Life Is Like a Bowl of Cherries (Or Why My Five Year Old is Still Up at 9:17 PM)

This has been one of those weekends. The kind where I spend more time being a mom and less time being a flustered teacher. The kind of weekend that reminds me that my life does in fact boil down to more than grading papers, answering e-mails, and dreaming up some hands-on way to teach about warm fronts and cold fronts. The kind of weekend where there is real joy.

(Chica just said, “I can’t believe I’m up this late.” Me neither, girl. More on this later.)

I learned two years ago that birthday parties are not my forte. I don’t think my family will ever let me live down the fact that I chose not to reserve a picnic shelter for the first warm Saturday in weeks or forgot to put sunscreen on my new baby, even though I sent my mom on a special trip to get it. I also spent waaaaay more money than I had counted on when planning my “simple” party in the park. Sheesh.

Since then my approach to birthdays has been that less is more. So when I asked Chica two weeks ago at the dinner table what she wanted to do for her birthday, I was also gearing up for how to explain my minimalist theory to my almost six-year old. Much to my surprise, her perfectly planned out party was music to my ears:

“Let’s play at the park with our family. And each Papa John’s. And do a scavenger hunt. And maybe you could get four white t-shirts so we could tie-dye.”

Done. Minus in the playing in the park, which would have been no fun in the cold rain, we did just that.

IMG_2415First, while Bubba napped, the girls tie-dyed.  After a few YouTube tutorials, Chica chose her four designs:  a heart, spiral, an X, and sunbursts.  With the help of an early afternoon glass of wine or two, Nana and I suspended our need to make everything just-so, and let Chica (mostly) be in charge of the creative process.  Nana had also bought shirts for the big girls, so we managed to dye three more before we had to stop to entertain Bubba.


The results were great, and Chica wore her favorite one to church this morning.

Next Chica and her one party guest hung out downstairs while Daddy prepared the scavenger hunt and wrapped presents.  We snapped pictures, batted around plastic glove balloons, and played with Christmas presents they had forgotten.


"Split the _____ apart, and break the frozen heart."  Chica found another clue in the freezer.  Bubba found an opportunity to snatch a popsicle.

“Split the _____ apart, and break the frozen heart.” Chica found another clue in the freezer. Bubba just found an opportunity to snatch a popsicle.

Once again the internets came to the rescue of this warn out mom.  Not only did it deliver Kristoff and Anna dolls to my house in less than a week (there were NONE to be had in Lynchburg last weekend!), but it also served up a ready-made scavenger hunt perfect for Chica.  A quick Pinterest search for “Frozen Scavenger Hunt” led me to the site of two not-so-warn-out moms who were kind enough to share.  One of my favorite memories of the weekend has to be Jay singing lines from the movie to help her figure out the clues he had carefully hidden.  I love that guy.

The hunt led her to her pile of gifts on the sofa which she miraculously missed as she was darting back and forth between rooms trying to find each clue.  Her expression when she found it was fantastic. Something tells me six won’t be quite as easy to fool or surprise as five has been.  As you can see, Bubba enjoyed every minute of the present unwrapping.

IMG_2434  IMG_2438

In addition to the dolls she asked for, she also received puzzles, a sign from her Daddy about Hump Day, a sewing kit, fabric and craft supplies from her Mema, clothes from Grandma, and a bow and arrow from Nana and Papa.  I guess we didn’t subscribe completely to the less is more strategy.

IMG_2454While we waited for dinner to arrive, Chica and I hid from little brother in the back bedroom and tried out her sewing kit.  (I think she got the idea to ask for this gift from Beezus and Ramona because Aunt Beatrice gave Beezus her very own sewing kit for her birthday.  Beezus was enamored with it, and after she figured out what it was, Chica was too.)  A few months ago, our friend Miss Peggy from CrossRoads had shown Chica how to make yo-yos with a special yo-yo maker.  Chica picked up right where Peggy’s lesson left off, and she had one made in no time.  Nana and I both tried to help her as she got a little frustrated with sewing it closed at the end, but she insisted on doing it herself.  No surprise there, right?

Dinner was, well, perfect because both children ate willingly.  We all washed pizza down with ice cream and Nana’s yummy and beautiful (thanks Papa!) cake.  Over dinner Chica sincerely reported that this was the, “Best birthday ever!”


After dinner our required 6-8 hours to let the dye set got cut short, as even 3.5 hours seems like an eternity to a five-almost-six year old (and her mama).  So we opened up our banded t-shirts, rinsed them out, admired our handiwork, and put them in the wash.  About that time Bubba had had enough festivities, and it was time to head home, complete with our traditional bribe of gummies to get everyone (again…including Mommy) in the car.

This evening I was still riding the birthday high as I alternated between grading papers and playing with the kiddos.  There were lots of, “Man…this has been such a great weekend!” and, “How did we get such funny kids?” exchanged by Jay and me over dinner.  So while Bubba watched his 34,524,987th episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, I convinced Chica to join me in sewing lesson #3.

And that is why Chica was up well past 9:30.  Because she was finding so much joy in sewing her straight little stitches on what we decided would be a money bag.  And I was finding so much joy in her joy.  She even exclaimed her most favorite idiom at one point, “Life is a bowl of cherries!”  (No kidding.  The kid has a bizarre fascination with idioms.  I checked a book out from the library about them once, and for some reason, this one really stuck.  No one in our house even likes cherries.  Go figure.)

Yes, she is wearing her Little House on the Prairie dress.  She usually takes after Laura, but today she was Mary, I guess.

Yes, she is wearing her Little House on the Prairie dress. She usually takes after Laura, but today she was Mary, I guess.

So while sometimes life feels like a bag of ungraded papers or unwashed dishes or lesson plans waiting to be written, some days it’s not like that at all.  On those days, I say you ought to stay up late and eek out a few more reasons to be joyful.  Stitch another stitch, read another bedtime story, and write another blog post.  Enjoy those days where life really is a bowl of cherries…

…or better yet, when it’s a bowl of Nana’s strawberry cake.


P.S.  Many thanks to my friend, Lan, whose e-mail this week included just the encouragement I needed to post again when she wrote, “Not to be a total pain in your butt, but I strongly feel it’s time your next post was due.”  She was totally right.  It’s been way too long.