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Dear Charleston,

Happy birthday!!! As I write this, it’s the night before your big day, and I am reflecting back on this same night eight (EIGHT!) years ago. I’d been laboring for nearly a day—my body anguishing under greater physical pain than I’d ever known, my mind frozen with fear over how little of our birth plan was falling into place. But I knew that each contraction and each wave of anxiety was bringing me closer to the moment. You know the one: the moment that would become my tippy top #1 moment of all time—the moment I got to meet you, my beloved firstborn.

You and I were talking about that moment recently, and I admitted that it was the best moment of my life. You countered my words (as you often do) with a reminder that I surely had another best moment when Kali and Sully were born. I was honest in my answer: though their arrivals were equally joyful, their birth itself was not a happy one because I was unconscious and remember none of it. Even my first time meeting them is fuzzy. But I recall that first moment with you with crystal clarity. You were laid on my chest and I held your tiny body to mine, instantly enraptured by a greater love and euphoria than I had thought possible. In that moment, a child was born and so was a mother. Your were my baby, and I was your mama, and this was just the start of something incredibly beautiful.

Not unlike your birth story, these eight years with you have not always been smooth sailing. But the predominant theme has been one of love, joy, learning, growth, and all manner of emotions beyond my capacity for articulation. I cannot begin to express how deeply I love you, or how insanely proud I am of you, or how honored I am to be your mom. I do, however, have words for my experience of you at eight years old:

(This picture makes me laugh: you wanted to make the number 8!)

You are bright. SO BRIGHT. And I mean that in every interpretation of the word. You are insightful and logical, a deep thinker and methodical processor, with an extensive vocabulary, a huge capacity for understanding your little world on many levels, and a quickness in picking up new skills and ideas. (Your intelligence can make it difficult to parent and to teach you, because your curiosity is often insatiable and you have an uncanny ability to outsmart may of my parenting moves!) You are an avid reader, an expert Lego architect, and an excellent player of board games (you always beat me at the logic-based ones!). You are also quite creative, always inventing new games and contraptions and ideas for doing things. I am endlessly fascinated by the bright mind God has given you, and love when you use that mind to study and reflect on Him.

Your brightness goes beyond what’s happening in your mind. Others often comment on how happy and outgoing you are, optimistic and enthusiastic and smiley. (Of course we both know that is NOT always the case at home, but I love knowing that that brilliance is inside of you and that it shines when it’s most important!) You are playful and have the quirkiest sense of humor, which occasionally leads to some pretty great jokes!

You’ve become so independent this year, doing things on your own and having strong opinions and well-thought ideas on how we live our lives. Most of the time I value your feedback and appreciate your help around the house (even as we work on your attitude when it comes to chores and schoolwork). I have always worried that my kids might grow into people I love but don’t necessarily like spending time with, and that is far from the case with you! I honestly cherish and enjoy the times we spend together. You’re a kid I would want to hang out with even if you weren’t my son!

I’ve loved being your mom from Day 1, there’s no question about that; but this past year brought some especially delightful moments with you as you’ve gotten older and we now have shared hobbies and interests. It’s so much fun to talk about books and the Bible and history with you; to play games I actually enjoy playing; to listen to Adventures in Odyssey and dance to worship music; and of course, to read with you. (It brings me so much happiness that you love Harry Potter as much as I do, and that you have been counting down the days until your 8th birthday, the date I set for when we could begin The Prisoner of Azkaban).

I know that being the oldest child isn’t always easy. You have higher expectations placed on you, and more responsibilities. You don’t get as much individual attention as you would like. But oh, how I adore seeing you with your brother and sister. You are such an awesome helper and a fantastic playtime organizer, and you amaze me with your ability to understand and anticipate their needs. You often know just what to say to help or encourage them, and they simply worship the ground you walk on. You three bicker as all siblings do, but your heart for one another is golden.

Your birthday would not be complete without our traditional birthday interview. We knocked that out last week, and I had fun hearing your answers. (Almost as much fun as I had in capturing your silly photo shoot poses!) Here’s a look at all you had to say:

What is something you know now that you didn’t know last year?

Hmm, I didn’t really learn much this year yet. Oh, I think I’ve got an answer! (Turns on multiplication song we’ve been practicing to indicate he’s learning his multiplication facts). And how to round numbers. That’s pretty much most of it.

What is the best thing that has happened to you lately?

I’ve been on the wrong path, and I’ve been trying to move my way onto the right one. In the path of choices.

What do you like most about yourself right now?

I don’t know. You mean the part I’m most glad about my personality? Probably, right about now, that my birthday is soon.

What are your favorites? (Movie, show, food, color, toy, book, subject etc.)

Despicable Me; Phineas and Ferb; Pizza; Orange and Green; Legos; Imagination Station books; Math.

How do you like to spend your time?

Eating donuts. Listening to Odyssey, building Legos, doing crafts, and doing something with my cardboard collection.

What do you think will be different about the world when you grow up?

It won’t be 2023. Haha, actually it will, because you grow up every single microsecond, so it will still be 2023 when I grow up. There will probably be self-driving cars when I’m really grown up.

Tell me about your future job.

President, hopefully. I think I might put up some more churches in the places that don’t have much. A lot of people listen to presidents, so maybe encourage people to follow God. . . although I hope Heaven doesn’t get to full. . . because Grandpa says Heaven’s only the size from about here to California, and how does that hold all the people from the past that believe in God?

What makes you feel frustrated?

When we’re not having half school. When I don’t get to play video games and when I don’t get all the stuff I want for my birthday. When my Imagination Station books don’t show up on time to read the next one.

What brings you delight?

Indigo Play, donuts, Caprisuns, pizza with all my favorite toppings on it, Legos, playing kitty cat with Kali and Sully (that’s fun), the twinsaww, they bring me delight.

What is the most important rule you can think of?

Doesn’t the ten commandments say it? Follow Jesus with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

What rule would you want to put in place?

Make Indigo Play be cheaper, go to Indigo Play more often. . . something like you have to bring me to Indigo Play more times that you do, like once every two months.

Tell me about something you are proud of.

I’m proud that I can have some big burps. And I’m proud that I’m a good joke teller. I just came up with one—so mom, this one’s funny: what if your New Year’s Reunion is TO KEEP your New Year’s Reunion [resolution]? It’s one of those things that’s like circle circle circle, it never ends, like the water cycle.

What are the best and worst parts about being a big brother?

There’s no one my age to play with me, that’s the worst part. But the best part is I’ve got some little twins I can cuddle with and play with and make good ideas for and be a Cindrell-y, Kali likes that. And they play with me, do a bunch of fun stuff with me.

Describe a perfect day.

I’ll describe my perfect birthday. First we go to the donut shop for donuts for breakfast, no school, then we pick my favorite yellow donut probably, and some juice for a drink. Then we come back home and play games and build Legos and have pancakes for lunch, then we go and pick up a cake. We make our way to Indigo Play and everyone is there that I invited, then we eat cake and play freeze tag and cops and robbers and some of us play in the video games. And then it’s time to open presents from the people who brought them, then we go back home and we play with my toys and have pizza for dinner.

What is something you are hoping to learn, see, or do this year?

Hoping to have a great birthday. It’s one of the best goals to have. I’m pretty sure that’s my New Year’s reunion [resolution]. I’m part of that 8% of people that keep theirs. [That was a reference to a New Year’s sermon we heard at church last week.]

Is there anything you’d like to add to our interview; anything you’ve been wondering or would like to ask me?

I’m wondering if I can have some extra birthday presents.

Charleston, I loved the “you” that shone through in your answers: your excitement and anticipation of the future; your insight into the important things; your tendency to infuse ordinary answers with little bits of brilliance. As I asked you those questions I could see the little boy in you, and also glimpses of the young man you are becoming. There were angsty undertones—shadows of what may be ahead for us in your teen years—and a straightforward world view that you may not outgrow (you get that black-and-white way of thinking from me). There was a confidence I hope you NEVER outgrow, even as I pray that it is tempered by humility and spiritual maturity. That maturity is in you already; I see the Holy Spirit working within you and am so excited to see how the Lord works in you and through you in the year to come.

Charleston, I hope that your 8th birthday is all that you are hoping it will be and more. Mostly, I hope you can understand just a fraction of how much I love you and am wishing all good things for you as you live out life as an EIGH-YEAR-OLD!

Love Always,

Mommy (<—————I just love that you’ve started calling me that again. Thank you for not growing up faster than my heart can handle.)

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