Travis’s Birthday Letter

October 25, 2011

My dearest Travis-

Happy 7th birthday to my favorite big guy!

It’s hard to believe another year had already flown by. But looking back at all we did and all the ways you’ve grown makes it seem a bit more possible.

If I had to pick a single theme to sum up your year it would have to be Legos! Try as we might to keep them contained, those plastic pieces find their way onto every surface in the house. You love making things with the kits—especially the Atlantis and City collections. But you (and Hallie, too) will spend hours and hours creating your own vehicles and buildings and stories out of the jumble we’ve acquired.

Another common theme is loose teeth. You took a while to get your first loose tooth, but this past year you made up for lost time. Just a week ago you lost tooth number five. You get super excited when they start to get loose, but boy will you let them dangle. For future reference, once a tooth can turn all the way around and hang upside down against your gums, it really doesn’t belong in your mouth anymore!

Theme number three is volume. You are all about volume. And sheer output. You have a lot to say and you generally say it loudly. Sometimes I don’t know whether you even notice if someone is listening to you or not. When you aren’t talking you are usually “tumming” or drumming or making noise in some other manner. I love all your ideas and your theories and your music. I just need a break from it every once in a while!

We did an awful lot during your year as a six-year-old, so I’ll just hit the highlights. We got in a couple of fun camping trips. We made the most of a pretty February weekend (with a VERY chilly night) at Falls Lake with the Serozis, and we finally made it to Grayson Highlands. Despite a 12-hour deluge the night we arrived, our Grayson Highlands trip was our best camping trip yet. The hiking was beautiful, and you led us down the Virginia Creeper Trail at a furious pace. Every time Daddy stopped to take a picture he had to work like crazy to catch us again. Once you grew into the mountain bike we’ve been saving for you, you put a lot of miles on it. Finally having gears makes it easier to get up all those greenway hills. I’m hoping we have a few more family bike rides in store before it gets too chilly.

You kept up with several sports this year. You did basketball and soccer (you’re a pretty fierce goalie) and swim team, and you even did your first triathlon. When the heat and mosquitoes allowed us to play, we enjoyed our family soccer games, at least until they ended in tears—but that’s getting a lot better. But your favorite above all of those was t-ball. This was your first year on a City of Raleigh team, and you had a great time. You’ve got a powerful swing, and when you connect you really send the ball flying. I’m pretty sure you’ll be heading back for another season.

Our big trip of the year was another venture to the San Juan Islands. You were such a little guy the last time we were out there. It was a treat to take you back now that you’re so much more independent. I’m sure you’ll remember this trip even if the earlier one fades. Special highlights of this visit were going sailing, spending time with the Taylors on their rocky beach, a couple of good hikes, and most of all lots of kayaking. I’d waited 11 years to go kayaking in the San Juans. It was even more fun than I’d hoped, but you may have enjoyed it as much or more than I did. We’ll definitely be doing that again!

Your reading skills took off this year. You can be particular about what you want to read, but when something captures your attention you cannot be separated from it. Some of your favorites over the past year have been the Magic Treehouse books (while home sick one day I think you read 13 of them!), the Ralph S. Mouse books, anything by Dav Pilkey, and most recently the Hotel for Dogs series.

You don’t get a lot of screen time, but when you do you’re more likely to want old favorites than anything new. You can recite huge chunks of The Polar Express, The Incredibles, Toy Story 1-3, and Despicable Me. You’ve also been enjoying The Addams Family and musicals like Annie and The Music Man. I spent a whole week at work with “Marian the Librarian” stuck in my head. I was glad when you moved on from that one! We’ve also given you (a little) more freedom on the computer. You don’t use it much, but when you do it’s almost always the Legos site.

You got much more independent and responsible when playing with friends this year. It was a delight for me last summer to watch you play with all the other kids at the pool after swim team without being needed for backup or intervention when something didn’t quite go your way. You’ve got lots of friends in your class and at school. You make friends easily, but you haven’t yet found a best buddy who’s a great partner for some regular out-of-school play. I hope someone like that comes along for you very soon.

You can be pretty particular about your toys, especially your train and your Lego creations. When friends come over, you can be bossy as you try to protect these things you love so much. I hope that over the next year you will learn to be more flexible about that and in your interactions in general. I’ve seen a lot of improvement, but I think you’ll have lot more fun if you come to enjoy the play without so much concern for the things.

You’ve become independent in many ways. Your fairly regular middle-of-the-night visits have ended, and your bedtime stalls and pop-outs have all but vanished. I wouldn’t say you do your morning and evening routines entirely by yourself, but I’m doing a lot less nagging than I was a year ago. And when “Mr. Helpful” arrives, everyone better look out. Mr. Helpful knows how to get things done at lightning speed, and you’d better not get in his way. I’ve seen some moderation over the last year, but you are still frequently a kid of extremes—dragging your feet (or your pedals) one moment and than manically racing ahead the next. I’m hoping over the next year you’ll get closer to a happy medium without losing your infectious enthusiasm for so many things.

You’re getting so big, but you’re still a snuggler (don’t ever lose that!). You love getting cozy at story time and still want me to pick you up or carry you for fun. I’m only half joking when I pretend I can’t do it—sometimes you feel so hard to lift that I really do check to make sure you don’t have your feet hooked under something to hold you down! And no matter how many times I’ve already told you good-bye, you always chase me down as I head out the door, calling “Huggy!” and demanding one last hug.

You’ve always loved music so much, and it made me sad when you stopped enjoying your piano lessons with Miss Ann. The group lesson format wasn’t a good one for you, and now that you’re taking lessons with Miss Julie you really love it again. You’ve made impressive progress (and it’s coming faster now that you spend less of each lesson talking) in just a few months. I’m looking forward to your upcoming recital! We made a deal that you’d try piano for two years. When that’s up, I hope you’ll want to continue, but you’ve been pretty consistent in talking about picking up guitar or trumpet (yikes!). I’m hoping you’ll stick with piano and just add something else.

You have a very big heart. I was so proud of the way you wanted to pitch right in after the tornado tore up nearby parts of Raleigh. You and Hallie were in the thick of things volunteering at Powell Elementary and helping me collect donations. And you were pleased as punch when you starting creating your paper wolves to sell, “with all proceeds going to charity.” Some very thoughtful and generous neighbors bought out your supply, and you were justifiably proud to take your donation to the grateful folks at the Red Cross.

Your interest in cooking continues. You get very excited about helping out in the kitchen (when you’re in the mood), and you were delighted to get your own kitchen tools as a birthday gift. You were also eager to help out in our family garden this year, using your own money to buy some of our plants and happily sharing the produce. We were a little worried your pumpkin plant might overtake the whole house, but I loved seeing how proud you were as it grew and grew. And boy did we enjoy our homemade pickles! I’m already looking forward to next year’s crop.

When you started kindergarten at Conn we weren’t sure it would keep you busy. We were lucky to have a lot of good people who worked hard to find the right answer for you, and you were excited when we all decided you should move to first grade in the middle of the year. It took a little adjusting, but you settled in really well. I’m glad to see you getting some challenges that you’d otherwise have missed, and you’ve fit in with your slightly older classmates just fine. You can handle anything they can give you at school. The big thing for you to learn this year is how to stay focused and to get your work done. You’ve been getting distracted and chattering too much, but things seem to be getting back on track. We’ll keep doing everything we can to support you—we know how busy that mind is and we want to feed it everything it can handle!

Looking back at a very full and fun year I can’t help but wonder what the next one with bring. I’ve already gotten used to thinking of you as a seven-year-old. I hope this year will be full of fun and learning and growing and all the challenges that busy mind of yours can take. I’ll be along for the ride and loving you every bit of the way!

I love you, Mr. T!

Mommy

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