George Turns Eight

We are going blindly into each new phase, just hoping that we are creating good core memories and raising a good human being. Most days I go to bed thinking how I could have done better, been more present, shown more patience, etc, etc, etc.

George, however, had a big year regardless of my over-worrying. Being our first born, he continues to show me the way.

We really turned a corner in school this year. This last year came with many learning moments, advocating for his needs, and trying different approaches to his education. He has been a little wild since the day he was born, and we definitely saw him mature over the last year to settle in at school. He has learned so much, and now he is a reading machine. Tom and I cannot spell things out in code anymore because he catches on faster than I can get the letters out. He also continues to challenge me to not project my definition of success on to him. Every day, I am also learning from him to be patient and lean into alternatives to be intentional with him. As he is learning about the world, he continues to open my eyes right along with him. I am so excited to see how he continues to grow this next year.

He is starting to hone in on his interests. He is really loving soccer, and with each season, you can see his determination grow. While I am sure we will continue to see his signature helicopter move for a few seasons to come, he has started to show some real promise and skill. He joined Cub Scouts this year, and from the first meeting, I knew that we had found his thing. He has loved every activity and moment as a scout. He cannot contain his excitement at each event, and it is so fun to watch the joy he has. It’s definitely a core memory watching him place at his first Pinewood Derby contest. He also dialed in on Star Wars, Pokemon, and Minecraft this year in a way I was not prepared for. So many times this year, he has shocked me with his understanding of the complexities of these universes.

The dynamics of relationships this year made a switch. It was very evident that we had entered the big kid phase. We are now in the stage that not everyone is automatically his best friend, and friend groups are being made. You can see little pieces of his innocence falling off as we have to step up our game in the types of conversations we had. We talked through how he navigates relationships with kids who are being unkind and how to remain true to who you are even when the crowd is going in a different direction. You never want to see your kid go through these challenges of peer pressure, but we have had to have hard conversations about our actions and what they say to others. There have been moments that we watched him struggle and as much as I want to shield him forever, I cannot. At the end of the day, I am so proud that George walks confidently in who he is mostly unabashed about what others think of him. I wish I had even an ounce of his confidence and carefreeness, because he either thinks everyone loves him or he does not seem to be bothered when they don’t. We received many comments from teachers about how kind he is and how he would tell classmates no when difficult situation arose. He is also extremely loyal to his people. If he has imprinted on you, you now have a hype squad for life. It was so fun to watch him create those connections this year.

Ultimately, this kid is too cool for me. He is so smart and follows his dad in quick wit. He tugs at my heartstrings. He is hilarious and creative. He is passionate and strong-willed. He can deliver the best stories and the strongest hugs. He finds the silver lining in everything and finds the meaning to things that others may have cast away. He is always a little wild from the way his hair constantly stands straight up or the way he brings his energy into every room he enters. Nothing is simple with this kid except that he has my heart forever.

Having him changed me forever, in the best and messiest kind of ways.

Year 11

Today, Tom and I celebrate eleven years married.

As we reflected on this year we really couldn’t think of anything gigantic happening.

But then we started thinking about all the small moments we had this year.

George is really blossoming and figuring out his way at school. He is learning to read at lightning speed, and he joined Boy Scouts this year. Watching him become someone outside of our unit is such a bittersweet thing!

Daphne started and finished pre-K, and we really are starting to see her come out of her shell. She is a beautiful soul, and I cannot wait to see her in kindergarten.

And Wally. We are starting our last firsts. He is our last baby, and so with that comes all the firsts for the last time. He is the last to learn to walk in this house. He is the last for us to hear talk for the first time. We are trying to embrace all these little moments with him.

And with that, on the plus side, I am out of the breastfeeding fog. This is always a freeing moment. While I love being able to provide that experience for my babies, it really does change our life when I am not tied to that time table of feeding any more.

We also both experienced a lot through work.

Tom is now certified as a combat firearms instructor and a law enforcement jiu-jitsu instructor. He is very passionate about training officers, and these both were significant steps in his career to learn more about his field.

This last year seems like a blur to me work wise. I had so many growing moments with “other duties as assigned” and had to pivot many times in my leadership role. I took on supervising two other departments temporarily while other things at the institution shifted into place. Both of these areas where new and made me stretch in ways I could never have imagined. I led campus wide initiatives to impact culture changes, which can be hard but also fun and inspiring to navigate through the challenge. Fortunately, I am surrounded by phenomenal colleagues who help me learn each day, and I am grateful to be where I am. I am extremely proud in the work that I do, and this year, while hard, made me realize that even more.

We didn’t last long as a no-dog home, and we brought Daisy into our lives. I honestly don’t know how we could have found a better dog after Grace and Crosby. She is seriously the most docile and sweet thing who we have had to do zero training with. She just is a happy go-with-the-flow kind of dog, which perfectly fits into our crazy little family.

Being together this long is no easy feat.

It is not as simple as “just don’t give up.” Every day is its own small thing. There is always something to solve together. It could be paying down debt, who is taking Daphne to gymnastics, what new show are we going to commit to binging, or how do we advocate for our kids’ needs at school.

Marriage is fixing and deciding these things together. You pick someone that you want to do the hard stuff with, and then the good stuff is the bonus part. These decisions become more impactful when you choose someone to share them with.

We have learned that everything happens one step at a time. We didn’t just all of a sudden become married over a decade. It was a lot of little commitments to each other over the years to get here.

We still have the ability to surprise each other. Both of us are still striving every day to be better than we were the day before. So in a sense, we have never gotten truly comfortable and said this is good enough. We are still learning about each other and ourselves. We have both gone to counseling, and we are constantly looking for opportunities for growth. We make an effort with each other every day to connect in some way. And for us that is the only way that this has been successful.

15 years ago, many people considered our success a long shot (or a no shot). Just a summer romance that would sizzle out. But here we are coming off of a vacation with three kids happier than ever. Eleven years married and many more ahead!

37

As I sit here at the end of my birthday today, I can only smile at the life that I have been given.

There are certain moments of the year where I get reflective and take a moment to be thankful of what I have been given and my current place in life. Things have never been completely easy, and this last year was certainly not a walk in the park. However, my birthday has always been one of those times each year where I can pause and soak in my blessings, see how I have grown, and be thankful for those surrounding me.

This past year was a true testament of how investing in my own growth matters. It was the first year that I can honestly remember ever that my anxiety was not crippling. There were many trials this year that would have sent a younger me in a spiral. Now, has the constant overthinking stopped? Not at all. However, I have become more confident in who I am and learned strategies to knock away the self doubt.

I don’t have to be perfect. In fact, I am far from it. This year I am finally coming to terms with this. God uses broken leaders. There has been peace in finally accepting that I don’t have to be perfect all the time, and being broken doesn’t mean that I can’t still move forward. It only took me three decades to get here, but we all run our own race. (Hebrews 12:1 is one of my favorite verses.)

I talked about the start of my counseling journey last year after giving birth to Wally, and honestly that was a game changer for me. I have learned so much about how to truly accept myself and starting to understand I am not responsible for other people’s opinions. This is still a hard journey, but at 37 I am finally letting some of the things go instead of replaying old conversations that happened yesterday or even 20 years ago. It’s nice to look back at the post, and realize that the work that I have been putting in has been paying off.

I may not be the strongest, but I am stronger.

I may not be the wisest, but I am wiser.

I may not be the healthiest, but I am healthier.

I may not be the best, but I am happy with who I am.

There is not a quick fix in this life, and I am by no means perfect, but I am finally enjoying the journey. Intention has been my focus. I have learned this last year to control my thoughts more deliberately or to reconstruct them when my anxiety does settle in. I have learned to engage in projects with my whole self and know that I am there for a reason even if I don’t understand the why. I have learned how to be better than I was the day before, and even if I wasn’t there is humility and peace in trying again in the next moment. I have learned how to believe in myself.

In the end, I have my family and a purpose in life greater than I could have ever imagined. If my kids were to look back on this moment, I want them to be proud of who I am, and I finally feel at ease with that thought.

So here is to another year around the sun as broken as ever, but more free than ever before.

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.