Sunday, August 20, 2017

to carter, on the occasion of your sixth

"Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dear Carter Christopher,

Today, you need both hands of fingers to show me how old you are. It's not a rite of passage, but it sure does remind me how fast the years pass.

It is thrilling to watch you try new things: Fishing (you didn't wanna touch it).

Riding a jet ski (you warmed up to it).

A community kids' 100-yard dash (you didn't like people watching you).

Hiking (all things are possible with Goldfish).

In your class this year, we watched you become quite the lover of learning. Your capacity to absorb and retain facts, figures, and other obscure information surprises me in nearly every conversation. Dinosaurs, construction equipment, the solar system. All of it fascinates you. I hope you never feel ashamed about being smart. Your mind is a gift.

And another thing about that mind of yours: you talk a lot about the things you think about. It's possible your parents were punked when doctors raised concern about speech delays when you were two. Because these days, you can't stop commentating, asking questions, and telling pretty terrible knock-knock jokes. (I laugh at them anyway.)

You wrapped up preschool earlier this summer. I will never know why 4- and 5-year-olds are treated like PhD recipients, with the fanfare and caps and gowns, and I'm shocked they didn't hood you. But gracious, this photo melts me.

Your exuberance is stunning, and I savor it, because if I'm honest, when kids grow up, these moments are fewer and further between. I want to remember this innocence.

Your mom and dad have things they want to remember about this year, too:

I'd describe Carter's personality with these few words:
mom: Curious, smart, loving.
dad: Ultimate snuggler, inquisitive.

Carter is happiest when he ...
mom: Is riding his bike, swimming, or wrestling with his Dad. He also loves trips to science museums and aquariums.
dad: Is riding his bike or swimming in the pool.

Carter is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Talks back or yells at me.
dad: Talks back and kicks or hits his brother.

My proudest moment as a parent this past year was ...
mom: Conquering swimming-related fear and seeing him become a kid who loves the pool again.
dad: Seeing Carter's resiliency. It was a tough year for us and for him. But he hung in and has really done a great job transitioning to another new place. He is excited about his new house, his new school, and is magically sleeping through the night (mostly).

One time this past year when I thought I was going to lose my mind was ...
mom: When I realized that he NEVER stops talking in the car and wants an answer to everything. ALL. THE. WORDS. ALL. THE. TIME.  It is exhausting!
dad: The long trip back from Maine to Delaware. They did as well as could be expected, but there was a lot of talking, melting down, and unkind words from the backseat the last 2-3 hours of that trip.

Carter's best qualities are ...
mom: We are continually blown away by his mind. His memory is really incredible. He loves to know facts about all kinds of things, and because of that, we have all learned a lot over the past year about dinosaurs, sea creatures, bizarre animals, and outer space. We also are in awe of how kind and tender he is with small children. He loves to make them laugh and smile. And we love that he still LOVES to snuggle and be read to each night.
dad: His questioning mind, his smile, his gentleness.

My heart broke a little bit this past year when ...
mom: He began to realize how big the world was and that he is just a small part of it. He developed more fears of things. He began to suffer from separation anxiety. It was hard to see my previously brave boy struggle in a way he never had before.
dad: A few times (as I mentioned before, tough year). It was maybe midway through fellowship, and he finally broke down when I had to leave the house to go to work. He would not let me go, voicing that he didn't want me to leave, and crying uncontrollably. It was a breaking point, and he made it known. Next, we were discussing our move to Fort Mill, and he was upset and crying, then asked how long it would be before we would have to move again. Third, asking when he could see his friend, Mack, again after we moved. That hurt. We also got a tough diagnosis this year that was a gut punch. That hurt too.  

I laugh out loud when Carter ...
mom: Laughs! He has a great laugh.
dad: Laughs really hard, attempts to tell jokes, and when Luke makes him laugh.

After his sixth birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: Seeing how he likes school and what new interests he develops.
dad: Seeing him start kindergarten and find kids that will be his friends for years.

Yes, Little Man, this year was trying at times.

But you need to know that Jesus never promised an easy road, so I imagine that every year from six until ninety-six will have its share of not-so-great.

It's why in my very first letter to you, even before you were born, I confessed to being afraid of the world you were coming into. It can be a scary place, and people can be unkind.

Tomorrow, in fact, you start kindergarten in a new city, and at a school new to you. It might be scary, and you will probably meet an unkind classmate (or two or ten).

Hard days are coming, whether in kindergarten or otherwise, and when they do, I hope you'll remember this year, and that despite the challenges and fears and anxieties, you've managed to laugh, snuggle, and show resiliency.

I hope you stay close to your family who loves you the most. I hope you find humor where you can, and laugh as often as you can. I hope you choose friends who will walk the hard roads with you. I hope you always go back to Truth to ground you, and not to changing circumstances.

And I hope you keep learning, because then you will know the value of bad times, and that even hidden in all the hard, there is goodness to be found.

Little Man, watching you grow up is one of our greatest joys. Happy Sixth

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

to luke, on the occasion of your second

"It's the merry-hearted boys that make the best men!"
-- Irish proverb

Dear Luke Taylor,

Two years! I know these two are only a glimpse into the man you'll spend a lifetime becoming, and I imagine you'll surprise us more often than not. But on this birthday of yours, I can't help but wonder if we will look back one day, a long time from now, and see traces of you in these pictures, and stories, and memories of our Littlest.

Will you care about your hair?

Hard to say.

Will you impress a date with sophisticated table manners?

I don't know if the odds are in your favor, and I'd hoped for more progress by now, but I still dream big for you.

But for all the things we can't know about you as a grown-up, there is plenty to know and love about you today.

You climb everywhere. Onto tables, up playground ladders, into cabinets, out of your crib. Nowhere is off limits, including the oven. That day your mom found you sitting on the oven door was, well, a reminder to keep a very close eye on you and your curiosity. (No scars from that venture. The oven was off.)

One day after watching your scaling shenanigans, Carter named you Mr. Monkey, and I think he was onto something.

And gosh, your brother. You love him to pieces. You look for every chance to play with him, to follow him, to mimic him. Every day you wish you were walking with him into school, but settle instead for crashing the occasional big event, like inserting yourself into his class's Halloween parade. (I love that video so much.)

You fight like brothers do, but you are happiest when you're on top of with him.

He is your person. I hope that's the case for a very long time.

You still hold hands with your mom and dad, and they know to soak up these moments, because every time you march yourself boldly into your Sunday school classroom, they feel the dull ache of these early signs of self-reliance.

They adore you, the one that made them a happy family of four.

When they reflect on their second-born on his second birthday, here's what they will remember:

I'd describe Luke's personality with these few words:
mom: 90% sweet, 10% sassy.
dad:  Happy, animated, and laid-back.

Luke is happiest when he ...
mom: Is with Carter.
dad: Is wherever his big brother is.

Luke is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Throws his food on the floor during meals.
dad: Bites Carter.

My proudest moment as Luke's mom/dad this year was ...
mom: Watching his love for his brother grow and develop. Carter is Luke's favorite person.
dad: When he said "Carter" for the first time.

My un-proudest moment as Luke's mom/dad this year was ...
mom: When he bit Carter out of anger.
dad: When the neighbor brought Luke back to the driveway after she found him in front of their house the next street over. It's never good when the neighbor says, "I know you can only watch them for so long until they go missing." Fail.

Luke's best quality is ...
mom: His love of people.
dad: His smile.

I laugh out loud when Luke ...
mom: Gives one of his huge smiles.
dad: Says "Cheese!" for a photo; when he falls asleep sitting up like an old man; and most recently, when he attempts to say his own name.

After his second birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: More language developing and being able to talk to him even more.
dad: New words, and more firsts!

Yes, yes, our hearts explode when you smile and giggle and dance and snuggle your people.

But don't get a big head, Lukey, because that's never the full story, and you can count on me to shoot straight with you when it comes to the full story about human nature. You can be demanding and stubborn and unlovely and naughty. You push the boundaries and cross into the forbidden some days. When you don't get your way, we hear it loud and clear.

Those things don't scare me though, because those, child, are merely symptoms of our total depravity, and I don't know a single grown-up who is immune.

So when I think about that day a long time from now, when we reminisce about your two-year old self, maybe you'll still rock your epic bedhead, and mercy, I pray you're more refined at the dinner table. Maybe you'll be climbing real mountains by then, and it would be dreamy if you loved your big brother as much as you do today.

But more than any of that, I hope you'll still walk yourself into church on Sundays, never far from the arm-lock of Jesus, and always grateful for His grace to keep you close. That would be celebration-worthy, indeed.

In the meantime, we'll swoon at your smile and delight in this merry heart of yours. You're going to make one of the very best men.

We love you now, and we'll love you then, Littlest. Happy Second.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


There's been a lot of grumbling of late, that 2016 has wreaked havoc and cruelty like no other year before it.

Celebrity deaths like Chief Justice Scalia, Harper Lee, George Michael, Nancy Reagan, Doris Roberts, Prince, Morley Safer, Muhammed Ali, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds. Even this abbreviated list seems staggering.

The circus that was the campaign, the debates, the Wikileaks, and the election. Mercy.

Even in my own corner of the universe, dear friends have suffered loss, struggling marriages, hard life transitions, unemployment, depression, financial despair, and a myriad of other symptoms of a very broken world.

This 2016 recap was even daunting. I thought I wouldn't find much evidence of goodness or light.

But it's all the more reason why this annual exercise is so important. It's a reminder to me that amid the heaviness, disappointments, and burdens, there is laughter, rejoicing, and community to be found.

Here are a few things I will cherish from 2016:

book i couldn't put down
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

favorite fiction book
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

proudest achievement
Running a half marathon in the same amount of time I did seven years ago

the time i burst uncontrollably into tears
Upon learning of the death of a close friend's mom

big kid moment
Meeting a real life LEGO Master Builder and holding this masterpiece

most fearful moment
Attempting to reach Devil's Bridge on a hike in Sedona, Arizona, but mostly landing on our tails instead

best view
We didn't make it to Devil's Bridge, but this view was just fine

performing arts highs
Chicago with Amy and Rylee in Birmingham
The Sound of Music with Mom at the Fox Theater in Atlanta

favorite concert
Harry Connick, Jr. in Birmingham 

biggest surprise
The presidential election

favorite long weekend getaway
Reuniting with my Turner gal cousins in Nashville

cheapest and most enjoyable meal
Shared small plates at Butcher and Bee in East Nashville

best story from a minor travel mishap
Discovering a dead car battery in downtown Franklin, and bumming a ride off nice strangers to our rental house

spent my birthday
With mom, Kari, and Miss Reeves in the mountains (and Dad made a brief appearance)

favorite smell
Blackberry and Bay perfume by Jo Malone 

best money spent
$85 for TSA Precheck

podcasts that kept me company on my travels
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey
Front Porch with the Fitzes

songs i repeated a million times
"Humble and Kind" by Tyler Ward and Diamond White
"Mercy" by Matt Redman

favorite albums
God's Highway by Sandra McCracken
Behold by Lauren Daigle

marked off the bucket list
Visited the L.L. Bean store and ate fresh, steamed lobster in Maine

bucket list moment that was better than i imagined
Eating lobster in Portland, Maine

not on the bucket list but did it anyway
Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona

netflix obsession
The Crown

most challenging bible study
Judges by Jen Wilkin 

And last, but certainly not least,

the too many celebrations from which to pick a favorite
Nikol and Steve's wedding
Rylee's high school graduation
Haleigh's college graduation
Christopher's residency graduation
Meg and Drew's wedding
Pat's 30th birthday

Happy New Year, friends. May you find much goodness and light in 2017.