Nan is ONE!

Nan Louise,

One year ago today I woke up knowing you would be in my arms by the end of it. Our pregnancy together had been good, but at the end I was feeling it and oh-so-ready to just have you on the outside with us. A year and nine months ago, we were saying goodbye to your Great Nini Pat, and the proof of your existence as a faint pink line the day we buried her was like sweet, sweet rain on parched land and a reminder that "The Lord gives and takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." And a little over two years ago, Nanny Lou, I would have told anyone that I was done having babies. I am oh so very thankful God changed my heart, because you were always supposed to be a part of this family. 

Our labor was induced, which was a new experience for me, but it went just as quickly as my previous labors and within no time there you were, a warm ball on my chest and that freckle on your head endearing me to you forever. We were both a little battered and bruised after that delivery, but one thing never faltered-- my heart in its fierce love for you. Sure, there were times that were a lot more complicated and chaotic after you joined our crew. There were times in those early weeks when I cried hot tears out of sheer exhaustion and being overwhelmed. But somehow your sweet little body in my arms, from the beginning, reminded me of this amazing grace that has been extended to me. And while Blythe made me a mom, and Becks made me a different kind of mom, you showed up and I learned how to be a mom who clings to grace. You taught me, even early, how to let go and relax and how to lean into grace in my days saturated with three girls.

While life got more complicated when you arrived on the scene, somehow it also became so much more simple.

Let me just say this, Nan: You are a spitfire. And I mean that in the best way possible. From the moment you started "talking", you have let your presence be known. And when you started crawling? Forget it. You want to be in the middle-- and I mean the very middle-- of whatever your sisters are doing. If they are at the table drawing, you pull up to it and start grabbing and tossing markers as fast as you can. If they are building blocks you go and sit right smack dab in the middle of the floor between them... after promptly knocking down whatever tower was previously in that location. If they are playing the piano, you have to pull up and hit the keys too. In the sandbox? On the trampoline? You better be too. And if anyone is eating anywhere in your near vicinity you scream-talk until it is clearly made known that you need some food too.

You love music, and being outside, and watching your sisters, and taking walks, and bath time, and eating. You give adorable kisses, leaning over and just waiting until we notice you puckering up. You clap with your left hand always coming down on your right. You are pulling up to stand now in the middle of the room and then you just giggle and smile like you know you should start taking steps but you just don't want to yet. You've taken a couple of "zombie steps" but you aren't full on walking yet. You absolutely light up when Blythe comes in the room, and you do for Becks as well, but you must know you're going to have to stand your ground a little bit more with that one because you get a little more feisty with her.

Your most often repeated words are "Dada" and "Thank You" [tan tu]. It's adorable. Also adorable? Your four teeth. You are as bald as can be, but what hair is present is pretty decidedly strawberry in tint. I will be oh- so-sad when your little freckle is covered with hair, but will be excited when you get visible eyebrows! :) You are long and lean and will catch up to Becks in no time in the height department. You have a raspy little voice that is the best, and if your dad says your name even remotely in a reprimanding tone you burst into tears.

Nan, Nan Louise, Nanny Lou. I've enjoyed your first year of life more than I thought I would, if I'm being honest. Those infant months are hard for me. But you nursed like a champ, slept pretty great, and have just been so darn adorable I couldn't help but enjoy myself. We weaned around ten and a half months, which you hardly batted an eye over, and it's safe to say we're in the zone that I just love. I know the year ahead will be filled with firsts, and I know that in a year I will look back at these pictures and your little baby face will seem so small. So I am determined that we relish this year together.

Oh Nan, you are the sweet song that I really didn't think I was going to sing after we had Becks. But I can't imagine our days without your little melody in it. Your dad and I both say that we fell in love with and attached with you the quickest. You've just always been so easy to love. And like I wrote to you in your 5 month letter: Yes, our lives are busier. Loading the van to go somewhere is harder. Bedtime is much more complicated. Keeping track of all the fingernails and toenails that need to be clipped is nearly impossible. BUT. My heart has expanded in ways it couldn't have without you. God has sustained me and grown me in ways I couldn't have without you.

We began praying for you from the moment we started dreaming about the possibility of having a third. And when we found out you were going to be another little girl for us to love, I could not have been more excited [to be honest, I secretly hoped you were another girl], and we started praying four specific things over you: We prayed that you would be faithful in your relationship with God and others, and that you would always be attentive to the person in front of you-- that they would feel you have nothing more important on the agenda than being with them [this attentiveness trait was one of our favorite things about your namesake]. We also pray that you would be someone who walks in great humility, not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. And Nan, we pray you are generous with tangibles and intangibles in a way that points to the generosity of our Heavenly Father.

I wonder often what your little life will become. What will your passions be and who will your friends become. I wonder what hobbies will grab your attention and what books will keep you turning their pages. But more than anything I wonder when you will come to know the love of our Savior. This is my ultimate prayer over you: that you would know Him early and deeply and let Him guide your life all your days.

Just so you know, Nan, your dad and I will fail you over and over, time and time again. But we will ask for your forgiveness. We will keep returning to the foot of the cross and find new grace for the next moment. And we pray that when it is our turn to release you into this world, that you will know Jesus because we were walking with Him.

Nanny Lou, may you always be as sweet as you are right now. I will end this the same way I ended your sisters' first year letters, as the words are just as true and deep for you:

We love you so very, very much. When your days seem dark and troubled, when it seems like we are fighting you for no reason, may you always remember that we're in your corner. When we fight in a dressing room about what you can wear, may you remember that your modesty and your beauty are precious gifts we are trying to protect for you. When we set curfews that you don't like and say, "Nothing good happens after midnight," may you remember that we are trying our best to create a safe place for you. When you don't get a brand new car when you turn 16, and you don't get a cell phone as soon as you want, may you remember that we are trying to show you the importance of true value, and trying to teach you needs vs. wants. When you leave for college and the world seems bigger and scarier than you ever thought it could, remember that you're always our daughter, we will always love you, and we will leave the light on for you any time you want to crawl back into your bed at home. When you leave us for good, and go out into the world on your own, may you have learned the love of Jesus, and know He is always near you.

Happy first birthday, Nan Louise! There is nothing you can ever do that will make us stop loving you.

Nan's birth story HERE
Story behind her name HERE
The first letter I wrote Nan on the day I found out I was pregnant HERE

And just for fun: 

Blythe at one year
Becks at one year
side note: this skirt is one of a handful of items I bought in a store [as opposed to second hand or hand-me-downs from cousins]. It proved to be a very wise investment ;)



 To my dear, sweet Blythe Kathleen,

Today you are five years old and it is hitting me like a ton of bricks. A whole hand full of fingers. A half a decade of life. I remember when your cousin, Caroline, turned five. Your Aunt Kali told me that she cried that night and I thought to myself, "That's a little bit melodramatic, right? I mean, it's only five." But this birthday has got me a little weepy too. 

Here's the deal, Blythe. You were the best toddler and preschooler. We had so much fun with you every day. Sure, there were hard times too, but overall you were just an absolute peach. And here we are at the end of those years already. Five feels like a giant diving board to me, and we all have to take the leap with you into the deep end or we will be left behind.

laughing so hard we had to take a potty break

Someone told me five and sixteen are very similar; they each require a lot of release and letting go from the parents. Someday I know you will understand this. I want to cling tightly to you. I want to unfurl my wings and wrap them protectively around you as you move out into the world. Because this is the year that happens, baby girl. This is the year you start t-ball and kindergarten and all sorts of other big things that are just further and further outside of my grasp. Which is so so good and exciting. But it's new territory for all of us. And it requires me to trust Jesus in deeper ways than I have before when it comes to you. 

When you were an infant-- skin so soft I could barely feel it-- I would tiptoe into your room frequently and put my hand on your back or under your nose so I could feel you breathing. Sometimes I would be overwhelmed with fear at how little control I had over your gentle in and out of oxygen. Eventually I would whisper a prayer, "God, I can't watch her all night. She is in your hands now." And I would tiptoe back out of the room to get some sleep. In the last five years what I have learned though is that even while I was watching you God was always the only one in control.

This year has been so fun with you, Blythe. It started off kind of crazy: you were in the hospital with pneumonia the day after you turned four. Those were scary days, but through it all you were amazingly brave, and our great big God was faithful and taught me a lot about what it means to love Him first, even before I love you. That's hard to do, sweet one. 

After your hospital run, you became a big sister yet again to our little Nan Louise. You would spend hours singing and "reading" books to her. If she started to cry you would rush to her side, and your presence seemed to immediately calm her. You two seemed to have a special bond from the start, and now that she is almost one, I see this even more between the two of you. You are goofy with her, but also sincere and kind, and she adores you. You've also continued to be an amazing sister to Becks. Sometimes she frustrates you, as all siblings will, but over the past year I have seen you grow leaps and bounds in your maturity by how you respond to her. You work with her, and know how to "turn the other cheek" when necessary. And you two can now play for hours on end by yourselves. The games you two come up with are hilarious-- sometimes you're puppies, sometimes horses, sometimes you are "kids and moms"-- but you are truly each others best friend right now and it is a blessing to watch you play with one another.

You and I started "preschool" this year. I use that term loosely. I wrestled with the idea of sending you to preschool--- I knew you would love it, you're a natural learner and very social, but I really wanted you to have the opportunity to be home with Nan for at least one year, and there wasn't a preschool in town and the thought of stuffing you in the car three days a week just didn't make sense to me. So we scrapped it and I'm so thankful we did. You and I have had a lot of fun this year learning letters, and writing, and numbers, and adding. I kept it super simple and it wasn't very structured, but you are a voracious learner, Blythe. Around Christmas, every night we would put you to bed you would say, "But Mom...But Dad...I just don't know how to read!" and you would be so disheartened by it. I promised you that you would learn how to read in Kindergarten. But lo and behold, you just kind of started teaching yourself. So I followed your lead, as I have learned to do in a lot of areas, and now you are sounding out words I never would have dreamed you'd be reading at this point. I hope you never lose that thirst to learn. I hope when you are frustrated by something you don't quite understand, that you dig in and ask questions and struggle through the discomfort of not knowing until you burst through to the other side. You are going to love Kindergarten [and when we asked you last night at supper what you're most excited about about turning 5, that was your answer!]. 

We tried dance for a little bit this year. You really liked it and you picked up on it right away. It just wasn't our thing and it made for some stressful days for me, and when I told you we were going to stop you shrugged your shoulders and said, "Okay." And it was on to other things. It clearly wasn't something you were passionate about, but I'm glad we gave it a little run.  You do love to ride your bike [while listening to your headphones and singing loudly!], and swinging, and jumping on the trampoline.

You also love to draw. You draw all sorts of people doing all sorts of creative things. This week alone you drew a picture of a guy yelling at the top of a waterfall, two people shooting a cannon, a horse, you and Becks painting a picture on an easel and eating ice cream, and a portrait of me in the pouring rain. You love to paint and color and create. Your imagination is unending. You also have no problems communicating what's on your mind, even if you don't quite know the right word; you just make something up and keep right on with your story. A few examples: One day I was cooking lunch and Becks said the steam was smoke. You replied, "No! It's not smoke. It's just the breath of the water." And we were once walking through bushes and you warned me it was "really crangily in there!" I have a whole book of things you've said, because when you say something like "the storm rumbled the sticks down" or that Becks looked "spider-webby" when you were dizzy, or that "policeman have the best jobs because they help us keep the rules safe" I just want to remember it forever. From the moment you wake you are talking and creating until the moment your head hits the pillow again. And it is exhausting and wonderful. When it was just you and me, all day every day, when you were a baby and couldn't talk, I was lonely and bored some days. Now I can't imagine ever being lonely or bored when you're around!

Another really special thing that happened this year as a result of not going to formal preschool, was that you had more time with your grandparents. Almost every Tuesday morning, you and your sisters get to head to Nini and PopPop's house for a couple hours while I have some church meetings. And You've gotten to tap dance and drive the lawn mower with PopPop, and bake and sew with Nini, and so many more fun things. I'm so grateful for your time with them. And you've also done about a dozen "nature days" with Papa. He's taken you to the river where you drew in the sand, taught you about littering and squirrel nests and eagles and blue birds. You can name at least a half a dozen different birds when you see them! You've told me all about how you can tell the difference between a boy cardinal and a girl cardinal. You know what time of year deer lose their antlers. You've actually touched down feathers while they were still on the goose. You love being outside and exploring and learning. Just the other day we were driving and you looked out the window and randomly informed me, "Kangaroo live in Africa." 

One of your other passions seems to be music. You are constantly singing a song you know [even if you've only heard it once, you pick up on it!], or you are making up your own. We set up a makeshift drumset for you as well out of old pots and jugs, because you are fascinated by the drums. You found a piece of bamboo on the ground one day and wanted to make a flute out of it. You love to sit and drum your dad's guitar while he fingers the chords, and you picked up how to play row, row, row your boat very quickly on the piano. Nini Pat always said age six or seven was the best time to start music lessons, and I have no doubt we will find a niche for you somewhere in this world. 

You've started to really pray at meal times. The thoughtfulness you put into your prayers leaves me breathless, and I want to start praying more like you. In the last month you've prayed that God "would teach us what we need instead of want and that we wouldn't say want, want, want all the time." You've thanked Him for the "way you make each person different." You never fail to thank Him for "the beautiful day that we got to have". And often you thank Him for "the peace and love you put in our hearts" and for "sending Jesus to die on the cross." There is a reason Jesus said to let the little children come to Him. We have a lot to learn from you guys. Thank you for teaching us. 

It's always around your birthday that I am amazed at how our own prayers for you are being answered. Since you were in my womb, we've prayed four words over you: joyfulness, compassion, modesty, and hospitality. And every year I am in awe of how those traits are growing in you more and more. Joy is natural to you-- it's in your bloodstream and you bring it to others easily. You've learned compassion more and more as you attend to your sisters needs. The fact that you would pray about our needs versus our wants shows me you are learning to live with less and live modestly. And you are a hospitable soul, always welcoming others. I pray you always grow more and more in these traits as you grow more and more into who God has made you to be. 

Oh Blythe. My FIVE year old. You've filled our lives with so much joy, and we pray that you would come to know Christ in deeper and richer ways this year as you spread your own wings a bit more and step into the world a little farther. In the five years I've been given to be your mom so far, I have learned in profound ways my utter inability to parent you. I have learned in that inability that there is one who is ABLE to parent through me. And I have learned that it is His ability in you that will be all that matters in the long run.

Five is a big one, girl. And we are excited to see how you take it and run with it, just as you have done with all the other things placed before you. At breakfast this week you looked up and said, "Mom, Papa has a song that says, 'When it's gone it won't be back again.' And remember that day he had to go to work but he didn't? He stayed and played with us because he won't get that chance again. And it's like, when I'm five I won't be four again." Tears welled up in my eyes at your wisdom, and the profoundness of what you had just taught me. I'm already nostalgic for these days with you because when they are gone I won't get them back again. Thank you for teaching me how to listen to the wind a little closer. 

God gives us His spirit without measure, and it is through that abundant love that we are able to love you deeply. Like I said last year, we hope you always understand the why behind our no-s. We hope you feel safe in the boundaries we set. We hope you feel freedom in the wide open places we leave for you. We hope you see God in our actions and words. We hope when you leave our little home for good and go out on your own that you'll look back on this simple little life we had together-- chaos and mistakes and messes and all-- and see that it was Grace that held us together; that you see that it was God's daily bread that provided it all. 

Blythe girl, you are already more than I ever dreamed you could be when they laid you on my chest.
Happy birthday, Blythe Kathleen! There is nothing you can ever do that will make us stop loving you. 

* Read Blythe's Birth Story HERE
* Story behind her name HERE
* First birthday letter HERE
* Second birthday letter HERE
*Third birthday letter HERE
*Fourth birthday letter HERE

And just for fun, here is a little trip back in time with you: 

two days before you were born...our last "belly picture"
some of our first moments together after your fast and furious entry into this world

week one
first birthday

second birthday

third birthday

fourth birthday