William: Year 4

(Pictures to follow tomorrow)
Will-

Today you are 4 years old! I feel like you’ve been 3 for about a lifetime, probably because you’ve been really good at it. You have grown in so many ways this year that it’s hard to know where to start.

You repeated a year in preschool this year, which wasn’t the original plan, but ended up being the absolute best thing for you because you have absolutely blossomed socially. You have friends who enjoy spending time with you. You initiate and participate in conversations with other kids. You’re even doing art voluntarily and sometimes enjoying it. Next week you meet your new teacher for room 2 and I think we’re both equally nervous. At the very least you have a great group of friends going with you.

You are incredibly smart, which is not new. You catch onto things quickly and retain information in incredible ways. I so wish you would use that ability for something useful but instead you’re currently reserving it for obscure Pokémon facts that almost no one except you and Elijah care about. It’s astounding.

You continue to be incredibly strong willed, generally to your own detriment. You have a hard time picking battles and are willing to die on just about any hill you find. Often publicly and loudly. I can’t remember the last time we went to Target where I didn’t have to pretend I couldn’t hear you scream while other moms gave me looks of solidarity. Three is hard on everyone and someday when you have to parent a 3 year old (if you choose to have kids) I will giggle quietly to myself the way my parents do when they watch me, the person you inherited these tendencies from, try to parent you.

It’s easy to just label you as willful and miss what lies beneath, because you are very, very willful. But beneath that, you are also the sweetest, most sensitive soul. You love your family and friends and all animals intensely. You love to be hugged and snuggled and squeezed, but on your terms only. You like loud noises or messes only when they feel good to you and you are overwhelmed by the same feelings other times. I don’t always do a great job of being patient with your sensitivity, which is one of my goals this year. To look beneath the behavior and see how I can help you, rather than stop you. I’m still learning from you and for you, and I hope you know that I’ll never stop trying to make things easier on you.

Your likes this year include: your family, especially “your baby”, most animals, especially if they are soft and/or cute, dinosaur chicken, Ritz crackers, brownies, swimming, pretend play with any figures you can find and if you can’t find figures you use your fingers instead, being snuggled, Wild Kratts, Pokemon, making Benjamin smile, making Elijah annoyed, making other people laugh.

Your dislikes include: dogs, unless they are small or are so afraid of you that they stay across the room from you, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that ooze onto your hands, deviations from your routines, large groups of people and when Elijah purposefully (and masterfully) antagonizes you.

This year has been a deeply good one, but also a different one. Having a baby forced you to find patience in a multitude of situations. It made you fiercely protective and more observant. It meant less time for the two of us, but we find time during Ben naps to snuggle and bond, not that we have ever struggled to bond to one another.

It would be inaccurate for me to gloss over how challenging you can sometimes be, because it has been a major theme of this year. Your passion is hard to manage at times. I know that someday this passion will serve you well because apathy isn’t in your playbook. It’s not a bad thing to have big feelings and I know that it’s not because you’re not a great kid, it’s because you don’t know how to channel that passion yet. You don’t know how to go 50 miles per hour instead of 100. You don’t know how to stop before you’ve reached full speed. We will figure it out together. I promise.

I often lament that you are hard to parent, but you are also so very easy to love. You are incredibly kind to your brothers and others around you. You are super funny and not a day goes by that your dad or I don’t crack up at your silly face when we’re trying to be serious. You love fiercely and loyally and that’s a tendency I hope doesn’t fade with age.

I hope you know how much you are loved. Elijah adores you endlessly. He always wants to buy you things and while he loves to irritate you, he also loves to make you smile. Benjamin absolutely worships the floor you walk on. No one can make him laugh quicker than you. Your baby absolutely lights up when you enter a room.

Your dad and I feel the same. We know how lucky we got when we had you. We see you, who you really are and we are always aware of how luckily we are that you are ours. That we get to guide you through this world.

William Louis. I can’t believe you’re 4. I hope this year is easier for you and that you continue to grow and thrive, and that your heart continues to be tender and kind. Happy birthday my dear boy. I love you so very much and I cannot wait to see what this next year brings.

Love,
Mom

Benjamin: Year One

Ben-

Today you are one year old! One year. My sweetest baby is scarcely a baby at all anymore. It seems impossible that it’s already been a year because it all feels so new and yet, here you are, one.

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You are the sweetest, happiest baby that I have certainly ever had, but probably also ever known. You smile more easily and more often than any of the rest of us and you bring sunshine into our lives every day. People, friends and strangers alike, come up to me all the time to tell me how adorable and happy you are because you just charm everyone. You’re definitely a little wary of male strangers, but we’re working on it. You even wave now, which is the cutest ever.

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Your brothers continue to be your favorite people and vice versa. No one makes you laugh faster or more often than your brothers. They both take absolute delight in getting you to smile and laugh and you absolutely adore them. The three of you collapse into giggles at least once a day and it is the best sound on the earth, even if it is usually ear splittingly loud.

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You have three words so far- Elijah, dog (dog-dog, if we’re being accurate, and it can be used for any animal you see) and dada. You will not say mama for any functional purpose at all and you are a master grunter, unlike the world has ever known, for all other needs. You sign more and all done, but sort of haphazardly and often it takes a few tries for me to decipher it. We are working desperately to get you to sign for milk because I think we’d both enjoy you being able to communicate that desire more clearly.

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You’re not yet walking, which is fine. You have switched in the past 6 weeks or so to full time hands and knees crawling, and you pull to stand and cruise like a champ. You’ve stood unassisted a few times, but it’s not something you’re super interested in and the more we try, the less you seem to want to do it, so we’re letting you be. You will walk when you want to and I’m happy to have you not be a toddler for as long as possible.

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This month you slept through the night for the first time ever and you even did it two nights in a row! Just long enough for me to get my hopes up. The first night didn’t really count because your adorable younger older brother got up twice and sort of ruined the continuous sleep thing I was finally getting to experience. But the next night I slept for like 7 straight hours and I swear I could’ve lifted a house afterwards, I felt so good. You apparently then decided that 2 nights was enough and you will not be doing it again, maybe ever. Son. I’m so tired. Sleep is so nice.

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Your likes this month include: mom, dad, Elijah, William, grandparents (except sort of granddad, but I swear I’m fixing this problem) the cat, any dog-dog that you see (seriously, you grunt, yell A DOGDOG! A DOGDOG! over and over, it’s the best) which could also include the cat, strawberries, pea crisps, french fries, baths, getting through the gate into the big kid play area, biting (whyyyyy), getting into any area that you shouldn’t really be in or which may be unsafe (we literally call you Danger Baby…a lot), Elmo and Mickey Mouse.

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Your dislikes this month include: cake, apparently, the car, the stroller, not touching me or dad, the moments between when you see us and when we pick you up, the time it takes to cook food, getting out of the bath, diaper changes unless I sing to you, the baby gates.

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When I opened the timehop app on my phone this morning and saw the flood of tiny baby pictures, it felt impossible that it’s already been a year, but at the same time, you’re such a far cry from the itty bitty infant in those pictures. You’re healthy and happy and you’re just this person with feelings and not that tiny person we didn’t really know. I don’t think I would want to go back in time if I could, because I’m having so much fun with the baby you are now.

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It has been one of the best years of my life, in large part, because of you. Because I have gotten to savor so much of your babyhood in ways I wish I could’ve with your brothers. Because I have finally been given the gift of time and it has been precious in ways I didn’t know it could be. Taking this time comes with other struggles (as with most things), but it has been so worth it. I don’t know how I’m going to send you to preschool next fall and return to work. It feels impossible to even think of and it’s a whole year away.

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I feel like we’re starting to see who you really are more with each day. The things you like and the things you don’t. The things that make you laugh and your reactions are just so very you. You look just like me and a lot like Elijah, but you are just Benjamin. We are so inclined to compare you to your brothers, but it’s to your detriment, because you are a totally different person and there just aren’t equivalencies to be had. Your disposition is nothing like either of your brothers, you are you, and we are so incredibly lucky to get to spend our lives getting to know you.

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Being your mother, feeding you, loving you, caring for you, is a privilege. Our family has grown and changed so much this year since you joined us. We’ve become stronger and closer and it would not be an exaggeration to say happier. There is more love, more grace and more laugher. We didn’t know what we were missing before, but now that we have you, we need you like we need air, Benjamin. You are the world to us. I am better for getting to love you, I think your dad and brothers are too.

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It feels impossible that it’s already been a year, but it has been the most magical and wonderful year. I wish I could tell you how loved you are, but there are no words adequate to quantify that amount. So you’ll just have to trust me.

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Happy birthday Benjamin Andrew. We love you so, so very much and we cannot wait to see what next year brings.

Love,
Mom

What a Difference 11 Months Make!

Getting Ben to smile is never the problem. He is seriously the smiliest guy on the earth. Getting him to smile and not move is the challenge. He seems incredibly motivated to take a header off the chair.

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Benjamin: Month 11

Ben-

Today you are 11 months old! Son. It is going too fast. I’m sending out your birthday invitations today and I want to cry. How is this year almost over? How are you so close to toddlerhood? It feels impossible, though I know it’s right.

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You and I have become good buddies as we navigate my new role as a stay at home mom. You’re napping on a (flexible) schedule and you can play on the floor for a good long time with your piles of toys. You love to come to me for snuggles and to bite me (which, why? Why son?) but you’re quick to return to independence again. I think both of us are happier without the daycare and work hustle and bustle and it’s been a privilege to get this time with you.

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You absolutely adore your brothers these days. You won’t sleep in the car anymore because you are afraid of missing something they’re doing and you spend the whole time craning your head to watch them. Your first word popped out this month and it was Elijah (which is unsurprising when you consider how many dozens of times a day we say it since he seems to have some selective hearing loss involving his name). Elijah was out of town for a few days earlier this week and when we FaceTimed him he always wanted to see you and when he got home yesterday you practically lunged at him. The way you and your brothers love each other is exactly what I always hoped for.

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Your disposition continues to be delightful much of the time. You have a dramatic streak that shines mostly when you don’t get what you want right when you want it. Or when I tell you no because you’ve bitten me. And listen, I don’t feel sorry for you when you are the biter, buddy. I have literal bruises on my legs and shoulders and let’s not discuss what you do when nursing.

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Earlier this month, I set you down when you really, really didn’t want me to and you held your breath in one of those silent screams until you were unresponsive. It was nothing short of fully terrifying. I will never forget what it was like to hold your lifeless body while we waited for you to breathe again. I feel like it’s possible that someone forgot to tell you that as the 3rd baby, you have to be able to go with the flow. And breathe. Always breathe. Please.

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You have become very proficient with mobility this month. You made the switch to hands and knees crawling this month and only very rarely drop to the belly drag now. You can pull to stand on almost anything and you will occasionally let go for a few seconds at a time. You especially love to crawl around on the big step in the pool right now and heaven help a grown up if they try to stop you.

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Your likes this month include: Mom, Dad, Elijah, William, the cat, a plastic pretend bottle of ketchup you take everywhere, your small blankets, the play kitchen, eating tiny morsels of food and non-food items off the floor, swimming, baths and about a thousand other things. You are so happy.

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Your dislikes include the baby gates that keep you out of the tiny toys, being left in the baby gated room, sleeping through the night, when William steals your toys and when you try to kneel but instead tip over and bonk your head on the floor (which happens and unusually large number of times a day).

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It seems impossible that you will be 1 in a month. It seems impossible that my tiniest baby with the surprise head of dark brown hair is so close to walking and to talking and to being a person instead of an infant. It seems unbelievable that soon your age will be measured in years instead of months and the big milestones will be behind us.

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You have brought joy into our house in ways that I did not expect and could not have predicted. You get excited when we walk in the room even if you’ve just seen us. You love being held and snuggled and you can’t help but dance to music and clap your sweet little hands no matter what you’re doing when you hear it. You were the final piece to our puzzle and you have brought us happiness we didn’t know we were missing, but now that we have it, we could never be without it again. I smile each day because of you, laugh more and love harder than I knew I could. You’ve changed every person in our house just by being here.

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Benjamin Andrew, you love and are loved far beyond what words can convey. We are so, so lucky to have you. Happy 11 months, my smallest love. I can’t wait to see what this next month brings.

Love,
Mom

What a Difference 10 Months Make!

I feel like this month perfectly captured Ben at 10 months. Sweet and a little sassy and mostly really, really adorable.

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Benjamin: Month 10

Ben-

Today you are 10 months old! Ten months! That’s awfully close to being 1, son. I’m not sure how I feel about this (sad, I feel sad).

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You had a really good month. You were generally healthy (today being an exception to that) for the first time in a while, which was a refreshing change. You embraced mobility this month meaning no more short distance crawling, you crawl absolutely everywhere. You pursue toys and specs of dust that you think could be edible and especially the poor cat, who you love most of all. We left you with Grandma T on Saturday and apparently you dedicated your day to learning to pull to stand. Now you are some sort of standing machine. You cannot be stopped.

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You also got three teeth this month, and you’ve started using some baby signs (more and all done). It almost sounds like you say Elijah whenever we call him, but it’s not consistent or clear enough to call it an actual word yet. You clap with gusto, but you’re not waving yet. As with each of your brothers, this is the age where I realize that we just don’t wave that often. So we are working on it and I suspect you’ll get it soon.

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Your personality continues to be generally very sunny, especially when you’re home or with people you’re familiar with. This month ushered in some intense stranger danger and not insignificant separation anxiety, so instead of smiling at strangers, you tend to give them suspicious side eye. You remain uncertain about your Grandad, who, trust me son, loves you very much. You’ve got to let him love you.

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Your sleep continues to be terrible and likely 10 months will be the age we sleep train you because buddy, your mom is tired. Often you wake up 4 or more times a night, which, no. It’s just not a thing we do. Sleep is great. Honestly, some mornings I can’t even remember how many times you got up because I’m that tired. So just brace yourself, because we are going to sort this out this month.

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Your likes this month include: the bath, Mom, Dad, your brothers and the cat, Cheerios and some puffs, purees, standing, balls, books especially if you can eat them, any chewable item you can hold and gnaw on, nursing.

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Your dislikes this month include: when Mom leaves the room, when Mom tries to substitute nursing at night with a pacifier, when the cat moves out of reach, diaper changes, when Mom sweeps the things you’ve grabbed off the floor out of your mouth (which I would not have to do if you’d stop trying to eat fuzz and blades of grass).

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I’m noticing that you’re starting to babble the same sounds consistently for certain things and while it is so cool to watch you learn things, it’s also breaking my heart that your babyhood is almost gone. That soon those syllables will become words, just like your brothers. I have done absolutely nothing to encourage you to stand or walk because I’m not ready for you to do that, but you are so determined. Babies don’t walk and you are a baby. My last baby.

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Somewhat unexpectedly (from a grand scheme, it was planned) I stopped working this month and am now staying home with you and with your brothers when they’re not at school. It’s not the plan I had for life right now but I feel really lucky to get to do it. The time I’m getting with you is irreplaceable and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We go everywhere together now and it’s really pretty great. I feel like I know you more now than I did a month ago and hey you’re pretty great (but I already knew that).

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As the countdown to your birthday comes screaming towards us, I’m trying to savor these days and these memories. Of a time before you were kid like your brothers, of the last days and weeks of infancy. This time is fleeting, really it’s almost gone, and it is also the most precious. I know I won’t always be your favorite person or the place you are most comfortable, so I’m doing the best to savor every snuggle, even the ones at 2am.

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It really wouldn’t matter if the first year was 12 months or 100, it would never be enough. There’s never enough days with you, never enough smiles, never enough time. The love we have for you, all of us, could fill any amount of space or time. It’s infinite and unfailing. Your heart is so intertwined with mine that without yours, I don’t know how mine would beat.

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Benjamin Andrew, I love you more than (almost, your brothers and dad are also great) anything in this whole world. And I can’t wait to see what next month brings.

Love,
Mom

What a Difference 9 Months Make!

Listen, it’s a miracle that we made it to 9 months before being late on one of these, so I’m feeling a little less bad about it than I probably should. Honestly, I don’t think you did a lot of changing in those 2 extra days anyway.

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Benjamin: Month 9

Ben-

Today you are 9 months old! It’s been a really crazy month and I kind of feel like I’ve been tapping my feet waiting for you to hit this number just because I think you have been 8 months for forever now. At the same time, a year is dangerously close and I am not ready. My last baby is scarcely a baby anymore.

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The biggest accomplishment of this month is mobility. You can get onto your hands and knees and rock and push yourself backwards all around the house. In the past few days you finally figured out how to use your arms to drag yourself forward and suddenly you are everywhere. You’ve also very nearly got pulling to stand figured out, despite severely lacking the safety awareness to stand alone for any duration of time, so I suspect next month will involve a lot of lumps and bumps.

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You’ve got the tip of a second tooth now and you are a champion eater. You love all savory food, though your enthusiasm for the sweet stuff isn’t particularly vigorous. You’d rather have chicken and green beans over peaches or strawberries any day of the week. You do love carrots a whole lot, though newly discovered puffs are definitely the absolute favorite. You also mastered a straw this week, which is the best because now you can drink water anywhere and I can resume forgetting to bring waters with me (listen. I can only remember so many things).

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You are very possibly the most adored baby that there has ever been. Even if we only take into account your younger older brother, who loves you more than air and Ritz crackers, which is a lot. People routinely stop us and tell us how cute you are. At baseball you are everyone’s baby and you will lunge to see your mom friends. To say you are doted on would be a vast understatement.

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Your likes this month include: mom, dad, Jacques-Imo, food, especially puffs, water, when William makes you laugh, seeing any of us after a period away, touching mom at every waking moment of your day, snuggling, your pacifier but mostly the pacifier leash that you chew on all day long, standing all the live long day.

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Your dislikes this month include: strawberries, being put down, seeing me from across the room but not being able to actually touch me, when you crawl backwards instead of forwards, sleeping without touching me, any food or snot on your face, but also having your face wiped and having your hair brushed.

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In two weeks, I’m going to work my last day for a while and stay home with you. It was a hard decision we came to, but part of why I decided to do it is because this is the last time I will be afforded this opportunity and it felt too precious to pass up. I am so excited to get this time with you and your brothers, to be “just” a mom and to be more present for and with you. I learned this week as I watched your brother blow out 6 birthday candles just how fleeting this time is and I am excited to get to savor it for a while.

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You bring so much joy into our lives each day, Ben. You wake up smiling and your smile could light up the sun. All of us feel so happy to have you, to get to know you and we are all so much happier with you here. I love you so very, very much my sweet Ben. I can’t wait to see what next month brings.

Love,
Mom

Elijah: Year 6

Eli-

Today you are 6 years old. Son. How. I could swear that it was just last year that you were born and we took you home. I could swear it was just last month that you learned to walk and talk and just last week that you started preschool. And somehow, here you are, nearly finished with kindergarten. And six. You need two hands to hold your age. My heart feels like it could burst.

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You have grown so much this year physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since you turned five. You became a big brother again and you are just the best at it. You love Benjamin, but you are gentle and sweet with him and very protective. You love when he smiles at you and you were so entirely delighted the day he cut his first tooth, I will never forget it. You went to school and told EVERYONE that “your baby” had a tooth. I could’ve died.

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You are truly enthusiastic to a fault. Someone will tell you something, you will respond with a “cool!” or a “yea” and then you will tell them whatever exciting news you have, regardless of whether it makes any sense in the context of the previous statement because you are just. so. excited. You love things deeply and passionately and you have little regard for what others think, which is a quality I especially envy. I fear that this is also a quality that will be soon lost to the peer pressures of other little boys in your life, but for now, I’m savoring your uncensored excitement about things because it is perfect. You share in the excitement of others too and it is delightful.

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You are going through a bit of a boundary testing phase. I truly think that 6 might be the new 2, just with a lot more words. You are pushing back when we ask you to do things, not because you really want to be defiant, but you seem to want to see what will happen. You test out new words, often knowing they aren’t kind ones, to see if we will stop you. It’s like kindergarten opened up your world and you are looking to us to help you navigate all the new parts. It’s a privilege we could not be happier to have, though I’d really love to hear the word wiener a lot less. I’m just saying.

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Your likes at age 6 include: Pokemon, your brothers, your parents and your grandparents, Lego, Ninjago, Ninjago Lego, reading (especially Dr. Seuss), sports in general, playing with your dad, drawing, “creating” things (this usually ends terribly. You recently lost your cool because you just knew you could make a bow and arrow out of a paper plate and you felt that I was not assisting you enough. A paper plate bow and arrow), jumping in puddles, animals of any kind but especially Jacques-Imo, any sweet treat.

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Your dislikes at age 6 include: Writing, vegetables of any kind, meat of any kind except bacon, sausage and hot dogs, eating at restaurants except Red Lobster, things you perceive to be girlish (we’re working on this), waiting for anything, not being allowed to say the word wiener.

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I was recently at an event with you and your brothers and I was marveling at you. As I held Benjamin it was as though I could feel you when you were an infant, like the muscle memory was there, but then I could see this kid. This fully grown, not a toddler, not a preschooler, just a kid, kid, right in front of me and it seemed impossible. I must have blinked because here you are, a person unto yourself, and I don’t remember when we decided that was okay.

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The thing I like the most about you right now is how kind you are. When William gets in trouble, which is a lot, you are the first to try to get me to “give him a second chance.” When you get in trouble at school (usually for talking), you apologize the instant you see me, even though it’s not a big deal to me. You are kind to your friends even when they aren’t kind to you, which happens more than is fair. You have a big personality, but you have an even bigger heart and watching you give kindness to others, even just in your words, is the absolute greatest. I want you to lead a big life if it’s what you want, but the things that matter most to me is that you are happy and that you are kind.

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Mother’s Day is just a few days away and I told you recently that you specifically are what made me a mother. And it blew you mind. To you, I’ve always been a mom because I have been for your whole life. But I lived 29 years without you, waiting for you, for the day you would make me something new. You turned my whole entire world upside down in the greatest possible way and you made me into who I always knew I wanted to be. Without you, I truly don’t know who or how I’d be.

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Just yesterday you got into some of the biggest trouble of your life and after we had a long talk, I held your chin and made you look into my eyes while I told you that I loved you more than anything in the world. As the words came out, both you and I started to cry. I think it was a relief to you to know that despite the choice you’d made, nothing had changed. And I want you to know that now and forever. There is nothing you ever could do that will change how much I love you. I am your mother now and forever and the love I have for you can only grow, if that is even possible. It is my greatest privilege to be your mother and it’s not a job I take lightly. I am undeniably lucky to have and love you.

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Happy birthday my sweetest, oldest son. I love you more than words can ever begin to capture and I cannot wait to see what next year brings.

Love,
Mom

What a Difference 8 Months Make!

Nothing like a set of brothers to get smiles. Ben is not even remotely looking at me in this month’s picture. He only has eyes for his brothers.

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