gabriel – 3rd Grade
ariana – 3rd grade
isabella – 2nd grade
liam – preschool yr. 1
Liam’s 3rd birthday was so fun this year. At the time of his birthday, there was pretty much nothing else on the brain except Winnie the Pooh. Mr. Pooh has been a favorite of Liam’s for a while, so I ran with the theme so he would know that the day was all about him. The menu was simple but substantial, because we were going to be swimming. No tiny hors d’oeuvres and dainty desserts to be found at this swim party, as we had a hungry group to feed. We had Honey BBQ Chicken Kebabs, Piglet’s Pasta Salad, Rabbit’s Garden Salad, Honey Comb Cereal (to snack on), Fresh Squeezed Honey Lemonade, Rice Krispy Treat Honey Hives, and Honey Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting. I threw in a few Bit of Honey candies in jars here and there, because they’re so good and also a throwback to my childhood.
Liam believes that a birthday party wouldn’t even be a birthday party without party hats. He talks about “bird-day hats” all the time. When he has something that is shaped like a birthday hat, he puts it on his head and tells me, “Look Mom… bird-day hat!” When he is holding an object that does not at all resemble a birthday hat (or any sort of hat for that matter), he’ll put it on his head and make the same exclamation. Theme or no theme, I knew that birthday hats were a must.
We swam in the swimming hole, had a picnic, and busted open a beehive (piñata) in search of sweets.
Going back to Missouri was akin to stepping back into a different place and time or jumping into the pages of a book. I had been to Jake’s birthplace only twice with him before. Only those times had been shortly before and after we were married and without any children by our sides. I remembered it being like we were living a country song, but only the ones that they barely play on the radio anymore… the songs about living each day to it’s fullest or the beautiful everyday simple minutia of the country. I had idealized it for years, and so much so that I was actually nervous to go back. I wondered, what if I exaggerated it in my mind? What if I remember more trees, creek swimming, and fireflies than there actually were? What if it simply wasn’t as magical with kids/after time has passed/in reality than the place I had cherished in my memory? When we arrived, it didn’t take me more than a few minutes to realize that the place I cherished in memory was real, and it was actually going to be better this time, because I had it to share with my children who drink in magic like lemonade.
We swam in a creek, and it won’t be soon forgotten. You know, the ocean can be so beautiful and massive and almost eternal-feeling, but the river (or creek in this case), is charming and lush and so peaceful. My kids went across, over, and under the waters of this little swimming hole. They lost their flip flops, chased, and found them again I don’t know how many times. They felt the crayfish pinch, and the pebbles between their toes, and the humid air in their hair. All around us it was green. We played for hours until a dark grey rain cloud rolled in suddenly and covered the warm sun and began to shower on us. We were ready for it. We were ready for the next part of our adventure.
While I didn’t document most of our experiences in Missouri with my “good camera”, because it was too cumbersome to carry around, and I wanted to get to play and not have to worry about my gear, I did record part of this day. I had a goal when we woke up at the late hour of 9 or 10 am one morning (as we were still on Arizona time… and vacation) that we would find a park with a creek. In my imagination, it would be something like a park I visited when I was no older than Bella’s age. It would have a little playground with a bridge that crossed over a narrow pond or creek and accessed a hiking trail through the woods. In my memory, we visited this park in autumn, so we couldn’t go in the water, but I had always wanted to. I had recently told the kids the story of this memory of mine at bedtime one night. It was such an enchanting but faded memory that I was never quite sure if it was part-dream. Being as I grew up in NY state and we were in Missouri, I had no reason to believe that such a place could be found, or that it even existed, but something told me to look. I researched parks and found one that I thought might fit the bill. Believe it or not, we drove the whole way there and decided it wasn’t the right park. That’s right, it wasn’t the park in my memory, and something was telling me that this search would not be in vain. So off we drove. After another search of Google images, I believed we might have something close. We pulled up and it was more than close – it could have easily been the same park! Because the hiking trail wasn’t wheelchair accessible, we didn’t make it far on the hike, but we played in the water inside of a cave instead. Small and simple miracles do happen every day.
The thing about Missouri that I wish I had captured more of is family. Family – extended and our own – was the heart of this trip and every trip to Missouri. I always feel a little let down by my photos of family though, because it is so hard to capture the way that we felt so welcomed, the coziness of a small but full-of-love home, what it looks like to have an easy 12 people around a kitchen table and how good that food tastes when it is being passed around hand to hand, or what it sounds like when the kids are off playing and the grown-up cousins are remembering and reminiscing from when they were kids doing the same. Such things are difficult to capture in photos, no matter the camera.