Category Archives: birthdays

Twelve Awesome Things About Everett

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Today my sweet, sensitive, warm-hearted Everett turns 12.  The growth I’ve seen in him in the past year (not just in stature, but holy cow he is getting tall!) blows me away.  He’s not a little boy anymore.  I officially have no more little boys.  It was as if he went from boy to young man overnight.  At twelve, Everett is kind and smart and fun-loving and just a general joy to be around.  In honor of his twelfth birthday, here are twelve of my most favorite things about him.

1.  He is loving.  Everett just has a big, giant heart.  He always has, but it is more evident now than ever.  If you want to see it in action, you need look no further than the sweet and adorable way he loves on the cat (the cat that was originally wanted by just Tegan and myself, and has since claimed Everett as her person.) He is a nurturing, sweet, and patient “dad” to his fur-kid, and I know he’ll be just as doting with his human babies someday, too.

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2.  He is gentle.  Here’s the thing.  You know how people worry that violent video games will teach/encourage/incite violence from the people who play them?  It’s something I never worry about.  And the reason I don’t worry about it is that I have living evidence that refutes that claim, right in my own house. Everett, just like his older brothers and little sister, is one of the most tender hearted, gentle souls that I’ve ever known.

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3.  He is brave.  I spent a regrettably large portion of my life being afraid, of nearly everything.  Afraid to go new places, afraid to try new things.  Not Everett. He lives for new experiences, and has always jumped at the opportunity to try new sports, new friends, new activities, new adventures.  He’s awesome.


4.  He’s an eternal optimist.  I never see Everett doubting a situation, or doubting a friend, or doubting himself.  He knows, and truly believes, that everything is going to work out for the best.  From tiny Everett, back in his basketball-playing days, when he went almost an entire season without making a basket:  “As long as I keep throwing it up there, eventually it’s going to go in the net.”  And eventually it did.  (Full disclosure – typing that just brought tears to my eyes.  That happens to me a lot on birthdays)


5.  He’s not afraid to challenge himself.  I know this is really similar to #3, so I’m cheating a little bit, but when Everett decides he wants to do something new,  he’s not at all deterred by the possibility of it being difficult to learn. Whether it’s playing the bass guitar, taking on another sport, or teaching himself to solve a Rubiks cube, he will sit and work and practice and practice and practice until he gets it right.


6.  He’s sensitive.  Big heart = big feelings.  He loves hard, feels deeply, and has his mother’s soft spot for animals and underdogs.

7.  He’s not afraid to be himself.  The youngest of the three boys, but no longer the baby of the family once Tegan arrived, Everett never let himself be lost in shuffle.  He knows who he is, and he knows who he’s not, and he knows who he wants to be.  He’s adventurous in the way he expresses himself, he has definite opinions about how he chooses to dress, and his hair has been every color of the rainbow.


8.   He’s wise beyond his years.  Sometimes I forget he’s as young as he is, because he fits right in with the big boys.  In fact, some of his best friends are teenagers, and you would never know there was an age difference.  He is confident, and well-spoken, and carries himself with the grace and maturity of an old soul.  BUT:


9.  He’s goofy.   One thing I love about teens and tweens is their ability to seamlessly move between child-like wonderment, and thoughtful maturity.  At the end of the day, he’s still a kid, and he still loves to play.  We took him out for birthday burgers tonight, and one minute we were discussing big topics like football stats and politics…. and the next he was balancing his fork on the two straws in his soda.


10.  He’s smart.  One of the truly cool things about unschooling is that you get to watch and appreciate the unique intelligence and learning styles of each of your kids.  Everett is a sampler.  He likes to try lots of different things, one at a time, devoting all his energy and attention to his current passion, until he’s had his fill.  He is a true autodidact, and I am so proud of him.

11.  He’s affectionate.  When I wrote my About Us page several years ago, I wrote this about Everett:  “He gives the most phenomenal hugs.”  I updated that page recently, but that one sentence still had to stand.   He’s not a little boy anymore, but when it comes to hugs, he’s still the same squish that he was at five. He doesn’t shrink away if I try to put an arm around him, or rub his back, and I love that about him.


12.  He is a good friend.  To me, to his dad, to his siblings, to his peers.  He makes people laugh.  He cares about others.  He’s the kind of guy you want standing beside you… in the good times, and the bad.  He’s strong and loyal and trustworthy and true.


And I’m so very glad that I get to be his mom.


Happy, happy birthday Everett.  Thank you for the twelve years of love, light and laughter.


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8 Awesome Things About Tegan


Today this little princess turns eight.

I think in every family, whether you have one kid or twelve, everyone brings their own unique “je ne sais quoi” to the mix.   I’ve said it a hundred times (and will no doubt say it a hundred more), but what Tegan did was complete us.  She filled the Tegan-sized hole that we didn’t even know existed until we realized someone was missing.  Life with the three boys was so wonderful.  So fun.  So colorful.  But Tegan…. she brought the TECHNI-color.  She brought the glitter.  She brought the fireworks.  She brought the puffy hearts and rainbows.  And I thank God for every day she’s been a part of our lives.


Here are just eight awesome things I love about her:

1. She’s confident.  She is so confidently, and unabashedly Tegan.  From the clothes she wears, to the things she does with her hair, to the selfies she takes, to the new adventures she tries every day… she jumps in with both feet, looks the world in the eye, and says, “Here I come.”   When people tell her her new haircut makes her look like a boy – which just happened again yesterday – she shrugs and tells them she loves it short.



2. She never met a stranger.  By far the most extroverted of the four kids, Tegan makes friends with everyone she meets.  Not just superficial friends either, but best friends.  Older kids, younger kids, teens, adults; it doesn’t matter to her.  She spent a day at work with Mike last month, and when she got home, she was so excited to tell me about Viktoriya, his beautiful coworker with the fancy clothes and fun office, who gave her candy and became her new best friend and was “the sweetest person she ever met.”  She meets you, she finds the best and most lovable and most beautiful things about you.  Every time.


3. She faces her fears. I originally wrote this as, “She’s fearless”, but then I realized that that wasn’t really the case.  Of course she has fears.  We all have fears.  What’s awesome about Tegan is that I’ve yet to see her fears or nervousness or uncertainty hold her back from anything she’s wanted to do.  She danced in front of 20,000 people, twice (and LOVED it);  she rode the loop coaster that terrified her (and LOVED it);  she’s started acting in plays (and LOVES it).   She’s brave and bold and doesn’t let anything stop her.



4. She’s compassionate. She often makes me get well cards when I’m not feeling well (yesterday’s was complete with a drawing of her bringing me a cup of tea :)) She’s always thinking of her friends.  She wants the people around her to be happy.  She has such a huge heart for the people, and the animals – including the stuffed variety – that she loves,  and deeply cares about others’ feelings, comfort, and happiness.


5. She’s affectionate.  She gives rogue hugs, she’s free with her kisses, and when she comes in bed with us, it’s always with an arm (or a leg, or a whole body) thrown with abandon over my back.


6. She asks big questions. Oh boy, this girl.  She ponders the big things in life.  A car ride with Tegan often means conversations about heaven, life and death, prejudice, what makes a good friend, love, heartache, and everything in between.  She’s also the first of the four kids who insisted she not get a sugar-coated answer to where babies come from.



7.  She loves performing. Singing, dancing, acting, improv, story telling.  Give her a stage (or a living room, or a closet, or a soapbox, or….) and she’s on it.  When she was younger, she was riding in the cart at Target, and suddenly started smiling, and waving, and blowing kisses all around us as I pushed her down the aisle.  I asked her what she was doing and she looked at me like I’d asked a really silly question and said, “I’m in a parade.  I’m waving to all my fans.”  This is a girl who does not mind if she’s the center of attention. When I was kid, I once hid under the table at my roller rink birthday party because I was so embarrassed that my party guests were singing to me.  Tegan would love it if the whole room was singing to her.


8.  She’s a nut.  In a nutshell (see what I did there?), she is a goofy, crazy, ball of energy and one-liners, who loves to laugh and to make the people around her laugh as well.

She’s also a loyal friend, a doting daughter, and I couldn’t possibly love her more.


Happy, happy birthday Tegan!  Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I love you a million, billion, zillion.




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19 Awesome Things About Spencer

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Every year on my kids’ birthdays, I like to do a whole post just honoring them, and the awesomely weird and quirky and beautiful and wonderfully unique beings that they are. Last year, I made videos. In past years, I’ve written letters.

I’ve done lists like this before – one point for each year they’ve been earth-side – but I liked it so much I’m bringing it back.

Today our oldest, the one who made us parents, the one who overnight transformed our relationship from a couple to a family, turns nineteen. NINETEEN! While my mind reels at the fact that that can even by possible, my heart rejoices. My heart remembers… every story, every wound. Every joy, every heartache. All nineteen years – from hairy 5 1/2 pound newborn to (still hairy) young man – have woven together, their tapestry making up the very foundation of who I am as a mom, and by extension as a woman.

Like most moms, on most days of the year, the list of things I individually love about my kids is infinite. Today, on Spencer’s birthday, here are just nineteen:

1. He’s kind.  How could I not start the list here?  He has a huge, huge heart.


2.  He’s loyal.  I aspire to be the kind of friend that Spencer is to everyone he meets.  Once you’re friends with Spencer, you not only have a friend who’d give you the shirt off his back… you have a friend for life.

3.  He’s enthusiastic about learning. It doesn’t matter if the subject at hand is politics or playing the drums or the engines he loves to diagnose and fix… he loves learning, and he does it eagerly.

4.  He’s enthusiastic about LIFE.  An often uttered Spencer phrase is, “I’m so excited.”  It could be about any number of things, but it’s always genuine.  He’s a lover of life, and doesn’t shy away from showing it.

5. He feels things deeply. We joke in this house that Mike has no feelings, and I have ALL the feelings. The four kids all fall somewhere in between, with Spencer landing solidly in my camp.  Whether happy or sad, worried or excited, he wears his heart on sleeve, and I love that about him.

6.  He’s goofy.  He’s got the same corny, cheesy, goof-ball sense of humor he’s had since he was a kid.


7.  He’s not afraid to love.  And I don’t just mean when he’s in a relationship kind of way.  I mean just overall, as a general rule, he puts his whole heart out there.   As someone who spent a good portion of her life putting up walls so I wouldn’t get hurt, I find his willingness awesome and admirable.

8.  He’s a good sport.  Living in our household means putting up with a whole lot of joking, craziness, and a mom who bursts into song multiple times a day.  He handles it all with aplomb.  It’s fair to say we sometimes drive each other crazy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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9.  He works hard.  Whether it’s his online courses, yard work, or helping us run the conference, he works hard, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

10.  He knows what he likes.  Not one to be influenced by fads or brands or what the masses say is “cool”, he has his own unique tastes and wonderfully quirky preferences, from the music he listens to, to the clothes he wears, to the things he watches on TV.  He couldn’t care less what anyone else thought about it.

11.  He’s interesting.  Here’s the thing about living with Spencer:  When he walks into the room, you don’t know what you’re going to get.  A fascinating tidbit he just read online?  An excited monologue about a new game that’s coming out?  A passionate rant about people who use “u r” instead of “You are”?  It’s always new, it’s often crazy, and it’s one of the most endearing things about him.  He’s like a walking party.

12.  He’s strong.  He’s had oral surgery, eye surgery, shoulder surgery (along with many many many dislocations) and he handles it all like a rock star, and he keeps on going.

13.  He has a big personality.  Small in stature, and a hundred pounds soaking wet, his personality is just the opposite… unabashedly big and bold. When Spencer’s nearby, you know Spencer’s nearby.  He talks loudly, laughs freely, and generally buzzes with energy.

14.  He’s random.  He takes a lot of good-natured ribbing for this, but I don’t know anyone who can take a dinner conversation from music to snow mobiles to the UK (to everything in between) with as much skill as Spencer.   No need for segues.  If it crosses his mind, it comes out of his mouth.  🙂

15.  He’s smart.  Ah, the humbling mom moment when you first realize your kids are smarter than you.  I think it’s so cool to see my kids surpass my knowledge in all sorts of different areas… for Spencer it’s everything from computers to problem solving to how things work.   And his MEMORY!  I’ve been in awe of his memory since he was very little.

16. He’s all in.  Just in case you haven’t gotten it by now, he is someone who is living life at 100%.  All the time.

17.  He appreciates good food.  It is fun to have a kid to drink coffee with in the morning!  Beyond that, he has always, even from the time he was very little, has loved trying new and exotic foods, with a strong preference for seafood.  If there’s shrimp or crab legs or lobster anything on the menu… that’s where’s his eyes are going.

18.  He’s full of happy energy.  I’ve gotten so used to it that I tend not to notice it anymore until someone points out, but he is almost always in motion. Even when he’s standing still, he’s not still.  His legs are wiggling, he’s bouncing in place, his hands are going as he talks.    Almost like nervous energy, but it’s not. It’s HAPPY energy.  It just buzzes off him, and I wish it could be bottled and shared.

19.  He’s HIMSELF.  Is there anything better than this?  He’s awesome because he’s Spencer.

And I love him.  So, so much.  I’m so very thankful that I get to be his mom.



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Fifteen Years

1383689_10152444855833309_8424233825201971084_nPaxton turns fifteen today.  I woke up in a panic yesterday, because I’d remembered that I’d made slideshows for the other three this year, so that meant that I needed to make one for Paxton too.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to…. I love doing it.

But it positively guts me.

My mama heart drowns in nostalgia.  I mean seriously, how’d I get so lucky?

Paxton at fifteen.  What can I say that I haven’t already said so many times before?  He remains one of the strongest, kindest, funniest, most truly loyal and steady teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.  And his genuineness and integrity?  This guy has more of it in his little finger at 15 than I had when I was twice his age. He’s awesome,  and I’m so glad that I get to be his mom.

Have the happiest of birthdays, Paxton. Thank you for being so perfectly and simply you.



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Eleven Years


To Everett, one of the most kind-hearted, giving, energetic, creative, beautiful souls I know. Your love of your family and your friends and your animals and of LIFE inspires me.  Thank you, for making me smile every day for the past eleven years.  Thank you for letting me be your mom.  Thank you, for being you.

I hope you have the happiest of happy birthdays today, and I can’t wait to go to the game with you tonight.



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And three days later, I’m without words once again.

The thing about Tegan is that when she was born, she brought what we didn’t even know was missing from our family. We were so happy with the three boys. Our family was lovely and wonderful and joyous… but it just wasn’t complete. And her presence was so strong and so sparkly that we heard from her even before she was conceived.

“Hey, what about me?!”

And like the proverbial missing technicolor piece of the puzzle, she completed the family. With more personality, more shine, more LIFE than I’ve ever seen squeezed into one tiny person.

Welcoming Tegan to our family was everything we never knew we always wanted.

And on her 7th birthday, I thank her too. For her love, for her energy, for her beautiful beautiful heart. I don’t know how we ever got so lucky. We love you Tegan, more than you’ll ever ever know.


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Today Spencer turns eighteen.  Every year on the kids’ birthdays, I write a special post about them, or make a list about why they’re awesome, or write them a public letter.  This year though, I’m at a loss.

What can I possibly say that would do him, and this moment, justice?  What can I say to the one who first made me a mom, at the ripe-old age of 23.  The one who first laid my heart open and exposed those parts that were somehow simultaneously more tender and strong than anything I’d ever imagined.  The one who truly taught me what it meant to love somebody unconditionally.  The one who taught me who I am, and who I want to be.

I love you so much, Spencer.

And all I can say on this day, as we celebrate your 18th year (EIGHTEEN YEARS!!) is thank you.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom.  Thank you for giving me the privilege of being able to call you my son.  Thank you for eighteen years of fun and laughter and learning and love. Mostly, thank you for being so unabashedly, spectacularly, perfectly YOU.



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Fourteen Years


This guy turns 14 today.

Since I’ve written about the kids on their birthdays every year for awhile now, I know so much of it’s already been said:  the horrific pregnancy; the perfect birth story; the non-stop screaming for the first 3 years of his life; the level-headed calm (which came later) that is so, so beyond his years; the wonderfully sarcastic smart-ass sense of humor.

Today though, I’m thinking of 14 year old me, and 14 year old Paxton.  They don’t compare.

I was lost at 14.  Scared of everything.  I had no self-confidence, making me too susceptible to peer pressure, and I had no earthly idea who I was or what I stood for.  Those were things I didn’t reconcile until I was in my 30’s.

Not Paxton.

He KNOWS who he is.  At 14!  He is one of the most authentic people I know, hands down.

He is kind, and loyal, and steady, and true to himself and true to his friends.

In two weeks he’s getting on an airplane all by himself (making him the first of all four kids to fly), and headed to Michigan for a couple weeks to visit a good friend.   In typical Paxton fashion, he’s honest about the fact that he’s a bit nervous at the prospect of traveling alone … but also very, very excited.  I’m thrilled for him that he’s getting to do this, and have no doubt that he is going to handle it beautifully.

He’s 14 going on 30:   One foot still firmly in teen-hood, and another in a place of maturity and self-awareness that I didn’t even know existed when I was 14.

I admire him, not just because he’s my son…. but also for the boy that he is, and the man that he is becoming.

Happy, happy birthday Paxton.  Once again, I’m so glad I get to be your mom.  Your cupcakes will be ready by the time you get up.




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To Everett… On Your First Full Decade

Ten Years

Ten Years

One of my favorite things I ever post on my blog are the posts I do for my kids’ birthdays.  For one thing, they are non-controversial (no one ever has a negative word to say about a happy birthday post :)).  But more than that though, is that they are a celebration of these amazing lives… these incredible kids that I have the privilege of raising… and another reminder to not take a single day that I get to spend with them for granted.  Today, I celebrate Everett, who is somehow turning 10 years old.

Dear Everett,

Ten years old.  An entire decade.  I am having trouble with this one.  Maybe because you’re the third (third!) to hit double digits.  Maybe it’s because your sister, the baby, just turned 6.  Or maybe it’s just because you’ve always been the little one, and your turning ten is forcing me to realize that you’re growing up.   Whatever the case, in the midst of my excitement, I’m finding myself feeling weepy and nostalgic and emotional.  

Ten years old.

You were such a happy, sunshiney baby and toddler, Everett.  A complete and total joy. You’re a happy and sunshiney 10 year old too.  There were a couple rather rough spots somewhere in the middle there… but you came through them stronger.  More confident. More self-assured.  More YOU.  I admire you and your spirit, in so very many ways.

At ten, you’re a loving, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited, faithful brother, son, and friend. You’re fun-loving, goofy, and full of energy.  But If I had to pick just one adjective to describe the Everett that you are today it would be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm for life, for the people and pets and things around you, is so, so inspiring.  

Whether you’re practicing your karate, playing with your friends, jumping into a pool, opening your arms up for a hug, or showering affection on the cat, you are ALL IN, all the time.  I love that you’re a lover of life.  I love that you love to try new things.  I love that you love to meet new people.  I love that you love to physically express yourself in different ways (can’t wait to bleach your hair for you again later!)  

I love that you’re you.

Thank you, for choosing me as your mom, and for blessing me for ten beautiful years.

I love you Eb, more than you’ll ever know.



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To Tegan, The Best Surprise of my Life


Six years ago today, we went to the hospital for an induction after a long, complicated pregnancy, and a long, frustratingly stalled labor.  We were blessed that morning with a gorgeous little girl… a brand-new experience after three lovely boys.  And what an experience it’s been!   I’ve learned more in the past six years than I ever thought possible.  About myself, about parenting, and about life.  To my daughter, who’s changed my life in so many many beautiful ways:

Dear Tegan,

I am watching you as a write this.  You’re sitting across from me, in your new clothes, tired and happy (oh so happy!) after a successful birthday party.  You’re snacking on carrots and dip and donuts while you watch Good Luck Charlie.  You’ve let down your braid, you’ve played with every single one of your new toys, and you’ve recounted all your favorite party moments with your friends.  You look so big that it makes my breath catch.

I can’t believe my baby’s six.

Just like with your brothers, my heart is forever marked with memories from your birth. The one that still resonates, the one that if I close my eyes I can still feel as acutely as I did six years ago, is the moment that we heard, “It’s a girl.”  Yours was our only pregnancy that we let the gender be a surprise.  And oh what a surprise it was!  You’d think that it’d be hard not to find out, after we’d found out for your three brothers.  But it wasn’t.  It was exciting.  I couldn’t wait to find out who you were…. boy or girl,  Gavin or Tegan.   Everyone always asked if I had a feeling one way or the other, but I really didn’t. And I know that some people have a preference, but I didn’t have that either.  I would have been thrilled with a fourth boy, just as I was thrilled with you.  I think if I’m being honest though, I was expecting another boy, but only because that was the only kind of baby we’d made so far.  So that moment, that moment when the midwife turned you over and we all saw at once that you were a girl:  it was the biggest and happiest surprise I’d ever had.  Nothing before or since has even come close.

A girl.

You were so, so beautiful, and you still are.  You were, and always will be, our princess.

And I know, I know, they say you’re not supposed to call your daughter a princess. You’re supposed to tell her she’s strong and intelligent  instead.  Well, you know what? You are a princess.  You are beautiful. You are strong.  You are intelligent.

You’re a firecracker.

You’re a goof ball.

You’re loving.

You’re confident.

You’re funny.

You’re sweet.

You’re a bundle of energy and one-liners.

You’re authentically and unequivocally YOU.

You’re someone who knows – even at six – exactly what she wants, and exactly how she wants to get it.

Tegan, you have taught me so much.  I think more than anything, you’ve taught me to ENJOY LIFE.  You’ve taught me to embrace the moment.  You’ve taught me to stop and smell the flowers (plus, you’ve taught me to literally stop and smell the flowers)  You’ve taught me to play harder, to live louder, and to love bigger.

And as I sit here and look at you, looking so, so grown up… I wonder if you know.  I wonder if you have any idea how much I love you.  Any idea what it means to love someone so much it hurts.  So much you’d give your life for them.

You tell me you want to be the next Katy Perry some day.  You want to entertain the world as much as you’ve entertained me.  And while I will support you every step of the way, and don’t doubt for one second that you could do it if that’s what you choose, what I hope and pray for you is both simpler and more profound.

If you can love, and be loved, even a fraction as much as I love you right now… I’ll be happy.

Thank you, for six of the best years of my life.


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