The Year I Was 31

Me, on the day I turned 31. Taking Fae to the doctor for her hand foot and mouth. Remember that?

This year I started flossing more than I have ever flossed ever in my life. I don’t know why it is such a hated task, but it is a hated task and I have dragged my feet for 31 years…. WELL NO LONGER.

What else happened to me this year? This year was the first year since 2013 that I was not pregnant nor was I nursing. I just did the math on that and yes, that is true. Pregnant at 27, nursing at 28, pregnant at 29, nursing at 30. 31 = not pregnant, not nursing!

The day after I turned 31, we took our first and only full family trip on a plane! To Miami!

We rented a van, stayed in a hotel on the beach, swam in the ocean, hung out with family, the babies were loved on, and I held a baby alligator!

I do try to be mindful of challenging activities and adventures that scare me. Even if I have less time to do stuff like that, I want to always try. Alligator-Check!

The summer involved lots of celebrations for Claire’s upcoming wedding, lots of get togethers with babies, Fae’s baptism and first birthday! For me that meant party planning, outfit finding, and lots of very long email chains with many many details.

It was a spring and summer of house hunting which was one of the most challenging experiences of my adulthood. It was stressful and emotional and tested all of my “sharing my life with another person” limits. It was 6 months of compromise and arguments and hope and disappointments and meetings and viewings and debate. I spent the majority of the time super annoyed by Kamel, super grateful for our agent Alicia, and completely oxygen deprived from holding my breath for so long. I think Kamel spent the majority of that time completely in love with me, obviously.

And then we bought a house.

We closed at the very end of August and that exact weekend was Claire’s bachelorette party! That I was in charge of planning alongside Maris! So, still covered in paint I hauled my butt downtown to get the party started.

Some of my most fulfilling moments this year have been surrounded by women. Some of the most at peace moments. The times where I feel the most solid. I am so lucky.

It’s really difficult for me to make these birthday posts about MY year and MY growth and not everyone I know’s year, my children’s year, my marriage’s year. It’s hard to remember that along with all of these events there I was … growing and being and experiencing and reacting and feeling.

I am not where I want to be as a human person yet. But I am much closer than I ever have been. I really love who I am, but I want more for me. More compassion, more kindness, more patience, less neediness, more balance. More calm. I’m working on it. Always.

This year I got a legit home office.

With the first desktop I have EVER OWNED AS MINE. The last desktop I had was our family computer when I was in high school! Also my office doesn’t look like that anymore. It has a ton of crap in it. Some to cut down on the echo + sound panels all over the walls, and other crap just because.

Then Claire got married!!!

It was the danciest wedding ever! So fun!

Then Kamel had surgery and that was really hard and upsetting.

It was so incredibly difficult and scary seeing him so vulnerable, and it wasn’t even THAT bad. It was a long recovery, but it wasn’t like he got into an accident or something. So maybe that was just the warm up to the other “in sickness and in health” shit that will inevitably befall us.

And then Margaret and Jeff got married and I went to that without Kamel because his surgery healing was way more intense than we had been lead to believe.

And it was so beautiful and so fun and such amazing food. I’m so proud of both of them.

And then like a week later Kamel, my dad, and I went to Kamel’s cousin Carlos’s wedding outside Mexico City!

It was the year of weddings that were not my own and it was super beautiful.

Trump was elected president and there will forever be a before and after. For me it would be downplaying it beyond reason to say it was a “wake up call.” I actually find that to be incredibly condescending. It created a space for me where I will never stop being angry. The world is a hostile place and something fell off the shelf inside me, to quote Zora Neale Hurston. There is a darkness inside me. Sometimes it fuels me and sometimes it causes me great despair. I am disappointed by the world and its suffering. I am disappointed by the smallness of humankind. By the pettiness. And I have been forsaken by people who hold up mothers as the ideal but so easily throw away women. We are so easily thrown away. I will not be someone’s garbage and I will not allow anyone else to be either.

November also brought the baptism of my goddaughter, Ellen!

Then we spent Thanksgiving in Canada with Maris.

I am so grateful to have a rich and diverse and loving family. People who willingly encourage our chaotic mini families to collide. We are really lucky.

After really putting a hold on travel because we were saving for a house, this last year we splurged on trips. After the election I immediately started planning to march in DC, a city I had never been until January. I am very lucky to have landed Sarah’s couch and to have so many fantastic friends in the DC area who held my hand through the march and squeezed me when tears fell down my face at seeing the immense crowds of people just like me, who had been hurting for months just like me, who were scared just like me.

In February, Kamel and I took a solo trip to Miami to visit our new niece LOLA! We stayed with my SILs, Regina and Lara, and it was so NICE to be there without the kids. I actually really love traveling with the kids, but it is also cumbersome and a lot of work. It was really important to us to be flexible while visiting the newest addition to the family. I didn’t want it to be about our kids (it is ALWAYS about our kids) and I wanted it to be about spending time with Kamel’s sisters and parents and baby Lolita!

I also got to see MANATEES for the first time! They surrounded us while we were in a kayak paddling around and it was AMAZING!!

And! Regina gifted me three more tattoos while I was there. Here are two of the new ones (and two of the usual ones).

In March we started a very unplanned renovation project when our dishwasher leaked all through our floors and into our crawl space. And is still an ongoing journey even today! Weee! (But you know what? It has helped make this home feel more OURS and that has been a major boon.)

March was also all about Gabe’s birthday!

And, of course, Vegas!

And now here we are. That was a year in the life of me. Not to mention: Christmas, the millions and millions of weekend activities and hours spent entertaining the kids, the books I have finally started reading again in the last 4 months, and billions of sentences I have edited, approved, or rewritten for my job in educational publishing. This is also the year I turned my hair blonder! But I am now on the precipice of more hair changes. I am the most fulfilled I have ever been with the fewest amount of down time hours. I continue to feel overwhelmingly grateful.

32. Boom.

The Birthday Video – Gabe’s 4th Year

Every year we think for months about which song to assign the kids’ current year of life. This year the Gypsy Kings spoke to Gabe. ūüôā

Gabe is Four

Gabriel is now a kid. That is the news of the day. He can reach the toaster while standing on the kitchen floor. He no longer wears pullups to bed. He pees standing up. He eats apples (!!) without cutting them up. He makes 1,000 fart and poop jokes a day. He tells me, “Moooom I’m just being FUNNY,” when I don’t get it. When I mom-it-up.

Gabriel is so easy to play with. I say, “Gabe do you want to play with me with your boat?” YES. YES HE DOES. And I let him lead a grand adventure about ghosts and witches and animals that die. Die die die. They always die. Terrible things are always befalling everyone. And hexes. So many hexes.

He is up to play any game I make up. He is up for it all.

“Ok, you have to try and keep the ball up in the air for as long as you can, but you can only hit it with one hand and you have to be sitting and you have to sit on the hand you’re not using.”

These are my rules. He makes sure we all follow them and take turns.

He loves and hide and seek. But he isn’t very good at concealing where he is hiding or even where he wants to hide. If it is my turn and he likes where I’ve just hidden, he will tell me, as I am walking away to count, that he is going to hide there too. We are trying to teach him the point of the game, but so far have not succeeded.

He whines. Oh god, the whining. He stomps his little feet and throws a mini tantrum when I tell him no. His whining makes me not want to give him anything ever in life.

His favorite characters are the bad guys. Always the bad guys. They are the most interesting, the most complicated, the most magical.

He likes to be carried, facing out, so he can fly like a bird. If he stops flapping he wants us to start to slowly drop him to the ground until he starts flapping again. He is heavy. This is hard. We indulge him.

His dad is his absolute best friend. On Monday mornings he is sad to say goodbye to his dad when he leaves for work or when we drive away, leaving Kamel to grab his coat and lock up before heading to the bus stop.

When Gabriel gets scared or hurt that is where I’m most needed. Any injustice? Mom. Sometimes when he tumbles off something I quickly say, “Gabriel! Are you ok?!” And he shrugs me off. “Stop saying that!” as he jumps back up. Sometimes when he startles himself I hover over him, giving him the wide eyed shocked face of “woah.” He looks up at me with initial concern until one of us starts to laugh. He will try and hide is smirk and say, “Stop it….” but the giggles are too much. “That was funny,” I say. He will mock fall over again as we both laugh.

Last week we were driving home from somewhere just before nap time and I didn’t want him to fall asleep in the car and truncate his actual nap. I looked back and his eyes were starting to close. I said “Gabriel, don’t fall asleep buddy, we’re almost home.” He looked at me and then turned his head to the side and with absolute defiance squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could. It made me laugh so much. We were both laughing. He is a really funny kid.

He has also been hiding one of the loose bricks in the front of our house and driving Kamel mad about it. For a long time Kamel couldn’t figure out where the brick had gone and who had taken it. Then we found it around the side of the house and Kamel couldn’t stop talking about who could have possibly put it over there. (I continually said it was the kids, Kamel was not convinced.) Then one day Kamel caught Gabe in the act of re-hiding it. When he asked why he was doing it, Gabriel¬†said “because I wanted you to think it was monsters!” while laughing. He is already playing tricks on us at barely 4 years old.

Fae’s First Birthday

Again, the plight of the sad second child is to have all posts about them up not even in their birthday month. Sorry Fae! The perk of the second child is that we are veterans at birthday parties by now and I think we did this one right.

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Way back in January I entered a lottery to rent a beach hot from the Seattle Parks Department. Talk about foresight! Growing up my family had most of the birthdays in the spring or in the fall. That continued with Kamel being September and Gabe being March. But now finally we get to celebrate a full-fledged summer baby.

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We did hot dogs on the grill, potato salad, macaroni salad, all the chips, and a cake that I had made from Safeway where I specified “covered in flowers.”

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It was really good.

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All the babies came to play. Babies upon babies, passed around, chased away from the grill, rolled in grass, cuddled, and tossed, and sunscreened.

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Fae was super impressed with all of her gifts and made her signature “ohh!!” face the entire present-opening time.

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To everyone who couldn’t make it, we missed you! And to everyone who came – thank you so much for making Fae’s first birthday so incredibly fun, laid back, and super summery.

*Kamel is the man behind the camera, but we need to do a better job of making sure he is actually IN the photos. 

**My dad was also ever-present, running about as he does, handling all the things and chatting with all of the people. I was so disappointed he wasn't pictured, but he is a hard one to pin down!

Fae’s First Year: The Video

I am so late to this! But at least it is still July? A video of Fae’s first year. [All the heart eyes! All of them!] Ps. Gabe was SO LITTLE when she was born. It breaks me into a million pieces.

Fae Turns One

This year has been the fastest year of my life. And I worry it only speeds up from here. A year ago Fae Lira Dupuis-Perez was born. It was an easy delivery, it was a hard recovery, it has been a scramble ever since.

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The very first photo of Fae, fresh out of the oven.

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For the first several weeks no one slept, you never do. Fae was up until 1am like it was the middle of the afternoon, and then would sleep sometimes until 9am, with a lot of restarts between. I have never felt more exhausted, sore, and over-touched than I did during the first two months.

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Fae at 1 month. 

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Fae at 2 months.

I have never met a more chill, happy baby than Fae. Gabriel was always a mover and a shaker. He didn’t really want to snuggle or be held in your lap. He wanted to go go go. And even though Fae walked months earlier than Gabriel, She spent the majority of her babyhood happily sitting in my lap and looking around, or chillin’ in her high chair, or playing independently with all of her brother’s choking hazard toys.

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Fae at 3 months.

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Fae at 4 months.

Fae has a signature whisper. She was slow-ish to babble, but raspberried constantly and because she lost her voice for several weeks early on, she developed a very cute whisper still used today. She often whispers to herself like she is mumbling spells under her breath.

She is sweet and snuggly, but also fearless and fiery. She has no problem pushing anyone away that she doesn’t want to be close to. She will enthusiastically shake her head NO and glue her mouth shut to any unwanted food. When she is unhappy she is immediately and immensely unhappy. There is no whimper, there is only hot rage.

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Fae at 5 months.

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Fae at 6 months. 

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Fae at 7 months.

She already throws tiny tantrums. And I find them hilarious. The best part about having two kids (And there are many good things and many many hard things) is that the stuff Gabe is doing is always way more stressful, way more involved, way more annoying. So baby tantrums? HAHA. I LAUGH AT YOU. I’m sure I also laughed at Gabe, but I think part of me was also like “how do we do this? What is baby tantrum protocol?” and now I feel like…. “Oh look, Fae threw herself on the ground bc we took away that plastic wrapper she was trying to eat. Ho hum.” Beautiful.

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Fae at 8 months.

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Fae at 9 months old.

Oh and the illnesses. My god, second children and being sick. But… And you can cock your eye brows at me in a few months… so far, Fae has weathered all of her many colds and rashes and two round of HFM like a CHAMP. I mean, clearly just wait for it. She is about to head into the land of toddler daycare, the germiest of all the rooms. So come January I’m sure I will be begging for mercy under a pile of empty kleenex boxes and puke buckets. So… yay the holidays.

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Fae at 10 months.

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Fae at 11 months.

The day I gave birth to Gabriel and the day I gave birth to Fae are the two most important days of my life. My love for them both grows every single day, though sometimes it does threaten to swallow me whole. Having a daughter, though she is 100% her own person and her actions and growth will one day be her very own, having her completes me as a person. Not that I’m done now, but that I’m whole now. I have waited for her for a very long time and she is infinitely more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.

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Fae at 12 months.

Fae Lira, you are my every day sunshine. Happy birthday my little bird. I would do it all again for eternity if I could.

The Year I Was 30

Two things first:

  1. This is the first time that this post has gone up late. It is usually a post that I am writing for many days before it goes live, and this year this post is being written today and going live this evening. I’m getting it time stamped just before the buzzer. That is a very good metaphor for how the last 6 months have been.
  2. I really am genuinely surprised an entire year has flown by already. It seemed suspiciously fast. I haven’t even had a chance to catch my breath and think about what 30 has been like. There has been NO TIME. Because my 30th birthday was last week and now I am 31 and what the fuck do I do with that?

Ok, with those things in mind… here we are. One whole year has shimmied past like a crazy flasher you think you saw, you’re pretty sure you saw, did you just see? Yes. You did.

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My 30th birthday looked like this.

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And I mean, that right there is a pretty fantastic 30th birthday while pregnant. If I do say so myself.

At the end of April I stopped working and went on pregnancy leave. And you guys, this pregnancy hurt. It hurt so much. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sleep, it hurt all over. I felt like shit for weeks and weeks at the end. Some days just needing to sleep, some days being too exhausted to even stand in the kitchen chopping vegetables. It was rough times. And it was HOT AS FUCK TIMES.

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Let’s just pause for a minute and meditate on how ROCKSTAR FABULOUS MY HAIR WAS. Damn, Gina.

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We also got our very first professional family portraits done by Rachelle! I can’t wait to hang them in our future, pretend land, hypothetical house someday!

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And honestly, that was the summer. It was hot, I was uncomfortable, we were in the wading pool and in splash parks as much as possible, I lived on my couch in front of our portable A/C unite as it whirred and whirred away.

And then my daughter was born. And I have never loved anything as immediately as I loved Fae.

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The weird thing about that, though, is that for basically all of the rest of July and all of August and maybe into September I was pretty sure we had made a huge mistake in having two kids. Like, I loved them both and I wanted them both just …. maybe not at the same time? A dilemma, indeed. Thankfully, that got better with time and now Gabriel and Fae were 100% meant to be together. Parts of themselves exist in the other.

Starting in August I was job searching a ton. Had several interviews, but nothing really materialized. Then in October I started working for a book writing/packaging company that works with a variety of publishers writing and repackaging non-fiction kid books and fiction young readers. It is a super fulfilling job, it is also insanely time consuming. And I am so grateful to my grad school friend, Jenny, in thinking of me for this position. One of those rare times where knowing people actually does pan out. (That’s never happened to me before.)

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In October, my Dad turned 60 and we all went to the beach for a long weekend. It was our first time out with the four of them. It was a ton of work just packing the car. But it was also adorable.

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All through the fall we had visitors to meet Fae, we all worked full time, and we also started Fae in daycare. Our new normal became set.

For the second year in a row, but for different reasons, Christmas was an incredibly exhausting experience. Wrangling two kids and all of their presents and family and trying to be in the moment and grateful and have meaningful check ins with everyone was…. too much.

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But Gabe was so stoked for presents for the first time ever and seeing that was total magic.

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In January Fae and I went on our first solo trip together! We went to Chicago to meet up with Claire and visit Maris and her new daughter, Sophia.

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It was like an airplane nursing marathon.

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It was some much needed best friend time …

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…and future best friend time.

In January Kamel and I also started the BIRL Podcast! We hadn’t embarked on a new creative venture in a long time and this one really did push me out of my comfort zone. I am so excited that it has been a success! Every time we sit down to record I am a little less terrified, but still pretty terrified. I have never listened to a podcast all the way through. I listen to it in bits and pieces… sometimes… just to make sure it is all there or to approve a transition, etc etc. but I have never full listened to one, and I probably won’t. It’s just too much self scrutiny.

February was winter and the kids and working and one week at a time.

March was Gabe’s third birthday!

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And we finally had enough saved to get pre-approved for the loan we wanted. In March we started our house hunting experience. An experience I grit my teeth through and pray for the best. We are still pushing through, scouring our house portal set up by our agents, visiting a half a dozen homes every week, scrutinizing the details, strategizing on what to offer, and on and on and on.

This April has definitely been the most exhausting month of my life. I have been working 10-12 hour days consistently, Fae was so sick with hand, foot, and mouth, and every spare moment Kamel and I are trying to find our next home. I have never been more tired. I have never felt like I’ve had more purpose in my life. The laundry has never been so abandoned.

Today, on my 31st birthday, I work up at 6am and got an hour in of work before the kids woke up. Kamel took Gabe to school while Fae hung back with me, so we could take her to her 9 month check up. Claire stopped by for a surprise delivery of balloons and pastry! The best! We had cake, picked out by Gabriel, presents, and pizza (delivered by my parents) after work. We have been scrambling to pack and prep for our trip to visit Kamel’s family in Miami tomorrow, between diaper changes and bed times and stories and hugs and all of the normal family hubbub. I am again, more tired than I ever thought I could consistently function through. I am again, alone on the couch at the end of an evening, toys and books on the ground, diaper bags and baby carriers on the couch, dirty bottles left in the sink.

But I am full. I am topped off to the brimmy brim. The year went by so quickly because I was running. Running with babies strapped to my back, running to catch up, running after the next big adventure. But the energy that is fueling this marathon? Is here, it is all of this, it is the pajamas from yesterday still sitting on the red chair, it is my yellow teapot from my sister in laws that makes me happy every time I see it, it is my best friends thinking of me and loving on me, it is being home in this place with my people, it is being ever confident in who I am and what I want and loving all of the people who I have surrounding me. If this is what my 30s are, I only want more.

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Birthday Party – 3 Years Edition

Last weekend we had our very first kid birthday palooza. And it went really well! Building up to the day I did have a few moments of, “Why am I doing this?” because… ugh, party throwing on top of all the usual stuff. But this year, Gabe’s birthday party was not at our house for the first time, people were not sitting thigh to thigh on my coach trying to balance cake and cups of coffee, and I didn’t have to do any cleanup! Glorious.

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We booked a room at the Seattle Children’s Museum. Jungle theme to go with lightly jungle themed party. The price of 1.5 hours in the¬†room included 30 guest admissions and a sea of tiny chairs.

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I made the cake! Daniel Tiger themed, a la this one. We bought natural, Trade Joes juice boxes and teensy bottled water for the kids, sparkling water for the grownups.

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There was candles and singing and presents.

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Tiger stripes! For a tiger cake! Thank you pinterest!

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(Special birthday shirt, purchased off etsy, here.)

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(How MOM do I look right here? Eesh.)

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We got the kids gift bags with a wind up snake, a spinning top, little animals stamps + stamp pad, figures of a butterfly, and a wild cat, and jungle themed crayons. These ones. Which I had to tell people were not chocolates. Ha!

They sat, with their little juice boxes, and played with their goodies and ate cake for like 40 minutes maybe? They chilled for a long time. It was magical. And adorable. Seeing Gabe play with other little kids is so my favorite. The way he calls their names and the way they react to him and how they just kind of GET each other. I could watch that all day.

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And then we set the babies free. And they owned that place.

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It was hard to really capture the chaos because they were zooming past us so fast.

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By the end, the kids were sweaty disasters. Fae had completely tapped out. We loaded our tiny clown car with the babies and the left over cake, and the napkins, and plastic plates, and presents, and stroller, and diaper bag, and headed home. We were home and the kids were in the bath by 1pm. We spent the rest of the day lounging in pajamas.

An excellent kid birthday had by all. If you’re looking for a birthday party location for your 2-4 year old, I highly recommend the Seattle Children’s Museum. So easy, and they were so incredibly kind to us.

Episode 11: The Best Birthdays

While prepping for this episode I had forgotten that for a lot of years I didn’t like my birthday. It’s awkward, you’re the only one getting presents, the expectations are really high, disappointment is inevitable to some degree, etc etc.

But sometimes, on those rare years, someone hooks you up and knocks it out of the park. Even though we have all had the shitty birthday years, I am so grateful for everyone who called in and shared their BEST birthday stories with me (and now you!). It has been the icing on a very hectic week over on our end, and I hope it makes sailing into the weekend that much sweeter.

Gabe Turns 3

Yesterday I was posting on Twitter about what March 8th was like for me 3 years ago. At this time we went to the hospital, at this time I started pushing, at this time Gabe was born, etc.

Gabe was born with the chord wrapped around his throat twice. It took him a while to start crying. He was taken to the little crib exam table thing right away after being born to check his vitals. Kamel took photos. Gabe still had blood on him, he was that fresh. I laid back and delivered my placenta while nurses tended to Gabe. I didn’t know that was not the norm. As far as I was concerned, everything was just great. We knew about the chord thing later, when they called it by a different name that I can’t remember now. It wasn’t until even later that I read about the differences in how they treat babies with chords wrapped around their necks right after delivery. It was by¬†happenstance, while researching something else about labor before we had Fae. What you don’t know the first time keeps you sane.

Gabe was slow to get good circulation. His arms and hands were white as sheets for a while. His fingernails were long and papery. His face was discolored from being bruised by my badass birth canal. His nose was flattened to his face. It had been quite the ordeal for him, being born.

Yesterday, as I looked through old posts about March 8th three years before, I came across this photo:

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You can see his tiny arms and hands are kind of grey. It happens. His body figured it out. But, what struck me about this photo is that… it’s Gabe, but not Gabe. That’s the baby I delivered but he is not the Gabe I know. That is my son, the newborn. But today I have Gabriel. I have a kid who has a rich and ever developing personality. A kid who has opinions and humor and concerns. He is real. He is present. Newborn Gabriel is a miracle, but he barely existed. Three year old Gabriel says things like…

“No, Daddy… not right now. I need to dance.”

“I’m all out of pee. I need to go to the grocery store to get more.”

“I love you too much, mama.”

“Where Fae go? Oh… she sleeping?”

“I pooooooooooooooooooped!!! I get DOS chocolate!”

Three year old Gabriel doesn’t stop when I say stop and ignores me when I say, “No.” We’re working on listening.

Three year old Gabriel knows he is funny.

Three year old Gabriel can get scared, he can get hurt feelings, he can be surprised, and delighted, and proud.

Three year old Gabriel loves musicals, Taylor Swift, Pharrell, Sia, Queen, and the Pentatonix.

How he got here and where he’s going is the best trip you can take.

Check out Gabe’s first birthday video and second birthday video.