On turning four

April 29, 2019

Will lake.jpg

Like so many parents these days, I often spend a few minutes scrolling through old photos of Will right before I go to bed. Wrapped in covers before I drift off to sleep, I want one more dose of goodness, one more reminder of the best parts of life. I do this especially around Will’s birthday, as a reminder of how he’s changed and grown, holding space for the signature sounds and images from that year.

This year, Will stopped calling girls “grills.”

He says words like surprise and totally with such clarity I forget that he used to be a toddler, just a few swipes back in my iPhoto collection.

He turned four in February, and this is the story of what he learned, how he grew, and what we noticed as his parents.

Every year, every month, and every day, I continue to walk out the truth I learned in the first few weeks of motherhood: I can read all the books and seek out all the advice from parenting mentors, but every moment of my role as a mom is a game-time decision. We’re all just shooting from the hip, hoping that if we are wrong it’s not so damaging that an apology and perhaps some counseling can fix it.

One of the biggest transitions for Will this year, and for Kasey and I as parents, was moving to preschool; I was dreading it. For three full years, he was in a place I knew, a place I was comforted by, a place that I trusted. I had been picking Will up from Titi’s since the days of diaper bags and little coolers of breastmilk. It was obvious that he was ready for something more, but it meant changing what was comfortable for us as parents. I recognize that the jump from daycare to preschool may seem simple given the fact that he’s moving from one care provider outside our home to another, but it was still new, still a leap of faith.

While we swapped Titi’s home for a classroom and letters, we swapped a few other things as well. Footie pajamas became a nuisance not worth the cuteness. His ever-raspy voice went from toddler to little kid, pronouncing words in their entirety, akin to the way he lost the baby chub and started to grow in height.

His beloved Clifford and Daniel Tiger became Netflix views of the past and Chase has been on the case for almost a solid year, edged out only recently by The Lion Guard and Lightning McQueen.

On Easter we carried on the Brazell tradition of the Jesus scavenger hunt, where we go to the empty tomb in the morning to find the first clue to where Jesus (and our Easter baskets) were hiding. Will assumed his role of detective but demanding that he “read” each clue, testing his dad’s patience at 5:30 a.m.

Summer was spent traipsing around Bass Lake, Fresno, Folsom, Carpinteria, and the Bay Area. On our first trip down to the lake at camp, I’ll never forget Will’s reaction when he saw the water for the first time. We hiked down Kimo trail in the warmth of an afternoon summer day, hoping just to dip our toes in the water. In years past I carried him down in the Ergo or held his hand through the creek. This time, he was home. He ran with an abandon I hadn’t seen before, comfortable with all the dirt and branches beneath his feet. He asked if we were there just shy of 42 times. And then, he saw it. He stopped in his tracks, turned back at me with his mouth wide open, fully aware of the grandeur up ahead. Then he took off, arms pumping, his mom unable to keep up.

In the fall Uncle Phil and I took Will to Disneyland for the first time, relishing in Churros and Dole Whip, getting indoctrinated by Carsland. A few weeks later, we told Will that he was going to become a big brother, like his friends Finley and Karig. He didn’t quite know what to say at first. Then, about an hour later he said, “Hey mom, is that why you had a waffle before dinner?

In December he got to be in the school’s Christmas program and we practiced his line at every meal as though he were playing Jean Valjean in Les Mis. Nana and Papa, Auntie Bonnie and Uncle John, Uncle Mark and Jack, Kelsey and Travis and mom and dad all cheered from the back of the little church as Will, donning his cow costume, proclaimed, “Moo, Moo, Moo, there’s room for you!” (We promise to be more chill as he gets older.)

But in this year of transition, some things have stayed exactly the same. My cautious, particular, and very routine little boy still leaves with the exact same knuckles-high fives-hugs-and-kiss routine (this can be confirmed by his preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, and every baby-sitter he’s had), and every nap and bedtime still takes approximately 5 hours because we cannot skip any part of the routine we established two years ago unless we feel like playing the game of fits and timeouts right at precious sleeping time.

Every morning he pulls up a chair to help Kasey grind his coffee beans, and if Kasey dare try to do it on his own, he might as well relinquish his dad of the year badge. On their way to preschool, they have fruit snacks–  something I learned when Kasey was out of town. I don’t love that he has fruit snacks that early, but at this point the tradition is far more important than my food values. And, just like when they were around the corner from TiTi’s house, a few moments before they pull into the preschool parking lot, Will reaches his hand out and says “pray.” Kasey reaches his hand back and together they pray for the day, every day.

Just before his fourth birthday, Will wore a Dr. Seuss shirt to school that his Nana had given him. On the front of the shirt it says “you were born to stand out.” As I walked into the preschool play area to pick him up one afternoon, one of the teachers, Miss Lisa, stopped me. She said, “I told Will that shirt is perfect for him. He brings so much light and positivity, standing out everywhere he goes.”

We did our research on where Will would go to preschool, but ultimately it came down to trusting that this place would work out, that the right people would influence him. And in this case, it was the perfect choice for our sensitive, routine-oriented boy. Choosing where and when he goes to preschool is on a long list of decisions we’ll make for the next 18 years; a list where all the research in the world essentially comes down to our gut intuition.

Will is learning his letters, how to deal with big kids, and how to cut with scissors. They’re building blocks, sometimes literally, that will help him grow academically and socially as he continues to get older. And at the same time, these little choices of where he goes to school, what we pack for lunch, what routines and traditions we establish, are exercising the muscles Kasey and I need to have to learn, discuss, and figure out how to make the next right decision as parents. There are moments were it feels like it’s all clicking and there are moments where it feels a bit reckless and way too big for us.

A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast with Amy Grant as the guest. In it she shared some advice she received from her now-grown daughter’s preschool teacher. The advice goes like this: you can either prepare the road for the child or prepare the child for the road.

And, inevitably, I’m drawn to Brené Brown’s words on parenting:

“And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job.”

Scrolling back through our Will photo album on my phone, I don’t have images of the fits and timeouts, of too much TV, of when I was impatient or over-indulgent, when Kasey and I argued about what to do with a certain scenario. Those are the imperfections that make up our daily existence, and they are what shape us– all three of us– for the road ahead. We have the highlights of the year that mark our journey as a family– the trips and holidays and momentous occasions. But we need both the highlights and the imperfections. They work together, shifting, uprooting, and changing us, creating a gentle whisper of belonging and understanding. I am so grateful for every bit of it.

Will’s Birth Story

Will’s First Year

Will’s Second Year

Will’s Third Year

Will Portland donut.jpg

Will cow.jpg

Work with me

share this post

hey, i'm corrie!

I help people-driven companies, large and small, connect with their kind of people with brand voice strategy + personalized copy. A believer in public schools and Ted Lasso, I love getting to champion the best version of your brand. 

Will lake.jpg

Like so many parents these days, I often spend a few minutes scrolling through old photos of Will right before I go to bed. Wrapped in covers before I drift off to sleep, I want one more dose of goodness, one more reminder of the best parts of life. I do this especially around Will’s birthday, as a reminder of how he’s changed and grown, holding space for the signature sounds and images from that year.

This year, Will stopped calling girls “grills.”

He says words like surprise and totally with such clarity I forget that he used to be a toddler, just a few swipes back in my iPhoto collection.

He turned four in February, and this is the story of what he learned, how he grew, and what we noticed as his parents.

Every year, every month, and every day, I continue to walk out the truth I learned in the first few weeks of motherhood: I can read all the books and seek out all the advice from parenting mentors, but every moment of my role as a mom is a game-time decision. We’re all just shooting from the hip, hoping that if we are wrong it’s not so damaging that an apology and perhaps some counseling can fix it.

One of the biggest transitions for Will this year, and for Kasey and I as parents, was moving to preschool; I was dreading it. For three full years, he was in a place I knew, a place I was comforted by, a place that I trusted. I had been picking Will up from Titi’s since the days of diaper bags and little coolers of breastmilk. It was obvious that he was ready for something more, but it meant changing what was comfortable for us as parents. I recognize that the jump from daycare to preschool may seem simple given the fact that he’s moving from one care provider outside our home to another, but it was still new, still a leap of faith.

While we swapped Titi’s home for a classroom and letters, we swapped a few other things as well. Footie pajamas became a nuisance not worth the cuteness. His ever-raspy voice went from toddler to little kid, pronouncing words in their entirety, akin to the way he lost the baby chub and started to grow in height.

His beloved Clifford and Daniel Tiger became Netflix views of the past and Chase has been on the case for almost a solid year, edged out only recently by The Lion Guard and Lightning McQueen.

On Easter we carried on the Brazell tradition of the Jesus scavenger hunt, where we go to the empty tomb in the morning to find the first clue to where Jesus (and our Easter baskets) were hiding. Will assumed his role of detective but demanding that he “read” each clue, testing his dad’s patience at 5:30 a.m.

Summer was spent traipsing around Bass Lake, Fresno, Folsom, Carpinteria, and the Bay Area. On our first trip down to the lake at camp, I’ll never forget Will’s reaction when he saw the water for the first time. We hiked down Kimo trail in the warmth of an afternoon summer day, hoping just to dip our toes in the water. In years past I carried him down in the Ergo or held his hand through the creek. This time, he was home. He ran with an abandon I hadn’t seen before, comfortable with all the dirt and branches beneath his feet. He asked if we were there just shy of 42 times. And then, he saw it. He stopped in his tracks, turned back at me with his mouth wide open, fully aware of the grandeur up ahead. Then he took off, arms pumping, his mom unable to keep up.

In the fall Uncle Phil and I took Will to Disneyland for the first time, relishing in Churros and Dole Whip, getting indoctrinated by Carsland. A few weeks later, we told Will that he was going to become a big brother, like his friends Finley and Karig. He didn’t quite know what to say at first. Then, about an hour later he said, “Hey mom, is that why you had a waffle before dinner?

In December he got to be in the school’s Christmas program and we practiced his line at every meal as though he were playing Jean Valjean in Les Mis. Nana and Papa, Auntie Bonnie and Uncle John, Uncle Mark and Jack, Kelsey and Travis and mom and dad all cheered from the back of the little church as Will, donning his cow costume, proclaimed, “Moo, Moo, Moo, there’s room for you!” (We promise to be more chill as he gets older.)

But in this year of transition, some things have stayed exactly the same. My cautious, particular, and very routine little boy still leaves with the exact same knuckles-high fives-hugs-and-kiss routine (this can be confirmed by his preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, and every baby-sitter he’s had), and every nap and bedtime still takes approximately 5 hours because we cannot skip any part of the routine we established two years ago unless we feel like playing the game of fits and timeouts right at precious sleeping time.

Every morning he pulls up a chair to help Kasey grind his coffee beans, and if Kasey dare try to do it on his own, he might as well relinquish his dad of the year badge. On their way to preschool, they have fruit snacks–  something I learned when Kasey was out of town. I don’t love that he has fruit snacks that early, but at this point the tradition is far more important than my food values. And, just like when they were around the corner from TiTi’s house, a few moments before they pull into the preschool parking lot, Will reaches his hand out and says “pray.” Kasey reaches his hand back and together they pray for the day, every day.

Just before his fourth birthday, Will wore a Dr. Seuss shirt to school that his Nana had given him. On the front of the shirt it says “you were born to stand out.” As I walked into the preschool play area to pick him up one afternoon, one of the teachers, Miss Lisa, stopped me. She said, “I told Will that shirt is perfect for him. He brings so much light and positivity, standing out everywhere he goes.”

We did our research on where Will would go to preschool, but ultimately it came down to trusting that this place would work out, that the right people would influence him. And in this case, it was the perfect choice for our sensitive, routine-oriented boy. Choosing where and when he goes to preschool is on a long list of decisions we’ll make for the next 18 years; a list where all the research in the world essentially comes down to our gut intuition.

Will is learning his letters, how to deal with big kids, and how to cut with scissors. They’re building blocks, sometimes literally, that will help him grow academically and socially as he continues to get older. And at the same time, these little choices of where he goes to school, what we pack for lunch, what routines and traditions we establish, are exercising the muscles Kasey and I need to have to learn, discuss, and figure out how to make the next right decision as parents. There are moments were it feels like it’s all clicking and there are moments where it feels a bit reckless and way too big for us.

A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast with Amy Grant as the guest. In it she shared some advice she received from her now-grown daughter’s preschool teacher. The advice goes like this: you can either prepare the road for the child or prepare the child for the road.

And, inevitably, I’m drawn to Brené Brown’s words on parenting:

“And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job.”

Scrolling back through our Will photo album on my phone, I don’t have images of the fits and timeouts, of too much TV, of when I was impatient or over-indulgent, when Kasey and I argued about what to do with a certain scenario. Those are the imperfections that make up our daily existence, and they are what shape us– all three of us– for the road ahead. We have the highlights of the year that mark our journey as a family– the trips and holidays and momentous occasions. But we need both the highlights and the imperfections. They work together, shifting, uprooting, and changing us, creating a gentle whisper of belonging and understanding. I am so grateful for every bit of it.

Will’s Birth Story

Will’s First Year

Will’s Second Year

Will’s Third Year

Will Portland donut.jpg

Will cow.jpg

Work with me

hey, i'm corrie!

I help people-driven companies, large and small, connect with their kind of people with brand voice strategy + personalized copy. A believer in public schools and Ted Lasso, I love getting to champion the best version of your brand. 

share this post

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