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.