George Turns Five

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George,

I can hardly believe that five years ago we were meeting face to face. There is something about you turning five that I am really struggling with as your mom. It is like the start of the end of you being all mine. This being a whole hand has me reeling about the fact that things are changing for us.

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This last year has been a learning experience for us all. Since your last birthday, you have been finding your big kid voice (in volume and in content). With that has come some struggles from all parties, but I am also so proud that you believe in yourself 110%. While it can be super frustrating to argue with you, I know that you are just trying to navigate your little world and make it just a little bigger around you. You also demand attention in a way that I know you will never be forgotten in whatever circle you find yourself in.

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I admire you so much Georgie. You move through your day with such conviction. You know exactly what you want out of each moment, and you will move mountains to seize the day. You already have your own principles that you stick to. When I was your age (and much past), I was such a rule follower and tried to stay hidden in the “norm.” But not you. You, my dear boy, are anything but conventional and live to be different. You are just confident in who you are already at five, and you aren’t afraid to just be George. I love that you are a tad wild, even though it scares the poop out of me most days.

There are pieces of you that are still a little boy, and I will take every snuggle and kiss that I can. You still love for me to carry you down in the morning, and I wonder every day if it is the last day for me to hold you close like that. You are getting so big; big enough that people mistake you for a kindergartner or first grader all the time.

I wish I could bottle up your energy. You are in constant motion or emphatically screaming a monologue for all the world to hear. You feel every emotion at the highest level possible. You can be exhausting, but I wouldn’t change your enthusiasm for anything.

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Your little brain amazes me by all the big things that it does. You are so funny. You have one liners just like your daddy, and I love that you make us laugh every single day. Your imagination has kept you up way past your bedtime as you create carnivals, constructions sites, and live out rescue missions. But you don’t live in fantasy all the time; you also retain facts like I can’t believe. The things you know about science astounds me. You love to learn and create, and I cannot wait for all the adventures you will have this year in school.

I love that you believe that everyone is your cousin, and that we are all family. It’s a little reminder to me that God is speaking through you that we should all love one another like family. You often tell me that you love your friends even if you have only known them for short periods of time. You love so fiercely, and being loved by you is truly a gift.

I know that you were born to do great things. Just the other day, we were having a “conversation” about our listening skills, when you paused and looked straight into my soul and said, “Mommy, I was listening when God made me.” Talk about a reminder. You have given me so much anxiety over the past 5 years, but you have also taught me to let things go more. Lord knows one of my biggest hang ups in life is losing control. So when He gave me you, someone else who also likes to be in control, He was teaching me about being okay with loosening the reigns or the fact that I cannot find the reigns at all. Being your mom has taught me more about prayer than I had ever known before you.

Thank you for being just the best little wild man we could have ever asked for. I thank God every day that I get to be your mommy.  When you were born, a part of me was born too so thank you for helping me become me and listening to God at just the right time.

Love you to Pluto and back,

Mommy

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Elmo Birthday Party

Daphie girl is obsessed with all things Elmo and Sesame Street, so it was obvious that would be our theme for her second birthday.

Since Sesame Street is popular it was pretty easy to plan and buy for this party.

However, we had a minor location change the day before the party that changed how everything came together.

We normally have the kid’s party at Tom’s family’s church, however, there was a tornado that hit the city literally days before. Most of the damage occurred around the church, so many of the roads downtown were blocked off that week for damage control. So in order to not bring more to that area, my in-laws graciously opened their home up since we had just started a new renovation project so our house was not in a state for a party.

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Her dress was a hand-me-down from her cousin Ava who also wore it for her two year old Elmo party. Their grandma made it, so it was a sweet little touch to the party.

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This Elmo walker I got from Amazon. Daphne didn’t know what to think about it.

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These balloons came in a huge package on Amazon. We put some on the mailbox outside and then throughout the house.

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My mom made these letter blocks out of butcher paper, paint, and diaper boxes. We spelled out her name and the number two.

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Our present to her was this gang of stuffed animals. I bought them because she loves stuffies, but also knowing they could be part of the decor for the day. I got them all on Amazon. I realized after they arrived that I did not do the best job getting ones that were the same size. I also was not able to find an Abby or Zoe that wasn’t going to break the bank.

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We also have a million Sesame Street books, so I used a smattering as decorations.

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This big “2” balloon was in the balloon pack. The Elmo was a gift from her cousin. Tom made the street sign, and my mom painted the letters. We used this for her two year photos as well.

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These balloons were perfect.

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The tablecloth also came from Amazon, and we already had the dancing Elmo from Christmas.

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Hy-Vee came in clutch for the cake and cupcakes. I just went in with a picture and they made it happen.

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Daphne had gotten these figurines at Christmas, and they were the perfect cake toppers for our theme.

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I got these little coloring books with the crayons attached from you guessed it, Amazon. They were the perfect favors for any age group.

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Seriously so many Elmo balloons. We also had a station full of these foam shapes since Sesame Street teaches about shapes and such. They were stickers that they could make picture frames out of. We have TONS of these left over because they came in a huge pack off Amazon.

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Those little piggy tails.

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Daphie loves anything crafts, so this arty was perfectly her.

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This backdrop came from Amazon. I promise this isn’t sponsored. I wouldn’t be mad about it if they reached out though because seriously everything I bought came from Amazon.

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It’s impossible these days to get all three cousins looking at the camera and smiling…

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While it wasn’t exactly what I had planned, it was a lovely day for our little lady.

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It’s also unlikely that we will have a decent family photo for the next few years, but I love them to the moon and back.

These people are so fun to plan parties for and celebrate all the goodness that their little lives bring to us.

Year 8

Today Tom and I are celebrating EIGHT years of marriage.Holy Wow!

This is one of our first photos together twelve years ago, and we had no idea what was ahead.

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Eight years later we have experienced the marriage bliss, but things haven’t been all rainbows this year.

This has been a year of transitions.

We have been watching our kids transition.

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George started gymnastics and soccer. This forced transition on all of us. I had to let go of him more, and he had to learn structure with the new found freedom. This was a whole new adventure for us as parents. We also embarked on getting him enrolled in pre-school which is huge for him. I struggled more than I could have imagined with my little man growing up and out, and Tom as usual was a good balance to my anxiety.

Daphne transitioned from a baby to a toddler. We were concerned about her speech this past spring because she just wasn’t talking and only communicated in grunts and minimal sign language. However since birth, Daphie has operated on her own timeline and we are just all along for the ride. We got her assessed by a speech therapist a few months ago, and there were many emotions that went along with that testing. She did not qualify, which now isn’t even a concern because girl can say the whole alphabet (and identify the letters), all her colors, and has started counting, amongst all the other day to day words she now says.

And a man who indulges me in my need to have themes for our kids’ Halloween costumes is a keeper. We are on 4 years strong of famous Georges and 2 years of influential women.

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We watched two of our best friends transition into marriage. We could not have been more blessed to stand beside them on their days. It was also special for us since it was our first alone trips away from both kids.

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We transitioned into the time of our lives (finally) where we start making more permanent holiday traditions. We hosted our first 4th of July shin dig which is something we have been dreaming of since we first got together.

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We are slowly transitioning our house into a homestead. We now have chickens and a garden full of produce. These have made us stronger despite the fact that the garden sometimes makes us angry with each other. Tom keeps trying to make us farmers, and I keep reminding him that we are in fact not farmers. We do have 4 chickens, an orchard with 12 trees and 3 blackberry bushes, a corn “field,” a pumpkin patch, and 6 different vegetable beds. So there’s that…

Last summer, Tom switched jobs. While he is still in law enforcement, his job looks much different than he ever expected. While he lost some of the adrenaline rush and community influence he loved about being a street cop, he gained back his health and valuable time with his family. There is also something to be said about removing yourself from a toxic environment, which was where he was previously. We gained a static routine and he gained bedtimes with the kids. We have officially had more lunches together this year than we have in our entire marriage. It has been hard for Tom to leave the road and the shift work, but he started putting our family first. But even with the added time back with our family, things haven’t been easy for him, and there are many late night talks about where he wants to be and the choices to make. It’s been a hard path to the right end. It might not feel like we are in the right place all the time, but he knows he is right where he needs to be.

With this transition though, it has allowed us more freedom. We have been trying to find our place as a family within our community whether that is with friends or with our church. We aren’t having to add this whole other element of what the shift work did to our family.

Our marriage has transitioned into a comfortable relationship in all the best ways. We have had to put in the work to get here though. I heard this phrase sometime this year, “Marriage is a practice, not an institution. Love has to be renewed every day.” This has rang true this year. You hear a lot that a marriage is a 50/50 partnership, but I would say that we both have to be giving 100%. If one of us loses we both lose. So we each have to be giving our all to this marriage. While we are partners in this life, we both have to go all in and show our whole selves otherwise this won’t work. There may be times that one of us is struggling, however even in the struggle we need to be giving our whole self to be transparent about our feelings and needs even in those down times. There is no way for us to fully support each other without that openness and willingness to let each other see all of us. The good and the sad. So it is not an institution where we just show up when we want to and claim it as it is. It is something we have to get in to every single day and commit to constantly. There are ebbs and flows as with most things, but we commit 100% each day. Because of this comfortable relationship, we have been able to be there for each other because we feel the safety from each other and know that we can fall into each other despite our flaws.

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The days aren’t always easy, but it’s easy committing to you every day.

I love you more than yesterday and thank you for this life we have.

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Daphne-2 Years

My sweet girl is TWO. Her cheeks are still as sweet as the day she arrived.

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Weight:  29 lbs, but she is getting tall and leaning out. It’s amazing look at pictures from a year ago, and seeing the difference. Although, most of that could be she actually has hair.

Health: Unfortunately, I think she has severe seasonal allergies like her momma. She has struggled when we have been outside lately. She has a reoccurring cough and her nose is constantly running. A couple weeks ago, we almost took her to the hospital because she was coughing so bad she was throwing up. So that was fun.

Diet: The girl pretty much only eats carbs and fruit. She doesn’t like much protein unless it is mixed in with rice. She loves oatmeal, bananas, and strawberries. Give this girl cheese and she will love you forever. She really love birthday cake!

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Clothes:  She is in 2T clothes. She is doing exactly what George did: was itty bitty for the full first year and then the second year they both have shot up! She is in size 6 shoes, and size 6 diapers during the day and 7 at night.

Sleeping:  We have been putting her to bed around 7:30/8 still, and she generally stays asleep through the night until I wake her up before work at 7. On the weekends, she will stay asleep almost until 8am. She is officially down to one nap. She is still in her crib, and she loves all the stuffies to be in there with her.

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Likes:  She still loves her bunnies-which have multiplied. The two original ones though are falling apart after all the love (and times through the washing machine). I am a little terrified of the day when they have to say goodbye because she will lose her mind. She loves Elmo and Sesame Street, and it is so cute to hear her sing along. She loves the color purple. She points it out every where, and insists most mornings to wear her purple bow. She loves to eat without her booster seat, but she isn’t quite big enough to consistently give her that freedom. She love magnatiles and legos. She loves to put on robes. She is all about accessories: she loves all bags, bows, and shoes. She gets a kick out of talking to people on my phone, however most of the time she just stares at the phone when I am actually recording. She loves being outside, but especially to be on the swings. She LOVES LOVES LOVES running through puddles. (It is interesting to watch the two kids play with their “mud pond” and see how differently they react to it…)

This picture is literally Daphne before she goes to bed. She needs all her friends.

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Dislikes:  when George gets to do things that she doesn’t get to do. She wants to be part of everything he is doing. She does not like when you put the cheese away. She has been having tantrums lately, mostly for unknown reasons. I chalk it up to the fact she is transitioning a lot with her language.

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Milestones: HER SPEECH! My goodness has it exploded since we had her speech assessed. She did not qualify for therapy, but that didn’t seem to matter to her. I can’t even begin to tell you all the words she says now. My favorites are purple and Abby. I also love how she says mommy (ma-yee) and daddy (da-yee). She also knows and identifies the letters A through D. She can open all doors. She knows all of her body parts.

Nicknames:  Daphie, Sisterbear, Sisterbean, Sis, and Daphie Girl. The two most common are still Daph and Sister.

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Quirks: her biggest quirk is when she goes to bed. She tucks all her stuffies underneath her chest and lays on top of them. She loves to organize things into colors. She loves routines, and she is very smart about remembering the order of tasks and she will remind you if you go out of order. Her go to pretend animal is a frog. She loves to jump around and ribbet along. She has the best scowl and surprise faces. She can command a presence for sure.

We parents are: in full project mode. We have been spending every open weekend doing outside stuff. We just started cleaning out our basement to finish it. Huge project mode! It’s also crazy to think in just a month we will be celebrating 8 years of marriage and 12 years being together. We are ready for summer!

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George is: a bundle of joy. He just lives his life to the fullest. He loves and hates his sister, which is about right for siblings. He is a sour patch kid with her. One moment he can be so sweet playing with her, and then the next tacking her to get things away from her. He did just get accepted to preschool in the school district so we are pretty excited about that. His imagination is crazy right now, and it is so much fun. We started soccer recently, and he hates it. It is only a 6 week camp, so we are having our first lesson of when we start something we finish it. He LOVES to read. Every night he has a heap of books that he “has” to read before he goes to sleep.

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The dogs are: loving the warm weather. Daphie is really indifferent about the dogs. She doesn’t seem to seek their approval out like George did.

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Baby Girl, for years and years I prayed for you. I can’t wait to see your personality come out even more over this next year. As I tell you everyday, you are smart, brave, kind, and funny. You are a force!

Here is George at 2 years.

I’ve Got Something to Tell You

I’ve got something to tell you.

Putting George in gymnastics ranks in the top 3 hardest things I have had to do parenting him.

Since he is not in daycare or around other kids his age besides in church, we really felt that he needed some structured time with kids. He is going to go to preschool next year, and we didn’t want that to be the first time he had a structured learning environment. He needs to learn some social norms like how to stand in line and taking turns, and you know not scream in excitement at our friends.

I’ve got something to tell you.

What I didn’t realize is that this gymnastics adventure would be as much of a learning opportunity for me as it was for him.

I won’t lie. It has been a struggle for him. He is very much used to one on one attention and guidance. To go into an environment where there were a lot of rules and 10+ other 4 year olds was a lot to take in.

He has cut in lines, walked off to other areas in the gym without his teachers, and also had a hard time keeping his hands to himself. And paying attention when there are so many moving parts in that gym is very difficult for him.

There were many days that he cried when we got there because he didn’t want to go, and then he would cry when it was done because he didn’t want to leave.

On more than one occasion George was not the only one crying.

I hate to admit it, but there were times I had to intervene and pull him out of the class to take a breather because his energy was a like a tornado  in a shop full of Precious Moment figurines.

I’ve got something to tell you.

This was the first time I realized in full that my role as a parent is to raise him to let him go. I had many feelings when I took him to the sitter for the first time when he was two months old. I knew then I was letting go of pieces of his childhood, but this experience has been different. I had to sit up and watch George just be, while having very little to no control over him. I had to watch him stumble and fall and pick himself back up time and time again. I had to watch him get reprimanded not only by his teachers but also his peers. I saw him be bullied, and I saw him be the bully. Being just a witness of the class showed things that made me cry on the way home and worry if we were doing things all wrong. I didn’t want to be that mom that intervened every time he took a misstep. I knew in the long run that stepping in defeated the purpose of him being there. There was no way for me to support him in the moment except by holding my breath and throwing up a lot of prayers that he could start containing himself and following instructions. I wanted him to make friends instead of getting laughed at for being the “wild one.” I just watched everything unfold from the bleachers. It was my Type A nightmare. I had to let him go. I had to let my control go and let George figure out how to be George independently of his family—independent of me.

I’ve got something to tell you.

We both grew from this last year.

Week to week, I saw George make improvements.

I saw him learn other kid’s names.

I saw him stand in line.

I saw him do “tricks” that he was scared to try that first day.

I saw him become more confident and proud of himself.

I saw him work hard to control his body and follow the rules.

I saw him start keeping his friends accountable to the rules like they had been keeping him accountable.

I saw him have a lot of great moments.

I also saw myself changing.

Over these months, I stopped worrying about what the other moms were thinking of my wild child. I started enjoying watching him just have the time of his life. I started soaking in how George is just as Georgie as he can be in every moment. I started realizing I was trying to force George into this perfect little box because of my societal expectations. I started relaxing and not dreading what trouble he would find himself in that day. I just let us both be, and we praised the wins and talked through the struggles on the way home. These days became our time together to grow, and I am so thankful for that.

I’ve got something to tell you.

I am so proud of this kid. This was a new adventure for us, and I am not sure who it was harder for. Letting go of our normal so he can start learning how to be a person was hard. Since he is home all the time, we have had a security blanket over him. I am terrified to lose my little snuggle bug, but at the same time I am so excited to see the littler person he is becoming. Most days George guided me along. We had to have some tough conversations following up on his behaviors after watching from the peanut gallery. I had to learn to navigate this weird area of parenting where I have to let him fumble his way through without wrapping him up in my mommy bubble wrap, and instead processed our day after the fact with “learning opportunities.” This parenting gig was really unfolding before me, and I see many processing car rides in our future.

These one hour classes where not ever perfect. But no one is. All I know is, he always went into every new trick with a big smile and great gusto like I have never seen.

Well except this time.

And this week was his last gymnastics class for awhile possibly ever if he seems to like soccer more. There was a moment where I watched him politely tell a girl “You are being mean and that hurts my feelings.” And then watch him quietly move away from the problem. Months ago, George would have yelled and caused a huge scene. Displaying his emotions appropriately is not always his strong suit. It was in this quiet moment that I realized even more so how every day now I have to let little pieces of him go so he can learn. I have to trust this process of growing up and letting him be. He is listening and learning. It may not always be on my timeline, but he is growing to be the best George he knows how to be today.

He is fearless and wonderful, but he is going to make mistakes. Watching this class from the bleachers reminded me that I cannot protect and shield him forever. It was hard to let that go because you want so much for your kids. And watching them struggle to fit in is never fun. But I also have to trust that we are giving George the tools to handle himself.

Gosh he is a sweet little boy, and I love him to pieces. He is just so uniquely George, and I can’t be mad about that even if it means he is not going to the Olympics some day for a great parallel bar routine. Our sermon today was about prioritizing love over rules, and gymnastics was our current real word example of that. George needs my love, and I need to be more forgiving of my rules, society rules, and expectations to be perfect every moment.

I’ve got something to tell you.

Parenting is not for the weak. We learn from them just as much as we teach them.

And yes gymnastics made me super emotional. But if I have learned anything through my walk with God, is that he will use random things to teach you and mold you.