Four years ago at this exact time, I was holding my fourth baby, in four years, for the first time. One glimpse of her scrunchy little face and I fell madly in love. My husband, who delivered her and made the official "It's a girl!" announcement, quipped about another wedding to pay for and another daughter to walk down the aisle. In that moment, my mind jumped ahead twenty-some years and I realized that Paige's Daddy was the first person to usher her into the world and he would also usher her down the aisle to her waiting groom if and when she gets married. Her heart is currently owned by a curly-headed little boy from church who introduces himself to strangers as a "Jesus follower." We're pretty pleased with her choice and hope she goes through with her plans to marry him, "but not until I'm 24."
At our house, birthdays are a big deal. "It's anything you want day" and we party all day long. Paigey chose her birthday menu weeks ago: strawberry and chocolate chip pancakes with whip cream and bacon. For lunch, she requested a hike and a picnic lunch of PB&J. Her dinner plans were to go out to eat at Shari's, but she made a last minute dinner change and switched to Red Robin because "they sing to you and give you balloons and ice cream." Everywhere we go we tell people, "It's Paige's birthday today," and she wore an "It's my Birthday" pin on each of her SIX outfits (remember it's anything you want day?) today just in case people didn't believe us.
Yesterday we had the kid party. Over the years I've gotten better at throwing birthday parties. Somewhere along the line I realized the more kids you have, the more chaotic it gets. I also realized the kids never wanted to play the games I spent hours organizing nor did they care about decorations and if they matched the invitation. I planned Paige's party on a school morning which promptly eliminated Stilp Children 1,2, and 3, and brought the focus to just Paige and her friends. She wanted "cut out cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles and NO cupcakes. And juice boxes cause Evie has dose." I exceeded my expectations with my decorating skills and the cookies looked like my second-grader decorated them instead of my kindergartener. I was very proud. We did my version of a "craft" - foam butterflies with foam stickers to decorate them, and played pin the tail on the donkey. Paige's tail was suspiciously accurate and when I asked her if she could see under the blindfold, she cheerfully replied, "Yes!" She opened presents, the kids got their goody bags, the moms got some strong coffee and everyone left happy.
Alli went straight from school to a play date so Paige and I had the whole day to be together just the two of us. On a whim, we went to the newest Mexican fast food place in town and ordered fried rolled tacos smothered in guacamole and cheese. We ate in the library parking lot and oohed and ahhed over how yummy our lunch was. We used a pack of wipes to clean up all the grease and guac off our fingers and then went in the library to get some books. Stopped by the auto body shop to have one last thing fixed on the van and sat in the lobby, snuggled up in some super comfy waiting room chairs, and read every last library book. Came home and "for a special treat" took a nap together in Mommy's bed. Paige opted to defy tradition and sprawl with her feet on my belly and her head at the foot of the bed. We snuggled and dozed on a gray rainy day, me and my baby who was almost four. It was glorious.
For "a special treat since I'm the birthday girl," Paige wore her fancy new dress to bed last night so all our breakfast pictures are in her new dress. We met Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry at Tryon Creek State Park per Paige's marching orders. The trail was mud central since it rained all week, but today it was 60 degrees, blue skies and sunny. Spring is in the air and the trees are awash with color as pink and white buds open in the sunshine. We hiked about three miles through the thick forest and let Paige set the pace which left tons of time for the older kids to explore in the woods and make up games. The trail crisscrossed a swollen creek and we danced over bridges, hid in the woods, and skipped down the muddy trail. We opted to "picnic" at Grandma and Grandpa's house and moved the party south. Grandpa Terry spent the greater part of yesterday making a teddy bear birthday cake for Paige. It was adorable with frosting that looked like real fur.
When we were well past nap time, we loaded up and headed home for a round of present opening and dinner at Red Robin. Paige got a "dvd player" that curiously only plays CD's and also has a microphone that plugs into it. She treated us to a Taylor Swift concert, four-year-old style, complete with hair flipping and some pretty sweet dance moves.
As I tucked my "foa" year old into bed tonight, I felt that familiar feeling of my heart swelling with love. Was it really only four years ago that we welcomed Paige into this world? In some ways it feels like she was just born yesterday. But in the same breath, I can't remember life without her. We followed our bedtime routine which is continually morphing depending on Paige's mood. When she prays, I stroke her hair and recently she's started returning the favor. Only her stroking feels a lot like a combination of hair pulling and smothering and I hope she never drops this part of the bedtime ritual. After prayer, we gave each other five hugs, five kisses, five pat pats, five eskimo kisses, and finally five blown kisses. As we said our finally goodnights, she politely asked me to get her a water bottle with "cold water and seven ice cubes" and I was happy to oblige.
Four kids. Born in four years. And my baby turned four today.