Tag Archives: birthday

Twenty Things…


Here are the twenty things I am most excited about right now:

  1. The next two days off, no rehearsals, no office. Just me and my beautiful babies.
  2. My 36th birthday on Sunday.
  3. The raspberry liqueur my brother and my sister-in-law bought me for my birthday that I am drinking right now.
  4. The lesson on the Wedding of Cana that we’re teaching on Sunday. He used the purification jugs! 20-30 gallons they held! God is kind!
  5. The talk I heard today by Wes Granberg-Michaelson on how to take care of your inner spiritual life while working in a leadership position in the church.
  6. For my birthday I will be making a girl date at my friend’s to watch Rushmore, the Wes Anderson movie I was really not sure about before I decided for sure that I loved Wes Anderson. Excited to finally love it!
  7. The school play, Aladdin Jr., is well on its magical way. I am three weeks into rehearsals as “director” and having a ball.
  8. The group of Moms helping out with the school play. My new assistant director and I figured out our babies will begin Kindergarten the same year so we are destined to work on the school play for a decade together. These ladies and I are going to be friends for life.
  9. I am excited that the children’s Christian calendar I illustrated for my church is going to be used in another church. I get to go see the training on Saturday.
  10. I bought CDs and books for my children for Christmas based on the qualification that they were something I would want to be liturgy, something I would want my child to heart-memorize. I succeeded. My two-year-old walks around reciting poetry. And my daughter has already memorized “Annie”.
  11. I love my coworkers. Last night we drove around the Mission district, had Mitchell’s ice cream cones, and saw our city lit up from Bernal Heights Park.
  12. My administrative assistant who is my brain at work and helps me be as super productive as I’ve always wanted to be. (I need a Leigh for home.)
  13. My stack of YA science fiction waiting to be read. This year’s resolution: read more fiction.
  14. The small stack of paintings on wood ends that I’ve recently covered with resin. They look great. I want to cover everything with resin.
  15. The fact that I was asked to do a linocut print for a wedding invitation.
  16. Seeing my artwork on someone’s wall.
  17. My husband’s indomitable motivation to work at things, old things, new things, new ideas all the time. Indomitable.
  18. The watch I think I might be getting for my birthday.
  19. The prayer tip my friend gave me for how she prays for her family. One phrase or idea from one verse prayed for each member of your immediate family.
  20. Doing things. Doing all the things.

My Birthday Present…


Yesterday was my birthday.

The day before I had to run to the local pharmacy. So, the kids giggled and whispered and ransacked their piggy banks to come with me and buy me a present.

I found myself wanting to tell them “no”. No, save your money. Don’t spend your Christmas money on me. Just draw me a picture or make me a card or something.

But then I thought, okay, I do things for them all the time. I can let them do something for me.  I can let them see how they are useful, thoughtful and needed. I can let them feel their power to affect good for those around them.

And, really, this is actually the sort of behavior I want to encourage. I do want my adult children to remember my birthday and do something thoughtful for me. And since I’m not the sort of fool who thinks this sort of behavior automatically springs out of an eighteen year old heart, well, then now is the best time, when naturally outpouring from their generous little hearts, to build the habit. So, I let them bring their monies in plastic baggies.

At the store I found what I needed while my daughter followed my son from aisle to aisle looking at all their options. Four little eyes kept peaking around end caps and warning me to stay away. At one point my son discovered the gift cards and was super excited.

He brought up a $25 gift card to Starbucks valiantly trying to cover the logo.

“How much is this, Mom?” he asked.

“Too much to spend on me for my birthday,” I said.

“Mom, what does 5 P-C-S mean?”

“Five pieces,” I said, trying not to see the five-pack of alligator clips in his hand.

“Mom, do you like skittles?”

“Yes, I do like skittles.”

I walked over to the cashier after purchasing what I had come for.

“They’re looking for a birthday present for me,” I said, “So, can you help them a little bit with the money?”

The cashier nodded and I walked a distance away.

I finally hear my kids decide and stealthily maneuver the present up to the register. I am able to see just the tops of their heads and the back of the cashier as they buy it.

“It’s a surprise, so can you not let her see it?” my son asks the cashier.

“Yeah,” she said, “I’ll put it in this bag.”

They all look over at me conspiratorially to make sure I can’t see.

Please, let them not spend too much on me! Please, don’t let it be the alligator clips! I would definitely have to wear them and I hate wearing alligator clips!

There was an exchange of monies. Some coins were counted out.

“One more of those,” the cashier said.

And then they were done. My son was slightly blanched as we walked to the car.

“She made him give her six of his paper monies, Mom,” said my daughter in an awed sort of tone.

“It was $5.99,” my son says a little gravely.

“Well, I feel really special for you to spend your money on me,” I said.

“I’m so excited to give it to you,” he said.

“I can’t wait!” I say. Whatever it is I will love it.

Yesterday, on awaking, I was instructed to stay in bed while they worked on their surprise.

After a while I was escorted into their room. All of their animals sat in a color-coded rainbow around their room. They had set up their legos in birthday panoramas on the dresser. And on top of a blanket artfully looking like a tablecloth across the toy chest was a paper birthday cake with candles and a “35” on it, and next to it, was my present.

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

“Do you want to open it now?” My son asked.

“Yes,” I said, “Can I open it now?”

I opened my son’s stellar wrapping job (really, he does a very good job) and what do I see? A 60 pack of hair bands, the same kind I always use, in a rainbow of options.

“I got you 60-P-C-S, Mom,” he said.

“I love it!” I said, “This is exactly the kind I always get! How thoughtful of you!”

“We got you all the colors because we know you like all the colors,” my daughter said.

“Now, you can pick whatever color you want. And if you lose one, there are two or three more of the same color,” my son says, “Look, there’s even skin color.”

I am so proud of these thoughtful human beings. I am proud of my son when he feels that wince and buys the present anyway. I am so glad I let him spend $5.99 on me.

I can’t help but think about how similar I must seem to my heavenly father. How he lets me give to him. How he takes pleasure in my meager gifts. How much I wince sometimes before I give him service, but feel the pleasure all the same. God doesn’t need me to give to him, but he wants me to give to him.

I will now be making a big to-do every day as I pick out what color to wear. For sure, I won’t have to buy anymore for a few years. And thank goodness it wasn’t the alligator clips!


Happy Birthday, Daddy…


Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. I forgot all about it until my sister messaged me.  “He would’ve been sixty-five … and he would’ve been so grumpy about it.”  He hated getting older.

There was a short-lived period of time where I called him Pops. He nipped it in the bud immediately.

I always forget my Dad’s birthday.

Once, when I was in college I came home to find a message on my machine.

“Hello, Barbara, this is your father. I just wanted to call and thank you for the wonderful birthday card you gave me.  It’s so thoughtful and I love how you wrote that I was the best father ever, oh … wait … how embarrassing, this card is from your brother.  I guess I didn’t get one from you.  I’m sorry.  I guess I need to call my new favorite child.”

And then the message cut off amid snickering.

He was a funny guy. Each of us was his favorite.  He’d whisper it into our ears in front of the others by turns.  We watched him do it and, yet, believed him every time.

It’s been seven years since I had to write his eulogy. It took me a week before my pen would write the words “he was”, each day before my pen betraying me with “he is”.

I’ve had several dreams about him since he died.  It’s always a crowded space and he’s suddenly there.  And I run up to him to tell him everything, about how he’s a grandfather now, how I miss him, a new joke I think he’d like.  But he always hushes me and just beams with that quiet proud smile, never more proud than when he was speechless.  He’s never let me tell him anything.  He just smiles at me.

Happy birthday, Dad, you don’t look a day over fifty-seven.

I’ve got a new one for you:  “Why can’t you tell a kleptomaniac a pun? Because they always take things literally.”

The First Birthday…


My baby had his first birthday a couple of days ago. We didn’t do much. In fact, I couldn’t find the birthday candles, which was okay because I don’t have any matches. He still enjoyed the singing. But the first birthday is less for the baby than it is a celebration for everyone that loves that baby of keeping him alive for a year. Whoop! We made it! We kept another one alive for a year!

I wrote this little bit of thought after he was born. I didn’t have a forum for it at the time, but thought I would put it here now.

So, here it is, this is where I was one year ago:

I am three days out from the birth of baby three and it’s official. The endorphins have moved out and the postpartum hormones have moved in. I’m sitting in my cool dark room like a mother wolf in her den, with a sleeping baby on my bed and lanolin on my angry nipples. I hear my other two children getting ready for bed with Dad but I can’t seem to break out of my room to say goodnight. It’s the perfect place right now to explore the reeling sensations left over from the wonder of another birth.

I’ve been very fortunate to have beautiful home births for each of my children. And just as my children are different their labor stories differ as well. Of course, no one is ever prepared for motherhood. I knew birth would be a “spiritual” experience, but I had no idea of the parallels I would see between this life and the one I have been adopted into. With each of my three babies I have learned different spiritual truths hidden couched in our circumstances and situation from conception to delivery.

My first, my son, was conceived not two months after the death of my dearly loved Daddy. As fall and winter went on I grieved much and learned to hope for spring. With greenness and life came those first fluttering kicks that weren’t as surprising as much as they were exactly what I might have thought they were going to feel like. And in the summer he came. The whole experience was full of the contemplation of life out of death, the pain coming before the resurrection, salvation coming from laying oneself down. I couldn’t get away from it, the new wonder of the goodness of God that would not let death come without clearing a place for new life.

With my second, my daughter, I was resolved to do it again, not to have an only child, though my son had thoroughly made me aware of my lack of knowledge and energy for parenting. I doubted my ability to do this whole “mother” thing well. I dreaded the pain of labor in those brief instances when the amnesia lifted and I was able to remember. But God was teaching me much at the time about work, the work of being a mother, working harder and more selflessly than had previously been required of me. Work was the curse, but in it also was the blessing.

I ran across this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Get leave to work in this life, ‘tis the best we get at all, For God in cursing gives us better gifts than men in benediction.” And how I knew what a blessing the curse of work had been to me. I was more capable, more efficient, knew how to get an incredible amount done in the window of a two-hour nap time. And I applied this to the labor of delivery. Was it not also a curse, the pain of labor? But hadn’t I already experienced the blessing in that particular curse? The knowledge that kept me going through the first two difficult weeks of my first son’s life was this: If I could do that, I can do anything, the labor of babies, the labor of children, the labor of teens, the labor of life, etc.

The second I felt I had to have, the mandatory sibling. But the third I decided to have, I asked for.

With my third, another son, the phrase kept coming to my mind, born of blood and water. There’s a verse that talks about being born of blood and water. Having done two births already in my midwives’ water tub I was fascinated by the parallels it brought me to.

As the time for me to deliver grew close I experienced three painful exhausting weeks of pre-labor. I realized I was terrified to go through it again, the labor part. With my daughter it had been more intense than with my eldest and there had been a few times when I had barely been able to stay on top of it. I knew this would be worse. My lovely midwife who was crazy enough to have nine kids commiserated and reminded me of Jesus’s prayer in the garden. He was so concerned he took his friends with him to pray. “If it be your will let this cup pass from me.” But there is only one way to be born, isn’t there? There is only one way to get our babies here. And I had signed up for this, a thought that did not bring me much comfort during those early transition contractions when you realize that everything is getting away from you very quickly.

And so I descended again into labor and this much more intense. The groans that emanated from me were new to my birthing experience. And then it was too much. I couldn’t stay on top of the pain. And I realized I would have to go through it, under it, let the pain roll over me in hopes that the resultant endorphins would do their job. I clung to the promise of a baby and lovely mommy amnesia at the end.

And I thought about the sacrifice I had known ahead of time that would be required of me to have another baby. I had chosen it willingly to have my body break for another because it was the only way to get my son here. And I thought about Jesus breaking his body because it was the only way to get me there with him. And his body broke and poured out blood and water. And then my boy came out, into the tub that was quickly growing red, and my midwives told me, “Pick up your baby.” And I reached down and brought him to my chest hearing his first cries. And I remembered my baptism brought out of the water to new life. And I heard the words of Jesus say to me even as I said them to my son, “I got you, you’re safe. This new life is just beginning. You’re already on the other side.”