Holiday Gift Guide: Kids

Kids:

Every year prior to this year we have gone with toys such as “Fisher Price, V-tech” and so forth. But after having a house full of the “popular” toys, and realizing our kids make toys out of items around the house still, we realized a lot of these toys are just a waste of money and space in the house. This year we are thinking about doing mostly DIY gifts that the kids will actually play with.

Ideas we are throwing around are the following: Santa (Drew) might be making the kids a stage in the playroom. From a very young age both kids have stood on books, stools, anything they could imagine being a stage and they dance or sing on it so we figured this would be such an exciting and a mutual gift both kids could truly enjoy. We would add 2 microphones and curtains to excite their imaginations.

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Every Christmas Eve we get the kids a movie to open (that we watch on Christmas Day), and each a blanket (I’m obsessed with blankets so I’m passing down the obsession to the kids). This year Rowen asked for a mermaid tail blanket. Rylan will most likely be getting a Minion blanket.

Our kids are obsessed with playing outside AND playing in dirt and mud. So we found a small spot in our backyard that we could put a small sand box with sand toys as another idea for a mutual gift.

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The kids love building things so we are looking into Duplo Legos. We have the Mega Blocks First Builders but I feel that nothing compares to the original Duplo Legos my mom has had since we were little.

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Rowen (she is 3 and a half) has been asking for a Moana dress-up outfit so that is another gift idea we are thinking about. We also have gone through Pinterest with her asking her what she would want to do to her room for her to sleep in it (we obviously know this probably won’t happen but it also gave us ideas on what she likes for her room). She fell in love with a Dress-Up clothes storage closet with a mirror. We are trying to decide on making one from scratch or redoing her bookcase to make it a Dress-Up storage closet and add a mirror to it. This is another idea we have for her.

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Those are some of the ideas we came up with for our children (ages 19 months and 3 and a half years old) but below I will post some ideas I found popular this year as well as gifts my kids have loved in the past!

Tent: Rowen got this one from Santa last year and we use it daily.

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Thomas the Train and Train Track: Both kids LOVE this.

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V-tech Camera: Both kids LOVE this.

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Fisher Price Castle: Rowen plays with this every day. The V-tech one had so many pieces  that come apart and we found that our car ramp we never use because the pieces come apart all the time.

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Outdoor Play House: This is perfect for under the patio. The kids love this.

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ITEM THE KIDS NEVER USE:

Fisher-Price Bright Beats Learning’ Lights Dance Mat- Santa got this last year for the kids and I don’t think they have ever actually used it.

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Target has a really good Gift Guide for Kids. Here it is linked:

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Last year, gift shopping was SO much more calm than years prior because I chose to Amazon Prime everything and online shop through Target. The week of and the weeks after Black Friday, Target did AMAZING sales on their toys. I got all the kids toys for 35% off. So keep your eyes open for deals! If you haven’t signed up for the Target Debit Card yet, get it. It saves you an extra 5% and around the holidays, it adds up. (I am not affiliated with Target what so ever…I’m just a Target mom, by the way).

All in all, I found that being creative in gift giving goes so much further than buying the most popular gifts that year. Every time I’ve bought the popular gifts, my kids tend to use it once and find a box to stand on and sing on. Crawl on the floor with your kids, see where their eyes go, where their attention goes, and then use your imagination. When they think Santa made them something, their eyes will light up no matter what, even if he brought them a playhouse made out of cardboard. If you’re good at building things, build them something. If you’re good at crafting something, craft them something. If you’re good at baking something, bake them something. If you’re good at spending money, go to the store, go to amazon, and buy them something ;). Keep Christmas simple, keep your kids grateful, and remind yourself that the holidays are about Jesus, family and love, not stress and money ❤

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Family Balance and a Wife Who Found a Mop

I’ve put cleaning on the back burner since I became a mom. Not 100% but enough for my husband to notice. Not because I was tired, not because I was lazy, but because if I’m cleaning, who is spending time with the kids? I know what you’re probably thinking, I also know there is probably an article somewhere about it, because lets face it, there is an article analyzing every decision you make as a parent- but yes, I spend my time mainly with my kids. I cannot tell you if it’s healthy, I cannot tell you if it is making them dependent, independent, sensitive, tough, I cannot tell you any of that, but to each their own, and spending my time with my kids rather than cleaning, works for us.

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Lets fast-forward to this past week. The week I blew up on my husband for not spending enough time with the kids. For not being home until 5pm (the exact time we get home), for cleaning, for cooking, for paying bills. No, I did not say out loud “I cannot believe you cook, I cannot believe you clean, I cannot believe you pay our bills”. But I said “when you are home, you aren’t always present.” So for the last 3 years (plus some months) lets pretend he spent the same time with the kids that I did. What would be wrong with that picture? The house would be filth, the food we ate would be something fast and unhealthy, and we wouldn’t own a home due to bills not being paid. It wouldn’t work. So what he saw was what I let go of when I became a mom, and he picked it up. I never asked him to do this, he just saw a need and he did it. That brings me to spending time with the kids-the place where the need is being met by me. A man (well the men I know), do what is needed-not out of emotions but rather out of the knowledge that it just must be done. That is where my husband and I differ- pretty much everything I do, I do with emotion. I don’t tell you “no” that I can’t do something without feeling nausea from guilt, I don’t spend time with my children because I read that it does something to their brain, I do it because my heart is all there and that is where I choose to spend my time. Yes, the balance probably sucks. It might be unhealthy, it might even be an obsession, but it works for us..most of the time.A59DFC42-9156-419A-95C0-13CB36778422

Once I realized exactly what I was picking a fight about, I decided I needed to come up with a solution. While I would have loved for the solution to be to pretend the house will clean itself, I knew that wasn’t possible. The solution might change on a daily basis, it might stay the same for a year, but what ever we do, we will do it because it fits the needs and structure of our family. Tonight I told my husband to go play with the kids while I vacuumed and mopped the floors. A night last week I might have said in annoyance “can you just go play with the kids?” But you can’t have your cake and eat it to and in this situation my cake was “time” and the eating was cleaning. My disappointment in my husbands time spent with our kids wasn’t fair. Because what I didn’t take into account was quality vs. quantity. Yes, I have more time with them, my quantity of moments far exceed that of a parent who works away from their child, but am I always mentally present with my children? Absolutely not. But when my husband comes into the playroom and sits on the floor with those kids, he IS present.637E5D53-D743-4A44-ADAC-9CF29B5FF3F2

Life is about balance. It’s about learning how to  juggle the duties of being a wife, parent, daughter, friend, sister, and an overall good person. It’s about making mistakes and then learning from them. It’s about spending your time the way you feel is right. It’s about taking each day as a gift and living it in a way that only YOU can live it. Without my husband doing every single thing he does, our life wouldn’t be the one we are living, and while it is far from perfect, it’s perfect for us. 7CF6A153-6719-4E72-9332-28B5E71DF964

Time is a sensitive aspect in lives. It either goes too fast or it goes too slow. It can put you at ease or put you on edge. Some people have too much time while others don’t have enough. But what is most important about time is how you spend it, who you spend it with, and what you spend it doing. The amount of time my husband has with our babies didn’t change, but   the quality of it did. Because I learned to balance a little more this week and a balanced life is a healthy life and in the end it wasn’t him who needed to balance his priorities, it was the 5 foot nothing Mom in the mirror who lost herself 3 and a half years ago and who needs to just find a mop.

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This World, it Scares Me

My children,

I’m scared. This world, it scares me. It terrifies me to let go of you for even a moment-to let you explore this world without exploring it on my hip. To let you learn from your mistakes, to learn from the worlds mistakes. To experience hurt, to experience chaos. You see, I tell you to be brave, I remind you that you could do anything you set your mind to. That the sky is the limit. I tell you to not be scared, to not fear the dark because there is nothing scary about the lightness or darkness of a room. But, my children, I tell you this not out of experience, but out of envy-because If you could be brave, if you could not fear the darkness of the world, you would be living in a way I crave to be.

Be better. Be better than me. I tell you not to let the words, the thoughts, the actions of others dictate who you are and what you do, yet I delete my status when I fear it wasn’t likable. I teach you to speak how you feel, to not be afraid to show your emotions, yet I sensor my feelings and my words in a way that can drive me insane. I tell you to be unique, to not worry about how your actions might look to the outside world, yet I will over explain every action that might seem different to those around me. I tell you these things not from a hypocrite stance, but rather the desire that you will be better.

My children, this world can be scary. This life can be dark, and dark CAN be scary. But you have a mighty God, a tribe, a village of supporters, a family of warriors who will bring light to your darkness, who will help you rise when you fall, and who will take the moments of devastation in this world and bring light to them in the end. Last night there was a horrific event in which innocent individuals lost their lives due to one mans desire to do so. Every ounce of me wants nothing but to keep you both locked up in the house along with the rest of the ones we love, but I have to remind myself to follow the lessons I instill in you. Speak the way you feel, you never know when it’s too late. Be yourself, the world needs inviduals like you. But most of all, be brave-braver than me.

Love,

Mommy

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Lessons From a 3 Year Old

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about” 

Before I became a mom I thought about all the lessons I would be teaching my child. I anticipated the moment I would be teaching her how to eat, how to walk, how to talk, how to love, and how to live. I looked forward to moments I got to witness her accomplish something for the first time; the joy on her face, the excitement in her eyes, the confidence in her heart…it is everything a parent prays for- watching their child grow. But little did I know, becoming a mom, I also became the student. In the journey of being a mother, I’ve learned more valuable lessons from my daughter than she has learned from me as a mother. Here are some lessons I feel others can learn from as well.

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How to forgive

My daughter has yet to hold a grudge. No matter how upset someone has made her, no matter how many times she has been scolded for simply just wanting attention, no matter how broken her heart might have been, she is always the first to forgive. There are times I kick myself for raising my voice too loud, times I’ve questioned whether I gave her enough attention in the day- but then I hear a little voice say “I love you mommy” or a voice say “I’m sorry Mommy for throwing a fit” and I realize how quickly she forgave my impatience and how it no longer mattered to her that I reacted in such a way. She doesn’t carry the past with her, she doesn’t bring negativity with her into the next day. She leaves every moment in that moment and starts every day off with a smile and pure happiness. This girl is teaching me to give everyone a little more grace, to forgive others as God forgave us, to approach every situation with a clean mind and an open heart.

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How to find joy

I feel as though the older we get, the harder we are to please. Children could be given a box and find hours of entertainment within it. Adults on the other hand want want want and are difficult to satisfy. Every single day my daughter finds joy in what we are doing. We could be home all day, we could be out and about running errands- but every single day she finds joy in our tasks. There have been several nights that I’m ready for the kids to go to bed and my husband and I to have adult time watching our shows or simply just having an uninterrupted conversation; I walk downstairs only to hear a cry from her for me to come snuggle her a while longer. Some nights I do just that, and then it ends up being too late to do anything other than going to sleep with her. But the other night I didn’t want to give in and go to bed for the night but I also wasn’t willing to let her cry herself to sleep so I said “just come down here and you can watch a show with Daddy and I”. You would have thought we told her she was going to Disneyland or getting a new puppy. Her little feet moved down those stairs faster than we’ve ever seen, and she excitedly said “are you seriously? are you seriously mommy? oh my gosh you are the best princess ever!!!” When she reached the end of the stairs she ran so fast I thought she was going to fall, she jumped in my lap and had the biggest grin, the brightest eyes, and the sweetest voice “WHAT ARE WE WATCHING?” That was joy. It was joy for something that was so small to us yet meant everything to her. It reminded me to try to find joy in everything I did, even if some days it was more difficult to do so.

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How to be intentional and genuine

It’s true when they say kids speak the truth. Luckily, this has not been at all negative yet with our child. Out of all of the topics, I feel this is the most important one to learn from. My child reminds me on a daily basis to find the positive in others and to point them out. She can meet someone for the very first time and tell them she loves their shoes. She stops people in the store to tell them she likes their necklace. And the best part about her compliments, is they are pure and genuine. She asks her daddy how work was every day, she asks people if they slept good, and she finds topics to talk to people about that they are interested in. She is intentional with everything she does and she has such a big heart. Just last week one of her friends went to a tea party that day and on the way home  from work, the car was quiet and she randomly goes “how was Gwens tea party?” She asked this because she genuinely cared how her day went. It’s not easy to find genuine people who are intentional with their actions, with their words, and with their thoughts. So to have a 3 year old remind me how important this is on a daily basis, is so refreshing. If people found the good in each person they came across, if people found even just ONE thing to say positive about another person this world could be so different.

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How to make light of a stressful situation

Have you ever began to get angry or stressed out about a situation and then you realize the composure your toddler has? Last night my one year old threw his poop diaper in the air with poop flying all over my daughters floor. Instead of grossing out or getting upset, my daughter burst into the best and longest belly laugh. This then made us all laugh when we realized how funny the situation actually was. But lets pretend it didn’t go this way. Lets pretend we responded in the way we wanted to respond. How does that change the moment? What it does is it brings negativity and frustration into a happy home. It takes a stressful moment and makes it a stressful day. This bring me to another moment that happened recently. My husband and I (with kids in tow), got Chipotle for dinner. When we were driving home the bag fell over and salsa and sour cream fell all over the car. With angry voices and words such as “who doesn’t put the lids on sour cream? People need to do their jobs!” Our (then 2 year old) chimed in “It’s okay, we can just clean it up when we get home!” At that moment, a 2 year old was 10 times more mature and wise than we were. Because she was right! All we had to do was clean it up when we got home. That’s what is so rare about some little ones; they take a situation that causes tension and they find the light in it. It’s amazing to me how following the emotions and outlook a child has on a situation ends up being so much lighter, so much sweeter than any sort of feeling we could have initially had on our own.

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How to love

Do you ever catch a child looking at you, looking at someone with so much love in their eyes? It’s as if they don’t know our flaws; it’s as if they see right by them and only see the decent in you. It’s as if the only thing that matters to them is the time you give them, the love you show them, and the warmth of your arms. They don’t care about the type of car you drive, the yoga pants you wore 3 days in a row, about the color you dye your hair. They just purely love. They love the way your snuggles feel, the way you wipe their tears away. They love the way you make them laugh with a silly face, the way you smile when they say something silly. They love the way you help them up when they fall, the way you watch them explore. They love the way you read a story, the way your voice gets silly during certain parts of the book. They love the way you smell after the shower, the way you smell before a shower. They love the way you kiss them good night, the way you calm them during a scary dream. They would stay in your presence every second of every day if you would just let them. They love. They love so deep, so strong, so fierce. They have no limits to what too much is, no limits to what too strong is. They don’t judge, they don’t discriminate, and they are accepting of all. You see, a 3 year old might not know it all, they might still be learning how to write their name, how to go potty by themselves, but what they do know, what they can teach the rest of the world is this- life is too short to choose who you’re going to love, how you’re going to love, when your’e going to love. They just love. They don’t care what you look like, they don’t care what you smell like, they don’t care about what they get in return for loving you. They just do it. With a heart that forgives, with genuine actions, intentional words, and a carefree spirit.

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When Anxiety Attacks a Momma

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 1:7

I’ve tried writing this post a countless amount of times. I’ve deleted this post a countless amount of times. Why would I delete such a post? Well because of anxiety. It’s an uncomfortable topic to talk about; I could honestly say I feel more comfortable talking about bodily functions rather than something that breaks your personality down to such a raw level. It’s a topic that is hard to explain, especially to those who don’t experience it. With that being said, here is my segment on what it’s like to have anxiety as a mother.

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“Aww baby, don’t worry, it’ll be ok”. Raise your hand if this is something that has ever come out of your momma mouth. Don’t worry. Such an easy thing to say, yet such a hard thing to do. Telling your child not to worry when you’re probably more worried than they are, is such a hard sentence to swallow. Not only is it hard to swallow, it’s hard to mother with. Worrying comes so natural to some yet is foreign to others. It can take an amazing moment and break it down to a puddle of nerves. It can take an exciting occasion and cause you to think about an outcome that is further fetched than a pig flying. Anxiety is not easy. Anxiety as a mother sometimes feels like a bodily attack on itself.

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Have you ever walked into Target with your kids and in your head you have an escape plan in case someone starts shooting? Do you stay away from large events in the fear that a bomb might be in the building? Have you ever sat in an auditorium during a Christmas Pageant and realize you haven’t watched anything other than where the spectators hands go? I have. I do. Do I do this every single time I leave the house? No. Do the people I’m with know I’m feeling this way or know I’m doing these things? No. Anxiety can be silent. It can be something so quiet that those you’re with and those around you have no idea you’re experiencing it. You might be quiet, you might be moody, but what others don’t realize is your mind is completely cluttered with more thoughts than a typical mind might contain. While your friend might be thinking about what she is going to cook for dinner for her family that night, you might be thinking about the following—ALL AT ONCE—

  • what that new freckle is on your daughters face
  • why your son won’t eat anything but bananas
  • if your husband is going to be mad that the house was left a disaster this morning
  • why your neighbor hasn’t texted you back in the last hour
  • why your dogs breath smells so bad
  • why your son woke up twice last night but not the night before
  • why your mom hasn’t responded to the picture you sent her 30 minutes ago
  • why your lipstick is cracking
  • what Charlie thinks of your last blog post
  • why Susan never liked your Instagram photo
  • whether this blog post was going to make you sound crazy

Does that sound crazy to you? Because it does to me. AND I JUST DESCRIBED MYSELF! You see, anxiety isn’t something you can just control. It has no on button, it has no off button. It doesn’t discriminate. Anxiety has no sense of time. It can come to you at 2am when you’re sound asleep, it can come to you at 9am when you’re in the middle of having a dance party with your children. It can make you appear as a hot mess, it can make you appear like you have it all together. It is complicated. 

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I’ve had anxiety pretty much my whole life. What started as separation anxiety later turned to generalized anxiety and has stuck around ever since. It was controlled for a few years, and it has been rocky for a couple of years. I will admit, being a parent has brought new struggles mentally and has kickstarted anxiety in a new way. Emotionally, I. have it together. My emotions haven’t played games on me-however, my mind has. As much as I would like to disagree with this next statement, I can’t fully do that. Anxiety has affected me as a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I am with my children every second of every day. I’m on the floor playing with them, snuggling them on the couch, chasing them around the house, and keeping them alive. Am I all there, all of the time? No. Would I be all there if I didn’t have anxiety? Probably. Because, I just checked my instagram 4 times in the last 10 minutes, I just wrote a paragraph in my mind on what I want to post next, I just remembered I haven’t taken a photo of one of the daycare kids to send to their parents but now they’re sleeping, I just remembered I haven’t eaten in the last 5 hours, I just remembered I was supposed to call my Great Aunt back. These thoughts have clouded my mind in this moment- in the same moment that I’m sitting on the floor next to my 1 year old, while my 3 year old is making up a song. Anxiety won. Anxiety robbed this moment that I had with my children.

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You see, anxiety as a parent is difficult. It not only affects me, it affects my kids. It can control my mind, it can control my plans. It can take a simple outing and make it a military mission. And while my children have probably never heard me discuss anxiety, I can only assume they can sense it. So my goal right now is this, write worries down. When I’m overthinking something, tell someone. When I’m worried about what someone might have thought about a situation, ask them about it. When I’m worried about a health issue with one of my children, take them into the doctor. Will I sound crazy to most people? Probably. But guess what? I’ll clear my mind. I’ll clear my mind in time to not only hear the first 4 out of 10 songs my daughter sings, but I’ll be focused on the 6 bonus tracks I missed prior to this. When my son learns a new word, I won’t miss it because I was replaying a conversation in my head. And when I go to pray for peace and guidance, I won’t be mentally visualizing my next days tasks but I’ll be fully focused on my conversation with God. Because lets face it, whether anxiety makes sense, it exists.. but God is TRUE, and he will take away your fears. 

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Dear My Second Born

Dear My Second Born,

You changed my life, my heart, and my soul. You took an experienced mother, broke me down to the brim, and then you did something incredible; you built me back up- with lots of tears, lots of smiles, lots of kisses, lots of snuggles, and with a whole new vision of life. You, my son, changed our family.

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I was experienced. Motherhood didn’t scare me; I was smack-dab in the middle of being a mother already. But you, YOU scared me. Would my love be the same for you as your older sister? How could I possibly give more of myself to someone? When will there be enough time to love the both of you the way I want to love the both of you? Will your sister think I love you more, will you think I love her more?

My fears were foolish. Because if I learned anything as a mother already, it was how easy it is to love, how easy it is to give your all to something else, something much bigger than yourself. My love for you was immediate, and having you to complete our family, made me content. But we didn’t know each other yet, and that made me sad. I didn’t have 100% of my time, nor did I have 100% of my heart to give you and only you.

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While our love was instant for the both of you, I had to work harder to get to know you. Not because you are hard to know, but because my heart was already taken, and my mind was already filled with memories and the knowledge of your sister. You were born shoeless, yet in a sense, already had large shoes to fill-this didn’t seem fair. There are experiences you missed out on, experiences you won’t understand until you become a parent someday and have your first child. You missed out on the emotions a new mother feels. You missed out on the excitement and the newness of becoming someones first child. I’m certain you didn’t know this, and if you did, I am sorry. But there are experiences your sister missed out on, experiences she won’t understand until she becomes a parent someday and has her second child.

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You didn’t make me a mom, you didn’t come into this world with the responsibility to teach me the ins and outs of parenting. You weren’t created to teach me how to take care of a child. You came second, so these tasks are filled by your sister. But you, my sweet little boy, taught me much more than that. You taught me how to compromise-compromise my time in the middle of the night when you and your sister both want mommy, compromise my emotions when both you and your sister need mommy’s full attention and heart. You taught me how to grow– grow my lap to fit the two of you at the same time, grow my wallet to fulfill the needs you both have, grow endurance to keep up both physically and mentally with the energy and speed you two have. You taught me how to slow down- slow down enough to see you exploring the backyard while testing out new textures, to slow down enough to cherish each stage long enough to soak it in so much that you don’t need pictures to remind you of that moment because it’s embedded in your mind and heart for eternity, to slow down long enough to see what happens the moment before you throw a tantrum, to see what happens the moment before you finally drift off to sleep, to slow down long enough to realize these moments don’t come back to take in again. You taught me how to love harder- to love your fits, your quirks, and the nights you need me. To love your ugly and your pretty at an even level; because time goes too fast, babies grow too fast, and you’re not only my second baby, your my last. 

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My son, you might not be the first child to be added to our family, you might not be the child who made us parents-but you were the child to complete us. Your soul shines brighter than the sun, your heart is larger than the ocean, and there is nobody in this world we would rather have as our second child.

With love,

Mommy