Happy birthday Jack!

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Blue eyes!

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The serious side of Jack!

Our Jack turns two tomorrow. What a boy he is! He’s the sunniest little fellow, almost always happy and smiling…at least when I see him! He sings to himself…a little personality trait I think he got from his dad…I often hear his dad humming…now that’s a sign of a contented heart! Little Jack is learning the alphabet, and his words are growing every day. He’s blossomed so quickly from baby/toddler to little boy. Love that little guy!

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Riley is two

Riley turns two today. We’ve already had this little joy in our lives for two years!

She’s been in the toddler stage for a while. She runs, she climbs, she’s a big girl. Tall for her age, she looks more like a three year old. But there are still some traces of babyhood, when she’s sleepy, or tired. She says a lot of words and phrases, but doesn’t quite pronounce all the consonants yet, so you have to do a little interpretive work to follow her conversation. Still, it’s obvious that she has the family gift of gab.

She’s a bit of a foodie, fascinated at her young age with life in the kitchen. She loves to explore in the pantry, and she knows where her favorite foods live in the fridge. And she likes to stir things.

She’s a modern child, she knows how to push buttons to get things…at least some things…that she wants. She watches babies and cartoon characters on You Tube. She likes to play little games on her parents’ Kindle Fire.

She knows the word “no.” She sometimes says, “No, Riley,” as if practicing on herself. She drops the “l” in Riley (one of those consonant things), but she gets the tone jussst right.

She rides a little trike, a “Dora the Explorer” trike that has lights, turn signals, and plays music. She has a few books. Just a few! The child has her own mini library, but I like that. Always a reader myself, I love to see that potential for children.

She has a bit of a temper. She’s explored the terrible twos, wandered in and out a bit already. But she’s a happy child most of the time, and is a cheerful little companion, singing in her car seat while out and about, chattering in her Riley-speak about whatever is on her mind at the moment.

She has nicknames…”Little,” or sometimes, “the Little,” and “Poo.” She knows them too. She hears them often enough, at least from me and Stephanie. I’m not sure if anyone else uses these. But they are names of affection and play. I am “Gram” to her, although I haven’t heard her say that yet. But she knows Rob’s name, “PB,” and she says it frequently, putting the emphasis on the “P,” “PeeeBe,” she says, calling him to come and see something, or identifying him in a photo.

This little girl has made a place in my heart, effortlessly climbing in and making herself at home. The child of my child is reminding me of the joys of discovery, the value of intangibles, and the strength of ties that bind. Happy birthday, Riley girl! Happy birthday, Little!

No Valentine, please

My husband is off the hook. I don’t need, expect, or want a Valentine’s Day gift. This is just my personal thing. If everyone else in the world wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day, please, enjoy. I know couples who put thought, effort, and love into the occasion, and I think that’s wonderful. For them. But not for me.

I have never been a fan. I’m not speaking about the traditions of the day for kids. The little Valentines that kids give out in school…well, I guess that still happens. Maybe not. I haven’t had an elementary school age child in my house…oh, for the past dozen years. But the small gestures of Valentine cookies, or Valentines for children to exchange…those things are fun, and are another marker of childhood.

I’m not a fan of the manufactured and obligatory gift giving that is milked to death in the name of love. Last week I had the thrill of having access to cable TV, an experience now limited to hotel stays or visits with family who still subscribe. Since we pulled the cable plug last summer, my TV exposure has been minimal, to say the least. But I digress.

All week I saw commercials for Valentine’s gifts suggesting that the perfect thing this year is a HUGE stuffed teddy bear; or footed pajamas; or edible fruit; or the ever popular trio of jewelry, flowers, and candy.

I love gifts, and I’m happy to be on the receiving end on my birthday, my anniversary, or any other day that has meaning to me, or to me and my husband. (Christmas doesn’t count in this scenario as everyone in the family gets gifts at Christmas.) In our culture, there is a tradition of giving gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, which are personal events. But I don’t like to feel that my husband and I are buying gifts for each other because of a commercial expectation that isn’t even personal. I don’t like the messages some commercials give when they show gifts being delivered in an office setting, and the lucky woman is envied for the gift she’s received. I don’t want my gift giving, or receiving, to be a competitive sport, thank you very much.

And most of all…this is specifically addressed to my husband, but anyone I know…please, please, listen carefully: do not, under any circumstance, ever give me a life size teddy bear to cuddle with. I can’t imagine what I would do with it, other than find a place that accepts new and unwanted bears for donation. If this is your idea of a great gift, you may have my bear. But this is definitely not for me. Take me to dinner, give me my favorite tea (that’s Republic of Tea Ginger Peach, in individual tea bags, if you’re interested); give me a gift card if you’re stumped. But please, don’t send giant bears my way. And the same goes for footed pajamas. Who comes up with these things?

One last word about gift giving. In my opinion, the best gifts are those given “just because.” Because someone saw something that reminded them of me. Or because I saw a need and filled it for someone else. That giving is straight from the heart, and without obligation or expectation on the part of giver, or receiver. Or one step further, in this day when most people have what they need, and even what they want, maybe the best gift, regardless of occasion, is the gift of time and presence: the gift of self.

Well, even though I don’t want a gift, I’m a sucker for Valentine’s cookies. I think I’ve previously admitted my guilty love of Lofthouse sugar cookies…you know, the ones in the grocery bakery that have garish colored icing, but are so soft and delicious? Well, that’s how I celebrate the day. Nothing like a little red and pink food coloring to make a cookie look inviting.

Boy, do I feel better. Now that I’m pretty sure no bears or pajamas are heading my way, off to find some cookies.