Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Dear Caden,

This year you have started "real" school. We decided to go a different route with educating you kids and so we have sent you to a blended model school. So far, so good! We have been told that the academic rigor for this school is very high. Throughout the course of your education there will be much expected of you...but so far you LOVE it!

When we got your first lesson plan I discovered that you would be expected to do a lot of memorization. I was a little worried about that since you can't seem to remember- in the time it takes you to walk from one room to the next- what you went to the next room for. But, you are amazing me with your capacity to memorize! So far you have learned the Lord's prayer and the first 22 books of the Old Testament. I mean...come on...Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes... these are not the easiest words for a 5 year old to remember! But you've got it!

The other day we were doing a math assessment at home. I was to lay out 8 linking cubes (unlinked) and ask you to "do what I did." You set them out exactly as I had. Then I asked you "what makes these (the two rows of blocks) the same?" You sighed deeply. You leaned forward, put your chin in your hand. And said "Well...they're both horizontal."

Horizontal was not the word I was expecting.  To say the least! I'm not even sure where you learned that word...or it's meaning...but you were correct!

None of your answers to that question were "typical." Never once did you say they were all linking cubes, they were both evenly spaced, they were all right-side up. Nope. Those "simple" answers never occurred to you.

I think that sums you up so well. You're a deep thinker. An analyzer (Lord help us)! The obvious things don't interest you, you want to know more...to dig deeper.

Answering all your questions isn't always easy and sometimes we lose our patience...but I hope you never lose your curiosity. I hope you always dig deeper.

Today we had a parent/ teacher conference with Mrs. Stovall. She said that you are doing very well. You seem to be learning and transitioning just as you should be.

Dad asked Mrs. Stovall how you were interacting with the other kids (he was afraid that since you're the oldest you might be too bossy). She said that you are a leader among your peers. We are glad to hear that. We hope you set a good example!

You're a smart kid and you impress us every single day! Keep up the good work!


Friday, September 21, 2012


Dear 33rd Year of My Life,

Today is the last day we shall be together. Tomorrow your term will come to an end and you will be replaced by 34.

It's been and interesting year with you, 33. Many wonderful and happy things have come during your term...but I will forever remember you for some of the most difficult and trying times of my life, thus far. Now, I know that it isn't really your fault, 33. These things came to pass in their own time...they just happen to fall under your term of office. They have nothing to do with you in particular. I don't dislike you for these things, and I guess that because of them you will become seemingly infamous to me. I can see myself years in the future saying "Well, when I was 33..." followed by the telling of one riveting story or another.

During your time in my life I watched my baby get his first teeth, grow leaps and bounds, take his first step and celebrate his first birthday. I watched my girl turn three, learn how to use the potty, grow long locks of strawberry blond hair, become a ballerina...and a self-proclaimed princess. I watched my big boy turn five, head off to "real" school, develop an amazing artistic side and wow me with his capacity to learn. I celebrated 11 years of marriage to my favorite guy and best friend...the man who stands beside me in good and bad and usually spoils me rotten...and have watched him continue to be the best father I could ever imagine to our kids. I have celebrated huge triumphs and small victories, experienced unbelievable joy, laughed more than I can say and performed more happy dances than I care to admit (just ask Randy, he has video proof :) ).

But, 33, you've had a dark side as well.

While you were around I watched my mother become a breast cancer survivor. I watched my father-in-law undergo triple bypass heart surgery. I have seen friends come and go. I watched family members suffer pain and sorrow. I discovered unfavorable things about my own health...my sick kidneys...my troubled heart (which, by the way thank you for making that the grand finale to our time together). You, dearest 33, will more than likely be remembered for these things. I know...it isn't fair, I'm sorry it has to be this way...but I think overall it may just be for the better.

You see, 33, despite this darkness...or should I say because of these dark times you have been a most astounding year. You, 33, have made me a grown up. Granted, the new heart and kidney medications, numerous visits to urology and nephrology and sitting around in the cardiac waiting room (in which I am the youngest patient by a good twenty years) have certainly helped make me feel much older! But...that isn't what I mean.

I have been forced to look far beyond myself. I have watched the power of prayer accomplish things that only God could do for me and for my loved ones. I have witnessed His mercy, love and protection in ways that many people may never see. I have watched as tough times have brought so many people closer together, taught us to love deeper and to take less for granted. I have come to realize that I still have much to accomplish during my time here on earth, and it should be spent a bit more purposefully.

I have been on the precipice of this break through for a while. I think that this heart episode is what pushed me over the edge. You see, despite what was going on with my heart...and the vast unknown of what that day held for me...I wasn't afraid. I know you think I'm lying...but I'm totally not. And even in those few minutes before they put me to sleep and shocked my heart back to normal...I was not afraid. And, by the way, I chalk that up to the army of people out there praying for me and the peace that God gave me...not my own bravado. But I realized that there just isn't much to fear.

What I don't want to ever experience again is sitting in a hospital room all alone wondering what the last thing I said to each of my kids was. Would they remember all the times I yelled at them about the messes they made or the times we snuggled together to read or watch The Lorax for the 40th time? Would they remember the lack of patience I had with their slowness or the praises I gave them for their successes? And overall, how much have they experienced more of? The good in me or the bad? And not just them, but the other people in my life...like Randy. Is there one single thing that I have accomplished in this life of mine that has made the slightest difference to anyone? Have I done enough? Have I done anything? What would God say if we were standing face to face? That, 33, was a tough pill to swallow.

So...I think my motto for 34 will be "WHY NOT?" Why? Well, because I am choosing not to dwell in the land of pity or sorrow and I certainly don't want to fear a future full of "what ifs!" I have a lot of work to do, no time for regrets. I have no idea what this future will look like, but I'll find out soon enough.

So, why not?

No more worrying that it will be too hard or too frightening. No more fearing what others may think. No more stress about appearances. I want to celebrate life! Whoa, that was cheesy. But really, I want to have a meaningful life that pleases God. And while there are certainly things in this life that will (and do) break my heart and things that will (and do) bring me to my knees...I know that there is a greater purpose beyond anything I can comprehend...and it is good. Trust. Faith. That's all I have... and all I need.

I have complete faith in the plans God has for me...whatever they may be. And, while I certainly am not perfect in any way, I will be working hard on this. Hopefully I will succeed more than I fail.

Let's just do it...why not? What's the worst that can happen?

I think it will be fun.

So, 33, I think this is goodbye. Thanks for everything, I wish you all the best. I wish our time together could be longer but I think we have gleaned from each other all that we needed.

Oh, but 33...if you have any inclination to do so...I wouldn't mind if you'd put a good word in for me with 34. While I look forward to all the future has in store, I wouldn't mind if 34 was a bit more...shall we say, boring! Farewell 33! I will remember you fondly.

All my best,

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Dear Caden,

Today you are five years old.

Wow. Five years. It goes by so quickly.

It seems like only last week I drug my swollen-ankled-self up to the clinic (certain I was not in labor or having you for a while) only to be shocked to learn you were coming that day...or technically very, very early the next day!

In this past year you have grown about 3 feet. Well, maybe not quite that much...but close. You grow out of pants almost faster than I can buy them. Last year I had to buy you all new jeans halfway through the winter because the old ones were suddenly about an inch too short. I'm a little afraid to pre-purchase clothes for you, because I never know what size you will be when it's time to wear them!
You're going to be tall. And lean. I guess you already are tall and lean. You love to dance naked in front of the bathroom mirror while waiting for your bath water to be ready. You check out your long lean torso, flex your arm muscles and laugh at your bobo. You are such a boy.

Speaking of being such a boy...you love to burp. It can really be embarrassing when we are out in public because we can't get you to understand that some things aren't appropriate in front of strangers! You have also started owning up to your own toots. For the longest time you would blame them on someone else and say that you NEVER toot. I'm glad we're past that because I was tired of being blamed!
You are a deep thinker. You ask a million questions a day. Sometimes we have to remind you that if you would just observe something you will get the answer you seek...but that would require patience...which you don't have much of! You want to know the reasons behind so many things and especially why God does what He does. Why does God make snails? Why does God send us rain? What do we need grass for? What would happen if...? You even harass dad every time he leaves for work by asking him about 10 questions about his day. He answers every one of them as he hurries out the door.  I often feel ill-equipped to answer all these things, especially since "I don't know" isn't a good answer to you. I wish God had sent me an answer booklet specially designed for you...just so I could answer your myriad of questions.
You still love all things vehicle related. You spend much of your time in your room making roads and race tracks. Your love of trains has died down a little, but every once in a while you dig them out again.

Your little brother has learned how to make car noises by watching you. I often find him trailing behind you driving a car along the floor making motor noises. He copies most everything you do. I think you really enjoy that he copies you. For some reason it's okay with you for Coop to mimic what you do, but not Carinna.
(I love this face...this so captures you!)

You love rock! Any song that you hear that has a pretty heavy sound is your favorite. Your current most favorite song is Gold on the Ceiling by the Black Keys. You would listen to it over and over all day if we would let you. You close your eyes and shake your head to the beat, making faces like you are the one playing the guitar. You are very serious about it. You may also be deaf by the time you're 6 since you have dad turn it WAY up while y'all are driving around in the truck! There is something about music that really gets you...or maybe you get it. We will see where that leads!
The other day you proudly exclaimed that when you grow up you want to be a MIME. Dad and I just looked at each other. I mean, what do you say when your child aspires to be something that 90% of the population makes fun of? But you also want to be a rock star or one of the Imagination Movers. I'm not too sure about those professions either...but I will support your decisions...I think! So far this year you have wanted to be a fireman, an army man, a rock star, an Imagination Mover and a MIME.
This year you will be attending a private preschool. You aren't starting Kindergarten yet since your birthday is just before the cut off date. We felt you should wait one more year. It was a hard decision to make because your body really looks like that of a Kindergartner! But I really think it will be for the best in the long run! We are really excited about this upcoming school year! I think you will have a lot of fun! You also want to start karate this year. You have been wanting to do it for a while, so we have decided to sign you up! I look forward to watching you learn it!
As you continue to grow we learn more and more about your personality. We know that you are sensitive, inquisitive, silly and smart. We know that you are learning what it means to be the big brother and what your role in our family is. We know that you love books, especially car or train books. You love to be outdoors and you love bugs and animals...though mostly from a distance. You run and play until you collapse sweaty and exhausted.

We look forward to watching you continue to grow, learn and explore.
My wish for you is this:
-May you always seek knowledge, wonder why and ask questions.
-May you always be sensitive to those around you and have a heart for justice.
-May you always be confident enough to do the things you love, no matter what others may think.
-And may your life and all that you do be used to glorify the God you long to know so much about.

We love you so much!
Happy Birthday, Caden!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pooping and a Purse Room

Dear Carinna,

I think you are officially potty trained! Finally.

Girl, this has been a long and arduous road. I have mentioned before that you are stubborn...and that stubbornness does not get left standing outside the bathroom door, I'll have you know!

But really, the worst part was getting you to poop. That was quite a battle. I encouraged, pleaded, bribed...nothing would work. At one point I told you that I would get you a treat if you would just poop in the potty. When I asked what you might want you shouted "A NEW ROOM!! With sparkly stars all over it!" Then you paused for a second, then exclaimed "OR a ballerina room with them dancing all around!" Pause. "OOORRRR a purse room! Just purses EVERYWHERE!"

My thought had been something off the Dollar Spot at Target...but the purse room might work too! Also, I'd like to know how long you had been thinking about this new room thing, it sure did roll of the tongue awfully fast!

Anyway, you fought against the urge for over 24 hours which ended up making you constipated! When your body finally decided that enough was enough and forced you to take note of your poop issue... things got tense. I swear to you that I felt like you were giving birth to your first child! I chanted "push!" and said encouraging things like "you can do it!" and "you're almost there!". You broke out into a sweat. I felt anxious. Then you began to cry and tell me that you couldn't do it and that it was too hard. In return I told you that you had no choice, it wasn't going back in...and that you could do it!

And you did do it! Finally.

Spending 75% of my day crouched on a little stool next to a potty chair isn't really my favorite way to pass time. But you sure did make it entertaining! And funny! You are the funniest and sweetest little thing and I love you to pieces!

Congratulations on becoming a big girl! Way to go!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three Years

 Dear Carinna,

Today you are three years old.

I was just looking at you the other day thinking you couldn't possibly be 3 already! But, never the less, here we are.

 This past year has been quite interesting with you! You make us laugh and you also make us want to pull our hair out! One minute you're cute and funny and sweet and the next you are throwing up pea soup while your head spins around! Okay, it's not that bad. But you can be horribly stubborn and strong willed about some things!

Dad and I were just talking, not too long ago, about how hard it is to correct inappropriate behavior but not squelch your personality. We battle this with all three of you. Being a little stubborn, or a little sassy, or a little head strong are not bad things...but we have to teach you how to control them. Balance. It's all about balance.

 You are such a little mommy! You are caring and compassionate and nurturing...in your own way. I was sick a couple of weeks ago and you were so concerned about me. You asked me continuously if I was okay. I was pretty sick and wanted to reply "NO! I'm dying!" but I thought that might be upsetting to you! Thankfully you were very helpful to me during that time! We recently received Luke's graduation invitation and it has several pictures on it. In one of the pictures he is not smiling. You have been very worried about what is wrong with him in that picture and why he isn't happy. You love on and "help" Cooper to the point of making him mad! But in your mind, you are being sweet and helpful. And much of the time you are being pretty sweet.  I love to watch the nurturing side of you! You will be a great mommy some day!
 You love to snuggle and cuddle, especially when you are tired. Dad and I both enjoy that. Some day you won't want to snuggle with us, so we enjoy it while we can.

You are still quite attached to your blankie...and your thumb. We are working on getting you to believe that three year olds don't suck their thumbs. You don't seem convinced.

Over the last year you have moved into a big bed! It has been fun to make this transition! You did very well with it and did not have to get in trouble for getting out! The only problem we seem to have with the bed is your desire to jump on it!
Your hair has grown quite a bit over the last year! It is still pretty uneven on the sides, but long enough for pig tails and pony tails. You always want a braid in it. You think this makes you look like Rapunzel! My daily challenge is trying to figure out a way to put a braid in your hair and still make it look cute (remember, it's pretty uneven!).

You are NOT!! interested in potty training! This, alone, may make my hair totally gray!  I just assumed it would be so easy with you...since everyone says girls are so easy to train. But as I mentioned before...you are very stubborn! I have tried every bribe and happy dance I can come up with and you still couldn't care less if you used the potty or not. I think you enjoy feeling a little like a baby when you get your diaper changed!

 Two years ago, in your first birthday letter, I predicted that you would be a talker. Last year, in your second birthday letter, I confirmed that prediction. This year, I would like to say...I had no idea how right I was!  I think that sometimes you talk just to hear yourself talk!  Often times, whatever you say is followed by a short burst of laughter...as though you are letting us know what you said was meant to be funny or silly. The laughter is funny in itself! It is almost a nervous habit!
 You have quite a knack for the drama. Everything is exaggerated a little much. Things tend to make you "VERY, VERY HAPPY!" or "Weally, Weally sad." A small injury turns in to a 10 minute crying session. Heaven forbid you not get a good nap! The grouchy level is through the roof if you have not had your proper rest for the day!  "Princess" comes to mind as a good way to describe you!  But your drama brings an added flair to our lives that we would sorely miss!
 Carinna, despite any of the seemingly negative things in this letter, I want you to know that you are the best daughter we could ask for!  You are perfectly matched to our family by God Himself and we couldn't be more thankful to have you!  I hope this birthday is a wonderful and exciting time for you and that you feel how much you are loved and enjoyed by your family!
I am hopeful about many things for your future, but my wishes for you are these:
-May you always be a nurturer, always be compassionate and always be willing to take care of those around you.
-May you always be sweet, always have just a little sass, always have a stubborn side and always follow your gut.
-May you be confident in yourself but not be afraid to ask for help.
-May you keep your carefree and adventurous spirit...at least to some degree!
-May you always have a sense of humor and seek the good in things.
-May you always remember that God made you...and He makes all things beautiful!

We love you so very much!
Happy 3rd Birthday, sweet Carinna Grace!

Friday, March 30, 2012


Dear Cooper,

The day has come...you are now ONE year old. Today is both happy and sad for me! I am sad that this is probably the last first birthday we will celebrate in our family...until there are grandchildren...and that we have already sped right through your infancy at an alarming rate! But I am so happy to be able to celebrate you!

I love First Birthday Parties! Like everything else this past year, it's another opportunity to experience something new with you! Tomorrow, at your party, we will watch you experience cake for the first time...and I have a feeling you are going to LOVE cake...opening gifts, being showered with affection...YOU will be the center of attention! We get to spend the next two days celebrating everything about you and this first year of your life!

This past month you have gotten two more teeth (the uppers)! They are barely in, but when you laugh we can see the little nubbins! You now weigh 26 lbs (95%)...down a little from your last doctor visit! You are also 95% for height and 70% for head circumference.

You still wear size 5 diapers and 18 month- 2T clothes. You are a big guy and we love you for it!

You say:
-Baba (brother)
-Thhh (sister)
-Uh oh or uh uh oh
-nana (banana)

Just like your brother and sister, you have really started walking over the week before your birthday! You have become more confident of yourself and your ability to walk and you are losing your fear!

So...what to say about your first year? There are so many things I want to talk about in this letter (which may or may not be interesting) because I am so afraid of forgetting all the little things about your babyhood that make us laugh constantly!

I so look forward to experiencing the changes in life that will come as we enter each new season with you and your siblings. I look forward to the days when there will be no naps, diapers, sippy cups and carseats! But I am trying my best to savor every minute of this season we are in! I know that I will miss it more than words can say...and already there are so many things I miss. So here are some things I want to remember about you:

-You were born at 37 weeks and 0 days (that in itself is a long story). The nurse said you had signs of prematurity so we worried a little about your health and nutrition. You were quite jaundiced and we had to go back to the hospital several times in the days after your birth to have your levels checked! On the "make it or break it" day (the day that would determine if you had to be admitted back to the hospital) I felt confident that I had done everything in my power to make you well. I remember saying that if you had to stay then it was what was best for you because there was nothing more I could do. But...you were MUCH better and you came home with us! Also because of all of this...you nursed longer than your siblings (I know that will totally embarrass you some day).

-Just before we were getting ready to take you home after you were born, you peed all over your outfit! It was the nurses fault...she failed to cover your hiney as she checked you! I was so frustrated. I had to scrounge around for something for you to wear! It was the most pitiful coming home outfit ever.

-You are so easy going. You always have been. I'm not totally sure if it's truly your personality because lately you have learned to throw a fit...so we shall see! But honestly, you are still pretty easy to manage!

-Like I said, you have started having tantrums...and they are hilarious! I never quite know or understand what sets you off. It is never anything that is obvious...to me, anyway. But you throw yourself onto your belly and jerk your arms and legs straight out from your body. You will fuss and whine then jerk your limbs again. This gets repeated several times. I usually just walk away...laughing. You have to understand that you are #3 and I have seen it all before...you drama doesn't phase me!

-Your brother and sister think you are SO funny. Especially Caden. Carinna spends much of the time trying to mother you (and I have a feeling that may never change) and you get pretty frustrated with her (that, also, may never change). But Caden takes pure delight in your antics. This morning you stole a bottle nipple out of the drawer and walked around the house with it in your mouth. Caden fell over laughing at you...but you maintained this look of pure innocence and confusion about what was so funny! You really entertain us!

-At 12 months, I still rock you to sleep. (Gasp!) I never would have done that with your siblings...but with you I can't bring myself to stop because I know that soon you won't even want me to hold you!

-You still love to make your scrunchy face! It cracks people up all the time! You laugh as you make the face and no one can resist laughing with you...and at you!

This next year is going to be an exciting time as we watch you grow and change even more! We will start to really learn your personality and hear your thoughts as you learn to speak. Never again will you be this squishy little baby! I will miss this, but I can't wait to see what the future holds for you! May you always make people laugh, always be rough and tumble, always be affectionate and always remember you are dearly loved. May you learn to be compassionate, grow to fight for justice, rise above pressure from your peers and love God with all of your heart.

Happy Birthday my little Coop!