We didn't meet a head of state or get a dog or anything big like that, yet last Thursday and Saturday were chock-full of doings and feelings.
On Thursday, September 20th, Nels turned four.
I'm pretty sure that most children do not celebrate their birthdays the way Nels celebrated his. To start, Shaun woke him up nice and early before work and they dined on doughnuts together at the little table in Nels's room.
Nels is not a morning person. Despite this, he enjoyed the special time.
At 10:30 we were off to the hospital for Willem to have a scheduled echo cardiogram as part of his yearly heart exam. He was born with a moderate sized VSD (ventricular septal defect or hole in his heart) which is now small but requires checking up on. I was interested to see what the hospital was like, as we spent a lot of time in the one in Bend and liked it very much.
Those of you familiar with toddlers might well imagine my concern at how Willem would handle a test that required putting stickers all over his chest and then clipping wires to them. Could anything be more delightful and tempting to handle? He kept his hands off just long enough to get one perfect reading. Hoorah! Both boys received stickers and we were off to the Children's Specialty Center across the courtyard for Willem's echo cardiogram.
Alas, the pediatric cardiologist whom we'd been referred to from Bend was booked up until December, and the doctor we ended up with left a little to be desired. She seemed to think that I would prefer her to wear her "Concerned Fellow Mother" hat rather than her "Competent Professional" hat. She was mistaken. She was good with Willem, though, and it was a relief to stop preparing for the worst (which I'd been doing since Willem had gone in for a surgical consultation about a hernia repair and the surgeon pointed out that Willem's heart murmur can be heard simply by putting one's ear to his chest.)
The man who did the echo was some sort of pediatric genius. Willem sat perfectly still on my lap and watched the screen, entranced. "Water. Water," he kept saying. Then I talked to the doctor. She showed me an actual picture of the defect, which didn't bother me at the time but got to me later. Basically, though the defect is small, it is up to some monkey-business. We'll check back in six months and see if it's better or worse. The defect could close on its own, but if it doesn't, and continues to cause damage to the valve and impair the heart function, they may have to close it surgically. So I'm getting some good practice in being patient, which God and those who know me even very little know I need.
One might think that this was a bummer of a way to spend a birthday, but it wasn't for Nels. He looks forward to doctor visits because there are new toys to play with. He also got a sticker and a sucker. What's not to like? As long as there are no shots involved. We got Happy Meals at McDonald's for lunch and all was well with the world.
My mom came that evening, and the boys enjoyed waiting outside for her. Here's Nels at his post, anxious for the arrival of Me-ma.
Here's Willem just being his cute little Willem self.
I felt like I'd been through the wringer after that doctor visit, and I had a very difficult time getting the house ready for visitors and planning the birthday party we had scheduled on Saturday, our next big day. Fortunately my mom stepped into the void caused by my spaciness and spent her whole visit cooking and cleaning and entertaining the kids. I don't know what I would have done without her. Truly, truly.
Saturday morning Nels had the time of his life baking his birthday cake with Me-ma. He decorated it all by himself. He showed admirable restraint in placing the candy carefully on the cake and limiting himself to four construction vehicles.
The caution tape did not drive any guests away.
I was a little worried about how our party would go. We still hardly know anyone here, so I basically invited them all. Our motley gathering included our neighbors across the street, the Hamiltons (who took pity on my state and brought stuffed mushrooms), my friend Kimberly from MOPS and her two kids, and my mom. Even with so few people present, there were six children! I was so relieved when the house emptied out and the dust settled and it had all gone well.
I thought it to be providential timing that They Might Be Giants were playing in Boise (of all places) on the one night that we had an ideal babysitter. The Hamiltons got a babysitter too, and in my mind I was rubbing my hands with glee over the thought of going to a restaurant and then a concert with friends and sans children.
The restaurant did not disappoint. What shall I say about TMBG? I stewed about it throughout the entire show. As Shaun put it when it was over, "They didn't convince me that they wanted to be in Boise." No. They didn't exactly make fun of Boise. They just had such a world-weary attitude. One of the things I've always loved about TMBG is that they seem super smart and nerdy, in an endearing way. But this version of TMBG seemed more like jaded rock stars. They threw around the "f" word with profligacy, a habit I usually associate with people who have limited vocabularies. They complained about the venue, a movie theater that continues to be used as a movie theater. They were polished. They seemed bored. We all wanted more for our $25.
All that said, a night on the town is a rarity that I, for one, will never sneer at, and I still had a grand time.
Let's wrap this post up with a belated happy birthday to Nels. Son, you've given us four solid years of free entertainment, and one just can't put a price on that. I can hardly wait to see if you get a little weirder every year or if you've hit your peak. My head believes that God loves you even more than we do, but my heart has a hard time fathoming that. Happy Birthday!