My Dearest Jude,

It's hard to admit, but all the cliches are true. Before you were born, I didn't quite care to understand the depth behind the statements like: you-never-knew-you-could-love-someone-so-much alongside the it's-the-hardest-job-you'll-ever-love (and Mama and Daddy have had some hard jobs) matched now with the they-grow-up-so-fast. There are plenty more cliches, Jude, that Daddy and I have realized are true in these last two years with you - so many of them are about discovery, vulnerability, delight and being humbled by the everyday messes and miracles of watching you grow. 

God knew that Daddy and I weren't very ready for the life changes that parenthood was going to require, so He was kind to us when He gave us you. You came out quickly (so quickly, in fact, that your Aunt Katy almost had to deliver you in the back of our car). You took to us and to others so easily - a natural extrovert like your Daddy. Eating, sleeping, temperament - these have not been hard for you because somehow you've just adapted so well. (Now don't get me wrong, you've puked and shat all over us in the most inopportune moments and your inconsolable crying in the car made Mama nearly lose her junk on an occasion or two). But in all seriousness, Jude, you have a way about you that is so delightful, so adaptable, so easy.

The runway to Two has been so much fun. Your obsession with trains is a wonder to us. Daddy and I love watching you focus so intently on building your tracks and driving your train in circles on the living room rug. Other fan favorites include puzzles before bedtime, singing along to Slippery Fish, reminding us to say our "Amens" at dinner, Reading A Sick Day for Amos McGee, wearing your new backpack, drawing circles and lines, romping with Daddy, dates at the train station cafe, playing the sleep game with your fake snore, running games of "ready, set, go!", and showing off your belly to anyone who asks (as well as to those who don't). 

These last two years, we've been doing our best to teach you to experience the world around you and to show you what it feels like to be so fiercely loved. But we've found too, little bug, that you have been the one teaching us. You've taught us to be honest about our limitations as well as helped us discover our own capabilities. You've taught us to slow down (patience seems to be the greatest of virtues these days), to pay attention to the now, and to love more fully and selflessly. You drew community around us in Nashville and inspired the move to California to bring us closer to our families - which has been a gift for all of us. 

In this time of celebrating your life, dear Jude, I am also so mindful of the mamas around the world who are worried sick about the livelihood of their own children. You and me and Daddy - we live in a part of the world (even more so now that we are in Silicon Valley) where birthdays are expected, where celebrations are planned. But you'll someday discover that the outside world is quite upside down and broken in so many ways. 

And now I see every vulnerable child through the lens of motherhood - be it a baby who is HIV positive or a child on a raft fleeing violence. It undoes me like I've never experienced before because it makes me think of you. It breaks me and makes me want to do more to ensure that no mama anywhere has to fear for her child's life. Maybe when you get a little bit older, you can join me in it, too.

I delight in your life today, and I count my blessings - starting with the two index fingers you hold up when I ask you how old you are. The cliches are so very true. They told us that parenthood would change everything, and my oh my, has it ever. Happy Birthday, Jude Francis. We love you to the moon and back.