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Right after I thought I was turning thirty-six (turns out, I’d already spent a whole year as thirty-six, and actually turned thirty-seven!), Claire turned the big one-one. That’s right. Our second-born, joyful, ball of sunshine with an infectious laugh turned eleven. How? How?

Claire loves to go fishing with Jack, especially when the bass are biting.
It feels like just yesterday, Jack and I were huddled in bed with Evelyn, with no power, no heat, frozen water pipes, riding out an Iowa blizzard. Oh, and I was two weeks overdue. I seriously thought I was going to give birth in a tub by candlelight. Luckily, she didn’t come until we were settled in the hospital with heat and running water. Good thing, too! She was my heaviest baby at almost ten whopping pounds. Wouldn’t be able to tell now, though, since she’s all lithe and muscular. Pretty sure she giggled off all the baby fat.
Gymnastics AND hiking? Claire’s in love.
Apparently, over a decade has already come and gone since that fateful December and time doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With each passing day, Claire is less a chubby-cheeked, roly-poly baby girl and more and more like…dare I say it? A young woman. Cue tears!
Showing off the starfish she found.
While it is bittersweet to realize time keeps on ticking, there are some really incredible things about watching kids grow. For one, we have been reminded repeatedly that Claire is always up for an adventure. At the beach, she’s the first to plow into the water, hop on the boogie board, and surf her way back to the shore.
At home, Claire finds amazement in the everyday things around her. She makes the best wildflower bouquets, loves the critters that wander our property, whether they’re ours or not, and is often hard to find because she’s too busy exploring the depths of the forest.

I really love how comfortable Claire is with bugs, too. It’s just the way she’s always been, partly because I worked in the entomology field, but also it’s simply her personality. I’m not kidding when I say she’s willingly put June bugs on her face and we’ve all had a lot of laughs because she’s not squeamish around creepy crawlies and will use them in her comedy routine if they’re available.


Aside from other life forms, and the thrill she’s gotten from them, she’s also done other things that I know I didn’t have the discipline or drive to do at her age. She’s dug up her own clay to turn into pots and figurines. The old wood branches of dead trees become birdhouses. Trash becomes her blank pallet for artwork, and a sloppy hole of mud has become a functional oven with her help.

Helping sort the donations for the Afgan refugees.
Even more than her sense of adventure, I love Claire’s heart. She’s not one who easily gets riled or down on things, and if there’s an opportunity to help, she’s the first to jump at it. When Jack was helping at Camp Atterbury with the Afgan refugees temporarily housed there, Claire was always there to sort, document, load, and deliver donations. She’s helped people move and chop wood and clean.
When I need another set of hands on a home improvement project, like the new chicken coop or repairing drywall, she’s on it. We’ve spent a lot of good hours together, talking and working. She knows how to plane wood, run the screwdriver, how far to sink in a screw, and can swing a hammer like a boss. She loves to paint and will forego a lot of other things she enjoys in favor of a roller brush and a blank wall.
I’m not going to pretend like there isn’t the occasional tension between siblings and as one of the oldest, I depend a lot on Claire, but there are also a lot of really great times when we’re all together. Claire is the master of mashing together things she loves. Water, helping, and siblings? The perfect opportunity to teach someone else to love swimming as much as she does.
Introducing Adam to Tusk.
Claire’s love of cats is legendary. She’s done cat school projects, artwork, science projects, trivia, jokes, and read probably every book on earth that is feline-centric. Since we’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of cats, we’ve been able to satiate some of her desire to be a crazy cat lady (you’re welcome, Claire!), she’s done her best to make sure the rest of us love cats as much as she does.
I wasn’t kidding when I said Claire loves cats, from books to pj’s to wall art to books…
It’s not a surprise that a lot of Claire’s creativity comes out in the form of cats, but it’s not the only way she sees the world and its potential. She has sewn (and often by hand) her own clothes. Her art teacher has kept more than one of her projects for display.

Even outside the box, we can see her creativity oozing out. Like doing normal tasks, such as getting down bananas. Use a stepstool? Nah. Climb a beam (in a dress)? Naturally.

How’s that for getting bananas down? 😅
Claire loves to help in the kitchen, and while she can do the basic stuff like cook ramen or scramble eggs, she likes to go above and beyond. Jack and I joke that I tend to cook to feed the masses a healthy meal while he cooks to enjoy the delicious things this world has to offer. If Claire has followed in anyone’s footsteps, she’s definitely taken after Jack.

Her culinary prowess has also come because of her willingness to try just about anything. She might only take a nibble of say, octopus legs, but she’ll try it. She learned to love sushi before I did and though she doesn’t love chocolate, cake, or frosting, I figure that’s just more for the rest of us who love chocolate, cake, and frosting.

Though she’s still wet behind the ears as far as I’m concerned, Claire has a great deal of discipline. When she puts her mind to something, she’s going to do it and do it all the way. She’s extremely competitive (she’s even challenged me to who can rinse or load the dishes faster 😅 Guess it makes doing the dishes more fun), though sometimes, it costs her. She has literally run until she’s barfed (more than once!) and even though I’m  her mom, there are some things I can still beat her at. She might win the sprint, but she has yet to outrun me in distance.

That just means that when she happens to be home and I go out for a run or a bike ride, she’s my training partner. We either ride side by side or she chases me down, saying stuff like, “I’m catching up! You’d better go faster!” Talk about a motivating personal trainer.

Though Claire loves to move, she also is masterful at the art of being still. She can read for hours and literally always has a book with her. She prefers fantasy, bonus points if it has dragons, extra bonus points if it has cats. If she’s not able to live a magical life, the next best thing would be to stick her nose in a book and read so she can pretend she is.

Claire’s special day was a lot like all the other birthdays, and not in a bad way. It means we try to spoil her rotten as a reminder of just how much we love her.
I can hear Claire’s laugh just by looking at this picture.
She asked for crab, sushi, blueberries and caramel biscuits for her dinner and her siblings were all pleased with her request because it’s the kind of stuff they like.
Afterward, we continued the celebration with presents. Since Claire is a December baby like me, I try to make extra sure that she feels like her birthday is separate from the rest of the holiday festivities. Her siblings made sure to get involved, too. They showered her with hand drawn cards and hand stitched toys. It was adorable to watch their excitement as Claire opened their offering. Best of all was how generous and grateful Claire was for each gift.
Claire asked for a no-bake cherry cheesecake for her birthday cake (doesn’t like cake or frosting, remember?) and it was kind of nice to have something a little different, especially since it was cheesecake. Drool. She huffed and she puffed and couldn’t blow out her candles because they were trick candles and kept relighting. Ha! Take that! She probably could have blown them out but because she was giggling so hard, she couldn’t do it.

There’s no way that I could wrap up everything that Claire is in anything as inadequate as words. There are innate qualities in Claire that I wish I could emulate–her charity, patience, boldness, kindness, intelligence, curiosity, and self-confidence, I wish I could have grown up the way she has, wild and free on a farm, but if I couldn’t, at least I get to watch her and her siblings experience childhood this way. She has the kind of laugh that makes everything better, an imagination that is out of this world, and a work ethic that could build an empire. She’s incredible to say the least and we are so lucky that she’s ours.

Happy (super belated) birthday to our incredible Claire!
We love you!

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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