Sunday, May 4, 2014


Four days before her 13th birthday, Alison came running into my bedroom, flung herself on the bed, chest heaving, tears falling.

Yes, it was the Captain.

She had been minding her own business, passing through the kitchen when he captured her in that unteachable, indescribably wonderful hug only fathers can give. 
He made the mistake of giving in to our mutual dismay/delight at her progression into young adulthood. 

"Oh I miss the days when you were my little tiny girl and I had the right answer to every question you had," he said. "I used to know what to say no matter what had happened."

She's a sentimental little thing, unwilling to totally let go of her stuffed animal friends but hoping to become a regular shopper at Victoria's Secret. She's still not entirely sure she wants to know what that boy-girl thing is all about, but she's curious. And no child has ever loved a father more than she loves Jeff. Even when he's in full captain mode, dressing her down for not having better table manners, cleaning her room or finishing her chores.

She was crying not because he'd done anything wrong but because she didn't want him to feel bad that she was growing up.

Thirteen!  That age you want to reach so bad you can't stand it and then in the middle wondering if you're going to live through it. Or if you want to.

The actual anniversary of Alison's arrival on this Earth is tomorrow, but it will be a challenge to have much time to celebrate as a family. She goes to school at 7:30 a.m.and is usually there until 5:30 p.m. or whenever I can leave work to spring her from AfterCare. With the play performance coming up, practice is stepped up, and she has to be downtown at 5:30 until 7. Jeff's a traditionalist, so we'll open gifts Monday morning and then hope to have a little time before bed.

She'll have her friends over later in the month for a delayed party. She's OK with the delay. She's excited about the play and doesn't mind. Plus, we'll get Jenna for a couple of days so that's a gift in and of itself. (Thanks Ginny! I really mean that.)

Ali has been anxious for the past few weeks to make her own birthday cupcakes for her class celebration on her actual birthday. Once an important co-producer in these events, I have been relegated to sous chef, hod carrier, dish washer. 

"I think I want to do this myself," she said, hesitantly, as she informed me of my demotion.

"But it's your birthday. You shouldn't have to do all the work," I protested.

She shrugged. "Nah. I have this idea I want to try."

This "idea" has taken more than a little advance planning. It's an amalgamation of idea's she's seen in her baking cook book library, YouTube decorating videos and Cake Boss. She's been making as many of the decorations as she can in advance. 
Before she started assembling the parts to the decoration, she worked out her design on paper. There's a map and a code. Seriously.
"These are turning out to be $30 cupcakes," Jeff said the other day as he returned with one ingredient. Besides the made-from-scratch cupcakes and icing, this project will involve Teddy Graham bears, Laffy Taffy (two-flavors warmed and rubbed together then formed into beach towels), mini-chocolate chips (coconuts) mini marshmallows (palm fronds when snipped and rolled in green-colored coarse sugar) Sugar wafers (pounded into sand) Hostess donuts (floats and life preservers) and possibly a shark formed out of Twinkie.

She had three hours of play practice and movie time with Nick yesterday and another three hours of play practice today, with a surprise visit to Aunt La for a special advance birthday delivery.So I had her make the cupcakes Friday night, reserving most of her free Sunday time for decorating. 

When we were plotting out our time, I'd mentioned Aunt La and a midday Sunday visit. She fretted that she had so much work to do and might not have time.  I said it might involve a birthday gift.

"Wait a minute. Aunt La? Aunt La of the "you can't open a gift unless it's smack on the day? That Aunt La?" she asked, grinning.


"OK then. I think we can make time," she said. "I just love Aunt La."

With 40+ cupcakes, she created a beach scene with palm trees, water, sand, a shark and floating or sunbathing little bears on tie-dyed beach towels wearing bikinis and possibly sipping fruity drinks. Other than the cupcake paper, they're entirely edible. (She's learned a lot from food TV...)

Because she's got chores, too, and a busy day, I tried to organize a bit for her this morning. She was highly appreciative, but then said, "You know, Mom. You can just go about your normal day now if you want."


I've stepped in to clean up a bit, but she's got this. Because, you know. She's 13!

I took some solace in eating the cut out parts of the Hostess donuts but that only made me head back to the gym for a real work out where I took my bag of guilt and my Book Club book. Just carrying that thing is a work out. It's about 27,543 pages and it's about the hospital in New Orleans where so many disaster plans fell through and some patients were euthanized rather than be left to suffer.

I was about a third of the way through and had to skip to the end to be sure what I wanted to happen happened. I'll go back to the middle. It's really compelling. It's "Five Days at Memorial" and I'm in awe of the author, Sheri Fink, who's done incredible work in reconstructing the really complex situation.

I can't wait for Book Club to hear what Julie has to say from her hospital perspective, and the others for  their always intelligent insights. I predict we'll need a lot of wine because there's a ton there. Great pick, Niki!

So we'll use the time she's at play practice to wrap her gifts to make the morning manageable. Anything to get a little quality time to celebrate this awful-wonderful milestone.

How did she get to be 13?! I know no one asked me. Before she was born, I worried that we wouldn't like each other, that I didn't know what I was doing, that I didn't deserve her and that somehow I would royally screw this up.  

So far every year has been better than the one before. Veteran parents tell me that's part of the trap -- the first few years are so great it's enough to get you through the terrible teens. And just when you think you'll really kill them, they leave for college, only to return the charming, lovely people you wanted them to be.

I know it's possible that she'll have a period of hating me just because I'm the mom. We haven't hit that yet. I'm still usually the person she runs to when her world gets rocky.

I'm open to suggestions on how to keep it that way. And I'll pay top dollar for a guarantee. :)

Sent from my iPad

No comments: