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Posts Tagged ‘Birthdays’

The Love Bug’s little brother does everything she does. He’s a copycat.

“What’s a copycat Nana?”

“A copycat isn’t really a cat,” I told the rising Kindergartener, “it’s someone who likes to do whatever you do; when you try new foods, he tries new food. When you build a fort, he wants to help. When you put on your shoes, he puts on his shoes, even if they go on the wrong feet! That’s OK, cause he did it himself.”

It was time to put on our shoes and get into the car. Even though summer has arrived with its hot, sticky days and fireworks filled nights, there is no time to dawdle. The Love Bug shrugged her shoulders and pulled her shoes slowly out of the bin while watching her brother do the same. As they sat together on the floor, and I wondered if we are raising a generation who will never learn how to tie their shoelaces (thanks velcro), I heard her say to him,

“I hope they don’t have cupcakes.”

And maybe it’s all the children’s books I’m reading lately, but I thought to myself, “What a great title for a book!” This has been an exceptionally busy weekend, capping off an incredibly busy week. What with basketball practice, and basketball games, and pre-school camp with her brother, we are a family on the move. Not a lot of time to swing on the porch or play in the pirate sandbox.

And now it was Sunday, the Bride was heading off to work, and we were going to yet another birthday party! Bob and I didn’t go to the party on Saturday, but we were looking forward to seeing the family of this particular three year old. They are our grandchildren’s Godparents. And I knew they had created a childhood paradise under the shade of an ancient tree in their urban backyard, complete with chickens, a water slide and a huge screened-in porch off the kitchen.

We had one of those back yards in the Berkshires. Bob built a zip line through the trees on the edge of a bird sanctuary where guinea hens would come and peck under our feeder. And though I wasn’t known for my cupcakes, I would bake the occasional carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. The Bride loved helping in the kitchen, especially cleaning out the frosting bowl with her fingers.

I’m happy to see this love of pastry making continue since the Bride will often whip up a batch of cookies on the spur of the moment with lots of help from her children.

I looked down at my Granddaughter and smiled. I asked her if they had cupcakes yesterday. She told me the whole birthday story, which led to an astonishing snippet of insight into an almost five year old mind. I loved listening to her take on the summer social season. Every now and then her brother would interrupt with an anecdote of his own.

I realized suddenly that these children were growing up in a city, with all that entails. Trips to science museums and art galleries and libraries where a Nashville Ballet dancer performs along with a reading of Ferdinand the Bull.

The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions, but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others…                          https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheStoryOfFerdinand

When her Mommy got home from work, the Bug dragged her into their backyard where the Groom had installed a basketball hoop! She made eight baskets! Her Dad is an excellent coach. We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately, every day it’s a different color car after they strap themselves into their seat belts. Only black was too hard, because there are so many black cars you could hardly catch your breath.

Turns out the birthday party had a soaker hose strung between trees. And they didn’t have cupcakes, they had cookies!  IMG_0789

 

 

 

 

 

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Today is just another day. The hazy hot and humid days of mid-summer are upon us. While I had to live without AC for a week, I thought about my childhood. I know, make fun of me now; but my purpose here isn’t to tell you how much harder it was for us. It is simply an observation. We went to the movies because at least they had AC, and we slowed down. We opened windows and used fans. The ice cream truck would come every day and we couldn’t wait to hear its music on the street. My Foster Daddy Jim would come home from Picatinny Arsenal and scoop me up to Brown’s Pond for a dip in the cold water.

Nobody complained about the heat, because what could you do? We were in it together.

Today isn’t just another day in Nashville. It’s The Groom’s birthday, and lately he’s been very busy. He started a new job, a first position as an attending at Vandy. As Bob knows only too well, the buck will stop at his desk. No matter what goes right or wrong, he will have to answer for it. He is an excellent teacher, herding new and seasoned residents around those sacred halls, taking night call in the MICU for weeks at a time. He credits his team when they win a battle. And he is the one who will talk to a family member when sepsis or cancer wins the almighty struggle. Not everyone is suited for such sacrifice, but he is supremely good at what he does.

He is 6’6″ tall. His voice, his mere presence is enough. The Groom can command a room, but chooses to listen to every opinion before embarking on a treatment plan.

The Bride and Groom just moved into their new house. He’s been hanging curtains and moving furniture around. He rushed home when a smoke alarm went off and his Bride fell off a chair trying to fix it. It made me think of that day when they were living in Cville, and one of their friends thought a smoke alarm was going off. It turned out to be a new medical student’s beeper in the pocket of his white coat! They had left the hospital for some time in class, and the white coats were abandoned in a hall closet; the battery singing its last tune.

And today is just another day. The Groom will return home and scoop up their two babies, placing them in a red wagon, and walk to the park. He will play with them, and talk to them about all the bits of nature around them. He will invent new games, he will stare up at the clouds with them and imagine animal shapes. And he will most likely bring the dog along for some exercise. He doesn’t complain about his fatherly duties, because this generation of men know they are in it together with their wives. And he knows instinctively if it’s a day to bring home dinner, to hunt and gather, or to go out for a meal.

But today isn’t just another day. My daughter will cook his favorite food and bake a three-layer birthday cake, letting the Love Bug help peel carrots and lick the frosting bowl. With all the stress of the past few weeks, I hope he gets to kick off his shoes and dance a little bit tonight – pick up his guitar and unwind, put the Baby on the keyboard and give the Bug a harmonica.

Because today we are all thankful you were born. Much love on your birthday, and thank you for being an outstanding husband and father, for joining our “outlier” family of giraffe lovers.We couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law! Remember today to slow down just a little, this time with young children will fly by, in Joni’s immortal words:

We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game      10320486_10203678944316165_691215505164009992_n

 

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When your birth father dies before your first birthday, and your mother is 40 years old that year, the Year of Living Dangerously, and then your adopted mother is ten years older that that, you end up without a grandfather. Well I learned many things due to the circumstances of my birth in a PA coal town. My Nana gave me a certain self-confidence that was sorely needed when we’d visit her on occasion. But I never had a Grandfather; and my children, I was afraid, would follow suit.

Bob’s parents were divorced, and his father basically skipped out on our little family. But Grandma Ada found it in her heart to marry again, when the Bride was two years old. Hudson was a “younger” man, and he lived in Poughkeepsie, so we called him the Poughkeepsie Gypsy, until he packed up his wood carving tools and his pastoral counseling degree along with his African missionary artifacts and moved to NJ. He instantly became the de facto grandfather I’d never had and our kids adored him.

He would drive them around in his truck; he would film their every move with one of the first hand-held, shoulder-mounted video cameras in America; he would cook them breakfast; he would show them how to plant a seed; he would swim with them in the pool and show them how to make a hot tub out of an old bathtub; and of course, he’d teach them how to whittle. To name certain trees, to catch crabs, to fish…

Little did I know Great Grandpa Hudson would eventually send me his official Baptist pastor degree, so he could marry the Bride and Groom on Carter Mountain. Or that their red-headed baby boy would carry on his name.

Bob is doing his best to carry on his step-father’s amazing grandfathering duties when we see our babies. From the WWII sailor who was called “Red” by his shipmates, Bob has learned to slow down time, to feed birds, and turtles. To dry tears. To name bugs and touch them, to teach the Love Bug how to swim. Luckily for me, Bob never picked up the habit of enjoying a good cigar, while patching a roof in the sun. To keep the mosquitoes at bay!

So Happiest of Birthdays Hudson! You’re turning 90 this weekend and friends and family are coming together from near and far to celebrate your extraordinary life. I’m sure Great Grandma Ada will sing your praises, you’ve been her rock through some very hard times. You’ve been her traveling companion for many years, her woodcarver. Her faithful, second-chance, side-kick on the carousel of life. Your marriage was the model many of your patients aspired to have; and still is a beacon of how love works.

I simply want to thank you for being the best Grandpa Hudson to our family. The family you chose, but really, we choose you! And always will. J&M  0596

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Three years ago today we were in Nashville. We had noted, not quite celebrated, Bob’s birthday and were awaiting our first grandchild’s birth. The baby was breech, like her Mama was, and so the Bride was wheeled into the OR in the hospital where both she and her husband had trained. Suddenly, the Groom appeared with the Love Bug in his arms and I could feel a cosmic shift in the universe. Love was expanding.

Over the years she has proven to be very much her Mother’s child

  • She can stand with her hands on her hips and insist on macaroni and cheese.
  • She can be a tiny empath and wrap her little arms around anyone in need of a hug.
  • She can direct her dog, her dolls, her baby brother, and her friends in the nicest way possible.
  • She can organize her toys and plan ahead in a monologue that lasts through a long car ride to preschool.
  • She can swim like a fish, as if the ocean were only blocks away.
  • She can and will choose her outfits with an eye for design and color.
  • She is a tiny dancer and a mixed media artist of the highest caliber!
  • And watch out world, she is starting to sing! “A Bushel and a Peck” is our theme song.

Her party was Sunday, but she was born on this day, one day after PopBob’s birthday, three years ago, and she was exactly herself. Happy late summer Birthday to our Love Bug. You make my heart fill with joy each time I hold you. Sleeping Baby 20120828

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For another day I’ll be the same age as Bruce Springsteen. Tomorrow I’ll leap ahead of him and catch up with Bob, who has a birthday the day after the Love Bug in August. My sister Kay already called, my MIL sent me the usual Chico’s gift card (thank you Ada), and my son already posted on Facebook. This year it feels like people are jumping the shark on my birthday, let’s all take a breath. I’m in no hurry to age.

I had to pick up the latest Atlantic magazine because it was all about aging. You can’t miss it. The cover is an old geezer on a skateboard, doing an ollie with his socks slouching down around his ankles.  The cover story is, “What Happens When We All Live to 100?” Good question. I started reminiscing about skateboarding down a parking lot ramp in my old hometown of Dover, NJ. I was one of very few high school girls who had the nerve to do this stuff, and I never got very good at it. But I remember the woody station wagons, the street lights, and blaring the Beach Boys while I tried to “hang ten” without wiping out on asphalt.

Then I was back in real time, reading, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/09/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal

This morning I chewed my gummi multiple vitamin and my calcium chocolate candy. I popped my supplements for my psoriatic skin condition and my swiss-cheesey, osteopenic bones, and then to top it off, I swallowed a Claritin for my allergies. I’m not taking any meds for anything serious, I’m blessed with an Irish peasant’s good DNA so my heart and blood pressure seem to be doing fine all on their own, knock knock.

What I’m not doing is sticking to any sort of diet whatsoever, and I don’t think I’m obsessed with exercise, though at one time in my 40s I may have been.  Still, I’m not willing to give it all up in a mere 9 years! I kept reading. Is this guy for real, or is he writing satire for the Atlantic? Could this just be Gulliver’s Travels for the well-heeled, senior set?

The author, Ezekiel Emanuel, talks about how modern medicine has managed to prolong life, and asks the  important question, “But as life has gotten longer, has it gotten healthier? Is 70 the new 50?” Let me warn you, if you are over 70 and prone to depression, do not read this Atlantic article! You may as well hang up the cleats, or stilettos, now. The inevitable stroke or stent is lurking right around the corner.

So, let’s hope we are all outliers who will experience a healthy old age! And if you are one of my readers who is crying their eyes out already because the last chick has left the nest, take heart. Let’s end on a positive note, let me count the ways being an empty nester has improved this old gal’s life.

  1. I can get into the hot tub, naked, anytime I want
  2. I can eat ice cream for dinner if I feel like it
  3. I can sleep in (until 8am  sometimes)
  4. I can listen to my music in the car and YES Bono I’ll download your free album!
  5. I can sing anytime, anywhere with impunity without using the “right” words

Oh, and I can still search for flea market finds and transform them into tiny treasures for the grand baby!  IMG_1143

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Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

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We’ve been driving home now for almost nine hours. And out of all the Snap Judgement and This American Life podcasts we listened to, one struck home. It was about an Arab who lived on the Jewish side of Jerusalem. His newspaper column was titled “Second Person Singular” and it’s just about his life, as an outsider on the inside.

Probably because that’s been my MO. I was the foster child, the strawberry blond, the lapsed Catholic who married a Jewish guy; somehow or another I just never fit in. Belonging is one of those basic human needs; my psychologist brother or MIL could tell you all about it. It’s Maslow’s rule of thumb. We all need to belong.

And yesterday, for the Love Bug’s first birthday, I had to stay in bed with a bad virus. I managed to bake the cupcakes, make the frosting, and even wrap up a couple of curried chicken wraps. I had a few days beforehand to play and cuddle with her, but I was absent for the big event.

But still, what’s important about one day? Every month since she was born, I’ve managed to visit with her, either in TN or VA. Almost every day I talk to her and we FaceTime all the time. I just have to get her to say “Nana” and not mean “No” or “Maybe!”

I listened to her party from my feverish upstairs in-law suite. I felt like an Arab living in the wrong part of Jerusalem. But it was all good. The Bride brought her up for a last minute night night before the festivities, before a little boy knocked the baby gate down on my steps and yelled. “It was an accident!” I snapped this picture.

Happy First Birthday Love Bug.

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