Every year on my children’s birthdays, I try to take photos throughout the whole day and then post them here. I love looking back on each birthday to see how they have changed and grown! Here is Lena’s first birthday, first party, second birthday, second party, and third birthday (and no party because her mama grew up too, hardy har), as well as Gil’s first and second birthdays.
This year Elliott’s parents were visiting but went home the day before Lena’s actual birthday, so we celebrated before they left with a special meal and a couple of presents. Her grandparents bought her the doll stroller she’s been asking about; I’ve heard her say, “For my birthday I want a balloon and a doll stroller” for the past four months or so.
We made Lena close her eyes while I brought the stroller out, covered in a blanket. Lena opened her eyes and saw the gift, but then she totally turned the tables on us and told us to close our eyes while she now did the unveiling. We complied…
The stroller itself, for those who are wondering, is an antique, but I bought it off my neighborhood yard sale (on behalf of Lena’s grandparents) and so all that I know is that it was made between the 1920s and 1950s. It needed a little TLC when we got it, including new screws for the handlebars and some bedding to make her doll comfortable. My mom and mother-in-law both contributed to the little mattress and quilt inside the stroller. I love what a collaborative effort this gift was!
On Lena’s actual birthday, Gil woke up early, and he was excited to go into Lena’s bedroom when she woke up to sing “Happy Birthday” with us. Unfortunately this is the last thing she wanted to hear right as she opened her eyes. ;)
She posed with her presents, which she opened slowly, one by one, throughout the day. Please admire my wrapping job, which included the very last of all the wrapping paper I have left over from my wedding and baby showers! Do you think that means I can finally, in good conscience, buy some of this gorgeous paper?!
Friends and family were so generous, as always. Here Lena is studying a card and wearing a beautiful handmade dress from my dear friend Nicole (who attended Lena’s 1st birthday party in Sicily with her family!) and is jumping in pink knee-high socks from her Auntie Jess.
The “most played with” gift award goes to this toy. I can’t even believe how much time we all (including friends who visit) spend building and creating with it. Thanks to everyone who recommended them on this post! You were so right.
Elliott came home for lunch and we took the kids to the carousel at the zoo, continuing the tradition from Gil’s birthday. Carousels are so hard to capture even in multiple photos, but trust me when I say that this one is a gem.
At home, our quiet, everyday routine prevailed after all the excitement. Lena and I snuggled together to read before her “nap”/rest time, just like we always do, and today she picked Paddington.
After naps, the kids opened a gift from her great-grandparents while Lena wore her birthday gift from her Auntie Em.
It was kinetic sand!!! Love this stuff.
The kiddos continued to help in the kitchen, this time to make Lena’s birthday cake. She has been asking for “a strawberry cake” for a year, after having a raspberry cake last year. I finally decided to use this pavlova recipe (thank you, Amanda!) and top the meringue with fresh cream and strawberries. Unfortunately Gil grabbed the salt shaker when I wasn’t looking and did some serious damage to the flavor, but… life goes on!
At the end of the day, I needed groceries and Lena still needed the balloon that I promised her for a birthday gift six months ago, so we went to the commissary… just me and her. What a treat to be alone, just the two of us! We both kept looking at each other like, “Where’s Gil?”
At home, I made a meal that Lena loves: roast chicken with root vegetables, green beans (under the foil, and with lots of butter!), and fresh fruit. My dad was in town and joined us for the meal, which made it even more special.
And then this little lady finally let us sing “Happy Birthday” to her!
Like most, this day was not without its mishaps (like the too-salty pavlova and the Fiasco of the Frozen Balloon, may it now forever be forgotten), but it was also full of thankfulness for one very precious little girl.
To end on a more thoughtful note, I want to say what great joy Lena gives me with her heart and her faith. We clash daily over wills (more often than me and Gil) and frustrate each other all day long; she’s not perfect and I’m definitely not either. Even still, despite all our mistakes, she is loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, and she is truly an amazing and tender big sister. She will run to Gil when he cries, like when he wakes up in the morning, and she is inclusive and compassionate and joyful with him. I’m amazed by her memory of things that happened two years ago (“That’s what we did in Sicily… I’m not sure if you remember, but I do”) and of formative moments that we would never have known made such an impression (“Mama, do you remember when I went to the Pumpkin Playground with Grampa and Marmee?” two and a half years ago). She’s silly and strong and curious and bright and hopeful.
Above all, she speaks matter-of-factually and often about God, his death, his resurrection, and her sure place in heaven. She anticipates seeing Aunt Booie there one day. She prays aloud before meals with a childlike sweetness, and I do believe — and I do not say this lightly — that she loves and knows Jesus. This gives her mother’s heart the greatest joy of all.
I love you, my precious Lena. You are such a gift to us!