Sweet 16

Dear E –
You turn 16 today. I always write some sort of sappy tribute to how awesome you are in every way on your birthday. And you are – but I wanted to do something different this year. I’m going to make it SIXTEEN TIMES SAPPY! Aren’t you excited? What we have here is a list of 16 of my favorite times with you to celebrate your 16 years with me. It was very hard to choose, there are so many. We’ve had a pretty good 16 years, if I do say so myself!

  1. When you were 2 or so, I was in college and we were poor and unable to put any money towards entertainment. After a festival downtown one weekend, the tents were left up by the organizers. It was raining so we decided to go with our friends and have a picnic under the tents. We packed lunches and you guys loved it. It was like we were outside, but we weren’t getting wet. We had just as much fun with our picnic as you guys did.
  2. Another time while in college, my university held an event where they let students spend the night camping on the lawn in front of the mascot’s cage. Our mascot was a LION. We camped out with a LION. You loved Leo and spending the night in front of his cage was one of the coolest things in your eyes.
  3. You and I went camping with Papaw once to see Hale-Bopp up at Big South Fork. It was a funny night because I carried you most of the hike (in the dark) and Papaw got irritated I wasn’t making you walk. IN THE DARK. When you were TWO. Typical Papaw. It makes me smile to think about it, but you loved it. You thought camping with your Grandpa was super-cool.
  4. During my last stretch of time in college I was working up at a computer lab in my department. You had to come up there with me often and one late night of working you fell asleep on the couch. I was SOOO tired and I thought I’d lay down with you for a bit. Next thing I knew? I was waking up to the sunrise. We had spent the night in the computer lab and you thought it was so funny. You told everyone at school the next day that you spent the night in the castle. (Wesleyan Hall – the building that inspired your brother’s name.)
  5. When we moved to Huntsville in 2001 after I graduated, we got our first taste of a normal life sans government assistance or accruing debt. It was a nice phase in our life as we finally were able do things other people did. Like eat out. And buy new clothes. One of the funnest things we did in the beginning was go to the opening of the first Harry Potter movie. This was before midnight showings, but the radio stations were there and we won a free movie poster. One of many Harry Potter memories we’ve made in the last 16 years.
  6. We took one of our first “vacations” to Las Vegas to see my brother and some friends and go camping at Lake Mead. We ended up camping only one night (It’s damn HOT in Vegas) and ended up staying the rest of the trip at the Circus Circus Hotel. That’s where we found out that you didn’t really like scary amusement park rides. You did love the water park, however. And you also loved that your Uncle carried you everywhere. Great trip.
  7. We had our first midnight Harry Potter book release in July 2003. I had gone to one by myself for the 4th Harry Potter book, but this was the first one we went to together. The first of three.
  8. You and the neighborhood kids helped me plan my wedding to Donnie. You all helped me with party favors and decorations. You walked me down the aisle along with Grandpa. You and I have often discussed that day as one of the best of our lives. You and I danced to Kelly Clarkson and we did the Hokey Pokey at the reception. We then went to Florida for our “Familymoon”. Maybe I should just say it was one of the best WEEKS of my life.
  9. When I was pregnant with Nikki, you went with us to the ultrasound that told us she was a girl. I remember us all going to lunch afterwards, and being just overwhelmed that it was REALLY HAPPENING. We were having another kid. You were finally going to be a big brother! You were as excited as we were.
  10. My friends threw me a surprise party that year for my 30th birthday. It was the night of the 6th Harry Potter release (Do you notice how many of these moments revolve around Harry Potter?) so you, Donnie and I – and all of our friends – were all wearing our matching shirts. Great party. Great shirts. Great book.
After
  1. I don’t know if I can pick a moment from Nikki’s early years – but I loved that phase of our life. You were such a natural as a big brother. You were always such a great help. You have been ever since. You play as big of a roll in her life (and Wes’s) as Donnie and I do. But the most amazing part was those first few months when we got to see you and your mad brother skillz in action.
  2. We took a trip to Chattanooga right before I got pregnant with Wes. We stayed in a cabin and went to the aquariums and several other tourist spots. We also ended up at a Drive-In to watch Transformers. It was my first Drive-In and it was tons of fun, until you got a dreadful earache and we ended up having to leave early. I just remember trying my best to console you but you were in such pain. While it had that bad moment, it’s a good memory because everything else about the trip was great.
  3. One of the first outings we went on when Wes was little was up to Burritt on the Mountain. You carried Wes in a carrier on your chest like a pro. I took tons of photos that trip of you and your brother and sister and I look on that day very fondly. You still are so amazing with them, but how many teenagers would carry their baby brother around in a carrier? Not many.
  4. You and I went to see Wicked in April of 2009, just a few weeks after Dad died. It was exactly what I needed after losing my Dad. EXACTLY. It was an amazing show and we had an amazing time. It started our infatuation with stage shows and I hope we continue adding more and more as the years go by. We added Legally Blonde just recently and that was almost MORE fun because the excitement level was even higher. I love seeing all stage shows with you. Everyone of them stands out in my mind as one of my favorite memories. I hope they do for you as well.
  5. We went to Disney World last year with your sister as I ran a half-marathon to raise money for Team in Training. That whole trip was amazing. It will stand out in all of our minds forever.
  1. Being part of Seussical with you last year was one of my most favorite times since you’ve been in High School. We were both working so hard towards the same big event and we got to enjoy it all together. Nikki was even in the performance and Donnie helped with the set. It was a family event. It was also the first time we got to see you in a big-budget show and it didn’t disappoint. Can’t wait to add Beauty and the Beast this year.

Happy Birthday, E. You truly are amazing and I love you more than these 16 bullet points can explain. I hope you have a fantabulous day!

29 thoughts on “Sweet 16”

  1. Happy birthday, E! Enjoy the big 16! (and the snow. It snowed on my 16th birthday too. Gave my parents a great excuse to delay my driving test 😉 )

    I need a Beaker hat!!

  2. I know that I don’t even know E, but I just love him! What a good son, brother and all-around guy he is. You must be SO proud, Zoot! I know I would be.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY E!!!!

  3. Happy Birthday E!! I can’t believe he is sixteen!! I still remember him as he was in that very first picture!!! Love this post!!

  4. Great tribute!

    The first photo reminds me so much of Wes, how the eyes/cheeks scrunch up when he smiles!

    Happy Birthday, E!

  5. I cannot stop crying, that is the most amazing post, and what a very nice tribute. I remember when I first started reading you and LilZ I was convinced your ex-husband was one of the Deen Brothers (Paula Deen’s boys). You have a great special bond that I think speaks volumes. Happy Birthday Big E… wow!

  6. Thanks for the tears.
    Happy Birthday, E! I can’t believe you’re already 16 and that I’ve watched you grow for half of those years, always admiring your awesomeness.

  7. Happy birthday Lilz!!!! OMg_all the pictures radiate love that I feel happiness looking at them xoxo and reading through the comments, I realize that I have followed your blog from the early days when Lilz was little, totally just by a flick of serendipity ^^ may each day bring you fulfillment now and forever more xo Especially loved the first pic in the post of you and lilz..I am so lucky to have found your blog..u radiate so much love ^^~~ & Happy birthday again Lilz!!! xoxo and for the first time, I wish I had a big brother like Lilz ^^ =P x

  8. Burritt on the Mountain! I can’t tell you how many times I sat ON THAT BENCH (Or the ones next to it) when I lived there. I used to sit out there to talk on the phone or read after hours. Happy Birthday to E, I only hope my oldest lives to be such a great big brother.

  9. i’ve been thinking about him (and all the kids) so much today with it being his birthday. it’s hard for me to imagine i’ve loved him almost as long as you have!

    he is amazing…all the things you described in your post (which has me in tears) and then some!

    don’t forget to give yourself some credit for that too, girl! 🙂

    love you all so much!

  10. I’ve posted a couple of times, but I’m mostly a lurker. (sorry!) But this post brought me to tears! Today is MY son’s 14th birthday. And I want to do exactly the same thing for him so he knows how much he is loved. I love reading your blog, I feel like I have so much in common with you. I too had my son at 18 almost 19, was a single struggling mother/college student who relied on government assistance in order to make it through school and get to a better life. I then went on to find a wonderful man and married him when Austin was 8. I had big plans of more kids, but soon found out I had Stage 4 endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome that left me with fertility hell. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out for me, but I do have my beautiful son.
    January 21 is a wonderful day… we both got beautiful sons!
    Thanks for sharing all that you do.

  11. Wow! 16. Crazy! I remember so clearly when you came in town and told me you were pregnant with E, and even though you were so young, I was really excited for you. I remember when he was born and visiting you when he was teeny. And then the occasional trips with him to Knoxville, when I got to hear his very fun southern accent. And now hearing about him through you and your blog and seeing what a great, great person he has continued to be. Happy Birthday, E! And Kim, can you help my boy turn out that well?

  12. A note for you, Zoot. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think what a precious gift you have given your children. I don’t mean the little ones’ awesome big brother either, although he could certainly be considered a precious gift. 🙂 You reference the struggles you faced while in college in this post, and I think you have done so before. I have grown up with the knowledge that my parents also faced challenges when pursuing their educations (5 kids at home, one of them a baby, among other challenges), and I think it has really shaped how I see higher education. It also helped me see that hey, it may not always be easy, but it IS possible to go back to college even if you are working and or have kids or have other things going on that some might see as roadblocks. I am not so eloquent with anything touchy-feely, but I just wanted to share, from the perspective of someone who saw it with her own parents, your kids will get SO much out of your time in college, even the ones who weren’t there.

  13. Happy Birthday to your absolutely amazing son.

    I thought after the first couple that I would not cry during this post as I anticipated. Until the one about him and your Dad walking you down the aisle. That is just… priceless. You done good!

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