December 27, 2021

Eighteen And Ever After


Dear Ane,

In past years, your birthday has been marked with snow.  Sometimes that meant that the celebrations were postponed.  It was harder for you to understand when you were small, because it was YOUR special day and you wanted to celebrate.  With age comes flexibility, and so you can look outside just as easily as we can and realize, yeah, no one wants to drive through that snow and ice.  Not even you.

However, this year is not like other years.  While we are continuing to claw back every shred of normalcy that we can, Covid still looms large – not in our house, exactly, but in the world outside.  So even with normal weather, your birthday celebration probably wouldn’t have looked like we wanted it to.  The freezing temperatures outside – we’re going to have a low of 15 degrees today! – combined with the snow from yesterday will conspire to make sure that no one wants to come over tonight.

And yet, here we are.  Today you are eighteen years old, legally an adult.  I know that seems a daunting number to you, but honestly, nothing changed between yesterday and today.  You’re still here at home, you’re still working the same job, you’re still going to school.  You turning 18 is a big moment, but the bigger one coming (at least to me) is your high school graduation this coming June.

You asked me last night for words of wisdom, and I think we had some good ones, but I want to get some of these written down.

First, my heart aches for you and how these last 21 months have gone.  I wish that I could go back in time and make some different choices for your sake.  But I can’t, and we are now playing the cards we have in hand.  And that is a good piece of advice – work with what you have, not what you wish you had.

Second, we’ve talked about how inevitably, the “drift” will begin – you and your friends, after graduating from high school, will begin to go your separate ways.  And it isn’t because you don’t care about each other any less, but those day-to-day experiences that you shared together will come to an end.  We all go through this.  You will stay connected in some way or another due to social media, but change is coming.  New experiences are coming.  New friends are coming, too.  That being said, my next piece of advice is to not borrow other people’s drama, and to let your friends solve their own problems.  You are all emotionally stunted right now, and I am trying to keep that in mind as I listen to these dramatic tales.  Still, you have learned just how little you can affect other people’s issues when they don’t want to actually change anything.  Your life has enough of its own unique drama – don’t take on anyone else’s.

Third, remember how much you are loved.  Your brothers love you.  Your dad and I love you.  Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins all love you, too.  And most importantly, Jesus loves you.  I know how much you have struggled with that over these last couple of years, but you are loved – and you will never be able to walk away from that kind of love.  It will follow you all the days of your life.

Fourth, some general life advice.  Be on time.  Write thank you notes.  Show respect to those who are older than you.  Continue to be tolerant and empathetic to those with special needs.  Make yourself to-do lists, and put easy things on there that you can check off – like “eat breakfast,” and “go to school on time.”  Let yourself have a sense of accomplishment.  Figure out how to make at least one signature breakfast item, one signature dinner meal, and one really good dessert.

Fifth, advice on boys/men.  Find one who loves Jesus more than he loves you.  Look to how he treats his parents and siblings.  Judge him on how he treats elderly people and little children, and animals.  Take note of the friends he hangs out with, because they will become your friends, too.  If you can’t stand them, there will be problems.  Consider his job/career/profession, because it is unlikely to change.  Make sure you can live with what he does, and the lifestyle that goes with some careers.  Check to see how responsible he is with money.  Look at his residence and assess how he lives, how often he cleans, and his personal hygiene.  And then, judge him by how he treats your brothers.

Sixth, always keep learning.  Pick up a new hobby.  Watch good classic movies and TV series, even if they are obscure.  Read good classic books, even if they are children’s ones.  Keep expanding your mental horizons with adventures and travel, within reason.  Don’t put yourself into debt to travel, and don’t do anything stupid like sign up for a guided tour of North Korea.

We will celebrate you as best as we can today, and then we will celebrate you even more later.  To your dad and to me, you will always be that tiny little baby who gave us a huge scare while making her way into the world.  Eighteen years have now passed, but we have only grown to love you more.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm 139:7-12

Happy 18th birthday, Ane!


August 12, 2021

Twenty-One Years


Here we are, 21 years later.  We looked pretty good on the day Auntie and JW got married, so I’m using that picture.

At least, we looked good until we melted in the extreme heat, but we don’t have to remember that part.

Happy anniversary, Webmaster – maybe someday we’ll be able to take that trip we keep talking about!


Sixteen Years Old


Dear Tad,

Today you are sixteen years old.  SIXTEEN.  I am not prepared for this.

And yet, you are taller than I am, you are shaving (though you don’t have a lot to shave and often miss spots), and your voice continues to crack and get deeper.  Oh, and I am flinging deoderant and acne patches at you.  You are definitely physically sixteen years old.

Emotionally, though… we are hitting that strange stage between childhood and adulthood, and you have precisely zero interest in being an adult.  This is a strange situation to be in, because your sister was passing her driving test just before her 16th birthday.  You drove a go-kart a couple weekends ago.  You enjoyed it, but it in no way motivated you to consider that you might be missing anything.

And you know what?  That’s okay.

You have spent the last three weeks at teen day camp, which your therapist, Queen Bling H herself, designed specifically because she knew that you needed something to do this summer.  You have been happier about camp than I have seen you in a long, long time.  You were beyond excited to be given the special gift of three extra days at camp (mostly because you missed it so much), and you got to have the “BEST DAY EVER” at the Funko Pop HQ store.

I wonder why it was the best day ever.

This year has been an epic struggle for you in so many ways, and yet you have come out of this online school year with the healthiest social life of all of us.  Between youth group, social group, bowling group, Young Life, and now camp, you have friends that you hang out with, go to parties with, and just have fun with.

And so, today you are sixteen years old.  We’re still not back to normal, and now you know it and are not happy about it.  I have no idea what this school year will look like, except to say that at least you will be in the building on the first day. (Fingers crossed and prayers up.)

In some ways, you are very sixteen.  You want to argue about rules and requirements.  You want to be allowed to do what YOU want to do.  You are deeply annoyed by your little brothers and pick fights with your sister.  And then you turn around and remind me, quite profoundly, that you have no intention of ever leaving home, because why would you ever want to do that, when you are happiest here?

So I will let you be happy here.  I love you so much, Tad.

Happy 16th birthday!


March 21, 2021

Thumper Turns Eight


My darling Thumper,

You are not so little anymore.  You are EIGHT YEARS OLD.  I keep writing it out in all caps because I can hardly make myself believe it.  How can you be EIGHT???

When you were born, we knew that you would be our last baby (barring something wild and miraculous happening).  So it is hard to think of you as a second grader, a big kid, and an EIGHT YEAR OLD.  You are a cuddler and a snuggler, and you don’t want to be a big kid.  You want hugs and kisses, tickles and backrubs.  You sneak into our room every morning, and before you try and steal an iPad (or this morning, your brand new Super Mario Game & Watch handheld game) you climb into bed next to me for a morning snuggle.

I’m not quite ready for you to grow out of that, so please don’t.

This year has been a messy and difficult one.  Your last birthday was in lockdown, but you didn’t care – except that you were missing people.  Very, very, very slowly, those people have started to come back into your life.  Your therapists all came back over the summer, and very soon, you will see your teachers in person instead of over Zoom.  The adjustment back might be difficult – I still am shaking my head over your hesitancy in getting out of the car at school for pictures – but I know that you will be able to do it.  You might not believe in social distancing at all, but the hugs are returning, and you are happy.

However, you are now a full-fledged screen addict (even worse than before) and when Flash stopped working on your old Chromebook (Ane’s old one that she used for school until she needed to upgrade), you became a skilled sneak and your brothers now complain that you have opened up new tabs on their Chromebooks where you can play games.  (Here’s hoping that new birthday present curbs that impulse a smidge.)  Your ninja skills are still unparalleled in this house.  Your ability to play “Name That Tune” when it comes to movie soundtracks is second to none among your siblings.  We can slowly tell that you are gaining more speech, and – amazingly – you have begun to script!  Hearing the sound of your voice, even when using someone else’s words, is a fantastic experience for us.  We know that you are progressing rapidly in ABA – five sessions a week will do that, especially with a dedicated and competent behavior tech – and even though we have yet to conquer the overnight potty training mountain or the scream that can shatter glass, we know you are gaining skills.

And you are still beyond cute and still have not really grown into your eyelashes.  I don’t think you ever will.  But you will always be my sweet baby Boo, even though you are EIGHT YEARS OLD now.

You are so loved, and we know that you know that, because you love us so hard back.  Happy 8th birthday, you stubborn little tickle ninja cookie monster.