birthday

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Reflecting on your birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

Me at Adelaide’s age, my 4th birthday.

 

Yesterday was my birthday. With birthdays often comes reflection. Where has this year taken me? What do I look forward to in the year ahead?

I can’t argue that my 37th year was a memorable one. This time last year I was four months pregnant and celebrating with my sister, having just spent my birthday in NYC on an overnight trip to see Neil Patrick Harris perform in Hedwig and the Angry Inch during his closing weekend on Broadway.

A year later and I have a beautiful seven-month old daughter. I’ve moved to Tallahassee, Florida to start a new life with my family, and I have a new job. Whew! This year will always be one defined by before and afters. Before June was born. After we moved to Florida.

I have a few of those clearly defined years in my head. The year I graduated high school. The year I graduated college and moved to Portland, Oregon. The year I left Portland and moved to Boston for grad school. The year I graduated from grad school and moved to Philly. The year I got married. The year Adelaide was born. And now, 2015. The year June was born. The year I moved to Tally. The year I turned 38.

Last night on the phone my dad reminded me that he was 38 the year our family hosted a foreign exchange student. I was in 7th grade then. Sometimes when I sit and think about the passing of time I’m blown away. Time really is a crazy beast.

I’m nearly certain that last year my birthday wish was a healthy baby. After two miscarriages, I concentrated all my positive energy on a healthy pregnancy. This year, as I faced the cupcake candles, my wish didn’t come as naturally. The possibility is wide open.

A new year. A new start. Today, today I feel hopeful.

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Last year Maryam from the blog Hi and Hello surveyed daughter Margaux on a series of questions right around the time of her 2nd birthday. I thought it was cute and wanted to steal the idea for myself last year. But, at age 2, I knew Adelaide wouldn’t be able to answer most of the questions. I figured I would get blank stares, and it wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post. Fast-forward a year and I dug up the list of questions again. Adelaide is incredibly verbal now, so I knew she’d be able to do it. I thought it would be a fun thing to do each year at her birthday to see how her answers change over the years.

15 questions to ask kids on their birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

 

Here are Adelaide’s Birthday Questions & Answers at age 3:

  1. What’s your favorite toy?  “Baby” (When I followed up with “which baby?” she replied, “Annie,” as in Raggedy Ann.)
  2. What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch? “At school?” she asked. “Sandwich–peanut jelly sandwich.” (When I prompted her to follow-up with her favorite thing to eat at home, she said, “For dinner? When I wake up? Banana.”)
  3. What’s your favorite TV show?  “Frozen” (She doesn’t really distinguish between tv and movies at this point, and she just got Frozen for her birthday and saw if for the first time this week.)
  4. Who’s your best friend?  “The reindeer” (meaning Sven, the reindeer from Frozen) When I prompted, “Whose your best friend in real life?” she said, “Sadie” (a friend from school).
  5. What’s your favorite thing to play outside?  “The slide. And the balls.”
  6. What’s your favorite thing at bedtime?  “The book. The doggie one.” (When I asked which doggie one she said, “Go Dogs Go.”)
  7. What’s your favorite food?  “At school, Mommy?” she asked. “Anywhere,” I said. “Orange.”
  8. What’s your favorite song?  “Twinkle Little Star”
  9. What’s your favorite movie?  “George” (meaning the Curious George tv show–see above about not differentiating between tv and movies)
  10. What’s your favorite color?  “Green” (holding up the green crayon that happened to be in her hand at the time)
  11. What’s your favorite fruit?  “Pineapple” (which if funny because up until about 2 weeks ago pineapple was about the only fruit she wouldn’t eat)
  12. What’s your favorite snack?  “Goldfish” (crackers, obviously)
  13. What’s your favorite drink?  “Nilk and water,” she said immediately. “And juice!” (I asked her what kind of juice and she said “fruit juice.” Then she added, “I like grape juice.”)
  14. What’s your favorite holiday?  “Princess”
  15. What do you want to be when you grow up?  “A singer”

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Today is my baby girl’s last day of being two years old. She will never be two years old again and this makes me a little sad. I’m excited for her to be three and all that being a three-year-old brings, but it’s been such a fun age. Adelaide’s language and personality really exploded this year. This girl is a talker! From the moment she wakes up in the morning she is all-go Chatty McChatterson. She loves to put on shows, or put a blanket over head and play “wedding” or “princess” or “superman.” She likes singing the ABCs song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. She makes up her own songs, too.

She likes to take food orders and go pretend grocery shopping (real grocery shopping isn’t quite as fun, but she’s pretty good at that too, as long as we bring a box of raisins or some other snack). She knows her colors and most of her letters and can count to 15 pretty consistently. Sometimes she can count higher, but the numbers start to get mixed up and repeated (eleventeen is my favorite).

She loves the water and although we don’t get to the beach or the pool very often, she takes advantage whenever she can get the chance. Spraypark is definitely part of her vocabulary.

She often gets phone calls (using our remote controls) from Shrek or Princess Ona (Fiona), or from Mom, Dad or her grandparents. Her favorite shows are Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger and Curious George. Dad sometimes lets her watch Adventure Time although much of it is (thankfully) above her head. She loves books and having us read to her. She likes dancing and twirling and playing catch.

Coloring and drawing in her notepad are other favorite pastimes. She’s recently started drawing people with real faces, complete with two eyes, a nose, mouth, even eyebrows! She is very nurturing and often rocks her baby dolls, Grover etc… in her arms, puts them to bed, plays doctor and gives them medicine and shushes them when they’re crying.

Three years ago at this time I was about to go to bed, having no idea this was “the night.” (You can read Adelaide’s birth story here.) She’s the one who made me a mama, and she’s made me smile each and every day since. I love you, my sweet girl. Happy Birthday!

1st birthday | nextlifechapter.com

First birthday party smash cake.

2nd birthday |  nextlifechapter.com

Second birthday party at the spray park.

3rd birthday | nextlifechapter.com

Yesterday’s third birthday party at the spray park.

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Amy headshotI can’t let today pass without mentioning my friend Amy who lost her battle with cancer four years ago on Wednesday. Today would have been her 38th birthday. I miss her dearly and think of her often.

She was the staple of our weekly knitting group, but I’m proud to say that we have continued to meet the last four years. We’re going on nearly 9 years now.

I wrote the following essay a few months after she died. It was part of the First Person Arts Museum. The project demonstrated how personal objects can carry memories and stories for the people who own them, and cherished objects can help us remember the loved ones we have lost.

 

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Amy's sock

A single sock. It’s not a rare thing, a sock without a partner. But this sock’s partner in crime wasn’t lost in the black hole combination of washer and dryer; it was never created.

On June 18, 2010, my friend Amy lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 33—only three days from her 34th birthday and 15 months after her original diagnosis. Fortunately, due to successful early chemo treatments, she was able to return to some sense of normalcy for several months. She went back to work as a nanny, moved back into her Center City apartment, and rejoined our weekly knitting group.

When I first moved to Philly in 2006, Amy was just a friend of a friend who I was told to look up once I got here. “You should call her,” our friend Scott said. “You two would totally get along.”

I did. And we did.

Amy invited me to come to her knitting group although I didn’t even know how to knit. “I’ll teach you,” she said. “Or, you can just come and eat and drink and socialize.”

After the first week of eating and drinking a little too much, I thought it would be best if I had something else to keep my hands occupied. Amy took me shopping and helped me pick out my first knitting needles and the yarn for my first scarf. She taught me to knit and purl and follow a pattern. I made scarves, hats and blankets, and she walked me through my first pair of socks—red socks for my husband, the RedSox fan.

Amy was the heart of our knitting circle. She was the uber knitter—she even lived above Loop, the yarn store on South Street. She knit sample products for them to display in their front windows. She listened to knitting and fiber podcasts and even had a gig knitting sweaters for an artist who had sold a line of sweaters to Anthropologie. We joked that she was the underpaid sweatshop worker as she slaved away to complete two sweaters a week.

Although Amy disliked social networking sites such as Facebook because she didn’t want everyone knowing what she was doing all the time, she was one of the first members of Ravelry, a social site for knitters. Amy tracked all her knitting projects on Ravelry, found patterns, made friends with far away kindred spirits and posted on discussion boards.

When Amy was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, it of course, came as a shock to us all. But Amy kept her quirky, sarcastic sense of humor and demonstrated so many inspirational qualities until her final moments. In her last year Amy’s mantra was “Life is short. Learn new things.” She created a “hit list” of things she wanted to do, of things to learn, new skills to obtain.  She took an embroidery class, a sewing class, a quilting class. She started a blog and finished some of the books she’s always wanted to read, but had always put off until later.

I feel fortunate that I got to see Amy in the hospital the day before she died. She even mentioned a knitting project she was working on, but said she couldn’t talk about it because it was a secret. After her death, a little digging on Ravelry revealed it was a baby blanket she was knitting for a friend. On Ravelry I also found a finished baby blanket Amy labeled ICCKMA Blanket. I clicked on the project and in the Notes section she had written, “in case cancer kicks my ass blanket–so my yet to be born nieces and nephews will have something from me :)”

In the week after her death, Amy’s family went through the things at her apartment. Overwhelmed by all of the yarn, knitting books, other knitting supplies and unfinished knitting projects, they gave most of it to the knitting group. We were encouraged to take something to remember her by, to use her yarn to knit hats for preemies or blankets for cancer patients, to knit something for ourselves that we would enjoy. In the pile of unfinished projects I found this bright blue sock. I later found it on Ravelry titled “My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Yay!” She started it in June of 2009 when the chemo was working well and the tumor in her lung got smaller. My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Their intricate knit looks almost like lace. They are well above my skill level, but I took them home anyway. They are Amy’s challenge to finish a pair of socks without her. To always be learning new things.

Amy's sock2

 

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Adelaide turned two last Sunday. It was a great weekend. We had a Sesame Street-themed party for her on Saturday at Herron Park Sprayground here in South Philly. She loved it.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

Tim designed the invitation – notice his added touch of the Philly skyline reflected in her glasses.

Back in June I was trying to decide what we wanted to do for Adelaide’s birthday. She loves animals, so I was thinking of something with a circus theme or a zoo theme. I didn’t want to do a bash quite as big as her Moustache First Birthday party last year. That party was really more for us than for her, so we just invited all our friends. This year, we wanted to primarily invite the kids from her class at “school” and their parents, as well as other families we know with kids around her age. With a birthday at the end of July, I knew it would likely be a hot day. Still, I wanted to invite quite a few kids and knew we didn’t have enough room to host it at our house. I tried to find an inexpensive air-conditioned room to rent within the city. I looked into the local parks and thought about having an afternoon BBQ. Finding a park that also had a public restroom was a challenge, and although Adelaide is not yet potty training, I knew several of the kids her age would need a restroom nearby.

Then, when we were in Illinois visiting my parents in mid-June, I saw how much Adelaide loved the Miller Spray Park outside the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington. During our week vacation, we went there three different times. Back in Philly, a friend mentioned Herron Park and how she thought they had restrooms. So, our first weekend back from vacation, Adelaide and I made a scouting trip to the sprayground to check it out.

I thought it would be perfect.

A few days later I was looking through the book of birthday theme cakes at the local grocery chain when I saw one fitting for an animal theme. Then, we passed a cake with Elmo and Big Bird on it. Adelaide went berzerk yelling “Elmo, Elmo!” I looked to Tim. “I think Adelaide wants an Elmo party.” So, Sesame Street theme it was. Adelaide picked.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

This cake from BJs Wholesale was nice because the plastic cars are something Adelaide could keep and continue to play with later.

We invited everyone from her class at school, everyone from my Saturday playgroup and a few other friends. Including Adelaide, we had 11 kids attend (ages three years to 19 months, most right around age two), the total group including parents was right around 30 people. Several people RSVP’ed late, so I was proud of how smoothly everything went.

I picked up some Elmo plates and napkins at the local party store and the party favor bags of Elmo, Cookie, Bert and Oscar were adapted from something I saw on Pinterest. The project was more time consuming than I had expected (I’m a bit of a perfectionist), but they were a big hit and I think it added a nice personalized element to the party. I filled each bag with a little container of bubbles (also from the party supply store) and a pack of Elmo alphabet cards I found online (using my free one-year trial of Shop Runner for free shipping).

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I think Bert was my favorite.

Everyone loved the location, and I’m glad we brought the tent Tim uses to cover his booth for craft fairs. It provided a little shade for the table with the cake and fruit and for our guests sitting on blankets. The playground is newly renovated so the trees are young and don’t provide much shade yet.

The weather cooperated splendidly. (Did I just write “splendidly”?) It was in the high 80s, but not too hot and not rainy or cloudy. Having the party from 10 am to noon worked out really well too. It maybe was a little strange to eat cake at 11 am before lunchtime, but having the party in the morning meant people weren’t expecting a full lunch and the party didn’t interfere with all the different afternoon nap times. It also meant the sprayground wasn’t yet over crowded. It was pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I can hardly believe I’m the mother of a two-year-old.  The terrible twos. The terrific, giggling, twirling twos.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

 Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

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My sister’s birthday is today. This birthday photo of her is now 30 years old. You do the math. (Although, I can never make fun of her age because I’ll always be older.)

Happy Birthday to Aunt G, who is doing her thing in L.A. She is following her passion and tackling challenges with strength and perseverance. As we all work to figure out who we are and what makes us most happy, I’m lucky to call her my sister and proud to call her my friend. I sure do wish we lived closer together, but even through the thousands of miles that separate us, I know she is only a phone call away if ever I need an understanding ear or just a good laugh.

Looking at this photo, I see mischievousness in those eyes — a mischievousness that is still there. I also see a touch of Adelaide in that face, and I can’t believe my baby girl will be two years old in less than six months.

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Gina, only another five weeks until we get to come see you! And yeah sorry, your birthday present still isn’t finished, so this will have to suffice for now.

Happy birthday, Aunt G. Love ya, sis.

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In my previous post, I mentioned the article 10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Mom.  Number two on the list is “Compare yourself to other mothers.”  It’s hard not to compare myself to all the mommy bloggers I see online.  So, I’m trying to keep this in mind when I consider Adelaide turns 15 months old today, and I have yet to publish my post for her first birthday. To my credit, I started the post just days after Adelaide’s birthday on July 28, but it took a while to get all the photos together and it’s been sitting in my “draft” box ever since.

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I started brainstorming ideas for Adelaide’s first birthday several months before the event. I knew I wanted to have a party — more for us than for her — but I also knew that with a late-July birthday, it was likely to be hot and humid. My parents were planning to visit Philly and help us celebrate the day, but we don’t have a lot of space at our place. We don’t have central air either. If we wanted to invite a size-able group of people for a party, our house was out. An outdoor party at a park was an option, but not very appealing in the heat and with the possibility of rain.

I asked around and searched online for an inexpensive room we could rent for a few hours. I didn’t have much luck. Places were either more than I wanted to pay or couldn’t have us until “after hours”–not appropriate timing for a one-year-old whose bedtime is 7:30pm. Fortunately, my friend lives in a condo building that has a fantastic community room on the second floor. It was exactly what I needed. A large air-conditioned space easily accessible to public transportation, and it was only $50 for 5 hours. I’m not sure the space is usually open to the public, but since my friend booked the room, it wasn’t a problem at all.

Several weeks later on Facebook I stumbled upon a photo a friend from college posted. It was from a formal party, but he and his wife were hamming it up and holding moustaches on a stick. “I could make those,” I thought to myself as I immediately started Googling “moustache on a stick tutorial” and “moustache party.” Soon, I had a new board on Pinterest dedicated to all the cute party ideas I was finding.  Apparently, moustache’s are really in right now.

Tim was on board with the party theme, and as the designer in the family, he volunteered to create our party invitation.


I used this moustache-on-a-stick tutorial from the blog Simply Modern Mom, and I found this fun recipe for a moustache cake on the blog Paisley Jade. It’s a circle cake that’s cut in half with a swirl, like a yin and yang symbol. Then, one side is flipped upside down to create a somewhat even moustache shape. I iced it in chocolate frosting. Also featured on this table were the party favors, Adelaide’s special individualized cake and the moustache cookies my friend Kathy made for the event.

 

Along with the moustache-on-a-sticks I made, I bought several packs of stick-on moustaches. I thought they would be easier for the kids, but the adults liked them, too.

Adelaide’s friend Genevieve came in the “facial hair spirit” by wearing the beard her mom crocheted for her. Her orange beard matched her dad.

 

 I also bought a couple of fancy bendable moustache’s like these especially for Tim and me. I thought they looked quite natural.

I’ve been taking monthly photos of Adelaide so I wanted to print out one from each month and display them at the party. This banner was perhaps my most favorite party decoration.

When it came time for Adelaide’s cake, she wasn’t so sure about it at first. But once we cut into it for her, she got the hang of it. I love the mischievousness in her eyes of this first photo.

At the end of the party, Adelaide and I opened presents together. She got many generous gifts from friends and family, but as is true for most kids her age, she was more interested in the paper, bows, boxes and ribbons. Happy 1st Birthday, baby girl. We are so happy to celebrate you, and your first year of life in this world. Whether they could be here to celebrate with you in person or not, always know there are so many who love you.

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I had a great birthday weekend. There wasn’t one big over-the-top event, but lots of little things that added up over the course of three days.

Friday, August 17 was my actual birthday. Someone asked me what Adelaide got me for my birthday, and I said, “She got me up at 6:30am,” which is true.  Not super early or unusual, but earlier than I would’ve liked. I love when she sleeps in until 7:00am.

Anyway, a 6:30am rise meant that I had plenty of time to open presents and birthday cards in bed. Tim got me some cool earrings that I think I’ve worn every day since I received them. I had saved the gift my parents gave me when they were here and the cards I received in the mail and opened them all that morning.

That afternoon Tim met me at work and took me out for lunch. We went to XIX (Nineteen) on the 19th floor of the Bellevue Hotel. They have a lovely prefix lunch where they have a table of salads and antipasto to help yourself for a first course. Then, you choose one of five entrees for a second course. There is another table with mini deserts, cookies and fresh fruit for the third course. I had the XIX steak as my entree and Tim had the fish of the day, a blackened catfish. It was a beautiful view and a lovely meal. Tim told the server it was my birthday, so they surprised me at the end of the meal with a complementary glass of sparkling wine. Happy birthday to me, indeed.

By coincidence, my office closed early that day. A lot of people were out on vacation, so my boss decided we would close up shop at 2:30pm.  I picked Adelaide up from daycare a couple of hours early, and we went back downtown for a play date with my friend Brooke and her son Jack. Brooke was in town for the Livestrong Challenge. Her sister Amy is the inspiring friend I’ve mentioned several times on my blog. Our Livestrong team walked in her memory.

Jack is exactly 1 month younger than Adelaide and Brooke and her husband moved to Pittsburgh just a few months before she became pregnant with Jack. We don’t see each other often, but we’ve been email confidants throughout our pregnancies and through the first year of motherhood. For my birthday, we met in Rittenhouse Square and went to Cosi for dinner. It was great to visit with them in person, and Brooke even picked up a couple of birthday cupcakes from Pamcakes to help me celebrate.

 Saturday morning was the Livestrong Challenge. Despite having poor directions from Google Maps that made me late, I still got there in time to push Adelaide in the stroller for the 5K walk. I walked fast and about halfway through I caught up with the other walkers from our team. Those who ran the 5K were there at the finish line to cheer us on and have breakfast with us.

Saturday night Adelaide’s Uncle Ben and Aunt Adrienne came over to babysit while Tim and I went out to a birthday movie. We saw the new Batman at the IMAX theater. It was both Tim’s and my first IMAX feature film. We liked the movie, and it was fun to see it on such a big screen–the audio was amazing. But to tell you the truth, I left the theater uncomfortable. I had to look up, almost to the ceiling, for most of the movie and the chairs weren’t very comfortable. By the end of the nearly three- hour movie, I had a crick in my neck and my back hurt. Yes, I know, the irony is not lost on the fact that this complaining is stereotypical of someone who is getting older.

Sunday, I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon with another visiting out-of-town friend and her daughter. I know Andie from grad school, and I don’t think I’ve seen her since the summer after we graduated in 2006. Her daughter is two, so it was fun for me to see what I have to look forward to in the upcoming months.  As writers, Andie and I have been in contact periodically over the years, usually touching base to nurture the writers in us.

It was a fantastic birthday weekend surrounded by the love of family and friends. I’m a lucky lady ready to see what this next trip around the sun has in store for me.

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