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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)

1. What is your favorite color? Blue
2. What is your favorite toy? Pogo stick
3. What is your favorite fruit? Strawberries
4. What is your favorite tv show? Pac-Man
5. What is your favorite movie? Harry Potter, Lego movie, Sing
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? Soft cloth
7. What is your favorite animal? Tiger
8. What is your favorite song? The Nights by Avicci, Learning by Jason Gray, Set it All Free by Ash (from the movie Sing)
9. What is your favorite book? Harry Potter series
10. Who is your best friend? Aedan and Kaley
11. What is your favorite snack? Curly noodles and donuts and ice cream
12. What is your favorite drink? Sprite
13. What is your favorite breakfast? Bacon and cereal
14. What is your favorite lunch? Curly noodles
15. What is your favorite dinner? Chick Fil A
16. What is your favorite game? Borderlands and Wii U Sports Club, Splatoon, and Checkers
17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? Baseball
18. What is your favorite Bible story? The story of the 100 sheep
19. What do you sleep with at night? Friendent!
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Astronaut or pilot!
21. What is the most important lesson you learned this year? Learning to clean up after myself.
22. What is your goal for next year? I want to make sure I spend lots of time with my family and take care of them like they took care of me on my birthday.

Flickr Photos