Monday, March 12, 2018

Dear Tate,

Dear Tate,

Man, I can't believe you're 9.  This birthday hit us a little hard as we realized that you're halfway to 18.  Halfway through living with us and we're halfway through our time raising you in our home.  You seem so grown up in a lot of ways this year.  

This year of your life you've traveled to Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Germany, France, and of course, the U.S., Saudi and Bahrain.  Seeing you surf in Sri Lanka was a highlight for us.  You and your brother just popped right up over and over again and it was a favorite parenting moment to watch you learn and dig in at something unique like that.  Playing with Andrew in France was a highlight for you.  And for us.  You two are very similar and could just chat in the back seat of a van or walking around a market for hours on end.  It was interesting to overhear a few of your conversations and recognize that your instincts are good, your heart is in the right place, and also that the topics of conversation are changing.  You're growing up a little bit and you have mixed feelings about it some days.  This was the first trip where you didn't want to get a stuffed animal for a souvenir and that made shopping for a souvenir a little tricky.  And a little sad.  You didn't really know what to choose since you were out growing stuffed animals.  It's a funny in-between phase.  Not quite a child, but not quite a teen yet.  We'll get you through it all right.

This has been a big year.  Your baptism over the summer was relaxed and perfect.  The spirit was so strong when you came out of the water with that big smile on your face and gave your dad a huge hug.  We are so proud of you and the way you've upped your game this year.  You've been using Grampa's prayer coin to remind you to pray every morning and evening.  You remind us when we haven't prayed before a meal or that we need to read scriptures before stories at bed time.  You try to be reverent and answer questions during FHE.  You're trying to be more reverent and figure out what the sacrament means to you.  You're very concerned about your little cousin, Mads and you never forget to mention him in your prayer and he's always the first person you think of when we ask what you want to fast for each month. 

You finished second grade off well and seemed to have a good experience with Mr. Bremmer.  This year you have Mrs. McGee.  She seems to be a good fit.  She's positive and calm and has high expectations without being a disciplinarian.  There's no homework in her class, which you love.  She's been really great at keeping an eye on you and helping you manage situations that make you anxious.  You had a few months of OT this fall to work on your handwriting and it's improved so much.  

This year has been very busy.  You and your brother both played 3-4 sports in the fall and the spring and it's been MUCH busier than previous years.  I can't imagine how busy it will be when your sisters are old enough to add their activities to the schedule.  This fall you played soccer, basketball, had swimming lessons and OT.  This spring you're in gymnastics, tennis, and basketball.  Your dad coaches you in most everything and he knows how to push you and still make it fun and positive. You've decided that soccer is not your thing.  You just didn't love it.  You like basketball more and you are getting quite good at tennis.  You've got a great arm.  Wendy Weitzel is teaching you and Finn along with her two kids and we were very lucky to get in with her.  She's a great coach and you're improving a lot.  You've also started cub scouts this year.  You seem to like it and it's only 1-2 times a month.  Your leaders are Naomi Killough and Leslie Arnold and a lot of kids from our group are in there with you.  You've been able to go on a couple of overnight camping trips with your Dad and I think you've really enjoyed having that experience.  

With piano practice and sometimes multiplication flashcards or an extra math worksheet, our afternoons fill up quickly.  You feel busy and that can be overwhelming.  You don't want to drop any of your activities but you feel busy.  Hopefully we're squeezing in enough down time and fun, especially on the weekends, to keep you having fun and being a kid.  It's a tricky age because we want you to be able to try anything and everything you want to while you're still young so you can figure out which things are your favorites.  But we don't want to over-schedule you or our family.  Once again, kiddo, the fact that you're our first kid means that we're trying to figure things out right along with you.  We love you so so much, Tate and we're glad that you're patient with us as we try to help you along and learn how to parent you.  

This year you've been able to sign up for a club to attend once a week after school and you signed up for chess first, then lego building, and next is 3-d printing.  You love playing with legos.  Building the sets is fun.  But you could spend hours putting together tiny creations with different pieces.  Robots, vehicles with awesome weapons, etc.  Your favorite creations are usually small but have really developed stories that go along with them.  You also love reading and playing with your friends.  Fablehaven has been a favorite series this year.  You finished the whole series and you enjoyed the mythical creatures and legends that tied into their adventures.  We've been reading Harry Potter 4 and now 5 at night together and you still love those stories.  You've been going through some friend shifts a bit this year.  A couple of your friends haven't shown the kindest sides and you're feeling like you need to make some changes with how you spend your recesses.  It's been hard for you to figure out how to still be kind to them but not be with them all the time.  You're working through it though.  You've got a lot of kids who are friends and are really good kids.  We're lucky right now.  This year you got some roller blades at the sports equipment swap and you've taken to them really quickly.  Any time it's nice out you want to be outside playing with squirt guns or skating or riding your bike.  

You're getting to be a better eater.  You'll eat broccoli and green beans without too much persuasion.  You don't love them, but you'll eat them. You'll pretty much always eat chicken.  You'll eat apple slices with your sandwich every day.  Always with a fork.  You don't want to touch them.  You're so funny.  You don't love sauces.  If we make pasta, chicken, or anything with a sauce you'd prefer to have it on your plate before we put the sauce on.  You're not a dipper either.  You don't like ranch or ketchup.  No sauces.  You like eggs and breakfast is definitely your favorite meal.  You don't love when things are mixed.  I totally relate to that.  We had bacon wrapped green beans last night and you just kind of wanted them separate and then you would eat them both.

Piano is going well this year.  You are supposed to practice your technic every morning before school and then we do the songs after school.  You get in there and get your technique done by yourself and rarely need to be reminded.  You like to have a checklist.  Just like me.  You love checking things off as you play them and making sure you know the correct tempos and keys.  Chores are pretty much a breeze.  You can clean a bathroom all by yourself now and we just check on the quality when you're done.  On Saturdays we do chores and a really good piano practice and you just know to expect it and hardly ever complain.  Sometimes we let you order books from book orders at school and you are highly motivated to do extra chores to earn them.   

Tate, your siblings love you.  You and Finn can disappear into a lego box or play with squirt guns or bikes in our cul-de-sac all afternoon if we let you.  You guys rarely fight.  You certainly know how to bother him and he knows how to bother you, but for the most part you two are great buddies.  This year you've been getting more involved with your sisters.  They're quite a bit younger than you but you read them books if we ask you to and push them on the swings.  They love to have water fights with spray bottles and don't mind you soaking them one bit as long as they get to play with you.  I think that might change, but for now they like it. 

You're a remarkable boy, Tate-o.  You're very smart. You did your first standardized testing at school this year and you did exceptionally well.  You've got a tender heart and feel and cry easily when you feel sad or even when something sad happens to someone else or someone in a story.  You want everything to be good and kind and smooth and it breaks your heart a little when that doesn't happen.  You try to do what's right and you can be really hard on yourself if you feel like you've done something wrong.  You can be a complete goof and you love to be wrestled or chased.  

We love you so much, Tate.  We've had so much fun watching you grow for the past 9 years.  We're very proud of who you are and we know you're going to do amazing things in your life.  

The world is yours, my boy.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Dear Taryn,

Dear Taryn,

Oh Tarynie my little pipsqueak I love you so.  I can't believe you're already three!  This year has been a big year.  You and your sister have been two years old and all the it implies and it's been loud and passionate and crazy.  Thankfully there are also moment of sweet snuggles, sweet interactions with siblings, and glimpses of deep, good, strong, roots.  We love you two little crazies in all your exhausting, ear-covering, patience-trying glory.  

This year of your life you've traveled to Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Germany, France, and the U.S., Bahrain, and Saudi.  Your dad and I have figured out that you and your sister get motion sickness which causes vomit on long car rides.  You also get sick when you're over-tired.  If we miss a nap, or are even late for a nap, if we have a hard over-night flight, we're pretty much guaranteed to see vomit out of at least one of you.  In the car, in the airport, in a restaurant or store.  It doesn't matter.  If we've pushed you too hard, it pretty much always ends in throw up.  

You had a great time in Sri Lanka.  We spent a lot of time at the beach which you loved.  You were crazy brave at the beach.  You love swimming.  You're a little more hesitant about getting all the way under the surface than your sister but I think you're a little braver in the waves of the ocean.  We did have one incident at the sea turtle hatchery.  The man in charge handed you a baby sea turtle.  Little 2-year-old you all by yourself while Dad was helping Kenna and I was taking some pictures of the boys.  You were a little worried about it but thought it was cute until it twitched its flipper and then you threw it up in the air out of fear.  It fell pretty hard and swam just a little slower after that.  Eesh we felt so bad, but you just panicked and it's funny now!  

Our Christmas trip to Germany and France was pretty rough.  You and Kenna were really out of sorts.  You wanted to be carried all the time, and even though you're a teensy little peanut, you still get heavy after a long day.  And you only wanted your Daddy to carry you.  No one else.  So many tantrums and so much screaming.  You wanted nothing to do with Auntie Mallo which broke her heart.  I think all the changes of traveling finally caught up to you and it was just too much.  Luckily, you warmed up a lot once we got back to our own house and your own room.  It's made your Dad and I very thoughtful about how much traveling we can do and how to make sure you ladies feel safe and stable while we're on the move.

You're still sleepy and ready for nap time every day.  You often tell us, "I'm so tired.  I need to go to bed."  You've always been sleepier than Kenna but lately you've been waking up in the mornings before Kenna.  You sit in bed around 6 every day no matter what time we get you to bed and yell "I want to get out.  I want to get out." And you'll keep yelling it until we come get you out.  

You and your sister get along beautifully most of the time.  You know how to tease your siblings but you don't do it unless we're busy getting things done like practicing or cooking meals and you're not getting enough attention.  You and your sister have done a lot of vocal strengthening this year.  Your screams are well-practiced.  It's been a very different year 2 than we had with either of your brothers.  When you play together nicely, holding hands while "dancing" (running in a circle until you fall down or hit something), singing songs, pretending to be characters, it's just magical.  We put you two in big girl beds right before Christmas and we've had to start putting Kenna in Finn's bed across the hall for nap time because you both sleep for hours still but if we have you in the same room during nap time you just can't stop talking to each other.  

You're a pretty persnickety eater.  Your dad and I often ponder how you're surviving day to day on how little you eat.  You pretty much always eat pineapple, melons, apples, bananas, pears, certain chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese.  Sometimes you'll eat eggs, turkey, pancakes, french toast, strawberries.  You don't like tomatoes, most chicken, never bread. You'll lick the peanut butter off the sandwiches but don't want the bread.  You have a major sweet tooth but unfortunately you're not usually interested in bribery.   If you try something and then change your mind you just spit it right out on your plate.  You LOVE to help in the kitchen.  Almost every morning I get you and your sister up and before I can even get to the kitchen you've climbed on the counter to help me with the shake.  You love pushing buttons, dumping ingredients, and you take great pride in telling people that you helped make something.

You love an opportunity to help people with anything.  You were SO excited when I said you were old enough to help clean the toilet.  You could hardly stand how happy you were to put on a glove and wipe down a toilet.  You love to hand out the vitamins in the morning and you've taken a lot of pride this year in the phrase, "I can do it.  I can do it."  Feeling big and needed and important means a lot to you.

You've been sick a lot this year.  If someone in our family is sick, you always catch it.  You've been in the hospital a couple of times just because we can't get you to stop throwing up long enough to keep you hydrated.  It's scary because you get so limp and you're so teensy.  Luckily they take good care of you and a visit always gets things turned around.

You love to snuggle and be held when you're feeling low or tired or sick.  You're also good for a full body squeeze when you're really happy.  Christmas was so fun this year.  You were SO grateful and happy and kept telling everyone, "Oh thank you SO much!  You're the BEST!"  You're becoming more affectionate which has been SO nice.  You're still very shy and standoffish with non-family members but you love our crew.  It's a big problem if you're not out of your booster seat in the morning to hug and wave to your brothers when they get on the bus. My favorite thing you say is, "You're the best mom EVER!"  Which comes out when I do something you love like announce a park trip or give you a treat.  Every once in a while your little teensy voice gets so excited that the only way to describe it is that it sounds like all caps.  SO full of happy!  Of course, you also have a pretty serious all caps angry voice.  You often tell us off by saying something like, "And you will not EVER EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!" As if you're the boss of the world, and my brushing your hair was the most horrible crime that has ever occurred.  Sometimes I laugh.  Sometimes it makes me a little flustered how boldly you sass me.  You and your sister are going to push us like crazy but we hope we can eventually help you learn how to use kinder voices, even when you're frustrated and to be respectful and nice as a first instinct.  I love your strength.  Your passion and frustration sometimes seem to just blast from your little body like you just can't keep it in.  It's resulted in some epic stubborn tantrums this year.  We know better than to get in a stubborn-off with you.  You win every time.  You're gonna need that toughness in this crazy world.  We just gotta fine tune it a little bit.

You're go through phases of getting into trouble every single time you're out of sight.  Stealing brothers candy from valentines or stockings or halloween (that sweet tooth), climbing on chairs to get to pens or scissors without permission, coloring with marker or pencil on every single piano key, putting a penny in the cracks of the piano keys, or my personal favorite, trying to shove all my belts into the AC intake vent.  You're constantly thinking.  It's kind of genius the ideas you come up with.  Sometimes I wish they weren't all geared toward what seems to be just trying to be naughty.  But again, fine tuning.

Little T, you are a marvel.  I love you so much.  You've got so much happening in that tiny body and brain of yours and I honestly can't wait to see what you're going to do.  It's gonna be big.  This year has been a bit crazy and I'm doing my best to mother you and your sister.  I'm still very new to this twin momma thing and I think I'll be scrambling to figure it out your whole lives.  But I love you two so much and I can't imagine what we would be like without you.  You are a busy, strong, energetic little peanut.  I'm so glad I get to be your Momma.  I'm trying my best to help you recognize and grow all the amazing things you are. 

I love you to pieces, little T-cup.  

The world is yours, sweet girl.



Dear Kenna,

Dear Kenna,

Oh Kenna Wenna, you have had quite the year.  You've been two years old in all it's glory and it's been quite the ride with you and your sister this year.  You are absolutely bursting with energy and you can be crazy hilarious and sweet as candy and you can also be full of emotion and volume and drama.  It's a hilarious balance.  This year of your life you've traveled to Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Germany, France, and of course the U.S., Bahrain, and Saudi. We've discovered that you and your sister have very sensitive gag reflexes.  You've had motion sickness many times this year and you also seem to suffer from bouts of nausea when you're over-tired.  If we're late for nap time, have an overnight flight (which we frequently do), or you just get SUPER upset and exhausted, you usually throw up.  It makes traveling difficult and anxiety inducing, knowing that motion and exhaustion are just par for the course and that usually means vomit.  Poor little girls!

You also have a VERY sensitive sniffer.  You love smelling things that smell good.  You frequently ask for gum wrappers or gum boxes and have been anxiously awaiting the time when you were big enough to chew gum too.  You love smelly lotions and perfumes and shampoos and hand sanitizer.  You'll carry things around and just hold them in front of your nose and sniff them all day.  You're also very sensitive to bad smells and stinky breath in your face, or a stinky bathroom, or even a dinner cooking that you don't care for will make you start gagging immediately and you'll run out of the room whining and gagging to get away from the smell.  Silly sweet girl!

Our trip to Sri Lanka was pretty great.  Lots of time on the beach and in the pool which you absolutely love.  You're such a little fish.  You seem braver in the pool and Taryn is a little braver at the beach.  Our Christmas trip to Germany and France was tough.  Really tough.  Missing naps, new sleeping arrangements and schedules and people threw you and your sister for a loop.  You were clingy, but only to Glenn.  You did NOT want to ride in your stroller, ever.  And you were a downright meanie to Auntie Mallo which broke her heart.  One time you went running after your Dad crying, "Daddy please pick me up or Auntie Mallo will get me!"  It was bizarre and so sad.  You were completely out of sorts and it made us seriously question how much traveling we're going to be able to manage this year.  Hopefully we'll be able to figure that bit out and help you feel a little more stable when we're on the move.  

You're a sort of picky eater and you don't eat much.  You'll pretty much always eat strawberries, melons, cheese, tomatoes, berries, mac and cheese, and pizza.  You could just drink milk for every meal every day and be completely satisfied.  You'll drink yogurt drinks and morning shake.  But pretty much everything else is hit or miss.  You don't love chicken, nuts, and bread.  You have a hard time processing them and they just sort of stay in your mouth for a long time until you eventually spit them into the garbage  Truly, most days I'm not sure if you get by on much more than a few bites at each meal and lots of milk.  But you're growing and you're happy so I guess we'll just keep putting food in front of you and hoping you'll eventually branch out. 

You really really love books.  You love having us read to you and any time anyone is reading a book out loud you come running and snuggle on our laps so you don't miss a thing.  But you seem almost equally happy looking through books and "reading" them to yourself.  Every evening we put away books and every morning you start getting them down from your shelves and carrying them around the house and reading them to yourself again until the whole house is just covered in books.  Lately you really love chapter books from the library.  We haven't started to read them to you yet.  We pick them up at the library for Tate.  But you latch on to them like having such a big, hard cover book is the coolest thing and you carry it around for days. 

You ask me what things are called a lot lately.  Titles of books, names of things and you repeat them and ask me over again.  You are a collector of words like your Dad and your big brothers.  It's adorable.  Especially with your cute voice right now.  All of your ar, er, ir sounds are "oi" instead.  So the word adorable is even more adorable when you say "adoiaboh!"  You are very good at expressing yourself when you're happy and when you're less happy.  Once when you were frustrated that I wanted to hold your hand while we walked down some stairs you screamed at me, "YOU...Broke....My...Life!"   You know how to sass and it's not my favorite, but you also know how to use a soft, quiet voice, to tell me "I wuv you so much momma" and then it's all okay.

You have music in your soul, little girl.  You sing with your whole body and when you start belting out a song you're usually running around a room or running up and down the hall.  I think your favorite is "Let it Go" but you can also belt out a song from Mary Poppins or My Fair Lady or The Greatest Showman.  You don't discriminate.  You love them all.  The addition of a cape or costume usually heightens the volume and facial expressions, which are already pretty impressive.  Any time music is on you dance.  Almost always "dancing" is spinning in circles until you fall over.  Then getting back up and spinning again.  You like to be applauded but you'll dance in an empty room too.  You just can't hold still when there's a tune playing.

You can be very particular about a few things and we're trying to figure out what they are so we can help you deal.  You do not love to have your hands washed because you hate having wet hands.  Wet hands means that when you touch your toys they will get wet and then it just all gets so much worse  So we thoroughly dry your hands when we wash them and that helps.  You're really funny about closing doors.  We close your door at every nap and every bed time but you still remind us every single time, "Mom, cwose the doi a widdle bit okay?"  Yep.  I always do.  You close every door in the house all day long even though we ask you to just keep them open.  It's a thing with you.  

You have very big facial expressions.  You have a serious look over your brooding eyebrows face that you can hold and not flinch even when we're laughing at you because, hon, it's hilarious.  You also have a pretty good puppy dog eyes face when you look up at me and ask for something with your sugary voice.  You love hugs and kisses but lately you've also been very clear about when you're done.  When you're hurt or sad you need some love to help you feel better.  A listening ear and a little tender snuggle.  But most of the time, you don't come searching for a snug.  You've become pretty independent lately.  

You're a tough little lady.  You have days when you are defiant and don't flinch even a bit when we ask you to change your tone or use kinder words or obey right away.  We're trying to figure out what motivates you to listen and obey but so far we're kind of stumped.  Most of the time you're very sweet but when you decide to push back there's not much that can stop you.  You're a little power house and I hope we can point that power in the right way because you are a constant bundle of energy and passion and it's gonna be pretty amazing when you decide what you want in life.

You love your siblings.  You know how to push their buttons but most of the time you play nicely as long as they don't have something you want.  My favorite parenting moments are watching you and your siblings love each other.  Wrestling softly with Finn, having a water fight with Tate, getting completely soaked and just so happy that he's playing with you that you keep going after him anyway, and playing on the teeter totter or singing songs with Taryn as you swing back and forth on the swing set. 

Kenna girl I love you something fierce.  You're such a fun little girl.  Two year old twins are tough at times and the melt-downs this year have been epic and frequent but all the snugs and sweet, thoughtful words and love in those beautiful chocolate eyes of yours washes away all the tough parts.  I'm so grateful I get to mother you and I pray every night that I'll do and say the right things to let all the amazing, powerful, bright things about who you are shine even brighter.  You're such a little star and we can't wait to see what you light up next.

The world is yours, my little girl.



Monday, January 8, 2018

Dear Finn,

Dear Finn,

Oh my Finny bug I can't believe you're 6 years old.  We moved to Saudi when you were just 2 and now you're 6!  So much has happened in the last 3 and a half years and you just keep rolling with it and growing more funny and happy and goofy with every second and we all love you to pieces. It's so strange this year to see all of our kids and realize how much we've grown and changed as a family.  Tate will soon be 9.  You're 6 and the age Tate was when we moved here and the girls are the age you were when we moved.  So fast.  So so fast. 

This year of your life we've visited Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Germany and France.  You're a dream traveler.  Sometimes you get tired and you show it but you're easily distracted and persuaded to keep going.  You took two surfing lessons in Sri Lanka and it was one of the coolest experiences I think we've had as a family.  You and your brother had so much fun and tried so hard and were able to get up on those boards over and over.  Your dad and I were so proud of you two.  You've had a lot of those moments this year.  Lots of firsts.  And the moments of those firsts that make us the most proud are those when we see your grit and determination to master something.  You get this look in your eye that tells us you're going to dominate this thing and pretty consistently you do. 

This fall you played soccer, t-ball, and basketball and had swimming lessons.  You were a busy boy but you loved it.  I don't even know which sport was your favorite.  You loved them all.  We had a few discussions about what it looks like to be a good sport.  You've learned not to call people "Loser" even if they lost (that was confusing for you), and how to not get angry and to congratulate the winning team if you didn't win.  That's a hard one for you.  You do NOT like to lose.  Even if it's just your own team, divided in two running drills, you don't like to be on the "losing" side of that drill.  You're a lot like your dad in that way.  It's going to be something that will be hard for you, but you have enough desire and fire that you'll not be the sort to give up when you do, occasionally, come out on the losing side.  Your Dad coached you in t-ball and basketball and you loved that.  You just thrive on a little attention and cheering on.  Once in a while you'd look at me on the sidelines trying to keep Taryn and Kenna busy during soccer and say, "Hey Mom.  Would you cheer for me?"  You take pretty well to being coached because you know it means you'll get better.  And you like that.  You like things that you can work at and then win because you earned it.  We got out a game a few weeks ago and you stopped me before I opened it and said, "Mom, is this a game of hope?  You know, like 'I hope I win'?  Because I don't like games of hope."  That's you in a nutshell.  You don't even want to mess with a game of chance.  A game of "I hope this spinner lands on a big number".  That's not your thing.

Both your K4 teacher and your Kindergarten teacher have commented on how big a heart you have.  That you're a loyal and kind friends and you're a great reader and student.  You're very smart and you've come a long ways in the last year on your reading.  We try to still practice every day but sometimes in the rush to activities and fitting in piano practice after school, it gets a little lost.  You have the same Kindergarten teacher as Tate did, Miss Karr, and you were SO very excited about that.  She adores you.  She tells us stories about the funny things you do and say.  You're such a funny boy.  You love to make people laugh.  The one thing Miss Karr says you could improve on is remembering when to turn off your goofy side when you're working with partners.  It's hard for you sometimes to turn off the silly when you have a captive audience.  Your sisters and I have missed you a lot this year as you've gone off to all day Kindergarten.  But it's hard to be too sad when we still get to see you at lunch and when you're so clearly thrilled with going to school.  You haven't complained about getting on that bus once.  You love school and you're so happy going and learning all day.

You're a fun buddy and play pretty well when you have friends over.  Your favorite things to do are outside.  Moving and running.  Jumping off of swings, riding bikes, pretending to be pirates or ninjas.  You had a big carnival birthday party this year with tons of games and a bunch of sweet friends.  We're proud of how kind you are to people and that your ability to feel for other people is so strong.  You can play with pretty much anyone, older or younger than you, boy or girl.  Doesn't matter. You can usually find some way to play together.  You're a kind, sweet boy with a really good heart. 

We started practicing the piano this year.  You're excited about it because you like to see the results of your work.  You like that if you stick with a scale or a song for just a few run throughs, that you'll have it down.  And then it's an accomplishment. Something you can show to Dad when he gets home from work, or Tate and get his approval.  You like to collect these things you can do and it makes you happy to have talents and skills in your pocket.  You're doing really well at the piano and you're trying to stick with it when songs get hard because you have the vision of how you'll feel once it's yours and you've got it down.  You played in your first recital in December and enjoyed doing your practice performances and performed flawlessly even though you were a little nervous.

You like to collect little things you find.  You'd come home from K4 last year nearly every day telling me, "Mom, I've got a surprise for you in my backpack!"  And it would be a piece of rope, a bottle cape, a stick, some sequins, a piece of tile or something else that you found on the playground or on your way to the bus and you keep it and treasure it for a few days.  You also LOVE to find coins and claim them as your own if you see them anywhere in the house or outside.

You love food, but I think you'd be pretty happy if you could eat fruit all day every day.  Your favorites are probably apples and pears.  But you love them all.  You're pretty good at trying anything I put in front of you.  You like soups and pastas, you don't love chicken because it just takes you a while longer to process it and get it down.  You like sweet treats but you don't really crave them or ask for them very often.  You LOVE to help me cook and bake.  When you were in K4 we'd bake something almost every week and you loved to bring a chair to the counter and help me put together something new and then share it with friends or neighbors or teachers.  You really wanted to buy some cinnamon oil in Sri Lanka insisting that we could find something to make with it.  So we did.  Home made taffy and lollypops and you were so thrilled.  When grandpa came to visit for Thanksgiving, you made rolls with him and it was a very sweet memory.  Watching your little hands figure out how to roll the dough into a ball just like Grandpa.  You are a great kitchen helper. 

You're a great helper around the house too.  When it's chore time I just ask you to do it and as long as you don't get distracted on the way, you're on it.  No complaints.  You can clean a bathroom with very little supervision, water the garden, dust and vacuum.  You're a big help and a great example to your little sisters. 

Your siblings love you, Finny.  You're such a great big brother to your sisters and little brother to your Tate.  You'll play with your sisters, give them rides on your back, wrestle them softly, and make the goofiest faces to make them laugh.  You and Tate get along so famously it's almost a shame to invite anyone else over.  You'll build new lego inventions, usually robots of some kind, tell each other stories, and just disappear into a new world together.  You very rarely argue.  But you do know how to push each other's buttons once in a while.  You guys are the biggest blessing and your dad and I just love watching you love each other.  We're so glad you're such good friends. 

It's all just flying by and I love every second I get to spend with you, my boy.  You still ask me to snuggle you when I turn out the lights at night and most of the time I just squeeze in there next to you and you say, "so...what should we talk about?"  Like you just don't want me to leave.  I can't think too long or hard about how fast you're growing or it makes me so sad because I love little boy you.  But the amazing things about you just keep getting stronger and clearer and you love to please us and your Heavenly Father so much that I just know the next years of your life are going to be just as wonderful as the ones gone by.  I'm honored and excited to be there for the ride, Finny boy.  I love you with a love as enormous as your giggle. 

The world is yours, my boy.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dear Tate,

Dear Tate,

Wow.  You're 8 years old. I'm baffled.  I feel like you were my tiny (to me.  You were nearly 9 pounds but you felt tiny to me) little baby boy, snuggled into my shoulder with teensy dimples in your squishy cheeks.  And then I just blinked and now you're 8 years old.  You're a tall, silly second grade boy and while I really wish I could watch you grow again, I think you're a really fun boy and I know that the next year will be a new kind of wonderful.  Different from the previous 8 but just as great.

Oh my Tate, you are one of a kind.  You've got this love that almost glows from your skin.  When you're excited about something everyone knows.  You can talk about a new show you like, book you've read, lego set you built, or fact you learned incessantly.  Sometimes it gets a little difficult to listen to and we're trying to learn where boundaries are of how much content to share in conversation before you let the other person have a turn.  But it's hard for you because you are absolutely lit up by things you love and the thought of not talking about them or sharing them with those around you feels like putting a damper on a flame.  

It's fun to watch you really get in to certain subjects and watch your brain soak it all in like a sponge.  Lately it's dinosaurs.  You come home with books about dinosaurs from the library and can spout facts about an enormous array of dinosaurs and it seems like you just memorize everything you've read about them.  Right now you want to be a paleontologist.  But I'm pretty sure you're convinced that paleontology the way you would do it, means bringing dinosaurs back to life Jurassic park style.

 Your brain is a remarkable thing.  You remember the tiniest from years and years ago, like the color of the snow cone you had when we went to the circus when you were three, that came up a few weeks, what?!  You can quote movies and books in detail, that's always been a talent of yours.  We do little presentations on different things we're going to see in our trips and you're getting very good at finding interesting facts to memorize and share in a composed, professional manner.  It's really darling.

You are patient and kind with your little brother and sisters.  You and Finn are such good buddies.  I hope that never changes.  Once you're done with your after school work you can disappear into your room building legos or playing with toys, or head outside to ride bikes with him for hours.  You get along really well and seldom fight.  It's SO nice as a mom to see you be a good big brother.  Being the first in our family is a lot of responsibility because you're doing everything for the first time and it's so nice to have such a kind boy leading the pack.

At the end of last year you seemed to be a little stuck on math.  We worked over the summer on helping you become more fluent with addition and subtraction but honestly, I think something just clicked for you in second grade.  Math isn't as hard for you to understand anymore.  Your teacher, Mr. Bremmer, gave you your highest grade in math last trimester.  You're still an excellent reader and sometimes we have to get you to slow down a little bit and work on how to retell what you've just read but you can read really quickly and love getting in to a new story or series.  The latest you finished was the Spiderwick Chronicles series.  You got the set for Christmas, and read the last one on the way home from Disney World in January.  You still love Harry Potter and we're reading the fourth book together at night when we get to bed on time.  Your only challenge in school is keeping your quick mind in check and staying really focused on what your teacher is saying.  It's hard for you to stay focused all day long but you're aware and working on it.

You love legos and mini-figures.  You're riding your bike without training wheels but I think you still favor your scooter.  You're getting better every day at the piano.  You play very well and are getting better at figuring out notes and rhythms in new songs.  It's really cool to see things click in your brain and watch you work on a tricky spot until you get it right.  You like having a little more distance from me during practicing so I made you a little technic checklist so you can do it by yourself and check it off while I'm in the other room and then I help you with songs.  But even then, I can help you with a step or a spot and tell you, "Okay, now you practice it a few more times" and leave you to do it and you will.  You're really enjoying having a little more responsibility and independence and once in a while you'll stop me to let me know, "Mom, I can do that."  Right.  Of course you can.  You're 8 now!

You're still a pretty picky eater.  Your favorite foods are hot dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, and all breakfast foods.  You eat some sort of sandwich every day for lunch because we just have to make sure you're fed before you go back to school.  Dinner is the meal you still eat the least because it's usually a lot of vegetables but this year you've made huge strides in being willing to try a couple of bites of everything.  That was not a possibility last year.  Now we can ask you to take a certain number of bites before you can be finished with dinner and, while it's not easy for you, you'll oblige without too much fuss.

You have a tendency to get stressed out by being timed or feeling rushed and you leap into panic mode right away when you feel pushed to be faster than your normal speed.  You recover and backpedal sooner and more automatically than you used to and I can see your little brain trying to figure out how to match your feelings to the real size of the problems.  It's a tricky balance but you're trying to figure it out and it's getting easier.

This past fall you did a basketball clinic every Saturday for a while and we added soccer in there once a week too.  Neither we a deep love for you, but you went without complaining and tried your best.   We think its important for you to keep trying different sports because you can learn a lot from being physical and playing on a team so we're glad you're giving it your best. You still love to swim and you can run too when you want to.  We went on a few training runs for your Disney World race, that didn't end up happening because of lightening, and you could keep up for a whole mile without complaining and still have steam left.

You're getting to a great age to be able to discuss more serious topics with us.  It's a cool thing to see as a parent when you are able to have discussions about the gospel or friendships or cultures with your kids.  It's like I have more in common with you every day as you grow closer to being an adult.  Which scares the daylights out of me, but it's pretty cool too.  You're a cool kid.  You seem to really love visiting new places.  It's exhausting, but you don't complain much when we're out adventuring, which is SO helpful since we've got three younger than you and at least one of them usually is complaining!  In your 8th year we've been to Spain, the UAE, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria and all over the US, most recently Disney World.  It's unreal the places you've seen in just a couple of years living abroad.  Your dad and I love being able to share this life with you and your little brother and sisters.  But you might be the most fun to watch as you take in the sights and new food and new art and stories because you can understand them and appreciate them more than your little siblings.  Disney World was wonderful and tough.  We were tired and jet lagged and your three siblings kept randomly throwing up.  But you were a trooper.  You rode some really big rides and liked them.  Some of them still made you a little bit nervous but it was, again, really fun to be able to ride rides that I really like with my kiddo who really likes them too!

Tate, I love you.  I've said it every year, but you and I share something special on your birthday.  You're my first little one.  Your big day is my big day too.  I hope you remember that as you get older and the years get trickier.  I'm only as old as a momma as you are.  I'm trying to figure out how to do my job just like you are.  And I'm going to make a lot of mistakes but behind them all is so so much love for you.  I am so glad you're the big brother.  You're a great example and you think with your heart.  You see people who are sad and lonely and you reach out.  You try to make the world better and happier.  You're starting to recognize the spirit and be conscious of your actions.  You're a gift and I'm so grateful that we get to figure this whole being a kid/being a parent thing out together.  I love you, kid.

Happy Birthday!  The world is yours.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Dear Taryn,

Dear Taryn,

Wow.  You're two.  Where did those two years go?!  It feels like seconds ago that I was looking at your sister, getting rubbed down and wrapped up across the room and waiting to see if you looked anything like her.  When I saw you for the first time I couldn't believe how tiny you were.  So small.  So perfect.  So beautiful.  You were such a quiet baby.  You let us know if you were upset, but that didn't happen very often.  It seemed like you and Kenna had a deal worked out.  She'd let us know when you needed something and then we'd take care of it for both of you so you never had to get upset.  And that's still kind of the trend around here.  You're starting to cry a little more and tell us when you want something specific or you just need some love.  But for the most part, you're pretty content to let Kenna do the talking.  

You're getting to be a good little talker.  You say a lot of words but aren't stringing many together yet.  You really don't have to though.  Kenna will talk for you.  You LOVE birds which you call, "CawCaw".  You love to chase them and make them fly.  I think it makes you feel tough.  Your first word was "Momma" but I think it was because I said it to you ALL THE TIME, determined that I had to be someone's favorite.  But I'm pretty sure most of the time Dad's still at the very tiptop of your list.  You and Kenna have him absolutely wrapped around your tiny fingers.  

You're a pretty even keel little lady.  Kenna pushes you around sometimes.  If you won't give her what she wants she can pull your hair or hit you and you usually just take it and then forgive her so quickly with a smile and a hug when she comes to apologize.  It's amazing how quickly you little people let go of things.  You haven't learned to hold on to hurts and it's a quality I admire so much.  I find myself thinking, "She'll probably be a little more wary this time" after Kenna has smacked you or you've fallen off a chair, or wrestled too rough with Finny.  But nothing seems to phase you for very long.  You roll with the punches and shake off your battle wounds really quickly.  Sometimes you get your feelings hurt and the instant tears and expression of such deep hurt on your face just breaks my heart.  But again, after a little love, you're pushing me away, ready to get back to the playing.

You LOVE your siblings.  When any of them give you a hug or a high five your face absolutely lights up.  You love going to the door to wave goodbye to Tate in the morning as he gets on the bus.  You love climbing all over Finn during his reading practice, or playing with marbles or at a park with him.  Your brothers are both incredible with you but I think you have a special bond with Finn.  You and Kenna are getting better at being kind to each other as well.  Just in recent months I've seen you run to her side when she's fallen and wipe tears off her cheeks while telling her, "oh cye" (don't cry).  Or insisting on give her a hug before you go to bed for naps or night time.  And whenever we get you out of bed or give you vitamins or snacks, or anything really, you immediately say, "Kenna", to let us know that Kenna needs to be taken care of too.  Of course, you also immediately volunteer "Kenna" when I say, "Who wants to get out of the tub first?" or "Who wants me to do their hair first?"  You love your sister.  You're a pretty special little pair.  You're both so different but you just get each other.  You know how to make each other mad but you know how to comfort each other too.  It's a beautiful thing.

You're a smart little princess, Miss Taryn.  You love to get in to things and seem to take special pleasure in getting in to things, over and over again, that you know are off limits.  You've climbed on the piano bench and then onto the keyboard of the piano to stand on your tiptoes and reach a marker on the top of the piano so you can color with it...on the keyboard, your toes, the floor.  You climb onto the computer desk so you can play with the keys or to get another marker to color on the computer or keyboard.  You LOVE to help yourself to snacks in the pantry and you're so sneaky and quiet that we usually don't catch you until you've had several handfuls of whatever you were after and when we walk around the corner you grab another, shove it into your mouth, and THEN run away.  It's funny that such a delicate, gentle little lady can be so unapologetic about getting in to things you know you shouldn't over and over and over.  

You are a funny girl.  You're very timid and shy when you first meet people and big crowds of people make you especially clingy and snuggly.  You can give a death stare with your serious eyebrows that will warn off the most determined of would-be fans.  You're intimidated at first but you eventually warm up and once you're in the mood you can be a total goof.  When you're feeling silly and want to show off your facial expressions are like magic.  They're SO big and hilarious it's like you're a cartoon.  I love it so much.  It's so happy and silly it's contagious.  You've got a tender little heart and you can get scared pretty easily.  Loud noises or just things that are unfamiliar will shake you to the core.  When we went to the zoo in Madrid we got you too close to some baby chicks and your whole body trembled in fear and you clung to us like you feared for your life.  It was so sad.  

You love music but you're much more shy about it than Kenna.  You like to listen to it and ask for me to play certain songs in the car but you have to be in the right mood to sing along.  You love music from the Sound of Music, Tuppence a bag is another favorite (maybe because it mentions birds and you love birds).  You've got a very quick little mind and you'll pick up on tunes and words quickly.  If we leave off the last word to a phrase in a book or a song you can finish it, but only if you're in the mood.  

You can be a pretty picky eater.  I feel like you're getting trickier in the last few months since you got really sick around Thanksgiving.  Grandpa Arthur came all the way to Saudi Arabia to visit us and the first day he was here we spend most of the day in the hospital with you and K getting fluids in IVs because you'd been throwing up for a week!  Since then there have been good weeks and not so good weeks with you and food.  When we travel your dad and I are very aware of how picky you are and how hard it is to get you to eat and drink enough that we feel like you're doing okay.  You'll pretty much always drink my breakfast shakes with does much to ease my mind, and you like bananas and pizza and raisins.  But honestly, most other things are a "sometimes" with you.  Some days you'll be in the mood for applesauce or soup or pears and others you'll just spit them right back out or refuse to open your mouth for them at all.  It's curious and a little stressful when we're traveling, but you're gaining weight and seem very happy so we just try to roll with it and let you keep figuring this whole food thing out.  One thing that you always love, however, is "cannie" (candy).  Finn and I still quote this one time when you saw me opening the cupboard where we keep the candy jars and you got so excited that your arms got stiff at your sides and you flexed your whole body and with wide excited eyes screamed, "Cannies!!!!!"  I don't think you've ever met a candy you didn't like.

This year your two favorite shows are Little Einsteins which you call "pat pat" because the characters pat their legs to get the rocket to fly, and "EsAnna" which is what you call "Frozen".  I woke up a few days ago to you singing, "Ehh GOOO  Eh Goooo!" (Let it GO  Let it GO!) at the top of your lungs in your crib.  It was so darling to hear you singing first thing in the morning.  What a perfect way to wake up!

We've been on the move a lot this year.  We traveled to Spain, Dubai, the USA, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, and then Disney World just a couple of weeks ago.  This year has been a completely different animal than last year because traveling with you two has become infinitely more tricky.  You don't love staying in your stroller for long periods of time.  You don't nap well or for very long when we're out and about all day.   Our trips to Austria and Disney World were especially tricky because you and Kenna kept randomly throwing up and it was so very stressful trying to figure out what was going on.  Maybe you get motion sickness or maybe you just throw up when you're super tired, but whatever the reason it's awful and I hope we can figure it out! 

It was really fun to see you interact with your family in Disney World.  You love your cousins but have a very sensitive spot in your heart for "baby Senny" who is barely more of a baby than you are.  She was very patient with your unending adoration and being showered with hugs and kisses.  You warmed up quickly and were soon giggling and goofing off with your cousins and the rest of the crew and it was sweet to see you recognize how these people are different because they love you like only family can.

You are a very physical little miss.  You seem to take pride in being very strong.  You're always looking for something to climb.  You hang on things and lift your legs up to your tummy and just hang there like a tiny gymnast.  You're very independent at the park.  You don't need to be able to seem me or need my help at all and you're constantly trying to just walk off of places that are way too high for you to be able to walk off.  You love being outside in our cul-de-sac or playing at a park and you love the swimming pool too but get a little bugged when you get water in your face in the pool or in the bath. 

You love stories and we never go to bed at naptime or bed time without at least one.  It's just not possible.  Your current favorite is "Fancy Nancy".  You think it's so silly.  

Taryn, baby, these two years of being your momma went so fast.  I loved you something fierce from the first time I saw you.  I could tell that you were somehow both calm and self-assured and also really strong.  You're a little marvel.  You hug with your whole body.  You smile with your whole soul.  You're a beautiful little miss and while I wish these two years could have passed just a bit slower, I know that what comes next for you is going to be pretty special and I feel immeasurably lucky that I get a front row seat in your life.  I love you, Taryn.  I love you so so much.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.  The world is yours.

Dear Kenna,

Dear Kenna,

My goodness, I can't believe it.  You're two.  I've been so nostalgic all day thinking about everything that was happening at this time two years ago.  You cried so hard when you came into the world.  You were so mad but only for a little bit.  By the time you were carried over to me you were calm and quiet.  You just had to make yourself known.  That's been the trend with you much of the time.  You make sure we know if you're hurt or sad or have a need we can fix.  But once we know and we hug and kiss you, it's usually all better pretty quickly.  

You've had quite the year, Miss Kenna.  You've grown and learned so much.  You talk SO much.  Last year it was just a word or two and now you've got complete sentences.  You love to learn new words and parrot like a pro.  Just a couple of days ago I made some poppyseed bread for an after school snack and after you had a piece you wanted "mo mo pease?"  I tried to distract you and said, "Let's have a banana first, okay?"  You stopped for a minute, and said, "First....and THEN I will have more cake!"  And in that little pause I saw your mind working out, "Hey, I know what 'first' means now and I'm gonna use it!"  Your little mind is so quick and your dad and I both love to watch the wheels spinning behind those beautiful chocolate eyes of yours.

You're getting much better at being patient with your sister.  You've got a pretty quick temper sometimes and learning to share or take turns is SO hard when you're little.  But you're figuring out that hitting and pulling hair hurts.  You're usually the one dishing out the smacks between the two of you but a couple of times lately I've watched you be so quick to regret your swats and apologize and hug Taryn right away because you feel sorry that you had a mean impulse.  It's actually pretty impressive to see one so little start to understand empathy even a little bit.  You and your sister can talk and sing across the room from your cribs.  You can hold hands and dance and snuggle up briefly to share a book.  You're still pretty independent but those moments when there's an unprompted hug or snug are becoming more frequent.  You two love each other and you just get each other.  You know how to push each other's buttons but you also know how to comfort each other and that makes my momma heart smile.  You're so very lucky to have each other.  You love your brothers too and it's sweet to see you play with them and seek their approval.  They both adore you and it makes them so happy when you say their names or give them hugs, or see them off on the bus to school.

You can be a little stickler for the rules.  You try to make sure that Taryn is not getting into trouble and you run to tell me when she is...unless you're joining her.  I was around the corner the other day when I overheard this conversation between the two of you:
Kenna: "Teh-in a tubble?"  Taryn, are you getting in trouble?
Taryn: "Yeah"
Kenna: "Dit down." (Taryn was on a chair getting into my diaper bag)
Taryn: "Okay"
I think there's something about having responsibility and being in charge that really makes you happy.  You've started saying, "I help you!  I help you!" several times a day.  You love to stir things and wipe things and do any little part of a job I'll let you do.  You take such pride in helping.  It's darling.

You LOVE music.  You've always perked up when you hear music but this year you've started dancing and singing.  Your favorite is probably "tuppins a bag" (feed the birds from Mary Poppins) but you also know all the words to "Sing-a Wain" and "Do way meeee" and "cuckoo" (So Long, Farewell).  But honestly, I think if we listened to any song for very long you'd pick it up and fall in love with it.  You love to sing and prompt us to applaud after a phrase and the smile on your face when we tell you it's beautiful would make flowers bloom.  It's so sunny!

You're a pretty good eater but I think you're getting pickier as you get older.  You and your sister have wanted to be more independent and eating more big kid food way sooner than your brothers did.  Probably because you see them eating normal food and you KNOW there's a difference!  You're pretty good with fruit but don't like many vegetables.  You chew up and spit out food you don't like very much.  You favorites are probably pancakes, pizza, bananas, and maybe raisins.  If something looks or smells too different we can't even bribe you to put it in your mouth. 
You've been introduced to a couple of shows for little kids this year!  That's the tricky thing with being the littlest.  Usually if we're watching TV, which isn't very often, it's something the boys like.  And as a result, for the most part you haven't been interested in TV yet.  But this year you've really liked "Little Einsteins".  You call it "Pat Pat" because they pat their legs to get rocket to fly.  You answer the questions and follow the characters directions.  It's adorable.  And most recently you've discovered "Elsa Anna" (Frozen).  You really like Frozen and you'd watching it every day if we'd let you.

You've been all over the place this year.  We traveled to Spain, Dubai, the USA, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, and then Disney World just a couple of weeks ago.  This year traveling has been an entirely different challenge with two moving toddlers.  You don't love staying in your stroller for long periods of time.  You don't nap well or for very long when we're out and about all day.   You're getting tricky to feed while we're out and about.  For the first year it was all formula and a few small things but now you're eating real food and you have many opinions about which foods you want!  And there's something going on with you and your sister getting sick while we're on vacation.  Either we've just had rotten luck during our last two vacations, or you and your sis get motion sickness or maybe you just get sick when you're super tired.  I don't know but our trip before Christmas to Austria and after Christmas to Disney World were riddled with random vomiting.  Hopefully that trend doesn't continue because it's super stressful to have little ones not feeling well when we're out of our element and we're not sure what's wrong. 

You loved being around your cousins and family in Disney World.  It was fun to see you old enough to play with them a little more.  You adore your cousin, Senny and couldn't leave her be.  You reacted to Uncle Cody's teasing and flirted with Uncle Trevan and snuggled up to your Aunties.  You take just a minute to warm up to people but once you do you can be a total ham.  You're so funny when you're showing off on facetime or in person.  Your little personality is just bursting with fun.  You love girly things.  Toy makeup, jewelry, princesses and sparkles and twirling in dresses all make you light up and it's just so cute.

You can be a little sass and you're learning to throw a first rate tantrum.  You know how to scream really loudly and when you throw yourself on the floor with so much drama I just can't keep the giggles back.  Luckily they're mostly when you're tired or when you're trying to tell me something very important and I'm not understanding it quickly enough.  Most of the time you're a pretty happy little miss.  
You LOVE being outside.  You love swimming or "riding your bike" which means pushing some sort of little vehicle around the cul-de-sac while your brothers are riding.  You love going to parks and climbing and sliding.  You're a very active, physical little lady.

You love stories and whenever I'm sitting down you'll hurry to get a book and sit with me.  Finn and I do a little reading time every morning and it's so tricky sometimes when you just want to be right in the middle of it.  You're a little monkey just climbing all over us while he's trying to look around you to get a glimpse of the words he has to read.

Kenna girl I can't believe you're already two years old!  You were so tiny.  You and your sister were such teensy little babies.  I'd never seen anything so small before and I couldn't believe how much my heart just swelled with love for these two tiny people.  You're a strong, smart, lovely little person.  I love you so much it's just unreal.  I didn't have any idea how much fun it would be to be the mom of two little girls but it's such a dream.  It's busier and has way more ups an downs than it did before, but man, I love being your mom, Kenna.  I love watching your mind work and seeing you learn how to direct that spunk and spice of yours and love with your enormous heart.  

I love you so much.  And while I wish time would slow down a little bit, I'm also really excited to see what happens next because, little lady, you are going to light up the world.

The world is yours, little birthday princess.