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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Saturday, October 2, 2010

La Hanau Season

        This week marked the beginning of what I call Birthday Season.  It's the time of year in which we celebrate all three kids' birthdays.  Alex's and Nicki's were this week and Joseph's is coming up.  We didn't exactly plan to have all three kids at the start of fall three years apart like clockwork, but I love the way it worked out.   After the excitement of summer and start of school, it's great to kick off the national holiday season with our very own Birthday Season, just as the weather in Phoenix starts to cool down.  For me, Birthday Season is better than Mother's Day, because each birthday represents the anniversary of the days I became a mother for the first, second and third times.  Each of those days was special and beautiful.  Looking back, I want to relive every aspect of having my children.   I wish I could go back and hold their tiny (well, not so tiny at 9, 9.3 and 10lbs) little bodies in my arms.   I wish I could take back all the times I'd wished they'd hurry up and grow out of a certain unpleasant phase of their life.  Now, I sometimes wish they would just stop growing.  I really didn't like the newborn phase with all the crying and lack of sleep, but I sometimes envy the clarity I had when my children were infants.  It's a time when everything is put into perspective by the fact that your sole purpose is to take care of this little creature for a while.  Almost nothing else matters at this stage and outside pressures and influences often get their proper due, and are ignored.  Birthday Season is a time for me to reflect and celebrate my children's, and my own, growth.

        This year, our birthday celebrations will have to do without some of the normal trappings of a birthday at home.  There is no big birthday sign which is usually left on the wall for months.   I won't be making any elaborately decorated cakes or cupcakes.  While I really do enjoy the baking, I'm relieved that  there's no need to triple bake for each birthday, once for the birthday itself on the actual date, once for the school celebration and once for the party which is often held on the weekend after.   Alex didn't even want cake this year.  We went out for Shave Ice instead and sang "Happy Birthday"  in the Waiola General store while it poured outside.  And for Nicki's birthday, we made a simple cake and orange Jell-O.


        This year, there weren't any nicely wrapped presents meant to surprise the kids, either.  We've

simplified present buying this year.   For instance,  our major present to Nicki was allowing her to have a "Dolphin Encounter" at Sea Life Park.  She went with her Daddy and got to meet Miki'oi, a blind Bottlenose Dolphin, who did the Hula on Nicki's command and gave her a kiss.

All we have to lug home of this birthday gift is a set of pictures.   All Alex wanted was to play glow-in-the-dark  3-D mini-golf.  Luckily, there's such a place within walking distance.   Joseph will be treated to Parasailing and Ziplining when it's finally his chance to celebrate.

        The kids did get toys as well, but there was no wrapping paper and no surprises.  Our generous relatives sent money so that each child could go on a shopping spree.  I don't think I would have fully embraced this idea at home, since I love to see the look on their faces as they unwrap surprise gifts.  But, I'm beginning to think that surprise gifts are overrated.  My kids know exactly what they want and, in the event that they are surprised, it most likely means they didn't get what they had hoped for.   Shopping for their own presents made them very happy.

        It is the celebrating with others that I miss the most.  While I offer each child a party every year, Alex always prefers a low-key celebration with just the family.  For several years now, he has just wanted to take a cake to the train park and eat and play.  While I secretly wish he would want a party, I must admit, this is a very nice way to celebrate his birthday.  Nicki, on the other hand,  always takes me up on my offer to have a big party.  It has become an annual event that we've started to plan during the summer when there is nothing else to do.  The boys have gotten involved in the planning as well, chipping in with ideas and their artistic talents for decorations.  Last year, they were actors as well, as we put on a play (The Missing Princess) for our friends.   This year, there was no planning, no party, no play.   Nicki seems fine with it but I am disappointed.   While some people find this type of event not worth the trouble, I love it and I actually miss all work that goes into such a project.

        With no pressure to have great parties and cakes and surprises this year, I had more time to just be with our kids.   Time to reflect on how much they have grown and what the experience of living in Hawaii has meant to them.  Alex, now 9, has grown up so much.  While the (loud) little boy who can't accept change still shows his face once in a while, for the most part, he is willing to try new things.  He is embracing our new, temporary lifestyle.  He sleeps on the floor on a little bed made of sofa cushions without much complaint.  He does his school work without much coaxing and does it well.  He participates in local activities like the park's ceramics and science classes, lei making, palm weaving and he even took a little hula lesson at Waimea Valley Park this week.   He has grown a fondness for water, bodysurfing at the beach, snorkeling , and even swimming in the chilly Waimea Falls' 40ft deep pool.  He has certainly grown a lot in the past year, but more especially in the last month and a half.

Alex (and Nicki and me) doing Hula

        Although I still call Nicki my baby (and I don't think I will ever stop), she is no longer a baby.  She is a wonderful girl who lights up any room she walks into with her genuine smile and affection for the people in it.  In Hawaii, she has been the first to make friends and play with other kids at the park.  She takes on the role as little hostess wherever we go, by greeting people with "aloha"  as they enter the elevator, make it to the end of a hike, or come into the library.  She has a special affinity for the Hawaiian fashion, wearing lovely floral print dresses, flower hair clips and no shoes.   She picks beautiful flowers (that fall to the ground) everywhere we go and makes little bouquets to give to strangers.  This certainly brightens their day and mine (and Nicki's).  I hope, since she is only six, she will remember this time in her life and the special adventures she was able to take.

Nicki at the Aloha Festival's Floral Parade

        As he turns 12 this year, Joseph is embracing life in Hawaii in his own way, as an educational experience.  Always so curious, especially about nature, Joseph is relishing his opportunities to learn about plants and animals, the formation of the islands, the language and culture, usually from a safe distance.   It always amazes me that he can identify a bird with its full biological classification by seeing it once for a few seconds.   Often with his binoculars and reference card, he hikes through valleys and along cliffs like an expert, always wanting to go further and faster until he can stop to observe something special like an insect, a plant, or a bird.   He still quizzes us on animals, like he has done for years, and most often we come up a little short.   But he is teaching us so much.  There is a lot for him to learn here in Hawaii, and it is not just about nature. 

        With Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I think our Birthday Season experience is preparing me for the mayhem that is to come.  With stores putting out holiday merchandise last month, it is easy to forget that Halloween isn't just about having the best candy or costume on the block, Thanksgiving is not just about having the "perfect meal" and Christmas is not just about decorating and buying presents.   At the heart of all of these holidays is the gathering together of people, (friends, relatives and neighbors), enjoying each others company through simple exchanges of candy, food and gifts.   Likewise, Birthdays are not just about the cake and the presents, they are about  growing up, which cannot be stopped or wished away.   I will never abandon all the trappings of holiday celebrations.  I will certainly continue to plan for occasions, bake, wrap presents and throw parties, but I will look upon them with a better perspective and ignore the outside influences that are unimportant, focusing rather, on living in the moment and sharing my joy with others.  That's the best way to celebrate any holiday, especially the anniversary of the birth of your children.

Happy Birthday Alex!

Happy Birthday Nicki!

Happy Birthday Joseph!

Me and my babies at Hanauma Bay

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