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

 

Every Poppo Needs A…

Poppo:Ellie

Dear Ellie,
I don’t even know where to begin with your letter. For every grandchild, I write them a special letter from me on or around their birthday. I started it with your cousins Hudson and Harper. Now, it’s your turn.

I think I have been expecting you for a little more than 31 years. When your momma was born, I KNEW that one day she would have a little girl who would bring as much joy to her as she brought to me. Your momma is the definition of “Daddy’s Girl” — always has been, always will be. Based on my very early observations, I have a feeling you are going to be a Daddy’s Girl too. That’s a good thing. As you grow, I will teach you how to use that to your every advantage. I’m already watching you wrap your daddy around your finger and I’ve been standing back and smiling because I KNOW what’s going to happen.

There are a few things I would like to share with you as we start this journey of life together.

First, and you already know this. God loves you, your parents love you, and Nana and I love you. Those are three things you can ALWAYS count on. I don’t care what happens in your life or where you go in life, our love for you is unconditional. There is absolutely nothing you can ever do to make us stop loving you.

I think you already know how much God loves you. I think all babies know that because I believe that the last place you lived before you were in mommy’s tummy was in Heaven. You were quite stubborn and didn’t want to join us in the “real world” yesterday (8/21/17). I wasn’t there, but your daddy told me that he thought you had latched on to mommy’s insides with your toes and weren’t going to turn loose! That sounds about right. I know if I had to leave the warmth and comfort of Heaven and my mommy’s womb, I’d want to stay too. We will do our very best to make you feel safe and loved here too. Don’t worry.

The second thing I want to tell you is about your nickname. I actually titled your letter, “Every Poppo Needs A…” as a little tease for your nickname. Every time a grandchild is born, I get to know them a bit and then give them a name that is special for them and that I call them. I call Hudson, Scooter — you will understand that soon enough. I call Harper — Little Bit because she was so tiny. I decided on your nickname before you were born.

When your momma was born, she was the first grandchild for my parents, Granny and Popple. Popple is the one who started this nickname thing. Oh how I wish you could have known him. He lives in heaven now, but I feel like he is with me and I am trying to be as good a Poppo as my daddy was a Popple. The grandchildren called him Popple because of your momma. That’s the advantage of being the first grandchild. You get to pick the names of your grandparents and the rest of the grandchildren basically follow along. For some reason, your momma couldn’t quite say Pappa and it sounded like Popple. So that was it.

It didn’t take him long to give your momma a nickname. She was his Punkin Doodle. I have absolutely no idea what a Punkin Doodle is but that’s what he called her. Popple had a very special relationship with my sister (your Aunt B) and your momma. I always wanted that kind of relationship with my daughter too. And I have it with your momma. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about your momma as you get older. She thinks she rules the roost, but I’ve just let her believe that for almost 32 years. There are some good stories I will tell you. Stick with me Ellie and you will be running this house in no time flat!

Back to my story. After Popple went to heaven, there was nobody who called your momma Punkin Doodle any more. Popple called your Knuckle Dustin, PeeWee and I always have called him PeeWee and now YOU can call him Knuckle PeeWee! But when Popple died, the name Punkin Doodle faded away.

The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that Every Poppo Needs a PUNKIN DOODLE….so there you go. That’s your name. You are my Punkin Doodle. After having met you, it fits. I still don’t know what it means, but when I saw you, I knew I had made the right choice. My daddy would be proud of me and he would so love you.

The third thing I want to tell you is that this family is CRAZY! The more I hang around them, the more I realize that the only sane ones left are Scooter, Little Bit and Poppo! You have joined a very exclusive club. You will meet them all — Nana, Knuckle PeeWee, Aunty Em (I just decided that’s what you would call her), Granny (don’t even get me started) and ALL the rest. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but again…stick with me. I will guide you through the maze of craziness and you will come to love all of them. They really are cool people!

Finally, I want to tell you about your momma and daddy. They have their quirks but I can already tell that they love you more than anything. They have that look in their eyes when they look at you. Your parents are going to teach you so many things as you grow that will help you later on in life. I have watched them mature and grow since they got married and I’m convinced they are ready for the challenge. You won’t always agree with them and there will be times when you don’t like them very much. That’s ok. Just remember they are doing the most important job that God every gave to people — raising children. They are going to tell you about Jesus and they are going to show you what it means to love Jesus and follow Him. Watch them, listen to them, cut them a lot of slack — they really are doing the best they can.

You are a blessing and miracle from God for us. I look forward to watching you grow and I can’t wait until you are big enough to play with us. It’s going to be a blast! I’ve gotten quite good at this whole Poppo thing, if I do say so myself.

Punkin Doodle, always remember that God has a special plan for you and there is absolutely NOTHING you cannot do when you follow Him and trust Him. Nana and I love you and I promise you can always count on us.

Welcome to our world! Let’s go have some fun.