There's so many things on my mind about this birthday.
There's the very real idea that my baby...my youngest...is growing up. Now don't get me wrong...she's still young. And she still needs me.
But not as much.
And there is no one beneath her to need me. She's the...(gulp)...last.
It should be kind of a celebration. See, we started our family so young...that while all our friends were out dating and being rowdy singles, we were already changing diapers. And then when they were newly married and "honeymoon-ing", we were carpooling to preschool. They were on couples cruises, and we were scraping money together to buy a house, afford dentists, and and buy a bigger car that would fit an entire row of car seats.
We consoled ourselves that we would be done just as everyone else was in the throes of child-rearing. By our calculations...our baby would be 18 when we were only 46 and 48, respectively. We'd be YOUNG...and empty-nesters. And we'd be able to go out and do all the fun stuff we missed out on.
When we'd share our theory with our parents, they's always say something like: "Yeah...but kids come back," or some such nonesense.
But now...I can see the end of the tunnel. That magic time...when all my kids are grown and gone...is only about a decade away.
And time, it seems to me, moves remarkably fast lately. Like I'm stuck in warp drive.
And suddenly...it doesn't look so fun to be an empty-nester. Remarkably...I'm kinda hoping that kids DO come back.
So as Nicolette celebrates this birthday...I have a mild heart attack. It's small...just a stutter in some far corner of my chest. But it doesn't dissipate. In fact, I have the sinking suspicion that for the next ten years or so...it's only going to grow.
It's aggravated by the fact that as we are preparing for Nicolette's birthday, I am paying Kaitlyns application fees for college.
Like...when did THAT happen? I mean...I KNEW it was happening. I've been preparing and pushing and nagging her for years to be able to be in the position she is in now...preparing for higher education. And all the time I was doing it...I felt like the time was SO FAR AWAY. We had AGES.
And now...here I am.
Actually DOING it.
And instead of jumping around and whooping for joy...I'm utterly perplexed.
Wait...it's here? Already? But wasn't she just a freshman or something?
So all my kids are doing this amazing thing called GROWING UP. And when they were all small...I couldn't imagine it ever happening. It's not that I was one of those parents that couldn't WAIT for their kids to get older...I just honestly couldn't FATHOM it.
They would always be here, right?
Discovering their world?
Holding my hand?
What do you mean Joseph is graduating middle school and preparing for high school?
I'm sorry...did you say Savannah STARTED middle school this year?
And Brigham? Oh...he's only 5 years old. No wait...he's NINE you say? No...that can't be right...
And yes, yes...Kate is GRADUATING. I know, I know...I know...
And wittle bittle Nickel-Pickel...she doesn't want me to talk like that anymore? To call her that adorable little pet name anymore?
It EMBARRASSES her?
(Dramatic pause inserted here. I'm literally sitting here staring at my keyboard...knowing that I am supposed to be writing about Nicolettes fun-filled, wonderful birthday. But all I can do is just...sit. And contemplate. I'm kind of struck dumb. Give me a minute...let me pull it together...)
The funny thing about the years in which we allow the children to pick a family activity for their birthday is that sometimes they pick things that not EVERYONE wants to do. For example, Savannah picked Color Me Mine...a ceramics studio. The boys moaned and complained about it for days...and then after they arrived, they discovered that they actually REALLY enjoyed going.
Or when Joseph picked Ski Rixen...an activity we all went to...but only Joseph (and Jason) could participate in because of age restrictions on the activity itself.
So...Nicolette's choice was the same kind of scenario. Except...she picked a place popular with the little kids...but a dreaded establishment of chaos for the adults.
She choose...Chuck E. Cheese.
Ohhhh...there is no place more feared and robustly avoided than that giant mouse infested kiddie casino. And yet...it was Nicolette's birthday. Hence...it was HER choice.
We tried to persuade her to choose a different venue. We even threw out some suggestions that we realistically could not afford. But she stood firm in her decision...and Chuck E. Cheese it was.
Thankfully, we picked a slower night. The usual riff-raff was there...trailer park trash and ghetto bunny mommas all huddled into too small booths devouring overly greasy pizza while their hellion broods ran amok throughout the place. But we found ourselves a quieter corner. And with Kaitlyn and Josephs help, we were able to assign a "chaperone" to everyone so they could play the games fairly and collect their all-too-precious tickets to cash in on their all-too-junkie prizes.
And once Jason and I let go of our mutual contempt, we thoroughly enjoyed watching Nicolette happily skip from game to game collecting tickets...and were even surprised and PLEASED to see her older siblings win tickets and give them TO her (it was, after all, HER birthday) without any provocation from Jason or I.
Afterwards, we went to Yogurtland and let her load up on frozen yogurt and toppings...
...and then headed home to unwrap gifts. It was, all in all, a huge success.
I thought I would share just a couple photos from the evening that normally wouldn't make the cut. I am doing so because they feature Nicolette unintentionally giving some of the funniest expressions I have EVER seen. I was, quite literally, ROLLING while I uploaded these pics.
I hope they make you laugh, too. And from afar, wherever you are, I hope you wish Nicolette a very Happy 7th Birthday.