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9th Birthday Letters

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Happy NINTH Birthday, Thomas! Can you believe this time next year you’ll be in the double digits?

You continue to bring a lot of energy and laughter to our family. We have enjoyed playing corn hole with you this summer and traveling to the mountains and the beach. You can turn anything into a game and if you have a spare second you usually have a ball in your hand or are working on your next move on the ninja course. You have a lot of physical strength, endurance, and athletic gifts. The goal for you is to face challenges (gutter balls in bowling!) without giving up. We don’t expect you to be the best at everything. Instead, we want you to do your best and to keep getting better at your own level. 

Flag football is certainly an example of something you excel at. You make a lot of crucial plays and are very quick with the ball. Dad has really enjoyed coaching you. We noticed how you always look to the sidelines to make sure we saw your performance. We are so proud of you, not because you are good, but because of your character and your spirit. Though you look for—and have—our approval, remember that it is God alone whom you should please and honor. 

Because a lot of things come quickly and easily for you, we often pray and look for ways for you to be challenged and tested. A few things happened that we did not see coming. First, your second grade teacher left suddenly mid-year and you had to adapt to a lot of new dynamics. You did very well. Second, you were waitlisted for camp for three months. Throughout this time, we prayed with you for God to move in these situations. We hope that you learned from these minor trials and feel strengthened in your faith for the bigger trials that will come as you get older.

Making friends continues to come easily for you. We love how eager you are to meet and welcome new friends and students. It is a strength of yours to include new people and not just stick to old, familiar friends. Your friend group continues to evolve, but as long as the guy is willing to play a game of pickup football, you are fast friends. We know you are aware of things that might be popular around you, from types of clothing to the latest video games. Yet, we pray that you will not feel pressured to be like everyone else, but confident enough to be yourself and to make wise choices. There are a lot of friends (and brothers) who look up to you and need your encouragement. May you have a tender heart that is more concerned with being a friend than getting a friend. 

While in the mountains for boys’ weekend, you selected faithfulness as your word for the year. Somebody who is faithful is reliable and available—we see these qualities in you as you can be counted on. As you grow we pray your faithfulness will help lift up those on your team who fall down, those in your classroom who may feel left out, those who need a hug, or those who need to laugh. We hope that one day you will hear Jesus say “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23

Love you always,

Mom and Dad

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Dear Jack,

Today you are NINE! It’s your last birthday before double digits. When we reflect on you at age nine, we are most struck by your maturity. You are often helpful to mom (whose love language is “acts of service”) by prepping an entire meal, cleaning things up, or vacuuming. You also have a tendency to function like the big brother, by helping James and Thomas out when they forget instructions or leave their belongings behind. In that way, you are a very responsible child. Furthermore, you are a determined child, saving your money so you can have a savings account just like Ellie. 

We also see your maturity in the ways you interact with us and with others. You have a knack for conversation and ask great questions usually well-attuned to the emotions of a given situation. You might ask, “Are you sad that that happened?” Your wisdom and thoughtfulness are better than many adults. We also admire your vocabulary. You requested some pasta for dinner and said you were “inspired by Mimi’s cooking.” You also commented recently that a rabid fox was “ferocious.” Above all, your sense of humor continues to bring a smile to our faces. We find ourselves wanting to recount a story or show you a video just to get a laugh out of you.

As you have grown this year, you have also demonstrated your independence. You like to be distinct from your brothers, having chosen your own sport to play, your own friends, and even your own tv shows so you can watch alone and at your leisure. The challenge is for you to balance this by being more flexible and accommodating when you have to compromise. 

In your friendships, we have especially enjoyed watching you grow close to Paul. We knew he was special when you decided to forgo your favorite PB&J to be able to sit at the peanut-free lunch table with him. You have chosen your friends wisely and we are thankful you have found friends who make you laugh and smile. 

In sports, you branched out on your own and played soccer without James and Thomas. You were a great leader, an agile and quick player, as well as a reliable defender for your team. You like to work hard, you have a strategic mind, and you have a lot of endurance; this seems to be a great fit for you. 

Dad has also appreciated your willingness to bike and run with him. He is always amazed by your positive attitude and strength to go the distance. You seem to be learning, just like Mom and Dad, that sometimes the best way to deal with a crazy day is to get some exercise. One day soon you’ll be running right with him (and even beating him!). Reading The Princess Bride with Dad and playing games with Mom are highlights for us. 

Today you come home from your first time at sleep away camp and in a few weeks you start third grade. These are big milestones, but we have full confidence in the ways God has equipped you. This year you chose brave as your word because you knew that you would face a lot of exciting challenges this year like summer camp. So we hope that as you continue to grow you will remember God’s promise: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

With much love,

Mom and Dad

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Dear James,

Happy 9th Birthday! Can you believe next year you will be TEN?! One of our favorite things about you is what an observant child you are and how well you listen to people’s stories. That sensitivity to others and your ability to truly listen to them and what is important to them is such a gift. It is a joy to watch God grow and develop that in you. Related, is your ability to recall and understand Bible stories and facts. You clearly see the gospel narrative woven into the stories and characters of the Bible. We hope you never forget how big God’s love and forgiveness is; they are so much bigger than any mistake you could ever make. 

During boys weekend you chose a strong word for the year: valor. You were drawn to this word because of the character in Warrior Kid. A man of valor is one who does what is right for the benefit of others, which requires the use of your strength and tender heartedness . We see in you a capable and confident boy, and as you learn to not fear failure you will be strengthened by God because, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10

Even though you are strong and tall, you still have a sensitive, cuddly side to you. You LOVE to sit on Mom’s lap and request a back rub. This is reassuring to both of you, especially when feelings can get hurt and arguments escalate. We face conflict because you are independent and like to argue your side of things. Yet, you can also surprise us with very sweet and loving comments. You also continue to have a strong bond with Ellie. She laughs at you while Mom and Dad might get exasperated with you. We haven’t yet figured out why you are so willing to do what she tells you to do, but not what we ask you to do!

Currently, you are testing the waters. You experiment with what you can get away with…burping, using certain words, coming back later than you should from a neighbor’s house, and delaying in something we have asked you to do. You’re also figuring out what is funny or not. You say things in a way that is both hilarious and appalling at the same time. We love that you keep us on our toes and make us sharpen our parenting skills.

Dad has really enjoyed coaching you in flag football. He knows he can count on you in key plays. You are a very enthusiastic teammate as you root for all the players to do their best. You are fiercely competitive and you show your frustration and elation without reservation. We love that you want others and the whole team to succeed, not just yourself. 

Mom has enjoyed playing you in ping pong and darts. She would enjoy it more if you would stop beating her. 

As you enter into this next year, our prayer is that we would communicate our love to you well, that you would be quicker to take responsibility for your mistakes, and that God’s grace would abound in all of us. 

We are forever grateful that you are our precious middle son!

Love always,

Mom and Dad

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Ellie,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

You seem so much more mature than eleven. It’s almost as if you are eleven and three months-old.

Seriously, if you thought we didn’t make mistakes, you now have written proof. Your official 11th bday letter slipped by us. So, you get this one, fittingly, on your last week of elementary school. 

You continue to amaze us and challenge us, like any pre-teen should. Academically, you continue to excel. You enjoyed rotating through all the teachers for your subjects and you seem to have aptitude in all subject areas. We have always told you we are more concerned with your effort and actual learning than letter grades. One way you demonstrated these values is by your recent attempt to take your spelling homework to a new level. Instead of simply writing sentences for each word, you turned those sentences into a string of sentences that told a story. Very clever and demonstrative of your current mindset and personality. 

At your age, it is hard to separate school from social things. Your friends are a significant part of what you do in and out of school. True to yourself, you made friends with new students this year, which was as significant to them as it is to you. You choose friends that are sweet and thoughtful, but also that make you laugh. We enjoy getting to witness your joy when they are around. We are thankful for Milly and Reese, among others. Our prayer is that you will continue to be a friend to all and grow deeper in your friendships with those closest to you. 

Spiritually, you continue to grow and explore. It seems that the most significant part of your faith journey this year is your “Bible with Parent” assignments. You and Dad seemed to have very interesting conversations about the Lord’s Prayer, various other passages, and about selecting your life verse. Your selection of Romans 15:13 was an encouragement to Dad because he was not aware of that scripture and found its imagery powerful.

At this stage in your life there are many physical changes. Your doctor said you are getting very tall. You’re only a bit shorter than mom and can wear most of her shoes. Symbolically, you have a tendency to want to be a mother to your brothers. They drive you crazy a lot and you believe you could be more effective at parenting them than we are. Though there may be some truth to that, we keep reminding you to enjoy this stage of life and not worry about being a grownup just yet. 

You have taken on another physical challenge in the form of climbing team. It has been amazing to see you grow in strength and skill. You seem to thrive in this sport, particularly because it utilizes your gifts in problem-solving, strategizing, and determination. The best time of the week for your dad is not only the time together in the gym, but more importantly the time driving over to the gym when questions about life, funny stories and great music can be shared. Dad will treasure these moments.

Many things await you. Three-week summer camp, a mission trip to Peru, and middle school. In all these things we have peace and confidence knowing that your faith, your wit, your perseverance, your determination and your gentle spirit will carry you far.

We are incredibly proud of who you are and are eager to witness how you shine as you journey forth.

With much love,

Mom and Dad

2017 Time Capsule

About this time last year, I stumbled upon an idea (somewhere?) of encouraging family members to write down highlights that happen during the year and to place them in a designated jar. So, on New Year’s Eve we read through the memories we captured from the year. It was a wonderful way to remember some special moments that we might have otherwise forgotten. A new tradition has been born and I hope we continue this for years to come. 
Here’s what we noted, in no particular order:

F3 Dads Camp 

Alaska trip

Boys weekend–getting Bibles

Rock Climbing at Crowder’s Mtn.

Mom falling out of the raft at the White Water Center

Mom and Dad’s ping pong “date”

Carowinds

Panthers-Bills game

Snow day

PGA Tourney

Fishing–catching the brim who ate the worm and the bass who ate the brim…

Eclipse

New school friends

Dad’s doctorate

Mom starting work

Black light party at Inner Peaks

Ellie and Jack’s “marathon”

Grandparents Camp at High Hampton

NYC–Ellie and Mom

Mary Poppins–Children’s Theater

Almost missing flight in Denver

Ellie’s fondue birthday party

Boys’ pool party

New treehouse in backyard

Christmas 2017

Bye Summer, Hello School

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We had a fantastic summer. Our trip to Alaska tops the list and we have many memories to cherish. We also spent time with grandparents in Denver and Cashiers. Ellie did an engineering camp and her third summer at overnight camp, both of which she loved.

The boys got to go with Wes to an F3 dads camp and they loved all of the activities and nonstop excitement. Jack did a Lego robotics camp where he learned as much about Leogs as he did about being tolerant of younger kids. James did golf camp and continues to excel. Thomas did lacrosse camp and has added another new sport to his long lists of favorites.

Last week we went to Carowinds (Amusement Park). Fun times were had by all. Ellie loved each and every roller coaster and ride. Thomas liked roller coasters the least, but he kept mom company. Jack and James were brave to try many things.

Last night, fall sports started for the boys. Jack is playing soccer and he is confident and comfortable on a team without his brothers. James and Thomas are playing flag football and practicing their skills at home constantly.

Today is the first day of 5th grade for Ellie. She will get to rotate through classes with three different teachers this year in anticipation of middle school. The boys begin 2nd grade. We feel so good about where they are.

Wes is looking forward to more time for productive work in his home office that is now much quieter. I look forward to quieter days, time to myself, and tackling projects. Give us a month and we will be longing for the laid back days of summer again!

 

 

 

Annual birthday letters….

JJT

Dear James,

Happy 8th Birthday, big guy! You are such a treasure to us. Never, ever doubt that we love you completely. Thank you for being someone who knows what you want and who isn’t afraid to tell us exactly how you feel. Sometimes your comments can hurt our feelings or be delivered in a harsh tone, but we appreciate your decisiveness and desire to be understood. We are confident your argumentative and dogmatic disposition will serve you well as an adult in your profession and so we are tasked with helping to understand and temper it in the present. You are also working to accept and admit your mistakes. Doing so doesn’t make you weak, but actually humble and strong. You are getting it!

You and your dad are a lot alike. Once you asked him, “What does G-O-B spell?” to which your father replied, “That spells ‘job’ but it is J-O-B.” You quickly responded, “That’s what I said.” And your exasperated father said, “No, you started with a “G”—you are such a strong-willed child.” Without missing a beat you replied, “Thank you for saying that—I like that you called me strong.” With humility and coach-ability, your determination will take you far.

This is why, while in Speculator, you asked for prayer for obedience this year. This you saw modeled in Jesus in Hebrews 5:8 when it says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Obedience comes through doing the hard things we do not want to do.

Our most recent adventure to Alaska proved that you are an adventurous eater. There wasn’t a thing you refused to try. It was fun exposing you to some of our special favorites like lobster, scallops, lamb, and even caviar. You are also developing your cooking skills, so we anticipate some new adventures in the kitchen.

You absolutely loved school this year. It also piqued your interest to study geography and world flags at home. Your teachers awarded you the “Biblical Knowledge” award for your deep understanding of the scriptures and your ability to make connections between passages. That means so much to us to see you absorbing it into your own heart. You made good friends this year, especially Cole. You are a thoughtful friend, always concerned not to leave people out or hurt their feelings. Ellie also has a special relationship with you, most likely because of your tender heart toward her.

Your golf abilities are really taking off. In fact, you recently beat Dad in a legitimate game. Mimi and Papa also enjoyed playing with you. You are very patient with golf and we need to commit to helping you grow in the game. You are eager to play any sport and you are good about grabbing a basketball and shooting hoops when you have spare time. You also take an active interest in watching sports and frequently ask to print out playoff brackets or league standings to assist your viewing.

We enjoy our time with you and are grateful to be your parents. We are so proud of who God has made you to be.

We love you very much,

Mom and Dad

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Jack,

Happy, happy 8th Birthday! You have had an eventful year with starting school full time, making new friends, and traveling to Albany, NY and Alaska in addition to our trips to Denver, Amelia, and Cashiers (many times!).

We love your sense of humor and how we can count on you to laugh at our silly stories or strange jokes. Maybe because of your fun spirit, you are excellent at reading with expression. You are also very caring and can pick up on others’ feelings. You sense when things are stressful and will ask, “Are you okay, mom?” Often, you will step right up and help with whatever needs to be done. You have a good intuition about how to be helpful and we find you are dependable and trustworthy, which are important values to us. One thing that you’ve been pointing out recently is how you don’t like crowds. You are aware of when you might encounter more people (like on a hot weekend at the pool) and you prefer to avoid that. It seems that you prefer smaller, quieter gatherings and that’s just fine.

At school this year, you did an amazing job. We, of course, love that you do well on your schoolwork and persevere when things are hard or you are tired. However, we are even more pleased with how well you behaved. Your teachers could count on you to make good choices and obey their instructions even when others were not. A month into school, we noticed that you had worn a big hole in the seat of your pants! Then we discovered it was because you were working hard to sit still while the other boys were disruptive. As we have prayed for and worked with you on your sense of self-control, it was encouraging to see the efforts you are putting in.

Your teachers also recognized you with an award for “Honesty,” noting that you would be honest even if it meant you had to admit doing something wrong. It has been a little hard for you to make friends at school. It is overwhelming being new and finding out which boys you would like to get to know better. Our hope is that your second year at school will allow you to deepen your relationships and start to develop some good friends. You had fun when Noah J. moved in down the street for a few months. And, you are a good friend to our neighbors.

The other day, dad found you climbing the door jam in the front of the house. He laughed as you scaled to the top and hung from the molding. You, like your sister, like to focus on activities that you can diligently work on by yourself. This summer you got partnered with a younger camper at Lego camp and became frustrated when the boy would disassemble your work. The challenge you face is that often your friends and family will undo the hard work you put in to making things organized and smooth. When you face those challenges, we hope you can draw on the stable love of Christ.

In New York, you picked “Gratitude” as your word with the verse: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…with gratitude in your heart to God (Colossians 3:16).

We are so thankful God has placed you in our family.

We love you so very much,

Mom and Dad

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Thomas,

It’s your big day, Mr. Eight-year-old! This is your kind of day, filled with people, friends, activities, special food, and gifts. One of your greatest gifts is your ability to connect with people, just like your dad. People want to be your friend and you make the effort to build those relationships. You also have a confidence about yourself. You know that you do a lot of things well and you are happy to share your enthusiasm with others. We are currently working with you on being more attuned to others’ needs and feelings and being willing to sacrifice yourself for others. Gathering a crowd is the easy thing, but leading people is hard work that takes sacrifice, compassion and selflessness.

One of the proudest moments we had was at the end of the basketball season. You and James were two of the top scorers on the team, but at the end of the last basketball game, every member of the team had scored a basket in the game except the youngest player. You were very intentional in passing the ball to him so he could make a basket. At the buzzer, he finally sunk a basket because you were persistent in encouraging him. This is an example of you living out the John 15:13 verse you chose in Speculator as your verse on friendship: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

School was a highlight for you this past year. You excelled in all academic areas and showed great behavior. We were regularly amazed by your quick mind and your ability to memorize complicated memory verses after seeing them once or twice. Your teacher worked hard to keep you challenged. She honored you with the “Leadership” award. We see this as something you have demonstrated, but also as something you are working toward. Good leaders are always refining their skills and willing to learn and grow.

Sports are definitely your thing and you take to them quickly. You recently started lacrosse and seemed to really like it. It is very new to us, so we are learning as we go. You also got very good at baseball in the spring. You love being a part of a team and get a great thrill in improving and making good plays. It will be interesting to see where you decide to focus your efforts and talents as you develop your own path apart from Jack and James.

May the year ahead be filled with all the things you love and enjoy. We are so thankful for the joy and love you bring to our home and our hearts.

Love always,

Mom and Dad

img_9492Ellie had her school friends over today for a fondue party. It was in honor of her 10th Birthday, but it was more about just having a chance to play with her friends while Wes is away with the boys.

Ellie has always been very good at making wise choices in friends. Until this year, she had connected with individuals, often not being one to associate with a particular group. This year, she had only five girls in her class. I was a little concerned as the new student that she would have a tough time breaking into an established group. However, I have been very relieved to find the other girls very welcoming and incredibly sweet. Tonight I had the first chance to see the girls with each other for an extended period of time and away from school. It blew me away.

The girls have an amazing connection. They came up with their own activities, which included Capture the Flag, Sardines, and an impromptu dance party/gift opening thing. They laughed hysterically, they got loud talking over one another and trying to tell each other stories, and one girl even cried. Before they ate dinner, I asked if anyone wanted to pray. I suspected I would be the one to offer a short prayer by default. Yet, one girl piped up and said she would like to do it. Several others said they wanted to as well. It turned into a “popcorn prayer” where each girl thanked God for Ellie and mentioned a particular quality or trait they loved about her. It was incredibly sweet.

In the end, I had a very joyous feeling realizing that Ellie has found her people. This is a group of girls with whom she shares so much: intelligence, faith, affinity for active fun, and a good sense of humor and confidence. She will grow up with most of these girls. They may be some of her closest friends in life and they will likely be the ones to cause her great pain, too. But, there is reassurance in seeing them today and knowing that this is where she is meant to be and the people with whom she is meant to share life.

So blessed!

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Happy 10th, Ellie!

View More: http://ericamarkphotography.pass.us/barry-family

 

February 27, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Ellie!

You are only a little bit shorter than us these days. There is no more bending down to talk to you or reach you. Wow! The day you were born (which feels like just yesterday) was one of the happiest days of our lives. We didn’t know how much joy and love you would bring into our lives. It continues to bring us much joy to see your contentment in life in this season.

You seem to be thriving in school and with friends. You have adapted to a new school, persevered through timed math tests and a new Spanish curriculum, and received your first letter grades (you rocked them!). You have always made good choices in friends (like Ava, Rachel, and Caroline), so we are glad you have made new friends (like Katie, Kate, and Milling), with whom you seem to share a lot of similarities.

Besides the expected academic growth we have seen in you, we have noticed how school has helped you to grow spiritually. In particular, your prayers have been thoughtful and meaningful. No longer do you copy what you have heard others say, but your prayers are your genuine feelings, hopes, and fears that you are offering to God. Thank you for sharing this with us.

You have continued piano lessons and you seem to enjoy them. You joined the school choir and you put on a wonderful performance. Your newest endeavor is the climbing team at Inner Peaks. We have appreciated this outlet that allows you to challenge yourself, build strength, and escape from the every day things of life.

As you mature physically, you are also growing emotionally. You have a lot of strong opinions and frustrations. It’s just plain hard to get what you want when there are five other people at home with competing desires, preferences, activity levels, and volume! We continue to pray about this and to work on it. We hope you will always know we care and we listen even if things don’t turn out as you want them to. We do love you dearly and want what is best for you even if our decisions don’t make you happy. Our hope is that you would be able to love and respect others even when you disagree. (This is still something we are working toward each day, too.)

The recent trip to NYC with mom was a definite highlight. You are very mature and a delight to be around. Your enthusiasm about making your own ice cream, getting to the top of the Empire State Building, and braving the subway have created lasting memories for both of us. You bravely entered the G-force simulator with a stranger, where you were tossed side-to-side and upside-down. This is symbolic of this new era as you enter the double digits. Life is going to be hard sometimes and you will feel like you’re being tossed around. But, just as the ride ended safely, as you journey on in Christ, He will always steady you no matter your circumstances.

Love to a special girl who makes us so proud,

Mom and Dad