Tag Archives: birthday celebration

A Dozen Years

A dozen years have passed since I became a mother to a son.  As I’ve said frequently before, having never had brothers, having never seen firsthand what it was like to mother a boy, I didn’t have a good idea of what that would entail. I imagined lots of very smelly dirty socks and climbing on furniture, fewer dress up parties, less concern about hairdos and clothes.

I was totally right and totally wrong about all of it.

Your dirty clothes are numerous and the smelliest I have ever encountered.  You climb and jump and run and throw and fall and catch and just physically bend the world to the will of your body in ways I have never seen anyone do. As though you have to feel what will happen when you (insert physical activity here) to believe it is true.  Smelly socks and non-stop movement, I had those right.

But I was completely wrong about the rest of it.  Dress up parties abound in our house, and although they occasionally feature camouflage and Nerf guns, they also frequently involve blazers and ties and skinny jeans and an attention to what shoes look good with what outfit that is unmatched by any other 12 year old I know, boy or girl.  Your interest in your hair is  boundless to a degree that borders on comical, and certainly outpaces the time and effort spent on hair by the other five people in this house combined.  Your care and concern for your hairdo was so well-known in your school in England, it was worked into the school play as a punchline.  (You DO have really great hair, though, I cannot deny that.)

I had assigned these stupid gender roles to little boys in my head that I soon learned were completely a product of what society had taught me and were in no way representative of what boys are and can be. 

You are a sensitive soul and you wear your emotions — all of them: joy, anger, sadness, fear — right on your sleeve.  Far more than your sister, actually, you are willing and able to say how you feel without embarrassment.  (Boys and girls don’t have to do things the way boys and girls have traditionally been told to do things.  Lesson learned.)

You love sports, yes, and you generally excel in all athletic endeavors, but you also love to dance.  You’re a really, really good dancer.  You dance all the time, and all the ways, including tap dance, which I love love love to see you do and which I need to find an instructor for here in Massachusetts so you can keep doing it.  (There are no activities for boys and for girls.  There are just activities, and any person can do any of them.  For real.)

You really do care and pay attention to fashion and style, unapologetically, and have done so since you were pretty little.  You have good taste and a good eye and you like to dress up, even if it’s just for a random Monday at school.  Given the choice, you’d take a suit and tie over soccer shorts and a hoodie.  (Fashion is not exclusive to girls. Looking good and wanting to look good isn’t girly.)

You defy expectations and you prove that boys are never one thing, just like girls aren’t.

Being a mother to a son has changed me in ways I never anticipated and I sorely needed.  Your very presence in my life, and the presence of your brothers after you, has made me a better, more well-rounded person with a more thorough understanding of boys and girls and the dynamic between them. 

In the last year, we’ve done some amazing things. We traveled of course, and visited a few new countries to add to your list: Austria, Spain (mainland), Belgium, the Netherlands, and Greece, and we visited some repeats that we loved and wanted to see again: France, Germany, Italy.  We have climbed on mountains and sailed across seas and explored cities and tried new foods and through it all you have maintained the same sense of wonder and gratitude that I so appreciate. 

But you also traveled alone on a school trip for eight days, driving across Europe to ski the Dolomites in Italy with your friends.  It was really hard to let you go, but we knew as soon as you got home that it had been so good for you.  You’d matured so much in your week away that it was physically imprinted on you and obvious in your manner from the moment you got off the bus.  It was one of those breath-taking instances of parenting when you literally see your baby grow.

Your dad and I have had multiple conversations about how proud we are of how mature you’ve become.  You easily and comfortably talk to anyone, children and adults alike, and you are thoughtful in what you say and you listen to what others are saying and you’re just enjoyable to be around.  Your siblings may argue that point, because you haven’t quite translated that behavior into your interactions with them all the time, but occasionally we get these glimpses of the grown-up versions of all of you hanging out together and I know we’ll get there in time and I really think it’s going to be fun.  You guys are awesome.

You’ve adapted really well to our big move home and another major transition to a new school and making new friends.  I know you miss England — you tell me, cause you talk about how you feel — but you also know that being here is great too.  You’ll always miss the people you can’t have right near you and it’s the curse of having been lucky enough to have lived there.  I’m grateful for social media that allows you to chat with your England friends pretty consistently and keep those friendships going.  You’ll always, always have a place there. (Not to mention some school records in the Sports Day cricket ball throw that I think could stand a while!)

You’ve thrown yourself into your new life, taking advantage of every opportunity to play with your cousins, to swim in our new pool, to explore our new home.  You are adapting to the new school really well, although that was always going to be the hardest part after the school you were in for the last three years.  You’ve been so helpful with the unpacking and the moving furniture and the painting walls and every last little bit of it. 

We’re looking ahead to a year full of adjustments and new and different adventures and I know you’ll face it all with the same optimism and confidence you bring to everything, and I know that, as I have for the last 12 years, I will be so grateful to view the world through your eyes and so proud to have you as my son.  Happy 12th birthday, Gabey baby.  I love you the most.

Ten, Baby

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My gorgeous green-eyed boy, you are ten.  Although, to be honest, you’ve been saying you’re ten for at least two months now, so it’s a little bit anti-climactic.  And no matter how many times you said it, only to have your sister immediately correct you, you persisted in calling yourself ten.  Literally since July.  But today, for real, you’re finally ten.  It’s official.

You are now, as you always have been, the most guileless and open person I know.  You are not shy, you are not reserved, and you are not worried about what other people think.  It is so lovely to see you openly excited whenever something good happens.  Like during the first week of school when you dashed out to me as I stood in the middle of a conversation with another mom, and with a flushed face and shining eyes you exclaimed that you’d made the top set in maths and flung your arms around me in a bear hug.  You were so, so proud and so didn’t care if it was cool to be that happy about it.  And my heart could have burst with pride and happiness for you. 

Your school over the past year has been a considerable source of happiness for you, from last autumn when you made the A-team in football (soccer), to the winter when you made the A-team as the goalie in hockey (field hockey), and then into spring when you made the A-team again in cricket (baseball skills translate, apparently).  You made the swim team and the cross country team as well. 

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You told me not too far into the beginning of last school year that you absolutely loved your new school because “you matter there, you make a difference”.  If there’s something better a child can say to his mother, I don’t know it.  Knowing that the place where I send you off for 7+ hours each day makes you feel like you matter is about as much as I can ask for. 

Aside from your successes on the sports field, you also embraced everything else this new school had to offer, as I knew you would.  You joined the choir and loved being part of the school production of Wind in the Willows.  You joined an art club.  You ran for school council.  Your willingness to put yourself out there sets a great example for your siblings, most of whom are slightly less gregarious than you. And you just love being involved.  I love that about you.

On Sports Day in the spring, a day of serious and impressive track and field events, you cemented your mark on the school in a way that I know truly made you proud.  Your only goal that day was to beat the school record for your year in the cricket ball throw and get your name in the school record book.  I was quite proud of you for setting a goal like that.  The distance to beat for your grade was somewhere just under 45 meters. And you got up there and you chucked that ball with everything you had, with that lovely throwing motion your dad has ingrained in you since you could hold a ball, and everyone watching gasped out loud as the ball sailed over all our heads and past the judges, who had to unroll the tape measure to check your distance.  You hit 49.7 meters.  You smashed it.  And you joyfully but quietly celebrated your accomplishment, cheered on and congratulated by your friends, all of whom were truly happy for you.  It was a pleasure to watch.

Although I think the cricket ball record was a highlight for you, my proudest moment came a few weeks earlier at the school awards ceremony when you received the Most Improved Award for your class.  I saw the work you put in last year to catch up in maths, handwriting, English, and all the plethora of subjects that are taught so differently here than they were at home.  Your grades improved every single term.  You put your whole self into it and I was so grateful that your efforts were recognized. 

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We have reached another turning point this year, you and I: we now have the same size feet.  Given that I am a still several–at least 6–inches taller than you and not small-of-feet myself, we’ll just say you have large feet and leave it at that.  I sort of imagine you like a puppy with giant paws and I am just waiting for the day when you grow into them and, therefore, tower over me.  I also discovered a few days ago that a pair of your jeans was neatly folded in my pants drawer because I had assumed, when I picked them out of the laundry basket, that they were mine.  All this is to say that I don’t think it will be too long before I am looking up at you.  I’m already planning to steal your cool new turf shoes as soon as you outgrow them.  So, like, next week probably, at the rate you’re growing.

Although you are getting quite big and quite mature, thankfully you still give me a kiss every morning at school when we say goodbye.  Even if it’s only because you know I’ll make a scene if you refuse, you pause and hug and kiss me, no matter if you’re with your friends.  I love you for that. 

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In this year of adventure, you’ve seen some really cool places, from Edinburgh (where you tried the haggis!), to Stonehenge and Cornwall, to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  But my favorite trip with you was to Rome; you had studied Ancient Rome in history not too long before the trip and were so excited to see it in person.  As we took our tour of the Colosseum, you gleefully and correctly answered the tour guides questions and were so proud that you were able to contribute.  At the Vatican museum, you hung on every word as our guide described the images painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when we got home from our trip your history teacher told me that you’d shared all that information with your class — even pulling up an image of the painting on the smart board in class so you could point out specific details.  I love that you soaked it all up and remembered it and were interested enough to think your classmates would love to know about it too.

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You are full of candor and joy, friendliness and humor, hard work and pride.  You are a leader that people want to follow because you take charge with humility and natural grace.  You are a rock star in every sense of the word.  You are simply awesome.  Never change.

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Now, on your tenth birthday, I celebrate with gratitude a decade of being the mother to a young man I am so proud to call my son.  Happy birthday Gabey-Baby.  I love you to the moon and back!


Also, Gabe’s 9th birthday and his 8th birthday!


 

A Very Important Birthday

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Today you are twelve.  For the last 4,380 days, my world has revolved, almost exclusively, around you (although it expanded to include each of your brothers as they made their successive appearances).  For twelve years I have spent each and every minute with my heart and my mind and my soul and often my body focused on mothering you, regardless of whatever else I may have been doing at any given time.  Although I have certainly made mistakes, and will continue to make them, I hope I’ve done enough good in the past dozen years to make up for the bad.  Looking at you, I think I have.  You are wonderful.

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In the past twelve months, your life –all our lives– changed dramatically.  I went into the year with great hopes of what you would and could achieve, but you, my darling dearest, surpassed them all.  You rose to a challenge none of us fully understood when you began this last school year, and you simply excelled.  

Your new school is far, far more similar to what I experienced in college than to any American middle or high school I’ve ever heard of.  From day one you had to navigate across a huge open campus with multiple buildings and fields and roads.  You took 13 different classes and had 17 different teachers.  You had to tackle homework that seemed beyond your years: physics and biology, French and Spanish, chemistry and computer coding.  You learned to manage your time, organize your materials, turn in assignments both in person and online, balance schoolwork with extracurricular activities, and you did it with relatively little assistance.  Next to none, in fact.  You also did it all with a British accent so good that it fooled your doctor into doubting that you were my child and indeed caused him to ask if you had actually been born in England. 

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With bravery and daring, you tried out this past year for one of the lead roles in the school play — one of the witches in MacBeth, no less– and although those main parts went to upperclassmen, you gladly took an ensemble part and reveled in the experience.  You were, in my highly unbiased opinion, an excellent child witch.  You must truly have been though, because you got your dad and all three of your brothers to sit enthralled through a 2.5+ hour Shakespearean production and to actually enjoy it, which was no mean feat. IMG_6275

Although you initially insisted you weren’t interested, with some coercion and convincing on my part you tried horseback riding and found that you actually loved it!  I don’t know if you’ll ever understand how happy I was when you came home from that first “give it a go” lesson and told me you loved it and really wanted to sign up; as a little girl who never outgrew her obsession with horses, watching my daughter learn to ride and love it too has been one of the greatest gifts I think I’ve ever gotten.  Riding with you over the past year has been more fun than I could have imagined, and watching you — tiny as you are — take control over those huge, strong animals with no fear and no hesitation, just a smile on your face and a determined gleam in your eye, makes me so proud. 

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Although you’ve always done well in school, this year you took it to a new level.  You worked hard and put your whole self into your lessons and the results speak for themselves: straight As most terms, top grades in effort, high marks on every exam and paper you turned in, and the academic achievement award for your class.  You got the third highest overall exam score in your whole grade and the very top score in several individual subjects.  Although I tried to downplay my pride as you brought home your marks, I am going to take this chance, as your mother, to brag a bit about what you accomplished.  You amaze me.  No one would have faulted you for a mediocre year considering the challenges and the changes you were going through, but never once did you consider letting those things get in your way.  You rose to the challenges, embraced the changes, and thrived in this new school.  Your grades reflect a year of hard work, consistent effort, and a true love of learning new things.  When I dropped you off on the first day of school I watched as you walked away from me — so small in comparison to the upperclassmen surrounding you, and the youngest person in the whole school thanks to your late August birthday — and I just prayed that you would do okay.  You did more than okay, though.  You did exceptionally well on every level and your father and I could not be more proud.  I hope you are proud, too. 

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You’ve become a travel pro in this year of adventure, navigating subways and airports and train stations with ease and comfort.  I have loved watching you and your brothers see new places and taste new foods and learn new words in new languages. I don’t think you take for granted these experiences, either, which is gratifying as a parent.  You aren’t bored or blase about the prospect of yet another trip, you’re excited to continue to see new places.  Curiosity and enthusiasm are great character traits and I hope you never outgrow them.

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This birthday seems like a huge watershed to me, although you’ve already made it clear that NEXT year is the one you’re really waiting for.  To me, though, twelve is a major stepping stone.  I am sure that you haven’t looked at it in this way, but we are now 2/3 of the way through your childhood.  A full 66.6% of my years of parenting you full-time have already passed by — we only have remaining half of what’s behind us.  In just six years, you’ll go to college and the vast majority of my hands-on mothering of you, my only daughter, will be done and gone.  Knowing how quickly a dozen years have passed, I am acutely aware of how fast the next six will fly by.

I’m trying not to cling too hard, trying not to push too many teaching moments your way, but I know my days are numbered and I feel the need to make sure I’ve taught you everything I think you need to know.  I know it’s a silly and futile effort; I will do the best I can and you will do the best you can and the only really important thing I should probably do over the next six years is spend as much time hanging out with you as you’ll allow.  If I make every single second a Teaching Moment with a Moral and a Very Important Message, the time you’re going to want to actually spend with me will be very limited.  So I choke on most of my Very Important Lessons and just try to be normal and silly and spend time with you.  I hope that’s the right choice, but only time will tell.

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While I have the floor, though, I can’t resist throwing out a few tips that I think will be important over the next six years:

Make good friends.  Although I am always here for you and want you to talk to me about anything and everything, good friends in your middle and high school years will hold you up through the times that your old mom just can’t understand because I am viewing life from a different perspective.  Some of the most important people in my life today are still the friends I made when I was 12, 13, 14 years old.  They get me in a way no one else can because they were there through all the hard and awkward years.  Good friends will support you, encourage you, laugh with you, cry with you, tell you the truth (even when you don’t want to hear it), lend you clothes when you need just the right outfit, help you with homework or boys or parents who just don’t understand.  Just know that in order to make good friends, you must BE a good friend.  It’s always, always a two-way street.

Be enthusiastic.  It doesn’t really matter what you’re enthusiastic about, as long as you find something you care about and you care about it unreservedly.  Drama, horseback riding, running, swimming, reading, writing, art, whatever — find something you love to do and do it as often as you can.  Don’t waste precious years not doing something because someone else might think it’s not cool; you will be a happier person if you’re doing something you love, so don’t care what anyone else thinks.

Don’t do what everyone else does just because everyone else is doing it. Do what’s right, and what’s right for you, regardless of what other people do.  Stand up for yourself and for people who need defending.  Think for yourself and use your smart brain to make good choices.  Be kinder than anyone else you know.  Be a voice worth listening to.

Have fun.  Oh my goodness, you are only young once.  And you are still SO young.  Try a new sport or learn to play an instrument (you’re absolutely not too old, you’re literally only twelve)!  Be silly, have fun with your friends, don’t take things too seriously.  And seriously, be nice to your brothers — they’ll all be bigger than you soon and you’ll want them on your side.

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Today, on this Very Important Birthday, I want you to know this: I am your biggest fan.  Always and forever, amen.  I am more proud of the young lady you’ve become than you’ll ever know, and I am so grateful that I get to be your mother.  I have loved every single minute of the last twelve years right down into my soul, even the minutes that were covered in spit-up and poop when you were a baby, the minutes full of stomping feet and hands-on-hips when you were a stubborn little girl, and the minutes full of wailing and drama that we regularly enjoy in your preteen years.  You’re awesome, every little bit of you.  You are my sunshine.

Happy twelfth birthday, baby girl.  I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.


Also, her birthday letters from age 11, and 10.


The Ocho

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If I said I can’t believe you’re already eight years old, I’d be lying.  The truth is, I can hardly believe you’re only eight.  Somehow, my blonde-haired boy, your eight years have seemed to stretch out and bend the space-time continuum so that I cannot imagine what our lives were like before you and I cannot imagine a life without your quiet presence in it.

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You are the silent type.  Except when you’re not, and then you’re the opposite-of-silent-type and you never stop talking.  I generally know when you start chitter-chattering that you’re tired and heading into what we call Owen’s “Shark Mode”, wherein you don’t stop moving or talking for even a second because if you do, you’ll fall asleep.  Shark Mode is always interesting, and generally exhausting.

Your snaggle-toothed grin has changed a lot in the last year.  Looking at the pictures of you from last summer, I’m astounded at how much you’ve grown up.  I believe that all our new experiences have played a big part in that; you’re a man of the world now.  You travel.  You know lots of new things and new places. 

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You’ve made new friends and picked up a new accent which you don’t even realize you’re using when I pick you up from school, and which you immediately switch off if anyone draws attention to it.  You became the first person in our little family to wear glasses, when, after announcing to the doctor in your physical that your left eye “doesn’t really work” (a fact of which I was blissfully unaware), you proved that to be true in two eye exams.  You picked out some sweet Clark Kent-esque black frames and you’re looking pretty cool in them.  Knock on wood, you’ve had the glasses three weeks and haven’t lost them yet.  You’ve grown up a lot.

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When we moved, you were the child for whom I harbored the greatest concerns.  You don’t tend to talk in a crowd and you’re shy and reserved, especially around adults you don’t know well.  You’ve always generally relied on your older brother to be the grease in your social situations, allowing you to slide along in his wake and make friends by default.  But moving here, your teachers wouldn’t know you by association as all your previous teachers had.  The kids wouldn’t know that eventually you’d talk, and I hoped so hard that you would be okay making friends on your own without your gregarious older brother to assist you at all times.  Man, did you prove me wrong.  You HAVE made your mark, and you’ve done it on your own.  I am so, so proud of you because I know it’s not always the easiest thing for you.  You did it, though, and did it well. 

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At the beginning of the school year, you, who has generally always been somewhat bored and uninterested in school, were faced with challenges wholly unfamiliar and new.  Your teachers here required far, far greater attention to detail than ever before.  Your handwriting was inspected and found wanting and you were instructed to practice and improve it.  I think you were a bit shocked, to be honest.  Not because what you were doing wasn’t quite good enough, but because you were expected to make it better.  As you always do when challenged to improve something, you (somewhat obsessively) practiced writing your letters.  Your handwriting is quite lovely now.  I will remain forever grateful to your teachers for establishing a high standard and then making you actually reach for it.

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Along the same vein, your father and I were also told in our first parent-teacher conference that although you were obviously quite capable of achieving high marks in school, you were really not putting your best effort out: you rushed through assignments, didn’t always read the directions fully, and often did the bare minimum required.  This would not do, your teachers said.  You’d have to pay more attention to details, take your time, and hand in your best work on each assignment.  Although neither your Dad nor I were surprised, I will admit that I felt a bit at a loss.  Getting you to do something well when you’re not super-interested in it has always been a battle. 

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But, somehow, maybe the new environment in the school or a developmental maturity that you finally reached or the pressure put on you by your siblings attaining high marks, about 2/3 of the way through the school year, something clicked in you.  Suddenly you were spending time making sure your assignments were neat and detailed.  You colored in pictures with an attention to detail I’d never seen you use.  You completed “extension” assignments without being reminded and did them well.  You were engaged and interested in school work and it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone and angels sang, so great was my relief and excitement.  Your teachers remarked on it, your dad and I noticed it, and your report card certainly reflected it.  Whatever happened, you seem to have turned a corner and I am so proud of how hard you worked.  Please, please keep it up!

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You have thrived in this new school environment in non-academic ways too; in fact, the set-up of the school seems designed with kids like you specifically in mind.  There’s so much activity built into your weeks and you have full classes devoted solely to sports!  You swim every other week during school AND you have P.E. class AND you have random sporting events like cross-country races and soccer matches popping up in every term!  There’s no time to get bored and you rarely have to sit for more than an hour at a time, ever.  

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As you always have, you did apply yourself fully to being the best athlete you can be.  You made the A-team in soccer, were the only kid in your year to make the cross-country team (actually beating your older brother in the tryouts to his absolute dismay) and you also made the A-teams in hockey and cricket, too.  You absolutely ROCKED it on school Sports Day, coming in second in the 50-meter race, 4th in the 100-meter race, first in the 800-meter race (by quite a distance, actually), and first in the cricket ball throw, breaking a ten-year old school record by 2 full meters — a considerable margin.  Your obvious joy when you compete in athletics is just uplifting.  No matter what the sport is, I love watching you play.

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The discovery of your love for running has been an interesting development.  You literally LOVE running.  You will run short or long distances.  You run fast, the whole time.  Sometimes, as you’re running, you throw in a few skipping steps, but you never seem to tire.  You ask me to please go for a run with you, and so I do it, but you are definitely the rabbit and I spend the whole time telling you to keep going as long as you can still see me in your rear view.  It’s a great thing for you, my child who is always full to the very brim with energy.  And we’d never really have realized how much you enjoy it were it not for the cross country and track programs at your new school.  I hope you always keep running; you look, as you go, like you’re at peace with the world.

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You, my friend, continue to challenge me as a mother.  You can be the most loving and attentive child or the most stubborn and taciturn child, depending on the day.  You keep me on my toes, always.  But as you’ve gotten older and more mature, the lovey days outnumber the grumpy days. It’s a nice thing.  I want you to know, though, that I am grateful for the challenging days too, because they make me work to get better at this parenting gig.  And they definitely make me appreciate the lovey days even more.

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And so, as we go into this year — the Ocho — I only hope you continue on the path you’re on.  May the year of being eight be as amazing as you are.  I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  Happy birthday to you, my little blonde baby.  


Also, here’s my note to seven year old Owen and six year old Owen.


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