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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).
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.
But you still love to sit quietly and observe.
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.
You love to smile and laugh. You love to be tickled.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Today is your 6th birthday!!!! The past year has been so much fun, and you’ve grown up so much. You completed your first year of school (Kindergarten with Ms. Smith) and learned to read. You learned how to swim (including jumping off the diving board). You’ve continued to learn the piano and had some pretty awesome recitals.
You lost 2 teeth and started wearing glasses (took my breath away the day you lost a tooth and got your glasses, so grown up!)
You’ve gotten stronger, faster, and maybe a little bit kinder.
You try passionately to be a good kid.
We’ve given you quite a bit more responsibility this year. You’ve got chores that are your job, that we expect you to do. Things like helping with the dishes, cleaning the living room floor, and feeding the dog.
Overall, I would mark this as a year with lots of growth.
We talked yesterday to you about some of your summer chores – one of which includes a certain amount of reading. It was pretty clear to us that even though you’d “read” you hadn’t actually retained anything you read. That was a pretty common thing when we were growing up – especially me – so I told your Dad the way to fix it was to make you read out loud for your “required reading.” You got upset at us; you told us that you didn’t mean to get in trouble, that you were still learning how to be a good reader. We told you that it was OK, that we were learning how to be good parents, and sometimes we have to adjust the rules so we can all be better. It’s a small lesson, but hopefully one you will take to heart.
You learned a lot more about being a good friend from your time in school. I saw you talk through problems with your friends, challenge them, and lose with just a TINY bit more grace than you have in years past (you still hate it though).
You have a strong internal desire for others to follow the rules. Half the times you got in trouble in Kindergarten was because you were getting on to the other kids for not following the rules. You hated rug time because you had to sit criss-cross apple sauce, but you’d sit there patiently with a bubble in your mouth UNLESS you were telling the other kids (who weren’t listening) that they needed to sit down too!
In spite of your rigidness regarding rules, you were well liked and enjoyed by your classmates. You went home frequently lamenting that you were having problems and no one liked you, but over and over again we saw evidence that your classmates adored you.
And, true to family tradition, you were enjoyed by your teachers. They said they’re going to miss you SO MUCH.
You’re finally understanding what a “figure of speech” is. The past year your literal nature has led to lots of misunderstandings when your Dad and I say things like, “You took the words right out of my mouth!” But yesterday you used that line on Dad, to which he replied “that sounds painful” and you painstakingly advised him that you were just using a figure of speech and you weren’t REALLY taking words out of anyone’s mouth.
It was such a simple thing, but it made me really happy for you – it was a sign that your brain was growing up, right there before my eyes.
You’re slowly starting to see the world around us. You got kind of upset at us the other day because there was a homeless person panhandling and we didn’t give them any money. We told you we didn’t have any money on us at the time, to which you replied that we needed to have money on hand in case we saw someone who needed help. You asked about why they were homeless, and what it meant. You’re going to collect money for your birthday to give to homeless people, since you don’t really need presents.
Your silliness makes life more fun.
There were a few things this year that were very very awesome, where we got to make fun memories. We got to go visit Uncle Alan, Aunt Mandy and Cousin Ethan in Oklahoma. We had a blast!
It rained a bit, and we played video games for a bunch of it, but even for the short trip we had it was memorable.
Also, we went to the NASA space center in Houston.
You love space and rocket ships, so it was especially awesome. We didn’t have nearly enough time, honestly, but even the few hours we got was well worth the time. We’ll go back as soon as we can!
I love spending time in the kitchen with you. You’re quite a good helper! You can chop vegetables, help stir things as long as they’re not too hot, and most recently you’ve helped me measure and read directions. Cooking with you reminds me of all the happy memories I have of doing that with MY mom, so I’m glad you play along (even though some days you’re just as likely to prefer a few minutes of screen time).
You and Eli have become quite a pair. He drives you a little crazy, but you obviously love him and dote on him. You’ve started trying to teach him things, but you also often try to take advantage of him to get what you want. I can’t blame you, I’m sure I did the same thing with my little brother.
I see so much of myself and your Daddy in your personality. You’ve got my competitive streak and my desire to be a people pleaser. But, you’ve also got your Daddies logic and intellect. You have his intelligence, and right next to it, strong awareness of when you fail to meet your own expectations. We give you frequent reassurances that you’ll get there – you’ll figure it out, you’re still learning how to be a person – heck, sometimes your Daddy and I fail as people, and we’re much older! I just hope you learn to give yourself the same grace that Jesus gives us, the same grace we give you, because loving yourself? Man, kiddo, that’s tough some days.
I have a feeling this is something you’re going to need to hear frequently, so let me just say, for the record: You’re a great kid. You are loved. You are cherished. You got this.
If you ever doubt my love, you’ll have these letters to remind you. I love you Benjamin, and I’m always going to cheer for you, no matter what.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!