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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!)
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?
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 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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
I was so thankful when we finally got to take you home!
Those first days at home went by so fast. You were so quiet, so observant.
You ate every 15 minutes (it felt like) and your brother stayed close by your side.
Your hair!! That face!!
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)
I promise your brother wore things other than his Batman pajamas…
Your first Superbowl:
You smiled so early. I don’t have much evidence of it, sadly, because the smiles didn’t last long…but they were there.
(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:
Your pacifier was your friend for quite a while (still is!)
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.
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.
You bring me such joy. Very little bothers you.
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.
(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.
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).
I can’t wait to get to know you more.
I’ve seen a few different parents do this and thought it would be fun for Benjamin. I did it at the end of a long day, so I’m not sure I picked the best time, but I still got some pretty cute answers.
1. What is your favorite color? “Orange”
2. What is your favorite toy? “Cars are my favorite toys”
3. What is your favorite fruit? “Cherries” (really Benjamin?) “Yes, Cherries!” (really: apples and grapes)
4. What is your favorite tv? “Wonder Girls!” (you mean Powerpuff girls?) “Yes, Wonder Girls!”
5. What is your favorite movie? “Just Wonder Girls” (he had just gotten done watching Powerpuff Girls for the first time – said it was his favorite even though I’m pretty sure Curious George should win)
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? “Underwear!”
7. What is your favorite animal? “Zebra and birds”
8. What is your favorite song? “I like songs”
9. What is your favorite book? “Oh the places you’ll go, and Wocket in my Pocket”
10. Who is your best friend? “Aedan and Kaylee”
11. What is your favorite snack? “Fruit”
12. What is your favorite drink? “Orange Juice”
13. What is your favorite breakfast? “Tuna salad”
14. What is your favorite lunch? “I don’t know”
15. What is your favorite dinner? “I don’t know”
16. What is your favorite game? “The balloon game”
17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? “Shark play”
18. What is your favorite Bible story? “God is my favorite story”
19. What do you sleep with at night? “Friendent!”
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know”
It was a pretty interesting time. I was a bit surprised by some of the answers – cherries, for instance… we hardly ever eat cherries. Breakfast was just the first food he thought of, because he’d refused to eat tuna salad for lunch. “Wonder Girls” is a mix of Powerpuff Girls and Word Girl (I think, totally guessing). And we obviously need to sing more songs with him. He doesn’t have to tell me though – his jam is “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5. Can’t wait to do this again next year!
Six days ago you turned three. My mind still can’t wrap around that entirely. Where did the last year go?!
Year two was definitely the year of the superhero. You have embraced a world where superheros exist and it is weaved into the fabric of your life.
You have learned so many things in this past year.
You have learned about cancer. You have learned about hospitals and beeping machines and how Nanny is sick and there’s nothing we can do to fix it but take her to the doctor and pray.
You have learned about death. Having to explain to you that Mimi (your Papa’s Mommy) had died was difficult for us. Making that decision on whether or not to take you to the viewing was a tough one to make. And now, just a few weeks later, you’re in the car traveling again to Senatobia for her husband’s funeral.
You have learned how to sing. It makes me so happy to hear you in the back seat of the car singing about how the Wonderpets are going to save the baby deer. “Wonderpets! Wonderpets! We’re on our way! To help the baby deer and save the day…” Even though I think that show is a bit obnoxious.
You’ve learned about counting. We’ve been teaching you about counting for ages, but you’ve finally learned how to *actually* count things. You can tell me how many fingers I’m holding up, and if I ask you to count how many of something there are (like, apples, or shoes on the floor) you can usually count each item and give me a relatively close number. Instead of just counting to 12 really fast, you’re taking the time to count now.
You’ve learned to say “I love you,” and “you’re pretty,” without prompting. Oh, my, how you melt my heart when you do.
You’re so young, and the world is still so full of magic. I hope we can keep that alive in you even in spite of tragedy, struggle and heartbreak.
You have a baby sibling on the way – you keep telling me you want two baby sisters. I keep telling you that you only get one, but I’m not sure you’re convinced. We had initially only planned on having you, and adopting another child, but the more we thought about it the more we thought you’d benefit from another sibling earlier in life. We’re still open to adoption or fostering, but we’ll see how this new baby fits into the family first. Girl or boy, I have high hopes that you will be a great older brother.
You have a lot of friends, you’re quite social. You call all small children “my kids!” If Aedan and Kaylee show up to play: “My kids are here!” If Dylan and Noah show up: “My kids!” When you leave church, “I had fun with my kids!”
For your third birthday I asked you what kind of party you wanted. You said, “I want a Batman party!” When I asked you a week later, “I *said* I wanted a Batman party!” So we had a batman party, and we invited Batman to come to the party. We spent WAY too much on a really good Batman costume rental, but considering the adults had as much fun as the kids did, I’m calling it a success. You were afraid of him at first, when he picked you up and tried to take you away from me you burst into tears and snuggled into my neck for safety. Once he introduced himself to you, though, you warmed up to him. It was amazing. He played with you and “your kids” in the backyard and through the house. I’ll probably never tell you that “Batman” was played by your Uncle Cory.
Oh, son. This was such a fun year. You’ve been a beast for quite a lot of it, I won’t lie. You’ve spent lots of time in the corner with your hands on the wall for various transgressions. But you’ve also spent a lot of time having FUN. Running, playing, swimming, jumping, and going on adventures. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us.
One of my friends posted about this poem on facebook, and I thought it was worth posting here. Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband who is one of the best Father’s I’ve ever known!!
A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whatever he see me do, he tries.
Like me, he says, he’s going to be,
The little chap who follows me.
He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see,
That little fellow who follows me.
I must remember as I go,
Thru summers’ sun and winters’ snow.
I am building for the years to be,
In the little chap who follows me.
by Rev. Claude Wisdom White, Sr
One of the joys of parenting is watching my son discover how he fits into the world.
I have, in my opinion, a highly articulate 2.5 year old. He speaks in full sentences most of the time, although his standard answer is very 2-year-old-esque: “Because I can” or “Because I can’t.” Occasionally we’re able to get better sentences out of him. He has two new things. One of them is to tell us about something he wants to do, or something he wants to happen, and then end it with, “That will be a good idea.” The other new thing is to “match” things.
For example: “I wanna go see Skye and Brian and Papa and Nanny and then play with my race cars and then pet Lucky and that will be a good idea!”
He was laying on his Nanny’s bed, watching Dumbo with her. I brought him Friend-Ent, his favorite stuffed animal, a very tired Dumbo that has been with him almost every night since his birth. He held up his stuffed animal to the TV screen. “Look Nanny, it matches!”
“I want chocolate milk. That will be a good idea, Mommy!” To really feel the genius of this one, you have to mispronounce chocolate – think “cschok-lit.” He pronounces other C-words correctly, but Cschok-lit? I’m not correcting that one until he graduates high school.
For Christmas, his cousins Teresa, James and Mandy gifted him 2 really awesome Dr. Seuss puzzles. When he unwrapped it he got very excited. We asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Dr. Whouss!” Hmm. That’s another thing I’m not correcting. He thinks Dr. Who and Dr. Seuss are the same, and who am I to argue?!
He’s already put both puzzles together and taken them apart multiple times. One of the puzzles is from his favorite book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” The night he put it together for the first time we read that book at bedtime. He paused on the page that the puzzle is inspired by and said, “Look Mommy! It matches my puzzle! Let’s go put it together. That will be a good idea.”
Some days are crazy and insane. But some days end with him snuggled in my arms, and especially on days like those I find myself unable to articulate how lucky I am to be his Mommy.
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.