September 21, 2021

Dear Jack,

All day I’ve had Earth Wind & Fire’s September in my head as background music to nearly every activity. Your song. It’s so strange to realize that we are 17 years from singing it softly to you in the hospital room.

Sometimes I look at little Onni and marvel that you were that small— he wears a lot of your old clothes. And at the same time it’s crazy to think you aren’t still a small babe in your crib sleeping with your arms flung over your head.

This whole year (and over a half, now) has been a pandemic year. Some things have resumed giving a false impression that we are no longer living with any restrictions or caution… the reality is that the variants of the virus are leap frogging through communities with low vaccination rates and getting stronger. It’s been a great source of frustration for your dad and I that we’ve tried to do everything possible to behave responsibly— getting all of us vaccinated, wearing masks, avoiding indoor crowds, giving up some of the things we want to do as being things we shouldn’t do or don’t need to do.

It’s interesting to see you figure out your faith. And politics. And define your morals. More and more you are insightful and have something to add to the conversation or an excellent question. Sometimes you are still caught in between boy and man— and the frustration of that spills out in your tone of voice or attitude.

You are slowly but surely pushing away from our shore to head towards your own. It hurts. And it’s right.

I don’t know what’s ahead— passed the college applications and end of high school and all this year has in it. I don’t know if we will emerge from the pandemic this year or next or if the timeline is beyond even 2023… but I know that you will be okay. You, with your tightly woven faith and circle of friends. Your family — both net and oar. You will land on your feet — like our Manx ancestors. And you will find your way in your own time.

In the meantime I am going to enjoy every bit of this last year at JHS— I love how you’ve been so determined to squeeze every bit of all that you can. I can’t wait to see you in stage and on the field and in concert. All of it. I am and will always be your biggest fan. (Dad can be second.)

I love you,


September 21, 2020

Social Distancing dispatch: day 192

Dear Jack,

Somehow— impossibly— you turned 16 today. We had some plans in our head for what today might look like — but 2020 came along and erased the board.

Years from now you might have a child or grandchild who asks about your sweet 16… and I hope what will come first to mind is that you had four grandparents, an AunT, two cousins (plus two more on FaceTime), a nearly-here baby cousin, your pups, and parents all gathered to wish you the best day— you’ll have to explain to them that it wasn’t always possible in 2020 to be with the people you love.

But you might also remember the last 15 year old argument we’d have (the clock didn’t yet tell us you had officially turned 16). We argued about working hard versus waiting for things to happen. We shouldn’t have argued— we were both tired. You stayed up too late and subsequently woke up all of us. We’ve been groggy and tired all day. I always worry when I feel like you’re giving up before you’ve started to learn something. Doing it perfectly the first time is a fluke. Putting in the hard work, making mistakes, failing but beginning again and again— this is where the good stuff happens. Don’t be so afraid to not be in control. Messiness is okay.

Tonight you had all your favorites — fried shrimp and french fries, cheddar bay biscuits, French bread pizza, pound cake and brownies. (Your poor AunT threw all her clean eating down the drain to match you shrimp for shrimp.) And there were presents and surprises and a floor covered in balloons as there has been every September 21.

What I hope I remember is how nice it was to be able to have the deck wide enough to space out nearly the whole family — being together is the nicest oasis in this desert of isolation. I love that we curled up when the dishes were washed and put away to watch Dude Perfect Overtime (episode 18) together.

Keep trying new things. Meeting new people. Hold on to your circle of friends— you’ve made good choices there. Keep playing your instruments— the “boring” warm up stuff, too— you can’t hear the progress but we can. Keep writing the story you e been telling for several years now. Keep asking us the hard questions about God and faith and community. Work on being kind— you can’t ever be too kind. Find what brings you joy and share that with the people that love you. Learn from the oops— reset and avoid the mistakes— make new ones if you have to— but don’t fall into the same traps.

I love you, kid. I definitely remember the 21st night of September— it was the beginning of the best story I’ve ever known.


Fast away the old year passes…

The year and the decade are just hours away from demise. Time is so fast these days– I’m sorry for it and feel guilty for wishing them gone.

In our house tonight there is the constant commentary of two teenage boys playing video games and eating (my last goal of 2019 is simply not to run out of food…) The pups are with Robby and I on the couch– Hildy is inexplicably in her taco halloween costume and Gus is nervously pacing between his parents unsure of whom to sit with (the keyboard is a huge distraction). The tree is lit in the corner the candles on the mantle are lit– so we’ve got the hygge thing going. I have a luke warm latte nearby and a book waiting to be finished.

It’s been a good year in our small world:

In the winter we traveled to Florida with the high school band and watched Jack march in the half-time show of the Outback Bowl with a few hundred other excited high school musicians (I sat through an entire game! with a book… but still! I sportsed!). It was ridiculously fun– there was a parade and the chance for us to see Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at Universal Studios. We rang in the New Year with fireworks at Busch Gardens and some of the nicest teenagers (one paused when getting on the bus to say, “I’m so glad you came on this trip, Mrs. Reynolds” and made my whole year before it’d even begun). Later Jack and Will went to the State Solo & Ensemble where they squeaked out a II rating and determined to return for a blue medal. We went to a Harry Potter concert. Jack and the Youts led a worship service and had their annual Super Soup or Subs fundraiser.

In the Spring I made it through the first day of a confirmation retreat before being sent home with a horrid virus that knocked out most of Spring Break– though Jack and I managed an overnight in Chicago with Maddie and Tyler and a visit to the Field Museum. Our friends Nick and Katie were married and our Uncle Tom died (unrelated occurences– but one that had us all separated one weekend in April). Robby’s parents hosted Easter. Robby and our dear friend, Marc, were appropriately stunned when The Wives managed to pull off the surprise heist of the year and a celebration of their birthdays at Walt Disney World. It was the best long weekend– one that we will savor for years. On Robby’s actual birthday we were up at the Grand Traverse resort for the annual conference of the Michigan Area Conference of United Methodists. The mood there was rather progressive– a balm that helped soothe the free moments on twitter where I followed the memorial service for Rachel Held Evans. I miss her voice. I miss the bridge she was between the things I used to Know and the things I know now. And then there came the rush of the end of the Jack’s freshman year– concerts and parades and exams. Our pastor retired and we prepared to welcome a new one– and live in the liminal space again.

The summer, like most before it since Jack, flew by– and there were the usual placeholders– Mission Trip, Fourth of July at the Lake, Rookie Camp, Band Camp, and Family Camp. But too there was a week at Lake Michigan for me where I helped in the kitchen with friend Jo– a week where the beach was literally measurably yards away and yet we were too tired to trek over there after three meals and a mountain of dirty dishes each day. Jo and I inadvertently stumbled on to a tacqueria that was so oddly hidden it became an instant epic tale. We’d lick our oily fingers again when we took the Family Camp family there later in the summer prompting an epic “Tie Dye Tuesday Taco” feast.  Jack and I had a few little day adventures on our own– my favorite was a trip to the peony gardens at U of M. We were lost and unsure of our path– but we bumbled our way through the woods and found the field of peonies in perfect bloom– that fragrant hour was amazing. GusGus ended up in a Cone of Shame when he tore out a toenail scratching at the fence (and the neighbor’s pup, his arch enemy). I spent a hot weekend redoing the old library as a bedroom for Jack. (GusGus and Hildy sported colorful tails when it was finished. Bright blue streaks.)

The fall brought Jack’s sophomore year, Football Fridays and Marching Band Mondays. Concessions for Robby and I. Our town was brightened by new murals that had us visiting the downtown over multiple trips in a week to watch the artists at work. Jack turned 15– after a year without any seizures. We celebrated both events– and took Jack’s two best buddies with us to Boyne for an overnight. We snuck in a trip to Lake Michigan to help put the camp to bed for the summer. Only a small knot of us were able to go but our little cabin was a good place to tuck into snacks and cards. And we made it to the Hillsdale Co. Fair to gorge on Fiske fries, corndogs, and shake-em-up lemonade. A King Arthur (the Monty Python version) costume was assembled. Our living room was the site of the annual reckoning of the Trick or Treat haul. Jack and Robby joined the community band at Jackson College and wowed us (sister and I) in their tuxedos with a concert far surpassing our expectations. Jack tried out for the school play and got a fantastic part in Almost Maine– so a weekend was spent sitting in the dark marveling at his ease on stage. Leaves were raked. Greens were hung. Sundays with the Youts were navigated with silly games and listening between the lines of their Highs and Lows. We made Thanksgiving at our house for Robby’s parents who limped through the fall with surgeries and hospital stays. GusGus managed to wrangle a stay in the puppy ER/hospital after eating a box of raisins.

I saw out December with a smorgasbord of tiny jams– the best Advent calendar ever. My momma and Eric came home from their French home. A flurry of Christmas parties and concerts and activities– but no snow until late last night. Christmas was merry and bright and overwhelmingly kind to us all– Robby and I gave each other barista club mugs at our favorite coffee (tea) shop–like O. Henry except that I didn’t have to sell my combs… or the Apple watch that Robby surprised me with. (Meanwhile, the theme music to our life is now the bass line to Smoke on the Water that gets played over and over and over again on Jack’s new electric bass guitar…) Two new things we hope become traditions– serving at the local shelter and delivering hot cinnamon rolls to the family in our jammies.

I read good books: Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Olivia Hawker’s One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. Tracy Chevalier’s A Single Thread. Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Zacharia Lee’s Across the Great Lake. Nathan Englander’s Kaddish.Com. Pete Buttigieg’s The Shortest Way Home. But fell nine short of my goal to read 52 books. We saw good movies (and some bad ones) but loved Toy Story 4; Yesterday; Downtown Abbey; and Episode IX of StarWars best. I am mourning the impending ending of my favorite podcast, The West Wing Weekly.

Robby and I celebrated 25 years of being his and hers.

Outside– the medium world wasn’t as kind. Dear friends have lost parents this year. My college friend lost a daughter. A Mommy friend lost her brother. People we’ve picked up as family have had health scares and losses. The bigger world has been in a freefall with fascist leaders on the rise, acts of hate and violence that pile up in my newsfeed in overwhelming rapidity– so much fear and anxiety and hatred. Some days it squeezes out the hope.

In the middle of this an old friend called. What a gift that is– to laugh with another person. When I hung up there was a silly string of teasing from the Far Flungs on my fb wall. And a group text with the youth leaders that was full of bad dad jokes.

So I’ll end where I began– feeling grateful for the little family in this house and our pups. A roof (albeit a sometimes leaky one) over our heads. A book to read. Tea to drink. And family and the friends that became family to love and that love us.

Be kind, 2020, please.



Learning to write again.

I came here to put down a thought about the loss of Rachel Held Evans yesterday and was startled to see how long it’s been since I’ve posted. Over a year lost without a typed word.

There have been a few times where I’ve lost words– the months after we lost Dad (until I read Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte gave me words again), after some of the babies. A few times when things were at such odds that giving them a vocabulary was too terrifying a thought.

This lost year is easy to pinpoint– Jack’s first seizure and our subsequent introduction to the world of epilepsy and neurologists and prescription medication stole away any inclination to put things down on paper (albeit digitally). Bits and pieces have been jotted here and there. There was this from earlier this year, still trying to make sense of how to articulate the disorientation of an epilepsy diagnosis.

The night we left the hospital, after Jack was born, I remember how we marveled that the doctors and nurses were going to just let us drive off with the baby– that we were allowed to just take him home as though we’d bought a throw pillow.

We weren’t afraid, necessarily– we had a good tribe around us ready to help us navigate this new map. But we were incredulous that we were allowed now to make all the decisions for him. When he would eat. What he’d wear. What we’d call him. 
Jack came home tethered to a bilirubin blanket that we were to keep plugged in for a few days. I was more worried we’d inadvertently electrocute him then I was about the jaundice that I didn’t understand. The blanket gave us a lovely comfort at night– seeing it glow on the ceiling from his little blue bassinet at the end of our bed. Any of his movements mimicked in the soft light.
It was nothing like leaving the hospital with him 13 and a half years later after that first terrible seizure. Again the staff let us leave the building with a now gangly human– without running after us to make sure we’d take care of him properly.
All the nights we’d relaxed while he was a tiny newborn watching his little arms making nonsensical shadow puppets on our bedroom ceiling were paid in full with nights spent at the edge of sleep listening for his breathing to suddenly huff– that strange animal sound of labored breath and deliberation while his body writhes and seizes. 
A sudden drop from the bottom stair tread into a grand mal seziure lost any security we had in our two story home. We put up the puppy gates terrified that the next time it might be from the top of the stairs. Our nightmares became horrible scenes of the mundane suddenly turned deadly. 
When baby Jack was let loose with us into the world it was into a world where we were surrounded by those that knew the route. Our mothers, my sister quietly led us along the new paths and pointed out the things we should see or note. After the seizure they stood with us in this new map as uncertain as we. 

Because of RHE

I will always be grateful that Rachel Held Evans was not born a boy. Had she been born male her trajectory might have stayed neatly in place. She might have grown up to be yet another voice projecting out to a middle sized congregation and not heard outside of her own church. (And she would have had a church. She was smart. And driven.)

I’m glad she was born a girl. I’m glad that not all doors were opened to her because waiting outside of those closed doors gave her time to think and question and listen. Maybe that’s when she began to hear her own voice.

I first heard her voice clearly in her first book—Evolving in Monkey Town. I understood the church culture of her childhood—Sunday School flannel board stories, Sword Drills (I loved going to my grandmother’s small country church for VBS because it was a new playing field full of ribbons to be won for my quick fingers), youth group, Being Good. I gobbled up all she wrote after that—her books and blog and twitter feed.

Rachel’s last book, Inspired, gave me weight to understanding how I approach the Bible. Words to describe how the last 5 years of study have led me to questions and answers that I wouldn’t have had vocabulary for yet without her.  Rachel led the pack of women that gave me space to read Paul’s letters and to still hear the many voices of women preaching clear and true. Her steadfast resistance to bigotry, misogyny, and the current administration made her one of the first tweets I’d read every day marveling at the fragility she’d stir up in some of the male commentators.

Our age difference (12 years?) fooled me into thinking I had time to meet her yet. That I would get to one of her conferences (so bummed I couldn’t afford to go to be with her and Nadia Bolz-Weber at WhyChristian) and we would meet. She’d say something clever and I’d retort something almost as good and we’d suddenly be fast friends. That somehow I’d end up in a room with her and Nadia and Anne Lamott eating a bad conference boxed lunch and laughing. But now that’s the door that’s closed. And I’m outside of it waiting. Listening. Hoping that the God will send another voice as clear and earnest as Rachel’s.


Fast away this old year passes.

We are left with bits and pieces.

Images caught up on our phones.

Posts from friends on our walls.

Texts I won’t delete.

It takes with it the raw grief of lost friends. Funerals attended and guilty lapses. Health scares. Leaking pipes. Brakes that break our budget.

How many hours were spent in the racks of the bandroom sorting out uniforms and the problems of middle school boys? How many times did our hands collide in applause at this concert? this game? this practice?

A week of living with the church Youts and looking for God. Finding him again and again in their faces.

Meals at Marc’s table. Wrapped along the length of the long table on Sunday nights with our highs and lows and inside jokes.

Floating on the Lake with the Gordys. Playing cards in the rain with the Camp Family. The clack of dominoes when everyone is home and at Momma’s table. The porch full of people for Lady & Padre’s 50th.

As far north as the Lake. As far east as Princeton. As far south as Main Street, USA. As far west as Chicago.

Outside there are riots and protests. A horrid, bloated man making it a White Supremacist House. We have woke to our privilege.

Inside our house we’ve celebrated Jack’s confirmation– and reconfirmed our own covenants in the process. We’ve asked each other “What have you done that is kind today?” “How have you shown grace?”

This morning we sat in church– in jeans and thick sweaters and sweatshirts because it’s cold enough out to warrant the livestream on YouTube… but we wanted the sanctuary on the last day of the year. Jack’s hand slipped into mine during a prayer. Robby’s hand closed over both of ours. And that’s what we’ll take into 2018.

May it be full of grace and kindness for us all.



Dear J. K. Rowling

August 2017

Dear J. K. Rowling,

Several years ago you gave me a gift that I didn’t properly thank you for… and now you’ve extended your kindness to my son.

Thank you for Harry and all his adventures. My husband, Robby, and I read through all of your wonderful books as they came out (starting a few days after our friends because I’d picked up the first book on a trip to Canada and insisted that we must finish out the series with the same cover theme… so there were agonizing waits for our hardcovers to find their way to us from across the Atlantic). Mostly we read your books in the car on long trips—though we’d bring them into the living room and keep reading during especially thrilling bits.

I got pretty good at coming up with voices for all your characters—Luna Lovegood and Professor Trewlaney and Mad Eye Moody were particular favorites. I used to read the books through quickly first, on my own, before reading them out loud to Robby. This practice ended after HP & the Order of the Phoenix. When we are finally assured that Lupin is, in fact, on the side of good I paused to look at my husband. He said, “I already knew we could trust him.” “How?? When did you figure it out?,” I spluttered. “The voice you gave him—I knew he was okay.” I was horrified that my own love of Remus had ruined a bit of suspension for Robby so after HP&tOoP I didn’t read past where I’d read aloud to him.

In 2004, Robby and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and were very much blessed with the arrival of our long awaited son, Jack. He was three when we finished the last book in the original canon and we shelved the books waiting for the day when he’d be old enough for us to relive the adventures with him. (To tide us over we have a niece, Maddie, who loved the books as much as I did. Thank heavens!)

Now Jack is an amazing boy. He’s smart and funny and full of questions. And he reads—constantly. We’d known loss—so we only prayed that “the baby” (we didn’t know his gender—though I suspected) be delivered safely and in good health… I’d secretly add “and please, please let baby love books, too.” Our Jack is an actual-factual monkey—and rarely has time for fiction. No matter. I’d told him from the time he was quite young that Harry Potter was quite real and that, if we paid attention, there was, indeed, magic all around us. And I refused to let him see a single Harry Potter movie until he’d read the corresponding book first.

Two years ago he rather reluctantly opened Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This last week he went on a 14 chapter binge (a first for him!) to the end of HP & the Deathly Hallows.

What a wonderful two years it has been. Thank you! Thank you for letting us revisit our dear friends again and to introduce them to our boy. Jack, at nearly-13 (next month!), still brandishes his wand (Aunt Trish gave him it on the eve of his 11th birthday when we threw him a “Hogwarts’ letter eve” party) and dreams of playing Quidditch. He’s shyly pleased that Ron and Hermione married each other and didn’t see Ginny coming any more than Harry did. Jack and I are pleased to be in Hufflepuff (we imagine being near the kitchens at Hogwarts must be lovely) and wonder about the differences between North American wizards and those that we know like the back of our hands. We rate the books in order of our favorites. And bemoan the things that the movies left out. We are still mourning the losses, still especially fresh for Jack, of so many dear ones in HP & the Deathly Hallows. (We are, at heart, Weasleys. So that particular death was brutal.)

And we dream of Hogwarts feasts, Weasley sweaters, and using a Marauder’s Map to get up to no good…

Thank you.

Thank you.

Always, thank you.

With much, much love,

Jack’s Mom


P.S. The other day was the first day of school (8th grade) for Jack (and the day after he’d finished HP & the Deathly Hallows) and we had to pick up some groceries. The store had paperback copies of HP & the Cursed Child. Jack asked, “Mom?” Now—I have read it—devouring a friend’s copy while we were camping last year—and didn’t yet have our own on the shelf. I was reluctant to get a paperback but was so swayed by Jack’s excitement to read it that I said, “Okay” and popped it in the cart.

When we got home Jack said, “Mom. I can’t read it yet—I need to see the Deathly Hallows movies first.”

Curious to remember how it began again I opened it to read it again myself—only to discover that the pages are all out of order (!) and it’s missing the first 18 pages!!!!

Jack and I agree that it must be dark magic, indeed.

Or a muggle at the helm.

March 21, 2017

Dear Jack,

My goodness. This is our last half-birthday with a little kid. In six months you’ll be a teenager.
And it still feels like we just brought you home to the little black pup and a house that didn’t yet have books about dinosaurs, space, and facts…
This has been a winter of growing. You’re still not as tall as you’d like– but we’ve seen you grow in other ways. You’re learning how to navigate a bit more without us piloting every decision or destination. And that means you are learning to trust yourself– just as we are learning to let you go out into the world by bits and pieces without us.
LOTS of conversations lately about friends and frenemies and compassion and kindness and honesty and integrity.
For every victory — and there have been quite a few— there’s been a stumble. (The Great Dead Cell Phone Incident of March 2017 comes to mind…)

And now we’re coming up on your confirmation at church. We’ve always loved your commitment to God and to learning about him– but it’s been really lovely for Dad and I to see hunger continue as you grow older and are able to apply experience to what you know in your head. Seeing it play out with your heart has been so good for our understanding of love and faith and covenants, too. I’m excited to see what these next weeks bring you as you meet with your church mentor.
Kiddo– we couldn’t love you more– we’re about bursting with it as is– but thank you for surprising us constantly with some new discovery or challenging what we thought we knew with one of your questions.
I am so, so grateful, every day, that I get to be your Mom. It’s still unbelievably extraordinarily wonderful to call you my son.
I love you,

Saturday, January 21 2017

Dear Jack,

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of people (mostly women but also a lot of men and children) marched for women’s human rights all over the world– in big cities and little cities. I didn’t march on Saturday. And I regret it.

I could have gone. Your Dad would have gone with me if I had asked. You would have gone with me if I had explained it. But I didn’t ask or explain.

And I’m ashamed of that. I’m ashamed that I had a choice about it– that it was entirely up to whether I wanted to go and I didn’t.

I was afraid, kiddo. Big crowds terrify your mother. I can do orderly crowds– at Disney we stand in neat lines. At the airport we are surrounded by protocol. I get nervous at a high school football game– I eye the exits and plan out escape scenarios in my head. In a movie theater I pretend that it is just a dozen of us in the dark together. But big open spaces filled with people and rallies and protests and marches? They freak your mom out.

In hindsight the crowds on Saturday were kind– there were only 4 arrests that I’ve read about (and even those weren’t disruptive). Women (and men) reached across all the different lines between us– race and economic class and education and age and orientation– and shared protein bars and knitted pink hats and stories.

They did what your mom didn’t do that day– they stood up for themselves and– more importantly– for each other.

You know I don’t have any respect for the new president. (The fact that Dad and I refer to him as Cheeto McRacistpants is probably a tip off.) I know that you don’t either. I hate some of the conversations that we have had to have about the things that you have heard or learned or didn’t understand. But I love your heart. I love that you know that this isn’t about a political party but an ideology that Dad and I find abhorrent. Our hope is that by the time you can vote (two presidental elections from now) you’ll have choices among a variety of qualified, educated candidates. (Maybe even the kind of people that read and value education… and morality.)

So my feet (and your Dad’s feet) weren’t on the pavement on Saturday. We didn’t don pink pussy hats or brandish a placard (and believe me– mine would have been very neatly penned). You might not remember that for us it was an extraordinarily quiet Saturday that we spent at home reading and eating tacos and playing with the funny little pups. You and Dad had dug out his old NES game system and delighted in playing Super Mario World together while I finished two books, started a third, and then took a break to work on a Disney castle puzzle.

Our hands, Jack Rabbit, will be part of what’s next. Because the marches were just the beginning. Now, ahead of us is the period where we learn how to rebel. This will be a hard lesson for your vanilla, follow-the-rules parents. This weekend I started by making a few calls to DC offices to add my name to the lists opposing Betsy DeVos  as well as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I’ll pay attention. I’ll stay alert.

This president in office has made clear in just the first 80 some hours that he will lie and that he will castigate the media for not reporting his lies. “Alternative facts” are falsehoods. Lies. Made up things. He will distort.

It will be important to practice truthfulness. Honesty. Integrity. It will be important for us, as Christians, to truly be Christ followers and show mercy and act justly. We will read, and ask questions, and know that even while, of course, our faith isn’t in any government but in God– the reality is that our lives– and our neighbors’ lives are very much effected by decisions that these elected people (even when we very much did not elect them) make on our behalf.

I might never work up the courage to march with a million other people– but I hope that in these next few years I’ll be doing the work that they started.







September 21, 2016

Dear “Boltz”–

Good grief. You turned 12 today. How is that even a possibility?? You are easing us into the impending teenagehood (one last golden year of a “kid”!) with your pre-teen angst and tweener ‘tude.

I’m glad that you are still surprisingly sweet and gentle at times. And that those times far outweigh the bursts of pent up emotion.

We’ve had a good year– a tough year– but a good year where we’ve slogged through the first year of middle school. You navigated this first ripple of friends sometimes acting in not-so friendly ways with determination that you would not be unkind. It hasn’t always been easy. Middle school is full of heartbreak and curses and mean girls (and boys that are… well, I’ll curb my tongue.). You’ve reminded your Dad and I what years away from that viper pit have dulled– middle school is really kind of awful. We grieved for you while you found your footing in all the changes– new teachers, new friends, new bullies, new tasks (lockers! gym clothes! a g.p.a!) and cheered when you came out on the other end with a mostly optimistic outlook and your faith intact.

You’re still growing and learning in your faith– we love to see how important God is and seeking to understand what his will is for you. Your Dad is, by his own admission, “trying to keep up with Jack” in his own relationship with God and church and Biblical literacy. As for me– well, I have loved finally having you as full fledged “Yout” at the church. Sunday nights are so much better for having you in the mix of games and our prayer circle. Your prayer at youth group last week about brought me to my knees when you earnestly thanked God for bringing us all back together again and “for the older ones teaching the younger ones”.

One of your best adventures this year was going on mission trip with the youth group. Dad and I were so proud of you and how hard you worked (and how hard you played). You were the youngest and the smallest– and our favorite MT day was when you were able to complete the screws inside the raised garden bed– because you were small enough to fit inside. God uses all of us– where we are. How we are. It’s good that you are starting to understand that already.

It was a year of small adventures. We welcomed in the New Year at Lake Louise in the tiny district superintendent cabin — a perfect start to 2016 with just the three of us and a stack of movies and fresh falling snow. You skied with us and with the youth group; went sledding with cousin Tyler; went to Chicago and your beloved Field Museum; spent a week tramping around Lake Wedowee with the Georgia Cousins; spent a night at Wesley Woods; a week at the cottage with the Far-Flungs (where you were leader of the Kid Pack– Adrian, Chris, Emily, and baby Grace); and a perfect week at Family Camp.

You read the second and third Harry Potter books– and finally saw those movies. (And, like your mom and cousin Maddie, was pretty ticked that they cut out so much of our favorite parts.) You moved up (twice!) in band– from Intermediate to Varsity in the late fall and from Varsity to Symphonic in the early school year. You marched in your first parades (loving it), played in your first concerts, went to your first District Festival (IIIs…), and on your first Elementary Schools Tour. When Mr. K asked you to jump into jazz band and learn the trombone you did– even though it meant waking up an hour earlier every morning to get to school by 6:30 a.m. And we’re loving that you’ll march at your first football game this Friday playing your song– September!

Sometimes this year you were fragile– unsure of your own worth or potential. Sometimes this year you were giggly. Sometimes you were cocky and rude. Sometimes you fell into our arms asleep. You are so very much a little kid and a big kid and a nearly-teenager all rolled into one. You’re experimenting with copying the 8th graders and their habits of wearing their earbuds slung over a shoulder– even while you are still making elaborate scenes with your army guys, legos, or stuffed toys.

The hardest part of this year? Saying goodbye to your little black dog. Poor Philbin made it to the week before your birthday. When I asked you where we should bury him– perhaps by the hostas he loved so much? You thought about it and answered, “We might not always live in this house forever– but we will always have the cottage. Let’s bury him there.” So we will. With a banana salute in the spring. Your concern for Hildy and your teary-eyed Mom is one of your best traits.

As is the kind of 7th grader (!) you are– the kind that doesn’t weld his new found power but seeks to help out the 6th graders when he can. Not everyone remembers the slats below on the ladder— we’re glad to see that you do.

While I type this you’ve put the finishing touches on an english paper and read through your algebra homework with your Dad. You’re anxious to have time to play on your new Nintendo 3DS and we are anxious to give you time to relax after a long day.

We love you, kiddo. We’re so proud of being your parents. But slow down this year– okay? This is all going by too fast.

XOXO– Diploticus