Well, here we are again. Another birthday for the third and youngest of our children – the now 12-year-old. The clock ticks and she insists on growing a year older every time we turn around. Honestly, weren’t we just here? Didn’t I just do a post about the 11th birthday party and how she was growing up so fast and how time flies? Didn’t Kyle and I just sing the birthday song and then privately lament about how we were hurtling toward being empty-nesters. “No!” we then shouted. “Would someone please stop this train!” So it’s been 12 months? Are we sure about that?

But the train rolls on down the tracks. And she is almost taller than me, which is not saying much but it’s a milestone I will not like.

The big kids are out of the house and for this we give much thanks. They have moved on to college with the understanding that we do not want them back. We love them more than our own lives, but we want them to start their own lives…under another roof. If you have not yet sent your child off to college or out in the world yet, you won’t understand this and I will come off sounding cold and heartless. If you have sent your child off to college or out into the world, you will understand this and nod along in agreement and with amens.

But the youngest is different. Perhaps we will do a little dance when she moves out, but it will represent the end of an era that will make us a bit morose. We see that now with everything that she gives up. No more trick-or-treating next year? Well, that’s the end of the dressing-up-for-candy era. No more Santa Claus? (happened several years ago) That’s the last of the sneaking-the-gifts-out-after-midnight-and-eating-the-cookies-off-the hearth-era. And we’ve lost the toy aisle and most Pixar movies and little-kid clothes from L.L. Bean.

And yet, we celebrate.

But not without a blog post (you can count on it every year) that includes a little nostalgia. I love my life, but I sometimes feel wistful about the days when it was noisy and cluttered and chaotic.

And yet, we celebrate.

We celebrate because those kids who were once under our roof have turned out to be people we would choose to make friends with and immediately invite over for dinner. They are all creative and funny and edgy. All things good.

So we’ll present a cake to the youngest, push the numbered candles down into the icing, and sing our hearts out again. And we’ll sigh a little bit when it’s all over because we know that when we turn back around, another year will have rushed by and she’ll be 13. And I’ll write this blog post all over again.

But for now, Happy Birthday Alison.