Day 354: Happy Birthday Oliver

Olivers birthday slide

Today my family celebrated Oliver and his 7th birthday! We gathered at the House of Bounce, located on North Main Street in Joplin. Ollie’s mom and my son married recently, making Oliver an official grandson, but I’ve thought of him as one for quite some time. It was a pleasure to watch him have fun this evening and join with him in eating birthday cookie.

The House of Bounce is a cool place for birthday parties. Megan and Nate rented it out tonight so that the kids could bounce and run and play freely. The large inflatable slides, houses and the new wrecking ball arena are continually filled with flowing air and provide a safe environment for jumping, flipping, sliding and somersaulting. There are ample picnic style tables in the middle of the huge room so the adults can comfortably sit and watch.

Olivers birthday house of bounce

Except the younger adults in the family, the parents of the kids, seem to enjoy House of Bounce almost as much as the children. It was hilarious to watch them battle it out in the Wrecking Ball Arena, struggling to keep their balance on the inflated perches while dodging the weighted, air filled wrecking ball. They good naturedly allowed the kids to join in and all had a great time. Adriel discovered that it was fun and a little scary to go down the slide while sitting up facing backward and we laughed as other adults tried it. The kids got pink faces from running from activity to activity, laughing and calling out to each other. In the center of it all, having a marvelous time, was the birthday boy.

Olivers birthday big kids

Oliver is Megan’s younger son. And in their newly blended family, he became the middle child. He is not daunted by having an older brother and a younger sister. Ever one to walk his own path, he will surely find his way through life, in his own charming way. Because Oliver is a charmer! With big brown eyes and a beautiful mop of straight brown hair, he only has to flash me a smile to melt my heart. He’s determined and focused and not afraid to go after what he wants. When he decided recently to grow his hair out, from short to shaggy, he didn’t let anyone or anything deter him. He likes his hair longish and I think he looks adorable. More importantly, I love that he knows what he wants and goes after it.

Olivers birthday lighting candles

Ollie is at the age where he wants others to notice what he does and appreciate it. At many gatherings  I’ve attended, he’s asked me to time him while he runs, rides his scooter or bike, or does some other physical feat. Tonight, when I walked into House of Bounce and spied him, he immediately called out “Yaya” and asked me to come with him to one of the big bouncy slides. “Watch me,” he shouted as he scooted up the steps and appeared at the top of the slide and flipped onto his back, preparing to come down the slide upside down. I documented his descent with my iPhone camera and cheered his efforts. Several times. And then off he scrambled to the other slide, where I watched him whoosh down in several interesting ways. It is so important for kids, and all of us really, to know we are seen and appreciated. It does Oliver’s heart good that his parents and grandparents pay attention to all that he accomplishes. This handsome boy is blessed in having family who does just that….applauds his endeavors.

Olivers birthday gifts

I’m thrilled to be Oliver’s Yaya and I love the smiles, hugs and artwork I receive from him. He is affectionate, musical, smart and possesses high energy. There are big things ahead for this boy and he has the energy and determination to reach for them. I will enjoy journeying with him as he finds his path through life. Happy Birthday, Oliver! I love you!

Olivers birthday opening gifts

Day 353: A Christmas Tradition Shared

A Christmas Carol

In 1984, two significant events occurred …the birth of my youngest child, a daughter named Adriel…and the premier of a made for TV movie, A Christmas Carol, based on the story by the same name by Charles Dickens, and starring George C Scott. Interestingly, those two events, which became intertwined that year, have remained connected since. Holding baby Adriel, I watched this classic for the first time in 1984 with my two preschool children.

Every year, for years afterward, network television would broadcast A Christmas Carol again. And we would watch it. It normally aired around Christmas Eve, and it rapidly became a tradition in our house to watch the movie while munching on snacks and drinking hot chocolate. As Adriel grew, she quit falling asleep during the movie and began to watch it with us. As a young child, the ghostly visits of Jacob Marley and the three Christmas Spirits frightened her a little. Not enough to make her cry or protest, but just enough to cause her to excuse herself to go to the bathroom or the kitchen during the scariest parts.

As she grew older, the fear dissipated, and we all enjoyed the movie together. Then Elissa moved away from home, followed by Nathanael a few years later, and it was just Adriel and me continuing our tradition. By now I had purchased the movie on DVD so we could pick exactly when to watch “our” movie. We still selected Christmas Eve most of the time. When Adriel moved out, I gave her A Christmas Carol as a present, her first Christmas away from home. And we continued to meet, sometimes at her home, sometimes at mine, to watch the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, so brilliantly portrayed by George C Scott. Sometimes other family members would join us. Most often, it was just the two of us.

Adriel contacted me this week to ask the important question: “When are you free to watch A Christmas Carol?” For the first time, Adriel is going to be gone over Christmas. She wanted to make sure we got our movie in! We met for dinner before the movie, and then gathered at her home. This year, we were joined by Greg, and two of Adriel’s friends, Sara and Nate, neither of whom has seen the movie before. It is also the first time we’ve had viewers with us from outside our immediately family. I like that our definition of family is expanding to include others and that we can share fun times and meals, birthday parties and holiday traditions.

Sara and Nate were patient with the little rituals Adriel and I have around this movie. We laugh every year, at the same spots. We tear up over Tiny Tim’s death in the future that will occur if the shadow of things present do not change. We feel for Scrooge as he lives his solitary life, wealthy, but alone, feared, but not respected, tolerated for the business cunning that he has, but not loved, except by one who never gives up on him. That man, Scrooge’s nephew Fred, always makes Adriel giggle. To most, the old businessman is an odious cheapskate. We love watching his transition, from Scrooge, whose very name became synonymous with stinginess and joylessness, to Ebenezer, a generous, joyful man who “was as good a man as the good old city ever knew.” Our favorite scene, which sends us into peals of laughter, involves a dear little old woman, whose name (I just looked it up) is Mrs. Dilber.  She feels very much like a family member by now. Mrs. Dilber is pawning Scrooge’s bedclothes and some personal items to Old Joe, for the money she can make off of the now dead, tight-fisted man. Her expressions, voice and words crack up us every time. We love her.

Mostly, Adriel and I experience a warming of the heart from the annual watching of this movie. We both have an ornament that has one of our favorite lines from the movie written on it:  “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” My ornament stays out, hanging on a bookshelf, all year long, so I can see it and be reminded to hold the love and joy of Christmas in my heart always. Adriel and I watch this movie, year after year, as a way of renewing and perpetuating that spirit.

Tonight we completed our 30th viewing of the movie. Adriel counts it as 30 as well, even though she was too young to remember the movie the first few times we watched it.  I can attest, she was present. I am happy that we shared one of our favorite Christmas traditions with two others who have never seen A Christmas Carol, and with her dad, who hasn’t seen the movie nearly as often as we have. It was a warm, joyful time. And the Spirit of Christmas dwells within us all. God bless us, everyone.

A Christmas Carol Fred and Janet