Stiff

This weekend we hosted a very successful Mocksgiving. I’ve hosted a “practice” (or mock) Thanksgiving for 19 straight years now, although I’ve truthfully never actually hosted Thanksgiving. Mocksgiving was the last big thing I needed to get through before life slowed down. A brief litany: camping on Labor Day, two 5ks on back to back weekends, my 40th birthday party, Otherworld (which was amazing – highly recommend), Grey’s birthday, my nephew’s death (weighs greatly on my heart through all of this), apple picking, King Richard’s Faire, finishing and furnishing the attic (huge effort – much Ikea), Adam’s birthday, week long trip to Singapore (plus off timezone prep before and follow up afterwards), Thane’s birthday, Halloween, Carnage gaming convention (full weekend Adam), Mocksgiving. All this while working full time (both of us) and raising two kids. Some of these were logistically challenging. Some of these were emotionally very deep and hard. Some of these were physically exhausting. I’m so grateful to be done, and for a coming few weeks that are massively less scheduled.

We’re also getting to the time of year where I can’t run. I’ve been running for three or so years now. I’m very slow – it’s *great* when I beat an 11 minute mile. I’ve switched up my default course, so now I run about 4 miles on a given run (a bit over a 5k) – I don’t want to go longer. My surgically repaired left knee was telling me at the end of the season that pavement isn’t it’s favorite, but this is the only exercise I’ve been able to stick with and be consistent about. But in winter I can’t really run on weekdays when it gets dark out so early, and pretty soon there will be ice and treacherous footing ahead.

But my body just hurts lately. I’m sore and stiff. I’ve been having constant headaches which, yes, are tension headaches in part. But they’re mostly muscular-skeletal. My C1 and C2 like to go in opposite directions and this gives me headaches. I go to my chiropractor, it gets better for about 2 days and then I move wrong and the headaches come back until my next appointment. UGH. I mean granted I’m over 40, but I don’t approve of constant headaches.

So I decided with the upcoming massive free time (are you skeptical that will happen? It won’t be so much, but it will be better.) to spend a few weeks stretching. The best my troublesome back has ever been (I have a really consistent regimen of massage and chiropractic which is extremely effective which is why you’ve never heard me complain of it) has been when I was doing yoga regularly. That was like for 2 months 10 years ago. We’re talking about getting a treadmill in the basement with our massive game of redo-every-room, but that’s still a while a way. So I’m going to give it a shot – 30 minutes a day of yoga. I’m very curious to see if it helps with the headaches and the back issues and the feeling that if I drop I’ll shatter instead of bounce.

We’ll find out!

And heck, maybe with all this free time I’ll also update the ol’ blog more, and finish my novel, and cook more meals from scratch, and catch up on all my church commitments, and do more local history research, and spend more time with my husband, and finally clean out my junk drawer and ….

Yeah. Let’s stick with the yoga.

Like a memory it falls

I woke this morning at about 6 am and couldn’t fall back asleep. For those of you who know me, that’s a statement bordering on absurd. I do not awaken at 6, unless there’s a plane to catch, and when I do happen to stir I turn over and quickly fall back asleep. But this is not a normal morning. The time before last that I laid my head upon a pillow, it was in Singapore. I am profoundly jetlagged – enough to wake me for the day at 6 am.

This early November has introduced itself warm and wet to New England. Last night as I readied for bed the temperatures were clement and the rain tapped beguilingly on the roof and windows. I was alone in the bright, clean bedroom we’ve created – my husband being up in Vermont for a gaming convention. I cracked a window open and felt a familiar, forgotten sense of peace steal over me. You’ve heard so much about the attic project – the bathtub, the flooring, the way the house looks when it’s nothing but bones. But we all have secret agendas, and for me one of the great hopes was for the rain. You cannot hear the rain on the roof from the 2nd floor. But here in the eves of the attic, I hoped it would sound like when I was a girl. The very best sound of rain at night had come when we lived in a trailer in Mineral (you know, the trailer park type – but it was a double wide!). We spent only about a year there – a cold and snowy year. It was actually the manse for the church (housing provided to the pastor) – but the church was without a pastor and we were without a house, so it worked out for a bit. That was my 5th grade year, when I got chicken pox and had run-ins with my reading teacher. I walked across an abandoned baseball diamond to school through vast, spectacular forests of frost that rose 2 inches tall. The ice rose in columns of crystal, elevating clots of dirt skyward. I always felt bad stepping on them, even knowing they’d be entirely destroyed by mid morning and rise again the next day. I was young enough then to hear the rain and not the overwhelming thoughts of a busy mind.

There was a day, as spring edged into summer, when there was a knock at our trailer door. A lady we did not know stood there. She had heard we were looking for a house, and they were planning on selling theirs. Did we want it? That is, no joke, how my parents ended up in the house they live in to this day.

That house is a vast frankensteinian construction. It began life as a company house, alike in size to its neighbors. Those houses are very small. But over time new additions had mushroomed on various sides without any sort of plan or cohesion. A dining room popped out the front. Two bedrooms off the side. An inconvenient solarium off the back that was always too cold or too hot, depending on season. And most spectacularly a two story garage-and-cathedral-ceiling-living-room. The living room is made up entirely of window and is truly vast. My parent’s church easily all fits inside for worship service when the furnace fails to start at the church down the street (a more frequent occurrence than you might guess). But those vast windows overlook on the dark, ominous, steep sides of Stormking on the sunset side. To the North you overlook the town of Mineral up to the waters of Mineral lake, which would curl with fog in the mornings as the waters bequethed their warmth to the air. On the sunrise side of the house, if you can look past the wires and abandoned cars and abandoned houses, Mt. Rainier rises in all her glory above Round Top. I loved both of them with all the passion of my young heart.

Mt. Rainier is unbearably splendid in all seasons (when she can be seen through clouds). I loved the alpenglow of her pink shoulders when the sun had slipped behind Stormking. I loved her pale shadow against the rising sun – one cloud among many on the horizon. I loved her white and blue and green – like the wedding quilt my sister made me – in the bright days. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life, which struck my heart to its very core, was one quiet morning in high school when I arose while it was still dark and saw Mt. Rainier glowing with new snow in the predawn, a crescent moon rising above her and hanging brightly off the tail of that moon was the brightest gem of the night sky – Venus. Such loveliness can never be forgotten.

Mt Rainier in the middle and Roundtop to the right. Not the view from our house – and when I was a girl the shoulders of Roundtop were still covered.

But for all my passion for Mt. Rainier, I loved Roundtop too. When the rains came, as they so often did, Mt. Rainier would vanish, but Roundtop would remain. The Northwest is an interesting place for a history lover. Gazing at the cliffs – golden or hoary depending on the light – you could sense the vast and boundless weight of history. But Washington does not know her history. The town was founded at the turn of the 20th century as a logging town (still is) and a stop on the railroad. My mother has mentioned with shock that she is the longest serving pastor in the history of our small white church. My parents have lived in Mineral, which seemed old before we came, for nearly a third of all the time it has existed. Before that, the lands had been the home of native peoples – likely nomadic in that region. I once found a hand adze in a stream, and I know that there was history in those mountains. Stories. Names. Legends perhaps. But I did not know them. It is possible that no one does – that they were forever lost.

When I went from girl to teen, I loved those quiet rainy days. I discovered an LP, and on those days where Mt. Rainier was hidden and Roundtop shrouded mysteriously with scraps of fog, I would put that record on the record player (entirely anachronistic – I also had the CD of the same album) and listen to the scratch and warmth of the vinyl. I would gaze at the mountains and wonder what their unknowable history was. My gaze would linger over the cliffs that had bested my attempts to climb them (honestly I’m lucky I didn’t die…). And my heart was filled with such unquenchable yearning and joy and longing and perfectness. The album was “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. And when “Kathy’s Song” came on, “I hear the drizzle of the rain, like a memory it falls…” I was in unrequited love with the whole world and there was nothing short of poetry, song and mountains vast enough to contain it. It’s still one of my favorite songs. Better yet, it’s Grey’s favorite too.

Such passion is harder to come by for an ancient person like me. Forty knows much more than fourteen ever did. I probably have the tools now, if I so chose, to find out what legends are actually known about those views. My days are full of Things To Be Done. My heart, in these days of fear, is so full of anxiety and guilt and horror that there is little room to be slain by beauty.

But this morning, in the dark before the sun rose, I heard the rain on my roof like I did when I was a girl. There was no Roundtop waiting for me at the top of the stairs, but when I cast my eyes out the window they land on the 150 year old slate-roofed Hawkins mansion. The golden-glowing fountain of leaves falling like snowflakes from a gray sky lands on soil whose history half a millennium back is known to me. On the headboard of the bed above me, wrapped in a brown cloth backing with gilt letters, is the “History of Stoneham Mass” by William Stevens – a gift that made me feel profoundly known. (If anyone lands their hands on Silas Dean’s history I will very gladly pay for whatever it takes to obtain a copy!)

And for just a moment I can reach back through the veil of time and burdens, through the sludge of fears and sorrows, and touch the same inarticulate, joyful yearning in the rain.


Kathy’s Song
I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls.

And from the shelter of my mind
Through the window of my eyes
I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets
To England where my heart lies.

My mind’s distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away
They lie with you when you’re asleep
And kiss you when you start your day.

And a song I was writing is left undone
I don’t know why I spend my time
Writing songs I can’t believe
With words that tear and strain to rhyme.

And so you see I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you.

And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for grace and you go I.

Singapore: City of Selfies

I won an all expenses paid trip to Singapore. That’s how I’ve been positioning it to myself when it became clear a few weeks ago that I would definitely need to fly out to Singapore for a big presentation I’d been working on. It’s really hard to figure out how long is the right amount of time to go for a work trip like this. On the one hand, it’s 50 hours of travel (a full work week’s worth!) to get here! On the other hand, I only have like a day or two of stuff I need to do here. I settled on pretty much a week – landing in the weekend to get acclimated.

So far I’ve had that weekend part, wandering the city and trying taking a million pictures. I’ve come up with a few observations.

If you’re unfamiliar with Singapore, a quick background might be useful. It’s a former British colony that gained independence in the 60s. It’s a city state – only a few square miles – at the tip of Malaysia. It’s home to about 6 million people, roughly 3 million of whom were born elsewhere. It’s extremely diverse, with key populations coming from China, Malaysia, India & England.

Working on my selfie game

1) The entire city was built for selfies
You know the Sydney Opera House? The Singapore equivalent was built to look like Durian fruit. You can see it across the man-made bay, right next to the iconic Mer-lion. And floating soccer field. But right before the 40 story, three pillared ship-building that hosts the casino. Everywhere you look has beautifully composed views of the city with fascinating architecture. And people have definitely gotten the message, also everywhere you look are hordes of people all taking pictures – mostly selfies. I saw probably 20 people today who’d even hired professional photographers (or had friends with fancy cameras) to follow them through their touristy stuff and take pictures of it. It’s wild.

You know you’re really short on space when…

2) Singapore is basically a spaceship
Imagine if you have a ton of people in a very small, closed environment from many backgrounds. You need to keep them healthy, clothed, fed, exercised and doing the work you need them to do. You also need to give them that human psychological need for greenery, space and outdoors. Well, Singapore is already working under many of those constraints.

World of cacti?

They call it the City in a Garden, and they’re not wrong. Every space that can have greenery crammed in has greenery crammed in. There are trees, vines and flowers at every single opportunity. I spend my day at the Gardens By the Bay which are so clearly nature for people who haven’t ever actually seen nature. As I went from “The world of palms” to the desert cactus exhibit it dawned on me that one of the many kids growing up entirely in Singapore… well, this is what they’d know of nature. All prettiness and near infinite variety, carefully planned and executed. No randomness. No repetition. Entirely unnatural.

They also use every inch. On my drive from the airport my exceptionally informative taxi driver told me that there was a defense troop nearby and that they could clear every single plant off the road in less than 45 minutes to convert it to an emergency runway. Here in Singapore space needs to have one or two or three uses – just like it would on a colony ship. This also might explain why the rules and regulations here are so strict. If you’re going to cram this many people into this little space you need very clear rules governing behavior and interactions, or pandemonium might ensue!

These women in yellow are clearly together

3) People dress to match each other
They’ll all wear the same color (like 6 people!) or the same dress (2 or 3 people). Some of them wear the same dress in complimentary colors (black and white). And it’s not just like bridal parties or something – it was all sorts of people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. I was talking to a native Singaporean colleague about it (she’s spent several years in the US) and she had no idea what I was talking about until we started walking around and she saw it for herself.

4) Jaywalking rules explained
So the typical statement about law abidingness in Singapore is that they’ll ticket you for jaywalking, which sounds ridiculous. In reality, the way the streets are set up it’s both very tempting to jaywalk and rather dangerous to do so. That’s because pedestrians really navigate the city in a series of subterranean mall-tunnel (and sky bridges). So you’ll be on a major thoroughfare with a broad sidewalk that just …. stops right when you get to a big road. If you know what you’re doing, the underground entrance is right behind you, but that’s not intuitive. So you jaywalk, which is bad and unexpected.

You rake your yard, but do you rake your rivers?

Not that the rules aren’t actually pretty strict! I had a “Singapore Moment” shopping in a gift store at a museum. They had tshirts and I wanted to get one for my kids so I picked one up and shook it out to look at it. It wasn’t the right size so I carefully refolded it (the display was extremely neat) and picked up another one. A tap on my shoulder “there are sample t-shirts you can view on that rack”. No picking up tshirts. Got it. This is why the very cute adorable outfit I bought for myself does not fit. Siiiiigh. In the same gift shop I’d gathered a number of things and was clearly making the staff uncomfortable. I thought they were too large to fit into the teeny tiny shopping baskets they had – which was true. But they squirmed and finally came up to me and “offered” a basket and crammed all the stuff in somehow. There is definitely a right way to do things, and woe betide the ignorant!

7-11 has dim sum but zero gum

I’ve put together an album of my hijinks so far here. Tomorrow I have to “go to work” or something, so that’s probably the bulk of my touristing on this trip! The folks in the photos with me are coworkers.

Lovecraftian October

I really, really love Fall in New England. Of course, everyone loves Fall in New England. It’s the reason we haven’t all moved to Southern California. I lament that fall is my busiest season, in which I have the least leisure time to devote to Really Enjoying Fall. I’ve taken far too few Fells hikes, shuffled insufficient leaves and there’s been inadequate pumpkin spice. OK, I don’t really do pumpkin spice, but I like the concept. The one place where I’ve been able to sufficiently celebrate autumn is in the ghost stories.

According to the traditions of Brenda, I start reading ghost stories on the last camping trip of the year, on Labor Day. This particular time, I read a book loaned by a friend “Shadows Over Innsmouth” was a very fun riff, starting with HP Lovecraft’s original tale and then going through several author’s worth of short stories. They were all very well done, and a great bite-sized set of horror snacks. Then I happened to stumble across a book written by an author I’d enjoyed earlier this summer, Sarah Monette. This time, mostly in the tub, I read through “The Bone Key“, and it was a great horrifying lark – a perfect read on a night when the moon rose over my en-tubbed feet and was lost into the great tumult of rain lashing leaf and window alike.

Having finished them, and wishing to honor this old harvest time further (ok, really been enjoying them), I’ve moved on to New Cthulu: The Recent Weird. It’s showing me that I need to revisit some of the classic works – I don’t remember all the originals referenced. I’ve been trying to step away from my phone, as it were. So I’ve been reading them in the morning (when Adam brings me breakfast in bed). You know things aren’t going well in the world when Cthulu-esque horror is far better for your mental health than what’s actually going on in the world. And yes, even on the occasion of his birthday Adam still brought *me* breakfast in bed. That’s a loving, devoted man there, folks.

It maybe isn’t my best move to be reading that stuff before church. Just not quite the right worshipful spirit.

Last night was even more Cthulu. What Adam *really* wanted for his birthday was uninterrupted gaming time. While my plans didn’t quite coalesce to Plan A, Plan B had me joining the table for the game. He ran this amazing spooky, creepy, horrifying game set in 3rd century BCE China. By my estimate, he’s done well over 100 hours of research for this game, and read at least 8 books. The man is a purist. The game was about 6 hours (punctuated by dinner and periodic parenting). We lit all the candles and pursued the path of immortality with insufficiently wary feet. It was great.

In a few weeks I’ll set down the horror. Maybe I’ll find some fiction. Maybe I’ll take bite sized bits of the Muir that felt this summer like the revelation of a sacred text. Maybe it’s Pratchett time, or Wodehouse.

Until then, it turns out there are a ton of great stories “inspired by” that weird guy from Providence!

Today in ‘struction

For the last 6+ months a regular feature on my social media feeds has been “Today in ‘struction” – where I’d post all the latest pictures of our attic renovation project. Heaven only knows just how many people unfollowed/blocked/muted me. Thanks to everyone who’s still putting up with me.

The project was a very big one, which we knew from the beginning. We thought it might be a 3 month project, but that was optimistic by half. We had a very good general contractor (Ken Menesale of Menesale Builders – happy to provide reference and/or contact info! He did a great job!), but with such a hot market it’s hard to get contractors or subcontractors on a quick schedule. The plan, drafted by one of the partners of SV Design was to take our finished but unheated attic and make it into a master suite, with a super fancy bathroom, walk in closet and this amazing innovation called “insulation”. That extra bath moves our house from 1.5 baths to 2.5 baths – a critical 21st century addition for a 19th century house.

And on Thursday of this week, we’ll be done with this project as scoped. There’s still stuff to do (like moving stuff and curtains etc. etc. etc.). We also need to replace the carpet (that was part of the plan). But for the project as quoted and scoped? Done.

I thought it would be fun to go through and talk a little about each of the rooms and show you the before, down to studs, and the current 99.99% done state!

You can go through full album of all the work here.

The new laundry room
So one of our genius ideas (ok, it was probably Tobin’s – I don’t remember) was to move the laundry from the basement to the 2nd floor, where the laundry is mostly generated. We had this really deep linen closet that ran right next to the plumbing, which is perfect for the job. This room didn’t get pulled down to studs/insulated like the rest. My plan is – once we figure out HOW to get our washer and dryer to the correct floor and hooked up – is to have everyone be responsible for their own laundry. Liberation looms! Thane will never have clean clothes again!

Linen closet before
Laundry room after

The stairs up
One of the additions we made to the project from the initial quote was pulling all this down to the studs in order to insulate it. Not only was it probably the only time that would be possible, we were also worried about ice dams forming from inconsistent temperatures. We also replaced ALL windows in the attic with new construction windows, including this one. There wasn’t previously a light at the base of these stairs – this is much nicer!

Originally

Looking up the stairs

Looking down – I never got around to replacing that valence

To Studs

Looking up

Closeup of the landing
Looking down
Watch your step

Final Version

Looking up

Looking down
From the top – there’s a closet on the left that wasn’t there before

Bedroom
The layout of the bedroom changed a wee bit, but not much. Where there had previously been a weird sink only type bathroom and closet, there is now a wall. That space belongs to the bathroom now. The biggest unknown going in had been in what the ceiling would look like. It was, um, exciting how they’d chosen to rebuild that roof after the fire in the ’40s. There’s a whole roof that was just built over the top of, and there’s this amazing convergence of beams. We were thrilled though to be able to bring the ceiling all the way up to the roof line and add a chandelier. We took out half the beams – the rest are structural. This room gets amazing light and beautiful views.

Before

From the doorway – I actually rather liked the colors in this room

Halogen lamp & entrance to the weird bathroom thingy
The weird bathroom thingy – those are a full closet on the left. Remember this, because it was truly transformed.
School classroom ceiling

To studs

The walls were all uninsulated lathe and plaster

Looking through the walls to what will become the bathroom
The architectural marvel of the roof
Easier to see with the new strapping

There were a total of 5 rats nests found in this attic:

All vermin are now uninvited

Finished

Those windows still take up a whole wall – but now they’re insulated

Head of the bed – the access for the steam shower unit is the small panel on the right
As though I was lying in bed – the globes got broken and I just got new ones. We added hard wired fire alarms to all bedrooms. And the high panel on the right is access to the separate HVAC system we put in the attic & 2nd floor.
Looking at the closet door

Walk in Closet
This is one of my favorite spaces in the house, which was previously entirely unfinished. It’s now a walk in closet, although the height means that dress-length hangers will need to go in the hall closet instead.

Before

There were GIGANTIC nails unprotected in the ceiling and I was always afraid I’d split my skull on one

Adam’s in the weird bathroom
Little doors like this were in a bunch of spots in the crawlspaces – we left one in place in the spot we hid our time capsule in

Finished

Hard to believe it’s the same room

Looking back to the bedroom

Hall closets
This will have my dresses to the right, photo albums & memory boxes in shelves on the left (we’ll be doing all the closet inserts either ourselves or by buying Ikea stuff). The door on the right is one of the last things to be done, and that gives us access to storage space where we can put our big bulky stuff we don’t need often (luggage, Christmas crap etc.)

Surprisingly unuseful closet
I always thought it was weird that there was a light and a switch for this section. It also had the sharp nail issue.

Studs
It’s surprisingly hard to identify what is what in all the pictures of rooms at the stud phase.

Can you make it out?

Finished

This is a lot of closet for New England

No light any more – this looks pretty similar
Goodbye wasted space!

Bathroom
Now for the super exciting transformation. With this bathroom, we moved in a wall (we needed clearance), popped up the ceiling over the bathtub and added in an amazing shower. The shower fills the cavity that was previously that weird pseudo bathroom. To be clear, though, we put in an entirely new plumbing stack from the basement. In fact, the attic has its own power box, water & sewer & HVAC systems – which the laundry room borrows. Anyway, that shower is really hard to photograph, so since it’s not super clear it includes a very large bench, which is heated and long enough to lie down on. In addition to the “regular” shower, there’s also a steam unit which can fill the entire shower full of steam in less than a minute. Finally, the door is tightly sealed so that the steam lingers. Since it’s all also now well insulated, this room will stay warm.

The bathtub overlooks a beautiful borrowed view. It’s about 5 stories above ground level for any neighbors because of how our house is built on the hill. When I’m in it, I can watch the moon rise over my feet.

The vanity was a story. We ordered 7 feet of vanity and our contractor had the old version of our plans that only had six feet. So we were plumbed and set up all wrong for the additional foot. We finally figured that out, then our architect had the genius idea of turning the extra piece into a built in! I’m astonished at the transformation of this room.

Before

This room had no heat

Hard to see, but there’s a little access door to the left of the window

During

The chimney explains that weird bump out

This door was bizarre. Not even Thane was small enough to reach it. This is where we left the time capsule.
What we found in these walls…
That’s the only tiny bit of wall remaining – it’s interior.
We called it the murder shower at this stage

Now – you can’t get me out of there!

We moved in the first possible moment
6 foot vanity…
The shower is really hard to photograph
I’m in love with that backsplash tile

So that’s it! This is the end of ‘struction for this project, and hopefully for our family for a while (well, except for the floors). You may now unmute me and I will return to obsessing about plums and complaining that my kids grow too fast!

Grey turns 13

It seems like just a few days ago that I was taking pictures like this:

Grey’s 0th birthday

But somehow, I now find myself hosting the 13th birthday party I’ve thrown for my eldest son. That’s right, folks, he was born 14 years ago. My son is officially a teenager. I’m sorry. I know many of you remember reading about how incredibly late his arrival was. Yes, I’ve been blogging before he was born. You read about baby Grey, and listened to me anticipating his firsts (most of which came early – having a kid walk at 7 months SOUNDS great until you have a 7 month old who can walk and then it sounds awful). You remember the cute early mispronunciations.

I realized last night that when I was pregnant with Grey, phones did not have applications. Only teenagers texted. And when we wanted the internet, we booted up computers. Whoa.

On this advent of his teenagerness, I wanted to take a moment and remember the little kid, I used to have. In honor of that, I’ve pulled together an album of pictures from all Grey’s birthdays. I have to admit that our cake game has definitely fallen in recent years.

Daycare birthday

1st birthday
Grey had two – one at daycare with Abuela, and then one we hosted with our friends to celebrate having survived a year of parenting.
Here’s what I wrote at the time. The incredible blue of his Grover cake frosting led to a blue-tinged boy for a while.

Grey’s 2nd birthday

2nd birthday
This year featured Spongebob on the birthday cake. It seems like another world when he loved Spongebob. I remember he had this ‘fridge magnet that played music & he liked to dance to at this age. I was starting to move from short form to longer form writing, and have a pretty comprehensive 2nd birthday writeup.

Grey’s 3rd birthday

3rd birthday
This is the first one I wrote on this blog platform. I was heavily pregnant with his younger brother at the time of this birthday. It’s also the first time we see Lincoln make an appearance. Lincoln will be in pretty much every birthday party from this point forward.

I’m four, mom.

4th birthday
I did not actually write a birthday update, but this anecdote update is a pretty fun overview of what Grey was like as a 4 year old. He already knew the fine art of flattery! We were still in Spongebob, with a Gary the snail cake.

Grey’s 5th birthday

5th birthday
Ha! It’s pretty funny to see me thinking that a five year old was Very Grown Up. Eight years later my son is pretty much my height, and a bass.

Lined up for pinata by age

6th birthday
This was the first year that Grey was in school! My writeup indicates it was also the beginning of role-playing and Pokemon.

CHUCK E CHEESE!

7th birthday
Apparently seven was all about the Legos. You never actually outgrow Legos, but they have definitely diminished in their importance over time. We did this one at Chuck E. Cheese, at his request. I’ve never returned to that place since.

Birthday dinner at Kyotoya

8th birthday
The 8th birthday party was pretty epic. A handful of friends were invited to Canobie Lake Park, then we had sushi for dinner (he’s liked sushi for a long time) and then home for Minecraft cake. I’m apparently full of disbelief every birthday that my little guy could be so very big!

All six Lego kids. These guys are Lego fanatics.

9th birthday
I think this year was a combined birthday party for both boys in the then-newly-opened Lego adventure. Then we came home & did Mentos and Coke in the back yard. I’m writing this year from a room away from a collection of near-teen boys, and every third word out of their mouths is STILL “dude”.

Sunday after soccer

10th birthday
It’s also kind of crazy to watch how my living room has changed through the years, along with my son. Laser tag that year! Also, I bought cans of Reddi-whip and let the kids pour it directly into their mouths. Because that’s what he wanted.

The sleepover-type birthday

11th birthday
Grey’s 11th birthday is a lot like his 13th is currently shaping up as, except that there are two computers and two XBoxes all linked together. Grey still makes cake often.

Nearly identical to this year

12th birthday
I didn’t write a “Grey is 12” post last year. I’m not sure why not – my blogging velocity is way slower now than it used to be. I’m not really writing a “this is Grey” post this year. He reads all my posts, and there are many things he considers to “cringey” to allow to post.

But I’ll tell you this – I deeply proud of my 13 year old. He’s turning into a person I respect, and one that I really enjoy spending time with. Some things I thought I saw when he was little haven’t come to pass, but other things have remained true about my son. His deep empathy, his old-soulness, his articulateness and unexpected kindnesses… all those seem to be things that have remained true.