sweet 16 birthday

Yesterday our oldest son turned 16 years old.  This was a much anticipated birthday because, duh, he could get his driver’s license!  I’ll let you in on a little parenting tip that worked very well for us.  On his 15th birthday we told him that his ability to get his license on the day of his 16th birthday depended completely on his behavior.  Any late or missing assignments, sassy attitudes, disrespect and the like, would add a full 7 days on to the 365 he had to wait to drive.  365 days would become 372, which could become 379, and so on…  Let me tell you, our son is not perfect, but he knew we meant business.  He’s a good kid to start with, but every parent knows that our children consider it their job to test boundaries.  We made our boundaries clear, and all we had to do all year was remind him of the 7 day rule if he began to push disrespect a little too far.  The responsibility was his.

When it came time to take the test, we were privileged and honored to do so.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young man he is becoming.

So, if you’ve been around the blog for awhile, you know that we have a tradition of giving our kids a small present for every year of their lives each birthday.  You can read about our youngest’s 10th birthday here.  Sixteen presents.  Seriously?  At some point this tradition will have to end, but I will keep it going as long as possible.  I knew I wanted to do something special for Oldest’s Sweet 16, and I was relieved when I didn’t have to look any further than my Pinterest Let’s Party page for a spark of inspiration.  There I came across a pin from Oh Happy Day for a number shaped envelope surprise.

progressoverperfectionI decided to send out emails to a dozen or so family members and adult friends who have had an impact on Oldest’s life and invite them to send a birthday wish…  a memory they had of him, a wish for his future, maybe a picture or even a simple “Happy Birthday!”.  And did they ever deliver!  The notes were sweet and humorous and heart-warming.  I loved watching him as he read each birthday wish and a smile spread across his face.  Perhaps my personal favorites were from a couple of men that we have gotten to know from our church. These guys are fathers who have a heart for youth.  They have reached out to our son and have taken him under their wings.  They come to his basketball and soccer games with their kids, they include him on outings, and they have just gone out of their way to talk to him and pour into his life.  He LOVED those notes.  I think they came as a big surprise to him because they were unexpected.  These men are such a blessing and they make me think hard about the people God has placed in my sphere of influence.  They make me want to do the same for others.  I can’t tell you how much I love the body of Christ!


We have used this Pottery Barn Kids birthday banner every year for I-don’t-know-how-long.  This year, it suddenly looked silly and juvenile to me.  I posted a picture on Instagram and mentioned that I might have to pass it on, but I was immediately encouraged to keep it because tradition matters to our kids.  I love the Instagram community, too!  It’s so strange and wonderful to me how small our world has become because of social media.  We can advise and encourage and pray for virtual strangers, and receive encouragement as well. Crazy goodness.

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I must admit I approached this project frugally.  Rather than seeking out colorful envelopes, I used paper I had on hand and simply stapled it into a sleeve to hold notes and gift cards.  The effect was similar to what I found on Pinterest, but cost me nothing.  I have set a goal for myself this year to make use of what I have on hand whenever possible.  A penny saved is a penny earned!

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I filled other sleeves with gift cards for gas and food.  What more does a sixteen year old guy need?  Ironically and without planning it, I ended up with exactly 16 items.  The gift cards will be used and gone forever, but the special birthday wishes will last forever.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!  You mean the world to us!


It was a beautiful day to celebrate our boy young man.  He is such gift to us!


  1. LOVE the notes and the way you creatively presented them! What a treasure!

  2. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing. My oldest is a teenager and this is something I think I will be doing on his 16th birthday. He turns 15 in a few months and I absolutely LOVE the idea of adding days for unfavorable behavior too.

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