Inevitably tardy letter to Lily on her 4th birthday

Dear Lily:

I thought I’d start with this image from your 4th birthday party – May 19, 2012 – because for me, it sums up both who you are at this time in your life, and what your party day was like.

Since you were a baby, you’ve often been branded (by your Grandpa Grekin and others) as a “spitfire” and a “spark plug” – and, in somewhat less appealing moments, a “handful.” You are your father’s daughter in that you are fiercely passionate, you have strong opinions (God help us when you’re a teenager), and you show no signs of shyness or inhibition. (Your father reports that on a recent evening, when I had to work, you were in a restaurant and pursued conversations with patrons at two different tables.) So for me, this photo seems to, at the very least, hint at all of these things.

Appropriately, you’re wearing a purple fairy dress (complete with limp mesh wings in the back) that we got from your Aunt Susan at Christmastime, when the airline lost your little suitcase. You’ve stuck a bright pink flower hair clip that’s supposed to be part of a headband into the dead center of your hairline; and you’re wearing a bunny towel as a bizarre kind of cape while running barefoot in the sunshine across our backyard, beaming as you go. You are in your element.

And more broadly, the party had just this kind of vibe. Between the trampoline we just inherited from neighbors who moved, and the kiddie pool, and the easel and sidewalk chalk, and the inflatable slide we rented for the day, you and the dozen or so kids who showed up during the course of the afternoon were free to run around like happy puppies from one amusement to another. (And since it was in the middle of the afternoon, no one had to worry about a meal; instead, we set out goldfish, fruit, and other snacks and drinks and everyone was happy to help themselves.) The only time the kids were temporarily harnessed was when you opened presents – which was the first time many of them had spotted and noticed the trampoline, so even that segment had its kiddo appeal.

Melanie, my talented photographer co-worker who took this picture (and many more), seemed to capture the freedom and carefree-ness of your childhood in this picture, and I’m so glad to have it. I know that things will get more complicated as you get older, but at least for now, I appreciate the way you have this profound capacity to embrace the world and just feel unadulterated joy. Continue reading

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Birthday party burnout

Lily, having her cake and eating it, too

It’s been more than a month since I last managed to get something up on this blog, and a big part of the reason for this lag is not just preparation for Lily’s birthday and party on May 14 – and the subsequent, still-not-completely finished (of course) “thank you” notes that follow – but the five additional birthday parties (and a dear friend’s wedding in Minneapolis) that we’ve attended since. (It’s been a cake and goody bag marathon that’s convinced me, on the basis of a ludicrously small sample, that the bulk of the world’s current pre-schoolers were born between mid-May to early June.)

Now, Lily’s had fun at each party, but Mommy’s feeling a bit beaten down – perhaps in part because this onslaught has coincided with the infamously fatigue-plagued third trimester of pregnancy. Regardless, I’ll need to buck up and get used to this, since I have years of the same ahead of me.

For Lily and two of her cousins, who now both live in the area, were born within a 13 day span in 2008 (which seemed a strange coincidence, but kind of neat, too, at the time); plus, an older cousin also has a May birthday. And while an appealingly pragmatic thought that briefly passed through my head was, “What if I suggest throwing one big, collective birthday party for all the 3 year old cousins?” I was too scared to even suggest it out loud. For I could hear, and feel myself also giving voice to, the inevitable BIG objection as soon as the idea flashed in my mind: Shouldn’t each girl have her own special day/party, where she didn’t have to share the spotlight?

Again and again, the right answer seemed to be “yes.” But as we all know, doing the right thing is often a huge pain the tuckus. Continue reading