Tag Archives: celebrate

Thirteen

m-and-j-13th-anniversary

For the third year in a row, Matt is on a business trip during the first week of December.  I know this because this is the third year in a row that he’s been gone on our anniversary.  Honestly, it’s not like we’d be doing anything exciting on a Tuesday night in early December, so it’s not really a big deal.  But eventually it would be nice to see him in person on this day just so I can tell him to his face how glad I am to be married to him.

This is our 13th anniversary.  And I’m really, really happy to report that he’s still the person I most want to hang out with, whose opinion I seek first on every subject and whose thoughts matter most to me, whose presence makes me happiest and absence is felt the sharpest.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: my early 20’s weren’t my best decision-making years, but I definitely, absolutely got this one right.  Marrying Matt was my best decision ever.

I will not lie, though, marriage is not an easy state of being.  It’s a constant — and I mean never-ending — process of compromising and prioritizing and listening and appreciating and adapting.  I am not the same person I was 13 years ago; I have grown up and changed and evolved as my life has moved through different phases.  And Matt has changed as well.  It’s not hard to see how we could have changed in ways that made us less likely to agree and less inclined to want the same things.  But I think we’ve worked hard, often without even knowing we were doing it, to make sure we kept our priorities in line with one another.  I think we’ve kept an important focus: that what makes the other person happy is good and important and vital.  As long as we’re both always working to make the other happy, we will each be happy, too — because someone else is always working to make that so.

So today, even though he’s thousands of miles away, I’m celebrating 13 years of the best decision I ever made and looking forward to spending the rest of my life working hard to make Matt happy, just the way he makes me happy, every single day.


Also, our first 10th anniversary, and our second 10th anniversary.


 

Matt’s Birthday

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We’ve got a steady string of birthdays in our house this time of year and sometimes I feel like Matt’s gets lost in the shuffle of the kids’ birthdays surrounding his.  Friday was his birthday, though, and I want to make sure I don’t completely ignore it when he most certainly deserves some attention and celebration!

I got lucky when I married him.  We balance each other out and he’s still, always and forever, the person I want to spend all my time with.  He’s the reason we’re able to go on adventures, both big and small.  He’s the reason my kids are good athletes and fierce competitors.  He sets the bar high, and honestly, he looks good doing it.

matt-in-florence

“Reliable” isn’t exactly the most romantic of adjectives, but it should be.  Reliability is hot.  When Matt says he will do something, I know he will.  I know I can count on him.  Other people know they can count on him.  He doesn’t ever, ever let me down.  That’s more important than most other personality traits, and it makes me love him more every day, even if it does sound boring.

matt-and-jess-st-james-park

We had a quiet day celebrating him on Friday, and a fun weekend full of friends, sports, and football on Sunday.  Basically all Matt’s favorite things.

So even though I am a few days late, happy birthday to my favorite person.  XOXO


Also, last year was the big one!


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The Ocho

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If I said I can’t believe you’re already eight years old, I’d be lying.  The truth is, I can hardly believe you’re only eight.  Somehow, my blonde-haired boy, your eight years have seemed to stretch out and bend the space-time continuum so that I cannot imagine what our lives were like before you and I cannot imagine a life without your quiet presence in it.

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You are the silent type.  Except when you’re not, and then you’re the opposite-of-silent-type and you never stop talking.  I generally know when you start chitter-chattering that you’re tired and heading into what we call Owen’s “Shark Mode”, wherein you don’t stop moving or talking for even a second because if you do, you’ll fall asleep.  Shark Mode is always interesting, and generally exhausting.

Your snaggle-toothed grin has changed a lot in the last year.  Looking at the pictures of you from last summer, I’m astounded at how much you’ve grown up.  I believe that all our new experiences have played a big part in that; you’re a man of the world now.  You travel.  You know lots of new things and new places. 

Owen in Florence

You’ve made new friends and picked up a new accent which you don’t even realize you’re using when I pick you up from school, and which you immediately switch off if anyone draws attention to it.  You became the first person in our little family to wear glasses, when, after announcing to the doctor in your physical that your left eye “doesn’t really work” (a fact of which I was blissfully unaware), you proved that to be true in two eye exams.  You picked out some sweet Clark Kent-esque black frames and you’re looking pretty cool in them.  Knock on wood, you’ve had the glasses three weeks and haven’t lost them yet.  You’ve grown up a lot.

Owen is Eight

When we moved, you were the child for whom I harbored the greatest concerns.  You don’t tend to talk in a crowd and you’re shy and reserved, especially around adults you don’t know well.  You’ve always generally relied on your older brother to be the grease in your social situations, allowing you to slide along in his wake and make friends by default.  But moving here, your teachers wouldn’t know you by association as all your previous teachers had.  The kids wouldn’t know that eventually you’d talk, and I hoped so hard that you would be okay making friends on your own without your gregarious older brother to assist you at all times.  Man, did you prove me wrong.  You HAVE made your mark, and you’ve done it on your own.  I am so, so proud of you because I know it’s not always the easiest thing for you.  You did it, though, and did it well. 

Owen in Capri

At the beginning of the school year, you, who has generally always been somewhat bored and uninterested in school, were faced with challenges wholly unfamiliar and new.  Your teachers here required far, far greater attention to detail than ever before.  Your handwriting was inspected and found wanting and you were instructed to practice and improve it.  I think you were a bit shocked, to be honest.  Not because what you were doing wasn’t quite good enough, but because you were expected to make it better.  As you always do when challenged to improve something, you (somewhat obsessively) practiced writing your letters.  Your handwriting is quite lovely now.  I will remain forever grateful to your teachers for establishing a high standard and then making you actually reach for it.

matt and kids in st peters sq

Along the same vein, your father and I were also told in our first parent-teacher conference that although you were obviously quite capable of achieving high marks in school, you were really not putting your best effort out: you rushed through assignments, didn’t always read the directions fully, and often did the bare minimum required.  This would not do, your teachers said.  You’d have to pay more attention to details, take your time, and hand in your best work on each assignment.  Although neither your Dad nor I were surprised, I will admit that I felt a bit at a loss.  Getting you to do something well when you’re not super-interested in it has always been a battle. 

B O Q at Eiffel

But, somehow, maybe the new environment in the school or a developmental maturity that you finally reached or the pressure put on you by your siblings attaining high marks, about 2/3 of the way through the school year, something clicked in you.  Suddenly you were spending time making sure your assignments were neat and detailed.  You colored in pictures with an attention to detail I’d never seen you use.  You completed “extension” assignments without being reminded and did them well.  You were engaged and interested in school work and it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone and angels sang, so great was my relief and excitement.  Your teachers remarked on it, your dad and I noticed it, and your report card certainly reflected it.  Whatever happened, you seem to have turned a corner and I am so proud of how hard you worked.  Please, please keep it up!

3 Kim boys

You have thrived in this new school environment in non-academic ways too; in fact, the set-up of the school seems designed with kids like you specifically in mind.  There’s so much activity built into your weeks and you have full classes devoted solely to sports!  You swim every other week during school AND you have P.E. class AND you have random sporting events like cross-country races and soccer matches popping up in every term!  There’s no time to get bored and you rarely have to sit for more than an hour at a time, ever.  

O cross country

As you always have, you did apply yourself fully to being the best athlete you can be.  You made the A-team in soccer, were the only kid in your year to make the cross-country team (actually beating your older brother in the tryouts to his absolute dismay) and you also made the A-teams in hockey and cricket, too.  You absolutely ROCKED it on school Sports Day, coming in second in the 50-meter race, 4th in the 100-meter race, first in the 800-meter race (by quite a distance, actually), and first in the cricket ball throw, breaking a ten-year old school record by 2 full meters — a considerable margin.  Your obvious joy when you compete in athletics is just uplifting.  No matter what the sport is, I love watching you play.

cricket O and G

The discovery of your love for running has been an interesting development.  You literally LOVE running.  You will run short or long distances.  You run fast, the whole time.  Sometimes, as you’re running, you throw in a few skipping steps, but you never seem to tire.  You ask me to please go for a run with you, and so I do it, but you are definitely the rabbit and I spend the whole time telling you to keep going as long as you can still see me in your rear view.  It’s a great thing for you, my child who is always full to the very brim with energy.  And we’d never really have realized how much you enjoy it were it not for the cross country and track programs at your new school.  I hope you always keep running; you look, as you go, like you’re at peace with the world.

owen running

You, my friend, continue to challenge me as a mother.  You can be the most loving and attentive child or the most stubborn and taciturn child, depending on the day.  You keep me on my toes, always.  But as you’ve gotten older and more mature, the lovey days outnumber the grumpy days. It’s a nice thing.  I want you to know, though, that I am grateful for the challenging days too, because they make me work to get better at this parenting gig.  And they definitely make me appreciate the lovey days even more.

mom and O

And so, as we go into this year — the Ocho — I only hope you continue on the path you’re on.  May the year of being eight be as amazing as you are.  I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  Happy birthday to you, my little blonde baby.  


Also, here’s my note to seven year old Owen and six year old Owen.


The Baby is Six

Quinn_chocolate mustache

It is beyond my comprehension that you are six years old already. I will probably marvel at this year after year on your birthday — “I can’t believe the baby is 40!” — but so be it.  You are the baby now and the baby you shall forever remain, regardless of your age.

Six year olds, though, they are big.  They tie their own shoes and read their own books and make their own beds.  They don’t need their food cut up or their car seat buckled.  They play baseball and soccer and swim and they don’t need help with any of those things because they can do them on their own.  And that’s you.  You are big.

Quinn on the Cam

Not SO big, though, that you don’t hold my hand anytime we walk together.  Or snuggle up on my lap for a hug.  Thank goodness for that, because I know for certain I won’t like the day you stop doing those things.

This past year has wrought some amazing changes in you, my youngest boy.  We moved across an ocean and you began your school career in a new place surrounded not by people who knew you since before you were born, but by strangers with accents you did not always understand.  Because school in England begins at age four, you were also a full year behind your classmates in terms of being in a class all day.  In addition to all that, we learned that the way they teach the youngest grades here is very different from the way they do things back home.  Kids here learn their lowercase letters first, which you could identify but had not yet really written.  And they also teach the alphabet phonetically, so instead of learning “A, B, C” the children here knew the letters by their sounds: “ah, buh, sss”.  So very confusing. 

Q first day of school

But you, my bright and shining boy, were not daunted.  Not even a little bit.  You threw yourself into school with the same joyful abandon and wholeheartedness with which you do everything in life.  Your teacher was an amazing help and we worked hard at home every single night to catch you up with the other children.  You never expressed frustration or complained about the extra assignments.  We had you work with a remedial specialist, whom you instantly loved, of course.  Because you love everyone. 

And you thrived. 

You conquered every obstacle in your path, you caught up with your peers by the end of the first term, and you surpassed every hope and expectation I had.  I should never have had a moment’s doubt, but sometimes I still can’t help thinking of you as a baby who needs my help.  You killed it though.  And you continue to rock school every single day.  Well done, my boy.

It was so hard dropping you off that first day of school and walking away.  You did not cry, did not hesitate; you were so excited to FINALLY be going to school.  I managed to keep a brave face, I got in three or four or ten hugs before I left, and then I walked around the corner from your classroom and sobbed buckets.  You had been my daily companion for more than five years, and now you are off, for seven hours a day, forever, and I am home alone without you.  I miss you, but such is motherhood.

Q and Mom at Dover

You have grown up so much through this experience that sometimes I look at you and my breath catches in my throat as I realize how mature you’ve become.  You go to school each day happily and with great expectation that you will have a wonderful day.  You read beautifully and love to do it — and I am always grateful to sit and listen.  It makes my heart so full of happiness that I think I cannot bear it.  You have made good friends and you know every person in your grade and most of the children in the grades above and below you as well.  Your friendliness knows no bounds and your willingness — no your eagerness — to talk to anyone and everyone is one of my favorite things about you.  You see no reason why you shouldn’t befriend anyone who crosses your path, and that is a lovely thing to watch.

quinnie smiles

You’ve not quite developed a full British accent, but you’ve got one with any word you didn’t know before we moved here.  It’s comical to listen as you chat along in your normal American accent, then throw in a random word here or there in a British accent without even noticing.  It’s even better than if you had switched over completely because it makes me realize what new things you’ve learned.

This year has been full of adventures, and you love them.  Although your older siblings sometimes get sick of me waxing poetic over how lucky we are to be living here, traveling, and experiencing all these new things, you never do. You don’t roll your eyes at me; instead you talk about how COOL it was to climb to the top of the castle tower and be able to see across the English Channel.  You are not bored by anything, and it’s so much fun.

You see the best in everything and everyone, and because of that, people want to be their best around you.  You can make your sister smile even when she’s grumpy, and that is an amazing power to have over an 11-year old girl. 

B and Q at Pret

You hold your own with your big brothers and have become one of the little threesome instead of the baby tagging along behind. 

the brothers three

You worship your father and the feeling is mutual; I love watching as you build Legos together or play baseball or “work out” at the gym together almost as much as Daddy loves doing those things with you.

Dadd and Q at Dover

 How much better all our lives are because of your smiling face.

toga party gun show

You are my happiest, sweetest, most joy-filled little baby and I am grateful for you every single day.  I cannot wait to celebrate you as you turn six, and I thank the stars every day that I get to be your mom.  I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  Happy Birthday, my baby.


Also, Quinn’s birthday letter from last year.


 

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