Four Years of You

Four Years of You

Dear Jenna Paige: 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!  You’ve been counting down since Christmas, so I know you’re excited. And I’m excited, too, when I’m not looking at baby pictures of you and sobbing. 

Jenna, the craziest thing about this birthday is how grown up you seem to me now. You’re not a toddler anymore – you’re a little kid, and you have grown and changed in dozens of ways. 

One word to describe you is “independent.” You want to do everything yourself. If I tell you what you want to do won’t work, you will stand there, hands on hips, and say we can find a way to make it work. I constantly find you dragging the kitchen stool around the house in an effort to reach the places you “meed” to be. You would rather spend eight minutes climbing into the car while holding three toys all by yourself than let anyone help, even just a little. It drives me crazy in the moment but that attitude will serve you well when you’re inevitably running your own country one day. 

This year, you learned to use the potty. I think the real motivation for you was getting an m&m every time you were successful – you still ask me for one sometimes. You love picking out which undies you will wear every day, which is good, because most days, that’s all you wind up wearing. You have told me more than once that you can’t wear clothes because you need to be free. It is extremely hard to keep a straight face while you stand there in your Minnie Mouse boots and Tinkerbell undies and try to convince me it’s fine if you go play in the yard like that. At least you have shoes on, right? 

I loved seeing you grow and learn in your three-year-old class this year. You learned a lot about your numbers and letters, but I really love the new ideas and social skills you picked up. You learned how to be a friend and how to navigate the tricky waters of someone not wanting to be your friend (although I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be!). You fell in love with two little chicks that came to your school and decided to become a farmer when you grow up. You have told me all about your farm – there will be chicks, unicorns, and genies. I look forward to visiting. 

Seeing you in ballet was probably one of my favorite things ever. You loved ballet – well, you loved watching yourself in a giant mirror, which turned out to be the same thing for you. You told me being a “bah-la-lay” girl was all you ever wanted in your whole entire life, and it turns out dreams do come true. I think you would wear your ballet costume to bed if I let you. 

Jenna, I just love seeing your personality shape itself as you grow. You are sassy and strong and brave. You want a pet bug to keep in your room and you love to help your Barbies dig in the mud while wearing the prettiest dress you can find. You have a wonderful way of reminding me which choices are “green” and which are “red,” and which ones Jesus would like the best. 

Speaking of, I was so proud of you when you told me what Jesus did for you and for all of us, from start to finish. You told it in your own inimitable way, and I could tell it is really starting to register for you. And I’m just so excited for you! You also learned a lot about the struggles Joshua faces this year. I think you were finally able to really understand about some of his needs, and I was so incredibly proud of you when you told him he was made just the way he was supposed to be. You have been dragged from appointment to appointment, dropped off at countless playdates and sitters’ houses, and still you are my smiling, generous girl. 

There are not enough words in the world for me to describe you the way I want to. This age has been my favorite, just like all the rest. I love the way you share your candy with me. I love the way you invite me to play princesses in your castle. I love to hear you play by yourself and listen to you make up stories for all your characters. I love the way you shout “BOOM, SHAKALAKA” when you’re excited. I love your “monster” voice, which you like to use to sing songs and greet me in the morning. I love the way you start your sentences with “Wellllllllll” every time you’re about to tell me no to something. I love the way you call people by the job you think they have – “Candy Lady,” “Art Ladies,” “Music Lady.” I love how you are such a great talker, and yet you still have some of those toddler quirks where you mix up when to use “her” and “she.” I love how you wave your little hand around like a socialite from the 60s when you are talking about something that is “soooo adorable.” I love to watch you do your own make up, even if you look like Groucho Marx after. I love how you love “beautiful fings,” like princesses and trapeze artists and literally anything with glitter. 

Jenna, I just love you so stinking much. You are my sidekick, my grocery shopping buddy, my joke-teller, my laundry folder, my dish washer, and so much more. You are fierce and determined and aren’t afraid of a challenge. You are my Jenna girl, my Neener bear, my Nae-Nae Puddentain, my Jenner-Benner. I love you now and I will love you always. 

Happy fourth birthday, baby girl.

~ Mommy

 

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On Your Fifth Birthday

On Your Fifth Birthday

Happy fifth birthday, buddy! You are already five years old… it’s hard to believe. Which is funny, because when you’re a parent, you’ll see that some days drag so slowly you think they’ll never end, and some days pass so fast you can’t remember they happened. And, somehow, enough days passed for you to be five!

Every year with you is more and more fun, and this year has been no exception. You learned a lot of new words this year – you like to tell me you’re “SO disappointed,” how “delighted” you are, and when you feel “very frustrated.” You still haven’t mastered your R and L sounds, so it’s ridiculously adorable to hear you say big words in such a little voice. Sometimes you try to correct Jenna and teach her a new word – it rarely (maybe never) works, but I like to hear you try.

You’ve spent probably 75% of this year dressed as someone else – Captain America, a dinosaur, Spiderman, Marshall, and sometimes a costume of your own creation. You love to dress up and play pretend. And you do not break character for anything. You make those British guards look like party animals. Sometimes, when you’re a puppy, it’s really tricky, because you’ll only answer to your puppy name, which I don’t know, and which you won’t tell me because “puppies don’t talk.” Except to say that one sentence.

Superheroes have been one of your favorite things this year. Every morning you hopefully ask me if it’s raining so you can wear your Batman raincoat. When you wear it, you have me put the “hoodie” up so you can run around singing, “Nah, nah, nah, nahhhhh, BATMANNNNNNNN!” over and over again.

This year was a tough one for you, medically speaking. You did bites at the Marcus Center, which was hard, but you did it. You gained inches and pounds and ate your weight in pureed food. I was (and am) really proud of the way you handled yourself during those sessions. We had some rough moments, which I may or may not find funny in five more years, but you gave it your all. And you’re still giving it your all each time we do the bites.

We also discovered that you were dealing with some other issues – namely, the issue where your blood sugar would plummet when you were sick! That was a fun surprise. We are still unraveling parts of that mystery, but you held up like a champ through tests, blood draws, and – the worst part – no Paw Patrol movies. It wasn’t fun, but you rarely complained. You are tough stuff, my friend.

We won’t talk about the two broken legs. Back to back. In summer.

I love watching you make new friends. You’ve become part of a little group at school, all of you kids who love building blocks and playing pretend. You could be friends with anyone. You could be friends with a sheet of paper. But I love to see you form these special bonds as you grow.

You’re so big now. So. big. What you lack in weight you make up for in literally everything else. You feel big feelings, you imagine big ideas, and you have a big smile. You love being big, and I know you’re holding strong to your goal of growing higher than the ceiling so we have to get you a giant house.

You’re also silly in big ways. You love to “trick” people, either by sneaking up on them or telling them something outrageous in such a serious tone that they actually start to believe you. You love mischief, and while it is often your sister who gets caught doing the actual mischief, I have a feeling she is only following orders from a certain five-year-old mastermind. I’m on to you, dude.

The other remarkable thing about this year is that you started to notice some of the differences between you and your friends and classmates – and you didn’t care. When you asked me why your school bus is so small, I answered you as best I could, by telling you everyone is assigned a bus that fits them perfectly, and held my breath while I waited for your answer. In your typical cheerful manner, you just said, “Oh!” and then went back to being Batman for a while. You don’t care about your differences. And they’ve made you more compassionate for others who are different, too.

Speaking of the bus… your morning bus driver recently told me that you sing songs for the entire ride. Paw Patrol, Batman, Robocar Poli, Little Einsteins – you sing it all at the top of your lungs, giving everyone a brief but exciting concert five days a week. On the way home, you chatter away, telling the driver and the aide about your day, about what you saw, who you saw, who you didn’t see, things you would like to see, something you think you saw but can’t remember, etc., etc., etc. X infinity. You love to talk, and if you don’t know the other person well, it makes no difference to you.

I could go on for pages and pages. I could talk about how funny you are. I could talk about how much I love to listen to you play. I could tell you how hard it is not to laugh when you study your reflection in the mirror until your “haircut” is perfect. I could tell you that even though I thought I was going to Italy, I wound up in Holland, and it’s a better trip than I could have ever planned.

What I will tell you is that I love you. And I’m proud of you. And you are FIVE today!

Love you always,

Mommy

Three Years Of You

Three Years Of You

Dear, sweet Jenna Paige:

Happy third birthday! Or, in your words, happy day of your number turning three! It’s so exciting that you’re an official big girl now!

As I thought about what I wanted to write for this post, I realized the issue wasn’t what to include about you. It was about what I could possibly leave out of your vivacious, big personality. So this might be a long one :)

You don’t do anything halfway. You are committed to your joy, tears, and everything in between. You love to love people, and you love to let them know how they have crossed you. And you have to do everything yourself. I mean, everything. Every. thing. Honestly, that used to frustrate me. But as I watch you become more and more determined to finish a task by yourself, I am so proud of your independence and courage. You will try anything once, and you almost always finish it, too.

Your independence is fierce. You do not back down from an idea or a challenge. You don’t care what people think or what they say. You are always ready to do your own thing and take no prisoners as you do it. This amazing attitude and strong will are going to help you do great things, little girl.

I love the way you crack yourself up with your own jokes. I love the way you play with your princesses, putting them in your little pink castle and giving them all different voices and stories. I love the way you are almost always dressed up as something else: a princess – or, as you say, a Disney “pincess” – Doc McStuffins, or sometimes a creation you thought of on your own. You are always ready to head off on an adventure in your high heel Little Mermaid shoes and your clip-on earrings. Everything about you glitters pretty much everywhere you go.

It’s been so fun to listen to you learn to talk in long sentences and tell me about your day! You love to give me lists of things you’ve seen or done, and you love to tell me all the facts you’ve learned about a new subject. You chatter away about your favorite dolls and your princess bed and your sparkle shoes and your teachers and your friends and church and everything under the sun. I love to hear your little voice. I love that you still haven’t mastered some of your Rs and Ls. I love it when I ask you a question, and you look to your left and your right, put your hands in the air, and say, “I don’t know!”

I love the way you still cuddle with me, and how you’re always willing to give me a kiss or a hug. I love how you are always determined to sleep in my bed, on my pillow, with my blanket. I love how devoted you are to your own special blanket, appropriately named Purple Blanket. I love how you lovingly choose a baby (or two or twelve) to put in bed with you at night, and kiss it good night, and tell it you will take care of it because you’re the mommy.

You are so unique, Jenna. In the same thirty seconds I can see you in a princess dress, twirling around, and also eating dirt. You aren’t afraid of bugs or any of the things that make Mommy scream. You ask us to dance and shake our hands and tell us “Nice to meet you!” You say your Ns as Ms so you tell me that you “meed help” or ask to watch “Finding Memo.” You have the littlest lisps on your Ss and two dimples that I can never resist. You love to choose your outfits, paint your nails, paint MY nails, and decorate your room with drawings (and the occasional stamp).

Jenna, I just love you so much. In one way I am sad that you’re growing up, because I still remember my last little baby and how small you used to be. But I also love each new phase of your tiny little life, and to see you grow and learn every day. Even though you recently announced that you will “never EVER grow,” I know you will. And it will be amazing.

You will grow up to be an incredible, strong, independent, fashion-savvy person. But for now, I can’t wait to see what year three brings us.

I love you, I love you, I love you, my Jenna girl, my Jenna Bear, my Neener, my Jen, my baby girl, my little love, my sweet, precious baby. Happy third birthday!

Love always,

Mommy

On Your Fourth Birthday

On Your Fourth Birthday

Dear Joshua,

Happy birthday, big boy! Four is a legit big boy age. I know you’re about 78 on the inside, but four seems pretty old, too!

This year has been huge for you, dude. You have accomplished so much. You can walk on your tippy toes now, and you are rocking the scissor crafts! Bumpy slides, climbing stairs, and riding the therapy peanut have been no match for you as you master them all!

Of course, I think we can all agree that one of the biggest skills you’ve developed is your speech. Joshua, I love you. And you are the chattiest person I know. You ask me what we’re doing, where we’re going, who we’ll see when we get there, and if I remember how much fun we had the last time we were there. I might not remember, but you do. You remember everything. You call a doorbell a “dingbell” and you have a little lisp, so when you say things like “Thanksgiving,” it sounds more like “Skanksgiving.” You’ll probably grow up thinking Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate giggling since I laugh every time you say it.

I love to hear the stories you make up. They usually involve Marshall from Paw Patrol and Batman or Captain America, always fighting bad guys. And they always win. You like to tell me which Bible stories you like the best, and even though you still insist Jesus will return to Earth on a rocket ship, I love to hear what you’ve learned about the Bible.

Josh, I just love to see your personality develop. You like to be silly but you do not stand for shenanigans. You like The Rules and you make sure everyone is aware of them. We all know that you’re pretty much raising Jenna at this point, and I do appreciate it. You remember every detail of every conversation we have, and you love to answer questions!

There is a possibility that you’re a tad stubborn, too. In fact, I think you get more stubborn every year. But you know, Joshua, for every moment I am frustrated with you digging your heels in, there is also a moment of admiration for you and the way you fight. You’ve been a fighter from literally the first seconds of your life. You had to be. And while we can butt heads sometimes, I would never change that about you. It’s made you who you are. It’s what kept you with us four years ago.

I know some things are more of a struggle for you. I’m sorry, because I know it isn’t fair. But you don’t let anything get you down. You don’t worry about what other people think of you. You just go out there and do your thing and if someone wants to follow, they can. And they do. Your smile is ridiculously contagious. Sometimes I know you’re up to no good and then you look over and grin at me, and I have to smile back.

Remember when you broke your arm? We didn’t even know it was broken for two weeks. Because you’re half human, half superhero. And you rocked that neon green cast.

Joshua, I want you to know how much I love you. And how much I admire you. You have accomplished more in your four years than some grown people ever will. You’ve had to work harder for every little victory, and you’ve had to struggle over the small things. Part of me is sad about that. But part of me know that it has shaped you into an incredible person who never stops trying. Your work ethic is better than mine, kid. And you have compassion for so many people in different situations. You’ve learned about different disabilities and struggles, and it’s made your heart even bigger. You love to love people.

Happy, happy, happy, happy birthday to my big little man, who always has a smile and a reminder about using our indoor voices. I hope this next year is just as great.

Love always,

Mommy

Two Years of You

Two Years of You

Dear Jenna,

Happy second birthday, my sweet girl! Today you are firmly planted into the world of toddlerhood. I can’t believe you are such a big girl now.

Jenna, I have been trying to think of the right words to describe you, and the ones that keep coming to me are these: All in. When you are happy, you are delighted and silly and nothing can keep the smile off your face. When you are mad, woe to the next person who crosses your path as you fling yourself onto the nearest surface and pout. When you’re sad, there is no toy or snack or treat that will pacify you (sometimes not even the pacifier…). You are all in, all the time. You commit to everything you start and every emotion you feel. Sometimes that’s terrifying. But mostly it’s inspiring. You don’t quit for anything.

I love to watch you play when you don’t know I’m there. You love to wear jewelry and carry purses, and you carefully select each bracelet and necklace to wear and each little item to place into your purse. And as soon as you’re done, you take it all off and dump it all out, and then you start again. There is a method to your madness that I am not privy to, but I love to watch you work.

This year has been a fun one for you. You learned to walk, you learned to talk in sentences, and you learned how to outsmart Mommy and Daddy at least half the time. You are constantly scheming, trying to find a new way to get a toy from Josh or convince us you need just one more snack. What you lack in subtlety, you make up for in strength. Nothing can stop you from dragging a full suitcase behind you or from walking around in Daddy’s steel-toed boots. You barrel your way through every situation and don’t stop to look back until you’ve accomplished your goal. It sounds silly to admire a toddler, but I really do admire you. You decide what you want and you go get it. You are going to do great things when you grow up.

Jenna, I just love the little person you’ve turned into. You love mischief and giggles, you love trains and Minnie Mouse, you love to sit in any lap that appears within a fifty-foot radius. You must touch every item in the shopping cart before it goes to the register, and you will do just about anything for a cookie. You change shoes about six times a day and have a very specific sense of fashion – even though you wind up in just a diaper by the end of most days. You’ve learned a hundred new words and you chatter away all the time. This age has been so fun, and I can’t wait to see what else your next years have in store.

Happy, happy birthday to my silly, crazy, Ritz-cracker loving girl. You keep me on my toes but I love every step.

Love you always,

Mommy