birthday

A Super Birthday Party

It began last March-ish. Maybe slightly earlier. I actually think the superhero obsession began right around the time of their birthday party last year. I remember thinking that it was too late to change the theme. Gifts and decorations and cakes had already been bought.

“We can do a superhero party for your birthday next year,” I remember saying. In March. And in May. And in June, July and August. And in November. And now, here we are.

If you still like superheroes, I would think. It was the asterisk, the subtext of my promise to throw them a superhero party. However the kids who planned out their Halloween costumes seven months in advance without ever once deviating (as superheroes, of course) didn’t let me down.

It’s official. They got their superhero party. And I see no end in sight to this particular obsession…

2019 02 16 Party 07.jpg
2019 02 16 Party 17.jpg

Cupcake sprinkles.

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Superhero clipart. Decorative fans. Batman garland (an ode to the superhero who started all this.)

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Superhero birthday shirts.

My “sheroes” sweatshirt, now officially my new favorite piece of clothing.

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The price of admission this year was a present. “Did you bring us presents?” was how they greeted everyone at the door. I’ve said it before, but just in case it hasn’t sunk in yet please remember that subtlety is not their specialty.

It was the first year in the past five where I didn’t have to watch the cake table like a hawk the entire time (though Nolan got a few frosting swipes and sprinkle steals in). They kind of ran around and did their own thing and opened presents and ate cake like it was their jam. And, at five and three, I guess it is.

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It’s officially birthday week in the Williamses house! And as hard as it is to believe we’re quickly leaving behind the years of toddlerhood, it’s also makes perfect sense as I see how far we’ve come. Here’s to three of the craziest, most loving, most talkative, smartest, most adventurous, and least subtle (almost) three and five-year olds around.

Life Lately

"Joke," Nolan says, "Joke!" It started with our Google Home. Caden and Brooklyn discovered they could walk over, "Hey Google. Tell me a joke!", and it went from there. Then Tyson told them the classic "Why did the chicken cross the road?". Since then they come up with their own versions, all ending with the punchline "to get to the other side." Caden's are usually something like "Why did the chicken cross the road and fight the car and then fall into a tree?" If you ask Nolan what his joke is, though, he responds with, "Cross...tree!" or "Cross...cheese!" or "Cross...water!" or "Cross...*insert noun of something in his immediate vicinity here*!" He thinks it's just hilarious. 

2017 01 23 Nolan Bed 02.jpg

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At the end of January - a mere month ago, though it seems much longer - we traveled to Arizona to visit Tyson's brother and his family. It was the first time we flew with the kids and they did great! We filled their backpacks up with snacks, Target dollar section goodies, and, most importantly, their tablets. Caden and Brooklyn did just fine on our 3+ hour flights, though Nolan tended to bounce around between Tyson and I, to Tyson's mom, to Tyson's dad, who traveled with us. 

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Our flight back home was late, we didn't land until 11:00 at night, and while everyone was certain the kids would fall asleep on the plane I knew better. Caden conked out during the last hour, Brooklyn literally fell asleep as we touched down on the runway, but Nolan was active on his tablet until the bitter end, until we were taxiing to the runway and he gave up while I rocked him on my shoulder. "Bed! Go to bed!" he sobbed and the entire airplane laughed in solidarity.

It was nice to escape to the sunshine for a few days in the midst of this long, cold winter. We visited the beautiful and amazing Phoenix Zoo, explored the concrete structures and fed the ducks at the Riparian Preserve, and ate some delicious, local food at Joe's Farm Grill. We also learned that Tyson's brother and his family will be moving this summer to join us up here in Minnesota! We're very excited to have them nearby, and glad we took what was probably our last chance to visit them in the Arizona sunshine.

2018 01 26 All Arizona 02.jpg
2018 01 27 All Arizona 02.jpg

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I'm sure you've seen that we celebrated a slew of birthdays recently. First the twins', then Nolan's. I curse February every year, especially birthday week since it all feels like just so much, but as soon as it's all over I think, "Hey, that wasn't so bad. And now we're done for the year!" Basically I spend two weeks in February overwhelmed with all things birthday and am thrilled about it for the other 11 1/2 months out of the year. 

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Something less fun during our mega-super-birthday week was getting rear-ended while we were sitting at a red light. On Caden and Brooklyn's birthday. We're all just fine, but our van...

not so much. Caden was more curious about it all than anything else ("It was really loud and then our window broke.") while Brooklyn was upset once the police showed up ("Are we going to jail?") but they really haven't talked about it since, so I guess they're over it? We're waiting to hear back from the repair shop before moving forward with anything (And at just what point do they total out the car? Seriously, how much does an entire rear power door to a van, and then some, cost, anyway?) but since the driver who hit us was charged with a DWI, well, they're in a lot more trouble than we are right now.

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The Parkland shooting has been weighing heavy on my mind. I plan to join the Minnesota March for Our Lives taking place on Saturday, March 24th (Local? Join me!) and have been waiting for our local Moms Demand Action group to have a chapter meeting near me (South and East metros...you're just not doing it for me). 

I've toned down my news consumption and social media usage since the 2016 election had me reading ALL THE THINGS for too many months and I found it obsessive and ultimately not good for me. Of the few things I have read, Emma Gonzalez and her fellow students are giving me life, this article by Washington Post's editorial board was both direct and insightful, and these parents are my heroes for standing up and asking the intense, direct, right questions of both their senators and the NRA.

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We've had quite the winter this year. Some years are cold, some years are snowy, this year we've had more than our fair share of BOTH. As I type this it's snowing and we're in the midst of yet another Winter Storm Warning. We've had snow since before Halloween, making this our fourth month of full-blown actual winter. It's safe to say I'm over it

Except when it's pretty.

Except when it's pretty.

One way I've been tackling the winter blahs is to really create a schedule for us. Not only for activities outside the house but also for when we're at home. Art Time has been a major life saver these past few months. At 4 or 4:30 or so we put everything away for the day. I pull out some sort of art supplies or project, (as well as my own coloring book and pencils), turn on some music, and we wind down.

Caden has been working on this piece for weeks now. He calls it his "beast's castle" (we have a slight Beauty and the Beast obsession) and it's something he pulls out almost every day to work on. He usually values quantity over quality, cranking out page after page after page in his coloring book, construction paper, etc., but this is something he continues to come back to. I'm impressed by his attention span and the level of detail he's put into it. I also can't recommend ginormous pieces of paper enough, since the sheer size keeps them occupied far longer than your average piece of construction paper.

2018 02 05 Caden Art Time 01.jpg

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Nolan has hit full-blown two-year old independence in recent weeks. "I do it" has become his life verse. Except he says, "I did it!", even before he's even done anything. Garbage to throw away? "I did it!" Me grabbing the remote to turn the TV off? "I did it!" Putting the lid on his sippy cup? "I did it!" This is often accompanied by lots of jumping up and down and stamping of feet, of course, for sheer emphasis.

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We've also been about all things OLYMPICS! The kids have gotten into it a little this year and you better BELIEVE the birthday party theme four years from now will be a winter Olympics one. Nolan cries out "Hockey!" whenever we turn the TV on, whether hockey is actually playing or not. (That's my boy.) I've been particularly into the women's skating events, the pairs free skate, skeleton (y'all are bananas), bobsledding, and the snowboard cross racing. I didn't watch, but I'm also thrilled the women's hockey team picked up the gold medal. Now that everything is all wrapped up, our lives can go back to normal, and we can resume catching up on everything from the shows to the podcasts to the household cleaning we've missed from being camped out in front of the TV from 7-10:00 pm (at least) for the past two+ weeks.

A Dinosaur Princess Birthday Party

You know I can't resist posting about the kids' birthday party each year. My inner creative goes nuts as I research everything that has to do with anything connected to the party theme. And I think this every year, but this time, I mean it: This was my favorite birthday party yet!

The theme? A dinosaur princess one, of course.

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2018 02 17 Nolan Party 02.jpg
2018 02 17 All Party 01.jpg

Brooklyn's dress. Tiara headbands.

I'll say it was easier to come up with dinosaur-themed things than princess ones. Taking to Google for a "princess party" search ends up with a billion results featuring Disney princesses, but what if you just want a generic princess theme? I settled on lots of gold, sparkles, and crowns, and hoped the shiny dinosaurs were enough. (According to the two birthday kids above, they were.)

Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

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2018 02 17 Party 18.jpg
Cupcake  wrappers . Pearlized  dinosaurs . Gold  dinosaurs . Dinosaur  sprinkles .

Cupcake wrappers. Pearlized dinosaurs. Gold dinosaurs. Dinosaur sprinkles.

I praised myself last year for the genius move of ordering out for all the cakes. This year? Well, it got away from me. I lost January to guests, work travel for Tyson, and family travel for us all. By the time I was thinking - really thinking -- about all things dinosaur and princess and party it was really too late to order anything from a bakery. I tackled all three cakes and 36 cupcakes the day before the party. My cake decorating skills may be mediocre, but it was nothing some sparkles, sprinkles, and gold dinosaurs couldn't save.

(And if you're interested: Layer cake recipe. Buttercream frosting recipe. Chocolate cupcake recipe. Apple spice cupcake recipe. Cream cheese frosting recipe. Everything turned out yummy and I will be using all of these recipes again and again. Especially that chocolate cupcake one - yum!)

Definitely my favorite one. That   pterodactylis giving me life.

Definitely my favorite one. That pterodactylis giving me life.

I create a photo banner every year with pictures from the past twelve months. It's one of my favorite (and most difficult) tasks. We leave it to hang for a few weeks even once the birthday festivities are over, and then I tuck the photos away in a box upstairs. It guarantees that I've at least printed out some photos each year instead of leaving them all to the digital confines of my computer.

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Dinosaur  banners . Gold  balloons .

Dinosaur banners. Gold balloons.

Mostly, it was dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere.

Literally everywhere.

Dinosaur  necklace .

Dinosaur necklace.

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Brooklyn is shaking her groove thing with one of these dinosaur tails. Foam crown craft. Ginormous giraffe courtesy of my brother. That's what uncles are for, right?

This was also probably the most relaxing birthday party we've ever had. I toned down the guest list to a more manageable size this year and the kids were all old enough to fend for themselves. I didn't have to worry about nursing a baby or hovering over six tiny hands trying to reach the cupcakes. (Only two tiny hands... *cough* Nolan *cough*) 

Everyone had fun with all things "dine-a-sord" (that's a Nolan-ism) and princess. Caden asked me if we can have another party after quiet time today. I'm enjoying the last few chocolate cupcakes. Also prepping for actual birthdays around here on Tuesday (the twins') and Thursday (Nolan's). There's a chance that our current snowstorm may be keeping us snowed-in tomorrow, but at least our house is decorated appropriately.

If you're interested:

Candy first and third birthday party
Barnyard second birthday party
Ties and Tutus first birthday party

One Who Is One

Oh, Nolan...


What to say about you and those biggest blue eyes turning one?



(Cake coma.)


You like to play with balls and anything with wheels. Watching the cars go past out our back windows is one of your favorite activities. You have an enormous appetite, and there's not much that you won't eat.  (Except cheese. You're iffy on cheese. I didn't know I grew kids like that.) You are crazy good at walking, and amazingly fast. You walk just about everywhere now, dodging minefields of toys all day long. You're long but skinny, a string bean, and your height surprises everyone when they find out that you are just now turning one. You've learned how to scream recently, and enjoy doing so at every opportunity. You are the most ticklish baby I've ever met. They say babies aren't ticklish until a certain age, but I swear up and down that you've been ticklish since day one. Your brother and sister adore you, and you adore them. Playing with them (well, as much as you can) and watching them run around, jump about, and make silly sounds for your amusement gives you so much delight.  You'll never turn down attention but are often just as content to explore and play on your own.

You are determined. You know what you want and when you want it and there's absolutely no deterring you. You get mad when you don't get your way. You've reached every physical milestone early, rolling over, crawling, climbing, and walking before most of your friends. You love books, so much so that "book" was your first word. Despite quitting, cold-turkey, the sucking of the two middle fingers on your right hand nine months into your first year, you have figured out how to sooth yourself to sleep through the night again. You're not so sure about naps, though. You took three naps for the vast majority of this past year, took two naps for a hot second, but aren't quite sure how to transition to just one, or how long that one nap should be.  Let's work on that one, huh? Your enormous blue eyes are the first thing everyone comments on when they see you. Like your big brother and sister, you aren't a bit shy, and the 40 people that were here for your first birthday bash didn't phase you a bit.

That you were born a year ago seems both completely possible (it has been a long year, after all) and absolutely impossible, both at the same time.


(Wookit dat smoosh-face.)



(Family squeeze!)







You get lots of attention because you're the baby, yet you can also get lost in the shuffle.  A million times yesterday I realized with a start that, "oh, right, it's your birthday tomorrow", since we already celebrated a couple of birthdays just the day before.  Like your brother and sister, it's a bit surprising that you are turning one just now, since you've hit so many of the big milestones already: walking like a pro, a word or two under your belt. But less so. You are still the baby, after all. That you're growing into an actual toddler is still incomprehensible, in a way. When we make future plans it's impossible to think of you as 18 months, or a two-year old in your own right, able to keep up more and more with your siblings. I can understand having a couple of toddlers and a baby around, but a couple of kids and a toddler? That makes no sense to me. You'll just be a baby forever, right? Besides that nap business, I'd be content to keep you here, right where you are for awhile.

Of course, you're ready for more.  You're not shy about pushing your way into any situation that your brother and sister or other playmates are in. You want to be right there with them.

Go get 'em, you big one-year old.


(You know it's been a good party when everything is a bit blurry by the end and you find yourself wandering around without pants.)

I'm still going to call you Baby Nono, though.


Thirty

No longer a twenty-something.

I'm not sure what I think about that.  I've been a twenty-something for so long - it feels like about a decade, amiright? - that it's weird to be in a new place.  Like it or not, age is a part of our identity.  We don't really remember our youngest years, though every birthday is a thrill then, until we hit double digits, which is it's own form of excitement.  Pre-teen segues into teenager and then we hit our twenties and it seems to slow down a bit and we stay there awhile.  There are so many milestone birthdays all piled on top of one another 1-10!  13! 16! 18! 20 and 21!  But this is the first *big* birthday in-what? Five years?  Nearly ten?

I want to say it feels different, but it really doesn't.  I mean, I'm pretty convinced that I've been sitting at twenty-five for the past few years so anyway, so thirty doesn't even seem possible.  But here I am.  And when I stop to actually think about twenty-five?  It seems like eternity ago.


Thirty is definitely NOT twenty-something.

Twenty was college and classes and friends and parties and roommates and projects and papers and deadlines.  At my twentieth birthday, I hadn't even met Tyson yet (though that was just a few months away).  I wasn't looking to meet anyone and I had halfway convinced myself that I would move somewhere out east after graduation in a couple of years.  I wasn't officially in my university's interior design program yet.  At twenty, I hadn't even met most of my core group of friends in college.  I wasn't writing as much as I do now and I hadn't realized how much I enjoy food and the process of cooking, which are things that seem so integral to my life right now.  I probably did still drank the same amount of coffee, though.  Pulling all-nighters hasn't really changed.  It's just that now it's with a baby instead of a design project (although really, both of those things are kind of my babies).  Otherwise, thirty looks absolutely nothing like twenty.  Twenty was very different.

Twenty-five.  At twenty-five, Tyson and I had been married for a little over a year.  I was working my first interior design job as a closet designer, though I didn't yet know that it wasn't going to last but a few more months.  We had moved the previous fall to a new apartment in Madison, but we didn't really know how much longer Tyson had left in school, much less what our next steps would be.  We certainly didn't anticipate having twins in another couple of years, or adding a third baby to the mix almost exactly two years to the day after that.  Twenty-five was still so fluid.  So many unknowns.

Now thirty.

Thirty is settled.  It's an interesting switch, since my life at forty will probably look very similar to life at thirty.  Of course I realize that anything can happen.  There will be hard things and happy things and new life and losses along the way, sure.  But it's incredibly likely that we'll be in the same house, with the same kids, albeit a decade older (even if kids in their double-digits seems absolutely unfathomable now).  We'll (hopefully) have many of the same friends.  Thirty is more determined, and life is settling into a pattern that was absolutely unimaginable five years ago, ten years ago.  Heck, even two years ago.

It's almost like this is my first "grown-up" birthday.  In many ways there are fewer unknowns.  Most of the big questions in life have been more or less settled: marriage, kids, house.  There's not the "where will I even be what will life look like" questions that there were at twenty, or twenty-five.  My kids will have memories of me in my thirties.  They'll start to make memories and form attachments to our traditions, our values, our family life, during this decade.  Heck, I remember my mom wearing a faded pink sweatshirt around the house, emblazoned with the words "thirtysomething" printed in teal.  For all I know she wore it into her forties.

In fact, I should ask her if she still has it, tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  I could use it for about the next decade.