A tradition we started last year is one we learned from friends with a Montessori background: a candle is lit and put in the center of the room; we talk about the birth of the child, when it was, something memorable about the day, and show a picture of her the day she was born. Then we walk her around the candle, which represents the sun (and because Dan, the Starboy, is participating, she, on her little planet Earth, travels counter-clockwise around the sun), while cycling through the months. Then we stop (at "May") and show a photograph of her at age one and talk about what she was doing, learning, and where we were on her birthday that year. (We realized that every year of her life, Anika has celebrated her birthday in a different location, with the exception of spending her first birthday where she was born. That's a lot of moving in four years.) We repeat this for every year, and then sing a version of the Happy Birthday song that goes like this:
We celebrate your birth, your place here on Earth
May the Sun, Moon and Stars bring you peace where you are!
(I hadn't realized it, but the words, considering our moving around, are pretty appropriate for our family. ) We didn't own a digital camera until Ani was 18 months old, so here are some photographs taking us back just a couple of years.
March 2007, Richmond, VA
Second birthday, Central Park Zoo
The many faces of Anika...Third birthday, Richmond, VA
I am having a hard time understanding how we got here, to four (the age Eliza was when we we left our home in Seattle), so quickly. She is by turns independent and fearless, and quiet, close. She talks non-stop, feeding us a steady stream of story, narrative, play-by-play from her fantasy or reality or some unique mix of the two! She could live on cheese, black olives, "prinzels" and pancakes, and this girl loves her some sugar. She has an incredible memory for odd details, lines from stories, the way someone says a particular word (she fixated for weeks on how our friend M says "often"). She loves changing her clothes, dressing up, I-Spy books, any books, being in charge of whatever is going on. She is a taurus, really a taurus, and I know that's an easy answer when we are befuddled at her stubbornness, but it is true - she can be unyielding and set, determined and certain. She will call us on our bull****, which is a relief and an embarrassment, humbling to be seen so clearly by a small child. She was "in trouble" one day, having bit her sister (!), so we were sitting together on the stairs, and I was probably talking nonstop about why we had to stop playing, why we were on the stairs, and didn't she know how much it hurt to be bitten and on and on and she finally sighs and says, "I'd like to talk to my mom now." I continued on and on and she said, "I am tired of the angry lady, I'd like to talk to my mom." Gulp. She is impulsive and physical, earning her a reputation as a bully with the 6-7 year old set, and when I talk to her about it, she declares that she likes playing with mad people!! My guess is that they tell her she's too young to play with them and while she can't make them play with her she can make them mad. She can also be so loving, snuggly, adoring of her sister, a good sweet and thoughtful friend, and I love watching her nurturing side emerge with some of our younger buddies. She cannot be coaxed into doing what everyone else is doing if isn't interested in what they are doing - she is listening to her body telling her she is tired, hungry, bored or needing to run around. I am awed by this girl, she challenges me until I am exhausted and I still go to bed most nights completely, totally in love with every bit of her.
Happy Birthday, dear girl - you know yourself better at four than I do at almost-40, and you teach me more about myself daily. I am so grateful for you!