Category Archives: Birthday Letter: Lyle



Dear Lyle,

You know, I loved it when you were a baby. I used to tell anyone who would listen that I wanted to freeze you at whatever age you were, so that I could enjoy that stage for just a little longer. I remember someone thinking that was very strange when you were three months old. But I meant it. And then you were the sweetest little boy, with your big brown dreamy eyes and shy smile, hiding your face in my neck and holding onto me for dear life, basically all the time.

But I’m glad I didn’t freeze you at three months, or age four, or even seven and a half. Because then I wouldn’t have you as a 13-year old today, and sweetie, who you are is magical.

At 13 you are that complicated and delightful combination of young boy and teenager. In one long stream of words you tell me that you’re getting buff and that you are highly impressed with your own tan lines this summer, and then ask if I’ll be coming in to tuck you in soon. Of course, I say, smiling to myself, glad that such a buff child still wants a kiss good night, though I continually stub my toe in the dark on the hand weights you keep next to your bed.

You are extremely independent and confident, navigating your way around this big city on your own. You get yourself to and from school on the CTA, and told me last week that you don’t want to take driver’s ed when you’re in high school, because what was the point? You’d never want a car when you can use public transportation to get everywhere. You had a dream recently in which you were taking the purple line downtown and you found that so strange because everyone knows the purple line goes to Evanston, not downtown, and I lost track of the rest of the dream because I couldn’t believe you were dreaming of CTA lines. On your free days in the summer you meet up with your pal Gabriel, friends since you were three years old, and the two of you have amazing adventures. Sometimes you take the El to get someplace in the neighborhood you could as easily walk  to, and we do like to argue good-naturedly over that one. But the two of you will throw a basketball into a backpack and head off into the neighborhood on your bikes, looking for a free hoop wherever you can find it. You are all about basketball.

And, as always, at 13 you are so very, very funny. Tonight as we were driving over to your birthday dinner, you glanced sidewise at my outfit and said seriously and with a hint of an eye roll in your voice, I didn’t even know you owned that dress – it’s like it came out of nowhere!

Sweet boy, you are sensitive and loving and engaged in the world at all times and athletic and have more emotional intelligence than most adults. What a wonderful combination! I am incredibly grateful to be your mother, and not only because you ask how my day was and actually listen. I cannot wait to see what this year holds for you.

All my love,

Mom xoxoxo





Dear Lyle,

It seems that now you are 12. Holy cow. What does that mean for you?

For starters, 12 is big. Tall. With long legs that seemed to stretch all summer long; in fact, you felt them growing. I wonder if you’ll remember that.

12 is – like ages one through eleven before it – hilariously funny. I often say you were put on this earth to make me laugh every single day. You’re outrageous, or – as your Great-Grandma DB once exclaimed happily after sitting next to you at a meal – you’re a three-ring circus! 12 likes to sleep in my big bed on hot summer nights when the air conditioner is on, and say random things that make me laugh and laugh until I have to tell you to stop once and for all and go to sleep so that I, too, can sleep. 12 is always up for a back rub and a snuggle, and I’m happy to oblige, knowing all too well that a new season of development is just around the corner.

12 likes a challenge – novelty! Anything new is interesting and bears online research, much discussion, and learning more about. I love the curiosity you hold at age 12. On Tuesday your new math teacher taught you a math trick with dice, and the next thing I knew you were off researching dice and card tricks in your room and running out to demonstrate them. Before they were quite learned, mind you. Imagine this only looks like one card, you begin, clearly holding a whole stack of cards. It’s a lucky thing I have a good imagination. This morning I had to ask you to pause your new tricks so that you could eat breakfast.

Last weekend we made a pact at your request, promising that if either of us invented time travel in the future, we’d come back to that exact instant. You were eating pizza and grapes for lunch, and I was folding laundry. It seemed as good a moment as any to return to, and so I agreed. You began to glance furtively around the apartment, hoping, I then realized, that either your clone or mine would appear from the future to join us. I found myself hoping along with you.

But above all, what is new and different about this moment is that 12 is so very independent. 12 takes public transportation with ease and walked to a local park with a friend to swim last week. 12 has begun to go off into the neighborhood on solo adventures. I’m heading out for a bike ride, 12 declares after dinner, stuffing his keys and mobile phone into his shorts pockets. I’ll be back before dark. 12 grabs a basketball and calls out, I’m going to shoot hoops at the park! See you in an hour!

This is an absolutely lovely moment in time with you. You are on the cusp of even more wonderful changes as you begin 7th grade, and I am so grateful to be along on this ride with you. If I invent time travel in the future, I will welcome the chance to come back to visit you in this moment again and again. I’ll bring the deck of cards and a bike helmet.

I love you, sweetheart! Happy Birthday from the bottom of my heart.




Ten is whip-smart. He talks all day, sharing observations about his version of heaven and asking all the questions about divorce that other kids won’t ask and the sale of our house and something that happened five years ago. Ten wonders about and then remembers everything.

Ten loves big roller coasters and karate and his bike. He will swim all day if you let him. Ten will hop on a charter bus in a YMCA parking lot and head off to a new overnight camp out of state, not knowing a blessed soul, and have a great time. Ten wants as many gummy worms on his ice cream as humanly possible.

Ten is a loyal friend, especially if you are a similarly smart, cynical, and -underneath it all- very sensitive boy. Ten has no time for girls. He used to be shy, observed a neighbor this summer. Now he’s just selective.

Ten has a sense of style that’s all his own. This sometimes means a zip-up rainbow tie with a pink polo shirt. And madras shorts. With black high top chucks. All at the same time. Ten dresses with pride but don’t try to take his picture: he won’t have it.

Ten is beyond hilarious, leaving his family in stitches every other time he opens his mouth. Do you ever get tired of being random?, Ten recently asked me as he was falling asleep. No, I really don’t, I told him. Me neither, he replied happily.

Ten insists on bedtime cuddles, skinny little boy arms wrapped tightly around me as he falls asleep at night, usually right after lodging at least one heartfelt complaint about having to move out of his house or navigating parents who are split up or going back to school too soon. And then he wakes up smiling all over again in the morning.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo. Ten is amazing.

Nine is Divine

ImageMommy? Wouldn’t it be cool if we discovered that this whole life we’re living was actually a dream? And then I’d wake up and hear a doctor say, “It’s a boy!” because it would turn out I’d been dreaming it the whole time I was in your tummy.

Happy 9th Birthday to Lyle, a boy whose keen intelligence, sharp humor and lovely sense of wonder make me see the world differently every single day.

Now You are Six.

Dear Lyle,

Once upon a time, you were a little baby. An extremely cute one, at that. See over there to the left? There’s some proof.

But sweetheart, that was a long time ago. Because today you are six. Six is an age that sounds old. That’s because it is.

Yes, you’re starting first grade soon and maybe someday when you’re all grown up and reading this you’ll laugh about your silly mama thinking first grade was old and mature. In order to think so, you’d have to have been there right from the start.

But let me tell you a little about who you are at age six. Because, you see, you’re already shaping up to be a very interesting person.  When I was about to turn six, I wandered around my street in Hartford and told all the neighbors. On my birthday, a mortifying number of them showed up with gifts for me, according to my mother. I was interesting, too. Thanks for not being interesting in that exact same way, kiddo, I do appreciate it.

You are funny.

Oh, boy, are you funny. Your impressions are spot on and you have comedic timing that frightens me. When your humor turns mouthy it simultaneously scares me for your future and reminds me of myself and your Uncle Josh when we were kids. I had this coming. Last winter your violin teacher watched you performing for yourself in the mirror in your own special way and commented that you’re “the next Jim Carrey”. I’m not sure I’d have paid attention had not Daddy and I said the same exact thing the week before. More than one person has suggested you should have your own reality TV show. You’d bring in high ratings.

You are, apparently, an “angel”.

At school you only show your quiet side. We’re told you are a “rule follower” and you never get in trouble. Yeah, except I was that way too when I was in grade school and I know this won’t last forever. My behavior at school never reflected my “home” self in these years, either. Please keep it that way as long as you can, and I do thank you for not doing the PeeWee Herman dance on your desk in school like your Auntie Sarahjane did.

You’re thoughtful.

Last weekend you “helped” me at the grocery store by following me around and discussing what to give Baxter on your birthday* for at least forty-five minutes. We debated whether he likes books better than toys. (For the record we decided he might get more excited about opening toys, but he doesn’t really play with them.) I ordered him a book and forgot to tell you about it, so tonight you greeted me after work – the night before your birthday – by immediately whispering in my ear, “When are we gonna get Baxter’s present??” and you were greatly relieved that I’d taken care of it. This morning you stopped short as you were running past me and asked, “How are you today, Mommy?”

You love your family beyond the moon.

You’re smart as a whip.

Dude, you are always thinking. Always. Sometimes you come into the room where I’m working and just pace: “I need to figure something out,” you tell me, so I keep my trap shut.

You keep track of everything and everybody. When we’re on a walk and I ask which direction we’re walking, you know we’re headed north. You also know we need to walk east to get home. I couldn’t do that until I was 35. Baxter stares at you and wants to know how you figure it out. I do, too. You also have an amazing sense of time. You are constantly talking about what date it is, how many days until some event or other, and exactly what time you got up (“6:38”) and when you ate lunch (“12:42”). It’s impressive to me.

Last week in the car I mentioned to Daddy that we had a pool schedule on our fridge back at home and I didn’t know if it was the schedule for the city pool or my gym’s pool. “It’s for the gym,” you piped up from the backseat, then told us exactly what the gym’s acronym stands for and when the pool was available for family swim. And you were right.

“It must be nice for you to have someone else in the house who’s paying attention to details,” Daddy suggested thoughtfully. I agreed with him.

Although you learned to read last summer, you were very shy about it. It was a while before they realized at school you were reading years above your grade level. You told me you were trying to hide it. But, finally, this summer you are owning it. One night you asked for a turn reading a chapter book aloud and you’ve done it every night ever since. Your favorite series right now is Junie B. Jones; we fall down laughing over those books every night.

You hate attention.

For a kid who’s funny and so “out there” at home, you sure hate attention.  And as much as you love your birthday – I wasn’t sure you’d make it until today to turn 6 – you get very anxious about the attention on you. Two nights ago at dinner I smiled at you and you yelled at me (I believe you called me “Missy” and showed me your claws), and you told me not to pay attention to you. When I asked if this was because of your birthday coming, you burst into tears and sobbed on my lap. For the third year running, we will not sing “Happy Birthday” to you because you can’t stand it; it’s overwhelming, all that attention. And I promised you that at your party on Saturday everyone will be busy in the pool and on the playground and they won’t sit there staring at you. You were relieved. You’re learning to tell us how you feel and you’re figuring out what you need. I’m pretty sure that’s more than half the battle in life.

Six-year-old Lyle, I love your wacky sense of humor, your crooked smile, loose teeth, and twinkly eyes. I love you when you’re lighting up the room with happiness and when you’re growling at me in anger. I love you when you’re learning to climb to new heights on climbing walls and when you’re swimming in the pool. I love listening to your little voice reading with such expression. I love your confidence just as much as I love watching you overcome your fears.

I love that you’re turning six because I believe that at six you’ll be more YOU than ever before. And that is something I welcome.


*Thanks to our friends Cara and Michael, we follow the “corner birthday” tradition, in which the sibling receives a small gift as well each year.

Yes, My Baby IS Turning Five!

IMG_1881To my sweet little boy —

This will not be one of those “I can’t believe my baby is 5 today” letters because, well, I can believe you’re 5.

You are tall, confident, and fiercely independent, a real “do it yourselfer”, as you and I like to say.  Honey, you talk to me all day long, barely pausing to take a breath as you dance around me.  You are words + action at all times.  Usually it’s about Pokemon these days, but you’ve always got something to say, whatever the topic.  You ask questions all day long and want to figure out everything you can about the entire world – all at once.  Today it was, “How did the air get here in the first place?”

It was a hard day; you were impatient and cranky much of the time.  I suggested that perhaps the day before a birthday is one of the hardest days of the year and you conceded that this was the trouble.  It’s hard to wait.  You complained all afternoon that it wasn’t bedtime yet: “How many hours now ’til bedtime?  Is it still morning or can I go to bed now?” you asked at 4pm.

When a neighbor invited you to have a slice of freshly made banana bread at their house this morning you declined and headed home, saying to her, “Weelll, I think I won’t have any, because, you know, tomorrow.  [Insert signature shoulder shrug.] I’ll be havin’ a lot of treats.”

Earlier this summer, you didn’t want to be five; rather, you declared that you wanted to go back to being a baby.  I knew this was about your fear of the big unknown: kindergarten.  I am beyond thrilled that you are embracing this birthday with your vast stores of enthusiasm – you are ready to move on now.

At bedtime tonight, I held your darling little face between my hands saying, “I need to take a good, long look at you tonight because the next time I see you you’ll be a five-year old.”  You grinned a huge grin, stood up on your bed puffing out your chest in your Batman pajamas, and looked down at yourself.  “It’s a good thing I’ll be five tomorrow because I am just about outgrowing this 4-year old body,” you said proudly.

And then you threw me out.  “Mommy!  Stop talking to Baxter, go out the door, and close it!” you insisted.

Morning can’t come soon enough for either of us.  Happy 5th Birthday, Sweetheart.

Happy Birthday, Lyle

To my dear, sweet Lyle:

You’ve been featured here quite a lot lately, what with photos of your adorable face, stories of how beautifully you’re growing up, and videos highlighting some of our funniest moments together.   And yet there is always more to say about those we love, isn’t there?

Thank you for telling me every day that you “adore” me and never failing to remind me how much you “love spending time with [me]”.

Thank you for learning to handle your emotions so much better, and for responding more comfortably to new people and situations.  You are even seeking out unfamiliar kids in public who look like fun – without your big brother by your side, you brave little soul.

Thank you for knowing how to make your Mama laugh, many times a day.

Thank you for asking me to read all those stories to you, it makes me so happy.

Thank you for trying new things every day, and for reaching out and grabbing at your future with a twinkle in your eye.

Thank you for admitting to me that you “feel so small” so that I can help you feel bigger.  Because you are perfect just as you are – but you are getting bigger every day, sweet boy.

Thank you for being a beautiful ray of sunshine in my life and for filling in the empty spaces I didn’t know were there until you arrived, four years ago.

I couldn’t love you more.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Little One!

“Well, we never really knew
How much we needed you

Till you came into our lives…”

“‘Cause now we’re doing cartwheels and somersaults

And it’s all your fault

Yeah, it’s all your fault.

It’s you we love (mama, can I hold [him])

It’s you we love (let’s put [him] on your shoulder)

It’s you we love.”
(The photos and the boys are mine, but the lyrics belong solely to Justin Roberts…here’s a sound clip!)