Happy Birthday, Darling.

There's something to be said about growing up with the person you love. It's something you can't plan. Something that happens only by chance, every once in a great while, and I have been so lucky.

Today my husband is 25 years old. And while it's lovely to spend this milestone birthday with him, it's made even more special by all the ones that have come before it. This is the ninth birthday I have spent with him, and I am overwhelmed by the transformation from the long-haired, grunge-loving teenager I fell in love with to the man I love today. He has left no part of himself behind, but has built upon all the traits I first fell in love with. When I look at him now, I see all that love, from the moment we first held hands in the lunchroom of Dayton High to these nights where he walks in circles waiting patiently for our baby girl to fall asleep in his arms.

At an age where most guys are still clinging to adolescence with only vague notions of what it means to be man, my husband is a force to be reckoned with. He is a man I am proud to be with. A man I respect just as much as I love. A man, in every sense of the word, who has dedicated his life to myself and our family. Who has worked harder than most men would dare, in order to give us the world.

Between school and work and two babes and myself, it is a wonder he wakes each morning. But he does, without failing, and gives us his all. All his support. All his love. All his patience, and then some.

He is exactly the kind of man I want my son to be and the kind of man I hope my daughter someday finds. I hope they both aspire to be like him, because it is a worthy aspiration. He is strong and kind and faithful. Loving and supportive and hardworking. Intelligent and forgiving and funny.

And more, so much more.

Happy Birthday, darling. Here's to the next quarter century of growing up and old together.