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Dear Benjamin,

Today you are TEN YEARS OLD!!!


How is this possible?!

You were a teeny tiny baby screaming at my face like, yesterday. It’s true what they say – they days are long, and the years are short.


Last year I wrote to you and told you life was easy. Well…. welcome to 2020. You have experienced death, isolation, and Coronavirus. Oh yeah, and mass rioting. Yip-dee-freaking-doo.

(You and Eli decided to pretend you were hobbits hiding from the Black Rider)

I really hope, when you read this, we can have a good laugh about this year. I’m writing this a few days before your birthday – you’re in the next room, working on a birthday card for a family friend, worrying about whether or not the orange mixes ok with the blue. But a few minutes before that, you spent a few minutes crying in my arms for a reason you were incapable of articulating. We talked about how it’s ok to cry, and how sometimes our emotions are so big and so…so…so MUCH that they’ve got to come out somewhere.

When you were younger, you cried a lot, and we spent a lot of time teaching you to control yourself so you wouldn’t cry all the time. This year, we noticed you crying a lot less. But, you also felt bigger things, things you may need to cry about, things that you hadn’t learned how to deal with yet (grief, sorrow, immense frustration).  So we transitioned this year.  We stopped telling you not to cry, and just started encouraging you to cry it out. Sometimes you just need to sob. It’s like releasing a pressure valve in your heart. 


We took a drive today to get you a new (to us) bicycle. I so appreciate that you are practical – your birthday request was extended boundaries, and a bigger bike was a natural progression to go with that. You didn’t mind that it was used. Thank you for that.

(You watched almost all the Financial Peace University videos with us. Hope they stick!)

On the drive, we talked about your ideas about God and life. Right now you kind of lean towards a mix of Christianity and reincarnation, and it’s fascinating to see how you put things together. You think big, deep thoughts, and you talk to us about them. I hope we remember to keep listening!


Your ninth year was full of challenge. Fourth grade was hard. You got your first B on a report card. Probably the first of many, and that’s ok, even though you weren’t too happy about it. And then, right as spring break hit…. Coronavirus.


The first few weeks of strict isolation weren’t so bad. But as time has worn on, it’s definitely gotten harder. You frequently enjoy your allowance to use some strong language and tell me, “I’m so sick of this Coronavirus crap!” We’re not living in fear, but we know lots and lots of people are scared, and frustrated. We’re mostly a little stir crazy.


Thankfully you were able to have a few friends over for a small birthday celebration, and in lieu of a party of presents you did a fundraiser for a local charity and raised over $500 dollars! You have such power to impact the world, son.


You know, as I look back on the pictures from the past year, I’m struck by the fact that we did have a lot of fun, and shared a lot of love. Let’s recap, shall we??!


Let’s see. We went beach camping for Labor Day weekend. We decided we are DEFINITELY not beach campers, but we did have a great time swimming, resting, burying each other, building sand castles, and putting on nighttime light shows.


We went hiking a lot!


In October, we ran a 5k! Well, you and Kaley ran ahead, but you got first place in your age group! 


Aedan, Eli and I struggled a little bit more than you guys did, but we weren’t far behind! You told me you wanted to do that again. Maybe we’ll make it an annual tradition!


We traveled a lot – your Great Grandmother Ables (Noni’s Mom) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We got to visit with her and the family in Tennessee before she passed, and I’m so thankful for those memories!


We lost Lucky this year. I also lost my Uncle Rick, and even though you weren’t close to him, each death hit you deeply.  We are not made for this world; immortal spirits in fragile bodies, in a broken world.  There was lots of opportunities to wrestle with those concepts, and I think – I hope – that we helped you process those things and come out on the other side a stronger person.  It’s never easy to lose loved ones. But those memories, and happy times, well… hopefully they comfort you.


You read a lot – started and completed almost every single Harry Potter book. I love watching you read!


You were a dementor for Halloween, which is my favorite costume of yours yet!


We’re working our way through “Lord of the Rings” this year, me, you, and Eli. We take turns reading sometimes, depending on if you want to listen or participate. After we read the first book we watched the movie and your comment, about the extended edition Fellowship of the Ring movie was, “that was short!” HAH!!! That’s the first time I’ve heard a LotR movie described as short, but I suppose when it takes 4 months to read the book, a 4 hour movie is a walk in the park!

There was a bit of magic this Christmas, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. While putting up the tree, your 2 year ornament broke. You cried. It was a glass rocket ships, one of your favorites, and it sucked. But Christmas morning you discovered your present from Santa – a wooden ornament with a picture of the rocket ship! You cried, I cried, and I love watching you experience wonder like that.


Oh! I guess I should also let you know – 9 years old was the year you decided you didn’t want to be an astronaut anymore. Your current career goal: Professional YouTuber. Yep. Imagine me facepalming. Go ahead, take a minute, laugh if you must, and picture me facepalming.

You dismissed my suggestion that you become an astronaut and make YouTube videos from space. Ah, well. I suppose we’ll see! You know – hopefully – that my wish for you is that you be a man of courage, and integrity, and love.  You don’t have to define yourself by your job, and if you lose your way, there’s always a path back.  Your Momma believes in redemption stories.

Overall though, there’s been lots of growth and laughter and conversation. You’re hanging out with the adults more frequently now. Hanging out quietly, and listening. I hope you’re learning!


I can’t wait to see what next year brings. 5th grade, increased responsibilities, new boundaries… the world at your fingertips.


I’m so glad I get to be your Mama for another rotation around our local star.

Love always,


Dear Eli,

This has been SUCH an exciting year for you! From starting Kindergarten to graduating out of Tiger’s into big boy Taekwondo, to learning to read… this year has definitely been a year of growth.  In spite of all the growth, I’m happy to report there are some things about you that have stayed perfectly, wonderfully, exactly the same.

Mostly… you’re still one of the fiercest and kindest people I know.

You live core values like they’re the easiest thing.  You exude honor and integrity and kindness in almost all of your interactions. Your empathy is awesome, and it’s not just me that thinks this… you got the “Integrity” award at school this year.

Example 1: In March I was sad, and angry, and missing my parents, and explained that when I told you I didn’t want to hear your fart story (at least you asked!). In response, you sang me the Daniel Tiger song, “sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time! And that’s ok!” I loved that you knew what to say. How to gently remind me. At 6! How do you even know that!? Your Daddy and I aren’t that good – this is one of your God-given gifts.

Example 2: Early December, you told me a knock knock joke. So I tried the banana/orange joke with you. As soon as you realized what I was trying, you gave yourself a huge facepalm…. “UGH…I haaatteeee that joke!!!” I laughed and told you of course you do, it’s one of those jokes that’s funnier to the person telling the joke.  You paused, and then asked me, “do you want me to tell YOU that joke so you know how *I* feel about it?”


You are quiet in new spaces and around new friends, but once you get to know them you prove to be a funny and attentive companion.

Your friendships have blossomed this year. Our next door neighbor, C, has started a band with you and big brother and to be completely honest, you guys are just THE BEST. Always coming up with new songs, always trying to harmonize, always TRYING. Your relationship with Aedan continues to be a joy to you. He is a great friend, and always teaching you something new.

At Taekwondo, everyone, EVERYONE dotes on you. Whereas Benjamin is the outgoing, funny kid… you’re the kind one. You’re the one that people seek out to be around. You have a calming presence… even though sometimes you also shake your first at me and say “I WILL DESTROY YOU!”

We’ve had to try to balance you being the “baby” of the family with the fact that we want you to grow up big, and strong, and responsible. We don’t always get it right – but for the most part you make it easy, because you are a pretty responsible little kid. The other day you mentioned that you needed to return a library book, and you knew exactly where you’d put it. Bravo! Even I tend to lose library books if I’m not careful!

Your reading and reading comprehension has EXPLODED since starting school. Your teacher, Mrs. K, is married to one of my police officers, so periodically I get to hear about how much fun you are in the classroom. I love when you help me read bedtime stories (even Lord of the Rings!)

It hasn’t all been roses and butterflies, this year. This year… especially the last half, was marked by the loss of several family members, including our dog Lucky.

In June, we said goodbye to the dog who was with us since long before you were a twinkle in my eye. It was so hard. You initially appeared mostly unaffected – not nearly as overtly emotional as your brother – but in quiet moments, you reflect on missing him, or you ask me questions. Although I had to chuckle – at one point, knowing Lucky was about to die, you asked me if people eat their pets. Apparently, in your mind, you were contemplating if that was a good idea or not. You were very pleased to hear that we do not eat dogs, or pets, and never will.

Coincidentally, you also learned this year that eggs are not human eggs, but chicken eggs. Thank goodness for that clarifier!

We also lost Great-Grandma Ables and my Uncle Rick.. almost back-to-back… towards the end of the year. We are still processing and healing from those losses. Even though you are young, you are keenly aware that death is not the end, and have faith (as I do!) that one day we will see them again.

You are always thinking. Always wondering. Always contemplating. There’s so much that goes on behind the scene of those happy, fierce eyes.

You are such a blessing. Not only to me, but to everyone that comes in contact with you. I share stories of you frequently… not just to brag, but because the world needs more people like you.

You’ve still got a lot of growing to do… but in the meantime… I hope you stay just a sweet, just as wonderful, just as much YOU as you can.

I love you my sweet, wonderful, loving Bouk’m!


I do this every year. Here’s last year’s‘s, if you’re interested!

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2019 began?
Gabe and Rachel’s house playing cards against humanity.

Who were you with?
Justin, Rachel, Gabe, the kids, and some random neighbors.

Was 2019 a good year for you?
2019 was a year with a lot of growth.

What countries/states did you visit?
Huntsville, Alabama, Washington DC, and although it’s not a different state, we finally made it to Big Bend in south Texas! We also made two trips to Tennessee.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
My resolutions for 2019 were hefty… see below:

  • Get to my goal weight (155) and maybe surpass it
  • be strong enough to do 10 pushups without much issue,
  • I’d like to be able to do a pull up but I just don’t know if it’s possible.
  • Re-read the bible.
  • Travel.
  • Tour Washington DC.
  • Save money to fix the house up.

I got to my goal weight (currently sitting pretty at 152.4) after struggling with it for decades, literally. I can do 10 “modified” pushups, but only 3 “”real” ones, so that’s underlined instead of crossed out.  I had a wrist injury halfway through the year that made me decide a pull up is not necessary. I re-read the bible, traveled, and got to tour Washington DC. The saving money thing soooo did not happen, but we did spend money fixing the house, so I guess that counts? Sort of?

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Alexis had baby Lucas! He is ADORABLE!

Did anyone close to you die? 
Yes. We said goodbye to Lucky, my dog of 15 years, in June. It broke my heart…but he was ready. Additionally, we lost my Uncle Rick in November AND Justin’s Grandma Linda. November was a tough month for us.

What date from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 4, 2019, the date we were CALEA accredited at my police agency I work at!!


What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
I represented my police department in a committee hearing before a group of people way more fancy than I am, and did so pretty well. It was public speaking, which I’d done before, but there was a lot on the line so I’m glad it went well.

I also cut my hair super short (pixie cut) and I LOVE IT!

Did you have fun in 2019?
Yes, a lot, although the end of the year really kicked my rear end.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish we’d spent more time camping. We got to, some, just wasn’t enough for what I wanted.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 35 years old. I attended the last day of an Ethics Train the Trainer class, then drove 3.5 hours to be home with my babies. Had some wine with dinner.

What did you want and get?
To teach in Washington DC at a national conference. To become a dual accredited agency at my police department. A fitbit, although I stopped wearing it after a few months because it hurt my wrist.

Here’s something I got that I didn’t know I wanted: for Christmas, Justin got me a “Justin Bear” that looks like him and tells me goodnight. I can take it with me when I travel and it’s THE BEST.

What did you want and not get?
Out of debt.


Whose behavior merited celebration? 
My mother-in-law, Sherry. She left us as soon as her Mom was diagnosed with cancer and stayed in Tennessee until a few weeks after she passed away. She worked so hard serving her parents and set a stellar example for the kids. She is an AMAZING woman. It really took a lot out of her, a lot of stress, and she handled it pretty gracefully all things considered.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
We had some internal drama with elected officials in the city I live in, and it made me sad on all fronts that so many people screamed at the top of their lungs… and forgot to listen with empathy and compassion.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2019?
I’m pretty sure someone stole some money from me. I don’t have proof, but I’m pretty sure. And it makes me sad because I won’t stop them from coming around, but I hate that those visits will be tainted with the stress of wondering if they’re going to steal from me again.

Who were some new people you met?
My community group members!! I started leading a Women’s group in the fall and it has been a great opportunity for growth! They are all so different than I am, and there’s so much wisdom and life experiences to learn from. I’m really enjoying it.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2019? 
April and May. April I went to Galveston for the annual Police Chief’s conference, which was fun, and then the next week I flew to DC with Justin.  The first part of May was the CALEA conference where we were accredited.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Watching Benjamin process his Christmas ornament from Santa. While the tree was being put up, he shattered his 2012 Christmas ornament (a really cool rocket ship). He was heartbroken. Santa put a picture of the ornament on a wooden ornament (that won’t break) and Benjamin cried when he got it. It was magic at it’s most pure.

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
Saying goodbye to Lucky.

What was your favorite TV program? 
Stargate SG-1, Flash.

What was the best book you read? 
“In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado. It’s an artistic autobiography of a gay woman who escaped an abusive girlfriend and it’s powerful and moving.

What was the worst book you read?
“How to Lead When You’re not in Charge” by Clay Scroggins. It was ok, but lots of stuff that had been stated in other books, and a lot of his advice felt very cookie cutter in a world that often is not.  I read it through the lens of the wife of a bipolar person, and it made it difficult for me to get past the positive “just try harder” portion of the book.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
John Wick 3 and Godzilla King of the Monsters. I did not really care for any of the Marvel movies this year.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Marvel Puzzle Quest

What was your favorite new technology/application?
Nothing really

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I’ve been working on my playlists when I work out, and I’ve really grown to love heavier rock music when I’m weight lifting. My happy upbeat stuff I usually listen to is great for warming up and getting me pumped…but when I am lifting heavy stuff, I need rock music.

What was the best thing you bought? 
A new door for our house! Coincidentally, also the most expensive!


What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Losing weight and maintaining it.

What was your biggest failure? 

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Yeah, that wrist injury really messed up several months out of the year. Here at the end of the year though, I’m doing pretty good by taking it very, very slow.

Where did most of your money go?

What kept you sane?

Who did you miss?
Sherry!! I really miss her when she isn’t home ❤

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Work related stuff, the travel I was able to do early in the year, finally reaching my goal weight, MAINTAINING my goal weight, Christmas presents.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Sadder, I think. It’s been a rough few weeks. But hopeful!
ii. thinner or fatter?  Thinner
iii. richer or poorer?  Definitely poorer! 😦

Did you fall in love in 2019? 
Over and over and over again. I have the BEST husband!

Did you lose anything important this year?
Dog, Uncle Rick, Grandma Linda.

What was your proudest moment of 2019?
Definitely after my committee hearing!

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2019?
I had a moment where I was like “yep, this is it!” but I forgot it.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Fairly good
• Emotional Health – Fairly good
• Physical Health – Very good (FOR THE FIRST YEAR EVER!)
• Social Health – Fairly good
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Very good
• Financial Health – Bad

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
It already happened, as it usually does. We had a lovely quiet day with lots of Monopoly playing, Clue playing, present opening, and general magic.

How will you be spending New Years? 
Celebrating Eli during the day, staying up late with the Zambranos, and the next day we’ll SMASH A GINGERBREAD HOUSE! J

What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019? 
A year of no death. More financial stability.

What are your plans for 2020?
Read the bible with a little more depth – moving to a plan that goes through the NT twice instead of just once.
Write more thank you cards.
Quit smoking for freaking good.
Kon-Mari the entire house.

Will you make any new year’s resolutions for 2020?

  • Quit smoking
  • 10 “real” pushups
  • Clean something every day
  • Limit my screen time using app timers (because I have to learn moderation)
  • One thank you card a month
  • Journal more (aiming for 3x/week)

What will be your verse of the year for 2020?
Psalms 143:6 “I spread out my hands to You; I am like parched land before you. Selah.”

What will be your word of the year for 2020?

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019: 
Gratitude really is an active activity that has to be practiced and practically applied. It’s truly more than a feeling, or an emotion, or an attitude. Taking some time to really think about what others do FOR you is very powerful, and definitely something I’ve lacked in years past.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

I’m healed, made strong, oh, I’ve found where I belong
Forever I’m alive now in Your love
I’ve been changed, unchained, by Your amazing grace
Forever I’m alive now in Your love

On the other side of everything I’m afraid of
You are standing with Your arms wide open, wide open
Even in my deepest doubts and wonder
You are standing with your arms wide open, wide open
Yes, wide open

If I make my bed in darkness, if I try my best to hide
You know the farthest ocean, You give the morning its light
I can’t run from Your presence, there’s no place that far
So I run to you my Savior, there’s safety in Your arms

IMG_20191230_112129December 2018 vs. December 2019!

Dear Benjamin,

So. We just had a 4 minute conversation about time travel, alternate realities, and the consequences of traveling into the past.

Can I just say how happy I am that you’re my son?


Also, you got a cookie cake for your birthday, which was always my favorite, and you want to write your own message on it, “because, you know, I’m 9 years old now.”

Yes you are!

You’re so clever, Benjamin. So much more clever than I was at your age. I look at you and I imagine I probably feel how my parents felt; how your daddy’s parents felt.

Proud, and completely out of sorts.

You’re smarter than you should be, but… at least, when I consider what things should consume a 9 year old, I see many of the hallmarks of our culture. You’re positively obsessed with Legend of Zelda. You love playing outside. You absolutely love ice cream.

You hate chores. Of course you do, why wouldn’t you? They’re awful. But, you do them, eventually.

I hate to tell you, but we’re setting you up for a hard life. Right now things are easy. So, so, impossibly easy. They don’t feel like that, but what do we say? Feelings are liars, and always need examining. You’re clever now, but you won’t always be the cleverest. And… That’s ok.

But it won’t feel okay. You’ll feel like a failure. You’ll feel like you’ve let us down, like you haven’t achieved the greatness you think you’re destined for. You’ll feel like you were meant for more than the life you’re currently living, whatever it is. If things go the way I’m planning, you’ll read this on your 17th birthday. You will be approaching your senior year. Are you planning on heading off to college? Did you decide on the military? A trade? A trip around the world? A job you love? A girl to chase? (are you completely overwhelmed with the options and afraid of making the wrong decision?)

Honestly: those aren’t the questions that I need answers for. The questions I have are more simple. Do we still talk? Really talk – not just “how was your day” or “what do you want for dinner” but questions about life, the universe, and everything. I hope you’ve read that by now, and if you haven’t, go read “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” It’s brilliant.

We’re reading the Hobbit right now. I’m hoping to start on Lord of the Rings by fall, but who knows. Life has been crazy lately.

Spoiler alert: life is ALWAYS CRAZY.

Anyways. As I was saying. Your Dad and I were always smart kids who were a little wiser than our peers. There are a lot of reasons for that – one of them is the burden of being the oldest child. Some of it was intentional, your Dad and I always approached parenting like we were raising a future adult, so we never downplayed or “babied” our language when talking to you. We have always discussed big ideas.

So I suspect that when you read this, you’re smart enough to know your whole life is ahead of you. You’re wise enough to realize the things and the decisions you make now can impact you for your entire life. And you’re enough like your Mom and Dad to be absolutely terrified of letting people down, not realizing your assumed potential, and/or making some huge mistake.

Allow me to give you permission, now, at 9 years old, to fail.

Your Dad and I, neither one of us, are living the lives we assumed during our teenage and young adult lives. It took us a really long time to realize what you do is not tied to who you are.

You work in fast food? Awesome. Be the best, hardest working, fast food worker. You want to be a writer? Fantastic. Write every day. Send your words out to the world. You have no idea what to do? Totally normal.

When you have these moments where you feel the weight of your decisions, step back and remember who you are. Remember your value is not defined by the job you work or the money you make, or the success you have achieved (or not achieved).

Your value is in your mere existence. You are loved by the One who created you, you are loved by so, so many people around you, and your value is because you’re Benjamin.

And all the people who value Benjamin, the things we want for you are simple and not defined by success.

Do you love people? Are you kind? How do you treat the store clerk when you’re at the store? Do you yell at other drivers? Can you find something to chase after that you enjoy doing? Do you practice self-care? Are you aware of how important your mental health is? Are you willing to get help when you feel overwhelmed? Do you have core values, do you live by them? Are you not afraid to fail?

Here’s what I’m really trying to say:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late, or in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald

But enough about future you. Current you? Totally awesome. You just finished up 3rd grade, and your big project was on the life of an astronaut. It was super fun watching your passion as you explained to the adults around you how much you had learned. You loved pointing out how they get rid of their waste, and how shooting stars might be poop entering the atmosphere before burning up!! Your arms kept moving around (like mine do when I’m teaching) and I marveled at you. If you haven’t considered a career in teaching, I’d recommend exploring a career where you can teach people in some capacity. I think you love sharing your knowledge with whoever is willing to listen.

You’ve stuck with piano, although as promised we’ll be exploring another musical instrument since you continually played piano until you were 9. Probably voice lessons, because you love singing.

You’ve made friends with most the boys on the block. You spend most of your free time at Taekwondo, piano, band, or outside. You desperately love rules and structure, which doesn’t always work well with other rambunctious boys. Half the fights we break up are because you’ve gotten frustrated at someone not following the rules, cheating, or not playing nice. We try to teach grace, but I understand the internal conflict oh too well.

You love God. You have so many questions and so much curiosity and I love thinking big ideas about why we’re here and what we can do to love others.

We were talking about feelings today. About how some family members don’t deal with their feelings in healthy ways, about how when you don’t deal with your emotions they still exist inside of you. You made the analogy that when feelings are buried inside of you it’s kind of like a dead body, decaying you from the inside out. I said that sometimes when those feelings are buried they come out in ways you don’t expect. “Like zombies,” you exclaimed.

Wisdom, son.

Dear Eli,

Holy cow, I can’t believe you’re 5 years old today!  This year has been an amazing adventure full of laughter and fighting and fierceness.  You are, without a doubt, one of the most joyful people I know.


You feel joy with every fiber of your being, and it’s the type of joy that infects everyone around you. Of course, you’re also one of the most fierce people I know…


but strangely enough, it has a similar effect. I guess what I’m saying is, Eli, is that you bring joy to people…period. Even in your fiercest, craziest moments…


even when you’re crazy upset because things aren’t going your way….


you make me, and everyone around you, smile and laugh.

To be honest, there hasn’t been a lot of changes in year 4 for you – no new people living with us, no major transitions, and that seems to suit you just fine.

I mean, we did dress up pretty epic for Halloween.


But overall there were a lot of normal, routine days.


Well, one tiny change.  We did get a new cat, Theodore.


You picked him out, and I think he’s pretty much your cat as much as anyone’s.


We went to McDonald’s yesterday with Benjamin, Lily, and David, and hung out in the play place for a while.  You lasted about 10 minutes, then asked if you could come visit with me so you could experience some “peace and quiet, finally!”

You’re a lot like your Daddy in that way.


I know I didn’t get to mention it in the last letter, but at the end of last year you got to experience snow for the first time!


You love going on adventures with us. Whether it’s around the block or 12 hours away, you don’t mind the journey and the destination always excites you.


You guys met me in Frisco, Texas after a work conference and we went to the National Video Game Museum. I’m not sure who had more fun – you and Benjamin, or me and Daddy!!!



You even got to play old school, in an old school room, with old school decor!


One of the highlights of the year was our trip to Orange Beach, Alabama. We went to Pensacola to see the Blue Angels and toured the historical museum. We had a LOT of fun!

IMG_20180506_163740 IMG_20180506_232425

Us in front of a real Blue Angel jet!


Nanny Lynn and her boys!



Your friendship with Aedan continues to grow – while he’s closer to Benjamin in age, I feel like you and him share more interests than him and Benjamin – so it will be interesting to see how your friendships mature over the next few years.

Aedan, teaching you how to make curly noodles:


You went to Coffee with a Cop with me, and not only did you love being cute and dotted on, you also got to sit on a real live Police Motorcycle, which you still talk about to this day.


We’re so lucky to have family nearby – even Nanny Lynn, who lives a few hours away, comes to visit often. You always look forward to these visits. We so often see kids who aren’t interested in hanging out with their relatives, but you ADORE visits from them, or going to visit them. You had a sleepover with Aunt Tina and Uncle Scott earlier this year, and one planned with Nanny Lynn soon.

IMG_20180224_130917 IMG_20180224_132911

We’ve tried to get you interested in Taekwondo or piano, like your brother, but so far you haven’t shown enough maturity and/or interest to really find your “thing” that you do. You’re only (just now) 5 years old, so we’re not in a hurry.

But Benjamin tried to teach you piano:


And you went to practice with Benjamin and Daddy at Taekwondo, but you were more interested in hitting the punching bag than learning any real martial arts.


I don’t really think I can articulate how much you are, at your core, a warrior of some kind.


I don’t know what kind; but I hope whatever kind you are it’s good.


Because… you are fierce.


You are mighty.


You are tough.


You’re good at utilizing your available resources.


You’re steadfast.


And you’re honorable.


Happy, happy, happy birthday to one who brings me such joy.  I can’t wait to see how this year goes for my warrior prince.

Love always,


(Last years, if you’re so inclined)

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2018 began?
Surrounded my family in my living room watching the ball drop.  I got a kiss from my hubby at midnight and hugged everyone. It was AWESOME.

Who were you with?
Justin, Eli, Benjamin, Cory, Surae, Shawn, Nichole, David, Sherry.. I feel like more people than just that, but I guess not.

Was 2018 a good year for you?
Probably the best year of my life.  I know it sucked for a lot of people – and I’ve had years like that too – but this was just a really good combination of factors that made it amazing.

What countries/states did you visit?
I actually stayed pretty close to home this year – intentionally – because next year is going to be BUSY.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
My resolutions were to quit smoking completely (I had the occasional cigar but decided to stop) and take January off of drinking.  That actually ended up kicking me in the butt, because since I wasn’t smoking or drinking I ate a lot of unhealthy food in January.  February I started really watching/tracking my food.  By April I decided to try the Keto diet!  I started exercising in August, and quit smoking FOR GOOD in November (womp womp womp).

My other new year’s resolutions were to read the bible in a year, and get my BMI down and my weight to 170.  I DID ALL OF THAT! WOO!

It is a curious thing that the year I read the bible every day was also the year I got healthier and kept more resolutions.  Coincidence?? Hmm…

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
No, but several coworkers did.

Did anyone close to you die? 
No, but a young man in our church did die – I didn’t know him personally, just from a distance…but he was such a sweet kid who impacted many, many lives.  It was pretty gut wrenching.

What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hmmm.  I had my first CALEA file review December 3-7, but I don’t think I’ll remember those dates.  I will definitely remember the experience!!


What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
Successfully changed the way I diet! I’ve failed SO MANY TIME BEFORE.  Also, successfully scheduled and conducted an on-site assessment of my department.

Did you have fun in 2018?
YES!!! So many concerts!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish we’d been able to spend more time together as a family.  It was a busy, busy year.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d spent less money! And spent less time on my screens!

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I actually had a mock assessment with a friend of mine – she came down from Keller and reviewed my files for me.  We ate Mexican food for lunch, and when I got off work I picked up the kids and we went to Round Rock Police Department for the grand opening of their new training facility.  We got to tour the grounds, see live fires, the boys got “Round Rock SWAT” hats.  I also won a contest at our local Chick Fil A, so we had Chick Fil A for dinner and I got a free stuffed cow and some coupons.  The boys loved the evening, we had a great time.  Benjamin thanked me for spending time doing what they wanted to do on my birthday, which was the icing on the proverbial cake.

What did you want and get?
To get two teaching opportunities!

What did you want and not get?
Justin to be happy.


Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Honestly, this year, I’m going to say MINE.  I’ve worked HARD this year to meet my goals and stay on track.  I’m so proud of my progress.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
Humanity as a whole.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2018?
Nope, I did pretty good.

Who were some new people you met?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet people in my Community Group!  Also, Cory’s girlfriend Nicole and her two daughters are pretty awesome.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2018? 
May was really cool because I got to go to Galveston and hang out with my TALON friends from work, and then went on a family vacation with Justin, the boys, my Aunt Lynn, and cousins.  We had an amazing time staying in Orange Beach, Alabama. We got to do a lot of lounging around, and got to see the Blue Angels.  My cousin Logan also graduated college later that month and we had a great party celebrating him.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Listening to Five Iron Frenzy in concert was definitely pretty epic.

Receiving my award at the award banquet was pretty cool too (I received the Chief’s Award of Excellence this year) but honestly so many of my favorite moments were spent sitting or lying quietly with my kids and husband.  This was a whirlwind of a year and I really enjoyed the moments of pause.

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
I hate this question. Oh!! Probably when I got shot up during patrol practicals. I ended up with several scars on my right hand and arms from being shot with sim rounds at close distance.  It really, really, really sucked.

What was your favorite TV program? 
I re-watched Bones and it was awesome.

What was the best book you read? 
I actually read a bunch of books this year! Hard to narrow down my favorite, but here’s my top three:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  2. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
  3. The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane

What were your favorite films of this year? 
I still have a bunch I want to see, but Ready Player One was definitely one of the best.  The Shape of Water was so, so beautiful in spite of some of the weirdness.  We also watched The Greatest Showman and fell IN LOVE with the soundtrack. Seriously so much fun! And I really liked “The Christmas Chronicles”.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Justin bought me Shadows of War and I’ve been enjoying that a lot.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
Nothing really tickled my fancy.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
This is going to sound weird, but probably how much I loved (and missed!) attending concerts.   I went to a bunch as a kid, but this year I went to SEVERAL. I saw Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea) with Benjamin and Teresa, I saw Ruthie Foster TWICE, also saw Imagine Dragons with the family and I went to see Five Iron Frenzy and MxPx by myself!  We got free tickets to POD, Lit, Alien Ant Farm and Buckcherry so I took Benjamin, Cory and his girlfriend.  I even went to one of the local high school band concerts with the boys.  I’ve already scheduled several concerts for next year!!!

What was the best thing you bought? 
Surgery to have a tooth extracted.  Unbeknownst to me, a reoccurring abscessed tooth has been causing my grief for ALMOST 10 YEARS! Seriously.  So, I have less teeth, but no more bad taste in my mouth whenever it got re-infected.


What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Losing weight and maintaining it.

What was your biggest failure? 
Spending too much money on frivolous stuff.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
NO!!! I took it super easy this year and besides the tooth issues early on, everything worked out pretty well.

Where did most of your money go?
Concerts, new clothes, and food.

What kept you sane?

Who did you miss?

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Work related stuff!!! I passed the first part of my initial national assessment and was re-accredited with my state assessment.  Both big deals!!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter?  Thinner
iii. richer or poorer?  Richer, sort of.

Did you fall in love in 2018? 
This year, we maintained.

Did you lose anything important this year?
46 pounds? Hah!

What was your proudest moment of 2018?
Getting under 200 pounds, receiving an award at work, emailing everyone at the PD that we passed our file review.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2018?
Nothing immediately comes to mind.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Fairly good
• Emotional Health – Very Good
• Physical Health – Good
• Social Health – Fairly bad
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health – Fairly good

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
The weekend before (starting tomorrow!) we’ll go to my Aunt Tina’s house and party with them and all my family that’s in Texas. Very excited about that!!  The actual day of, we’ll just be hanging out with the family at the house.  I’d like to say it will be nice and quiet, but I know better.

How will you be spending New Years? 
With family and maybe friends! Not sure yet!

What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018? 
I’d like to get another fitbit.

What are your plans for 2019?
Get to my goal weight (155, only about 14 more pounds) and maybe surpass it, be strong enough to do 10 pushups without much issue, I’d like to be able to do a pull up but I just don’t know if it’s possible.  Re-read the bible.  Travel.  Tour Washington DC.  Save money to fix the house up.

Will you make any new year’s resolutions for 2019?

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018: 
Two things.  First: I always knew that change was slow.  Culture shift is slow.  But this year I learned how important it is for change to come from the top.  I learned a lot about leadership, how to lead when you’re not in charge, how to talk to people one on one to facilitate change, and how you really have to see things from different perspectives in order to be successful.  I learned that the loudest voice is not always the right one.

Second: I’m still the weird and awkward kid I was in middle school, desperate for validation and not getting it because I’m just… I’m not the popular kid.  Everyone, for the most part, likes me OK… and a few people think I’m pretty awesome… but by and large when people think of me, they don’t necessarily think I’m as amazing as I think I am.  And, here’s the important part: that’s OK.  I don’t have to win the most popular contest award at work, I don’t have to convince everyone of my value, those are things that should come from my core group of people. I have to periodically re-learn this lesson, I’m not that amazing. I’m a solid, kind person, but I’m nothing special to anyone other than the core group of people who love and adore me…and that is enough.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)

 I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Also, because I’m super stinking proud of myself:


Dear Benjamin,

This month you turn 8.  Happy, happy birthday son! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to watch you grow up.  To watch you fall in love with everything you do, to watch your personality shine, to watch you grow in your passions.

This year you added Taekwondo to your growing list of hobbies. You’re trucking along, learning and growing, and it’s been encouraging to watch you pour your heart into a physical activity that requires strength and discipline.


I love watching you and Daddy practice together!  Sometimes you help him, sometimes he helps you… it’s a beautiful sight to see.


You’re getting more aware of social media. You now provide me input on what I can or can’t post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and I’m mindful to ask because I believe you should have a certain amount of control over your own image as you grow up.  It makes me consider these letters, which I currently post online for all to see, and I wonder if maybe these are quickly becoming something to keep just between us.  Time will tell. But in the meantime, you’re continuing to use your intelligence and charisma for forces of good, and I’m happy to say that every day you prove to me how much older and more responsible you’re getting.


Speaking of responsibility… we started letting you walk from Taekwondo practice to piano practice. It’s only 2 blocks, and it’s a pretty easy route. So when I was out of town and Dad was at work, we let you walk. This created lots of problems, because concerned citizens called the cops on you….repeatedly.

We even had a shirt made, but it didn’t help!


Here are a few token Benjaminisms from this year:

  • You were sitting in the backseat of the car saying how cold it was. I told you to rub your hands on your legs to create some friction. You do this for a minute, then exclaim, “ahhhh, I love physics! Well, I love physics… but hate physics too.” Why do you hate physics, Benjamin? “Gravity! I mean, I like gravity, I just wish it wasn’t so strong, so I could jump higher.” 
  • “Integrity is very important, Eli!” You admonished Eli after realizing Eli changed your Legos while you weren’t looking.
  • You, Eli and I were reading “Santa Duck”, a story about a duck who wears a Santa hat and everyone walks up to him saying what they want for Christmas. A turtle wants a fast racecar, a cow wants an ice cream machine, etc. A squirrel wants a bunch of nuts.  And you’re all, “Why, Mom? Why is that squirrel asking for nuts right then? Shouldn’t he already have collected them all and be eating them at this time of year when Santa is out?”
    Forget the fact that it’s a talking animal. Why is he asking for nuts when they should be stockpiled already?!
  • “Can we go swimming today?” “No kiddo we gotta pack for camping…but I definitely want to go soon…maybe next week.” “For sure next week?” “Nothing is ‘for sure’.” “Except that God loves us!”
  • One day you told me you learned how to make paper fortune tellers. Me: “Oh, cool! Where did you learn that?” You: “At CHRUCH! Can you BELIEVE IT MOMMY? I learned how to make fortune tellers at CHURCH!” You then proceeded to laugh ironically, which made me laugh even more!
  • We were talking about fake names on the internet,  and it blew your mind that I could have a fake name on the Internet. It led to a very good reminder to him that anyone can say they are anyone on the internet, and no, son, it’s not illegal to use a fake name on Instagram. Your response to this was “well then that means somebody could pretend that they were a dinosaur. And that could cause mass panic.” (I’m still not sure you’re wrong)
  • One day you were talking about dinner and said: “I’m not complaining, but…” So I told you that anything you say before you say “but” doesn’t count. At least 3 hours later and you walked back up to me: “Mom. I’ve been paying attention and I say ‘but’ a lot. Is it really true, what you said?” Me: Yeah, pretty much. You (in kind of a desperate wail) : “I don’t think I can survive like this!!!” (you do!)

You love, without abandon, everything you do.  We try to channel it, or shape it some way, but honestly it feels like we’re trying to stop you from being wholly you and we don’t want to do that.


You went to your first “real” concert, a really awesome musician that Aunt Teresa and I love, named Alan Doyle. You have this uncanny ability to inspire people to do kind things – we have no idea if it’s because we’re exposing you to things too early, or because you’re lucky, or blessed, or whatever. We had several people at the concert insist on giving up their seat for you, and then someone went to the bar and bought you a bottle of water.  Randomly. For no reason other than just to give you something. You loved the concert, but you were falling asleep standing up by the end of it.

Alan was SUPER nice after the concert.  He gave you a pick and signed your shirt and you wear it to bed frequently.


I know I’ve said this before, son: I hope you use your powers for good.

Ahem. Anyways!

You got to see snow for the first time ever in real life this winter. Woo-hoo!


Aedan remained your best friend, even though you annoy each other and fight more like brothers. I’m so thankful for your relationship with him!



So, you’re a lot like your dad in terms of the way your brain works. You are very literal, very reliable, you take the rules seriously and you think through things. So this year you and Eli have spent a lot of time building legos, and here’s one of the examples side by side.


These spaceships perfectly represented your personalities. Eli’s is all about muscle and force and drama – he’s built an attack ship with guns and dreams of blowing up stuff. Meanwhile, you aren’t interested in guns or attack; you want a sturdy, reliable efficient ship. You built a transport carrier. I pointed this out to you, and you responded with: “Yeah mommy because even if it gets attacked, it’s so sturdy it wouldn’t even break a little!”

I love your brain so very, very much.


You got out of school early one day so you could watch the solar eclipse. You LOVE space, still, and desperately want to be an astronaut.


Your Dad and I sometimes struggle with how best to encourage you. Honestly, we don’t care if you become an astronaut. It would be pretty cool – and we could house sit (bonus!) but honestly… want you to be kind. To walk with integrity. To love God and love people the best way you can. To protect the vulnerable.


Luckily, not surprisingly, you have plenty of backup plans. If you can’t be an astronaut, you’d like to work on spaceships in some capacity.


If you can’t do that, you can just work SOMEWHERE at NASA working on “space stuff.”

If you can’t do that, you could always teach.


When I see you with your brother, I can’t help but think you’d make an amazing teacher.


You’re always trying to teach him the way to do something, or how to make something work a different or better way. The relationship you two have is one of my greatest joys.


IMG_20180325_125647 IMG_20180304_203620

You’ve kept advancing in piano. You love pop music, and this year you’ve learned several songs by your favorite band (Imagine Dragons) and we got you concert tickets for later this year. I love sitting in your music class listening to you practice. You’ve been with Chris for several years now and you love how he keeps you engaged and challenges you.


You guys have rocked out on several occasions.

We took a family vacation to the beach, and you LOVED swimming and body surfing in the ocean.


Your favorite part was probably the Blue Angels show, though, and really…who could blame you?


We’ve had a busy year, Benjamin. I hope you continue to grow, learn, and find ways to be kind. I hope you keep being hilarious, and awesome, even when it exhausts us, because you’re perfect just the way you are.

I hope you continue to teach me how blessed I am to be your Mama.

I love you son. Happy Birthday!

Dearest Eli,

As I write this, you’re running around the house in your fire fighter pajamas, using my phone to take pictures of everything around you.  This year has been a year of you turning more into YOU – the you that is sweet, charismatic and encouraging, but also passionate and fierce.


If I had to sum you up in two words, Eli, you’re a fierce encourager.  So many days this year I heard, “Go Benjamin go!” or “Go Daddy go, you can do it!” or “You’re doing a great job being a Mommy today, Mommy.”  But – in the same breathe – “I’m gonna beat that guy up!” or my favorite:

“Mommy, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a knight named…… Daddy. And Daddy lived over here (points).  There was a biiig hugenormous dragon that lived….. over here (points to a different spot). One day, the dragon stole the princesses crown, and Knight Daddy went to the dragon and CHOPPED HIS HEAD OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Or stabbed his eyes out. Or stabbed him in the heart.

You know, the usual 3 year old story.

You love telling stories, and I am rewarded with a new one on a regular basis.  The themes are similar – heroes, battles, and rescue are almost always present.  Each story you tell though, the good guy wins.  You love Finn from Star Wars – he’s your favorite (and so is every other stormtrooper).


Darth Vader is also your favorite, but you’re never a bad Darth Vader. He’s always a good guy, in your book.


You love to be the hero. See below, Optimus Prime:


You don’t encourage anyone as much as you encourage your big brother, Benjamin.  So many summer days we spent at the pool, with us watching Benjamin do tricks while we floated and tried to learn to swim, and in the midst you could be heard saying “GO MY BROTHER GO! THAT’S MY BROTHER! GO BENJAMIN!!!!!!”

You love each other so much.  We haven’t had much fighting at all between you guys.  You’re so different from each other, you compliment each other.  Benjamin started Taekwondo lessons this year, and you’d love to but you’re not quite old enough.  But Daddy is teaching you at home and you love to practice – sometimes on Benjamin!


One of the side effects of your passion and bravery is that you sometimes get carried away.  Like the time this summer where you jumped, bravely, into the 1 foot deep kiddie pool at full speed.  You fractured one of the bones in your foot and got stuck in a cast for several weeks!  Luckily it was the removable kind, so it didn’t interfere with summer swimming, but it was pretty crazy seeing you walk around with a huge cast.  It didn’t slow you down at all though.  You could dance around like normal within a few minutes of putting it on for the first time.


Last year you feel in love with Star Wars, a love that continued all through this year.  You also added Transformers, Power Rangers, and PJ Masks.


Power Rangers Dino is probably your favorite – and why not?! – and you loved the Power Rangers movie. Your love of dinosaurs comes from that, I suspect. 20170914_180217

You love wearing hats, glasses, and playing video games (especially “laser games”).


You love hanging out with your cousins and friends.


You still love sweets!


You were old enough this year to go hiking, which made everyone super happy. We’ll definitely be doing more of that next year!!!


If I had to pick out the thing about year 3 that stands out the most, I would describe this year as the year of the lego.


This year you graduated from big blocks to regular sized legos, and as much as my toes may dislike it, you’re a fan.


You build rocket ships, space stations, space get the idea.  Everything is precariously perched, and you have a serious obsession with lasers.  I mean, a serious obsession.


We went to the Lego Land that’s inside the mall in Grapveine, Texas, and you talked about it for MONTHS.


Your prayers for months consisted of “Dear God, thank you that we got to go to Lego Land. AMEN!”


Speaking of praying, you love talking to me about God.  We talk about how God made you strong, and smart, and kind.  We talk about how God made the world and everything in it.  We talk about how God gave you Mommy and Daddy and Benjamin and ALL your family.


You memorized all the songs from church, and love to dance and sing with “Ollie the Owl” at church.  Your favorite song is: “God’s love go on” because there’s a robot part.

When you’re not building a spaceship or watching one of your shows, you’re practicing ninja training and sword fights.


You absolutely love fighting.  At least, in theory.  For Christmas we got you punching gloves and helmets, and once you got your helmet on, Benjamin popped you in the head, softly, and you started whining that it wasn’t fair he could hit you!  But most of the other time you can be found swinging a sword, trying to chop people’s legs off or stab them.  Daddy and I have to be careful playing with you, because you don’t hold back!!!

But in spite of the love you have for fighting, ninjas, sword fights, punching, and kicking… you’re one of the sweetest kids I’ve ever met.  You snuggle and give kisses readily, you lift us up when we’re feeling sad, and you recognize what emotions we’re feeling.  Your empathy for a 3 year old was pretty much off the charts, and I can’t wait to see what year 4 brings.


I know it’s silly to look so deeply into you at this age but I hope you keep that forever. I hope you remember that inside of every bad guy – even people like Darth Vader – there’s a broken person deep inside that bad guy exterior…. who has value. Who deserves love. Who deserves someone to believe that there could possibly be a good guy in them.  I see how you love easily, how you forgive with tenderness, and how you smile at everyone.  I see how you are willing to fight for good, and I hope you never forget that.

Happy birthday, Eli.  Your Momma loves you and who you are becoming.  I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

Last years, if you’re so inclined.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2017 began?
We drove out to see Brad, Charla and Lexi who were all camping, and then drove over to Gabe and Rachel’s house to celebrate with them.

Who were you with?
Family for most of the day, and friends who are LIKE family for the rest of it.

Was 2017 a good year for you?
The first half of it was pretty hard, the second half was sort of a reawakening.

What countries/states did you visit?
We took a cruise and visited 2 different parts of Mexico.  We also spent a week in California.  I also travelled for work, making it to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Providence, Rhode Island.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Well, Eli got potty trained, but that was really on him not so much as me… and I do have healthier relationships, but I failed to improve my eating/exercise habits to a substantial amount.  I did better, but then, cookie Christmas season. I’m getting better, though.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Some coworkers did, but no family.

Did anyone close to you die? 
No but Justin’s Great-Grandmother passed away.

What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 16th, the day we flew back to California with Lilly.


What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
I really, really, really struggled with how to parent my niece.  I spent a lot of time feeling like a complete failure, weak, and completely in over my head.  Which I totally was.  This year, more than many other years, I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

Did you have fun in 2017?
There were some pretty awesome parts of 2017, but I’m pretty glad it’s over.  Yes, I had fun, mostly the second half of the year.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d exercised more.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Spent less money on frivolous things.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33!  I taught in the morning, then drove out to our training field and helped with patrol practicals. For dinner, my husband fed me wine, cheese, crackers and grapes.  It was the best birthday I’ve had in a long time.

What did you want and get?
I didn’t really have any wants, but the highlights were the coffee mug from Leslie and the Matchbox 20 tickets from Teresa.  We had a great time hanging out and listening to music and I definitely need more concerts in my life.

What did you want and not get?
Nothing really.


Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Justin has really changed this last year.  The journey over 2016/2017 was pretty intense and overwhelming for a lot of it, but he made it through and made a lot of changes that have improved his mental well-being and it’s been so encouraging and amazing to watch.

I also really celebrate my coworkers this year.  They rallied next to me, let me vent and be concerned, they asked about my crazy home life and offered support, encouragement, and advice.  I can’t even thank them enough.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
Lilly’s.  I love her, but I’m scared about the path she is heading down.  At a certain point in life though you have to let people make their own decisions, no matter how bad you think it will turn out, and trust God because he’s the only hope she has.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2017?
Probably not intentionally, and probably not maliciously, which is really what matters.

Who were some new people you met?
Church folks, mostly!

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2017? 
December. It started with a cruise and I’ve had some good time for reflection and refocusing, as is usual for me this time of year. I’ve really made peace with a lot of stuff that occurred this year, and I really needed that.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Driving through California with my husband in the middle of nowhere, with no GPS signal and no civilization around anywhere, stopping by the side of the road and staring at the milky way, then sleeping under the stars.  I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

Also, the time I got to spend with the kids. We did a lot of fun stuff this year!


What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
There were a lot of least favorite moments this year.  Most of them involved dealing with things out of my control.  BUT next year is a new year!

What was your favorite TV program? 

What was the best book you read? 
SO MANY GOOD BOOKS THIS YEAR!!! So hard to narrow it down. Here’s my top three:

Non-religious non-fiction: Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, totally rocked my world.

Religious non-fiction: Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans

Fiction: The Great Passage by Shion Miura

What were your favorite films of this year? 
So many good movies this year.  I loved Lego Batman, Wonder Woman, and Thor: Ragnarok.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My google pixel 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Good Parts album by Andy Grammar – Pretty much every song on it speaks to my soul. (tell me your story, but don’t leave the good parts out… chills!)

Every Beat – by the Northpoint band (a cousin church to my Northpoint that is based in Atlanta)

Craig – Walker Hayes

Learning – Jason Gray (and, on depressing days, “Not Right Now”)

What was the best thing you bought? 
Vitamin B. Life changing (more about that later)


What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Having the strength to send Lilly home.  It was very very hard knowing that she would likely fall into old habits.

Also, realizing that my eating habits are essentially gluttony.

What was your biggest failure? 
Sending Lilly home.

And, not controlling my eating better.  I’ve realized how much of it is a heart issue, not just a physical issue.  It’s definitely both.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Yes.  After Lilly left, my stress levels bounced from extreme to normal very quickly, and my body suffered as a result.  It took a lot of experimenting to realize that I needed a vitamin B and vitamin D supplement.  Once I started taking both regularly everything evened out for the most part.

Where did most of your money go?
Kids and gasoline.

What kept you sane?

Who did you miss?
Aunt Lynn, who I didn’t see nearly enough of this year!

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
The end of 2017.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? HAPPIER
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer

Did you fall in love in 2017? 
I must admit, my husband’s life changes have made me fall more in love with him, so I would say yes.

Did you lose anything important this year?
I was pretty humbled this year. I would say I lost some of my pride, and became more aware of its impact on my life.  I still have a way to go, but I would probably say I lost my obliviousness to it, more so then the pride itself – which was an impactful, important thing to lose.

What was your proudest moment of 2017?
Receiving an award for my teaching work.  Definitely one of the highlights of this year.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2017?
I vaguely remember something happening and saying “welp, that’s it, this is my most embarassing thing for this year” but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Good
• Physical Health – Fairly bad
• Social Health – Fairly good
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health – Bad

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
We’re going to spend the 23rd with extended family, the 24th together at the house and at church, and then Christmas morning we will have our family Christmas.

How will you be spending New Years? 
Hopefully with friends and/or family.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? 
A balanced budget

What are your plans for 2018?
To get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese).

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2018?

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017: 
You will not always be happy and satisfied.  There are periods of life that are just plain hard, sometimes with no end in sight.  The end always comes, though, there really is joy in the morning, you just have to stick it out and not lose hope.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

First half of the year:

While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief
(Jason Gray – Not Right Now)

Second half of the year:

You gotta grow
Love yourself and be kind, water your soul
Celebrate, find your light
It don’t matter who you are, where you’re going, you’re not old
We all know, yeah, we all know
Gotta grow
(Andy Grammar – Grow)

My dearest Lilly,

Well, kiddo, we did it.  We made it.  When you came to us on August 1st, 2016, we weren’t sure what to expect. I know you didn’t either.  It’s been a time with lots of ups, and some downs, but I wouldn’t trade these past 10 months for anything.

20160801_231817 Tomorrow we’re flying you back to California – to a place with lots of memories for both of us.  Tomorrow ends your journey at our home in Texas, and re-starts the journey with your Mom and Lunna and everyone in California. You’re closing this chapter and tomorrow you start the next chapter of your life.


Before you do, I want to remind you how much you are loved.


It’s easy to look back at the past year and only remember the really strong memories.  But there were so many other moments of joy, fun, and laughter. 20160924_162151

You’ll find that life is mostly good, but sometimes bad.  It’s easy to remember the bad moments. It’s easy to focus on the things we really wish we had done differently, instead of remembering the moments we got stuff right.  But Lilly, when I really think back about the last few months, it’s been incredible to think of how many good moments we had.  Moments where we hung out, and grew together. Moments where we shared our life with you and you shared your innermost thoughts with us.  Moments where we laughed and played and went on adventures.

20160914_183929 Moments where there was lots of love.



You’ve made some new friends – friends I hope you keep in contact with throughout the next year, friends who loved you when you had good days, and loved you when you had bad days. And you’ve gained two brothers who love you – and two parents who will continue to love you from 2000 miles away. 20170315_181949

IMG_20170511_071344_426 20161031_181811

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IMG_20170318_161531_909 You’ve gotten to know aunts and uncles and extra cousins you didn’t know before – and they’ve loved you and poured their wisdom and kindness into you. 20170316_165925

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We drank a lot of coffee this year!

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We did a lot of camping this year – and adventures in the outdoors. We swam and camped and took hikes.

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You struggled with your identity a lot. That’s pretty normal at this age – and we tried to help as much as we could. This is something you’ll struggle with more as you grow and mature – and I hope we helped you learn some new ways to identify the next steps.

CYMERA_20161012_181905 IMG_20161231_153024_770 You’ve got the world at your fingertips. You’re almost 14 – so close to adulthood – and about to start high school. The next few years of your life are going to fly by, but every day is going to feel like forever. I hope your time here was full of moments you’ll be able to think back on with fondness.

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I hope you walk away from us stronger, healthier, happier, and more self aware. I hope you take Jesus with you everywhere you go.


I don’t think we were perfect parents for you, but we were what you had for this time of your life. And at the end of the day, no one is perfect. We’re all just struggling along trying to find our way. We mess up. We do stuff the wrong way. But through it all we tried our best to love you like Jesus loves you. We tried to show you a way different from what you’ve tried before. And I think – I hope – we did that. I hope, when you get back to California, you’ll have an opportunity to use the lessons we’ve taught you. I hope you can call me one day and tell me about some situation where you made a good, loving choice…even when it wasn’t the first thing you thought to do. I can’t wait for that phone call.

But until that phone call comes, I’m going to hold on to the memories we have. I’m going to remember the fun, laughter, and joy that you brought into our life.



I’m going to remember how much Eli loved it when you played with him.


I’m going to remember letting you play hookie on your last day of school so you could come watch me teach.


I’m going to remember how hard you worked.


I’m going to remember you achieving your goals.


I’m going to remember that today, 10 months later, you’re a better person than you were when you came here. You have grown and expanded how you understand the world in ways that make me so proud of you. I love you so much – even when the words are hard to come by, I’m glad God gave you to me, even for this short time. I can’t wait to see what your future looks like.

Mom aka Aunt Jennet