It's happening. You are seeing the awesome benefits of having a built-in playmate. Sure, you still butt heads (you always will) and there are many moments that highlight the struggle that still exists from being almost three years apart. But it's happening. I'm seeing the change. I often find the two of you busy in an activity together or giggling like wild, engaged in your own world. A world just for two brothers. And I can't wait to see where this goes next. I pray the two of you will always find such comfort and joy in each others presence.
The summer heat is making you both crazy! You argue over how to let the goats in the pen, how to pick tomatoes from the garden, where the towels go, which show to watch, how to put swim goggles on, how to swat a fly...I could go on for hours on this lol!! It’s not actually the heat making you crazy, I think you are just naturally crazy. You probably get it from your Dad’s side of the family! I hope as you get older you grow to enjoy each other’s company, friendship and can depend on each other when needed. I have a deep bond and friendship with my siblings and I want the same for the both of you.
While being total opposites, I can always count on one of you to be the brave one and lead the other where he needs to go. Sometimes this might not be such a good thing, but at others it works perfectly. There’s no doubt the older of you is usually the brave one, but when I need to leave you somewhere and that brave one clings to my leg and refuses to go, the littler of you seems to sense this and marches right in. You call your big brother after you, and he usually obliges. You’re definitely your own personalities, but more connected than I realize sometimes. Less than 2 years apart, and the last two years have been filled with more joy, love, and exhaustion than I would have believed possible.
The month of June brought as much fun as the hot summer months I always dreamt about when I was a child. We have been watching a lot of race car movies, which seem to be a hit with you boys lately. You both got the wild idea to start your own street wars, I laughed as you pretended to check your engines before starting the races. Your daddy looked at me sideways and I knew he was thinking, “too much Fast and Furious”. I couldn't have cared less. I saw that competitive, fun loving, twinkle in both your eyes. The looks on your faces made me run for my camera once again. I knew you were about to get wild! You both looked so tough, but I knew exactly what was going to happen…your big brother would give you a head start and then make sure he went slow enough so that his little sidekick could keep up with him. I just looked on adoringly because I can’t imagine loving you two anymore than I already do.
You would yell after him, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” and he would wait for you to catch up so you could jump in together.
This image pretty accurately summarizes your personalities. One of you is a rule-follower, perfectly happy to play within the lines, feeling no need to create your own rules. The other one of you is always taking things to the next level, never satisfied with normal, and constantly looking for the next challenge to conquer. Although your personalities are night and day, you are always working together. You have found a way to be content and happy together, and like the gears in your favourite bath toy, you are filling each others gaps to move forward as a team.
Deep meaningful conversations atop some red rock at Red Rock Canyon Open Space (Colorado Springs, CO). I loved watching your excitement for adventure while exploring the beauty in Colorado. And coming from the good old cornfields and dairyland of Wisconsin, being at an elevation of 5,000-7,000 was a whole new experience and outlook for us all!
You two. You really amuse yourselves. You can make a game out of anything. In this case, Chinese food in the food court at the mall became your plaything. One would flick grains of rice at the other while the other tried to deflect the incoming rice with a food tray. These games always start small and quiet. By the end of this particular game, you had the attention of all of the patrons of the food court with your wails of joy and laughter (I’m sure the flying rice didn’t help). I know most, if not all, of the people did not approve of your behavior. I should have been horrified by your undignified public behavior…but I wasn’t. I was laughing too. I love hearing the two of you laugh so hard that you lose your breath. That point when your laugh goes silent because you are out of air…I live for that. Were you obnoxious? Yes. Were you having more fun than anyone else in the room? Yes.
When your big brother fills in as your first base coach.
Sam’s baseball team was down a coach. Jack happened to have a free night. Being the problem solver that he is, he volunteered his services, because “someone has to teach these kids about the sport of baseball, otherwise they will just sit there are make sand castles in the infield and watch airplanes go over in the outfield.”
All Sam wanted was a base hit. He didn’t want a double or a triple. He wanted to stop at first base. He wanted to be there with his big brother and get advice. He wanted the fist bump and to hear his big brother say, “nice hit.” Jack enjoyed being the guy who told the kids when to hold up and when “to run to second base like the boogey man was chasing you.” Luckily, the short stop on the other team was busy making sand castles and watching airplanes go by, and Sam got his base hit.
He would have stayed on first base all night.
"Mommy, come push us so we can all swing together."
I realized that I had been constantly laying you down, Grant, so you wouldn't topple over while I tended to the rest of the household. I felt a bit guilty, but it only took you about a week of practice to become a very solid sitter. Now, just a few weeks later, you're reaching far over one knee and rocking while trying to get at your big brother's toys. He holds things just outside your grasp to tease and encourage you while he giggles uncontrollably. I don't think he realizes you're so incredibly close to crawling, and that it will soon be you who has the last laugh.
I've been waiting for these skills, knowing they would bring your friendship to a new level. Now I wish it would all just slow down a bit.
Summer is here!!!! This year has been a rough one with our move. You both have not done too well with the dramatic change of seasons and dare I say…. snow. Going from beach to mountains has been a big change of pace for us all but we survived. It's been so hot here this week and there is nothing better than the classic running through the sprinkler. Atlys, you would sit on it and Tyton, you would run and jump over him. The sounds of your laughs still remain and the smell of the fresh cut grass on your feet still lingers.
My wonderful adventure. Sometimes it doesn't feel that way. Our routines get mundane. You three boys try my patience. I have so little energy these days. But these days, however mundane and long, are laced with beautiful moments. Small but wonderful adventures. Some of the best being able to watch your creativity, your joys, and your relationship with each other.
Cam can't stop kissing you. I don't know if it's because you're his big brother or because you are the coolest person he knows. Maybe both. But he simply can't get enough. He gets nice and close and then quickly leans in before you are able to jump away. You don't love it. In fact, you have mentioned several times that his kisses are drooly and you very rarely allow it willingly. But through the back door is safe. The two of you ran back and forth between the double doors kissing and laughing. When you decided you were done his sweet little heart broke and an epic meltdown ensued. You came inside and hugged him to provide your big brother comfort. But wisely regained your distance just in time because through his tears, that little kiss monster boldly approached again.
These past five months have been such a blast to watch your budding relationship grow through this project. There has been one significant consistency, the little brother is never more than two steps behind his bigger brother. We had a lot of adventures this past May in San Diego! Exploring this awesome city was so much fun for the two of you! We sat in old war helicopters, rode trains, played in big waves, we rode the biggest roller coasters we could ride and watched killer whales jump out of the water! My favorite memory was watching you both walk down the jetty at Mission Beach. I loved how you helped each other up and down the slippery rocks. You two are a great team. As much trouble as you both get each other into, you always know when the other is in need of a helping hand. This relationship I am witnessing may be lost on you now, but trust me, it will be one of the most important in your future!
Both of you are now able to move around freely and you're starting to play together more often. You no longer have to be so careful around one another. Colton, Xander loves climbing into your crib and jumping up and down. At first, I thought it would make you nervous but boy was I wrong. I can see already that you two are going to be a lot of fun and maybe a lot of trouble together. Let the mischief begin!
Sand and sticks- two of your greatest treasures and currently two of my greatest foes. The bigger of you doesn’t seem to be able to touch a stick without waving it or hitting it in someone’s face, and the littler of you is quickly learning to follow suit. Right now is the age of pushing boundaries and exploration, and it almost always ends with one (or both) of you crying. Colter, you can’t resist dumping at least one bucket of sand over your little brother’s head, or throwing it in his face. He’s learning to do this too! The new sandbox is adored by you both, and sand covers the floor of the house at all times to prove it. I love watching the two of you teach and learn, and find your own selves. The newest, best game involves laughing hysterically at each other just because you can, and you add bonus points if it drives your sister crazy. The emotions couldn’t run much higher in this house, the chaos couldn’t be much bigger, and life couldn’t be much sweeter.
I hope there will always be times in your lives where you can simply sit and talk. I hope you keep showing each other new things and learning from one another. I hope you always feel comfortable together and look out for one another. I hope you continue to challenge each other, and stay strong together despite your differences.
Summer is in full swing! Our summer consists of sleeping in slightly, going to work/daycare, eating supper, you two swimming, tending to the goats, bath, bed… and repeat! Well for the most part anyway, the weekends and filled with craziness. I enjoy watching the two of you swim and kick the soccer ball around the pasture. I am thinking of putting black trash bags on top of the pool to warm it up, so that I can actually get in it! I love the longer days of summer and being able to spend more time outdoors. I forgot to tell you that I spent 10 minutes chasing a baby bunny in and out of my flower bed. If it isn’t the rabbits eating my flowers, it is the dog and the armadillos digging them up!
You are brothers but yet so different. You both balance each other perfectly and you use your personal strengths to help one another. Numerous times a day I just sit back and watch you play together and think thank goodness you have each other and a best friend for life.
Watching your father mow the lawn is always one of your favorite activities. But this time you all took it one step further and followed him (like little ducklings) up and down the yard with your own toy lawn mowers. I loved watching you all in a single file line as you followed each other step by step until all the grass was cut.
This is your little game, the way you've found to connect.
Grant loves to get his fingers wrapped tightly in any hair that he can reach, so you give him your whole head, John, and let him dig in. Then you start screeching, "Nooo! Don't pull my hair!" and you yank your head back as he holds tight. I'm always surprised Grant isn't scared by the volume, but he thinks this is the greatest game ever and looks at you bright eyed and giggly.
This past month was rough with you boys, forgive me if I turned my back on you and walked away more times than I care to admit. My brain is constantly thinking “I can't laugh at that, no I need to separate them, or maybe I should put them on time-out? Do not laugh, whatever you do…DO NOT laugh” Your energy is usually contagious, and you boys are learning at a very young age that how you two are interacting usually determines my mood. You're sometimes evil about it, you two can almost sense when I’ve had the worst day and you push me to the limit. Food that is intended for your mouths ends up on the floor, boogers that belong in your nose end up in your mouth, pee that belongs in the toilet ends up everywhere else but in the bowl and sword fights turn into tears. When I need a break, I put you in the cage (also known as a trampoline) and let you burn off some energy. It is one of my favorite times of the day. Sometimes I even document it for you, so I can remember that these are the “magic” times and maybe I should just laugh a little more.
Together but worlds apart. That's become the norm around here. You like to play in the same place with the same things but rarely are able to interact much without a fight. You play so differently and Ayden, you struggle to understand this little person who enjoys messy chaos and often communicates through excited screeches. It will get easier and the two of you will come up with a system that works. But your age gap and personalities keep you at arms length for now. Be patient, my loves.
I always thought I was your biggest fan. You had a baseball tournament this past weekend and I saw every pitch you threw and every single swing of the bat. As I cheered for you, I noticed something. I have an echo. It makes me laugh because Sam is right there on the fence cheering for you. “Come on Jack!” “Nice pitch, Wild Thing!” “Let’s go Bandits!” Your little brother is there watching everything you do. He gave up his entire weekend to sit at the baseball field and watch you play….because he wanted to. He wants to be around you and your team. You are the “cool kids.” He even wears your old jersey and team sweatshirt with your name and number on it to the games. And when you make a mistake or miss a play, he watches how you react. Thankfully, you are graceful in defeat. When there is a minute of down time, he timidly walks to the edge of the dugout to see if you want anything from the concession stand. You totally make his day when you say yes. When you ask him to get you a bag of sunflower seeds or Big League Chew, he feels like he is contributing. So really, thank you for not totally blowing off your little brother when you are at baseball. Even when you can’t take the time to talk to him from the dugout, you are kind. I know that isn’t always easy. I am proud of you for that.
We just wrapped up another season of soccer and school is getting ready to be over for the year. I am so proud of both of you! You are both amazing soccer players, one of my favorite things to do is cheer you both on from the sidelines. Your Daddy usually wanders to the other end of the field because I get a little too excited sometimes...well maybe more than sometimes! I can remember when I played basketball, I could hear my Dad hollering for me over the crowd during our home games. I didn’t play much because I am not as athletic as the two of you, but it still made be feel good.
We have 18 baby goats now! They provide us with a ton of entertainment in the evenings. This particular baby goat’s name is Oscar, the past two years we have had baby goats that looked just like this one, brown with a white belt around their belly. It is kind of crazy to have one like that yearly, but we do live on a crazy farm. Love you both, Momma
Archer you know just how to make Gryff collapse into a fit of giggles, which in turn spurs you on to your next trick. And although you are often stealing any and every toy he touches, more often you are asking him to join you in your fort, or your hiding place, or your box. Watching the two of you play together lights a fire in me. In watching you play for a few moments I see a deep friendship growing, gentle caring for one another, wild energy running between you, and idealization & modelling. I know as you grow up together these things will change, and some may even fade for a time, but you are connected for life. The bond between you will withstand anything.
Where I find you, I will usually find your shadow. You tend to use it to your advantage by coaxing him into mischief. And he happily follows along because wherever you are is where he wants to be, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to one day find you feeding him mischievous ideas while standing back to watch as he goes into action and subsequently gets into trouble.
This last week was Atlys' 5th birthday, seriously where has the time gone!! Tyton was so sweet to Atlys this night, most likely because he wanted him to share his toys. Bahaha. None the less, he helped me make his cake and lit all of the candles for his brother. They do love each other sometimes.
My Boys, this evening the weather was beautiful and we made the spur of the moment decision to get food from the grocery store and enjoy a picnic dinner at the playground. I watched you all follow each other around like little shadows — one after another, after another. Each younger brother looking up to his older brother wanting to do the things that he saw his older brother accomplish. As we were leaving, you all decided to climb these rocks. You lined up, one, two, three; the largest down to the smallest. And as I looked down at your baby brother asleep in his wrap on my chest, I smiled knowing that he had three amazing older brothers who would teach him everything there is to know about being a boy.
First, I think you’re both crazy. The fact that you want to go into a Superpipe is insane. It has 22 foot vertical walls and is made out of ice. You charge into it at full speed with the intent of riding up that huge wall as fast as you can and jumping up out of the pipe and flipping and spinning. If you wipe out, there could be dire consequences - you could fall more than 22 feet. Regardless of the danger, you both drop in…one right after the other. You share a common dream of one day being on the podium at the X Games. Jack, you’ve been training for this for years and your love of freestyle skiing has certainly rubbed off on your little brother. Because he knows you will only bring him with you where you know he will be safe, he blindly follows you. It is a big responsibility for you to take on…making sure your brother is safe. I am continually impressed by your drive to learn new things and push yourself even harder than you did the day before. Your little brother is watching you like a hawk. He thinks you are larger than life and will follow wherever you go. You are actively shaping who he is.
I’ve lost count of the times I would remind you that he just wants to be included in what you do. I know there have been so many times that you’d rather not listen. Because he’s on the spectrum, he just approaches most things in a totally different way than you do, and that can create a lot of frustration since you are such a perfectionist and rule follower. In those moments, I was there to remind you that he just wants to be included in what you do. There was a phase where he would play quietly near you because to him that was as good as being included. In those moments, I was there to remind you that he just wants to be included in what you do. After so many reminders, I’ve seen it sink in. I’ve seen so many moments that you include him in what you are doing. I’ve seen you encourage others to include him. And I know because of him, you are right there to play with friends at school that may just do things in a different way. Without judgement. Only with a loving heart. And I really can’t tell you how proud that makes me!
Everywhere we go you both have to find the biggest tree and climb it. We recently started walking Luna every evening around this lake and you have fallen in love with this tree specifically. Every time we go here, you both spend the time gathering sticks and climbing into the tree to build your own secret “tree house.” I love when I see you both bonding and building not only houses, but memories together. This little lake has definitely become a place where I truly enjoying taking you and look forward to doing with you both every evening.
You have a little shadow. A messy, noisy little shadow. Cam watches and attempts to imitate everything you do. And although it drives you crazy at times, I know you feel the love that he pours over you as he stares at you with joy. Because to him you are the whole world. You are the one who shows his how to get dressed, how to build forts, how to get cozy on the couch, how to dig at the beach, how to everything. I know that it can be hard to be followed constantly by someone who doesn't always understand the rules of play but you are amazing with him. Truly amazing. And when I think of the future when you two are grown, I have no doubt that you will fill this role just as well as you do now.
Colton is sitting up so well these days. He still needs some supervision when supporting himself, but in no time at all he will not need any help from us at all. I can see your excitement, Xander, and enthusiasm, as Colton gets bigger and more mobile, because as he does, he becomes more and more able to play with you. You two were born to be brothers. The more I see you interact, the more I see how much you care for your little brother, the more I realize that you would never have been truly fulfilled without him in your life.
I love adventuring with you kids more than you will ever know. You see the world through untainted glasses and your view of your surroundings is that of pure amazement. This month's adventures brought us to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. We hiked, we climbed on huge rocks, we talked about how the rocks formed, the beautiful colors we were seeing, and if we would find any snakes on the trail like the signs said. Watching you guys explore brings me so much joy. You boys are far more brave than your older sister. Part of that is due to your boyhood and the fact that you are both fearless and have no depth perception, your sister on the other hand just knows more about the dangers of the outdoors. Your little brother tries his hardest to keep up with you, you let him as if you already know that life and your adventures are going to be far more enjoyable and memorable with your favorite little tagalong. I admire you boys and your budding relationship everyday, in fact I often am just mesmerized by the two of you and how close you are for being 2 and a half years apart. I hope you continue to cherish each other in the coming years as I cherish everyday with you kids.
This place where we live is more than I could have ever asked for. I enjoy sitting in the pasture surrounded by the cows listening to them graze. I love sitting on the back porch watching the two of you fight over the four wheeler, or the baseball bat, or.. ok everything...that’s not my point. I enjoy our special place in our little house on top of the hill with our animals and beauty all around us. I do love all of those things, but this place isn’t my home. You are my home, the two of you and your Daddy are my home. I love your hugs, your “I love you Momma’s” and playing ice cream shop on the porch. My life would never me the same without you and I don’t think that I would ever be “at home”. Love you both more than I could ever put into words.
You really don't play together yet, in the typical sense. Bright colored baby toys seem to have universal appeal though, and the little play gym seems to be everyone's favorite.
In your 11 months on this Earth, you have made it clear that you will not be ignored or left behind. You always seem to be one step ahead of us all Gryffin, and we are all constantly trying to keep up. At no point in time is it OK for Archer to do anything that doesn’t include you, and when he tries you will do everything in your power to join in. I would say that the “annoying little brother” stage has begun.
My boys. This month has been hard. It seems as though you’ve been fighting more than you’ve been friends. “I hate you” has outnumbered “I love you”. I’ve been struggling too. Many days I’ve gone back through old photographs of you boys just to remind myself that you do love each. You are best friends. Some days are just really tough. But when I see photos such as this one from two years ago — when one morning looked over as I cooked breakfast and saw you two sitting in the most perfect pocket of light. Big brother “reading” to little brother. And when I see these moments once again, my heart swells and I am reminded that all is right in the world.
You two have become the best of friends but more importantly you have learned HOW to be someone's friend. "Treat him the way you want to be treated", "You catch more flies with honey"... These are life lessons that we have repeated to you millions of times and I'm so proud to see you truly caring about each other's feelings and being there for one another. I get those warm fuzzies when you include each other and want to play together on the same team. I really do feel like I am shaping and nurturing two tiny humans that are going to one day go out in the real world and succeed. Whether or not you like it you two are stuck together so you might as well enjoy it!
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: GRETCHEN WILLIS
Oh, my sweet boy. I never knew how much you needed a little brother until he was born. Sure you had two little sisters but it's not the same thing. I see that you've carved a special place in your heart for your baby brother. Having children is that way, as you will one day realize: they fill a space in your heart that you never knew was empty before. It's that way with him for you. And it's that way for both of you with me.
As your relationship grows and you begin to interact more and more, I can often see how your personalities complement each other, and also how they may clash. Gryffin, you do not like being left behind or underestimated, making you the frequent source of Archer’s frustration. Archer, you are still enjoying the fact that you can move quicker and outsmart your baby brother, giving you the upper hand (not for long, I’m sure!). More often than not you are making each other giggle, but the frustrated huffs from both of you are frequent too - it is just too bad that you don’t yet see the humour in each other’s irritation.
Cameron, you are the classic little brother. Trying desperately to be a part of his world every moment of every day. You spend a lot of time here on your tippie toes, hoping for a glimpse of the action. Sometimes you blindly reach your hand up and wave around hoping to catch something. And the squeal of delight that happens when you snag a treasure off the table brings an automatic smile to my face. Ayden, you use this as a space to play with things that you don't want Cam to touch or things that you deem "chokeful" to protect him (and your things). It's your safe place. Where the destructive little brothers of the world can't reach your carefully placed items. But this season is a short one, my sweet boy. And soon Cam will be climbing the chairs (and table) just like you. There will for sure be a learning curve and a battle of wills. And it will rock your world to no longer have that safe zone. But don't worry, we'll find you a new special spot for delicate things and the two of you will work it through. I have no doubt that soon I will find the two of you perched on the table building grand creations. And just like everything else in life with you two, I can't wait for your relationship to continue evolving and at the same time find myself frantically grasping onto this very moment before it all changes again.
He loves the water except when it gets in his face. You happened to splash water in his face, which predictably made him cry. BUT, you also were the first one there to comfort him. You apologized and helped him wipe the water off his face. You gave him a hug until his fussing quieted down. I had been on my way to provide that comfort, but you simply were there first. So I hung back and let you continue to see if it was enough or if I would be needed. I watched and I documented. In that moment, he only needed you.
My sweet Xander, you are so protective of your little brother, and Colton is so enamored by you. I watch you both in moments like this and my heart just swells because you literally don't have to do anything, and your little brother will smile at you. It makes me so proud as a mom, and yet at the same time I feel a tiny twinge of jealousy, because some days I have to work so hard to get a smile or a laugh, yet for you he gives them so freely. But I hope that never changes, and I hope you always continue to make each other smile.
I always wanted to have a girl, you know, to have that bond that is so very different than boys. God had other plans, and blessed us with boys. Now that I have a house of boys I couldn't imagine having girls. Their daily booty shakes on me, their laughter after they fart, and their bigger than life personalities make me smile daily. I seriously think I gave birth to the 2 funniest human beings alive. The things we joke and laugh about are like no other. Put them together and their personalities double. Double trouble, and double the amount of laughter. In this photo, they were getting ready for school and I came out to them with their hats, flannel shirts, and their “thug” life hand gestures. I of course, died. Thank you Tyton and Atlys for the daily does of smiles that you give me.
I love puffy clouds, mud puddles, rain boots full of water, laughs, soaked clothes, grass covered boys, muddy feet and giggles.. I will be sad when the two of you no longer want to play in the huge puddle in the front yard every spring. You fill your mud boots full of water and dump them over your heads and laugh so much! These moments are so precious and time is flying way to fast!! I love you both to the moon and back.
There was a time when all three of you boys would take a bath together. Your oldest brother grew out of that and we are down to two in the tub. But even that is few and far between. These days you each prefer to take a bath, or even a shower, on your own. There are the rare occasions, like glow stick baths, when you will still jump in together. With only two years between the two of you, it’s always been easy to group you both together; what one does the other does too. But more and more you are each carving your own paths in all the big and little ways. Your interests, the way you dress, having a bath to yourself. There was a time when getting everyone in the tub was about saving time, now it’s different. It’s symbolic of a different time in our lives and a bond you two share.