On first birthday parties

2013-10-31_1211We have birthday parties to attend this weekend. And they’re not our birthday parties, nor our friends’ birthdays. This weekend we have a series of birthday parties for little kids. I was reflecting this morning on when we were those parents, subjecting our friends and acquaintances to our child’s birthday party. Two weeks before our oldest’s first birthday, we’d sent out the invitations, we have the decorations and theme all coordinated, we had matching plates, plastic silverware, cups, napkins, streamers, balloons, pinwheels, and even flowers, planted in pots that we’d painted to match the party’s theme. It was ridiculous and time consuming. The night before the party, we had guests and family at our house from out of town. My wife was up until 3 a.m., working feverishly on our daughter’s first birthday cake. While I didn’t stay up quite as late, I was charged with making sure that camera batteries were charged and ready to record every riveting second of the festivities.

I think we put on a good first birthday party for our daughter. Our guests feigned enthusiasm. They ate pizza and cake. Our daughter ate pizza and cake. We sang the Happy Birthday song and told everyone about how quickly a year goes by when you have a child, like we were the only man and woman team on earth to experience and endure raising a child through its first year.

And for our second child’s first birthday, which occured this past April, the four of us sat at our kitchen table, and clapped as we watched her eat spaghetti noodles and a single piece of cake that we bought for her that afternoon at the grocery store.

Our second child’s first birthday festivities lasted eight minutes. Maybe. And we’re yet to watch the three hours of video footage from our oldest daughter’s first birthday party.

Monthly Mara Letter: Month 18

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Dear Mara,

You turned 18-months-old today. You’re now a year and a half old. It’s amazing and scary how quickly a year and a half can go by. And it’s even more amazing how much you’re capable of growing, changing and learning in only a month. Your vocabulary continues to grow and evolve. You know most of the vowels now. You know all of the parts of the face, head, hands, fingers, toes and that the cat is not a cat but a “meeeew.” You’re very polite and know when and how to say “thank you.” When you’re eating, you’re very good about letting us know when you want “more” and when you’re “all done.” You’re still very fascinated by airplanes. Every one else in the family is trying to do a better job of being cognizant of when a plane is overhead. You’re doing a great job of saying, “ah-pay!” whenever you hear that subtle roar in the sky. I went to the toy store a couple weeks ago and bought you a toy airplane. It’s somewhat of a babyish airplane, and it’s not the one I was wanting to get for you. I want to get a die-cast scale model commercial airliner airplane for you. I think that’s what you’re looking for. We’re going to be flying to Boppa and Gran’s for Christmas this year. I wonder if you’ll understand and appreciate that you’ll be on an “ah-pay” this time.

IMG_3490I think your biggest milestone this month is your ability to run. It’s not very graceful, or straight, but your ability to get from point A to B faster is being honed. I think this is because you’re trying to keep up with your sister, or maybe the cat. Another cute thing is the “fast feet” thing you’ve started to do in the evenings when your mom or I are putting on your pajamas. You like to stand on our bed and kind of jog in place. If you’re doing it to me, I’ll laugh, move my head in closer to you while you’re doing “fast feet,” and then, invariably, I’ll gently push your belly so you lose your footing and fall backward. And then you get up and we start all over again. You like this game because you keep laughing. I like this game because I keep thinking that you’re training to be a running back.

IMG_3545And I’d say the most awesome quality that is continuing to grow with you is your sense of affection. I’ll find myself standing in the kitchen when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I’ll look down to find you bear hugging my leg. Or we’ll be sitting on the floor or couch and you’ll randomly throw your arm around my neck and give me a big hug. Or when I’m carrying you, you’ll sometimes just put your head down on my shoulder. And what makes these random acts of loviness so awesome is that they are so random yet so perfectly timed.

Please don’t ever let go of that loving side. The opposite of love is fear, and life’s too short to live in fear. And especially don’t let go of that loving side with me. One day, whenever you’re a parent, you’ll understand how much it means for your child(ren) to love and care for you.

Just do me a favor and never stop being you. You’re adorable in every sense of the word and if you stayed this small, innocent, lovable and were only able to maintain your current 14% English language proficiency level, well, I’d be totally fine with that.

I love you, Mars.