Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Want to Remember Everything About My 33rd Birthday

Considering it was almost two months ago I’d best get to documenting it so it can forever stay recorded and not just left to the archives of my mind.  My mind is only so-so dependable these days.

High on a new year, new attitude and new resolutions I was full of gratitude coming into January 8th, 2013, my 33rd birthday.  The fact that I have a new look helped.  New hair makes me feel fresh, confident… good.  New look. New outlook.  Interesting how the two can work together and build off each other.


I have close-to-my-natural-color brown hair now. I decided it was time to embrace the older, natural, “more sophisticated” as my mother put it, me. I like it.  I have new Christmas boots, also.  I love them.

Nothing big was planned for my birthday.  Nothing blow-your-mind spectacular happened on my birthday.  But for some reason (my new attitude) I saw it as the birthday of birthdays in my peak of young motherhood.  I’ve got three kids four years and younger.  I’m in the throes of doing what I always wanted to do.  It’s tough.  It’s fantastic.  This is it.  I mean, really, this is IT.  I wanted to remember this day, this birthday, as “that birthday when I had all these little kids and we lived in that cold townhouse in Maryland and it was busy and crazy and exhausting.  And great.”

How do you go about remembering all the little details of your birthday that years later will symbolize who you were and the time and season of your life then?  You take dozens of pictures with your iPhone.  So here’s my 33rd birthday, in all it’s big and little details, from my phone. 

The little details started the day before my birthday.  On my birthday eve, I got the best double lunchtime surprise. Leftover Cafe Rio in the fridge. Totally forgot it was there! Then, there was an episode of Parenthood on Hulu I’d somehow missed.  A lunch break with my favorite food while watching my favorite show.  That’s some pre-birthday goodness right there. 

The last thing I did before falling asleep on my birthday eve was read a “Happy Birthday” email from Bonnie Rae Larson.  It was the perfect way to kick things off.  The mother of my childhood babysitter, whom I haven’t lived near in 23 years, emails me every year, the day before my birthday, sending her wishes and love. Her emails always begin the exact same way: “Tomorrow is your birthday….” A similar email comes the day before our wedding anniversary. She is amazing. I committed to write her a letter and tell her so.

That email got me thinking about shouting compliments, spreading love and what our family is trying to do this year.  I want to be like Bonnie Rae.  I want to make people feel remembered and special.  I am grateful for her and for so many others like her in my life.  Those are good thoughts to carry you off to sleep on your birthday eve.

Birthday morning. Anderson crawled into bed with me as he always does, but this time when he snuggled up against me I appreciated it more.  His tiny little body.  My 33 year old body.  Thirty-three feels old, yet awesome.  What else do I have that is 33 years old?  Not much.  But I have this body.  While it’s not in great shape it works pretty well and that’s amazing!  I hope it has much longer to go.  Max joined us, cuddled up next to me, pulled out his paci and said, “I woooove you Mom” in his deep man voice.  A couple short years from now, I won’t get that kind of birthday love from my boys.  Not in that way.  I cherish it now.


The day took on it’s normal hectic get-out-the door routine.  The kids were loud and unfocused and messy.  But ain’t nothing gonna break my birthday stride.  Not that day. I saw it all as memories, markings of my reality, tokens of my time.  Even when Max got annoyingly silly, made us late and clobbered Bennett on the head three times, I just reminded myself:  This is it.  My life.  My 33 year old life.  It’s all just a part of the big picture.  I’m blessed and it’s good.


My 33 year old life that morning included a toucan bird drying next to my flat iron.  I had to wash our little purple friend in my sink after Bennett spit up on him while I was getting ready.  Symbols of my season. 

I came downstairs to a birthday message from Harley spelled out in a trail of post-it notes.  The trail led to a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer.  Which led to my sudden interest in baking.  Which led to my obsession with cookies.  Not sure I’m going to make it out of this one alive.  Or skinny. 

Harley gave me a food processor for my birthday a few years ago and I was insulted.  This year a kitchen appliance thrilled me.  Funny how we change over the years.  I am finally figuring out this cooking/kitchen/food thing.  It’s been nearly ten years, we have three kids and we’re hungry.  ‘Bout time, right?

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Also there were flowers.  Purple roses.  They strangely looked terrible the next morning so Harley took them back to Costco and got a full refund.  He totally scored on that one.  Big points for thought and execution, yet in the end, no loss to his wallet.  I think he hopes this happens every year.

My 33rd birthday was the debut of a new errand swap I’ve got going with two moms in the ward.  Oh how I love errand swaps.  I got Anderson off to school, Max off to the swap and felt excitement just thinking about the possibilities of how to spend those precious few hours, just me and Bennett. 

I took myself out to brunch.  I ate all by myself (with Bennett) and loved it.  I read.  I wrote notes of appreciation.  I people watched.  I enjoyed my food and I took my time and I pondered on life and balance and how I’m doing with it all.


The cashier at Panera called me “ma’am.”  When did I go from “miss” to “ma’am?”  Didn’t necessarily bother me, but I noted it and couldn’t help but wonder if it’s because I’m now 33.

Driving back from my birthday brunch I appreciated that it was cold, but not freezing cold, that January day.  I usually don’t like having a winter birthday or having a birthday exactly two weeks after Christmas and one week after New Year’s.  It kinda bugs having a holiday time birthday.  This year I thought how it was perfect my birthday came right after New Year’s so I could still be flying high on my goals, my motivation, my happiness.


I jammed to a collection of my favorite songs from 2012.  It’s a CD I make every year for my sisters.  The big hits this year?  Songs from F.U.N.  I LOVE them!  Also, my car was dirty.

I tried to appreciate little things all day.  Like the fact I could once again wear my wedding ring after a funky rash that turned out to be extremely dry skin and not an allergic reaction to platinum.  (At least we think.)  Like my recycle bin.  There’s my junk waiting to be collected.  Someone comes and takes away my trash, freeing and de-cluttering my home every Tuesday.  What a cool thing!  Maybe it was about here that I started getting a little over the top with my Pollyanna attitude.  But it’s working for me.  Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.


I collected my kids.  We jammed to our favorite family song. We had a dance party in the car.


Let’s not forget how fun social media makes your birthday.  Texts, Facebook, Instagram, email, phone calls.  Y’all blew up my phone and I loved it.  I heard from many of my favorite people that day.   It’s one of the best parts of birthdays. 


Anderson’s backpack was loaded with artistic creations he’d completed at school over the last few months. Too many days I say “Oh, that’s nice” when he shows me his latest artwork. (There is just SO much of it.) Not that day. That day we went through each piece and talked about them. I want to do that more.

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My friend Marianne visiting me bearing birthday wishes and delicious homemade rolls. Oh they were divine! Anderson and I ate most of them within an hour. She told me about her love of her Kitchen Aid mixer and got very excited about mine.  The day after my birthday my friend Nicole did a dough drop. We’re talking cookie dough, dropped on my doorstep. This isn’t just any dough. It’s the chocolate chip cookie dough that partnered with the Kitchen Aid mixer  is responsible for my falling head over heels in cookie love. Curse that cookie dough. LOVE that cookie dough.  Apparently my birthdays are much about food now.


After Marianne left, Anderson said to me, “Mom, I have the best idea!  You get to play Candyland with me all by yourself while Max takes his nap.  All by yourself, just me and you.  Because it’s your birthday!”  Just what I wanted.  I write that sarcastically as usually those games aren’t my favorite pastime, except that day, it really was, just what I wanted.

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Max woke up and joined us and Anderson got frustrated because Max doesn’t exactly play by the rules.  Just one more thing making that birthday typical and perfectly imperfect.


Anderson had the great idea I should open my presents.  He photographed me every step of the way.  No idea where he gets that.  The best part?  When he tried to make a movie of me reading each card aloud only to realize he hadn’t “started the clock,” meaning the camera wasn’t recording, so we had to do it all over again.  Of course we did.  I have some deeply thoughtful and very generous friends and family members. I was spoiled with wonderful gifts.

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At one point I laid my almost-mid-thirties (wow) self down for a little cat nap on the couch in the sun.  Usually, I only nap when I’m pregnant or super desperate, but it was my birthday and hey, this “ma’am” is no spring chicken so I indulged.  It lasted about three minutes before this face was in my face. 


He told me to wake up and that he had my belt.

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I asked Max about the age of each person in our family. When it came to me, he paused and said, “Old. Mom, you are ooooold.”

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Even in their messes and wake-up calls and fights, Anderson, Maxwell and Bennett bring me a joy that is unmatched.  Other birthdays won’t include them in this small but so big, constant, all over me, always happy to see me way.  If I think about it too much, it makes me sad.


I want to always remember these little boys as they were that day. The day they loved me unconditionally and needed me desperately and filled my heart completely. The day I turned 33.


I also want to remember how much they love each other.

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Harley took me to dinner at Il Pizzico where three significant things happened.  1.  I had the best gnocchi, my favorite Italian dish, of my life.  2.  The people at the table next to us gushed over Bennett’s cuteness.  We had a sitter for Anderson and Max but of course, No Bottle Bennett came with us.  Then a man from across the room left his table and walked over to us to tell us he’s never before seen a baby behave so well in a restaurant.  These are great  moments.  Of course it’s not necessarily true, but boy is it nice to hear.  3.  One of the chefs is our acquaintance and hooked us up with an impressive spread of desserts. 

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I thought about my birthday date with Harley last year.  We weren’t supposed to be here, in school, in Maryland now.  But we are.  And it’s so okay.  We talked about where we would be in the coming years.  We talked about plans and technology and dreams and alcohol in food.  It made sense. Harley is wonderful.  He puts up with my crazy, loves me in spite of it and keeps me laughing. He is a good, good man.


Wow, quality picture.  I don’t think I took a single picture with a “real” camera all day.  Darn you iPhone.  Bless you iPhone.

The day ended with Georgetown Cupcakes because we love any excuse to get Georgetown Cupcakes.


I fell asleep thinking how happy I am and how I owe much of it to my four boys.  They love me.  My whole life I’ve wanted boys to love me.  I didn’t date that much in high school.  In college I was the friend more than I was the girlfriend.  There were times in my life when I honestly feared I would never get married.  I worried I would never be loved, really truly loved, by a boy.  Here I am, at 33, and FOUR boys love me.  Who needs a daughter and her hair and her drama?  (I do!  I still do!  I didn’t say that!  And now I can have one because that’s how these things work right?) I’ve got BOYS and their LOVE.  And I LOVE them.  Dream come true.  Dream come true, and I didn’t even know it.


I am excited for 33.  There is much to look forward to this year.  Our 10 year wedding anniversary, Anderson going to Kindergarten, some traveling, friends getting married, friends having babies, a new niece…  It won’t all be fabulous.  We’ve already had some pretty non-fabulous days.  But I’m telling myself you can look at life two ways:  everything is a miracle or everything is a tragedy.  On my 33rd birthday, I chose to look at everything as a miracle.  The little stuff like recycling and the big stuff like my men.  I try to choose the miracle outlook every day.  Maybe it’s a bit dramatic, but it is an effective mood picker-upper in just about any bad situation, it’s a very happy way to live and bonus, it is contagious.  My mom commented to me recently she can’t remember a time when I was filled with such joy and gratitude.  Then she added, “Joy and gratitude… they must go hand in hand.”  She’s absolutely right.