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I have a running list of comments, phrases, and one liners from Madison that I keep in my phone. I started collecting them when she started talking because almost as soon as she said something that had me laughing hysterically, she said something else funny that made me forget it entirely. I'm not sure if these are amusing to anyone else or just my wife, Allison, and me since we're her parents, but I have a feeling we'll look back one day enjoying that we captured some of her random comments (click here for more).

MADISON:  I want a sandwich for dinner.
ME:  You got it dude.
MADISON:  I'm not a dude! I'm a rock star.


Maroon 5 is playing on the radio...
MADISON:  So is this a boy? Or is this a girl?


Looking at the Orange Juice bottle...
MADISON:  Why does that orange have a straw sticking out of it?
ME:  It's called marketing.
MADISON:  It's called weird.


Adjusting a plastic crown on her head...
MADISON:  You know, you can never have too many tiaras.


While shopping, I hold up a large shirt...
ME:  Do you like this nightgown?
MADISON:  It's more like a nightmare.


August 31, 2016

It came much faster than we ever anticipated. We closed our eyes to blink and when we opened them again, it was the first day of Kindergarten. She looped her arms through the pink straps of her new backpack and reached for my hand then her mother’s hand and we walked her into the building. We walked her down the hall and forced ourselves to let go, to let go of her hand, to let go of our baby girl, to let go and let God , to let go and let her teacher help us shape her into the best version of herself.

We put a lot of thought into choosing the correct school for her and it was important to us that we find somewhere that would challenge and develop her academically but also encourage and shape her ever-growing faith. We wanted a sense of community that included God in the curriculum because He’s just as important in the classroom as He is outside of it. We wanted to give her every opportunity to learn as much as she can about everything she can to be the best person we know she can be.

Train up a child in the way they should go; when they are older they will not depart from it. 
Proverbs 22:6

The night before, I listened to the muted conversations between her and her mother while she bathed. I listened to the giggles that bubbled up and floated down the hall. I listened to the questions she asked focusing more on the sound of her five year old voice, soft and curious and excited and sweet. I listened to the soundtrack of childhood our walls are absorbing - tales of ripped and repaired dolls, bedtime stories read until memorized, familiar tunes with improvised lyrics, infamous eves to birthdays and Christmas and now Kindergarten.

Time flies, it’s not just a cliché. Tears fall, it’s not just a myth. We pulled away from the school we just walked out of leaving her there and we counted the minutes until we would see her again while trying desperately to ignore the parallel rivers running races down our faces. We pulled ourselves together in the hours between dropping her off and picking her up and soaked in every detail she gave us once she was with us again. Our little girl. Our pride and joy. Our love personified. Our Kindergartner.

Read about Madison's first days of preschool: Preschool 2013, Preschool 2014, Pre-K.


August 24, 2016

“Hold me,” she says. She looks at me with her big brown eyes and lifts her arms up waiting for me to oblige and I do, every single time. I lean over and pick her up and position her on my hip and she rests her head on my shoulder just as she did when she was barely a year old, just as she did when she was two, then three, just as she did last year. "Thank you," she whispers.

Her legs have gotten longer and now stretch further than they used to. In a few months, her toes might finally reach my knees yet we both refuse to acknowledge that fact. Instead she tucks her legs into her chest any time she feels the truth of her size threatening to reveal itself. She wraps her arms around my neck and plays with the collar of my shirt and if I’m lucky, she’ll giggle in my ear if I pretend to drop her.

She took her first steps the day after she turned one. I watched her tiny fingers pull away from the ottoman in our living room and she fanned them out, extending her arms like wings, and took several short steps before reaching the glass door that leads to our screened in porch. Her chubby feet, square and soft, padded across the wood planks of the floor and I watched my little bird take flight.

As time draws line after line in the sand whispering promises of today becoming yesterday, next week becoming last, beginnings marking the endings in their wake, I can’t help but see how much my baby isn’t such a baby any longer. Her hair has changed texture and her perspective has grown wider, her questions have provoked more thought and sometimes I struggle to answer them. However, when she asks me to hold her – the answer is always yes.

The other day, we were waiting in line to order ice cream from our local creamery when she looked up and told me she was tired of standing. I scooped her up and felt her limbs wrap around me while she whispered ice cream flavors in my ear. We navigated our way through the line, picked our flavors, and left. At some point, the lady in front of us leaned over to her friend and said, “That kid is way too big to be held”. 

I said nothing in return because I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of my daughter or make her feel insecure because I acknowledged that the comments of a stranger affected me. I continued discussing the colors and flavors and waffle cones and sprinkles with my five year old because our conversation was positive and fun, not out of line nor out of place, it wasn’t pertaining to something that was ultimately none of our business.

That kid is way too big to be held. That kid is growing up fast, a reality any parent knows all too well. That kid finds security and safety in my arms and I would never deny her of that. That kid brings her issues to me, whether they vary from tired feet or a missed nap or impatience when standing in long lines or the puncture wounds from sharp words, and I will always do my best to hold them for her. 

That kid is way too big to be held. That may be true, but that kid will one day stop asking me to hold her. I will put her down one night and not pick her up again the next day because the years pile up quickly, because while she’s getting older so am I. That kid will inevitably become an adult, but for now I'm allowing her to be little. That kid is not yours. That kid is my own and as long as she’s asking to lean on me, I’ll let her. 

“Hold me,” she says. She looks at me with her big brown eyes and lifts her arms up waiting for me to oblige and I do, every single time. I lean over and pick her up and position her on my hip and she rests her head on my shoulder just as she did when she was barely a year old, just as she did when she was two, then three, just as she did last year. "Thank you," she whispers. 

"Thank you," I whisper back.


August 17, 2016

I searched the face she painted for a sign of familiarity. I looked through the brush strokes of the background and pictured the curve of her hand when she painted the eyes. I tried to see beyond the stiff texture and the smell of childhood from the paper I was holding, a craft project she brought home from preschool. One of many subjects her mother and I sort through over time to decide what stays and what eventually will go, visual representations of her imagination time stamped by her age.

“Who is this?” I asked. A question laced with enthusiasm in hopes it would be contagious. There’s a thin line between complimenting and offending when attempting to guess the subject of a new, brightly colored creation. I waited for her to respond with a friend’s name from her class or a character from one of her favorite movies or an imaginary person she dreamed up while discussing art, but she didn’t answer with any of those. She stated who I was looking at without even thinking about it.

“Me!” she said. One word. Short and sweet.

My wife and I exchanged a glance, a parenting moment we’ve perfected over the last several years, a conversation between us full of words that aren’t verbalized, confused and concerned. Our daughter has brown hair, not blonde as this picture depicted. Our daughter has the perfect blend of my dark brown mixed with her mother’s natural auburn, a beautiful shade not found in a bottle or a salon, a color all her own. We relayed those same thoughts to her and listened to her explanation in return.

“That’s me,” she told us again.

She told us her two best friends had blonde hair, which is true, but differences between people is what ultimately brings them together. She told us her favorite princesses had blonde hair, which is true until we reminded her of Belle and Snow White. She told us she wanted to dye her hair but she knew we wouldn’t let her, which is true for now because the color of her hair shouldn’t be on her current list of priorities. She tabled the discussion and told us we would talk about it later, which is true, we will if she chooses to.

Several months have passed and she hasn’t mentioned it, but I know the day is coming when she’ll ask to straighten her curls or curl the strands that have straightened themselves. The day is coming when she’ll want to cut it short or grow it out or highlight it or streak it or dye it all one color. That day is not today. However, we saved the self-portrait she painted when she was four because as much as we try to help her see herself through our eyes - we realize it’s just as important we see her through her own.


August 10, 2016

I shoved her feet into her yellow rain boots one Monday morning in April, first the left then the right, and held her hands as she hopped off the bottom step. “Why is it called a cow PIE, silly, if I can’t eat it?” she asked. I grabbed the camera and her mother grabbed the keys and we laughed as we closed the door behind us. 

It was her first field trip and we had a date with several cows at a local dairy farm.

We met her teachers and her classmates and their parents at the farm before being herded into a large wagon pulled by a tractor that would give us a tour of the feeding fields. We listened as they told us about their humble beginnings and the types of cows they have and when they sprung a pop quiz on the group, Madison was the first to raise her hand.

“What kind of cows do we have on our farm?” the guide asked.

“The kind we get milk from!” she answered. Smart girl.

Eventually we abandoned the wagon and tractor to finish the tour on foot. We saw the smaller pasture with the pregnant cows that were close to giving birth before moving on to another area nearby where the “teenage” cows were held for temperament observation. Finally, we arrived at the section we’d been waiting for – the calves.

The guide explained a calf doesn’t have teeth and mentioned we could pet them. All the kids immediately stepped up (myself included) to get licked by a baby cow with their sandpaper tongues. We watched our baby girl rub her tiny fingers over the head of another baby and watched the world, as she knew it, get a little bigger.

We toured the processing building to see where and how the cows were milked, a daily ritual they were all accustomed to, and we stood in the exact room where the milk in our fridge at home is collected in. We learned how the entire process worked from beginning to end, from birth to the store shelves.

Afterwards, we were treated to ice cream made from the milk of the cows in the pasture next to us. Madison laughed with her classmates and played with her best friend and they peeked through the cow cutout masks they were given as souvenirs and while this was her first official field trip, we couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves in the process, too. 

We thanked everyone involved and promised to encourage our friends and family to stop by and as we were walking towards our vehicle, bellies full of ice cream and a head full of new information, Madison asked again about cow pies. "Take a deep breath," I replied. "Do you smell that? Those are fresh cow pies baking right now."

With a wrinkled nose and squinted eyes she said, "Then let's mooooooooooove on!" I love this kid.


August 3, 2016

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