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Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2016 began?
At home!

Who were you with?
Close family – we smashed our gingerbread house and Eli played on his new toy horse.

Was 2016 a good year for you?
It was, sort of. It was pretty rough. It was long. It was life changing.

What countries/states did you visit?
We visited Alan, Mandy and Ethan in Oklahoma as a family first half of the year.  Then Justin and I took an awesome mini-vacation where we drove through Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
I did not make any, so, yes. One of the interesting things, when I was asked last year what I wanted in 2016 that I lacked in 2015 I said more camping, more friends and a church home.  Luckily, I can add all of those to my list of accomplishments. We went camping 3 times (spring break, summer, and thanksgiving), found a new church home, and I’ve developed some friendships at work.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Cory and Erin added baby David, aka Boog, to the family!

Did anyone close to you die? 
No.  Lots of other people did, though, it was a rough year.

What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 1st, 2016, the day Lilly came to live with us AND the day that I started my new career at the Police Department.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
We took my niece in for the school year to help her out.  Justin and I got to visit the east coast, which was pretty awesome.  I became the Accreditation and Compliance Coordinator at my job, which is a completely different job than dispatching.

Did you have fun in 2016?
I believe the phrase that best sums up this year is: “All joy and no fun.”  We did get some good camping trips in this year.  My new job is pretty amazing, too.  I enjoy it a lot.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d spent more time living instead of responding and surviving.  I wish I’d been more empathetic and given more grace to Justin.  It’s been a pretty rough year.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been less judgmental, less controlling, less bossy.  I wish I’d spoken less and listened more.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 32! I worked, because the last few birthdays have kind of sucked and I was tired of trying to do something special.  So my brother-from-another-mother Gabe and some of the other guys took me to lunch.  That evening was our very first Community Group with our new church, and that was a pretty great birthday present.  That’s been a worthwhile and awesome investment.

What did you want and get?
A break from dispatching. Leslie got me a really awesome coffee mug from my Pinterest wish list, too!

What did you want and not get?
Debt free.  And I see no sign of that in the near future.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
My families. Lilly has shown a willingness to grow and change and become more self-aware, which for a 13-year-old is pretty incredible. Justin has stepped up and really helped mitigate some of these changes with grace I can’t comprehend. Benjamin has taken on the task of having a big older sister with a good sense of humor and a willingness to grow.  It has been QUITE an adjustment for him, but he’s done amazing.  Eli has kept everyone smiling and shows compassion that I didn’t think a 2 year old was capable of, but there he is every day asking me how my day was.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
People who put their needs over the needs of others, people who refuse to listen to loved ones, people who won’t change. People that choose to take dark paths because they’re easy. People that scream that they’re being judged and no one will tolerate them, when they’re the ones who aren’t tolerating others.  Also my own behavior, which was characterized by impatience.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2016?
Yeah but I probably deserved at least some of it.

Who were some new people you met?
Beth!!!!!!!

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2016? 
That is actually easy this year.  April we went to go visit family in Oklahoma, I was given an award at work for my work to help victims of domestic violence, I got to teach at the APCO/NENA conference, AND we got to go to NASA. Oh, and I had a lady’s weekend with my family.  I’m gonna have to go with April!!!

What was your favorite moment of the year?
The entirety of Justin and I’s vacation together. Also, Benjamin learning how to ride his bike. That was a pretty incredible experience with him in front of the house.  He just kept trying and trying until he could do it. And then, he did!

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
There are a lot of least favorite moments this year.  Most of them involved dealing with things out of my control.

What was your favorite TV program? 
One Piece!

What was the best book you read? 
Hmm. Tough decision, as always.  Non-fiction I really liked “Drive” by Daniel Pink. Fiction I really liked “We’re all Damaged” by Mathew Norman.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
The new Star Wars!

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
I haven’t played any this year.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My fitbit was pretty awesome for most of the year!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Aviccii.

What was the best thing you bought? 
New tires for the truck #oldlady

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I took in a teenager. Pretty much everything pales in comparison to that.

What was your biggest failure? 
I could be doing better at the teenager thing.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Not really.  Luckily I paid attention to my body a lot better this year and didn’t have any major injuries.  Eli had a lot of illness, but he’s doing good on his medicine this fall so we haven’t had nearly the sickness we did last year (thank you Jesus).

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

What kept you sane?
I’m not sure I kept it…

Who did you miss?
My husband.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
CAMPING!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Sadder
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? POORER!

Did you fall in love in 2016? 
Yes, with a temporary daughter!

Did you lose anything important this year?
Yes.  We lost the previous family dynamic. But, it’s being reshaped into something new and different, and sometimes losing something important isn’t a bad thing, just a thing.

What was your proudest moment of 2016?
Listening to Benjamin try to teach Lilly about God. Getting my new job.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2016?
Telling my boss he shouldn’t worry about being sloppy with his Y’s, as long as he’s not sloppy with his wives *facepalm*

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Fairly good
• Emotional Health – Fairly bad
• Physical Health – Good
• Social Health – Fairly good (this has consistently been bad, but this year we really improved it)
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Very good!!! This new job is really helping that!!!
• Financial Health –  Bad. Almost very bad. But not quite!

It seems to me, each year, that one of these things is bad. Balance is a terrible, terrible thing.

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
We already had it! We spent Christmas Eve at our house, and it was absolute chaos. It wasn’t nearly enjoyable enough considering how much effort was put into it! Next year: everyone opens presents ONE AT A TIME.  Christmas morning we were at Aunt Tina and Uncle Scott’s and we had a great time.  The kids got some really fun presents.

How will you be spending New Years? 
Already done (I am totally late this year filling this out).  We went to visit Aunt Charla and Uncle Brad and Alexis in Bastrop where they camped, and then drove over to Gabe and Rachel’s house for the nights.  We rang in the new year with all the kids and I kissed my husband at midnight.  We hung out with friends, laughed, talked, snorted with laughter and made some great memories.  I loved it.

What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016? 
More organization in the house. I would really like it a lot if Justin and I could work out a way to balance and prioritize our life a little more.  Adjusting to this year has been ridiculously difficult, and while I know we’ll come out stronger on the other side of this, it’s definitely been a challenge.

What are your plans for 2017?
To spend a lot of time outdoors, to get Eli potty trained, to log more time on my bicycle, to get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese). To improve my relational and emotional health to the “very good” categories.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2017?
Yeah – I gave up candy, cakes, and cookies for the first 11 months of the year, with a few exceptions (like the kids birthday).  I gave up candy in 2015 and it helped a lot with my awareness.  This is a big more extreme, but I think it will be a good experiment.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016: 

I am still learning it.  I think it’s something about the importance of listening, and shutting up, and servant leadership.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

I have two:

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

And:

You’re the reason that I feel so strong
The reason that I’m hanging on
You know you gave me all the time
Oh, did I give enough of mine?

Hold on, darling
This body is yours,
This body is yours and mine
Well hold on, my darling
This mess was yours,
Now your mess is mine

 

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.

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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.

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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

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2015 began?
At home, with family.  We were celebrating Eli’s first birthday the next day!

Who were you with?
The Sullivan family, Scott family and Breese family!

Was 2015 a good year for you?
Yes.  I had a great year! Not being pregnant, not working night shift, and not having a new baby does wonders for the ability to rest.  There was a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, isn’t there always though? But it was a great year!

What countries/states did you visit?
Justin and I took a cruise with some family to Cozumel, Belize and Honduras.  It was an awesome, relaxing, revitalizing experience.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Sort of. Yes, mostly. I wanted to go a year without eating candy – which I mostly did! No candy at Easter or Halloween, which are my two big holidays with stuff I love to eat. However, I did take a day off in May so everyone in the family could eat Wonka candy while watching Willy Wonka – Benjamin and I read the book, and followed it up with the movie.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Finally, NO. But next year Cory and Erin will be adding a new baby to the mix!

Did anyone close to you die? 
Not particularly, but one of the Lieutenants that retired from Cedar Park passed away, and that was very sad because he was really an amazing guy.  Also, we lost one of the Fire Department administrators at work, her name was Debbie and she was SO incredibly sweet.  They both will be missed!

What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don’t think I have had any particularly standout dates.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Taught my first “Train the trainer” in February for SAFVIC, which was an AWESOME experience!! Took both boys to their first baseball game in April. Sent my son to school – although that’s really more of a first for him than me!  We bought a truck!

Did you have fun in 2015?
Yes!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Found more time to be a Husband and Wife instead of just Mom and Dad.  Being married is a lot of fun, but if you don’t take time to have dates you really miss out on connecting.  I exercised a lot, but I wish I had done more, more consistently.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been injured/sick less.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31! We drove out to Houston to visit family. It was a quick turnaround trip, and I ended up offending one of my family members inadvertently, so I spent most of my birthday feeling like absolute crap over a breakfast plan misunderstanding.  That’s the second year I’ve had a bad birthday experience for at least part of the day, so I think next year I’m going to make my husband take me away for the day!  This year he bought me (besides the truck) a nice flannel shawl.

What did you want and get?
Justin and I have needed a vehicle with one more seat for some time, for the times we need to transport 4 kids and 2 adults (which is more often than you’d think). So we debated what to buy and finally pulled the trigger on a 2013 Chevy Silverado with low mileage and leather interior.  I’m in love with it and we’ve already been camping once in it!

What did you want and not get?
Debt free. But my priorities shifted this year, and it is worth it to remain in debt because now I have the vehicle necessary to go camping.  Also, did not get to spend more time outdoors. Spent a lot of time the end of the year working, and unfortunately all the days off I did get were usually bad weather days!

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Amanda. She doesn’t see me watching, but she’s turning into an incredible young lady.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
All the folks that left dispatch (Vanna, Charitie, Jared, Jen, etc) made me very sad.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2015?
Not particularly. I think there were a few situations where Justin wasn’t treated like he expected, and that had a significant impact on me since we’re married – so, sort of, but only as a bystander.

Who were some new people you met?
Vanna, Ginger and Jono.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2015? 
Probably August.  We took the kids to the beach, Benjamin started school and Justin and I started our cruise (and finished it in September).

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Probably Benjamin starting school, when he looked at me and said he was good for us to leave him. So big!  I’d also have to list Eli finally saying “I love you” back to me!  Also, buying the truck with Justin!

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
Taking Eli to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing.  That was stressful and terrifying.

What was your favorite TV program? 
STARGATE! Who’d have thought?

What was the best book you read? 
Tough call. I read a BUNCH of books this year – it’s been really awesome having the kindle, I read so much more.  The most EDUCATIONAL book I read this year was “Parenting your powerful child” by Kevin Leman.  The most ENJOYABLE book I read was Ready Player One. And the book that was the most well written was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
Big Hero Six (I know I technically saw it for the first time the year before, but I watched it a LOT this year) I also really enjoyed Age of Ultron and Inside Out….I really missed a lot of good movies this year though due to schedule, so hopefully  next year we can watch a few more.

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

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My fitbit! I got it at Christmas – so not much time to use it – but it’s already been well appreciated!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really enjoy the following songs this year:
Maps – Maroon 5
Let her go – Passenger
Honey I’m Good – Andy Grammar
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Shut up and Dance with me – Walk the Moon
Thinking out Loud – Ed Sheeran

What was the best thing you bought? 
THE TRUCK!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I made some good strides in priority evaluation and I lost quite a bit of weight.  I also received an award at work for “Distinguished Leadership” which is an amazing honor that made me feel recognized in my efforts at improving relations between employee and employer.  I’m so blessed to work where I am, and this award means quite a bit to me.

What was your biggest failure? 
I just can’t eat healthy for nothin’! At least, not consistently.  I keep trying!

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
I got most of my PF under control but broke my ankle (well, hairline fracture, but it still hurt a lot!).  I also got sick ALL of November and half of December with Bronchitis and sinus infections that would NOT end.  Then I had tinitis (ringing in ears) until Christmas morning.  However, it did make me more greatly appreciate my health and I’m going to try really hard next year to spend more time appreciating my good health when it’s around.

Where did most of your money go?
Medical bills. We were crazy sick this year, especially the boys.  School starting and allergies did a number on our wallet!

What kept you sane?
The boys.

Who did you miss?
Friends. All of them.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
CAMPING!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? POORER! But – happier. I’m willing to make the trade off.

Did you fall in love in 2015? 
I usually say “over and over again” but I would have to say no – this year was one of the years where we worked hard to maintain – not in a bad way, just in a “we’re in this for the long haul and not every year is all roses” kind of year.

Did you lose anything important this year?
My church.  I’m still feeling the effects. I’m heartbroken and I believe this is the right decision for my family, but it’s not an easy one and I’m so very, very sad.

What was your proudest moment of 2015?
Benjamin’s first piano recital!!!

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2015?
Calling someone “Fellatio” over the radio

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Good
• Emotional Health – Good
• Physical Health – Fairly Good
• Social Health – Very Bad (My status did not change AT ALL in 2015, so I’m downgrading this and planning on working to address this next year!)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly bad
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health –  Fairly good

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
Already had it! We spent it at home, with the family, and it was awesome.  Aunt Lynn, James, Teresa and Amanda joined us and there was lots of presents and lots of fun.  We spent the day playing with the boys playing with all their new toys/games.  I got a new Fitbit Charge HR, which I’m looking forward to having!

How will you be spending New Years? 
Not sure – I work at 6am New Year’s day, so we will probably stay in with the family, maybe play some games, and enjoy time with them.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? 
Hmmmm.  I would like some more friendships.  I would like to have a church home – which I did have for most of 2015, but lost at the end.

What are your plans for 2016?
To spend more time outdoors, to get Eli introduced to the potty (not trained, persay, but at least on his way), to get Benjamin riding a bicycle with no training wheels, to log more time on my bicycle, to get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese. I previously set a goal at the start of 2015 to be at 185 by the end of 2016, but since I made it to 208 by the end of this year I decided to go ahead and aim for lower for the end of next year…we will see!

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2016?
Maybe. I don’t know yet – I am seriously considering taking a year long social media break.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015: 

You only have one life to live. This is it, folks, a few trips around the sun and then you’re dead. I believe this life is just a jumping off point for eternity, and I know not everyone believes that, but either way I believe and really learned this year that you have to make the most of it. Live hard, love harder, work hard, and push yourself. This is the only chance. You’re worth it to make the most of it.

So worry less about the bank account, but save as much as you can.

Try to be as healthy as you can, but enjoy a piece of cake now and again.

Set goals, push yourself, and strive for greatness.

I know that’s all really cliché advice but this year I really realized how true it is.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard,
Said, no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars, yeah we’ll be counting stars

Dear self,
Yesterday you turned the big 3-0. Thirty.  Take a deep breath. That’s right. You are officially out of your 20’s.

Your 20’s were good to you. They brought you your husband. Your kids. Your career. Your passion.

But they were rough, too. The loss of your brother, your parents. Chronic sinus problems. Back trouble. Bad feet.

You’ve had some good times – times you’ve laughed until you’ve cried, times you’ve cried until you laughed.  Sometimes those events were the same day!  There’s been lots of lessons learned.  Lots of friends made, and more than a few you’ve lost touch with over the years.  You’ve learned relationships are tough.  Sometimes really tough.  Tough just to keep going – tough to put the extra work in to keep the flame alive.  But oh, so very, very worth it.

I guess I wanted to write you this to give you some advice. Advice you probably won’t listen to, but you’ll nod and smile and say you’ll listen, and I wanted to write it out here so there were witnesses, so to speak.  So here it is. The big advice for you going into your 30s:  Do hard stuff.

Life is hard.  Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Friendships are hard. Work is hard. Faith is hard. Cleaning is hard. Downtime is hard.

Cooking is hard to find time for in light of all that other stuff.

Be kind to yourself – but also, be good at doing hard stuff, because at the end of the day that’s really what life is about.  Dig in to the moment, be present and real with people.  Acknowledge that you’re doing something hard, and then do it.  Give yourself a break when you fail, because you’re going to. Just be ready for it.  Every day you’re going to wake up with 57 things to do and you are going to fail to do most of them.

Try to do them anyways.  Don’t half-ass it, either, because who wants half-ass attention? No one. So do one thing really good. And then do another, and another, and another.  You may end up with 14 good things by the end of the day. Awesome. You did good.  You failed at 43 things, but they don’t matter because you rocked at 14 things.

When you turn 30 (if you’re me) you start to think about your legacy.  At the end of my life I want to be known as someone who was real.  Someone who had to dig her way through life with broken nails and tear stains and dirty tennis shoes who was a real person to the people she interacted with.  I don’t want people to think I’m something I’m not. I’m a mess – just like every other human being on this messy broken earth.

By the grace of God I’d like to fight against that brokenness – the brokenness that destroyed my parents, the brokenness that threatens to take others every day… I’d like to BE KIND and DO HARD STUFF because it helps fix some of that brokenness. And if on any given day I can only do 14 good things, or even just 1 good thing, it means the world is that many more things better than it was yesterday.

My dearest Benjamin,

You are 4 years old!! FOUR! You’re such a big kid!  I’m so grateful for the boy you are becoming.  You’re a good kid – polite and kind, and usually using manners.  We had a lot of fun this year.  Last year you learned you had a baby sibling on the way…and we worked pretty hard to prepare you.  We spent a lot of time with you before your brother joined the family – hanging out, going to the park, taking trips to Houston and swimming any chance we got.

sep 18 park
sept 14 park
april 10 kemah

You potty trained in year 3 – right after your birthday – and as we promised, you got to go to the Zoo.  We told you that only big boys got to go to the zoo, and so as soon as you were using the potty consistently we went.  It was awesome!  You had a lot of fun and your favorite part was the aquarium and the gorillas.

zoo july 19

You got to spend a lot of time with your adopted siblings, Aedan and Kaley.  They have been such a blessing to you, and you to them.  You play so much harder when you have friends to play with, and it’s been good preparedness for working and living with other kids.

april 25 kids
cookies sept 28

We decided to try to discipline you by offense – different things for safety violations, rudeness and attitude.  It’s been pretty effective, and when you’re in a good mood you’re incredibly polite and pleasant to be around.

We were reading a story the other day and there’s a part about “a yellow see-saw built for two.”  But Mom, you asked me, aren’t ALL see-saws built for two?!

oct 14 stylish

You get your literalness from your dad.

Some of the highlights this year for me was Halloween and Christmas.  You dressed like an astronaut for Halloween, and it was adorable.  I let you carve your own pumpkin with awesome results – you thought it was the most amazing thing EVER. Seriously, you obsessed about it.  It was so sad when it rained before Halloween and was ruined.

OCT 20 pumpkin
oct 31 2
oct 31

Christmas this year was interesting.  Your dad and I… we’re not big fans of Santa.  Not that we outright hate him or anything, we just never really got into the concept of deception (and don’t get me started on the Elf on the shelf nonsense).  BUT – we recognize that some kids want to pretend, and that’s what you said you wanted to do.  We talked about how Santa is a pretend guy that some people pretend is real, and that it’s OK if we want to do that.  So mid December we’re out shopping at the mall (actually, I was pregnant and going stir crazy and needed to walk) and I realize a moment too late that we’re about to pass Santa.  And you want to go meet him! And take your picture! So… we did.  And I’m so glad, because you look totally adorable.  I’m still not sure if you actually believe in Santa or not – you change your mind whenever we talk about it – but we’re content to let you do your thing.

dec 13 christmas

You played Soccer for the first time ever this year.  Winter and Spring seasons at the Y with your best friend Aedan.  It was a pretty awesome experience for you; and you were glad when it was over.

jan 18 soccer
april 26 soccer

We spent a lot of time playing games, electronic and otherwise, and we’ve learned something important about you.

You HATE losing.

Like, A LOT.

nov 16 ducky momo

 

I sympathize so much with you, because I was the same exact way as a kid.  I didn’t understand letting other people win; why do that? What was the point?  If someone happens to win Chutes and Ladders you collapse into sobs, “But I wanted to win!!!!!”  So far talks about letting people take turns winning falls on deaf ears; but I can’t really blame you.  I’m almost 30 and still like to win.

So sometimes we do other things, like make cookies – you’re quite helpful in the kitchen!

dec 9 cookie

You had your first real beach trip – real because it was the first time you were really old enough to hang out and play and put your toes in the water.  Your favorite part was throwing sand.

oct 26 beach

You’re the most articulate kid I know.  There’s a lot of stuff you haven’t figured out yet – you don’t like letters very much and have little interest in reading.  Other kids are more advanced in some ways.  But you are an excellent orator.  Your tone gets you in trouble sometimes, “Mommy, I KNOW!” but for the most part I just enjoy being able to have conversations with you.

MAR 29 hockey

You’re curious about everything and we do our best to answer every “why” – even though sometimes we just have to ask you to stop.

nov 4

I think one of the best things about this year was watching you grow into a sibling. Your tenderness and love (and sometimes roughness) with your little brother Eli is pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  You love him SO much.  Even though he cries, even though he smells, even though he takes up SO much of my time.  You love him.  Sometimes you insist in taking a turn sitting in my lap (which I almost always try to oblige) but for the most part you understand that he’s a baby and that there are things you get to do that he doesn’t.  I know one day you guys will fight and argue, but for now there’s so much love.

jan 6 eli
april 26 brothers

june 3 feeding

When you get in trouble we tell you that we’re correcting you because we want to help you be a better person. We tell you that we want you to be a good kid, and that you ARE a good kid, and that some times good kids do bad things – but what’s important is that we keep trying to do good things so the good outweighs the bad.  You tell me you’re trying, and that’s all I need to know.
sept 14 park 2

I love you so much, son.  Your smile and hug and big ears and questions and fish faces. I love you, I love you, I love you.

june 15 cake
june 15th

Love,

Mama

I’ve seen a few different parents do this and thought it would be fun for Benjamin.  I did it at the end of a long day, so I’m not sure I picked the best time, but I still got some pretty cute answers.

1. What is your favorite color? “Orange”
2. What is your favorite toy? “Cars are my favorite toys”
3. What is your favorite fruit? “Cherries” (really Benjamin?) “Yes, Cherries!” (really: apples and grapes)
4. What is your favorite tv? “Wonder Girls!” (you mean Powerpuff girls?) “Yes, Wonder Girls!”
5. What is your favorite movie? “Just Wonder Girls” (he had just gotten done watching Powerpuff Girls for the first time – said it was his favorite even though I’m pretty sure Curious George should win)
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? “Underwear!”
7. What is your favorite animal? “Zebra and birds”
8. What is your favorite song? “I like songs”
9. What is your favorite book? “Oh the places you’ll go, and Wocket in my Pocket”
10. Who is your best friend? “Aedan and Kaylee”
11. What is your favorite snack? “Fruit”
12. What is your favorite drink? “Orange Juice”
13. What is your favorite breakfast? “Tuna salad”
14. What is your favorite lunch? “I don’t know”
15. What is your favorite dinner?  “I don’t know”
16. What is your favorite game? “The balloon game”
17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? “Shark play”
18. What is your favorite Bible story?  “God is my favorite story”
19. What do you sleep with at night? “Friendent!”
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know”

It was a pretty interesting time. I was a bit surprised by some of the answers – cherries, for instance… we hardly ever eat cherries.  Breakfast was just the first food he thought of, because he’d refused to eat tuna salad for lunch.  “Wonder Girls” is a mix of Powerpuff Girls and Word Girl (I think, totally guessing).  And we obviously need to sing more songs with him.  He doesn’t have to tell me though – his jam is “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5.  Can’t wait to do this again next year!

Dear Benjamin,
Six days ago you turned three. My mind still can’t wrap around that entirely. Where did the last year go?!

Year two was definitely the year of the superhero. You have embraced a world where superheros exist and it is weaved into the fabric of your life.

You have learned so many things in this past year.

You have learned about cancer. You have learned about hospitals and beeping machines and how Nanny is sick and there’s nothing we can do to fix it but take her to the doctor and pray.

You have learned about death. Having to explain to you that Mimi (your Papa’s Mommy) had died was difficult for us. Making that decision on whether or not to take you to the viewing was a tough one to make. And now, just a few weeks later, you’re in the car traveling again to Senatobia for her husband’s funeral.

You have learned how to sing. It makes me so happy to hear you in the back seat of the car singing about how the Wonderpets are going to save the baby deer. “Wonderpets! Wonderpets! We’re on our way! To help the baby deer and save the day…” Even though I think that show is a bit obnoxious.

You’ve learned about counting. We’ve been teaching you about counting for ages, but you’ve finally learned how to *actually* count things. You can tell me how many fingers I’m holding up, and if I ask you to count how many of something there are (like, apples, or shoes on the floor) you can usually count each item and give me a relatively close number. Instead of just counting to 12 really fast, you’re taking the time to count now.

You’ve learned to say “I love you,” and “you’re pretty,” without prompting. Oh, my, how you melt my heart when you do.

You’re so young, and the world is still so full of magic. I hope we can keep that alive in you even in spite of tragedy, struggle and heartbreak.

You have a baby sibling on the way – you keep telling me you want two baby sisters. I keep telling you that you only get one, but I’m not sure you’re convinced. We had initially only planned on having you, and adopting another child, but the more we thought about it the more we thought you’d benefit from another sibling earlier in life. We’re still open to adoption or fostering, but we’ll see how this new baby fits into the family first. Girl or boy, I have high hopes that you will be a great older brother.

You have a lot of friends, you’re quite social. You call all small children “my kids!” If Aedan and Kaylee show up to play: “My kids are here!” If Dylan and Noah show up: “My kids!” When you leave church, “I had fun with my kids!”

For your third birthday I asked you what kind of party you wanted. You said, “I want a Batman party!” When I asked you a week later, “I *said* I wanted a Batman party!” So we had a batman party, and we invited Batman to come to the party. We spent WAY too much on a really good Batman costume rental, but considering the adults had as much fun as the kids did, I’m calling it a success. You were afraid of him at first, when he picked you up and tried to take you away from me you burst into tears and snuggled into my neck for safety. Once he introduced himself to you, though, you warmed up to him. It was amazing. He played with you and “your kids” in the backyard and through the house. I’ll probably never tell you that “Batman” was played by your Uncle Cory.

Oh, son. This was such a fun year. You’ve been a beast for quite a lot of it, I won’t lie. You’ve spent lots of time in the corner with your hands on the wall for various transgressions. But you’ve also spent a lot of time having FUN. Running, playing, swimming, jumping, and going on adventures. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us.

Love,
Mama

One of my friends posted about this poem on facebook, and I thought it was worth posting here.  Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband who is one of the best Father’s I’ve ever known!!

A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whatever he see me do, he tries.
Like me, he says, he’s going to be,
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see,
That little fellow who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Thru summers’ sun and winters’ snow.
I am building for the years to be,
In the little chap who follows me.

by Rev. Claude Wisdom White, Sr

The players:
Benjamin – on a natural christmas high from getting presents and being surrounded by family and love all day long.
Various friends and family – scattered throughout the house.

The background:
Papa and Nanny bought Benjamin a fake black and decker tool set for Christmas so Benjamin could “help” Papa work on stuff.  He had cycled through all of his toys at least twice already that day.

The scene:
Christmas night, 9pm, at home.  Benjamin is playing in his playroom, there’s several people in the kitchen baking cookies and Benjamin’s parents and Aunt Charla are in the living room standing around talking about the days events.  The weather outside is, appropriately, frightful.  Low 30’s with a severe wind chill.

Aaaaannnd, ACTION:
Dim lights. Three adults speaking to each other in murmured conversation as they hear loud footsteps.  All heads turn to see the two year old running towards them, still in Christmas best, wild sugar-fuled eyes, small pupils, a large smile, and his left arm raised into a 90 degree angle with his hand holding a small plastic hammer.  The child runs through the kitchen, deftly dodging the cookie-bakers, straight at the small group of adults.  At the last minute he swerves to the right, still at full speed, towards the closed back door.  Without a word he flings the door open with his empty right hand and starts to push against the cold breeze.  The adults watch as the cold temperature registers in his brain and he steps back, slamming the door, and turns to look at the small group of adults who up until this point have been silently watching.

JUSTIN: Benjamin, what in the world are you doing?!

The child looks at his father with the wild, excited eyes of a two year old on Christmas night.

BENJAMIN: I WANT TO BANG THINGS!

ADULTS: [Laughter]

JUSTIN: Son, that feeling will never go away.

The child, unaware of why his comments are funny, turns from the adults and starts to hammer away on the closed door.  The outside chill, for now, forgotten.

Last years, if you’re so inclined.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2012 began?
At Uncle Scott and Aunt Tina’s house.  Benjamin stayed up almost to midnight and LOVED the fireworks.  He kept calling them BOOM.

Who were you with?
Justin, Benjamin, Tina, Scott, Serena, Logan and Mandy.  We had a LOT of fun!

Was 2012 a good year for you?
Mostly. It was a pretty insane year – LOTS of changes – LOTS of projects – LOTS of weddings – Did I mention lots of changes? Yeah. BUSY.

What countries/states did you visit?
California to see my sisters and best friend get married, and Mississippi to visit some of Justin’s family.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
YES! I am SMOKE FREE! Yee-haw!!! But, I’m not really sure I did very well with living a life of balance. This year was really, really crazy.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jake and Reba had their baby Feb 14th, 2012!  No one else super close to me, but there’s some friends I have made at church with young ones, but the babies were born before I met the parents, so I’m not counting those.

Did anyone close to you die?
For the first time in a long time, no deaths of anyone close to me.

What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm, Teresa and James got married March 3rd, and Amy and Keith got married May 5th, so I think those days will be remembered fondly each year.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Matron of honor (x2!), flew with a 2 year old, become an instructor, taught an 8 hour class, served as a vice-chair on a committee, attended my first “gala”, received my first real promotion, became a supervisor, ran a food truck at a charity event, stood by my husband while he quit a job he had grown to be dissatisfied with, and most recently I sat on the couch while someone I love very, very dearly told me they had been diagnosed with cancer. 

Did you have fun in 2012?
Yes. Definitely. I also spent most of it exceptionally tired.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I had trusted God more with my money. I’ve stressed out unnecessarily.  No, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not terrible either.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating unnecessarily! 🙂

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and I worked, and my birthday this year sucked pretty royally.  My coworker was irritated at me, which made me irritated at her.  The only upside was that my husband bought me a really awesome old desk. 

What did you want and get?
To find Cherry Lake!!!

What did you want and not get?
To put some work into my savings account. Life happens though.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two people come to mind.  My husband, for being my rock, my motivator, and my calm in the storm.  My husband, also, for having the strength to quit his job and step out in faith to be the best stay-at-home-dad that Benjamin could have.

This year I’d like to add my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly strong woman who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis with grace and trust in God.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I’m usually very non-specific here.  However, I’ve witnessed so many people recently be so ugly and judgmental in a negative way. I’m still not getting specific, on purpose. Can we just agree to love and respect each other despite our differences? Respect means the most when it’s towards someone you disagree with. Anyone can love someone who agrees with you. It takes real strength to love – truly love – someone who vehemently disagrees with you.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2012?
Not really.

Who were some new people you met?
New coworkers, new church people. 

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2012?
May. My trip to California took up half of that month and it was pure awesomeness.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Again, as usual, several:
Toasting James and Teresa at their wedding. I cried, but only a little.
Toasting Amy and Keith at their wedding. I cried, again.
Finding Cherry Lake with my sister Jean. That priceless moment when she screamed out the window of her car in excitement.
Finishing up my first SAFVIC for TCPs class. It was pretty amazing.
The look of relief on my husband’s face when we finally decided it was time for him to quit his job.
Getting the phone call with my promotion job offer.
Any of the number of times my son squeezed me and told me he loved me soooo much!

What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Listening to one of my officers call for assistance.  It was a recording, and I already knew the outcome when I heard it (that they were all OK), but listening to it gave me goosebumps and shook me to my boots. I love these guys, especially the ones in that recording, and hearing it made me realize how close I came to losing one of them. 

What was your favorite TV program?
I worked my way through Monk this year, and I have to say, it was awesome. I totally loved it! Very well acted and scripted.  Got a little boring at parts, but not too bad overall.  I tried working through the Mentalist next, and while it’s good it wasn’t able to hold my attention in the long run. Now I’m happily watching Dr. Who reruns, when I get the chance.

What was the best book you read?
I reread the Hobbit and that was pretty awesome.  I read several training books at work and enjoyed those, but other than work related stuff and blogs I haven’t really had a chance to read anything. 

What were your favorite films of this year?
The Avengers and The Hobbit, and yes, I know how nerdy I am.

 What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Borderlands 2. I really like Tiny Farm too (I play it on my phone) but Borderlands 2 is the game I play with my hubby, so it wins.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
No clue. I’m getting too old/busy/bored to keep up with it…

What was your greatest musical discovery?
KRISPY KREME! Just kidding. Epic Rap Battles of History! I show everyone when they come visit at my house. It’s becoming a tradition.
 
What was the best thing you bought?
My desk, and my hubby bought it, not me. I love it!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Promotion at work!!! I have worked very, very, very hard for this position and I’m VERY proud of myself.

What was your biggest failure?
Gaining back all the weight I lost last year. Fail.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah. I messed my leg up at the end of the year, and allergies continue to be the bane of my existence certain times of the year.

Where did most of your money go?
Family.

What kept you sane?
Love.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Meh. Pass.

Who did you miss?
My sisters and Amy. Leaving them in California is very difficult each year I get to visit.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Weddings!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? I don’t know, but I never know. This has been a pretty stressful year, and my mother-in-law is facing lots of health issues.  I’m about the same, I suppose.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. Ugh. So mad at myself.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer.  But, we’re a 1 income family and still surviving. It’s worth the trade-off.

Did you fall in love in 2012?
Every year I say “over and over and over again” but every year it’s true.  I love my husband so much, he’s my best friend.  I am incredibly blessed.

Did you lose anything important this year?
Immediate family being cancer free, I suppose.

What was your proudest moment of 2012?
My husband deciding to quit his job. It took a lot. I’m very proud of him.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2012?
Having to admit that the reason for my ankle injury is because I made a stupid, stupid decision to run in the dark in the grass.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly Good (less good than last year. Too many little things stressing me)
• Physical Health – Fairly bad (Ankle. Nose. Headaches. Need to visit a chiropractor. Weight gain. Lack of exercise most of November/December due to ankle injury.)
• Social Health – Good (I’ve hung out at least a few times a month with at least 1 friend, and participated in several church functions.)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly Good (I’m still a lame slacker, but I’m learning to trust God more.)
• Intellectual Health – Good (Teaching and attending training FTW)
• Financial Health – Fairly Bad (I’ll just say, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do to help this one – maybe next year!)

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas?
At least part of it at the hospital with my mother-in-law. We’ll bring the presents to her!  The rest of it with my brother and his wife and my niece.

How will you be spending New Years?
Working the day before and the day of… so… sleeping!

What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Haha, a second kid, maybe? 

What are your plans for 2013?
Get back on track with my health.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2013?
Last year I resolved to stop smoking, and I did. This year, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll resolve not to buy any candy at the store. Or something like that. Something else challenging and health related. Maybe do 20 push ups a day?  Hmmm. We’ll see.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

The world is broken. Evil exists in this world. There is not really a whole lot we can do on a legislative level to stop evil.  We can’t increase laws and get evil people to stop being evil – sorry, but we just can’t.  It won’t work.  On an individual level, I think we all need to do our very best at trying to saturate the world around us with as much love and goodness as is possible.  You can turn something like the Newtown tragedy into a sound bite for a law you want to pass, but I don’t think that’s the best we can do.  I think we can do better.  I am choosing instead not to debate gun control (or even mental health, in spite of how much as I am passionate about it) and choosing instead to try to increase my output of good into my community.  We can debate gun control and mental health another day; I think an appropriate response to this type of evil is not legislation, but love.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”