Question

The question asked.

“Are they all yours?”

We were in line waiting to use the restroom.

My smile and head nod, not enough of an answer for her.

“Were you trying for a boy?”

Thankful the stall door opened and my no” could end the conversation.

The truth is the story of our family cannot be shared in three second sound bites.

The girls know that. They don’t discuss details with curious strangers.

If asked they tell of their five sisters.

Yes there are six of them, no twins.

They often throw in a line about how the dog is a girl too.

It doesn’t matter they didn’t all come from one womb. They are woven together.

In those brief interactions with others, I struggle with the desire to summerize all that is our family.

Yet, these fierce, loyal, loving young ladies have come to understand what is taking their Momma year’s to accept -nothing needs explained.

Next time maybe I need not wish the inquiry away.

Joy in the knowledge that my daughters know what family is.

Sydney at 12

Dear Sydney,

I wish you were reading this on your birthday!

With the busyness of April and May, the days slipped away and almost a full month later you finally get to read my birthday mushiness. I’m sorry for the lateness kiddo. I promise I will do better next year.

You’re simply the best bonus daughter a step-momma could ask for.

Loving, kind, patient, hardworking, dedicated, funny and pretty darn smart.

Being a part of this loud, opinionated family can certainly challenge one’s patience yet your  approach is always level-headed.

The back and forth between homes with it’s changing rules and shifting boundries could be a struggle for anyone and you navigate it all with an unending reserve of grace.

Your ability to embrace my extended family has left me teary eyed. 

I am easily filled with hope for our tribe of eight when you are around.

Thank you Sydney Rae for allowing me to play a small role in your life.

I’m always here should you need a Starbucks run or a dance party in the kitchen.

Happiest of birthday’s my love!

H

 

PS-

This may just be the most perfect birthday song ever. I hope you get what I am saying with this pick.

 

 

 

 

Audrey at 12

Dear Audrey Hope,

You are bold. You are brave. You are incredibly beautiful.

You tell stories, weaving words together and turning the mundane into magic.

When people come into your presence, they most immediately feel loved.

And that smile! It simply lights up our lives.This birthday feels different, a bit of nostalgia mixed in with the moment. The threshold of the teenage years crossed, earning more of your independence with each passing day.I want to keep you close, to protect you from the ugly this world can throw. But, in doing so, it would also hold you back from the joy that comes after the ache.

I am so very proud of you.

I know you will make good decisions.

Never doubt how much you are loved and how uniquely and wonderfully made you are.

I believe in you.

Love,

Momma

P.S.- This years birthday song says it better than I ever could

 

 

 

 

Molly’s 10th

Dear Molly girl,

Boy, do I love you!

I love your spunk.

I love the sunshine you bring to every room you enter.

I love your thoughtfulness and the way you examine our faces for reactions.

I love your crazy bursts of energy and your appreciation for a good, salty snack.

Mostly though I love all of the million and one little things that make you the best Molly I’ve ever known.

You’ve had one pretty big year.

You’ve moved twice and you’ve added three sisters, the best dog ever and a stepmom to the mix. That’s a heck of a lot of change, but you have managed it with such sweetness!

Thank you Molly for letting me be a part of your year. I’m so excited to see what 10 has in store for you!

Never forget how awesome I think you are.

I love you to the moon and back.

Heather

P.S.- Here’s your first ever birthday song. It pretty much says it all.

 

 

Anniversary

It’s not a fairytale.

It’s dirty socks found on kitchen chairs, next to toilets and in the dog’s cage.

It’s six lunches needing packed.

It’s scooters left out behind parked cars and its cold showers.

It’s the sounds of little girl’s laughter creeping through closed doors well after bedtime.

It’s tears by the tub-full and grace upon grace.

It’s “I love you” spoken when least expected.

It’s the desire of a man and a woman to live out this vocation with sometimes painful honesty which means it’s acceptance that what was broken can’t be made whole again.

It’s the understanding that no amount of family meetings or vacations can bring back what six girls lost when their biological parents parted ways. But, it is the belief, that while not perfect, not a fairytale, it is a home.

 

 

 

 

 

8

Dear Ellery Jane,

It started here.

You as the exclamation point at the end of my sentence.

Full of sass from the start.

Never one to shy away from your feelings you brought me to my transparency.

How have these years gone so swiftly by?

I can hardly breathe thinking of the moments that have made up these days.

My how well you have lived my girl.

Continue to be bold dear child.

Hold fast to your compass, your God.

Let me push you when it is necessary.

The days ahead will include moments of you doing the same for me.

Blessing upon blessing.

I can’t possibly put into words the joy it is to be your Momma, so instead this year I will let the pictures speak the words I cannot.

I’m here sweet, beautiful, sensitive, soulful girl.

We will dance together in the morning and I will watch you twirl your way into a new year.

Happy eight.

It only gets better from here.

I love you to the moon and back,

Momma

P.S. It couldn’t have been anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Dear Sidney,

So it seems fourteen is upon us. I now must acknowledge that you are without a doubt a teenager.

Welcome to these next four years full of discovery.

Days that will fly bye in such a way that at some point, way off in the future, you’ll look back on this time and wish you hadn’t rushed it so.

Pause here my love.

Enjoy the air turning from summer to fall and the field hockey games that will puncture its night sky.

Sit in the rocking chairs on the porch laughing until you cry.

Allow your mom to take you out on dates.

Go a whole week with letting the suns glow be the only make up that touches your face.

Remember the way it feels to walk in the door after a long day of school and practice and drop that heavy backpack on the floor. That’s the weight of the world falling away my sweet girl.

At fourteen you carry yourself with more grace than women two times your age.

You are resilient.

You are tough.

You are dependable.

You are honest.

You are without a doubt the best thing that came of my first 26 years on this earth.

Thank you for allowing me to grow this year and for forgiving me time and time again.

It is such a privilege to be your Momma.

I love you Sidney Reagan.

Happiest of birthday’s.

Momma

PS- no sap only upbeat for this year’s song

 

 

Pause

It was one of those work days.

The kind that leaves you depleted physically and mentally.

The second to last turn made, less than five minutes before the end of one portion of the day and home to the next, but there I sat. The school bus and its flashing lights standing in the way of home.

Quickly calculating alternative routes and realizing none, I stewed.

This would set me back. Ten minutes now lost when I could be multitasking-prepping meals, answering work emails, trying hard to maintain eye contact with little girls sharing stories.

It was then that he appeared, the little boy, lunchbox in hand, backpack slung over the shoulders, bounding off the bus and up the drive.

He was home.

A few seconds later another stop, two little girls hopping off, running up the grassy slope.

The front door to the farmhouse opens. A little sister dances out. I didn’t need the car windows down to hear the squeals, the delight as playmates returned home.

Similar scenes repeated several more times.

Watching and waiting, my frustration whittling away to nothing.

I hadn’t realized the working women needed a pause, a moment to transition to Momma.

Someone else had and now the moments sitting behind the bus were preparing me for the moments yet to come.

Car in garage, ignition turned off, I was ready for home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday letter #1

Dear Sydney,

You are 11!

This year has been a joy. I’ve enjoyed every second, learning about who you are, what makes you tick.

The learning isn’t over. We get to spend the rest of our lives figuring each other out.

What I have discovered is that you are one hardworking, young woman.

Your dedication to schoolwork is incredible.

You have boundless energy. How do you manage to spend hours jumping on the trampoline after school and never get tired?

You’re motivated to try new things and you have a bit of wanderlust. I can’t wait to share that with you. There are places I want you to see and places I want us to discover as a family.

I love how you always offer to do Zoey’s hair in the morning,

the way you appreciate order,

how you put up with my stories,

and your newfound love of Kevin Henkes books.

But mostly I just love having this front row seat, watching you grow.

Thanks for hanging out with me this year, for putting up with me through all the transitions of the last 12 months and for making your daddy who he is today. No doubt Syd, you as the first-born played a special part in making him the man he is.

I love you so much.

I look forward to your new year.

Happiest of birthday’s beautiful girl.

Love,

Heather

P.S. of course you get your own birthday song. I promise I’m not going anywhere. Just hold on, this is home.

 

 

 

 

 

Brave

She’s made a choice.

Leaving behind the safety net of dear friends and familiar public school classmates, she has chosen to pursue a Catholic High School education.

She will know no one.

Last Saturday, I took her for placement testing.

The principal cheerfully greeted the soon to be incoming freshman.

I overheard his conversation with a mom. She was inquiring about the morning. Peppering him with questions about how long testing would take, where her son would be when it was over and when they would get results.

I prayed that God would help me hold it together long enough to not do the same.

Helicopter parenting born from a desire to exercise control; to calm my heavy heart filled with worries for my girl. If I just knew the rundown of everything then maybe the anxiety would subside.

Instead we walked into the cafeteria filled with boys and girls chatting at tables. Not a parent in sight.

She mouthed I love you and I walked away.

She glows when she talks about her new school and that day, after hours of testing, a smile firmly plastered on her face.

This bravery was born in her and I am so proud.

Catholic education is extremely important for me. Unlike most Catholic teenagers, I was not born in this faith, I was baptized and received my first holy communion in the Lutheran church. When I was around 11 I went to church with my best friend, who is Catholic, and I completely fell in love. The first ever homily I heard was about Christmas being a season, not just two days. We always take for granted the presents we get and the amazing food eaten, but we really need to remember that once our family goes home and we run out of leftovers we are still celebrating Jesus’s sacrifices for us. That homily has always stuck with me and it fired my love for God.

I went home that Sunday and asked my mom what she thought about being Catholic. At first she just brushed it off, her dad was a Lutheran minister so she had never thought about leaving the faith. After many weeks of pressing she finally gave in and took me to another service. My mother quickly realized that this was where we were supposed to be, signed us up for RCIA, and before we knew it we were officially Catholic. It will be two years in the church this Easter and this is probably the best decision my family has ever made. I have lifelong friends, my mom met my stepdad, and now we are an amazing family of 8.

     I should have been happy, but about November of this year I just was not fully satisfied with my education. My mom and I started looking around at different possibilities and went to the Bishop Watterson open house, where both of us immediately fell in love. Catholic education is amazing because I can fully follow the path God has set for me, and have people helping me along the way. I know that everyone at the school shares my religious beliefs, will answer my many questions about faith, and help me know how I can make a difference through being Catholic. I will be prepared for the real world, where I am asked to defend my faith, and have the ability to evangelize the words of Jesus Christ to those around me. It makes me excited to think about praying with my team before a game, volunteering side-by-side with my peers, and having fun with my classmates on retreats. I believe a Catholic education is where God is calling me and I can not wait to see what doors open up through this amazing opportunity.