When AB was born, I made the goal of taking her picture at the exact time she was born every year until she turned ten. Ideally I’ll do it for the next 50 years, but I’m trying to be realistic. I don’t achieve many of my big goals, but I achieved this one. Every year, I’ve been with her at 1:40 when she officially becomes her new age. Today was the big t-e-n.Our new ten year old loves drama, writing scripts and poetry, riding her scooter, and watching Wizards of Waverly Place. We have piles of paper around the house on which she’s cast people for endless shows. We have countless piles around the house on which she’s cast people for endless shows. She enjoys musicals and playing her guitar. You can often find her kicking the soccer ball against the side of the garage or on the trampoline. She’s a quality-over-quantity girl and prefers to have one friend over at a time. She loves learning and has learned how to research online. She loves church and sleeps with her Bible. 

We didn’t plan on only having one child, but I’m so glad she’s the one we got.


Someone had the audacity to turn nine on Tuesday without my permission.                                                                              March 28th, 2023- 1:40pm

She’s been breaking my no aging rule for 3285 days.

Yesterday was a school day which meant for the first time ever we were apart on her birthday. I did not like that arrangement, but it gave me time to do nothing but birthday prep. I cashed in my free coffee card after drop-off/before party prep because I was the one who did all the hard work all those years ago and I like to reward myself for keeping her alive. Laura guided me through making a balloon row. It was supposed to be an arch but despite my best efforts, it never bent. It takes several arms to put up a balloon arch and the cats refused to lend any of their eight arms. I wasn’t sure Annabelle would even appreciate the balloons. She’s not very outwardly exuberant in her old age and I thought there was a good chance I was doing it all for me, but her little face lit up when she saw it.

I went up to the school to eat lunch with her and we busted outta that place early for a little Mama and Sesame time. It was storming so AB’s first pick of the going to the playground got nixed and we went to the mall instead. We got pretzels from Uncle Angelo’s (her new name for Auntie Anne’s), got a duck from the machine to add to our very extensive rubber duckie collection and went to the pet store. We didn’t buy the baby goat on sale at the pet store which I blame on Christopher because he’s a party pooper.

AB still loves drawing and writing plays and musicals. She wrote the following drama on my phone:

“Mr sandy
(Mr sandy walking up)
Mr sandy: Good Morning
(Walks in the kitchen fully dressed)
Hannah: Good morning dad”

Stay tuned for the riveting act 2!

She’s started listening to Hamilton and Fiddler on the Roof, and listens to podcasts and audiobooks daily. She is very interested in the weather and checks the temperature several times a day. She’s learning the guitar and picks out a few tunes on the piano. Her love of Harry Potter is still going strong, but we’ve added in some new favorite books to the rotation. She needs frequent reminders about doing chores, but she’s generally a helpful chickadee to have around. Her favorite color is purple and she says she’s going to be a neurosurgeon when she grows up.

Most of all, Annabelle Sesame Lee is our best girl. We love her the best, the most and the always.

party like you were born in 1928

My smallest and most talkative travel buddy and I returned very late last night for a quick trip home for Grandma’s 95th birthday.

It seems like two months ago we were celebrating her 90th birthday; now she’s five years from 100. After her horrible summer in and out of the ICU and months in rehab, we didn’t think she’d make it, but she’s still alive and as funny as ever. She can barely hear which makes conversations even funnier, but she loves to chat and piece together what she can hear. All 6 children, most of the grandchildren, and 6 of the 10 great-grandchildren were in town. She was as thrilled as could be with each new person who came through the door. She told Carol she “didn’t want a party but she did want to be celebrated.” She didn’t know we had planned a surprise gathering with her old lady friends (“the young girls” since they’re mostly in their 80s), cousins she seldom sees, and friends from church. Her little brother planned on coming from Maine but sadly had to cancel the day of due to a cold. She didn’t know he was coming so she wasn’t disappointed. She probably would have forgotten anyway as she has the short-term memory of a gnat. She takes naps every two hours or less, but that extrovert and her walker held court for hours with her guests. She was so happy. It made me so happy to see her surrounded by everyone she loves.

Instead of gifts, Grandma asked for donations to the food pantry she volunteers at. My contribution was the healthy and organic snack she and I like to eat when we play cards.

Nick, Molly, and I left the party to pick up soda. Nick drove us and Molly sat in the passenger seat complaining about applying for college. I never feel so old as when the children I used to babysit are doing adult things. I changed those kids’ diapers and carried them around for hours upon hours. For years, my entire life revolved around when I’d get to play with then babysit them and Zack. Now all three are taller than me. I knew I should have put heavier bricks on their heads to stop the growth!

The night we arrived in Massachusetts, AB went to Grammy’s house and I stayed at a hotel for the night. Alone! A hotel all to myself! No one but me! Elizabeth and Erika orchestrated it for my Christmas gift and it was delightful. I ordered room service and ate pasta and pie on the bed. I had brunch at 11:30 like a rich lady without a care in the world. When she saw I was eating alone, the waitress gave me a 14-page double-sided informational printout about the history of the hotel and restaurant. I learned so much. I never learn anything when I eat at Olive Garden. The Kennedys often stayed at that hotel and I ate at the table where they got engaged. I too got engaged at a restaurant so I can only assume the trajectory of my life will be the same. Vote for me as First Lady in the election of 2032!

We had the briefest Aunt Camp in history- a one-night sleepover on Saturday. Annabelle had a tough time in general when we visited Massachusetts in the summer and that Aunt Camp was not the most successful. I was worried about how she’d do on this trip, but thanks to lots of prayers it went so smoothly. The girls disappeared into the basement and wrote a three-scene play we were all forced invited to attend. Oliver is the cutest little boy you’ve ever seen. He’s so precious. He doesn’t talk much, but that doesn’t stop me from repeatedly asking him, “Can you say Auntie Sarah? Do you remember my name? It’s Auntie Sarah! Can you say it? Don’t you want to try? I’m your favorite aunt! Auntie Sarah!” to which he responds with a firetruck noise and points to whatever food is within sight. We’ll keep working on it for summer Aunt Camp.

the only thing missing were snacks and a walker for the old man

Christopher: Do you know where Vanessa and Dave live?
Me: Yes, they live right up the road on the left. We walk by their house all the time.
Christopher: Huh. I had no idea they live so close to us.
Me: I’ve told you that before. I’ve pointed out their house several times and we’ve waved to them in their yard.
several minutes later
Christopher: Did you know they go to First Baptist?
Me: Yes. That’s where we met them. We were in the same Sunday school class with them and Jessica with the big earrings.
Christopher: I don’t remember that.

Earlier this week Christopher was walking around this house looking like a drowned rat. That’s his go-to look when he’s getting sick.

Me: You need to take some strong medicine to kick that to the curb before it turns into a real sinus infection.
Christopher: I am taking strong medicine. I’ve been eating cough drops.
Narrator: He was not trying to make a joke. He was being serious.

Somehow he made it to his 40th birthday with the memory of a goldfish and the medical knowledge of a toddler who thinks a bag of skittles will heal bronchitis.

(Maybe I shouldn’t judge too harshly about old age. I did use the phrase “Is this what society is becoming” like a bespectacled 78 year old.)

Christopher cares not a wit for a birthday party theme. Annabelle and I live for a birthday theme and spent several morning snuggles debating balloons vs bears vs crazy hats vs Harry Potter vs silly willy jiggly fat head theme. The last got no votes but she campaigned hard. We settled on a book/library theme. I thought we could set up the dining room like a library and instead of regular Dewey decimal numbers, we could use years he’s been alive and have photo albums and books from that time period in each “library section.” It was simple enough. Somehow we ended up with an interactive museum of storybook characters created by Annabelle Sesame Lee.

She drew Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk (right) and Melon the dog (left) from a podcast on pieces on styrofoam. The styrofoam bits stuck in the rug are the gift that keeps on giving.

We stuffed my lion costume with towels to create Aslan from Chronicles of Narnia. AB thought his name was “Avalan” and I didn’t work too hard to correct her. There was a dress-up section from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She duck-taped garden stakes together to make the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. She dressed up as the Princess in Black and I dressed as the conductor from The Polar Express. The whole experience was called The Wild Wild Wild Wild Magical Kalidascope Fantasy Ride. I couldn’t get the name right and had to carry an index card with me that said, “w w w w mag. kal. fan. ride.” Since no creative thing she does is simple, I was given several instructions. She had recorded herself on the ipad acting out each character and as we got to it, I had to push the button and give any necessary explanations. At one stop I had to dance. She mixed up the stories of Avalan/Aslan and the knights of the Round Table which was a very interesting combination.

AB is already planning The Wild Wild Wild Wild Magical Kalidaschope Fantasy Ride 2.0 for his next birthday. I’ll be cleaning up styrofoam bits until he’s 44th birthday.


I don’t think I’ve celebrated Elizabeth’s birthday with her in person since I got married, but this year she happened to be visiting on her big day. My barrel of ideas for a party theme was very shallow, but we went with a Dolly Parton theme. To be specific, it was a WWDD (What Would Dolly Do) party.

It turns out Dolly Parton is not a popular party theme so it was a real stretch to find the right decor. I bought a bag of gold rings because what’s a Parton party without big jewels? I had a package of napkins I had bought for Aaron’s wedding that we didn’t end up using and with a little editing they fit the bill for our party. 

I hung up the shiniest gold decorations I could and made a WWDD banner.

Annabelle insisted on the glow sticks as party favors. I’ve never seen the real Dolly with glow stick jewelry but I wouldn’t put it past her.

Since Dolly often talks about her humble beginnings, we honored that portion of her life with slightly more redneck decor for dessert. Elizabeth doesn’t like dessert so we were going to have a watermelon “cake.” Someone dropped the watermelon causing it to have a giant mouth crack. Annabelle insisted it needed Reese’s pieces teeth which made it look too redneck so I pushed them as far out of sight as I could.

What Would Dolly Do? She’d party like it’s a Sunday afternoon and there are diamond rings raining from Hobby Lobby the sky.


When we were young, Katie and I had a particular way of eating Skittles. She ate the red and purple, I ate the yellow and orange and we split green lime. It was a perfect system and to this day I do not eat a Skittle without thinking of her and wishing she’d take the red and purple off my hands. Back in 2013, I was newly pregnant and at the hospital waiting to be given IVs. We sat in the waiting room for what felt like fourteen eternities. I alternated between staring at the two bathrooms so I would know which was available and rushing into said bathroom so I could throw up. Christopher bought a bag of Skittles because the only thing that sounded like it might have even the slightest possibility of being vaguely appealing was sour candy. It was then I learned that the powers that be at Skittles Headquarters USA changed the flavor of the green candy from lime to apple. Talk about hitting me when I was already down. All I wanted was a tiny lime candy! It was a bad day on many levels.

All that Skittles talk to say, it felt like a full-circle moment the day before Annabelle’s 8th birthday when I read an article saying that Skittles has brought back their lime flavor. The Lord has not abandoned us yet. Evidently, this is old news and the green skittle returned to the lime-light several months ago, but I am just now finding out. The article was dated September 28th, 2021 which was almost exactly 8 years to the day that the green skittle became dead to me. One minute I’m on the verge of throwing up and my favorite candy is gone, the next minute the candy is back but I’m on the verge of tears over my baby’s age. You win some, you lose some.

Annabelle didn’t want a big this year. She said she wanted a few friends over to “do fun things around town” instead. Our town is the size of a postage stamp so it was a real stretch to find a few good activities. I made a pick your own adventure sheet and she had the option between two playgrounds, then between a roller rink or fun park, which activities she wanted to do at the fun park (bowling, bumper cars, mini golf, etc), which snacks she wanted and so on.

We planned two activities outside the house then home for cake and presents and more playing. It was very very low-key. She was so overwhelmed with all the kids at her party last year that we only invited three little friends this year and it was perfect. I told the moms we’d provide supper if AB wasn’t too overwhelmed. Not only was she not too overwhelmed, but the party was never-ending. The kids got to our house at 1:30 and didn’t leave until 7:30. They ran all over the playground, zipped around on go-karts, and didn’t stop moving for six hours.

My great birthday sorrow (besides the fact that the 5lb 11oz baby I brought home is now 64lbs) was Sesame didn’t want to have a specific birthday theme. What’s a party without a theme?! Does she not know that themes are my love language? We settled a generic ”birthday theme” party and while no one would pin it on Pinterest, it was cute and she liked it.

The cake absolutely was not Pinterest worthy. AB requested mud pie (oreo crust, chocolate cake layer, chocolate pudding layer and whipped cream) and I couldn’t make it into any kind of fun shape. I always pride myself on making her a creative cake and I really dropped the ball this year. She requested a theme-less cake so I had no direction. I forgot to buy special things to put on the top so I used one of the silly wrapping bows that matched the bows on her presents. It tasted delicious but it was not my finest work.

At 1:40PM on her actual birthday, the very moment she turned eight, Annabelle was doing very Annabelle things. She was barefoot outside, listening to a podcast.

She loves podcasts, audio books, coloring and drawing, playing games on the iPad, spending time with her cousins, Sunday school, being read to, digging in the dirt, playing outside and swimming. Her favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese and her current favorite color is purple. She still gets cereal on the floor when she pours herself a bowl. She never turns down a sweet treat. Her favorite animal this week is a penguin. She has a sensitive little soul and and a great sense of humor. She is a terrible speller. She’s already bummed out that school will be ending and counting down the days until she starts 3rd grade. She never has a bad hair day.
She’s my best girl and I love her more than lime skittles.