To my husband on his fortieth birthday

Dear Stacy,

I still remember the first time I saw you: March 31, 2005, University of Louisville, Davidson Hall, Dr. Jones Black Political Thought class. It was my best friend’s 23rd birthday. We were debating if we should stay on campus to hear Michael Eric Dyson speak or go get an early start on drinking (drinking won, by the way).

You burst into the classroom, loud, gregarious, and full of smiles, three things I would eventually come to learn were very you. You embraced Doc in a hug, and my first thought was: “Damn. Doc has some good-looking friends.”

You proceeded to join the class debate on Booker T and DuBois, making an impassioned defense of Booker T in our very pro-Dubois class. You brought many people over to your side only to immediately admonish them for not being about shit and changing their mind to suit the tide.

I smiled to myself, amused. I enjoyed watching you for the rest of class, left with my best friend, and didn’t think a thing of it until May.

In May, I saw you again. Standing with my same best friend, I asked her, “Isn’t that Doc’s hot friend who came to class on your birthday?” My best friend was endlessly better than me with faces and names. I didn’t trust my judgment. She squinted at you and shook her head. “I don’t think so, Luc.”

But I knew it was you. I’d committed your face to memory without even realizing it.

You were back at UofL and you were teaching. I was getting ready to complete my senior year. One day you saw me in the Pan African Studies computer lab. The first thing you ever said to me was very romantic.

“What are you doing here?” you demanded asked.

Printing a paper for class, I told you. We exchanged names. I was wearing black shorts and a blousy yellow top. Walking to the printer I could feel your eyes on me, and I remember feeling simultaneously cute and incredibly self-conscious.

I began sitting on the ledge between Davidson and Strickler, hoping to see you. I would smile and wave, but sigh internally. You were a professor, I was a student. I was too young, to white, too shy. One day, eating lunch on the ledge with a friend I made meet me there everyday, you smiled and called out my name in greeting just as I was grumbling that you probably didn’t even remember it.


I spent a lot of time on that ledge summer 2005.

On June 25, 2005 a girl asked to use my phone. She called someone, looking for a ride, but he didn’t answer. I would learn later she was the sister of your best friend, and the buddy she called was you.

That evening Fourth Street Live would change everything.

Who cares that Fourth Street Live is literally one of the shittest, douche-baggiest places in the city to go out for drinks? You and I were both there. I saw you. You saw me.

You looked up that missed call from earlier – the number you called back and knew was me when my voicemail picked up. You stepped away, called my number.

“Bet you didn’t know I had your number,” you said as I gasped, spinning around where you stood, smiling.

(We should really send Erica a thank you card).

We talked for four hours straight. As bars closed down at 4am we discovered we lived around the corner from one another.

You came over to the big, strange house I lived in with my friends. We talked more, and we kissed, and I felt this immediate rightness.

We started hanging out every day. You were so quick-witted, so funny, so everything I looked for in a guy but never seemed to find.

On day three I told my best friend I thought I could fall in love with you. I said it tentatively, feeling foolish and self-conscious because I already knew I was in love with you. And that was ridiculous, wasn’t it?

It wasn’t.

When you read some of my writing, something I’d shared with countless boyfriends but received only blank stares and mumbled comments in return, you immediately called me a great writer. You were sure I’d write a book some day. Maybe we would write a book together.

(Since then I’ve written almost four books).

You had me from that moment. Since that day, I’ve been yours.

The nearly ten years following that summer have been full of highs and lows and troubles. Looking back, I am not sure how we survived. There were moments I thought we would not make it as a couple, that the age difference, the race difference, the job struggles, they were all too much and we would surely break under the weight of all the bullshit.

We did not break.

We grew stronger.

And, my love, seeing you at forty? It was worth every single minute.

What an amazing life we’ve built.

What an amazing man you are.

You brought me into the lives of your oldest sons. You brought me my family.


I fell in love with you when you saw me. I knew I would marry you when I saw you with your children.

You are an amazing father. It is simply what you were born to be.

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You make fatherhood look effortless.


You are nurturing and kind, caring for our babies when they are sick.


You are playful and silly, delighting in our children on a daily basis.

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You are an affectionate, hands on dad, teaching our children through  example that nurturing knows no gender.

1913933_100392159981810_4334159_n 1913933_100391919981834_8231968_n 1930170_537317649344_2314_n 1934314_535361434614_8800_n 1934314_535361429624_8599_n 1934314_535361414654_8101_nYou have been my lover and my best friend for almost ten years. You are hands down one of the most incredible people I have ever known, and it is impossible to imagine my life without you.

You walked through hell with me were there for me through law school and the whole stadium heard you holler my name at graduation.


You make a great santa.


You’re good in a clutch moment.


When I said I wanted to run a half marathon you said “cool” in your nonchalant way. I started training. Seven weeks later you started training with me, and you kept up on a seven mile run like it was nothing. Even at forty it is easy to see the high school athlete and the military man of your twenties. You crossed the finish line with me, even though you could have easily left me in the dust.


You travel with me.


Estes Park


Loveland Peak


Puerto Rico



I love the way you hear music. Music speaks to you the way books speak to me – straight to your heart until it fills up every part of you. I love when you sing. I love going to concerts with you.

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You go black tie with me.


And protest with me.

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You’re willing to do anything for your family, including cut your hair so you could get the job you wanted.

You got it.


And you smooth grew your hair and beard right the fuck back out, too.


Because you know I love your beard.

Our older boys don’t quite realize how dope you are, but they will.

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You give really good birthday surprises.


Really good.


Really, incredibly, amazingly good.


And even before you had the ring you wanted to give me, you had me as your wife. I married you in my bare feet in St. James Court, in my dress from Target, adorned only with the clip Karen brought for my hair. Your best friend married us and we took shots of whiskey in the courtyard, giggling and gathering our things as the people paying tens of thousands of dollars to have a wedding in the same spot arrived to set up their chairs.


How do I find the words to tell you how much I love the life we have built? How thankful I am for our family?

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Happy, happy birthday.

Love always,


To My Star Boy on His Seventh Birthday

Dear Sirius,

Today you turn seven years old.

Six was a phenomenal year, and it was markedly different from the five that came before. Six was the year that my baby (seemingly) all but disapeared and a boy stood firmly in his place. This was the year you began engaging with the world on your owns terms, and it was both amazing and heartbreaking for your parents.


For five full years, your father and I built a life for you of which we are exceedingly proud. Your life is a house built on the foundation of a strong, close family, built up brick by brick with amazing friends, and enriched with a great school, artistic and diverse experiences, and a heck of a lot of legos. We hand picked every person and thing in your life.


And oh, how I love watching you run and play with those people in your life.

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Six was the year you started letting us know how you wanted to decorate your house. This is most evident in your friendships.

For five full years all of your best friends were the kids of our best friends. The people who are more like family, who you have known your entire life. This year you picked your own best friend, Lincoln.



Six was the year you chose Lincoln, and he chose you right back. You are two peas in a pod, matching each other in sweetness, silliness, and sensitivity. He made you a friendship bracelet for your birthday so you could be “best friends forever.” As I navigate the emotional minefield of watching you build your own life, I couldn’t be luckier that Lincoln was your first choice.

There are so many things I want you to know about your sixth trip around the sun.

You continue to be really into art. You’re a great artist.

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Spring semester Kindergarten year you made everyone in your class a handmade card.


You like to color with me and Dad.

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At six, legos are still basically the coolest thing ever.


You’re also quite the chess player.

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You’re a problem solver and a negotiator (the latter, sometimes to your detriment). This was your solution to Dad’s rule about one dip per carrot stick.


While you can be rowdy and oblivious, you are also incredibly sweet and gentle. You truly love babies, and intrinsically know how to soothe them. When you meet a new baby, like Ruby, you ask to hold them.


You went to Disney World for the first time. Our first day in Magic Kingdom, 4pm rolled around and grandma was taking the little boys back to the condo. You had a choice – go with them, or stay with us – and if you stayed with us, you had to ride every ride. Rollercoasters included.

You can now say you’ve ridden Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Mount Everest and too many other rides to name. Your favorite rides were the 4D Transformers and Spiderman rides at Universal Studios.


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You also made your first trip out west – Denver, Colorado. You visited museums and played with the mountains as your backdrop.

You rode a horse up into the mountains.


You visited the continental divide and threw a snowball at 12,000 feet.




And you got to spend some time with the Kaelins, hanging out and picking strawberries in Aunt Vicki’s garden.


Aside from some big time travel, you did some pretty regular six year old stuff. You lost your two front teeth.


You went to see Godzilla in theatres with your papa, and dressed appropriately. He took you to the last 30 minutes only – the epic monster battle – because the whole movie would have bored you, with all the grownup talking parts. By the end of your sixth year, you were watching Godzilla from start to finish, following the story.



You started first grade.


You’re such a great reader. You read James and the Giant Peach in three days, and you loved it.




You still get up pretty early and when you’re ready to sleep, by god, you are going to sleep.

In the car after school.


At restaurants.


In airports.


At Halloween parties.


Sometimes you still have to be carried, and sometimes you pretend like you are asleep just so you can be carried.


And I am happy to say you still take naps with your brother, a simple act so sweet it makes my heart ache every time.

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You are great at keeping your big brothers close even when they are far away.


Though you’re definitely happiest when they are all near.


You and Sam. Peanut butter and jelly.

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Every day you look more like your daddy.


And I am so very, very thankful that you’re still into snuggling.

1978621_10100932257121434_1586146492_n 10479604_787244407963245_7028399982370987421_n 10374503_10101271594865874_5449897740994985922_nI am endlessly thankful for you. My big reader, my silly boy, my bright, shining star. There are never any words that are enough for how much I love you. This letter never gets easier to end because how do I end a letter when there is no salutation that captures the combination of joy, ache and pride I hold in my heart?

I’ll keep trying.

Until then –

Love always,

Your mama


To My Fire Boy on his Fourth Birthday

You, my dear, sweet boy, you have what we like to call character.


Some people drift through life. You are not one of them. You do not drift. You run, you jump. Sometimes I suspect you fly.


Three was a heck of a year. I am honestly teary already, which I think must be a record when it comes to these letters.


Your curls slay me. Your eyelashes, too.


You are really into puzzles.


You are even more into building things. You make these big, elaborate architectural creations from the blocks I keep in a basket in the living room. You build one, carefully, meticulously, almost every day. I think they’re incredible.


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You learned to write your name. You absolutely know it is spelled “Sam” but you like to write it “Sma.” This is very you.


You are funny.


And mischievous.


And too clever for your own good.


At three you still take naps. Long ones.

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Sometimes you still fall asleep on me. Right now you’re still small enough to fit. When I write you a letter next year I’m not sure if that will still be the case. So when you want to sleep on me, I usually stop whatever I’m doing and let you.

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You’re my little cardinals fan.

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You have conversation skills that blow me away. Your dad and I joke that you’re better at talking to strangers (when we still lived in Old Louisville, this was mostly college girls) than most grown men (your go-to line – “Hi, my name is Sam Brooks. What’s your name?”). You are emotionally astute in a way a lot of kids – hell, a lot of people – aren’t.

Just too dang grown sometimes.


It’s still uncanny how you say things exactly the same as Goldie, or make faces like him.


Even though you’re getting older you’re still the youngest. Sometimes you don’t like it and sometimes you don’t mind.


And you and Sirius? Man, that’s what being brothers is all about.


Remember your hug-nose-kiss routine I told you about in your letter last year? In the past year it has transformed. It’s current form is: blow it up, ears, arms, noses, kiss cheek-nose-cheek-forehead (twice), lips, then hugs (usually ten). You ask for this every night and every day when I drop you off at daycare. Now that I think of it, you approach hugs and kisses the same way you build your elaborate structures.


Speaking of daycare drop off, you usually go straight to a cot and lay down. You, my sweet boy, are not a morning person. You are a night owl and would be happiest on a 10 – 10 sleep schedule. Unfortunately for you, we don’t live that life.

You’re mornings are subsequently pretty grumpy.


I would be remiss to leave your first trip to the emergency room (the first trip of any of our children, actually) out of the letter. It was the day before your dad’s birthday. You were watching a movie with Sirius in our room – you know, the room with the no-wrestling rule.

You guys were wrestling.

I heard Sirius’s screams before I could hear you, and when I ran upstairs all I saw was blood. Your dad sat down with Sirius to calm him down. He was hysterical, devastated and scared that he hurt you when he swung you into the dresser and you landed precisely on the corner of the slightly opened drawer. I took you to the bathroom and started wiping the blood from your face, pressing a wash cloth into the cut, watching the washcloth slowly turn pink. When I got the nerve to pull it away and look I almost fainted. I was sure a chunk of your head was missing (turns out, that’s just what splitting your skin open looks like).

We wrapped you in a blanket and took you to the emergency room. It was snowing. We were worried you had a concussion. You hit your head so hard over the next few days you slowly developed two black eyes. I don’t even know how I kept you talking the whole way, but I did.


(That’s a Merida sticker on your arm. One of my favorite things about you is you like what you like. Brave, Frozen, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First – to you they are no different than Spiderman, Ben10, Lego Chima, and Ninja Turtles. Never lose that).

You were obsessed with the remote in the hospital room. The sound came from a little speaker on the front instead of the TV.


Six stitches.

This is you looking at me as they finished. Whenever I see this picture it feels like a tiny person climbs inside my chest and twists my heart, like wringing out a wash cloth.



Two days later you had your second trip to the emergency room when I came home from work to find you with a very red and very warm face, your stitches infected.


Now you have a scar over your eyebrow. When you tell people what happened you refer to the whole incident, and your scar, as “The Blood.”

You are getting bigger and I want to be able to protect you. I want every problem in your life to be fixable with a needle and thread. I want you to fall asleep in my arms. I want to slow down time as it spins out of control, stretching you taller by the minute.


It seems impossible that you are so big. That I can scroll back and see Sirius’s fourth birthday letter and here I sit, writing yours. When I close my eyes I can see the images zip by – me, on the side of a bathtub holding a pregnancy test on that hot August day. Sitting for the bar exam with your steady kick-kick-kick for the entire day two. That final push and the absolute high of birthing you. Watching you sleep, fearing waking the tiny giant. The way you walked up stairs, defiantly, as soon as you could walk. Eating graham crackers with your toes. Then a blink and I am here, with a boy who will only be three a few more hours sitting beside me. It’s enough to make me weep and laugh all at once.

The other day you came with me to the store to buy things for your birthday party. You like being with me, you told me.

I like being with you too.

You and me, kid. You and me then, you and me now.


Love always,

Your mama








To My Star Boy on His Sixth Birthday

Dear Sirius,

Today, you turned six.


As I write these words and you sleep soundly in your Avengers sheets (because that’s how you sleep, soundly, almost the instant your head hits the pillow) you are probably growing even taller, your face losing it’s baby-ness even more,  so when I look at you at just the right angle I can see clearly the man you will become.

If five was hard, six is harder. The love I feel for you and the ache and joy that accompanies each birthday is still a palpable thing, so real it’s as if I could remove it from my chest and hold it in my hands. I imagine I will say the same thing year after year. When you are fifty and I am seventy-five I will probably clank away on these same keys, sipping tea and wiping away tears, wondering where my baby went.

Enough of that for now, though. Five was a year worth remembering.

You passed one of life’s great milestones: you started Kindergarten.


My goodness, do you look handsome in your special occasion clothes. On that first day of school you looked like your could do anything.


And, as always, you were a big brother worth looking up to.


Five was the year you learned chess. You play after school one day a week, and on Fridays your dad takes you to the coffee shop where you play a weekly game.


(Sometimes dad even lets you get a soda, because he’s cool like that).


(Sometimes dad also does your hair. You have awesome hair).


I love that you still fit in my lap and I don’t mind that your awesome hair smushes my face when you do.


You also ran your first mile. We ran it together, three laps around St. James Court.


You still love watching TV but you are increasingly getting into other things. Five was the year of video games, of Legos, Ninja Turtles, and Batman.


You are still one heck on an artist. You make things that bring tears to my eyes.


And things that make me stand back and marvel, like the self portraits you did every month, starting when you were four and a half and ending when you were five and a half.


You wouldn’t believe how many parents and teachers tell us you have the best handwriting out of all the Kindergarteners, maybe even the whole lower school.


I think your legs grow about an inch a day.


You are taking your place amongst the cousins. You love family reunions with the fiery passion of a five-year old who knows it means late nights, lots of running, and grape sodas.


You still have your place right in the middle of the Brooks brothers. You are happiest when you are all together.


You get to be the little brother.


Aside from you family you have a whole lot of people who are crazy about you.


You are often the “big kid” when we are with our friends and you accept that role with a kindness and patience that makes me proud every single time.


Being your mom makes me proud every single day.


You’re getting big now. When I carry you to bed I can no longer heft you onto your spot on the top bunk. I have to set you on the edge and you have to scoot to your pillow, much to your displeasure. You take naps less and less. You claim you don’t need them.


You still like to snuggle, but you are routinely just as content to play quietly with your Legos. You can do more things for yourself. When I look at you I never fail to see a boy who can do – and be – absolutely anything.


But know no matter how big you get, no matter how independent you become, no matter how many inches you grow overnight, I will always be here. Your weight, in that sense, will never be too much for me to carry.


There are no words big enough to capture how much I love you.

Love always,

Your mama.

A Letter to My Fire Boy on His Third Birthday

Dear Sam,

You have never been ordinary. Your birth (which I am sure you will one day tire of hearing about) set the stage for the early years of our relationship – unbearable pain leading to euphoric love. There was a point, about thirteen hours into laboring drug free, that I thought “I can’t do this” only to push through and end up with all eight pounds of you in my arms, looking at me with eyes so bright and aware it was slightly unnerving.

Whether it was colic or a regular day with your often frustrating strong will, I’ve experienced that same cycle of feelings more than once these past three years.

I can’t believe today I woke up and there was a boy beside me and not a baby (yes, you still sneak into our bed on a regular basis). Just yesterday you were, after all, a baby. An undeniably, incredibly cute, baby.

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This year has been a year of major, intense changes. I think the transition from two to three might be one of the most marked transitions of early childhood.

No more diapers.


You can say everything you are thinking and feeling and you can go just about anywhere you want.


Though you definitely enjoy the perks of being the youngest in the clan.

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You started your first season of soccer.


You got your first hair cut.

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And your first black eye (followed by a second and a third – you are the definition of “rough and tumble”).


Between your quick wit, attitude, and wise-beyond-your-years-and-not-always-in-a-good-way self, you remind me a lot of your second oldest brother, Goldie. You all seem to know it. You are drawn to each other.


Kindred spirits.


You like to give your most immediate older brother a hard time.


But we know the truth – you are partners in crime (or crime fighting).

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And even though you try to act like you, of all people, don’t need no stinkin’ big brother, I only have to go check on you in the middle of the night to see the truth plain and clear: you are best friends.

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You play hard.


You nap hard (you still take two-hour naps, for which I am grateful).

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You are my snuggle guy.

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My fellow adventurer and dreamer.


You go hard until you can’t go anymore.


You have a lot of people who love you.


You’re blazing your own path in a family of good men.


And luckily you have strong shoulders to stand upon.


You are extraordinary. You are vibrant and fiery. You shine bright like the sun, with a temper as scorching and love that could light the whole world. You know what you want. It’s tradition in this family to pick exactly what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your birthday. You were the first person to ever test the boundaries. You looked at me this morning and said “I want a cupcake for breakfast.”

So you had one.

I hope you never lose your fire. I hope you stay as free at thirty as you are at three.


You have this thing you do lately, where when we tuck you in you want a routine. First I give you a hug and you squeeze with all your might. Then you look at me expectantly until I say “what’s next?” You grin and say “noses.” We rub noses. “What’s next?,” I ask. You whisper “kiss” and pop kiss with absolute delight. You are sweeter than sugar and I love you more than you will ever, ever know.

Hug, Nose, Kiss,

Your Mama


A Letter to my Star Boy on his 5th Birthday


Five seems old. More grown up. Five is like a million little needles, piercing my heart and reminding me all at once that you are no longer a baby. Or even a little boy. No, you are squarely on the path to boyhood. Five, for your mother, is a bittersweet mix of pride and blessing, ache  and nostalgia.

Four was an epic year.

Full of wonder.



And stories.


Swim lessons.


And friends.


Your entered that stage where even your most beautiful smile has to somehow be silly.


That “big kid” attitude started to rear its head.


Though you remained, in so many ways, as serious and sensitive as your name suggests.


And – like at one and two and three – at four your brothers were your still favorite playmates.


And you continued to be a fantastic older brother.


You really are mama’s helper – baking cookies, clearing the table, cleaning up toys – you even helped me grade papers.


Watching you grow into your place among the fine men in our family is one of my life’s greatest privileges.


You got your first ever hair cut. You were thrilled, and I barely even cried.


I’m pretty sure the new ‘do made you feel ten feet tall.


You started Junior kindergarten at “the big school.”


You worked very hard.


I can’t believe how far you came with reading, writing, and math while you were only four.



You played your first two seasons of soccer, with daddy as your coach (go Purple Dragons!).



You are the light in your daddy’s eyes.


You shot your first real bow and arrow.


It’s safe to say your favorite thing was Mario, followed at a close second by Power Rangers.



And a close third was probably snuggling.




You “voted” in your first presidential election.



It was a pretty sweet year.


Sometimes I wonder if you realize how many friends you have, and how loved you are by so many people.



Especially your mama.


I have loved you since the moment I knew you existed. I have loved you since that first heart beat. I have loved you when days are hard and when they are easy, loved you as the sun sets and rises, loved you as infinitely as the universe. You are as your name suggests, the brightest light. In a night sky filled with stars I will always find you. Watching you grow is the great joy of my life and I cannot wait to see what five will bring.

Always and forever,

Your Mama579392_10100381387792984_113555910_n

A letter to my Fire Boy on his second birthday

Sammy Lu,

You might notice that you do not have a first birthday letter. That is highly symbolic of my relationship with you – nothing like I expected.

I’m supposed to be your parent, but for the first two years I am pretty sure you have taught me more about myself then I have taught you about this great big world we live in.

Let me start at the beginning.

From the beginning I expected you to be like your brother. I expected an easy, complication free pregnancy, the kind that let me take law school finals 9 months pregnant with your brother, birth him over winter break, and be back in class eleven days later.

This was not my pregnancy with you. I had this annoying low blood pressure thing which caused me to almost pass out on a regular basis. And there was the night I started bleeding. I remember everything with startlingly clarity. The yellow of the kitchen I was standing in. How hard I’d worked all day. The meal I was cooking (salmon croquettes) almost finished. When I felt the blood I went to the bathroom and there was so much. I felt my heart pound pound pause. The doctor confirmed there were no clots, told me to go to bed, and come straight in in the morning. My eyes wide open in the dark room, I thought about you. How terrified I was to lose you. How even though I thought I wasn’t ready (you were planned, mind you – you were just created a little earlier than intended) I suddenly knew I really, really was and I didn’t want to go back.

It was just a “placenta tear.” And it never happened again.

And unlike my first pregnancy, you came quickly. Instead of a c-section you came naturally, sans drugs and all. I have never experienced such splitting, encompassing pain, or the absolute high I felt once you were in my arms. I didn’t sleep for three days. You were me and I was you and it was incredible.

Then you started screaming. Your brother was the kind of baby who would sit in his car seat and stare for hours while I studied at Panera. You, not so much. I didn’t understand. I compared you to him. Your father and I tiptoed around when you slept, sitting on a couch like shell-shocked soldiers, not even bothering to speak in case we accidentally woke you.

Year one pushed me to some places I’m not sure I like to admit exist inside of me.

But here’s the thing. You are the most wonderful, hilarious, fiery boy I know. And you know why you were crying? Because you were so damn mad you couldn’t walk and talk and communicate. You, from day one, have desperately wanted to interact with the world. When you couldn’t, it infuriated you. Once you could, you were fine. This quality that made the first year so hard will probably be one of the things I most admire about you as you grow.

And there are so many things I admire about you. They coincidentally are the things also causing me to go prematurely grey. I adore that you are fearless, even though it manifested as you insisting on walking up and down stairs alone at eighteen months.

Yes, you have fallen down stairs. More than once.

But you always get up. And no fall has ever kept you from wanting to try again.

And you are so funny. Always making jokes. Playing tricks. Telling me to go to sleep just so you can wake me up.

You say hi to everyone you see. You are completely and utterly full of life.

You have done some things so crazy I won’t publish them on the internet in case you ever want to run for office.

You are one of the snuggliest guys I have ever encountered.

You are such a great addition to the Brooks Brothers. You mirror Sage so perfectly. And even though you all are completely different, you and Sirius have a lot in common.

You keep us all laughing.

I am so, so lucky I got you and not what I expected. I am so thankful you make me work hard at being a mom. I am so happy I have you, my fire boy, my namesake, the sun in my sky.

Always and forever,

Your mama