Austins' 9th birthday party was held at our new house - and the home we live in today. From this birthday on, he chose to have the party at the house, in our backyard and invite only family. I thought that was a huge testament to who he was.
Throughout his life, family was important to him. He loved his friends but so enjoyed these parties to celebrate with those closest to him. Each year I expected him to outgrow this "phase" but he never did. And I'm glad.
We had his party on the weekend of the 4th because the next week he was going away to 4H camp. As an added bonus, he got to have fireworks after his party. It was a tradition we carried on in future years.
As a joke, we wrapped a toaster as his "big gift" that year. I often wrapped presents in boxes of other things so he didn't think it would really be a toaster, until he pulled it out. His expression was priceless. He didn't quite know what to do or say but being the sweetheart he was, he just said thanks. His dad then told him to close his eyes and set the big box in front of him, containing the basketball goal he'd wanted. And he was thrilled.
That basketball goal was one of the best gifts we ever purchased him because it gave us so much family bonding time. Especially between Austin and Tim, because they played nearly every morning before school and every evening as Tim arrived home.
Fall break of that year, we took our first family vacation. It was a trip to the Smoky Mountains and we spent a week in a cabin way up on a hill.
It was the longest drive the boys had ever been on (over 5 hours). We packed lots of activities for them to do in the car. They had fun playing road games, sightseeing and having fun in the backseat. It was a much more pleasant trip than I expected.
Austin fell asleep on the way and woke up just in time to see the mountains in the horizon. That was the best part of my trip - to see his face light up.
The boys loved the cabin and Austin was a big fan of the hot tub out on the deck. He also enjoyed sneaking out each morning to fish with Tim. (Noah was only 3 and so he slept in with Mom.) While on the trip, we visited the mountains, Cades Cove, Ripley's Aquarium and the Comedy Barn. It was a wonderful first family vacation full of great memories.
Age 9 was 4th grade and Ms. Henderson, one of Austin's favorite teachers. As always, he did well in school. He scored in the top 5% on his tests, made the all-A honor roll, got Perfect Attendance, and was awarded as the Super Student. He was also selected to be a "Gifted Student" that year. We were proud of him because 4th grade was a rough transition, moving into more difficult homework and portfolio assignments.
Age 9 was also the year Austin took over as Team Captain for our team. He was featured in a story in the Times-News (which is posted earlier in this blog). He raised over $1000 that year on his own and it was the start of continued passion for him.