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Dear Eli,

Holy cow, I can’t believe you’re 5 years old today!  This year has been an amazing adventure full of laughter and fighting and fierceness.  You are, without a doubt, one of the most joyful people I know.

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You feel joy with every fiber of your being, and it’s the type of joy that infects everyone around you. Of course, you’re also one of the most fierce people I know…

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but strangely enough, it has a similar effect. I guess what I’m saying is, Eli, is that you bring joy to people…period. Even in your fiercest, craziest moments…

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even when you’re crazy upset because things aren’t going your way….

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you make me, and everyone around you, smile and laugh.

To be honest, there hasn’t been a lot of changes in year 4 for you – no new people living with us, no major transitions, and that seems to suit you just fine.

I mean, we did dress up pretty epic for Halloween.

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But overall there were a lot of normal, routine days.

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Well, one tiny change.  We did get a new cat, Theodore.

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You picked him out, and I think he’s pretty much your cat as much as anyone’s.

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We went to McDonald’s yesterday with Benjamin, Lily, and David, and hung out in the play place for a while.  You lasted about 10 minutes, then asked if you could come visit with me so you could experience some “peace and quiet, finally!”

You’re a lot like your Daddy in that way.

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I know I didn’t get to mention it in the last letter, but at the end of last year you got to experience snow for the first time!

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You love going on adventures with us. Whether it’s around the block or 12 hours away, you don’t mind the journey and the destination always excites you.

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You guys met me in Frisco, Texas after a work conference and we went to the National Video Game Museum. I’m not sure who had more fun – you and Benjamin, or me and Daddy!!!

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You even got to play old school, in an old school room, with old school decor!

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One of the highlights of the year was our trip to Orange Beach, Alabama. We went to Pensacola to see the Blue Angels and toured the historical museum. We had a LOT of fun!

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Us in front of a real Blue Angel jet!

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Nanny Lynn and her boys!

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Your friendship with Aedan continues to grow – while he’s closer to Benjamin in age, I feel like you and him share more interests than him and Benjamin – so it will be interesting to see how your friendships mature over the next few years.

Aedan, teaching you how to make curly noodles:

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You went to Coffee with a Cop with me, and not only did you love being cute and dotted on, you also got to sit on a real live Police Motorcycle, which you still talk about to this day.

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We’re so lucky to have family nearby – even Nanny Lynn, who lives a few hours away, comes to visit often. You always look forward to these visits. We so often see kids who aren’t interested in hanging out with their relatives, but you ADORE visits from them, or going to visit them. You had a sleepover with Aunt Tina and Uncle Scott earlier this year, and one planned with Nanny Lynn soon.

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We’ve tried to get you interested in Taekwondo or piano, like your brother, but so far you haven’t shown enough maturity and/or interest to really find your “thing” that you do. You’re only (just now) 5 years old, so we’re not in a hurry.

But Benjamin tried to teach you piano:

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And you went to practice with Benjamin and Daddy at Taekwondo, but you were more interested in hitting the punching bag than learning any real martial arts.

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I don’t really think I can articulate how much you are, at your core, a warrior of some kind.

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I don’t know what kind; but I hope whatever kind you are it’s good.

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Because… you are fierce.

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You are mighty.

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You are tough.

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You’re good at utilizing your available resources.

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You’re steadfast.

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And you’re honorable.

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Happy, happy, happy birthday to one who brings me such joy.  I can’t wait to see how this year goes for my warrior prince.

Love always,

Mama

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(Last years, if you’re so inclined)

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2018 began?
Surrounded my family in my living room watching the ball drop.  I got a kiss from my hubby at midnight and hugged everyone. It was AWESOME.

Who were you with?
Justin, Eli, Benjamin, Cory, Surae, Shawn, Nichole, David, Sherry.. I feel like more people than just that, but I guess not.

Was 2018 a good year for you?
Probably the best year of my life.  I know it sucked for a lot of people – and I’ve had years like that too – but this was just a really good combination of factors that made it amazing.

What countries/states did you visit?
I actually stayed pretty close to home this year – intentionally – because next year is going to be BUSY.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
My resolutions were to quit smoking completely (I had the occasional cigar but decided to stop) and take January off of drinking.  That actually ended up kicking me in the butt, because since I wasn’t smoking or drinking I ate a lot of unhealthy food in January.  February I started really watching/tracking my food.  By April I decided to try the Keto diet!  I started exercising in August, and quit smoking FOR GOOD in November (womp womp womp).

My other new year’s resolutions were to read the bible in a year, and get my BMI down and my weight to 170.  I DID ALL OF THAT! WOO!

It is a curious thing that the year I read the bible every day was also the year I got healthier and kept more resolutions.  Coincidence?? Hmm…

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
No, but several coworkers did.

Did anyone close to you die? 
No, but a young man in our church did die – I didn’t know him personally, just from a distance…but he was such a sweet kid who impacted many, many lives.  It was pretty gut wrenching.

What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hmmm.  I had my first CALEA file review December 3-7, but I don’t think I’ll remember those dates.  I will definitely remember the experience!!

Experiences:

What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
Successfully changed the way I diet! I’ve failed SO MANY TIME BEFORE.  Also, successfully scheduled and conducted an on-site assessment of my department.

Did you have fun in 2018?
YES!!! So many concerts!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish we’d been able to spend more time together as a family.  It was a busy, busy year.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d spent less money! And spent less time on my screens!

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I actually had a mock assessment with a friend of mine – she came down from Keller and reviewed my files for me.  We ate Mexican food for lunch, and when I got off work I picked up the kids and we went to Round Rock Police Department for the grand opening of their new training facility.  We got to tour the grounds, see live fires, the boys got “Round Rock SWAT” hats.  I also won a contest at our local Chick Fil A, so we had Chick Fil A for dinner and I got a free stuffed cow and some coupons.  The boys loved the evening, we had a great time.  Benjamin thanked me for spending time doing what they wanted to do on my birthday, which was the icing on the proverbial cake.

What did you want and get?
To get two teaching opportunities!

What did you want and not get?
Justin to be happy.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Honestly, this year, I’m going to say MINE.  I’ve worked HARD this year to meet my goals and stay on track.  I’m so proud of my progress.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
Humanity as a whole.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2018?
Nope, I did pretty good.

Who were some new people you met?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet people in my Community Group!  Also, Cory’s girlfriend Nicole and her two daughters are pretty awesome.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2018? 
May was really cool because I got to go to Galveston and hang out with my TALON friends from work, and then went on a family vacation with Justin, the boys, my Aunt Lynn, and cousins.  We had an amazing time staying in Orange Beach, Alabama. We got to do a lot of lounging around, and got to see the Blue Angels.  My cousin Logan also graduated college later that month and we had a great party celebrating him.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Listening to Five Iron Frenzy in concert was definitely pretty epic.

Receiving my award at the award banquet was pretty cool too (I received the Chief’s Award of Excellence this year) but honestly so many of my favorite moments were spent sitting or lying quietly with my kids and husband.  This was a whirlwind of a year and I really enjoyed the moments of pause.

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
I hate this question. Oh!! Probably when I got shot up during patrol practicals. I ended up with several scars on my right hand and arms from being shot with sim rounds at close distance.  It really, really, really sucked.

What was your favorite TV program? 
I re-watched Bones and it was awesome.

What was the best book you read? 
I actually read a bunch of books this year! Hard to narrow down my favorite, but here’s my top three:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  2. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
  3. The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane

What were your favorite films of this year? 
I still have a bunch I want to see, but Ready Player One was definitely one of the best.  The Shape of Water was so, so beautiful in spite of some of the weirdness.  We also watched The Greatest Showman and fell IN LOVE with the soundtrack. Seriously so much fun! And I really liked “The Christmas Chronicles”.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Justin bought me Shadows of War and I’ve been enjoying that a lot.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
Nothing really tickled my fancy.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
This is going to sound weird, but probably how much I loved (and missed!) attending concerts.   I went to a bunch as a kid, but this year I went to SEVERAL. I saw Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea) with Benjamin and Teresa, I saw Ruthie Foster TWICE, also saw Imagine Dragons with the family and I went to see Five Iron Frenzy and MxPx by myself!  We got free tickets to POD, Lit, Alien Ant Farm and Buckcherry so I took Benjamin, Cory and his girlfriend.  I even went to one of the local high school band concerts with the boys.  I’ve already scheduled several concerts for next year!!!

What was the best thing you bought? 
Surgery to have a tooth extracted.  Unbeknownst to me, a reoccurring abscessed tooth has been causing my grief for ALMOST 10 YEARS! Seriously.  So, I have less teeth, but no more bad taste in my mouth whenever it got re-infected.

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Losing weight and maintaining it.

What was your biggest failure? 
Spending too much money on frivolous stuff.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
NO!!! I took it super easy this year and besides the tooth issues early on, everything worked out pretty well.

Where did most of your money go?
Concerts, new clothes, and food.

What kept you sane?
Routine.

Who did you miss?
Lilly.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Work related stuff!!! I passed the first part of my initial national assessment and was re-accredited with my state assessment.  Both big deals!!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter?  Thinner
iii. richer or poorer?  Richer, sort of.

Did you fall in love in 2018? 
This year, we maintained.

Did you lose anything important this year?
46 pounds? Hah!

What was your proudest moment of 2018?
Getting under 200 pounds, receiving an award at work, emailing everyone at the PD that we passed our file review.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2018?
Nothing immediately comes to mind.

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

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
The weekend before (starting tomorrow!) we’ll go to my Aunt Tina’s house and party with them and all my family that’s in Texas. Very excited about that!!  The actual day of, we’ll just be hanging out with the family at the house.  I’d like to say it will be nice and quiet, but I know better.

How will you be spending New Years? 
With family and maybe friends! Not sure yet!

What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018? 
I’d like to get another fitbit.

What are your plans for 2019?
Get to my goal weight (155, only about 14 more pounds) and maybe surpass it, be strong enough to do 10 pushups without much issue, I’d like to be able to do a pull up but I just don’t know if it’s possible.  Re-read the bible.  Travel.  Tour Washington DC.  Save money to fix the house up.

Will you make any new year’s resolutions for 2019?
Yes.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018: 
Two things.  First: I always knew that change was slow.  Culture shift is slow.  But this year I learned how important it is for change to come from the top.  I learned a lot about leadership, how to lead when you’re not in charge, how to talk to people one on one to facilitate change, and how you really have to see things from different perspectives in order to be successful.  I learned that the loudest voice is not always the right one.

Second: I’m still the weird and awkward kid I was in middle school, desperate for validation and not getting it because I’m just… I’m not the popular kid.  Everyone, for the most part, likes me OK… and a few people think I’m pretty awesome… but by and large when people think of me, they don’t necessarily think I’m as amazing as I think I am.  And, here’s the important part: that’s OK.  I don’t have to win the most popular contest award at work, I don’t have to convince everyone of my value, those are things that should come from my core group of people. I have to periodically re-learn this lesson, I’m not that amazing. I’m a solid, kind person, but I’m nothing special to anyone other than the core group of people who love and adore me…and that is enough.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)

 I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Also, because I’m super stinking proud of myself:

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Dearest Eli,

As I write this, you’re running around the house in your fire fighter pajamas, using my phone to take pictures of everything around you.  This year has been a year of you turning more into YOU – the you that is sweet, charismatic and encouraging, but also passionate and fierce.

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If I had to sum you up in two words, Eli, you’re a fierce encourager.  So many days this year I heard, “Go Benjamin go!” or “Go Daddy go, you can do it!” or “You’re doing a great job being a Mommy today, Mommy.”  But – in the same breathe – “I’m gonna beat that guy up!” or my favorite:

“Mommy, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a knight named…… Daddy. And Daddy lived over here (points).  There was a biiig hugenormous dragon that lived….. over here (points to a different spot). One day, the dragon stole the princesses crown, and Knight Daddy went to the dragon and CHOPPED HIS HEAD OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Or stabbed his eyes out. Or stabbed him in the heart.

You know, the usual 3 year old story.

You love telling stories, and I am rewarded with a new one on a regular basis.  The themes are similar – heroes, battles, and rescue are almost always present.  Each story you tell though, the good guy wins.  You love Finn from Star Wars – he’s your favorite (and so is every other stormtrooper).

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Darth Vader is also your favorite, but you’re never a bad Darth Vader. He’s always a good guy, in your book.

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You love to be the hero. See below, Optimus Prime:

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You don’t encourage anyone as much as you encourage your big brother, Benjamin.  So many summer days we spent at the pool, with us watching Benjamin do tricks while we floated and tried to learn to swim, and in the midst you could be heard saying “GO MY BROTHER GO! THAT’S MY BROTHER! GO BENJAMIN!!!!!!”

You love each other so much.  We haven’t had much fighting at all between you guys.  You’re so different from each other, you compliment each other.  Benjamin started Taekwondo lessons this year, and you’d love to but you’re not quite old enough.  But Daddy is teaching you at home and you love to practice – sometimes on Benjamin!

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One of the side effects of your passion and bravery is that you sometimes get carried away.  Like the time this summer where you jumped, bravely, into the 1 foot deep kiddie pool at full speed.  You fractured one of the bones in your foot and got stuck in a cast for several weeks!  Luckily it was the removable kind, so it didn’t interfere with summer swimming, but it was pretty crazy seeing you walk around with a huge cast.  It didn’t slow you down at all though.  You could dance around like normal within a few minutes of putting it on for the first time.

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Last year you feel in love with Star Wars, a love that continued all through this year.  You also added Transformers, Power Rangers, and PJ Masks.

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Power Rangers Dino is probably your favorite – and why not?! – and you loved the Power Rangers movie. Your love of dinosaurs comes from that, I suspect. 20170914_180217

You love wearing hats, glasses, and playing video games (especially “laser games”).

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You love hanging out with your cousins and friends.

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You still love sweets!

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You were old enough this year to go hiking, which made everyone super happy. We’ll definitely be doing more of that next year!!!

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If I had to pick out the thing about year 3 that stands out the most, I would describe this year as the year of the lego.

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This year you graduated from big blocks to regular sized legos, and as much as my toes may dislike it, you’re a fan.

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You build rocket ships, space stations, space cars..you get the idea.  Everything is precariously perched, and you have a serious obsession with lasers.  I mean, a serious obsession.

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We went to the Lego Land that’s inside the mall in Grapveine, Texas, and you talked about it for MONTHS.

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Your prayers for months consisted of “Dear God, thank you that we got to go to Lego Land. AMEN!”

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Speaking of praying, you love talking to me about God.  We talk about how God made you strong, and smart, and kind.  We talk about how God made the world and everything in it.  We talk about how God gave you Mommy and Daddy and Benjamin and ALL your family.

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You memorized all the songs from church, and love to dance and sing with “Ollie the Owl” at church.  Your favorite song is: “God’s love go on” because there’s a robot part.

When you’re not building a spaceship or watching one of your shows, you’re practicing ninja training and sword fights.

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You absolutely love fighting.  At least, in theory.  For Christmas we got you punching gloves and helmets, and once you got your helmet on, Benjamin popped you in the head, softly, and you started whining that it wasn’t fair he could hit you!  But most of the other time you can be found swinging a sword, trying to chop people’s legs off or stab them.  Daddy and I have to be careful playing with you, because you don’t hold back!!!

But in spite of the love you have for fighting, ninjas, sword fights, punching, and kicking… you’re one of the sweetest kids I’ve ever met.  You snuggle and give kisses readily, you lift us up when we’re feeling sad, and you recognize what emotions we’re feeling.  Your empathy for a 3 year old was pretty much off the charts, and I can’t wait to see what year 4 brings.

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I know it’s silly to look so deeply into you at this age but I hope you keep that forever. I hope you remember that inside of every bad guy – even people like Darth Vader – there’s a broken person deep inside that bad guy exterior…. who has value. Who deserves love. Who deserves someone to believe that there could possibly be a good guy in them.  I see how you love easily, how you forgive with tenderness, and how you smile at everyone.  I see how you are willing to fight for good, and I hope you never forget that.

Happy birthday, Eli.  Your Momma loves you and who you are becoming.  I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

My dear Eli, my Bouk’um, my snuggle bear, my youngest,

Today you are THREE! The past year has been a whirlwind of growth and amazing experiences for you, and watching you discover the world has been an incredible thing.  Your health this year has been significantly better, thanks in part to regular allergy medicine during your roughest season (October through April, sorry son, same as mine).

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You had a lot of fun. We did a lot of fun family adventure type things this year; Sea World, Camping, Vacations, Family trips, etc. You loved almost everything. Whereas last year you showed a lot of trepidation at social events, this year you’ve really embraced the unknown and have shown less shyness at large events.

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But you still love to sit quietly and observe.

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You love superheros and fire fighters. There have been so many adventures this year where we have had to “rescue the people in the tall tall building, Mommy!” Every time you see a fire truck, we have to acknowledge, wave, and go visit if we can.

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You love to smile and laugh. You love to be tickled.

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You love your family desperately. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from you – “how was your day, Mommy? Did you have fun?” You love to check in with us. If we look emotional, you ask us if we’re ok. You care. You remind me SO MUCH of your Daddy.

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Your vocabulary has grown so much this year. You have this amazing accent that doesn’t belong to anyone in the family, none of the shows you watch, it’s uniquely you.  Cars are “kaahhs”, Lilly is “Yillee”, monster trucks are “Mahhhhnsta trucks”, just to name a few.  You also do a really great impersonation of a fire truck – “weeeohhh weeeohhh”.

You don’t like sweet potatoes, wearing costumes, or sharing.  You play HARD. You play until you can’t play anymore, and then you nap and start over.

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Your favorite story is “The Awkward Owl,” a story about an owl who can’t fly very well until he is loved and given the space to heal. Then he…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you if you don’t remember. But it’s a great story and you have an owl you sleep with every night – named owl – and we love to make him fly upside down and back side first, just like the awkward owl, into your arms each night. You smile so big!

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You love Animal Mechanicals, Oso, Thomas the train, Bob the Builder, Wild Kratz, construction equipment, puzzles, legos (or as you insist they be called: BLOCKS!), trains, toys, race cars, sweets (cookies, candy, ice cream, all of it!), but fire trucks (and fire fighters) most of all.

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I don’t know what the future holds for you, Eli, but you are so full of love and kindness, so full of empathy, so full of all the good traits that make amazing people.  I hope we can foster those and help you to grow into an amazing man.  I hope we can shelter you from the world, at least a little, and help you to realize how much good a simple smile can do.  How much a kind word is needed.  How much you are needed.

Thanks for being the most amazing Eli I’ve ever known.  I can’t wait to see what next year holds in store for us!

Love,

Mama

My sweet boy Eli,
Today you turn TWO years old.  You have been such an amazing bright spot in our family and we are blessed to have you!

The past few months have been pretty rough for you – starting around October you started having lots of health issues – runny nose, cough, difficulty breathing… it was pretty awful.

You ended up in the ER and we spent a LOT of time at your Pediatrician’s office.  Luckily Dr. Rose is super sweet and helped us find the best solution for you.  We had to give you breathing treatments – our nebulizer has a fish design on the child’s mask, so you referred to your breathing treatments as “fish!”  We’d tell you, “Eli, it’s fish time!” and you’d come sit in our lap and watch TV while you breathed in medicine to help you breathe.

We’re hoping it doesn’t turn into allergy-induced asthma – next year will be an important year for determining that.  We’ll probably get you allergy tested this year, though, since this is not the first time you’ve had an allergic reaction to something (pretty sure you’re at least a little allergic to sweet potatoes and some chemical in some of my hair products).

You’re a pretty normal 2 year old when you’re sick – clingy and whiny.  When you’re not sick though, you’re very sweet and independent.  You love to help me unload the dishwasher – you stand on the counter and put away the cups and plates. You follow directions and love to be my “helpur.”

You love to play with any sort of vehicle, blocks, little people stuff and footballs.  One night, not too long ago, I brought you a pair of pj’s. You immediately started telling me, “No Mommy, football ones! No! Football ones!” so I brought you the correct pj’s (the ones pictured below) and you said that they were the “right ones.” Seriously. You were very adamant.

You love everyone in the family – you love to list off the names of all the family members including both dogs.  You probably love your brother best of all.

Your cousin Lily stays with us sometimes. You guys play together well, for the most part.  She frustrates you when she doesn’t share (or you don’t want to share and she does) – “LEE LEE NO” you’ll say.

You love to read. We’re currently reading (and re-reading) “There’s no place like space!” and a book about Thomas the Train.  Every day, at nap and at bedtime, like clockwork.  If the mood strikes you right we’ll also read the Cookie book, which is a book about the Cookie Monster throwing a thanksgiving day party. Your favorite books have “cat in hat” on them.

A few months ago you still had a lot of “baby” to you – but not anymore. Now, you’re full toddler. Rambunctious, independent, and fire in your eyes.

You love to eat and drink.

You’ve gotten in to the habit of eating less at dinnertime just like your big brother, but since you eat so much during the day we’re not overly concerned.

You love sweets, just like your Mama.

Your brother started school this year, which means you’ve had more time with just Mommy and Daddy and less interruptions. You’re content to spend it playing quietly or watching TV.  You love PBS and it’s helped you learn SO much.

You can count to 10 and know almost all the letters by sight.  When Super Why asks if you’ll help solve the mystery, you enthusiastically reply “YES!”

You’re such a handsome kid.  When you smile the world lights up.  If you don’t like something, you yell “top” (stop) and put your hand up. Just like Hop on Pop.

You also have some of the best facial expressions.

I think one of my favorite things about you is your laugh. You are quick to smile and quicker to laugh. Everything funny to you is a belly laugh and you always laugh for a long time.

You try desperately to be like your brother and tell knock-knock jokes. This is usually how it goes:

Eli: Knock Knock!
Me: Who’s there?
Eli: Boo hoo hoo
Me: Boo hoo hoo who?
Eli: Cry.. hahahahaha..
Me: Oh, don’t cry it’s just a joke?
Eli: Just joke.. ha ha ha

So much of you reminds me of your Daddy – the way you stare out the window, the quiet way you answer questions, the look you give when you are feeling shy, the way you feel slightly out of place at a busy theme park.

Then sometimes I see myself in you. In your giggle, in the way you hug me, in your dimples.

In your silliness.

Even though I see so much of us in your personality and looks, you’re still a completely new person – a blend completely unlike your brother. You’re such a unique kid with such a great personality.  I can’t wait to see what path you choose – will you seek a path towards football (seriously, you don’t necessarily display any skill, but you’re obsessed with the ball, you sleep with it at night instead of a stuffed animal) or will you find a more creative endeavor? Will you continue leaning towards introversion, or will you join your brother and I in the ranks of extroverted?

Being a parent has been such an adventure.  I’ve never laughed as much as I do with you and your brother, and your Daddy says some days your smile is what gets him through the day.  Thank you for being you, Son, you’re such a blessing to our family.  I love you.

Love,
Mama

Dearest Eli,

My goodness, my gracious, how time flies when you’re having fun!

I’m not going to lie.  Your baby book looks like a typical second child baby book does: haphazardly filled in, with notes but nothing close to complete.  I guess I need to get a jump on that before your second birthday.  In the interim though, I thought I’d jot down a few notes so I could remember how amazingly awesome you are at this age.

This is when the past 20 months become worth it.  You’ve always had a sweet disposition, but neither Daddy or I are huge “baby” fans.  We like the interaction that started a few months ago and is reaching a new level of awesome from now until… well, I don’t know. At least until you’re 5, I suspect, and probably longer.

At any rate.  Parenting you is such a joy!  You are full of a calm, peaceful energy that sort of brightens the world around you.  You’ve got my dimples and cheeks and your smile can light up a room.  Your energy reminds me a lot of your Daddy –  you’re mostly a solitary creature, but for those close to you it’s an adventure to be in your presence.

I worry, sometimes, because you’re a second child and Mommy guilt sneaks in and tells me that we don’t have enough time  with you one on one, but then you wander over and lay your head on my leg and smile at me and I know that there is love enough, time enough, no matter how busy we get.

You love playing with toys.  You love TV too “TeeVeee pease”, but you also LOVE LOVE LOVE any kind of vehicle.  “Kaaaahs” are frequently called for, as are “tucks!”  Living in a flight path means daily “Paines!” and you’ll even fly the airplane car around and make zoom noises.

Your favorite superhero is the Hulk. Your favorite thing to say is “Hulk! Mash!”

Funny story about that.

You ran around the house yelling “Mush!” for…a while.  Weeks, maybe even months. For the life of us, we could NOT figure out what you were referring to. Mush? Like what you tell dogs in Alaska? Match? Must?

One day, you shook your fist, yelled “MUSH!” and slammed it down. And then it clicked….SMASH. You were trying to say SMASH.

HULK! SMASH!

All of a sudden the previous weeks and months took on a much more hilarious filter.  All the times we thought you were trying to get someone’s attention…you were trying to smash!

So Hulk is your favorite and any superhero that wears green is instantly the Hulk, Sorry Green Lantern, but  you’ve been renamed.

Your favorite thing to do in the mornings is swing on the swing set.

You love food… especially “yummies” (gummy vitamins), “gapes”, chips and carrots. You won’t take anything our of our hands, insisting instead that it be taken to the “tay-bul” and set down.

You despair that we don’t let you have more than a tiny sip of coca cola (not going to lie, so does Papa!)

You wave, blow kisses, love playing patty cake (ake! ake!) and give wonderful hugs.  You come up to me sometimes, tiny fists of fury, “Fite!” (usually followed by “MASH!”). You can swing a sword with painful accuracy but still can’t catch a ball (we practice, though!)

You’re a great helper when it’s time for you to get dressed, and let me know when you need changed (you plug your nose and say TIINKEY!)

You’re exceptional at swimming. Seriously, I’ve never seen a kid take to water the way you did this year.  We spent a LOT of time in the pool, and once you got used to it you quickly learned that you could jump in. So you did. A lot! Fearlessly jumping into the deep end was your favorite thing to do, and we’d let you go down into the water and you’d eventually kick yourself up… it made you so happy! You really did intrinsically know to hold your breathe – it was amazing to watch, and it was a lot of fun this year.

You perpetually have a runny nose August-February.

If you’re trying to find something to eat in the fridge, you cross your arms and say “Hmmm!” then you take your index finger and tap your mouth/nose. It’s incredibly adorable.

You pretend to do the Kamehameha Wave (from Dragonball) and it melts your daddies heart.

You tell the dogs to “hush” if they bark too loudly.

You hate bedtime, and can often be found at 10:30 at night playing in the middle of the floor in the dark. You don’t really fuss about bedtime, you just choose to stay awake through it.

You love reading. In fact, there’s not a lot of stuff you don’t like.  You’re not a huge fan of crowds, and you don’t like Sea World if it’s really crowded (or at all for the first few hours) but once you get warmed up to a situation you’re usually fine.

You’re very adaptable, and I’m thankful.  I’m thankful for your smile, your laughter, and the way you love us.  I’m thankful you’re a mover and a shaker and sometimes a dancer.  I’m thankful that even after a long, exhausting day, I’m guaranteed a few snuggles after bath.

I’m thankful for you, Eli, and I can’t wait to watch you grow.

Love,
Mamamamamama

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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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

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.