Birthdays in the time of COVID can be hard.  Especially for a kid like Juliette, who loves all the people and all the fanfare and all the hugs.  But when I gently told her that her party would need to look a little different this year, that we couldn’t invite her whole class to the bowling alley, she got it.  I asked her what she wanted to do instead and she said, “Maybe have a Zoom call with some of my friends?”  Ah, you sweet, exceedingly adaptable girl!  Mom and Dad can do better than that.

Juliette has been asking to ride a horse since we watched a couple of women unload their golden Palominos from a trailer at an Oregon parking lot a couple of months ago.  I wasn’t sure she’d meet the height limit at any nearby horse camps, but Shane reached out to a coworker that lives on a farm about an hour outside the city and asked if Juliette could take a spin on their pony.  Dad of the year!  We boarded the Southworth ferry on a Saturday afternoon, using the boat time to do some studying (on the encyclopedia of Zelda – these two are obsessed again).

The smoke was THICK that weekend from the Oregon wildfires, so my time on the ferry deck was short.  Gotta save our lungs for that pony ride…

We arrived at the farm and met the chickens and said hello to the assorted cats and dogs bounding around us, and then it was time to get this girl up on her pony!

(Which turned out to be really more horse than pony.)

Juliette did a few blissful loops on Rufus B. Ponypants (100% his real name) and then gleefully fed him peppermints right out of the palm of her hand.  I think most kids like animals, but lately Juliette’s love for all things four-legged runs deeper than ever.

We fed blackberries to the chickens…

And then hung out with Mickey and Minnie, the resident cats, before doing some serious trampolining in the front yard.  It was a mellow evening, but felt so wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary after six months worth of Groundhog Days.  Serious thanks to Shane’s manager and his wife for hosting us – they made this kid’s day.

I stayed up late on Saturday night decking the halls for a Sunday surprise and loved seeing Juliette’s face when she sleepily stepped out into the living room.

It was a chill-but-perfect morning at home.  Teddy bear pancakes, hot chocolate…

And PRESENTS!

Against our better judgment, Juliette’s big gift this year was a….

…skateboard!  With knee pads.  And a helmet.  And wrist guards.

Post-presents, we snuggled up on the couch and I felt over-the-moon grateful that Juliette still fits on my lap.

SEVEN!

We eventually rallied and headed outside to take the birthday girl’s new wheels for a spin.

She’s quite good, actually!

I…am not.

And then a lazy afternoon of games and a movie.

Juliette donned her twirley new birthday dress in the evening and stood by the window like an eager puppy while we waited for our crew to arrive for pizza and cupcakes.

They’re here!

We kept it small this year – just our chosen family – but there was still plenty of love to go around.

Wish big, kiddo.

And suddenly she looks…twelve?

Our friends left at sunset and then the beloved neighbor kids came over with a clue that took Juliette on a scavenger hunt for her present from them, ending in a wrapped box of Legos behind our grill.  I was feeling a little angsty about the absence of a big party this year, but our people showed up big for our girl.

Monday was Juliette’s actual birthday, but with school and work and the previous day’s multiple celebrations, we kept it low-key.  Just a few front porch pics and burritos for dinner (Juliette’s dinner of choice).

I left the decorations up for the rest of the week, which meant we could spend our lunchtimes playing balloon volleyball while rocking out to Billie Eilish.

Sweet Jesus, this girl…  She’s such a light in what have been some dark times for our family and our city and our country and our world.  She is the perfect amount of seven-year-old silly, but is kind and caring well beyond her years.  I had to go a meeting a couple of weeks ago that I was dreading, and when I came home and pulled into the garage, Juliette was waiting at the car door before I even opened it.  “How did it go, Mama?” she asked with the utmost concern.  I told her it was fine, better than expected, actually.  She responded with genuine relief, sighing “Oh, I’m so glad!” as she wrapped her arms around me.

How’d we get so lucky?

HAPPY!

SEVENTH!

JULES!

Love, Mama.

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