It's been interesting to watch the girls grow up. We can't do as much with the girls now that we live so far away but we both love taking them to do stuff and watching them turn into young ladies. We've both felt sort of parental at times, worrying about them and praying they would make good decisions as they got older (they have!).
Kirsten is now in her senior year of high school and applying to nearly every college in the contiguous United States. :) We were pleasantly shocked when she e-mailed us the following application essay for us to read. After spending a good ten minutes crying, we decided to ask if we could post it on our blog. She said yes. So....please enjoy reading! (Note: Zac changed the spelling of his name in college - that's why Kirsten spells it Zach in her essay)
Being fourteen years apart, one would guess that my brother Zach and I would have little in common or know little about each other, but just the opposite is true; he has always been my best friend. Even after he moved out for the final time when he married Sarah, not much changed…for a while.
When my dad opened his present from Zach and Sarah on Christmas day in 2006—a t-shirt that said “World’s Greatest PawPaw”, I was completely shocked; up until that point, my sister and I had been the only “girls” in Zach’s life. Because of the age difference, sometimes we were kind of his “kids”, and I was not thrilled about losing the closeness my brother and I had. When August came I got over it though, and I fell in love with Abby and being an aunt. It is pretty hard to not love a big—twelve pound, thirteen ounce—bundle of joy. Even as a baby she caused me to learn more than I would have ever thought. I learned how to make bottles and then I learned how to feed those bottles to a baby. I learned how to change a dirty diaper and how to give a baby a bath. I learned that I had a lot of growing up to do. But beyond those practical life lessons, I learned to have patience, to be more responsible, and to persevere.
Rather than attending Arkansas Governor’s School this summer and pursuing my own academic enrichment, I moved in with my brother’s family who had relocated to Draper, Utah—a suburb just outside of Salt Lake City. While I wanted to spend some much missed time with Abby, I also wanted to go to help with some daily tasks that were becoming impossible for Sarah to perform. Bending over to pick something up off the floor or even just walking through the grocery store becomes a little difficult when you’re carrying twins that ended up weighing almost nine pounds each at birth. Knowing that Abby was about to face a lack of attention from her mom and dad, I wanted to make sure we spent lots of time together doing things she wanted to do. Because her cousins have played soccer for years and also the fact that I started playing this past year, Abby has been captivated by soccer basically since birth. All she could talk about when I got off the plane was “Kirsten, we go play soccer now?”, so we started on fulfilling this dream right away and headed to the park to learn how to kick the ball. This lasted all of about twenty minutes at which point she decided she wanted to go color with mommy, which was okay with me. Forcing a three-year-old to learn does nothing but make them hate to “learn”. Instead, we tried other things like scrapbooking, cooking—also known as eating the food before it can be cooked, and swimming, all of which she really loved. As a self-proclaimed nerd though, I just couldn’t resist trying to teach her things I wished I could have learned at her age. Sarah had taught her the alphabet and her numbers one through twenty, and Abby always jumped at the chance to recite, or sing them to others. One day when Abby was counting out her numbers to me I said, “Would you like to learn a new way to count”? She curiously looked at me, so I started counting. At first it was just recitation, “uno, dos, tres…”. I taught her some colors in Spanish, too, though those never seemed to stick as well as the numbers. After my month in Utah she still retained her Spanish numbers uno through diez, but I assumed it was because of repetition. In September my nieces came home, and to my surprise when I asked Abby what color her Nana’s red shirt was she replied “rojo… red”. She then counted with me in Spanish, holding up the corresponding numbers on her fingers. I could have cried. I really, actually taught her something. She wasn’t just copying me. She was learning.
While this accomplishment may not seem like a lot, and certainly isn’t anything that would fit on an academic resume, it is one of the proudest moments of my life. My hard work didn’t benefit me. It benefited her. If people keep working on it with her, she could be bilingual by the time she’s my age, and to me that’s success. I wouldn’t trade the world’s biggest trophies or awards for that moment. It was pure bliss.
At only three years old, my niece has had more of an impact on me than almost any other person in my life. Because of her, the world has taken on a new, clearer image, and I’ve changed how I live my life. Winning feels amazing, and accomplishing a major personal goal can be extremely gratifying; however, I learned that for myself, neither of those things were what fulfilled me. What is fulfilling to me is seeing my hard work translate into amazing things for others and seeing them grow and prosper from it. Somehow in that summer, she taught me that the smile of a child was worth missing a paycheck from a summer job. It was worth missing out on an enlightening summer with my peers. Those things can be replicated, time after time if I seek them out, but there will never be another time that I can shape her life. After a few turbulent years of living for others, living for the future, and living without a purpose, I found myself and began to really live.