Giggles…

Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Today (9/6) is your 4th birthday. It is so hard to believe that we welcomed you to this world four years ago. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. I’m sure you don’t feel the same way, but one day you will understand what I’m talking about. Nanna and I are so proud of you and I hope today is a wonderful day filled with fun and giggles.

Speaking of GIGGLES, that’s what I want to talk to you about. Each one of my grandchildren has a special trait that is unique to that child. Hudson loves to tell me about dinos, Ellie has a smile that lights up the room, and Benny is constantly running around and his nickname (Bizzy) is the most appropriate of all of you. But you Harper…your unique trait is GIGGLING! Even as I am writing this, there is a big smile on my face because I can just hear you.

When you see me, the first thing you do is run to give me a hug and you GIGGLE. It is a sound that I believe originates in Heaven itself. God knew what 2020 was going to be like — especially for Poppo — and He gave you the ability to make me happy with a sound.

One of our favorite things to do right now is to watch Bluey (for those of you without grandchildren…Google it). Bluey has awakened your imagination and you love playing games that you have seen on Bluey. So, we play “Keepie-Uppie” and “Heavy.” And as soon as we start playing…you guessed it…you start GIGGLING and I start laughing. All you have to do is say, “Do YOU mind?” and with the little GIGGLE that follows and I start laughing — OUT LOUD!

For the adults, 2020 is not going to win any awards for our “Favorite Year.” The “virus” has created a new normal for our lives. And it has affected every area of life. For me personally, it has been a tough time dealing with all the decisions that I’ve had to make. There is always stress in the life of adults, but with all the things going on this year…my stress level has been super elevated. That’s why I think God gave you this gift to GIGGLE. I can’t explain it, but that GIGGLE has a way of lowering my stress level like nothing else can.

One more thing that I love about you is your “motherly heart.” Whether you are playing with your baby dolls or standing in the middle of the room with your hands on your hips talking to your dad, brother and Poppo — it is apparent that you have a mother’s heart. When you grab your baby dolls, you immediately tell them that “mommy is going to take care of you.” That is so sweet.

You have at least 3 great role models for this “mother’s love.” You mommy, your Nanna and your Nonnie are all special ladies who love their families with unconditional love. As you grow and mature, you watch them and follow their examples. If you do that, you will one day be a wonderful mommy yourself.

In Job 8, the Bible says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing. And your lips with rejoicing.” You have certainly provided that much needed laughter for Poppo. I love you and can’t wait to see how you grow and mature this year.

Remember…no matter what happens in your life, you can always count on the fact that Poppo and Nanna love you…unconditionally. I will always be a cheerleader on the sidelines for you (and your brother and cousins).

Thank you for the GIGGLES…keep doing it…it sure brings a lot of happiness to my life. And by the way…you are still My Favorite RedHead!

Love,

Poppo

Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle

IMG_4906.jpgDear PunkinDoodle…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! You are 3 years old today (8/21). That’s unbelievable to me. Three years ago, Nanna and I came to Raleigh, NC and on the day you were born there was a total eclipse of the sun. I knew right then that you were going to be a special little girl. I WAS RIGHT! You light up the room just by walking in. You love to snuggle (and Poppo loves that), you love to read (and Poppo loves that), and you LOVE Rosie (and Poppo loves that)! We have a lot in common.

I don’t like that you live so far away and I don’t get to see you as often as I would like, BUT you love to call me and Nanna on Facetime and that makes the distance seem not quite so far away. I love how you always take the phone and show me all your toys. I love it when you put the phone on the table and I get to watch you eat your supper.

The bigger you get…the more like your momma you become. Your strong-willed personality is in full display and I giggle every time you try and assert your dominance with your parents. It reminds me of the days when your momma would do that to me and I would think to myself — “I sure hope you have a little girl JUST LIKE YOU one day.” I’m convinced that your personality is going to help you be a success in whatever you do.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. It has made me think a great deal about what is really important in life. People can’t go to work or church and children aren’t able to go to school right now. It’s been pretty depressing! So I thought about what I might say to a 3-year-old that would help you (and Poppo) feel better about this crummy year. So…here’s three things this almost 58-year-old would like you (the 3-year-old) to know.

  1. Enjoy being 3! Seriously…if you feel like dropping down and taking a nap — DO IT! If you want a waffle and peanut butter for supper — DO IT! Grownups think way too much about working long hours and having to eat certain foods so we don’t get “too fat.” We struggle with stress and headaches and worries. We spend too much time worrying about what other people think. I often wish I could just say, “Hey…I’m going to eat a half-gallon of Blue Bell and take a nap. The work will be here when I wake up!” At 3, you can do that — so DO IT!
  2. Get messy! You want to jump in the mud puddle? DO IT! Somebody else is going to wash your clothes anyway. You want to spend the afternoon finger-painting? DO IT! Make a mess. As an adult, I’m way to concerned about keeping things clean and tidy. Making a mess is fun and it helps relieve stress.
  3. Work on your hand-eye coordination. I wish somebody had told me that at 3. If I had spent more time on that, maybe I could have succeeded at sports. Work on it now so you can play hockey or soccer or baseball or whatever you want to play!

Here’s my point PunkinDoodle. I don’t want you to get to 58-years-old and look back and wish you had done things differently. Enjoy life — every day, every minute. Treat your time as a gift, because that’s exactly what it is — it’s a gift from God. He has created everything (waffles, peanut butter, ice cream, mud puddles and sports) — and He created it to bring JOY to your life. So enjoy it. Make it a habit now to enjoy life and then grow that habit as you grow older.

I know 2020 hasn’t been what we might have wanted it to be, but we aren’t going to concentrate on the past. We are going to look to the future! God is in charge. The Bible says that God knows everything and He is in charge of everything. That means you and I don’t need to worry about that. Let Him take care of those things and we will just enjoy life — snuggles, reading, Rosie and ice cream. I’m going to try and do a better job of doing that myself. I’m going to try and take lessons from you, Benny, Hudson and Harper. Let’s have FUN. Let’s enjoy life and most of all let’s thank God for the time He is giving us.

From a 58-year-old to a 3-year-old — life is shorter than you think so make the most of the time God gives to you.

Remember this…no matter what happens in your life — Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you — unconditionally. I may not always agree with the choices you make, but I will NEVER EVER stop loving you.

Happy birthday PunkinDoodle. Let’s go get some birthday DONUTS! We can do that and get away with it because IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY and YOU ARE 3!!!!!

Dear Hudson: Happy 6th Birthday

webmail.valleygroveDear Hudson,

I hardly know where to start. Six years ago, you changed my life! I became a POPPO on June 22, 2014 — which is also the day you were born. Since then, we’ve added 3 others to our little club, but you are the one who first called me POPPO.

I wish I had written down all the fun things we have done over the last six years. You are an expert in dinosaurs, snakes, monsters and Bakugans (For those of you reading this…Google it). I learn something new every time we get together. There is never a dull moment when you are around.

Something happened yesterday (6/21/20), however that reminded me that you are growing up. For 5 years, our Sunday afternoon routine has been to eat lunch with the family and then watch a few cartoons on TV and take a nap. You are the only one of the grandchildren who ever liked to take a nap with me. The other 3 don’t like naps AT ALL. About 6 months ago, you informed me that you were too old to be taking naps. In fact, you said, “Poppo, Vaughans don’t take naps. They PLAY!” I guess I knew that day would finally come, but it was just another reminder that you are getting older.

BUT…yesterday, after you played in the pool with Harper, Ellie and Benjamin…you said, “Poppo…you want to go lay down and rest a while? It will be like old times!” So, you made a pillow fort on my bed — we watched 30 minutes of cartoons and we took a little nap. You were right…it was just like “old times.”

My guess is these “old times” days are going to be fewer and farther between now that you are going into the first grade. You are making new friends and you are playing baseball and getting busier and busier. I just want you to know that I cherish these days.

On another note…as you grow older you are going to interact with more and more people. Some of them will look different than you, some will talk different than you, some will come from a different part of the world than you. I want you to remember this…ALL people — no matter who they are or what they sound like or look like are made in the image of God and they ALL deserve our respect.

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Scooter…we live in a world right now that doesn’t seem to remember this teaching. There is a great deal of selfishness in the world, but Jesus said that you and I need to be different from the people in the world. When we meet people, we are supposed to show them a love and respect that acknowledges the fact that we all bear the image of our Creator. If we can do that…perhaps we can change the attitudes of people in our little part of the world.

2020 has already been a doozy of a year and we are only half way through. I don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, but I do know this…

Nanna and I love  you very much and we always have and we always will. You won’t always make decisions that we agree with, but that will NEVER change the way we love you or your cousins. We LOVE being your grandparents.

And Scooter…whenever you feel like you want to have a day that reminds you of “old times,” I will always be ready. You can call me any time and I will always be there for you.

Happy 6th Birthday Hudson. I love you forever.

Love,

Poppo

 

Happy MOST UNUSUAL Birthday Benjamin

0May 29, 2020

Dear Benjamin,

It’s been one year since I met you. I knew right away we were going to be buddies. The only time you aren’t happy is when we put you down for a nap! Otherwise, you live up to your nickname BIZZY! You are constantly on the move trying to find your next adventure. Smiling, laughing, almost walking — but ALWAYS in the middle of everything going on. Poppo can’t help but smile every time I look at you. Your smile and laugh are infectious.

Speaking of infectious…your first year has been an unusual one. New words have come into our vocabulary  — some that haven’t been used in 100 years. Pandemic, quarantine, COVID, social distancing, shutdown, virtual school — what a mess. Several months ago, a terrible virus infected literally millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, before it’s done, more than 100,000 people will have died from this virus. We have never seen anything like it. In addition to producing much physical sickness, it has also caused A LOT of mental sickness. “Social distancing” was intended to keep us safer because we wouldn’t be as close to one another as normal, but in many cases it caused “social isolation.” Distancing is good — isolation is not good.

We NEED each other. We were created by God to be in fellowship with one another. Because of our desire not to make other people sick, our distancing had the unintended consequence of causing many people to be isolated. We are finally starting to get out and around people again and boy does it feel good.

Nanna and I had not been able to see you or Ellie for over three months except on FaceTime (for which I am so grateful). But seeing and talking to you over the phone is just not the same as being able to hug you and play on the floor and outside. Nanna and I have worked very hard for the last 5 weeks to make sure we didn’t expose ourselves to any unnecessary germs so we could be here to celebrate your birthday. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we got here this week. You can tell by my smile in the picture just how excited I was to see you! I was afraid you might not know me right away since you had only seen me on a phone screen, but I was wrong. As soon as you saw Nanna and Poppo — that big old grin covered your whole face and I knew you were as excited to see us as we were to see you.

You reminded me that no matter how much distance there may be between us, the love in our hearts for one another is so great that distance doesn’t matter. Nanna and I were not going to miss your first birthday for anything and thankfully, we are able to be here with you.

You won’t remember this, but the world that we live in will change forever because of this virus. Your “normal” is going to be different from the “normal” I have known. That’s not necessarily good or bad — it just is what it is. In other words, we accept it and adapt. Throughout your life, there will be many times when you have to change and adapt. Hopefully you won’t have to do that because of a severe sickness like this, but that’s the way life works. Nothing stays the same forever.

But I want you to remember this. No matter how much things in the world may change, there are two things that will NEVER change. God NEVER changes. The Bible teaches us that. In Malachi 3:6, the Bible says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Benny…that’s GOOD NEWS! No matter what happens around you, no matter how much your life and the world around you may change…God NEVER changes. You can always trust His Word and you can always trust Him to do what is right. I don’t always understand the way God works, but I believe His Word and therefore I know He never changes.

The second thing that will never change is that Nanna and I will ALWAYS love you. I try and remind all you grandkids of this each year on your birthday. We may not always agree with your choices in life…but I promise you that our love for you will always be unconditional. I love you because you are you — not because of anything you do or don’t do.

I’m thankful for the technology that allows us to see and talk to you during this time we are quarantined, but nothing replaces the ability to physically be present with you and experience your infectious laugh IN PERSON. I thank God that we have been able to do that for your first birthday.

I can’t wait to see how you grow and develop over the next year. Hopefully, we won’t have any more pandemics and we can physically get to experience all the fun we want. I love you BIZZY — you are my little buddy.

Love,

Poppo

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Red Head

E4D7DABA-DA1C-442A-A93B-EF7741DCE3FE.JPGDear Harper,

Tomorrow (9/6) is your 3rd birthday. My how time flies. I hardly know where to even begin. I cannot describe just how much joy you bring to our lives. This year has been marked by your ever-developing personality. We’ve actually started calling you “Miss Sassy Pants.” Your facial expressions are beyond description. Just looking at you, I break out in a great big smile.

You continue to show us your BIG heart. Whenever Poppo has a “boo-boo,” you are the first to be concerned and to give me a kiss quickly followed by “Is that all better Poppo?” And it most certainly is.

Your favorite thing right now is to dress up like a Princess or a “ermaid.” I guarantee you are the most beautiful “ermaid” I have ever seen.

You are also now able to give your brother as good as he sends. Funny thing about that. I’ve noticed that sometimes you are the instigator and yet Hudson is the one who gets in trouble. The old adage, the person who passes the second lick is the one who gets caught is proving to be true. You’ve learned how to get your licks in and then look at us with a pitiful little face to make us think you are the victim. We are slowly learning that there is a little devious side to that Princess personality. I LOVE IT!

A year ago you were just starting to talk and I couldn’t understand everything you said. Today…I can’t shut you up! LOL You ALWAYS have something to tell Poppo. And I’m learning that I love every story you tell me…usually because your facial expressions are so dramatic. I hope you continue to develop your story-telling ability. It will come in handy later in your life I think. Who knows…you might grow up to be a professional story-teller.

As our vocabularies develop, our view of the world grows and changes. Now that you are better at communicating, you are better able to express your emotions and let others know what you are thinking about. That is very important. In the same way, because you are able to communicate with us better…we can also share things with you that we believe are important.

My earliest memories of my life begin at about 3 years old — the same age you are today. Some people claim they can remember things earlier than that, but not me. As a matter of fact, I sometimes have trouble remembering things that happened THIS MORNING!

My love for God came early in my life and for that I can thank Granny and Popple (my parents). I grew up in a time when the church was the very center of our lives. EVERYTHING revolved around the church. It was the center of my community. My parents taught me from a very early age about how much God loved me and how important it is to serve Him. Granny and Popple taught me by their example how important God is.

The Bible says that the greatest commandment is to love God. You learn to do that by watching others who love and serve God. Your parents and your grandparents all love God very much. And we all do our very best to serve Him every day. I hope as you grow and mature, you will see that in our lives and that you, Hudson and your cousins, Ellie and Benjamin will follow that same path.

In a poem called “Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote that home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” He goes on to say that home is a place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” In my life I’ve been somebody’s child and also somebody’s parent, and I think home is much more than that.

For me, home is where I truly learned what was important in life….and it started very early in my life. My parents did their best to live what they believed. Nanna and I tried to do the same thing with your daddy and Aunt Deeves. Now, your parents are doing that for you and Hudson.

Someone has said, “what you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I think there is a lot of truth in that saying. As you continue this journey in life, our prayer is that you will always see how much we love God and how much we love you. The Biblical commandment to love God is written on our hearts and that’s why we talk so much about it to you. We want you to love and serve God the way we have.

As you grow older, I’ll share some stories with you about how God has ALWAYS provided for us. Even when it looked like things wouldn’t work out…God ALWAYS shows up and takes care of His children. I’m at the point now that I can say the same thing David said in the Scripture…“I have been young and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25)

I can’t wait to see what year 3 brings to your life. In the midst of it all, I KNOW this…God never forsakes us or leaves us. I want to teach you that lesson now so you will have confidence in it when you grow older. No matter what happens — TRUST GOD…He never fails.

As always, I want you to know that I love you with a love that cannot be broken. The whole world may one day turn its back on you…but you can count on this…Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you. I won’t always agree with everything you say or do, but I promise my love for you is unbreakable!

Happy Birthday Little Bit. Keep smiling and laughing. Keep loving and enjoying life. YOU inspire me. You truly are my favorite redhead!

Love,

Poppo

PUNKINDOODLE…It’s Your Birthday!

IMG_3447.jpgDear Ellie,
Today (8/21) is your BIRTHDAY!!!!! I’m so excited. You are 2 years old today. WOW. Time is flying by. I remember very well the day you were born — we had a total eclipse of the sun. That should have been a clue or a warning for us that you were going to be something special.

I’ve told you this before, but when your mother was born, I thought I had met the most strong-willed child in the history of the world. And then you came along and said…”Hold my sippy cup.” It’s funny because now your parents are learning what it is like to parent a child who believes that the whole world is here just for you. I LOVE IT!!!

This past year brought a BIG CHANGE to your life. We had no idea how you would react when Baby Benjamin came along, but you have proven yourself to be a wonderful big sister. At first, you weren’t sure you were going to like having him around all the time, but I think he has grown on you. You help momma and daddy take care of him and he absolutely adores you. When he’s upset…you are able to calm him and he just loves looking at you.

One of my favorite passages from Dr. James Dobson’s book, The Strong-Willed Child is this one…

“Harshness, gruffness, and sternness are not effective in shaping a child’s will. Likewise, constant whacking and threatening and criticizing are destructive and counterproductive. A parent who is mean and angry most of the time is creating resentment that will be stored and come roaring into the relationship during adolescence or beyond. Therefore, every opportunity should be taken to keep the tenor of the home pleasant, fun, and accepting. At the same time, however, parents should display confident firmness in their demeanor. You, Mom and Dad, are the boss. You are in charge. If you believe it, the tougher child will accept it also.”

You see that last line? I made it bold — not necessarily for you but for your parents. When Nanna and I were raising your momma, we had to remind ourselves of this particular truth many times. I would say to myself…”Keith…YOU are the parent. YOU are the boss. Now get in there in act like it.” Many times it didn’t work because your momma would smile at me or saying something that would make me forget why I had been upset to begin with.

I tell you that because I see your momma every time I look at you. I’m 30 years older, but that little girl in my arms in the picture I have posted with this letter is a spitting image of her momma. Every time you and I are together, it brings back such wonderful memories for me. Every time Nanna and I visit you, we have so much fun and you bring so much joy and happiness to our lives.

You are a daddy’s girl and I’m so happy about that. Your daddy will teach you what a Godly man acts like. That will come in handy when you are in your 40s and we allow you to start dating. Right now you have daddy wrapped around your little finger — pretty tightly I might add. He talks a big talk, but I see how he responds when you bat those beautiful eyes at him.

You live in a world today where many children don’t realize just how special they are. For whatever reason, they don’t have a “cheering squad” in their life to encourage them and help them grow to be the person God intended for them to be. I thank God that you have that “cheering squad” in your life. Your parents, your Poppo and Nanna, and all your family are just crazy in love with you. But I want to remind you of just one more thing on your second birthday.

You are loved and cared for by God. Isaiah 43:4 says that “you are precious in My sight, and I love you.” No matter what happens in your life — don’t ever forget that promise from God. People around you may disappoint you and let you down — but God will never let you down. He will never leave you alone and His love for you is everlasting.

Ellie, your smile and your laugh is infectious. You brighten up the room when you walk in. I have a feeling God is going to use that gift in your life in a very special way as you get older. We need more laughter in our world. Unfortunately, as we get older, it seems we laugh less. You make sure that Poppo is always laughing. You (and your brother, Benjamin and your cousins, Hudson and Harper) remind me that our life story has a happy ending. Because of you, I am reminded each day that I am loved and accepted — not for what I do but for who I am. I don’t care how bad my day has been, all I have to do is FaceTime with you and Benjamin or talk to Hudson or Harper and all is right in my world. Thank you for that.

So, now we begin your third trip around the sun. I bet it’s going to be a hoot. I can’t wait to see how you grow and mature in this year. I have a feeling that I’m going to enjoy watching you and your parents navigate through the “terrible twos.” I’m already giggling as I think about it.

As always…Nanna and I love you unconditionally. Nothing you will ever do could make us love you any less. I may not always like your behavior — but my love for you is not based on your behavior. My love for you is based on the fact that somewhere in that little body of yours flows just a little bit of Poppo’s strong-willed personality and I LOVE IT!

Love,

Poppo

 

Dear Hudson…Thanks for Being My Very Best BUDDY

Happy birImage-1thday Scooter! Over the weekend (6/22/19), we all gathered and celebrated your 5th birthday. It hardly seems possible that you could be 5 years old…but you are and you’ve been preparing me for this day for at least 4 months. Measuring time is not a concept you have quite mastered just yet — don’t worry, I have trouble with it as well. It seems the older I get the faster time moves. I know that at 5, you see it from a very different perspective. Ever since Nanna celebrated her birthday in March, you’ve been reminding me that your birthday was next and that you would be 5.

Watching you over these 5 years has been one of the greatest joys of my life. You love life and you help me see the world in a much different way when I’m with you. That’s a good thing because the older I get, the more cynical I tend to be. So thanks for keeping the little boy alive in Poppo! I just know 5 is going to be a great year for you.

Each time I write one of these letters to the grandchildren, I try and think of some life lesson that I would like to pass on to you. Now that there are 4 of you guys — you, Harper, Ellie and Benjamin…I’m trying to share things with each of you that I hope will help you as you grow and mature. This year I want you to focus on FRIENDSHIP.

Early on in your life, you told me that I was your buddy! I just love that. We’ve been buddies now for 5 years.  I know we are buddies for life, but you have a major life event taking place this year that is going to change our relationship just a little. You are going to SCHOOL! You are already excited about that and excited about meeting new friends.

One of the things I have noticed about you is how well you get along with others. It seems regardless of how old or how young the people are — you have a way of including everyone. One of your favorite things is to go to Chick-fil-a and play on their playground. My favorite thing about Chick-fil-a is EATING! But you like to socialize. No matter who is in there, when you come out — you’ve made new friends. You don’t always know their names, but you tell me all about the fun you are having with “my friends.” That makes me happy. 

As you start to school, you are going to meet lots of new friends. You will enjoy spending time with them and playing games and just getting to know new people. That’s a special time. I just want you to remember one thing. Don’t forget to include those who might be a little shy or they might be a little different in some other way than you. Not everybody is as outgoing as you are so it will be important for you to always be aware of what’s going on around you and if you see someone by themselves — invite them to join your group. I know you are going to do that because I already see that in your personality.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but Poppo hasn’t always been the loud-mouth, outgoing person I am today. OK — I probably have always been loud-mouthed, but I remember being excluded a time or two when I was a little boy. It wasn’t fun for everybody to be involved in something fun and I was on the outside looking in. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like and I’ve tried to do my best to look for those folks who might need an extra measure of encouragement along the way. I hope you will do the same.

I don’t know what you are going to be when you grow up. Right now, you want to be a police officer who catches poachers who are trying to kill the dinosaurs. I’m not sure there will be much of a market for that as you get older, but you never know. I do know that you are one of the top negotiators I’ve ever met in my life. No matter what anybody suggests, you always have a “better idea.” And you usually win the argument — especially with Poppo. I pray we can harness that skill and use it for good. Who knows — you may one day write a book entitled “The NEW AND IMPROVEDArt of the Deal.”

I realize that as you grow older, you will have more and more friends in your life. That’s the way God intended. But never forget…you’ve got one buddy who will always love you and will always be in your corner…cheering you on to become exactly what God has planned for you.

I love you Scooter. Thanks for being my BUDDY!

Love,

Poppo

God has given the Son of my Right Hand

IMG_2910.JPGBenjamin Nathaniel Greening…what a noble name. In Hebrew, Binyamin Netan’el. I almost feel like I should address you as royalty. So…let me first say that I am honored to meet you and to be your POPPO.

Benjamin means “Son of my right hand.” In the Bible, Benjamin was the last of Jacob’s 13 children. After Jacob believed that Joseph had died, Benjamin became even more important to Jacob because he was also the last son of his beloved wife Rachel.

The right hand is an awfully important place. Jesus sits at the right hand of God in Heaven. The person on the right hand is in a position of authority and prestige. In your own family, I see that you are the “right hand man” of your daddy. You are going to help take care of your mommy and your sister and your daddy is going to teach you how a Godly man should live.

Nathaniel means “God has given” in Hebrew. No doubt about it — you are a gift from God to all of us. Our family values life and we believe that ALL life is precious so every time a baby is born, a part of Heaven is sent to this earth. I’m convinced that you and your sister Ellie and your cousins Hudson and Harper are all “God-given.”

So…your parents have equipped you with a name that I believe is going to encourage you to do great things in your life. What a wonderful way to begin your journey in this messed up world.

Now there is one important lesson I need to share with you as you get started. I’m afraid you are going to grow up believing you have two mommies. You see, I’ve seen this situation before. When your Uncle Dustin was born, your mommy was about 3 years old. She was an extremely strong-willed child and I often struggled keeping track of who actually was the “BOSS” in the house. I’ll tell you this…your mommy thought she was and she acted like it.

When little brother came along, she believed it was her duty to raise him according to her likes and dislikes. So Uncle Dustin has had to answer to 2 women from day one. By the way, Poppo had to do the same thing but it affected me differently.

You have a little sister who is EXACTLY like your mommy. Ellie is strong-willed and as she is right now learning to communicate more effectively, I’m finding she is quite opinionated as well. She is going to love you fiercely throughout your life. You will fuss and fight and she might even stick a screw driver up your nose (I’ll tell you that story another day), but when it comes down to it…she will be in your corner. She will probably always tell you exactly what she thinks — like it or not — but know that deep down in her heart, she wants you to be the very best you can be.

When your cousin Hudson was born, I started giving nicknames to my grandchildren. Husdon is SCOOTER, Harper is LITTLE BIT, and Ellie is PUNKINDOODLE. I’ve been thinking about your nickname for a while now. For the last 6 months or so, you have been the most active baby I’ve ever seen. Your mommy would send me videos of you moving around in her belly and I thought to myself…”this is the busiest child I’ve ever seen.”

I went around and around trying to come up with an appropriate nickname for you. Hudson wanted me to call you GLIDER HENDERSON. I have no idea where that came from and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t call you that. He lobbied for that to be your actual name until you were born…but fortunately he was overruled by your parents. I also thought about a “rapper” name. Your initials made me think of something like “Notorious BNG” — but other than your daddy who does a pretty mean NSYNC imitation (ask him about that), none of the rest of us have very much talent in that area. I also toyed with BiggyG, but I decided against that too.

I finally kept coming back to how active you were before you got here. You were so busy trying to get out here to meet us and you were so busy trying to get out because room where you were was tight! You were a pretty big boy. So I’ve decided to call you BIZZY. I’ve got a feeling you are going to be a curious, busy boy — and that’s exactly the way we want it.

Poppo also gave something called “hashtags” to each child so when your picture is posted on social media from time to time, you will know that it’s about you. Your name made this one easy. Your hashtag will be #mylittlebuddy. That comes from my love of old TV shows and from the fact that your name means “Son of my right hand.” I loved Gilligan’s Island on TV. You and I can watch that together one day. Gilligan was the “right hand man” of the Skipper. So, you are going to be my “right hand man.” Remember being on the right is a position of prestige and authority. I need you (#mylittlebuddy) and Hudson (#mybuddyandme) on either side of me as we get into trouble together (not that we would ever do that).

Finally, I want you to know something that I have constantly and consistently told the other three grandchild. You have two cheerleaders in your corner ALWAYS — Poppo and Nanna. We love you unconditionally and we always will. There is absolutely nothing you can do that will ever make us stop loving you. We may not always like the choices you make in life, but there is nothing you can ever do that will change our love for you. That’s part of being in this family. We may disagree from time to time, but we value each other and we love each other no matter what!

Benjamin Nathaniel Greening…God loves you, Poppo loves you and I just know we are going to be the best of friends. You’ve entered a very special club along with Hudson, Harper and Ellie. You can call on Poppo whenever you need anything and I’ll be there ASAP. I’m honored to have you as #mylittlebuddy! Let’s have some fun!!!

 

Dear Harper…Happy Birthday!

Dear Harper,

Today (9/6/18) is your SECOND birthday! Where has the time gone? It seems like you just got here and now we are celebrating another birthday. I guess Poppo truly is getting old — just don’t tell anybody I said that.

I cannot begin to tell you what a joy you are in our lives. Your laugh is contagious and you absolutely light up a room with your smile. It was obvious when Hudson was born that he was a strong-willed child so we thought you would be our calm child. Well…not so much. You are giving your big brother a run for his money in that department. You may have outdistanced him just bit because you have the shrillest squeal I have ever heard in my life. I have a cousin, Natalie who had a very high pitched voice when she was a child. I kinda kidded her about that all her life. I’m beginning to wonder if your shrill squeal is my payback for making fun of Natalie. If so, I would like to publicly apologize to Natalie right now for that. You have her beat! When things don’t go your way…that squeal makes dogs howl all over the neighborhood!

You are also becoming our little princess. The funniest thing you do to me right now is this. When I ask for a kiss, you often tell me no. But then you present your cheek to me so I can kiss you! You won’t give Poppo kisses, but you allow Poppo to kiss you. Thank you, your highness.

But Little Bit, there is something else very special I have begun to notice about you. You have what I call the “second child personality.” I doubt there is scientific evidence to back up what I’m about to say, but I’ve noticed this before. Your daddy has this trait, your Aunt B (Poppo’s sister, Brenda) has it, and when I got to know your momma…I discovered she has it as well.

As your little personality has developed, I’ve noticed that you have a tremendously big heart. I noticed it first in the way you take care of your “babies.” Whenever you hold a baby doll, you love it and then bring it to Poppo and want me to love it too. That is so cute. But it goes way beyond that.

Second children seem to have this compassionate part of their personality that is greatly enhanced over the first child. I see this in you already. You are always concerned about everybody else. You want the approval of your big brother, you want to make sure everybody else is happy and you are quick to give a hug or to ask “you ok” when we sneeze or even cough. It seems that you have this inner instinct that causes love and compassion to be your first response to others.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes us. I can’t tell you how many times you have come over to me, asked me to hold you and then you put your head on my shoulder and just gently pat my back. You don’t always know what kind of day I have had or what kind of foolishness I’ve had to deal with that day, but you seem to know that laying your head on my shoulder and patting my back will make it all better. That, my darling is a God-given gift.

Just this week, Hudson was riding his bike down the driveway at our house. Nanna and momma and I were all out there watching and encouraging him. I was holding you. All of a sudden, I looked at you and you had both fists balled up and you were screaming to Hudson — “PUSH, PUSH.” When he was able to ride the bike, you raised those arms and just screamed, “YAY!!!!!” You were as excited for him as you would have been for yourself had you accomplished the same thing.

Oldest children don’t always see the importance of things like that. I can say that because I am an oldest child. In the Bible, there were two sisters — Mary and Martha. I think Martha was an older child. The Bible says she was always distracted doing things and being busy. That sounds about right. Mary, on the other hand was more observant. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach (Luke 10). I think you may turn out to be my Mary in a Martha world.

Many people unfortunately believe that you have to be busy and doing something all the time. Those people (like Poppo) sometimes miss opportunities to show compassion — not because we don’t care, but because we are too busy. I think second children — like you, your daddy and momma, and your Aunt B — are able to see things I don’t see. You all see how important it is to show compassion and to be encouraging. I’m thankful for that.

It’s so much fun for Nanna and I to watch you, Hudson and Ellie as you grow and mature. Each one of you has special qualities that God has given you which I know each of you will use one day to glorify Him. We love all of you so, so much.

I’m looking forward to watching you go through this second year. You are a typical two year old — we all see AND HEAR that. But you also are a special child — the second child. You seem to see through eyes of compassion. I pray that gift continues to grow and mature in you.

Remember…Nanna and I love you UNCONDITIONALLY. No matter what you do or where you go, we will ALWAYS love you. That doesn’t mean I won’t correct you when you misbehave, but I promise to always be your biggest cheerleader in life.

You truly are #MYFAVORITEREDHEAD. Happy birthday Little Bit. I love you.

Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle…Tell Your Momma to Sweep the Porch

Dear Ellie,

Tomorrow (8/21) is your first birthday! It’s hard to believe you have been here a whole year. I’ve always been told that the older you get, the faster time flies. I didn’t believe that until I turned 50. Now it seems like time flies faster and faster every day.

Your first year has been so much fun. You are DEFINITELY your mother’s child! That makes me laugh right out loud! Several times (especially recently), your mom has called me and I can hear you in the background throwing a little “fit” or screaming because the attention is not on you at that moment. I just smile…because I consider this PAYBACK from God to your mom. I think she spent the first four years of her life believing that all the rest of us had been sent here to entertain her.

Every time Nanna and I see you or Facetime with you is special to us. We don’t live as close to you as we would like, so our visits are extra special. When I was a little boy, there was no such thing as Facetime. Shoot…there was no such thing as cell phones either! That explains the title to your first birthday letter from Poppo. I have a little story to tell you.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother (I called her Mammy…she didn’t like that by the way), lived in Roanoke Rapids and I lived in Potecasi. Today that wouldn’t mean a lot because people travel that distance every day to go to their job, but when I was a boy, you only went to Roanoke Rapids a couple of times a month if you were lucky. That meant I didn’t get to see Mammy very often.

Well, every couple of weeks, Mammy and Uncle Genie (he was my step-grandfather — my granddaddy died before I was born) would make the trip from Roanoke Rapids to Potecasi to visit with us. They usually came on Sunday afternoon after church. I didn’t always know when they were coming but there was a sign I looked for that was a pretty good indicator of their impending visit — my momma (Granny) would sweep the front porch.

Big deal you say? For me, it sure was. You see, nobody ever came in the front door of our house. The only two people I remember using our front door were Mr. Jernigan who drove the dry-cleaning truck and G-Buck. Mr. Jernigan would stop out front and come to the front door to see if we had any dry-cleaning that needed to be picked up. He usually showed up around 6-7pm usually while we were eating supper. He didn’t come in to visit because he was working. G-Buck usually showed up at the front door around 1-2AM every six months or so when he had “had a snoot full.” That’s another story for another day. It was a long time before anybody ever explained that one to me. All I knew was my daddy usually left to take G-Buck somewhere — so again…no visit.

BUT…when Granny would come home from church and grab the broom and shoot out the front door, I knew big doings were about to happen! When she swept the front porch that meant Mammy was coming to visit. Now, Granny probably has a much different recollection of this process than me — you can ask her about it some other time.

After the porch was swept, I waited to see that green Oldsmobile pull into our yard. I was so excited to see Mammy. Your Aunt Brenda and I would sit on the couch and tell Mammy about all the things going on in our lives. It was a fun Sunday afternoon because we also got to sit in the Living Room — and nobody normally sat in that room. You only used it when you had special company. Here’s a picture of me, Aunt Brenda, Mammy and Uncle Genie. I have another one which I decided not to include because Aunt Brenda and I are half naked (LOL). I’d have way to much explaining to do if I put THAT on the internet. I’ll show you the picture some time because you can see just how happy we were.

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I’m sure you are wondering…”Poppo, why are you telling me this story on my first birthday?”

Well, go back to how I began. Nanna and I don’t live as close to you as we would like, so I hope that every time you hear that we are coming to see you, you get as excited as I did when I knew Mammy was coming to see me. Maybe we can develop our own “signal” to let you know that we are coming. With all the technology that exists today, that probably isn’t necessary.

Nanna and I love you very much and we enjoy every minute we get to spend with you and your parents. I’m so excited about this next year as you start walking and talking so that I can understand what you are saying. I look forward to watching you continue to grow up into the wonderful young woman that I know you will be. Even though we don’t see you every day…I can promise you, you are ALWAYS on my mind. I pray for you and I ask God to keep you safe and help you feel just how much you are loved when I’m not there to give you a big squeeze.

So PunkinDoodle…Nanna and I are headed your way later this week. We are coming to celebrate your first birthday with a party. There will be lots of family and friends there to celebrate YOU! And yes, this time, we are all coming just to entertain you. Tell your momma to sweep the front porch cause Poppo is on the way.

I love you with all my heart. Happy birthday PunkinDoodle.

Love,

Poppo