You are six. Well, nearly six-and-a-half. I have fallen woefully behind on these letters. Really: Woefully. But I have taken copious notes on my phone, or scribbled things on my calendar to record permanently later: Like the time you realized that it was grilled cheese, not girl cheese.
You are taller now. Up to my torso. I don’t really reach down to touch your blonde hair anymore, more like straight out. Your eyes remain one of my favorite things about you – hazel green with the most enviable long, dark eyelashes. Your body is one lean muscle, and lately, you’ve loved to do your exercises: “100 jumping jacks, followed by 100 leaps over something, followed by 200 pushups,” you tell me as you make muscles with your arms and puff out your chest, asking me how strong you are and telling me casually that you have to get strong so you can play football in high school…or maybe college….and “beat dad next time.”
Last spring, you completed your second year of preschool a different kid. While you still sometimes hesitate to just jump into a big group, I have seen you grow in so many ways. In confidence. In your ability to empathize. In kindness. I smile from the kitchen as you see Lewis, mid-tantrum, and invite him to play basketball with you. I laugh as you get your siblings to play for hours in the backyard, involved in an elaborate game of running from Mr. Freeze or playing some variation of house in our backyard tree, as you together connect 15 bungee chords to the playset and the tree, forever creating “traps.” You and Elsa had a phase in which you’d absolutely litter the stairs with toys, calling your dad or I down to the basement, and laughing yourselves silly as we pretended to trip and fall our way down on your traps.
You’re just six now. So very six. I ask you to keep an eye on Lewis in the front yard while I run in to stir dinner, and you do. I ask you to get lead your siblings in an effort to clean their rooms, and you do, creating games like “Don’t Touch The Cryptonite” (basically don’t touch the lava) to make it fun for everyone. You’re just this incredibly responsible boy now. While you still have your moments of saying no and find yourself frustrated at being pulled away from your legos, you are responsive, reasonable, perceptive. You also gave up sleeping with monkey and bear sometime this past year. After a bout with the stomach flu, wherein monkey was the recipient, you got scared of giving him your germs….and after that, you just stopped sleeping with him altogether. He’s still there, along with Bear and Bruce, at the foot of your bed, but you don’t need them in the same ways, and it kind of breaks my heart.
Sometimes I think you were made for summer. Last summer (2017), we took you and Elsa to the Richfield Pool as a reward for something. The highest slides are 60 steps up, and you were not convinced that you could do it. The whole time that we were there, you wrestled with wanting to try the slides and being terrified of heights. You finally agreed to try it, and we were about 45 stairs up the 60 steps when you froze, your hand gripping mine so tightly that both our hands were turning white. We stopped and prayed that God would help you. You were about to turn around when we looked down and saw a black and orange beetle on the step. Suddenly, you were crouched down, studying the beetle, having forgotten about how high we were. We had a moment on those steps, you and I.We talked about how that beetle was such a sign of his intimate care for you. We talked about how God knows Owen, how God knows that Owen loves bugs, and how God perhaps put that bug there just for you to not be scared for a minute. We studied the bug, then completed our journey to the top. We slid down, and you were delighted.
The second time we made it to the top, I said, “I’m so proud of you!” You responded, with your classic Owen enthusiasm, “I’m proud of you too!” We did it approximately 20 more times after that.
Later that week, you were telling Grandpa Ron about the water park, and you mentioned, “God gave me a beetle!” You have an eye towards the spiritual, Owen. As we’ve started homeschooling, the questions you ask me are getting harder and harder. Why didn’t God just punish Satan since he was the one who tricked Adam and Eve? Why do we all have the consequences? Were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? Why did God want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac – isn’t killing someone sin? And in regards to learning the song “Nothing But The Blood,” you asked, “How can blood make you clean?!” which led to a huge discussion about the symbolism of Old Testament sacrifices. Which you followed. At. Age. Six.
You love God. You want to do what’s right with every fiber of your being. You look at the ills of the world and you view them in a spiritual lens. When you pray before dinner, you always thank God for his creation, and you almost always ask him to help all the poor people. We’ve been learning a hymn each month for homeschool, and I sat back in tears, watching you sing along with a video of “This Is My Father’s World” that Grandpa Ron showed you. You knew every word, and what’s more, I trust you know the meaning of those words…Jesus who died will be satisfied…Great is thy faithfulness…No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
I pray regularly that God will make you his. That you will one day fully realize that none of your determined Owen efforts make a lick of difference in salvation. That you will find your rest in God alone. I believe so firmly that he has great plans for you Owen. I can see you as a great orator, or a scientist who works hours alone in a lab, finding the cures for mystery diseases. Or maybe you’ll be an engineer, all your lego hours accruing into a significant knowledge of angles and structural stability, and you’ll do that work well, for His glory. You LOVE science. You regularly talk about being some kind of -ologist, your fascination with bugs and germs and volcanoes still thriving. This summer, you caught tons of toads and grasshoppers and dug for worms. When we could hear the toads mating by the pond, we all went down with a bucket and shovel to try to catch a couple to see if we could get them to make tadpoles for us to observe. You marched right into the pond muck, standard uniform of “basketball” shorts and a tshirt, plus rain boots, and scooped up two mating frogs with your shovel. They continued to mate in the bucket, the entire walk home, while we made a habitat out of a huge rubbermaid, pond grass, mud, water, and all. We kept Toadalina and Franco alive for a couple months, digging up worms to feed them, freaking out when they’d fight over a worm. But after a few months, their habitat got smelly, and there were no babies, so we set them free.
You are overcoming fears left and right. Haircuts are a breeze now. This past summer, you learned to stick your face under water. And you finally conquered your fear of going out past where your feet could touch (still with floaties). You and Elsa and I decided we wanted to try to swim out to the dock at the small beach on Lake Nokomis. When we got close to it, you looked down into the clear water and said, “I feel like we’re up so high!” It was such a revelation to me that your fear of deep water was connected to your fear of heights. But we got out there, and after some slightly panicked moments, again with your hand tightly clenched in mine, you wanted to jump off. And we did. Several times. Each time, you had to take some deep breaths beforehand. But your dad and I are just so proud of you. We see you naming and acknowledging your fears and working through them anyway. You are strong and you are brave.
Owen, you are just such a boy. You are all legos and sports. You spend hours down at your lego mat, building massive ships. You love to follow the “constructions” step by step and complete these massive building projects. You built the chima lion castle and star wars ship on your own, spending hours hunting down just the right pieces or problem-solving substitutes when needed. Your persistence in things you are interested in is truly astounding.
You’ve also had a significant stage of telling jokes, particularly knock jokes. And magic. You love to make quarters magically appear from my ear, or drop through the table onto your lap. You ask everyone you come in contact with if you can show them a magic trick.
You love basketball, football, and baseball. You had a heavy phase of interest in baseball and football cards, constantly asking us about players, if they were, “Superstars? Hall of Fame? Greatest of All Time?…or just a weeny bit good?” Each day, you spend lots of time dribbling a ball in our basement, shooting “seven-pointers.” As football season has started, you and your dad spend lots of time with him as quarterback, and you the receiver, running routes through our basement. You love to tackle and be tackled. One of my favorite memories is coming out after small group to find you and the Wicklund boys playing an all-out game of tackle football in their backyard. You were fast and furious, which was surprising, because to be honest, during t-ball, while you can throw and catch and hit really well, and have a really pretty swing, you seemed to have heavy feet when you ran and didn’t seem super motivated. Your dad and I think you might be more drawn to more competitive sports like football and basketball. You spent hours, days, in our front yard, hitting pitches off your dad, slamming tennis balls into our windows and onto our roof. You love to scooter and got SO close to riding a bike without training wheels this summer.
Your closest friends are Elsa and Lewis, Archie and Ollie, Junah, Addi, and new friend Gideon from church, who is your twin as far as interests and personalities go. You love all your cousins and any time we get with them. Particularly, you and Luke really bonded over the summer. We also got to spend the summer with the Propsts, and you spent hours playing with Estella, Khari, (and now-grown-up Lawson), fighting Thorax, playing at the park. It was good for all of us. Towards the end of preschool, you came home and told me that at recess, you had discussed marrying Addison at the playground and that at first she’d said yes, and then that she wasn’t sure, but that it was okay because Addi could be your back up.
This year, we’re making new friends at our homeschool group too, kids I hope you’ll relate to for a long time. We’ve started homeschooling and it’s going really well, I think. I am loving learning with you. Last spring, you could not read Hop on Pop; even though I told you I’d help with the words you didn’t know, it frustrated you. The other day, you read the whole thing. Yourself. You’re decoding words with sounds I haven’t taught you. Sometimes I overhear you reading board books to Lewis upstairs, and it is, hands down, my favorite thing. We have these really amazing conversations…about ancient British history and whether it’s better to be free and dead or a slave and alive. We talk about the 300 and greek myths about small kindnesses and how they’re repaid (Androcles, The Mouse and the Lion) and whether that idea is backed up in the Gospel or not. It makes me so happy that I am the one who gets to guide you into those kinds of questions and conversations.
You’ve also started JYC at church this year. You could have started last year, but your dad and I thought it might be a little overwhelming. This year, after week 1, you were hooked. You ask about when it is each week, and come home, excited to tell us about the blue team, the yellow team, and how many points each scored, and what games you played. Your recall about the Bible lessons is usually a sentence or two, before you excitedly tell me how your mentor Kyle showed you how to turn your eyelids inside out or made you a “ninja” throwing star or mini-paper-airplane. You’re loving it and not nervous about it, and it’s an incredible sign of growth…something that I think would have significantly stressed you out in the past.
Okay, next up, some recent Owen-isms:
Ankees (for Yankees)
Calling the Buffalo Bills the Buffalos
Weeny bit – “Can I have a weeeeeeny bit of milk?”
Overheard Eric talking about the Bengals, and yelled out, “The Bagels?!”
Constructions – instead of Instructions (Over Christmas, your dad almost said constructions instead of instructions but caught himself just in time)
“Hey guys, do I have acid reflux?”
Speaking of which…
Starving hot, starving thirsty
Pistachios – spitachios
And last but not least, a while back you were trying to earn money. I gave you a job of testing markers in a huge box we bought at a garage sale. You got about an ⅛ of the way through before giving up. When I asked you if you were going to finish, you shrugged and said, “Maybe the tooth fairy will give me more money soon.”
To be fair, you have lost about a thousand teeth this year. Or maybe 8. They’re coming out in droves.
Ooh, okay. One more. One night, I was putting you guys to bed, and I was telling you how I met your dad and what it was like leaving him at the airport, how sad I was. At the end of my story, you said, “I like the dad you picked out,” and Elsa replied, “Yeah, I’m glad you picked our dad.” I need you to know, me too. Your dad is wonderful. He loves you so much. He walks in the door, and the three of you RUN to him, immediately peppering him with requests for playing, usually football these days, and after dinner, you always ask, “Can we have a liiiiiiitle bit more time to play with dad?” And all of you start chanting, “SIX MORE MINUTES, SIX MORE MINUTES!” An inside joke at this point.
Owen, I just love you. I love who you are, who you’re becoming. You’re this big, delightful kid now. I love our deep conversations. I love your zest for life, how excited you get about everything: the bird on our birdfeeder, the Vikings reply, getting to play with a friend, the pasta we had for dinner. You love God and you love your life, and you are so quick to make it known how you feel. I love that about you.
This past year, you’ve had a hard time getting to sleep at night. I think you’re like me in that. The lights go out, and your brain switches on, and usually it starts cycling through the worst of scenarios…robbers, fire. Things I used to worry about at night when I was a kid. Most nights, you figure it out, but some nights are harder than others. One night, I was lying next to you, your siblings asleep, trying to help you through strategies that help me as an adult. We talked about the verse song you’d learned at VBS – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble!” I talked you through a scenario…something like lions are chasing you, but then you reach a fortress and are welcomed in…the gate shuts behind you, and the lions are stopped. And you’re safe. How THAT’S what a refuge means. And you got it. And you and I whisper-sang the verse together until your eyes got heavy and you fell asleep.
This is how I pray for you. That you would find your rest in God’s refuge alone, because only He is able to offer you true refuge.
Owen, you first made me a mom. And you make me a mom every day, with your growth spurts and good questions and jokes and loose teeth and ever-growing shoe sizes. I love you to pieces.