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!!!!!

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

 

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