March 7, 2016: Mckenna’s Sixth Birthday

Dear Mckenna,

Happy Birthday to my oldest niece! You are six years old today! 1-2-3-4-5-6, Six!

Six years ago your parents gave me the best gift imaginable- you and the honor of being your Aunt. I will never be able to thank them or you enough for that gift. You are so precious to me. To Uncle Tim too.

This past year, we went on many adventures together. I was able to take you to my favorite park where you climbed on logs and rocks. In your skirt and sandals, you climbed the rocks so well and balanced on the logs. I admire how adventurous you are and how willing you are to try new things.

You are so patient with my other nieces and nephews. Even though Cora is three years younger than you, you always are so good about playing with her. This year we did lots of things with Trish, Travis, Cora, and Ethan. I loved to watch you look after Cora and play “Ring Around the Rosie”. You also loved to be with Ethan- and you are so good with him! He was a little baby this year so you were very careful and caring. You told me that taking care of little kids is “hard”. I agree! But I never worry about you losing patience or not being kind. You are so, so, so kind with them.


 You are also very good at sharing. You told me, “Friendship is for sharing”. I’ve remembered that with my own friends. I remember your advice, that it’s important to share.

You are the best hide and seeker I have ever met! You can hide very well and you can also find hiders very quickly. You played hide and seek at the Princess Party where we went and saw Princess Jasmine. You hid behind curtains, under tables, and other places I didn’t know were hiding spots. It was fun to watch you having fun.

 You also went to Sisters, Oregon with your Mom and me. There, there were three other nieces and nephews of mine that you so patiently played with and cared for in kind ways. I loved watching you hold hands with Ava as we looked at otters and fish. You always bring me happiness, no matter what.

This year we had a big breakthrough with my cat Milo. You went from being scared of him, to being patient and careful with him. You told me that you weren’t scared of him anymore- even when he hisses. I think you are very brave.

I believe you are a true artist. I love when we can color together or create art. We have made lots of peoples cards together this past year. It’s fun to talk about the people we are going to give the cards to and work side-by-side. You are very patient with me and teach me how to be a better artist. I love how you guide people and teach them. You are very good at teaching.

You are my official taste tester! You taste what I make and are always so nice- even when the food is a thumbs down. I love cooking with and for you. There is nothing more special to me than having you sit high on a bar stool and tasting the various foods I try to create.img_1886

I love our chats. We often will sit down- just you and I- and talk about school and friends. I hope you know you always have me as a listening ear. Whenever you need me, I’m here. Forever and always.

 I admire your bravery. And how you always look at the good in everyone and the good in every situation. You continually teach me how to be a better, and kinder, person. Thank you for your friendship and your love. You are truly a very special six year old.

You told me this year that I’m a different kind of Aunt. I’m a “friend Aunt”. I told you that’s the best kind. We don’t have to love each other, but we choose to love each other. I promise to you that I will always love you. You are my niece and it’s not something I will ever take lightly. You are one of the greatest joys in my life and I know you will always bring me joy.



Love always,

Aunt Nina


January 24, 2016: Cora’s Third Birthday

Dear Cora,

Today you are three!

It’s hard to believe because I remember you when you were born- and every moment after. You are so full of love and activity. I love any moment with you.This year you’ve learned a lot. And you’ve taught me soooo much!

You’ve taught me loyalty- I’ve always been a loyal person but you’ve taught me about holding on to those you love- tight- and never letting them go.

At age three, you have a little posse that goes everywhere with you: Blanket, Bunny, Baby, and Puppy. Sometimes your arms get too full carrying them around. But you never leave one behind. You are loyal to your crew.


You’ve taught me about being a good sister. You welcomed baby brother, Ethan, into your life with hugs and kisses. I know it’s hard to share attention but you’ve been very patient. I’m so very proud of you.

Meeting brother

Meeting brother

You’ve taught me about using more than just your voice to speak. You are still gaining your vocabulary. This year you said new things and sentences! I heard you say Riley for the first time and it made me soooo happy. We recorded it so I could listen again and again! You’ve said, “Nina’s house”; “Pooh”; “Honey” and so much more. But even when you don’t say things with your words- you communicate. You use hand gestures, facial expressions, and other ways to communicate what you need. I know more words will come soon, but we can already hear you loud and clear.


You’ve taught me that my old puppy, Riley, can love new people. He loves you and I love the way you love him. Thank you for sharing that love with a little creature who I so dearly love. 

You’ve taught me to be silly. For you, little one, I’ll always be silly. You let me giggle, get on the floor and play, color, run around, and just live in the moment.



You’ve taught me how to accept and play well with others. It’s been fun watching you play with your cousins and friends. I love how it makes you laugh, share, and oh so happy.


Thank you for all you’ve taught me this past year! I know you will grow, teach, and learn even more this next year.img_0108Thank you for making me feel like a loved Aunt. Thank you for your hugs. You are so very special to me. Happy Birthday little one.

Love, Aunt Nina

January 21, 2016: Ethan’s First Birthday

Happy Birthday Ethan!


It’s your first birthday today. Everyone is remarking how it’s so hard to believe you are already one! On the other hand, we can’t imagine a day without you in our world.


During this first year, you have grown so much! You had very dark hair when Uncle Tim and I helped your Mom bring you home. Your Daddy and Cora were already at your new house-waiting for you to arrive! IMG_1294[1]When you came home, it was the first time both you AND your Mom saw your new house with all of your furniture waiting! I’m pretty sure you slept through the homecoming but your Mom was excited and so happy to have you home. As were your Daddy and big sister Cora.



Your dark hair lightened over the past year. At one year of age it’s a light blonde. Everyone remarks on your hair. For the first few months of life you had a mohawk. But then the hair settled down. Now you look like a little boy!





You are just now starting to eat solid foods. It’s been an uphill battle to get you to want fruit or soft things to eat. But you are trying them and seem to be mostly enjoying the food!


You are learning to sleep in your own crib. I am sure it’s hard to move from your parent’s room to your own room. But you are very brave and taking great strides toward being more independent. We are lucky you still love to be carried and held.




I love babysitting you. You love to cuddle and you very easily smile from ear to ear. The sound of your laughter is music to our ears. I clearly remember the first time I heard you giggle. I was changing your diaper and lightly blew air onto your hair. You giggled and giggled and giggled. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard!



You love to bounce in your little seat that Mom and Dad keep in the living room. We can sit you there and you just bounce, bounce, bounce. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you turn around, but mostly you just bounce. I love to watch you turn the chair around to watch your sister play. You love your sister.IMG_1324[1]

She loves you too. She calls you “baby” and will often hug or kiss you. She likes to play with your toys too. You are both learning to share.IMG_1312[1]


Your Uncle Tim is one of your biggest fans. He loves to look at pictures of you and hold you tight. You smile at him when he walks in the room. You are going to be the best of friends.



I love your smile. It lights up the room and makes my heart so happy. You are a very special little boy and I’m lucky to be your Aunt.


Love forever and always,

Aunt Nina

April 2015: Micah’s Baptism

Dear Micah,

I am so excited that you are in this world. I am so happy I am your Aunt and Uncle Tim is your Uncle. From the day that I learned you were to be born, I thought of you every single day. Your name is always on the tip of my tongue.

I met you when Ava turned two. I was able to visit you at your first home. The nursery that you shared with Carter is so full of love and very cute baby things. It is obvious to me, and probably everyone who meets you and your siblings, that you are VERY loved by your Moms. And I hope you always remember HOW loved you are by everyone in your entire enormous, and loving family.

You are my oldest nephew so I hope you will be patient with me as I learn about nephews. I hope you can be patient with me and I know I will always be patient and proud of you. I hope we get to play a lot together over the years- even when you are a young adult and I am a white haired Auntie who likes to sit in a soft chair. I promise that I will always be ready to play with and listen to you. I am always here for you however you need.

I can honestly say your smile- even when you are less than a year old- is one of the sweetest and heartwarming things that I have ever experienced in my life. I hope you will always smile and be happy. And even in those tough moments, I hope you know things will get better, and you are a wonderful person.

Your Uncle Tim and I are always just a phone call away. We will always be here for you, praying for you, and loving you.

Love, Aunt Nina

April 2015: Carter’s Baptism

Dear Carter,

I remember the day you were born. Your Mommas called us and told us they were on the way to the hospital so that you could join us in the world. We were all so very excited! Grandma Sue and Grandpa Jim were notified in Kenya while Aunt Trish, Uncle Travis, Cora, Uncle Tim, and I waited for you and Micah to be born. It was hard to not be in Denver with you, Micah, Ava, and both your Mommas. But everyone I saw the day you were born knew I was awaiting the news that my newest niece and nephew were arriving!

So far, I have only seen you and gotten to hold you on one visit- when we visited for Ava’s second birthday. I loved holding you. You were very little and so beautiful. I remember just holding you- all swaddled in a blanket – and just staring at your beautiful little face. I felt so blessed that I can call you niece. And even though it has only been that one time in person, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think your name and see your face in my mind.

I can’t wait to know the person you become. I can’t wait to watch you grow and learn. But don’t grow too fast! Take your time. This world is an amazing place and there is a lot to experience.

I have many hopes for your life. I hope you always remember you are loved. And even though I live in Oregon- if you need me, I’ll always be there. I hope you always know you are beautiful: inside and out. Even when you have those bad days or you feel that you may have made a mistake, please know you are a good person. And you can do great things by always using kindness, compassion, and empathy toward others – including yourself.

Mostly just know that on your day of baptism- even though Uncle Tim and I weren’t there with you in person- we were thinking of you. And holding you in our hearts and prayers that day…and every day.

Love, Aunt Nina

From 9a Clock Archive: Babu and ShoSho 2014

Dear Grandchildren of Babu Jim and ShoSho Sue,

I just wanted to write and let you know I just got back from Kenya after visiting ShoSho and Babu. They do wonderful work and I know they will share stories about their adventures for years to come. They are very needed where they are and people count on them to do so much. At the same time, I know you missed them while they were gone. And I want you to know they missed you too.

Babu and ShoSho

Babu and ShoSho

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From 9’a Clock Archive: Mckenna

Today I’m feeling grateful for my friend Shannon and the gift she gave me by making me an Aunt to her daughter Mckenna.

Little Mckenna

Little Mckenna

I don’t define family using simple biology. My family are those who have loved me and who I have loved with that intangible, unexplainable, and unconditional kind of love. I have many people I call family – including two of my closest friends who became family when I met them both on the same day in 1993.

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