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