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Today is your 6th birthday!!!! The past year has been so much fun, and you’ve grown up so much. You completed your first year of school (Kindergarten with Ms. Smith) and learned to read. You learned how to swim (including jumping off the diving board). You’ve continued to learn the piano and had some pretty awesome recitals.
You lost 2 teeth and started wearing glasses (took my breath away the day you lost a tooth and got your glasses, so grown up!)
You’ve gotten stronger, faster, and maybe a little bit kinder.
You try passionately to be a good kid.
We’ve given you quite a bit more responsibility this year. You’ve got chores that are your job, that we expect you to do. Things like helping with the dishes, cleaning the living room floor, and feeding the dog.
Overall, I would mark this as a year with lots of growth.
We talked yesterday to you about some of your summer chores – one of which includes a certain amount of reading. It was pretty clear to us that even though you’d “read” you hadn’t actually retained anything you read. That was a pretty common thing when we were growing up – especially me – so I told your Dad the way to fix it was to make you read out loud for your “required reading.” You got upset at us; you told us that you didn’t mean to get in trouble, that you were still learning how to be a good reader. We told you that it was OK, that we were learning how to be good parents, and sometimes we have to adjust the rules so we can all be better. It’s a small lesson, but hopefully one you will take to heart.
You learned a lot more about being a good friend from your time in school. I saw you talk through problems with your friends, challenge them, and lose with just a TINY bit more grace than you have in years past (you still hate it though).
You have a strong internal desire for others to follow the rules. Half the times you got in trouble in Kindergarten was because you were getting on to the other kids for not following the rules. You hated rug time because you had to sit criss-cross apple sauce, but you’d sit there patiently with a bubble in your mouth UNLESS you were telling the other kids (who weren’t listening) that they needed to sit down too!
In spite of your rigidness regarding rules, you were well liked and enjoyed by your classmates. You went home frequently lamenting that you were having problems and no one liked you, but over and over again we saw evidence that your classmates adored you.
And, true to family tradition, you were enjoyed by your teachers. They said they’re going to miss you SO MUCH.
You’re finally understanding what a “figure of speech” is. The past year your literal nature has led to lots of misunderstandings when your Dad and I say things like, “You took the words right out of my mouth!” But yesterday you used that line on Dad, to which he replied “that sounds painful” and you painstakingly advised him that you were just using a figure of speech and you weren’t REALLY taking words out of anyone’s mouth.
It was such a simple thing, but it made me really happy for you – it was a sign that your brain was growing up, right there before my eyes.
You’re slowly starting to see the world around us. You got kind of upset at us the other day because there was a homeless person panhandling and we didn’t give them any money. We told you we didn’t have any money on us at the time, to which you replied that we needed to have money on hand in case we saw someone who needed help. You asked about why they were homeless, and what it meant. You’re going to collect money for your birthday to give to homeless people, since you don’t really need presents.
Your silliness makes life more fun.
There were a few things this year that were very very awesome, where we got to make fun memories. We got to go visit Uncle Alan, Aunt Mandy and Cousin Ethan in Oklahoma. We had a blast!
It rained a bit, and we played video games for a bunch of it, but even for the short trip we had it was memorable.
Also, we went to the NASA space center in Houston.
You love space and rocket ships, so it was especially awesome. We didn’t have nearly enough time, honestly, but even the few hours we got was well worth the time. We’ll go back as soon as we can!
I love spending time in the kitchen with you. You’re quite a good helper! You can chop vegetables, help stir things as long as they’re not too hot, and most recently you’ve helped me measure and read directions. Cooking with you reminds me of all the happy memories I have of doing that with MY mom, so I’m glad you play along (even though some days you’re just as likely to prefer a few minutes of screen time).
You and Eli have become quite a pair. He drives you a little crazy, but you obviously love him and dote on him. You’ve started trying to teach him things, but you also often try to take advantage of him to get what you want. I can’t blame you, I’m sure I did the same thing with my little brother.
I see so much of myself and your Daddy in your personality. You’ve got my competitive streak and my desire to be a people pleaser. But, you’ve also got your Daddies logic and intellect. You have his intelligence, and right next to it, strong awareness of when you fail to meet your own expectations. We give you frequent reassurances that you’ll get there – you’ll figure it out, you’re still learning how to be a person – heck, sometimes your Daddy and I fail as people, and we’re much older! I just hope you learn to give yourself the same grace that Jesus gives us, the same grace we give you, because loving yourself? Man, kiddo, that’s tough some days.
I have a feeling this is something you’re going to need to hear frequently, so let me just say, for the record: You’re a great kid. You are loved. You are cherished. You got this.
If you ever doubt my love, you’ll have these letters to remind you. I love you Benjamin, and I’m always going to cheer for you, no matter what.
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.
You’ve only been here for 4 and a half months, and I already can’t even remember what life was like without you here. You joined our family December 31st at 4:07pm. 8lbs, 15oz, 21.5 inches long. Right from the start you were so beautiful to me.
Your hair! I told your Dad about a week before you were born, “I know it’s silly, but I prayed to God that Eli would have brown hair.” When you came out your Daddy looked at me and said, “Look, Net, brown hair!” So if you hate it – totally my fault. You’re a perfect blend of us – everyone says you have your Daddy’s hair, but he and I know the truth – it may stick straight up in the air like Dad’s, but it’s my color. You’re a lovely combination of the two of us.
You scared us your first few hours in the world. You had the cord wrapped around your tiny neck twice and you could barely breathe. Once they got you breathing, they realized your blood sugar was dangerously low. There was lots of worrying those first 24 hours… but in the end you were a champ and powered through it.
I was so thankful when we finally got to take you home!
Those first days at home went by so fast. You were so quiet, so observant.
You ate every 15 minutes (it felt like) and your brother stayed close by your side.
Your hair!! That face!!
You’re a ferocious eater (seriously, the first few weeks when you would root you’d scrunch your face up like this and I would just die from cuteness)
I promise your brother wore things other than his Batman pajamas…
Your first Superbowl:
You smiled so early. I don’t have much evidence of it, sadly, because the smiles didn’t last long…but they were there.
(Sorry; you had baby acne like WHOA)
You took a trip to Tennessee at just a few weeks old; you were a champ; how did we get so lucky with you? But you were happy to be home (just like the rest of us) This was right after you traveled in a car for 12+ hours through rain and sleet and ice cramped up in your car seat:
Your pacifier was your friend for quite a while (still is!)
It’s been a few months now, and you’re already rolling around and laughing when we tickle you and I feel time slipping by so fast.
You never laugh as hard as you do when your brother is playing with you. You roll around and you’re not afraid to yell if the dog gets too close.
You bring me such joy. Very little bothers you.
I can’t wait to see you and Benjamin grow up together. He loves you so much – we have to remind him to let you go so you can breathe! “Six inches, son” is said a lot when he’s trying to hug/smother you.
I always felt like a mom with Benjamin; but now that you’re here I feel more complete.
(us on Mother’s day. You’re pretty amused at your brother’s temper tantrum…)
Everyone at church loves you – you’re so sweet and they all love your hair – you look like a little cockatiel.
You are PICKY. You don’t like certain blankets, you didn’t like footie pajamas (and you were born during one of the coldest winters ever!) and heaven forbid I hold you the wrong way when you’re trying to go to sleep.
You roll across the living room like it’s nothing. You’re really starting to enjoy the bouncer, and just like your older brother you’re a parrot hunter (obsessed with the hanging parrot on the bouncer). You’re observant and quiet for the most part, but you’re starting to learn to squeal to get attention, stay awake, or yell at the dog. You smile when I come home from work and I’ll never get tired of it. You’re an easy baby; you eat and go back to sleep at night and you love to bury your face in soft things (mom, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets, etc).
I can’t wait to get to know you more.
I’ve seen a few different parents do this and thought it would be fun for Benjamin. I did it at the end of a long day, so I’m not sure I picked the best time, but I still got some pretty cute answers.
1. What is your favorite color? “Orange”
2. What is your favorite toy? “Cars are my favorite toys”
3. What is your favorite fruit? “Cherries” (really Benjamin?) “Yes, Cherries!” (really: apples and grapes)
4. What is your favorite tv? “Wonder Girls!” (you mean Powerpuff girls?) “Yes, Wonder Girls!”
5. What is your favorite movie? “Just Wonder Girls” (he had just gotten done watching Powerpuff Girls for the first time – said it was his favorite even though I’m pretty sure Curious George should win)
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? “Underwear!”
7. What is your favorite animal? “Zebra and birds”
8. What is your favorite song? “I like songs”
9. What is your favorite book? “Oh the places you’ll go, and Wocket in my Pocket”
10. Who is your best friend? “Aedan and Kaylee”
11. What is your favorite snack? “Fruit”
12. What is your favorite drink? “Orange Juice”
13. What is your favorite breakfast? “Tuna salad”
14. What is your favorite lunch? “I don’t know”
15. What is your favorite dinner? “I don’t know”
16. What is your favorite game? “The balloon game”
17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? “Shark play”
18. What is your favorite Bible story? “God is my favorite story”
19. What do you sleep with at night? “Friendent!”
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know”
It was a pretty interesting time. I was a bit surprised by some of the answers – cherries, for instance… we hardly ever eat cherries. Breakfast was just the first food he thought of, because he’d refused to eat tuna salad for lunch. “Wonder Girls” is a mix of Powerpuff Girls and Word Girl (I think, totally guessing). And we obviously need to sing more songs with him. He doesn’t have to tell me though – his jam is “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5. Can’t wait to do this again next year!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Two quick toddler quotes for you, although one is dialogue so you can get the context of the ridiculous.
“I can’t go potty, I’m crying!”
“Benjamin, what do you want for dinner? Do you want some chili?”
“Yeah! I want CHILI!”
“Ok buddy, I will make it in a few minutes.”
In the meantime, he proceeds to repeatedly ask for chili. I go to the kitchen and heat up the chili.
I set the hot bowl on the counter (out of his reach).
He reaches for the hot bowl, saying “Chili!”
“Benjamin, don’t touch that, it’s hot! Mommy is going to get you your own bowl.”
I get him his own bowl, dump half of the heated up chili in to it, and turn to him, bowl in hand.
“Benjamin, do you want cheese on your chili?”
He then proceeds to start crying. I was like, do whaaaa??
“Ok. Well, then here’s your chili buddy!”
He looks in the bowl.
“That’s not chili!!!”
I’m like, do whaaa?
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not chili!!”
“Benjamin, yes, that is chili, just like we ate two days ago!”
“No, it’s not chili!” He is adamant.
“Well, then, son, what do you think it is? What is this?” I point to the chili.
“It’s Rock ‘n Roll!”
He never did admit that chili was chili, and he eventually had soup for dinner. Ahh, two year olds are awesome.
This year has been a whirlwind of change, the least of which is not the leaps and bounds my child is growing in. I wanted to write a few memories down, just so I won’t forget them.
- A few nights ago we sang our bathtime song, which goes “Bath time, here we go! / Bath times a good time, you know! / Bath time, everybody LOVES bath time it’s bath time, you know!” and repeats ad infinitum. We sang it before bath time like we do almost every night. After bath, we were downstairs snuggling and playing and I told Justin that we needed to put Benjamin to bed, soon, so we could take a shower. Benjamin proceeded to look at me and say, “No Mommy, I need shower too, it’s shower time. Shower time, here we go! Shower times a good time you know!” Sorry, Benjamin, but it didn’t get you out of bedtime.
- I made whoopie pies for coworkers and as the cakes were cooling I gave Benjamin one. He enjoyed it a lot – “Yum, delicioso!” After a few minutes, he started whining, and I asked him what was wrong. His response? “I don’t have a cookie in my mouth!!”
- Did Benjamin get another cookie? Yes, yes he did!
- I feel bad sometimes, because I work so much and everyone else gets to be home with Benjamin more than I do. To combat that, I try to take Benjamin with me to social events that would drive me husband crazy. So the other day we went to a concert in a local park where they were playing 80s music. Benjamin and I danced and danced and danced. We had SO much fun!
- During the concert, Benjamin got antsy and wanted to get away from the loud music, so we took a walk. I followed him all the way to the edge of the park, where we played around. At the end of the walk I told him it was time to head back, and we could be like Dora and go “through the woods, across the field, to the concert!” So we did that, and midway through I made the mistake of saying “We need to keep an eye out for Swiper! That tricky fox is always trying to get out stuff!” So… we get ALMOST to the concert, and he turns to a random stranger and starts holding out his arm yelling, “SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING!!” I was so embarrassed. Apologized. Moved on. Poor lady was freaked out…
- Last night Benjamin was cranky and overtired. It was a rough hour before bedtime, but we survived, and I was snuggling with him in our rocking chair before bed. I asked him if he wanted to pray, or sing, and he wanted to pray so we did. I said, after our initial prayers, “Benjamin, who do you want to bless?” He said Frankie (our dog). So we prayed, “Dear God, please bless Frankie.” Then I asked him, “who else do you want to bless?” He thinks for a minute. Lucky, he says, the other dog. “Dear God, please bless Lucky.” I ask him who else. He says, in the cutest voice, “Me.” Oh, Benjamin, you want God to bless you? “Yes,” he says to me, and my heart swells and gets all sentimental, and we pray a blessing over him too. I thought how brave of him, to be willing to ask God, but then I realized he doesn’t know any better. He is at the age where he can boldly go to the throne without baggage. What a lesson for me!