I first met Kirsten and Shelby in the living room of a townhouse off of Field-Ertle. It was where my sister Sharen and my future brother in law Jeff lived. I'm pretty sure this was 2000 or 2001. Kirsten and Shelby are Jeff's girls from his first marriage, but they were my nieces from the day I met them. My sister calls them her heart babies, because they were born in her heart when she met them.
Matthew I met about 30 minutes after he was born in the recovery room of Christ Hospital in 2004.
Kirsten, Shelby and I used to spend a lot of time playing dress up, reading out loud and playing with Barbies. We would swim at the old house in Clyde and generally all sleep in the same teeny tiny blow up bed when they would be visiting. Before I moved to Cincinnati I would road trip down here and once I did so just to baby sit them while Sharen and Jeff went to a fancy work party overnight. We made chocolate chip cookies and played Barbies until it looked like Mattel had exploded in the living room. I've played dress up with Shelby more times than I can count (usually I'm wearing my old bridesmaids dress from Lisa's wedding). We solved world problems together like, Should we watch That's So Raven or Dora the Explorer. We located missing big birds and played school.
Once I moved down to Cincinnati in 2004 I started giving the girls "Special Days" for their birthdays. On a Saturday after their birthday each year I spend the entire day with each of them individually. They have a set amount to spend and they make all the choices. No compromising with their sister or brother, no having to wait for another sibling to catch up or wake up from a nap. It's all their way all day.
We've done roller skating, putt putt golfing, bowling, I've visited every mall in the Cincinnati area in one eight hour period. I've watched a lot of kid movies and cartoons and listened to a child speak for almost 90 consecutive minutes. The whole time I wondered, did I ever talk that much? Do I still talk that much?
Shelby and Kirsten are 11 and 14 now. They're growing up quickly and dealing with a lot of growing up things. They push their boundaries and sometimes are just looking for someone to tell them they love them period.
I love them very much and can't imagine what my life would be like without them.
Shelby wears her heart on her sleeve and isn't afraid to tell you when she's hurt or disappointed. Sometimes she has a hard time seeing the good side to things, but she's also 11 and we're trying to help her see the sunny side of life. Shelby is so eager to please, yearning for praise and assurance that she is loved. She struggles with her school work and will often shut down out of frustration of not getting it right. But in the last few years has made such amazing improvements. Shelby wants things to be fair, but doesn't always think that fair is what is actually fair. Shelby flings herself into people and retreats quickly at the smallest sign of hurt. I don't know about the whole birth order thing, but the older her younger brother gets the more I see a definite middle child in Shelby. She is a storyteller and spares no detail. Shelby told a story once that I'm pretty sure I could have gone to work, come home, slept through the night and worked through another day of work before she got to the point of that story. It was hilarious and the whole family was held hostage at the dinner table.
Kirsten is both shy and boisterous at the same time. She is the child that has spoken for almost 90 minutes straight. She laughs with abandon and retreats into silence when hurt. Kirsten is really coming into her own as she hits the teen years. She takes a role of responsibility that is older than her years call for and is often busy doing responsible things (taking care of her sister or brother, cleaning up the table, carrying laundry upstairs etc.) as opposed to doing teen things. She does them quietly, seeming to wonder when she gets to goof off, until she explodes and wonders that aloud. (It doesn't help that her sister is a master at getting out of the co-jobs they're given at home...) Kirsten excels in school and is an avid reader. She used to horse back ride and was great at that. It seems that those sorts of things come easy to her. She has her own unique sense of style and dress and she isn't afraid to tell you why she loves something so much. This past Christmas she wanted yellow. It didn't matter what as long as it was yellow.
Kirsten is obedient. She generally follows the rules and does what she's told. When she steps out of line it is usually after much stress and provocation. She's 14, it's not unusual for this to happen. I can kid around more with Kirsten, her skin is thicker than Shelby's, but she's just as sensitive at the same time.
Matthew is 4 and a bundle of 4 year old boyness. He's intelligent and caring with quite the temper. He likes things just so and has a very strong sense of what's fair, what's fair usually being whatever it is he wants at the moment (just like his big sister). He loves movies and will tell you ad nauseum his favorite part of the movie until he has at last told you the entire movie itself. Matthew will say, "Hey Aunt Bethany" I'll say, "Yes Matthew" and he'll reply, "I love you" He's a cuddler and a wrestler and he loves to play games. He does this funny little wave when he wants you to follow him, which is almost all the time. He tells great stories and loves for you to tell him stories too. He is already reading and apparently identified the Nigerian flag the other day for his mom. I was there when Matthew took his first poop, of merconium, and I caught it in my hands with Sharen because we had no idea what else to do. We looked at each other after and said, "what did we do that for!" I was there when he had the hiccups for the first time and when he rolled over for the first time. He chatters non stop about the funniest things and has recently discovered "I'm copying you" I just copy him right back though so it doesn't usually last long. It's been really something to know this little guy his whole life. I've never spent so much time with someone that I remember when they didn't even exist. To be able to see who he becomes as he grows up has been really amazing.
These three kids are all pretty amazing in their own right and as a group. They've taught me patience and perseverance. Like taking a walk when one doesn't want to walk anymore and then it starts raining and you have 2 dogs and a stroller and are pretty tired of walking yourself. They've taught me a deeper love than I knew existed before these particular children existed to me. They've pushed me to the brink of insanity and then yanked me right back with their hugs and kisses. I've been kicked, shoved, punched, hugged, kissed and cuddled within an inch of my life; and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.