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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 Eli,
Today you are ONE! 365 days around the sun, 365 days of smiles and laughter!

This morning we woke up and spent some time snuggling. It’s really the only time you snuggle, so I do it every chance I get. After that, we had a dance party in the kitchen while I made you flapjacks and cinnamon rice. Your brother joined us, and we danced and bounced and banged pots and pans to “Let it Go,” “Moves Like Jagger,” “Thinking Out Loud,” and “Shake it Off” among others.

You’re probably the happiest person I know.  You’ve smiled every day since you were born. They say babies don’t smile, at least not in those first few weeks, but you did. And you still do. Every day with you is filled with smiles and laughter and pulling random things out of your mouth. And keeping you away from electrical outlets and plugs and wires. Seriously – your love of scraping things off the floor and into your mouth is only rivaled by your love of trying to electrocute yourself.

You’re really good at independent play. You wander around the house and I’ll stop hearing you…when I go investigate you’re undoubtedly in the playroom with some random toy. Unless someone is in the kitchen cooking, then you want to be where the action is.

You’re not walking yet, but you are crawling and climbing everywhere. Yesterday I caught you on the bottom rung of the ladder for the bunk beds with a huge grin on your face.

I read to you every night. Your favorite is “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” And I’m more than happy to pass on the love for Dr. Seuss!

You love your Noni more than anyone else.

You probably love eating more than you love Noni. I’m not sure if your love of food is quantifiable, actually. It’s really quite impressive how much you eat. We haven’t found anything you don’t like, although squash doesn’t like you. Rocks, too, you even like rocks. To eat.

You love animals and music and rough housing with Daddy. You love getting tossed in the air, and you like to play with Little People by putting them in your mouth.

You are adorable and beast like. If you get frustrated or angry or over tired you throw a fit and scunch up your face and raise your lip all Elvis-like and it’s pretty incredible.

If you had a spirit animal, it would be a tasmanian devil.

Your nicknames are “Bouk’m” and “Bouk-a-dactyl”. Bouk was the noise Daddy would make when he bonked your nose, and it was the first time you smiled at him.

You are loud. I’m sure it’s so you can be heard in the chaos that is our home, sometimes I am in the kitchen and you just start screaming and yelling like you’re saying hello.

You have such strong emotions. I know I have mentioned how happy you are, but also how angry and upset you can be. You feel everything so strongly, even at this early age. I hope we are equipped to help you wade through such passion as you age.

Even at your angriest, even at your saddest, even every day, you bring us such joy. We are blessed to know you, son, and I can’t wait to watch you over the next year.

Love,
Mama

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When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family.  She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.

She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.

I lost her, too.  Just a few years after that conversation.

I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.

There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture.  I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know.  Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.

Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look.  I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss.  I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren.  I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.

I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine.  And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness.  I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.

We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.

For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.

Where then, is our hope?

What then, can save us?

I don’t have all the answers.  I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.

  1. Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs.  Each generation the combination changed.  I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time).  I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide.  Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
  2. You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped.  And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives.  Fighting is the only option.
  3. It’s not easySometimes it is exhausting.
  4. Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in.  Nothing is too shattered for Him.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents.  But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.

And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God.  Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong.  Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.

Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

He is our greatest hope.

Dearest Eli,

You’ve only been here for 4 and a half months, and I already can’t even remember what life was like without you here.  You joined our family December 31st at 4:07pm. 8lbs, 15oz, 21.5 inches long. Right from the start you were so beautiful to me.

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Your hair! I told your Dad about a week before you were born, “I know it’s silly, but I prayed to God that Eli would have brown hair.”  When you came out your Daddy looked at me and said, “Look, Net, brown hair!”  So if you hate it – totally my fault.  You’re a perfect blend of us – everyone says you have your Daddy’s hair, but he and I know the truth – it may stick straight up in the air like Dad’s, but it’s my color.  You’re a lovely combination of the two of us.

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So adorable.

You scared us your first few hours in the world.  You had the cord wrapped around your tiny neck twice and you could barely breathe. Once they got you breathing, they realized your blood sugar was dangerously low.  There was lots of worrying those first 24 hours… but in the end you were a champ and powered through it.

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I was so thankful when we finally got to take you home!

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Those first days at home went by so fast.  You were so quiet, so observant.

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You ate every 15 minutes (it felt like) and your brother stayed close by your side.

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Your hair!!  That face!!

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You’re a ferocious eater (seriously, the first few weeks when you would root you’d scrunch your face up like this and I would just die from cuteness)

 

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I promise your brother wore things other than his Batman pajamas…

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Your first Superbowl:

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You smiled so early.  I don’t have much evidence of it, sadly, because the smiles didn’t last long…but they were there.

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(Sorry; you had baby acne like WHOA)

You took a trip to Tennessee at just a few weeks old; you were a champ; how did we get so lucky with you?  But you were happy to be home (just like the rest of us) This was right after you traveled in a car for 12+ hours through rain and sleet and ice cramped up in your car seat:

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See? Happy.

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Your pacifier was your friend for quite a while (still is!)

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It’s been a few months now, and you’re already rolling around and laughing when we tickle you and I feel time slipping by so fast.

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You never laugh as hard as you do when your brother is playing with you.  You roll around and you’re not afraid to yell if the dog gets too close.

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You bring me such joy.  Very little bothers you.

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I can’t wait to see you and Benjamin grow up together. He loves you so much – we have to remind him to let you go so you can breathe! “Six inches, son” is said a lot when he’s trying to hug/smother you.

I always felt like a mom with Benjamin; but now that you’re here I feel more complete.

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(us on Mother’s day. You’re pretty amused at your brother’s temper tantrum…)

Everyone at church loves you – you’re so sweet and they all love your hair – you look like a little cockatiel.

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You are PICKY.  You don’t like certain blankets, you didn’t like footie pajamas (and you were born during one of the coldest winters ever!) and heaven forbid I hold you the wrong way when you’re trying to go to sleep.

You roll across the living room like it’s nothing.  You’re really starting to enjoy the bouncer, and just like your older brother you’re a parrot hunter (obsessed with the hanging parrot on the bouncer). You’re observant and quiet for the most part, but you’re starting to learn to squeal to get attention, stay awake, or yell at the dog.  You smile when I come home from work and I’ll never get tired of it.  You’re an easy baby; you eat and go back to sleep at night and you love to bury your face in soft things (mom, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets, etc).

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I can’t wait to get to know you more.

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 the joys of parenting is watching my son discover how he fits into the world. 

I have, in my opinion, a highly articulate 2.5 year old.  He speaks in full sentences most of the time, although his standard answer is very 2-year-old-esque: “Because I can” or “Because I can’t.”  Occasionally we’re able to get better sentences out of him.  He has two new things.  One of them is to tell us about something he wants to do, or something he wants to happen, and then end it with, “That will be a good idea.”  The other new thing is to “match” things.

For example: “I wanna go see Skye and Brian and Papa and Nanny and then play with my race cars and then pet Lucky and that will be a good idea!”

He was laying on his Nanny’s bed, watching Dumbo with her. I brought him Friend-Ent, his favorite stuffed animal, a very tired Dumbo that has been with him almost every night since his birth. He held up his stuffed animal to the TV screen.  “Look Nanny, it matches!”

“I want chocolate milk. That will be a good idea, Mommy!” To really feel the genius of this one, you have to mispronounce chocolate – think “cschok-lit.”  He pronounces other C-words correctly, but Cschok-lit? I’m not correcting that one until he graduates high school.

For Christmas, his cousins Teresa, James and Mandy gifted him 2 really awesome Dr. Seuss puzzles.  When he unwrapped it he got very excited.  We asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Dr. Whouss!”  Hmm. That’s another thing I’m not correcting.  He thinks Dr. Who and Dr. Seuss are the same, and who am I to argue?!

He’s already put both puzzles together and taken them apart multiple times.  One of the puzzles is from his favorite book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”  The night he put it together for the first time we read that book at bedtime. He paused on the page that the puzzle is inspired by and said, “Look Mommy! It matches my puzzle! Let’s go put it together. That will be a good idea.”

Benjamin at Christmastime

Some days are crazy and insane. But some days end with him snuggled in my arms, and especially on days like those I find myself unable to articulate how lucky I am to be his Mommy.

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.

These will only be funny to you if you are a Dr. Who fan who happens to watch Super Readers…. but I included links so you can get the gist of it.

From bathtime tonight, two brief glimpses at life with Benjamin:

Benjamin plays with a large camouflage bucket that will fit on his head. He puts the bucket on his head so that the main bucket is over his face.

“Mommy! I got a bucket on my head!”

“Benjamin! Can you say ‘are you my mummy?‘”

So Benjamin holds the bucket over his head, looks right at me, and says (with it echoing in the bucket), “Are you my mummy?

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Benjamin and I are playing Ducky Superheros with his three duckies.  I realize he keeps spitting as he laughs.

“Benjamin! Stop spitting, that’s gross.”

“I can’t stop spitting.”

“You can’t stop spitting? Why not?”

“It says so in my story.”

Seriously. For anyone who doesn’t have a talkative toddler yet… hang in there. These days are amazing.