I was born two weeks late during a hot, humid St. Louis summer. My mother, who never complains of physical discomforts, claims that she does not remember being particularly uncomfortable during that time of waiting, but perhaps she just has forgotten. I was stubborn from the beginning. My mother had hoped for a family birth, but I waited to be born until my two older sisters were taken out of the delivery room by my grandmother for a snack.
I took my first breath on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and was given a name that my parents had prayed long and hard about. Because of this I have long been devoted to my “birthday buddy” relating to his call to contemplation and prophecy. When I followed my call into the married life I realized that I while I had not chosen the “better part” of Mary, even my life as a Martha made way for a closeness to and constant companionship with God with a irrepressible desire to bear witness to God.
You have grown so much in the last year, and now you are five. Your birthday always comes in the whirlwind that is Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. You were born on the First Sunday of Advent, you labor beginning early in the morning and ending just before dinner, quite the opposite of your older sister who made us stay up all night, but setting the standard for everyone else.
What would life be without the middle sister? For G, she cannot remember life before you, and after the first strange weeks your presence became so necessary. For F, you have always been the caring, sensitive sister. And baby T has a special smile and squeal of delight just for you.
You strive hard to wear all pink everyday, and if not pink, it has to be something pretty, like stars. Your school (besides the occasional reading lesson) and quiet time this year has been devoted wholly to the making of paper dolls: princesses with pretty crowns and large extended families. And in your generous nature you make paper things for everyone in the house (except the baby). Who needs toys when you have tape, scissors, paper, and crayons?
You told us last week that when you grow up you are going to be a Pink Sister, a mom, or a ballet dancer. I suppose in any of those vocations you could still pull off wearing pink everyday.
Today you are three. Three. Three years ago, I woke up at 4:30 am in labor with you, and you took another 15 hours to come out. You were so worth it, but you know that. You tell us all confidently daily, “I am a pwin-CESS!” You spend your days going from intensely serious about whatever you are doing to trying to make us all laugh by being silly.
You love playing with your big sisters, and you love your baby brother. You also like to scream. A lot. You screamed a lot at the farm this summer. You were afraid of the dog. But after a couple of days you were okay with her, and when we went back to the farm last week you were not scared of her at all. “That’s Rosie. She is my favorite.”
I do not think you that you feel supplanted by your baby brother, and I am glad. You are so confident that you are loved. Of course your Uncle P will like the card you made him for his birthday, because “He likes purple and he likes ME!”
Happy birthday to you, my sweet, silly girl. And thanks for all your “help” in the kitchen. Maybe one day we will actually make your peanut-butter cup filled and covered chocolate cake together without any mishaps.
John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.
Happy Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist! The best thing about having a birthday today is that I get to share it with St. John the Baptist, and psalm at Mass is this: –>
O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!
Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.
Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.
For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;
my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee.
O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God, and that men of blood would depart from me,
men who maliciously defy thee, who lift themselves up against thee for evil!
Do I not hate them that hate thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee?
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
It is some seriously beautiful stuff to meditate on on one’s birthday. Because we share a birthday, I have always had a fondness for St. John the Baptist and have thought of him as a patron. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!
For my birthday today, I asked M if he would take the morning off to can some strawberry jam. We went out to a u-pick berry farm after early Mass on Sunday and picked 28 1/4 pounds of strawberries in about 30 minutes. We did it just in time! As we finished filling our boxes, rain started, and by the time we got back to the car it was a torrential downpour.
L and I did the 12 1/4 lbs. M and G did the 16. Apparently, 5 year olds are better at picking than 3 year olds.
We crushed 14 quarts of whole strawberries and froze them on Sunday. On Monday we cut up, sugared, and froze 4 more quarts.
All the red bags are full of strawberries. Some of them have two quarts worth of crushed berries.
10 pint jars and 2 half pint jars.
Today we turned 6 of those quarts into 11.5 pints of jam. This sounds like a math problem. We only canned 11 pints of it, and the other half pint got put in the refrigerator for immediate eating. How many quarts are still in the freezer? How much jam did we make, but not can? How many sandwiches can you make with the canned jam if you use 1 tablespoon of jam on each sandwich? How much jam can we make with the crushed strawberries left in the freezer? And I am done…If you give me all the right answers before midnight tonight, you can come over and get a half pint of jam or join us for some PB&J sometime.
I decided to not have anyone bake me a cake since the one I wanted would probably take the whole day to make. Instead we bought it from a bakery, and are going to eat it after we go out for some Lebanese food for dinner:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup: “Our peanut graham cracker crust layered with dark chocolate French Silk and chunky peanut butter cup silk. Topped with whipped cream, peanut butter cups and roasted peanuts all drizzled with chocolate ganache and caramel.”
The description is making me drool… and I am going to go and do my birthday run now so I can eat more pie…
The big girls helped me make this sign with their awesome gluing skills.
I have been unable to blog for the past week or so besides my bimonthly post for Truth and Charity. We have been so busy here with leaky basements and birthdays, that I have not had an afternoon to sit down and write! We have discovered where the Spring thaw hits our basement, and where to move snow from next Winter so that it does not happen again. It was a very stressful 24 hours of moving snow and ice and trying to keep the carpet dry!
That was the beginning of the week, and then we had our double March birthdays at the end of the week. M had his on Friday, and he requested a very easy cake. I just had to make a white cake, whipped cream, and cut up some strawberries. It was very yummy, though I have not mastered the homemade whipped cream as well as I would like. I once whipped it too long and it became very buttery, and this time I am thinking maybe I did not do it long enough. I might need to have someone else show me their technique, since words in a cookbook are not doing it for me this time.
Then my biggest girl, G, turned 5 on Saturday. I am not sure five is an age to worry about, but maybe when she turns 16 we will all have to beware of the Ides of March. We have a fairly entertaining story of the beginning of my labor with her. I had false labor of four hours three separate times before actual labor started during the two weeks before her birth. When my first real labor contractions started it was about 5pm and we had some friends over helping prepare M’s birthday dinner. They were about 10 minutes apart and I was able to cook and socialize through them, so I did. No one had a clue that I was having more painful and closer contractions for three hours, during which we cooked dinner, ate it, did dishes, and then had the wonderful Wegmans cheesecake. Around 8pm, I realized that I could not cover it up any more and that I needed the apartment to ourselves. When a friends suggested we play a game, I announced that I was in labor, and they happily went on their way. G had the niceness to wait until the next day to be born, so that she and her father did not have to share a birthday. M already shares his birthday with his sister who was born (five weeks early) the day he turned three.
Now we have a very emotional five year old living under our roof. She was so wound up all weekend, her emotions swinging from extremely excited to very upset, depending on what she was thinking. I think she enjoyed herself, but it is a good thing birthdays only come once a year. Oh, my little G. I think five years must be a little awkward, in that it is not quite the age of a big girl, but also no longer a toddler. She is a preschooler, learning kindergarten things, and when she gets to kindergarten, she will be ready for a lot of first grade things. She is a caring big sister, but also very sensitive about her things. She is full of questions and ideas, and eager for affirmation. She does best when she has guidelines for her activities, but is also given room to imagine. I feel like I did not fully appreciate her babyhood, because it was my first time, and am trying hard to appreciate her at every new age now, even though it is my first time. I just wish I had more patience with her, but I that means I need to be working on letting go of more of my time to give to her. I hope her year of five is full of learning and growing in virtue.