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Serena, sleeping, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Has it really been two years since you were born? It’s hard to imagine a time you weren’t here. And yet so much has happened: how did we cram a move and a career change and school and travel and nibbling your cute little cheeks into just two years?

Finally sweet pea, you are still a baby. I know you’ve long since given up diapers and morning naps and crawling. More and more of your babble is becoming intelligible. You’ve moved into your own bed to sleep in, and recently started dressing yourself (I love the backwards bathing suit look, and the two-legs-through-one-pant-leg approach is charming).

But as long as you’re made of dimples and golden curls and big blue eyes you’ll be my baby. I hope that’s a good long time.

Rio hugging her birthday gift

Rio hugging her birthday gift

For Rio’s fifth birthday I made her a gift: a fabric pencil case that rolls up. It has little pockets for scissors and a ruler and a glue stick and sharpener, and holds about two dozen colored pencils (and a few regular #2s).

I worked very hard on this, getting sewing lessons from a friend (who also did the quilting). It was fun to make, but also took a long time.

I gave it to her fully expecting that it would be opened and thrown into the bottom of the gift bucket in favor of some shinier, noisier toy. I also figured she would bring it out again a week later when the shiny noisy toys were forgotten under the bed, and that she’d use it every day for a long time.

I was cool with that imagined trade-off. I’m an adult, I’m over the whole instant gratification thing.

Or so I told myself until she opened it and it turned out to be The Gift. This photo to the right, the one where she’s holding the pencil case in a tight embrace, is not the moment she opened it. It’s the moment a few minutes later when she realized she’d set it down and someone had moved it, and started to cry a little because she just Could Not Bear to be parted from her beloved pencil case, and then I found it and put it back into her arms.

She took it upstairs and held court with it for the rest of the party while six other little girls swarmed around her, oohing and aahing. Pencil cases, man. Little chicks dig ’em. Who knew?

I’m incredibly grateful to my friend who helped with this. Not only did she stay up late one tired night and teach me how to use the sewing machine she’s leant me, she also spent her own time and skill quilting little kites onto the surface. I had a blanket like that as a kid, where the images on the fabric were quilted, and I still recall viscerally the magic of running my fingers over the little rainbows and feeling their shapes standing out against the quilt.

I may have been wrong about her opening it up and forgetting it for a week, but I wasn’t wrong about her using it every day. It’s become a staple of craft time, and she clearly feels very big now having her Own Art Supplies to work with.

The pencil case in action

The pencil case in action

Rio’s goddessmama posted a lovely set of pictures from her party, including this gem:

The fairy cake was one of the most ridiculous food events I have ever participated in, and it was *exactly what she wanted. Yes, Rio, just this once you can have your cake and eat it too. Enjoy!

Today you crawled into my bed singing, “I am five. I am five. I am five.”

This is because you are five. You nursed for the very last time. We’ll see how you feel about that tomorrow, but today you seemed content with the plan. From morning cuddles, the day was full of questions: Do I look *taller* to you? Do you notice anything different about me? My body has changed so much, overnight! You must see it, Mama.

There was a party, like there always is. Kids, kids, kids. Parents. Food. A fairy cake. I can already see you, ten years from now, rolling your eyes at the photos from today and saying, “Moooooom. Why did you make me have that cake with the fairies all over it? So embarrassing.”

You picked it, kid. I just work here.

Then there were presents, and I have to tell you that the highlight of my day was when you opened the pencil case I gave you and your eyes lit up with that strange old wisdom they sometimes hold and you kissed it and held it to your chest. Then you cradled it in your arms. You didn’t know what to do with it, could not guess what it was when I asked you, but you knew it was precious. I love that about you – your ability to recognize love when you see it, in whatever crazy form it comes to you.

Then you just about broke my heart carrying that damn pencil case around with you for the rest of the party, making it the centerpiece of your play while your coterie of five-year-old fey friends gathered round.

After the party (thank you, weather gods, for unleashing your torrents as we said good-bye to our last guests, and not while I had twenty preschoolers in my backyard), you were sweet. Thank you for not having a tantrum. You would have a year ago.

Instead you washed birthday party out of your hair and we had an art date: the two of us at the craft table sharing your new pencils.

I don’t know where we go from here: the future is vast and scary, rushing by on the other side of the broad stream of summer. I forsee more art dates and messy afternoons, but beyond that it’s a blur.

At the end of the day, you offered me this: Mama, I love you.

Love you, too, kid.

I’m back at my house, and my computer, after ten days in Maine training to be a Waldorf preschool teacher. The past two weeks have been among the most dense in memory. Since I last posted, in no particular order:

1. I have learned many wonderful and exciting things about caring for and teaching young children. Among them: I do not want to be a Waldorf teacher. Happily for me that was never my plan, and I think I got a lot of good tools that will help me build a nature-based homeschool for my kids and some of their friends.

2. I signed a purchase and sale agreement on my current house this morning, crossing the final and scariest hurdle to my moving plans with and . We are selling the house for a Very Low Price, and I am just holding my breath and praying that we recover financially. The to-do list remains long and daunting, but all systems are go on the move. *huge sigh of relief*

3. My sister gave birth on July 21 to a baby boy, Caden Blake Gleason. He is a charming tiny gnome who looks disturbingly like his daddy. He is also the smallest baby I have ever held, at just over 7 pounds.

4. has taken our two older children to Argentina to visit his family for nearly three weeks. I miss Rio, Ian and Martin terribly, but hear that they are loving the holiday time with their cousins and grandparents and everyone.

5. I turned 30. Right on cue I seem to have sprouted a couple of gray hairs. The day was uneventful, full of classes and classes and more classes. The highlight was a lovely dinner at a quiet Thai restaurant with my oldest and dearest friend. I’m really looking forward to my thirties; I love being alive and just have this calm sense of joy and wonder at what the next decade might bring me.

6. Someone close to me lost a pregnancy. I’m grieving for her and missing the bright spirit I saw moving in her aura for just a few short weeks before it was called on. Looking forward to meeting her children when they do come.

7. My grandmother is very ill and undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. My mother will be flying out to be with her. Energy and prayers much appreciated.

8. Legal drama reared its ugly head in the lives of people I love. Thankfully, it did not directly involve me, but it was sad to watch it eat up their life energy.

9. Ian can haz LJ.

10. In addition to these big things, the past two weeks saw the horrible and untimely demise of my cell phone (since replaced), the breakdown of my Amazing Van (which has yet to be repaired as the mechanic searches for some crazy part), a flare-up of my chronic bronchitis, and all the expected logistical issues that come up when one is traveling for two weeks with young kids.

I am, in other words, very tired. If you see me or speak to me, please be kind and gentle.

active rio, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Once upon a time, a small girl was born to a loving family, with whom she lived happily.

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Last night as I kissed Rio good-night we talked about how she was about to fall asleep for the last time as a three-year-old and wake up in the morning as a four-year-old. I said, “What was your favorite thing about being three?” and she jumped up, wrapped herself around me and said, “Being with you, Mom.”

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