It’s been a year – A YEAR – since I’ve written in my blog. I can’t believe it, but then again, as my kids grow and time marches forward, a year just isn’t what it used to be. Time goes so unbelievably fast. The last time I wrote, it was for my annual letter to my children in 2021. Things in the world were crazy with covid and politics – and well, much of that is the same. We are still dealing with covid, although masks are a rarity and quarantine periods are down to five days. There are other viruses and illnesses in the news, inflation is high, we’re on the cusp of a recession, and politics are still quite a mess. However, my little world is…good. Life is sweet, peaceful, and joyous. Don’t get me wrong – I want to pull my hair out at least once a day among sibling fights, toddler tantrums, a zillion pets and their messes…but really, I know I am so unbelievably blessed. So as I sit and reflect on the past year, I am thankful; thankful for my healthy and rambunctious family, thankful for the challenges and joys, and thankful for the opportunity to capture it all. Here goes, an open letter to my children in 2022:
For Jace, my son:
Jace, you are 13 years old now and in the 8th grade. I tell you often that you are a joy to me, but let me put it on record – you make life fun. This has been a transformational year for you. The boy I remember with a cherub face and thin frame is gone. In his place is a young man, strong, determined, and driven.
Over the past year you attended your first concert with our family to see Christian bands Mercy Me and Micah Tyler. You may or may not have been a bit embarrassed by your mother’s singing out and dancing, but afterwards shared with me that the music was “awesome”. I was excited for you to get to see faith demonstrated in such a big and beautiful way. You have continued to attend The Well at Redemption and made the choice to be baptized this year. In all honesty, you led our family to Redemption, and I continue to be amazed at your willingness to stand in faith. One of your 7th grade teachers shared with me that she admires your humbleness and that you are never afraid to talk about your faith. That makes me incredibly proud of you. You also attended Twin Lakes Christian Camp again this summer, and I’m so thankful you continue to choose to grow your faith in a world full of distractions.
You wrestled your 7th grade year and had one heck of a season, pulling out win after win. It was beyond fun to watch your skill and ability grow. Your passion for running stands out over the past year. You finished your 7th grade year of Cross Country at the end of 2021, ran the Turkey Trot over Thanksgiving break that same year, and then headed into track season in spring of 2022. You entered track for the first time telling me you were going to compete in hurdles, and my response was “No, you’re not”, as I envisioned your beautiful facing hitting asphalt. As I see often happening lately, I was wrong and you were right (I can’t even believe I’m putting that in writing!). You are simply a natural with hurdles, making it look too easy. You won every race of the season, with the exception of coming in second one time. You were really quite exceptional, and you made us so proud. Over the summer you attended your last year of Cross Country Camp, where you received the Mental Attitude Award. That is a moment I will never forget. You amaze me and your dad with your mental toughness, your determination, and your drive – to see you receive recognition from your coaches for that very special gift was an honor. Then over the summer, you attended Pacesetters Running Camp, and I saw you realize your potential for distance running for the first time. You left that camp on fire for running, and have since run the Wetlauf 5k, placing 3rd in your age range, the Turtle Soup 5k, placing 1st in your age range and 3rd overall, and competed in the Heartland Half Marathon Team Relay, where your team finished 2nd with a time of 1:33.
As much fun as it’s been, enough about running…I’d like to capture a few other memories that are too good to pass up. You continue to have a special friendship with Tyson and even vacationed with his family over fall break 2021 to Key Largo. We missed you like crazy, but are so thankful that you get to have those special experiences together. You still think a lot of your pets, especially Tony and Little Bear. You love love LOVE your dirt bike, and even upgraded this year. I’d list the make and model, but you know I’d get it all wrong. What I do want to share is that you worked very hard for your dirt bike, paying for 2/3 of the cost with your mowing money. You never cease to amaze me. I can’t leave this year’s letter without capturing the creation of a penis-shaped Christmas cookie….balloon….playdoh figure…that you shared with our family with this year. We absolutely have a teenage boy on our hands. Finally, your hair is all the rage these days. It’s long, curly, and some days you don’t seem to have eyes – but it turns out that the ladies love it, and it fits you well. We no longer force haircuts on you, glad you are able to make the decisions that are right for you and that make you happy. We learned the hard way after your last forced hair cut for family pictures – and the photo evidence of the rage that ensues when a boy doesn’t like his hair cut. All in good fun.
Jace, you are a wonderful son. Smart, hardworking, determined, motivated, hard-headed at times, love to pick on your sisters, love to poke at and drive others nuts, have a good time making fun of your mom’s For You TikTok page, still a great conversationalist – you make me proud. Your dad and I are blessed by you.
To Jera, still my Jera-da-bera, my girl:
My sweet girl, you are 10 years old today and in the fifth grade. As I read over my previous year’s letters, your previous letters surprised me most. There are so many ways you’ve changed, but also so many beautiful ways you’ve stayed the same. You are still my tornado. This is part of who you are, and I want you to know that your dad and I are so proud of the person you are.
You are my lover of games. You’re always up for a game of charades, heads up, or whatever will bring us together acting silly and having a good laugh. One of my favorite memories is of us doing the scavenger hunt in the fall of 2021 at West Boggs Lake. You ran to each clue, read them aloud for us, and we’d be on to the next stop along the hunt. We had a blast. You have a passion for baking and cooking, with a natural curiosity about dishes that allows you to be creative and come up with meals and treats that are brand new.
The Christian concert we attended as a family last year was also your first, and I have loved seeing both your love for music and your faith grow. You attended the fall camp at Camp Illiana trough Redemption. You are naturally a homebody, and you were afraid to go to camp. Even with me there attending with you, you became homesick on the first night, missing your dad and your home. But I saw you pull through, make friends, sing, dance, run and act silly. I saw you listen and relate and grow in your faith. I also saw you zipline and ride the big swing (mom in tow)! That weekend is a blessing in my life that I will take with me forever. You were the first in our family to make the choice to be baptized. Without prior arrangements, without all of your friends or extended family present, without any special acknowledgement, you decided it was the day to begin your walk with Christ, and so you stepped out and asked to be baptized. You lead our family in ways that you don’t even realize, and this is one of the ways you lead. Thank you for your courage and faith. It is a blessing to our family.
You accomplished so many things over the past year, from Girls on the Run to Spell Bowl to Bowling League to participating in the Kinderchoir. You even had a speaking part in the Christmas Program and did a wonderful job. You don’t love being the center of attention (I’m starting to learn that you might even hate it a little), but when asked, you step up and you do it well. It makes me proud that you’re willing to try new things, and I love watching you find some that are a really good fit, like bowling. For your birthday this year, you asked for a microphone and then knocked my and your dad’s socks off as you recorded your own version of a song from Encanto. It was truly amazing. My hope for you is that your continue to do the things that you enjoy and use the special gifts God has given you.
You continue to be incredibly thoughtful, and you impressed me so much at the end of your 4th grade year when your spent you hard-earned school points to attend Jema’s class and read a book to her. Some other things you have loved over the past year are all things Halloween, Harry Potter, roller blading, riding your bike, attending the daddy-daughter dance with your dad, Stranger Things, the Black Phone (and all things spooky), Roblox and making edits, getting your first cell phone, music – all music from the 80s especially – and your pets, particularly Chip and Tony. You graduated from your expander and braces to a beautiful, grownup smile. We also had fun making snow ice cream over the winter and walking the square to find your art work, a beautiful, colorful ostrich.
Jera, I see you growing into yourself every day. You still have the best style, really cool hair, and an awesome sense of humor. You’re learning what little-girl things you are comfortable with leaving behind, and which ones you’d like to hold on to for a while longer. You’re introspective, often too hard on yourself, loving and kind – you make my life so much sweeter, and your dad and I are thankful for you every single day of our lives.
To Jema, OH-Jema, Jemmy, my baby:
Jema, you are three and just started your first year of preschool. Oh child, you are a pistol. You are a running, jumping, dancing, singing, screaming, giggling, whirl of a girl. This year has been completely full of firsts for you! You moved from a crib to a big-girl bed, mastered potty training, and somehow started pre-school. How did that happen???
Some things that you love right now are slime videos on YouTube, along with videos of veterinarians saving puppies (which make the rest of your family a little squeamish). You have loved dinosaurs over that past year, starting each morning watching Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous. However, I have seen that interest starting to wane, and in it’s place has been a love for Cocomelon, Pup Academy, Gabby’s Dollhouse, and Booba. You like spooky things, including Monster House and Hocus Pocus. You love holidays, birthdays, and celebrations, and you started asking me when Easter was going happen in August this year.
You want to be just like your bubby and sissy. You often steal Jera’s stuffed animals and blankets, much to her despair, and have named your bubble-blowing Powerwheels “dirt bike”. You are your mommy’s helper and are by my side whether we’re doing the dishes together, watering flowers, folding laundry, or working in the garden. I feel so blessed to share so many moments with you. I currently hear “I love you” approximately 300 times every single day, as our conversations tend to go something like this:
Jema: “I love you!”
Me: “I love you too!”
…5 seconds later…
Jema: “I love you!”
…and so we go on…
You love jumping in “muddy puddles”, and each time it rains, you talk your dad or me into taking you for a walk so you can jump in each rain puddle along the way. I write “jump in each rain puddle”, but “jump, sit, roll, and lay in every rain puddle along the way” would be more accurate. You’ve become very social this year and love making friends with any child we come along. You then remind me each time we pass that particular park or house about the “best friend” you made there. You are so precious.
You love painting your fingernails and making daily trips to the playground. Each day when I come home from work, you insist we lay in the hammock together where we play doctor and dentist. Mostly, you continue to remind me to slow down and play. I’m so thankful for that. This past summer you spent a ton of time in your purple elephant pool and turtle sandbox in the backyard. You also enjoyed many trips Holiday World and the zoo. You absolutely adore animals. You insist we stop and pet every dog we see, and you follow each and every animal sighting with an “Awwwwweeee, I want one” comment. You obsess over watching bush babies on TikTok. You have a sharp little since of humor that makes it hard at times to believe you’re three. You’ve also dropped the “F-bomb” a few times, which is a first for me as a parent, and helps me to testify that raising a toddler around teenagers presents new challenges. Thankfully you follow up every foul-mouth faux paw with a “we don’t say bad words” statement…so I know that you know and are just testing your boundaries.
You make me laugh every day and keep life always exciting. Thank you for being a ray of sunshine in our lives. You are everything light and free in this world, and your dad and I are so thankful to spend this life with with you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to say thank you to my husband who is my partner in this life, and is by my side every step of the way raising these amazing children. Everything good that I have in this life began when God placed us together, and so I am always so thankful for that.
Life is hectic. This year is the first time that I needed to take a full day off of work in order to make time to write this letter. Weeknights are filled with sports, homework, meetings, suppers, showers, and bedtimes, and weekends are filled with much of the same. We spend our time living life, and so don’t have much time to reflect. However, I encourage you, that reflection is important. So many of the little characteristics and traits that I caught in prior years’ letters are gone now. Like so many beautiful pieces in life, the memories fade and are replaced with the present moment. I have no doubt that when I sit to write in 2023, each of my kids will be a bit, if not totally different. And so, make time where there is none. Make time to remember, to record, to share life’s precious moments…or have them lost to time. For me, I’m so grateful for this little tradition that started on a whim six years ago, and for all of the happy memories that my writing has preserved.