It’s Jackson’s birthday and you probably know that I’m a total fucking mess. How in the world do I have a 12-year-old whose voice is cracking?! How do I have a son who has stinky feet and greasy hair? How? Me? What? I don’t know, but I’m so happy and also so very sad. Christ, this is parenting isn’t it? Happy/sad. Calm/Chaotic. Joy/Hulga.
This kid of mine. Man. He’s smart. He’s gifted, he’s in a STEM/IB school. He plays the trumpet, is learning how to play the drums. He’s politically engaged. He’s marched for women’s rights in Washington DC. He’s protested in Atlanta streets for Black Lives Matter. He’s led group projects at school, competed on robotics teams, soccer teams, basketball teams, swim teams, and baseball teams. He makes people laugh. He prefers friends who are girls because they seem “smarter” and “nicer.” Also, they are “pretty cute.”
This kid of mine has traveled more in his first twelve years than many adults have. He’s been to almost 30 states. He’s been to Cananda, Puerto Rico, The Caribbean. He’s always up for anything and he seems to always have a bag packed just in case. His favorite is still NYC, anytime.
This kid of mine has made friends in all SIX school he has attended in the three states he has lived in. He’s funny and kind and he’s forever the optimist. He’s very agreeable, as long as you are on the right side of history with him.
He loves video games, board games, and watching 80s movies with his parents. He likes to talk on the phone to his grandparents. He’s an excellent swimmer and snowboarder. He loves all things cars and either wants to be in the FBI or an automotive engineer when he grows up. He excels at pinball.
He was born on October 1, 2008 at 3:57 am in Branson, Missouri. The moment I held him I knew he was destined for greatness.
I love you Jackson Riker. Thank you for consistently reminding me that life is good.
Today is my 39th birthday. I’ve never been more scared of a birthday. But I have been more scared, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a blip. Thirty-nine. Ha. I’m ready for however this year ends up looking. So enjoy some birthday week pictures of my gifts and my people, and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled nonsense tomorrow.
Jerimiah was born on August 5th, 1981 at Mt. Carmel Hospital, a regional hospital in a small town in Southeast Kansas. The building itself was new, having been relocated in the late 1970s to a prime, 70-acre, $6 million lot in hopes of blossoming in a new era of hope, while shedding its reputation as a place of despair. It wasn’t the first renaissance the nearly-century-old hospital would see, and it was not the last. As it sits today it is the nearest level III trauma center option for people in a region of The Great Plains that sometimes has limited options.
Mt. Carmel Hospital was originally founded in 1903 by the Sisters of St. Joeseph of Wichita, Kansas. The same Wichita where Jerimiah would, 12 years after his birth at Mt. Carmel, attend middle school, the same Wichita that raised his mother. Mt. Carmel Hospital, though still standing as the good Sisters intended, has been through many transformations over the years and is now known as Ascension Via Christi Hospital. Quite the name. Quite the journey. A lot like Jerimiah.
Jerimiah’s parents chose his name based on initials. His uncle was John Robert (J.R.) Goodnight, and they wanted Jerimiah’s to be the same. So on August 5th, 1981 his mother scribbled the name onto his birth certificate paperwork, presumably on the labor and delivery floor of Mt. Carmel, either intentionally spelling her son’s name in contradiction to the Bible spelling of the same name because of her prophetic sense of who this child was, and who he would one day be. Or perhaps it was the slow IV drip she’d babied since the early morning hours. Or, you know, a typo. It was 1981, who can be sure.
What we can be sure of is that shortly after shedding his white blanket, with the pink and blue stripe every good, gendered, baby received from The Sisters of Mt. Carmel, the Jerimiah spelled with an “I” began his ascent to the loving, trusting, honest, hard-working, stubborn, educated, peaceful, kind man that he is today. That, and he stopped pooping in a diaper.
Jerimiah with an “I” has seen his fair share of ups and downs in his life. Like that time his older brother hoisted him into a tree by his overalls and let him hang around until someone else came by and took him down. Or that bright morning in high school when he decided to climb under his truck (while it was parked on a hill) to see what was going on, and he accidentally moved the gear into neutral and lay helpless as his truck ran over him. He was shaken by the truck, but had no broken bones. The torture of hanging outside in his overalls, well that had some further, lasting reach.
One can surmise a highlight of Jerimiah’s ascent to the man he is today, was set off by the love, kindness, tenacity, and beauty of his wife. Yes, that’s a fair assumption. Or perhaps it was the birth of his own J.R. Goodnight, in 2008. Either way, what Mt. Carmel, his mother, his brother, and his truck didn’t do to help, we certainly have. Gotta take credit where credit is due.
Which brings us to today (having skipped large swathes of time for reader enjoyment) Jerimiah with an “I”’s 39th rotation around the sun. Although I’ve only been part of 19 of those rotations, I am happy to have been part of the upward spiral, and incredibly excited about watching the next 39 work the same sort of magic, from the magic that lives, breathes, encapsulates the heart and soul of this amazing human being. Trust me, there’s more to come from Jerimiah with an “I”.
If you can squeeze in a happy birthday to this man today, I implore you to do so. And if not, that’s okay. He won’t think twice about it, and won’t have a mean thing to say. Unless you send him overalls.
Happy Birthday Jerimiah with an “I” from Mt. Carmel Hospital. May today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that continue your rise to the person your Momma expected you to be.
When I was born in 1981, my oldest sister Khristi was 16 years old. That’s right, sixteen! And today is her 29th birthday (I’ll let you do the math on that one) and I’d be amiss if I didn’t say something about my big, little, sister because even though our ages have made us feel worlds apart at times, she has taught me so much about what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, and a friend, that I am forever indebted to her. But not so much that I won’t make fun of her 4’11” stature, or her graying hair she tirelessly covers with “strawberry blond.” Because that’s what sisters do.
When I was very little, learning how to read and write well before I should have been learning how to read and write (thanks, mom), I had a hard time spelling my sister’s name. To be fair, I’ve seen her name spelled at least a dozen different ways. I had the “K” part down, and the “i” a the end, but I kept messing up the middle part. So for a short time, to help me remember how to spell it when I’d write lists of family members to practice my writing at four-years-old, my mom would say, “Remember, it’s Khristi with an h.” One time I ran up to my big sister and I yelled, “Your name has an h in it!” Khristi grabbed me up, spun me around, and laughed. Cause that’s what sisters do.
There are other things that sisters do. Sisters fight. And we’ve had our fair share, particularly when I was a teenager and she was a mom, struggling to raise four boys largely alone (her husband, though a local police officer, was also in the military and would sometimes be gone for a year at a time), and she relied on her family, me included, to help out. In fact, every summer I would babysit the boys during the day, and she would pay me to do this. It worked out. She got a pretty cheap sitter, and I made some pocket money. But, it was a job I loathed, because three boys (at that time) were a nightmare, and they just wanted to torment their Aunt Missy. Looking back, I’d give my left leg to spend one more summer running through the sprinkler with Josh and Corey, or watching a toddler Sammy run down the hallway and slam his door shut because I wouldn’t let him watch ANOTHER episode of Teletubbies. But, I just got Josh’s wedding invitation in the mail, and Samual already has two monsters of his own, so I mean, I’m pretty proud of what they have become too. But me being a teenager, and knowing much more than anyone else around me, I would often fight with my sister. She’d try to tell me that I’d “get it” one day, and I’d tell her that I hoped I wasn’t anything like anyone in my damn family! Oh the rebellion.
Turns out, as I’ve matured, realized that I actually know nothing about anything, especially how my sister made it thorough the rough days, I’ve realized I’m more like her than anyone else in my family. I’m a little tough sometimes, especially toward myself. I feel obligated to be honest, even about the things I’ve done in my life that aren’t so great, because like my sister, I’d rather control the conversation, than have people controlling it behind my back. I’m fiercely loyal. To a fault. I realize that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect, no one is even close to it, but while I hold people accountable for their actions, and assume they will do the same to me, I do so knowing that we all mess up from time to time, and then we work to make it better.
My sister Khristi has seen better days. She’s been married to a man, who for the most part treated her well. She’s had four awesome sons who would die for her. She’s been through a divorce, but she’s recovered. She’s reinvented herself time and again, and she’s still learning, even at 29, which is more than we can expect of a lot of people that have walked her shoes.
So my wish for Khristi on this 29th birthday, is that the needle keeps hitting “Full.” I hope that she stays full on the recent luck she’s had. I hope she stays full on love, on trust, and on loyalty, even to the friends who have wronged her, and yes, she has close friends who have wronged her, friends I can’t even forgive on her behalf (because sometimes, that’s what sisters do), but she can. Because she’s just that sort of person. I hope, more than anything else, that she stays full on love, forgiveness, and patience to herself.
I love you, Khristi with an h. I hope you have the happiest of 29th birthdays, and that Greg takes you somewhere nice to celebrate. I hope you get to see all the boys, and the grandkids, and I hope that someone tells you how wonderful you are. And just in case Beeb forgets to say it, “It’s time to do those roots, Sis.” 🙂
Jackson is eleven today. That’s my son, if you are lost. Not my dog. My dog’s name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte, and he is only 18 months old. And he’s a piece of shit, but I digress. Jackson is eleven years old today, and although him and I agreed that eleven isn’t like a super fun birthday, it’s still a day to be celebrated. An accomplishment. The excitement of being in double digits is gone, but he isn’t twelve, the last year of “childhood,” as he refers to it. So yeah, he might not be ten anymore, and maybe he isn’t twelve quite yet, but he still is A LOT of other cool things…
Jackson is smart. Gosh. He always has been. In preschool he took that screening test to get placed in a classroom. The teacher sat us down with a very serious look in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry to tell you that Jackson failed the test.” We looked at each other in disbelief. Why? We asked. Oh my! What can we do to help him get on track? The teacher’s reply went something like this: “Well, he’s great at following directions. And we were pleasantly surprised to see that he can umm, read, at a very high level. He’s social. He’s friendly. He was showing us math problems that he knows, which is, uh, fine, but you know, not what we are looking for. For example, we gave him ten blocks and asked him to build a box, and he did, but first he ordered the blocks by color and size.” We looked at each other, then back at her, “Also, he doesn’t know how to skip…” Is skipping important, I wondered later to my husband. Must be.
Jackson is kind. This one took some time. He’s an only child, so when he was a toddler he didn’t need to share his stuff. We noticed quickly this could have a negative impact on him later on, so we started taking him to parks and playdates with his toys. He started learning to share that way. The older he got the quicker he put it all together. He realized that if he shared his extra special, cool truck at the playground, then that other kid would share his extra special, cool motorcycle. Then one day, around the age of five, it sort of just clicked, the idea that being nice, in and of itself, is the best way to be. Being nice and expecting nothing in return, that’s the kind of kindergartner he was. And that is the kind of fifth grader he is. And I’m certain that is the kind of man he will one day be.
Jackson is empathetic, which sorta goes along nicely with kind, right? He knows what it is like to be made fun of. In kindergarten he was made fun of because he painted his fingernails. In first grade he was made fun of because his glasses broke and we were waiting for a new pair and we used tape to hold them together. When someone is bullied at school, he is the first one to jump up from his seat and intervene. He comes home to tell me stories of that time on the playground when that boy pushed his friend down and he told him, in a very serious tone, “That is inappropriate. You apologize to my friend.” And the kid apologized.
Jackson is sensitive. See above. Empaths tend to be. Sometimes too sensitive. He’s sensitive to sounds, to harsh people, to certain foods, and to being messy. He isn’t taken seriously by a lot of adults in his life because of this. A lot of our family members who have sons don’t “get” Jackson. But that’s okay. That just means he’s different. And different in this case, in most cases, is good.
Jackson is funny. He gets his sense off humor from me, for sure. He’s high-level funny. He gets the teachers’ jokes, when most kids shrug them off. He’s way into puns, but so help me Baby Jesus you throw a fart-joke at him and it can tickle his fancy just as much. He’s silly too. A little goofy. Those all go hand-in-hand.
Jackson is honest. He doesn’t like to beat around the bush and he says what needs saying. Wonder who he gets that from? Though he is learning to be a little more cautious when telling it “like it is” for fear of hurting feelings. He is honest, and he is fair. He has a REALLY hard time picking favorites. Like, for anything. He is scared that he will upset the chocolate ice cream if he says vanilla. That might be more empath coming out, but let’s just say my kid is not the one to cheat at a game, then promise he didn’t. He’d either not cheat at all, or get so upset that he would tell on himself immediately. Hoping this serves me well in the teen years. Now, he’s still a little boy. He still tries to run a fib on us every now and then. Usually about screen time. Like that time he figured out a way to work around the child-lock and hack into YouTube for more screen time. Smart? Sure. Deceitful? Yes. We reminded him that people who are willing to lie about “dumb” stuff, are willing to lie about “big, important” stuff too. We used our President as an example. Now he says, “Geez, I don’t want to be like Trump!” I call that a win.
I could go on, but I’m probably boring you all. So instead I will plop down some adorable pics of Jackson through the years. All I can hope for, for this eleventh year and all the years after, is that my kid stays true to himself. Follows the path that calls to him. It might not be easy, but it should be constantly moving him forward, teaching him, pushing him. I hope that he appreciates all we do for him. I hope that he looks back at his crazy Momma one day and laughs at my blog (I do this all for him). I hope he appreciates the 900 photos I take of him, the stories I share (even though he rolls his eyes when I tell him), and that he remembers the love and learning along the way.
Cheers to Jackson Riker on your 11th birthday, baby! To many more wonderful years ahead.