my long-winded answer to “Where is Ben going for college?”

It’s a bad habit I’ve had since Ben was a baby– when friends or strangers complimented me on how cute or smart or funny he was, I replied “Oh yes, I know!” and then an awkward pause, “Thank you!”

Benj– “I’m not a cutie pie; I’m a cowpie.”

Self-deprecating comments are my specialty, but you won’t catch me spouting those common child-slurs, “You must have caught him at a good moment.” or “Oh, well he’s kind of a pain at home.”

Perhaps I should be more gracious, unassuming– but my boy is leaving soon and I am in awe at the man he has become.

In the fall he’ll head to Brigham Young University and live in Heritage Halls. One hundred percent his own decision, it also happens to be precisely the one I made some twenty-odd years ago.

Unique among the dorms, Heritage Halls has six boys to an apartment and kitchen where they cook all their own meals. Upon signing his housing contract, Ben became extremely interested in grocery shopping and cooking. Ah! It’s been lovely. He wants to know my recipes and runs to the store when we need eggs or parsley. He has a new respect for cooking on a budget and including every food group. “Can we buy sprouts for my sandwiches, mom?” he asks, “Are they expensive? ‘Cause I love sprouts.”

It’s such a wonder to observe the little kid who shoveled down spoonfuls of brown sugar when my back was turned, pack lunches with apples, carrots and lean turkey sandwiches (on whole grain Rhodes bread with lots of sprouts). Without prodding or incentive, he laces up his shoes and runs for miles (our rule has always been 1 mile = 20 minutes of computer/Wii time; now running is it’s own reward).

Anxious to leave his mark on our household, Ben often lectures me on making sure the little kids practice instruments, do homework, finish chores. He waxes eloquently on the virtues of a clean fridge and a tidy pantry (and it’s a shame that with Mary going to school I may actually get my act together next year and he won’t even be here to see it). Eschewing texting as a waste of time, he also makes sure that I change the password on my computer weekly.

But even more than discipline, Ben seems anxious to play with his younger siblings. He engages them in tickles wars, pillow fights, wrestling matches. Switching off the TV he drags them out into the yard for games of soccerball and tag. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but his eyes seem to plead– “Remember me when I’m gone next year.”

taking Mary on a date to the dance concert

More than anything, Ben is the music of our household. His taste, quite simply, has become the choice of all of us. Next year, he’ll have to mail me music suggestions and CDs; and when he goes on his mission our music collection may just stagnate. Ben isn’t frightened off by love songs or Disney themes, he’s simply adopted one of Erik’s favorite statements (inspired by people who made fun of our boys little blue sailor suits, their violin playing or our family avoidance of football) “I’m secure enough in my masculinity; that doesn’t bother me.” (this is the time to cue up “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan)


None of this is written with intention to boast (well, it is my blog, I can brag) but rather to illustrate that all the little things DO pay off. And many of my mistakes have even worked to his advantage. I remember Ben taking an after-school ski class in third grade. Oblivious, I simply dropped him off on Friday mornings with his skis and equipment. One day he forgot a glove and I rushed to school at the end of the day with the missing glove. I saw that EVERY other parent was helping their kid settle their equipment in the bowels of the bus, zipping their jackets and helping them find a seat in the giant vehicle. “Are they here every week?” I asked Ben.


“Are you the only kid who stashes their stuff in the janitor’s closet during the day?” I’m flushed with embarrassment.

“Yep. Don’t worry, mom. I’ve got it covered.”

And he does.

April 23, 2010
April 27, 2010



  1. RexTemples20144

    April 27, 2010

    Nice Post~!!!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  2. GeorgiaBecksteads

    April 27, 2010

    We have the same run for computer/Wii time! Run or jump on the trampoline for 1/2 hour.
    I can’t believe he’ll be at BYU. You’ve done a great job!

  3. Tracy

    April 27, 2010

    You should brag.alot. – what an amazing man.

  4. Alyson (New England Living)

    April 27, 2010

    Awww, this makes me want to cry! What a wonderful man you’ve raised!

  5. Sue

    April 27, 2010

    What a blessing it is when good parenting meets an extraordinary spirit and results in a young man like your son! I love reading about him and look forward to hearing all the exciting BYU news next year. And then, the mission news! So much to look forward to…


    PS. He is so cute with his sibs.

  6. jgalke

    April 27, 2010

    Please tell me more about raising boys. I have 2 little ones and I want to help them be great.

  7. Linkous

    April 27, 2010

    Ben really is a man among men. Just yesterday, Elle told me she wanted to be Mary so she could “have a big brother like Ben”. I’m glad for you and for us that BYU isn’t too far away :).

  8. Kate

    April 27, 2010

    I love hearing about your sons… I have to say, he reminds me of my oldest… who, I am so proud of (but I feel shy saying it…) What a blessing they are in our lives!! He is only 10… and I hope he continues to make good decisions like Ben… because a nice, obedient older brother can make all the difference!!! Congrats!!

  9. andrea

    April 27, 2010

    My oldest son is a bit spastic, LOL. In my dream world though he will outgrow it and end up just like Ben. I love the old pictures…precious boys!

  10. Claudia

    April 27, 2010

    Brag on girl! What’s there not to love about Ben. And let’s not forget his awesome sense of humor. I saw him and his cute 5 year old date at the Capital Theater Friday night. It doesn’t get better than that my friend.

    And that Stefan reading day after day on the front porch!! Blessings I tell you- blessings!

  11. Michelle

    April 27, 2010

    all the little things DO pay off. And many of my mistakes have even worked to his advantage.

    I love the perspective you bring to all of this. The passion and faith you have in motherhood is so inspiring.

    I think even when kids grow up and do dumb things, we can still hold onto that faith, because life as a mother doesn’t end when they are 18.

    He’s blessed to have you. And I don’t see this as bragging at all, but rejoicing in the amazing person Ben is. It shows in his face and actions. Absolutely.

  12. Ken

    April 27, 2010

    I admire and love Ben for his humility too. He serves others with kindness. He is fun to be around and is always respectful of his grandparents. I appreciate Ben and receive great joy to call him my grandson.
    With love,
    Grandpa Ken

  13. Travelin'Oma

    April 27, 2010

    I loved my boys at that age. In fact I love all boys, at any age. You’ve reminded me of sending kids off to find their lives. It’s a painful joy. Congratulations on a job well done.

  14. Natasha

    April 27, 2010

    Aww, this post made me tear up. It definitely sounds like you have an amazing son. He will make some woman very happy one day.

  15. Tasha

    April 27, 2010

    So sweet. It feels like yesterday I was doing the same thing, and now I find myself a junior at BYU. It goes so fast. Heritage Halls is wonderful and he will have great learning experiences there.

    And as much as I worried about leaving my family, it hasn’t been that bad. I still talk to my mom every day and it some ways it feels like I never left. We still share all those little things like inside jokes and music suggestions. And skype is great for the little ones.

    He will be a great asset to BYU and will bring home many more wonderful lessons to your family. Life is a bittersweet, but joyous, journey!

  16. Tifani says...

    April 27, 2010

    So many things that I want to say have already been said. I feel so much pride for Ben because I read the pride you put in your words about him. BYU holds a place of great respect for me. My best students in Oregon went to BYU. I can only imagine he will shine!

  17. Jess

    April 27, 2010


    Ben seems quite amazing. Would he mind waiting several years to marry one of my girls? I know the age difference seems vast now, but when they are much older, it won’t matter a bit.

    You have so much to be so proud of, Michelle! And not in a boastful or bragging way. Just because you do. Plain and simple!

  18. crissy

    April 28, 2010

    Ok, seriously? Will you teach me how to be an awesome mom like you? I want my kids to be as wonderful as your sound. 🙂

  19. Rachelle

    April 29, 2010

    Okay, the first child leaving home scenario… ugh. Don’t wanna talk about it, family changes forever, yes it’s part of life, but very painful. Change is hard. On everyone. This post was hard for me to read, especially the part about Ben spending more time with his siblings so they won’t forget him. I know my oldest son misses us, which makes it even harder. Again, part of life, but we are just beginning this process (like you) and I’m not looking forward to “letting go” of my kids for the next 10 years. Boo hoo.

  20. Jan Russell

    May 2, 2010

    FYI – crying, as per ususal when I visit these parts 😉

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