What I Learned When Emma Turned Six

In August of 2007, Jared and the kids and I loaded everything we owned into a U-Haul truck and a Chevy Trailblazer and drove away from everything we’d ever known about home. We moved from Parkersburg, Iowa to Central Florida, where the only person we knew was a man I’d met on the Internet who’d promised me a job.

We left our parents and extended families, our friends and our neighbors. They all wished us well, but most of them thought we were crazy.

“It sounds so cool,” they said, “but I could never do that.”

Our friends and family members with children were particularly baffled by our plans to leave our hometown in Iowa, where the streets were safe and the babysitting was free. I actually remember people asking me, “what about the kids?” I laughed a little at the time and said I’d be taking the kids with us to Florida.

It wasn’t until we were here, 1400 miles away from any support system, that I realized we were now going to be expected to raise these two kids on our own and just how hard that could be.

That was almost four years ago. Emma was two and had just been potty trained right before our move.

Yesterday Emma turned six.


She walks, talks, dresses herself, stands up for herself, and can explain the difference between being yourself and trying to be better than someone else. She makes jokes and does riddles and knows how to use a freaking computer. She rides a bike with no training wheels and read books on her own.

She is six.

And as much as the passage of time always impresses parents when it is represented in their children, what I’m most amazed by is the fact that we did this. Jared and I. I look at her and see the product of some child-rearing experiment; take this child and raise it away from known elements over here in this lab called Central Florida. Good luck!

And we did.

Jared and I, almost all on our own, turned a two-year old toddler into a six-year old girl. I mean, us, God, and an amazing support system of friends we’ve created for ourselves here – but also just us.

The last four years with our kids have been completely different than the previous seven years of child rearing we’d experienced surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It wasn’t always easy. There were days we wondered if we’d made a mistake. But taking the leap of faith taught us exactly how much we were capable of.

We learned things about ourselves and developed new skills that we would not have had to if we’d stayed in our comfort zone.

And it has turned out beautifully.

That’s how I know we can do it again.

Get More Inspiration & Encouragement

Sign up to get my weekly(ish) email with personal stories, practical tips & links to recent blog posts. You'll also have access to exclusive discounts on products & events and a handful of freebies I've made just for you.

I save my best stuff for subscribers! Join us.

Your email will never be sold or shared, because I aspire to not be a jerk.

  1. Avitable says:

    And you guys have done a great job so far, because she’s amazing. It’s been quite the ride, watching her grow from this shy, quiet toddler to a little adult. I can only imagine how the experiences she has over the next few years will shape her even further. Happy birthday, Emma.

  2. sue says:

    Happy Birthday to Emma… and you guys should be so absolutely freakin’ proud! What an accomplishment. Although I am in Iowa and know the small-town atmosphere of which you speak, I can only admire the courage it took to do what you did. You are going to have a wonderful adventure. One that so very few of us would ever break out of our comfort zones to even try. You are giving yourselves… and your children… a gift of a lifetime. Go you!

  3. Lisa says:

    I remember how it felt to be so far away from friends and family with a small child. I was lucky in that the military makes its own community/family so you are never really alone, but it is intimidating and you guys have done a great job! Happy Birthday, Emma!

  4. Sheila says:

    Happy Birthday Emma!

  5. Megan says:

    Happy Birthday, Emma!

  6. happy, happy birthday to my favorite emma. she is a phenomenal little person. you and jared are doing a fantastic job!

  7. Mandi Bone says:

    Happy Birthday Emma!

  8. Connie says:

    Emma sounds like a very bright little girl!You and Jared should be proud of yourselves! Of course you can do it but good for you for actually PROVING it to YOURSELVES!

  9. Faiqa says:

    Emma is one of my favorite people in the world. True story. Hope she’s having a wonderful birthday weekend.

  10. FireMom says:

    Mmm, such a good post. I’m always amazed when I look at our kids and realize that they just keep growing! Happy birthday to you all!

  11. the muskrat says:

    I’m just glad y’all aren’t the type of people who put little girls in two-piece bathing suits.
    Happy birthday to Emma!

« « The First Draft of The Big Map | 3 Questions to Help You Define Happiness » »