5 around the sun

Dear Rylie Joy,

Today… today you are 5.  Fahv.  You are 44 inches tall and 36 pounds if your backpack is fully loaded.

You are in Ms. Hogan pre-k class and you attend 1 music therapy, 1 riding therapy, 1 occupational therapy, 1 physical therapy, and 3 speech therapies each week to fight the Childhood Apraxia in your body.  You lay your clothes out every night, without help, for the coming morning.

You are in love with horses, babies, swinging, the color purple, and your grandfather.

It has been an unspeakably difficult year for us… for me and you.  Your body and behavior hit at about age three.  Your mind is five.  Your humor is about a 27.  Your loyalty and empathy are off the charts.  You are beautifully undefinable.

As your mom, I feel like I am the cause of so much of your frustration.  It is me, 99% of the literal time, that pushes you.  Get dressed.  Don’t touch.  Repeat that.  Try again.  Turn around.  Get in the car.  Not right now.  Hurry.  That is unacceptable.  Thank you.  Look at me.

Every day we have tears, and every day we have hugs.  How can I be the same one to discipline, to punish, to lose it, to drive you to tears… how can I be that same person and yet also be the only one who knows how to comfort you?  To interpret for you?  To understand you like know one else?

It is, perhaps, one definition of Grace.

Humility is not, by any measure, my strength.  I think this year… this incredibly hard and emotional and long year… was less about your body’s weakness and more about my heart’s shortcomings.

You have always been such a teacher.

I made you a purple cake.  You don’t know that yet, but under the white frosting and candles is a purple cake.  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

Your PapPap (my dad) is here, which may eclipse any American Girl doll, hammock swing, or paint set you receive after dinner.  Your relationship with him is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and I am forever thankful for the ability he has to cheer your heart.  He was a good dad, but he is an incredible grandfather.

You are fortunate to have a handful of adults like him in your life… who call and play and pray and and are simply genuinely invested in you, Child, and your story.

Again, it is Grace.

So, you are five.  Fahv.  In less than a month, you will be a big sister again… and you are so excited.  I pray you will know, somehow, the special place you have as Mulder 1.  The first child.  The one who taught me to be a mother.  The one who broke all the rules of normalcy in Apraxia.  The one who smiles with her eyes.  That’s you… and you will always have a specific, certain place.

I pray for growth. I pray for language.  I pray for durable friends and big-hearted teachers.  I pray, selfishly, for less tears of hurt and frustration and manipulation.

I pray, Rylie, that you would know Jesus loves you more than I ever possibly could.

Happy Birthday, My Shadow.

You are so very wonderful.

Love, Mom

About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

17 responses to “5 around the sun

  • Miss Laura

    You made me cry at work. Again. Can’t a girl have any dignity here in Cubicle World? I love this little girl so much…Happy Birthday, Miss Rylie!

    (And seriously? American Girl? I’m so excited now…more so than for the purple cake or PapPap, but to be fair, I can’t eat the cake and I’ve never met PapPap in person…for shame.)

  • Carolyn Fitzgerald

    Beatifully written. I have the same feelings with my 4 yr old daughter Shea on a regular basis but you so amazingly express it!
    happy happy birthday to Rylie! Can’t wait to hear about her reaction to the purple cake!
    thank you for your thoughts.

  • Michael Yoder

    You warmed my heart on this brisk November morning. Thank you, Katie. And, Happy Birthday Ry!

  • Jim B

    You always make our day brighter.

  • trace

    i love you – both of you – all five of you – tremendously and wholly

  • claire

    Happy Birthday, sweet Rylie! Your mama loves you well.

  • Abbie

    Oh my, how you’ve made me cry. Thanks for sharing! You’re one beautiful woman and mother, that’s for sure! I hope you have a beautiful day with your precious daughter. Wish her a happy birthday from her New Mexico friends!
    Love you!

    Audrey says, “Happy baht-day Wywee!”

  • HopefulLeigh

    Katie, this is so lovely! Grace indeed. Happy birthday to your wonderful daughter!

  • Bev Vanderwell

    You, often, regularly, expand my view of love and grace. Thank you.

  • Grace


    Happy birthday, precious one.

  • amanda {the habit of being}

    beautiful post k!!!

    and i feel you on the apraxia. i struggle. my lil guy struggles and is frustrated because i can’t understand. i needed to read this today, needed to know i’m not alone in not always understanding, in the daily tears and frustration.

    happy birthday to your big girl!

  • Brittany

    You have such an amazing gift of words. Absolutely beautiful…brought tears to my eyes and I don’t cry. Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m SO happy you are back! Looking forward to my weekly reads on your blog!

  • Carley

    This is so nice. I love the snowman picture. Too cute!

  • Julie

    Hello again. That is a beautiful letter to your daughter. I’ve said many of the same things, felt the same feelings, said the same prayers. At 13, Nick is as much my source of frustration as I am his. And yet at the end of the day (every day), I have to tell him that my love for him is fierce, and that I will always, always have his back. These children, they work so hard. Celebrate this birthday, and all your successes!

  • Margie

    Katie, oh Katie! You’ve been posting quite a bit, and I didn’t even know. But this…this…letter. Tears, here. You just captured it all. So much joy, so much struggle, so much love. You deserve 400 comments – everyone should read this. Covet your ability to put so much into good words. Will put “Katie Mulder’s birthday letter to Rylie” on my 1,000 gifts list. It’s that enriching.

  • Tim Brand

    I have been waiting to read this, and it is beautiful. It is moving. You articulate you thoughts so well and leave us feeling what you feel. Thank you sharing. You and your husband are a real blessing too me and I can see God’s work in all of this.

  • Tricia

    Happy belated birthday to Rylie! This is so beautifully written, Katie. I hope her birthday party and your Thanksgiving were wonderful! ❤

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