Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dear Annie,

This is the scene that greeted you when you woke up as a big five-year-old on Friday morning. You opened a few presents at breakfast - books, craft items, clothes, headbands, a wand and crown, and new pj's that match Molly's (snuck home from the Chicago trip). You wished me Happy Birthday and gave me a big hug and kiss, too.

You opened the Strawberry Shortcake singing card that Jemma picked out for you.

I think you felt pretty magical . . .

Then, like any other day now, you went to school. We dropped you off, then returned at 10:30 to bring your birthday treat to the class of 23 very excited kindergarteners. You got to take the first "birthday bite" of your Robinette's cinnamon sugar donut after the class sang Happy Birthday to you (the first of three times you'd be sung to that day).

After school, for rest time, you needed to wear your new pj's to be comfy.

At 3:30, we kicked off your Ballerina Birthday party with 9 other little girls and a very capable, patient, fun teacher, Miss Annie.

I know this was supposed to be your day - and you had a wonderful time - but, secretly, my favorite part of this party was watching Jemma. She literally could not believe that she was getting to hang out with you and all the big girls. We had initially not been sure if she'd be able to keep up for the whole party, but we needn't have worried. She was completely engrossed, listening to Miss Annie, doing exactly what the big girls were doing. She danced her little heart out, and then, every once in a while, mid-dance, she'd run over to me where I was taping and taking pictures, give me a huge hug and kiss, and then run right back to her place and twirl and tap some more. A-dorable. You thought so, too.

This cake? So, okay, you take a naked Barbie to this grocery store and they build the cake around it so the Barbie looks like she's wearing a glorious ball gown and the gown is cake. No one could believe their eyes, especially you.

The whole group, just before we said good-bye.

Was the birthday over? Nooooooooooo. We headed back home for family dinner with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We grilled burgers and hot dogs, ate at a big table outside, then sat back and ate peanut butter cake as you opened more presents. I think the favorite item was the pink Sleeping Beauty dress-up dress, which you promptly put on and insisted on wearing to the football game. We let you.

When it was all said and done, your fifth birthday (and my 32nd, not that it counted at all) lasted a good fourteen hours, and Daddy and I tucked two tired and happy little girls into bed after 9:00, then settled down on the couch to drink some pumpkin beer, rehash the day, and listen to the lingering sounds of the football game drift in our open windows.

It was a lot. It was maybe too much, for one day, but I think it was your best birthday yet, and I'm convinced you're going to have great memories of it for a long, long time to come. Because you remember things now, not just for a couple of days, but, you know, forever. You are a regular person with a sneaky sense of humor, muscular calves, a love of Crayons and chewing gum, and a stubborn streak a mile wide. We've watched you, these last few days and weeks, surpass our expectations. We've watched you fall off your bike, then get back on and wobble down the sidewalk, determined to master a two-wheeler. We've started having you read to us - just a few words, here and there - in bed at night, instead of the other way around. We've watched you protect your little sister, encourage her, teach her new things (and fight with her, of course). We've felt so, so lucky to be raising a healthy, happy, brave, generous person whose questions keep us on our toes every minute of every day. We've exhausted ourselves making your fifth birthday as special as possible, and it was completely worth it.

I love you, big five-year-old!


And p.s.? Jemma? Thanks to The Sleep Fairy and her never-ending supply of Jelly Beans, Jemma is sleeping in her big-girl bed with gleeful regularity. Laughing with you in it a lot, too.

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