It’s been a while and I have absolutely no excuses for you. I just have a husband and a house and two dogs and a new job that I ADORE (after 5-plus months on the unemployment docket). Oh. And a two-year-old.
In the whirlwind of our existence, Madeleine’s 2nd birthday arrived much too quickly. A house move had been the plan for 2013, but my jobless state left us in real estate limbo, so we’re still basking in the luxuries of one bathroom approximately the size of a jet liner restroom. Not the ideal party locale.
For a while, I was trying to figure out where everything and everyone would fit. But it was like a mental Rubix cube, and I clearly wasn’t winning. A backyard celebration would be roomier, but risky given Minnesota’s temperamental weather patterns. So I thought, why not have the party at The Little Gym, where Maddie goes for class every week? It’s inside, it’s huge, and Maddie loves it there.
Best decision ever. Here’s what happened.
About two weeks before, The Little Gym printed up customized invitations for us and I mailed them out. A week before, I ordered a pair of ladybug wings online for Maddie’s ladybug girl costume. Three days before, I went to the bakery to order her cake, and came back two days later to pick it up. The day of the party, I picked up bubbles and paper crowns for party favors, and brought them with the cake. Done and done.
The rest of the party, from the games to the balloons, table settings and decor, was completely taken care of by two of the gym’s teachers, leaving my husband and me to snap a few pictures and enjoy the party with Maddie and our guests. Heck, they even wrote down who gave Maddie which birthday presents.
As a parent, I often find it difficult to live in the moment because everything revolves around nap schedules, household tasks and to-do lists. We work so hard to create safe, fun and carefree environments for our kids, but seldom do we get to live in them, too. We’re always living in the future, anticipating what needs to be done next, and in what order.
But that day, I was right there in the moment, jumping on the bouncy air mat with the kids, watching my daughter take careful, exhilarating steps on the balance beam, and taking in the whole scene. It was simple, it was fun, and it was beautiful. The proof is in the pictures.
Checking out the beam.
Living in the moment.
Maddie and her friends jumping on the air mat.
In her wings and “wiggle skirt,” a hand-me-down from my cousin’s family.
The teachers were fantastic and led each game and activity.
The cake, featuring Maddie and our two basset hounds.
Happy 2nd Birthday, Maddie! The adventure continues.
"Do you want to go to the zoo?"
Never fails. And yes, we did actually take her to the zoo directly after these photos were taken. Sometimes I think I like it even more than she does, if that is even possible. Those sea otters are the cutest things on the planet. Well, except for basset hounds.
I knew it was coming, and I dreaded it. Somehow, somewhere, I knew that one fateful day Maddie would decide she’d had enough of whatever we were out doing and I’d be on the receiving end of a full-blown meltdown. And on Sunday, in divine timing, it happened.
My husband Patrick, Maddie and I went to Macy’s for the very last day of their annual Flower Show. It’s a huge hit with families because the gardens are beautiful and provide a colorful backdrop for photos. We happily took our place in line, and 25 minutes, two granola bars and an applesauce later, we caught our first glimpse of them. “Look, Madeleine! There’s an elephant!” I said, pointing to a life-sized painted elephant that had been decked out in floral patterns. “Ah-ba! Ooh!” she said excitedly. That was my first mistake.
There were so many people taking pictures and so many people trying to stay out of other people’s pictures, and if there’s one thing you have to know about Minnesotans, it’s that “Minnesota Nice” gets pretty aggressive with a crowd. It was basically like each camera was shooting out a fatal laser beam and so your life depended on avoiding it, resulting in what appeared to be the most awkwardly choreographed flash mob of all time. Because how dare you accidentally walk in front of a digital camera. It’ll take them a whole two seconds to take another shot, and now they only have 97 percent battery life remaining! For shame.
So back to my mistake. All Maddie wanted to do was get as close as possible to the elephant. It seemed perfectly logical to her: she would just crawl through the garden and touch it. So when it became apparent to her that this would not be happening, she wasn’t happy about it. Even worse, that one elephant at the entrance was the only animal figure in the whole place so there was nothing else for a one-and-a-half-year-old to look forward to. (Seriously, Macy’s. Couldn’t you just throw in a giraffe or a sloth or something? Anything!)
Me, while Husband tries to get a decent photo: “Smile Maddie! Ooh, smell the tulips, mmmm, don’t they smell pretty?”
Maddie’s expression: Ummm, where’s the elephant? I can’t see him, there are too many people around. This blows, I’m outta here!
And as quickly as her face had lit up upon seeing that elephant, it furrowed into the most terrifying expression I have witnessed to date. Oh no it’s happening, I thought. The Meltdown is happening and we’re stuck in the middle of this zen garden and people are being freakishly nice and she’s doing that silent cry right before the really loud one and there’s NO WAY OUT!! And I was exactly right. Maddie cried so loud that even the tulips turned in our direction to see what could possibly be the matter. And I’m pretty sure my face turned redder than the poppies. “We’re done,” I said to Patrick, who must have seen the fear in my eyes because he heroically weaved his way through the crowd, camera and stroller in hand as I carried our screaming child through the laser beams.
You would think by this point that all I’d want to do was get out of there. But in a moment of what I can only describe as pure INSANITY, I thought, Well maybe I can get just one good picture of Maddie looking at the elephant before we leave.
Madeleine did not agree. We walked back down the Hallway of Happy Families and made our escape.
To be honest, I did get a better picture of Maddie later on, when we discovered a smaller elephant with flowers on the skyway level. She’s smiling and happy, and isn’t sporting a mute plug. But this one captures the truth. And sometimes the truth is just more refreshing.