Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dear Arabella,

You, beautiful one, are FIVE years old!

I cannot even handle that number.  FIVE.  That means you're a full blown kid more baby or toddler or preschooler.  Holy Moly.  

You are such a curious little girl, and your daddy and I love that.  This past year, you have really started solving problems and finding other solutions if one doesn't work.  Your vocabulary is crazy, and the words and sayings you spout off just blow us away!  If we ask you how you know something, you usually respond with, "I don't know, I just know it!" (which is something Mimi and Papa heard a lot from me too...)

You also still love to be daddy's helper.  Y'alls favorite thing to do is go fishing of course.  Daddy got a new boat at the beginning of the year, and you two are always itching to take it out for the day!  You've gotten to go "to the ocean" (the jetties) and catch some bigger fish--even a shark!  You also help him build and work on the cars and fix anything that needs it.  Not only do you help him, but he explains all the whats and whys and hows--you ask questions and soak every bit of it in.  You love to learn!

You will sit at our desk and draw/color/write almost all day long.  You love to make people cards and write notes.  You know all of your letters and how to write them; and you're learning their sounds and  how to spell and sound out some simple words!  You've also started figuring out some simple addition and subtraction problems.  Your little brain just never stops!

This year has been one for the books for you with cool trips!  You got to go to your first concert (TobyMac--Air1 Tour) and were a pretty big fan!  It overwhelmed you at first, but by the time he came out and sang, you were up singing along and loving ever minute.  Then you also got to go to a For King and Country (your favorite) concert!  You sang every single song at the top of your much fun.  We also got to go see Frozen on Ice!  Then, Mimi and Papa took you and your cousins to Great Wolf Lodge on a "no parents allowed" trip--you felt so big and had the time of your life.  And we also went to DisneyLand as a little family which was just amazing!  Quite a big year for you and your memory bank, little one :)

You are still just kind-hearted and sweet.  You are so tender when the moments warrant it, and will do just about anything you can to help anybody.  You are grateful and you share and are amazingly unselfish for a wee one.  You love people well, and I hope you never lose that.

Hearing you sing and pray is still one of my absolute favorites.  You know just about every song that comes on Air1 and we sing to the radio every time we're in the car!  Your favorites right now are anything by TobyMac (specifically "Til the Day I Die") and For King and Country (specifically "Fix My Eyes"), "The River", "Don't Leave Me Alone",  "Eye of the Storm", and "God is on the Move".

You are also so brave. You've tried so many new things this year, including a zip line and roller coasters, water slides and gymnastics tricks (you take gymnastics twice a week and are in the advanced class!).  You also love to catch and hold animals like frogs and lizards and butterflies and fish...  It's always really neat to see you work through the process of being afraid and choosing to be brave and try something anyway--and the majority of the time, you end up loving whatever it was!

Costumes.  We are still in the costume phase, hot and heavy!  There aren't many days at all that go by without you spending some quality time in one of your costumes.  You have almost all of the princesses as well as some Disney characters--and most of them have quite a few holes because of so much play time!

You and Kaplan are best friends.  Now, in true older sibling fashion, you drive him absolutely crazy on purpose, and you boss him around like nobody else.  But you adore each other.  He follows you everywhere and copies everything you do--he looks up to you so much!  I have loved watching your imaginations grow together and get to play.

I also know that you are going to be such a great big sister to Landry as well.  It's been so fun with you through this pregnancy since you actually understand what's going on.  

I am so excited and anxious to see how much more you grow and learn and change this next year.  Your daddy and I are whole-heartedly obsessed with who you are and always will be.  Keep enjoying life and finding giggles every single day.  Arabella, you are our treasured gift, and I promise that we will always love you more than you will ever know.

Happy birthday, my love!

xoxo, mama

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dear Kaplan,

You, my handsome little hunk, are TWO years old!

I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by since you joined our little family.  They say time flies when you're having fun--and you sir, have definitely increased our levels of fun!

You are still a pretty laid back kid, and you really only get super cranky when you're hungry.  The struggle is real for you and those hungry grumps, dude.

My Kaplan, you are still our snuggle bug of a kid, and your daddy and I absolutely love it.  You love to be held and snuggled and hugged.  You are also quite attached to your blanket and love to cuddle up just about anywhere if you have it.

You're still a major mama's boy (which makes me a little nervous with your little brother coming next month...).  However, you are also daddy's little buddy and Arabella is your best friend.  You love to fish and ride in the Bronco and play ball and wrestle around with daddy.  And you copy just about anything your big sister does or says (which isn't always a good thing!).  Watching you two play together and seeing your imaginations in action is just the coolest.  At random times, you'll run up to one of us and hug our legs and say "I luv chew"--just so sweet and melts all of us!

It has really amazed us how much you are talking!  I call you my little mockingbird because you repeat just about everything you hear.  For the past two months, you've been speaking in sentences and holding conversations.  You're also very well mannered (please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry...just precious).  You constantly surprise us with new words and phrases and just how well you communicate.  You also know more animals and sounds than I can count anymore, are working on your colors (some days you get them all right, some days everything is blue), and know what a triangle is!

One of your favorite things to do is sing--which seems to be a family trait!  You know Jesus Loves Me, You Are My Sunshine, Amazing Grace, and Father God (a few of our bed time songs); you also sing along to the radio, especially on Fix My Eyes, The River, Backseat Driver, Thy Will, and God is on the Move.  It makes me SO happy to hear you and Arabella sing--especially all those Jesus songs!

You've also been going down front with Mr. Craig (for children's church) by yourself on Sunday mornings.  You sit up there and pay attention and then come running back to mama and daddy when the bigger kids go to class (you usually run up and tell us, "I did good!" and give me a big it).  This year, you get to start going to Bible Hour with Bella and the other kids.  I know you'll love it!  You also have a great time with your friends in your Bible classes.

You really like Barney and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse--you'll sit and watch them (and sing and dance to them) as long as I'll let you.  Speaking of Mickey Mouse, you even got to go to DisneyLand this year!  It was our first real family vacation and we had SO much fun!  You loved the plane and the rides and seeing the characters (until they got too close).  I know you won't remember the trip, but you were definitely old enough to have a great time--and I promise mama will remember for you :)

If you could stay outside all day every day, you would.  You are "such a boy" in that you love to play in the dirt, make a mess, and run around like a crazy person.  The problem with all of that is that while you love to get dirty, you still hate taking a bath...  You're good to play in the tub, but when it's time to actually bathe, you scream the whole time, every single time.  Still haven't figured out what that's all about...

Your giggle is so contagious and a sound I don't ever want to forget!  You love to be silly and make funny faces; or for somebody to "get you" or tickle you; or if you sister starts laughing with you, you two can hardly stop and then we're all laughing for a long time!  It's just great.  

I'm so excited to see you become a big brother next month.  I have no doubt, you and Arabella will teach Landry all of your tricks in no time.  And I have no doubt that that little boy will be so loved and protected and cared for (and picked on and pushed around, of course--but only by you...)  

You're just such a cool kid, and we are so grateful to have you as ours.  You've added so much love and fun and weirdness and giggles and tenderness to our family.  We hope you never lose your laid back way of handling life and loving people. 

Your daddy and I will fight for you, protect you, teach you, and love you every single day of our lives.  You will always be our precious, perfect son; our second baby; our beautiful, blessed gift.

Happy birthday, sweet boy!  I love you more than you will ever know.

xoxo, mama

Friday, March 25, 2016

O, death, where is your sting?

Last Friday, I sat through the funeral service of a great man.  My husband's grandfather had fought a long battle with COPD and congestive heart failure, and his body was tired.  The previous two weeks, we had all been together for most of it, caring for him and loving on him and each other.  Those three weeks combined were and are a bit of a blur, but still very specific details stand out with such clarity.

Hunter and I started dating just shy of 13 years ago, and I have been through so much with his family.  Since we were so young, our families actually helped raise each other as well.  His grandparents have loved me so well since the very beginning.  They offer wisdom, work ethic, perseverance, stability, and loyalty--all doused in a load of humor.  Just really good people.

If this wasn't known already, it became very clear in the past few weeks.  Their five grandsons rose to the hard task of taking care of him in his last days; helping him be comfortable, moving him, talking with him, and being his strength as his dwindled.  It was also very clear as these five grandsons stood and bravely honored their PawPaw last week at his funeral service.  Each of them spoke of what he had taught them, what memories he had created with them, what he had provided for this family.  His reach on each of them was undeniable.  They also served as his pall bearers, carrying his body to its final resting place.  Nothing made PawPaw more happy or more proud than those boys.

A few moments from the service really stood out to me, aside from the boys' talks.
     --Kaplan loves to give fives, and it was always a way that he would interact with PawPaw (even with his oxygen on or in the hospital bed or if we hadn't seen him in a while...fives were always a sure fire connection).  Hunter was carrying him around at the funeral home that morning and he was dishing out the fives.  When they walked up to the casket, he still reached down and gave PawPaw a five.
     --my sister-in-law and I spent a lot of those weeks going through unbelievable amounts of pictures; I made a Shutterfly book and she made a video memorial for the service.  Seeing those pictures and the life in them was just amazing.  (Men--quit fussing about taking pictures!  Future generations will love them.)
     --If PawPaw got dressed up, he wore a blue suit; he was also buried in a blue suit.  So all the boys went out and bought blue blazers to wear to the service for him.  They looked so nice and I know PawPaw would have loved it.

PawPaw's boy dogs
     --We had congregational singing for the service and sang some of his and Grandmaw's favorites.  That big booming bass line on the front row (the grandsons) was enough to give me grins and goosebumps.
     --Because PawPaw was a Marine, they were present for the graveside service.  One played Taps, and two others folded and presented the flag to Grandmaw.  Such an honor and tribute.

     --When the pall bearers laid their boutonnieres on the casket, Hunter took Kaplan's off and handed it to him.  Seeing his tiny little hand place that small flower on PawPaw's casket was almost more than I could handle.

It was a hard day.  But it was a beautiful day.  Dignified and honorable, with just enough humor to feel like PawPaw.

Have you ever stood beside someone as they die--particularly someone who is losing a long battle?  I have, a few times now.  While it may sound a bit morbid or creepy to some, there is actually a strange peace that overtakes the moment.  There are tears, yes, and great, deep sadness.  But underlying all of that is a very present peace.  Their pain has stopped, their battle is done, the wait has ended.  Peace.

And do you know the reason I have felt that peace?  Because of death.

This Friday that we celebrate as "Good Friday" was actually so very terrible in it's happening.  It was cruel and bloody and loud and violent.  The only innocent being to walk this earth was nailed to a tree in absolute hate.  He gave his life's blood...for you and for me.  What an incredible gift.

You know how a lot of people will pick a word to focus on through the year?  Unfortunately, so far this year, death has chosen to be our word (believe me, it is not what I would ever choose).   Starting in December, we've had so many deaths...and most of them have been tragic.  It has been such a tough year--and it's only March...

But even amidst all of that pain and heartbreak and loss, an undeniable peace has been present for me.  Because of that tragic yet beautiful death so many years ago that we commemorate today, "Good Friday".

So how does death bring peace and why is today good?

Because three days later, he ROSE! 
Because that death defeated all death.  Because that death provides life eternal.  Because that death paved the way for creation's restoration.  Because that death allows all things to be made new.

Because sometimes in the darkest places, Christ's beautiful grace shines brightest.

So today is good.  And every day is good.  Because we serve a risen Redeemer.  O, death, where is your sting?

I pray you find comfort through your brokenness and hope in the Story.

xoxo, angie