A birthday letter to Case

Dear Case,

We brought you home 9 years ago, on Mother’s Day. Lucky me.

Case and Ozzie
The puppy you wished for forever is now your other “brother”.

You have been our sunshine from the start, our easy-breezy, aim-to-please-me child.

You still call me “Momma” and, baby, I’ll take it.

When I don’t have a stitch on my face, you tell me I’m beautiful. (But, then, my lipstick completely freaks you out.)

You’ll also squeeze me with the pluckiest hug and tell me I smell good. Like a cupcake. Like a flower. Like fresh spinach with salt. Which is cool. Cause you like spinach.

You’re a lover, not a fighter. So you’re not obsessed with fortnite, thank goodness, but you do know all the dance names—and their choreography. I love how you whole-body commit to each move, with a free and wide smile, revealing your permanent teeth finally growing in with crooked glory. Your teeth took forever to fall out. I get it. You’re hard to leave.

You can be as erratic as your freckles, sweet confetti across your cheeks. And untamed as your man-cub mane. Good grief–we go through unnatural amounts of detangler spray every morning. While I’m desperate to calm your hair, I never want to quell your silliness or thoughtfulness or need to be anywhere we are.

I love how you just want to be near us. When we’re walking and talking, you’ll put an arm around me or leave your hand on my shoulder. If we’re in separate rooms in the house, you’ll call out: “Momma?” “Yes, Case.” “Just wanted to say I love you!”. Translation: I wanna make sure you’re in earshot.

When you are semi-alone, you painstakingly create new dragon species and document their strengths and weaknesses in a special notebook. You rattle off random facts about animals that no one else knows because you learned it once on an animal show and tucked it deep in the folds of your beautiful brain.

You’re my favorite sous chef, with a taste for salad and sushi and Kalamata olives. You will try anything. And you chastise your older brother for leaving “perfectly good green beans” uneaten. You couldn’t be more different from your big bro, the old soul. But you couldn’t love him more.

BrothersYou always see the good, the light, the bright side. Maybe that’s what makes you such an ace photographer.

photographer Case

When someone is upset, you’re not scared of red faces, flailing tantrum limbs or rejection. You go right in for the hug. When you found out the kid everyone was picking on in after-care is on the Autism spectrum, you spent the rest of your time there playing with him. When kids “accidentally” knocked over a classmate’s lunch, leaving him with nothing to eat but a squeezy applesauce, you offered him your food. For religious reasons, he couldn’t accept it, even though you told him it was a gift from you to him. How did you even know to phrase it that way? When you won a stuffed dino in a carnival game this weekend, you immediately handed it to the little boy next to you. He beamed. I beamed. And when we asked you about it, you just shrugged. “I picked him out before the game, Momma, and I knew I’d win one for him.”

I keep waiting for the cynical to flip on, but you are simply the purest heart I’ve ever known.

Despite your great grades and invitations for junior achievement and junior honor society, you worry down deep that you’re not as smart as your brother. But, bud, your emotional intelligence outshines the EQ of several adults I’ve known.

Don’t get me wrong. You have your moments. While you don’t sass me out loud, your stomp-offs are Ehhh-Pic. Putting your clothes away puts you over the edge. Who knows how many hours and tears you’ve spent over unpacked sock drawers and piles of hangers. Eventually, though, you manage to get the job done. You’re always apologizing to me in the end, making me laugh with a silly joke—those dorky, kid-safe groaners. We’re both suckers for those.

Lately, you ask me why I start work so early and stop work so late. I have no real good answer for you. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve told you that my most important work is at home. We both know my default switch has been on the wrong setting.

Mickey Case
Disney digression.

But you, like your dad, you love fiercely, completely, without fine-toothed rationale. With you, there’s nothing measured or calculated. There’s nothing filtered, either. Words pop up with you and you believe everything’s better when it’s shared.

You ask hard questions, like: why aren’t dinosaurs in the bible? You pray bold prayers, always praying for other people, always leading by asking God to heal the ones we love who are desperate for healing. When things aren’t easy, your honesty is raw.

We both struggle to love God first and most when there’s so much consuming our hearts right here on Applecross Lane.

Adams boys

And my full heart is torn this year, Case, because you’re nine. Soon, you won’t reach for my hand as much–or at all. Soon, you won’t need to know that I’m just one room over. Soon, you may not choose time with me and your dad over anything else in this world. This next year, I may clutch your hand a little tighter, ask Alexa to tell us a few more jokes. I may even help you put your clothes away. I’m definitely signing my name as “Momma” until further notice.

I hope, in this next year, I give you my full, curious attention when you tell me about your dragons. I want to see every picture you take–and I hope it’s in the thousands. This next year, our kitchen is for dancing, even fortnite dancing, cooking and growing.

You won’t stay little much longer. But your amazingness is already so big.

So take courage, dear heart. Be strong and courageous. May this birthday be your happiest yet.

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Build-up to a birthday

Tucker turns 7 this year, but this year he had his very first birthday party.

Because he has a summer birthday (and because I never want to test the elements again) he agreed on an indoor shindig. And because our daily reality goes something like this:

Keep Calm

We went with a Lego theme. There are Star Wars Legos. Super Hero Legos. Ninja Legos. Tucker could be content to manipulate, build, deconstruct and re-imagine with Legos for hours. And there just happens to be a place in town that specializes in Lego Birthdays. Can I get a whoop whoop?

So, we sent out invitations.

Photo by: Valerie Bogle
Photo by: Valerie Bogle

And I pilfered Pinterest. There are fab freebie printables out there. My favorites were the labels we wrapped around Powerade.

prep

Yup. I referenced the deuce.

Now, at our house, I’m always the potty-words police. You have to regulate with two little boys, so I usually poo poo the ew talk. But for Tucker, this was the ultimate hilarity. This and the whoopie cushions for the goodie bags.

goodie bags

With another free printable, we made a mask for each guest.

Masks

And we filled an assorted collection of glass jars with an assortment of white, yellow and red candy. To be all Lego-y.

color coordinated candy

Then, it was party time. Bricks 4 Kidz was ready to celebrate the birthday boy.

signs

The venue is a comfy old home they’ve transformed into a play palace. Each room hosts a new building opportunity. So, the only thing I had to do was set up the food table. With my sweet Mom’s help, that was a piece of cake. Or donut.

table 2

table 1
Lego candy was a must. You can eat it and build with it. A chance to play with your food? 7-year-old heaven.

Tucker’s buds jumped right in to playing while we waited on all the guest to arrive. (I need a table like this for our house.)

table play

When all of his friends were there, we started the first activity–an outdoor Lego relay. Then everyone trooped back inside for the first build–an electric Lego car.

electric cars

I’ve never seen such a polite and patient group of little people. Their fingers were twittering between parts and pieces and they shouted encouragement to teams across the table. Tuck, my thoughtful and meticulous one, was in his element with his favorite friends. Then, as the final ta-da, their motorized creations actually moved with the touch of a button. Legos have come a long way, folks.

After everyone’s vehicle had its victory jaunt, it was time for Happy Birthday.

singing

Tucker chose donuts over cake, which was just fine with me. And I know a few kids reached for seconds (and thirds). Sorry, parents.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

A-buzz with sweets, it was back to the building blocks. This time, they each built a car they got to keep. So, the selection process was a serious business.

Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Birthday Boy
Birthday Boy

When each oh-so-carefully-constructed car was complete, we hit the high note. They got to race their creations side-by-side.

racing 1

racing 2

The acoustics in that old house were built for lego car racing. Those few minutes of high-fiving and hollering made the room sing. And my boy’s excitement was electric.

But, we only had an hour and a half. So, after the races, there were goodie bags and good-byes.

goodie bag table

I asked the boys and their Marmee (grandma) if they had a good time. And this was their response:

expressions

Lucky seven. Lucky me.

4

What perfect looks like

I made it as a mom more than 6.5 years before I finally gave in to hosting a birthday party. Oh, we’ve had plenty of celebrations and cake and unbirthdays (read: plenty of celebratory cake).

But I’d never done the official pick-a-theme-invite-all-your-friends-stress-me-the-heck-out kind of party.

I finally decided this was our year and for our littlest guy’s (that’s Case) 4th birthday party, he landed on dinosaurs. So, I did the sensible thing and spent a late night (or five) binge pinning clever, adorably easy-looking DIY dino party ideas. Roar.

Roar

Then, eyeball-deep in dino decisions, my namby-pamby right brain had a melt down. It’s the reason I hadn’t planned a party yet. I don’t plan. I don’t list. I don’t allot. Schedule. Formulate. Organize. Nope.

This is going to be hard, I thought.

This is going to be the best party ever, my then-3-year-old Case squealed, with innocent, absolute faith in me.

Determined to do it myself on the cheap, I reserved a pavilion in our neighborhood park and forced myself to make lists. I asked Case what he wanted. A dinosaur piñata and dinosaur cupcakes. Check.

I added a few things that I wanted: a themed invite to, you know, set the mood, themed activities, a suite of themed, designed signs, platters & such. Balloons for every kid, which I read was a must.

invite

I checked off a few lists and hoped for a dry, sunny day. The forecast tortured me for a week, calling for a 60% chance of afternoon storms during our afternoon, outdoor party.

The day finally came—a dry, shiny, blustery day.

That darn wind. Not the sweet, gentle spring-type breeze.  No, no. It was a don’t-wear-a-dress (guess who wore a dress??) kind of wind.

The wind was totally PMSing.

I swear, my sister and I re-set the tables 3 times. We couldn’t even tape down the kraft paper. Hats and buckets were flying. My oh, so clever signs defied duck tape. The balloons that I had envisioned whimsically hovering beneath the pavilion roof were more tangled than Tiana and Naveen’s froggy tongues (Disney digression).

Tiana/Prince Naveen tongue tangle

Then the unthinkable happened. Guests started arriving before I was done. Before the table was set. Before my Pinterest-perfect party was ready to be beheld.

The party was windswept before it even started. I sent the punctual guests to play on the playground while I tried to squall-proof the set up by just setting out the basics.

Hats

Dino buckets

Sweet Eaters 2

Plant Eaters

Meat Eaters

Soon, all the kids, giddy with the promise of digging up treasure, were bounding back to the pavilion. So, we launched Operation Temporary Tattoo with a super sophisticated system—paper towels and water. Each kiddo was branded with a prehistoric critter.

Now, official paleontologists, they claimed their tools by writing their names on their bucket tags. Then, it was off to the Dinosaur Egg Hunt. I found these awesome eggs with a fun texture and a great prize inside. We were scheduled to be in full force egg hunt fun for at least a half hour. These super sleuthy kids found all the eggs in a matter of minutes—like, less than 5—and stashed them in their buckets.

name tags

Tucker's tag

The Egg Hunt

The next item on the ‘ol trusty schedule was activity #2, so we gathered at The Dig Site. This activity was the kids’ favorite and I wish I’d gone with deeper tins. They were content for a solid half hour (yay, schedule!) to comb through the sand with tiny paintbrushes, committed to finding each buried treasure. We’d hidden these dino skeletons and shiny confetti in the play sand and they kept every piece they found in their buckets.

Dig Site

Digging

Digging 2

Right before my birthday boy’s coveted piñata pull, the wind threw a tantrum and knocked over a glass bottle that was filled with edible dino eggs (jelly beans). So, we went on an impromptu Jurassic jaunt around the park while the dads made sure each shard of glass was tossed.

parade

PSA: Glass bottles and mason jars? Cute and festive and presh, no doubt. Outdoors on a windy day? No ma’am.

Finally, the piñata pull commenced and Case’s life, to that moment, was complete.

After they collected all the candy in their buckets, we passed out the dinosaur cupcakes and sang happy birthday.

Cupcakes

His candle was sweetly snuggled in a sea of jelly beans in a mason jar. I was going to pluck it out for the song, but I didn’t want to tempt the wind or attempt to light a match. So, he didn’t blow out a candle. And that’s okay. I’m hopeful that his wish had already come true.

Because, after that, the real party started. My activities only took us through an hour and a half of the two-hour time frame. But his friends all wanted to stay and play. So they ran around and roared at each other and watched balloons wander through the sky and collapsed in a sweaty kid heap. They had ridiculously amazing unscheduled fun. Imagine that.

friends

balloons 1

ROAR

I had imagined this perfect party for my littlest one’s birthday. All Case wanted was to have candy and cupcakes with his friends. For him, perfection was as simple as giggles and sweets. That’s it. And I never want to forget what that kind of perfect looks like.

 my heart

 (Special thanks to my pal Francisco–the super skilled dino sign designer. To my amazing sister who worked MacGyver-like miracles with duck tape. And huge hugs to Martha who captured so many sweet memories that day.)