on turning thirteen, from Ben

Dear Xander,

Let me begin by apologizing for the lateness of this letter. I know that it’s already a few days past your birthday and by the time you get this it will be even later. All I have to say is I’m sorry and although this letter is late you were not forgotten.

Oh thirteen. What can I say about thirteen? I’ve thought about it a lot and first I’d like to tell you the sun came out today. All day I’ve been doing whatever it takes to stand in the sun just because it makes me feel so nice. It’s amazing how it seems to melt away the gloom of wintery days.


If I could pick a birthday to send a letter through time to a past self I would send one to thirteen year old me. To be honest it was not one of my favorite times of my life. Suddenly your life starts to make the transition from little kid to boy. You have to, and you want to, be more grown up, but the change isn’t easy and it doesn’t help that everyone around you at school and at church are just as crazy and confused as you are. For me, people weren’t always as nice as I had hoped and a lot of the time I remember feeling angry and hurt, but not knowing what to do about it.

If I could give my thirteen year old self advice I would start by telling myself to take things one day at a time– just do your best each day and realize that even if it isn’t easy, someday things will get easier. The sun will come out in the spring even if winter feels hopeless. Be nice to everyone even when they aren’t nice to you.


My next bit of advice is to exercise every day. Push ups, pull ups and sit ups are really all you need. When you’re in good shape you feel better, not to mention that it’s always nice to win a fight if you have to. On top of that, girls love it–not fighting– but being strong. Just ask Mary.


My other bit of advice would be to read the scriptures every day in a way that makes you happy. Figure out how you like to read the scriptures and do that. Fast? Slow? Marking the pages a lot or hardly at all? It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you read them and enjoy it.

Isn’t that a funny thought? That you should enjoy scripture reading. For so long I thought it was important to stick to a schedule or have a fancy marking scheme with at least fourteen different colors. But no! What matters is is that you learn and you feel the Spirit in the scriptures and that you learn to enjoy the scriptures. If a schedule or a marking scheme helps you then that’s great. If not, don’t worry. Just read the scriptures every day and you’ll be blessed.


Xander, I love you. You don’t have to take my advice. I just know I wish I’d had it when I was thirteen. I hope you had an excellent birthday and you managed to have a lot of fun even without me there.

You’re great Xander and don’t forget it. I don’t know what our family would do without you and I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m so glad you were born. Have a great day and smile big.

Love, Ben


a poem for my dearest cupcake Xandy-cane

His eyes are as blue as a flower in bloom
and his bright pearly white illuminate a room.
When he opens his mouth sweet good candies flow forth
And his long golden locks make women swoon.

But who is this boy with wit
so sharp it could hit
you from your horse and make you fall
to the ground? But then laugh because all
is well. He is the great, the kind, the noble, the Xan
Xander man.

February 21, 2012
March 1, 2012



  1. jennie w.

    February 25, 2012

    My son Finn is turning 13 in two weeks. How about I just print out Ben’s letter and sign my name? (Although he would know it’s not from me when he read the part about exercising!)

    What sweet boys you have!

  2. Selwyn

    February 25, 2012

    Happy birthday Xander!

  3. Tracy

    February 26, 2012

    Happy Birthday Xander. Meeting you was such a joy – because you are such a joy. Much love. xoxo

  4. Becky

    February 26, 2012

    Thank you for posting these personal letters. Our only son doesn’t have a big brother (or any brother) to give him advice like this. I am going to print this out and save it for when Andrew turns 13 and tell him who it is from.
    I know it’s not easy for Ben to take time out of his busy P-Day to write these, but tell him how his letters are appreciated. Love your blog. Becky Arrowood

  5. Jeanelle

    February 26, 2012

    I wish I had a big brother like Ben. His letters to his siblings are priceless. Xoxo

  6. Lizzy

    February 28, 2012

    I think Ben’s advice should be applied to all: be kind to others, exercise daily, and study the scriptures daily.

  7. Claudia

    February 28, 2012

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Claudia

    February 28, 2012

    Well that’s advice I definitely needed today! I love Ben’s wisdom, as well as his love for his brother. It’s wonderful! xoxo

  9. Claudia

    February 28, 2012

    And your poem rocked!

  10. Crystal Critchfield

    March 4, 2012

    What a sweet post! Ben makes me wish I had an older brother. Such a wise young man!

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