Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy 9 Johnny!

Dear Johnny,

Today you are 9.

Just around the time your sister turned 9, I read a blog by a mom who said 9 is the halfway point. Like at 9 we are halfway done with raising you, since presumably you'll leave at 18 to go on with your life.

I hate to tell you...that's so not true in this house. There's no way I'm letting you go in 9 years.
You will always be my favorite boy in the world. My buddy. The guy that shows me so much love!

These 9 years with you have been a joy. You are so much more than I could have imagined. I have to tell you I was a little nervous about having a boy.

While Dad was over-the-top ecstatic to have a boy, I was terrified. I wasn't sure I would know how to parent a boy or control a boy or relate to a boy.

Yes, you do have the energy of a boy that I expected. And you are funny and goofy and sometimes wild and gross. What I didn't expect was how loving and sweet little boys can be. From the day you were born you have been my buddy, my little partner. You were just so easy to have fun and friendly and sweet.

You care so deeply about people and things. I didn't quite expect that. You are so generous with your love, your things, your money. Not many other kids would use their own money to buy books for another classmate and their teacher at the book fair. What other boy begs to go to the jewelry store to spend his own money on a bracelet for his teacher? I have so many little things you've made me, or bought for me. Giving is definitely your love language.

Yes, these past 9 years have been so much more than I could have imagined. I still think of you as my little boy. I have the best memories of us...just you and me...exploring Chicago while Julie was in school. Remember stuffing our faces at the Nutella bar and watching huge balls of mozzarella cheese being made in Eataly? We found the best tacos in a little Mexican restaurant in Pilsen--we scared Dad to death because that was not in a great part of Chicago. But the tacos were awesome! You were up for anything and so friendly to everyone. Those days were the best.

In many ways you are still my buddy, but I know you are changing. You call me Mom instead of Mommy. Actually I'm not even sure when you last called me Mommy. You aren't so eager to hold my hand anymore....though you'll still come in to snuggle in the mornings and you ask every night to read together and talk.

You'd rather spend your days with friends and you don't ask me to play like you used to. You've developed your own interests, which is so cool to see. You love Chess and Minecraft and "Saving the World" on some silly video game with your Dad. You are obsessed with jokes and riddles and you just started showing interest in The Beatles. You love Sushi and junk food and you have a sweet tooth almost bigger than your Papa.

I love seeing you grow into who you're meant to be. I just hope these next 9 years pass slowly because I'm so not ready to let you go.

Happy birthday my sweet boy. I love you so much!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Happy 3 Josie

Dear Josie,
Today you are 3.
We looked at your baby pictures last night and you wondered why you had a boo boo in the hospital.

It's hard to think back to those first days---you with tubes taped to your face and hooked up to all kinds of machines. The incessant beeping and the days I couldn't feed or hold you.

The day you were born I couldn't see you at all and those hours were so long and hard, yet not nearly as hard as the night I went home from the hospital without you. Daddy pushed me in a wheelchair into an elevator and out the door and my arms felt so empty without you.

Because from the moment I met you I knew I could  never live without you. You were meant to be part of our family and were such a special Christmas gift. You really make everyone happy. Your first real smile was at about 3 weeks. That entire first year  you never stopped smiling. I was obsessed with your gorgeous grin and I was the annoying mom constantly snapping your picture.

You are a little girl you truly changed our family and gave us a different outlook on life. How lucky we are to have you!

To you everything is exciting! You are so full of life and still the smiliest little girl. Even when you get hurt, you're quick to say "I'm OK!" with a sweet little smile. You genuinely love everything. Dance. Swim. Music. School. Animals. People. Pretty Dresses. Haircuts. FOOD! It's pretty easy to make you happy. Every morning you wake up and say "It's a sunny day Mama!"---even when it's raining.

You love your brother and sister and want so desperately to be just like them. You yell "Hi-Ya!" at karate and sing along as Julie strums her ukulele. You try to join in games of Chess and Heads Up, and Nerf gun wars, and you love chasing around all the big kids in the neighborhood. You just want to be included in everything.

You love to snuggle and you are completely irresistible when you ask for "huggies". You're infatuated with butterfly kisses and Eskimo kisses and ask for them over and over, and that's pretty hard to resist too.

Three years ago you won over our hearts and we just can't imagine life without you.

Happy 3rd Birthday Sweet Girl!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Happy 12 Julie

Dear Julie,

Today you are 12.

This is the first time I've missed your birthday and I'm so sad not to be there. I know the birthdays that you will still be at home are dwindling so I'm sorry to miss this one!

But here goes your annual birthday letter.

Julie, I think 11 might have been the year you discovered yourself and probably the world.

You were a star this year. You landed lead parts in three plays and you totally rocked the stage. You put your heart into every performance and everyone could tell you were loving it.

You earned your black belt! Three years, countless hours of practices and ups and downs, but you did it! You learned that hard work pays off!

To say we are proud of you is an understatement.

This year also meant growing up. It was the year you found out about Santa. You were completely devastated. Oh how much you loved Santa and all the magic of the season. And how much we loved doing all of that for you. I cried with you because it was all over. Our little girl who wholeheartedly believed in magic and fairies and mythical creatures was no more. It seemed like you aged about five years last Christmas.

While that was so sad to see your heart broken like that, I think it also made you realized you were growing up. I'm still not sure you love the idea of growing up, but I think you're getting the hang of it.

On your birthday you asked your friends and family to donated money to a charity. You told us that you have everything you need.

Many times you are wiser about life than we give you credit for. You hate brushing your hair and can't stand frilly clothes. On picture day you came downstairs wearing old gym clothes. You say it only matters what's on the inside, and you care less what other kids think.

You love every food (except tomatoes) and are eager to try anything! You love to cook and bake and sing and play ukele. You've probably checked out half the clubs at school just to see what they're all about.

Unique is a word that fits you perfectly, though you don't mind one bit if people call you weird.

I could have never imagined I'd have a daughter like you--so strong, brave and willing to take risks. So eager to try new things and not worry about anyone's opinions.

You have taught me so much about life over the past 12 years. That things don't ever go exactly as planned. That girls are sometimes tougher than boys. That it's always OK to go for something you really want if you might not get it. That it doesn't matter if people think you're weird because weird is cool. That being different is amazing. At 12 you have so many qualities I wish I possessed as an adult. You know how to just be you and that's pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday Julie. I love you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy 8th Johnny!

Dear Johnny,

Today you are 8.

7 was totally your  year wasn't it?

I smile just thinking about much you've really blossomed this year.

For a while there you had a tough time. You were my baby for so long. My buddy. I think it was hard for you to let that go. But now I think you finally get it.

My sweet middle boy---you've found yourself this year and life is good. There's so much to celebrate about you!

You're my lover of bugs and critters and everything outdoors. You're my inventor with a vivid imagination. You're my engineer---a self-proclaimed "nerd". My creative problem solver. You love discovering how things work, and you just have a completely unique way of looking at the world. You're silly and funny. You love to laugh and make everyone else laugh too.

You are a people pleaser and stellar student. You've had the most amazing second grade teacher who just seems to "get" you. And I think she may have captured your heart.

Because you are my lover. You always have been. Not many other boys your age would spend their own $16 on a necklace for their teacher.

You are so generous with your love and you're never afraid to show it. You're my expert hugger and super cuddler. You write me letters and poems and buy me jewelry and make me crafts.

The way you look after your little sister truly warms my heart. Who would have guessed my son, my middle child, would be the one to care for his baby sister as if she were his very own? You change her and feed her. Play with her and read her books. She refuses to take a bath without you and you're the first one she wakes up in the morning. You show her so much love that she can't help but adore you.

I told you being in the middle isn't so bad.

You will forever be my favorite boy in the entire world. My buddy. My partner in crime. You are still the best snuggler and I will never ever turn down your hugs.

You may be stuck in the middle, but you're right where you're meant to be.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sore Winner

If your team wins, you win. Right?

Well, Julie hasn't quite grasped that concept yet. She's so hard on herself and so competitive, that if she doesn't feel she performs her very best, it's a loss. Even if it's a win.

A couple weekends ago Julie competed in a karate team sparring tournament. The fact that she made the team before earning her black belt was pretty impressive in and of itself. But, she's a tough girl and she enjoys sparring.

Side note: It's still so strange and nerve-wracking to watch your little girl throw punches, kick people and sometimes get kicked in the head.

This was the first team sparring tournament ever, and it was such a fun experience. Teams of five compete against each other tournament style. So if you lose one round, your knocked out of the tournament. Competitors go one at a time into the ring to spar the opposite team, and points are given for punches, kicks, jump kicks, etc. Then the points from each team member are combined to determine the winning team.

Julie's team came in first for the sparring competition. But she didn't feel like a winner. During her rounds, she didn't spar as well as she wanted, and didn't earn as many points as she hoped.

Though she cheered on her team members, at the end of the tournament she was bummed. She sulked, pouted and asked to go straight home instead of to a restaurant to celebrate.

Scott and I knew she was upset, but we didn't let her mope. This was a lesson in teamwork, sportsmanship and qualities that are so much important than winning.

We tried to explain that we didn't care whether she won or lost or how many points she scored. When you're on a team, it's so much more important to support your fellow team members and be a gracious loser and winner---even if  in your heart,  you were disappointed.

I think we finally got through to her a bit. I guess we never thought we'd have to teach our kids how to win, but sports are all about life lessons.

Friday, March 24, 2017

She's worth it

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week and Johnny was determined to make his teacher, Miss Sumner feel special. He wrote her notes every day, and insisted on spending his own $16 on this starfish necklace he thought would look perfect on her.

I offered to pay for the necklace but Johnny said "I want to. She's worth my money because I love her."

It says a lot when a 7-year-old boy, who happens to also love money, spends $16 on a necklace for his teacher. How special she must make him feel for him to want to give back to her. Not every year do our kids have teachers that truly care about them, that know them so well, and want more than anything for them to succeed and feel loved.

In the beginning of the year, Miss Sumner introduced herself in a letter to parents explaining that she doesn't have any children of her own, but that the kids in her class are like her children.

I think she was right on when she wrote that, and she's lived up to that statement in so many ways.

So, thank you Miss Sumner for making my little middle boy feel so special and loved every day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A new leprechaun

Since Julie was in preschool, a leprechaun has visited our house every March. He makes a mess. Leaves green pee in the toilets. And sometimes leaves St. Patrick's-sy treats like Lucky Charms or pistachio muffins.

This is something the kids get a kick out of every year, and Johnny, especially enjoys trying to catch the little mischief maker. He started designing his trap around Christmas time, and kept the plans on his desk since then.

This year, however, the leprechaun was played by Julie. Read back a few blogs about our Christmas drama when she discovered the truth about Santa and all our fantasy characters who visit our house. Well, after her Christmas breakdown, she begged to be the leprechaun.

So she did.

And she was a darn good leprechaun. She faithfully waited until Johnny fell asleep every night, then made messes and left little messages. Scott called her "AIT" for Agent in Training". She just ate it up, and loved watching Johnny's reactions every morning.

Though it's kind of sad she no longer believes, it's fun to start a new chapter with her as our secret helper.