When I was planning out my life and decorating my Barbie dream house and waiting for my first pair of stirrup pants and first swipe of liquid black eyeliner…

….I never imagined I’d have four children.


In the history of ever.

Four just seemed like it was approaching Brady Bunch level.

It seemed overwhelming.

It seemed too much.

It seemed like I was never going to make it in the successful mom department.


In the history of ever.

Teaching life lessons to the next generation is hard.

So much harder than it looks.

You begin with the standards.

Be kind to others.

Open the door for your mother.

Be nice to your sister.  Hold your fork properly.  Don’t wear white after Labor Day.

You ask for a please and tell someone to say thank you and remind them to take their plate to the sink and assign chores and follow up on their homework and discourage bullying of any kind and you cross your fingers and ten toes and hope that it all sticks.

You wonder if you are making a difference as a parent.  You wonder if anyone is listening.  You wonder if the chicks will fly when they leave the nest.

And then?

One day you see a glimpse.  A glimmer.  A spark of the adult they will become.

And it makes all the trying worth every word.

This Christmas this showed up under the tree.

My oldest son, Denton, made it for me.

This was his entry in the handmade gift department.

He made it himself.

He attached two frames together and placed a piece of paper between the frames that read, “Today I love you because.”  Then he attached these hooks to the bottom of the frame—one on each side.

Then he handwrote 99 reasons why he loved me, punched a hole in the top of the notecards and threaded them through a jump ring.

Every day for 99 days I’m supposed to flip the reasons over to show a new one.

Each reason handwritten by him in beautiful wonderful Denton cursive.

And when I’m done?

I go back to the beginning and start it all over again.

Just in case I was wondering that day if I was loved?

I wouldn’t have to wonder.

I’d know. Because I’d read things like:

You recognize our strengths

You love to surprise us

You listen to our stories

Your grilled cheese is amazing

You always try your best

You saved a piece of my hair when I cut it

You’re concerned about me

You celebrate my accomplishments

And on and on and on

But the most amazing thing?

The thing that made me hide my head in my elbow and sob until my sleeve was wet?

All those life lessons?

All those things I had been trying to teach and instill and explain and communicate.

All the times I thought I was never going to make it as a mom.

All those times I thought no one was listening.

There they were.

99 of them.

Written in black and white and cursive.

Teaching me right back.

And the life lesson that’s the hardest to learn?

One day they grow up.

One day they leave the nest and take on the big wide world.

One day they spread their wings and fly.

And you?

You have to let them.

And Denton?

Today I love you because…

…you are you.

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  1. Image for Terri Terri

    Such a precious and thoughtful gift! Our family enjoys exchanging hand-made gifts as well! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Image for Sydney85 Sydney85

    What a lovely young man! I can only imagine how wonderful his life will continue to be with being so thoughtful. Knowing how you would react to such an amazing gift speaks volumes. .

  3. Image for Renae Renae

    I am bawling my eyes out. There are no words...this is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever read. I pray over my boys, and for me, and my husband, that we're raising them right, that they see my gestures of love, that they never, ever forget the lessons I'm trying to teach them, that they know even little things like grilled cheeses and favorite songs are love in physical form. Thanks for sharing this. And good job, mom!

  4. Image for Marisa Franca Marisa Franca

    Okay! You've got me crying. That is so wonderful and amazing and so you passed on to your wonderful son!! My breath catches when I look at my kids and see how wonderful they are. How did I do it? Why didn't I write down what I did? And strangely enough, it was my mamma that came through every time I needed to dig deep for some wisdom. Her words and instruction came pouring out of my mouth. Me!! Who thought at one time that I knew more than her. Nope!! I just think I channeled her. I love your gift!! It is priceless. Sending a huge HUG -- Happy New Year.

  5. Image for David David

    Wow! What a terrific gift and, clearly, a great kid! As someone who finds "raising" my dog deeply challenging (despite years of reprimands he still wears white after labor day) I am awed by good parenting and it's pretty clear from this post and others that you are hitting it out of the park. Your next book title: Raising Rock Stars

  6. Image for Linda Miller Linda Miller

    Oh my. I feel your heart right now. I looked across the room at my 3 adult children while we were unwrapping gifts this Christmas and thought to myself...these are my gifts. These wonderful, hardworking, beautiful, caring people are forever my gifts. And I feel so blessed. Happy New Year dear Karianne! Let's hope 2019 is full of more beautiful surprises like this.

  7. Image for Janette Janette

    This is heartbreakingly beautiful, how overwhelmed you must have felt, a most wonderful gift, from the heart...I love this, no amount of money can buy something like this...xx

  8. Image for Peg Peg

    This is the most wonderful gift, to a wonderful mom, from a wonderful son! And, I think Denton's cursive should be a new font called Denton!! I just love it!!! xoxoxo

  9. Image for Shirley Shirley

    OH my, this utter sweetness, thoughtfulness, grateful creativity, etc., etc,, etc.......brought tears to my eyes. Your son has captured your genius -- and it lives on.

  10. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    Good job, Mom and Dad! Denton is beautiful example of a young man who was nurtured, loved, and taught the ways of the Lord. I know you are beyond proud of who he is. And just think! You have three more to reassure you, that you did it right!

  11. Image for Michelle Michelle

    What a precious gift from your son. I know you’ll cherish it forever. You did something right, mama!! I, too, have four kids. Never imagined I would be a mother to four. Never imagined I could be so blessed! They are all in their 20’s now. So much love we all share. The blessings continue to flow as I am going to be a grandma in July!

  12. Image for Jennifer Ferrell Jennifer Ferrell

    That has Denton written all over it! What an amazing young man he is! Love all your sweet kiddos❤️❤️ Love you guys!

  13. Image for Shelly Shelly

    I wasn't able to have children. This made me cry, it is so very sweet! The fact that a young man did this for his Mother, made it even more sweet! He is such a thoughtful young man, with a rock star Momma! You did good!

  14. Image for Kathy Kathy

    OMGoodness! That is the sweetest thing EVER!!! If you think you didn't do something right, just look at that!!! Not only is he a great son, he is going to be a wonderful, thoughtful husband some day. You can look at that everyday and feel proud! (I bet you read ahead, didn't you?) Happy New Year!

  15. Image for Pamela Smith Pamela Smith

    Wow Denton is so amazing to think of putting this together for you! Of course, this means you are amazing too! I often questioned my parenting too, but both my girls are strong independent women who are on their own. Such a blessing!

  16. Image for Cindy@countyroad407 Cindy@countyroad407

    Stop it Denton! Now I'm crying. Momming is hard. Especially when they grow up and are out of your control. Maybe that's just me. What a wonderful gift. A treasure. A forever keep-under-my-pillow kinda thing. I love it.

  17. Image for Linda Linda

    oh my goodness - I have goosebumps!!! and my eyes are watering! what a Wonderful, Precious son you have. You have done well in the motherhood department - take a moment and soak that in - it is a hard job! The hardest job we will ever do, and The Most important!

  18. Image for Lin Lin

    Well you brought me to tears again!! What a lovely son to think of doing this for you!!! He is a very special young man.

  19. Image for nana nana

    What a wonderful tribute to Denton and all he has accomplished. You are blessed to have him recognize your role in the process. Much love to both of you.

  20. Image for Cheryl Cheryl

    AW!!!!!! That is the sweetest gift. Your son is obviously amazing and has learned well from his parents. Thank you for sharing a tender moment with us!

  21. Image for Jenn Jenn

    Like the others...tears! You are doing great! I have 9 and my oldest is 16. One year for my Birthday he wrote out a Bible verse...part of Proverbs 31 and drew a picture and told me I was the best mom...ugggh It is so wonderful and such a blessing and yet so humbling. It's so easy day to day to see our shortcomings and failings and just wonder if we are somehow damaging these lives beyond repair! It's so nice as you said to see that little glimmer!

  22. Image for Susan Ronnfeldt Susan Ronnfeldt

    Oh my goodness...sob..sob...that is just perfect! sob...sob! I love your blog!!! We Mom's do worry if we are doing the job right! It never ends! I am 71 and I still worry about it!

  23. Image for Karen Karen

    AMAZING!!!! This is a sweet and precious gift - it's so dreamy! I can imagine your son smiling and getting all the supplies together and sitting down and writing each and every message of love and encouragement! Priceless!!!!!

  24. Image for Connie Connie

    Oh KariAnne, you made me cry! You did a great job of parenting! Such a wonderful gift from a precious son. So add that to the momentous you’ll never part. You are a RockStar Momma too!

  25. Image for Mary from Life at Bella Terra Mary from Life at Bella Terra

    I am sobbing and sobbing and sobbing....because I am at that stage where mine are now leaving the nest......and it's hard. What a wonderful, priceless gift from Denton and such a testament to you and your parenting. My youngest will turn 18 this Sunday and will be leaving for college in September. The reality finally hit when I was writing our Christmas letter, recapping the highs and lows of 2018 when it dawned on me that next year (now this year), I will be an official empty nester. Though I am bursting with pride on how fabulous my 3 children are, I feel like I've got one foot on two docks that are sliding apart. I am a bit lost. I know everyone goes through this at some time but I'm trying to reinvent myself. I feel like I am being fired from the best job I've ever had in my life. And still crying over your post.....

  26. Image for Sharon Smith Sharon Smith

    I would say you have done your job better than most. This is so beautiful. It must have felt like a reward. Denton touched my heart - what a beautiful gift for a beautiful mom. You are a kind person and I love your stories!

  27. Image for Hillary Hillary

    WOW, what a gift! Brought tears to my eyes! Besides any of the 99 reasons, you're obviously a pretty incredible mama to have raised such a sweet and thoughtful son <3.

  28. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    What a precious gift!!! I believe you have done a wonderful job raising your children!!! Denton just proved it with this amazing gift. I don't know a mother a live who would not want one just like it...only with their child's words !!! KariAnne you done good!!! You are such a special person and I love you and your stories!!! xo

  29. Image for Leslie from Fairview Leslie from Fairview

    Children are a gift from the Lord. and the gift just keeps getting better as they become adults. Once again, your story of family brought tears to my eyes. Blessings to Denton.

  30. Image for Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns

    Well friend, it doesn't get much sweeter than that. Very sweet gift, what a treasure. Denton, like your other children, is a reflection of you and your husband and the fine job you're doing raising those 4 kids (you never imagined you'd have)! Happy Friday!

  31. Image for Pat VonSick Pat VonSick

    Super! Made me teary eyed too. See, you done a wonderful job and wasn’t sure you did. I don’t think we’re ever sure, but look at that prize! And you’re not done! Still a lot to do. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I love the humor, the wisdom, the decor photos and good ideas. But mostly the faith!

  32. Image for Marie Marie

    Be still my heart. Denton is now pouring over you words of affirmation, just like you have done for him. Is he in college? I have a daughter...

  33. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    You have taught and instilled into him well. It's wonderful to get heart gifts from them that speak volumes of who you are to them. You are blessed. I am, too. Thankful for those moments! And you have four of those amazing humans who will continue to speak wonderful and teachable things right back to you. Keep your tissues ready.

  34. Image for Kris Kris

    Hmm, my daughter is 13 .... tell Denton to wait a few years till she is grown up because that's the kind of man I want her to marry! :) Our kids make us hand crafted gifts and I love seeing their heart in it. Thanks for sharing.

  35. Image for Julie S Julie S

    Awww, that is so amazing, and a great affirmation of what a wonderful Mom you are! Proverbs 31: 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed. 😊

  36. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    No words could express what a wonderful job you and your husband have done!! Denton is an example of two awesome parents and I am sure the other 3 are also. Blessings for 2019!

  37. Image for Shirley Shirley

    I look forward to seeing your family’s handmade gifts. This Is beyond adorable. What a lovely young man you have raised. Happy New Year to you Karianne & your sweet family.

  38. Image for Dana Dana

    OMG! WHAT an amazing gift! So thoughtful, kind and caring all in one gift and in Denton. You brought tears to my eyes and amazement at the kindness and the love that has poured forth into this young man from you and your husband. You are blessed beyond measure. I can only imagine what a fine young man he will grow up to be. God bless you Karianne, for surely God has shown how blessed you are with your thoughtful son. Happy New Year to you and may it be a wonderful 2019 for you and your family. P.S. LOVED the post about your daughters running through the doorway wrapped in Christmas paper!

  39. Image for Alison Alison

    What an AMAZING gift he is and his 99 reasons !!! Also in the future we need tissue ratings like this post should be rated as a box of tissues. Looking forward to see what 2019 brings !

  40. Image for Emmie Emmie

    Omg! What a most precious gift full of love. You can be so proud of your son for being such a caring,thoughtful,loving person you raised. Now grab that Kleenex box....

  41. Image for Toni Toni

    WOW....WOW....WOW....WOW..... a gift every mother alive would love to receive! No doubt you deserve it! What a precious son you have. What a wonderful husband he will make one day because he knows how to appreciate a woman, especially his mother! Happy for you!

  42. Image for Katherines Corner Katherines Corner

    What a true love filled gift. KariAnne you are a shining example of things to do with your children to let them be exactly who they are. You express love in the sweetest ways and this gift is a testament to the type of person and Mother you are. xo

  43. Image for Pat M Pat M

    Oh my goodness, you have just been awarded the Mom of a lifetime award. I love this and that kid is a winner, because you are a rock star person! Pat M

  44. Image for Nita Nita

    Most precious gift ever ever! You have raised such a thoughtful, caring and sweet young man. Talk about knocking it out of the park.....

  45. Image for Donna Donna

    Oh Karianne, I’m crying. I can’t think of a more wonderful gift. My granddaughter and I are close. She is 18 now and lived with us for a year at 16. (Her parents were TIRED). Her teens were difficult. I spoke a lot about acknowledgment and appreciation during that year. She’s well now and back home, doing all the things she should be at her age. We have a standing date to get together on Tuesdays. She has become appreciative and regularly acknowledges the efforts we as a family have made and are making on her behalf. She is a young adult we are proud of too! Sending you a big hug. You ARE a rockstar!

  46. Image for Eileen Eileen

    Very first Blog post in the history of EVER that made me cry (and I follow a few blogs for years including yours that are so wonderful and sweet) What a special son you have. What a special mom you must be. ❤️

  47. Image for Mary Mary

    Oh gosh what a sweet, sweet gift he gave you. Something straight from his heart. And, yes, we always wonder if we make a difference in their lives. This is your proof! Keep that FOREVER! Ok, now I’m gping to go cry by myself.!

  48. Image for Robin Drake Robin Drake

    Wow... what a wonderful gift- yours to your son and especially his to you!!! We really do wonder if our children realize how hard we try to do the "right" thing. It's nice to know that they do. My eyes are full!


    KariAnne, God has truly blessed you and your dear husband with such wonderful children! They love you so much! Your Denton has given you such a wonderful gift which you will treasure forever. May God continue to bless you all! Keep on doing what you're doing! May you and your family be blessed with a wonderful year.

  50. Image for Lanita Anderson Lanita Anderson

    Oh that’s wonderful!!! What a great gift.....one to treasure for many years to come!! Thank you for sharing.....

  51. Image for CathyAnn CathyAnn

    Denton, you are truly a ROCKSTAR!!! ... such and amazing, insightful and caring young man! The gift you gave your mom is P.R.I.C.E.L.E.S.S. What a creative gift. In fact, I'm going to use your idea to make a unique Valentine's gift for my husband. Thank you for the inspiration!

  52. Image for Edith Pickens Edith Pickens

    This is likely my all time favorite post from your beautiful blog! However, it should come with the following warning: Have tissues close by before reading! ...#cryingalittle

  53. Image for Sue Sue

    Your story made me cry once again! What a wonderful gift to receive and it shows what a great job you did as a parent.

  54. Image for Nita Grillot Nita Grillot

    Wow, what a great guy you raised! I'm crying after reading this, then again aloud to my husband. He teared up a little too! Such a precious gift.

  55. Image for Nan, Odessa, DE Nan, Odessa, DE

    OH, my gosh! You are blessed to have such an amazing child. What is Denton doing in "where ever" (was on his note to you)? What is his dream goal in life? Look up lady in your bright red lipstick and say "Thank You GOD". Bless you for sharing.

  56. Image for Kim Kim

    I am all sobby and mushy and it feels so good! Your son is extraordinary and I think that says a lot about his mom. I am SO stealing this wonderful idea so I can bless some special someones in my life. Thanks for the post!

  57. Image for Brenda Hurst Brenda Hurst

    Ok, so I love your Denton too. As the Mom of two sons, I can easily welcome another one. I had just been telling my husband about my friend, Karianne, and how she and her family exchange the COOLEST handmade gifts on the face of this earth and how someday he might get to meet her (wait, I still need to meet her) and see these gifts first hand. I do my best to describe the tea box and the pillow representing your house and the wooden star and How I can't wait to see what she received this past Christmas and and and . . . Then Denton grabs my heart strings!

  58. Image for Denton Wood Denton Wood

    Thanks everyone for the sweet comments! There were a lot of great homemade Christmas gifts this year - hope Mom will show some of them off to you! Love you Mom :)

  59. Image for Teresa Bebout Teresa Bebout

    Denton is a wonderful young man, I always enjoyed having him in class whenever I subbed! That is an awesome gift Happy New Year from LivCo!

  60. Image for Christine Morgan Christine Morgan

    Great post. So true. I have 5 children and there were so many days I wondered if anything was sinking in. Everyday is a pleasant surprise because one of them will say or do something that shows me that it did sink in!!!! Love motherhood.

  61. Image for Cin Cin

    Oh my I had tears as I tead thiS as this is something my son would do and at 39 did similar when he gave me a jounral for my 60th bday 2 wks after i had been dx with breast ca. Today I saw this as they were all visiting and showed it my son said oh cool. My daughter the unemotional one,38 nursing her first baby 3 months old, says way too much for me. I said some day he might do that if you are lucky. She rolled her eyes said guess have to,preyend i liked it. My hubby said you won’t have to pretend. My son says you are sooo weird..lol Karrie Ann when you are old and gray, you will hold tjis and weep again. Congratulations on awesome kids.

  62. Image for heather heather

    beautiful! so beautiful! thank you for sharing- parenting is difficult & your story makes me smile! happy new year! hugs :)

  63. Image for Fuchsia_21 Fuchsia_21

    Oh my goodness....this made me teary eyed. I have two boys and I too hope I can be a good mom. Kuddos to Denton.

  64. Image for cynthia cynthia

    KariAnne, That is such a true testament to who you are and you should be so proud. I cried just reading your post. My boys are almost 11 and 14 and life with them is so trying sometimes I just hide my head in my pillow and cry. I'm not sure what I'll feel when they leave the nest, but I would be so blessed to receive a gift like that. Hope your well sweet lady.

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