birthday blues

We asked our sweet almost six-year-old what he wanted to do for his birthday– a party at McD’s, perhaps? But alas, he wanted his birthday at home with his friends. So we decided to switch things up a bit: we invited only school friends (to meet some new people) and we did the party on a week-night, which was his actual birthday. Sounds simple enough, right?

I made the invites, he chose the friends he wanted to come and all was well. Everyone had a week to RSVP. However, by the date given for the RSVP I began to get nervous. Only a small number had replied and so far it had only been the girls, which made up about half the list. Well, that day came and went so I asked Ben to ask some of his classmates. Why did I do this you ask? Does a five-year-old asking another five-year-old really know what his parents are planning? I should have known of course they would all say they were coming, but I chose  optimism instead of my usual go-to-move which is realism.

The day of the party came. I am currently approaching 34 weeks pregnant and very uncomfortable, but for him I persevered through an uncooperative sciatic nerve and worked all day cooking, game-making and trying to have everything perfectly vegetarian for our guests, something I would have never even considered in the US, but it’s a must here.

By party time everything was ready and our first guest arrived. A sweet girl who doesn’t know a word of English. Ben adores her and they are good friends even though she’s a head taller than him. Then, forty-five minutes later, the next guests arrived. Yes, forty-five minutes and several mosquito bites later (we were standing on the porch and outside the gate looking for party-people) another girl from his class and her twin brother who is in another class showed up. Then soon another girl or two– all dressed to the nines for an Avengers birthday party. They looked more like they had dressed for a Barbie or Disney Princess party.

I started to panic. We played a game involving Captain America’s shield. I panicked some more. Where were the boys? Where was his best friend that he had wanted there so badly? Why did these kids look at me like a bunch of deer in headlights when I was trying to be fun and engaging? Panic had set in indeed.

I decided we should eat some dinner since it was now past seven and our American bellies were growling. The hubs and I started making plates of food to give to the kids– just pasta, sauce, fruit salad and veggies with dip. The first child said no thanks and it was a domino effect after that. I should have gone for the deep-fried nuggets and potato Smiles that everyone else serves at these things. Rookie mistake.

Utterly defeated by this point (and wondering how the five of us were going to eat an entire pot of elbow macaroni) we moved on in my well-crafted-kid-party program. I pulled out the shortbread cookies, colored icing and sprinkles. Like everything else, the cookies all started crumbling before we could get the icing on. One child dressed like a small bride refused purple icing, along with everything else. Truly, I did not understand these children.

By this time parents had started showing up to collect their children–yay! We hurriedly put candles on the cake and sang a Happy Birthday to our special boy. He looked happy. I was still in panic mode, but I willed myself to enjoy the moment. The kids did eat cake–the white part at least. Some weren’t sure about the layer I had tinted blue so they left it. Then, one mom couldn’t believe her kids had not eaten anything else, started asking the other kids if they were hungry and for some reason they all decided now was the time, after dessert, that dinner sounded better. Some ate a little– at this point I just wanted it over. I didn’t dare mention the last game involved popping balloons. Neither did the hubby. We were done.

Two hours from start to finish, but there were moments that felt like an eternity. The parents all showed up and I learned to never have a birthday party on a week-night with people you don’t know, especially when you are very pregnant and when RSVP means call only if you can come since most people don’t like to tell you no. The last guest left so he opened his gifts, took some photos and said goodnight to the birthday boy who said he’d had a fine birthday and seemed genuinely happy.

Mission accomplished.


superhero son

A new post is long overdue. And it’s not like nothing ever happens that is write-worthy. It’s really more about me not being able to write what’s going on, because in truth, so much is going on I don’t know where to begin. And truthfully, I don’t know if a blog is even a place I want to begin to unpack everything that’s on my mind. I’m not exactly a bleeding blogger–not yet anyway, but give me some time.

So while many things can’t be articulated right now, I can always talk about my kids. They are a never-ending source of insight and humor in my life. As such, I thought I would share what my son told me last night because it something I’m going to write down in the journal I keep for him. It’s just that precious.

I once believed in magic–or something like that. Like the wardrobe in Narnia kind of stuff. I suspect that most of us did in some way or another if we had any imagination or wonder about us at all. Things that our young minds could find no explanation for that could be filed in our “magical” category. If you didn’t have this category as a child, I’m sorry. Really, truly, sorry. Believing in some sort of magic or fantasy is part of the joy of childhood. At least that’s how it was for me and still is for my kids.

So last night. I tucked in my younger two and let the older one stay up and read his Hardy Boys book. He’s at that brilliant age where we can sit side-by-side reading our own books and this counts as quality time. I love this. Anyway, he put his book down and looked at me seriously.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Something’s up with me.”

Oh no. My mind raced with thoughts and fears that something very traumatic has happened to my child and our lives are about to change forever. I guess you can tell I’m a worst-case-scenario kind of gal. Anyway.

“What’s up?” I try to ask casually and hold my breath.

He stood up, still looking serious. “Even though I’ve had no training at all, I am really good at climbing (he is a monkey) and I can do this.” At which point he proceeds to put his hands on the bed and jump up, twisting his legs in some quasi-Jedi-like move. His face is sincere. I want to chuckle a little because it’s so endearing. But I don’t dare. It would be devastating.

“Yeah, that’s impressive. So why do you think you can do this?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting super powers.” He wants this to be true, I can tell. I nod in recognition. Perhaps he’s seen a little too much of the Avengers lately? Perhaps.

The following morning he and the Hubs have a similar conversation in the car. He confesses that he thinks he’s turning into a super-hero, but hopes he’ll be part Thor (he loves the hair and he is 1/8th Norwegian after all) and part Iron Man. This explains why he’s been asking me if he’s more like Iron Man or Thor lately.

Maybe we’re bad parents for letting him believe that magical, unexplainable things can happen to him. But I don’t think so. I once believed that the New Kids on the Block tour bus was going to drive down my rural Georgia road and break down right in front of my house and Joey would instantly fall in love with me. I believed that and a million other crazy things with all my heart. It didn’t crush me or scar me for life when it didn’t happen– or maybe it did and I’m blocking that out.

I think that sometimes we need to believe in a little magic, mystery and the possibility that extraordinary things really do happen in everyday life. I do.

And honestly there is still that part of me that believes that the seemingly impossible is, well, possible. So I love that he has a huge imagination, unless he actually is morphing into Thor right before our eyes. Which would be amazing. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.


don’t lose your twirl

When we were children most of us remember twirling around and around until we fell dizzily backwards onto the summer grass, eyes closed waiting for our heads to catch up with the rest of our bodies. That sort of happy/sick feeling inside twirling gave us made us want to do it again as soon as we could stand up straight. Unless, of course you had to stop because you twirled yourself right into a wall or table or your cousin’s head–  this is just hypothetical, of course.

Recently my daughter was twirling, as she is prone to do, when suddenly she stopped mid-twirl and told me quite frankly, “Mom, I hope I don’t lose my twirl.” For a second my heart froze. She was saying that she couldn’t imagine a time when she would no longer want to spin around furiously and swish her skirt in a very princessy sort of way. But to me it touched on a tender spot and I’ve pondered her words ever since.

Why do we grow up and lose our twirl, our sense of wonder and romance and endless possibility? Surely I wasn’t always this pragmatic–was I? No, I’m certain I wasn’t. I was like her– twirling around, dreaming about kissing my Prince on the lips and stuffing baby dolls up my shirt to pretending to be pregnant like mommy. I honestly thought I could be a princess some day. She’s like I was–twirling and all. She has big little girl dreams that she wants to see come true tomorrow. And honestly that scares me to death.

The truth is I can’t twirl anymore, not literally anyway. I get a little queasy just thinking about it. Something happened to me in my twenties to my head and now I get dizzy just staring up at the sky while I’m walking or watching 3D movies. And twirling? Not going to happen without me passing out. Or worse. So I guess you’d say I’ve lost my twirl. And lately it feels gone in more than in just a literal sense. Wonder, joy and awe replaced often with anxiety, fatigue and fear. Who can think of twirling when I’ve got all that holding my feet down like lead weights?

But this is not what I want for her. My dear, precious girl who is full of so much joy and kindness and determination. I want her to keep her innocence and free-spiritedness as long as possible–which seems increasingly difficult to manage in this world. Oh, that her heart would not be too bruised or damaged by others! But even if it is, I hope she can face these storms with the grace and fearlessness I’ve already seen in her.

This is the choice I hope she makes– to keep dreaming and dancing and loving with an open heart. To keep her twirl even when life is hard; when there are monkeys hanging around the neighborhood, the power is constantly going out and family and friends are far away. Again, speaking hypothetically.

And if by chance she ever loses her twirl, my deepest hope is that someday she would find it once again. Maybe I will, too.