Thanks, Mom.

Stephen celebrated a birthday last weekend. It did not go unheralded in our house, but it did get delayed online. I am determined to guard my time from internet distractions. Even on birthdays--especially on birthdays. 

There was Pioneer Woman's French Toast Casserole in bed. And there was soccer with his buddies. There were cheesy tater tots for lunch. His biggest brother took him to dinner and a movie at the Alamo. All was good. And then, of course, there was the Super Bowl. This is our Super Baby, the boy who always celebrates around the Super Bowl. Always will. And it's just so perfect for him.

It wasn't a perfect year. Fourteen never is. Fourteen is hard work for my boys. Stephen is my fourth boy so I didn't freak out very much the way I did with the first three. I just held on tight and prayed that when the storm passed we'd both be better for having lived through it. And it did. And we are.

Stephen's a great kid. He's the most studious of the bunch of them, eager to learn and disciplined enough to thrive in a relaxed environment. He's ever the philosopher, a great lover of deep conversations about literature and theology. Yet, he still insists we call him Superman, so there's little doubt that, despite his love of logic, he's got quite the imagination. 

There is something else about Stephen: he notices. And he is grateful. No matter the storm of the day, no matter how many times we butt heads, Stephen is the child who, without fail, will turn to me as we pull up in the driveway after driving to and from practice and say, "Thank you, Mom."

Every. Single. Time.

And I am so, so grateful that he is grateful, that he notices, that he knows that this soccer mom gig is not for the faint of heart, that he appreciates the sacrifice. 

I've often wondered if his godfather whispered to him one day that "thank you"was a balm to a soccer mom's heart. Or maybe the idea was prompted by the Holy Spirit. I don't know. I just know that this boy, throughout all the tumult that was early adolescence, was always deep-down grateful. And he made it a point to say so. Some days, those words were bright spots of hope on an otherwise stormy journey. 

Every four years, my Super Bowl baby sees his birthday as a segue to two glorious weeks of Olympic fun in this house. In a family of athletes, where dad goes to work every day at ESPN and  people grow up to be sports media big shots, the Olympics are a Big Deal. Not a World Cup status big deal, but a big deal nonetheless. Nick will get all up in the stats and Stephen will make a case for staying up late. The girls will all want to be figure skaters and it will be a grand celebration.

 I'll watch the moms in the stands.

I'll have a pretty good sense of the time and energy and emotion and money invested in those few moments of competition. And I will hope that at the end of their long days, all along the way, they had a kid like Stephen, who never, ever forgot to say, "Thanks, Mom."

Here's a little Olympic Mom Mush to get the party started.