, we find out how convoluted the English language really is.

Sorry about that, son.

We have read so many amazing books this year. We read My Father’s Dragon (the trilogy, about 4 times in a row), Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Ghost Ship Mystery (Boxcar Children) and we are currently reading Stuart Little.  I tried twice this year to read The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe to you, but you’re just not quite ready for it.  You only have so much patience.

You had a hard time with me going to work this year.  It made you sad, often, which made me sad, but I hope you understand that I do what I do because I can help people, and because we have to pay bills and buy food! Responsibility sucks sometimes.

You love to be in the kitchen with me. I wish we had more time to do it, but when we do, you’re a fantastic helper. You help cut vegetables and bake cookies and anytime I ask, there you are.  You burned yourself this year, your first cooking injury, and you were so impressed with yourself for not crying.

We’ve tried to teach you about the way the world works without breaking you – there’s so much awful things going on in our world right now but we try to focus on the positive. We try to tell you that there’s hope.

You love playing on the Wii and your tablet. You love technology, you love watching videos on YouTube. Your interests mystify your Dad and I, and we constantly struggle with allowing you free time and making sure you’re not abusing it or overusing it. Balance is hard, son, and we struggle with it even to this day.

You love babies. You love everybody, but you have a special place in your heart for the little cousins in your life – especially baby Dakota and baby Lilly. You love to hold them and kiss them and if we have to be careful to remind you not to roughhouse with them.

You love your brother so much it that it fills me to overflowing. I hope you can always be this close.

For Christmas this year you got a swingset, much to your amazement, and it has hands down been the most amazing investment ever. You love to practice “ninja warrior” on it and have perfected the art of swinging/jumping/etc.

You on Christmas Day!

You are such a handsome, happy kid.

This is the last year that we get to keep you to ourselves. This fall, you’ll start Kindergarten. I know it’s time, and I know you’re ready, but I can’t help myself from being so worried that the big, awful world is going to break your spirit.  We’ve tried so hard to teach you about good and bad, to teach you grace, to instill in you a desire to do the RIGHT thing instead of the EASY thing.  I worry it’s not enough, I worry your spirit will be worn down and that you will be beaten with reality like everyone else.  I know it will – it’s part of growing up, it’s necessary, but it’s hurts that I can’t protect you from it.  I want to keep you in a bubble and help you see the world like I see it now.  I want you to skip the tough lessons.  I want you to see the world with it’s beautiful brokenness and then have hope and faith and joy in spite of it all.  However, I know (and your daddy knows) that we have to let you experience heartbreak, success, failure, triumph, and struggle for yourself. We know it’s a necessary right of passage.

That’s why we do things like sign you up for Piano lessons. You love them now, but we know the day will come that you’ll get tired or bored or frustrated and you’ll want to quit. And we won’t let you – and that will be hard for both us and you, but it will be an important lesson to learn. Perseverance in spite of personal preference is hard, but it’s a lesson worth learning.

I hope when you read this – whenever you do – you know that we tried so very hard to give you the tools you needed to navigate this world.  We know it’s insufficient.  We know we’re going to fail you.

But hopefullly the stuff we do right will outweigh the times we make mistakes. Hopefully we teach you grace enough to bear with us as we navigate through the next few years together.  We’ve had some good times, Benjamin, but I suspect the best is still yet to come.

I love you to the moon and back and then back out into the stars,

Mama

Dear Eli,
Today you are ONE! 365 days around the sun, 365 days of smiles and laughter!

This morning we woke up and spent some time snuggling. It’s really the only time you snuggle, so I do it every chance I get. After that, we had a dance party in the kitchen while I made you flapjacks and cinnamon rice. Your brother joined us, and we danced and bounced and banged pots and pans to “Let it Go,” “Moves Like Jagger,” “Thinking Out Loud,” and “Shake it Off” among others.

You’re probably the happiest person I know.  You’ve smiled every day since you were born. They say babies don’t smile, at least not in those first few weeks, but you did. And you still do. Every day with you is filled with smiles and laughter and pulling random things out of your mouth. And keeping you away from electrical outlets and plugs and wires. Seriously – your love of scraping things off the floor and into your mouth is only rivaled by your love of trying to electrocute yourself.

You’re really good at independent play. You wander around the house and I’ll stop hearing you…when I go investigate you’re undoubtedly in the playroom with some random toy. Unless someone is in the kitchen cooking, then you want to be where the action is.

You’re not walking yet, but you are crawling and climbing everywhere. Yesterday I caught you on the bottom rung of the ladder for the bunk beds with a huge grin on your face.

I read to you every night. Your favorite is “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” And I’m more than happy to pass on the love for Dr. Seuss!

You love your Noni more than anyone else.

You probably love eating more than you love Noni. I’m not sure if your love of food is quantifiable, actually. It’s really quite impressive how much you eat. We haven’t found anything you don’t like, although squash doesn’t like you. Rocks, too, you even like rocks. To eat.

You love animals and music and rough housing with Daddy. You love getting tossed in the air, and you like to play with Little People by putting them in your mouth.

You are adorable and beast like. If you get frustrated or angry or over tired you throw a fit and scunch up your face and raise your lip all Elvis-like and it’s pretty incredible.

If you had a spirit animal, it would be a tasmanian devil.

Your nicknames are “Bouk’m” and “Bouk-a-dactyl”. Bouk was the noise Daddy would make when he bonked your nose, and it was the first time you smiled at him.

You are loud. I’m sure it’s so you can be heard in the chaos that is our home, sometimes I am in the kitchen and you just start screaming and yelling like you’re saying hello.

You have such strong emotions. I know I have mentioned how happy you are, but also how angry and upset you can be. You feel everything so strongly, even at this early age. I hope we are equipped to help you wade through such passion as you age.

Even at your angriest, even at your saddest, even every day, you bring us such joy. We are blessed to know you, son, and I can’t wait to watch you over the next year.

Love,
Mama

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It’s that time again!  Here is last years, if you’re so inclined. Also, I realized that this is my 12th year doing some form of a “Year in Review” thing, and it’s probably one of the things I look to the most around this time of year.  I love reflecting on the wonderful things I’ve accomplished (or not accomplished) and all the amazing things that I’ve been able to experience.  Is it all roses? No way. BUT. It is definitely worth the investment of a few hours (I tend to work on mine periodically through the year, if I remember).  Here’s to 12  years more!!

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2014 began?
Sitting in the hospital room with my BRAND NEW BABY next to me and my husband sleeping on the couch in front of me.  I was awake, I whispered, “Happy New Year,” and then went back to bed.

Who were you with?
Eli and Justin.

Was 2014 a good year for you?
Yes.  But it was also hard.  When I think about this year there was a LOT of joy.  There was a lot of work, though too.  This was one of those years that we said over and over and over again, “this is just the season we are in. This too shall pass.” The season of small kids, while full of love and usually laughter, is also full of sheer, absolute, exhaustion.

What countries/states did you visit?
Visited Tennessee in the spring to visit a sick grandmother, and then in the fall for Charla and Brad’s wedding.  I also flew to Albuquerque New Mexico to teach and had some of the BEST MEXICAN FOOD HANDS DOWN THAT I HAVE EVER HAD. Ahem.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
I didn’t make any! I had a newborn and a toddler, are you kidding? I think I said I’d be doing good just to keep up, and that was definitely a theme this year. I kept up. Barely.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Yes! My sister Sherry gave birth to her daughter Aurora on February 26th.  Taryn had baby GoGo on May 21st.  Reba and Jake had their second baby, Dakota on December 2nd.  My friend Catie had a little girl named Laney as well, who tragically passed away after only a few days old.  Samantha and my brother-in-law Brian had baby Lily on December 22nd.  Lots of babies this year!

Did anyone close to you die? 
Laney. A beautiful little girl who lived only 7 days.

What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Seeing Reba give birth to Dakota will probably be one of the highlights.  Hard to forget watching someone be born.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Had two kids! Went to a child’s funeral.  Was flown out of state to teach at an APCO/NENA conference – which was like, one of my life goals.

Did you have fun in 2014?
Yeah. It was an exhausting year, though.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spent more time with my kids and husband. This year was a lot of work, and none of it was excessive to the point that I was neglecting my family more than absolutely necessary, I just like my kids and hubby and wish I’d spent more time with them.   If I had to pick one thing though, I would say I wish I had been able to have more dates with my husband.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I hadn’t needed so much sleep.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30! I was hoping to do something exciting, but alas, it wasn’t to be.  I worked.

What did you want and get?
I wanted new shoes to help my plantar fasciitis. Aunt Lynn hooked me up – thanks again!! I wanted a new fridge and a new TV in 2014 – both of which I got! The fridge is pretty incredible – ICE WHENEVER I WANT IT! – and the TV was a Christmas gift that is definitely getting used!  I also really really really wanted a special edition LOTR book, and got that.

What did you want and not get?
A year without any major injuries!!  Not having to go to night shift!!

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Benjamin’s. I love that kid. He’s becoming such a great big brother.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
In a year that has hit my coworkers and I with such sadness and mourning it’s hard to pinpoint any particular person. Society as a whole has made me very sad.  And worried.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2014?
Yes, but such is life.

Who were some new people you met?
Marlaina, Hope and Jessi.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2014? 
June!  I took several weeks off of work, my family came up to visit, it was Benjamin’s 4th birthday. Lots of good stuff.  It was the last month on day shift, so everything pretty much went downhill after that until December.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
My first day back on dayshift, haha! Night shift really killed me.  I had a lot of favorite moments. Seeing Amy was definitely near the top. Benjamin getting his swing set was pretty great.

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
The multiple moments dealing with the emotional aftermath of a rough call at work.  Nothing like waking up in a cold sweat after horrible nightmares, night after night, while your brain tries to process the terrible actions committed by broken people.

What was your favorite TV program? 
Been re-watching Full Metal Alchemist, and that’s been pretty awesome.

What was the best book you read? 
I actually read a lot this year, thanks to my Kindle.  Probably “The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” AND “My Father’s Dragon”.  The first was a book for me, the second, a book for Benjamin.  We read it a LOT over the year and thoroughly enjoyed it each time.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
Guardians of the Galaxy for SURE.  We’ve probably watched it half a dozen times.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Mario Kart 8!

What was your favorite new technology/application?
Not new technology, but I really love our Wii.  It’s been a lot of fun!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Thinking out loud” by Ed Sheeran.

What was the best thing you bought? 
The fridge!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I did really good the first half of the year being healthy.

What was your biggest failure? 
The second half of the year, when all my healthy behaviors fell apart when I got injured AND moved to night shift.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Plantar Fasciitis.  The bane of my existence.  Started shortly after I started going to the gym regularly…and it sucks. It ruined most of my summer/fall – I was in too much pain to do ANYTHING.

Where did most of your money go?
After bills and groceries, diapers, wipes, and shoes to combat my PF and a fridge… I don’t know.

What kept you sane?
Knowing that I had to stay sane – we couldn’t all go crazy.  Knowing that this is a season, and it’s a busy and hard season, and we will miss parts of it when it’s over.

What political issue stirred you the most? 
I’m deleting this question for next year. I never like to talk politics in my blog.

Who did you miss?
My sisters. Amy. I got to see Amy though, even though it was just briefly!

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Jake and Reba moving to Austin, my Christmas presents (especially the Evenstar and LOTR special edition book, hubby did GOOD this year!!)

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner, but only because I’m not 9 months pregnant. I really need to work on that…
iii. richer or poorer? POORER

Did you fall in love in 2014? 
Over and over again!

Did you lose anything important this year?
Does faith in society count?  That’s not true; not really, but it has been difficult to see the news lately. So much brokenness, so much media manipulation.  We forget that the news media is full of someone’s interpretation of events, and that behind every criminal and every cop are two people who are probably not nearly as bad as we think they are, but who are a combination of their circumstances, their decisions, their heart, their soul, their families… and both of them have worth. Both of them are humans with souls that were given a chance in life.  The fact that some make bad decisions is regrettable; but I think we forget their humanity (and our own) when watching the news and commenting on it.  So I guess I lost my hope that the news media could be unbiased – although I knew it before, I’ve seen such blatant manipulation of facts that I’m just incredibly disheartened by it.

What was your proudest moment of 2014?
Teaching in New Mexico.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2014?
I have no idea.  Luckily I let go of these things pretty easily…

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly good
• Physical Health – Fairly bad
• Social Health – Bad (I don’t do ANYTHING besides work/family/coffee with Leslie x1/week IF I’M LUCKY)
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health –  Fairly good

It seems to me, each year, that one of these things is bad. Balance is a terrible, terrible thing.

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
Already had it! We spent it at home, with the family, and it was awesome.  We got Benjamin, Chloe and Eli a swing set (Well, it’s really for Benjamin and Eli, but Chloe gets it too since she lives with us) and they LOVED it. Benjamin is just big enough – he learned how to swing on his own, and spent HOURS out there on Christmas.  We had lots of family visit.

How will you be spending New Years? 
NYE will be with my family since it’s Eli’s first birthday! Speaking of, I’ve got to get a jump on his birthday letter… anyways. The next day I work in the morning, and then I’ll spend some time with Charla and Brad, who will be in town up from Houston. Yay for family!

What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? 
Dancing lessons. That was my Christmas present for 2013, but I had to go to night shift so Justin never had the chance to deliver.  Also, more financial stability.

What are your plans for 2015?
I’ve got some work goals and home goals, and my plans are to work towards my goals. Hah!

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2015?
Nope. I’m making goals independent of the new year. I might make a “New Years Goal” to not buy any candy in 2015, like I did in previous years but failed at.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014: 

Night shift sucks when you have a family and a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night and a husband who desperately needs sleep and time to get out of the house.

Also, organization is absolutely critical to success.  This last month I’ve started journaling some goals and tasks to help keep track of life and it’s been pretty awesome.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

Baby, it’s 3am I must be lonely.

(This really is so accurate – between breastfeeding the first 6 months and then night shift, I was awake and without my husband a lot)

When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family.  She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.

She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.

I lost her, too.  Just a few years after that conversation.

I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.

There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture.  I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know.  Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.

Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look.  I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss.  I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren.  I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.

I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine.  And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness.  I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.

We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.

For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.

Where then, is our hope?

What then, can save us?

I don’t have all the answers.  I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.

  1. Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs.  Each generation the combination changed.  I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time).  I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide.  Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
  2. You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped.  And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives.  Fighting is the only option.
  3. It’s not easySometimes it is exhausting.
  4. Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in.  Nothing is too shattered for Him.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents.  But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.

And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God.  Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong.  Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.

Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

He is our greatest hope.

Dear self,
Yesterday you turned the big 3-0. Thirty.  Take a deep breath. That’s right. You are officially out of your 20’s.

Your 20’s were good to you. They brought you your husband. Your kids. Your career. Your passion.

But they were rough, too. The loss of your brother, your parents. Chronic sinus problems. Back trouble. Bad feet.

You’ve had some good times – times you’ve laughed until you’ve cried, times you’ve cried until you laughed.  Sometimes those events were the same day!  There’s been lots of lessons learned.  Lots of friends made, and more than a few you’ve lost touch with over the years.  You’ve learned relationships are tough.  Sometimes really tough.  Tough just to keep going – tough to put the extra work in to keep the flame alive.  But oh, so very, very worth it.

I guess I wanted to write you this to give you some advice. Advice you probably won’t listen to, but you’ll nod and smile and say you’ll listen, and I wanted to write it out here so there were witnesses, so to speak.  So here it is. The big advice for you going into your 30s:  Do hard stuff.

Life is hard.  Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Friendships are hard. Work is hard. Faith is hard. Cleaning is hard. Downtime is hard.

Cooking is hard to find time for in light of all that other stuff.

Be kind to yourself – but also, be good at doing hard stuff, because at the end of the day that’s really what life is about.  Dig in to the moment, be present and real with people.  Acknowledge that you’re doing something hard, and then do it.  Give yourself a break when you fail, because you’re going to. Just be ready for it.  Every day you’re going to wake up with 57 things to do and you are going to fail to do most of them.

Try to do them anyways.  Don’t half-ass it, either, because who wants half-ass attention? No one. So do one thing really good. And then do another, and another, and another.  You may end up with 14 good things by the end of the day. Awesome. You did good.  You failed at 43 things, but they don’t matter because you rocked at 14 things.

When you turn 30 (if you’re me) you start to think about your legacy.  At the end of my life I want to be known as someone who was real.  Someone who had to dig her way through life with broken nails and tear stains and dirty tennis shoes who was a real person to the people she interacted with.  I don’t want people to think I’m something I’m not. I’m a mess – just like every other human being on this messy broken earth.

By the grace of God I’d like to fight against that brokenness – the brokenness that destroyed my parents, the brokenness that threatens to take others every day… I’d like to BE KIND and DO HARD STUFF because it helps fix some of that brokenness. And if on any given day I can only do 14 good things, or even just 1 good thing, it means the world is that many more things better than it was yesterday.

My dearest Benjamin,

You are 4 years old!! FOUR! You’re such a big kid!  I’m so grateful for the boy you are becoming.  You’re a good kid – polite and kind, and usually using manners.  We had a lot of fun this year.  Last year you learned you had a baby sibling on the way…and we worked pretty hard to prepare you.  We spent a lot of time with you before your brother joined the family – hanging out, going to the park, taking trips to Houston and swimming any chance we got.

sep 18 park
sept 14 park
april 10 kemah

You potty trained in year 3 – right after your birthday – and as we promised, you got to go to the Zoo.  We told you that only big boys got to go to the zoo, and so as soon as you were using the potty consistently we went.  It was awesome!  You had a lot of fun and your favorite part was the aquarium and the gorillas.

zoo july 19

You got to spend a lot of time with your adopted siblings, Aedan and Kaley.  They have been such a blessing to you, and you to them.  You play so much harder when you have friends to play with, and it’s been good preparedness for working and living with other kids.

april 25 kids
cookies sept 28

We decided to try to discipline you by offense – different things for safety violations, rudeness and attitude.  It’s been pretty effective, and when you’re in a good mood you’re incredibly polite and pleasant to be around.

We were reading a story the other day and there’s a part about “a yellow see-saw built for two.”  But Mom, you asked me, aren’t ALL see-saws built for two?!

oct 14 stylish

You get your literalness from your dad.

Some of the highlights this year for me was Halloween and Christmas.  You dressed like an astronaut for Halloween, and it was adorable.  I let you carve your own pumpkin with awesome results – you thought it was the most amazing thing EVER. Seriously, you obsessed about it.  It was so sad when it rained before Halloween and was ruined.

OCT 20 pumpkin
oct 31 2
oct 31

Christmas this year was interesting.  Your dad and I… we’re not big fans of Santa.  Not that we outright hate him or anything, we just never really got into the concept of deception (and don’t get me started on the Elf on the shelf nonsense).  BUT – we recognize that some kids want to pretend, and that’s what you said you wanted to do.  We talked about how Santa is a pretend guy that some people pretend is real, and that it’s OK if we want to do that.  So mid December we’re out shopping at the mall (actually, I was pregnant and going stir crazy and needed to walk) and I realize a moment too late that we’re about to pass Santa.  And you want to go meet him! And take your picture! So… we did.  And I’m so glad, because you look totally adorable.  I’m still not sure if you actually believe in Santa or not – you change your mind whenever we talk about it – but we’re content to let you do your thing.

dec 13 christmas

You played Soccer for the first time ever this year.  Winter and Spring seasons at the Y with your best friend Aedan.  It was a pretty awesome experience for you; and you were glad when it was over.

jan 18 soccer
april 26 soccer

We spent a lot of time playing games, electronic and otherwise, and we’ve learned something important about you.

You HATE losing.

Like, A LOT.

nov 16 ducky momo

 

I sympathize so much with you, because I was the same exact way as a kid.  I didn’t understand letting other people win; why do that? What was the point?  If someone happens to win Chutes and Ladders you collapse into sobs, “But I wanted to win!!!!!”  So far talks about letting people take turns winning falls on deaf ears; but I can’t really blame you.  I’m almost 30 and still like to win.

So sometimes we do other things, like make cookies – you’re quite helpful in the kitchen!

dec 9 cookie

You had your first real beach trip – real because it was the first time you were really old enough to hang out and play and put your toes in the water.  Your favorite part was throwing sand.

oct 26 beach

You’re the most articulate kid I know.  There’s a lot of stuff you haven’t figured out yet – you don’t like letters very much and have little interest in reading.  Other kids are more advanced in some ways.  But you are an excellent orator.  Your tone gets you in trouble sometimes, “Mommy, I KNOW!” but for the most part I just enjoy being able to have conversations with you.

MAR 29 hockey

You’re curious about everything and we do our best to answer every “why” – even though sometimes we just have to ask you to stop.

nov 4

I think one of the best things about this year was watching you grow into a sibling. Your tenderness and love (and sometimes roughness) with your little brother Eli is pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  You love him SO much.  Even though he cries, even though he smells, even though he takes up SO much of my time.  You love him.  Sometimes you insist in taking a turn sitting in my lap (which I almost always try to oblige) but for the most part you understand that he’s a baby and that there are things you get to do that he doesn’t.  I know one day you guys will fight and argue, but for now there’s so much love.

jan 6 eli
april 26 brothers

june 3 feeding

When you get in trouble we tell you that we’re correcting you because we want to help you be a better person. We tell you that we want you to be a good kid, and that you ARE a good kid, and that some times good kids do bad things – but what’s important is that we keep trying to do good things so the good outweighs the bad.  You tell me you’re trying, and that’s all I need to know.
sept 14 park 2

I love you so much, son.  Your smile and hug and big ears and questions and fish faces. I love you, I love you, I love you.

june 15 cake
june 15th

Love,

Mama

I did this last year and thought it was worth repeating!

1. What is your favorite color? “All the colors in the world”
2. What is your favorite toy? “Ummm, jets?”
3. What is your favorite fruit? “Apples”
4. What is your favorite tv? “Cat in the hat”
5. What is your favorite movie? “Lion King”
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? “My superhero stuff”
7. What is your favorite animal? “Zebra”
8. What is your favorite song? “Let it go”
9. What is your favorite book? “Curious George goes to the zoo”
10. Who is your best friend? “Aedan and Kaylee and Ethan”
11. What is your favorite snack? “Crackers”
12. What is your favorite drink? “Soda”
13. What is your favorite breakfast? “Macaroni and Cheese”
14. What is your favorite lunch? “Green beans”
15. What is your favorite dinner?  “Macaroni and Cheese”
16. What is your favorite game? “Super smash brothers brawl and Lego superheros”
17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? “Swing”
18. What is your favorite Bible story?  “Um, Jesus loves me, that’s a good one.”
19. What do you sleep with at night? “Chloe and Eli”
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? “a car-worker” (Mechanic)

Dearest Eli,

You’ve only been here for 4 and a half months, and I already can’t even remember what life was like without you here.  You joined our family December 31st at 4:07pm. 8lbs, 15oz, 21.5 inches long. Right from the start you were so beautiful to me.

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Your hair! I told your Dad about a week before you were born, “I know it’s silly, but I prayed to God that Eli would have brown hair.”  When you came out your Daddy looked at me and said, “Look, Net, brown hair!”  So if you hate it – totally my fault.  You’re a perfect blend of us – everyone says you have your Daddy’s hair, but he and I know the truth – it may stick straight up in the air like Dad’s, but it’s my color.  You’re a lovely combination of the two of us.

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So adorable.

You scared us your first few hours in the world.  You had the cord wrapped around your tiny neck twice and you could barely breathe. Once they got you breathing, they realized your blood sugar was dangerously low.  There was lots of worrying those first 24 hours… but in the end you were a champ and powered through it.

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I was so thankful when we finally got to take you home!

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Those first days at home went by so fast.  You were so quiet, so observant.

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You ate every 15 minutes (it felt like) and your brother stayed close by your side.

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Your hair!!  That face!!

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You’re a ferocious eater (seriously, the first few weeks when you would root you’d scrunch your face up like this and I would just die from cuteness)

 

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I promise your brother wore things other than his Batman pajamas…

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Your first Superbowl:

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You smiled so early.  I don’t have much evidence of it, sadly, because the smiles didn’t last long…but they were there.

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(Sorry; you had baby acne like WHOA)

You took a trip to Tennessee at just a few weeks old; you were a champ; how did we get so lucky with you?  But you were happy to be home (just like the rest of us) This was right after you traveled in a car for 12+ hours through rain and sleet and ice cramped up in your car seat:

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See? Happy.

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Your pacifier was your friend for quite a while (still is!)

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It’s been a few months now, and you’re already rolling around and laughing when we tickle you and I feel time slipping by so fast.

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You never laugh as hard as you do when your brother is playing with you.  You roll around and you’re not afraid to yell if the dog gets too close.

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You bring me such joy.  Very little bothers you.

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I can’t wait to see you and Benjamin grow up together. He loves you so much – we have to remind him to let you go so you can breathe! “Six inches, son” is said a lot when he’s trying to hug/smother you.

I always felt like a mom with Benjamin; but now that you’re here I feel more complete.

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(us on Mother’s day. You’re pretty amused at your brother’s temper tantrum…)

Everyone at church loves you – you’re so sweet and they all love your hair – you look like a little cockatiel.

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You are PICKY.  You don’t like certain blankets, you didn’t like footie pajamas (and you were born during one of the coldest winters ever!) and heaven forbid I hold you the wrong way when you’re trying to go to sleep.

You roll across the living room like it’s nothing.  You’re really starting to enjoy the bouncer, and just like your older brother you’re a parrot hunter (obsessed with the hanging parrot on the bouncer). You’re observant and quiet for the most part, but you’re starting to learn to squeal to get attention, stay awake, or yell at the dog.  You smile when I come home from work and I’ll never get tired of it.  You’re an easy baby; you eat and go back to sleep at night and you love to bury your face in soft things (mom, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets, etc).

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I can’t wait to get to know you more.

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It feels like yesterday I was hugging their necks. I miss them so much. I miss the feel of my Dad’s rough hands, I miss the sound of my Mom’s laughter. Five years seems like such a long time; but it also feels like just minutes ago.

Hug your loved ones today. Tell them you love them. You are not promised tomorrow!

Note: 2012 Year in Review for those interested.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2013 began?
SLEEPING! I worked New Years Eve and New Years Day on dayshift, so I needed the sleep. Plus, everything going on in my life at that time (Cancer, job losses, family overrunning my house, etc) really made me not feel like a party was in order.

Who were you with?
Fankie and Lucky off and on. I snuggled with Benjamin before he went to bed, and Justin came in and tucked me in, but I fell asleep by myself. I don’t think Justin got in bed before midnight either.

Was 2013 a good year for you?
Eh, it has its ups and downs.  There was a lot of chemo, radiation, death, etc in the early part of the year and work was INSANE, I struggled to develop myself as a leader and I was pregnant. So, no, not really, but it set the stage for 2014 to be pretty amazing AND ended in the birth of my second son — so there is a lot of redemption there, obviously.

What countries/states did you visit?
Visited Tennessee in the spring and Mississippi in the early summer.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Nope. I did good till I got pregnant though!

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Yes! Megan had Brooklyn April 20th, Niki had Emryn December 23rd, and I gave birth too :)

Did anyone close to you die? 
I found out sometime after the first of the year that my Aunt Karen passed away at the end of 2012. She was my Dad’s sister and the last time I saw her was at my Grandmother’s funeral.  We were never close – estranged, I think the word would be – but it was still sad to learn of her passing. 

In May and June we lost Justin’s grandparents on his Dad’s side – Mimi and Papaw.  It was the first time Benjamin really had dealt with death.  He’s still a little too young to really understand, but he did pretty good.

Not-as-close-but-still-hit-me, one of our officers lost his wife to cancer. Christine was an amazing lady. Casey’s father also passed away – Casey is one of my younger brother’s best friends, and like a brother to me.  Very sad… but Casey did an amazing job at the service.

What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
December 31st, 2013 – The date we welcomed Eli Leonard Sullivan into the world!

Experiences:

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Saw a counselor.  That was an interesting experience.  Had a second pregnancy and a delivery in a hospital.

Did you have fun in 2013?
I did. I also worked really, really hard.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Exercised!! I got sick, tired, and large and stopped doing it like I needed to.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Had less heartburn? This question is always so hard.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 29 years old, and Teresa and I went and saw Sara Bareilles in concert once I got off work. All in all it was a really fun day.

What did you want and get?
My husband surprised me with a kindle paperwhite!! I love it a LOT and read a LOT more than I did last year!! He is the best!!!

What did you want and not get?
I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, but I was hoping to have a girl for my second child.  Justin and I really wanted one of each.  However, we tried for several months to have a girl (there are ways to try to tip the scales in favor of one), and during the months we were giving it a break (so we wouldn’t have a November or December baby) we got pregnant with Eli. So, all in all, I’d have to say that God was pretty clear this was what he wanted. Now that he’s here, of course, I can’t imagine having anything other than his beautiful face.  I did offhandedly mention to Justin that I hoped this little boy had brown hair, and BOY did that happen! 

I also wanted a new refrigerator, but that’s on the “goal” list for 2014.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Benjamin’s! We successfully potty trained this year (yay!) and he is growing up to be a very bright young man.  He has an awesome personality and is well liked by pretty much everyone he comes in contact with.  He has a LOT of charisma (which is normal, I know, for some kids this age) and is learning about the importance of good behavior.  He’s also extremely excited about his new baby brother – he loves to snuggle him and give him kisses.

Also, the staff in the Communications Division where I work.  We had a ridiculously stressful year with TONS of upgrades, mandatory training, overtime and very little to give them to thank them for all their hard work.  I think everyone surviving the upgrades of 2013 with their sanity intact was pretty awesome.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I had a few issues with a few people; I don’t tend to get appalled depressed or sad, just disappointed. 

Did somebody treat you badly in 2013?
Meh. I don’t know. I don’t think so, really.

Who were some new people you met?
Leah, the new records supervisor, who is super cool.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2013? 
December. The rest of the year pretty much sucked, but December is always full of Christmas anticipation and plus I HAD A BABY!

What was your favorite moment of the year?
I was thinking, of course, that my son’s birth would be my favorite moment. But he came out with trouble breathing and was pale and everyone was worried about him, so that kind of bummed me out.  I think my favorite moment is two things – the first is when we told Benjamin he was going to have a baby brother.  He was so excited!!  The second moment was when Justin told me he’d eaten lunch the 31st with my emergency $20.  That requires a bit of back story.  See, my Mom always carried an emergency $20 dollar bill in her wallet.  I remember her pulling it out every once in a while – when she really needed it (and once when she was craving chocolate and we were broke, hah!) and commenting about how important it was to have it.  The day we went to the hospital in labor, Justin forgot his wallet at home.  And, because we didn’t plan ahead well enough, we hadn’t eaten prior to getting to the hospital.  So he was starving and when he finally got to sneak away to grab some food he used my emergency $20 that I keep in my purse.  I didn’t realize any of this until that night, when I realized he’d eaten but not had his wallet.  When he told me he used the emergency $20 I started crying, because I really miss my Mom (especially on big days like the birth of my son) and something that was SO HER was used, and it was kind of like she was here in spirit, even though she can’t be here to hold her grandson there’s still a part of her that I carry with me, and that helps, and I’m crying again. Dang it.  So yeah.  Getting to have that at Eli’s birth was pretty amazing.

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
Probably the few minutes after Eli’s birth where he wasn’t getting enough oxygen and I looked at his little arm and it was ash grey.  So not cool.  So glad he recovered quickly!

What was your favorite TV program? 
I don’t really have time for TV most the time, but I did watch Walking Dead and enjoy that, and I’m getting into Burn Notice.

What was the best book you read? 
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It had been on my list to read for a few years because it came highly recommended by my friend Maria, and it was definitely well worth the wait.  I may or may not have sobbed at the end of the book.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
The Desolation of Smaug is definitely the best, hands down.  SO glad it was better than the first Hobbit movie!!!  I also REALLY liked “White House Down”.  I thought it was going to be a lame action movie with lots of eye candy, but oddly enough it had great action, plot, acting and Jamie Foxx rocked it as the President.  Plus, who doesn’t love to watch Roland Emmerich blow up the White House?

Runner ups: Man of Steele, Star Trek Into Darkness, and very far below that (mainly for the war scene at the end), Enders Game.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Diablo III!!! I was very excited they rolled it out for the PS3. 

What was your favorite new technology/application?
Cozi! Phone calendar app that is more user friendly than Google (once you get used to it).

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Two songs.  

“Say Something” by A Great Big World.  It’s not very often that a piece of music is really something I would consider “art” but this is absolutely art at it’s finest.  It’s a song that can mean many things to many people.  Wonderful.

“I see Fire” by Ed Sheeran.  It’s the song that plays during the credits of The Desolation of Smaug and I’m kind of in love with it.  It played on repeat while I was in labor with Eli.
 
What was the best thing you bought? 
This: https://www.etsy.com/listing/78491208/original-abstract-modern-fantasy-tree?ref=favs_view_5

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Carrying another baby!

What was your biggest failure? 
Gained too much weight (in my personal opinion, doctor had no issues but I wish I had gained less)

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
My allergy stuff. Still.

Where did most of your money go?
Debt, food, and 800 dollars to getting a dead tree off the property. Oh, the joys of homeownership!

What kept you sane?
I’m not entirely sure I stayed sane this year, but the thought that “this too shall pass” was very helpful.

What political issue stirred you the most? 
Pass.

Who did you miss?
My family and Amy.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
HAVING ANOTHER BABY!!! !

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Hmm. Hard to say. Last year at this time Justin told me we could try for a second baby, now I have the baby! But I’ve also had a very trying year at work. If I had still been pregnant at the end of the year I would have been about the same, I suppose, but since I’ve had Eli I’m definitely happier :)
ii. thinner or fatter? FATTER
iii. richer or poorer? POORER

Did you fall in love in 2013? 
Over and over again!

Did you lose anything important this year?
My sanity.

What was your proudest moment of 2013?
Giving birth. There’s really not much that can top that, honestly.  It’s hard work!

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2013?
Hahaha, giving birth!

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly good
• Physical Health – Fairly bad
• Social Health – Bad
• Spiritual Health – Fairly bad
• Intellectual Health – Fairly good
• Financial Health –  Good

In the future (authors note: filled this out in early 2014 so it wasn’t in the future, just the recent past):

How will you be spending Christmas? 
I spent Christmas lounging around the house, feeling very 2 days overdue with a swollen belly, watching Justin and Benjamin enjoy their presents.

How will you be spending New Years? 
I was in the hospital after delivering a baby – I looked up at the clock, whispered “Happy New Years, Baby” to Justin and went back to sleep.

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? 
Smooth moves. One of the things Justin got me for Christmas was the promise that we’d take dancing lessons sometime this year!

What are your plans for 2014?
Raise baby, take Benjamin to see “real snow”, have a family reunion, pay off hospital bills / continue to save money, buy a fridge.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2014?
I didn’t bother. I’ve got a newborn and a toddler.  Keeping up will be my resolution! :)

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013: 
You don’t become the person you want to be overnight, and you usually have to make a lot of mistakes in the process.  I’ve learned this lesson before, but this year was a good reminder.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

And I am feeling so small.
It was over my head
I know nothing at all.

 

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