You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Letters’ category.

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.

20171112_080509

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).

20170116_085203

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

IMG_20170221_170257_756

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

20171030_183536

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!

20170211_201644

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.

20170706_172050

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.

20170813_160406

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”).

20171028_170828

You love hanging out with your cousins and friends.

20171028_090742

You still love sweets!

20170128_094248

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

MVIMG_20171125_120029

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.

20170614_115845

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

20170304_180358

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.

20171024_171134

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

20171110_151633

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

20171110_144930

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.

20171027_183804

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.

20170401_131020

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.

20170811_112320

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.

Advertisements

Last years, if you’re so inclined.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2017 began?
We drove out to see Brad, Charla and Lexi who were all camping, and then drove over to Gabe and Rachel’s house to celebrate with them.

Who were you with?
Family for most of the day, and friends who are LIKE family for the rest of it.

Was 2017 a good year for you?
The first half of it was pretty hard, the second half was sort of a reawakening.

What countries/states did you visit?
We took a cruise and visited 2 different parts of Mexico.  We also spent a week in California.  I also travelled for work, making it to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Providence, Rhode Island.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Well, Eli got potty trained, but that was really on him not so much as me… and I do have healthier relationships, but I failed to improve my eating/exercise habits to a substantial amount.  I did better, but then, cookie Christmas season. I’m getting better, though.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Some coworkers did, but no family.

Did anyone close to you die? 
No but Justin’s Great-Grandmother passed away.

What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 16th, the day we flew back to California with Lilly.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
I really, really, really struggled with how to parent my niece.  I spent a lot of time feeling like a complete failure, weak, and completely in over my head.  Which I totally was.  This year, more than many other years, I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

Did you have fun in 2017?
There were some pretty awesome parts of 2017, but I’m pretty glad it’s over.  Yes, I had fun, mostly the second half of the year.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d exercised more.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Spent less money on frivolous things.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33!  I taught in the morning, then drove out to our training field and helped with patrol practicals. For dinner, my husband fed me wine, cheese, crackers and grapes.  It was the best birthday I’ve had in a long time.

What did you want and get?
I didn’t really have any wants, but the highlights were the coffee mug from Leslie and the Matchbox 20 tickets from Teresa.  We had a great time hanging out and listening to music and I definitely need more concerts in my life.

What did you want and not get?
Nothing really.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Justin has really changed this last year.  The journey over 2016/2017 was pretty intense and overwhelming for a lot of it, but he made it through and made a lot of changes that have improved his mental well-being and it’s been so encouraging and amazing to watch.

I also really celebrate my coworkers this year.  They rallied next to me, let me vent and be concerned, they asked about my crazy home life and offered support, encouragement, and advice.  I can’t even thank them enough.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
Lilly’s.  I love her, but I’m scared about the path she is heading down.  At a certain point in life though you have to let people make their own decisions, no matter how bad you think it will turn out, and trust God because he’s the only hope she has.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2017?
Probably not intentionally, and probably not maliciously, which is really what matters.

Who were some new people you met?
Church folks, mostly!

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2017? 
December. It started with a cruise and I’ve had some good time for reflection and refocusing, as is usual for me this time of year. I’ve really made peace with a lot of stuff that occurred this year, and I really needed that.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Driving through California with my husband in the middle of nowhere, with no GPS signal and no civilization around anywhere, stopping by the side of the road and staring at the milky way, then sleeping under the stars.  I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

Also, the time I got to spend with the kids. We did a lot of fun stuff this year!

20170811_112320

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
There were a lot of least favorite moments this year.  Most of them involved dealing with things out of my control.  BUT next year is a new year!

What was your favorite TV program? 
Blacklist!!!!

What was the best book you read? 
SO MANY GOOD BOOKS THIS YEAR!!! So hard to narrow it down. Here’s my top three:

Non-religious non-fiction: Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, totally rocked my world.

Religious non-fiction: Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans

Fiction: The Great Passage by Shion Miura

What were your favorite films of this year? 
So many good movies this year.  I loved Lego Batman, Wonder Woman, and Thor: Ragnarok.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Wordscapes!

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My google pixel 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
SO MANY GOOD SONGS!

The Good Parts album by Andy Grammar – Pretty much every song on it speaks to my soul. (tell me your story, but don’t leave the good parts out… chills!)

Every Beat – by the Northpoint band (a cousin church to my Northpoint that is based in Atlanta)

Craig – Walker Hayes

Learning – Jason Gray (and, on depressing days, “Not Right Now”)

What was the best thing you bought? 
Vitamin B. Life changing (more about that later)

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Having the strength to send Lilly home.  It was very very hard knowing that she would likely fall into old habits.

Also, realizing that my eating habits are essentially gluttony.

What was your biggest failure? 
Sending Lilly home.

And, not controlling my eating better.  I’ve realized how much of it is a heart issue, not just a physical issue.  It’s definitely both.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Yes.  After Lilly left, my stress levels bounced from extreme to normal very quickly, and my body suffered as a result.  It took a lot of experimenting to realize that I needed a vitamin B and vitamin D supplement.  Once I started taking both regularly everything evened out for the most part.

Where did most of your money go?
Kids and gasoline.

What kept you sane?
God.

Who did you miss?
Aunt Lynn, who I didn’t see nearly enough of this year!

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
The end of 2017.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? HAPPIER
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer

Did you fall in love in 2017? 
I must admit, my husband’s life changes have made me fall more in love with him, so I would say yes.

Did you lose anything important this year?
I was pretty humbled this year. I would say I lost some of my pride, and became more aware of its impact on my life.  I still have a way to go, but I would probably say I lost my obliviousness to it, more so then the pride itself – which was an impactful, important thing to lose.

What was your proudest moment of 2017?
Receiving an award for my teaching work.  Definitely one of the highlights of this year.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2017?
I vaguely remember something happening and saying “welp, that’s it, this is my most embarassing thing for this year” but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

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

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
We’re going to spend the 23rd with extended family, the 24th together at the house and at church, and then Christmas morning we will have our family Christmas.

How will you be spending New Years? 
Hopefully with friends and/or family.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? 
A balanced budget

What are your plans for 2018?
To get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese).

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2018?
Probably.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017: 
You will not always be happy and satisfied.  There are periods of life that are just plain hard, sometimes with no end in sight.  The end always comes, though, there really is joy in the morning, you just have to stick it out and not lose hope.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

First half of the year:

While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief
(Jason Gray – Not Right Now)

Second half of the year:

You gotta grow
Love yourself and be kind, water your soul
Celebrate, find your light
It don’t matter who you are, where you’re going, you’re not old
We all know, yeah, we all know
Gotta grow
(Andy Grammar – Grow)

My dearest Lilly,

Well, kiddo, we did it.  We made it.  When you came to us on August 1st, 2016, we weren’t sure what to expect. I know you didn’t either.  It’s been a time with lots of ups, and some downs, but I wouldn’t trade these past 10 months for anything.

20160801_231817 Tomorrow we’re flying you back to California – to a place with lots of memories for both of us.  Tomorrow ends your journey at our home in Texas, and re-starts the journey with your Mom and Lunna and everyone in California. You’re closing this chapter and tomorrow you start the next chapter of your life.

20161009_094014

Before you do, I want to remind you how much you are loved.

20160807_170116

It’s easy to look back at the past year and only remember the really strong memories.  But there were so many other moments of joy, fun, and laughter. 20160924_162151

You’ll find that life is mostly good, but sometimes bad.  It’s easy to remember the bad moments. It’s easy to focus on the things we really wish we had done differently, instead of remembering the moments we got stuff right.  But Lilly, when I really think back about the last few months, it’s been incredible to think of how many good moments we had.  Moments where we hung out, and grew together. Moments where we shared our life with you and you shared your innermost thoughts with us.  Moments where we laughed and played and went on adventures.

20160914_183929 Moments where there was lots of love.

20161101_210054

IMG_20170429_002439_649

You’ve made some new friends – friends I hope you keep in contact with throughout the next year, friends who loved you when you had good days, and loved you when you had bad days. And you’ve gained two brothers who love you – and two parents who will continue to love you from 2000 miles away. 20170315_181949

IMG_20170511_071344_426 20161031_181811

20161215_182027 20160910_131932

IMG_20170318_161531_909 You’ve gotten to know aunts and uncles and extra cousins you didn’t know before – and they’ve loved you and poured their wisdom and kindness into you. 20170316_165925

20170101_172757 20170401_131255

We drank a lot of coffee this year!

20170116_160548 20170506_174833

We did a lot of camping this year – and adventures in the outdoors. We swam and camped and took hikes.

20161124_082636 20170218_134723

20160827_143657 20161123_134523

You struggled with your identity a lot. That’s pretty normal at this age – and we tried to help as much as we could. This is something you’ll struggle with more as you grow and mature – and I hope we helped you learn some new ways to identify the next steps.

CYMERA_20161012_181905 IMG_20161231_153024_770 You’ve got the world at your fingertips. You’re almost 14 – so close to adulthood – and about to start high school. The next few years of your life are going to fly by, but every day is going to feel like forever. I hope your time here was full of moments you’ll be able to think back on with fondness.

IMG_20161227_201906_662 20161223_193307

I hope you walk away from us stronger, healthier, happier, and more self aware. I hope you take Jesus with you everywhere you go.

20170325_175108

I don’t think we were perfect parents for you, but we were what you had for this time of your life. And at the end of the day, no one is perfect. We’re all just struggling along trying to find our way. We mess up. We do stuff the wrong way. But through it all we tried our best to love you like Jesus loves you. We tried to show you a way different from what you’ve tried before. And I think – I hope – we did that. I hope, when you get back to California, you’ll have an opportunity to use the lessons we’ve taught you. I hope you can call me one day and tell me about some situation where you made a good, loving choice…even when it wasn’t the first thing you thought to do. I can’t wait for that phone call.

But until that phone call comes, I’m going to hold on to the memories we have. I’m going to remember the fun, laughter, and joy that you brought into our life.

20160813_193018

20170422_125424

I’m going to remember how much Eli loved it when you played with him.

20170430_152633

I’m going to remember letting you play hookie on your last day of school so you could come watch me teach.

20170525_163422

I’m going to remember how hard you worked.

20160824_210419

I’m going to remember you achieving your goals.

20170522_093523

I’m going to remember that today, 10 months later, you’re a better person than you were when you came here. You have grown and expanded how you understand the world in ways that make me so proud of you. I love you so much – even when the words are hard to come by, I’m glad God gave you to me, even for this short time. I can’t wait to see what your future looks like.

Love,
Mom aka Aunt Jennet

Dear Benjamin,

HOLY COW SON. YOU ARE SEVEN YEARS OLD!

IMG_20161113_140121

When did this happen!?  I blinked – you were a baby and now you’re this amazing articulate loving bouncy boy who makes me so proud and happy every single day.

20160731_144311

This has been A YEAR.  Like, life changing and crazy year.  A month and a half after you turned 6, your older cousin Lilly came to live with us.  It wasn’t something we had planned – but it was something that, for lots of reasons, needed to happen.  It wasn’t an easy adjustment – well, it was at first, but then, after the newness wore off, we really had to work hard to keep things good.  You learned a lot about stuff that may have been a little advanced for you – but ultimately, a lot of stuff that made you stronger and better.

20161009_094014

You were in 1st grade this year. 20160817_065653

Your teacher was Ms. Bissanti, and you had A LOT of trouble concentrating in her class.  Some of it was because you knew a lot of the material already – but a lot of it was just you, being a normal, 6 year old boy.  We tried to let you get out and be free to run around as much as possible, and luckily your teacher believed in the importance of playtime once you got home.  So a lot of your homework was stuff we could do in “batches” instead of daily.  It was pretty awesome!

One of my favorite things about you at 6 years old was how this was when you really started to get an opinion about things.  You really love science – asking questions and understanding the way the world works. We have a local science museum, which you’re a big fan of.

20160709_135303

You are adamant about becoming an astronaut or pilot, preferably an astronaut because, well, “I want to do experiments in space.”   20170128_095740

Your project in GT this year was about the universe and Dad and I let you do almost all the work by yourself.

20170516_174413

Just so you know, Benjamin, I would love for you to be an astronaut, but I don’t care what you do as long as you’re doing something that makes you happy and makes the world a better place. If you are a mechanic, be the best mechanic you can be. If you’re an astronaut, be the best astronaut you can be. Whatever you do, do it with love, and don’t work so much you forget to live. That’s what I wish for you.

20161215_182042

Anyways – you learned how to ride your bike – on the 4th of July! – and had a blast going on adventures. We took a lot of bike rides in the summer.

You loved the helmet you got for your birthday!

20160706_181649 20170511_172423

In spite of the neutral facial expression, you actually had a good Halloween!

20161031_181805 IMG_20160912_201439

20160724_102319 You’re still doing piano – we actually decided to take a few weeks off for the next 3 weeks so you could have a bit of a break, and then hit it hard when you start back up. We want to use piano to teach you to stick with something, to work hard, to find joy in the hard work it takes. Your favorite part about piano is doing the recitals and getting all of the attention – but we’re hoping to help you understand that the recital is the result of all the hard work you put in during the everyday moments. It’s a tough lesson but an important one, and I hope we’re doing OK.

20170307_162239

We did a lot of camping and swimming and getting out into nature as often as we could.

20161124_082839 20170401_131106

20160827_143657 20160722_064606

You’re eating better now than ever before. This is a project you and Dad dreamed up that you and Mommy worked on together. Pancakes with peanut butter, ice cream and chocolate syrup. YUM!

20170304_085356

You also learned how to make pancakes this year. EXCITING!

20170430_183005

There’s always a lot of chaos at the house and in most of our activities. Mostly good chaos, but still. You’ve definitely got more extroverted tendencies than introverted, so you don’t usually mind. Even when it’s not chaotic, there’s always lots of people around.

20160809_160507 20170108_195850

20160809_063042 20170113_183049

20160803_192648 CYMERA_20170315_191808

20170317_115131 When I think back about you being 6, there was a lot of growth for you. One of the things that your Dad and I realized this year, was that we were awfully hard on you. We didn’t mean to be – but we were. You’d come downstairs in the morning for breakfast, and instead of saying something like “Hey Benjamin good morning!” we would say things like, “Hey, you need to tuck your shirt in, and comb your hair, and hurry because it’s almost time to go so you need to make your lunch.” All things that were true, but also, things that didn’t have a lot of grace and love – just critical comments. We realized it while reading parenting books that would help us with parenting Lilly for the year, but through learning about how teenagers and adults deal with things like shame and anger, we realized we were unintentionally shaming you. Making you feel like a bad kid. It was something that puzzled us for quite a while – why, when you did something wrong, you would immediately get super upset, lots of tears, and telling us that you were a bad kid who didn’t deserve love. When we correct you we would always try to address the behavior, not your value as a person, so we were super confused why you felt like that. Turns out, it was because of all of those little criticisms we were sending to you in the everyday moments. I’m happy to say that since Dad and I were made aware of it, we’ve cut back a lot. Or, we say those things that are true that need to be said (tuck your shirt in, we only have 5 minutes before it’s time to leave, etc) but only AFTER we reaffirm how loved you are.

20170322_181650

And you really are so, so, so loved. It’s so exciting watching you grow into a person. You’re still inquisitive and you love to correct people and counsel them and tell them what they’re doing wrong (I don’t know where you get it from, except from both of your parents) (sorry about that). You love Jesus and love going to church and learning. You’re silly and crazy and pretty self-aware for a now-7-year-old.

I hope when you read these you remember the good, happy times from this year. Your Dad and I constantly struggle with how to do the things God calls us to do but also protect you and help you see why we do the things we do. Sometimes God calls us to love those who desperately need it, but who don’t know how to love back. Sometimes we ask a lot of you – constant forgiveness, even when it’s not easy. I hope us loving people helps you to grow into a strong, compassionate man capable of great love. I hope you’re better than your Dad and I – better at boundaries and taking care of yourself and loving others the way Jesus does. Those are all important things that are hard to teach, because you’ve got to model it.

Parenting is hard – it’s this crazy balance of trying desperately to teach the things you know are true and good, but also recognizing that you don’t have stuff figured out yourself. You and your brother and the others we’re charged with the care of – you’re all worth the hard work. Watching you grow up has been such a blessing and joy.

20170422_124738

I can’t wait to see what year 7 brings us. I love you to the moon and back, then back out to the stars. You’re an amazing, wonderful, adventurous, kind child, and I thank God every day for you.
Love,
Momma

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).

20160110_112544

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.

20160215_140001 20160215_125318

20161124_082727

But you still love to sit quietly and observe.

20161124_095738

20160220_164140 20160309_092244

20160416_113711

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.

20160206_142901

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

20160506_134801 20160924_162151

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.

20160424_192943 20160827_143657

20161227_112701

20160902_182423 20161009_094003

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.

20161002_184918

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!

20161215_185231

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.

20161031_181805

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

Dear Benjamin,

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.

22068833694_be64a8b288_z

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.

19550987744_f071395856_z

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.

Love,

Mom

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

image

image