Dear McKay,

Fifteen years ago today, you took two young, dumb, baby-faced kids in love:

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And you made them parents.

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We had no idea what we were doing, and we have undoubtedly made many mistakes.  Still are making them, I'm sure.

But oh, it's been a fun ride.

You made being a parent far easier than it actually was (as we learned when your colicky brother joined the family).  You were the easiest newborn I've ever known, and the happiest toddler.  You have always had a smile on your face and joy in your heart.  You sought to obey and still continue to do so.  Life has definitely been more sweet with you around.

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Today was a pretty big day for you.  I have been a ball of nerves all day long, and worried and fretted for you and your big appointment at the DMV.  I think my blood pressure definitely hit unsafe levels during the 10-minute written test, as I sat on a cold, metal folding chair in the next room and wrung my hands sore.  I knew how badly you wanted to pass, and for that reason I wanted you to.


And while I am absolutely terrified of handing you the keys to my car, I have no doubt that you'll probably do better than I did.

I don't see any joyrides at midnight in cars driven by unlicensed friends in your future.

Right?  RIGHT?

You are so unlike what I was at this age.  It astonishes me and fills me with awe to see your happy confidence.  You are ever the social butterfly, but never too busy to hang with your brother.  Your sister doesn't quite speak the same love language, and your early morning happiness is definitely wasted on the likes of her.  But your persistence pays off, and even she can't resist your happy banter.

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Mack, you make me so proud.

I am proud of the young man you are becoming.  I am proud of the example you are to your younger siblings, and even to your friends.  Your heart is a good one.   Your standards are high, and you expect a lot from those in your life.  I so admire that about you.

I have been so impressed with your smooth transition to high school this year.  I won't lie, getting up to drive you to early morning seminary is kind of killing little bits of my soul.  But it is all worth it when I see what it means to you.  Your dedication inspires me to be better.  To try harder.  To do what I know I should.

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Thank you for being such an important part of our family.  Your sense of humor, your quick wit, and your keen observations make you so unique and such a big part of our lives.

Thank you for your patience, as I've tried and made lots of mistakes on you.  You, my first baby.  The one who has to endure the twists and turns of the learning curve with me.  You, who've had to suffer most through my inadequacies.  You've made it easy on me, kid.

And you've made it exceptionally fun.

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Happy fifteenth, Mack.

I love you.  I couldn't be more proud of you.




Dear McKay,


Well, my boy, you are now 14.

As I've thought about what I'd like to tell you in this birthday letter, I am drawn time and time again to the contrast between you and the person I was at 14. I was snarky, sarcastic, angry, and insecure. I took every opportunity to buck the rules laid upon me, and resented the grown up people in my life. I was rebellious and unhappy.

The greatest thrill of my life is that you are, in every single way, the complete opposite of what I was then. You are happy, kind, sweet, and confident. You love and adore the parentals in this house and look forward to time spent together as a family. You obey the rules religiously, and bring logical well-planned arguments for our consideration when you think rules should be altered. Quite honestly, we usually agree with your logic, and make changes accordingly.

Though we don't tell you often enough, we are proud as punch for the maturity you show in times like these. You make it nearly impossible to tell you no, kid.

And you leave me wondering what I ever did to deserve you.


Right now, you are obsessed with all things basketball. Almost every item on your birthday wish list was basketball related. You have a routine after school each day, and you follow it rain or shine. After guzzling a large glass of milk, you head out to the back yard and shoot some hoops. I think it helps you to clear your head and unwind before the chore of homework begins.

What brings a smile to my face is that most days I look out the window and see you with your brother or sister, offering pointers, and cheering them on from the sidelines, rather than shooing them away to focus on yourself.

It's not the game that matters. It's the people who play alongside you that count. A lesson, sweet boy, that we are all learning from you.

Mack, your heart is pure gold.


As you grow into a man, which I know is bound to happen whether I like it or not, I hope you will take this knowledge and lock it deep inside your heart: There is not a day goes by that I don't thank god for sending me you. You are truly a noble soul. Your sweetness of spirit is infectious and brings joy to all those around you. You are quick to laugh, especially at yourself, and so easy to love.

You make me smile each and every day.


Thank you for showing me just how fantastically wonderful teenage boys can be.

I love you, my little KcKay. And I always will.


Love, Mami

Twelve + six days


Dear Chase,

Last Friday, you turned twelve. You have been pretty excited about it and all the milestones that come with turning twelve. I'm left wondering when exactly twelve years came and went. It doesn't seem to be slowing down, either.

You are shooting up right before our eyes, and I am often tempted to measure you at night before you go to sleep. I swear, you are taller every morning. It is killing your big brother that you are taller than him. But you don't make it an issue, you don't rub it in. When people comment on that fact, you just shrug your broad, lanky shoulders and smile. Like it's no big deal.

Would that everyone had a brother as good as you, Chase.

The big excitement of this year is that you are now old enough to get your own gun.

It should not surprise any of us that the gun you picked is a replica of an old gun -- a collector's item -- and not necessarily one we can pick up at the local sporting goods store. It had to be special ordered, purchased through a federally licensed firearms dealer, and brought across state lines with lots of red tape and paperwork. This is pretty typical of you, Chase, as you have always prided yourself on being anything but ordinary.

You are one of a kind.

And we thank god every day for that fact.


This year, you also entered another milestone - that of middle school. It nearly tore my heart in two to watch you saunter so easily to the bus stop with your brother. Watching the two of you walk, the happy banter between you going back and forth, brought back a flood of memories. Memories of the two of you in diapers, playing together - best friends, even then. I can't count the hours spent watching your two heads bent together over a set of legos or sitting exhausted on a park bench, wondering if you'd ever run out of energy.

Which you never did, by the way.

And here you are, taking more independent steps away from me with grace and ease, and growing into a very fine young man in the process.


You are still such a sensitive little soul, and I hope you never lose that. Your kindness for the underdog in every situation has drawn friends to you that others wouldn't have the patience for. You don't mind the quirky kids, the ones with the special needs. In fact, you are so good at looking beyond their limitations and only see the best in them.

Quite frankly, you see the best in everyone.


Your quest for knowledge is as alive as ever. Gone are the days where you need anyone's help to satisfy your thirst for information. Quite often, it's me asking you about something, and without fail, you are always spot on with the right answer. Your brain is a sponge, kid.

And I have no doubt that should we ever find ourselves in a survival situation, I will live through it because of you.


Chase, your heart is pure gold. You love unconditionally and without guile. You draw others in and love them wholly.

There is nothing I love more than your lone dimple in a big smile - it lights up my world. You are so special and you have taught me more about kindness than anyone else ever could. You make me a better mom. You make me want to be worthy of the trust god placed in me when he made you mine.


I love you, kid. Happy twelfth birthday.



Lucky Thirteen

[My all-time favorite picture of you. I can't ever get enough of it. Photo courtesy of Heidi Ballou]

Dear McKay,

Well, I finally did it. Finally found the time to sit down and get this letter up for you. I had no idea you had been checking the blog all day Friday for it. I feel terribly guilty that it wasn't here waiting, but what can I say? I was up at 5:30 to get your birthday breakfast ready. Then I was making your cake from scratch, and brining and baking your birthday brisket (all per your request).


The funny thing is just how well you understand. Of all my children, you are definitely the most forgiving. Like that picture above? The one with the dog we had for a total of two days before having to give it back due to horrific allergies? You smiled and shrugged it off, though I know it broke your heart. Your brother? He asked if it would be possible to keep the dog and send ME away.

But not you. You accepted the bad news and made the most of the time you and the dog had left.

You are still like that today. When things don't go your way, you never pout or get angry. You never slam doors or yell in frustration. You simply adjust your way of thinking and move on to something new. Your disappointment is never carried around on your sleeve.

Oh, but I envy you that trait.

I think it will serve you well in your life. I think it will make you a fair and just companion. You are quick to forgive and so easy to love. (And I know you did not get that from me.)


When retelling the story of your birth last Friday night, I looked at you in awe and wondered how it was that 13 years have gone by since then. It seems like only yesterday. I can still feel your warm body in my arms, as they handed me this wrapped, red bundle of baby. I recall with vivid clarity, watching with teary eyes as Daddy held you for the first time - you, just minutes old. It was that precise moment that we became a family.

Oh, but you made parenting so easy. Your happy laughter filled our tiny apartment. Your smile made the winter seem like spring. You brought us a new level of joy that we had never known before.


I am particularly loving your new independence in the kitchen. Many a gourmet meal has been served lately - and all of them prepared by you! I flatter myself that your interest in cooking is not due to my lack of abilities, but as a result of your own drive to learn new skills.

Yeah. That's it, right?

Either way, it's been so fun to see you try new things. You never seem daunted by difficult recipes or techniques. You were born fearless, and it extends into every part of your life.


I love you, kid. I cherish your obedient nature. I see you trying so hard to do your best - in school, at church, and at home - and I sit here and wonder what I ever did to deserve you. You have the heart of a giant. You love everyone around you, and make it impossible for them not to love you back. You work hard and expect the absolute best from yourself.

I hope this year is your best yet. You. are. amazing.



Dear Chase


Dear Chase,

Please forgive me for the fact that this letter is two weeks late. What can I say? Life has not been on our side lately and it's been tough to fit it all in.

You had a great birthday this year, though your wish list was a bit tough for me initially. You did not ask for easy gifts like Legos or Nerf guns. Oh no, not you. What you wanted was a real lighter used by a soldier on the beach at Normandy during World War II. And armor from ancient Rome.


Not necessarily items one can pick up at the local Target, if you know what I mean.

But I did surprise you with those old magazines and an antique camera, as well as a few more modern delights. The look on your face when you opened them was priceless. Your joy was evident and I have caught you several times tinkering and exploring your new toys. I still shake my head in awe that an 11-year-old boy would ask for such antiquities, not to mention be thrilled to death to receive them. Man, I love your individuality, kid.


Speaking of your quirks, when I went back through my photo archives to find some pictures for this post, I noticed that you are wearing the same shirt in practically EVERY. SINGLE. PICTURE I have taken of you in the past year. I know I wash that shirt twice a week, but that's because you wear it twice a week. It's your favorite and the new shirts in your closet can never match up. First thing out of the laundry, that shark-caging souvenir tee from Hawaii graces your bony shoulders.

You are who you are.

And I wouldn't trade your quirks for all the riches in the world.


You make our life very interesting, Chase. You keep us on our toes with your wit and intelligence. It is never dull around here because of you. One of my favorite things to see is your one, lone dimple, lit up by a huge smile, topped off with your sparkling baby blues. Your happiness is contagious. Your laughter fills the room and spreads to everyone around you.

You inspire me to be a better mom. May I one day be worthy of the gift that is your incredible spirit.





Dear Hannah,


Yesterday, my sweet baby girl, you turned eight.

It's a strange thing to have your youngest hit such a milestone age. With the older kids, you expect (and almost cheer with glee) the passing of ages because it means they are maturing and growing out of difficult phases. Those phases are probably only hard because of the phases that the younger kids are in. Phases that seem loud, incessant, and (at times) life-sucking.

But with the youngest, it's bittersweet because it means that it's the last time you get to experience something, good or bad.

The last kid to learn to ride a bike. The last kid to start school. The last kid to be baptized. The last kid to get a driver's license. The the last kid to go to college. The last kid to get married, have children, and grow old.

Then I die. The end.

Well, not really. But it sure feels like it some days.


Right now, you seem to be testing our boundaries. You have discovered your keen ability to carry on an argument and (JUST LIKE YOUR STUBBORN FATHER. HMMM. WONDER WHERE YOU GET IT FROM?) hate to ever find yourself on the losing end of things. Your intelligence and logic astound me at times, and I shake my head and imagine what courtroom you'll someday unleash your fury on, and for what long shot cause.

Heaven help the world that stands in your way, is all I've got to say.


But deep at your core, you are still the sweetest little pea that ever was born. You have a heart that is always open to those around you. You are so tender. More often than not, I glance your way during a movie and see quiet tears spilling over your rosy cheeks. Whether it's poor Wilbur the Pig or the broken heart of the Phantom of the Opera - you are rooting for the underdog every time. You need them to win and come out okay. Your world makes no sense when people exist in it with sorrow.

I love that about you.

And I thank the good Lord for sending you to me that way.


Hannah, your smile lights up my world. Your laughter fills my soul. You are my angel, my ally, and my bright spot of pink in this life full of gym socks and baseball caps. You make me get up and dance when I'd rather watch. And you help me see that life was meant to be laughed at in all its ironic, beautiful, tragic glory.


I love you, cheeky.

Love, Mama