Birthdays

Birthday Gift for Myself

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

A few months ago, I decided what I wanted to give myself for my birthday. It was…a bit radical for me. Despite my liberal beliefs, I am a bit conservative in some areas.

But once the idea took hold in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it. I wanted…no, I needed to do this. I made a goal to have it by my birthday, but it wasn’t possible. However, one week later, I did it. I fulfilled my birthday gift to myself.

Behold:

I honestly never thought I would get a tattoo. I admired them, but I never thought I would get one. However, like I said, over the summer, the idea took hold in my head, and I wanted to do it.

I know a phoenix is a little cliche and possibly trite, but it spoke to me. What better symbol of rebirth could there be after one’s spouse dies and you are forced to figure out a new reality and existence? Plus Harry Potter.

And I love it. I do. I could not stop grinning for hours after I received it. It’s such a small thing, but it felt so transformative. So symbolic.

My tattooist was great – I think he is in his 80s based on what he said, but he has had a very colorful life (and I think he is libertarian based on his comments. That or slightly conservative?!). He had on classic rock in the background, and we had some good chats about the music. It also made me think of my father.

I’m not going to lie. It did hurt. About 75% of it was bearable and mainly resembled a lot of acupuncture needles being placed at the same time. The other 25% caused me to clench my jaw and grip the pillow. But it took only an hour.

I don’t know if it makes sense to be proud of myself for getting a tattoo. But I am. It felt like a radical act…for me.

I know we all likely know this line from Mary Oliver (and I’ve used it in this space before):

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I want to live. To find me. To be me. And this tattoo felt like the first step in that direction.

Happy Birthday to Me.

44

I turn 44 tomorrow. Technically, I turn 44 at 11:13 PM tomorrow, meaning my birthday was almost Sept. 10 instead of September. 9. But at this point, that and what they may or may not have done to my mother to get my oh-so-large 5 pound self out doesn’t really matter. However, I’ll never live down the broken tailbone they gave her to get me out. Believe me, it’s like the nightmarish bedtime story I cannot escape. Do you ever feel guilty about your own birth? I do.

But. Tomorrow. Thursday. September 9. It’s my birthday. Broken tailbones or not. I’m definitely starting to reach that point at which I shrug off birthdays. Just another day! Except I want it to be more than another day. Just a little bit. Maybe not worth a whole to-do, but maybe a bit of one. Guess I better get to work on that.

It’s been quite a year. And I’m trying to figure out my place and settle within it. To find my mooring. And a lot of times I feel like that involves quite a bit of dissembling: “of course everything is fine!” And it is. Truly. But sometimes I feel like I am collapsing in on myself like a dying star.

Oh and I’m a bit more dramatic. Sorry about that. Or not. Maybe I should stop apologizing for having feelings – some rather fucking complex ones.

So 44. A few fun facts about 44: Obama was the 44th President. 44 is a tribonacci number. 44 is the country code for the UK. It’s also the number of candles in a Hanukkah box of candles. The .44 magnum. And according to Wikipedia, 44 is both a palindromic number and a happy number. I have no idea what that means, but it makes me smile.

Inhale. Exhale. I’ve told a few people that I feel like a raw, exposed nerve lately. And I do. And it is weird when things hit and make me cry. Like tonight. Why am I crying? It’s just a birthday and not even a milestone one. I think, that as Virginia Woolf put it in To a Lighthouse, it comes back to “time passes.” 44. No spring chicken. I could see the thestrals at Hogwarts very likely. And…44. It sounds old-ish. Several hundred years ago, I’d have been preparing to retire to a nunnery, because what other use could a woman of that advanced age have?? Though I suspect I’d raise some hell in a nunnery.

As Prufrock says:

“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

But. But. Though I toy with melancholia, I have good spirits. It’s just another year around the sun. I am very fortunate to have Daniel, the kitties, friends old and new, and a job I love. I have a lot going for me (looks around frantically for something on which to knock on wood).

It will be OK. My birthday will be a good day regardless of what may come.

It’s just a day. But it is my day. Happy Birthday to me.

Lustrum, Pentad, Quinquennium

Sweet Boy,

Lustrum, pentad, quinquennium…those are fancy words that simply mean five of something, and I used them because you have 5 of something: you have five years. You turned 5 on Monday, and I hoped all week to write something about it but as happens too often lately, life has been wild for our little household.

We are so proud of you. You have worked so hard this year in Pre-K and have learned so much. You are soooo close to reading, and each week daddy and I have marveled over the weekly work sent home. Last week you came home and informed us that your favorite planets are Mercury and Neptune. You ask questions about everything, with “Why?” being your favorite follow-up to any answer I give. You have learned a lot about religion this year. Last week you asked me why the soldiers hurt Jesus as I chugged my coffee. Today you told daddy that Jesus would help you find the missing Lego piece you sought. We might need to work on this.

You still love garbage trucks, but you have broadened your interests to include any construction vehicle – our kitchen looks like a Bruder factory exploded in it. Earlier this year, you put together your first Lego set (a garbage truck, naturally), and now the kitchen overflows with Lego trucks of all kinds. When you started building the Lego sets, daddy helped you quite a bit but now it is amazing to watch you follow the instructions and put them together with little assistance. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of a Lego phase, which is great except that Legos tend to go everywhere. I even found a tiny one in my bed. I felt a little like the Princess and the Pea that night.

Your imagination is growing by leaps and bounds. Your starfish talk – quite sassily (and loudly)! You’ve given your trucks and Legos creative names, most of which we have no idea where they came from. You still dislike your name and want us to call you something else, something that changes frequently: weekly, sometimes daily. You rename us too. We had to draw the line at renaming the cats because something in the house has to remain consistent. There are days I can’t remember what my name is! It isn’t unusual for you to turn the couch into a pretend garbage dump or to see your starfish, trucks and Toy Story figures playing together. You love Toy Story and Jessie is your favorite. I like to think it’s because she looks like me, but that’s kind of Oedipal, so I’ll stop.

 

Sweet Boy, you are full of sass & stubbornness & curiosity & humor. You make us laugh every day. Earlier in the week, we had to avert our faces because you declared “whatever” with enough attitude that we had a peek into your teenage years. You have a hearty laugh, and your guffaws are rich.

You are also sensitive. When you are chastised, you hide your face, and it breaks my heart. You find so much beauty in our world, be it weeds or trash. To you, everything is a treasure as you demonstrated last weekend when you wanted to water all the weeds. We struggle how to reconcile your love for every living thing while we tell you that things like weeds will not be allowed to survive.

Recently you have started making friends with the neighbor children in the houses closest to us. It has been quite a process and your anti-social parents have experienced lots of anxiety. But it has been great to hear you refer to them as “my friends.” And I promise that daddy and I will back off one day…when you are 20!

I don’t mean to imply that there weren’t hard times because there were. No one is perfect. I swear you talked non-stop in January and February. There were tantrums and stunning selective hearing and infuriating defiance. Sweet Sir, you have a stubborn streak that has been evident since infancy if not before!

I think the bottom line is that I can’t believe you are 5. FIVE!! How did that happen?? Five truly is a milestone year. Age 5 makes me think kindergarten and the final removal of baby things. You will start your elementary school journey in August. College feels only minutes away.

And I hope that we are good parents to you. We try hard, but I worry it is not enough. As time goes on, I begin to accept that you will likely be our only child and worry that I haven’t done enough or been there enough. And I worry that every decision is wrong because there will be no do-over.

Whew. Feels like a lot of worry and doubt to place on your small shoulders. Sweetheart, you are awesome. So many people love you, and I cannot wait to see how you develop even if it is bittersweet.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy

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36

We leave for our second week at the beach in a few hours. It’s a beautiful day here, and I hope it’s as beautiful at the beach. It feels decadent to be able to spend a second week at the beach; some years we didn’t go at all. As with our first trip, our plans are minimal: relax, play, enjoy.

My 36th birthday is tomorrow. Last year, I felt like my 35th caught me in a bit of an existential crisis: who am I? What do I want to be?  What do I want to do? This year, I feel rather nonchalant about adding another year to my tally.  Maybe it’s because there is an evenness to 36 that feels more stable than the angular, pointed 35. Maybe it’s that 36 is firmly on the other side of the symbolic 35. Or maybe, it’s because we are so busy that I barely have time to think about personal existential crises. Parenting a 4-year-old and working will do that.

I’m not saying I’m at peace with the pesky gray that is consistently infiltrating my hair or the under-eye bags that grow more prominent (especially the one under the left eye. Nothing like uneven under-eye bags) or what I optimistically call crinkles at the edges of my eyes that are more accurately called wrinkles.  I wage war with creams that I suspect delude me into a false sense of well being. I’m just not ready to do anything more permanent about these mile-markers of my time here. I hope to one day be as sanguine and appreciative as Arch Mama is about hers.

35 was a year of up and downs, highs and lows, but couldn’t that be said of any year? A few months ago, I worried that perhaps I had peaked. Maybe I reached the zenith of my achievements a few  years ago, and that thought depressed me. I don’t feel that way now. I’m hopeful that Marty and I will produce a second year of Listen to Your Mother.  My 4-year-old, my chance at immortality, delights and infuriates daily. Jimmy and I have found time for wonderful late-night (if 9 PM is late!) conversations on the back porch. And Fall is coming.

So, 36, I welcome you. Or at least, I don’t fight you or deny you. Tomorrow I will spend the day on the beach, reveling in the salty air and the gritty feel of the sand. Making sand castles. Finding star fish. Maybe being squirted by a water gun. Eating great food. And not being at work!

As I slowly feel the rejuvenation the ocean brings me, I’ll think about how something so old can still be so beautiful and powerful.

Four is…

Daniel turned 4 almost two months ago, and I cannot believe I didn’t write a commemorative post (that sounds odd) or a recap of his birthday party or anything. June was a busy month, and the entire summer is zooming by.

Daniel’s birthday party went very well. Eight preschoolers jumped, climbed and bounced to their hearts’ content, and then we threw pizza, cake and ice cream at them.  Daniel was thrilled with his garbage truck cake, and he, Jimmy, my mother and I were all exhausted when we got home (although no naps were had by anyone).

I feel like I need to knock on wood as I write this, but age 4 has been so much easier than age 3…so far. I wrote several times last year how unprepared I was for the huge changes and challenges age 3 brought almost overnight, and we’ve been waiting and watching, but so far, so good. I’m not saying it’s an easy age.  Age 4 has its own delights, but we can reason with him and are beginning to be able to use logic. We can have conversations with him and that helps SO much.  He’s funny and sweet and delightful and infuriating, often simultaneously.

Four is Inquisitive

Daniel: Mommy, do starfish have toes?

Me: No, they have feet but no toes (according to our starfish book)

Daniel: Why not?

Me: I don’t know.  That’s just how they were made.

Daniel: You do to know.

Me: ????????????

Four is Inquisitive and Chatty

Daniel: Mommy, what’s your favorite color? Do you like garbage trucks? Do you know I like Word Girl? What’s that, Mommy? Do you like Thomas? Do you like Percy? Do you like…<insert every train he owns>? It starts from the moment he gets up, to the moment I pick him up, until he finally lays his little blond head on the pillow and falls asleep.

Four is Inappropriate

Daniel: Mommy, do you wear underwear?

Me: Yes

Daniel: Mommy, what do they look like? Are they pretty?

Me: ummmmm we don’t really talk about our underwear

***

Daniel: Daddy! What’s in your pants? (reaches hand down Jimmy’s pants)

He was actually referring to what Jimmy had in his pocket, but we weren’t sure at the time.

Four is Bossy

Daniel: Mommy, do not argue with me. Do not say that word. Do not call me that name. I must be first! I own purple!

Four is Sweet

Daniel: Mommy, who am I married to?

Me: I don’t know?

Daniel: I am married to you, daddy, and Word Girl (he blushes a bit and my heart melts. I also suddenly hate Word Girl)

 

Four is Infuriating

Me: You need to finish your green beans.

Daniel: No.

Me: Yes, you do or you won’t get dessert.

Daniel: But I waaaaaaaaant dessert

Me: Well, who controls that?

Daniel: You.

Me: No! You do! (suddenly feeling like I’ve lost control of the conversation). Just eat  your green beans!

 

Four is Sensitive

Daniel: I’m a robot

Me: Are you like one of Toby’s robots? (from Word Girl. Toby is a bit of a punk)

Daniel: (chin quivering, face crumbling,  tears falling) I AM NOT TOBY. I AM NOT ONE OF HIS ROBOTS. HE’S A BAD BOY. NO ONE IN THE FAMILY IS TOBY OR ONE OF HIS ROBOTS.

Me: OK, OK, OK! (Maybe it’s time to teach him about similes)

 

There is never a dull moment around our house; that’s for sure.

35 Years and 1 Week

I made it.  I survived my first week as a 35-year-old, and I thought I better chronicle it before my memory begins to slip now that I’ve entered my dotage.

September 8

I commemorated my last day as a 34-year-old by doing glamorous activities like mopping my floors.  It’s amazing how much you can sweat pushing a mop around.

Clearly aging gracelessly. Fare-the-well, 34.

September 9

On Sunday, my actual birthday, we celebrated by eating Mexican, my traditional cuisine on my birthday.  Why?  I don’t know.  I think it’s because I am seldom able to eat Mexican and figure no one can deny me a birthday wish.

After eating chips, salsa, fries, grilled chicken and fried ice cream, Daniel began to refer to it as his birthday.

Chips and salsa rock!

Gimme that ice cream!

No outing to a Mexican restaurant on your birthday would be complete without the waitstaff serenading you while you wear a sombrero and try not to blush out of mortification. I failed. I always thought I looked pretty good in a sombrero, so it could be worse I suppose.

A sombrero should become a regular part of my wardrobe, right?

Oh, the sugar is kicking in, and this no-napping little boy has little patience for a mommy who wants to cuddle.

Let go, Mommy! You’re smushing me!

September 11

Week two of soccer! Daniel continues to excel at running in the wrong direction, picking flowers, putting the cones on his head and rolling around in the grass.  I predict a glorious career in soccer for him!

Why am I here again?

September 13

I finally met Laura in person after trying to plan lunch for a month.  She was lovely, and I think we could have chatted all day.  Sometimes you meet someone and you know instantly that you have met a kindred spirit.  I don’t know if she felt that way, but I did! Less happily, the garlic and other spices from lunch at La Shish lingered the rest of the day, gifting me with horrific breath no amount of tic tacs would tame.  The food was great, so I suppose the dragon breath was worth it.  She suggested that I sign up for the Fall Mondo Beyondo course, and I did.  I’m excited to see what I discover about my dreams.

September 14

A few coworkers and I traveled to Edenton for a meeting, leaving Raleigh at 6:45 AM.  I thought we were going to Elizabeth City, which is a bit further away, but it turns out our destination was Edenton.  See?  My mind is going already.  I have pretty awesome coworkers, and the 3-hour trip each way was made tolerable by gossiping, doing each other’s hair (not really), sharing our mutual dislike and making fun of The Sound of Music and stopping for peanuts.

My meeting was about 500 feet away. What a view!

Bertie County Peanuts; Made in NC of course!

September 15

Despite our ongoing battle with carpet beetles (seriously – it’s still ongoing), I thought it would be a great idea to take Daniel to BugFest at the Museum of Natural Sciences.  Bugs!  Bugs everywhere!  It was fun even though both of us refused to touch any insect.  I did glower at the beetle exhibits and noted that carpet beetles were not represented.  Can I tell you how happy I am not to live around the equator?  They have HUGE, terrifying insects.  I would faint if I ever saw a beetle or cockroach the size of some of the ones I saw.  Even their moths and butterflies look like they could carry off a small child.  It reminds me of the ant scene at the end of 100 Years of Solitude.

Later that evening, the three of us got gussied up and met my parents at The Angus Barn for my official birthday dinner.  Steak, shrimp, crackers, pickles, wine, dessert and cappuccino served to us by a former student whom I student taught back in 1998.  Yikes.  She recognized me, so I must still resemble my younger self a bit.   Daniel behaved beautifully because we had promised him chocolate, which he began to demand loudly as soon as he declared himself finished with his dinner.  Happy to reward his good behavior with sugar, Jimmy and Daniel were able to go to the kitchen so that Daniel could make his own sundae.

Dapper Daniel ready for a night on the town

Let me eat in peace!

Full of sugar and no nap, Daniel fell asleep on the way home, cuddling his new stuffed kitty.

September 16

And on this day, we rested, too worn out to do anything productive.  The weather cooperated by being chilly and rainy all day.

I can nap here, right?

Being 35 hasn’t been so bad.  Or maybe I just don’t remember.

The Icing on the Cake

A work of art

This was Daniel’s birthday cake.  In case you couldn’t tell (ha), it was homemade. When we’ve had birthday parties for him, I’ve bought cakes, which I sort of didn’t want to do because as I’ve written many times, I like to cook and I also like the idea of everything I serve at a party being homemade (it just seems to be polite and respectful of my guests.  And maybe I’m showing off).  Of course I break this “rule” quite often, especially when I’m making a big meal like, say, Thanksgiving and decide that while the idea of homemade pumpkin cheesecake or sweet potato ice cream sounds great, enthusiasm can carry you only so far.

We didn’t have a big party for his birthday this year, so it was really important to me to make a cake for him so it would seem like we put some effort into making his birthday special (I suffer from acute guilt in general; my mommy guilt is epic).  I also realize that when he gets older, mommy making his cake will likely seem embarrassing and the allure of the store-bought cake will be something that makes his birthday special. Hmm.

So we made him this cake, and when I say “we,” I mean me and Jimmy.  I made the cake.  I’m embarrassed to admit the cake is from a mix because Daniel wanted a chocolate cake, and the homemade cake I made didn’t turn out right which sort of made me wonder whether my cooking skills have atrophied (see previous post).  I also made the icing.  Jimmy decorated the cake.  Ok, I did pipe the sloppy blue beads around the base.  You may have guessed that while I may enjoy baking cakes, decorating them is not a core competency of mine.

I came to this realization painfully.

Several years ago I took a cake decorating class.  I’m not sure why except I had the time and was bored I suppose.  This was pre-child, pre-grad school, post-newlywed time.  I think I may have signed up for the class because I had concluded I lacked creativity and was taking fun classes like paper making and fiction writing in order to awaken any creativity that might be slumbering.  Learning how to decorate cakes seemed like it would be fun, and I think I was also curious about how those techniques were done.   I bought the Wilton tackle box chock full o’ decorating goodies and prepared to be initiated into the mysteries of torting, levelling, piping and spreading.

In retrospect, taking the class was a stupid idea.  I am very uncoordinated, so any technique involving dexterity was doomed.  I’m also a perfectionist, so anything I could not do well nagged me.  I hit the first roadblock right away: spreading the icing on the cake, the base layer for the delightful decorations to come. I carefully followed the recipe for “Faux-tercream” (we used shortening instead of butter for our practice buttercream).  I plopped a large spoonful of icing on top, picked up my spatula and prepared to achieve the desired smooth canvas.  But I never could.  I spread and smoothed and smoothed and spread but no matter what I did, I couldn’t achieve the smooth look or crumbs contaminated the icing.  Frustrated, I searched sites for techniques and other icing recipes.  I tried using a crumb coat.  I refrigerated the cake.  Nothing worked.  I could get the icing sort of smooth, but it still looked sloppy. After watching my attempts, Jimmy offered suggestions and annoyed, I suggested he give it a try.  He did, and I’ll be damned if his didn’t look better.

Though I hated bringing such a sloppy product to class, I soldiered on, determined to master the borders and other decorations.  The borders were a bit easier to grasp, but again my lack of coordination came back to haunt me.  I could make a few consistent-sized dots or scallops before my hand squeezed the bag too hard or not hard enough, my border taking on a ragged look.  Some border elements would be flush against the cake while others had noticeable gaps.  The next obstacle were icing roses.  Roses are my favorite flower, and I was excited to learn how to make them.  I made very few attractive roses.  While my classmates made crisp, gorgeous buds, mine were flaccid and poorly defined.

I hung in there for the entire 8 weeks even though my poor cakes were the least attractive in the class.  I usually took the finished product to work, and they enjoyed the fruit of my labors no matter how poorly decorated.  I was very frustrated, though.  I didn’t expect to become an expert cake designer, but it bothered me that I couldn’t bend the icing to my will.  I also discovered that cake decorating was not helping me nurture my creativity: the blank canvas of an iced cake was just as daunting as everything else I had attempted.  By the last class, I was tense.

For our last project, we were going to make a two-level cake using dowels.  I brought a 6-inch layer, a 9-inch layer and the dowels as instructed. Unfortunately, our teacher had forgotten to tell us to cut our dowels to the appropriate height ahead of time.  The only tool she had for cutting was a dull cake knife slightly shorter than a saber with which we had to hack at the dowels.  And we needed 4 dowels.  We took turns with the knife and while we waited, we decorated our cakes.  The teacher clucked disapprovingly at my smoothing job.  My roses were wilted. My colors were garish.  It was a hideous cake.

I took my turn with the knife and started hacking.  Perhaps I was taking out some of my frustration on the dowels; perhaps it was the pesky lack of coordination.  Hack. Hack. Hack.  Suddenly, my thumb was bleeding all over my dowels and the table.  I grabbed a paper towel to put around my thumb, but it just was too much and I ran to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall and sobbed.  I sobbed for the icing that would never smooth properly.  The roses that refused to bloom.  The borders that were never even and flush. And I sobbed because I was the moron who thought taking a cake decorating class was an awesome idea.  Did I mention that the class was taught at night at a high school?  I also sobbed because I was humiliated that a cake decorating class had reduced me to sobbing in a stall with lilliputian-sized doors in the girls’ bathroom.

I finally got it together and returned to the classroom.  I finished my cake, managing to avoid adding any blood to the already grotesque monstrosity, and left.

And that experience is why I don’t decorate cakes. Jimmy and I have mutually agreed that we cakes need to be iced, he does it.  It’s galling, but I’ve grudgingly accepted it.

Oh well.  You can’t be good at everything, right?

What is one thing you wish you could do that you have never been able to master?

Three

Dear Daniel,

Birthday boy, bright-eyed and eager

I had hoped to post this on Saturday, your actual birthday.  However, your sweet voice trilled happily over the monitor before 6 AM and when your eager feet hit the floor, I don’t think they stopped moving all weekend.  As a result, that meant that mommy and daddy’s feet didn’t stop moving either.  There was no time for mommy to slip away to her laptop or even to form a coherent thought.

You turned three years old at 6:48 AM on Saturday.  Three!  You are very much all little boy now, and my chubby-cheeked baby has stretched into a 39-inch tall string bean who looks much older.  Daddy and I were reminiscing over the last year, and I’m sorry to say that it was a stressful one for our little family.  Each day was carried out under an omni-present cloud of anxiety and worry about Mum’s health and that made its way down to you as we had IMPORTANT discussions in hushed voices and upended routines.

And I cannot forget the stress caused by our foray into preschool, how miserable you were and how I doubted my intuition and scrutinized your every gesture, conversation or interaction like you were a science experiment that needed to be fixed.  And finally, the biggest change of all in May: going to daycare every day instead of your grandmother’s.

Must.Have.Coffee

I’m so sorry for how rough and confusing the year was.  We tried our hardest to shield you from the craziness going on and let you continue to be the happy, cheerful little boy you are.  I’m amazed at how much you have changed.  A year ago you weren’t speaking much, but now you are a chatterbox.  It was in the fall that I realized you had memorized the books we read each night and could recite them on your own.

You also started telling jokes – quite clever ones actually!  Daddy and I still giggle about how you called Lucy’s tail her “tender.” You’ve started to sing the songs you know, and you have an excellent voice!   You’ve handled the daycare transition well – much better than I thought you would – and you are talking about your classmates at home; it makes us smile to think that they are telling their parents about you.

You stopped that heart-stopping running off the minute I turned away when we were outside and now display a love of nature that I hope we can nurture and help last.  You see beauty where others see weeds, and I’m reconciled to the fact that any flowers we plant may be there only for you to admire and pick.  Our porch and driveway are littered with your floral offerings.  Your artistic ability astounds me: your coloring has progressed from scribbles to trees, grass, rainbows and suns that look remarkably like what you say they are.

It’s a rocket, perverts!

Unfortunately you had a few other milestones that were unpleasant, yet unforgettable.  I’ll never forget the night you coughed at your easel and out came a tell-tale bark: croup!  But croup was nothing compared to your cutting open your chin and needing stitches.  The nice doctor who fixed your chin helpfully told us that those stitches were unlikely to be your last after he observed you in the waiting room.

Sweet Pea, you are so loving.  You give the best hugs, and it is precious how you pat our backs when you give us hugs as if to say, “There, there.  It’s ok, Mommy.” You have a huge heart, and I love that you comfort crying classmates or become upset when you think others are upset or sad.  You are always on the go, racing to get a different stuffed animal from your room, bringing an armful of trains into the kitchen or building long trains on your train table, but I am very impressed with how long you can concentrate on an activity you enjoy.

I hope 3 will be a great year for you.  We’re going to the beach soon, and I’m looking for a soccer team for you since you are enviably coordinated.  I can’t wait to see how you continue to develop and grow.

Happy Birthday!

Saucy boy enjoying his cake

Our Two-Year-Old

Love my letters!

Daniel turns 2 at 6:48 AM on June 2, and I’m amazed. I’m wondering where the last 12 months went. I know, I know–the older you get, the faster time flies, and it is sadly proving true. The last 12 months have been difficult and complicated with family issues, but he has been the bright spot for our entire family.

Daniel is most definitely a little boy now. Nothing baby about him. He’s so tall! I’m not a good judge of age when it comes to children, but I think he looks older than he is. We joke that he doesn’t know how to walk, but it’s true: running is his preferred speed. He is so sure on his feet, much more coordinated and confident at 2 than I am at 33.

Despite the need for speed, I’ve noticed that he has started to slow down and focus on one activity for longer periods of time. He loves the alphabet and can spend 15-20 minutes happily playing with his magnetic letters. He knows them all and at our house, “V”, especially his purple magnetic “V,” is his favorite. When he sees it on his easel, he happily cries, “Vuh!” He also loves his Thomas trains. Santa brought him “Gordon” for Christmas and from that first train, his collection has grown to include James, Thomas, Percy, Emily, Hiro, Whiff (aka “Momma” because he wears glasses) and Victor. Sometimes we’ll build bridges out of blocks for the trains to go under. Happily, he also loves books. While he loves us to read to him, he enjoys looking at the books himself as well.

Attitude

It’s great seeing him have these little bursts of independence, but it’s a little sad too because it’s a reminder that as time goes on, he is only going to become more and more independent. And we have to be ok with it because that’s what needs to happen, and it’s our job to nurture it.

Daniel truly has a wonderful personality. He is typically in a good mood and calm though the tantrums are coming more often. Lately he has become super affectionate. He’ll hug and kiss us repeatedly, giving us big ol’ bear hugs that truly are the best hugs in the world. At other times he’ll gently caress our arms or hands. He even kisses his toys, books and on rare occasion, a kitty he has managed to catch. He’s also mastered making faces at us-what a comedian!

In the last year he has learned to walk (run), graduated from high chair to booster seat, graduated from booster seat to regular chair, moved from crib in our room to a mattress on the floor in his own room, increased his vocabulary, been to the beach twice and sadly, lost two grandfathers.

It’s been an eventful year, and while it’s bittersweet to pack away all the baby paraphernalia bit by bit, I love the little boy with whom we have been blessed. Watching him discover and explore the world is rejuvinating, and his energy is boundless. It will be interesting to see what changes are in store for my 2-year old. Daniel will start preschool in late summer, and I can feel us taking the first step on the path that leads to elementary school and beyond.

Happy Birthday to our Doodle Bug. May it be a wonderful day full of all the Oreos you can eat and a great year.

Post-bath silliness

1st Birthday Party – Belated

Birthday Boy enjoying cakeOur little family had a busy weekend last weekend as we celebrated Daniel’s birthday! Yes, yes, technically his birthday was June 2, but we cancelled the original party due to my father’s health situation and only just rescheduled it. Nothing wrong with a first birthday party almost two months late! I feel bad about the delay even though I know that the 1st birthday is more for the parents than the child.

We crammed around 20ish people, children and babies into our house on one of the hottest days of the year. It was supposed to be a simple cookout–hamburgers, hot dogs and fries–but I have a hard time doing simple, so I made three cold salads: BBQ bean salad, summer cous cous salad and fruit salad. I’ve been enjoying the leftovers for days, and Daniel even had some as well!

We invited F, and she and her family came. We hadn’t seen her since December, and she was amazed at how big Daniel had gotten. J and I discussed it and agreed that inviting her was a non-issue. It would be right not to have her there. After all, if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t be celebrating his 1st birthday. I know it meant a lot to her to be there. She wasn’t able to attend her first surro baby’s birthday party due to it being out of state, and I know that it bothered her. Since she lives only 45 minutes away, it seemed churlish not to invite her, but really, we wanted her there.

I think the party went well despite the horrendous heat. We were honored that so many friends and family chose to celebrate Daniel’s birthday with us. Despite having no nap, Daniel did pretty well too–especially when it came time for the cake! He had SO much fun destroying his “smash” cake (and if you are looking for a baker, I highly recommend Tartlette Treats!).

Only 10 months to go until he turns 2 and we celebrate again!

Eek.

Main cake. It was inspired by his nursery.


Daniel's Smash Cake. It was huge!


Smash Cake: The Aftermath