Thursday, June 20, 2013

For Luke on his 13th Birthday

Of all of our kids, you were the most excited about all of our changes this past year.  You couldn't wait to move, you couldn't wait to get married, you couldn't wait to make new friends.  Interestingly, as excited as you were, you seemed to struggle some in the beginning.  I think with a personality as big as yours, you felt like you should hold back a little until you got to know some people.  And feeling stifled isn't really something that fits into your personality.  I hope you know that you never need to hold back and the being yourself is all you ever need to be.

You also struggled a bit with needing to know the whys and hows of decisions and needing to feel that everything was fair.  It is not easy merging two families, and sometimes we have to do what is right for each child individually.  Often it is not fair, but it is necessary.  We had some good talks and you understood.  I think you learned that sometimes while things may not seem exactly fair, they can still be right.  That is a big lesson in life and I am proud of you for knowing it.

This year my hope for you is that you continue on your path with patience, understanding and the willingness to listen to others.  You are one of the most empathetic people I know.  You are also one of the most gregarious.  If you can learn to merge those traits and become someone who can listen as well as he talks, then you will have accomplished something good.

I hope that you continue on your path of excellence at school and continue to learn and improve at lacrosse.  I feel like you have found your place in our new town, and you will only become more a part of life in Spanish Fort as the years continue.

I hope you always "stick to my plan" as you do even when there are bumps in the road (or a girl dumps you, heehee).  Keep your focus, make good choices and be yourself...and you can't go wrong!

And LAX ON! (I know, It's dorky, but I thought you'd like it!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Beautiful Day for a Beautiful Girl

Hannah's 15th Birthday Sunset Picnic

We got a perfect evening in Gulf Shores for Hannah's birthday picnic.  She wanted chicken salad, pita chips, sour dough bread, lime chips and chocolate cake.  It was the first thing we did together when Donald and I introduced our kids to each other, and it is something we still love to do.  I am so glad that Hannah picked that for her celebration.  And she even got to wear her adorable new 40s-style swim suit that makes you want to hide her from the boys!

We got the beach around 7 pm, ate dinner and cake and then watched the kids play together.  They cartwheeled, flipped, wheelbarrowed and ran in the sand (every last one of them).  It was the joyful noise of summertime with laughter, shrieking, waves lapping the shore and wind in your hair.  

As the sky darkened, we took a walk (a noisy walk) down the beach to watch the sun set, see the people crabbing with their flashlights and feel the waves on our toes.  Donald and I watched the shadows of the children walking and took turns holding hands of the younger ones who would come to talk to us.  

The ride home was filled with music, games, stories told in odd accents (some good, some just plain weird).

It's times like those when your cares melt away and you are just happy to be with your family.  It was a perfect day.  

For Jake on his 15th Birthday

During this year, I worried about your transition the most.  You were moving, starting high school and leaving friends you had known since kindergarten.  We both know that change is something you don't love, and as angry as you were about moving, you rallied.  You accepted it, you embraced your new band over the summer and by the school year had made some really good friends.  You found your place with music and your programming club, and I am proud of you.  I think a lesson you can take from this experience is that you are actually pretty good at change, and it doesn't have to be so painful after all.  This is an important lesson since the next phase of your life will be filled with change as you transition to college and on to independence.

I hope a couple of things for you this year.  I hope you find acceptance of those who are different from you, and I hope you find drive to accomplish things that not only inspire you, but also those that do not inspire you.  Often in life you will encounter people or jobs that are less than fun.  It is how you handle these situations that will define your character and success in life.

You are a smart guy.  You are a talented guy.  And you know it.  The thing is, there is confidence, and there is arrogance.  The difference between confidence and arrogance is that one believes in yourself, the other looks down on others.  I want you to be confident and move through your life with the certainty that you can do anything you decide to do.   But be careful in life to respect everyone around you.  You will encounter those that differ from you in everything from politics, to religion, to intellect, to talent, to drive and on and on.  You must allow people to differ from you and still respect them as people.  You must allow for the fact that your ideas are not always right.  Every person you meet has something to offer and something they can teach you.  Everyone has flaws and everyone has gifts.  Look for the gifts.  One who may not be as smart may be the kindest person you ever meet.  One who may not be as talented may be the hardest worker and succeed beyond their talent.  If you recognize others' gifts then you will see the value in everyone you meet and that fosters mutual respect.  

You are driven. You are driven with your music and it shows.  You are driven with your programming and I am amazed at what you can do.  What I hope you learn this year, is that the same level of drive you apply to the things you love needs to be applied to the things you don't love.  There are jobs everyone must do to accomplish their goals.  Along the path you choose, everything will not be fun and everything will not seem purposeful.  But those things are purposeful in the big picture if they help you end up where you want to be.  Success is not define by intelligence and talent.  It is defined by hard work and perseverance.  And to me, the definition of character is doing the right thing even if no one else is looking.  If I can teach all of my children that lesson, I will have succeeded.

I know that at 15, you are discovering a new level of independence and responsibility.  We are here to guide you, and while you may not always understand why we feel the way we do, know that we are only looking out for your best interest...even if it doesn't always feel that way.  I know you believe that and I know that you know we are making decisions for you and with you out of love.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

For Hannah on her 15th Birthday

The nature of being 15 is not a comfortable one.  It is a time when you are trying to figure out who you are and who you want to become.  It is a time of testing the boundaries of your own abilities and learning to make your own decisions.  Often, this testing bumps up against the boundaries of the adults in your life.  This is a very normal and universal experience.  Adding some pretty big changes to an already challenging age made for quite a big year for you.

I have to admit, I was surprised when you seemed to be the one that experienced the most difficulty in adjusting to all of our changes this year.  But the more I thought about it, the more I understood.  You are like me in so many ways.  When I was your age, I felt things intensely. I worried about everything.  I loathed the idea of making a mistake or worse, someone knowing I made a mistake.  You want people to see you as one way, but often you don't feel like you are that way.

I used writing to vent and quell the intensity of my feelings, and I think that is what poetry and writing does for you, too.  I think it is a great outlet and great way to navigate all of the twists and turns of a life in transition.  I hope you are careful with that though.  There is a danger in dwelling on all of the ups and downs and difficult feelings rather than relaxing and enjoying the happiness that surrounds you.  I am as big a fan (or bigger) of writing about the things that are good and make you feel grateful as I am of writing about things you need to release.

If I could tell my 15 year-old self anything, it would be, "Lighten up."  Everything doesn't have to be intense.  Everything doesn't have to be analyzed.  You don't have to decide just exactly how you feel about everything.  You can just be.  You can just be who you are.  And that's ok.

My hope for you this year is that you will find joy.  I want you to feel safe and secure and loved and peaceful wherever you are.  I hope that you will learn that love is exponential, not limited.  There is no such thing as competition for love because it grows as you allow it to grow.  I hope you will learn that even when others are different from you (intellect, religion, politics, personality, perspective, background, speech) they still have value and can teach you something.  Rarely is there anyone in your life who is all good or all bad.  We are all flawed and we all have gifts.  A person who can learn to accept others' flaws while celebrating others' gifts is one who will love and be loved by everyone.  I hope that you will be confident in the things that you know and will become a strong young woman who will speak for what she believes and stand up for what she knows to be right, particularly when others can't speak for themselves.

I hope that you learn to trust that we value your happiness, and sometimes that means saying no.  When the boys were little and confused, I used to ask them if they trusted that I would always make decisions in their best interest even if they didn't understand.  They always said, "yes."  It's easier when you are little.  But I hope that you will learn that I, along with your dad, will always make every decision in your best interest...and trust that even if you don't understand.  My goal for all five of you kids is for you to be healthy, happy and make good choices as you begin to carve the path for your future.  It is hard for us as parents to watch you gain independence and allow you the choices that you are mature enough to make.  You and Jake are our first, and we may make mistakes, but everything we do is done with love.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

For Joseph on his 10th Birthday

Joseph was the first boy to have a birthday party in our new home.  Talk about nerve racking! I sent invitations to school knowing almost no one from his class.  He had only been in school two months and was just making friends.  A week before the party, we had two RSVPs that declined.  Panic! I sent an email out to the class, and at his party he had around 15 show up.  Phew!

He had a great party and saw that he had good kids in his class with whom he was developing friendships.  He even had two friends from Pensacola drive an hour to come to the party.  I was so happy for him.  He is not the most social child I have, and I really wanted him to have a good start in his new school.

Joseph is the strong, silent type.  It is often hard to get much information our of him.  He tends to have a knowing smirk on his face during conversations and every now and then comes out with a zinger....the occasional zingers make him all the more funny.

When we moved, Joseph accepted it, looked forward to it and never showed signs of uncertainty.  As he always has, he walked into his new school without hesitation and just did it.  He has always been brave.  Any time I worry about change or new things, I realize that whatever he is feeling, Joseph will just do it.

This year we will try to wean him off his medicine one last time.  For the first time, he expressed that he doesn't want to be on medicine for the rest of his life.  We don't know what will happen, but I do know that whatever comes, Joseph will face it, handle it and accept it.  He is a brave boy.  He is a funny boy.  And he is a smart boy.

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

For Nicole on her 6th Birthday

More than 6 months late, but here it is nonetheless.  Nicole's 6th birthday was filled with splashing, friends, food and games in the pool.  She had a wonderful time getting to be large and in charge!  She has the boys basically wrapped around her little finger anyway, but on days when she is the one with the "Big Day," she eats it up!

Nicole is a kid who knows what she wants and generally how to get it.  Jake is expected (and willing) to carry her on his shoulders at her will.  Luke caters to her whim, and Joseph is delighted not to be the youngest anymore.

Yet as large and in charge as Nicole likes to be, she is also a kid who wants to do the right thing.  She gets very worried if she thinks she made a mistake.  She tries very hard to follow the rules, even when she's not quite sure what the rules are.  And when a boy got in trouble at school for cheating at dodge ball, she was not unhappy at the sight of him being punished.

While she can be sensitive, especially in times of uncertainty, Nicole seems to always know her place in the family and her place in life.  She has a sense of who she is and that she belongs wherever she is at the time.  She readily accepts our new family and actively engages with each sibling.

There is no doubt that Nicole will get what she wants in life.  She will think there is no other option.  Gotta love a girl with attitude!  Happy Birthday Nicole!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For Luke on his 12th Birthday

I am going to have to believe that it is better late than never.  Moving, getting married and getting settled have put me behind on Luke's birthday post.  This has obviously been a big year for us, particularly the boys.  Luke was the first one excited to move to Alabama and for "us to get married."  He was open to change and couldn't wait to have sisters.  Luke, on the surface, is a great go-with-the-flow type kid.

We moved during the summer, and had time to form our new family with my three boys and Donald's two girls.  When he started school, Luke was happy and excited.  But I could tell he was not adjusting as easily as he wanted to adjust.  With his big, gregarious personality, I think Luke felt like he had to hold back and couldn't be as much himself until he had found a level of comfort.

He had a lot of adjustments at once.  We lived in a new place, he had to make new friends.  He was used to having lots of friends who loved him.  He had to adjust to a new step-father and figure out how to accept this new authority.  He had to adjust to a new church.  He had to adjust to a new school and teachers and didn't get to go to PATS anymore.

Throughout, even with a bit of struggle to find his place in a new family and new place, Luke had a good attitude.  He persevered and made friends.  He joined lacrosse and went to a new youth group.  His new teachers loved him, and he has found a way to fit in with new friends.  He loves his new family, and he lets them know it.

One thing I love about Luke is that you always know where you stand with him.  He does everything all out and always tries to do it with a good attitude.  He has a fiery temper, but underneath that, he has the best heart.

Happy birthday, Luke.