Category Archives: Ava Grace

My first chance to hold my newest niece, Joy Tatum Hale.

My first chance to hold my newest niece, Joy Tatum Hale.

It was the third time we’d had a moment like this. But for me, it was very, very different.

I drove down to Jacksonville on a Sunday and met my parents at my brother’s church. I got to surprise my mom and dad who hadn’t seen me in a few months, my mom in tears after seeing how much I’d changed since she’d spent more than two months by my side in Denton County hospitals in the fall.

After church, we went with Graham, Leslie and the two little girls, along with Aunts DJ and Ann to Spring Creek Barbecue in Tyler and then to our hotel to get a night’s sleep before heading over to the hospital the next morning to welcome the arrival of niece #3.

She arrived just as scheduled. That’s the way c-sections work, I suppose. I had only heard of the term before my first niece was born, more than 5 years ago. I’ve learned a little since then, but I haven’t asked too many questions. Some things are better left with a little mystery to them for the time being.

This was our first Texas baby, and so, the first one I was able to greet in person on the day of her birth, big sisters Ava Grace and Edy Rose having been born in Arkansas.

There’s more to read, but first, here’s a few iPhone photos from the big day and my darling nieces.

As I drove to East Texas early Sunday, the day before the delivery, to hear my brother preach, I was overcome by the East Texas pines and the beautiful blue sky, textured with towering white puffs of cloud. I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift of life. The gift of a new life in our family, a new baby to hold, a new little girl to watch with anticipation and “joy” as her personality develops, as she takes on the qualities from the two families that have been poured into this precious little vessel.

But also the gift of my life, which I almost lost in the fall due to a series of circumstances that I have yet to write about here. I’m not ready to, not yet.

While making that drive, I rolled down the window and stuck my hand out and let the air whip across my arm. Just to feel that… to smell the scent of piney woods, and animals, and burning fuel and the warmth of the blacktop, and to know that I was traveling to spend time with my family who became legends for their faith and love and devotion among my friends and co-workers while I lay in a Denton County hospital bed unconscious. We both quietly and publicly celebrated both of the twin gifts of God – the creation of life and the sustentation of it, and we understood it in these terms because of an even greater gift of life that we all hold in common… the supernatural, everlasting life that comes through faith in Jesus.

They’re mysteries all – the creation, the sustentation, the atonement. And even though we’ve fashioned explanations medical, scientific and theological, for me they still retain the mystery that points to the biggest, most wonderful mystery of all – that the Supreme Being who created and sustains all things in the universe loves us and wants to relate to us. Thankfully we don’t need the explanations to enjoy the mysteries – especially in the moment. As C.S. Lewis wrote, a man who is hungry doesn’t need to understand the intricacies of nutrition and digestion to appreciate a meal and know that it is a life-giving thing for him.

It’s been eight weeks to the day since I walked into that room and met that beautiful girl for the first time. I was happy to be given camera-duty (my comfort zone!) to capture all the moments between the parents, big sisters, grandparents, great aunts and even long distance moments with my sister and Leslie’s sister (through the miracle of iPhone). There were plenty of posed shots, with me fussing over lighting (especially for the photos of me holding Joy), Leslie still trying to influence “quality control” of the images even though she had just delivered a baby, but the best moment of the morning was totally unrehearsed.

Ava Grace was finally given the opportunity to hold her little sister for the first time. She couldn’t take her eyes off of Joy, and for a rare moment seemed completely oblivious to the rest of us in the room. She slowly rocked her sister in her arms, bent her head low, and softly sang a lullabye of her own creation. I recorded the song on an iPhone, but modern technology can’t reproduce the pure sweetness of the moment in that hospital room in Tyler, Texas. It just illustrates another remarkable mystery that I’ve discovered since becoming an uncle. I can’t explain how it’s possible to love someone so deeply when you’ve never even seen them before. But I think it is, once again, a small slice of the creator inside all of us. After all, He knew us before the foundation of the earth, and we are only able to love Him because He first loved us.

With the blog posts I wrote for Ava and Edy, I shared lyrics from songs from New Jersey-born folk singer John Gorka’s 1998 album “After Yesterday” where he spends a few songs with some nice reflections on becoming a parent himself for the first time. The first two girls used up all the thoughtful, reflective, serious lyrics. So for JOY, a song on the album that has always brought a smile to my face.

He looks just like an angel when he’s sleeping

There’s a little piece of heaven where he lies

He looks just like an angel when he’s sleeping

But he looks like Charles Bronson when he cries

He looks like Charles Bronson when he’s crying

He doesn’t have a mustache, but he’s trying

When he’s content, he’s like a present sent from paradise

But he looks like Charles Bronson when he cries

Joy Tatum’s Vital Statistics

  • Weight – 7 lbs., 14 oz. (bigger than both her big sisters)
  • Birthday demeanor – Just chillaxing in everyone’s arms.
  • On her birthday, May 6, the following people were born: French Revolutionary figure Maximilien Robespierre (1758), Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856), American Explorer Robert Peary (1856) who claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole, silent film actor and heartthrob Rudolph Valentino (1895), American director and actor and radio dramatist Orson Welles (1915), baseball hall of famer Willie Mays (1931), American boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937), singer-songwriter Bob Seger (1945), former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (1953), actor George Clooney AKA “Booker” from Roseanne (1961), Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (1982), and NBA all-star Chris Paul (1985).
  • On her birthday, May 6, the following people died: Author Henry David Thoreau (1862), “Oz” author L. Frank Baum (1919), German actress Marlene Dietrich (1992), hall of fame pitcher Robin Roberts (2010), actor George Lindsey AKA Goober Pyle (2012).
  • Famous events on May 6 – King Henry VIII ordered that English-language Bibles be placed in every church in England in 1536; Louis XIV of France moves his court to Versailles in 1682; Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861; Crazy Horse surrendered to US troops in Nebraska in 1877; the Eiffel Tower officially opens in Paris in 1889; an executive order by Franklin Roosevelt creates the Works Progress Administration in 1935; the airship Hindenburg is destroyed after catching fire in New Jersey in 1937; John Steinbeck wins the Pulitzer Prize for “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1940; Bob Hope performs his first USO show in 1941; Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run a mile in under four minutes in 1954; Kerry Wood strikes out 20 Houston Astros in a one-hit shutout to tie Roger Clemens’ major league record in 1998.
  • May 6 is also International No Diet Day and Teachers Day in Jamaica.
  • For more breaking Joy Tatum, Edy Rose and Ava Grace news, check out Leslie’s outstanding blog.

Joy came in the morning


The prettiest Rose I’ve ever seen…

Safe in my brother's arms, little Edy Rose lets everybody know she's finally here.

We knew the day and time in advance. My sister-in-law Leslie was scheduled to deliver her second daughter by c-section on Thursday morning. The only concern was whether little Edy Rose, the babe in question, would cooperate with her mommy, daddy and the doctor’s plans. At 7:50 yesterday morning, my sister Casey sent me the first photos of my new sweet niece. Edy Rose was right on time! And for the second time in less than three years, I became an uncle. 

As I reflect on little Edy’s arrival, I can’t help but recall my thoughts when her sweet big sister Ava Grace was born in 2007. Most of the same feelings are there – there’s a little person a few hundred miles away in Fort Smith whom I’ve never met, only seen in pictures, and yet I wonder if I could ever love her more than I do now. 

But the truth that I’ve found is that yes, my love will grow into something more full and complete than it is now. It definitely has with Ava Grace, the way my heart melts when she says “Coe-wee” or when she lets me hug her or leans in for a sloppy kiss. And so it will grow with Edy Rose too. It will grow not because she’ll become more precious, but because as she grows, I’ll be better able to see God’s craftsmanship and blessing in her. 

I’ll see more of her mother and father and my parents, all whom I love deeply, and the traits my sister and I share with her. I’ll see all the similarities and differences between her and her big sister and how they’ll grow (with prayer and guidance) to celebrate both in their love for each other. 

Check out this little beauty!

When I reflected on Ava Grace’s birth, I reflected on the idea of fatherhood for myself. I said at the time that I didn’t know whether I’d ever be a father myself, but that I knew it required a lot of grace and trust. I knew I could stand on the grace, but still had a ways to go with the trust. 

In the past few months, the answer to that question for me is becoming clearer. And the trust is coming along nicely as well, thanks to the one who is always faithful. I can’t help but look at these pictures of Edy Rose with a swell of hope for the future. 

As I sit here listening to the same John Gorka album I was thinking about when Ava Grace was born, I have to quote another beautiful song, “Cypress Trees,” when I think of what I’m praying for this beautiful family of four. 

Maybe we will grow together 

like cypress trees in summer 

standing close and tall, green fingers in a row 

Maybe we will grow together like cypress trees. 

And that’s my prayer. That by God’s grace and Leslie and Graham’s faith and obedience, this branch of the Hale family will grow in love, a little grove of trees whose lives become intertwined and bonded, as they wave in the gentle breeze and grow strong and reach and stretch their green fingers under the cool of the rain and warmth of the sun. 

Edy Rose’s Vital Statistics 

  • Weight – 7 lbs., 12 oz. (a tad bit bigger than big sis)
  • Vocal chords – By all accounts, in perfect working order (it runs in the family).
  • On her birthday, Jan. 21, the following people were born: King of France Charles V, also known as Charles the Wise (1338), Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1824), French fashion designer Christian Dior (1905), German highwire acrobat Karl Wallenda (1905) founder of the famed Flying Wallendas who said “Life is being on the wire; everything else is waiting,” WWII hero Major Richard Winters (1918) who was a major character in HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” American actor and “Players’ Club” spokesman Telly Savalas (1922), longtime college basketball coach John Chaney (1932), American disc jockey Wolfman Jack (1938), Golf legend Jack Nicklaus (1940), Spanish tenor Placido Domingo (1941), Former Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates (1946), “Carribean Queen” singer Billy Ocean (1950) – “Get outta my dreams, get into my car,” current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (1950) and current Attorney General Eric Holder (1951), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (1953), American artist Jeff Koons (1955) famous for his stainless steel baloon animals, actor Robby Benson (1956) who provided the voice of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast,” actress Geena Davis (1956), NBA stars Hakeen Olajuwon and Detlef Schrempf (both 1963), Run-D.M.C. DJ Jam Master Jay (1965), actor Ken Leung (1970) who plays Miles on “LOST,” singer Cat Power (1972), and Spice Girl Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton (1976).
  • On her birthday, Jan. 21, the following people died: King Louis XVI of France (1793), Russian leader Vladimir Lenin (1924), writer George Orwell (1950) – author of “Animal Farm” and “1984,” film director Cecil B. DeMille (1959), singer Jackie “Mr. Excitement” Wilson (1984), Hall of fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer (1993), Elvis Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker (1997), Hawaii Five-0 actor Jack Lord (1998), and singer Peggy Lee (2002).
  • Famous events on Jan. 21 – Louis XVI, former King of France, was executed during the French Revolution in 1793; future Confederate president Jefferson Davis resigned from the US Senate in 1861; Albania declared itself a republic in 1925; USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine was launched in 1954; Vietnam War Battle of Khe Sahn begins in 1968; commercial flights by the Concorde began in 1976; President Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders in 1977; Iran hostage crisis ended when American hostages were released after 444 days in 1981; and Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for his second term in 1985.
  • Jan. 21 is also Flag Day in Quebec, Grandmother’s day in Poland, and National Hug Day in the United States.
  • For more breaking Edy Rose and Ava Grace news, check out Leslie’s outstanding blog.

Twoday’s the day

Happy Birthday Ava Grace!!!



crocodile tears


Graham and Ava

Corey and Ava

Ava Grace - Sepia

Your Uncle Corey loves you a lot!

(and he apologizes for the formatting on this blog… the new layout is giving him fits)

Natural State of mind

Ava Grace and her Daddy after an evening cry

Ava Grace and her Daddy after an evening cry

I’m on the tail end of my annual summer break escape from Texas to Arkansas trip, and it’s been a blast.

I got here late Saturday night and I’ll head home in a few hours. I always enjoy visiting, but it is nice to climb back into your bed for the first time in a week. Hello sheets and pillows, hello comforter (how apt your name is now), hello lumpy mattress – ah, the devil that I know. (if you really don’t care about the details of the rest of my trip… stop reading now)

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Second glance

Just a tiny splash of color

Just a tiny splash of color

Here’s another look. I decided to bring back the color in her eyes. It’s kind of a clichéd technique, but I think it looks good here.

I’d also like to note that you are never quite so overrated as when your family overrates you, but it’s nice to hear just as well.

Angel eyes

A beautiful girl I know

A beautiful girl I know

So I was messing around with Photoshop while at work tonight, trying to find a way to get a better black and white image. I can’t tell if this image is too dark or not or if it’s my monitor. Let me know…

He’s not heavy…

Graham and Ava

I created this image as a Christmas gift for my brother Graham in December. It’s some shots I took of him on my first visit to Fort Smith to see my niece.

He came for a great visit this weekend. With a young family and his job at the church, he doesn’t have the huge reserves of “free time” that I do. But when I found out my man Tres could hook us up with a pair of tickets to see the Mavericks play the Pacers, I called him up and it was on.

It was a great time. Graham got to hang out for the end of my fourth period class and then got to meet a few of the great people I work with, including friend and bandmate Darren “The Axeman Cometh” Ryan (that’s a new nickname which hopefully won’t catch on).

Then we grabbed some Chipotle and went to the house to chill a bit. We had a great conversation on the way to the AAC and after two missed attempts at getting into the parking lot, we finally got into the arena. The game was great (Mavs won 116-97, JKidd had 12 assists) and the entire experience was dazzling. Kudos to you, Mark Cuban.

After that, we headed back to Lewisville for Bahama Buck’s and victory tacos courtesy of the Mavs’ 100-point performance and Taco Bueno.

When we got back to the house, Graham strapped on a few therapeutic electrodes to his back and we watched a couple of episodes of “Who’s #1”, “Cheap Seats”, and the greatness of “Fight Quest” (Krav Maga-style).

In the morning, we met about eight guys from my home group and the Village at Weck’s for breakfast. Graham and I both had the stuffed papas and I think we both left feeling satisfied. I was happy Graham got to meet so many of my friends, since I talk about he and Leslie and Ava Grace a lot. The conversation was spirited, fun and fruitful.

After breakfast, we said our goodbyes and led Graham out to Highway 121 (five of us had to make a run to Ikea). A few more hours on the road and Graham was back home with his family, in time to spend a few moments with them before they left the next day to visit family during Leslie’s spring break.

It was a short but full visit. I love spending time with Graham. I’m thankful God has blessed me with such rich bonds with all of my family. It’s amazing how God has changed all of our hearts. There once was a time when we couldn’t be in the same room together for fear of bodily injury and/or property damage. Now he’s a friend and spiritual mentor.

I’m hoping he’ll get to come down again soon, especially in October, so we can make another drive south for SCREAMS. And I’m looking forward to my next trip up to Fort Smith to see him, Leslie and my sweet little Ava Grace.

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Blogging the family

Corey and Ava

This is me and my darling niece, Ava Grace, getting along famously after our first meeting back in fall.

You can read more about Ava’s adventures (and see more pictures) here at my brother and sister-in-law’s blog, aptly named “The Hale Family.”

(Frankly, I think the name could use some snazzing up. How about “The Depths of Hale” or “Adventures in Babyrearing” – a reference to Graham’s all-time favorite film)

But regardless of what the name is, I am enjoying this new trend in American life – the family blog. I’m seeing these more and more.

With Graham and Leslie, with our pastor at the Village, with my missionary friends Mark and Rachel… the blog is not just for driving people apart with half-cocked opinions and retread political commentary from your favorite A.M. radio loudmouth.

It’s actually bringing people together. My family… Leslie’s family… our families… our congregation. It’s like the family photo album and the Christmas card letter rolled into one and available for updating year-round.

And I’m digging it.

(Although “Ava Grace ALL UP IN YO FACE” wouldn’t be a bad name for a blog. On second thought, yeah, that’s pretty terrible. But not much rhymes with Ava… Ava’s Flava… AVA FLAV! Nope… I give up. These are just getting worse)

P.S. I have noticed a trend. It’s almost always the wife doing most of the blogging. Being unmarried myself, I’m not quite sure why that is. But I have a feeling that there is a reason and that it probably took a long discussion to establish this as the common practice.

Maybe the phrase, “Nobody wants to read about how many wookiees you killed last night playing Star Wars:Battlefront II on your PS2,” came up.

Or perhaps, “Who cares if you played “Freebird” without a mistake on expert level this afternoon, our 2-year-old just memorized Pi!”

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