Key to Happiness: Roll with the Punches

I celebrated my birthday this weekend.  It marks the last year my wife can claim to be married to a hot young 20-somethin’ 😉

Here’s how I wanted to celebrate my birthday:

– Sleep in.  Wake up to 3 washed, fed, and dressed children who greet me in polite and angelic ways such as: “Good morning mother, don’t you look lovely this morning.  How was your sleep? May I fix you some coffee?”

– Head off to the spa and spend a few hours getting pampered, reading a book, and enjoying guilt-free silence.  And it would be guilt-free because someone else came and cleaned my house top to bottom, did the dishes, and put away the 6 baskets of clean but not folded laundry that perpetually line my hallways.  And they would also weed the gardens while they were at it.

– Return home just as all three children awake, bright-eyed and joyful, from a 3 hour nap.

– Pack up the crew and head to an apple orchard.  Enjoy a wonderful afternoon romping in the orchards and getting adorable keepsake pictures that I will cherish forever.

– Easily transfer 3 peacefully sleeping children from their car seats into their beds, then spend the rest of the evening cuddled up on the couch with my wife watching copious amounts of Toddlers & Tiaras (sidenote: if ever I’m feeling down about my parenting, I turn on that show and viola!,  I feel like parent of the year. best show ever.).

Ahhh, it’s so nice to dream…

Here’s what really happened:

– 5:30am RB starts shouting from her room.  We throw the pillows over our head and try to ignore it.  But by 6am, Sprout is also screaming because he bumped his head on his headboard and needs his sponge.bob icepack.

– 6:05am the children are settled but now the dog is whining.  A lets the dog out.  Dog gets sprayed by skunk – and I mean direct hit.  All hell breaks loose.

– I spend my morning scrubbing down the dog with a mixture of baking soda, dawn, and hydrogen peroxide.  Nose stinging from the smell and tears streaming down my cheeks from the dog shaking the mixture into my eyes.  Glamorous.

– RB decides that it’s a good day to be a complete wild woman.  Mommy picks out the wrong pants = tantrum.  No eggs left for breakfast = tantrum.  Her baby sister dare breathe in her direction = tantrum. 

– Now that the dog is clean, its time to run errands. With 3 children in tow.  Which is typically enough to make me want to shove pencils in my eyes, but on top of that I havent had any coffee and now I’m searching strangers reactions to see if we reek of skunk since the smell has permeated the house by this point.

– Naps? ha! yeah right!  Eventually each child did end up sleeping for about 20 minutes.  So that’s something.

– We forge on, battle the kids into cute clean outfits, and head to the orchard for a photo shoot.  People everywhere and the trees are nearly picked clean of apples! The kids get way overstimulated and I get about 100 shots of the baby crawling away, RB screaming, or Sprout with the wild eyes and tongue sticking out.  Not to mention the lighting is horrible and the (apple-less) trees were casting shadows galore.

– And for the bonus, this year my birthday fell on the darkest most depressing day of the Jewish calendar.  Yom Kippur.  The day of atonement, repentance, and fasting.  So after the wholesome fall pictures gone way wrong, we join the family for prayers and atoning and repenting.  Also a lot of: “Rosebud, don’t touch that!”  “Sprout, couches are for sitting not standing.” and “Does anyone know where the baby is?!” 


I could stop there.  I could be all “woe-is-me-and-my-catastrophe-birthday”.  But here is what also happened:

– That 2 hours I spent cleaning the dog is the most dedicated time I’ve had with her in 2 years.  She’s a really sweet girl.  Eager to please.  Patient.  A perfect family dog.  Her tail did not stop wagging as I was scrubbing and talking to her.  All the lack of attention, the times I’ve yelled at her for waking the baby or being underfoot – forgiven and forgotten.  Nothing but love in those brown eyes.  Such a pure and admirable characteristic of a good dog.  

– In between the screaming, crying, throw-myself-on-the-ground, just because i’m nearly 2 craziness,  RB was delighted that it was my birthday.  She would randomly break out in off-pitch full-volume song, her rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ which was along the lines of:  “Happy to you, my mommy! Happy to you, my mommy!”  It would end with a flourish, a big smile, and a full body toddler hug.  Happy to me.

– The children were not the least bit interested in napping.  So we set Sprout up for quiet time in his room, A tackled RB, and I attempted to lull Daisy to sleep.  We walked, bounced, patted, shushed, rocked, and sang many songs – all to no avail.  Eventually I gave up (I was getting sleepy!) and we laid in the bed together.  I looked into her sweet little face and her chubby hand patted my cheek as she babbled “ma ma ma ma ma”.  My miracle baby.  Growing so quickly.  Every moment I have to soak her up is a gift.

– While the trip to the apple orchard was, generally, a disaster.  Sprout was a trooper.  As he often does, he made my project his own.  Coaching the girls to sit nicely in their spots and look at the camera.  Standing behind me and the camera making cooky faces and jumping up and down – doing anything he could do to make the baby smile.  He was all in, for no other reason than knowing how happy it would make me to get a few nice pictures.  And as we walked out, reading the disappointment on my face, he held my hand and said, “Don’t worry mommy, we’ll try again.”

– After arriving at A’s grandmother’s house in the evening, we realized that we forgot the bottles (of course).  So I ran home to get them.  On my way back, as I pulled onto her street, I saw a family taking advantage of the gorgeous evening for a walk.  Holding hands, talking, smiling and enjoying each other.  Picture perfect.  And you know what? It was my family.  My wife, my children, aunts and uncles and cousins.  They jumped up and down and waved to me as I passed.  Regardless of what was captured on film that day, that happy image is the one that I will cherish for a long time to come.

So clearly my birthday wasn’t perfect, but when I look at it this way, I’d say it was one of my best yet.

9 Responses to “Key to Happiness: Roll with the Punches”

  1. I love it. I LOVE that you found so much good in a day that did not at all go as planned. Happy birthday E – those kiddos are lucky to have a mom who sees a silver lining amongst the chaos.

  2. Really? A skunk-sprayed dog? On your birthday???? That’s incredibly unfair. I’m impressed that you were able to hang onto the sweet moments that were mixed in with the chaos.

    I also wanted to say that I’ve been reading along on this blog for a while, and I’m amazed at how far Sprout has come. You all (including him) have done such great work, and he seems like such a neat kid.

  3. Happy birthday 🙂
    The dog story and the family walk made me tear up a little!

  4. I love how you found the good in everything! Happy birthday!!

  5. Happy Birthday E! What a crazy day you had! Your posts are often so very humbling. I hope you have a few quiet and guilt-free moments to yourself soon.

  6. I am puddling over here! We had a rough morning and boy, does this give me some perspective…

    I really adore you, dear E.

    And I think there’s really something about THIS birthday. Apparently, we’re also the same age (these really aren’t even surprising coincidences, anymore), and I have found that this is the most appreciative, I’ve been. I have more focus and determination. I have far more compassion for others. I think this is a really good year (a good vintage, if you will). And I think it makes the next birthday one to look most forward to.

    Happy Birthday! I hope this year continues to be full of joys and snapshots of thankfulness 🙂

  7. Aw, Happy to you indeed, E! If nothing else, parenthood is amazing at changing your perception of what a really good day looks like. Sorry for the troubles, but so happy you found joy in your day.

  8. I think about all the “backstory” a lot with the perfect facebook pictures and status updates. But, that’s what it’s about, choosing what to focus on. I’m glad you found some peace and joy on your day.


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