Letters To Everly

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When you were about 6 months old, you started sleeping through the night. Most mornings, around 4am, you would wake, ready for your bottle and a diaper change and your father or I would stumble sleepily into your nursery and bring you into bed with us.

This went on for another 18 months until we transitioned you to your own big girl bed. At that point, early every morning, you would slide out of the bed yourself and make your way to our bedroom. I have been lifting you in a sleepy daze over my body and into the space between your father and I for almost two years now.

Your feet in my ribs, arms flopped over my face, and slow heavenly breaths in my ear have been a constant part of my sleep for your entire life. I kept telling myself, at some point, we were going to have to teach you to stay in your own bed all night long. She’s almost four, I’d think to myself, isn’t she getting too old for this?

You used to be a dream to put to sleep at night. We’d turn on your sound machine, rock you for a little while and lay you down in your bed to sleep with ease. You used to happily go to sleep with your door closed and all of the lights off.

But when we weaned you from your pacifier, all of that changed. You weren’t sure how to self soothe anymore and our bedtime routine suddenly turned into hour long sessions of closet lights on and doors wide open and rubbing your back and carefully sneaking out when you were soundly sleeping.

Over the months we slowly inched away. First sitting at the end of your bed while you fell asleep. Then at the door of your room. Then in a chair, just out of view in the hallway.

"Mommy?" you’d call from the darkness.

"Still here," I’d say back.

Eventually we started getting out of the chair when you were still awake. “Just stay for five minutes” you’d tell us. And then… a few weeks ago you announced you didn’t need us to do that anymore. After books and bedtime prayers and a couple snuggles, we were free to go about our night.

No more keeping guard, however briefly, outside your door. Every night since, you’ve reminded me, “Big girls don’t need their mommies to sit in the chair. ” And I’ve agreed with you and kissed you goodnight and walked out of your door to finish the dishes or to read a book or catch up on a favorite tv show.

All those months we’ve spent creeping farther and farther away and when you were finally ready for us to go, it stung more than I expected.

It’s made me realize something else. I am in no rush at all to convince you to stop your early morning visits to our bed. One day, you are going to decide you are ready to sleep straight through till morning. You are going to tell me again the rules of being a big girl now. You are going to assert that independence that we are so proudly watching grow in you.

And I’m going to ache for the mornings that I wake up nearly falling off the edge of the bed because you’re tiny body has managed to take up the rest. I’m going to wish desperately for the joy of watching your eyes, so sweetly, blink open every new day.

Sometimes we push you slowly into finding your own independence and sometimes we wait and let it come on its own. It’s a delicate dance, this whole business of you growing up. It is happening all around us, all the time. You may be a big girl when you close your eyes at night, but I’m thankful you get to be my baby just a little longer when you open them every morning.

Love,

Mama

The Rundown: 3 years, 9 months & 2 years, 4 months

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I used to write these sort of updates all the time. I’d make a list of your weights and heights and milestones. I wanted a record all of the ways you were growing and changing month over month.

But for the past six months or more, I haven’t written a post like this. Your changes have come so fast I’ve barely had time to register them. Every day I wake up to two children who are taller, smarter, more animated than the day before. I come home from work and I swear you’ve grown while I was away. I curl up next to you at bedtime and try to imagine how it used to feel to hold you as a baby. Those little round bellies and chubby arm rolls have turned into long, skinny legs and feet that outgrow shoes at an alarming rate.

Every season, as I go through your closets and pack away the things you’ll never wear again, I do it with a lump in my throat. Sometimes, I cave to my own hang-ups, and squeeze you into a favorite t-shirt that should have been abandoned months ago…even though your belly hangs out and it’s tight in the arms. I just want one more day of seeing you run around in that silly piece of clothing you once wore daily.

I don’t know exactly how much either of you weigh or how tall you are now. I do know that the top of Everly’s head comes up to my hip and my arms grow tired while carrying Arlo much quicker than they did even a few months ago .  Arlo, your hair has grown long enough to fall in your eyes. I’m the only one left who thinks it shouldn’t be cut, but I’m standing my ground on that one. Everly, you’ve reached the age where you will patiently let me braid your hair or put it up in little buns. You love to admire my handiwork in the mirror when I’m done.

Everly, you are so full of reason and inquiry. You make up the best songs. You have a great sense of humor and above all, you continue to make me so proud with the way you have empathy for others. You share beautifully and like to make gifts for your loved ones. You are sometimes bossy, often stubborn and a born leader. I watch as every where you go, others are drawn to your energy and confidence. Your spirited nature will no doubt be a challenge to our parenting at times as you grow, but know that it is also one of the things I most admire in you.

 Arlo, you bring pure joy to our world. You are rarely in a hurry but love to speed around the house on your balance bike. You are quiet and content except when you get your heart broken, which is fairly often. You go with the flow, are comfortable to just be, and most happy when you are surrounded by cars and trucks and toy motorcycles. You are not a rough and tumble kid. You are thoughtful and purposeful, affectionate and silly. When I lay down with you at night, you reach out and slowly rub the back of my arms. I can tell, already, that your goodness will make waves in this world.

I’ve stopped counting all the words the two of you say and tracking all of the milestones you’re reaching, because I know you are right where you are supposed to be. We are in no hurry to rush either of you into formal education right now. We are introducing letter, color, and shape identification through lots and lots of book reading. We are being protective of these early childhood years. You will learn all about writing and reading and counting soon enough, but for now, our greatest focus on learning is around the art of adventure and play.

You are both just great kids. We love being your parents. Keep up the good work, you’ve already got this whole childhood thing down pat.

Love,

Mama

Letters to Everly

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Everly,

I’ve always said that the part of parenthood I have had the hardest time coming to terms with is the wide open vulnerability of loving another soul so much. The force with which it hit me after you were born was unlike anything I had ever known. I spent the first months of your life worrying far too much about anything that could possibly harm you. I drove myself crazy. It made me unreasonable and it felt consuming and it was a long road for me to find the voice of reason inside myself to balance it.

My first instinct is to always jump in and be the barrier between you and the world. I want to protect you from everything that could potential cause you harm or sadness. More and more every day, I find myself having an internal battle between the part of me that wants to fix everything and the part of me that knows it’s important for you to learn to trust in yourself and your own abilities to navigate new experiences.

That voice of reason that it took me so long to find after your birth - it is  growing stronger and louder with each year that passes. While every cell in my body wants nothing more than to be a helicopter mom who shadows your every move, I know that is not what you or Arlo need from me. I am always trying to toe the line between keeping you safe and giving you enough space and encouragement to find your own way. Let me tell you, sweet girl, it is incredibly hard at times. 

I’m sure I will annoy you many times as you grow up with my cautious nature, but I also know that I can’t fix the world for you. I can’t bubble wrap every surface, prevent you from ever being hurt or keep out all of the bad that exists in this world.

I can’t do it. And what kind of life would that be anyway?

Today I watched you climb to the top of a rope ladder on the big kid side of the playground. Your little hands held on so tightly as you went higher and higher and everything in me wanted to go and put a hand on you. But instead I stopped, took a deep breath and said to myself, Let her climb.

I stood a few feet away, every muscle in my body ready to leap forward should you slip, but I stood my ground and smiled and told you that you were doing a great job.

The look of pride on your face when you reached the top by yourself assured me I had done the right thing in staying back.

It again reminded me of the internal battle I will fight until you and Arlo are grown. I will fight it on your first day of school. And the first time someone breaks your heart. And the first trip you take away without me. And the day you get your drivers license. And the day you move out of our house.

I can assure you that at every turn, a voice inside me will be shouting. “Wait! Stop! Let me help you. Let me go too.”

But the reasonable side will win, as it always does. 

I will tell you how much I love you and remind you that I am here if you need me. Every part of me will be waiting eagerly to give you support or encouragement should you ask me. But I will do my best to take a step back, and whisper to myself again

and again.

and again.

Let her climb.

Wave to me from the top, baby.

I love you,

Mama

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Everly and Arlo,

Just a small thought today. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that you exist- That all the cells of your body can be traced to your father and me. That your flesh came from my flesh. That those precious fingers and lips and eyelashes first grew within me. It seems beyond reason that such perfection could come from someone broken and imperfect.

I run my hands across the soft skin of your bellies and think of how complicated and mysterious the process of making another human being feels to me…so technical and holy that it should be well above my means.  Yet, here you are.

Whenever I doubt my own capabilities or find some part of myself ugly or flawed… I think of the tremendous thing I have been a part of. I dreamed of you and grew you and birthed you.  In your bones lives my strength. In your heart, my courage. And in your small arms, all the love I have ever known. No matter how I fail or fall in the days ahead, you have allowed me the chance to be a part of something pure and good in my life. Thank you for existing. Thank you for being mine.

I love you,

Mama

Little Firsts: Autumn Leaf Pile

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus

Your first introduction to an autumn leaf pile.  This is it, my babies. The pure. The free. The joy-inducing. The simple and profound.  This is what the good stuff in life looks like.

Love,

Mama

Letters to Everly

Everly Veda,

On Saturday night your father and I dressed you and your brother in pajamas, put Arlo to bed, and then the three of us went outside. It was beginning to grow dark and the lightening bugs were just beginning to twinkle in the dark corners of our yard.

Daddy caught one of them to show you and the two of you stood there, watching as the tiny bug flashed a bright glow against your father’s cupped hand. I went inside to fetch you a mason jar to collect them. Around the yard you went, pointing them out as he caught them one by one and then gingerly placed them down into the container covered with a cloth. You were mesmerized as you held tightly to the glass and watched them flash.

Once you had an impressive little collection, daddy lifted off the cloth and we watched as they each flew out and away into the night sky. We gave you a glow stick to dance around with and you stuck it down the back of your pajamas and flapped your arms and we laughed at our very own little lightening bug as she danced. It was an hour past your bedtime as we drew pictures of the little bugs on our sidewalk with chalk and gave them silly names.

As a girl of the south, you will have many opportunities over the course of your childhood to chase lightening bugs around our yard. It was something I grew up doing and my mother before me. It’s a right of passage around these parts and I’ll never forget the first introduction between our tiny daughter & this wonder of the the natural world. These are the things that stay with us - you dancing barefoot in the yard. The quiet pierced occasionally by the distinctive high pitched squeal of your excitement. And your head cocked towards the sky as the little bugs flashed brightly against the dark.

I felt honored to be there with you as you experienced it for the first time. The night you met your first lightening bug - it is the little, seemingly insignificant memories like these that I’ve learned anchor themselves most securely in the happiest part of our heart.

Love,

Mama

Letters to My Children

Ten of my greatest hopes for each you…

1. That your father and I instill in both of you a love of education and books and seeking knowledge. Read everything. Fill your head with philosophies and history and science. Education is one of the few things in life that can never be taken away from you.

2. Travel the world. Experience as many different countries and cultures as possible. Take every opportunity to go and do and see!

3. Seek out your passions. Grow them! Be they music, art, dance, sports… whatever! You are capable of reaching whatever goal you can dream up. Invest in yourself and your talents.

4. Do not be afraid to speak up when you feel something is unfair, unjust or harmful. We are all deserving of kindness. There is no cause or difference worthy of belittling or bullying others. Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing, but it will always be worth it.

5. I hope that one day you know what it feels like to love another person with all of your heart. Take your time (lots and lots of time!). Don’t rush into matters of the heart. Enjoy your youth and be carefree but when you’re ready, loving someone else faithfully and completely will be one of the greatest gifts of your life.

6. And along those same lines, I hope that you know what it feels like to be loved by another with all of their heart. When you do fall in love, make sure that person is willing to give the same to you. You are worth the effort. True love is an equal partnership.

7. May your heartbreaks in life be minimal. They will happen. And they can feel so consuming and paralyzing but know that they are part of your story. The hurt will shape you and it will make you a wiser, better person. Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is allow yourself to be vulnerable.

8. Have a group of friends who will be loyal and encouraging. Over the course of your life you will hold so many different friendships - some of them good and some of them detrimental. Don’t waste time on anyone who is not good to you. Let the lessons from all of these relationships allow you to build a circle of friends who will always be there to stand with you in the highest and lowest moments of your life.

9.  No matter what happens to you, remember that your father and I are here to care for you and guide you and support you. Even if we disagree with you, don’t ever be afraid to come to us for help. We may not always have the answer or the means, but we’ll be in it together. Our love for you is without limits or conditions and it will always be that way.

10. And lastly, the most important hope of all. Never forget that faith in and love for Jesus Christ is all you need. Above the love of a partner, the friendship of your peers, even your family. Let Him be the north star that guides your life.

When I think of your future, my mama heart can barely contain the hope it holds for you. You are so small now, but the days are moving fast and I am taking every opportunity to be purposeful and open about my dreams for you. But these words are just that … my dreams… merely a launching pad for the possibilities of your life. Who will you become? What will you achieve? Only time will reveal those things. I am certain that the very best thing I will ever do in my life has already begun. In whatever you accomplish, you will be my greatest legacy.

Love,

mama

Letters to Everly

Dear Everly,

You have always been a daddy’s girl. From the very start, really.  I’ve had the great honor of protecting you, singing to you, loving on you and providing for you - but so often, when you feel sick or sad or just need some extra comforting, it’s daddy that you want. Your affections for me have been great, but it’s always been pretty obvious that daddy hangs the moon in your world.

I’ve tried hard not to let it get me down. The two of you have spent so much time together during your days while I’ve been at work. Since Arlo was born, I’ve been available even less as I’ve needed to nurse him and take care of some of his special needs. I feel guilty sometimes and worry that I’ve failed you in some way. But I try to remind myself that my experiences with you are always precious and there will be many stages in your preferences as you grow. I know my time with you will come. Mamas and daughters get to do special things together that no one else can do and there is a role that only we can fulfill in each other’s lives.

Recently, you’ve started to show me this. I am realizing just how much you observe and want to mimic me. You’ve been asking to wear a pony tail “like mommy’s” which is a first as you usually just rip out whatever I put in your hair. You like to sit at your desk and bang on your little laptop and say “I workin’” like mommy. You pick up your babies and rock them and say “Shhhh. Shhhh baby. I mommy”  In the evenings after I put your brother to sleep, I will find you snuggled up with daddy on the couch in your jammies watching a little bit of Dora before bed. You’ve started to say “I want mommy” and Daddy and I will trade places. You snuggle your little body right into me and I play with your hair. We tell pretend secrets (you like to whisper gibberish in my ear and then laugh like you told me the best joke ever). We talk about your day and what we will do tomorrow.

It is overwhelming me with happiness, Everly. That you are seeking out one on one time with me even when daddy is there. That you are mimicking me when you play. That I am getting your undivided attention without you asking “Where’s daddy?” or  saying “Daddy do it!”  Last night I put you to bed and I laid down with you for a little while. You wrapped your small arms arms around my neck and just looked at me. I planted a kiss on your cheek and you giggled. You gave me one back and we went back and forth like this for a few minutes. I whispered I love you. you whispered “I you too”. and when I closed the door behind me on the way out, I marveled at the affectionate, joyful little girl you have become.

You will always be a daddy’s girl and that’s something to be proud of. You are so lucky to have a daddy that is so involved in your care and well being.  But thank you, baby girl, for giving me a place on your pedestal too. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit I’ve wanted it for so long. Thank you for reminding me that my role in your life is unique and lovely. And for making mama feel like even though daddy hung the moon, you still need me to hang your stars.

I wish for ten thousand nights with you.

I love you,

Mama

Letters to Everly.

(A blurry account of Everly’s first carousel ride. She spent most of it crying out for mama and saying “all done!”)

Everly Veda,

My darling little two year old. Happy happy birthday to you!

I realize now why mamas everywhere on their children’s birthdays say reminiscing things like “On this day X number of years ago, I was bringing you into the world.” It’s because it will always feel like it was yesterday, whether you replace that X with 2 or 22 years. Every year on this day for the rest of my life, I will relive the power and emotion of that experience.

Truly it feels like just yesterday I was holding your tiny, pink body against mine. I was delirious with love and a little shock that all of those months of anticipation and planning had come and gone so fast. You have changed everything about me, little Dove. I move and act and think differently since you were first laid in my arms. I have more purpose behind my reasons and more motivation to my actions.

I have watched you grow from an infant, to a baby, to a toddler in what feels like a single breath and at every stage I have said “This is my favorite age” because they have all felt exactly so. You keep us laughing and guessing and entertained every single day. What a joy you are to your father and I as a daughter and to Arlo as a role model and big sister. 

I am so proud of your creativity and energy and the way you are already welcoming and engaging the world around you. You are so lovely in your smallness, in your brave spirit, and in the sweetness of your heart. Here’s to two years of this beautiful life, Everly Veda. On this very day two years past, in the last hours of the night, I was bringing you into the world - and it was the start of everything.

I can’t wait for the gift of this next year with you. and the one after that. and a lifetime of watching you become. The whole world is yours for the taking and I have no doubt that’s exactly what you’ll do.

I love you with my entire being,

Mama

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