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Dear Charleston Michael,

I clearly remember my own seventh birthday. Your Oma and Opa took me and Uncle Austin (who was just a baby at the time) to Knott’s Berry Farm for breakfast at Mrs. Knott’s restaurant. Then we spent some time in the amusement park, and when we came back out to our minivan, my parents opened up the trunk to unveil my present: a brand new bicycle with a flowery white whicker basket and tassels on the handlebars. Many other details from that day have fallen away, but I vividly recall how I felt that birthday (and every birthday before and since): cherished, celebrated, and loved as I entered into my next year.

Thirty years from now, I wonder what you will remember about turning seven: will it be our trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s? The board games and Hot Wheels cars and craft supplies you unwrapped? The candles on your Mario cake? I have a feeling those details will be forgotten, but I hope that like me, you never forget that on your seventh birthday you, too, were cherished, celebrated, and deeply loved.

I’ll resist the urge to spend this entire birthday letter regaling you with my nostalgia for your babyhood and my feelings of disbelief that you are a whole SEVEN years old. Instead, I’ll celebrate the marvelous young man you are becoming. You have a kind heart, an abundance of energy, smart (and occasionally juvenile) sense of humor, and sharp insight. You make friends easily and love to keep those around you happy and laughing.

While you’re very social, you are also great at playing independently. You have a vivid imagination that is worked out in your songs, stories, crafts, and creative play (which takes place in your room, with your door closed, because you seek privacy for these creative endeavors). Though your body rarely stops moving, you move slowly through tasks and activities because your mind is occupied by daydreaming and various invisible distractions.

You have started to care a lot more about what others think, and about doing or saying “the right thing;” that breaks my heart a little, but you have instances of complete obliviousness and innocence that I adore. (Case in point: you might feel incredibly self-conscious about walking out the door with unruly hair and the “wrong” color of socks, but give zero concern to the chocolate frosting all over your face or pants that barely reach your ankles.) You appear to hold people and possessions with an open hand, but this nonchalance masks a soft, sensitive spirit that only those closest to you get the privilege of witnessing.

You are incredibly bright, sometimes too smart for your own good. You are filled with questions (some sincere, others posed testily) and you look for logical answers and reasons for everything (much to this mama’s exhaustion). Though it is fatiguing to answer your incessant questions, I admire your thirst for understanding and especially appreciate your out-of-the-box observations conclusions.

I’ve lamented to many friends that I didn’t realize the teenage years began at age SIX, but you proved me wrong: this past year saw its fair share of attitude, angst, arguing, and acting out. You are very much processing who you are, who you want to be, and how to exist in this world that isn’t easy or straightforward, and those questions have led to some big feelings and out-of-character overreactions. Beneath these adolescent proclivities, you are a really great kid: honest (to a fault), eager to please, kind-hearted, and conscientious.

This year I’ve loved learning alongside you, getting into new hobbies (like more challenging board games, reading out loud to one another, and listening to Adventures in Odyssey), and watching you mature. I am SO PROUD of you—for your progress and hard work in school, your participation in our family, and most of all for how well you love God and love others. There is nothing you could say or do that would make me stop loving you, but it helps that you are just SO EASY to love!

As has become our birthday tradition, I took you out for donuts last week to ask you some questions and grab some pictures. A lot of your responses surprised me (some made me smile, others had me tearing up), and together your interview answers painted a through picture of seven-year-old Charleston.

How do you feel about turning seven? Very happy for a birthday party, and a little bit un-normal. I’m used to being six.

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Likes Mario Kart, name starts with a C-H, has five people in his main family, has a pet dog . . . no, instead of that, let’s make it lives in Liberty Hill). . . and has a playground in his backyard. That’s a lot of things to describe yourself, kind of!

Who is somebody you look up to or want to be like? No one. Have you ever heard my song called “Who I’m Gonna Be Is Me?” Well I made it up and it says I’m gonna be me. Because me is the best way to be!

Is there anything you wish were different about yourself? That I never made mistakes.

What is something you wish were different about your life? Last Saturday, me and Daddy were coming home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house and we saw a house for sale right next to their house, and I’d love to live there. Imagine it, right next to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We could walk there!

What are your superpowers? I like to give the twins a lot of hugs and kisses and I lose at the new Mario Kart (at Grandma and Grandpa’s) a lot. You know how the new Mario Kart and the one I have on my iPad are not the same—I was a master at the one on my iPad, but this new one is really tricky. So my superpower is losing a lot.

What is something about you that would surprise people? That my grade won a contest at church. ‘Cause we have games every week, and sometimes instead of just four or two people in a game, it would be groups, and every grade would be a team. And my first grade class actually won!

What do you like the most about our family? I like that we have a really big family.

How do you feel about being a big brother? What’s the best/worst part? The worst part is sometimes when you come in the twins’ room and smell terrible, stinky poop. The best part is I’ve got someone to kiss and hug and snuggle with.

Who is your hero? Daddy and you. ‘Cause I trust you.

What is important to you? Hugs.

Describe your perfect day. When nothing goes wrong and I et a perfect breakfast and a perfect lunch and a perfect dinner and a perfect everything. Everything that could happen to me in a day could be perfect to be a best day ever.

What is something you like to do . . . by yourself? With me? With Daddy? Not really anything by myself, I get bored when I’ve got no one to play board games with. (Haha, BOARD games. BORED!) With Daddy, I like to play tag. And with you, I like when you read books with me and listen to Odyssey with me.

What types of stories do you like the best? The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle kinds. And Phineas and Ferb, but that’s not really a story, a story is more like from a book.

What is your favorite thing to do in school? I’ve got a lot of things I like to do in school. Probably reading and math, you know, like money math. Writing stories in my journal is fun too!

What is something that makes you laugh? People laughing. Sometimes I don’t know what people are talking about, but they’re laughing so I just start laughing too.

What scares you? The dark, a little. It gives me bad daydreams.

What do you daydream about? Bad things happening to my mommy and daddy. And my embarrassments. I don’t remember daydreaming about any good things.

What is your best memory? I don’t know, I have a lot of good memories. Like once when our class at church did win a prize. It was ice cream! And the Rock, I’m really happy at the Rock too.

What is your worst memory? I have more worst memories than best memories. Like when I was stretching and someone thought I was raising my hand, and at Bible Study when I made a sad face and someone asked me why, but they’d told me to do it first. When someone tried to start a fire with rocks.

What is the bravest thing you have ever done? Go closer to the fire in our neighborhood when we saw smoke.

Where is a place you would like to go? Disneyland!

What do you look forward to? My birthday party.

What is the best present you’ve ever gotten? I’ll have to answer that when I’m older because what if I get an even better present when I’m older!

If you could only own five things, what would they be? You, Daddy, Sully, Kali, and a toy. I don’t know which one, probably the Hot Wheels Garage, that’s very entertaining.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pineapple. I mean, it’s really good, right? Like when we had it at the hotel, I was diggin’ into that thing!

What is a question you would like to ask God? What’s His favorite flavor of ice cream.

What do you know about God? He did a lot of things for us. He loves us.

What does love mean to you? Hugs and kisses.

What will your life be like in thirty years? Oh, I’m not even sure if I might get that old. My plan is I will be president. Well, actually that might be a few years less than thirty. . . . No, I might still be president in thirty years. . . . I’ll probably be married, I wanna have kids, and my job will be president like I said, and I will let my family come to the bowling alley in the White House.

Before we end, do you have any questions you would like to ask me? What is your favorite flavor donut, counting if you like sprinkles or not? What’s your favorite kind of ice cream? Do you like it in a cone or a cup? Do you think that God wants me to be president? Do you daydream a lot? Do you like Coke better or Dr. Pepper better?

Last question: If you could tell the world a message, what would it be? I like to have birthday parties!

Charleston, you are growing up fast, but I treasure the moments when you are still my little boy: our nightly snuggles and kisses (you aren’t too grown-up to smother my face with smooches), our on-the-go chats about everything from politics to poop stories, holding your hand or swinging you up into a hug while on our mother/son dates. I love you with my entire being: you are the boy who made me a mom, who taught me the magic of parenting and the burning passion of a mother’s heart. You will always and forever be loved by me. Happy Birthday, Bud!


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