I turned 39 yesterday and I have to say that I feel perfectly at ease about it. Some time ago I expected that when I reached this year I’d have a longish list of goals to achieve before turning 40, but I have surprisingly few. It’s not that I have nothing to work on; there are plenty of things I’d like to be better at (less yelling, being a better partner) and things I’m looking forward to doing this year (learning to sew, improving my photography, learning how to properly edit photos, finally getting some indoor plants for the house) but I don’t feel a great sense of pressure about doing everything before I reach my fourth decade. I feel grateful for every year that I get on this earth and for exactly where I am right now.
There were a few adorable things about my birthday. A few weeks back we went on a very short hike at the Lillian Anderson Arboretum. It was really cold out but I was determined to get outside, so I bundled the kids in a million layers and talked up this “walk in the woods” that we were going to take. They seemed enthusiastic, especially Vivienne, probably because they had cabin fever just as much as I did. All morning Vivi asked if it was time to go for our walk in the woods. When we finally got there, however, she walked roughly 15 yards and collapsed in a fit of tears. She was not about to trudge through knee-deep snow. Jude was totally game, but super slow and unsteady in the deep snow, so we decided that he should stay with Kristin and Vivi while Jonah and I went on ahead to a place I wanted to see called The Magnificent Pines. It wasn’t a long walk, probably less than a quarter mile, and it was well worth it.
Despite the cold, it seemed to make an impression on Jonah too. He remarked on how the trees were swaying slowly way at the top. It made them seem like a different sort of giant living creature.
Some days later we were all painting together (we do a lot of watercolor these days, just the basic Crayola set, but we all really seem to enjoy it), and I decided to paint a tiny little picture of Jonah in those trees. It was very amateur (I’m not a painter no matter how you define it) but Jonah loved it and wanted to hang it in his room.
The other day, Jonah told Kristin his idea for my birthday cake. They kept it a secret and Kristin shopped for supplies. Apparently he even told her how he wanted to go about decorating it. The night before my birthday the kids baked with Kristin and I went into the other room to read while Jonah decorated. When they finished, Jonah was so excited to show me: The Magnificent Pines, in birthday-cake form.
Kristin said that when she finished writing, Jonah said, “We need a question mark. Not a question mark, but one of those things that looks like the letter i that makes it seem like we’re yelling.”
I couldn’t love this cake any more if I tried; what an act of love. Jonah is the kind of person who really notices things, including the things that matter to other people, and he seems to truly enjoy leveraging that knowledge to make others happy and share their passions with them. I remember being amazed when he was invited to the birthday party of a classmate we hardly knew. She was new at school and I’d never heard Jonah mention her before. When I asked Jonah what he thought she might like as a gift he didn’t skip a beat before telling me that she loved mermaids (and her mom confirmed how right he was). He also knows how much Mama K loves birds and loves to tell her when he sees interesting ones in the yard.
Not only that, but he knows that our friend Tanya back in New York is an incredibly talented baker who makes beautiful cakes for Cakes on Hudson. As soon as I’d seen the cake, he asked me to take a picture and send it to her. He wanted to share what he’d done because he knew that she loved cake decorating too. (She was very complimentary).
As if it could get any better, the kids also made me a card (with watercolor, of course). Jonah proudly told me that it was a “collaboration” (I’m pretty sure Mama K taught him that word, and he seemed proud to use it).
Kristin asked them each what they wanted to write as a birthday message, and these are my favorite part.
And finally, Jude. His might be my favorite because I laugh every time I read it. Kristin said that they really had to coax the second line out of him.
I honestly laughed out loud when I read these, because they’re so perfect and they represent our kids right now so well.
I love Kristin so much for letting the kids follow their passions and be themselves as they created all of this for me. She’s never one to micromanage or worry about a perfectly Pinterest-worthy end result, and the joy that these brought me was a healthy reminder that backing off and just letting them go can result in something far more magical.
So here’s to thirty-nine with tremendous gratitude for this family. Even when they’re crawling across the table at a restaurant to get from one bench seat to the other while the server takes our order (Jude), or using an outdoor voice throughout the entire meal (Vivi), there’s no one I’d rather spend my birthday with.