Feliz Cumpleanos, Elena

"Feliz

Welcome to the year of discombobulated birthdays! I spent my birthday in the car, driving home in hopes of beating an epic snowstorm that left us stranded in the house for three days straight. Mike spent his birthday on a plane, with a stopover in Philadelphia for a cheesesteak. He capped off the evening sharing a cramped hotel room with an exhausted wife and two children that refused to go to sleep. Elena spent her birthday in Spain, with her dad and her friends six hours worth of time zones away from her.

Of the three of us, Elena got the best end of the deal. I mean, come on … Spain?! But it was a very different birthday from what she’s accustomed to. We (okay, I) make a big deal about birthdays, and we don’t hesitate to celebrate all day long. You get to pick your favorite foods for each meal, there’s always a cake,  presents, and friends. I didn’t have so much as a card for Elena to open, let alone a present. Although in a moment of brilliance, I realized that the Spanish pastry shops like to wrap their baked goods up like the tasty little presents they are. I think she was pleased with my choice.

Spanish pastry

My cousin and our hostess in Sevilla, Elena, stepped up big time for me. She sent her husband, David, for churros in the morning. She arranged a cookout for the afternoon, inviting a few friends and family. Her daughter, Huga, secretly wrapped a few small gifts for Elena and hid them around the house, scavenger hunt-style. My cousin, Julio, took me to the bakery so I could buy a cake. And later in the evening, Julio and his wife, Hara, took us down to Sevilla so that I could fulfill a long-held request of Elena to take one of those horse-drawn carriage rides around the city.

Carriage ride Sevilla

I must admit, for someone who has always looked at those things through jaded eyes, it was a magical way to end an evening. We counted six brides getting their photos taken in the Plaza de Espana. It wasn’t lost on me that in another 12 years (of which the first 12 have flown by in the blink of an eye), Elena could be a bride herself.

Plaza de Espana wedding photo

For Elena, Mike and I, it is also the year of almost-milestone birthdays. Next year we’ll turn 40, and Elena will enter her teenage years. Oof.

Looking back, I realize I have seven years of birthday posts for Elena recorded in Google’s vaults for eternity from this very corner of the internet. When you’re seven, this is adorable.

Take more pictures of me, Mom! Is this going to be on the blog, Mom? Please put it on the blog!

Elena Montessori

At twelve, this is no longer the case.

Stop taking so many pictures of me, Mother. You’re not going to post this on your blog, are you? DO NOT put it on the blog/Facebook/Instagram, Mother.

Sigh … from both of us. Only hers is an annoyed sigh, and mine is a tired, battle-worn sigh. Sadly, these differences in sighs cannot be communicated through italics or emojis. You just have to take my word for it (unless you’ve already been there, and then you know).

Elena tree selfie

It’s hard to write about Elena these days. More and more, I’m feeling that her story is not mine alone to tell. The occasional brag is fun to share, but the sweet and reflective moments feel too intimate to share. They don’t come every day now, and as a result I hold them as fiercely as she held her favorite toys as a toddler. As for those not-so-sweet and exasperating moments, I can’t bear to share them either. I’ve never aimed to use this space as therapy. That’s what girlfriends and big bottles of wine are for.

Instead I’ll do what I’ve always done when I can’t find the right words. I’ll see and share her through my lens. She might not love it now, but I know the day will come when she’ll look back at herself, teetering between child and adulthood, and realize what a treasure she was, is, and always will be to us.

Elena Sanlucar Spain

Happy (belated) birthday, Elena.

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1000 Beads and 1 Iron Later …

I never quite know what books, hobbies, music, movies or television might suddenly become an obsession to Elena. I’ve tried guessing, and 99.8% of the time I’m wrong.

Take Perler beads. When Elena was a preschooler, my sister Suzan sent us a package containing a lifetime supply of Perler beads. (Side note: Aunt Suzy sends the best, most random packages. Nothing elicits more excitement in the mail than a package from Aunt Suzy. You just never know what it might contain.)

If you’re not familiar with Perler beads, they’re these tiny, plastic beads that you place on pegboards in a variety of shapes and patterns. After you’re done with your design, you iron them. They meld together and you have yourself a plastic masterpiece. Now, I’m all for kids crafting over sitting mindlessly in front of the TV, but setting a preschooler up with a bucket of 6,000 tiny beads is a recipe for disaster. They will either a) eat them b) spill them, after which the baby will eat them c) try to do it themselves and end up in a puddle of tears.

And so the Perler beads were put away for awhile. I got them out again when Elena was a few years older, and she was kind of into it for a week or two. After that they were relegated to the craft bin graveyard, where all good-intentioned, screen-free activities go to die. As we packed up the house to move, they didn’t make the cut. I had visions of them spilling in the move, and cleaning up thousands of beads sounded about as appealing as a root canal.

So naturally a few days ago, Elena wanted to know where all the damn Perler beads were. And once she realized they were living in someone else’s crafting graveyard, she wanted to go to Hobby Lobby and buy more. Like NOW. She bought a giant bucket and some pegboards with her own money, and spent the next few days holed up in my bedroom with the iron, crafting away.

The result is this stop-motion movie, which she casually showed me the other day. I was floored! When did she learn to do all of this? I spent hours on iMovie once, trying to figure out how to shorten a video clip, and had nothing to show for it. Not only is it awesome, but it nicely highlights all of her latest obsessions … most of which I could never have predicted she’d love so madly. Enjoy!

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Insta-May

May in an Instagram

1. I bought Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened for my beach trip. Elena and her friend got a hold of it and became somewhat mildly obsessed with Allie Brosh … so much so that I found out Elena’s friend did a presentation on Allie Brosh for a school project. Eli noticed the cover one day and said, “Herpe bowl and a half? That’s a weird name for a book.” All of this is to say the book is awesome and you should definitely read it.

2. The kids and I had the opportunity to visit the newest exhibit at The Children’s Museum a couple of weeks ago, “Take Me There: China.” I highly recommend both the exhibit and the museum. What a treasure we have right here in Indy! Isn’t the lobby gorgeous with all the Chinese lanterns? We’ll be visiting again very soon so we can see the Terra Cotta Warriors.

3. Elena and I did a 5k together! Elena participated in Girls On The Run. If you have a girl that’s at all interested in running, definitely sign her up for a program. It’s about so much more than running. And if you’re an adult woman who likes to run and is looking for a volunteer opportunity that can change girls’ lives, consider volunteering as a mentor or running buddy.

4. Mike made us a big fire pit in our backyard in one afternoon and for less than $50! It’s fabulous, and I see years worth of fun and marshmallows in our future. We of course had to break it in right away, so we had the neighbors over for a bonfire. Eli and his buddy were enthralled when the dads starting burning a broken bench … and maybe a barcalounger. Maybe.

5. I got to sleep in on Mother’s Day (the best free gift ever), but that was quickly surpassed by some late morning snuggles and the perfect handmade necklace from Eli. I’m going to be so sad when he’s too big for momma snuggles and kisses.

6. I surprised Mike for our anniversary with a bottle of this rose from Brad and Angelina’s winery. He’s not a wine drinker, but he’d read about it somewhere and heard that it tasted like Sweet Tarts. So, it doesn’t really, but it is delicious! He tried it, but I don’t think he’ll be switching from Margarita Mike to Moscato Mike anytime soon.

7. Do you have Culver’s where you live? It’s dangerously close to our house. I’m able to resist the siren call most days, but sometimes a crappy day just demands fried cheese curds and a chocolate peanut butter banana shake, ya know?

8. Elena found this Polaroid camera at Goodwill for $4 and had to have it. We haven’t had a chance to get film for it yet, but when we do, I can’t wait to tell her to, “Shake it. Shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

If you’re not already following me on Instagram already, please do! You can find me there as (the one and only) AngieSix.

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