Sunday, February 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Brianna!

Happy 8th birthday, Brianna!

We waited so long and prayed so hard for you, yet we never could have imagined how wonderful you would be. Your enthusiasm, spunk, and energy bring so much to our family. We thank God for the beloved gift that is YOU!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Happy Birthday to My Blog!

Ten years ago today, I embarked on an adventure having no idea how it would grow, where it would lead, or how much it would mean to me and my family. Ten years ago today, I created a google account so I could join Blogger. Ten years ago today, I launched my blog in this space. 

At first, I thought my blog would just be a fun space to post a few pictures, share a few stories, and connect with a few people. I remember the very first time I posted about my infertility (here), I was literally shaking as I hit the 'Publish' button. Did I really want to do this? Did I really want to be this real on the internet? Did I really want to share this journey with strangers, family, and friends? 

My heart would pound each time I received a new comment or published another raw post until - somehow - this became a space I turned to for the exact thing that made me so nervous in the beginning. I came to this space to pour out my emotions and my heart. I came to this space to build deep connections with others traveling the same road I traveled. I came to this space to encourage and maybe inspire those who had been forced on a journey they never wanted or thought they could survive. This space became a safe haven for me to share my joys, my hurts, my delights, my devastations, my gratitude, my grief, my blessings, and all the moments in between. It became a place to share my heart.

While my blog has certainly morphed as my life has changed (I primarily use it now as a place of record keeping for my family), I still come here to share some of my deepest thoughts and most intense experiences, as well. Thank you to all of you who have come along with me on this journey. Thank you for supporting me, loving me, and encouraging me through the years.

Happy tenth birthday to my blog! Of course you were born in February . . . it seems to be my best and most blessed month *grin*!

*If you would like to read the first ever post I published in this space, click here. A few years after I began writing in this space, I transferred a handful of blogs I had published on my MySpace account (who remembers MySpace???)  to Blogger. I went ahead and published them to Blogger on their original post date, but they were not actually part of this space until several years after I launched this site.*

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Happy Birthday, Brenson!

Happy 6th birthday, Brenson!

I've said it before, but you are the treasured boy I never knew I wanted or needed. Your little old soul brings the perfect mix of compassion, order, and joy to our family. We thank God for YOU!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Brecklyn is 3 Years Old!

Two days ago, my precious little Brecklyn turned three years old! She certainly keeps us on our toes, but she also brings an indescribable amount of joy to our lives. There are many unique qualities that make Brecklyn special, and I'm delighted to share all about her in this post!

From birth, Brecklyn has always been the smaller one of the twins. She still weighs less and is shorter than Brooke, and I think as they get older their size gap grows. Brecklyn currently wears size 3T in tops, pants, and dresses. Sometimes, we will put her in size 4T clothing, but it is almost always too long in the arms. She wears size 7 or 8 shoe.

The twins had their three year check up with our pediatrician a few days ago. Brecklyn weighed 31.4 pounds (58th percentile) and was 37 inches tall (43rd percentile). She's very comparable in size to Brianna at this age who was 28 pounds 9 ounces and 37 inches tall.

We began potty training both of the girls about a month before they turned two. They both did great with the initial training process, but we would typically only wear panties at home. The reason for this is that it was just such a hassle to have two newly potty trained toddlers out in public with panties on! It was much less stressful for me to have them wear pull-ups and have a little bit of an insurance policy while we were out and about. It wasn't until about June that I started letting them wear panties out of the house, and by September they were ready to nap in panties, as well. I think Brecklyn has only had one incident of not staying dry during nap time. They both still wear a pull-up at night, but Brecklyn wakes up dry about half of the time. It won't be long before we stop using pull-ups altogether! Brecklyn is also able to use the potty at home completely independently most of the time, which is so nice for me. I'm very proud of the progress the girls have made in this area!

Wearing clothes is actually not Brecklyn's favorite thing to do. In fact, some days it's a bit of a battle to keep clothes on her, so I just don't. You'll notice that she's pant-less in many of the photos in this post. She also hates wearing socks. One of the very first things she does when we get home from being out is strip off her shoes so she can take off her socks! She used to do this in the car, but I finally broke her of that. 

Although she rarely wears sock if she can help it, she does love wearing shoes! She's always enjoyed putting on my shoes or Brianna's shoes and clomping around the house. We have several pairs of dress-up shoes that she really likes, as well. Shoes are just one of her "things"!

They are both wearing Brianna's flip-flops!

Accessorizing with one slipper on her foot :-)

Reading with one of Brianna's boots on

Wearing her favorite pair of dress-up shoes

Showing off Brianna's shoes

Brecklyn has always been infatuated with shoes, but she also loves wearing glasses, hats, and headbands.

She received a pair of sunglasses in her Easter basket, so of course she had to put them on immediately!

This Wonder Woman headband is a favorite!

Brianna has a pair of play glasses that the little girls both love. Brecklyn looks so cute in them!

At our friend Sadie's birthday party, Brecklyn loved wearing the princess crown she decorated. It took some convincing to get her to let them paint her face, but she thought the results were fantastic once she did.

Recently, Brecklyn has started wearing dress-up dresses and tu-tus more often. I remember Brianna was always dressed up at this age, so I've been waiting for this phase to begin with the twins.

The perfect combo of a dress-up dress and the Wonder Woman headband!

She's also recently started wearing the play scrubs we have. So cute!

One question I get asked often when we're out in public is, "How do you tell them apart?" I realize that Brooke and Brecklyn have similar features in some ways, but to me they don't really look alike at all! Not only is Brecklyn smaller than Brooke, but their hair is very different, as well. Brecklyn's hair is thin and mostly straight. She does have a bit of curl at the very end of her hair, but it's a totally different texture than Brooke's hair (although the same color). 

Brooke, Brecklyn

Brecklyn likes to have her hair fixed and will even ask to wear a bow. However, she will pull a pony tail out of her hair if it has been in more than a few hours. She just really doesn't like to have her hair pulled up. Brianna loves to fix hair, and Brecklyn will sit still and let Brianna style her hair. Her hair has gotten really long and looks pretty in a braid. 

Brecklyn's hair styled by Brianna

Along with having her hair fixed, Brecklyn also loves to have her nails painted. She and Brooke will both ask for "paint nails" and will be very still and cooperative while I do them. All my girls love some girly pampering!

Brecklyn's eyes used to be a grayish color, but recently they have more hazel in them. She still has long, beautiful eyelashes. And make no mistake, the girl knows how to work her eyes to her advantage!

This photo really shows the unique color of her eyes.

She's a beautiful little girl, but not always the most natural in photos. She has a hilarious {but adorable} face she does for the camera that makes me laugh! I love the way she sometimes scrunches up her little nose.

There's lots more of "camera face" throughout this post!

We went through a big transition back in May when we moved Brooke and Brecklyn from a crib to a toddler bed. Brecklyn has always been a pretty decent sleeper (definitely better than her twin), so we were nervous about moving her to a toddler bed and disrupting her good sleeping habits. 

Still sleeping in her crib

However, it wasn't really an issue at all for her! As long as she has her things she wants for sleeping, she's good! Those things include her crocheted blanket (as seen in the above photo), her glow seahorse (we call her "Glowie"), and her stuffed raccoon, Roxie (as seen in the photos above and below).

Really though, the only thing she must have for sleeping is Glowie. Brecklyn is pretty much obsessed with her Glowie whether asleep or awake! Glowie makes an appearance in many of the photos in this post!

The twins typically go to bed around 7:30pm, and Brecklyn is generally awake between 6:00 and 6:30am. She falls asleep quickly with little fussing or playing around most nights. We do hear Glowie over the monitor playing several times a night as both girls use her to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake in the night. Some day - when we no longer use the monitor or when the girls no longer use Glowie - I'll have to have Glowie playing in my room during the night because I'm so used to hearing her all night long!

Brecklyn also naps every day for around two hours. During the school year, I put the girls down around 12:30pm because we leave the house around 2:30pm to go pick the big kids up from school. If Brecklyn is tired, she will ask to go to nap a bit earlier. This girl does not want to miss her sleep! If she falls asleep in the car, she will almost always transfer to her bed to finish her nap (which is GREAT for me!).

Out of all the kids, Brecklyn is probably the least talkative, but she also started talking a little later than everyone else. Because of this, she's sometimes difficult to understand and it's something we struggle with often. When I can't quite understand what she's trying to say, I will ask Brooke to interpret for me (because Brooke always understands!). This usually frustrates Brecklyn, but she gets over it quickly. She does speak in complete sentences and has a good vocabulary for her age, she's just not always easy to understand. 

Part of the issue with her verbal communication is that oftentimes Brecklyn is not very persistent. This is the exact opposite of Brooke. Brecklyn is reluctant to try too hard at things she perceives as hard or that she isn't able to do well right away. One thing we hear from her a lot is "I can't!" because she simply doesn't want to try. She likes for others to just do things for her and is content to let us. We are constantly encouraging her to try at things, and she surprises herself with what she's able to do! 

When we went ice skating in December, she quickly ran out of patience for that mess and was content to let Daddy push her around. 

However, Brecklyn loves to learn and is really doing well with the things I'm trying to teach her. She recognizes all her letters and knows part of her letter sounds. She can count to 20 (although she will miss a few numbers in the teens sometimes). She knows her colors, shapes, and how to spell her name. She's not too interested in writing her name yet, but we have started working on it. She loves to sing the days of the week and talk about what everyone's full name is. 

Her very favorite color is PINK. She LOVES pink and wants all the pink things!

She's also doing great with learning bible facts. She can say all the books of the Bible and can recite several scriptures. She is a good little student in bible class, and does well with answering questions. Once in a while, she'll be a little reluctant to go to class and even cry a little, but she quickly settles down. She mainly struggles if there is a new teacher or helper in the class.

Learning to pray in Bible class

She really loved VBS last summer, although she did cry every night about going to class. Things were different - different classroom, different teacher, different routine, different decor - and that just throws Brecklyn for a loop. Once she got to class, though, she did great!

Worship service can still be a struggle with Brecklyn sometimes, although other times she behaves beautifully. Sitting still isn't an easy thing for her, so it's been a process to help her learn to do it. It seems like we'll have a really hard service, then the very next service we'll have moments like this that just warm our hearts. 

This past summer, I was able to take Brooke and Brecklyn to the Mommy-and-me preschool class that Brianna and Brenson went to at this age. Miss Shelly is now a full-time teacher, so she only offers the class during the months of June and July. Brecklyn is my slow-to-warm child, but I was surprised at how well she did in the class. 

Books are one of her favorite things, so she really liked listening to the story.

Speaking of books, Brecklyn was so proud when she completed all the requirements for the summer reading program at our local library. Just look at that face!

We try to go to library story time every week, and it's an outing the girls always look forward to. Brecklyn loves the singing and dancing, and she can really bust a move! It's hilarious to watch her!

The girls also really enjoy going up to the school for Rise-and-Shine and various other activities. They are like mini celebrities with the 2nd grade girls, and Brecklyn just eats the attention up! 

All the girls want to hug, hold, and play with Brooke and Brecklyn, so they will often draw a little crowd.

They also enjoy visiting Brenson's classroom because there are toys they can play with. 

They make themselves right at home, haha! However, when it's time to go, Brecklyn is ready to go. She's not ready to stay just yet (unlike Brooke who will sometimes cry to stay at school).

Overall, Brecklyn is a healthy little girl, but we have definitely had a few bouts of sickness. If Brecklyn gets sick, she tends to have a bad cough that lingers for a long time. Last Spring, she got the flu (even after having had the flu shot) and had to have breathing treatments for her cough. 

We ended up with another big round of sickness last fall, and Brecklyn had to do breathing treatments then, as well. It's certainly nothing too severe, but I do worry about her since she's had pneumonia a few times and her cough seems to get so bad.

We take all of the children to a chiropractor once a month for adjustments. Brecklyn loves going to see Dr. Cory, and we feel like it really helps with her growing pains, bowel movements, and to prevent ear infections. I don't have any photos of Dr. Cory adjusting Brecklyn, but I do have this cute one of Brooke pretending to adjust her :-).

Sometimes, the little girls will play chiropractor at home (this photo is of Brooke "adjusting" Brecklyn). Notice Glowie is in on the fun, too!

As far as eating goes, Brecklyn can be challenging. She can be a hearty eater - and will often eat a variety of foods - but she just won't always do it. It really depends on her mood.

She gobbled up this spaghetti at a local sandwich shop one night. The next time we took her there, she wouldn't touch it.

Until they were about 2 1/2 years old, the girls sat in booster seats at the table.

Now, they just sit in a regular chair *tear*.

One thing about Brecklyn is that she LOVES sweets. She may have the biggest sweet tooth out of any of our kids, although Brenson probably gives her a run for her money. This works to our advantage because she will almost always eat her dinner if we motivate *ahem . . . bribe . . . ahem* her with a treat. 

She especially loves ice cream!

She was definitely a fan of the sno-cone, too!

Suckers are also a great bribery tool for Brecklyn.

Brecklyn not only enjoys eating tasty treats, but she loves helping make them, as well. Using the rolling pin to roll out cookie dough is her favorite!

Helping Daddy use the mixer

There she is with the rolling pin again, haha!

She was reluctant to let others have a turn with the rolling pin, so I gave her a toy one from the kids' play kitchen. She was happy with that!

Of course, when it comes to frosting cookies, she's more interested in eating the frosting than anything else. 

She likes to help cook in other ways by stirring things, sprinkling cheese on things, and fetching supplies for Momma. She also helps set the table sometimes.

Aside from helping in the kitchen, Brecklyn has other chores she does. She helps pick up the house by taking her toys to her room, putting books on the bookshelf, and putting her shoes away. 

She also likes to help Momma load and unload the dryer.

Sometimes she can't resist the urge to crawl in!

She helps clean the floor by using our hand vac, picks up toys outside, and even tries to use the broom.

Brecklyn and Brooke after helping Momma clean the garage.

She loves to dress herself and does a good job at matching her clothes. The photo below is an outfit she put together by herself!

She takes her clothes to the hamper and even makes her own bed. It's not always perfect, but I always appreciate the effort!

As you can see, Brecklyn can be a great helper. She's also a very sweet, loving, and cooperative little girl, but sometimes she can be overly dramatic about things, too. She is very sensitive and cries easily and often.

She will almost always cry if she's scolded, told no, or spoken to in a harsh tone. She'll cry if she doesn't want to do something, she'll cry if she does want to do something, she'll cry if she's overly tired, she'll cry if she's hungry, and sometimes she cries and we never figure out the reason why. As she gets older, she has outgrown this some, but we still have our days.

On this day, Brecklyn was crying and crying and crying. Finally, she just laid on the floor next to the couch and went to sleep.

She's so cute when she sleeps with her little booty popped up in the air.

At JT's graduation, we tried to let her sit with other family. She was pretty mad at us for this and repaid us by crying and fussing for a good 15 minutes.

We did finally get her to calm down, but she still wasn't happy with us!

Brecklyn has always been my drama girl. She can and does throw some serious tantrums. This is kind of new for us because Brianna and Brenson were never tantrum throwers. When Brecklyn gets into a major tantrum, it is almost impossible to diffuse the situation. We generally just make her lie in her bed until she calms down. 

If she happens to actually get hurt, the drama tends to go on and on! This summer she fell at the splash pad and scraped her leg all up. We ended up just leaving because I couldn't get her to calm down after she fell. She still talks about it sometimes!

Brecklyn loves band-aids, and a band-aid can sometimes make things all better. Just don't try to ever touch or remove the band-aid!

Are you going to put me in a pretend jail? Fine. I'll just scream and cry about it!

All of my kids love water, but it took Brecklyn a lot of getting used to it before she could actually enjoy swimming or the splash pad this summer.

She cried a ton when we first put her in the pool, and we almost just gave up on enjoying it with her. However, in typical Brecklyn fashion, she came around in her own time.

And it was the same story at the splash pad. The first several times we went, I'm pretty sure she sat out more than she played in the water. 

After a few trips, though, she finally relaxed enough to really have fun!

I've always described Brecklyn as someone who has intense emotions. She may be high drama, but she also loves fiercely. She's always been a Momma's girl, and although she isn't one who necessarily wants to be snuggled or overly touched, she does want to be near me much of the time.

If she's hurt, upset, or unsure about something, I am definitely the one she wants. Sometimes, I'm the only one that can make it better for her.

Brecklyn will often play at my feet while I'm doing chores, cooking, or crafting. She will often follow me around the house and keep tabs on my whereabouts. If I leave for a few hours, she's always excited to see me when I get back home!

More recently, though, she has really become a Daddy's girl, as well. 

I love watching her run to his arms when he gets home from work every day. She can't wait to greet him and give him big hugs!

Just hanging out with Daddy :-)

She loves to ride on Daddy's shoulders. It may be one of her favorite ways to travel!

Aside from Momma and Daddy, Brecklyn also adores her siblings.

Brecklyn and Brenson have always had a special bond. They are very much cut from the same cloth, so I think they just "get" each other. 

Brecklyn's "camera face" game is strong in some of these photos, haha!

Brianna has always adored and doted on her baby sisters, but it hasn't been until the last few months that Brecklyn has started to be more affectionate with Brianna. I think Brianna smothers her sometimes, so Brecklyn tends to shy away from her a bit. However, in the past few months, Brecklyn has started sneaking into Brianna's room when she wakes up in the morning (often before everyone else), and crawling in bed with Brianna to snuggle. This thrills Brianna!

I hope their sister bond will just continue to grow!

Of course, Brecklyn's bond with her twin is very strong. They are pretty much inseparable, but that's not to say that they always get along. Sometimes, they play together beautifully, and other times we hear lots of screaming and fighting. However, if we try to make them play separately, they cry for each other! Once in a while, we'll split them up (Chris taking one of them one place while I take the other somewhere else), and when they are reunited they are always overjoyed!

Brecklyn gets very concerned if Brooke is hurt, cries, or gets in trouble. If you ask her who her best friend is, she will say, "Brooke". They play together all day, every day and just love each other so much!

Another one of Brecklyn's very favorite people is her Grampy! She loves for Grampy to hold her, play with her, and tickle her. 

Grampy and Brecklyn taking in the sites from a train in Colorado

She also loves her G-Jo! 

Once in a while, she may be a little stand-offish with G-Jo when she first sees her, but she has really outgrown that a lot. I'm thankful that she's learning to be more affectionate with the safe and loving people in her life!

With most other people, Brecklyn is pretty reserved until she warms up. And sometimes, it takes her a good long time to decide she's comfortable with someone! We see the kids' school PE teacher out and about quite a bit. Every time we see her, Brianna, Brenson, and Brooke will run up and give her hugs (she's one of their favorites!). Brecklyn, however, would barely say hi or make eye contact for a long time. She was content to stay with Momma. After months of seeing Mrs. S, Brecklyn finally warmed up and gave her a quick hug one day. She will typically come around, it just takes her a while.

With her cousin, JT, Brecklyn was happy to read a book with him as long as she wasn't touching him.

It was the same with my Granny Tiger who we only see about two times a year. Brecklyn wanted to talk to her, but she didn't want to sit on her lap.

It takes her some time to warm up to Grandma when we see her, too. We've learned that if we just let Brecklyn be and give her the time she needs, she will almost always come around!

She loves her Meme, but it still may take her a little time to come around when she first sees her. She has gotten much better than she used to be, though!

When Brooke had to have stitches in her lip last spring, Brecklyn stayed the night with my sister at her house. We weren't sure how she would do since she is such a Momma's girl, but she found her courage and did great! She was a little restless part of the night, but I was just thankful she didn't cry the entire time!

Brecklyn had her very first haircut a few months ago. She was very unsure about it, so we let Brooke go first. Brecklyn watched Brooke closely, and although she was still apprehensive, she was brave and climbed up in the chair for her turn. Many times, if Brecklyn sees Brooke do something, she will eventually do it, too. 

Miss Stephanie and Brecklyn after her first hair cut!

While Brecklyn may not always be a people person, she LOVES animals! Going to the zoo is one of her very favorite outings, and I think she would crawl right in the displays with the animals if she could.

Brecklyn couldn't take her eyes off the animals for a picture.

The meerkats are one of her favorites. She couldn't resist giving this little meerkat statue a kiss!

I have to almost drag her away from each display!

She is absolutely fascinated by the bigger animals. The bigger the animal, the more Brecklyn is drawn in!

When we were in Colorado, she had the best time watching the chipmunks. She wanted to catch and hold one so badly!

While fishing in our neighborhood pond last fall, Brecklyn couldn't wait to see a fish up close. 

She had no problems touching it, either.

As you could probably guess, she was super excited about the animals at the pumpkin patch, too.

And not one bit afraid!

Brecklyn is very attached to her stuffed animals at home, too. She loves to hold them, sing to them, and rock them. She is very affectionate with her animals, and rarely does anything without them by her side. She would much rather play with her stuffed animals than with baby dolls.

One afternoon, I walked in the kitchen and found that Brecklyn had set Roxie on the table with a cup. She always makes sure her animals are fed and well cared for :-).

Brecklyn loves to rock and snuggle her little animals, but she can be found cradling and rocking just about anything. It's really cute how she'll pick up a bean bag, a little action figure, or even a tower of Duplo Legos and cradle it.

Most of the time, she will "shhhh" whatever she's cradling and rocking.

Other things Brecklyn enjoys during play time include:

Snap-N-Style Girls,

the Alphabet Train, 

Little People,



Duplo Legos,

cooking in the play kitchen,

and playing games like Uno Moo.

She also loves to pretend clean, play the xylophone, play with her Minnie Mouse dolls and My Little Ponies. 

All of my kids love to craft and do art projects, and Brecklyn is no exception. Some of her favorite things include:

gluing and stickers,

cutting (she LOVES to cut),



and play-doh!

Brecklyn is also a reader. She LOVES to sit with a book and just study it. If I haven't heard her in a while, I will almost always find her reading. 

She also loves to be read to, although she sometimes has trouble sitting still for too long.

We typically read four or five books every day before nap, and sometimes we'll squeeze in a few before bed, too.

Reading to pass time in the school pick-up line

She's looking at me like I was disrupting her by taking her pic :-)

We are a family that spends a lot of time outdoors when possible, and Brecklyn loves being outside. Family walks when she gets to ride her trike bring lots of smiles!

She also LOVES to swing. I think this girl could swing for hours!

What's better than swinging by yourself? Swinging with your twin sister!

Brooke prefers a "big kid" swing, but Brecklyn is content in the "baby" swing for now. 

And the tire swing at Meme and Papa's house is SO fun!

Riding in our power wheels truck is a new favorite outside activity. Brecklyn is content to let Brooke drive . . . we'll see how long that lasts!

And of course, playing in the playhouse is always a good time!

(even when Mom makes you stop to take a picture :-).

Happy 3rd birthday to our irreplaceable, loving, feisty little Brecklyn! We are incredibly thankful for the passion and joy you bring to our family, and we thank God every day for blessing us with YOU!