Hi there. I’ve missed you. I’m still alive, but as predicted, September was completely crazy for our family. We kicked off the month with Parker and Clint’s bdays, followed shortly by my 6 day business trip. Escrow closed on our new home on September 19th (woo hoo!), and a week later we moved in. It doesn’t look like things are slowing down any time soon either as we still have boxes to unload, a condo to rent, and work craziness for both me and Clint (in fact, I drafted this post while on a plane heading out on another business trip). I will be sharing more about the new house soon, but first I want to share the story of Parker’s 4th birthday.
I thought this would be the year that we would have a “real” party for Parker. Then I started thinking about the invite list and realized we only have a few friends and family members with young kids, so if any of them couldn’t make it, it wouldn’t be much of a party. Parker does have quite a few friends at school, and I didn’t see why we couldn’t just celebrate with them at school like we usually do. Parker’s main birthday celebration always ends up being at the river because his birthday falls on Labor Day weekend, and our family enjoys spending long summer weekends at the river. Parker loves playing at the river, and it is the perfect opportunity for him to spend time with his grandparents (my parents have a trailer at the river) and his cousins (it’s only a couple hour drive for them… much shorter than coming to our house). Parker’s favorite people are his family members anyway. So all of this led me to the conclusion that our current birthday traditions for Parker are actually pretty great. Maybe next year will be the year of the “real” birthday party– after all, he’ll be turning 5, and he has friends in our new neighborhood that he’ll probably want to celebrate with, but back to this year…
I decided to kick the school birthday celebration up a notch this year and bring decorations. Although Parker has never seen The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show or movie, they are all the rage at his school, so he really likes them right now. I picked up a Ninja Turtle tablecloth, napkins and plates from Target, and I even splurged on Ninja Turtle pens for each of the kids and a Ninja Turtle shirt for Parker. I wanted to make it really special for him. Of course I continued my tradition of bringing carrot cake cupcakes (no frosting so we could comply with school policy and call them muffins). We had the party on Thursday (my day off). We got there early to setup, and then the boys went outside to play with their friends (normally Austin wouldn’t be outside at this time, but I kept him with us, and he loved playing with the big kids).
When we came inside the kids all sang “Happy Birthday” to Parker and then sat down for cupcakes (ahem, muffins). Austin was still with us and sat at the table right next to Parker. The kids loved the decorations and were super excited about the pens. After the celebration ended Austin went to play in his classroom while I joined Parker for circle time (they read stories, sing, go over the calendar, etc.) and centers (the children divide into groups for fun activities like art based upon that week’s theme, creating patterns with blocks, or building with Lincoln Logs). I always enjoy observing Parker in his school environment, and I was a big hit too (most of the time I had Parker and two of his friends on my lap). When lunch time came I took the boys home to eat and nap, and after nap we walked to a park to play. It was a fun pre-birthday party!
*Note: The boys are at a new school now near our new house, but we hadn’t moved at the time of the party, so all school references are referring to their old school.
Friday evening we drove out to the river after work/school. Saturday we enjoyed a casual day with my parents, Sunday we were joined by Parker’s uncles and cousins, and Monday was the big birthday party (we drove home that evening). Saturday started out with some excitement. While we were playing at the beach, a river neighbor came down carrying chairs and then squealed and jumped when she realized there was a lizard on them. The lizard ran toward us, and the boys were of course thrilled to see a lizard (I don’t know that we’ve ever run into one at the river before). Parker immediately captured him, but I didn’t feel right about leaving the lizard trapped in a kids’ sand bucket all day, so I had Parker let him go. He didn’t go far though and seemed content hanging out by our cooler. We started discussing names for our lizard, and Parker came up with Lion Bingo, the obvious name for a lizard. He was a pretty cute little reptile, and the name Parker gave him made me like him even more, so we were all kind of bummed when Lion Bingo disappeared. However, at the end of the day, when we took our cooler back up to the trailer we found Lion Bingo on it. We were not exactly sure where he had been hiding, but finding him again seemed like a sign that we should keep him.
We put him in a small box for the night that we filled with leaves and sticks, and we decided that we would try to get him crickets and a proper home the next day after church. Unfortunately the pet store in town had closed down and the Kmart didn’t have anything. So we asked my brother to pick some crickets up on his way to the river. We also decided Lion Bingo needed a bigger home, so we filled one of my mom’s totes with dirt, leaves, sticks and rocks and transferred Lion Bingo into it. Shortly thereafter, my brother, being the good sport that he is, showed up with a bag of crickets, and we shook a couple in. Later though we realized that the crickets we had put in for him didn’t seem to be the most active crickets in the world (in fact, some may call them dead). We decided to put some fresh ones in only to discover that the crickets in the bag were no longer hopping around. I couldn’t believe I had managed to kill them all after my brother had successfully transported them all that way! I did some research, and it turns out that if you want to have a pet lizard, you not only need to keep him alive, but you also have to provide a home and food for insects to feed him. This was the turning point for me with the lizard. He went from seeming like a cool new pet to a lot of work. Sadly I began to acknowledge that we probably should release Lion Bingo rather than bring him home, but we still wanted to enjoy the weekend with him. When Clint’s brother Luke (our resident biology expert) showed up, he identified Lion Bingo as a Mediterranean Gecko. I couldn’t believe we’d found a gecko! I had always thought geckos were cute in pictures, which might explain why I liked Lion Bingo so much. That’s when I started to have second thoughts about letting him go (stay tuned for the exciting conclusion :)).
We all had a great time playing at the river together, and Parker enjoyed being surrounded by some of his favorite people. I think the pictures say it best…
Parker picked out a chocolate balloon cupcake cake for his birthday (it is hard to transport a cake to the river, so we allow Parker to pick out his cake from the store in town). We had hot dogs and corn dogs for lunch, followed by cake and presents. We even had a special guest stop by: my aunt and uncle (my dad’s brother). Parker was thrilled with all his gifts, and I was pleased that we were able to find gifts for him this year that were small and portable (i.e. action figures). He was even excited about his new shoes and socks, perhaps because we had gotten him tennis shoes in his favorite color red, and his socks had Lightning McQueen and Dusty (from the movie Planes) on them.
Shortly after nap it was time to head home. My final decision was that we should release Lion Bingo. Clint picked him up and handed him to Parker who set him free. It was sad to let him go, and I second guessed myself again on the way home, but it was most likely the right thing to do.