Dear Jack: Your Surprise Visit to Have Lunch with Your Cousin at Her School

8 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Last week while you were on Spring Break, you got to stay in Alabama with Nonna and Papa; which is also where your two cousins (on my side of the family) live.

As a complete surprise to your cousin Calla, who is also in 2nd grade, you showed up for lunch at her school. I can imagine how happy she was to see you.

Some of her classmates assumed that you were a new student in their class, and tried to take you in as one of their own.

Since you and your cousin don’t have Spring Break the same week, stopping in for a surprise lunch is a good way for the two of you to hang out.

But maybe one day, you’ll both actually have Spring Break at the same time.




Dear Holly: Taking About Boots is a Fun, Self-Imposed, Activity

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

This past weekend while we were spending the weekend in Alabama to celebrate Aunt Dana’s 35th birthday, you got to spend plenty of time with your cousins.

While your older cousin Calla was hanging out with your brother, you teamed up with Darla who is just a few months older than you.

As the two of you made your way over to the other side of the room to play in the toy corner, your cousin Darla enthusiastically and confidently suggested to you:

“Let’s talk about boots!”

Immediately, everyone else in the room began laughing.

It was so funny, and relevant, that the two of you would be excited simply to talk about boots!

Obviously, you were happy to oblige to her cousin’s idea.



Dear Holly: You Don’t Need a Nap as Long as You’re Playing with Your Cousins

2 years, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

During the Christmas holidays, we spent one whole day at your Aunt Dana and Uncle Andrew’s house. I enjoyed it very much.

That’s because I basically got the whole day off, just to sit back and enjoy old home videos that Uncle Andrew had transferred from VHS to our family’s own private YouTube channel that we were able to watch up on the flat screen TV.

There were so many classics, like the video I made Aunt Dana shoot exactly 23 years ago day, right before I got my haircut:

Meanwhile, you and your two cousins completely entertained yourselves the entire day, with all the toys they had in their playroom. For you, it was like getting to try out all the new toys in the toy store with your friends. And with it being a one story house, I never had to be watching to make sure you made it up or down the stairs okay.

You never even acted tired, so I didn’t have to put you down for a nap. And when you don’t have to take a nap, it’s one less thing for me to have to do.

You got to play. I got to rest. A good time was had by all.



Dear Jack: Slumber Party at Your Cousins’ House!

7 years, 6 months. 

Dear Jack,

During your first week of summer vacation, which you spent in Alabama at Nonna and Papa’s, you asked your Aunt Dana if you could spend the night at her house one night.

Not only did you get to hang out with your two cousins, but you were specifically excited about getting to sleep on the floor. You saw it as a “slumber party”.

And because a storm was coming through the Friday night that Mommy and I were planning to pick you up, we weren’t able to arrive from Tennessee until the next morning.

So for your final extra night, you chose to stay with your cousins again and sleep on the floor.

I think it’s great that you’re getting to the age where you think it’s fun to spend the night with your aunt and uncle and cousins.

It’s good for your growing sense of independence. I think to some degree, it actually challenges you, as you have to adjust to a slightly different family culture; as each individual family has their own, though the differences may not be noticeable from the outside looking in.

After all, I wasn’t there with my many rules. Hopefully you didn’t keep everyone in the house up too late.

So you were proud to sleep on the floor, among pink kittens and unicorns.

Now I am wondering at what point your sister will be old enough to join in on the “Cousins’ Slumber Party”. I’m sure that would be a lot of fun! As long as I’m not there, with all my many Daddy rules, of course!

Because if I were in charge, it would be, “Okay, light’s out at 8:00. Don’t get up for anything. Just go straight to sleep!”

It’s obvious I’m reflecting my constant need for sleep onto you.



Dear Holly: Being the Youngest of the Cousins, You Just Have to Go Along With Whatever’s Going On!

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

After your brother spent his first week of summer vacation in Alabama with Nonna and Papa, you rode back with Mommy and me to go pick your brother up, as we spent Memorial Day weekend there.

Once reunited with your brother and your two cousins on my side of the family, the four of you quickly formulated into your own version of The Little Rascals.

It’s funny because often when this happens, as long as there’s another adult somewhere near you, I’m okay with just learning in hindsight the ways you had fun.

So when I saw this picture of your steering Papa’s homemade racecar, while your brother and older cousins rode along, I simply thought to myself, “Yep, that sounds about right!”

Out of the four of you, your brother is the oldest and the only boy, and therefore, the boss. And you are the youngest, and therefore, the littlest rascal.

As you all grow up, these dynamics will remain the same. It’s quite similar to the way that a child’s birth order among their siblings typically helps have a major role in shaping their own personality.

But to reinforce this concept further for both you and your brother, your “birth order” among the cousins remains the same; whether as my own children or among your cousins.

You will always be the baby. Your brother will always be the oldest.

I can already see how you have a sense of fearlessness because of your role: You’ve already been able to see three other kids who are older than you test some limits out first.

From there, you get to build on top of their experiences.

So while you are the baby, you are also brave.

Even just the way you are able to scarf down salt and vinegar potato chips without flinching is probably proof of this.



Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

7 months.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

Dear Holly,

You turned 7 months old on Thanksgiving, which was your very first Thanksgiving, by the way. It was a larger gathering than normal for us, as your Uncle Andrew’s parents were in town. Plus, your Great-Uncle Al and Great-Aunt Sharon visited us as well.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a3 a4 a5

Something I officially realized about you during this holiday is that you genuinely love being passed around to different people. It’s a win-win. You love being held- and people love holding you.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a12 a14 a15 a17

In particular, you like to test people out and their cuddling abilities. It’s hilarious to watch you just lay your head down into a person’s shoulder within a minute of meeting them. You naturally assume that everyone wants to be your friend- and you’re right!

You automatically smile real big anytime you see a new person, so naturally, they want to hold this smiley baby girl.

As I look through these pictures, I love seeing the obvious difference in skin tone, comparing yours to pretty much everyone else in our family. I know I probably mention this a lot, but it really is fascinating to me how you have collected the rarest of genes from the family tree.

We had a vegan Mexican feast for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, you were introduced to a new baby food: applesauce and prunes. Fortunately for your digestion, you liked the combo. I am so happy you are able to rely less on formula and more on solid foods.

Your brother was happy because he got some birthday presents; a Lego set and an electronic board set.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving a7 a8 a10 a13 a16

Before everyone left, we took some family pictures. We should do that more often.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

So there you go- that’s what you did during your very first Thanksgiving! And now we’re less than a month away from your first Christmas. I’m really excited about what Mommy and I got you for your main gift…



Dear Holly: Your 1st Thanksgiving

Dear Holly: You Met Your Alabama Cousins on Memorial Day Weekend 2016

5 weeks.

Dear Holly: You Met Your Alabama Cousins on Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Dear Holly,

Whereas a few weeks ago you met your Pennsylvania cousins when they drove down to Tennessee, this past weekend we drove to Alabama to meet your only cousins on my side of the family.

Not only did you meet your cousins Darla (who is 6 months old) and Calla (who is turning 5 years old in a few weeks, so we celebrated her birthday while we were all together), but you also met your Uncle Andrew and Aunt Dana (my sister), as well as your Great Uncle Al and Great Aunt Sharon.

Dear Holly: You Met Your Alabama Cousins on Memorial Day Weekend 2016

It just so happened that you and Darla happened to own and be wearing the same “Super Awesome” shirt.

Nonna and Aunt Dana both commented you act like a little kitten. I had never thought about that before, but I totally see it now.

One of my favorite pictures I took from the trip was when I was packing up our bags in the hatchback of my Honda Element and saw Papa saying goodbye to your brother Jack. It appeared Papa was kissing Jack on the forehead, meanwhile you witnessed the event in wonder.


I love the look on your face, as a month-old baby, as you tried to figure out what was going on in the seat next to you.

At this point in your life, you’re still probably trying to distinguish who any person is beyond Mommy, me, and Jack.

Because right now your life pretty much revolves around your immediate needs being met, that’s about the extent of your understanding of love.

As you get older, you will be able to understand how much your family loves you, beyond just feeding you, changing your diapers, and helping you get to sleep.

Seriously, that look on your face is very special to me. It’s you looking at your future; the ability to truly understand love beyond dirty diapers and formula in a bottle.



Dear Holly: You Met Your Alabama Cousins on Memorial Day Weekend 2016