This weekend Neal turned 14. Every year I make the kids gather around the cake and take a picture with the birthday child.
I got to looking at the last few years. Here he is at 11 (don't tell my kids I posted these pics - major blackmail material):
And at twelve with his buddies:
That summer (12 1/2) he got a very nice haircut that kept him a few inches shorter than me:
In six months, by his 13th birthday, the hair had started growing out,
And he was an inch or two taller than me (speaking of blackmail - ya'd think I could put on some makeup!).
He'd wake up in the morning and I'd say, "Did you grow? I think you grew. Yep, I know you grew." He did. In a few months he grew five inches and gained thirty pounds.
As you can see, our tradition never produces very good pictures. This year I believe someone LICKED my camera lens (unbeknownst to me, until I uploaded this). Oh well, it romanticizes a silly memory:
(Yes, that's cheesecake. Neal made his own cake this year. He's such a sport. His birthday always falls on a choir concert, basketball game or holiday function (this year it was a children's choir cantata). The cheesecake was really awesome.)
Anyway, it's such a pleasure to look back and see our kids grow - not just physically - but in every way. The sparks are flying less between Neal and his younger sisters, something we have been working on and praying for (just like my brother and I finally came to a truce about this age). I guess he's come to terms with his place among the girls here. He's made good friends, he is beginning to enjoy the feeling of making good grades (that one took a while), he is tenderhearted, and he still likes me to tuck him in. With the hair, he's now five or six inches taller than I am.
It doesn't get much better than that.
Happy Birthday, Neal. I love you, and I'm glad you're mine.