Today is my mom's birthday, her eightieth birthday. In honor of her eight decades, here are eight things she did that had a powerful effect on me as a kid and as a parent: 1) She read to us: in the car, on the couch, in the park, and my favorite--from the floor of the hallway between the girls' room and the boys' room at bedtime. 2) She told us stories from her childhood, stories so vividly remembered and recounted that it made us feel as though we'd been there. Not only did we get to know her childhood self, but she showed us how important it is to remember and tell the stories of our lives. 3) She taught us to notice and value the natural world. She pointed out birds and bird calls, identified wild flowers, and helped us catch tadpoles. Once she sent each of us into the backyard with a muffin tin with instructions to collect twelve different nature samples, one for each muffin cup. 4) She took us to Sunday school, Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, Tuesday afternoon Bible club, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and summer Vacation Bible School, thus making sure we knew we were "precious in His sight." 5) She made a family dinner every night. One of my favorite sights was coming home after high school play practice and seeing steamed up kitchen windows because that meant it was spaghetti night! 6) She was cheerful during hard times. Holidays were kind of tough on my dad, especially Christmas. One Christmas Eve, he was having a bad time, so my mom told us to bundle up for a walk. She had the Coleman lantern, and it was snowing. We were showing her how to do the walk from The Monkees, and her feet went out from under her on the slippery road. Down she went; the lantern flew out of her hand and smashed on the snowy street. The four of us kids froze, fearing the worst--an angry or hurt Mom to go with our sad Dad. Then we realized she wasn't crying or mad, she was laughing, and our Christmas Eve was merry again. 7) She made celebrations out of little things: biking to the gas station for banana popsicles, sprinkling salt on sweet red apples while we watched Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, decorating our paper lunch bags on field trip days, dropping everything to fly a kite on a day when the wind was just right or build a snowman when the snow was just right. And finally, 8) She made sure we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were loved. Thanks, Mom, and Happy Birthday!