Thursday, February 18, 2016

Brianna is 6 years old!

Six years ago today, we welcomed our beloved daughter, Brianna, into this world. We had waited so long to hold a baby of our own in our arms, and she was the answer to years of longing, waiting, wishing, hoping, believing, and praying. Watching her grow into the out-going, friendly, funny, loving, and spunky little girl that she is has been one of the greatest privileges of our lives.

My girl has brought more joy to my life than I could have ever imagined. I can't believe she's already six years old!

*Side-note - I started writing in this space exactly two years before Brianna was born. That means that I've been documenting my life here for eight years now! When I began sharing through this blog, we were in the throws of infertility praying every single day for the family we now have. It's incredible to me to look back and remember where the Lord brought us from. His faithfulness never ceases to amaze me!*

Okay, back to Brianna :-). She has always been average-sized for her age, and is currently about 45 inches tall and weighs around 46 pounds. 

She wears a size 6 in pants and dresses, size 6/7 in tops, and a size 12 shoe. She is generally easy to fit and shop for as she's not picky about her clothing as long as it's girly. She loves wearing dresses and skirts (especially if they fan out nicely when she twirls in them). She still likes wearing bows, headbands, and clips in her hair, and I intend to keep putting them on her until she tells me that I can't! 

*Updated to add - At Brianna's 6 year well check with Dr. F, she weighed 45 pounds (51st percentile) and was 45 inches tall (45th percentile). She has always been our very average sized girl . . . although she's anything but average :-)*

As I said above, Brianna loves being girly . . . especially painting her nails, accessorizing with jewelry, fixing her hair (more on that below), and even playing with makeup. She has asked us multiple times if she can get her ears pierced, but we're holding off on that for at least a few more years. While she loves wearing jewelry, she's not good about leaving it on and not playing with it. We wouldn't want that to be an issue with earrings, so we're waiting until she's a little more mature before we take on ear piercing. She has several glittery nail polishes that she loves using to paint her nails!

One of our local nail salons will do a mini pedicure for a child for just $5. I've taken Brianna with me a couple times to have her toenails painted while I get a pedicure, and she thinks it's the best! She sits perfectly still (a BIG accomplishment for her) for the painting process and even waits patiently while her toenails dry. Funny tidbit - Brianna always calls her toenails her "feetnails". It makes me laugh!

Getting a pedicure (her glasses are an accessory and not for vision correction . . . she loves to wear them and looks so cute with them on!)

Not too long after the babies were born, Brianna asked me to paint her nails. I told her I would then ran out of time as the babies were being extra needy that evening. Chris hated to see her disappointed, so he volunteered to paint them for her. How sweet is this?!?

There is no doubt that Brianna is a Daddy's girl through and through.

We hear often that she looks like her Daddy, and I definitely think this is true. Her eyes are a beautiful green-blue color . . . just like her Daddy's often are (his change color and sometimes look much more blue than green).

The similarities between these two don't stop with just their looks. I often see so much of Chris in Brianna's behavior, as well! Her high-energy, no fear ways are certainly like her Daddy. Haha!

No one can make Brianna laugh like Daddy can. And, I think this goes both ways :-).

Brianna has always been Daddy's little girl, so there was an adjustment period when the babies came along. She was never mean or hurtful to them, but she would make sure we remembered that she was here too. Her love language is definitely physical touch, and it's always obvious when she's not getting enough snuggles.

Even though it was an adjustment, Brianna absolutely adores her baby sisters and has since before they were born. After I delivered the girls, Brianna came into my room almost immediately to meet them. I hadn't even been moved to a postpartum room yet! She was so disappointed when she learned that Brecklyn was in the NICU for a few hours, but she couldn't wait to get her hands on Brooke! Brianna just stared and stared at Brooke . . . she couldn't take her eyes off of her. And when she held her for the first time? It was love, for sure!

After bringing Brooke and Brecklyn home, Brianna asked constantly to hold them. I remember that she got a little cold when they were just a few weeks old and was devastated when she didn't get to hold them for a few days. 

Brooke, Brianna, Brecklyn

She loves helping us with them, and takes the job of being a big sister very seriously. Sometimes, we have to remind Brianna that we are the parents and she is the sister! Truly though, Brianna is a great big sister, and we are so proud of the loving, adoring, helpful, protective sister that she has become. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Brianna feeding Brecklyn

Snuggling Brooke

Reading to Brecklyn

Holding Brooke

Playing with Brecklyn

Feeding Brooke

Brianna loves to dress like the babies, so I match them when I can. It's difficult to find matching clothes in all their sizes, so they often just coordinate instead of match exactly. 

Brecklyn, Brianna, Brooke

Along with having two new baby sisters, starting school for the first time has been another major adjustment for Brianna this year. We chose not to send her to preschool, but to teach her at home instead. During the first half of the year, we spent time working on number and letter recognition, writing letters, letter sounds, patterns, shapes, simple math, and sight words. Of course, we spend a lot of time outside, at the zoo, at the park, etc, so there are many daily learning opportunities that can't be quantified. 

Practicing beginning letter sounds at home

Last March, Chris took Brianna to get enrolled in Kindergarten. I couldn't believe what a big girl she was about the whole thing. She was READY to start school and had very little apprehension about getting enrolled. She was just excited!

We attended Miss Shelly's all through the summer, but it became very obvious that Brianna had outgrown the class. Miss Shelly is wonderful and began providing special activities for Brianna and another little boy who was getting ready to start Kindergarten that were more on their level. 

Brianna is always eager to learn and explore new concepts/things.

Brianna has so enjoyed and treasured attending Miss Shelly's class each week. She began attending when she was 2 1/2 years old, and attended all the way until the week before she began Kindergarten!

I am SO thankful that we kept Brianna home for preschool. It was the perfect decision for our family, and I absolutely cherished that time with her, teaching her. I knew she was ready to start school - and we were all peaceful with our decision to send her - but that didn't mean it was easy for Momma!

My girl was so proud to be starting school!

On the first day of school, Brianna was nothing but pure enthusiasm and excitement! She walked in the building so confidently with her Daddy (I stayed in the van with the three younger kiddos), and then requested that he not walk her to class after the morning assembly. 

Brianna adores her teacher, Mrs. D, and has really thrived in Kindergarten. During our first parent/teacher conference, Mrs. D asked me where Brianna attended pre-K and was surprised when I told her that she didn't. Brianna adjusted to school so well socially and academically, and there were no big holes in her skills. Mrs. D did tell us that sometimes Brianna can be a little bossy and aggressive . . . not that she gets physical with other kids, just that she tries to run the show. I had to laugh a little when Mrs. D said that because that is certainly our girl! She knows what she wants and can be very forward about it.

One thing that we've worked really hard to instill in Brianna is that we want her to be kind and let her light shine for Jesus more than we want her to be popular, academically advanced, or the best at something. Of course, we want her to be successful in school, but it's most important to us that she let her light shine. I was so proud of her during the first week of school when she told me that she saw one of her classmates crying and "lost" in the hallway before school, so she ran to her, grabbed her hand, and led her to where they have their morning assembly. 

My friend, Amy, is a teacher in a nearby town. One day, she texted me to tell me she was coming to visit Brianna's school that day. Brianna's school is a model Great Expectations school, so they have lots of visitors. Amy made sure to stop and see Brianna in her classroom, and Brianna was THRILLED. Because of the logistics of having three littles with me, I've only been able to visit Brianna's classroom a few times. It made both of our hearts happy that Brianna had a special visitor at school that day!

One week in December, Brianna's class hosted the school's morning assembly (Rise and Shine). Brianna got to speak on the microphone in front of the entire school two days that week, welcoming everyone to Rise and Shine. On Friday of that week, Kindergarten performed a few little songs for Christmas, and the music teacher chose Brianna to introduce Kindergarten and one of the songs to the entire crowd. She was eager and excited to do it! Her outgoing personality is not something I easily relate to, but I love watching her shine.

One thing that has really surprised me about Kindergarten is that there is drama with cliques and "popularity" already. This is beyond frustrating to me because it is a taught behavior! There is one little girl in Brianna's class who has a "team" of girls that she talks to and plays with. One day, Brianna came home from school and said that she couldn't do what she wanted at recess because she had been invited to be on this girl's team, and if you're on the team then the girl tells you what you are permitted to do with your free time and during recess. Also, the girl dictates who sits by whom at lunch, and Brianna even told us that she takes food from other children if it's something that she wants. We had a loooooong talk with Brianna about how we treat people, how we don't let others dictate what we do or who we can talk to/play with, and how we should be nice and kind to everyone whether they are on the "team" or not. We never told Brianna that she shouldn't be on the "team" or that she couldn't be friends with this girl. However, a few days later, she came home and said she was no longer on the "team". When I asked her what happened, she said that the "team" split into two "teams" due to a fight between the head girl and her sidekick, and that she (Brianna) decided she would just rather play with everyone and not choose a "team". I was very proud of this decision. She still plays with the head girl some, but Brianna has chosen on her own to distance herself from the drama. I'm thankful for that!

One more thing about this "head" girl . . . Apparently, everyone wants to be friends with her even though she's not nice to everyone and she is bossy. I don't really understand it, but I also know how sometimes kids are just "popular". Anyway, during the Christmas program, I witnessed the popular girl reach over, grab Bri's arm, and tell Brianna to stop doing the hand motions to the songs they were singing. Brianna just looked at her, shook her head "no", and kept right on singing and doing the motions. So, popular girl did the same thing to the girl on the other side of her, and it made me sad that the other girl stopped singing and doing the motions :-(. We were videoing the little program, so we actually have it all on video. Everyone was so cute singing and doing the motions together, except for these two girls who were standing there like duds acting too cool for it all. It's SO sad to me, but I was super proud that Brianna wasn't influenced by popular girl!

It's taken a while for us to adjust to Brianna having homework three to four nights a week. The homework shouldn't take long, but often Brianna isn't very cooperative about it. By the time she gets home from school, she's just ready to run and play, and homework is about the last thing she wants to do. However, I think she is finally understanding that if she will just buckle down and do it, it doesn't take long and then she's free to play. She's also had a few "projects" that we've had to do. One project was for Thanksgiving, and she had to disguise a turkey so he wouldn't get eaten. Bri chose to disguise the turkey as the My Little Pony, Rainbow Dash. I helped her a bit with it, and it turned out pretty cute!

She also had to do a project for the 100th day of school. She chose to glue 100 jelly beans on a paper spelling out "100". She designed the project herself, but I helped her hot glue it all together. 

Our schedule has changed quite a bit with Brianna being in school. Chris doesn't get home from work until around 6:00pm most days, so we wouldn't put the kids down until about 8:30pm. However, Brianna gets up at 6:30am to get ready for school, so it's imperative that she goes to bed earlier. This really cuts into the time that she gets to spend with Daddy, which has been hard on both of them. For this reason, Chris is the one who gets up with Brianna in the mornings. He fixes her breakfast, packs her lunch, and helps her get ready. This is so helpful to me as I'm busy with the babies in the mornings, but it also allows them some good time together. He takes her to school on Mondays and Thursdays (which is soooooo nice for me!), and has also set aside the first Friday of the month as a day for them to go out to breakfast together. I'm so glad it's important to both of them that they spend quality time with one another!

Brianna's school has a program where they give away school "bucks" to students who are caught being helpful, obedient, going above and beyond, etc. All of the bucks go into a pool where they hold a drawing each week. The student's whose name is drawn receives a coupon for free food at a local restaurant. Brianna has earned bucks six or seven times, and a few weeks before Christmas her name was drawn. She was pumped! She received a free meal at Whataburger :-). 

When she started Kindergarten, Brianna knew about 35 sight words. I was very happy with this, but her reading and writing skills have skyrocketed since starting school. We practice her reading every day, and it's amazing how much improvement we've seen in a short period of time. Bri has always loved to read, and I think she loves it even more now that she's becoming an independent reader. 

I love looking through her backpack finding little treasures like this :-).

She enjoys spelling words for us to read. 

Brianna's class does something that they call Reading Folder. It's a folder of sight words and a little reader that they have the option of completing four nights a week. Each time the student reads the little book and practices the sight words, the parent signs off on a chart and the student receives a new book. After the student completes 25 books, they get a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Braum's. Brianna has now completed 75 books!

She couldn't wait to use her coupon for a free ice cream!

She's actually not a huge ice cream fan, but I think this one tasted better to her since she worked for it, ha!

Brianna's school also has a program that encourages running. It's called Run Club, and students earn stretchy bands for running laps during recess and after school. Kindergarteners can't technically be in Run Club, but they are permitted to earn bands for running laps during recess. Once a student earns 50 bands, they receive a foot charm to put on a necklace. Ten laps are the equivalent of one mile, so they receive a foot charm for every five miles they run. Brianna is a very high energy child, so one major concern we had about school was regarding her ability to sit calmly for as long as required. Brianna loves to run - and running really helps her channel some of that energy - so we've encouraged her to run every day during recess. We don't ask her to run the entire time, just that she runs some. Sometimes she just runs two laps, but other days she will run a full mile (10 laps!) She earned her first two feet fairly quickly. 

It took her a little longer to earn her third foot due to winter break, weather, and not going outside for recess, but she has earned it. She's about half way to earning her fourth foot! If she earns five feet before the end of the year (25 miles), she will be recognized during Rise and Shine and receive a medal. She has her sights set on that medal, so I imagine she will have it sooner rather than later.

We've had fun participating in spirit days at school. She's worn pajamas to school several times (although I have no photos of this). She's also participated in crazy hair day, 

bright future (wear bright colors) day,

and wear red day. I think she always looks adorable!

Brianna loves to pick out her own clothes for school, but her outfits aren't always "Mommy approved" to wear in public. As a way to deal with this issue, we had her pick out a decorative knob from Hobby Lobby at the beginning of the school year. Chris hung the knob on her wall next to her dresser, and every Sunday evening I pick out five outfits for the week and hang them on the knob. Each morning, Brianna chooses an outfit to wear to school from the five hanging on the knob. This has proven to be a win-win in our house as it gives her the freedom of choosing what she wants to wear, but it also ensures that all the outfits are "Mommy approved". 

An example of an outfit Brianna put together that is not "Mommy approved" to wear in public, haha!

This day, Brianna came out of her room in this outfit and said, "Look, I'm dressed like Mommy!" Bahaha . . . I do wear a lot of lounge pants and tanks around the house!

Our spunky girl can be very rough-and-tumble, and has always been hard on clothes! I thought she would outgrow this as she got older, but she hasn't so far. She goes full speed all the time and falls often. She also likes to run and slide on her knees, and we've been really working with her to stop doing this as it's SO hard on her pants. At the beginning of the school year, we bought her several new outfits, including new jeans and leggings. Bri will often gets holes in the knees of her leggings fairly quickly, but I'm never surprised as they aren't very durable. However, when she came home from school with a gaping hole in one of her new pairs of jeans, I was pretty irritated. She had only worn them a few times (like five or less)! I did put a patch on the inside of them to help us get a little more wear out of them, but she has since ripped a hole just above the patch. 

Brianna's hair has always been a challenge for me. It's a beautiful shade of blonde - with lots of natural highlights - and it's full and thick. The challenging thing, however, is that it's not straight but not really curly either. Because of this, it likes to stick up/out every which way. It kind of matches her personality :-). I do straighten it once in a while, but mostly we just pull part of it back so it stays out of her face and put a bow in it! Bri LOVES to fix her hair with lots of clips, pony tail holders, bows, etc. Lately, she will pull it into a pony tail by herself, and she actually does a really good job. Most days, I'll fix it for school but it will be taken down by the time she comes home as the little girls in her class like to all play with each other's hair. Brianna is eager to learn to braid, but just hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. We're going to keep working on it!

This year, Brianna has learned to wink, snap her fingers, whistle, and tie her shoes. She learned to whistle and snap within days of each other, and I thought she was going to drive me crazy with all the whistling and snapping going on :-). Thankfully, the newness of it wore off, and she doesn't whistle and snap constantly anymore. 

I've always said that Brianna is a child who works hard, plays hard, and sleeps hard. She still napped almost daily until she started school in August. She is so full of energy when she's awake that she still just needed that extra sleep. She is good to go to sleep quickly once she's tucked into bed (and she always insists that someone tucks her in!), and rarely wakes up during the night. She does like to sleep with a night light. On school nights, we try to have her in bed no later than 7:30pm, and she gets up to start her day at 6:30am.  

Crashed out . . . half hanging off the top bunk!

I found her like this one day after she was sent to my room for a time-out.

It seems like she often has a body part hanging off the bed!

Along with being a good sleeper, Brianna is a great eater! She eats a variety of foods, including lots of fruits and veggies. She hasn't been overly impressed with school food, but she is willing to try new things even at school. She takes her lunch about 2 days a week and eats the cafeteria food the rest of the time. She loves Mexican food, tomato soup, spaghetti, beans, salad, mashed potatoes, and ham. The child seriously LOVES ham! She can be a big eater, and we've noticed that she's especially hungry on days that she runs a lot at school. One day, she ate and ate and ate, then said, "Ugh. I think I overflowed myself!" Haha! It's so nice to have a child who is willing to try new foods and is flexible about her eating. We don't take it for granted, for sure!

Brianna's adventurous and easy-going spirit can be seen in many aspects of her life. She is always up for trying something different or new, and she's very easy to please. She is easily excited and always enthusiastic about things. Buying gifts for her is super simple because she gets genuinely excited about almost anything. Even when things don't really go her way, she's good about keeping a nice attitude, being flexible, and having fun anyway. 

Having a ball bowling with the family.

Trying her hand at hula-hooping.

She was fairly successful!

Who doesn't love a bit of pumpkin goop?!?

The noise that tortured her brother during swim lessons didn't bother Brianna a bit. 

Playing in the snow is always a favorite!

The running and jumping just never stop!

Playing in the rain and mud with Daddy and Brenson . . . she's hardcore :-)

The sprinkler is great fun on a hot day,

as is the water hose :-)!

She loves animals and always wants to pet them!

Back in September, Brianna participated in the Alzheimer's Walk with me in honor of my Pappy. We had a great time, and Brianna was so cute and good during the entire event.

Of course, she skipped, ran, and danced her way all through the walk :-).

Brianna's fun and spunky nature make her a pleasure to be around, but those same characteristics can also be a big challenge for all of us. She struggles with self-control and keeping her abundance of energy and excitement in check. She also struggles some with staying focused. I often say that I LOVE Brianna's zeal for life, but I pray daily that we can teach her how to channel it properly. I had to laugh when choosing photos for this post because several of them really capture that spunky side of our girl!

Recently, we've had several discussions with Brianna about boys. Yes, BOYS. At school, Bri sits next to a boy named Seth. He seems like a really sweet kid, and they've become pretty good little friends. One day while riding in the car, Brianna said, "Mom, there are lots of boys in my class, but I don't like any of them. Except Seth." I immediately got nervous and said, "You like Seth?" She said, "Yeah, I like him", so I said, "So, is he your boyfriend? Or just a friend?" She laughed and said, "Neither Mom! I'm just getting used to him!" Hahaha . . . I was SO relieved. About a month later, we were hanging out with some friends who have a little boy who is seven. He and Brianna were playing, and the next thing I knew I saw them walking around holding hands! I later asked Brianna why she was holding hands with him, and she said, "We're friends and that's what friends do." The answer was okay, but I still didn't like it! A few weeks after that, she told me that a girl in her class had a boyfriend. I asked Brianna if she wished she had a boyfriend too, and Bri said, "No Mom! If I had a boyfriend he'd try to kiss me and that's gross!" Whew :-). For today, I'm relieved that boys aren't really on her radar.

Brianna's best friend is her cousin, Chloe Jo. Bri really looks up to CJ and loves spending time with her. For the most part, they get along very well (although they do fight sometimes), and they are very close. It's so wonderful that they are growing up together!

Brianna is also very close to Brenson. These two are inseparable!

They really miss each other during the day when Bri is at school, and they play together constantly when she's home.

Bri is very protective of Brenson, and loves to tell him all about school and teach him the things that she is learning. 

They have extremely different personalities, but I think that brings them closer in many ways. They are one another's perfect compliment.

They certainly have their sibling squabbles, but they always make up quickly.

They even have a band they call "Old Lady Gumbo". I have no idea how they came up with that name, but I think it's pretty great! They play all different kinds of music, and this day is was soulful, bluesy tunes.

Brianna was playing some sort of stringed instrument and singing her heart out. I love how she does everything 100 percent!

I hope and pray that these two are always close and love each other fiercely!

As I've written about several times, we've experienced more sickness since Brianna started school than ever before, but Brianna has actually been sick the least out of all the kids. A few months ago, I started having her wash her hands and change her clothes immediately after getting home from school. We haven't been sick much since then, but I don't know if it's really working or just coincidence. Either way, we're going to keep it up! We do take Brianna to the chiropractor every month for an adjustment. This has really helped with her ear infections and growing pains.

She loves getting adjusted . . . always has!

Bri also gets her teeth cleaned every six months. She brushes her own teeth most of the time (we do help her some), and she's never had a cavity! She doesn't mind at all going to the dentist. 

Chloe Jo and many of Brianna's classmates have recently lost teeth, and Brianna is super anxious to join the club. The last time Bri had her teeth cleaned, the hygenist told us that one bottom tooth was just a bit loose. It's still barely loose, but now a permanent tooth is growing up behind it! Maybe she'll lose her first tooth soon?

One of our desires and prayers for Brianna is that she will have a servant's heart. Since she was a small toddler, we've taken her to help serve at our monthly food pantry at church and it's something that she enjoys doing. We encourage her to serve in other ways as well, including in our home. She generally has a great attitude about doing her chores and works with a happy heart. She often volunteers to help us with every day tasks, and is a huge help to me with the babies. I'm so thankful for her generous heart!

Loading the dishwasher

Making sandwiches for lunch

Doing yardwork

Wiping down the table after a meal

Setting the table before a meal

As I said above, Brianna is easy to please and just loves life. She enjoys so many different activities, but some of her favorites include




eating what she cooks :-),

playing dress up,

playing "house"

(and of course her baby gets buckled into a car seat), 

Lego Club,

playing outside,


bike riding, 


and playing in the playhouse!

Happy sixth birthday to our spunky little girl who is full of joy and life! We love you more than words can say, and thank God every day for making you part of our family!

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