A NEW GAME

I love my grandson.  I adore my grandson.  Since he was an infant we have shared our days together (along with other grandmother).  We have enjoyed wonderful days together as I’ve watched him grow.

I’ve watched as the toys have changed  signaling new skills or interests.  We’ve gone from rattles and chewy things to pull toys and toys that easily amuse.  We’ve gone through big fat Legos to millions of teeny tiny ones that hurt like OUCH!!! when you step on them.  We progressed from Play Doh to Mr. Potato Head…along with his missus!  He fell in love with the movie CARS…and we have no less than 75 of the delightful people/cars to inhabit my our studio.  Of course they have an entire city consisting of pastures, and drive ins and car shops and tire stores and a junk yard for Mater!  We have progressed from stuffed animals to the Disney characters to the Monsters, Inc family to the whole gang from the Toy Story conglomerate.  We have colored in books, on paper, on cardboard, on canvas.  We have painted on easels, on canvas on rocks on leaves, on the table.  We have cut reams of paper and glued the results to other reams of paper…only colored.  And, for the last little while..we have been inundated …and converged on…enveloped even, by Star Wars.

1xxx The characters are plentifully bestrewn all across the studio floor.  There are big space ships and little spaceships and teeny tiny space ships.  There are people in war regalia and creatures I did not know existed…but are ready for battle.  There are 268 teeny tiny guns….each of which go to a certain character.  To me a gun is a gun.  To Levi, the character’s correct gun in his or her hands makes all the difference in winning the battle and living another day.

Now the thing about Star Wars is that I’ve already gone through this Invasion twice in my lifetime…about 40 years ago and again 7 years later  with the instigators being boys named Adam (Levi’s daddy) and Alex (Levi’s Uncle).  Alex was actually the more enamored one and when he was 16, insisted that we pack up the brightest and best of his collected dynasty to save for posterity.  And it all sat in a big plastic bag at the top of his closet just waiting for another little man child to have the love and vision for what could be in a galaxy far, far away.  And, one such devotee was birthed into our family.  And, may I just add…the young one plays with those toys for all he’s worth.  The ones from 39 some odd years ago are not even made anymore.  He has some special pieces.  And, they mix together just fine.  He makes sounds for each separate spaceship and people mover.  He engages in battles and wars that extend out of my studio into the foyer and down the hall.  There is nothing…NOTHING…he loves better than for his Uncle Alex, who knows the finest details about Star Wars and has lived with these people for 33 years, to engage in battle warfare with him to save our very existence here on Planet Earth…or some such place.  And, his daddy is becoming about as crazed as he is about collecting the various good guys and bad guys and good space ships and bad space ships…which is great by Levi!

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So, my point her being…that Dear. darling Levi has a plethora of toys and books and art supplies to keep his healthy little mind occupied with plenty to do.  That’s why this was particularly hard to take………

LEVI…Lulu, I’m thinking of another game for us to play.

LULU….OK, I’m a little tired of blowing up planets and sailing spaceships through the universe.  How do you play?

LEVI…First, you go sit on the couch.  But don’t lean on the back of it… sit at the edge of it.

LULU…OK, I can do that.   And so I did!  He proceeded to take himself all the way to the other side of the room.  He then placed his body in a position reminescent of a runner beginning a big race. ” Something is amiss”, my clever brain told me.

LULU...Can you tell me the name of this game before we start?

LEVI…Sure…It’s called KNOCK DOWN THE GRANDMA !!!!????****!!!!

LULU…Well little man, there is one thing I need to tell you before we start.

LEVI…What, LULU?

LULU..You’ve picked up some tragic space sickness and it is lodged in your brain and is making you think about crazy things if you think I’m playing this game.

LEVI…AW, come on Lulu, it will be fun!

LULU…NO!  NO!  just no!

And, I destroyed the light in a little boys eyes who had such high hopes that his new game would be a delightful change of pace for all involved.  But, I’ve seen that particular light in years past…and I never forgot it   Hard history lessons only repeat because some one didn’t remember.

And, because I am a wise and clever grandmother, I was out the door and into the yard before he could blink.  I grabbed the basket ball and threw it into his arms as he rounded the garage door.  And we then spent half an hour shooting baskets.

And, that’s the way I saved my life on 2/22/17!

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HAPPY HEART

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While getting ready to teach my last art class, Levi and I decided to make a sample at home before I taught the project to the children at school.

I taught the children how to draw a valentine heart shape.  Then we covered the back of the drawing with bleeding tissue paper.  This kind of tissue paper oozes lots of color when it is wet.  The children used valentine colors and covered their papers.  We saturated them with water.  The next day, the tissue was dry…and all the lovely color had transferred to the heart.  They then cut them out.

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of the rest of them, but here is Levi’s.  I love to frame children’s art,  And, it’s quite easy.  I just bought a cheap frame from Michael’s and backed his heart with a piece of scrapbook paper.  Makes such a pretty picture!  And, oh how special a child feels when they see their art framed and put in a place of honor.  Change it up with the seasons….or just start a seasonal grouping of art work through the year!

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I love this…happy heart…happy color…from my happy valentine!  (Another Lulu/Levi project)

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QUESTIONS…ANSWERS

Yesterday was the last day of Levi’s Christmas Vacation.  Today his school starts back.  We had plans to go to a movie yesterday with Pa, but Levi decided he just wanted to stay here and play.  Fine with us!

After his breakfast, I showed him a project I had found on the internet, and he was anxious to get started.  It was a Star Wars thing.  We sat at the big table and worked together.  It required some concentration.  (This is BB8..in case you don’t know such things…a good guy droid…from Star Wars.)

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So, I began talking to him and asking him some general questions.  He was in a talkative mood and happy to answer.  I had some extra paper nearby and I scribbled his answers as we talked.

Here, then, is a look inside his mind yesterday.

Now you are in Kindergarten.  Is is harder? Just a little…but I do good work.  Except when I make noises out loud.  My teacher does not like that!  (We’ve discussed that with his teacher several times!  Levi says he doesn’t mean to make noises…they just slip out!)

What do you like to do the best at school?  play outside.

Who are some of your friends?  Laney Brooke, Lydia, Slade, Ty, Jackson, Cal, Vance and lots more.  I have lots of friends!

Tell me about your teacher at school?  My teacher is so kind.  And, she loves hugs, too!  (We love you, Mrs. Parrish!)

I know you like to go out to eat.  Can you tell me some of the places you like to go?  I Hop, McDonalds, Chick Fil A,  Blue Plate, China Wok.

If you could only choose one, which would it be?  Chick Fil A.  (And, the playground there propels it in to first place!)

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What is something fun you have done with your parents lately?  We went to movies and saw Star Wars Rogue 1.  Uncle Alex went too.  That was fun!

Anything else?  We went to Callaway Garden to see the pretty lights at Christmas!

What do Mom and Dad do that makes you laugh? Tickle me.

You like to visit with Papa Clyde, don’t you?  I sure do!

What is it that he says about you?  He tell me I am a clever boy!  I am, too!

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Tell me what you do on a really fun day.  It’s when my Daddy is home and he and I play and go to Toys R Us and have fun!

Tell me about spending time with Mia and Papa (other grandparents).   I like to play with their dog, Buddy. (A Jack Russell terrier).  We exercise.  I like to ride the tractor with Papa.  Sometimes, I drive!    They have berries for me to pick sometimes.  They’re so good!  I shop a lot with Mia.  She buys groceries every day!  And, she cooks good, too!  Uncle Brian swims with me.

What is something fun you do with Pa (Don) .    I like to go to Dothan Powersports with him.  I have my own office and I like to work at my desk.  Then we ride my motorcycle and sometimes we go on trails by the railroad tracks.  I like Pa’s good breakfasts he fixes for me.  I help him, too!

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OK.  Well what do you and I do that is fun?  We do art together anytime I want to.  And, we make things.  You like to play with me and I like it when we sing together.   Lulu, you are kind.  And, you take good care of me.  And, you make me and John Thomas a Boogaloo Camp!  It’s the best fun!  We like to play in the pool when it gets hot outside!

Did you go on any trips last year?  I went to Disney World…YEA!!!.  And, I went to the beach a lot.  I went to Louisiana to see my cousins.  And, Boogaloo Camp, too!

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What did you like best about Disney World?  I liked the Jedi training.  And, next my favorite was It’s A Small World.  I love Disney World.  Can we go again?  I already know what I want to do!

What makes you laugh?  Funny jokes.  And, I like to make funny pictures on your phone!  Then you laugh, too, Lulu!

(He’s right!  He’ll confiscate my phone and without my knowing, he’ll make pictures of different people and put silly hats on them or glasses or some such nonsense.  Sad thing is, I have not a clue how he does this!)

Do you like to sing?  Yes, I do!

What do you like to sing?  My favorite is the Star Wars music…but I can only hum it because it doesn’t have any words.  I like the songs I sing at school.  Some are funny.  And, I like Christmas songs, too!  I go to choir at my church.  Oh, Yeah, I like the jazz CD you have that I can hear all the instruments, too!  (He and I are learning about instruments and the differing sounds they make.)

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You love books.  You have lots and lots of them.  What are some of your favorites?  The Little Blue Truck, The Pout Pout Fish, and every book I have is my favorite!  (His Mom has read to him every single night since he was a few months old.  It has paid off big time.  He really appreciates books and treats them as treasures!  Smart Mom.)

I know you and your Mom read every night.  We do.  We read some of my books and then a Bible story.  Then we pray.

What is your favorite story in your Bible book?  When Jesus dies on the cross to save us.  He didn’t stay dead.  He lives in Heaven.

Are you a happy boy?   Yes I am!

Why are you happy?  I do fun things. And, lots of people love me!  Do you want to now what makes me sad?

Yes.

I like being with my Mommy.  I like it when she is out of school and we can be together all day.  I really miss her when she has to go back to school.  I cry sometimes when we talk about it.

I can sure understand that, Levi.  Your Mommy takes good care of you and does lots of things with you.  But, you know what?  Mia and Lulu are sure glad we have a chance to take care of you while she works!  You’re a fun boy to be around!

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What do you think is the prettiest thing God made? Animals and birds.  And, people.  People are beautiful.  I would not even be on this earth without God.

What do you know about God?  God is strong.   He has power to protect us.  He loves us.

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You have a big family.  What does your family do for you?  Let’s count how many there are.  I think there is about a hundred.  And 4 pets.  I like them, too.  They all take care of me and do fun things with me.

And, suddenly, the mood was broken.  He  finished his project and was off to do what little boys do.  And, I was left to clean up the art supplies we had used.  I often wonder what goes through the mind of a child.  Today, 1/3/17, I know.  It’ll all change as he grows, but what a sweet reminder of what was in his heart today!

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THE OWENS’ GO TO DISNEY WORLD

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*****SPOILER ALERT: MANY CUTE PICTURES!*****

We talked for over a year and we planned for several months and carefully made reservations.  We read and studied and knew just what we wanted to do…or so we thought!  We waited until we thought Levi was old enough to really enjoy it…we got that part right!  We filled our gas tanks and headed south...DISNEY, HERE WE COME!  Early on the morning of Nov.9, 2016 we began our trip.  A couple of stops along the way…and we were there….in the land of the mouse!

ears  Quickly we checked into our room around lunch time…we had passes for the first ride at 1:45!  And we made it!  Oh! it felt good to walk those streets of the Magic Kingdom again!  All the happy people, the music, the quaint buildings and more smiles than you could count!  Two more passes during the afternoon and then we made our way to dinner!

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Pirate beds in our rooms…

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New ‘BB8’ pajamas…

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The next morning we slept a little longer cause the big Mickey’s Christmas Party was tonight!  We had a nice breakfast and then hit the Magic Kingdom again!

Levi found these funky glasses at breakfast…

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Many were the times his feet didn’t touch the ground…

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The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast…then headed to the Magic Kingdom!.  Tonight is Mickey’s Christmas Party, so we want to pace ourselves through the day!  HA!  Pace ourselves?  With a 5 year old?  Didn’t happen!

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All decorated for Christmas…

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Even Levi…

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At the Christmas parade was where I saw our Levi the most animated.  With snow falling overhead and a cool chill in the air, it was perfect weather for a parade.  Once it began, it was a continual feast of lights and sounds and singing and lovable characters.  One after the other they came!  Levi would push his little body outside the edge of the crowd to keep us informed.  “Y’all its Goofy and Pluto!  Y’all it’s dancing girls!  Look it’s tin soldiers marching!  Hey!  It’s Mickey and Minnie”  First he climbed up Don’s shoulders, then a while in my lap (the wheelchair raised me up) then on Adam’s shoulders, to finally collapse in Suzanne’s lap when they were all gone!  What a glorious parade!  What Christmas joy it brought to those watching!  Delightful!dw127

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  “It is God who has given us these times of joy!”  Psalm 81:4

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Day 3 was our big day at Hollywood Studios.  Levi was looking most forward to this!  He is a big StarWars fan (along with his daddy and uncles) and he wanted to do the Jedi training!  They had to be in line at 8:00 to try and get a spot.  But Don and I didn’t.  We rested a while, then ate breakfast and joined them at the park about 11.  Levi was able to meet several of the characters and see so much of the Star Wars paraphernalia they used in the movies.  He was beside himself with excitement!

Levi with Chewbacca… dw37

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And a Jawa…

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Then the time came for the show and he was picked to participate!  What fun!  He was a ‘young padawan’…boys who will eventually learn to be a Jedi Knight.  He got to fight Darth Vader with his lightsaber!

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Oh, what a special treat!  Afterwards he went to the store and got his own costume and made his own lightsaber!  It seems young padawans are exhausted after a fierce battle with the Dark Side!

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Day 4 was Epcot Day.  This was not as much fun to any of us because there was a food and wine festival going on and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder…literally.  We couldn’t stop to see anything much in the countries area…we just got swept along with the crowds.

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A highlight here was our dinner where the characters come by and speak to all the children.  This made Levi even more excited~

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And, we came to Day 5, our last day…back at Magic Kingdom.  We rode lots of rides today.  I had promised Levi that he and I would do “It’s a Small World and “Dumbo” together and we did!    Sweet memories of riding these same rides with my boys 28 years ago on their first Disney trip…and a couple of other times since then.  He rode a few others as well.  One of his favorite seemed to be riding on my electric scooter, though!

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 Little boys and their little toys…tiny droids he made…

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On the monorail…

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With Mama and Daddy…

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With Lulu and Pa…

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We also rode over to see the cars from the movie “CARS” and “CARS2”.  He loved being able to see these in person…we have about 100 of the small ones in the Studio and at his house…

Good ole Mater…Lightning McQueen…..and Fillmore…

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And the end came on Day 6, as we packed up the cars and headed back north to Dothan.  It was a trip full of good times…one Levi and his parents will long remember…as will Don and I.  We talked of the sweetness of having a grandchild as kind and loving as Levi.  He was a trooper…never whined…never complained…even took it with a smile if we could not ride something.  However, he did not like one of the little roller coasters even though his parents were with him.  Don’t blame him a bit!

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 As I observed the crowds of folks around me at any given time…I noticed how lovely it really was.  Not just the surroundings, which were exquisite.  But, families spending times together…each making sure the others were happy.  Little ones having their parents full attention.  And parents doting on their kids…each thinking their child is the cutest in the park.  Grandparents tagging along or sitting out while the kids all rode….but remembering when these parents were the little ones  and they were the parents.  It was only a few years ago.  Why, we were all together in this same place…doing the same thing…riding the same rides…and eating mouse shaped ice cream.  Falling into bed exhausted in the evening and bright eyed and bushy tailed by morning…ready to go again!  This time our pace is slower…and some resort to wheelchair and electric scooter.  We try to placate our big children when they get weary and cross with the little ones. Cause we finally learned the secret.  That a child can’t help but be a child.  God built into them a sense of excitement and wonder and joy.  Add that natural exuberance to a place created for just such things…and you have “The Happiest Place on Earth!”  There is so much to see and so much to do (and eat and buy)…that it can be overwhelming!  But such a glorious overwhelm!  Don’t you wonder what is running through their little minds when they finally lay their heads down on their pillows?  What will they remember about such a time when they return to their homes?  (For myself and Levi…I will document our trip with this blog post, and a scrapbook for him to look at and remember)  Its been said that ‘we don’t remember days…we remember moments.’  And I, for sure, saw many moments well worth tucking away and pulling out again and again!  “Thank you, God, for blessing us with this trip!  We acknowledge that “every good and perfect gift comes from you.”  James 1:17

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QUESTIONS

A few days ago,11-7-16,  I gathered Levi from school and we picked up some lunch for he and I and Alex. As we were sitting in the kitchen eating, The following took place…out of the blue…

Levi…Uncle Alex, have you always been sick and hurting?

Alex…No, Buddy, I always had bad headaches even when I was a little boy like you. But, I got really sick when I was about 14 years old.

Levi…Well, did you tell your Mother.

Alex… Yes, I told her.

Levi…Did she do something for you?

Alex…She took me to a doctor…then another doctor…then another doctor…and we went to lots and lots of doctors…all over the place.

Levi…You couldn’t find one to fix you?

Alex…No, we haven’t. But, they do give me medicine to help me feel better.

Levi…Why can’t they fix you, Uncle Alex?

Here’s where I stepped in.

Tonja…Levi, all kinds of people get sick…all kinds of sick…and all over the world. Sometimes there is medicine to help people get well. But, sometimes there is not any medicine. Some times medicine just helps you feel better…but not get well. And, there are times that God chooses to heal people that are sick. But, there are also times that He doesn’t heal them.

Alex…That’s right, Levi, sometimes even with medicine you still don’t get well or you could get sicker.

Levi…Why did God say Alex couldn’t get healed?

Alex…Levi, God has a plan for everyone that lives. But, we don’t always know His plan. I just know that God has a plan for me. He loves me and He doesn’t plan for me to be healed right now.

Levi…But, do you have to stay sick and hurt?

Alex…yes, I do…unless God changes his mind and heals me.

Levi…then we have to pray for you everyday. Do you pray for you everyday, Uncle Alex?

Alex…yes, Levi, I ask God every day to heal me if He thinks it is a good idea.

Levi… I love you, Uncle Alex, I want you to be well. I will ask God every day. You do to, OK?

Alex…I will, Levi. I will.

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I share this with you, my friends, to tell you of the absolute positiveness I have in my heart of hearts that God is working every hour of every day…in you and me…and in little 5 year old boys and their 34 year old uncles.

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Levi has heard about Jesus forever.  He was prayed over at conception.  He was bathed in prayer as he developed within his Mother.  He was sick and nearly died the first two weeks of His life.  But, God stepped in.  And he has learned at church and learned at school and he has learned from his parents and both sets of grandparents, and his extended family.  He has been wrapped up in the love and stories of God the whole time he has been in this world.  He has heard and learned.  And, today, this question came.  Alex and I answered him as honestly and as plainly as we could.  Telling him truth in words he could understand.

May, I step out here and make a quick observation…

There will be other questions along the way.  But, a child needs to have an atmosphere around him where he can ask any questions, about anything, at anytime.  No question is frivolous.  No question is silly.  And, I don’t think any subject is taboo.  I raised my own boys with this idea…and they took me at my word.

If a child or even an older child has questions…about anything at all…there should be adults around to answer that question then and there with no hesitation or embarrassment.  Because, they will get the information somewhere.  And, who better than you?

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This exchange today at once made my heart soar with  proudness as well as break with sadness. I felt proud  of the way Alex was so gentle and careful answering Levi’s questions.  And, I am proud of the man that Alex has grown into.  He lives the life God planned for him with kindness and gentleness and grace.  But, I am overcome with sadness at what the reality of the situation of his life is.  I break in two when I think of what Alex lives with every day…what he has endured all his life…and the prognosis of the future.  I’ll tell you straight out…I’m no saint.  I hate it!  I don’t want to shoulder it and I don’t want him to suffer.  It awful for anyone to live like this.  I can say it’s not fair…but I’m not in charge of the fairness of the world.

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But, if I believe that God is who He says He is…then I believe that He does what He says He will do. My faith is not what I am feeling in the minute.  I’m human…I’m weak.  And, above my whining and complaining….I know He knows what he is doing.  He created this beautiful blond little boy to carry out a plan in our world.  I make a conscious decision to trust in His life course for Alex…even if I don’t like.  His plan for my son has everything to do with His goodness and wisdom…it does not depend on whether Alex or Don or I agree or not.

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Perhaps his job is to be an example to all of his family.  Perhaps his job is to be near to answer honest questions from his nephew. Perhaps his job is to be an encourager to the rest of our family.  He lifts me up and is always ready to help me when I’m having a particularly bad day.  He gets out of his sanctuary to see about me.  He treats me with kindness and respect and gentleness.

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Today is his birthday.  He turns 35.  He is my middle son.  He is my hero.  He is my example.  He is my sunshine.

dscn1037_1I am beyond proud of how he shoulders his life .   I love him with my whole heart.  Happy Birthday, Alex!

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