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For the Love of Birthdays

Early June at the Farmer's Market. I was picking over zucchinis. I overheard the woman next to me tell the vendor she was on her way to a barbecue. Her family was celebrating her birthday.

"I don't know why they bother. I haven't celebrated my birthday in years."

I didn't look up, but smiled what I hope was a sweet smile. "Every birthday is worth celebrating."

"Not when you get to be my age."

She was roughly twice my age.

Oh, how I was tempted to face her. To draw attention to my unnaturally flat chest, my pixie hair, my young face and far younger three children.

What a gift to get to be "your age".

But she had come to the market for produce, not perspective. I made my selection and left.

Birthdays have taken on special meaning to me since being diagnosed with IBC. Each birthday that we celebrate as a family is a mark of time that I survived. No, not just survived. Lived. Enjoyed.

This week we had the pure delight of meeting Owen on his third birthday.

Quinn and London (4), Owen (3), Eli (almost 2)

Owen is the little boy of Meagan, one of my dear friends from college. And Owen is cherished. Meagan and Chris lost their first son, Anderson, in utero at 39 weeks. Anderson was due the day before London and Quinn. Meagan and I talked often during those pregnancies. We expected to swap tummy time stories and baby pictures. Instead, my joy was doubled and theirs was taken. Meagan taught me so much about empathy ... about having grace when others say or do things that just aren't empathetic. Or even appropriate for that matter. What raw and honest vulnerability looks like, and how it can reach people.

Aaaaand in return I offered a cake with chocolate frosting and a dinosaur on top. So we're totally even, right? :)

But that little boy loved that cake!

I've had birthday on the brain for weeks. Next week we get to celebrate our niece turning one. Eli's second birthday is a month after that. I guess it's only natural that I've been reminiscing about our children's other birthdays. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite details here. Be warned, it's a regular feast of photos!

London and Quinn Turn 1:

London and Quinn Turn 2:

London and Quinn Turn 3:

Eli Turns 1:

At the time of Eli's first birthday, I was painfully aware of my mortality. The severity of my disease. I was two months past my failed mastectomy, in the middle of the new chemo. In two months time, we would find out if chemo was effective. Sustainable. If I would ever be operable. Everything was fading: My energy. My strength. My resolve. My hope.

But this baby boy was going to have a proper birthday party!

The thing is, I couldn't help but think there was a chance I would die soon. And he might be left without any memories of his mama. I was determined he would at least have this: pictures of his first birthday showing him the love and time and attention that went into making it all by hand. Making it just right.

He'd see that nothing, including cancer...especially cancer....would stand in the way of his mama making his day perfect.

Don't get me wrong, I paid dearly for over-doing it. The day after Eli's birthday I became violently ill, and so weak I spent hours in bed, missing out on precious family time. It took days to recover. I guess I missed the memo on balance.

London and Quinn Turn 4:

Eli's second birthday will be airplane themed. He's been all about the Pixar movies "Cars" and "Planes", and brings a pink Duplo Minnie Mouse airplane to bed with him each night. Of course I've been on Pinterest looking at airplane birthday parties, and I am ready to do All the Things.

Did someone mention balance?

You can check out my inspiration for all the girls' birthday parties here and here.

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