Experiencing the Middle

Tomorrow Daphne starts school. This is significant and I have many emotions, but at the same time it feels so different than when we started school with George.

George was our first. We didn’t know what to expect with him. I was overcome with fear and anxiety on how the experience would be for him.

With Daph, we are more familiar with the process, and she will even have the same teacher that George did in preschool. We know that she is in the best hands to bring her into the school atmosphere. She will be just down the hall from George, and there is comfort knowing they will be so close together. He has already said he will watch for her at recess.

But there are still emotions being here in the middle with her.

I don’t have the fear of the unknown like the first time around, but I also know she isn’t my last. I feel excited for her. We all seem more ready for the experience. I don’t feel the hesitation that I did with George, nor the bittersweet that I know will come with Wally being our last.

Do I worry about how the experience will go for her? I mean come on, have you met me? I am always riddled with anxiety, however, I am finding myself at peace much quicker with her. I am so excited to see her go off to school.

She has never been out of our house for any type of school, and one hour of gymnastics once a week for the last year is most social interaction she has gotten outside of our family. So in a sense there is still a lot of unknown of how she will engage with her peers. But I know as soon as she warms up, she is going to make some great connections.

I really feel like she is going to soar. The brain on this child is limitless, and I know we have only tapped into a small portion of her capabilities here at home. She has a heart of gold, and the kindness that she has for others will take her far. She is the type of child who will flourish in a school atmosphere, and I can’t wait to hear all about her experience. This time around all I can think of is all the great things she will have access to and how much she will enjoy things. I am not worried about letting go with her at all.

Which is somewhat weird because I am sad thinking of some day this little girl won’t sneak into my bed and her sweet little voice will be a distant memory. Also you would think being a female, I would be worried about all the social pieces that come down the road with her and school. But I am not worried at all. I am ready to see how she embraces the challenge and confronts the pressure head on. She is so strong-willed and tough as nails. I don’t know what it is about this transition that seems just so natural and normal for her, and again there is so much peace with her going. She is far more a stronger person than I ever was, and she is so smart and capable.

Maybe there is just so much going on around in our lives that I just don’t have time to really wallow in how she is growing as I did with George. Who knows?! But I will take not having a breakdown in front of her teacher because I am so caught up in the ‘what if’ emotions.

She has been living in George’s shadow for most of her life, and now Wally takes up some of the attention that was aimed at her. Again, she is our middle. So I am thankful to see her go off into school where she can start making her own path independent of her brothers.

With George I think we were all scared when this day came because it was all new to us. When it comes to Wally’s time, I know I will be the most emotional parent there because it will be a sign of all the littleness leaving our house. So for now, with Daph, we are able to really sink into this time and enjoy it. It is nice to experience it like this for our middle child.

Here’s to you Daph and all the things you will learn this year, and the person you are becoming.

George Turns Seven

Lucky seven.

I was processing George growing another year older, and I think with every age, there is a different kind of weight to it.

But with seven, it’s like all that was of being little is gone. We have truly entered the big kid years.

George had so many pivotal moments this last year, most notably starting school and becoming a big brother again.

It was so fun, and emotional, to see George becoming a person away from our family unit. He now has a whole life that we are on the periphery of. He has relationships and experiences that we are not instigating, which is hard to let go of, but magical at the same time.

Seeing George this last year has highlighted his strengths, but also reminded me that I have no idea what I am doing as a parent still.

He is a full throttle kind of dude. When he zones in on something, he is all in. He has unwavering commitment to people and ideas. When George is determined to do something, we best be getting out of his way. It has been a challenge to parent him at times to understand where is the line to give him the freedom to be his own boss, but also letting him know when there are limitations. We don’t need to supervise him as much, but he still does need guidance because he is seven. There is definitely a balance that we are working through to expose him to new ideas and tap into his natural curiosity. I want him to have that kind of passion in his life. I want him be able to dedicate himself fully to projects and relationships, but I also want him to do it strategically and in a healthy way.

We have entered a new phase where he questions logic on everything, and the little kid magic is starting to disappear. It was quite the difference watching him react to Disney versus his sister. He wanted to break down the logistics of how rides work, who was behind the costume, and let everyone know that it wasn’t real. We are entering into more intense conversations of real world things especially as he engages with people more outside of our family. It is exciting to see him develop his world-view but also a part of me is sad the days of Christmas Tree Truck guy is gone.

He still loves to play though, his stories and worlds have just evolved. I love watching him create these different scenes and act out his characters. He is so good with details and setting up entire landscapes. If you were to come into our house, his room is constantly a construction zone due to Lego City government and trying to navigate the dinosaurs that have escaped Camp Cretaceous. Our living room is actually a war zone with hundreds of Army men, or squadrons in his terms, that are ready to get on the helicopters he strategically has in safe zones. The sun room is the new wild west with an elaborate train system getting people to and fro. On the driveway, he has his “mud creek” construction team who is always changing the layouts of piping and blocks to help with the rain fall. My new favorite is playing Harry Potter with him where we basically play an elaborate hide and seek game around the yard screaming spells at each other.

George is incredibly smart. He takes in information like a sponge. He loves to give you random facts about things, and he always has something to say about every subject. ALWAYS something to say and a story to tell.

On the flip side though, he is one of those people that if he does not care about the topic, he is not going to put his energy into it. For example, he says he hates reading and writing. However, he loves to make signs for the various worlds he has created with toys, and cataloging his finds in his notebook. But, because he has chosen the topic, he perfects the writing. We have had to navigate some pieces here since at school you don’t always get to choose the topic or activity or timing. So we are constantly trying to be creative on how to refocus his energy and tailor it to him, but also work within other’s expectations.

If he does focus and put his energy towards something, watch out. I truly believe that he is the type of person who is going to invent some thing some day or cure cancer because he doesn’t think in conventional methods. His mind is always going trying to see beyond the simple and dissect things. That’s why it is so hard with academics. I want him to do well and succeed, but at the same time his intelligence cannot be harnessed in the same way that I defined academic success. It’s definitely a humble reminder especially since my job is student success on the college level.

I am in awe of his confidence and passion. While it is sad to leave the littleness behind, I am excited to see what the new year brings and see where his interests continue to take shape.

If you will excuse me, this newly seven year old wants to make a tornado in our kitchen.

Year 10

Year 10

A decade.

WOW.

As I look back on this year and the years before, it seems like we have been together a lifetime. A decade can really feel that way.

This year alone has felt like a lifetime for sure. As with many years, we experienced every part of our wedding vows: for better or worse, in sickness and in health…

George finished kindergarten and started sports, Daphne has really blossomed in gymnastics, and Walter is well figuring out how to be. Our family feels complete with these three, and it has been a joy to watch them together this year. Walter being born is definitely on the highlight reel!

Tom finally found a police department that fits him and his career goals. It was a long road here, and looking back to this time last summer we weren’t sure if he would ever get there. But he is happy to be in a place that is community action based and respects the work that each other do. It doesn’t hurt that he works where we live either!

My job has been a whirlwind of transitions over the last year. The pandemic in higher ed was interesting to say the least. I not only learned how to teach a class remotely, I also found this extra flexibility with working from home while pregnant and then post-partum. I had to navigate managing an office and learning a new team of my peers as there was constant leadership changes around us. Through all of it, I really feel like I am coming into my own as a leader on campus, and I am excited with what my team is doing, but also the college as well.

It still seems like a fresh wound, but losing Grace and Crosby is notably one of the worst experiences we have had as a couple. We both are still trying to muddy through the feelings we have as we settle into a no-dog household. There are so many things that were just natural around our house that now seems odd that they are gone. Walking this together though has made it a little less crippling.

As I reflect though on the last ten years, I would say that this is the most settled we have ever felt. Over our time together, there seemed to be always these things that we were waiting or hoping for. We have always been trying to direct our lives in a certain way, and this is what they call the good ol’ days I would imagine. We have everything that we hoped for, maybe not exactly how we planned out, but we are finally in a rhythm that makes sense and fits us.

So Tom and I thought we would think back on our marriage and share some thoughts on making it to this milestone.

Biggest surprise since we’ve been married:

Hands down, finding out we were pregnant with George was the biggest surprise of our marriage, and our lives honestly. To go from having conversations about infertility and trying for a while to grow our family, to all of a sudden see a baby on ultrasound monitor was wild. If you haven’t heard this story, I promise it is worth the read!

Hardest lesson learned:

There is a lot to unpack here from the last ten years.

The life that we thought were the right things just weren’t, and some were actually pretty devastating for us. Both of us had severe disappointments with our career paths, and at those low moments we thought we would never be happy in a work place setting. We also had talked a long time about only having two kids and that was our vision at the beginning of our marriage, but here we are loving on Walter. God is in control, and we have had to pray on believing this many times over.

We have also had to learn a lot about figuring out what we need to worry about and figuring out what it means to create our own family unit. Combining two different people to create this new thing came with it’s own struggles. We had to learn a lot about when to prioritize our own needs and then our family needs and how that all can be a mess to mix together.

With that, what has been difficult as you become these life partners is not only dealing with your own life grief and disappointment, but then having to manage this other person, and then our kids emotions as well. Both of us had a pretty rocky moment in our jobs that really shook us to our core, and to have to watch that unfold while being helpless to fix it is really gut-wrenching. We had to learn a lot about just being there for each other. But our individual problems do become each others problems, and there is extreme weight in that because you aren’t just managing your own feelings anymore. It is hard lesson to learn when it is ok to be selfish but when do you have to not be. There is some beauty in this for sure, which is why marriage is great, but it is shocking at times how your feelings unfold together.

Favorite thing to do together:

We love to just jump in the car and go to random places to “window” shop. Personally, I love when plant shopping is involved. It’s nice for us to just get away from the house and talk and move through stores leisurely.

We also love binge-watching shows. Becoming one with the couch while playing rummy and eating snacks while watching the Office is one of the most stress-relieving things.

Obviously, we really live on the edge…

What is something we haven’t figure out yet:

While we have been married for 10 years, and together for 14, we still haven’t completely figured out our communication styles. Both of us are stubborn and like to be on the “right” side, so we can fight pretty hard. Tom also said that he doesn’t always know what he wants so how am I supposed to figure that out, but then the expectation is there to hear each other out. I also have a really hard time apologizing to him, which is not helpful ever. We have also grown and changed over our time together, so sometimes we think we have each other figured out but something is different that we have to make new adjustments to. But on the plus side, our arguments are usually pretty quick and move it out of our systems, so I guess we are a work in progress!

Favorite thing about the other person:

Tom said that I am patient and very forgiving, and that he is still 100% twitterpated. I love Tom’s commitment to things. When he goes in on something, he goes in 1000%. And his level of loyalty is unmatched.

Advice for other couples:

I don’t think that any relationship is the same, nor would I ever say that we have it all figured out. Like I said we still struggle with communication a lot of the times, but we try every day to do better. We do have a couple nuggets of advice though.

We believe that you should be such an advocate for your marriage. There should be no question that this is your priority. It requires both of us to be all in and be the ones rooting for each other. We have to be pursing each other every day.

In order to do that though, we know that we have to take the time to be right with ourselves. Both of us have gone to counseling so we can be the best version of ourselves for each other and our family. This may take a lot of work but as the saying goes you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. With this takes recognition and support from your partner to do this work and find ways to support this individual growth. We have taken a lot of pride in making space for our self care and finding the right careers so we can be happy in all spaces.

Finally, and certainly not least, sleep in the same bed but have separate comforters. Sleep is so important, but we have different needs when it comes to our comfort and one of us is a burrito roller in blankets (me), so we learned early on that separate blankets made everything more enjoyable. Hands down, relationship saving advice.

It’s hard to believe at times that we met as 22 year olds at an amusement park. It feels like we have had so many lives together: grad school, living in Iowa, deployment and Fort Campbell, moving to our home state, and welcoming three babies into the world…

Here we are 10 years into marriage with this most amazing life. So here’s to many more decades together!

And on to the next…

And just like that, George is done with kindergarten.

There is a weirdness that is settling in from today. It’s like I know that we are done with kindergarten for George, but at the same time it doesn’t seem real that he is old enough to be a FIRST grader.

To think back to August and all of the unknowns of the year, it is hard to compile all the thoughts and feelings that we have gone through during this year.

George’s kindergarten experience will be so different than his siblings thanks to all that was 2020.

He had to wear masks. At the beginning of the year, I thought this would be our biggest hurdle, but he often choose to wear it away from school. The last couple weeks our county lifted those restrictions, and he still choose to wear it at times.

The parties, assemblies, field trips, and programs all looked different than “normal” or were non-existent.

There were several weeks of virtual school thrown in during the year. In the midst of these weeks, I honestly didn’t think either of us would survive.

Learning in some areas came really easy to George, and other areas we had to work as a team to identify new approaches. He started to see the school speech pathologist to help learn specific social skills. This kid just loves to talk and doesn’t always see the cues that he should stop.

On the other hand, he was recognized for his caring spirit and the way that he shows joy to others. He is such a light, even if his talking can be distracting at times. It was always great to hear the ways that he was filling others’ cups up throughout the year.

He learned a love for drawing, and even though he says he hates to write, we have books and books of hand crafted signs, doodles and charts to prove otherwise.

We saw his interests change due to peer influence, so we welcomed Minecraft and Pokemon into our lives. He also continuously was inviting his class to our house and planning sleepovers without cluing us in. (Mind you these never did happen, he is just the friend who likes to corral other friends for a good time.)

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s crazy to think still that we have a school-aged kid, but here we are celebrating our first year through.

I am so proud of George. He was able to adapt to being new at school, to the constant changing atmosphere, and also to becoming a big brother again through all of it. He is such a smart kid, and I loved seeing him make connections with his teacher and friends. And on to the next we go!

Daphne Turns FOUR

I always dreamed of being a mom, but I especially dreamed of having a daughter. Well, she is the challenge I never knew that I needed.

Looking back at my post from her last birthday, it is hard to believe how much she has grown in the last year. She is still as fierce and independent as she was a year ago, but she is a different child at the same time.

She is like a mirror to all of my insecurities and flaws. I see pieces of me in her, and I am determined to do right by her because of my own past. She is humbling to me in every way. I love my boys, but there is something about this little girl that makes me different.

She is already stronger than I ever was, and I hope that we never squash that fiery spirit. She always is very adamant about her feelings and feels them to their fullest. She is opinionated and strong-willed. I know that we are fostering someone who is not going to back down from making her voice heard. She is brave and fearless now, and I hope that we can continue to nurture that for years to come.

I mean, someone who can pull off wearing jammies days on end has earned some respect.

She is my sour patch kid though. She knows what she wants, and she will put her foot down and try to wear you down. This does come with its challenges, but I have to applaud her level of commitment.

I do believe that some type of entertainment is in her future. She loves to sing, dance, tell stories, and put on comedy routines for anyone who will pay attention. She lives to make other people smile by her performances. I want to just bottle her singing up forever.

And, while she is independent, she is still our little girl. She is an expert in procrastinating bedtime and finds any and all excuses to come talk with Tom and I after lights are off. Then in the middle of the night, she crawls into our bed so she doesn’t have to sleep alone-most of the time I don’t even realize she is there until I wake up in the morning to see that she sneaked in. She has a neighborhood of stuffies that keep her company at all times. She has a descriptive name for all her bunnies: green bunny, scraggly bunny, clean bunny, mommy bunny, baby bunny, snuggly bunny, swaddle bunny…So many bunny stuffies.

She loves all things princess, purple and pink, dinosaurs, and unicorns. She loves to create with tiny things like miniature tea sets for Calico Critters, Legos, and her fairy garden. She hates to be wet but will spend hours at a water table and playing in our mud creek. She has been planning a “flower festival” for the better part of a year with the planning committee ever changing directions. She loves to be outside, but she hates when I make the family go to the trail. She loves to bake, but only chooses to eat butter bread, fish sticks, and fruit. She fights me going to gymnastics, but she has the biggest smile while doing beam and loves to show off her bear crawl.

The brain on this child is also astounding. She is insanely smart, and I am constantly amazed at her vocabulary. It is astonishing that we had her assessed for a verbal delay 2 years ago. I cannot wait to see what she does at school next year. She loves to read and learn, and she will spend hours with art and craft projects. She will sit still just meticulously drawing “maps” of our house and city. It makes me wonder if she will be a city planner or architect some day.

My favorite thing to have come out of this last year is watching her become a big sister. She is by far the best sister one could ever ask for. She is always helpful and caring with all things Wally. I am loving watching her mature through their relationship. She takes care of him and spends a good deal of her day making sure he knows how much he is loved. To say she is obsessed with her new best friend would be an understatement. My heart swells just watching them interact and play together.

This girl is going to turn this world upside down some day. She sure changed mine the day that she was born. It was love at first sight. I am glad to have a front row seat to see all that she can do and see who she becomes. Forever her cheerleader I will be. I am overwhelmed when I look at her and see all the possibilities for her and the world around her. I adore her with all that I am. A smile is imprinted on my heart because of our Daphie Girl.