Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dear Donovan,

I know I usually do these at Christmas, but this year we were a bit busier than usual. The annual Christmas frenzy was added upon as our sweet friend Kailee endured day after day in the PICU while the doctors tried to figure out what was happening and why. It was a good two weeks after Christmas when I realized I had failed to write you kids your annual letters. So I decided to put it off until your birthday since I knew that was coming up and, realistically, I wouldn't get to it before then.

Every year I say, "This was a big year for you," and mean it. Will I ever say, "This year was forgettable," or, "same old, same old"? With you, probably not. And I like it that way. 

I did something a little out of character for me at the end of 2014. Of course I think all of my children are fantastic and I've always suspected you had athletic ability. But I was frustrated with how your soccer coaching was going. I don't necessarily think you'll play professionally some day, but I did (and do) think you're capable of playing at a much higher level. So I contacted the guy in charge of the competitive league and expressed my concerns. He invited you to a practice with one of these competitive teams (you were previously on a recreational team) to gauge your ability and I took you there. As I sat in my chair I was incredibly proud of how well you did just in that one practice, and afterward the guy (who had come to observe) agreed with me that you had a place there or even on a higher team. So in the spring, when it came time to register, I contacted him again (as he had advised), thinking he'd put you on the feeder team. Nope - he leapfrogged you from rec straight onto that competitive team. Playing with kids who also play at a higher level only lit a match under you. And when it came time for tryouts for the next season's teams, you leapfrogged, again, to an even higher team. 

Your current coach can be hard on you boys. And yet, he doesn't seem to be too hard on you. Maybe it's because he sees something in the way you play, and gave you the nickname "Scholes" after one of the best players of all time (and, since it is pronounced "skulls" or he calls you skull-zee, it sounds like it refers to your headers, which isn't completely off base either). Maybe it's because when he gives you an assignment to do at home (workouts, watch videos of a particular player, etc., you do them, and report back). Or maybe it's because after every practice you go up to him on your own, thank him for coaching, and ask what you should be working on.

I would say that watching you play soccer is among my top 5 favorite things to do. You are determined, relentless, and polite. You play a clean game and you don't tire very easily. Your throw-ins are phenomenal. Even the parents on our team, who are accustomed to watching you, still remark on how far and fast you throw. It's another delight entirely to hear parents from the other team gasp. 

You've done well in tournaments and recently had your first "business trip," as we liked to call it. You flew with your team and a few chaperones (neither of your parents, though) to Phoenix where you played, slept, and ate soccer. And you loved it. I was sad to send you away and to miss your games for the first time in my life. But I'm glad you had fun.

Last year, a week before your birthday, Dad and I kept you home from school to take you on a parent-kid ski day. I went on my first black diamond run and did fine until the very end where I had an epic wipeout - it wasn't painful (in fact it was quite lovely), but the ensuing powderstorm I kicked up had you exploding with laughter. It's one of my most favorite sounds. The next week, dad took you up with friends to spend the night and ski (on your birthday) and you sent me this text from Dad's phone:

You're a good kid. You make me want to be a better mom.

Every year Dad and I put some kind of surprise in your bedroom the night before your birthday. Sometimes it's streamers and balloons, sometimes it's glow sticks spelling out a message, last year it was a ninja punching bag. A couple years ago you hung up streamers for me, and I thought it was adorable. Last year - holy cow I can hardly even type it without getting teary - last year you came up with an idea, you called stores to see if they carried this idea, and then you had Dad drive you to the one that did, bought it with your own money, and then came home and practiced. You thought it would be awesome to make me a balloon-animal-style bike and crown (for "Queen of the Mountain" since that's a thing in cycling). And so I get it when people are like, "You're emotional over balloon animals?" But it's so much more than that - you spent time thinking about it, you CALLED STORES, and you orchestrated the whole operation. I just love everything about this, even your stories of how many balloons you ruined as you practiced.

sweet ninja moves

We took a fun family trip down to Durango to see southern Colorado and stay with my Aunt Mary Kaye and Uncle Terry. It was like another set of grandparents for you, but this set had guns and 4-wheelers! What a great time we had, exploring Mesa Verde, Telluride, a ghost town and those beautiful mountain passes (via ATVs). I hope you always remember the ridiculous number of sheep clogging one of those roads - remember that we drove for about an hour at 5-10mph through thousands and thousands of them. 

Last year you also went up to Grandpa Hill's for a week of fun. This is something he has done for other grandsons when they turn 10, but those grandsons also lived closer. I was incredibly nervous to be so far away from you, for you to be out in the middle of nowhere, to not be able to tuck you in at night. Those feelings were unfounded, though. You, of course, had the time of your life. Your Grandpa is very devoted to you and made sure you had a great time. You came home with good memories of time with your dad and grandpa.

Your Whitley cousins road-tripped out here and you proclaimed that the greatest week of your life. You and Emaline played and played and played and then ate and then played some more.

Ok, this is getting lengthy. So just a couple more things:

-I think I've established that you are thoughtful. Here are a couple more examples. This summer you and Tyson had a blast riding your bikes every which way and buying lunch and then riding some more. One day I gave you money to go to Chick-Fil-A. I went off on some errands, and I came home to these:

You only had a few dollars, but when you asked the woman what you could buy for your amount and that you wanted to get them for your mom, she was so touched she marked these down to match your price. I especially love your choice (or, rather, your non-choice) of card. The flowers eventually died, but I took a picture so I'll always remember.

-At Thanksgiving you asked how you could help. I was busy and so just said, "You could do the pie crust," not really expecting you to follow through. But I should've known better - you aren't one to shy away from a task, especially one that involves food. You not only followed instructions, but when I said you had to show your sisters how, you totally did.

-You are still obsessed with squirrels, especially flying squirrels. I've actually looked into seeing how we could find one (not to keep) for you, but they're impossible to find around here. Something about legality or environment or whatever. 
This kind of sums up your life.
-Yesterday we went to the grocery store to get your cake mix and birthday treats. Along the way I pulled over to a vacant parking lot and told you it was time to start learning how to drive. You were giddy and nervous all at once. It was fun to have that little moment with you. As we walked into the grocery store a few minutes later, you confided that you were feeling shaky and happy. I love that you are open and liberal with your feelings.

So this is mostly recapping your year, but I want you to know this: I love love love love love being your mom. I am so proud of you and proud to be your mom. I love that you ask me to lie next to you at night before you go to sleep so we can talk. I love that you hug me about 10 times a day. I love that you say, "I love you, Mommy," it a contented voice as if that is all that matters. I love that you still run as soon as you see me after school to throw your arms around me. I love that you run and play and bike and are loud and cackle wildly, but that you also want to just sit next to me. I love that when I am sad, you go out of your way to make me happy. And when I'm really sad, your eyes get red-rimmed and you rub your fists against them and ask why, if I am sad it makes you want to cry.

We've joked for a while now that someday your hands will be big enough that instead of holding my hand, I will hold your hand. I think that day is fast approaching. You're getting taller, faster and more grown up by the day. Part of me is sad that you're not that small Dono any more. But only a small part, because I love having a front-row seat that is the ever-entertaining Donovan show.
Happy 11th birthday, buddy. You're the best son a mother could ask for. I feel sorry for all the other people out there who don't get to be your mom. Now let's go play video games.



Wanda said...

I just love love love being his grandma! It was so fun to talk to him yesterday. He really is an awesome kid.

laura said...

What a rad kid. I miss him being little too, but I love talking to him and realizing how smart and funny and grown up he is.

Becca said...

Okay I'm way late to this but HOLY COW Dono is awesome!! I am so excited to get to hang out with him in July. He is the sweetest. I hope Finn is at least half as sweet!