Birthday Love

Yesterday I got a year older.

Actually, Benji asked me a real poser about that: “How do you get older?” I said, “One day at a time.” While I thought that was a pretty good answer, Benji didn’t really buy it. After that I ran out of answers, since “It just happens over time” also didn’t satisfy.

I had a nice birthday. Benji had the idea of making vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and strawberries on top for me; he also wanted to go to the toy store and help Ian pick out a present for me. They did both those things, which was very sweet. The present was, perhaps not surprisingly, a 3-in-1 Lego vehicle set — the exact thing Benji would want! But in fact it does give me a wonderful present: peace and quiet while Benji “helps” build the set.

One of my coworkers made sweet biscuits and brought them in with strawberries and whipped cream to make strawberry shortcake for my birthday, which was also very kind and thoughtful. In the afternoon, I got to ride home with a biking buddy who works in Fremont, which was especially nice because we had a vigorous headwind.

And I got to have a nice hour-long chat with Colleen, who also sent me an adorable picture of Lumpy the Dragon for my birthday:
Lumpy

All in all, a nice quiet birthday. We’ll get together with my parents over the weekend and use the excuse of my recent birthday to eat tasty treats. I’m also using the excuse of my birthday to take Friday off and have a 4-day weekend. The weather has (mostly) turned nice, and things are looking summery, which bodes well for the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride we plan to do on Memorial Day.

Friday Photos: Now We Are Four

Benji turned four on Monday. For his birthday, he asked not for more presents, but for money so he could buy the toy he’s been saving for with his allowance. So, at our small family party, we did a scavenger hunt in which Benji slowly found about $5 (in $1 bills, of course) from each family, giving him enough to buy the truck he’s wanted since he and Ian went to Seaside a month ago. A month is a long time to wait when you’re four!

On Tuesday, we acquired the much-desired truck set first thing in the morning, even before his 4-year checkup.
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Speaking of the 4-year checkup, the long and short is that, after taking another urine sample from Benji, his regular doctor took him off the antibiotics — possibly the best birthday gift ever for me and Ian! The second sample was completely normal and healthy, no infection to be seen, and we’d already done the drugs for five days. The doctor said normally he’d only prescribe a 3-day course for a UTI anyway, so we were done! Hallelujah!

The other small birthday presents for Benji turned out really fun, too. First, Grammy and Papa Gary gave Benji a fort. That is, it’s really a lightweight square tarp with a ton of Velcro elastic bands all over it and a door and window on the sides. It’s kind of like a rain fly without the tent. You can use it to hook to all sorts of different things, such as (in a non-hypothetical example) kitchen chairs. Instant fort!
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Mom and Dad gave him some small Lego sets, which has set off a Lego craze at our house. Fortunately, Ian and I are well-equipped to handle such a craze, having retained all our childhood Legos for just such an occasion. Right now Ian and I are mostly doing the building, as it requires a level of fine-motor dexterity and strength Benji doesn’t have yet.

Actually, that’s something I want to work on, but I’m not quite sure how. When he thinks he can’t do something, like put together Legos, he just gives up without trying, or with only a halfhearted attempt. I’m not sure how to encourage willingness to try and fail. Since Ian and I are both recovering perfectionists, we aren’t exactly the best guides here.

Anyway, last but not least, when Colleen and Jordan visited, Colleen wore a camo jacket that Benji really liked. They played a camo search game where she “hid” while wearing her camo jacket and Benji had to find her. It was quite a delightful surprise to receive a camo jacket of Benji’s own in time for Benji’s birthday.
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In keeping with the Camo Game, here’s Benji being camouflaged in the park. Because scorching hot summer temperatures never stopped us from enjoying a fleece jacket!
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Last but not least, and not related to Benji’s birthday, after obtaining our CSA share, we got to visit Papa Joe at his work yesterday. This involved a lot of shushing on the parts of us adults as we walked around the up-high mini-track that went around the main work floor, but overall Benji did a nice job. It was a bit of a vertiginous view out the windows from that vantage, too.
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Secret Diary of Benji Ferguson: One Year

Yesterday I turned one year old, and this reminds me that some months have elapsed since I’ve had the opportunity to update this log. In times past, I would have felt some concern on account of my responsibility to report in, but now, I confess, that life — the training, the exercises, the very worldview — they all seem hazy, someone else’s dream. My life has moved on. I no longer expect to return to secret organization to report back, because Mommy and Daddy have shown me the truth. Now I have more important things to do. For example:

  • I’ve mastered Army crawling, this mode of locomotion has served me well for months and, indeed, allowed me to progress beyond the rather crude rolling with which I began my independent locomotion career. However, one can only move so fast Army crawling. That is why, in the last two weeks, I decided to adopt hands-and-knees crawling. This provides me with the notable benefits of traveling faster than Mommy and Daddy over short distances; keeping my bare tummy from getting rug burns when I’m not wearing a onesie; and allowing me to look around and see things higher up more easily. It also is much easier to transition to and from sitting from this position.
  • Of course, crawling only gets a baby so far. I’ve noticed recently that Mommy and Daddy have been holding out on me for some time: They keep all sorts of fascinating stuff up high, in areas out of my reach. Or at least, what used to be out of reach, because once I saw the fun blinking lights, breakable objects, and spillable liquids kept above my head height, I immediately decided to start working on standing up. Right now I still need to pull up and hold on to furniture (including mobile furniture like whichever of my caretakers proves convenient), and I haven’t yet figured out how to move side-to-side (“cruise” is the term I’ve heard used), but I’m working on that. I have at least achieved enough stability to stand balancing only with one hand. Mommy and Daddy follow me around very carefully now; they seem to think I’m a hazard. Can’t imagine why.
  • Food! Oh, I do love solid food. That is, I love it most of the time. Sometimes I don’t really feel like it at all, actually, and then I pick it up and hold it over my head and then drop it, massage it into my hair or face, or smoosh it around on my tray so that Mommy and Daddy don’t feel bad that they took it out and I don’t want it. Okay, I admit, I’ve not yet turned down cheese. I love cheese… except for the brie Mommy gave me one time. That, I spit out. Who would voluntarily expose their tongues to such flavors? But Mommy says babies can’t live on cheese alone, so I eat beans and avocado with avidity. I like raspberries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, and strawberries when I can get them; not so much applesauce, which seems to puzzle my parents. I also like eating whatever the grown-ups around me are eating, and by actively begging, I have received lunch meat, pasta, rice, salmon, halibut, potatoes, very soft carrot bits, banana, honeydew melon, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich (a combination surely invented by a genius)… I forget what all. Eggs make my tummy itchy, though, so I don’t eat those.
  • Oh, yes, I almost forgot to mention talking. Mommy and Daddy constantly make noises at themselves and at me. It’s taken me some time to realize that, beyond the entertainment factor of watching their faces contort amusingly and hearing the absurd squeaks and grunts they produce, these sounds seem to actually have some kind of meaning. I’ve been working on reproducing those sounds, but so far to no avail. My parents mimic the sounds I make back to me, but they don’t seem to understand that I want them to do something. Hello, I’ve been in my car seat long enough! No need to spend more time in here! I’m all done and ready to get out! –they don’t seem to get the message, and sometimes I get so frustrated, I just have to yell! Sometimes I yell anyway, of course, just for fun. I do know how to tell them “all done” by waving my hands a certain way, but that only works sometimes. I’ve tried telling them “all done” when they’re changing my diaper or when I’m in my car seat too long, but it doesn’t work then. Is this language thing contextual? I don’t understand the nuances, and clearly more research is required.
  • I’m having fun playing with toys like pot lids that spin on the kitchen floor, drawers with pulls that open (and sometimes bite my fingers – oww!), the tags that seem to appear on every object, oh and of course all the actual toys provided by grown-ups. I don’t really have any favorites, although I spend quite a bit of time playing with the pirate ship great-Pop pop made for me… and I do enjoy putting lids into and out of the lid bank (a yogurt container with a Medela-bottle-lid-sized hole cut in the top, and a half-dozen Medela bottle lids). I like books, too, not so much to read in standard left-to-right page-by-page order but to flip the pages randomly back and forth. I’m not so patient with reading stories as I was; there’s just so much to learn and explore. I also like other babies, but they aren’t very tolerant about my exploring by pulling hair, poking eyes, and grabbing skin.

In short, I’m too busy to worry about subverting Mommy and Daddy. I’ve got things to do, places to go! Yesterday I turned one year old, and my new motto is “Go, go, go!”

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Benji making a pot lid spin.

27 Years: Pass the Shortcake

Day’s Verse:
“Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you…”

Jeremiah 1:5

Well, I’m happy to say that since the Rapture didn’t happen, I get to turn 27 after all. What a relief. Of course, there’s something kind of gloomy about turning 27 years old — it feels like a big step closer to 30; it’s not prime, although it should be (7, 17, 37, and 47 are all prime); it’s not a milestone in any way. That said, I’m very grateful for the years I’ve had, and for the years ahead.

Yesterday, my family got together for strawberry shortcake and a game of Gloom. Strawberry shortcake is my traditional birthday cake of choice, and has been for years, ever since Colleen was allergic to strawberries and we never had them in the house except for on my birthday. Now she can eat strawberries, but I still love strawberry shortcake on May 23. There were no local Washington strawberries, thanks to our very cold, wet spring, but California strawberries came through for us.

To celebrate today, on my actual birthday, here’s what I pulled out of the fridge for breakfast.
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And here it is, my strawberry shortcake breakfast of champions.
Birthday Shortcake

I nearly swoon over those shortcakes, called Orange Scone Cakes — the recipe is heavenly. It’s online here, or in my Recipes from Home cookbook, page 103. Lemon zest, especially from Nana’s Meyer lemons (thanks, Nana!), substitutes well for orange zest.

I have no exciting plans for today, my actual birthday, except to do some chores around the house and get my resume updated. Thrilling 27-year-old activities!

Best Movie Experience Ever

Day’s Verse:
The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Yesterday was Ian’s birthday. He turned, oh, approximately mid-to-late 20s. Age aside, we decided to celebrate by using our gift certificate to Gold Class Cinemas to see True Grit.

It’s difficult to describe how excellent the entire experience was. First of all, we dressed up. This made me realize that (a) I need to get a pair of nice shoes; (b) I’ve lost weight and my good dress doesn’t fit as well as I’d like; (c) I need to learn how to do long hair so it looks good. All that aside, I felt pretty sexy getting dressed up and going on a date, and that was fun. Also, Ian looks good in a suit.

Second, Gold Class Cinemas is super luxurious, despite their excessive fondness for the color orange. They had a lounge with a fireplace where we waited, looked at a menu, and ordered dinner — which we opted to eat during the movie. In the theater, we had a pair of huge, incredibly comfortable reclining seats that had a small table between them. On the table was a button to summon a server (I used it once, to get a blanket and more water). We received our appetizer shortly after the movie started. When we finished that, they brought our dinner and side (the fries were huge and delicious), and we finished with dessert a bit later. What really struck me was how quiet the theater was. Usually you hear people whispering, seats creaking, candy wrappers crinkling, etc.; conversations are totally out of the question. In that theater, we could have a low-voiced conversation without disturbing anybody else. It was so comfortable, I almost forgot I was in a movie theater. So the theater experience was superlative.

The movie itself? One of the best I’ve seen in a few years. It reminded us of Gran Torino. The acting was superb — Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon could hardly have done better — the cinematography excellent, the music spot-on, the story compelling. It had many moments of unexpected humor, which contributed significantly to the overall tone. I lost myself in the movie completely. I suspect that we’ll end up purchasing the DVD eventually. Wonderful.

As I said: Best movie experience we’ve had, possibly ever. And an excellent way to celebrate Ian’s birthday, except that this’ll be hard to beat.