Friday, July 17, 2015

Dear Riley,

It's been a while since I wrote. And now, I keep telling myself that it's not the 26th of the month so it's technically not time to write to you, but I've decided that doesn't matter.  I have so many things on my mind lately that I just want to write to you and I don't want to forget them.  I think I need to start writing more frequently than once a month - you're giving me reasons to pause and try to take a mental picture many times a day as I try desperately to slow time down and keep you this little for as long as possible. 

First, let me tell you about your first dance recital.  Last month, your first experience with ballet and tap came to an end with a big recital.  I'm not talking Jitterbugs recital...this was a huge recital with girls from 2.5 all the way up to 18, and the stage was BIG.  You got all dressed up, makeup and all, and went backstage with your group and we sat patiently, watching dance and dance until finally it was your turn.  Your face lit up on that stage, honey.  You have such an amazing smile and as soon as you spotted us in the crowd, your sweet little hand went wild waving to us.   Priceless.  Watching you up there was surreal.  As a friend told me as we were leaving the auditorium, you were in your element up there.  And boy, was she right.

A few weeks after your recital, we hit the road for a long drive to Alabama where we met our whole family for a week of fun.  Goodness, you and Gavin love seeing them as much as I do.  I love watching you with the grandparents and aunts and uncles.  It was such a blast.  This was the first time we went to the beach that you remember; Megan and Kyle's wedding was your first experience, but at just over a year old, you don't remember it.  We swam, played in the sand, walked out into the ocean, hunted for crabs {both hermit crabs in the day and ghost crabs at night}. went on the most amazing dolphin cruise, danced on tables at The Hangout, and so much more.  Every morning, you greeted Aunt Meggie with a little tummy pat and a 'Hello, Baby!' and it just made my heart melt.  It's going to be so amazing when we get to go to Ohio in November and hold your first cousin.  

There's not a day that goes by that we don't get to hear you sing.  You can listen to just a few seconds of a brand new song and try to sing along with it.  You love to sing Taylor Swift songs, but we've since expanded our listening library to include Kidz Bop songs, so you're adding some Katy Perry and Bruno Mars to the mix, among others.  We went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks Chipwrecked yesterday, and you just ate up all the singing and dancing, and then all last night you were walking around singing, "I'm a Survivor!"  

I love watching you and all your little behaviors that make you unique.  Your morning cuddles with Blankie, how you repeatedly lick all four of your fingers at the same time after almost every bite of finger foods, the faces you make at yourself as you look in the mirror and how you love to brush your hair.  I just sit back and smile as I watch other people admire what you dress yourself in when we're out in public - I've learned to pick my battles, and if you want to go to Sam's Club in a tutu or wear your Minnie Mouse high heels with purple sock when we go to dinner, so be it.  It makes you Riley - the most perfect and amazing little girl in the world.  Daddy and I got so lucky when we became your parents.  

I need to document some of your most recent conversations because you have been cracking me up lately.  We were painting our nails the other day, and mid-paint you asked Gavin to scratch your nose for you.  Then, when we got up to go blow dry our nails, you said, "Oh, wait.  Gavin, I need your help again.  Can you pull my panties out of my butt?"  I laughed so hard.  Though you two may fight quite often, I just adore the relationship you're building with your big brother and I hope he's always around to help you, even with silly things like picking your panties out of your butt when your nails are wet.  ;)

At Chickfila yesterday, you wanted to go into the play area and Gavin didn't.  Daddy was a bit nervous to let you go in alone because there were a lot of big kids in there and he was worried about you.  You could tell, and you reassured him by saying, "Don't worry, Daddy.  The last time we were here and I went in there, I handled myself just fine."  I mean, seriously...are you almost 4 or almost 14?  

And before I go, I just have to mention your abundance of imaginary friends.  Snowy does everything with us.  She's around pretty much daily, and at last mention, she's 16 years old and makes you do the bad things you do.  Oh boy!  Millie and Melody don't really visit often, but every once in a while we hear about them.  And we can't forget about your pet chickens!  They've been tagging along on family outings for probably close to a year now, but it's getting more frequently.  They like to do karate and be 'ninja chickens' and drink my water when I'm driving.  Silly birds.  

Riley, you make us laugh.  There's no questioning that!  You've made life hard at times and you've brought me to tears with your strong-willed personality, but I wouldn't trade one minute of my life as your mom.  Daddy and I will always love you, and you'll always be our baby...even if you are growing up before our eyes.  


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear Gavin,

My goodness, Gavin Jack.  How is it even possible that I'm writing this to you and you're SEVEN years old??  It's so bittersweet to watch you grow up -- you're our first born, the one that made us parents, the first tiny baby that your Daddy ever held.  But no matter how many times I look at you wanting see that bald little baby with that huge gummy smile, I really see this little boy turning into a young man right before my eyes.  And though you may not want me to give you a kiss goodbye anymore when I drop you off at school, you do make comments sometimes to show me that you are still my little when you asked me when I would be able to come back to volunteer in your class after my hiatus for the half marathon training.  You may seem embarrassed if I try to kiss you, but you do still secretly want me around and that won't last forever.  I am cherishing every single day with you.

We had a great time at your party this past weekend.  It's always so great for us to see you around your friends...your goofy side comes out and it makes me so happy.  Fast Lanes put on a great party for you and the boy.  Laser tag, go karts, arcades, pizza and cookie cake!  What more could a 7 year old boy want, right?  

As usual, you're doing great at school and continue to get to smarter by the day.  You had some big standardized testing this month, but you didn't let it phase you at all.  I'm so thankful that you don't let school stuff stress you out and get you all worked up.  Our parent-teacher conference with Mrs. Ruffner of course went great, and she told us about her referral for you to be considered for the gifted program next year.  Proud parents, right here! It brought back flashbacks of my time in Quest when I was in elementary school and makes me even more proud of you.  I love your love of learning.

Tonight, your sensitive side came out while we were watching Full House reruns.  It was the episode when Papouli dies, and as we were turning it off for bed I realized that you had tears running down your face.  It didn't take much for me to get it out of you - the episode made you think about Shirley.  Oh, my heart.  We talked about how it is ok to feel sad, and how we all still miss her, but my goodness, it made my heart hurt.  Nearly 13 months later and both you and your sister still think about her so often.  I think soon we will be welcoming a new furry friend into our family.  It feels like it is about time.  

Soccer has been so fun to watch this spring.  We haven't had many practices, which has made it really difficult for you to learn the strategies and techniques you need and practice them, but despite losing every game so far, you're still having fun and enjoying the time you get to play.  We haven't decided if you're going to play again in the fall or not yet, but I'm so proud of you for getting out there and giving it your best and learning something new.  And I'm happy to admit that for this non-soccer lover, I'm having a good time learning more about the sport, too.  It's amazing how things change when you're a mom.  :) 

Looking forward to being a mom of a seven year make everything so exciting!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dear Riley,

Hey there, Sassy Pants.  Boy, oh boy....your mood swings have made a return and the emotions are on high alert.  One minute you're fine, playing and laughing, the next you're angry about something and then I find you crying and saying you don't know how to cheer yourself up and you need a hug.  It's a roller coaster, my dear!  And I admittedly haven't been that great at dealing with it lately.  I am sorry for raising my voice so much.  Mommy needs to get it together - I love you no matter what!

This month, you've talked at school about moving up to the Four Year Old classroom as we prepare for preschool to end for the summer.  Sweet girl, you are not happy about that.  You want to stay in your classroom with all the same friends and Miss Misty as your teacher.  The thought of changing rooms, teachers and friends isn't sitting well with you and it makes me sad to see you so nervous about it.  I remember as a child being so scared every year before school started again to the point of making myself sick, and I've been so thankful that so far neither you nor Gavin really have had any big fears over school.  I really hope come fall when school is ready to start up again these worries have disappeared and you'll be ready to go for PreK 4s at Tiny Tots.

Your new favorite hobby is sending text messages on Mommy's phone, especially to Daddy and Mimi.  It started when you realized there were 'hearts' that you could send, but it's since evolved into tons more emojis, your name, and sometimes some random predicted text sentences.  On occasion, those messages have gone to people you didn't intend them for, but for the most part, you've been good about figuring out what Daddy and Mimi's names look like and text them...and I know they both love it.  I, however, am not a fan of how much you want my phone now!

We learned the awesome news this month that Baby Ball is going to be a baby BOY!  Your first exciting!  You, however, didn't think so and burst into tears when you heard it wasn't a girl.  It was so stinking cute, but so sad at the same time.  You were heartbroken.  Then, a couple days later, you told me while it was just the two of us in the car that you don't want anymore babies in our more baby brothers.  I explained to you that this new baby wasn't going to live here, and you didn't have to worry about that, but it just confirmed for me that our family is perfect the way it is.  You aren't interested in anymore babies in our house and I think you speak for the rest of the family, too.  Our house is past the baby phase and that is bittersweet.  But, it does feel right!  I can't wait to meet your new baby cousin this fall though and we are going to spoil him like crazy! :)

I'm looking forward to a fun summer with you and your brother, baby girl.  Beach vacation with the family and the whole month of July with nothing on our schedule but enjoying one another's company.  It's going to be amazing.  


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dear Gavin,

Happy One-Month-Before-Your-Birthday Day!  :)  Seriously, seven just seems impossible to me.  Wasn't it just yesterday that Mommy and Daddy were staring into your eyes for the first time and announcing to our family that we had picked out the amazing name of Gavin Jack for you?  I'm not sure how you're finishing up first grade already!

I wish I could give you a nice update on your soccer season but the fact is, that we've had to cancel all but ONE soccer practice so far.  Crazy, right?  Between the late season snow and then all kinds of rain, the fields have been so muddy and wet that you've only had one out of eight soccer practices so far.  But, the good news is, you really liked that one practice!  Haha.  I can't wait to see you learn the skills taught and watch you and Daddy build a soccer connection together.  I'm sorry to say, Mommy doesn't know much about soccer, nor has she ever been a big fan of the sport.  BUT....if I've learned anything since becoming a mom, it's that you learn to love whatever it is that your child is involved in (i.e. Thomas the Train, Angry Birds, Pokemon, Skylanders, Minecraft...need I go on?)  Oh, the Minecraft...

Running Club has started up again and I'm so excited that this year you decided that you wanted to move up from the one mile run to the 5K and you wanted me to be your running buddy this year.  After training for the Half Marathon the last three months, it will be so relaxing to go out on short runs knowing that I'm 'training' to run with you by my side on May 1. 

Speaking of Half Marathon, we had a special visit over your spring break from Mimi and Beepa.  They came into town for a few days to help out with you and Riley while Mommy and Daddy ran the race and it was so nice to have them around.  I loved watching you and Beepa play Super Mario Bros. together - your early birthday gift from them.  We took you to Fast Lanes, where your birthday party will be this year, to have some special time with them since they won't be here for the actual party, and even got a birthday cake to celebrate.  I love when we get to do things like that!  It's never fun to be so far from family and knowing they can't be here for special events like birthday parties, but we definitely make the best of the situation and make sure they're included in our daily lives as much as possible.  You sure do love your Mimi and Beepa!

When I wrote to your sister earlier, I mentioned that if I had to pick right now, I'd guess she's going to be some kind of performer when she grows up.  She's always singing and dancing around.  Predicting your future is a little more difficult.  You talk about being a policeman like Uncle Kyle the most, but I can definitely see you doing something in engineering or with computers.  You're so brilliant it's not even funny.  I love when I catch you sneaking a book at 8:30pm with your book light or when you explain to me how your little brain figured out the three-digit subtraction problem I gave you (and it's usually a way I've never even heard of!).  With your love of games like Minecraft and Skylanders, and as much as you know about the iPad, I can totally see you creating apps or video games one day. 

We recently got back on track with your chore chart and I revamped it a little.  You've been begging to vacuum, so we finally let you try it out, but our Dyson is so heavy that I went out and bought you a small, lightweight vacuum that you can use, and now you and Riley fight over who gets to vacuum!  That's always a nice little spat to break up -- and I'm documenting that because I know someday you'll be giving me dirty looks when I ask you to run the vacuum.  

Daddy and I just can't get over how 'old' you're looking these days.  It seems that before our eyes, Riley's losing all the 'baby' features and now your 'little boy' features are changing into 'young man' features.  I can't believe it.  Thank you for making us so proud.  We are so grateful that you are ours.

Dear Riley,

I keep trying to find ways to keep you my baby.  I realized recently that even at 3.5 and somewhere around 35lbs, I still carry you every chance I get.  Of course, I want you to be independent -- but deep down, I think I'm really struggling that you are growing up so quickly.  Our friend, Miss Amy, recently had Baby Evelyn, and being around this tiny, squishy newborn, listening to all the sweet sounds she makes, helping her with things like babywearing and breastfeeding, all just bring so many raw emotions to the surface and I can't help but be sad that our baby days are for sure behind us.  

If I had to guess what you'll be when you grow up right now based on your personality, there's not a doubt in my mind that you are going to find a path in performing arts.  It brings so much happiness to your Daddy and me when we hear you make up songs everyday.  We love when you sing, but it's even more special when the words are coming straight from your own heart.  Singer, songwriter, performer, dancer....somewhere in this realm is where you'll land.  You're such a performer at heart.  

This month, you went to your second Princess Ball with Daddy.  You looked so grown up, sweetie.  Comparing the pictures of the two of you from last year to this year was amazing.  We spent the day getting you all ready, curling your hair and pinning it halfway up, just like Daddy loves.  You picked out a pink and black dress from your dress up closet and Daddy brought home the perfect corsage for you.  It was so special!  I could tell when he got home that Daddy had a long day that Friday and he was exhausted, but nothing would stop him from taking his princess out on a date!  

One of your favorite things to do right now is making a 'pit' on the living room floor with all the pillows and blankets you can find and lay in it to watch tv.  Of course, there's also jumping into the pit from the ottomans, which also reminds me of your gymnastics classes you've been "taking" in our living room.  Your little imagination is amazing.  Even though I shouldn't let you because our couch is reaching it's breaking point, you pull the cushions off to use as trampolines and mats to practice your jumping, somersaults and handstands while your teachers, Miss Oa, Miss Juana, and Miss Freea, and 150 other girls join you in your classes.  It really cracks me up!  I have no idea where those names came from, but you don't miss a beat when I ask you their names - you remember them every time.  

We had a special visit this month from Mimi and Beepa.  They spent a few days here with us over spring break to help out with you and your brother while Mommy and Daddy ran the Bentonville Half Marathon.  It was so fantastic to have them around, especially when they got to see you cough so hard from your allergies that you threw up all over me.  Haha!  The things they miss being so far away, right?  

As we near the end of your first year of preschool, I've been contemplating whether or not to send you to kindergarten when you turn five or wait until you're six.  You see, the birthday cut off is just five days after your birthday.  That means you'll most likely always be the absolute youngest one in your class, you'll graduate when you're just 17, and you'll be moving away to college as a brand new 18 year old.  I know you're probably reading this thinking 'Come on, Mom...give me some credit!' and the fact is, that I do!  You're so bright and if I were thinking about only the academic side of things, you're ready for kindergarten now pretty much.  You amaze me at your letter knowledge and how you're already trying to write your own sentences.  But, as your parent, it's my job to make sure you're prepared for the big world out there.  And I can't help but think that waiting one year to ensure that you're one of the older students in school, not the youngest, would really set you up for a successful journey.  I know, I know...blah blah blah.  Daddy and I still have a year to decide if we'll register you for kindergarten or not, so we'll see...

You know what, Riley?  You've always been a stubborn, strong willed little girl and you've given us a run for our money in just the few short years you've been a part of our hearts.  But, I wouldn't change a single thing.  When you get so worked up that you can't figure out how to calm yourself down without me holding you tightly in your arms and helping you breathe through the tears, I know I'm so lucky to be your mama.  One day, you'll figure out those self-soothing techniques and won't need my arms around you, but I hope that you'll always want a hug from me. 

I love you, baby girl.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dear Gavin,

I'm a bit shocked at how long it's been since I've written to you.  The holidays were, of course, crazy busy, but I swear I wrote last month like I did with Riley.  I guess I got distracted....must've thought through what I'd write and never actually typed it out.  I'm sorry.  :(

You are in such a loving phase right now.  I'm not sure why, but I don't really want to hug me and lay with me on the couch all the time now.  I rub your back every night at bedtime and you grab my arm and try to get me to stay with you.  Someday, you're going to want me to leave you alone.  You won't want hugs.  Or kisses.  And there are days when I know I've been short with you and maybe asked you to stop climbing all over me....and I regret those words as soon as I say them.  You are such a light in my life, and I love your affection.  Thank you for loving me.  And thank you for coming out of your shell more and making us laugh with your random dancing around the house.  You're still rather shy in public, but I love the glimpses of goofiness that we see every now and then around here.

Christmas was a very special time, as it always is around our home.  It's definitely one of Mommy and Daddy's favorite times of the year and I love that we get to live the magic of the season through you and your sister.  This year, Riley was a bit apprehensive of some things, like Santa coming into our home and having our elf, Spike, around.  That first day that she was panicked about Spike being in her room you jumped right in and napped with her so you could keep her safe.  There are days when you are such a pest to your little sister.  You love to push her buttons and watch her get all aggravated.  But then there are times when you step in and do things like that, or you turn into overprotective big brother when she visits you at school, and you make my heart melt.

We made the decision to stop going to Cub Scouts in January.  You really wanted to play soccer, and Daddy and I signed you up to play this spring, but the days conflicted.  Since we weren't really thrilled with the organization of the Scouts, we `to go ahead and take a break.  We may go back, but for now, you're anxiously awaiting soccer season to start very soon! 

To say you're obsessed with Legos right now would be an understatement.  I was fully expecting a huge Skylanders addiction to begin when you received your very first video game from Santa this year, but surprisingly that hasn't been the 'hit' in our house these days.  It's all about Legos and Minecraft.  Your room is frequently trashed with Legos all over as you're combining pieces from multiple sets to make a creation of your own.  

We've had an interesting month with February break, snow days, strep throat and a brief stomach bug for you.  I loved the extra time I got to spend with you during our first real experience with winter for the year.  Playing in the snow is always fun, even when you pelt me in the face with a snowball.  :)  And then, of course, we have our indoor snowball fights with marshmallows (and you still pelt me in the face!)  You're lucky you're so cute.  I can't wait to see how you finish out the first grade year and watch you shine on the soccer field.  It's so hard to believe we're just months away from your turning SEVEN.  It makes me so proud to watch you grow into such a sweet boy and makes me so sad to think that your days as a little boy are so numbered.  The days are long, but the years are so short.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dear Riley,

Oh, you crazy little girl.  I can't believe I haven't written to you since early November.  I feel like so much has happened in Riley World since then!  You're growing so fast and turning into this beautiful little girl full of personality and leaving our baby behind.  Gosh, that makes me so sad.

School is going really well for you.  I was a little shocked when we had your conference and Miss Misty told us what a great listener and good friend you are in class.  Haha!  You're not always the best listener around here, and you most definitely have some trouble being nice to Gavin at times.  But you're learning so much, impressing us with your knowledge of letters and sounds, and singing lots of fun songs.  I loved sneaking a peek at your Pow Wow for Thanksgiving and seeing you in your Indian feathers and vest.  And oh my word, were you ever cute up on stage at your first Jitterbugs performance.  I mean, seriously....we knew all along you'd be on stage one day and that day was just the proof we needed.  You shook your little booty off, waved the cutest little wave to us every time you came back from a 'wardrobe change' and were so sweet when Daddy and Gavin surprised you with flowers afterwards.  Such a special day!

The holidays are always one of Mommy and Daddy's favorite times.  We decorated for Christmas in mid-November because we love it so much, and couldn't wait to do all the traditions we've done in the past with you guys.  But, surprise!  Spike the Elf (our Elf on the Shelf) came this year and freaked you out.  I'm talking, scared to sleep in your own room, wanted me to hold you, scared out of your mind.  One day, you'd talk to him and laugh and say he was wonderful, and the next day, he was your worst enemy.  You also talked a lot this year about not wanting Santa to visit because you didn't want him in the house.  Everything seems to scare you these days.  It's kind of sad.  :(  But we made a lot of great memories in December, including the horse carriage ride around the square, going in the Minivan Express to look at lights, and having a sleepover by the Christmas tree.  For Christmas, you got your most-desired Elsa and Anna dresses, the Go Go puppy, a new doll stroller, and a big surprise from Mommy and Daddy - new ballet and tap shoes with the news that you were going to start dance class! 

You've been to ballet/tap dance class the last few weeks and you absolutely adore it.  Wednesdays are your new favorite, for sure!  I was worried that we'd spend money on things you needed for the class and waste our money, but instead I have this strange feeling that you'll be costing us a fortune as you fall in love with being on stage even more.  We watched Annie recently (the original) and I honestly just sat through the movie thinking of all these future musicals you will be in.  Someday, baby...people are going to be applauding for YOU.  You're currently obsessed with the new Taylor Swift CD, also.  We sing a lot of 'Welcome to NY', 'Blank Space' and 'Shake It Off' around here these days.  Your imagination and playing with your dolls just makes me so happy.  I love watching you pretend to be a mommy and a teacher.  So sweet!  You love having playdates with Harper and Addy still, and you've made a new friend at school, Kelsynn, that you're really enjoying.  We had our first playdate with her this past week! 

Thank you for making me and your Daddy so happy.  We cherish your 'snuggle time' and 'cuddles' so much and want them to last forever.  You're forever our baby girl, no matter how big you get.