Friday, December 30, 2016

Dear Donovan,

The thing I like most about you is that while you are becoming more and more independent, you always start your day by giving me a hug and end it asking if I'll cuddle you. I've asked you if you'll ever be too cool for that and you always laugh and say no way. I grin, but inside I'm leaping for joy. I know not all sons are like this, so I feel incredibly happy that I have you.

This year you went on your first (and then second) "business" trips. That's what we called it when you flew off to Phoenix last February for your first out-of-state soccer tournament. It was hard to let you go, especially since you were going without a parent, but you had a fantastic time and I'm so glad you went. You learned a lot from soccer this year - both on and off the field. Your skills improved, but you also learned the importance of trust (both in your coach, and in yourself) and playing at your right level. Watching you play soccer is one of my favorite things in the whole world.


On your birthday, we were going to the grocery store and I pulled over into the church parking lot, put the car in park and said, "Now you're going to drive." We were in that lot maybe 10 minutes and you drove probably no more than 8 mph. You were so cute, though. And for hours afterward you'd say, "I'm still really excited about driving. My heart feels like it's pounding when I think about it." That adrenaline high even kept you up at night, so many hours later. You've mentioned it over and over again, and I love having moments like that with you. 

You skied a bunch with Dad and Gemma. We went to some Rapids games. You perfected some drawings and collected more rocks. Whenever you say, "I'm heading down to the ditch," I giggle inside. That isn't something you could've done in California, I don't think. Here you head off with a friend or five, on bikes and scooters, wearing a small backpack you've put together containing some snacks, a water bottle and a first aid kit. Yes, you assembled a first aid kit. And that just goes to show how smart you are, because you've definitely used it, out there in the wild. 

On the first day of summer break, you woke up and told me you were going back to school. I thought you were kidding at first. You clarified that you were going to go help the technology teacher erase and re-install software on all the chromebooks. How are you going to get into the school? Does she know you're coming? Why would you want to do that on your first day of summer break? These are the questions I asked and you shrugged and said you'd go ring the doorbell, yes she asked for volunteers (not really thinking she'd get any), and that you "wanted to up (your) service hours." I at least walked over with you to verify that you could get in. The teacher was thrilled to have you and ordered you pizza and Dr. Pepper for lunch (which thrilled YOU). You worked 6 hours the first day and close to 5 the second day. The tech teacher said you were a huge help and she was so grateful. You left with a spring in your step. It feels good to help other people, and you are one of the best people I know.

We took fun road trips to California (Hill reunion) and Park City, Utah. Before we left, you actually said, "I'm not sure what I'm more excited for - being at the reunion or the driving part." You love it when we're all together in a small space and this summer has been a great time for you and Ainsleigh (and Gemma) to become better friends. We went to Disneyland one of the days and spent time at the beach and playing with cousins. Then in Park City we did a day at the Adventure Park, BYU, hiking, the Olympic training area and you did some legitimate mountain biking. It was hard, but you did it, and Dad was super proud of you.

In between those trips you volunteered at Cub Day Camp with me (more service hours!) and then spent a couple days at 11 year old scout camp - your first overnighter with the scouts, though hardly your first camping trip.

Oh, and ISTE! In fifth grade, your grade was doing "genius hour" where for one hour a week you work on a project of your choosing, learning about whatever you want. You and your friend Gavin chose to work together on the Sphero, your robot ball controlled by your iPad. I didn't really understand the project, but your teacher approached us in April and asked if you could help her present at this international conference for teachers in June. You, of course, were over the moon. I was still confused, but figured if she wanted you, then she must know what you were doing. You counted down to that conference like it was Christmas. We drove downtown, parked, and went into the conference center. Your face was full of wonder to see the hundreds, even thousands of adults wandering the showroom floor. Initially, you were a bit hesitant, unsure of what you should be doing. I whispered to you, "This is your project - you need to engage people. Make eye contact, ask them if they'd like to hear about your project, and be your friendly self." Then I stepped back and watched as you absolutely owned that space. You'd greet people, talk to them, and they, in turn, looked at you in surprise and admiration. "How old are you?" they'd ask. You probably talked to close to 100 people, at times engaging 4-5 people at a time. And by the time it was over, you said your voice was tired and your feet hurt, but you couldn't believe it had been two hours already. 

The best part, though, was afterward when we went to find the actual Sphero booth. We chatted with a couple people there about how you were presenting on their basic Sphero. We were about to leave when one of the head guys came over. I shook his hand quickly and said I just wanted to thank him for creating a product that inspired such passion in my son (he knew who you were because we had a tour scheduled in the next month) and he asked if you had the newest Sphero, which we both laughed about because they had JUST launched it at that conference. Before we knew what was happening, he said, "Let me get you one," and then handed you a the newest Sphero. I don't know whose eyes were bigger - yours or mine. Both of our mouths fell open. After a stream of thank yous, we left the building, though I don't think our feet touched the ground. We were both laughing hysterically by the time we got to the car. I think you had an adrenaline rush for the rest of the day. It was truly a magical day, and I loved spending it with you.
You started sixth grade this year. I can't believe you're almost done with elementary school. I mean, in some ways I can, because when I hug you I can rest my chin on the top of your head. But still, is this the little buddy I used to drop off at preschool? It doesn't seem like that much time has past. 

You always surprise me with how sensitive you are to my feelings. After the ward Halloween party, I was looking through our communal bowl of candy and thought there weren't really any of my favorites. Then I went upstairs and there, next to my side of the bed, was a ziplock bag full of candy, with a note. "I dug through the candy to get your favorites because you are MY favorite mother. Love, Donovan" Oh man, why are you so awesome.

Recently, I was having a hard day. I was frustrated with Ainsleigh and how things were going and I was upset. You were getting increasingly agitated over the whole thing. You asked if you had done something wrong and I laughed, sadly, and said if I was upset with you, you'd certainly know it, but that I didn't want to talk about problems with one child to another child. I told you I just needed some time to be sad. You finally broke down and hugged me, crying, "I just can't handle when you're sad. I just want to fix it." 

Buddy, you are one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve such a loving, wonderful, adventurous, loud, thoughtful kid. Being a parent is hard - we want to do a good job of raising humans and finding a good balance of motivating and rewarding. Often times we feel like we aren't doing the right job, or a good enough job. But every single time you hug me, I feel better about myself. And that's a gift not everyone gets. So thank you for being you.

We've been to a couple mid-week movie nights, just you and me. You went on another "business trip," this time to Las Vegas and Dad went as a chaperone. You learned how to make fudge and we volunteered at the food bank (more service hours!). Christmas break has been a blast, and you got that hoverboard you've always wanted. You and your sisters have had a great time laughing and playing together. We've gone to more movies, ice skated, skied (thanks for spraying me a ton, you jerk).
Always, though, at the end of the day, you ask, hopefully, "Do we have time to cuddle?" That means I lie next to you on your bed and we talk for 5-10 minutes. Sometimes you put your head on my shoulder, often you try to pull me back when I say, "Time's up, good night!" Every now and then we have a farting contest. It's a weirdly wonderful relationship, and I usually close the door behind me, leaving you giggling in your bed. 

You're a good kid. I love being your mom. Like, I really really love it. I love hearing other people tell me what a good kid you are. I love hearing your sisters say they can't wait to tell you something. I love telling you a story from my childhood and hearing you laugh. I don't love how you always manage to have about 7 socks strewn about the house. And maybe some underwear. But if that's the tradeoff, I'm fine with it. I just really love you. I hope you know that.

Happy new year, little buddy.