Dear Merritt,

Every night for as far back as we can remember, we've told you the same things. "You are kind. You are smart. You are important. We love you bigger than the sky. And we're so glad we get to be your mommas." Sometime back, you requested that we add one more line of your choosing. So now it ends with, "And we hope you had the time of your life at Disneyland." Recently, we've translated the whole thing to Spanish and tried that out. It's basically a living verbal document.

But those are all the most fundamental truths we could ever tell you.

You are kind.

Whether you're budgeting over half of your birthday monies to the "homeless" category (or just straight-up handing it out the back window of the car to a family with a baby that broke your heart), or sticking up for a friend when no one else will, you always find ways to demonstrate kindness. We are so proud of the way you actively choose kindness. And even prouder of the way you always find your way back to it on your own when you've slipped.

We hope you'll continue to choose it throughout your life. That you'll keep writing us love notes and drawing pictures for your friends. That you'll be outraged when you hear of injustices and you'll fight to right them for others. That you'll be known by your benevolence, your altruism, and the generosity of your kind, kind heart.

You are smart.

Wicked smart. We left you alone to practice writing "yo puedo" last week, and when you completed that task, you decided to do some math. So when we walked in, the board looked like the equations you see Matt Damon working on in "Good Will Hunting." Okay, not entirely. But you had definitely thrown down some numbers and added them all (correctly!) together. So there's a chance you could end up being a janitor at M.I.T. someday.

And don't get us started on your Lego engineering. That's a solid Plan B if M.I.T. doesn't work out.

But seriously, your smarts extend beyond books and the street. You just get so much. With your brain and your heart, and sometimes even your gut (harkening back to the days of your tummy guiding your every decision). And while we've been able to teach you a lot in your life, you've seemingly learned more than we can wrap our minds around.

You are important.

The most important. The reason we do. The reason we are. The reason. We can't imagine anything more important than you. Than making sure you know love and joy. You are so important that you make us strive to be better people so we can give you the very best versions of ourselves. Parenting you is the most important thing we'll ever endeavor.

You're not important because Vin Scully talked about you once, or because you were on "House Hunters," or because you managed to snag the 1,000 ticket voucher in the Ticket Blaster at your birthday party. You are important because you are you. Because you exist.

We love you bigger than the sky. Bigger than your appetite when you're zoning out and watching television. Bigger than your dreams that you tell us about every morning. Bigger than your smile on any roller coaster at Disneyland.

And we are not just glad to be your mommas, we're beyond lucky. No two people have ever been gladder or luckier.

The past six trips around the sun have been our best ever because of you. Happy birthday, Caboose!


Momma & Mommy

PS - We hope you had the time of your life at Disneyland.


Dear Merritt,

In the past week we have deep-cleaned all our rugs, customized our plantation blinds, reorganized the garage, cleaned out the refrigerator and wiped it down, and scrubbed doors (like that's even a thing). Why? Because by this time next month you'll be a seasoned kindergartener, and "power cleaning" is how we're dealing with our emotions regarding that.

By this time next month, your Spanish vocabulary (thanks, Spanish Immersion Kindergarten!) will probably be far greater than your current three-words of "rojo," "blanco," and "PIZZA!" You wander around yelling that last one and then--with an impish grin--say, "I'm speaking Spanish!"

By this time next month, you'll probably have fewer baby teeth in your head than you do right now. You've already lost one, and have three that are loose. And your anxiety about them verges on absolutely adorable. We watched you eat corn on the cob with the side of your face the other night. The only thing that makes this horror show worth it to you is that you ended up with a generous Tooth Fairy who brings you books.

By this time next month, will you still be obsessed with playing UNO? Or knowing what will happen if an ambulance runs out of gas and then a bridge catches fire?

Seriously. You are your momma made-over with the super dark "What If...?" questions. And the critical need to know all the answers.

But you also possess unrestrained high spirits and levity in spades.

Mommy stands up and slams her head into the light over the dining table? Without missing a beat, you sing, "Chandelierrrrrrr" in the style of Sia.

On a walk with Mommy and you pass a giant rhododendron? Stop, deeply inhale its blooms, and announce, "Aaaahhh. Music to my ears!"

You make a bunch of random sounds and end with "aaaarrrrrrgggghaaayyy"? You mull it over for a minute, then say, "That sounded like 'argh, gay.' That's cool. Pirates can be gay."

Speaking of. The weekend after the Supreme Court guaranteed the right of all to marry across our nation, we were shopping in Target. Because we know how to celebrate. You were barely in the cart when you asked, "Can I get a special treat since you can be gay in every state now?"

Child. We have no idea how we're going to survive you.

You got up from bed the other night in an attempt to put off bedtime. Spoiler alert: it worked. Because that's how it goes when you say things like, "Momma, I have a question. What is velvet?" Not only did that result in us answering, but it also earned you some extra snuggles, and a fashion show the following day with your friend, Nora, who proudly put on her best velvets for you.

You recently renamed "Go Fish." It became "Of Course Not." And we played for hours.
"Do you have any eights?"
"Of course not! Do you have any ones?"
"Of course yes!"

We love that you love to play games. And while we aren't ordinarily big trash-talkers, you won an honorable mention when at the end of an exquisite round of UNO you said, "You're strawberries, and I'm whipped cream, because you're on bottom."

But even your snark gets followed by an abundance of love.

You were being a turkey the other day and we called Mommy as a sort of "reset button." It was a pleasant call, though nothing monumental occurred in it. As we got off you said, "I was going to tell her I love her too much. That it barely fits in my heart. That it makes my heart explode off."

Do you have a suggestion for how we are to recover from statements like that, Merritt?

Before preschool ended in June, a straight-up delinquent punk kid from your class punched you. Twice. And you neither hit him back, nor did we burn down his house (though Mommy did request his address). Instead, we praised you for getting your teachers, and then we talked about what was going through your head when it happened. According to you, you got punched and then actually thought these words: "Okay. It's crying time."


There's about to be so much crying time in this house. Because while Mommy and I know that this an amazing new season in your life, we are also grieving the end of everything prior to it. Of "Elmos," and baby teeth, and you looking like NOT A GROWN-UP, and days and months and years spent doing whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want.

There was so much freedom in life before kindergarten.

Not too long ago, you announced, "Now, if you will please excuse me, I'm gonna go sulk in my room." And we apologize for laughing. Especially now. Since sulking in our room is all we want to do. Because when you're not looking, we're crying. We're crying for the tremendous person you've become and how we got to witness you learn enough for a lifetime over the past nearly six years. We're crying over how proud we are that we get to share you with the world while also feeling sorry for ourselves that you're not just ours anymore. We're crying at the idea of waving goodbye to our little boy as he runs up to the school, backpack flopping up against him all the while, and wondering what he'll be doing for the next seven hours. We're just crying, Caboose.

By this time next month, maybe we won't be.

By this time next month, maybe your Spanish knowledge will have already surpassed ours. And we'll sit around the table with you stumping us with words like "tiburón" and "martillo." And your backpack will be a fun treasure hunt to go through. And we'll talk about your new friends and the things you're loving learning, and the current rules of four square, and what we want to do on the weekend, and how sleeping-in is the best.

Maybe by this time next month, we'll understand that these sorts of transitions are a part of life, but the one thing that won't ever change is our love for one another. And how proud we are to be your mommas.

It's not possible to love you too much. It barely fits in our hearts. Our hearts exploded off years ago.

Momma and Mommy


Dear Merritt,

You've decided that you have multiple hearts and you swap them in and out for various activities. Sometimes we'll be in the middle of something and you'll abruptly grab at your chest and then explain that you're switching hearts because the new one is better suited for the task. You most often use your "knowing" heart. But that doesn't mean we haven't been exposed to the likes of your "taco-eating" heart or your "singing" heart or your "Mario Kart" heart. You basically have a heart for any occasion.

There's the "making up words to get your point across" heart ("Momma, I 'successed' at falling asleep!"), which is not to be confused with the "I had a stroke and can't say words" heart ("Dury Judy? Jury Duey? Jury Dury? WHAT IS IT??" after you learned about my civic duty).

In addition to your bounty of hearts, you're brain continues to grow so rapidly and vibrantly that we're not sure how it still fits in your head.

Recently you asked, "Why do we live on the bottom of the earth?" And before I could even try to sort out what you said and respond, you emphatically stated, "WE DO. I CHECKED MY COMPASS." So maybe we'll work on your compass reading skills, and teaching you more about magnetism and poles, but good on you for understanding that the arrow was pointing down. At you. In your house where you live. Apparently at the bottom of the earth.

You got a double ear infection a couple of months ago and were in an incredible amount of pain. The kind of pain that had your mommas crying right alongside you. A few days out, once the medicine had started working and you were coming out of the fog, you got a very concerned look on your face and asked Mommy, "Santa doesn't mean when you cry from pain, right?" You better watch out, you better not cry from a raging double ear infection, you better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. She assured you that "pain tears" will never land you on the naughty list.

We were riding down the interstate recently and a black Audi flew past us on the left. Out of nowhere you said, "Know how I know that's not Todd?" (our neighbor, whom we had not been speaking about) "One, Todd would never speed. And two, that's not his car." It's, like, DUDE. Can we crawl into your brain to experience the synapses that create these astute observations?

Some of your best words/thoughts come out of the backseat.

Like the day you decided we were going to play a game and you needed to explain the rules.

You: Okay. We're playing the quiet game. T. You can only say "T" to talk. Un-T.

Me: (stifling laughter)

You: T. Why are you laughing? Un-T.

Be still my heart. I birthed Dwight Shrute.

You also send some excellent lyrics out of the backseat. Our favorites lately have been your versions of "Hard Knock Life" from Annie. Best so far have been "It's a hard enough life for us," and "It's a part of life for us." You're getting there.

But the most profound thing to come out of the backseat recently is your newfound but lasting interest in one Dr. Martin Luther (Lufer) King, Jr. You spent MLK day with Mommy while I had an inservice and when you asked why you were out of school that day, she explained about how he was an activist and a humanitarian and a civil rights leader. And then she explained what he fought for and why. And then she mentioned--in gentle terms--his assassination. You were at once appalled and horrified and moved. Since then, 90% of your backseat conversations find their way back to that great leader.

You: I got a paper cut at school today.

Me: Paper cuts are the worst.

You: No, cancer is the worst. Isn't it?

Me: Uh, It's way up there (deciding I'll just be quiet about AIDS and all the other horrible things in the world).

You: Cancer is the second worst. The first is how Martin "Lufer" King died.

Conversations like this are the reason you're the best human.

Followed closely by this gem that you busted out at the dinner table. All three of us were just a-talkin' and you said, "Hey! This is an ABC conversation. D your way out of it." To no one in particular.

There's also the way you call German Chocolate Cake "Germany Pie." And how you end stories with "Happily after after." And how during a recent bout with a stomach bug you explained, "It's just ... I feel 10% good. And ... 12% bad."

And then, of course, we're somehow back to Dr. King. And you want to know if Atlanta, Georgia is too far away for us to "go look at his stone." And you want to know what it means to "stand for" something and so we explain having an idea and representing it and supporting it and advocating for it, and you totally get it, but you have to add, "I know what D.K. stands for, too. Donkey Kong!"

Not that long ago, we were sitting around the table and making art and telling tales and you said, "I know the child of my storyhood." Your flipping of the words made me laugh, but I was also filled with hope that you will indeed grow up knowing the "child of your storyhood." That at some point you'll put in your "Dear Merritt" heart or your "reading" heart, your "five-and-a-half year old" heart, your "remembering" heart, and look back over these letters and get a clear vision of who you were and what you have always meant to us. That you will know the fullness and abundant joy and absolute bliss that raising you brings us. That there will never be enough hearts in the infinite universe to hold our love for you.


Momma and Mommy


Dear Merritt,

You turned five just a few minutes ago. And a few minutes before that, you were born.


How has the sun risen and set over 1,800 times since you first pooped in the bathtub with me? How is it that you uttered "Mah-mee" so emphatically that first time and the world still found a way to keep spinning all these years? How have you been alive for two World Cups and five baseball seasons and 60-something new moons?

"Beep. Boop. Borp. That's me turning off my brain to go to sleep." You told us this at bedtime one evening. But here's the deal: your brain never turns off. You wake up in the morning and immediately amuse and delight us with the tales of your dreams and the adventures your mind enjoyed in the night.

And during the day? Your brain doesn't quit.

Whether we're elbows-deep in "inventing time" or making up words to a familiar tune or just eating a sweet treat on the deck, your gears are always turning.

"The chimes gave me this idea about popsicles because they sounded like an ice cream truck and that reminded me that hot days and popsicles are meant to go together. So that's why I wanted to eat popsicles."


Perhaps now is a good time to tell you we'd love to hear you wax philosophic about your beloved "Golden Mitalia," or what us commoners call "Italian Ice," as you continue to have a way with words. Like the misheard Queen lyrics, "Don is the loser and we are the champions!" Sorry, Don. Or how you pluralize things like Dairy QueenS, or the wonderful spice, Slap Ya MamaS.

So we took this magnificent trip to LA last month. Because turning five only happens once. And we had to go big. The trip was seriously magical. From Vin Scully talking about you on the television broadcast of the Dodger game we attended, to two extraordinary days at Disneyland, to eating macaroni and cheese in a hotel bed, the entire trip was a celebration of the wonder that is you.

We won't soon forget watching you chase bubbles while listening to Vin bask in your jubilance, or the look on your face after you rounded the bases on THE ACTUAL FIELD where your Dodgers play. Or how proudly you wrote your name for our waiter at Carrows when he realized your MLB fame and asked for your autograph.

And there's no way that our Disney experience will ever be removed from our souls. You were a tour guide to other passengers on rides with us: "This is just a pleasant river ride," you'd say with a grin while on Grizzly River Run, and then you'd gleefully laugh as the whitewater rapids soaked everyone. You insisted that "Pirates of the Caribbean" was called "Pirates of the Caruvian," and you made repeated requests to ride it again. On the near never-ending "It's a Small World," you leaned over and whispered in my ear, "This is not my kind of style," and there's maybe never been a more polite response about something you hated so much. You made your breakfast into the shape of Mickey's ears. We adored hearing you sing the Disney Junior theme song throughout the park, but what is still ringing in our ears is the sound of your squeals of delight on roller coasters. And maybe just a remnant of the sound with which you startled us awake on day two (the violent clacking of your light chasers), though we admire your ingenuity in using them as flashlights to guide you through a dark hotel room and into the bathroom. In the park, you constantly reached for our hands and held our seat belts (and subsequently grabbed our hearts), and we loved feeling so needed while making you feel so secure. You made us the Happiest Parents on Earth at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Based on your exuberant reaction to seeing a dire wolf penis bone at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, we might have said that was the highlight of the trip. Or maybe the part where we spotted a wild harbor seal off the Santa Monica Pier and a local fisherman gave you some fish to throw to it. But no. When we asked you your favorite part of the trip, you said, "Disneyland. And swimming. And making new friends." Seems like you have your priorities figured out.

Here are some wonderful things you've said recently:

After seeing a man in a beret, "I think that was a Paris guy."

After eating cinnamon twists and making a huge mess in the car, "Uh. I'm going to have to lick my pants when we get home."

After I encouraged you to give me directions, "I'm bad at 'destructions.'" (Incorrect. You are fabulous at destructions.)

After injuring yourself and us asking if you were okay, "Umm, it's sort of like 'mayday' hurting. I have to walk like a grandpa."

After I asked you to buckle up and then you proceeded to do so with your eyes closed, "Momma. Am I impressing you?"


You are always impressing us.

Merritt, you exist in a radius of awesome. Excellent things happen in your orbit. You leave wonder in your wake.

Because of you, we have never had more fun.
Because of you, we have bliss.
Because of you, we have and know and live love beyond normal love.

You have had a banner five years. You have blown our minds and expanded our hearts' capacities infinitely. You are the best gift either one of us has ever or will ever receive. There are not two luckier people on this planet and there is no greater honor than being your mothers.

We love you bigger than we love Disneyland and the Dodgers and tacos, Bubby.


Momma & Mommy


Dear Merritt,

Or should I address this missive to the superhero moniker you requested to be called, but then changed your mind when I put my own spin on it?

Dear Captain AMerrittca,

Congrats on making captain by the age of four and a half!

One early morning recently while we were all in the Mommas' bed, Mommy was still trying to sleep and you and I were whispering. "I'm an expert at talking," you said. And you were not incorrect.

We love "Merritt parlance." The way you ask for "granilla" bars. Or when you exclaim, "What in the 'blazers'?" How you've been listening to the Spanish version of "Let It Go" (Libre Soy) and doing your own mash-up, roaming the world singing, "Let it soooooooyy! Let it sooooyyeeee!"

You tickle us all the time by beginning sentences with "In the first place," or "Not to mention."

When you were penning thank you notes for all your Christmas presents, you wrote something and then told me, "I'm going to draw 'underlow' it."

After seeing "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" (Mr. Bee Potty to you), you came home and were excited to tell Mommy all about the part where they were in "Ajent Eep-shit." We should teach you to walk like an eep-shit-tian.

When you discovered that you could roll your stomach and do what we have always known as "the truffle shuffle," you renamed it "The Nipple Dance" even though your nipples take no part in the dance. They do, however, watch the show when you pull up your shirt and delight us with the wonders of your abdominal control.

This month you have mastered sarcasm in so much as you will say something sarcastic and then to make sure we understand that it is sarcasm, you immediately follow it with "That's sarcasm." You do this every time you make a sarcastic remark. I'm not being sarcastic.

A couple of weeks ago you scurried past me with a jump rope and a wooden hanger, and I asked you what you were building. "A cliffhanger," you told me. And indeed it was one.

Mommy had no idea what she was starting the night she "found something" behind your ear, because for months now you regularly beg us and teachers and strangers to "Find something behind my ear!" It began innocently enough; she was just nuzzling you and then suddenly pulled a tube of Blistex from back there. And then a clothes pin. And then whatever else I could find sitting on my bedside table and covertly slide to her. You were aghast and exhilarated. Then you sat up and got very serious. "ARE WE MAGICIANS??"

We considered that the moment you became a card-carrying member of The Alliance of Magicians. And knew we were right in that assessment when, later, you performed a failed illusion but uttered, "A magician never quits," and trudged on.

You've also been good for quotes such as, "Keep your eyes peeled open just like an orange," and "Momma. On the toy commercials, what does it mean when they say each sold 'xcept Shirley?" And after telling me you liked a new dish towel covered in tractors, and me telling you that you can take it with you when you move out: "I'm never moving out."

We've been playing the "high/low" game at the end of every day where all three of us think back through our day and talk about it. We usually reserve this game for bedtime, though you sometimes decide we should do it over dinner, and then we play round two (to cover the span of time between the last meal of the day and sleeping) just as we're tucking you in.

What we love about this game (aside from glimpsing the world through your eyes) is when something good happens at any point of the day and you are at once ready to play because you can't wait to tell us that moment is your high. We love that you find new highs constantly, whether it's having us wake you up at 2:00 a.m. to watch the first pitch of the baseball season (or taking you to your first MLB game!), or when you wander in wearing my glasses and ask, "Can I have these at college?" and I say you may. Highs. for. days.

Merritt. You are heady and intrepid and everything comes alive in your company. You are a real-life magician with the ability to turn the illusion of "everything is going to be okay" into a reality; your existence just makes it so. You lean hard into love. And we lean hard into you. You are our highest high.

It's okay if you never move out. But even if (when) you do, the tractor towel is yours. The glasses are yours. We are yours. And we will be forever.

We love you,
Momma & Mommy


This Girl Loves Her Wife

Mere hours before an Indigo Girls concert last summer, I whipped up this shirt and wore it. You know. Just in case there was any confusion.

Erin and I recently made a Teespring campaign with the same awesomely generic shirt. And we're one away from hitting our goal and having the shirt go to print and donating a quarter of the proceeds to GLAAD.

If you are a girl and you have a wife and you love her or if you know a girl who has a wife whom she loves (the love part is crucial), maybe check out this shirt and buy one or share it. 


Things that made me cry today

1. The first bite of this:


My Aunt Deb passed away in October. The last time I talked to her was over three years ago when I came out to her. It didn't feel like the conversation went that well. And since it was the last time we spoke, I think that assessment was fair. But now she's gone and I'm still struggling to wrap my head around it. 

I've spent the past two and a half months making every recipe of hers I have. Each bite has transported me back to happier times. I've been holding off on this recipe because it's my favorite. I jotted it down while I was in college. Sitting on a stool in her kitchen, and between bites of the simple red stuff, I wrote each ingredient as she called it off, her reading glasses sliding off the tip of her nose as she read her own recipe aloud.

I miss her in the strangest of ways. And that first bite of her hot sauce today brought tears so quickly that I couldn't swallow. It was unmistakably familiar and comforting and haunting and just like hers. 

2. These dudes.
Jonathan & Dwayne | A story about love. from Celia Hilton on Vimeo.

3. The fact that my beloved Encyclopedia Jordannica is currently IN LABOR. And before the day ends, Henry will arrive and explode his parents' hearts with bigger love than either one of them has ever fathomed.

(May 2010) Merritt eyes the woman he eventually comes to call "Aunt Georgian."

4. Jumping frog squats.

5. This stupid setlist out of Tacoma last night:

Not only did the Indigo Girls play "Three County Highway" and "Dairy Queen" and "Land of Canaan" in the same show, but Brandi Carlile joined them for five songs. 137 MILES FROM MY HOUSE.


In case you were looking for a way to extend the holidays ...

Here! Get this song wedged in your brain.


Dear Merritt,

Tonight we bid adieu to 2013 with one of your favorite meals (BRINNER!) and tomorrow we'll wake up and begin 2014 together. Because let's be honest: We're not staying up to ring it in because you'll be awake mere hours after midnight.

Hopefully we won't have a repeat of Christmas, where you came to our room at 1:45 a.m. and whispered-yelled, "MOMMA, I'M DOIN' THE PLAN!" The "plan" involved coming straight to our room when you woke up in the morning. We forgot to mention that "morning" meant "daylight." I don't know why we even made a plan; you always come straight to our room in the morning.

Here's a toast to that. To you continuing to crawl into bed with us every morning. To spending the first hour (usually more) of every day just hanging out. Snuggling. Heaping all of your love on top of our heads.

Here's a toast to you learning to snap! And spelling your full name! And becoming the proud owner of a stuffed carrot ("Carrot") and a stuffed broccoli ("Broccoli") and determining that they are twin brothers! And for boldly taking Carrot to school on picture day and convincing the photographer to let you snap what is probably our favorite picture of this year!

Here's a toast to your "Southern accident." You destroy us when you start talkin' with that liltin' drawl of yours, like when you announce, "I'm gonna rahd mah bahk." You know you can get pretty much anything you want (bike rides included) when you bust out that accent.

Here's a toast to your verb conjugation. We passed a car on the road recently and you exclaimed, "We beated it!" And then you paused for a second and corrected yourself. "We bot it?" You'll get there, Bud. You'll getted there before we know it.

Speaking of cars and your vocabulary, here's a toast to your ability to express yourself when you walk out of the library and take a big whiff of the air and then gag and say, "It stinks! P.U.!" And when I ask what it smells like, you casually say, "Car breath." Ah, all that exhaust around us, yes.

Heck, here's a toast to your ability to express yourself ALL THE TIME, and with the best words. 

"I didn't like that story much, but I loved it a little." 

Here's to you thinking that a camel is called a "canimal," but also to your profound understanding of a large percentage of the rest of our language. 

"Well, he's small compared to me!" 

"This won't be an ordinary bath!" 

"Momma, can you make me something unusual out of this balloon?"

"Can you help me defeat this?"

Here's a toast to you talking for the rest of forever. Monologues and soliloquies. Dinner conversations. Sleep talks. Toilet talks. Car talks. Whisper-yells. Deep Thoughts with Merritt Handey.

A toast to never hushing.

Here's a toast to another year full of your curiosity and insights, your exuberance, your made-up dances and games and words, your revelry, your tenderness and wildness, your sense of adventure, your sense of calm, your sass and your spunk, your capacity to live succulently, your magnificent you-ness, and your heart-filling-to-the-point-of-exploding love.


We love you,

Momma & Mommy