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Dear Eli,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Us in front of a real Blue Angel jet!

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Nanny Lynn and her boys!

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

Aedan, teaching you how to make curly noodles:

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

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

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

But Benjamin tried to teach you piano:

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

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

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

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Because… you are fierce.

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You are mighty.

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You are tough.

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You’re good at utilizing your available resources.

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You’re steadfast.

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And you’re honorable.

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

Love always,

Mama

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(Last years, if you’re so inclined)

Initial Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experiences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others:

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

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

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

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

Favorites/Least Favorites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-reflection:

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

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

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

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

What kept you sane?
Routine.

Who did you miss?
Lilly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the future:

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion:

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

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

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

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

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

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

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

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

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Dear Benjamin,

This month you turn 8.  Happy, happy birthday son! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to watch you grow up.  To watch you fall in love with everything you do, to watch your personality shine, to watch you grow in your passions.

This year you added Taekwondo to your growing list of hobbies. You’re trucking along, learning and growing, and it’s been encouraging to watch you pour your heart into a physical activity that requires strength and discipline.

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I love watching you and Daddy practice together!  Sometimes you help him, sometimes he helps you… it’s a beautiful sight to see.

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You’re getting more aware of social media. You now provide me input on what I can or can’t post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and I’m mindful to ask because I believe you should have a certain amount of control over your own image as you grow up.  It makes me consider these letters, which I currently post online for all to see, and I wonder if maybe these are quickly becoming something to keep just between us.  Time will tell. But in the meantime, you’re continuing to use your intelligence and charisma for forces of good, and I’m happy to say that every day you prove to me how much older and more responsible you’re getting.

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Speaking of responsibility… we started letting you walk from Taekwondo practice to piano practice. It’s only 2 blocks, and it’s a pretty easy route. So when I was out of town and Dad was at work, we let you walk. This created lots of problems, because concerned citizens called the cops on you….repeatedly.

We even had a shirt made, but it didn’t help!

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Here are a few token Benjaminisms from this year:

  • You were sitting in the backseat of the car saying how cold it was. I told you to rub your hands on your legs to create some friction. You do this for a minute, then exclaim, “ahhhh, I love physics! Well, I love physics… but hate physics too.” Why do you hate physics, Benjamin? “Gravity! I mean, I like gravity, I just wish it wasn’t so strong, so I could jump higher.” 
  • “Integrity is very important, Eli!” You admonished Eli after realizing Eli changed your Legos while you weren’t looking.
  • You, Eli and I were reading “Santa Duck”, a story about a duck who wears a Santa hat and everyone walks up to him saying what they want for Christmas. A turtle wants a fast racecar, a cow wants an ice cream machine, etc. A squirrel wants a bunch of nuts.  And you’re all, “Why, Mom? Why is that squirrel asking for nuts right then? Shouldn’t he already have collected them all and be eating them at this time of year when Santa is out?”
    Forget the fact that it’s a talking animal. Why is he asking for nuts when they should be stockpiled already?!
  • “Can we go swimming today?” “No kiddo we gotta pack for camping…but I definitely want to go soon…maybe next week.” “For sure next week?” “Nothing is ‘for sure’.” “Except that God loves us!”
  • One day you told me you learned how to make paper fortune tellers. Me: “Oh, cool! Where did you learn that?” You: “At CHRUCH! Can you BELIEVE IT MOMMY? I learned how to make fortune tellers at CHURCH!” You then proceeded to laugh ironically, which made me laugh even more!
  • We were talking about fake names on the internet,  and it blew your mind that I could have a fake name on the Internet. It led to a very good reminder to him that anyone can say they are anyone on the internet, and no, son, it’s not illegal to use a fake name on Instagram. Your response to this was “well then that means somebody could pretend that they were a dinosaur. And that could cause mass panic.” (I’m still not sure you’re wrong)
  • One day you were talking about dinner and said: “I’m not complaining, but…” So I told you that anything you say before you say “but” doesn’t count. At least 3 hours later and you walked back up to me: “Mom. I’ve been paying attention and I say ‘but’ a lot. Is it really true, what you said?” Me: Yeah, pretty much. You (in kind of a desperate wail) : “I don’t think I can survive like this!!!” (you do!)

You love, without abandon, everything you do.  We try to channel it, or shape it some way, but honestly it feels like we’re trying to stop you from being wholly you and we don’t want to do that.

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You went to your first “real” concert, a really awesome musician that Aunt Teresa and I love, named Alan Doyle. You have this uncanny ability to inspire people to do kind things – we have no idea if it’s because we’re exposing you to things too early, or because you’re lucky, or blessed, or whatever. We had several people at the concert insist on giving up their seat for you, and then someone went to the bar and bought you a bottle of water.  Randomly. For no reason other than just to give you something. You loved the concert, but you were falling asleep standing up by the end of it.

Alan was SUPER nice after the concert.  He gave you a pick and signed your shirt and you wear it to bed frequently.

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I know I’ve said this before, son: I hope you use your powers for good.

Ahem. Anyways!

You got to see snow for the first time ever in real life this winter. Woo-hoo!

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Aedan remained your best friend, even though you annoy each other and fight more like brothers. I’m so thankful for your relationship with him!

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So, you’re a lot like your dad in terms of the way your brain works. You are very literal, very reliable, you take the rules seriously and you think through things. So this year you and Eli have spent a lot of time building legos, and here’s one of the examples side by side.

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These spaceships perfectly represented your personalities. Eli’s is all about muscle and force and drama – he’s built an attack ship with guns and dreams of blowing up stuff. Meanwhile, you aren’t interested in guns or attack; you want a sturdy, reliable efficient ship. You built a transport carrier. I pointed this out to you, and you responded with: “Yeah mommy because even if it gets attacked, it’s so sturdy it wouldn’t even break a little!”

I love your brain so very, very much.

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You got out of school early one day so you could watch the solar eclipse. You LOVE space, still, and desperately want to be an astronaut.

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Your Dad and I sometimes struggle with how best to encourage you. Honestly, we don’t care if you become an astronaut. It would be pretty cool – and we could house sit (bonus!) but honestly… want you to be kind. To walk with integrity. To love God and love people the best way you can. To protect the vulnerable.

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Luckily, not surprisingly, you have plenty of backup plans. If you can’t be an astronaut, you’d like to work on spaceships in some capacity.

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If you can’t do that, you can just work SOMEWHERE at NASA working on “space stuff.”

If you can’t do that, you could always teach.

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When I see you with your brother, I can’t help but think you’d make an amazing teacher.

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You’re always trying to teach him the way to do something, or how to make something work a different or better way. The relationship you two have is one of my greatest joys.

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You’ve kept advancing in piano. You love pop music, and this year you’ve learned several songs by your favorite band (Imagine Dragons) and we got you concert tickets for later this year. I love sitting in your music class listening to you practice. You’ve been with Chris for several years now and you love how he keeps you engaged and challenges you.

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You guys have rocked out on several occasions.

We took a family vacation to the beach, and you LOVED swimming and body surfing in the ocean.

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Your favorite part was probably the Blue Angels show, though, and really…who could blame you?

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We’ve had a busy year, Benjamin. I hope you continue to grow, learn, and find ways to be kind. I hope you keep being hilarious, and awesome, even when it exhausts us, because you’re perfect just the way you are.

I hope you continue to teach me how blessed I am to be your Mama.

I love you son. Happy Birthday!
Love,
me

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!

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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)

Dear Benjamin,

HOLY COW SON. YOU ARE SEVEN YEARS OLD!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

These are just some things on my radar, things that I have starred in my google reader, things that make my heart burst and make me cry in the middle of the day when no one is looking (I hope).  Enjoy.

Guest Post at A Deeper Story: On Sending my Husband into Brothels.
A bold reality for some people.  Such bravery, such sacrifice.  Not necessarily easy reading, but the truth that is written here is beautiful.

In which he wouldn’t do anything different (and neither would I)
I love this because of the last few paragraphs, it speaks to me and my life right now.  

Sarah – A Woman of Valor
Tears. 

This picture. 
I don’t know if it’s kosher for me to post it here, or hyperlink, or what, so just click and look.

A Mom’s Back to School Blues
I really like this, even though I don’t have school aged children yet.  It’s a good reminder of what the future holds.

I haven’t done a “Miscellaneous Monday” in a while, and there’s all sorts of tasty goodness on my blogroll and out in the world today so I am going to share! 

The problem with “Homosexuality” – Justin Lee writes openly and honestly and I really enjoy his thoughts.  He raises some good questions here and I think they merit further consideration.

Counting the cost – Scott discusses the importance of thinking about the “real” cost of self-defense, and the link provided is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone who thinks they have an opinion on what the media reports on the Martin-Zimmerman case.

Bicycle clutch – You don’t have to read this, you just have to admire the beauty. I am currently using a lunch tote tied up, but this would double as a purse once I’d arrived at my destination! Brilliant!

Old & New Project – A collaborative project for graphic artists to display artwork themed around bible stories.  Some of them are incredible, all of them are interesting.  So far my favorites are Judah&Tamar and Deborah’s Song of Jael. If you want more amazing visual scripture, be sure to check out Jim LePage’s solo project Word.  Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, I can’t, I mean, 2 Corinthians is amazing, Hebrews makes me smile and I can’t forget Titus, 1 Timothy, Habakkuk, Job, ok really, I have to stop, just go. Look. Learn.

Peace like a River – Breathtakingly beautiful honesty. I can relate to this post in a lot of ways and I think a lot us can.

So, did any of these pique your curiosity? Which ones? I’d love to see if anyone else enjoys these as much as I did!

Dedicated to my lovely Comm Manager who inspired this project, with special thanks to my coworkers for assisting.

“Our Favorite Things”
{Dispatch Version}

Cops that are helpful and friendly to dispatch
Sun on our days off and radios that aren’t patched
Bosses that love us with halos like rings
These are a few of our favorite things

Getting the scoop when they come in from Show-up
Creatures that Animal Officers bring up
Spider, snake, dog and an owl that sings
These are a few of our favorite things

Christmas when citizens offer us cookies
Knowing a tiny bit more than the rookies
Finding a suspect with 3 cell phone pings
These are a few of our favorite things

When the phones ring
When the guys scream
When we’re feeling mad
We simply remember our favorite things
And then we don’t feel so bad

© 2011 Jennet Sullivan

Neighbors who let me throw my extra bag of trash that won’t fit in my trash can into their trash can the night before trash day, the grace that I don’t deserve, staying up till 11:30pm on a worknight to hang out and laugh with my husband, free couches!, playing in the pool in the backyard with my husband and son, dancing barefoot, my son’s giggle, sore muscles, birthday parties to go to!, the feeling of accomplishment after working outdoors, a house to call my own, a family to love, a deep breath to take.

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My husband and his brothers are Irish. Every year since I’ve known them we have celebrated St. Patrick’s day in some form or another. It is always a great day filled with much fun. We can usually expect some good Irish music, corned beef and cabbage, drinking, laughing, joking, story telling and a usually a little bit of fighting. They’re the kind of Irish that are proud to be Irish for various different reasons – and it shows. They’re tough, independent, fierce individuals who care deeply and are passionate about the things important to them.

So today’s Miscellaneous Monday is in honor of Brian, who will give you the shirt off your back and work tirelessly alongside you if you need him to. And Cory, who is passionate about integrity and honor and strength of character. And Justin, who is my favorite of them all (after all, he IS my husband) who consistently shows me a dedication to the things that are important to him and integrity when it counts – when (he thinks) no one else notices.

Today is about all things Irish in preparation of March 17th. Enjoy!

Traditions!
Beauty and Bedlam – St. Patricks day tradition ideas – Some cute ideas, LOVE the penny idea. We’ll be doing that as soon as Benjamin is old enough to know not to eat them 😉

Food!
Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage – A basic idea of dinner in our house on St. Patrick’s day.
Soda Bread – If you know me, you probably know how much I adore a good bread. Here you can learn way more than you ever wanted to about soda bread. And for the record, I lean towards the pure soda bread without any fruits or sweeteners.

Drink!
Tullamore Dew Irish Wiskey – If you’re drinking, this is a good choice.

Music!
– Great Big Sea! A live version, so I apologize in advance, but this is pretty much a classic Irish song. Period.
– by a band called Gaelic Storm. This song makes me giggle every time I hear it.
– This song makes me tear up and I loves it.
– My favorite Dropkick Murphy’s song, period.

I could do this for hours, so let me just name off a few more: Rocky Road to Dublin by Gaelic Storm, Star of the County Down by Mackeel, Fields of Anthenry by Dropkick Murphys, Mountain Dew by The Clancy Brothers… ok. That’s enough to get you started. Enjoy!!

Source for picture: Wikipedia