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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Little One Turns 11

On Sunday, Sashenka turns eleven.  With our kind of schedule, we celebrate a little early, and a little late.  Our kids know how to work it and make their birthdays last several days, if they’re fortunate.

Naturally, growing up in an eccentric type of household, there are traditions to be observed on a birthday:

1.  She awakes at the crack of dawn.  (Oh, sorry, that was the dogs wanting to go out if memory serves me correctly….)  But we all awaken early in her honor.  Actually, every day we awaken early, but I digress.

2.  We all shower and dress (separately, separately, of course).  Every birthday we take a family photo, yes, dogs, too.  They howl until they are picked up, never mind if our arms are breaking, waiting for the camera’s timer to go off.  This is an elegant, formal type of portrait, usually with the birthday child’s homemade cake in the foreground.

3.  Naturally, the cake must have a theme.  This year, Sashenka wanted a blue cake.  Yes, blue.  The thinking behind it was that we would all have blue tongues and lips.  Delightful.  So I made the inside blue and decorated it with a horse which made her happy.  Martha Stewart, I’m not, but they love homemade cakes.

4.  We all enjoy a special birthday breakfast at home.  Yes, people, we “dress” for breakfast, don’t you?  (Sashenka had to put aside her fur muff and cape in order to eat, though.)  The sacrifices of the aristocracy are learned young.

5.  She must search for her presents before opening them.  Benedetto created this dubious tradition when our first son begged him to hide the presents.  It turned into such a hit, that the kids have to do it, year after year.  Naturally, hiding them late at night, her father cannot remember the number of presents, nor their hiding places.  For all I know, one will turn up when we finally decide to clean the house one year….

Sashenka is a sweet soul, a “Little Mama” who loves caring for younger children or pets, and a kind heart who helps the elderly.  She will probably gravitate toward the arts with her funky flair that requires some tweaking at this point in time.  Her evocative writing style has her rhapsodizing about the ocean’s waves beating against the rocks like a drum.  Forget the spelling mistakes, the messy room, do I need to brush my hair?  She’s too busy “being” to be bothered with the more mundane details.  May she always have this joie de vivre.

For the first two years home, I had to remind her to smile.  She never did on her own.  Her sad face, her sad life, all spoke volumes.  Over and over, I told her that the past was over.  She believed me in the daylight hours, but at night, alone in bed, she would chew her nails to the quick in terror, awaking with a fright, only to be reassured back to sleep again.

I believe she’s turning the corner.  New vistas stretch out before her.  She’s learned a bit about her own strength and ability, and God’s unique creation of who she is.

Each birthday, I give the other kids a gift, an unbirthday gift, to help quell the feelings of jealousy that may arise during times like these.  This year, I had a book for each of them, much too young for teens, but somehow, perfect.  As I pulled these out before the birthday cake, I asked Benedetto to read it to them, the simple text and lovely illustrations taking all of five minutes or so.  I knew I would cry.

The book is called “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman.  As Publisher’s Weekly puts it:   “The birth of a baby—‘the one and only ever you’—causes jubilation throughout creation in this quietly celebratory picture book from newcomer Tillman. Polar bears dance, giraffes weave to the sound of brass horns, and ‘the moon smiled with such wonder/ that the stars peeked in to see you/ and the night wind whispered,/ ‘Life will never be the same.’ ”

The sentimental story says nothing of any birthparent, instead, the wind is whispering the child’s name.  There are dancing polar bears and the moon plays a saxophone in celebration of the child’s birth.  The illustrations are exquisite.

I have four older children from Russia who probably never felt the joy of anyone celebrating their birth.  They may be teens, and one last ‘tween, but we will tell them that someone, somewhere, was happy and rejoiced on that day when they were born.  They are not mistakes, they are not cast-offs and unwanted, but they are cherished.

Happy Birthday, Sashenka.



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8 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Happy Birthday Sashenka!! Jupiter’s 8th Birthday was yesterday…she has a few friends coming over in a couple hours to have cake and decorate homemade hula hoops. I wanted to make Jupiter a hula hoop but the tubing only comes in 100 foot lengths…so everyone gets a hula hoop. Maybe two. The writing, non hairbrushing who cares about spelling sounds very much like Jupiter’s philosophy of life….wish you could see her hair at this moment!!

  2. avatar Stacey says:

    Happy Birthday 🙂 I remember seeing a set of these books at Costco at Christmas. There is a beautiful one by the same author that makes me cry – same theme – how before our children, there was something missing around a perfect Christmas tree. I suspect they might show up again this year and I’ll buy the lot of them. Thanks for the reminder (and I love the hide and seek gift idea!)

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Stacey, I got these at Kohl’s and I’m sure they’re on Amazon, too. I need to check out the other ones she’s written. They’re targeted for younger kids, but absolutely beautiful for any age, in my opinion, particularly if they missed out on children’s books that created special memories.

  3. avatar Sybil says:

    Happy Birthday dear Sashenka. May your 11th year be all fun, happy times and lots of accomplishments for you. Eleven is a great age for girls!

  4. avatar Phyllis says:

    I have not seen that book. I have seen some others that I thought “there is no way I can get this.” I’ll have to check on those. I think the boys would really like it.

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