Ava is a rock. She takes things in stride where her sister is all over the map. If she is upset, it means something is up.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had too many reasons to write about Ava and what she’s been through with her seizures. Yet, seizures are the furthest thing from defining her.

This is a year of parenting milestones. Anna turned 16 and now Ava turns 13, and we are head first into the teenage years.

Ava is the smart kid without much common sense. She’ll pick up on something five minutes after the conversation because she’s been thinking about her own thing. She makes honor roll effortlessly and organizes herself in ways her sister (and her father) may never figure out.

This year the younger sister by three years grew taller than the older. They like to stand next to each other and have people guess who is older. The guess is usually Ava.

She endures and carries on. Ava has taken more pills over the past two and a half years than I have taken in 45. She’s had to worry about things she can’t understand or control. And yet, while in the hospital for a month, her biggest complaint during that stretch was not being allowed to have a soda while she was in intensive care.

Ava finds humor in simple things. She laughs easily and often. She isn’t that worried about what other people think and doesn’t seem to need to be surrounded by friends all the time. She is nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning or off the couch.

I love remembering her packing the 96-pack of Crayola crayons in her backpack so she was sure to have the right color to draw with. I love that when doctors said she probably wouldn’t be ready to play field hockey after getting out of the hospital, that Ava was named the team MVP for the season and was a force on the field. I love that she already knows the key things she wants to do when she visits Ocean City this summer, including her annual tradition of getting hair wraps.

Ava surprises me frequently. Her thoughts come out of left field. She has taught me more about taking life as it comes and about perseverance than I could have imagined. She taught me about prayer and about gratitude and about carpe’ing the diem.

When Ava was born, I remember thinking she and her sister will be 13 and 16 at the same time. Formidable parenting patience required.

I look at her attitude. I look at her humor and personality. I look at her quirkiness and kindness. And I know that she will live life on her own terms and at her own pace. But she’ll probably need someone to wake her up in the mornings 🙂



You are the ringleader. When I look up, you have cousins, kids, your sister, watching and following you around. You always make me laugh with what goofiness you come up with to run them through. From costumes to choreography, I don’t have a clue where you come up with it.

You are the curious one. Watching, listening atop the stairs, paying attention when no one realizes it.  You leash the dog and set out on foot. You are the sea glass explorer and the finder of odd things.

I rarely ever cried before you were born. Now I can’t watch movies with fathers and daughters in them; I am pretty well worthless in church if a sermon, song, or prayer hits the right note. That comes from being a father, which started with you. I guess the yelling comes from that too 🙂

I’m not sure how a father is supposed to feel about his oldest child turning 16. And I’m not sure how I feel about it, so I guess that’s about right. I feel like I remember turning 16 too well for you to be there already. My teenage years were full of bad decisions, adventures, opportunities, and dumb luck. You’ve avoided a lot of the bad decisions so far, for which I thank you.

My father knew a lot more about being a dad to a 16 year old than I do, or he didn’t let on otherwise. It’s a privileged place to look at my parents and how they did it and at my daughter and how she does it. I have a lot to learn.

I want to strangle you a fair amount of the time, but I recently learned it’s your amygdala I have to take it up with. I realize you are part of God’s way of teaching me patience at the same time you are teaching me about love and gratitude.

You care about people in ways that make me both humble and proud and make me worry, which is part of what parents do, especially with 16 year olds.

When you forget yourself, you do amazing things. I’ve seen it on the field hockey field, or stepping up to play goalie in lacrosse, or in a hospital with your sister. I hope you learn to trust that more.

Paddleboarding this past summer, just the two of us, brought out the kind of conversations, questions, laughter, that no one could have told me existed before I knew you.

You and others know this story, but it’s on my mind now: we were on our way into the Annapolis Mall, you were three and sitting backwards on Ava’s stroller looking at us, and out of nowhere, unprompted, you asked, “Why did God make us?” I didn’t know what to say. You caught me off guard. And then you answered, “Know why I think? I think because He was lonely.”

There is no amount of theology or learning that has ever said it better. And if we can know the love God felt and feels and how His loneliness disappeared, maybe you show me that.

Until it’s time to get ready for school in the morning 😉

When I look at you, turning 16, I see a lot of myself. But I see so much more, and someone totally different.

For your sixteenth birthday, I want things for you that I can’t possibly give you: happiness, love, friendship, wisdom, health, success, grace, hope, and laughter, to name a very few. I hope we can point you in the right direction to help you find those things and what they mean to you.

I have no idea where you will go in life or how you will decide to get there. That’s one of the coolest, most frightening, and beautiful things I have ever seen. You are growing up. And we get to be a part of it.