Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Then came seven.

Spencer, buddy,

Tomorrow, you turn seven.




I don't know why, but this number has thrown me for such a loop. I mused to someone that I think it's because the two syllables make it sound much bigger than it is.   Thinking about that, I have to laugh, because you sure like to point out the number of syllables in words.

Six.  You're still six.  I hear you in your bedroom, not sleeping like you promised me you would be doing.  You're still only one syllable.

Tomorrow, it's two.  But only for a year, then you can back down to one syllable for a couple more years and maybe my heart will be able to handle it a bit better than this milestone.

We've talked lately about how you were the one who made me a mom.  You like to share the credit (rightly so) with your siblings.  But buddy, it was you.  Seven years ago, I hadn't seen your face.  And now, I can't imagine my life without you, your brother, and your sister.  I was born to be a mommy, and I'm so thankful that you are the one who made me so.

Spencer, you've grown, again, so much in the last year.  You've taken the kindness of your heart that has always been there, and somehow multiplied it.  You tell people that you're a "kindness ninja" and it's true.  I've seen it with my own eyes, in how you will run across a grocery store aisle to help an elderly lady pick up a bunch of change she accidentally dropped, without hesitation or anyone asking you.  You pick up change in our home on Sunday mornings and you bring it to church for offering.  You help your sister put on her shoes or socks in the morning if you're ready before she is.  You proclaim that you'll never run out of hugs for people you love.  You love to donate things to people in need.   You willingly, patiently, taught both of your siblings to climb the pine tree outside, and have guided them step by step down and out of it on multiple occasions. It all comes so naturally to you.

Of course, we all have our moments where we might not be so kind, but your kindness far outweighs that side of things.  I'm so proud to call you my son.

I'll be honest... you try my patience in ways I don't always understand... but really, I delight in you.

Over the course of this last year, I think you've somehow touched the lives of even more people.  I have been approached by numerous "new" people this year who have told me they can see Jesus in your heart, see your kindness, and how God has great things in store for you.  I've been told by many that you're a blessing to them.

It makes my heart sing.

I love watching you come into your own and see your personality develop.  I'll be honest, you're at an awkward stage right now, where you're not only getting even taller and lankier, but you're a little socially awkward in some situations, and you have this weird desire to pose like some sort of hip-hop dude from the early 1990s when I want to take photos of you.   You love to wear dress shirts with active wear, you don't care if your pants are too short or your shoes are untied, and you make awkward nonsensical jokes and statements to people when you're nervous, and then laugh at yourself like it's the funniest thing that's ever happened.  It's an interesting time.  I think I love it.  You're also trying to fit in with larger groups of kids your age and older, while still holding onto your innocence and enjoying spending time with children younger than you.  I remember those awkward years and I will say you've got a lot in store for you.  But, you're going to be awesome.

I can't wait to see what is around the bend.  Your love for music and worship is growing, and I believe there's great things in store for you there.  Your desire for reading and science is developing more deeply, and you are so very smart.  You've got great athleticism inside that body, too.  You've so many wonderful facets.

You are a treasure, little man.

I pray that this next year is rich with blessings, laughter, hugs, and fun memories with your family and your friends.  I pray that your heart never hardens, and your love continues to grow.  I pray that you'll be a blessing to even more and touch the lives of countless others.  I pray that you won't lose your love for hugs and cuddles yet, because I'm not ready to let that go.

Happy Birthday, mister man.

You are so deeply loved.

Especially by me.


Monday, October 16, 2017

To me, at the end of thirty-three...

Dear Me,

Here I am, the last day of the last year of my life, once again.  Tomorrow, a new day of a new year begins.

I usually write these letters to my children, hoping someday they'll come across them and read them, and see how much I loved them, my thoughts and feelings about each passing year of their lives, and see the growth and change we've all went through.

This year, instead of avoiding and trying to awkwardly accept birthday greetings, I'm embracing, without sadness or reserve.  Or, at least I'm going to try.  It's decided.

The past couple of days, especially, have been... odd.  I cannot think of a better way to describe them, but I spent many moments wondering if my birthday really had any meaning for myself, whether or not I should tell my children about it, how awkward it is to tell my children about it, whether or not it would be a big deal to them, whether or not they would be upset if my birthday passed and they didn't know about it, whether they'd be upset if they heard others wish me a happy birthday and feel like I was keeping it from them.  I spent time irritated with their father for bailing on us multiple times, and angry with him for leaving me to make all the special occasions special, birthdays meaningful, and so forth.  I was annoyed that he isn't around to tell them about my birthday himself, and help them make cards or gifts or whatever goofy little things their hearts desired, and not wanting to have to do it myself, because it's just so weird.

So I resigned to talking about my birthday with my Bean, and letting them overhear, and her telling them about it and getting them excited, so I wouldn't have to on my own.

So odd. So awkward.

And now, here we are.  The night before the "big day."  The day that I entered this world... 34 years ago.

I've had my share of fun birthdays.  I've definitely had a lot of memorable ones.  But it seems like the past three years were a struggle.

In 2014, after all, my world came crashing down.  It crashed on my birthday.  The man who promised me would come back and fight for his family and work on his marriage after taking "a break," had gotten his unemployed (at his support and urging) wife and his three small children evicted from their home, and refused to really help them find a new one (or even help out with packing or childcare while his wife tried to find a place to live).  It lead to a short stay with a friend (to whom I will forever be grateful), a stay at the homeless shelter, and months in transitional housing, while tracking him down for a divorce after he completely abandoned and disappeared.

I don't sit and dwell on it often, and I certainly try not to let it bog me down.  Today, though, I sat in a dark, silent room, thinking about my upcoming anniversary of birth, and I realized that it's been three years since that birthday that started the real crash and spiral.

As I thought about it, though, I began to feel uplifted.

To quote myself earlier, "Three years ago tomorrow, my world came crashing down, and it felt like my hopes and dreams for my life were all dying. It was the most devastating and overwhelming birthday.

But now, three years later, I look back and see that in that figurative death, it was a day of rebirth. A day to celebrate my birth into this world, but also the day where a new life was birthed for me. This year, I celebrate both of my birth-days, and reflect on how far I've come and the new life I've been living. It's bittersweet, yet incredible. It's amazing to see how God truly turned sorrow into joy."

As I sat thinking about that more and more throughout the day, I decided that maybe this year, being it's my third new birthday, it might be time to write myself a letter.

You see, I have come a long way.  Now, I won't lie and say it's been easy, or that any given day is easy and completely void of any drama, stress, frustration, or tears.  Most days are.  I mean, I do have three children who are still fairly young.

But, I'm no longer traumatized.  Yes, much of the year 2014 traumatized me, and while I would rarely admit until now, today, I see that, and I will state it.  I was traumatized.

Was.  Now, I'm not.  Now, I can sit and reflect with a clearer mind, more stable emotions, and see that not only was I not broken and my life wasn't over, but I was simply crushed and given a new chance.  It wasn't a chance I wanted and still sometimes wish was not my reality.  But, it lead me to such beauty and empowerment.  I've found strength. I've found peace. I've found joy. I've found determination. I've found patience. I've found love. I've found faith.

I've found many victories.

I've seen my children flourish. I've seen them survive trauma, more than once, and seen them grow into loving individuals with bright smiles, joy-filled laughter, and endless hugs.

I have been basically the sole provider for my family of four. I've had some help I will admit.  But, for the most part, I've done it.  And we've lived in the same home for over two years now, which is the longest any of my children ever had a home.

We've had heat.  We've had electricity.  We've had our own address and walls.  We have a church family.  We have a work family.  We have a friend family.  And we still have our blood family beside us.

I've been able to get past triggers, such as my birthday coming up, that would take my breath away and send my mind in a nosedive for darkness.

I'm not perfect.  I'm not even close.  But I'm better than I was before.  I am able to see my flaws and my weaknesses more easily, and embrace them and attempt to change them.  I'm always a work in progress.

I have learned new skills and developed my talents.  I've loved deeply, and lost greatly in the last three years.

I'm a better woman because of it all.

And I've a better life than I had before, even though it's changed drastically, left me longing from time to time for what I once had, and left me in tears of anguish and frustration some days still.  I refuse to lie to myself and say that these days are done. I'm human and I have weaknesses, and I know that I will face days in the future I miss having my husband by my side, and living the life I thought we lived, happily ever after.  But, I also know now, ending 33, that my life is beautiful, and I am beautiful.

So, while tomorrow, I turn 34, my new life turns 4.  It's nice to see my birthday with a renewed sense this year.  Tomorrow will be my first one where I will not allow the past to bring me down.  I'm claiming it.

I thought about sharing a picture that I took of myself to commemorate this evening.  You know, one that looks good because I know my angles or whatever.  Something I found to be "pretty" and wonderful.

Instead, I'm going to show myself a photo or two that are taken by my oldest son, who is almost seven.  Because, instead of seeing who I want to be or what I love about myself, I want to remember what he sees, what he loves, and what he is proud of and wants to share.  Because really, that's the woman I have most genuinely become, I think.

So, Me,
You're weary, you're exhausted, but you're strong and determined.  You're smart, not crazy.  You're a good mom, not a failure.  You're a good employee.  You're a good friend.  You're a good child of God.  You've done amazing things for yourself and your children.  

You've got this. 

Happy Birth and Re-Birth Day Tomorrow.

Love, Me

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Life in few Words

Along with countless others I know, and probably even more people that I don't know, this week engulfed my heart in sorrow and challenged my emotions like no week has in recent past.

The world lost an incredible man.  I've known for years just how incredible this man was.  He had been around my entire memorable life.  I was in his wedding as a toddler, when he joined as one with my dear aunt.

I've known.

Or at least, I thought I knew.

But it turns out, it takes someone being gone forever to realize that what you know isn't all there is to know.  What you know is only the surface, and the depths of what you don't know reach further than you'll ever begin to uncover.

It's overwhelming, really.

As family and friends gathered today to bid our earthly farewell to this incredible man, I realized just how small our words are when it comes to the life of an individual.

Obituaries and eulogies are beautiful, significant, and often poetic, but they too just scratch the surface.

On my return home, I began to dwell on this fact.  It seemed to me, in a way, that obituaries trivialize and marginalize a person's entire existence into a few key facts that are out there for others, so they can get the highlights, if you will, of someone who many held dearly.

They're important.

They're inadequate.

Listening to people talk about my uncle, Gregg Edward DeSmith, born June 12, 1964, to his parents, Dorothy and Edward, who passed away on Saturday, September 9, 2017, it became all to clear to me that the man I knew and loved for my entire life was even more incredible than my small mind could comprehend.   Gregg, the devoted husband of Linda, and beloved father to Sasha (and Kyle), Carissa, who left this earth at age 2, and Hannah (and Dylan), wonderful grandfather to Kalesia, Elijah, and Miles, dear brother to many, uncle to even more, and friend to countless others, was a man of Jesus.  It was evident today, as I heard about his life and saw numerous people whose lives he touched.

It overwhelmed me, as I longed to be able to tell him that I admired that in him.

He and I spoke occasionally on aspects of God.  I never really pressed in, knowing he believed in God and was raised in a Catholic church, the one in which he was baptized, married, and said goodbye to today in the Mass of Christian Burial.  He knew more about my faith journey than I did his, and today, I felt selfish for not knowing more about what he believed to be true.

But, at the same time, I could see in the way he lived.

Gregg had a servant's heart.  He spent countless hours with those in need, in both small and large ways.  He devoted time, energy, love, and so much more to those around him.  He did so with a willing heart. He did so, expecting nothing in return, and often wouldn't accept anything in return.  It wasn't all that long ago that he saved me in a small way, where my van window wouldn't go all the way up, and it was about to rain for my two hour drive home.  He was on it in a flash and had a temporary solution that still enabled me to see, and I made it home safe and dry, so relieved and thankful for the small gift he was delighted to give me.

He went out of his way to take you aside and tell you that he was proud of you.  No matter what you had done, no matter where you had come from, no matter where you were going, or what you had been through, he saw you as you were, a human, full of giving and receiving love, and he let it be known that you were worthy.  He built you up in spirit and mind.  I cannot personally recall an instance I heard him tear someone down.

He loved and served the least of these, just like Jesus did.

His love for his family was unconditional and overwhelming.  He stood faithfully at my aunt's side for 32 glorious years that were no stranger to stress and sorrow, trials and tribulations, but also great joy and blessing.  They were one.  You could see it and you could feel it when you were with them.

Gregg loved spending time with people.  He had a jolly laugh and a great wit.  He wore a smile often.  He loved to tell a joke and hear the laughter of others as well.   Some of my best memories of him were at his farm, where my large family would gather for days on end.  He would go all out to ensure each gathering was phenomenal.  He had such great humble pride in welcoming us all and allowing us to create everlasting, joyful memories.

He was a delightful mix of manly man and teddy bear, who loved fixing things, classic cars (both real and miniature), go carts and his Harley.  He collected countless unique and older things and loved to share them with people around him.  He loved the outdoors and having a great time with family and friends.

He was adored by so many.  Children and adults alike could call him a friend.  My oldest son, who is not quite seven, sobbed this weekend, as he realized just how great a buddy Gregg was to him, and how devastating it was to know that they would not be making memories together anymore.   He told me about how Gregg helped him to be brave, and how cool it was when he finally rode go cart for the first time, and how Gregg told him he was a little man now. Gregg knew when to encourage my kids and when to be silly, and each of the three of them loved him deeply for that reason.

He was a great buddy to most everyone he met, I feel.  I heard so many claim that over the past two days.

He is going to be missed daily, wholly, intensely, by countless people who knew and loved him, who he loved in return.  Knowing that his all-encompassing bear hugs will never be given again leaves my shoulders feeling vulnerable and cold.  I know I'll receive hugs for the rest of my life, but not one will be quite like his.

Gregg loved the phrase "No Regrets." I smiled as I heard that, because long ago, I had coined that phrase for myself.  I didn't live it like he did though, as I sit here tonight, regretting that I hadn't told him one more time that I loved him, thanked him for all he did for us, and for the endless encouragement and support he never ceased to provide for me and my children.  I regret not taking more photos of him with the people he loved and not having photographic proof of the hardest working hands I remember seeing.  Even with life gone from his body, when you saw him this week, you saw the proof that he worked endlessly to provide for his family and his friends, the stain left behind on his fingerprints as a reminder of how much he gave of himself.

I know with all of my heart that he is with our Jesus now, and my children have reminded me multiple times, through tear-riddled eyes, that his soul is in heaven.  I stand firm in my faith and thankful for everlasting life and salvation through Christ, but at the same time, my human heart and limited mind is having a most difficult time envisioning our lives without him.  I see the farm, and it feels emptier knowing he will never be pulling down the driveway in one of his vehicles, never racing around on a go-kart or hauling with a tractor.  He won't be building or bringing new and exciting fun to us all, or helping the children feed the birds.  His spirit will never leave, but his body and his voice will never be with us as we sit in the summer sun.  That realization takes the wind out of my lungs for a moment and burns my eyes with tears.  I know I'm not alone in this space, missing him so much already, being devastated for us left behind, and overjoyed for he who will never again know sadness.

His body is gone, but his light can shine on.  I hope that his loss will encourage others to live a life like his, showing Jesus inside us to others.

I sit here, exhausted and weary, writing away, knowing that although my words are more in number than an obituary or even some eulogies, they do not suffice.  They will also never begin to scratch the surface of the life that Gregg lived. 

No words really will.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

And off they went

Today was another milestone day in our little family's journey. Today was another first day of school.  Today, my oldest son started first grade.  Today, my younger son started kindergarten.

It was a day we had been anticipating for months, after making the decision to register for kindergarten.  That decision in itself was harder than accompanying the boys to school today, because my new kindergartener's birthday was cut-off day.  He attended a couple different pre-kindergarten schooling adventures prior, and both sets of teachers said they thought he was ready, so I registered him and  we began talking and planning for the big day to arrive.

Today was that big day.

This morning began like many others, only it was prefaced with a night of very little sleep for the younger boy, I suspect as he was filled with anxious excitement following a long, busy weekend with extended family.  I woke the children with my special "good morning" song, and dressed them in the outfits they decided on the night before (which isn't always how we do things, but for big days, we plan ahead).  We had a light breakfast and then excitedly hurried out the door for first day photos.

The most emotional one this morning was their little sister, who has been heartbroken for days at the realization that she would not be able to attend kindergarten this year OR next year.  She really, really really, really, really, really wants to go.  She says so herself.  I've tried to explain how awesome it will be to have momma all to herself if I don't have to work some mornings while the boys are at school, but so far... she's not sold.

To keep her in good spirits, or at least the best possible spirits, we decided that we would all accompany her into daycare this morning, so she wouldn't have to watch the boys leave her, rather, they hugged her goodbye, told her they loved her, and hoped she had a good day.

The boys and I then made the short trek to the elementary school.  We arrived early, which was my plan, so that they could play on the playground a bit and get out any nervous energy left over.  We took some photos together, and some of them individually.  When the bell was about to ring, we went searching for their class lines, and I left my oldest with his class and walked the younger to his.  I stood beside him, talking him through the process of the bell ringing, and how when they started to walk into the school, I would not be able to go with him.  He was very calm about it all, and then I ran back to his brother... twice.... to surprise hug him and tell him I was proud of and excited for him.  When the bell rang, the kindergarten class went in first, and Collin turned around, smiled, and waved at me as his class went inside.  As soon as I could no longer see him, I ran once more to Spencer, for one last hug, and watched him smiling and waving as he too went into the school.

And just like that, off they went.

Their days were filled with excitement and some frustration.  First grade was reportedly the most awesome and the teacher was top notch, so says my son.  Kindergarten was a bit of a struggle, but knowing that my kindergartener was literally the youngest in the class and the youngest one could be to be in school that year prepared me for that report.  When I asked him how school was, he reported it was good, and he liked his teacher, and yes, he did get in trouble a some times.  It's a learning curve, and I'm just going to pray he adjusts quickly (because I know he resists change and new authority), and that soon, his days will be as wonderful as his brother claims they are.  I would covet your prayers on the matter, too.

When we got home tonight, the little sister was overjoyed to see her brothers, and that they still all matched.  She asked if she could go to school tomorrow, but she didn't cry when we told her she still had two years to wait.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now 5, Little Big Ollie Bear

Dearest Ollie Bear,

Today, I think I called you by my little nickname more than the rest of the week combined.  I realized, as we spent so much of the day together, that you're so little big now, and someday soon, there's a chance you'll ask me to stop calling you that for good.  You already tell me too frequently that 'I'm COLLIN' when I address you as my little cub.

But for now, today, and hopefully a few more tomorrows, you're my little Ollie Bear, my teddy bear, my cuddly bear, my grizzly bear.

Collin, I can hardly believe that it's your last day being four.  I don't want it to be true.  I have tried to deny it.    I put you to bed tonight and I said "what is going on tomorrow, again? I forgot." You laughed SO hard and said "I'm FIVE BECAUSE ITS MY BIRTHDAY!"  I hugged you as tight as I possibly could and kissed you before covering you up, declaring our love, and asking you to please stay in your room and go to sleep so I could wrap your presents.  

Today, we were blessed with the surprise pre-birthday gift of time together.  We spent a portion of it with your brother and sister, who are your closest friends and also occasional foes, investing our time making memories at a park, and then adventuring with sea creatures and butterflies.  Your laughter echoed all around us, as you delighted in wonder and also in knowledge about the creatures around us.
Then, we said 'see you later' to them, and we were given time for just us.  It was of immeasurable value, as I listened to you talk about the things you love.  I took you for a special lunch, where you asked to take a fun picture with me.  You talked non-stop with one of the employees there, who you also asked to have cut your hot dog, to which she gladly obliged.  You love people, and it shows.  You are a true extrovert in that way.

Mister Man, I know we definitely have our differences  There are countless ways that it seems we are exact opposites, which makes for some interesting power and stubborn struggles on a regular basis.  You're loud, I'm quiet.  You're a firecracker, I'm more of a Scentsy warmer.  You're demanding, I'm requesting.  You love dirt, I prefer dirtless.  You hate pants, I love pants.

But we are also very similar.  You love with your entire heart, for better or worse, and you have a huge heart in your tiny body.  You care when others are sad and hurting, and you take great care in protecting your treasures.  You love to snuggle, to read, to wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, to sit and watch the clouds go by, to oogle over babies, and to just sit and be still (sometimes).  You have great passion.  We share that, for sure.

You're starting to really come into your own now, little big boy.  It's exciting to me to watch your interests unfold.  You play sometimes that you don't really "know" stuff, but the moment my head is turned, you blow me away and share your knowledge when you think I'm not paying attention.  You're incredibly intelligent, and it makes me proud.  I'm amazed with the way your mind works.  You've even begun to help me with problem solving of my own from time to time!  Just the other week, I was struggling to figure out how to do a project to make some paint stick on a shiny surface, and you simply said "why don't you paint the back."  It made perfect sense.  Thanks for your genius, Ollie.

This year has been filled with joy and reunification, but also repeated loss, and I know that makes it a little bit of a tarnished birthday for you.  You've been looking for one who isn't around again, and I know that puts some cracks in your little big heart.  But buddy, I promise you, even though one isn't there, you're completely surrounded and enveloped by the love of countless others who are, and I know for a fact that God is going to heal those cracks right up for you in time.

As much as I wish you weren't already turning five, and away from your baby and toddler years toward the big, bright world of elementary school, I am thrilled to see what the fifth year has in store for you.  You're going to blossom so much more, I can feel it in my heart.  It's going to be an overwhelming and wonderful world for us all, and I'm so thankful that I am such an integral part of yours.

Ollie Bear, thank you so much for being you.  Thank you for the struggles you provide that make me a better mommy, and thank you for the calm and love you give me all the same.  Thank you for loving me no matter what we go through, and for being excited to see me at the end of every day.  Thank you for never withholding a hug, even if you're mad.  Thank you for showing me love I didn't know I had.  Thank you, for being mine.

I pray that we both have patience, grace, and mercy as this next year continues. I know that there's going to be big bumps in our road, heated moments, loud voices, and struggles all over.  But, there's going to be thousands of hugs, millions of giggles, tons of kisses, and infinite love.  And that's just from me... it doesn't include your brother, your sister, your family, your friends... your village.

I love you, Ollie Bear.

Happy Birthday, when you wake.
Momma Bear.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Super Powers

It's been an exhausting couple of days, for various reasons, both good and not as good.

Last night, we arrived home right at bedtime, and the kids willingly went into their room to prepare for rest.  They laid there quietly and happily for a few minutes while I got stuff ready before going in to do bedtime prayer and gratitude, give hugs and kisses, and wish them goodnight.

Then, as is common lately, one by one, they all had reasons to get up, or call for me in the other room.  I try diligently to always have a positive attitude or at very least a kind voice when I re-enter, but it's a struggle sometimes.  Especially on nights like last night where it was already nine o'clock and I had a list of various duties to tend to before excusing myself to bed.

Eventually, they coaxed me into laying among all three of them on their bedroom floor, one laying across my arm while both arms were splayed to my sides playing with the two youngest's hair.  The fish tank light was off, the van on for white noise, and I laid there struggling to stay awake myself, my to-do list playing repeatedly in my mind.  That's when the thoughts started rolling in as well.

"This is so hard."

"This is so exhausting."

"There aren't enough hours in the day."

"There's not enough of this Momma to go around."

"I don't know how I'm going to do keep doing this."

"Its going to take some sort of super human strength or some kind of super powers to keep this up forever."

Eventually, they all drifted off to sleep.  I did a half-baked job on my nightly duties and then flopped myself into my own bed.   Then, I realized I had a few more things to do, rolled on out, finished up, and returned.  Then I realized the door wasn't locked.  So, I got up again, locked the door, and then fed the cats, got some water, and went back to bed again.  I think I fell asleep around 11:20.

This morning, I woke, tired as usual, and forgot to make my coffee before we all marched out the door at 7:40.  The children were all in fairly good moods for their shortage of sleep last night, and we were on our way.

As I sat in the waiting area at one of their appointments, the thoughts of last night replayed in my mind.

But today, they were reframed with a feeling of empowerment.

Parenting is hard.  It's crazy hard.  It's hard when there's two parents.  It's harder when those parents are separated.  It's even harder when you're doing it alone.  At least, in my experience that's true, having done all three versions of parenting in the last 7 years.

Right now, I'm back to being a single parent.  I mean single parent, as in not sharing the children with their other parent. I know that to some, co-parenting or shared-parenting is considered or felt to be single parenting.  Again, in my experience, they're wildly different.  So, as I said, I'm flying solo.  I wish I wasn't, but I am, so I pull myself up by my bootstraps (oh wait, my boots are all strapless...) and I carry on day in and day out.

Even when it feels like it's too much.  Even when I'm too tired.  Even when my nerves are shot and my brain is fried, and I go to work with my pants on backwards (yes, that's happened, more than once actually, in the last couple weeks... maybe I should retire those pants).

I won't pretend to be a super woman.  I won't claim to be a super hero.  I won't boast to be a super mom.  Because, quite honestly, I'm not.  It may look spectators that I am when I calmly herd my three littles into a restaurant for supper, and they sit down quietly and excitedly tell the waitress their order.  But then as soon as she turns her back, two of them are sword fighting in the booth, shortly before one of them bites the other one in the bathroom fighting over who uses what toilet stall.  I hug the injured and break out my "mad voice" and my "mean Momma Bear glare" at the other while the wait staff smiles at me with a knowing look.

I don't have it all together.  I'm not a super-hero, super woman, or super mom.

I'm your run-of-the-mill, ordinary single mom just doing the best she can, usually.  Sometimes I'm not doing the best I can. Sometimes I'm doing what I can just to get through the moment... which I guess, in those moments, is actually probably the best I can.

I will be first to admit though, it does take some sort of super power to be a single mom, a co-parenting mom, or a happily married mom (or dad).  Like I said, parenting is crazy tough.

So, as I sat there, this morning, reminsicing about last night as I choked down the straight black coffee I was accidentally given instead of my regular order in the drive-through this morning, after having forgotten to make my own at home like I usually do, I thought about these super powers that are needed.

And, I realized...

I DO have super power.

It's the power of the Holy Spirit.  It's the power of Jesus. Its' the power of God.

As soon as I realized that, I had verses flooding in my mind, and I needed to share them here.

Because, if we want them, we can ALL have super powers.

Every single parent out there.  Every single person without children out there.  Every single child out there.

We're all equipped.  We just have to seek them.

Ask God, He'll give them to you, freely, lovingly, and happily.

That's how I do life right now, when I'm too tired, too overwhelmed, too frustrated, too sad, too everything.  I lay down on the floor with the lights out (or maybe as I drive in broad daylight in the van, or a hundred other places and ways) and I let God in.  It's not always a conscious effort, to be honest.    But, he reaches me, and he blesses me, and through every tear, every sleepless night, every pants-backward-at-work-Wednesday, every joyful-they-ordered-their-own-supper Friday, every big and little moment, I keep on keeping on.  He's the One pulling me up, so I don't even need straps on my boots.

Sometimes, of course, I don't feel this way. I don't see it this way.  Even as I write this today, knowing exactly how I make it through, I'm still exhausted and a bit overwhelmed (even knowing God's going to carry me through).

And you know what, those are my worst days.

I'm praying for less and less of those days, and more days where I'm fully aware of my super power, MY Super Hero.  (Even on those days when I don't think I'll get through it, I know somehow I will, even if I'm too stubborn to admit the real reason.  I'm imperfect.)

I'm praying the same for each of you.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The silence resumes.

I wish I wasn't writing this.  I contemplated not writing this.  But, I felt like not writing it was harder than writing it now.

I gave it a month, even though, I was pretty sure, one month ago today, almost exactly to the minute, I felt I knew what was coming.  I prayed against what felt like the inevitable at this point, but I prayed knowing that prayer does work, not always, but sometimes.  I know it worked once in this situation.  I guess, in my heart of hearts, I know God is a God of miracles, and prayer could bring radical change again.  Yet, at the same time, I'm being practical, and releasing my breath and realizing that for now, this is reality.

You see, for some reason that I fail to understand, one month ago tonight, my children's father disappeared from them, again.  He came back to them on December 26, 2017.  He walked out on them again, almost six months later, to the date.

I wasn't in town, but he had plans to see them with someone I trust dearly.  Up until a few hours beforehand, he was still planning on seeing them.  And then.. he just didn't show.  I reached out to him to find out if he was okay (the bitterness inside me, truthfully, swelled up and I asked him if he was dead), or what had happened.  A few days later, feeling it was the case, I asked if this meant he was done and walking on out again.  No reply to either.  I tried two more times, the most recently, last night.  I pointed out that today marks a month.  There is still dead silence.

I know he is out there.  I know he's active online, and while I can't be certain his phone works or he hasn't changed his number, I know he knows my name, and my phone number hasn't changed in years.

There's silence.

He's abandoned them again.

I find myself quite emotional this week.  I have known all along this was a distinct possibility, but I threw it all in and allowed him back in the children's lives, with the mentality that no matter what happened, whether he was here for good or gone again, we would get through it.  We already walked through hell in regard to this, and we made it through, because of God and his blessings of support.  I knew it would be "easier" this time, as "easy" as something like this could be for four hearts that aren't jaded and cold.   

But that doesn't seem to make it better.  

I'm currently at a point of both thankfulness and despair, pride and humiliation, hope and hopeless.  The part of me that has Christ dwelling inside has a positive spin on it, but my more practical, emotional, momma bear side is angry and negative.  It's a battle.  Yes, I'm going through a battle.  

But, I'm a warrior. I have to remind myself of that even though I feel like laying in my bed and throwing a toddler inspired tantrum.

As I said, I knew it could all fall apart.  But, truthfully, I thought it would be either right away, or years down the road.  

I didn't think he would get bored with his children this soon.

Is he bored with them?  I don't know.

I wish I could understand how someone I "knew" so well for so many years could be this way.  I wish I understood what, in a matter of hours, changed his entire plan.  I wish I could decide if he was incapable of making good decisions, or just chooses not to. I wish there wasn't silence.  The silence, again, makes it even worse.

People have started noticing and asking me about his involvement in their lives and our lack of discussion on the matter.  I am hoping that these questions continue to be directed solely to me, not in the presence of my children.

My children, heaven bless them, are starting to notice his absence.  I don't know if they noticed or felt it right away, because they've been very normal, happy, and truthfully haven't asked about him or mentioned him until this week.  Actually, so far, our three-year-old daughter is the only one who has.  But, I feel it's coming with the birthdays and milestones up ahead.  I am at a crux, wondering if I should confront the issue head on and prepare them, or wait and see when they're ready to talk about it.  I don't really want to assault them with the realization if they haven't come to it on their own yet.  

Also, this probably goes without saying, but... please do not speak ill or negatively of their father in their presence at any time.  Whatever their opinions are to be of him, those need to be formed by their own minds, through their own experiences.

I am so torn, right now, emotionally and faithfully. I want to find comfort, knowing that God will get us through, provide, restore and heal our hearts, minds, and souls.  But I'm a bit angry.  I'm not angry at God, because I know their father has free will, and is choosing his own path away from his children and away from God.  I know this.  I know in my heart that I did do the right thing letting him back into their lives, even though it hurts to be where we are now. I know God wanted me to forgive him.  I know God wanted my children to know their father again, for our daughter to create happy memories with him, because up until now, she had no recollection of her own and relied solely on her brothers or word of mouth from other people who knew her dad.  I know God wanted to show my oldest son that He does in fact listen and answer prayers.  I truly believe that his reappearance in our lives last year was God ordained, and for good and not harm.

I try not to blame myself for the fallout.  In the past, I've been so good at taking the blame, from their father, for things like this.  I KNOW I didn't cause the heartbreak that's to come by allowing them the opportunity to have their dad for a while.  I KNOW that is on their father.  But that's something I have to remind myself every time he crosses my mind, because I also know the enemy wants me to take it all back on myself.  I did open the door, but I did not cause him to walk back out.

I know that my children will know I tried.

But it doesn't mean this doesn't hurt.  It hurts my heart for my kids. 

It hurts so much. It feels like I'm being crushed again, admitting this all "aloud."

I pray that my children's minds and hearts will be protected from severe trauma if their dad really is gone for good this time.  I pray that they'll still believe in God, in his miracles, in the power of prayer and that this does not negatively affect their faith and relationship with Jesus.  I pray they'll still feel overwhelming love and know that they're surrounded by it even if their dad walked out on them again.  I pray that someday, God will truly, wholly restore their father.  I pray that I will be able to forgive him again.   

If you pray, please do.

I found myself, tonight, as I sifted through my thoughts, trying to find scripture to calm my heart.  This is the one that spoke to me the most.  I'm trying to just do what I am often (but not always) able to do, and find peace and solace in my Father's words and promises.

But, I'm not perfect, and it's hard.

I know we will be okay.  And I know I need to give it all to God.  But, I think I also know that my imperfect, human side may still need to cry about it, talk about it, and maybe need a hug or a shoulder at some point. Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Guess we will see.  But, I think that's okay, too.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In the waiting

For years, I've prayed.  I've often asked God for advice, or help, or clear signs, or reassurance, you  name it.  I've had countless requests.  Sometimes, I feel like I hear him clearly. Sometimes, I think I might be making it up in my head.  It's really hard to tell sometimes.  Generally, if it's based on good, it's from God.  But that doesn't mean it's always God, either.  Sometimes, we have good intentions or a good heart, and often the enemy can twist things that make them seem like they could be from God. I run into that a lot, actually.  Fortunately, I've found a safe space in a friend or two and can check in with them when I get confused, and they can help me seek Godly clarity.

That said, every so often, I believe God clearly directs me, and it can take me by complete surprise.

Currently, I'm in the middle of a period of waiting.  I've become quite familiar with these periods, as they've happened intensely and frequently over the past few years.  This one is different, though, because it is a period I sought out, in a way.

A few months ago, I felt God leading me down a path I never expected.  I took a leap of faith, leaned in, and pursued.  And now, I'm waiting. I could be waiting indefinitely.  I could be waiting days, weeks, months, years.  I'm not even sure what I'm waiting for.  I'm not sure if I'm waiting for a direct result, or if I'm just waiting for Him to tell me "well done, my faithful one.  You followed where I led, and now you can rest easy in me."

It's really hard to say.

It makes me anxious.  That's another test in itself.  God tests me on my patience and the anxiousness in waiting. I've noticed a theme.  I don't necessarily think it means that I've been terrible at it in the past, but clearly, he has more in store for me.  

And I have no idea what it is.

So, here's to more praying, in the waiting, to to wearing my favorite shirt as a personal reminder while I wait.

For now, I'll leave this as it is.  God will let me know if and when I should reveal more.  But for now...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

She opened her window.

My beautiful Sweet Pea has been emotional for the last 10 days or so, quite clingy, and not quite herself sometimes.  I've been wondering what was going on, but was unable to pinpoint it.  Tonight, I think I am better able to understand. Tonight, after bedtime prayers, my sweet, sassy, perfectly quirky little princess opened the window to her heart for me, for one of the very first times in a way that both nearly broke my own heart, and amazed me with the depth of her self-knowledge and ability to articulate her emotions with clarity beyond her young three-years.  I had kissed her goodnight, as she said to me (roughly, edited to remove some names), "Mama, my friends don't see me anymore and play with me and don't like me anymore.  They're my best friends and I love them and I miss them."  

You see, almost two weeks ago, she went through a big transition at daycare, where she spends the majority of her time.  She moved from one floor to the next, from young toddler rooms to older rooms where the preschoolers are growing up.  And, while it isn't a big deal geographically, or in many ways, it dawned on me tonight, that it's a big change to her.  

She's been making it seem pretty breezy and not that big of a deal, even though her mama was sad about it at first.  She loves the kids and staff upstairs and will thrive and flourish in the new environment, and I haven't been worried about it at all.

But tonight, as I tried to calm her fears that her friends do in fact still like her, love her, and even miss her too, I realized that she was feeling her first real insecurity.

That time and distance mean people don't care, don't like you, don't miss you, or don't love you.

It's a common thought, even for adults, so I was blown away by her innocent little saddened heart.

After comforting her and reassuring her that she is loved, that her friends miss her, and some will soon be back in the same room as her with the new schedule, teachers, friends, and environment, I left the room and began thinking about what had just occurred.  I understand where she's coming from.

Her previous transitions at daycare have all been on one floor, with schedules that are relatively similar, where she would see the same people passing in hallways.  Her last transitions were done at a younger age where, while still forming attachments to teachers and children, she wasn't as mature and able to process and fear things like she does now.

So this was her first big change at daycare.   She still sees some of her most beloved people on a regular basis, but there are a lot of empty spaces in her day that used to be filled by people she had grown exceptionally close to.

Not only that, but on another level, I can feel her equating that to some of her past experiences where he dad was absent from her life.

And I can understand why she may feel that gaps in time and distance can affect relationships.

I mean, really, they often do.  Only the strong ones survive and grow, I suppose.  It's amazing to me that she is so young and already experiencing these sort of friendship quandaries. 

So, to my darling little three-year-old, her heart is in some sort of jeopardy, and it's my blessing and burden to calm her fears and speak life, truth, and love into her heart, just as with her brothers.  I try to build up their store-houses with these things, to help build their self-esteem, knowing that the way of the world is often to bring you down.  I never want my children to feel worthless, unloved, or anything other than of exceptional value and worthy of the deepest, most sincere love on earth.

They're treasures, and they should know it.

While this moment where the window was open was over an insecurity, I am so fortunate that she chose to open up to me, share her deepest fear at this moment with me, and trusted me with her heart.  I wish I could make her feel better, but aside from praying, which we did, only time will heal.  

And, my darling, my sweet, sweet girl, I can assure you, you are worth missing, and you are loved by those that you  miss right now.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The first to first.

Today was a day that sort of snuck up on me, even though I've known it was on the horizon for months now.  Today was my first child's first last day of school.  Now, my first child is going to be a first grader.

That sounds unbelievable.  It seems like just weeks ago (I guess it was if you want to be technical) that I was sitting here, tears falling, after dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten.  Today, I dropped him off at school like it was no big deal, and wished his happy little self a wonderful last day of school.  
"Have a wonderful day too, Mom!" he called as he ran off.
I picked him up tonight, and he told me how his last day was awesome, and how he's now going to be a first grader.  

We didn't make a big deal out of it, like I know some people do. Maybe we should have.  I don't know.

We took his photo in his graduation year shirt, which he wasn't a fan of because it's too big, and I tried to explain how I want him to wear it every year on his last day of school so I can take his picture and compare.  He told me I was silly, but agreed to it anyway, and I hugged him, telling him I was so proud of him for all that he's learned and accomplished this year, for how brave he's become, and how joyful he has been.  I commended him on his perfect attendance, and his love for school, telling him how I loved school as a child as well.  He didn't have much interest for sentimental time and just wanted to have a little down time in the living room by himself reading one of his newer books from his last book order while his younger siblings enjoyed a big of fresh air before supper and bedtime.  
And that was that.  

Now it's our first summer vacation.  And next year, I'll have a first grader and a kindergartner and I don't know how my heart is going to handle it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Football with Momma

Tonight, I had the pleasure of escorting my soon-to-be kindergarten graduate to a football game- a privilege he earned for perfect attendance at school this year.

I'll be honest. I accepted the tickets out of pride on his behalf, but the closer to the game we got, the less excited I was getting. I didn't really know why, but I just wasn't really excited about it.

I wasn't going to let that stop me, however, and I surprised him with the knowledge that we were going to his "first" "real" football game. (He actually attended a game for this team as an infant but we decided it didn't count, as he doesn't remember it.)

As we drove to the game, it started to dawn on me why it was I wasn't looking forward to it as I thought I would. We drove by his dad's place of employment, where he was working at the time, and it hit me that somewhere, deep down, I imagined this would be an activity that the two of them would do together, not me. Because, stereotypically, it's a guy thing. His dad certainly enjoys the game more than I, not that I dislike football. I've just never felt a connection to a specific team outside of my high school and don't follow it as a hobby.

So, I think, part of me was sad for my son that he was "stuck" going with his mom.

Silly me.

It didn't take long after arriving for me to realize that was just in my head and my son didn't feel that way. He was thrilled to just be going to a football game, and he was overjoyed that I was with him. In fact, while he asked if he could sit next to some of his friends from daycare, and I said yes, knowing I could sit there alone, but it wasn't minutes later that he was back up in our row, by my side, chatting away about the game that was about to happen.

He had so many questions about the game.

And wouldn't you probably expect it, but I had answers.

Sure, I'm not a football expert by any means but it turns out- I know enough. 

And, since I know him best, I was able to answer his (countless) questions in ways he understood easily, or clarify if he didn't understand.

And a bonus- I was able to relate quite a bit of the football knowledge and rules to our lives.

Why is it so hard to score points? Because there are a lot of people coming after and trying to stop you, blocking you and trying to pull you down. Just like sometimes it is hard for us to accomplish what we want to, because there are blockages or troubles or things in our way or people trying to keep us from our goals. But, they keep on trying until the time is up, and they get multiples tries each turn, like we can.

Why is there a halftime? Because they need a little break to rest and refuel before continuing. Kind of like when we take naps, or quiet time at home.

Oh, that penalty flag for holding? Yeah, that's like when you and your brother were pulling on and  hit each other in the daycare vestibule, and just like you had the consequence of no tablet or Wii time that night, they had a yardage penalty. Maybe it was not planned or unintentional, but it happened.

Oh, the out of bounds? Yeah. They can't play there, just like when I say you can't play in the parking lot or the street.

Why do they wear helmets? To protect their heads, like your bike helmet. Remember, the head you have now is the only one you get so you have to treat it well, just like I tell your brother 32 times a week. 

Why are their uniforms red? Because it's a great color.

Momma win, right?

And, he thought it was super cool that his mom knew so much about football. 

I loved every minute of the night with him. He had the most intense expressions during the game (he doesn't get that from me, but I embraced it) and had the loudest, delighted squeals when our team did great plays.

And when the Kiss Cam came on? He kissed me, over and over every time someone on the screen kissed the person they were with.

Yup, momma scored kisses in public.

Guess he's not too cool for that, or maybe, I'm just too cool to not be kissed.

Either way. He didn't need football with a guy. He has me.

I'm so glad I realized that in time to enjoy the night, instead of how I felt driving to the game.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My second little Graduate

Dearest Collin,

Tonight, as your brother did a year ago, you celebrated your very first graduation.  You did it all in your own very unique style, with a lot of flair.  It's amazing how sometimes you can be so much like your big brother, and then other times, it's like you are complete opposites.

Because of your very special birthday being on the last possible day to go to kindergarten next year, you were not only the youngest in your class, but one of the shortest and spunkiest.   From the moment you walked into the sanctuary at church, you captured the attention.  My heart about exploded while you stood up in front proclaiming "I love you, Mama" in front of everyone, even if you were talking over the person who was trying to speak to the crowd.

Uncle Jesse, Auntie Sam, and Belinda all joined in the celebration tonight, and you were delighted to have them there to celebrate. You waved enthusiastically at both of your siblings, who were excited to watch you perform.  And... perform you did.  You were the loudest, busiest one in the group.  I wasn't surprised, and I was trying to hard not to stress out about the fact that you might have yelled at a couple people because you've definitely got a firecracker spirit and a mind of your own.

Your brother kept telling me how funny you were. Your sister kept telling me how awesome you were.  And everyone knew you were ours.

You knew all the words, and so long as your tassle and your sash were on properly, you sang your little heart out and did explosive actions.

You were thrilled when you received your diploma and went running to hug your teacher.

Thank you for the goofy, joy-filled memories.

We are so proud of you.  You've got big things ahead of you.  I know sometimes, I wonder if you're listening or paying attention, but you prove time and time again that you are.  You take after me in that you've got a vast expanse of trivia-type knowledge.  You love the sea, shapes, colors, automobiles.  You are stubborn though, so I never quite know what you know, because you only want to share on your own terms.  Remember when I asked if you could write a 'C' and you said yes?  I asked you to show me, you wrote an 'X' and I asked why.   You said "Because I wanted to write an X, not a C."

That's how you roll, Ollie Bear.

I'm a little nervous for you to become a big boy and join the realms of elementary school. I worry that your temper may get the best of you, and your teachers might be a little overwhelmed.  I hope they can give you hugs if you need, like your preschool teachers have learned to do.  It almost always diffuses the situation and brings you back down to earth.

I know you're excited to go to school like your brother, and I know you'll love learning there too.

You've grown up so fast.  I can hardly believe it.  You're a graduate.

I love you, Ollie Bear.  Thanks for all the joy you bring to my life, for teaching me unending patience and strength, and for not being ashamed to proclaim you love me, even when it's not perfect timing for the rest of the world.  I'll never grow tired of hearing it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I love them to tears.

Every so often, I'm laying in bed, and it overwhelms me like a flood...

Just how much I love my children.

These three precious littles, all born within 4.5 years, who have stolen my heart from the moment I knew they existed, cause my love to deepen more each passing day.

Some days, yes, I struggle. I am not always as grateful as I should be to be entrusted with their lives. I admit it. I have faults.

But, I am always appreciative that they are mine.

Some days are tough. They bicker or cause chaos. They exhaust me. 

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

I lay in the dark tonight overwhelmed with my love for them. I soaked my pillow with tears of joy as my heart aches to hear their laughter while also willing them to sleep soundly all night so I have some moments of silence.

The glimmer in their eyes as they proclaim their love for me is etched into my memory as I hear the faint echoes of their voices from the day we spent together.

For better or worse, God has entrusted me to be their mother. He has called me to lead them to Him. It's a joyfully bewildering realization as I daily question my strength, patience, and wisdom to do so.

I fall short sometimes, and I pray that they have the grace to forgive me, just as I pray for the grace to forgive them when they choose to wander from my guidance.   God always forgives me, I always forgive them, and I can only hope that the example is clear.

Sometimes, I want a few minutes of personal space. Other times, I wish I could cuddle all three of them forever.

What a beautiful burden it is to live in paradoxical days like this.

With this love so deep, so fierce, and so overwhelming, I pray they never believe for a minute I feel anything less than pure agape (love). 

Friday, April 14, 2017

In the morning, she will be three.

My sweet, beautiful girl,

Tonight, I laid you down, and you told me "tomorrow is my birthday, mama."  We said our bedtime prayer, which ends "God is great, God is great (you insist we say it twice), AMEN!" You asked me for a kiss, and then a hug, and then to cover you up, and then for a kiss, and then for a hug, as you do almost every night.  I closed the door behind me after hugging and kissing your brothers and turning out the light, and I breathed deeply as I realized that tonight is the last night of this year of your life.  It tugs at my heart.

This is the first year you've shown excitement about it, after celebrating a few other birthdays over the year, your memory being much more acute, and feeling traditions take place as you and your brothers grow older.  I'm excited for your excitement, though it's bittersweet to see you transition from baby-hood even further.

Darling girl, tonight, you're still two.  Tomorrow, you'll be three.

I sit here thinking about how, growing up, I had hoped that someday I would have a daughter.  In my mind, she would be a perfect, smiling ball of joy, with curly hair, and beautiful features.  She would be kind and smart and so much more.  After God blessed me with your two brothers, I felt it was my calling in life, loving them so deeply, to be a mom to three or four boys, and felt I would never have a daughter.  I don't know why I felt this way, and it was bittersweet, but I was so sure.   When I was told you were on the way, I didn't believe it until they placed you on my chest, and you were in fact my little girl.  Every day since then, it has made so much sense that you were brought into our lives.  I didn't ever imagine you would fulfill my dreams to precisely.  You belong with us, and God knew it.

My heart can hardly handle another birthday.  Yet another year has flown by too quickly, though, fortunately, the chaos in our lives has slowed down quite a bit, and this transition from two to three years of life with you is much clearer in my memory and I feel I was much more focused on our days together, enjoying them, savoring them, and cherishing them.  Not that I didn't in years past, but someday, you'll understand what I mean when I say they were busier and harder and much more muddled together.

Not this year.

This year, I watched you blossom from a young toddler into a much more mature toddler.  I've heard your vocabulary soar with countless words and phrases I have never heard a two-year-old use before.

I've seen your sweet little self turn a little more sassy, as I was warned may happen over time.  I miss the days when I don't have to remind you to use a "kind voice," but I cherish your personality all the same.

I've seen you grow so tall, your hair so long and curly, your eyes so wide and filled with deep wonder.  You've become very independent, but you still totter back and forth from being "big" and "little" where sometimes you want to do everything on your own, and other times you'll cry on the floor because you think you need to be carried.  I'm sorry when I don't give in to the tantrums.  It's not because I don't want to carry you, it's just that I don't want to fuel that behavior.  I do, in fact, love that sometimes you still want to be carried, and I love the feeling of your arms wrapped around me as I carry you.  Your brothers very rarely express that desire anymore, and I know it will be all too soon that you won't want me to, either.  You use the most adorable phrase when you want to be held, as you tell me "I want to hold you," even though you really mean it the other way around.

I love that you still want to cuddle, sit on my lap, and snuggle in bed sometimes.  I love that you still ask for a kiss and a hug when I drop you off at daycare or Sunday School in the mornings, and that you still want them both before bed at night.

I love when you call me "Mama" instead of "mommy," and I don't know why.

You've got an excellent memory, little lady.  You know almost everyone's name at daycare and Sunday School, and you can recall the middle names, favorite colors, and eye colors of the people who mean most to you, assuming you've inquired what these things are already.

You love music, and art, the outdoors, and your blanket. In the morning, your favorite cat is Benjamin, but when we get home at night, your favorite cat is Lucy.  They both love you, and they're so gentle with you.  When you're sick, they are by your side.  You recently developed a love for birds, and you proclaim it almost daily.  You also love tigers, and dogs, and fish, and bunnies, and lions, and horses, and ponies, and unicorns...  I'm sorry I couldn't give you a pet tiger for your birthday like you requested repeatedly.  Someday, you'll understand.

You've surprised me and gone from wearing diapers full time to barely wearing them at all, and you're so proud of your big girl status in this area.  While I'm grateful that the diaper budget has dwindled immensely and I don't have to change diapers all day every day, it's a reminder that you're not going to be little for much longer.

I love listening to you sing songs and narrate your play.  You've such a bright imagination.  I love that you will play with both of your brothers on a daily basis.  They love you dearly and they make sure you know it.  They are so good about building you up with positive affirmations and compliments.  I hope you'll always remember how beautiful they think you are, even if sometimes they're not being very nice to you.

Baby girl, soon you will lose the remaining baby features on your little body, and become a preschooler like your brothers.  I pray you'll take the days a little more slowly than you have been over the past year.  I know you want to go to kindergarten, too, but you've only a few short years to be a tiny little girl.  Don't rush through them, please.

I pray that as you grow older, you'll continue to be kind, gentle, intelligent, helpful, and hilarious.  I hope you'll want to spin in a dress for years to come, rock baby dolls gently, and give hugs freely.

You light up every room you walk into with a smile full of sunshine.

I pray that I will always be able to remember the deep chocolate color of your bright eyes, the spirals in the back of your hair as they dry after bath, your dark, long eyelashes, especially as you sleep against my shoulder sometimes, the warmth of your tiny little hand as it holds my finger while we walk, and the jubilant melody of your laugh, among everything else about you.

I pray you'll always let Jesus in your heart, and show other's his goodness.  I pray you'll be a blessing to each person you come across.

Miss Norah, you stole our hearts from the get-go.  Cherish it as we cherish you.

Thank you for all of the joy you bring to this world.

I love you, Sweet Pea.