Category: Birthdays

Being here, now

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She actually managed to lose the second of her two front teeth on Christmas day, prompting me to sing the few lyrics I could recall to that joke song from years past. And then we went and lost the damn tooth during the Christmas cleanup. I offered $2 to whomever could locate it, but despite determined looking it was gone. But she had a solution: she wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy. “I loosed my tooth and can’t find it. I think the dog eat it.” Funny thing is, she’d written a note to Santa the night before, and left it in a box along with a gift for Santa: a photo of herself, several years old, taken with Santa himself. Oh, my heart.

Both Santa and the Tooth Fairy wrote back.

angel food cake
Yesterday was my birthday. Somehow these things seem to come around with greater frequency than they used to. I spent some time, the night of December 28th, looking through the journal where I write and reflect every “birthday eve.” This is a strange year for me. In years past, this has been a time to search my heart, to look ahead with wishes and hopes and anxiety, too, anxious to find my way, hoping to identify new projects that will pull me somewhere else. This year, I feel as though I’m confidently walking a path of my own choosing, and that my only hope is to continue along this way.

I have big plans for this coming year, yes, but the plans are simple, straightforward, and already in motion. Nothing new or high-concept here.

* I’ve finished a very rough first draft of a new book and will devote my work time to making it into a book worth reading — and publishing.

* With my friend Tricia, I plan to apply for Canada’s version of The Amazing Race, admittedly a long shot, but hey, what’s life without the occasional crazy gamble.

* I will continue to squeeze in regular exercise, in whatever forms make sense (ie. solo runs or classes with friends or team sports). Reflecting on those birthday eves past, I find it quite possible to believe that finding my physical self has been the change of greatest significance to my life, in ways both obvious and subtle. It’s been a slow and steady process of change that started with a simple yoga class, attended on my birthday three years ago. I truly believe that a well-spring of confidence, energy, and trust bloomed out of that single moment, as I built (and continue to build on) the discovery of my inner athlete:
1. the bliss I felt when I completed races, at distances that had seemed impossible only months before
2. my amazement at my ability to set tough goals and perservere
3. the steadiness of routine that I now rely on to keep my mind open and emptied of clutter
4. the embrace of my competitive spirit — seeing it as positive (ie. motivating, creative) rather than shameful (ie. grasping, self-promoting)

birthday girl
So, yesterday, my birthday, was sweet and lovely and low-key. Instead of going to a yoga class, this year I lingered over breakfast, and stayed home and read Pippi Longstocking to my kids. I walked in the snow. I had lunch with a friend. I shopped for some new clothes (ie. the sweater I’m wearing, above), and managed not to buy anything in black, brown, or grey (almost — there was a little black dress on sale for $11 that I couldn’t resist). I arrived home to discover Kevin baking an angel food cake from scratch — my favourite! The kids sang me happy birthday, I blew out candles, we ate dessert before supper. I drove my daughter to and from swimming.

And then I got dressed up and went out to dinner with Kevin and we splashed out on margaritas, and savoured the loveliness of being right here, right now.

Hello, new year.

My definition of happiness

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Christmas eve elves

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AppleApple discovers something else she’d like to do: learn how to play the cello!

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Settlers of Catan and butter beer

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cousin love

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Santa, with pillow-enchanced profile 

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er, too much butter beer?

Tomorrow is my birthday. I usually get all philosophical right about now. But today I don’t feel philosophical. I feel busy. Tired. Happy. Surprised, though I shouldn’t be, by the ongoingness of laundry and dishes. And these people I live with keep needing to eat.

We enjoyed four consecutive days of Christmas celebrations with various parts of our extended family, and some friends, too, although my camera didn’t make it to every event.

For the record, that’s four consecutive Christmas dinners: ham, ham, paella, and turkey.

I embraced the excess, then wondered why I felt so sluggish on yesterday morning’s run. Especially because I took Boxing Day morning and did not get out of bed til noon, reading and finishing Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, in one big gulp.

So many late nights. So many second glasses of wine. So much wheat and butter. Why so sluggish?

Yes, really, Carrie, why.

This morning Kevin rented a full indoor soccer field (huge!) so his U12 boys team could practice. AppleApple and I got kitted out in soccer gear and came along. It was 90 minutes of blissful scrimmaging, the boys’ team against everyone else — adults, friends, siblings. AppleApple was the only girl, and I was the only woman, and I’ll admit I felt a little intimidated going in. I’m thankful to have joined that team last spring, because all I can say is: soccer … so fun! It would totally be bragging to mention that I scored the sweetest replay-worthy goal (yes, against 11-year-old boys), but I can’t help myself. If only I could score goals like that for my current team. Sadly, we don’t play against 11-year-old boys, which is not to malign the skills of the boys, who are actually very good, and made us play hard.

Now Kevin is trying to snag more field time. And I think it would be fun to play on a co-ed team together — taking our marriage to new places, whilst our knees and hamstrings are still in working order. See, this isn’t a dream that can really wait for retirement.

“I wish we could play every day,” Kev said, and I had to agree. So that’s what we’ll do if we ever strike it rich.

Multi-layered weekend

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four-layer cake for a birthday party with friends

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whip-cream-covered poke cake for birthday party with family (same day; that’s a lot of cake!)

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early morning indoor soccer game in Mississaugua, all-family-expedition

Remember when I said if I was quiet on the blog, it might indicate good writing going on? Well, that’s only half-true. It might also indicate extreme busyness going on, with no time for writing of any sort, even on the blog. This weekend was so non-stop, I was really looking forward to Monday morning.

Not pictured:

* a 12-km Friday evening speed run in an arctic wind that blew in quite suddenly; I wouldn’t have gone except that I go to great lengths to fit this Friday run into the schedule every week — once I’m there, in my running gear, I can’t not go, no matter the weather
* followed up the run with a surprise birthday party for a dear friend
* discovered The Juliet Stories had made the Globe & Mail’s top-100 books of the year
* late-night TV with Kevin, dogs, and a pot of tea (Inspector Lewis)
* my soccer game, which was wicked fun and tons of exercise, and made me swear I’d keep playing soccer as long as my joints could stand it; my mom came to babysit the little kids so that Kevin could come along: a soccer date. I appreciated having a fan in the stands.
* a visit to a book club who thanked me with a gift certificate to my favourite restaurant in town (Nick & Nat’s Uptown 21)!

And here it is, Monday morning.

The best-laid birthday plans

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Saturday evening, basement “studio”, still nine years old
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yup, that’s Shakespeare

Alright. This birthday did not turn out as planned. Honestly, it’s been a tough week, and we’ve tried to roll with the punches, but we really didn’t anticipate this particular change in plans. There they were, Kevin and the little kids all snacked up and ready to go, swim kid freshly out of the pool, dressed in soccer gear, hitting the highway for today’s game. Here we were, Albus getting to skip out on the soccer trip, and me getting in a few exciting and much-needed hours of writing work, when the phone rang.

“It’s Dad! The truck broke down!”

Luckily they’d made it off the highway and into a parking lot, much safer than sitting by the side of the road. Luckily we are members of our local carshare, so I booked a car immediately and off we set on a mission to pick them up. Unluckily for us, there was a problem with the car. Luckily for us, the woman at the carshare hotline picked up quickly and directed us to a different car just a few blocks away. Unluckily for us, it only seated five. Luckily for us, Kevin got a ride with the tow truck driver.

But there was the afternoon. No writing. No soccer girl at soccer game. No cupcakes to teammates.

AppleApple was upset at first, and then sanguine. She’ll take the cupcakes to her teammates at the Thursday practice instead. Back home, she put on her PJs, got cozy, and everyone watched a movie. I went to my soccer game. With help from Grandma, we were able to get out to celebrate at our favourite restaurant for birthday dinners. In short, it all worked out just fine.

Just not as planned.

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Sunday evening, basement “studio,” barefoot in purple coat, now ten years old

If I don’t get a day to write, soon, I may, however, go crazy. My equilibrium is off. I didn’t run enough this weekend. I need to remember how to stay strong, no matter the weather; mostly I need to remember not to be so hard on myself. (I made one misstep at soccer that cost our team the win; we tied instead; I was so down on myself afterward that I contemplated quitting. Tonight, Albus walked home with me from the carshare drop-off spot, and I told him how I’d felt, and he was quite shocked. Sounded silly to him. One mistake and you want to quit? I know, I said, it’s just how I felt in the moment. He understood. But, he said, I’m pretty sure your team wouldn’t want you to quit for one mistake.) I need to let those moments of discouragement, or failure, or just plain wishing it were otherwise to wash over me. It’s okay to feel that way, just so long as it doesn’t actually cause me to quit or give up or storm off. Know what I mean?

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We all went around the table tonight and said something we like about AppleApple. Fooey likes that AppleApple is teaching her how to sew. I like that AppleApple is inspiring with all she tries and all she does. Albus said AppleApple is good to chat with. Kevin likes AppleApple’s crazy smile she gets when she’s very excited about something. CJ was grumpy and refused to participate, but that’s because the ice cream was late coming to the table. Or because he’s four and a half, who knows.

AppleApple had one too: She said, I like being me!

She is an inspiring kid. I’m inspired by all my kids. Each of them try and do all kinds of new things. They’re brave. They’re willing to learn, happy to learn. They take practicing for granted — of course you have to do it in order to get better! And they’re willing to fall down and get up and try again. Which is, come to think of it, something they get to see me do, too, from time to time.

Happy birthday, ten-year-old daughter. You are inspiring, for real.

Cupcake factory

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Tomorrow (Sunday) my biggest girl turns 10. She’s got swimming practice and a soccer game, back to back, and no desire to skip either. What she wants, instead, is to bring treats for her teammates.

I thought we’d accomodate by picking something up at the grocery store on our way. That’s a lot of kids!

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But she was thinking homemade. She’d even looked up recipes.

Well, it is her birthday. And her birthday list is so humble and dear it includes requests for kiwi, mango, and pomegranate. (Done!) She’d also like books: a thesaurus, horse books, soccer books, fantasy books, and Shakespeare plays.

So we spent the afternoon, with a friend, making a quadruple batch of cupcakes from scratch. Quite the cupcake factory. Recipes posted below.

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Boston Cupcakes (adapted from Fannie Farmer)
makes 50+ large cupcakes

Cream 20 tbsp of butter. Slowly add and beat in 4 cups of white sugar. When it’s nice and fluffy, add in 8 eggs, one at a time, and beat. Add and mix in 3 tsp vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together 5 cups of flour, 8 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt.
Add dry mixture by cups to wet, mixing all the while (we used a standing-mixer).
Add and mix in 2 cups of milk.
Line cupcake trays with papers and fill each cup about two-thirds with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.

Chocolate Frosting

In a double boiler, melt 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate with 4 tbsp butter and 2/3 of a cup of milk. Cool to lukewarm and add 4 cups of icing sugar (at least) and 2 tsp vanilla. Add icing sugar slowly, beating all the while, until you reach the desired consistency. Makes more than enough.

Party time

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I have the best husband with whom to co-host birthday parties for children. Give him an idea (say, an Olympics theme) and the next thing you know odds and ends from the garage, basement and attic appear in the back yard, arranged into an obstacle course, or high jump (with bouncy landing pad), or relay track.

This was a three hour party. At least two hours were spent on the Olympic events in the back yard. For a full hour, kid you not, the mostly-seven-year-old crowd lined up and took turns jumping over a pool noodle onto a mattress to great cheers and applause.

As you can see for yourself.
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