I have to post this photo of Sandy and me. It was taken by the skilled and talented photographer, Erica Clark. If this speaks to you, please visit her website: http://www.ericaclarkphotography.com/site/#/home/. It, in essence, sums up my 26th birthday. It also sums up the moment. It also sums up the part of the parenting and partnering journey that Sandy and I are on. It also sums up more. If I could give it a title, it would be "We're in this together." It reminds me of a photo of two elderly lesbians who are celebrating their 50th anniversary. But we're not elderly, and we haven't, technically, been together for fifty years. We have been together, however, for eight years - and that's a long time. About a third of my whole life span, actually.
My 26th birthday was fantastic. I didn't have many expectations, and that was the key to being able to ENJOY. Enjoy, I did. I enjoyed the photo shoot with Erica Clark in the morning. We walked around outside the Malpass Library. When we went to change clothes and enter the building, it was locked (closed until 1PM). Bummer. I didn't think to check hours ahead of time, and I was very much looking forward to taking the girls through the library for the first time (catching that experience through the lens of Erica Clark). We'll have to do that another time - and it may just have to be captured through the lens of Mummy J (two hundred mediocre photos that I will admire and everyone else will be too tired to look through).
Instead of the library and its greeneries and pages, we headed out to the Spring Lake Nature Preserve. That was a neat place to check out, even though it was getting hot - the temperature started reaching the 80s range, so I had to forget about all the cute autumn/winter clothing that I picked out (like the red and white striped leggings with the red jumper) and put on two summer dresses that I threw in the bag right before we headed out the door that morning ("just in case"). It all worked out very well. I remained calm and easy-going, and so did the girls. Elanah even managed to get a quick nap in on the ride over to Spring Lake. Darah's mood improved a bit when she got the heavy clothes off and the lightweight dress on - of course, she still remained her willful self (refusing to stand by us for most of the shoot). Erica is really great at capturing the moment and the personalities of the individuals. And that's important. We're a family AND we're each individuals. She captures both elements so well.
After the photo shoot, Sandy drove me around town while we decided what to do next. As we were driving around trying to decide, I noticed that my thumb felt numb and was swollen. We looked for a bite mark, but couldn't find one easily (although we did note a red area near the knuckle). I must have either been bitten by some creature at the Nature Preserve OR had an allergic reaction. I did recall that the palms of my hands were itching earlier (and I was sneezing). The swelling lasted about 40 hours (and the numbness turned to itching and went away). But, despite a big thumb, we ended up driving to Donnellson, Iowa to visit Kathy's Pumpkin Patch. The place was great. They may not have had all of the things I miss about Pumpkinville (one of my favorite places, period...located near Ellicottville, NY...where you can get pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin donuts and so, so, so much more), but they had other things. The main attraction for me (and the whole family) was the corn pool. They had a pool filled with large corn kernels and a big, wooden box filled with corn kernels. It was amazing. Genius idea. I don't know why there aren't more corn boxes around. Forget sand boxes (too messy).
The future is in corn boxes! Darah had a blast. She enjoyed sending rubber duckies down a water shoot using an old fashioned pump. She also enjoyed the play houses, until two older girls tried to play in the same house as she was playing in. She basically said, "No, no. Don't pway wis dose." She took every piece of fake food that they picked up out of their hands and scolded them. They were probably at least five years older than her but I don't think they knew she was only two and a half. Darah has no problem sharing, if she is in the mood. She also has no problem being bossy and ruling the roost. She rips plastic pears out of the hands of eight year olds and then scolds them, saying, "No, dats not fair. Dats mean." We're still working on her sense of fairness. It's rather strong, but it's evolving.
The drive there and back was somewhat scenic. Our GPS basically told us to drive off the side of a bridge, twice (we're pretty sure she wants us dead). When we got home, Sandy and Darah baked a cake for me while I took a bath in the jacuzzi tub (Elanah played in the crib...and by play, I mean stood at the side looking for me). Sandy made clam sauce for me (yummy, one of my favorite meals). Darah and Sandy sang happy birthday to me, and then we all ate buttery yellow cake with chocolate butter cream frosting and orange sprinkles). Sandy also cleaned the whole kitchen afterward (as she often does). It was a wonderful day with so many precious moments, and the best part was that Sandy didn't work at all. She didn't even show any signs of stress in regard to not working, as far as I noticed. Lovely.