Journal Categories
Journal Tags

Entries in birthdays (35)


Birthday Zoo

If all Spike Jones and the Chipmunks wanted for Christmas was their two front teeth, all Calvin really wanted on his birthday was a trip to the zoo. The poor kid had earned it weeks ago with a good showing in his end-of-the-year school work and had patiently been waiting ever since then, but one thing or another (weather, car trouble, and other events) had gotten in the way...until last week, and then it just seemed fitting to wait. And maybe to surprise.

Recently, in talking with my parents about fun memories and events, I mentioned how fantastic it was that they were so spontaneous when we were kids. I distinctly remember several days, sprinkled here and there through the years, that started like any other day but ended at a fair, or a zoo, or eating ice cream the next town over. The best example I had was my brother and I being awakened early one morning and asked if we'd like to go to Cedar Point. You have to ask??? Of course! I mentioned to them how wonderful that seemed, both at the time and even now, looking back, and they had this to say: it wasn't spontaneous at all. They'd planend it all out, they just didn't want us to be disappointed if it rained and we ended up not being able to go. I guess you could say said spontaity was a little like Santa Claus.

So when we got up on the morning of Calvin's birthday, and we'd filled his floor with balloons in the night, then served him the breakfast of his choice and given him a card I'd been saving for for him for years, I asked him what, if he could do anything in the world, would he like to do for his birthday. Go the zoo, was his obvious answer, and I simply said yes. And it seemed spontaeous, and it felt like a gift in and of itself, and it was great! And I'd planned it all ahead. I learned from the best.

So to the zoo we went, along with, apparently, dozens of schools taking elementary kids on equally well-earned end-of-the-year field trips. That's okay, though, because outside venues don't get crowded the way indoor museums do, and we were able to avoid most of the cumbersome foot traffic. We did do several of Calvin's favorite things: the dinosaur exhibit was back after several years away, we rode the train, we visited the penguins, and, because this was top on his list of things to see, we visited the Black-crowned Night Heron roookery, which is not an official zoo exhibit, as the birds are entirely wild but have made the zoo trees their home for decades. We also saw a tiny baby Oriole being fed by his parents and a family of Wood Ducks in the free pond (i.e. also not zoo animals), and there were two entirely new animals, Gentoo Penguins and Wolves, which delighted both of us.

Although sad that Jon could not join us, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this little boy turning nine.

Mexican Bluewing

Owl Butterfly

Scarlet Ibis

Read the sign, don't remember

Taveta Golden Weaver

Wood Duck family

Baltimore Oriole


Red Panda

Amur Tiger

Polar Bear

Grizzly Bear

Black-crowned Night Heron (wild)

Gray Wolf

Pairie Dog

American Robin (wild, bathing)

Giant Anteater

Flamingo (bathing)


To Calvin, on your ninth birthday

You turn nine this year.

It sounds so much older than I imagine you in my mind. I still imagine you as that little toddler with that adorably tiny voice, and when you curl up with your blanket and stuffed animals to indulge in a good book, I still see that little boy in you. And yet, nine is also so much younger than I sometimes find you to be in those moments when your wisdom seems to outshine your years.

Last year I wrote to you about the battles of will and fights for independence we were having. The phase lasted all last summer, and in hindsight, this was you leaving the grammar stage and entering the logic stage. It was you growing tired of the following and parroting, and instead developing a strong sense of autonomy, fairness, and right and wrong, and honing your reasoning (and arguing) skills. Like all kids, you practice those skills on us, pushing the envelope and testing our patience, and, as with many things, you do this with vigor. Good questioning is both a gift and a curse in a growing child, and I would never take that away from you. It is your insane desire to question the world around you that we most want to indulge and develop in this stage. As infuriating as it can be, it is exactly this that we wish for you: that you don’t just accept things as they are, but ask why they are, and then study the answer. If the answer does not fit your sense of logic, then continue questioning and seeking until it does.

Of course while growing mentally by leaps and bounds, you are growing physically, too, and (finally!) you are beginning to resemble as much of me, your mom, as you always have your dad. You continue to swim at least once a week, and on occasion we run together. Last fall you ran your first one mile race and finished in under nine minutes. You were very proud, and so were we! Even more exciting for you, though, was learning to ride a bike last summer. You took to it then as most children do. I think it gives you sense of freedom. Together with your friends you ride for hours, inventing games and imagining together.


That is another new thing for you this year: local friends. Your great imagination and your kind, gentle nature has always made you a favorite in our homeschooling crowd, but this year you found friends in our neighborhood with whom you’ve developed a different kind of bond. You and our backyard neighbor have been all but inseparable. Her parents even started calling her Hobbes. And now the boy from across her street has made your dynamic duo into the musketeers. The three of you light up an afternoon with your make-believe and sports games. I love to hear you all imagining a scene of play, talking out the rules to a game of your own, or even working out your differences together. It is a special kind of growth and learning and it gives me great joy to see you develop in this way.

For all of your hours spent at the bus stop this year, though, we are still homeschooling. I worried briefly that your new friendships would change how you felt about our arrangement, but you are still thrilled be learning at home. And now that our days start earlier, immediately following the coming of the bus, that is, they seem to go more smoothly and end earlier, giving you greater free time to fill on your own, which you do either with a good book, or in highly imaginative play entirely of your own design. Your imagination, and your pure joy in play, amazes and delights me.

And what are you learning this year? We study math, Spanish, music, and language arts daily, and geography, history, and science alternately through the week. Science during these warming months has been hours spent in the woods, falling in love with nature and all it has to offer. In math you are just now beginning Algebra I. You tell anyone who asks that your favorite subject is history, but I think it is actually language arts because that is where you spend your time most eagerly and energetically. You are an able and voracious reader, and your writing skill grows exponentially by the year. You play the piano with enormous feeling, and new to you this year is singing. You are the first child of an alumnus to return to The Boychoir of Ann Arbor, the group your dad sang in as a young boy, and your musical talent glows brightly there; just last week you were invited to sing with the advanced choir for the summer. You are as proud of yourself for this as we are, I believe, and very excited, too.

We are proud of you for many things, and delighted in the person you are becoming.

And as always, forever, we love you very, very much.

mom (& dad)


Week 10, in pictures

March 5: Legacy
by Calvin

by Cortney


March 6: Loved
by Calvin

by Cortney


March 7: An heirloom
by Calvin

by Cortney


March 8: Green
by Calvin

by Jon

by Cortney


March 9: Lime
by Calvin

by Cortney


March 10: Stems
by Calvin

by Cortney


March 11: Turf
by Calvin

by Cortney


Happy birthday (to me)

I love my birthday. The date, I mean. When I was younger this wasn't always the case, but since my main frustration was that I had to contend with first semester finals every year instead of celebrating with friends, I've pretty much gotten over it. In fact, I've found that looking forward to my birthday has helped annually with post-Christmas ennui.

This year my family spoiled me with more than a week of special treatment: date nights, alone time, favorite meals, special gifts. I felt surrounded by love and admiration.

Date night my way: Calvin with my parents for the night, Jon and I hit the town for a book store crawl. We hit every book store within cold weather walking distance, then picked up pizza to eat at home on the couch, in pajamas, with a fire and a movie. (books: Sylvia Plath's Collected Poems; Wide Sargasso Sea; Alison Bechdel's graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother; and Northern Lights, the original British printing of Pullman's Golden Compass). 

I cooked only a handful of times all week, and Jon even made our lunches before he went to work. I got flowers and I spent an afternoon shopping with my mother. The night before my birthday the three of us went to our favorite local dinner spot. My actual birthday we spent at the NAIAS, followed by another favorite dinner.

I feel appreciated, visible, loved, and, I guess, a year older.

photo by Calvin



Someone in the house is getting older, and I'm not telling who, but it's someone who's name does not start with C.

We celebrated by trying out the Nul Tasting Room, kin to our favorite downtown restaurant: Jolly Pumpkin. It's beer, of course, and Nul is the tasting room for three great Michigan craft breweries. They also happen to be within walking distance from our house. Not that we walked on this occasion, mind you. It is chilly out there, after all.

We loved it, by the way.