My sweet baby big boy Eli,

You are one precious child. Your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are all nuts about you. We see how adorable you are, but it's not just your family that notices. Everyone loves you, Eli- kids, babies, adults- even strangers. I've even heard random mothers of your baseball teammates comment on how angelic you are. People gravitate toward your innocence, sweetness, and that gorgeous face that radiates gentleness.

I love how good you are. You obey the rules, and you have a pure conscious. You love to make your mommy and daddy proud. I don't think you've ever even been in time-out. You don't talk back, and you are respectful to everyone. Several times throughout the day, you calmly confess, "Love you mom" out of nowhere. I think it secretly turns her to mush.

You are such a loving brother. Your baby sister adores you, because you are so tender and kind. She truly lights up when you're around. At just six months old, she loves to watch you, whether you're dribbling your basketball in the kitchen or playing on the floor with your trucks, and I swear her eyes twinkle when you run up to cuddle her. You are a loyal little brother too. Once I proudly showed you that your darling face was the wallpaper on my cell phone, and you looked down and softly responded, "You should have Owen on 'der." I explained that I alternate my background photo between all of you, but I found it so admirable that you felt I was playing favorites, and you didn't like it. If someone invites you to go somewhere, you always ensure, "Is Owen going too?" You don't like to go many places without him. At first you even refused to go to preschool by yourself this year, since Owen would be in Kindergarten at a different school. But you did, and you thrived. By the way, he feels the same way about you. Not long ago, when you had fallen asleep on the couch, he just didn't know what to do with himself! He felt lost without his best buddy to play with.

                                                Oh, my heart...

                                                Oh, my heart...

You are so intelligent. Your teachers agree. You started reading and writing early, and you could count to 100 before anyone else in your class. The best part is, you're so nonchalant about it. You don't seem to realize how bright you are.

I love your handwriting. I treasure everything you color for me and write to me. I always will.

I love that you enjoy playing with the big boys, but you know your limits. You're an introvert, and you recognize when you need a little solo time. I need breaks to restore my energy too (middle children unite!), but sometimes I get embarrassed to tell people. You, however, just move with courage indoors or over to another area to play by yourself. You don't worry too much about missing out on something else. You just know when it's time to be alone. That is so unique for a five-year-old. It's like you understand yourself already. I hope you always feel confident enough to grant yourself space when you need it.

I love that you're a homebody. You'll go on adventures, and you always bring so much joy to any vacation or outing, but you prefer to be at home. I love that you like to do art and play with your toys. I love to watch you go to the cabinet to carefully choose an activity. Your mom has always called you her "indoor baby." I guess that's changed a little bit since you've gotten into sports. You definitely enjoy being outside too.

                                            My favorite smile

                                            My favorite smile

Your series of smiles are one the most divine parts about you. My favorite is when you grin with your lips together. You tilt your head slightly, and your expressive, Carolina blue eyes become crescent moons. The dimple on your left cheek is the cherry on top of an already perfect ice cream sundae. You've had this smile since you were a baby. I can imagine you at 20, 30, and 40 lighting up the world with it. I'm pleased when you smile with your teeth though, too, because we get to see that space where your tooth used to be before it got knocked out. It gives you such character. You just wouldn't be our Eli if you had never lost that tooth! It suits you.

I love that when you feel proud of yourself, your chest visibly inflates. It happens when you pet Tozer, Jorey's dog, without fear, or perhaps in spite of it. It happens when you hit the baseball really far or win a game. It happens when I get "mad" at you because you're looking more like a boy and less like a baby.

Watching you play sports is one of my favorite things to do. Eli- this is a big deal, because I don't really like sports! When you were little, I worried that you wouldn't be as athletic as your big brother and that it would trouble you. That was clearly unnecessary to fret over. You are so gifted. You listen to your coaches and work hard, whether you're playing soccer, baseball, basketball, football, or even golf. I find it so entertaining. 

I love your voice. It's not as high-pitched as it used to be, but it's still music to my ears. I love when you try to explain the rules of football to me, or really anything, because it means I get to hear you speak. I love how you can't quite pronounce your R's.

"I'm gonna be FIVE toma-whoa," you said on June 14th, while proudly displaying all five fingers. There goes that puffed up chest again (swoon). Sometimes I ask you questions I already know the answers to, just to hear your explanation.

I love when you whisper and share inside jokes with your brother. I love to hear you giggle. You are often quiet in large groups, but when you finally warm up, you can be really silly. Your mom says you talk a lot at home. She sends me video clips of you telling stories at the dinner table, because she knows I cherish them so much.

I love when you sing- especially "Go Cubs Go." You can really carry a tune, buddy! I love that you appreciate the National Anthem so much. It's precious the way you place your little hand over your heart and sing along when it's being performed on television before a game.

I have to mention your dancing skills, too. Man, you're good! At my wedding, you were tearin' up the dance floor. I'm so happy we have it captured on video. I think you learned this from having dance parties with your dad in the basement. When a song comes on that you know, and you're in a playful mood, look out! I love when I'm there to witness your moves.

I love how sensitive you are. You become visibly upset when your feelings get hurt or if you think you've disappointed someone. If you accidentally spill something or knock a chair over, I'm always quick to say, "No worries," if I'm there, because I know your initial reaction is to cry. I think life can sometimes be more challenging for sensitive people, especially boys, but please know that it's a beautiful quality. Being aware of your feelings will be such a useful trait to have when you grow up too. Stay true to it. Don't stash it away, because then you'll be hiding your gifts too. I believe this will be your greatest strength.


I love your honey-blonde, spiky hair, your perfect nose, your earlobes (weird, I know, but I can't help what I love), and the round shape of your face. Papaw Coy used to call you Handsome Herschel, and Uncle Mop has always said that you look like a young Robert Redford. You are just stunning. I love to touch your cheeks and marvel over your flawless face. You take it pretty well. 

I loved witnessing you Trick-or-Treat on Halloween. "I got a Starburst!" you squealed with delight after the first house. Watching you savor life gives me life.

I loved your performance as the donkey in your school Christmas play. Rivers poured out of my eyes, Eli. It was the most perfect, innocent performance. You sang those songs so loudly. You knew every word. I could just relive that again and again. We think you chose to be the donkey to make your dad proud, and he was.

I love that you know what you like. It's okay that Owen isn't into Monster Trucks like you are- you like them and you don't mind if he doesn't. Even though Owen loves basketball more right now, baseball is your favorite. You're your own person. That's impressive, especially for a second born. (I used to copy your mom a lot when I was little.) 

Speaking of Monster Trucks, I love to tease you about how much I love Madusa, because she's pink. "She's terrible Jenna!" you argue. "She's so slow! Grave Digger is the fastest!" 

I love that even though you are getting so big, you still have that little, delicious morsel of baby left in you that holds your Blankie Bear and occasionally sucks your thumb when you're tired. You know you're not supposed to suck your thumb at school, and once I saw a video that your mom took while picking you up. You were still in the parking lot, and ever the rule follower, you asked, "Can I 'tick' my thumb in now?" I don't think I'll ever forget that. It's comforting to you. I think we will all be a little heartbroken the day that stops.

You seem like a truly happy little boy who knows he is loved. My prayer is that you will always feel this way.

Eli John, you are such a treasure to our family. Happy 5th Birthday, you precious little thing. I love you and everything about you so much. I could go on and on. You're irresistible.