Tag Archives: birthdays

summer girls, summer parties


Party 1

As I work my way backwards through our very full summer, I thought I’d highlight the birthday celebrations the girls planned this year. You might remember some of the more elaborate birthday parties when the girls were younger. I loved planning and throwing parties for them both, and we did this consistently for their first six birthdays, culminating in a shared party when they were six and twelve. But after #6, the parties got smaller, simpler, and sometimes were just celebrated with family or with a friend or two. And as the girls have grown, we’ve also let them take a bigger role in the party planning.

Since we didn’t have friend parties last year, we encouraged both girls to plan a group event for their friends. E and M looked around at several laser tag / arcade / go-kart places before settling on a new one out in the suburbs. E put together an agenda for the party, and the kids (and dad and granddads) did a couple of races and a couple rounds of laser tag. Since F was too little for the racing, she tackled the ropes course WAY up high in the space.

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E had a blast. She said a lot of her friends thought she was a little crazy to host a party like this, and they weren’t certain that they were going to enjoy it. But E loves these kind of adventures, and is really competitive and brave, and it meant a lot to her that all of her friends showed up for her and tackled some of their fears to help her celebrate. The special things they brought with them were equally amazing. It was fun for me to see her really enjoying her time with friends, and how much they all adore her.

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My summer girls, eight and fourteen.

When we were on vacation for Spring Break, F saw a preview for the movie Despicable Me 3 that was opening just a few days before her July birthday. She announced that she’d be hosting a DM3 party for a few of her friends, and she never wavered from that idea.

As the time drew closer, we put her plan into action. She found some old minion goggles from the original movie when we did the big cleanout of the third floor. She also found her minion stuffed friend, and started picking out clothes to match her theme. She wore the glasses all summer long.

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I picked up some black and white striped tissue paper and treat bags, and F decorated large round labels to look like Minion eyes for the bags. We filled the bags with small little movie themed trinkets, a big bag of banana shaped candy, and some minion tic-tacs. They were a big hit.

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F invited five friends to the show, and the kids sat in their own row with booster seats (apparently those are cool!) and little snack packs and lemonades. They giggled and laughed throughout the whole movie, and afterwards her friends presented F with homemade cards and letters – one friend even wrote and performed her a song. It was all very lovely, and sweet, and funny, and just exactly what she wanted.

We talked about the parties we might throw in two years time again – a big summer of birthdays – TEN and SIXTEEN! Yikes. Just like summertime, the years are flying by. I’m glad we took some time out to celebrate this new year in the way that we did.

thirteen years

I’m oddly emotional this week – milestones rarely trip me up like this. I’m much more likely to find myself in tears when I watch you on a stage somewhere – there is something about a school concert or a special church occasion that does me in. I think it’s the contrast of the hurry and bustle before the event starts, against the calm and silence in my seat and my thoughts as I watch you do what you do. It gets me everytime. It has from that moment when you stood on a little basement stage and said your first line of your first play, into a microphone, in front of a crowd. At four years old, it was probably the first time you said anything in front of a crowd, ever. You were so quiet and shy then, hovering around our legs, rarely talking to anyone outside your small comfort zone.

But I am emotional this week. It catches me off guard in the strangest moments. I sat beside you on your bed last night, watching you as you slept. I’ve done this same thing for over 4,700 nights – brushed your hair back from your forehead, tucked your legs back under your covers, removed the book from your chest – careful not to lose your place in the pages, turned your reading lamp off, run my fingers across your cheek, listened to you breathe.

You have grown so much this year, teetering up to a height just a whisper below my own. You’ll leave me in the dust in this new year you’ve started. I’ll watch you flourish in your final year of middle school, and when this next sun lap is finished and we’re here in this mid-August space again, you’ll be heading off to high school. I’ll be reaching up to wrap my arms around your shoulders, holding you fiercely, tightly, the way you hold me now. Thirteen feels old to me, and worthy of emotion. So I’ll let them flow. We’ve earned them, haven’t we?

You will take the stage this morning, performing as Rosalind in As You Like It. You will go on a long, sweaty afternoon bike ride with your dad if the weather holds out – your one birthday request. I revel in the way that you love us, how you’d choose an afternoon bike ride or an evening of side by side reading as the best way to mark your special day.

I revel in you. You are good and kind and smart and sweet. Artistic and meticulous and determined and devoted. You roll your eyes and occasionally sigh at the injustices of life; thank goodness you do. I will do my best to build up and support the many talents that you possess, but I will also recommit to doing those things that I promised you in my very first letter I wrote to you. You no longer fear the stage, the crowds. I will continue to push you to places and spaces that will challenge you because you are up for this challenge. You are a peacemaker, but I see the sparks of a changemaker as well. I revel in this as well. I could not be more proud of you, more in love with you.

With every fiber of my being, I am grateful. We are lucky beyond our wildest hopes and prayers, to mark this thirteenth year with you. My emotion is not rooted in fear, the teenage tempests on the horizon, the widening of your wingspan. My fear is lessening these days; it’s grappled for three years now with the razor sharp intensity of the randomness of loss and grief. I think this is because of you, watching you grow, knowing who you are. I have had to let go of my fierce grip on all that I hold dear, loosening up both arms and then one reluctant finger at a time. My hands are better used to gently (and sometimes urgently) point out things in the world around you – beautiful things, hard things, things that require reflection, things that demand fervent action. My arms are better used to wrap you fiercely in my love and support and encouragement as you see more of these things on your own and as you develop your own responses to them. You no longer need my hand like you did when you were four. But it is still here, imprinted forever with yours.

Thirteen times around the sun. You are our light, our center. Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet girl.

in this kitchen with you

There was this moment last night, where I flew out of myself and hovered somewhere up above the two of us. Near the ceiling in the kitchen, above the pendant lights that we both hate, and that also need dusting. It was half past ten already, and you were finally sitting down to dinner, eating the panzanella salad I made earlier, when the house was empty and all my own. I was standing in my sweaty yoga clothes that I had layered over my sweaty running ones, melting chocolate and butter over a simmering pan of water, measuring out cake flour and sugar and sea salt. We were listening to Jerry Seinfeld talk to Amy Schumer, and then Kevin Hart, and we were laughing together at all the funny parts.

We were originally supposed to eat dinner together, but there were last minute plans with friends, some bike riding, some sleep over arrangements. You carted the girls (and the bikes) around and then fed them, assembled lunches, got them showered and packed and read to. Our evenings aren’t usually this busy, but this one was different. It was late, the house was quiet – the oldest, off with friends, the youngest, holding on to four front teeth and her temper by just a thread, when I returned home from class. She mustered one final bellow before surrendering to exhaustion and sleep, and now we’re here in this little kitchen that we’re both tired of, talking about our respective afternoons.

I’m hovering above this scene because I know this time is limited, and I want to take it in, absorb it into my skin, past the sea-salt layer that resides there tonight. The brownies are your birthday request, but you try and give me an out on them tonight. It’s late, we’re tired, it’s not a big deal. But it’s a small thing, and one I can do, and I have nowhere else I want to be than in this room with you. 

I’m hovering because I’ve heard something on the radio today that spoke of the intertwining of love and sorrow, and I’m sad that you are leaving this year behind you, because I’ve loved it on you. It looked good on you. I’m sure that tomorrow’s year will wear just as well, but I cannot temper that feeling anymore that time is endless, limitless. That one day there will be an evening in a quiet kitchen, with only one of us sitting at the table, shuffling through the mail and the leftovers and the events of the day. It seems natural to want to freeze the girls in these years of dimples and tangled hair and scuffed up knees; their years are the finest quicksand, uncontainable. But I wish to do the same with you. To keep you here with me, like this, like now.

This is too much melancholy for a birthday wish, so I’ll return to my spot at the counter, wooden spoon in hand, waiting for the chocolate to melt. It smells divine, but it’s unsweetened, chalky on the tongue when I momentarily forget and take a fingerful. I stir in the sugar and the eggs and the vanilla, standing over your shoulder while we talk. I’m grateful for another lap around the sun with you, for a home that smells like sweat and chocolate, for as many nights as we are given. Happy birthday, my love.