It’s late on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September. The sun is shining, we’ve been to a cross country invitational, made tacos, I got in a run, and we squeezed in a movie as a family. What else is left to do but write? In past years, I’ve written this open letter in July, but here we are in September, and I’m finding the months just flying by. So here I am, a little late, but determined to leave behind these memories for me, for my children, for our family, and for whoever else enjoys sharing in our story.
I wrote my first open letter to my children in 2016. Jace was seven, Jera was was four, and Jema wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. Our world has changed since then, and then changed again. We experienced life changing losses, met educational and professional goals, we fell apart a few times and rebuilt something stronger and more genuine each step of the way. We have survived a pandemic and are still battling through the environment created in that chaos. Through it all, I have realized that I have the most blessed life, one in which God has given me what my heart needs and desires most: a relationship with Him, a marriage with my soul mate, and the three best kids in the world. So five years after I first began, I can’t wait to capture the special moments over the past year and what makes every day imperfectly perfect in our lives.
For Jace, my son:
You are twelve years old today, but not for long. It’s difficult to believe we are on the cusp of having a teenage son. In the same breath, you are so mature, responsible, and wise beyond your years, that it also makes perfect sense. Funny how life can be set at such a juxtaposition, too fast and too slow, all at the same time. The past year has been a blast with you as you started middle school sports. You participate in cross country and wrestling, and your dad and I love to watch you compete. You work hard and push yourself, but you also value sportsmanship. You’re the first to be proud of your friends for their good finishes and matches. That makes me proud of you. Just last week, you ran in your first half marathon with a relay team and brought home second place. While the recognition was nice, seeing you accomplish something so monumental was simply unbelievable. You encouraged your teammates, cheered for them, and shared in the spirit of the sport.
You also excel in your school work. You put in the work and bring home good grades. I don’t have to check in on you to make sure you do your homework or study for exams, because you set high standards for yourself. You make this parenting thing too easy for your dad and me. We are so thankful for your work ethic. And speaking of work ethic, you’re still bringing in the cash mowing yard after yard in the neighborhood. You talk with our neighbors as you work with them, making sure their lawns are the right height, that you’re mowing on the days they prefer, and that they’re happy with your service. They often tell me what a good boy you are, and I couldn’t agree with them more. You are outstanding in so many ways, and I’m not sure why I was so blessed to be your mother, but I’m grateful.
Some of your favorite things are running, wrestling, steak, takis, Shameless, fishing, and riding your bike. You are still a type A kid and keep your room pretty neat and tidy. You’re independent and helpful, but best of all, you have a big caring heart. This year you began attending The Well at Redemption Church. This was a big change for you, and I’m so proud of the ways that you’ve made choices for your faith to bring you closer to God. I see you share your faith with your friends and family, and that makes me so incredibly proud of you. You don’t shy away from difficult conversations and express yourself in such a respectful way. I see in you a tolerance and understanding for others. You are an old soul.
Jace, you are a wonderful son, a strong and faithful young man, determined and strong-willed. Thank you for being you, and for all of the joy you bring into my life.
For Jera, my daughter:
Jera, you are nine years old today. I sometimes forget that you are so much younger than your brother and cousins, because you can run with the big kids without missing a step. Your humor and reserved nature sometimes make you seem tougher than you are, but then I see your sweet feelings hurt, and I am reminded just how tender and sensitive you are. That hidden softness, the quiet shyness that you keep tucked away, makes me love you even more (if that is possible). Over the past year you have continued to excel in academics. You make excellent grades and just tried out for the spell bowl team. You have continued to play piano and take singing lessons, and you bring me to tears as you share your songs with others in church. You have such a sweet and beautiful voice and getting to watch you use your talent is a special joy in my life. You ran in Girls on the Run for the first time this year. I was so grateful to get to be your coach and run in the celebration 5k with you. I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.
You are also the most amazing big sister. Jema absolutely adores you and mimics your every move (and word). Patience can be difficult for you, but not when it comes to Jema. I see you share with her, encourage her, laugh with her, show her grace and kindness…I see you blooming into a wonderful, sweet young woman, and you’re so beautiful. Your thoughtfulness is one of my favorite of your attributes. You will write notes to your dad, bring me a snack, plan surprises for those you love. You look forward to birthdays and holidays, planning what presents you will get for others to make their day special. You shine in giving to others, and it’s an honor to see this wonderful part of your soul.
You have continued your love for cooking, and you’ve recently been blowing my mind with your culinary treats. You’re creative when you cook, whipping up everything from specialty coffees to fancy pasta dishes. You like to cook on your own, but don’t mind me being your sous-chef and helping with some chopping and, of course, the dishes. I also get to be a taste tester…every job has it’s perks.
In this moment you love Harry Potter, fidget toys, everything Halloween, slime, your stuffed animals, pillows and blankets, Toca Boca, and scary movies. I’ve seen you grow in responsibility, remembering to do your chores most of the time and sticking to your budget when we school shopped this year. It made me so proud of you to see you pick and choose what you wanted most as you learned the value of money and just how quickly it goes. You picked some of the cutest things for the school year, and it was a joy to watch your fashion show when we got home. I love that you find joy in small treasures, like the tiny crocheted pumpkins you found at the “junk store” which are now proudly displayed on your vanity. You are also always the first to volunteer to lead our family in prayer. Your willingness to pray and trust in God is inspiring, and I appreciate that so much about you.
Jera, I love your sweet heart, your style, and all of the ways you surprise me and bring me joy every single day. I am so proud of you and thankful to call you my daughter.
To Jema, my baby:
Jema Mae, you are two years old today. You may be the baby, but my child, you are also the queen. You are a mix of sassy and sweet that often keeps us guessing, but also completely melts our hearts. There is nothing greater in this life than when you hold my hand, when you crawl into my lap, or ask me to rock you. Our nighttime routine these days includes rocking in your room, singing Amazing Grace, and then you promptly asking to be tucked in. You still have your entire family at your beck and call, with your dad and me, your brother and your sister waiting for your next new word, funny face, silly dance move, or whatever your energetic little self musters up. You love to jump off the furniture, down the steps, and run down the hallway at your absolute fastest. You are happy, joyous and free, and you bring such a bright light to our lives.
While you can be quite commanding when it comes to the remote control and which of your shows we are going to watch, you are also ridiculously laid back. You get carted around to piano lessons and cross country meets, to wrestling matches and camping trips, and you go with the flow each step of the way. You enjoy our many adventures and like seeing new people and places. You are such a good child in fact, that your dad and I revel in the fact that we got so lucky three times.
Your favorite things today are Monster House, dinosaurs, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, going for walks and to the park, Booba, and hanging with your big sister. You also love your brother, although you seem to enjoy giving him a hard time. You love coloring and make me laugh each and every time that you point out and tell me that you’ve colored the animal’s ‘butt’. You attend speech therapy weekly and of all the words you’ve learned, I get a kick out of fact that ‘butt’ is one you use often. You love your sessions with your speech therapist and always look forward to playing with her. We are amazed at the growth and many new words and phrases you’ve learned in the past few months. You are my sidekick and especially enjoy helping me to water the plants. You are a great little helper. You have such a cool little personality and getting to know you is an unexpected blessing for which I will be forever grateful.
Jema, the Jem, Jem-Bim, your dad and I love you so very much. Thank you for the many precious moments, the laughs, and for reminding us that God’s plan is so perfect. You are the last piece of our family puzzle, and you make us complete.
I can’t imagine what the next year will bring our family, and I choose not to spend too much energy thinking about that. Instead, I will keep my focus on today. On the sweet little dumpling sitting next to me, snacking on her graham cracker and asserting very clearly to me that the snack is “mine” and she will not be sharing. On the funny and gentle girl in her room redesigning her Toca Boca house for the ump-teenth time. On the young man kicking back relaxing downstairs after running his heart out this morning. And perhaps most importantly, on the man who made this life possible, my loving and kind husband. For today, everything is just right, and for that I thank God. If you took the time to read about my family today, I hope you will also take the time to tell yours just how special they are. When we have each other, we truly have everything.