Magnificently Seven

Dear Eddie,

Lately I have been looking at you in amazement. At some point in this school year you grew so tall, your feet so big, and your intellect so expansive.

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I’m having a hard time with your letter this year. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to say, it’s just…I’m a little overwhelmed. Since school has been out, I have been noticing that you are on the verge of not being such a naive little kiddo anymore.

Have I mentioned that you have gotten SO tall? You are 4’3′ and you wear a size 2.5 shoe. That seems like such a big kid. Your baby face has thinned out, although you still have those totally kissable cheeks. Judging from the Koops lineage where they come from, I don’t have to worry about your cheeks going away any time soon, and that makes me glad. You have a smattering of freckles on your nose which you claim to hate, but I love.

Daddy pointed out that your size 6 jammy shirts look like belly shirts on you, so I ordered size 7/8 the other day. Youth size “medium”.

This year brought a ton of “not a little kid anymore” things.

You finished the first grade! The school year started out a bit rough; you had a hard time adjusting to two recesses instead of three, no rest time during the day, and no free choice play. We exchanged quite a few emails and phone calls with your teacher about how to best help you learn about self-control. Aunt MacKenzie–who teaches first grade in another school–assured us over and over that your behavior was completely normal for a young first grade boy. She also promised we would see a change after Christmas break and she was right! It was like a switch flipped and you figured out how to “do” school.

We never worried about your academics, though. In Kindergarten you were one of the top readers, and Mrs. D placed you in the “advanced readers” group for WIN (What I Need) time. You fell in love with researching and reading nonfiction–especially about weather and animals. You also excel at math. Your swiftness with flying through your math problems and adding and subtracting in your head make me so proud…and glad. Math was so very hard for me–it still is–so to see it come easy to you is a relief to me.

One of the things I am most proud of is that you are sch a good, helpful friend at school. It’s true that often you have to “clip down” on the behavior chart for acting silly and being off-task, but it’s because you are trying to make people smile. You let other kids answer so they will “clip up” even when you know the answer. You play with everyone whether they are “popular” or not, and you told me once that you and your friend, L, were in a “squad” to help a girl in your class stay safe from some mean upper-el kids.

You did a lot of stuff out of school this year too.

You played soccer in the fall, but declared that was it. You weren’t into it and didn’t want to continue, but you did ask to be in cub scouts so we signed you up as a Tiger scout.

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You learned so much this year as a scout! Your favorite things were marching in parades and making your pinewood derby car with grandpa. You took first place in the Tiger scout division! So awesome! Last week you crossed over to a Wolf scout and are looking forward to another fun year with your den and your pack.

You participated in coach-pitch baseball and basketball camp this spring as well as another session of swimming lessons. You grew SO much as a baseball player this year! Your coach was fantastic. You were awesome. It was a really fun season to watch.

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Over and over this year I have just found myself so darn proud of you. I mean, it’s not been without some struggle. Like I said we had MANY talks about self-control and behavior at the beginning of the school year, but you really did try.

I love our conversations. You ask just about anything, and you think very deeply about things. You have never been a “why why why” kid, but more of a “What is Heaven? How do tornadoes start? Where does wind come from?” kid. I love your inquisitive nature and how you really think about things before and after you ask about them.

You are such a good big brother. Charlie has entered a phase where he wants to be just like you and do everything you do and it’s super annoying to you, but when you guys get playing something, you play so well together. You fight and wrestle and yell and play hard. Your personalities are vastly different, yet you have one thing in common: you laugh uncontrollably at anything that has to do with butts, farts, or poop. Even though you guys are a ball of trouble together, you are both always thinking of the other when you are not together. Recently I brought Charlie to get a treat after he had shots and he wanted to also choose something for you. When you got to pick a Gatorade at the grocery store with me, you also wanted to choose one for Charlie. It is my most sincere prayer that you boys always keep each other in mind. You are each other’s best friend and ally in this world. Never forget that. Brothers are for life.

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Where you have frustration for Charlie, you have unending patience for Alice. I don’t know if it’s the age difference or the fact that you have always always ALWAYS wanted a little sister, but you would do absolutely anything for her. You taught her to hug! You comfort her when she is sad. You bring her all her lovies and you play so nicely with her, letting her choose what to play. Please always be there for her. She will need a shoulder to cry on and a strong brother to lean on throughout her life. You are so quick to put your arm around her; I hope that is always the case.

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You still love your stuffed animals and you still sleep with Lamby and your tiny monkey pillow, yet you enjoy Star Wars and American Ninja Warrior. You are the perfect mix of sweet and growing up. You are so empathetic and loving, yet capable of thinking about big things.

This morning you said you were a little sad because six was such a great year. You were sad on the last day of school because you said first grade was so awesome and you would miss Mrs. D. That’s the kind of guy you are, bud. I hope seven (and 2nd grade) surpass your best imagination of what it could be.

Happy birthday, my buddy. I love you more than everything.

Mom

Upon Your Sixth Birthday

Dear Eddie,

You are six now.

I am actually a little speechless.

(but wait for it. you know I will find some words. I always do.)

Your birthday is so amazing and miraculous and all the things woven and tangled together. Your birth broke me down so I could be rebuilt into a mother. You did that, son.

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You are our number one, but you were actually number three. You are actually my middle “baby”. Two older, and two younger.

But you are our number one here. In our family.

I often tell each of you that you were chosen for our family by Jesus for a very specific reason. We don’t always know all the reasons, but we can see hints of some of them as our lives unfold.

You were the baby that “stuck.” As I watch you learn and grow I see that is no mistake. I don’t know how souls work. I don’t know if those lumps of cells that came before you had souls yet or not. I don’t know if those two pregnancies were both your soul trying to come to our family and it just took you three tries.  I don’t know if there are two souls in heaven that will just never make it to an earthly family. I like to think that they are in heaven so your Papa can have some grandkids, but the truth is I don’t know. And I’m not sure I’ll ever know or that I am meant to know.

What I do know is that you are a miracle. Your being here is a wonder to behold.

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You love to hear your birth story and I love to tell you. This year you loved that I added all the people who were waiting in our hospital room to meet you when we came out of the operating room. From that minute you have loved being the center of attention. You love an audience.

Eddie, I have been honored to watch you learn and grow over the past six years. You completed Kindergarten this year and now you are a full-fledged kid.

Right now you love Pokemon after finding it on Netflix only a few weeks ago. You talk nonstop about the battles and the evolving or whatever. I must say I am not that interested, but I absolutely love it that you are so passionate about it. You are giving me a glimpse as to how you will handle passions in the future: you learn everything there is to know, and you talk about it to everyone.

You love to do “crafts” which involve you envisioning something with boxes and paper and markers and scissors and glue and then making it happen.

You love to write and read.

You played soccer, T-ball, and took swimming lessons this year, and while you complained about going, once there you loved being involved.

Your teachers have always described you as a leader. I admit to not fully understanding this. I have always been nervous that maybe you would get picked on because you cry easily, but last week I finally saw what your teachers meant.

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On Friday I packed up you and your brother and sister and we headed to the park for a while to burn off some energy before lunch. Within five minutes of getting there, you had organized a game of tag with the four or so other kids who were there.

More kids showed up and you included each one.

When the game of tag broke up, you went over to the merry-go-round. You pushed and invited kids on and let them off if they asked. You made sure everyone was careful and that you went a little slower if little kids wanted on. You were respectful and chatty with the mom of the toddler who wanted to get on, and you even walked the merry-go-round very slowly to give that toddler a little ride.

Kids were calling you by name by the time we were ready to pack up.

“Eddie? Do those kids go to your school?”

“No.”

“Do you know them from T-ball or something?”

“No.”

“Then how do they know your name?”

“They asked. They said their names too, but I don’t remember. That’s a lot of names.”

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It was no big deal to you that all of these kids were suddenly your friends. It was totally casual. You walked onto that playground with all the confidence in the world that you were going to have fun with some kids. And you did.

In that moment, I looked at you differently.

I saw your confident stride–those legs that just keep getting longer–as you walked with your head held high, looking around for potential friends.

I saw your easy smile and helping hands.

I saw your caring nature.

I saw you, Eddie.

When you weren’t looking, I was.

You make me so proud to be your mom.

Happy 6th birthday, Eddie Bear.

Love, Mom

The Magic of Three

Dear Charlie,

Today you are THREE!

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I know things have been a little crazy and your birthday has been sort of part of a whole whirlwind of “events” around these parts, but I wanted to make sure you know how special your day is to me. We maybe be focusing a lot on Alice right now and on mommy resting and getting better, but you have been on my heart a lot.

In fact, while recovering in the hospital, my thoughts turned to you often.

I thought of our hospital stay three years ago. Your soft little head that fit so perfectly in the neck space under my chin. Our late evening chats after daddy had gone home to Eddie. The way you were immediately my little Charlie Bird.

You are now “The Middle Child,” but you are still my littlest boy. And your role in this family is very important. Not only did you make Eddie a brother, but you made daddy and I parents of kids, plural.  You taught us that our hearts don’t just make room for more love, but they actually GROW with love.

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As a baby, you were our quiet, serious observant boy. You especially watched Eddie’s crazy shenanigans closely and skeptically.  Eventually, he would be the first to make you do the belly laugh you are now famous for.  You gave Eddie the brother he didn’t know he needed and you even out his bossy, follow-the-rules, cautious personality with a dose of risk, stubbornness, and goof.

You taught us that all babies, toddlers, kids are different–that just because you have had one, does not mean you know what you’re doing with all kids. For instance, Eddie didn’t say strings of words until he was almost three, but you have been talking for a good year now. There have been times when I had to remind myself you were only two because you would say such complete sentences.

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While Alice and I were in the hospital this past weekend, you crawled up on my bed and proceeded to hold up cards and papers you found and tell me about traffic lights and how red means stop and then green is go. Not everything made a ton of sense, but you just lectured on it for about ten minutes–telling me I was in my class. You are so very animated with your big blue eyes and your hand gestures and your facial expressions. YOU know what you’re talking about, and that is what matters.

All of your emotions are big, Charlie. I remember that about Eddie being three, but you’ve had the Big Feelings for a long time now. When you are mad, LOOK OUT. Your immediate reaction is to pick something up and throw it or knock it over. You want to spit and hit and scream NOOOOO!!!! It’s very exhausting.

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But your joy and love are big too, and I’m always trying to remember during your times of anger bombs, that you are also a very happy boy. You are quick to say “thank you!” and “I love you!” without being prompted. You like to sit CLOSE to me or daddy (mostly daddy). You even like to snuggle up to Eddie, who doesn’t always tolerate your cuddles like Dad Dad and I do.

Touch is definitely your love language. Whether you are smooshing your sleepy body next to daddy on the couch before bed, or flopping yourself on Eddie to wrestle, you love to touch and be touched. It’s how you show that you like someone.

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You are no longer the baby in the family, Charlie. But you don’t seem to care as much as I thought you would. You love your sister and want to share with her and kiss her and hug her. You love to hold her. The look on your face when you hold Alice is a new one to me. I’ve not seen that pride in your face before.

You surprise us and make us laugh every single day. Yes, you are probably also the child who is turning my hair gray so rapidly, but you also make me laugh the hardest.  From the time you put your hand on your hip and said, “I not argue with you, Mom Mom,” to just earlier this week when you were dancing around, planted your booty on Eddie and said, “here’s my butt, my big butt,” and then laughed your head off, you keep us guessing what you’ll do and say next.

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Three years ago, you came into this world and helped me heal from a lot of bad stuff I had gone through after Eddie was born. You taught me that having a baby didn’t have to suck. You softly slept on my chest assuring me it didn’t have to be so hard.

You continue to heal me, son. You are important to this family. You make daddy laugh until he cries, you challenge Eddie and give him a built-in buddy, you give your little sister love, and you are the patches and stitches that healed my broken heart.

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I am so proud to be your mom.

I know Three can be a tough age, but it is also a magical age. You will do a lot of growing up this year, Bird. With that will come growing pains for both of us. You will go from toddler to kid this year. You will probably (hopefully) potty train and give up your pacifier. The last of “baby” will fade away.

I will cry. You will fight it. But we will make it.

There will be loads of joy and celebration in it too, my son.

Here is to Three. Let the magic begin.

Love,

Mom Mom

On Turning Five

Dear Eddie,

Today you are five.

Daddy jokes that you are now a handful as he holds up all the fingers on one hand. You roll your eyes at him and say, “Daaad,” and then give me the look as if to say, “is he serious?” And I laugh because we ALL know you were a handful long before turning five.

You are such a kid now.

Tonight you went to bed in your new spiderman jammies looking less and less like a chubby baby boy and more and more like a lanky kid. Your last bedtime as a four-year-old.

It was bittersweet to hug you and muss up your hair on your way to bed.

I can’t help but think about five years ago–the night before your birth–I was in labor, but I thought it was cramps.  Your dad made me eat a turkey sandwich sometime around 8pm (when you were heading for bed tonight).  That was the last thing I would eat until your were born the next day at 4:51pm.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

I have been looking through photos of you all weekend. You have changed and grown so much in five years, and yet…in every picture, you are still the same boy. I can see your heart and soul.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your second birthday...I can't believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture!  You still lean on the table like this.

your second birthday…I can’t believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture! You still lean on the table like this.

your third birthday. This is you all the way, just smaller.

your third birthday.your signature smile. I love how happy you are.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

And now you are five. We had your birthday party this weekend and for the first time invited all your neighbor friends because you have neighbor friends now!  Not just friends that happen because Daddy and I are friends with their parents, but friends you found and love to play with.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

Sometimes our journey is difficult. There is frustration and yelling and crying.  I hope that is not what you focus on when you reflect on your childhood someday.

I hope you remember the family and friends who love you and surround you on your birthday.

I hope you remember our tradition of going to Red Robin Yum for your birthday.

I hope you remember the birthday cakes that I made from scratch at your request–last year lemon, this year white with strawberry frosting.

I hope you remember how excited I am for each of your birthdays, not because of gifts and cake and balloons (although those are fun), but because it’s a celebration of YOU. Of Edward Steven Sluiter.

Of the day I became a mom, your dad became a dad, and of the day you made us a family.  Your birthday is huge.

It is a celebration of you and of us.

And now you are FIVE.

You can read some words, you like chapter books read to you at bedtime, you think super heroes and curious George are equally cool, and you can ride your bike without training wheels.

You are going to start Kindergarten this year and learn to read and spell and do math.

You are going to start soccer and make new friends.

Five is a big deal, Eddie Bear.

You are a big deal.

I love you so so much.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

Love forever,

Mommy

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