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Dear Charleston,

You asked me to cuddle with you at bedtime last night. You also asked the night before last, and the night before that too. In fact, you ask me every night—puppy dog eyes on full display, scrawny arms wrapped around my waist, a request for just a few minutes of snuggles—and though I don’t always say yes, I never regret when I do. You carve out a cozy place for me next to your spot in bed, you set your music to a playlist you know I’ll like, and as we lay in your bed we talk about the day, about your fears and concerns and what makes you happy, about your birthday wishes and your plan of action for your first day in office as President of the United States. Eventually the chatter slows, your eyes close, and you curl your warm body next to mine to drift off to sleep in my arms, just as you have most nights of your nine years.

That number astounds me: NINE! How did we get here? This near-decade as your mom has flashed by too quickly, and though I miss the teeny tiny newborn that was placed on my chest in those early hours of January 16, 2015, I love you just as much now as ever before and have loved watching you grow into the big kid (I refuse to call you a Tween!) you are today. You are funny, creative, thoughtful, kind-hearted, and ridiculously smart, with a contemplative spirit and logical way of processing world. You love the Lord, your family, and making every moment as special and as fun as possible.

You are a good friend and an intentional brother who cares for his siblings, shining in your role as playtime coordinator for our family (you are so great at coming up with games and activities for you, Kali, and Sully—and they ADORE you, for good reason).

Though you can be very distractible, you are responsible and eager to please, and I love the tone of levity and curiosity you bring to our home. I am constantly amazed by the creativity you bring to the cards you make, the fun blueprints you design, and the jokes and stories you tell. This year I’ve enjoyed watching you ride your bike, build impressive Lego sets, read challenging books, thrive in school and in Trail Life, and grow in your social skills, academic abilities, and your faith.

I had so much fun asking you questions for our annual birthday interview. Some of your answers surprised me, and more than a few made me laugh. Thanks, Charleston, for indulging me in this fun little tradition.

Me: What are your thoughts on turning nine years old?

Charleston: I don’t know. In my mind, I picture numbers and letters as boys or girls, so 7 to me is a girl, 8 to me is a boy, so I’m not too happy about going back into a girl number 9.

What was the best part of being 8? What was your favorite memory from this past year?

I have so many good ones, but one of my favorites probably was that second-to-last present from Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas day, the best and latest video game.

What was your biggest disappointment this year?

Not getting a “make anything machine” from Santa this year. I mean, I didn’t want to rule the world or anything, I was just going to make a bigger playground for The Rock and make a bigger building for church. I also had a dream on Christmas night where I got spy goggles, and I was disappointed when I woke up and I didn’t really get them.

What is an accomplishment you are proud of?

Probably completing third grade math.

What are some of your favorite things?

Jesus, God, my family, my friends, fun things, playtime, Hot Wheels, Mario, Harry Potter, Toy Story, the Mario Movie, Legos, Adventures in Odyssey, turning 9 years old, birthday parties, cake, ice cream cake (that cake where you have the bread on the outside but on the inside is ice cream), crab (that’s my very #1 food, not a single piece of a doubt. . . well, maybe a little doubt). Being the boss of O.W.C.A., helping people, following the ten commandments . . . and whoever’s reading this should get the idea by now. I have a lot of other things I like but that’s good enough for now. Oh, and school, but that’s not on my real favorite things list, or on my list of things I dislike, it’s on my list that’s in between those two things. School’s on the end of that in-between list.

What are some of your least favorite things?

Satan, sinning. I’m not a huge fan of boredom, that sums it up pretty much.

What is a goal you are working towards?

Win the biggest prank war. But that involves breaking the rules, which I try to avoid. . . so there goes that goal. Oh, I’m gonna try to get the gold medal for Trail Racers [Trail Life derby race]. My New Year’s resolutions are doing better health wise, like brushing my teeth more than twice a day, and not have big tantrums during school (but you persuaded me into that one and I already broke it, so bye-bye), and tidy up my room a little bit more.

What would you like to be when you grow up?

Let’s see, first I’m gonna be mayor, then state governor (probably of California, they’re not too well off right now), then President of the USA, then work for Small Town USA Odyssey, probably be one of the actors or sound designer or producer or writers.

What brings you joy?

One thing that makes me really happy is the fact that in a few weeks I’m gonna go to a Lego convention . . . and bring my wallet with me!

What makes you sad?

A lot of things, probably most of all seeing those five leftover tickets for the Red Tier at the Odyssey show and knowing I’m not going. And also, imagining my perfect day and knowing it’s not gonna happen.

Tell me about your perfect day.

A perfect day would first be wake up, I just had this great dream, and it’s 7:15, the perfect time for me to wake up—I’m all pumped up, not grouchy or half asleep, and the reason I woke up is ’cause you woke me up telling me you just went to the donut place and brought home some donuts for me, so I’m served breakfast in bed and this day is my birthday. Then it turns out some anonymous donor gave us a billion dollars time 17,000 and that’s all our money and so now we can pay the guy to build that porch we’ve been wanting to build and we get a fireplace installed (and this all happens in half an hour by the way). Then we invite all my friends like Wyatt and Brennan and Elliott and Collin (since I’m getting along with him a little bit better) and Ezra and Shayden and all of our family, then we all go to Indigo Play: we have some cake, we play video games, we’re at the playground, they sing happy birthday to me, we play in the imagination type town place. . . .

After Indigo Play we go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, you see: we eat some more cake and have pizza and root beer and everyone sings happy birthday to me again. By then we come home and it’s 4:00 and I got the best toys, a new playground with a tunnel slide and it’s seven stories high and underneath it there’s this big foam pit that’s nine feet deep. Then we eat the best dinner ever, some of your homemade French toast, some pancakes, some leftover cake and pizza and crab, and then after the ninth course (oink oink) I go to bed and listen to one of my favorite Adventures in Odyssey episodes and then when I wake up the next morning we see it snowed as much as our snow-pocalypse BUT our power is still on, so we go out there and play and have a snowball fight. And that’s my perfect day and one tenth!

What are you curious about?

I’m curious about if Grandpa will ever make that treehouse he promised he’d make.

What is your purpose in life?

Probably being a good leader. I feel like I’d be a good leader. And teach people about Jesus and . . . yeah, that’s good.

Who is somebody you look up to? (Who is your hero?)

Jesus. [Me: That’s great, but anybody else?] No, just Jesus. Jesus. And Jesus.

Tell me what you know about God.

I believe in a lot of stuff about God, but I think a song should do the main things. (Proceeds to sing the entire song Jesus Loves Me at the top of his lungs, then when he’s finished laughs uncontrollably. Then sees that I’ve written this and laughs some more.) My voice needs tuning, like a guitar!

What would you like to ask God?

A lot of things. I know I’ll be disappointed by the answers but I’d ask if I’ll ever be rich, and will I ever be really wise, and may I please be wiser than Solomon. . . wait, not wiser than Solomon (because that didn’t go very well for him) since God said Solomon was the wisest man, and I don’t want God to be a Father who lies by making me wiser.

Tell me about an item you own that represents you.

O.W.C.A., a name I took from a company (that does not have it under copyright). I gave it a new logo.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Christian, O.W.C.A.-boss (I just made a new word), and curious.

What types of things do you like to learn about?

I like to learn about what it’s like to have a billion dollars. . . ’cause that means I probably have some. I like to do addition, it’s easy. Multiplication is kind of fun.

What is the funniest joke you’ve ever heard?

I’m not sure about funniest, but here’s a good joke: “Why did the duck walk and not have a car? The bill was too big.

How do you feel about being a big brother?

Good. But I wish I was the big brother by one minute and there was another brother who came after me who was my identical twin. I always wanted an identical twin, or at least I’ve always wanted one since the thought occurred to me a few weeks ago.

If you could travel to any period in history, where would you go?

Probably the time when Jesus put spit in the man’s eyes, put mud in his eyes and washed it out in the pool and the blind guy could see again. I’d go there since it’s a miracle, it’s cool! Or maybe just the entire life of Jesus.

If you could give a message to the world, what would it be?

Please donate all of your money to The Grove church, they have small bathrooms. Oh, and follow Jesus, that’s a good one!

Okay, we’re about to the end. Before we go, do you have any questions for me?

What are your favorite things? What do YOU know about Jesus? (Can you please sing the song like I did?!) Do you want to have another baby? And I have one more question, you HAVE to write this down: do I have to finish school today?

Charleston, I hope that your ninth birthday is all that you dreamed it would be. Most of all I hope you know how very much you are loved and how very honored I am to be your mom. I love you forever, Bud!

Love Always,

Mom(my) <— Thanks for still occasionally calling me that, just because you know how much I love it.

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