To my fire boy on his sixth birthday


Today you turn six. A few days ago we spent our easter sunday hiking through Beckley Park. I watched you tear through twisty trails and tiptoe across fallen trees. I marveled at how big you are, how fierce you are, how much you’ve changed this last year. Even in just the last month.


But we’ll get to that. Because there’s a lot to cover for your fifth trip around the sun.

You definitely spent a lot of time at Beckley park. You love hiking and seeing what interesting things you can find, like the frog in the top right picture. You noted it didn’t have eyebrows.

You also got to visit your family in Chicago – twice! Considering you don’t remember when we used to get up to Chicago on a regular basis, this was a pretty big deal.

Lincoln Park Zoo was a lot of fun.


But I think the Field Museum and Sue the dinosaur left the biggest impression.



You started kindergarten.


There were a lot of trips to House of Boom and Skyzone. You love to see how high you can jump. You’re really good at flips.


You finished your first medium sized Lego set. You had a few setbacks and had to start over. It drove you to tears but you kept at it until you got it right.


You remain a master builder.


You went to your first concert. Fall Out Boy. You were blown away.


You also transitioned from ukulele to guitar. Some of your favorite songs to rock out to are Eye of the Tiger and What I’ve Done.


You were Bowser for Halloween, and it was awesome.


You made my day (year?) when you brought this home in your folder. What can I say? I have the sense of humor of a teenager. You’ll get why mom and dad were cracking up so much when you’re older.


You played Mr. Rogers in a school play. You worked hard to memorize your lines. The red sweater delighted you.


I am happy to report naps still happened.

Car naps.



Naps at auntie NuNu’s.


Naps with your mama.


Naps with your dog.


And my poor heart can’t even handle catching you taking naps with your brother.



Things weren’t perfect.

There were growing pains.

You are confident, daring, and extroverted. At five you were also, understandably, lacking in the common sense department. It’s hard work leaving behind the perspective of all babies and toddlers – the one where you’re the sun and we’re all just circling around you.

Some days that meant sitting at the little blue table after school and doing nothing else.


Others it meant you had to come to work with me while your brother got to spend the day with your  pawpaw.


While year five had some bumps, they did not dull your shine. You remained very much you.

Like here. When I came home from teaching a summer night class, this is how I found you in the driveway. Just chilling.


One of my favorite things about age five? Watching you learn to read. You are one of the top readers in your class. You are also showing an interest in writing stories.

These things fill me with more joy than you know.


I’m happy to say your life remains filled with much joy and love.



Chosen family.


And of course your BFF, Sirius.


I write these letters every year for a few reasons. So you will have a record of the things you were too young to remember.

But mostly so you will know how much I love you.

When you are grumpy.


When you are silly.


I love you every day, through all your moods and through all my faults. I will love you for every second of every day for my whole entire life.

Happy birthday, kiddo. Here’s to year six.

Love always,

Your mama

To My Star Boy on His 8th Birthday

Dear Sirius,

If I had to pick one word to sum up your seventh year on this planet it would be: transformative.

One of the absolute best parts of the last year has been watching you blossom as a reader. You read above grade level. Your favorite author is probably Roald Dahl. You’ve read James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, George’s Marvelous Medicine, and right now you’re reading The Witches. You think it’s strange and creepy (you’re right).

When you come and read with me, all my parenting dreams come true.


You also got into music big time this year. First it was Guitar Hero, your Kidz Bop cd, and pop music on the radio (Fall Out Boy is your favorite band). You started taking ukulele lessons and after a few months moved on to the electric guitar. The first song you asked your instructor to teach you was Eye of the Tiger.

One day you and Sage came with me to Kroger’s and trailed behind me strumming your ukuleles. You stopped and played for the lobsters. It was one of the best moments of my life.


You improved your basketball game this year, too. You and your dad go to the gym and practice – sometimes for damn near an hour – and you always keep a good attitude about it. If you keep playing, you could be really good.


You still play chess. Much to your delight, you beat some of the older kids in Chess Club. You still haven’t beat your dad, though, as determined as you are every time you play (see your face below).


If you want to know what you look like when you win, check out this picture snapped at the exact moment you beat your big brothers and big cousins in cards:


A lot of great things happened on your seventh trip around the sun. The most mind blowing for you might have been your first dog: Frederick Douglass, the beagle pointer (we think) mix.

It was love at first sight.


Now you always list your brothers like this: Puda, Goldie, Sam … and Douglass.



The same week you got your dog – spring break – your grandma Peggie and grandpa Cannon came to visit. You went fishing and loved it.

You went to Chicago two times.

You love staying with our family on the south side, running and playing with your cousins, and taking the El around the city.

The Field Museum museum mesmerized you. You enjoyed it on a completely different level since you can now read all the information at the different exhibits.

Lincoln is still one of your very best friends – Holden, too.


I love the above picture of you and your best friends. I always tear up when I look at this picture because I remember that night. Senior graduation, where you all accompanied your senior buddies on their big day (you and Lincoln shared a buddy – her name was Bailey, and you all three really liked basketball).

It was a great night, but it was also one of the last nights we saw one of the most important people in your school community, Leslie Campbell. She passed away that weekend, and it changed everyone.

I debated writing about a loss so painful that is ultimately not mine. But it changed you, and I want you to remember why.

We decided to take you to the funeral. You’ve gone to school with Lesley’s daughter, Peyton, since you were both four.

More than anything your dad and I wanted you to learn about being a good friend when a friend is going through a hard time. From those conversations, and attending the funeral, you started to realize a few things. You realized that kids can lose their moms. You realized that good people can die for no reason (and know this, honey, Leslie Campbell was a good person. She was brilliant and a fighter, she was kind, and she cared about doing the right thing). And eventually you realized that one day you will die. We were standing in the kitchen, talking about death, and you asked me: mommy, am I going to die?

My heart shattered into a million pieces in a way you will only understand if you ever decide to have kids.

Of course I told you the truth. Yes, we all die one day. Even you. Even me. How do I teach you the best way to grapple with the reality of death when I struggle with it every day?

You decided we would both live to be one hundred years old.

You became a little philosopher. You’d sit with your dad and extend your arm, swinging it back and forth at the joint (like the robot dance). Daddy, you’d ask, how I am doing this? How am I alive? What does it mean to be alive?

Your dad told you about west African philosophies and theories of personhood. I told you about how different people in our family believe different things, what Christian, atheist, and agnostic mean (you decided you were agnostic like me). We went to church a few times (we found a church that doesn’t believe it’s a sin to be gay, so I was comfortable taking you), and you enjoyed it. You like the idea of Heaven.

It was a heavy summer.

But it was a fun summer, too.

You spent more than a few days in Beckley Park, exploring our favorite trails.


You spent a ton of time with your brothers – your favorite people in the world.


You didn’t want for the classics: sleepovers and tents.


And ice cream, of course.


For all the things that changed, there were a lot of constants, too.

Legos. Duh.


You’re still Puda’s mini-me.


You still love any opportunity to wear a great costume.

Like when you dressed as Fantastic Mr. Squirrel for the school’s Derby parade. You were selected to hand a rose to the Derby princess, so you had to wear your special occasion dress clothes. The theme of the parade was parks, and this was your solution. You looked great.


And you are still enthusiastic about our family Halloween costume.


You still love a nice, cozy nap.



I am immensely pleased to report that I still have pictures of you and Sam napping together to include in this letter.


And you and Sam are still the best friends ever.


You guys aren’t all sunshine and hugs. You fight. You bicker. You punch the crap out of each other sometimes. But you are the best big brother a kid could ask for. Every one who sees you at school is always quick to tell me and your dad what a great job you’re doing looking out for your little brother.


In the picture below you’re just a few weeks shy of eight. This captures the huge change that took place in your seventh year. You come home from school, you sit at this desk (a hundred year old desk I found at an antique mall – you love it, especially the drawer in the bottom) and you bust out your math, spelling, and reading homework. You do it without being told. You do it without supervision. And of that doesn’t sum up how much older, responsible, and mature you’re getting every day, I don’t know what does.


You’re an amazing kid. I’m happy you still let me pull you in for hugs as often as I want.


Which is pretty darn often.

Every year I write these letters and I search for the big, hard words. Words that are meant to show what it feels like to love you with my whole heart. Words that are never enough.

I am so proud to be your mom. I am so happy that eight years ago, on a cold winter’s night, on the longest night, you came into my life. You will always be my brightest light.

I carried you up to bed last night just because I could. Even when I can’t carry you in my arms because you’re too big, a day that will be here soon, I will carry you in my heart.


Kiddo, you are brilliant, kind, funny, sensitive, and full of light. And you’re pretty good looking, too.


Welcome to eight.

Love you forever and always,

Your mama.

To My Fire Boy on his Fifth Birthday

Dear Sam,

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote there are years that ask questions, and years that answer.

This is the latest I have ever written a birthday letter. I say all of them are the hardest to write.

This was the hardest one to write.

A few weeks out from your birthday it hit your dad – like, you could physically see it hit him – that you were starting Kindergarten, and that meant we were crossing some invisible line. From having two small children to two school-aged children. You are the youngest so everything you do is the last first time.

This is the last little kid letter. The last letter before you and your brothers are all K-12 students. I wasn’t particularly ready to write this letter then, but I started, and I’m not particularly ready to finish it now, but I will.

So you turned five. And looking back at your fifth birthday I now know that the ebb of four and flow into five marked a turning point. On the other side of five you are both anxious to grow up a bit and being forced to be more of a responsible kid and less of the baby of the family. Four asked a lot of questions and five is going to answer whether you (or we) want to hear the answers.

For all it’s questions and growing pains four was so, so sweet.

You started off four with a lot of curls. I love these curls. It’s unreasonable how much I love your curls. I wish you didn’t insist on wearing your hair shorter now, but you know how you like things.


Those curls didn’t stick around for long, and it’s been big kid cuts from there on out.


Mere days after you turned four we went to Disney World and Universal Studios. That’s the kind of kicking-off-a-new-year start that’s going to be hard to top.


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To tell you the truth, at four, Disney World was a bit much for you. It wore your little butt out.


And you were honestly most impressed by the pool. It’s the thing you remember best.


On the early side of four you still took a lot of naps – and hell hath no fury like a Sammy who skipped one – but as the year wore on, they became less frequent.

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Even as five approached, sometimes the naps still won. I can’t believe how much longer you look.


Even though I can still see the baby if your face.


I just love how naps still sneak up on you.


You had a pretty incredible summer, the last summer before you officially started junior kindergarten.

You went to Denver, Colorado. We stayed with Aunt Vicki and Uncle Steve. You loved the little park by their house.


We went to Estes Park and rode a huge horse up into the mountains. You, me, and Moonlight for two hours. You fell asleep for the last twenty minutes.

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We went to the Denver Zoo.

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We’ll come back to the relationship that is you and Sage in a bit, but you also got to go to his Taekwondo tournament. You were ready to show off his medals.


You visited the continental divide.


The whole summer was fantastic. Long days filed with friends, travel, s’mores, family. It was great.10600483_10101133738136864_3122946648713828262_n 10455188_10101133758146764_8003437300006696509_n 10537433_10101133738785564_2407828971886584839_n 10599449_10101167983733414_3024758414880709076_n10439486_10101096995219964_7966755182048346894_n



You went through a tie phase.



This letter is about to shift in tone for just a sec.

Sammy. I’m your mother. There are certain things you know about me. I leave my shoes all over the house, I zone out everyone when I’m reading. I cuss. I am about to cuss in this letter.

When you were four you busted your god damn head open again and we had to give you butterfly stitches. This time you hurled yourself off a couch head first and into an iron weight.


Please stop hitting your head on things. 10419030_10101184714899024_3286413705382397742_n

You’re lucky your daddy was a medic when he was in the army.


You started junior kindergarten.



And continued the tradition of going to Day’s after school.


I got to come visit you at school a few times and play.

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And you made one of your first best friend’s, Paris.10665153_10101224505722894_8715941609492190803_n


You are also very close with your cousin, Aaron.

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Your coat really made your Halloween costume sing.10698469_10101242501264684_5259550299300466784_n

We got a lot of snow this winter. You are like me when it comes to snow – you want to play in it for about ten minutes then come inside, drink hot cocoa, and admire the beauty from a window in your warm jammies.

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On Christmas you fell asleep with your reindeer antlers on, waiting for Santa.


You really rocked the bear hat. You also started taking ukulele lessons after getting one for Christmas.

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We had our annual New Years Eve party, and being the extrovert you are, you were in your element. Long after the other kids had dropped one by one, we decided to let you and Grace stay up as long as you wanted. You built things and kicked it until about 3am.

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You went to your first UofL game. Go CARDS!


All those things happened, and they were all funny and sweet and sad and scary. Yet there are so many things about you at age four that those moments don’t capture.

Your determination, like teaching yourself to do a handstand.


The great faces you make.


The way your handwriting improved.


Your mad building skills, which only improve each time I write one of these letters.


Of course, you’re learning from the master. This is the kind of thing your pawpaw sets up for you:


Your sweet moves and killer poses.


You are naturally curious about the world. You ask questions far beyond your years. You have an uncanny ability to see things about people and the world around you. You keep us on our toes. Driving home from Chris and Jennie’s one night you out of the blue asked us a series of questions about homelessness.

This was the year you discovered legos. Your brother was more than willing to show you the way of the lego master.


We got a dog. You loved him immediately.

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You will talk to anyone. You are an extrovert. There is no such thing as a stranger in the world of Sam. That’s how you made friends with Nick while waiting for your ukulele lesson to start, and he now lets you play his guitars before lessons.


I am happy to report that you still want to spend every waking – and sleeping – hour with Sirius. He is your best friend.

1012937_885045834849768_2464532641999337535_n 10930122_10101413251140564_5411326474493251536_n 10513259_10101371079318234_6294630278090819309_n 10387710_10101262933777764_304254669098772543_n 1902919_10101198881354334_6172563370424458519_n 10411996_10101198282913614_5424423842071822085_n 10858394_887893367898348_6763537231676897275_nYou are in many ways a mini-Sage, and when he’s hear you’re pretty much by his side the whole time.

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I’ve written this before, how in a world where a lot of people walk or run, you fly. When I close my eyes, that’s how I see you.



Sometimes we butt heads because we are so much alike. Sometimes our arguments devolve into yelling and your dad has to intervene. But no matter how many times we argue or cry there is no one on this earth I love more than you. It is a privilege to be your mother, to watch you grow, and to write another one of these letters, no matter how hard it is to get the words out.

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I love you, sweet boy. All the way to Pluto.


your mama

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.

17836_637111247174_7245591_nJay Z, Blueprint III Tour

You go black tie with me.


And protest with me.

536976_10151419475185427_1288385872_nRally for Trayvon Martin

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?

17836_637290398154_2560203_n1909708_521501165704_2219_n1913933_100391533315206_6022027_n1913935_100658396621853_7921025_n17759_10151868277279937_548192666_nHow thankful I am for you?

10372255_769307636423589_1416820433183959454_n 68561_10151868277564937_410525841_n 17836_637294140654_3276893_n 20636_634674944544_649944_n 1005844_10100860187015504_481217733_n 17836_637282598784_4208053_nThis is forty, my love. And it looks damn good on you.

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.

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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.