It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It really is. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day there are so many celebrations, so much excitement, so much happiness, and so many things to be thankful for. If I ever was a scrooge – which I don’t think I was, although in my teens and twenties I may have eschewed these holidays to some degree – having children has brought back my love for them full-force. Watching the girls’ understanding of these celebrations and their wonder at this time of year grow, brings me back to a place of wonderment myself. A magical place where I am in awe both of nature and it’s cycles, and of human beings, and our creation of these cultural phenomenons that carry us through our days here on earth. And there is always something else, something lingering just beyond the sense perceptions, beyond rationality. The realm where we can believe in the best in people, where we believe that miracles really can and do happen.

As I have spent a month off the blog, I am going to do this in parts, so….

Part One: A Tale of Two Birthdays

Along with all the food and booze and sweets and friends and crafts and music and dancing and parties and vacation-time and well-wishes from afar, we are also lucky enough to celebrate TWO birthdays during the holiday time as well! When I was younger, I used to begrudge having a birthday so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but now I am happy that my birthday falls during a time when everyone is already in a celebratory mood. But first comes Ophelia… Let the festivities begin!

This year Ophelia’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving, so we had a doubly fun day at our house. Like me, she might not appreciate sharing a birthday with a major holiday as she gets older, but for a two-year-old, it was heaven! What could make for a better birthday than to have the people you love the most all be at your house when you wake up, and stay for the entire day? (and another night!) And there are tons of food, and sweets, and presents, and you don’t know a thing about Thanksgiving, and you think it’s all for you? As she said upon awaking, ” today’s my happy birthday!”

And what do you get for your birthday when you turn two? I asked people to keep it very simple, as her favorite playthings tend to be random household objects, and we already have a ton of toys in the house from when Emerson was two, and people actually listened! From Pepe, she got a potty-seat, which she genuinely loved, (she also spent the rest of the week accident free) and a talking card, which she called “her birthday present.” (Proving how little she actually knows about birthday presents…)
From Nanny, she got a pair of slippers, and a book.
Emerson spontaneously drew her a picture.And what else could she ask for? We certainly didn’t give her anything… (we gave her life, remember?) Ha. I’m kidding about that being our reason for our lack of gifts, but not kidding about the absence of them. Why do we need to give gifts to a baby who is so happy with the little things she has received from her grandparents? We’ll save the gifts for next year, or maybe the year after…. For now, she was happy running around looking for her “Happy Birthday Bag.” (The gift bag the slippers were in) What more could she need than that?

Ophelia had a wonderful day of hugs and love and time with her family, and I am so amazed at how big she is getting. It is almost like she woke up in the morning and said to herself, “today I am two, and I am going to start acting more independent.” She started using the potty regularly, on her own. She went and picked out some clothes and did a pretty fine job of putting them on without any help.
She pulled on her slippers, and went about her day.Oh yeah, and did I mention there was turkey too?What more can I say? I love this little monkey to pieces, and I’m so thankful that she chose us to be her family. Seeing her beautiful face two years ago was one of the happiest days of my life, and watching her grow this year from a wide-eyed baby to a crazy toddler has been a joy like no other. She makes me laugh every day, and I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Happiest Second Birthday to You, Ophelia! We are so glad you’re you!

And a week later, it is my turn. After years of uneventful birthdays, I have learned to try to make some fun for myself, instead of waiting for others to take the lead, and this year I had to spend some time thinking to come up with something I’d really like to do. The idea of going out to dinner/movie/bar didn’t appeal to me at all. All those options seemed so rote and meaningless. I was looking for something fun and inexpensive, when it hit me – bowling. Bowling is what I wanted for my birthday. Not with the kids, but with a group of adults. That was my dream for 36. When I contacted to bowling alley and found out they had league night until 10pm, and disco bowling at 11, it only strengthened my motivation to go. The thought of a bunch of 30 and 40-somethings drinking cheap pitchers and disco-bowling into the wee hours of the morning made my heart pound, and the fact that my mother was coming down for the weekend (to babysit for us the following evening so that we could go to Matt’s company party – two nights out in a row!) leaving me no financial or time obligation to a babysitter, was the icing on the cake. I already had a blog title in mind: Best Birthday Ever!

Alas, the entire thing was only a pipe dream. My mom somehow contracted pink-eye a few days after Thanksgiving, and suddenly, the entire weekend was off. But that didn’t stop me from having fun. The ole ball and chain came through after all…

Matty had been talking up his gift for me for a few weeks, but I knew better then to be excited. One year he talked up a Christmas gift to the point of me feeling like a child again, and it turned out to be a car-safety kit, each item individually wrapped to draw out my pain upon receiving it. But this year Matty came through. He gave me the gift I’ve always wanted – the day off. Matty took Emerson to school, and Ophelia to her music class, and I spent the morning in bed reading. Wait a minute, did I say the morning? What I meant was that I stayed in bed until 3pm, and read almost an entire book. For me – heaven. I didn’t have to deal with my kids, or cook dinner, or even brush my teeth. And when I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin from lethargy, I got dressed and went to the YMCA and swam 25 clean laps, without once looking at the clock and wondering if a child was done with their swim lesson, or if a child was crying and banging her head against the wall in child-watch. I got home, feeling refreshed, to a dinner I didn’t have to cook, and cake, home-made cards from my kids, and still the gift! The gift. The gift that Matty had talked about for weeks. The gift that would prove his thoughtfulness. The gift that was a union-suit. Yes, a union-suit. Thankfully, that wasn’t Matty’s only gift. It was lovely after that day I had just spent, but if it came on the tail of me running the girls around, cooking dinner and cleaning up, I would have filed for divorce.

All said and done, I do love the suit. It’s really warm. (and as Matty said when he gave it to me – “you’re always cold!”) All said and done, it was the Best Birthday Ever.

Oh yeah, and did I mention we got a new couch? (This is supposed to be a home renovation blog right?) It’s not really a new one, but an old one. And a free one. Our living room is looking more like a living room, and less like a dance-floor. Just in time for the holidays…

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