first birthday of lilly mae

Hey, darling girl.

This is my fourth first birthday letter, and it may be my last. I always say (or at least feel) something like, “I can’t believe you’re ONE!” To some extent, that’s there a little- I’ve been reflecting on your birth today and it doesn’t feel so long ago.

But honestly? I can believe it. I know you’ve been with us for a whole year. I can’t really remember much of pre-Lilly life. This year’s been a whirlwind, much like Katherine’s first year was—something about the combination of a baby and a toddler makes it feel like the fastest and slowest year ever.

Anyway. Here’s the point. You fit, little girl. Some day when you’re older and these questions enter your head, you might wonder if you were just an extra. You weren’t. You fit perfectly in our family- we wouldn’t be us without you. Your sweet little scrunched up nose with the dimples (so many tiny dimples!) and your little bottom lip… You’re delightful. Jolly. Sweet-natured and chill. You’re patient with your siblings’ shenanigans.

Ever since we learned you were a girl, I’ve been excited about the big brother/little sister dynamic between you and Brian boy. I had NO IDEA. You two are so sweet together. He dotes on you, and you smile whenever you see him. I love when I have just the two of you together… He crawls around just to have you chase him, which you do with squeals of delight.

Your sisters adore you, as well. Jenna thinks she’s your mother, and Katherine is forever trying to get “the perfect setup” for you—she makes beds out of her blankets and pillows and stuffed animals “for when you sleep.” Sometimes, you even humor her by lying there for a bit.

Speaking of sleep, you’re still sleeping on the floor of my closet. I’m sorry. We really just don’t have another reasonable place for you right now. Hilariously, we’ve been swaddling you this whole time… we’re only just now giving you a free arm. This is because you’re… on the floor of my closet. Swaddling kept you still (and sleeping happily). So, as you’re fully outgrowing that, I have no clue where we’ll put you next. So that should be fun. I tell you all of this mostly to remind myself later. I’ve forgotten so many details of the last several years—apparently a lot of kids in not so many years does that—so this little quirky fact of your babyhood seems like it should be recorded somewhere, and I’m already writing here. So… Yeah. Anyway. (PS- Mama rambles.)

While I’m rambling… you’re currently crawling. This week, you started to pull up and I suspect, like your brother, you may be a late walker. (Hallelujah- mildly late mobility for the later ones is a gift.) You sing and chatter endlessly, but not much in the way of intelligible words, except when one of your siblings leaves the gate open. You crawl at top speed for the hallway and freedom, yelling, “GOGOGOGOGO!” Thank you for that, by the way—it helps me know when I need to chase you to close the gate and keep you from rolling down the steps. Again.

You’re mostly self-entertained (or sibling-entertained), which is nice. This makes it sound like I give you no attention. That’s false. You’re currently playing with my foot, and every few seconds, I look down and talk to you. You’d be fine if I didn’t, but you’re just too sweet to ignore. And, really, while you clearly have less of my attention than Jenna did when she was a baby, I think the amount of attention you get, counting the rest of the family, is far greater.

Whoops. You’re stuck under my chair. Silly girl.

(I fixed it.)

I love you so. I love that you snort when you laugh or cry really hard. I love your just-beginning curls and your sparkling brown eyes. I love how rosy you are when you fall asleep… your cheeks, nose, and lips are a bouquet of the most perfect pink. You’re growing up so well, little Lilly, and we adore you.

Katherine’s fifth birthday

Hello, darling!

I just reread through last year’s letter, curious how things have changed in the last 365 days.

Mostly, you have become more you. And I know that’s how it goes, but it’s fun to see you become. You are a delight. You’re full of fire, light, spunk, and determination. There is might and sweetness. There are cuddles and fits. Your skin is still baby-soft and your grin is as impish as ever. You fear almost nothing right now, which is both beautiful and terrifying to your mama.

Sweet girl, a few weeks ago, you and Jenna got into a discussion in the car. Jenna asked which parent she was most like (me) and you asked, too (your daddy.) Then Jenna, being Jenna and the oldest and sometimes less than gracious, was taunting you, holding over your head that she was more like me than you.

You spent the next several days doing and saying things, followed by “am I acting like you, mama?”

It was both flattering and heartbreaking.

I told you this then, but I want to have it in writing:

I don’t want a version of you that is more like me.

I mean, in the ways I’m growing to be like Jesus, by all means… follow me as I follow Him. But in all the other things?

I want YOU. Just you. The you-est version.

I know it’s not always easy to be you. You’re close enough to your sister to feel compared to her frequently, but tailing her by just enough that you feel less-than. (For the record, I don’t see you as less than Jenna.) Your personality is big and your feelings are big and your voice is big and your impulse control isn’t quite developed yet and that causes some friction.

Can I be honest with you? I am ever so excited to see what all of that means as you grow up.

You’re strong and fierce.

That makes you challenging to parent, but it also means you are going to be unstoppable as a big person. (Well, you’re basically unstoppable now.) And now, while you do the hard work of pointing all that strength and fierceness in the right direction, you manage to be delightful and hilarious.

I adore you, my girl. You’re growing up just right. I’m praying for you this year, that you grow in grace and wisdom and self-control. You’re doing a good job.

 

to my firstborn on her sixth birthday

This is Jenna’s birthday letter. And also, it became a letter to me and you.

Baby girl…

You know I’m always gonna call you that, right? Of course you do. The other day, you pointed out that I still call Daddy “baby” from time to time. Thanks for not being offended.

Anyhow…

You’re six today.

And I love you so, so much.

You are funny and smart and creative. You’re kind and thoughtful and you’re growing up so well.

Over the course of this year, you’ve become more and more you. And you remind me more and more of me. We share hobbies like photography and singing, but we also share strengths and weaknesses.

I don’t ever want to assume that you’re exactly like me. I want to keep learning you- who you are, what makes your heart happy and what makes it sad. At the same time, I feel like our similarities give me a little bit of insight into what is going on inside you, and I don’t want to waste that, either.

So this year, I want to tell you a few things both as your mama and just as a person who is a lot like you and knows some of your struggles.

You are loved.

Sometimes you express that you don’t feel that way. Sometimes I’m not loving you well. Sometimes I am, but my loving you well means setting boundaries that you don’t like. I promise I do love you. And do you know who always loves you well? God. I screw it up sometimes, but He never does. And sometimes He tells you “no” and you don’t like it, but He loves you in ways that neither of us can understand or imagine.

I realized this morning that it’s a really good thing I didn’t know who you would be, because I would have spent my entire life counting down the days to December 13, 2010 so I could meet you. But also? God did know who you’d be. And He loves you even more than I do. And, while it’s important for you to know that God (not you or I) is the main character in the big story of everything, I’m fairly certain based on what I know of Him that He was crazy excited to make you just how He wanted. Even more excited than I’d have been, had I known.

You are lovely.

Again, sometimes you don’t feel lovely. Right now, that means you don’t like what you’re wearing because I’m making you dress practically for the weather or for an activity, or because the dress you wanted is in the laundry because you’ve worn it for the last 96 hours and got food on it. But you are, and it has nothing to do with what you wear. The “not feeling beautiful” problem is likely to get harder in the next few years, and I want you to hear me clearly: you are lovely. And it doesn’t have anything to do with what you wear or how you look compared to somebody else. It has everything to do with Who made you. And not only did He make you, but you gave Him your heart, and He’s shaping it into something even more beautiful.

You can fail.

It’s okay.

This is the safest possible space for it, in fact, and I’d like for you to learn how to handle it now.

Whether failure looks like inability to draw a horse perfectly, making a mess, or being mean to your sister and then lying about it, this is the time and place for it. I want you to learn what to do when your efforts don’t match your expectations. I want you to learn how to clean up messes and ask for help.

I want you to learn when your failure is just a mistake and when it’s sin… and how to deal with either of those.

I want you to become really good at admitting your sin, turning from it, making amends.

This part of growing up isn’t always fun, but it’s one of the more important parts, and it’s an honor to be your mama and walk through it with you. And while you are learning what to do when you fail, I’m learning and failing right alongside you.

We’re figuring this thing out, you and me. You’re learning how to be a person; I’m learning how to be a mama.

I love this journey with you.

 

it’s your day, Baby K!

Hey, Katherine!

Today is the day we celebrate four years with you! Okay, I lie. You think that your day was yesterday. I didn’t lie to you, exactly… but I may have told you “Woohoo! Today’s the day we’re celebrating the day you were born!” Which was true. Because Daddy’s out tonight, so we did our celebrating early, so he wouldn’t have to miss it.

Anyways. 

I kind of like having a day to celebrate you privately. To reflect on your teeny self when you were born and all the ways you’ve grown. You’re such a blessing to me. You delight me and challenge me and baffle me. This makes so much sense to me, because you’re very, very like your dad, and he delights, challenges, and baffles me all the time. He has for years.

You have the mind of a tiny engineer and the heart of a sprite. You must know how things work. You’re fascinated by everything and not afraid of anything. You have an irresistible drive to deconstruct. But also you have an irrepressible sparkly smile and a crazy sense of humor and a contagious giggle. You are  so spunky and goofy. Hilarious. And you’re always moving. I can’t believe how many pictures I’ve gotten of you this month, but when I look through them, I guess I can. Most of them are when you’ve been settled. Doing something, watching something, eating something… in the picture above, you were… on the toilet. (Sorry.) (But look how cute you are!) It’s not easy to catch you still enough to get a good picture. (Even that one isn’t a good picture, as pictures go. But it’s still one of my favorites.)

I was blessed lately by a review from your teachers at forest school. It was so much fun to hear how other adults see you. It made me laugh out loud to read “Katherine never (ever, ever) takes the easy path.” You have GRIT, little girl. You’re mighty. I’m so excited to see the places God takes you. It’s not easy to know how to guide you with this amount of grit, honestly, but your dad and I pray for wisdom to do just that all. the. time.

There’s so much I love about who you are right now. I love your grin and that dimple that shows up on your right cheek from time to time. I love your independence and your inquisitiveness. I love your Katherinese. I think your speech issues are my fault (because moms) because I didn’t heed advice about sippy cups and you can’t quite get your tongue out from between your teeth when you talk. I really think you’ll figure out how to say all the sounds eventually, but dang, it’s cute. So I’ll keep working with you a little at a time, but I sure enjoy it for now. I love your enthusiasm about… everything. When you speak right now, about a third of your words are definitely in ALL CAPS. Also, as much trouble as it causes, I love your undying devotion to Wil Fedadoh… the tiny puppy you took from Brian before he was born but now cannot live without. You love her so much you daily hide her from “monstoes” for her protection… and then can’t remember where to find her.

I sure love you, baby girl. You’re not so much of a baby anymore. You’re growing up just right, and I’m excited to see you keep becoming more you this year. I love that I get to be your mama.

 

And then there’s how much your brother loves you…

IMG_3732

..and the way Jenna sees you. She took these-

You are loved, darling girl. Happy birthday.

 

 

his first birthday letter

Hey, little dude. You don’t know it and you won’t be able to read for a while, but every year, I try to write you a little letter. This is for you, so you can look back and see how I’ve loved you over the years. It’s for me, because I have All The Words and sometimes there’s an overflow and it all just needs to come out. And, for now, I share it, too. Because you have lots of people in lots of places who love you and sometimes it’s fun for them to see this side of who you are.

So here it is. You’re one now, and I get to write you your very first birthday note.


and… I can’t quite think how to start. 

There’s so much.

Here’s the biggest idea:


You are my third baby. By the time you arrived, our family had a rhythm of its own. With J, and then somewhat with K, the family rhythm formed around who they were.

But you didn’t really have that luxury. 


And you know what? 

If I had the option to special-order you from God, the most perfect possible child for our family, I could not possibly have done as well as God did. 

You fit. You fit perfectly. You are exactly the piece this home needed. You add so much joy, I can’t even begin to express it. I adore you. Everyone does, actually. From your big brown eyes that are smiling all the time to your perfect, delicious little toes, you are awesome. I frequently describe you as “as laid-back and delightful as babies come” and I’m not exaggerating. This is excellent because when you were born, you had two sisters under the age of four, and sometimes their adoration looks like assault. But you just handle it. You handle it so well and so often I had to give the phenomenon its own tag. 

You are patient. 


So very, very patient. There’s a lot of mom guilt that can come with having a not-first baby… there are so many needs and only one me and sometimes, it’s the smallest who’s going to have to wait. Because, for example, early on when all three of you needed lunch right now, I could get your sisters lunch in five minutes or less (if I was quick), but feeding you could take 45 minutes. And you needed it more, there’s no question. But I could let one wait for five minutes, or I could let two wait for 45 minutes (probably disrupting your meal the whole time), so… you had to wait. As a teeny, tiny baby. And your needs aren’t always last. I try to work things so you’re not always getting the short end of the stick, but the fact remains… you do. A lot more often than the girls did. But do you complain? Not usually. Why? 

Your left thumb.


Oh, my goodness, do I ever love your left thumb. 

So do you. 

I know there may come a day when you and I struggle mightily against your thumb-sucking habit, but this year? It’s been perfect. I can’t even tell you how much I love that you’ve always been able to soothe yourself. I love that you let me know that you need me for a second, then you find your thumb and wait patiently (even happily!) while I try to get through whatever I have to before I can get to you. Obviously, it makes my life easier. But you know what? It makes yours better, too, and not just because you’re calmer during the wait. Because, whether you self-soothed or not, I would still have to meet all the needs of all the little people, and you’d still need to wait sometimes. But instead of yelling at me and raising my stress levels while you wait, you make it easy. So when I finally get there, I’m not frustrated or anxious. Instead, I’m really, really grateful. And a grateful mom is a better mom for you. 

And speaking of anxious…


Something else that surprised me was how much you calm me down. I remember when you were weeks old. I was struggling with postpartum anxiety for the first time ever, and it was sucking all the fun out of my life, which was a bummer because I knew, even then, that my life was a pretty good one. But one morning, when I was ridiculously overstimulated and on the verge of completely freaking out, I laid a swaddle blanket on the floor. I set you on it. I grabbed some coffee and just… sat. And the toddler chaos continued around me and it was loud. But somehow… you and I? On that blanket? We were OK. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that a newborn would become a calming influence, but there you were. 


“Oh! Are you trying for a boy?!?”


This is the question that people inexplicably asked through the first half of my pregnancy. And, setting aside all the things that make that one of the more awkward questions people ask (besides, perhaps, “don’t you know what causes that?!?”), the answer in my own heart was “nope.” I had your sisters. I knew girls. I liked girls. I was comfortable being a “girl mom.” I was intimidated by the idea of figuring out a whole ‘nother gender. Neither your daddy nor I were really worried about “carrying on the family name” or anything, so when the ultrasound tech told us you were a boy, we were quiet. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, this whole “boy” thing. 

But then you showed up. And people still ask me, “Ooh! Aren’t you glad to have a boy?!?” But now the answer is totally obvious. “I’m glad to have HIM.” Everything, from your very special name to your shining eyes to your belly laugh and your easy personality… I like you. Not because we “finally got our boy,” but because God gave us you. 

I love you, little mister. 


You’re growing up exactly right. I’m excited to see who you become. I could go on for pages and pages about the things I want for you. (I’ll condense: I want Jesus to draw your heart to himself.) But for now? My attention is pretty consumed with who you are right now and how much I love this amazing little person.


love letter to a three-year-old

Hey, Baby K.

You’re three! 


This is the part where I exclaim, “I can’t believe you’re three!” except… I totally can. You don’t seem very two to me anymore. I mean, there are a lot of moments where I can still see the baby in you, but you’re less and less of a toddler and more and more of a preschooler. Three is a big year. You’ve said repeatedly, “I’m gonna grow to a hundred and then I’ll go to Cubbies with Jenna!” Well, you don’t have to grow to a hundred. This is the year! You get to go to Cubbies! And to swim lessons! We may start a little bit of school stuff, too. Just for fun. 

You fascinate me, little girl. You’re such a mix of extremes. I mean, there’s the expected mix of baby and big girl going on… you chatter on about all kinds of things like a big girl would, using some huge words, but you still have a lot of your baby sounds. (My current favorites are “polliwog” and “authority.” I’m sorry you’re a little annoyed that I keep asking who has authority over polliwogs. It’s just so darn cute to hear you say, “Powwywogs have afoditty ovo demthelf!”)

You’re really a funny mix of outgoing adventurer and total introvert. Sometimes you want to be the center of attention and you talk loud and proud at anyone nearby and climb things not meant to be climbed by people under four feet tall. But then I see you tuck yourself away in the background, just watching. I love learning when you do which. I love watching you kind of figure out your world and where you want to be in it. 


You can be stubborn to the point of defiant. Except when you aren’t. Sometimes you’re so quick with a “yes, Mom!” and you scamper off to do whatever it was I asked. And then there are the other times. For the record, you come by it honestly. It absolutely comes from your daddy… I still have all of mine. Your stubbornness will become an asset before long, but I’m sorry this part is difficult. I promise to do what I can to help that happen, but that means some challenges up front for us both. It’s OK. I love you plenty for that. I’m praying that you become stubborn in doing what’s right. I’m imagining that in a few years, you’ll be a really good influence on kids around you, because you’ll be holding on to what you know is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing. There will be some kids nearby who know what they should be doing, but are afraid to stand alone. I doubt very much that you’ll be afraid to stand alone. And in doing what’s right, you’ll help those other ones do what’s right, too. I like your stubborn. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but I really do.

I’m praying for you this year, baby girl. Praying that Jesus continues to draw your heart. That you learn that being stubborn isn’t worth it when you’re doing what’s wrong. That your friendship with your sister grows and your care for your baby brother continues and becomes gentle. That your relationship with your daddy continues to bloom. And I pray for me. Because I’m the mama, I’m with you the most when you’re pushing lines need someone to help you learn how to use your stubborn for good. I pray that I don’t get tired of teaching and start letting you slide… that wouldn’t serve you at all, as much as you think that’s what you want. And I pray that when I’m teaching you, I would do it with a heart that is for you and that you would see that. 

I love you, kiddo. 

I love your spunk and your adventure and your silly and your stubborn. You’re likely to hear “She’s growing too fast!” tonight, and they say that because they love your little self and it’s hard to see you leaving your little behind. I get that. I held you a long time last night, knowing I wouldn’t get to hold a two-year-old you ever again. But hear me loud: You’re growing just right. You’re lovely. I wouldn’t trade you for anything. Not even a version of you that stayed small forever.

I love who you’re becoming. 

Happy birthday, Little J!


Hey, Little J… 


Happy fourth birthday, little girl! I love you. Have I told you lately that I love how you’re growing up? Not to fast, not to slow… just right. It’s fun that you can have very involved conversations with me. (It’s fun that you frequently carry out both sides of involved conversations with, say, stuffed animals. Or infants.) I love that you know and use all the big words you hear us use. I also like that you still say “somefling” instead of “something.” I’ll admit that I’m not working very hard to teach you the right way to say that… I want to hold on to that very last hint of toddler in your voice. I still call you “Baby J” from time to time, but that’s more habit than anything. You’re less and less of a baby and more of a little kid. 


It’s fun (and sometimes scary) to see the ways you’re like me. You’re so empathetic. It blows my mind that a three- (now four)-year old can and will pick up and verbalize how people around her are feeling (and respond appropriately), but you frequently do. It’s so funny to hear you interact with K and B- you’re such a little mama. It’s like hearing me, but in a preschooler voice. (And sometimes you say “Oh, MAN!” or “Shoot!” and I realize that sounding like me isn’t always a good thing. I’ll work on that.) 

I love your fun… The twirls, the dancing, the fairy wings and wanting to “really fly”… I love your songs- both the ones you learned and the ones you make up. (I won’t lie- I appreciate that you have pretty good pitch, too. Much easier to hear 2,341 rounds of Frozen songs when they’re not off-key.)

I love how you see God. Every pretty sunrise or snowfall finds you saying, “Look, Mama! We should thank God for that!” And the questions. Oh, the questions. You give me a run for my money, child. (“Wait. So God sent Jesus? But Jesus is God! So God sent Himself??? That doesn’t make any sense.“)  I like that when you’re sad, you talk to Him. I also like when you ask him to make your toys “real.” (And I like that you tell me, “I asked Him, and I hope He does make my giraffe a REAL giraffe, but if He doesn’t, I’m ok with that.” Much easier for me that way, to be sure!) You’re such a fun blend of little kid and big kid. I am praying that this is the year you understand, really understand about “God’s rescue plan.” (Because, as cool as you are, it’s obvious you need the Holy Spirit every bit as badly as your Mama does.) I am excited to see you grow to understand “grace.” (Other than “No! Don’t take that away! Give me grace!” when you deserve discipline.) 

I’m excited for this year.

Things you’ll learn to read and write and add and draw.

Fun things you’ll learn to do. (Swim lessons happening when K turns 3!)

The way you’ll learn to relate to your sister and help with your brother. 

Greater control over your words and emotions. (Not perfect- heavens! I’m not that good at it!- just better.) 

Growth in grace and character and wisdom. (As much of those as a 4-year-old can soak up!)

Mostly, I am just excited to see you become more you.

Because you’re lovely. And we love you.