Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Birthdays

Last year, in my post-Christmas hangover, I was a total birthday scrooge. Annabel was turning one on January 20th and I tried to convince Brian that we should skip having a party for her. Teddy's birthday is just a few weeks later and I argued that we could just combine the two parties. She won't even know, I told him. Luckily, Brian took charge and insisted that his little girl have a first birthday party, even if we combine later ones. So we had a small family Patriots party for her, and in the end, I was very glad that we did.
I just noticed that at Annabel's 1st birthday party I was wearing the only breast cancer t-shirt that I owned at the time -- one that I had randomly purchased at Ann Taylor Loft. Weird, and neat. Pictured here with me and Annabel is my cousins' adorable little girl.
When we were little, all of our birthday parties had a theme to which our paper goods, goodie bags, and party games were all very loyal. Bowling, Olympics, stamping, magic, and many others; between Rachel, Sean, and I, we must have covered it all. I can't help but continue on with this tradition which means that right now we are in full birthday theme-ing mode.

Although Annabel has many opinions and preferences, not too many of them translate into a clear birthday party theme. So Teddy, Brian, and I decided on a Cookie Monster party since Cookie is her favorite stuffed animal. Last weekend Brian emailed me photos of Cookie Monster cupcakes, paper hats, and homemade goodie bags -- you think Annabel has him wrapped around her chubby little finger?!?

Last night Brian had a late hockey game so I prepared for Teddy trauma drama. Shockingly, it never came, although he did ask me questions from his room for a solid 90 minutes after I put him in bed. Nevertheless, he and I had a great night together planning for his birthday party. Talk about opinions -- Teddy had his whole party planned without an ounce of help from anyone. Based on his love of the movie Miracle, or better yet, of the famous 1980 USA-Russia game remade in the Disney film, he decided that he wants a USA hockey party. And he wants it at Monster Golf. Neither Brian nor I have never even been to Monster Golf but I learned yesterday that Teddy was right -- they do birthday parties. I also learned that Monster Golf is a glow-in-the-dark indoor mini-golf course that, unsurprisingly, has a serious monster theme going on. Miracle / monster mini-golf theme ... OK, clearly we hadn't covered it all years ago.

Of course I agreed with Teddy that this theme (themes?) was a fabulous idea. So last night Teddy sat on my lap and listened intently while I booked the party for next month. He was totally psyched and told me that he "had a great idea." He wanted to "surprise Daddy with his birthday party." Very sweet, and I'm sure Daddy will be really surprised when he's playing glow-in-the-dark mini-golf with 20 kids a few hours before a big hockey game against Newburyport. Teddy also told me he wanted a "Canton bulldog Daddy cake." Hum. Interesting. Obsessed with Daddy much?!?

Today was such a gorgeous day that I risked a nosebleed for a half walk / half run outside. I was thankful for the beautiful fresh air, blue sky, and, especially, for no nosebleed. Along my route, I defaulted to what I always do when I try to relax -- I thought about things that I need to do. I started making mental lists about Cookie Monsters, Miracle, and mini-golf. But a few minutes later, I stopped my silly mind and just started thinking about birthdays. About my kids turning a year older. About being here to celebrate.

Thanks to the chemo, my eyes have been really watery lately, but I admit that a few extra tears were shed on my walk/run/walk this morning as I thought about those celebrations. They weren't the gut-wrenchingly painful tears I have mentioned before. These were more like victorious tears. Because I remembered back to August when I wondered if I would be too riddled sick with cancer to enjoy my kids' next birthday. And there I was today, out walking and running on a beautiful morning, making mental lists of stuff to prepare for their parties. In one of the recent beauty blogs I talked about the feeling of victory that getting my hair back will bring me. Yes, hair will be a symbol of great victory. But it could never compare to what I feel at the thought of being here for my kids' next birthday. That, to me, is ultimate victory.

As I ended my walk today, I remembered the craziest thing. When Brian got home from the zoo on the day of my life-saving mammogram and ultrasound, we needed some time alone to digest the cancer news. So while Annabel napped, Brianne and Seamus took Teddy out. And they took him on his first trip to Monster Golf. Since then, he's wanted his birthday party there. I was warm from walking, but still, I got the chills.

I love Teddy's persistence and odd creativity. Maybe he gets a bit of that from me. Because since August 8th, he's held onto the idea of Monster Golf as the venue for his 5th birthday party. And since August, I've held onto the hope that I too will be there to celebrate -- happy and healthy. Pretty cool that last night we had the Monster Golf lady on speaker phone so we could both hear all about the party packages.

I may not get the chance in the midst of serving blue cupcakes or chasing glow in the dark golf balls to reflect on how much those birthdays mean to me, so I'm glad I had the chance to do it today. Because despite my previous ambivalence about birthday celebrations, I know now that each one is pretty awesome.

This year, I can't wait for a Cookie Monster party. I love the theme, and selfishly, find it perfect for this point in my journey. I starved myself of sugar in the weeks leading up to my surgery. To me, a cookie was cancer food, and I didn't want to give those cancer cells a single taste of something they liked. But on January 20th, I'm going to enjoy myself a whole bunch of yummy cookies. Because there's no more cancer in me to worry about.

Finally, I know that a Miracle / Monster Golf party may seem odd to some people. But it couldn't be more perfect to me. Because cancer is a really dark monster. Yet still, I have come to believe in miracles. For some, a miracle is a bunch of American college kids defeating Russian professionals in an Olympic hockey game. For me, this year, and every year after, a miracle is my kids' birthday party. Whatever the theme may be.

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Teddy also went with the Patriots theme at his birthday last year, in preparation for the Super Bowl. He loved bowling at Ron's in Hyde Park, where Brianne worked while she was growing up. And the ice cream cake there can't be beat.

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