the best Valentine present ever

exactly 17 years ago I was born into motherhood, thanks to this boy(the tall one).


When I took this photo for Speaking the Truth on Segullah, Ben reminisced, “I remember the day we bought this coat. The sales lady told us about the expandable cuffs and legs and I couldn’t wait to grow into it. And then I was so sad two years later when I had to pass it on to Stefan.” 13 winters later, Gabriel wears the same red & black snowsuit and I marvel how the time has gone.

Heavily pregnant with Hans, Ben clung to my hand while Stefan scampered in and out of the clothes racks. It was our first really large clothing purchase, but fresh with the knowledge that I’d be a mother of three boys, I’d decided to buy the most durable, high-quality ski suit I could find. We agreed on this one– Obermeyer, size 6(he was almost 5), grow-with-me cuffs, hide-away hood and a matching vest bib. Oohing and aahing over every detail, we plunked down 1/2 our monthly grocery budget and took it home.

Ben sledded, skiied, built snowmen and snowforts in that suit until his arms and legs stretched past even the expandable sleeves and cuffs. He made a great show of giving it to Stefan and explained every marvelous detail and function. It wasn’t a hand-me-down, but a treasure

Ben has always received the first of our parenting, for good and ill. Yet as he passes it down he makes each step look exciting and promising to the younger boys. He encourages a love of knowledge, good music and books in our family, twirls with Mary and wrestles with Gabriel.

Writhing on the hospital bed 17 years ago, I thought I would surely die, but was instead, reborn. Ben made me a mother and continues to mold and break me daily.

As you might imagine, we celebrate Ben’s birthday with wild revelry around here. The windowsill is decked with antique Valentines, flowers and twinkling pink lights. Chocolate heart shaped waffles for breakfast, cream puffs for lunch and batch after batch of brownie cupcakes, sugar cookies and chocolate chip hearts ready to abandon on unsuspecting friends’ doorsteps later tonight.

When the Valentine displays hit the stores in January I pick up a little something for Ben on each shopping trip– a Reeses’ heart, a box of Sweethearts, pink and white m&ms– it goes under his pillow for a monthlong celebration. This morning, every child woke to a pile of heart-shaped treats and handmade cards(this the only time of the year I venture into scrapbook stores– but have you seen the delicious Valentine papers, ribbons, stickers and such? I could eat them for breakfast!).

The only gift Ben asked for this year was a travel journal. I chose this one with leather ties and refillable pages. It’s a symbol that he’ll be gone soon, off in the the world without me– but also of the pages and adventures that we’ll fill together.


Happy Valentine’s Day! May you have a chocolate covered cream filled day of JOY!

February 11, 2009



  1. Mama

    February 14, 2009

    Oh my gosh, how exciting and yet terrifying and break my heart wide open-ifying to buy Ben a travel journal! I know he will be ready — but no mama ever could be.

    I am honored to have a Ben too. I hope mine turns out half as wonderful as yours, Michelle.

    You have been a mama for 17 years and I haven’t even been one for seven yet. No wonder I learn so much from you.

    Happy Valentine’s Day and happy birthday to you and Ben both!

  2. GeorgiaBecksteads

    February 14, 2009

    Wow! I can’t believe he is 17! That is a wonderful Valentine present. And you do plop down 1/2 your grocery budget to get something good enough to last for so many years and through so many boys!

  3. jennie w.

    February 14, 2009

    Hey, that’s not sexy!

  4. Claudia

    February 15, 2009

    I can’t wait to hear about your many adventures! Happy 17th Ben!

  5. Linkous

    February 15, 2009

    I DID have a day like you wished us, thanks to YOU! Thank you for taking a huge part of Ben’s day and all your other demonstrations of love for everyone you know to help us capture our joy on film. Ben, and all of your kids, are the amazing people they are because they see how you give to and love others. love you

  6. Laura

    February 15, 2009

    I can’t believe Ben is 17. Evan is right behind him. They grow up too fast!


    February 16, 2009

    Happy B-Day Wishes 2 Ben!
    Great gift idea, Michelle & Eric 🙂

  8. Brooke

    February 18, 2009

    there is something about the first, huh. the one that made you a mother.

    this was a lovely tribute!


    February 23, 2009

    I love how you said when your baby was born, you were born as a mother. That is sooo true and wonderfully expressed. Thank u 🙂

Comments are closed.