Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

I'm not sure if benchmark is the right word. Milestone perhaps? For me, July 31st is on par with January 31st; once I reach July 31st I can relax and regroup, take stock and start again. Just like New Years. Why July 31st? It's Mickey's birthday, of course, and I hold it with great importance. God knows we spoil him rotten, but I want to honor the day he was born and for him to know that he is important, special and very loved. So I like to go all out. For each birthday, we have held a celebration in the yard with barbecue and themed birthday cake. This tradition began when we lived in New York City. Our building had a small backyard which I maintained. The maintaining of the perennials and lawn began late winter/early spring with my eye on July 31st. Everything had to be ready and beautiful for Mickey's big day. The same holds true here in the country. As the the snows began to fade away, revealing the mountains of dirt and rock immortalized in my earlier posts, panic set in as I feared that Beirut would remain come July 31st. But as you already know from the same earlier immortalizations, the lawn came in. It's not exactly what I would call lush, and it looks better viewed from the road as opposed to when you're standing right upon it, but it came in. It's green. It would survive the pitter patter of 5 and 6 year old feet. If it can survive the 24 inches of rain we've had since April 1st (I kid you not), it can survive most anything. I mowed and weed whacked it until it was quite respectable and ready to host Mickey's birthday barbecue.

Mickey was wound tighter than a spring, and as the witching hour of 4:00 pm approached, the tighter his spring got wound. Try as we might, we simply could not get him to lay down to take a nap. Tom was successful in getting him to do so for his birthdays in the city, but not this year. Nothing would do him but to hop around the house and annoy the willy out of us as we cleaned and swiped and cooked and swore. It ain't easy cooking for a crowd, much less decorating a two-layer themed birthday cake with 24 accompanying cupcakes, in a house with no kitchen. Trust me. Luckily, cooking for potato salad and coleslaw are easy enough on a hot plate. Even more lucky is having a neighbor who offers to make the baked beans (from scratch, using dried beans, and baked for 24 hours! Yummy!). And even more lucky than that is a neighbor (same one with the beans) who lets you bake the cake and cupcakes in her oven while plying you with gallon-sized gin and tonics. Holy Crow, is all I have to say. Holy Crow.

The next day when I went into the kitchen to look at what we baked, I couldn't find the two cakes. I really had no idea if I had left them at Elise's, dropped them in the road, left them on the porch or fed them to a bear. A quick call to Michael confirmed that we had indeed shoved them into their refrigerator for safe keeping. Holy Crow. The cupcakes had come home with me. Saturday morning, Mickey and I got up and I began decorating the cake. Being pressed for time, I threw caution to the wind, hung my ego at the door and let Mickey decorate the cupcakes. I gave them each a smear of orange icing and then handed him the pastry bags filled with brown and green icings and said "have at it" while I concentrated on my masterpiece.

Do you know the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes"? Hobbes is a tiger. Mickey LOVES tigers. This year he wanted a tiger cake (last year it was a shark cake and the year before it was a monkey cake). I looked online at various tiger images and thought "boy, am I in trouble." Then I came across Hobbes and figured I could more easily create a simple cartoon tiger than one based on reality. The sad thing is, I have no picture of the cake for proof. By the time we brought the cake out and sang "Happy Birthday!", I had set the camera down somewhere in the midst of all the bedlam and there was no time to look for it. So, use your imagination and try to envision a cake that was orange and brown and looked like this:















It was cute, if I do say so myself. And Mickey's abstract jungle cupcakes were very well received. At least all the icing was licked off.

The party was a great success. It was a lot of fun to have the porch filled with parents with whom we never get to socialize, and the yard filled with kids of all ages running and screaming and playing. We set up a swimming pool, as we did in years past, and we filled it with squirt guns for each of the kids. The porch was Switzerland. No squirting of anyone on the porch. I had customers up at the store tell me how they enjoyed driving by and seeing the porch decked out with balloons and the yard filled with children, laughing and playing. My intention was to take a photo of Mickey with each of his classmates so that I could make a customized thank you card to send to each. As bedlam would have it, I only got one such photo taken. Here's Mickey with Cooper.





















































I love these two pictures of Mickey below. The party is going on around him full steam (it's hard to see the steam in these pictures, but it's there, trust me), and he's sitting quietly all by himself having his burger and cole-sa-law. He pronounces coleslaw with three syllables instead of two. I'm just glad he likes to eat it! "Daddy, you make some good cole-sa-law!"



























A happy place.














Here's the face of a happy boy enjoying cake.














And you always get a picture of a crazy face, too.














Now, Mickey was told that he would not be getting our birthday present for him on his birthday, which was on a Friday, nor at his birthday party, which was on a Saturday. He would have to wait until Monday. Every day he would ask, "Is today Monday?" or "Is today when my present is coming?" So on the Monday of it's arrival, Mickey sat with his face glued to his cartoons. (Monday is one of my days off, so I was there when the present arrived.) The truck pulled up in the driveway, but he didn't notice. Nor did he notice me walk out to the driveway to greet the deliverymen and take them to the north yard to lay out where the present would be installed. Only after the truck had pulled up in front of the north lawn and the men were unloading the parts into the yard did Mickey start to notice.

"Daddy, who are those men in our yard?"

Oh, they're just construction guys.

"Daddy, what's that on the side of the truck? It looks like a playground."

Happy Birthday! Eyes as wide as silver dollars.

"I get a playground for my birthday?"

Happy Birthday, little man!

Mickey pulled up his chair and watched the men assemble the playground like he was watching television.








































He gave a cheer to help them along. Or to express his excitement.



























Making Tracks

Good Lord, I can't believe it's August! And August is half over! Summer has flown by and we haven't had much of a summer to speak of. Yesterday it was hot, and it looks like it's going to be that way, and dry, for a couple more days (hot being 89 and 90) and then it's supposed to go back down into the 70s with more rain. Hallelujah! Because we sure haven't had enough rain this year! I jest. I read in the paper that it didn't rain here 7 of the 31 days of July, July being one of the wettest since they started keeping track of such statistics, and June and July together are now on record as being the two wettest months ever. I'm afraid of what the winter will bring. But I digress.

This morning I went out to take a few pictures of the progress that is being made on our kitchen from the outside. The first thing the contractor said to me was "Have you had some turkeys here?" And actually we have. We saw them two days in a row, but they've probably been here when we weren't looking, too. Mickey first spotted them in the north yard. They had come out of the woods and scratched around the yard for a while before disappearing back into the woods. Then, moments later as I left to go to work, I spotted them again, but this time up on the hill behind the house where I have started a compost pile. The next morning I saw them there again.














Now, please notice that the turkey track is in sand. "Where did you get sand?" you may ask. Well, it's natural here. When people talk about having sandy soil, we have it. And we have sand with no soil, as you see in the picture above. When the excavator was doing work on the hill, he discovered that there is nothing but sand, and giant boulders, 8 inches below the soil. So with all the rain we've had this year, the sand has washed down to where the drive is/was.

As the contractor and I admired the many turkey tracks, I noticed another track. At first my brain thought "Mickey's bare foot", then I realized he would have to have strangely shaped feet to make the track I was studying, which he doesn't, the last time I checked.














The contractor thought that it was a bobcat or lynx. Certainly a large cat. Nearby was a smaller cat track, presumably Maxwell's. Compare.














But now, as I look at the picture of the smaller paw print, it doesn't look like Maxwell's. But certainly some other cat-sized animal. The other night when coming home from doing laundry, a fox ran in front of the car and into and across the yard. And the other night as we enjoyed dinner on the front porch with friends from the city, one of the little boys screamed "a deer"! A huge doe had leaped out of the woods across the street, galloped across the yard and into the woods on the hill. It was spectacular!