This weekend, our sweet Maryn celebrated her 7th birthday. We were supposed to take our baby groundhog to Winterplace for snowtubing, but a storm and freezing temperatures forced us to delay the trip by a day.
In the midst of moving my aunt from her home to the Hubbard Hospice House, a number of writing deadlines and dismissals at school, I wasn’t sure if I could pull a family birthday party together. It was another special occasion brought to you by Target and Kroger, but our not-so-little one seemed thrilled. She asked for a “Rio” birthday party, which would have been a lot easier three years ago when the movie was in theaters and supply stores.
After the week I’d had, I noticed that I was buying more festive decorations from the Cinco De Mayo section than the tropical island garb. I decided that shot glasses weren’t necessary….for building blocks. She’s too old for that sort of thing (I told you it had been a bad week).
With tissue paper palm trees (total junk — they lasted all of 10 seconds), shimmery pineapple centerpieces (the cat chewed on the leaves), some flower leis (which had to be taken away when the girls started twisting them around each other’s necks), and a dozen balloons (that lost flight in the arctic air), I turned our kitchen counter into a buffet of birthday banter. Since the macaws, Blu and Jewel, were the main characters of the movie, I tried to create a menu of “bird food” — and thanks to Pinterest (an overachievers’ heaven), I found all kinds of ideas.
Our daughters seem to live on chicken and potatoes. They refuse salads and other types of healthy vegetables, and they smother everything in ketchup (like their father, who claims he’s not trying to cover up the taste and texture of the main course). Evening meals are a major source of frustration, because the girls don’t/won’t eat more than a few bites before they announce that they’re full. A half-hour later, they ask for cereal.
Martha Stewart lectures in her cooking school program on PBS (at 3:00 a.m.) that we eat with our eyes first. I agree. If it looks beautiful, then it must be delicious. So, I headed for the produce aisle and filled the cart with all the colors of the rainbow — blueberries and blackberries, strawberries and cherries, green and red grapes, melon and cantaloupe, pineapple chunks and yellow apple slices. I arranged them in color blocks so they resembled a pattern (no OCD here, folks…). Then, I sliced red, green, yellow and orange peppers (good lord, that was expensive), and arranged them the same way. Traditional baby carrots, celery, broccoli, and snow peas were chunked on another plate. I picked up blue corn chips and fresh tomato salsa, and “bird seed” made from Cheerios and pretzel sticks. Since birds like bread, I cut pizza crusts into strips and added a marinara sauce. But the girls didn’t eat them. They were too full of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the cake decorated with palm trees, tropical flowers and birds was barely touched. Maryn blew out seven sparkler candles, took a bite, thanked us and remarked that she was full.
Birthdays can be overblown, and this one wasn’t cheap because I shopped along the outer edges of the grocery store. And, I learned that I have to try a little harder in the kitchen. The apples in the bowl aren’t going to be touched. But, if I slice them and add a dollop of peanut butter and some raisins, they’ll devour every bite. It was encouraging to see the girls eating something healthy for once, and while it looked rather simple, it did take some time to organize. Considering the sadness and stress of the week, though, it was actually therapeutic to focus on my children again. For a few hours, life felt normal.
It’s said that people’s tastes change every 7 years. Our preferences go through transitions that make us appreciate what we didn’t always notice. Seven is supposed to be a lucky number, too. While these ideas may be myths, I know for a fact that I am a blessed woman. Those girls are such a gift to us. They were a wish that continues to come true.