Here comes the Spiderman

This is an embarrassingly overdue post, but I finally got photos edited from my oldest nephew’s birthday on September 3. Ben turned seven, and we had a Spiderman-themed family celebration. The kids always have a blast together. I grew up living a long distance from my cousins, so I am grateful that my brothers’ kids and mine are close in age and have the opportunity to spend so much time together. This is the stuff of great childhood memories.

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I love what an expressive gift opener Ben is:

You say lollipop, she says microphone…

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We may have worn these guys out…

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Silly string!

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Ben mastered his two-wheel bike on his birthday!

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We spent some time in downtown Chattanooga before heading home.

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Celebrating our bookworm

I love my kids’ birthday parties. I love planning them, I love watching everyone enjoy them, I love the photos and memories afterward.

The theme for Lina’s 4th birthday party pretty well chose itself. You’ve never met a kid who loves books more than she does. A quick Pinterest search dug up a fantastic PBS resource for a book party, and we were off and running.

Lina understood what was happening much more this year. She talked for days about who was coming, and a party is just the thing for a girl who loves to be the center of attention. She loved the birthday song and blowing out her candle. She was able to do more with opening gifts, though she still needed lots of help. We served some of her favorite foods, and let me tell you, girlfriend can put away some chocolate cake and ice cream.

But enough talk. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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Story time with the Village People

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Trying out a birthday present

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Anyone who’s seen Corin in the past couple days will have noticed his massive black eye. This is the exact moment of origin.

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Start your (Mario Kart) engines!

Corin is old enough now to choose his own birthday party themes. I admit to a bit of trepidation on this front, but this year’s choice was manageable and fun, the win-win of kids’ parties. We still stick with mostly family parties, so both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins came to help us celebrate six years of Corin. The weather was COLD for the first official day of spring, but we made the most of our brief time outside and spent the rest of the time playing Mario Kart on the Wii, eating banana cake and ice cream and opening gifts. It was really fun. Seriously, I think my kids’ birthday parties are some of the best times of the year. I love watching them have a blast, and it’s such a great time with family.

But enough chit-chat, and on with the massive photo dump.

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Our newest addition, dad’s guide dog Honor, just home from training school.

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I think they love each other.

The boy who would grow up

So, it’s only been… how many weeks since my last post? Let’s just call that a blogging dry spell, shall we?

And now we’re moving on to talk about the fact that my eldest child is turning five on Wednesday. He’s spelling words – sounding them out, by himself! – and real, honest-to-goodness, five-days-a-week school is just a few short months away. I’m not entirely sure how any of this has happened, but it’s here, and I’m doing my best to keep up.

We celebrated with family today, and it was fantastic. Corin chose Peter Pan as the theme for his party. We kept things relatively low-key, but we did dress in costume, which was way fun.

I had to work to ignore the irony of planning a birthday party based on the boy who wouldn’t grow up. I tease Corin sometimes about trying to keep him little. “What if I put really heavy books on your head?” “What if I stopped feeding you all those healthy vegetables?” And he laughs and says, “No, I’ll just keep growing.” I feel keenly the shortness of these days. They are slipping through my fingers, and all I can do is snap photographs and say a prayer that I can hang on to the memories. These days are often hard and not at all glamorous, but they are precious to me.

Today, though, I have been reminded of what an incredible experience it is to watch a child grow and learn. It’s happening before my eyes. He’s taller, his face is leaner, he’s obsessed with superheroes and sword battles, he can spell “table” with minimal help. This year, I watched him anticipate and appreciate his birthday party in new ways. It is bittersweet, but there is joy in it.

For better or worse, our Peter Pan will grow up. It’s happening right now. (They Might Be Giants, anyone? “You’re older than you’ve ever been, and now you’re even older. And now you’re even older. And now you’re even older…”) I get my brief window to try to teach him things, to shape his character, to point him to the God who made Him and gives him a future. I’ll take it, and call it the privilege it is.

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Labor Day birthdays

We spent Labor Day weekend celebrating birthdays for two pretty awesome kids. My nephew, Benjamin, is turning four, and Lina will be turning two in just a few days. The fact that the exact date is not here yet allows me to ignore this reality a little longer.

We decided on a simple family picnic at a nearby park. Edwin Warner Park in Nashville has quickly become a new favorite, thanks in part to a nature play area where kids can dig in the dirt, make mud with water from the spigots and generally muck it up to their hearts’ content. This thrills Lina’s soul. She finds the nearest puddle, plops down in it and coats herself in mud like it’s her job. Nephew Luke discovered a shared love of mud, and the two of them ended up looking like… Well, you can see for yourself. Meanwhile, Corin and Benjamin embarked on a “paleontologisting” adventure, digging for T-rex bones at the top of the dirt hill. They made up ridiculous names for each other and generally had a great time all weekend.

The menu was easy: sandwiches, macaroni salad, avocado/corn salad, fresh fruit, and banana cream cupcakes and (very soft) ice cream for dessert. The weather forecast had been threatening thunderstorms, but we lucked out and had overcast skies and pleasant temperatures, with just a little sprinkling of rain here and there. We returned home in time to open gifts before my brother and his family had to hit the road back to Chattanooga.

There is something about these kinds of family gatherings that whispers, “Remember this. This is the stuff of life.” The squeals and shouts of little kids, the chaos of big meals, the mess of toys everywhere I look, knots of people deep in conversation, peals of laughter from the next room… This is family. There is nobody perfect here; it’s just a lot of people who love each other, celebrating milestones together and making some awesome memories in the process.

(My thanks to Ryan for taking quite a few of these pictures.)

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Ben understandably felt the situation required a little observation first.

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To the creek for a bath!

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The vanilla pastry cream was delicious on the banana cupcakes, but trying to pipe it from a plastic bag did not make for the prettiest results. I recommend the ice cream scoop method.

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That kid really hates ice cream.

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Cake!

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Lina’s favorite part was the Tweety Bird card.

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Thank you!

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The new tire swing sees daily use.

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Blowing good-bye kisses

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I spy an airplane.

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You know it’s been a good visit when you’re totally bummed about saying good-bye.

Four and flying high

Yesterday afternoon, I sat on the floor of the self-proclaimed largest indoor playground in Nashville and fought back tears.

Anyone watching probably thought I was going through some crisis. I wasn’t. I was looking at the clock and realizing that just about exactly that time four years ago, I was holding my son for the first time.

Corin’s birthday always takes me back to the years of longing that preceded his arrival. I think about the crushing disappointments, the yearning, the physical toll of fertility treatments. Then I look at my son, now four years strong and full of life, and… truly, words fail me. Everything I might say falls short of expressing the overflowing gratitude I feel. He is a walking, talking miracle, that boy of mine.

We had a party Sunday. Planes are Corin’s current obsession, so a planes party it was. My parents were kind enough to host at their house. As usual, I procrastinated and then spent several days working my tail off, but it payed off. Everyone had a great time, and I have the pictures to enjoy (no thanks to my son and his camera aversion).

Special thanks to my friend, Laura Wensell, for taking a lot of these photos.

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I may have forgotten to do the candles and song until Corin’s cake was half eaten…

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Like I said, camera averse

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