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N, today you are five.

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This has been the hardest birthday so far to wrap my head around. How do I have a five year old?

I still remember how long and little you were, the soft fuzz of your nearly non-existent hair, the curve of your newborn cheek against my collarbone.

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Did you know it took me 5 days to fall in love with you?

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Don’t get me wrong, I loved you from the moment I knew of your existence, when those two very dark lines showed up instantaneously on the pregnancy test. I loved you and did all I could to take care of you and my body so you would be born healthy and strong.

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That first pregnancy, though? It’s all unknown. There are unknowns involved with every pregnancy, but that first one is full of countless, unending unknowns. You were placed, squalling and pinched-faced, on my chest, and I thought “My word, she’s slimy and gray and a stranger.” There you were, my brand new daughter, and I was struck by the thought that I did not know you. You see, I didn’t know then what I know now, that an enormous part of parenting is continually learning your child, seeking to understand their mind and shepherd their heart.

So in love!

Then there was the hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses coming in and out, figuring out nursing, getting sent home, family and friends coming to visit, postpartum visits, and struggling through those first sleepless nights.

Then, five days after your birth, when all the visits and appointments and chaos had calmed down and the shock had worn off a bit, I vividly remember sitting on our old beat-up couch in our itty-bitty apartment. Our darkened living room was lit by just a few candles, and I had just finished nursing you to sleep and was watching you rest in your Daddy’s arms, and N, it’s like I was the Grinch – I FELT my heart grow and expand! I was slammed by this incredible swell of emotion, and I fell so hard in love with you. Brings me to tears thinking back on it. =)

Smiling at you when you decided 3am was wake-up time.

There are still a fair amount of unknowns in parenting you, dear eldest, but goodness, my love for you has only grown and grown.

I know this is my letter to you, but I know I can also speak for your Daddy when I say that you delight us. Parenting you (and Little I and Little R) is no walk in the park, but what wonderful work it is. What a joy it is to know you and learn you!

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We continued many of our seasonal family traditions/outings this past year.

Our annual trip to the beach (which we are already gearing up for again this year!):

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We celebrated Easter:

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We visited the tulips:

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and the fair:

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the pumpkin farm:

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and you saw Santa with little brother:

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You’ve blazed through nearly all of the preschool curriculum we’ve given you, and we’re gearing up for kindergarten in the fall. You are so interested in learning about everything and you are on the cusp of reading; you especially love to learn about sports and space. You love singing – you have an amazing memory, often having a song completely memorized after hearing it once or twice. The same goes for books; we can read a book to you once or twice, and then you sit and “read’ it to Little I from memory. Your imagination is boundless and endless, and I am blown away constantly by how creative you are.

You often want to do your schoolwork in a princess dress. =)

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And in regards to that Rapunzel dress up there, you still want your hair to grow all the way down to the floor like Rapunzel, and have no intention of getting a haircut any time soon. Ergo, we’ve maintained the deal that it gets brushed at least twice a day and gets put into a braid or a bun before bed. You have quite the head of beautiful, golden hair, my girl.

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You’ve grown in life skills this past year as well. You are becoming a very competent helper in the kitchen – Grandma has shown you safe knife skills, and you scoop and measure things like a pro. Just this last week, you’ve begun learning the basics of sewing.

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You have always been our super social, out-going girl, and having a little sister finally big enough to play with has been amazing for you, not only for the social aspect, but also because it is helping both you and Little I learn to navigate sharing, taking turns, the difference between what is fair and what is equal, valuing kindness as most important, and thinking outside yourselves and your desires and instead exercising the altruistic muscle of thinking thoughtfully and intentionally about others.

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You are an amazing big sister.  Little I adores you, and I pray you will always cherish that for the sweet gift that it is. Watching the sister relationship between you and little I grow and strengthen often leaves me in awe. You two sharpen each other. So many differences and so many similarities. What a gift the Lord gave you in each other.

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One of the biggest changes for you this year was gaining a little brother! Not just any little brother, but the little brother you prayed for.

A few months before becoming pregnant with Little R, you barreled into the bathroom while I was taking a shower.

“Mom! Mom! I need to tell you something!”

“What is it, N? I’m trying to take a shower.”

“We need a brother!”

“O really? I mean, not that a brother wouldn’t be nice, but why a brother and not a sister? We already know sisters are amazing!”

“Moooooom, because we need someone to match Daddy!”

*cue my heart melting*

“Ok, baby, well, you’ll need to talk to Jesus about that.”

“Ok, mom! I’m gonna go pray!”

And pray you did! For weeks after, you’d update me – “still praying for a brother, Mom!”

At the 20 week ultrasound where we found out the baby I was carrying was a boy, one of my most favorite and vivid moments from that day was turning to you and saying, “N, God heard your prayers for a brother, and He said yes.”

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You are enamored with Little R. You are big enough to really appreciate his sweet baby-ness, and you are an amazing help to me. I’m so excited to see how your sibling relationship with him unfolds. I love knowing that your prayers for him to be part of our family will be part of both your stories forever.

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There have definitely been a fair few challenges in parenting you, sweet girl. Many of the physical boundaries we are working to teach Little I right now are already solidified for you. The boundaries you are testing now are more emotional and mental, and sometimes spiritual. Things that don’t exist in Little I’s mind yet, like deceitfulness and manipulation, reared their wretched heads in your mind and heart over this past year. We have had MANY conversations about the importance of truth, the importance of kindness, why being respectful is not negotiable, and having a character of integrity matters. I’ve stated it in many of your birthday letters in the past, and it still remains true – you do not let us passively parent you! This may often be exhausting to my introverted self, but N, I am grateful. I am so grateful for how God made you and that storming the gates of Heaven for you and doing battle for your beautiful heart means your Daddy and I are continually having to check our own heart attitudes and be conscious of when we are struggling with the same things you are. You sharpen us and remind us that the journey is never-ending, love. We are for you. We are on your side. Your name means ‘woman of honor’, and that is one of our greatest prayers and desires for you. You are so loved, N. You are enough.

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You are so full of life, N. Vibrant. Queenly. Replete with muchness. You are strong, bold, brave and vivacious, with so much sass, spice, and sweetness. You are kind, smart, friendly, thoughtful and tender-hearted, You thirst for knowledge, wanting to know how and why – you are never satisfied with a pat answer. I am constantly impressed by your discernment, your ability to emotionally read a room, the old-soul wisdom that comes out in your prayers and your reflections on church sermons and bible readings. You are so beautiful, inside and out. We rejoice over you!

Happy Birthday, N. I’m so glad God picked YOU for us. I can’t wait to see what all God has in store for you this year.

Look out, Five – N has arrived!

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