My mom's reasoning for not having annual birthday parties for us growing up was that she didn't want to make other parents have to buy as many presents for her kids as they did their own. We all had friends who had parties every year and we were always invited and we almost always went. By the time we were about 10, we were expected to buy or make the gifts ourselves. So we all grew up thinking annual birthday parties were kind of an odd thing.
Even as we grew up and started having other sorts of parties, they weren't "normal". My high school graduation party was a blessing party. The group of adults I'd grown up among, who were like extra parents for me, and my friends and family all gathered and blessed me before I headed off to college. The next year, my friends' families copied that. We Walkes like to bless our children and my parents write and wrote some pretty great ones. That has trickled down to my siblings and I and our writing blessings for our own children. We don't think a child can be TOO blessed, especially with all they have to deal with these days.
So what Austin and I have done, instead of a birthday party for our kids, is a blessing dinner. True, we did Asher's and Eden's when they were nearly five months old and Elijah's actually on his birthday, but there were reasons behind the timing. Asher, we wanted to celebrate this first child of ours. Eden, we want to bless her before she starts having surgical procedures. Elijah...we would have done it sooner but that was just a crazy time for us so his first birthday was the soonest we could get to it. Sorry, kid.
June 20 was Eden's blessing dinner. I didn't think picking the night before Father's Day would be so hard for so many people but it surprisingly was. We had about half of our invitees decline because they were going out of town for Father's Day. There are some very lucky fathers out there! We asked people not to bring gifts, just blessings for Eden. A lot of the people who couldn't attend sent in their blessings so we could put them in a book I make each time for the kids. We had a lovely time of laughing and crying and blessing and praying over our sweet girl. And she was just the sweetest, most patient child ever. She sat and listened and didn't fuss at all until after it was over, then she twisted around until her surrogate grandmother turned her so she could lean against Rosetta's chest and go to sleep and then she slept for probably an hour.
We had a room full of kids just playing and having a good time, three rooms full of adults enjoying dinner and each other's company, and a small baby who was the center of it all and rightly so.
Austin wrote his blessing earlier this week and after a mishap with the invitations, decided I should probably proofread it. Here's his blessing, posted with permission.
Bless you, Eden
Little girl, I know you won't remember this, but when you were a newborn, you seemed to prefer snuggling with me over Mommy. No, I have no proof, but Mommy knows even if she won't admit it.
(It should be noted he did not pick Comic Sans, that's just the default since he picked a fancy font that's not available on blogger.) Not too shabby for not growing up in a "blessing" family! I've been sick for nearly two weeks now, so all my energy has been going into keeping kids alive and fed and getting the last minute plans and preparations taken care of for the party: shuttling tablecloths back and forth from Mom's to the woman who ironed them, getting the tablecloths ready for ironing in the first place, ordering cakes and flowers and food, deciding on food and purchasing and preparing it, getting out the real china dishes we used and the real silver and silverplate and stainless steel flatware we used, picking up at Mom's house, setting up tables, etc. I've been doing something for this party seemingly every day for a couple of weeks now, all while sick. Go me.
If I was your favorite before, things changed quickly, because you smiled for everyone else before you cracked a smirk for me. It's hard to believe now because you always have a wide gummy smile for me whenever I pick you up.
Little girl, I know you weren't even aware you were doing it, but when your arteries decided to twist the wrong way while you were putting yourself together, you figured out how to make it work anyway. You are easily the greatest life-hacker I have ever met, and I am so proud to be your daddy.
We don't know how the next few months are going to play out, but we do know you have a huge support crew between your family, your extended family, your friends, your church, and the best team of doctors and nurses in the world. We hope someday you'll be able to look back on all these blessings and Mommy's blog and realize how truly special you are to all of us.
Little girl, whose name means paradise and "God is my oath", we have experienced the joy of paradise in your company these few months, and we promise to do everything we can to help you live a long and joyous life with us.
Bless you, Eden Elizabeth Mullins.
The blessing hadn't even started being formed in my head and then all of a sudden it was 11pm on Friday night and I was exhausted. I looked at Austin and sighed and said I was going to write my blessing. He said ok, he could proofread it if I needed. I said we'd see. Thirty minutes later this is what I had:
My beautiful, strong girl:
There will come a time in your life when you may wonder if you are loved, or wanted, or if anyone cares if you live or die. Typically this is during teenage years. I am here to tell you that you are loved, you were wanted, and we definitely care if you live or die. We are doing everything we can to make sure that when you die, you are an old woman who has lived a long, fulfilling life.
You have already showed a remarkable resilience for the hand you’ve been dealt. You have charmed every doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant, medical student, intern, resident, technician, and beyond that you’ve dealt with. Your sweet smile and easy going nature are going to come in handy for the future you have to deal with. I bless you that it is always so, that you always are pleasant and easy for the medical people to treat.
As you grow, I bless you with people who will support and love you, who will understand that you may not always be in the best mood, or feel wonderful. People who will be worth having in your life. Pick your friends carefully because they can either tear you down or build you up. I bless you with lifelong friends.
You have two older brothers who currently adore you. They love to touch your hands and legs and look into your face. Asher is constantly calling to you, curling up with you, watching over you like a good big brother and Elijah will come find me wherever I am to tell me if you’re crying, even if I’m standing right next to you. I bless you with a continued good relationship with your brothers. Your family are the people who will be with you your whole life through no matter what. They’re the ones who will help you move every time, who will house sit for you, who will babysit, who will always love you no matter how awful you might be. Family are the ones who get your jokes and who make you the butt of theirs, lovingly of course. I bless you that you and Asher and Elijah will always be there for each other, through thick and thin, doctor’s appointments and hospital stays, good and bad.
You were named after two of my favorite books, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, a book your father and I read together while we were dating long distance, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, a book I have enjoyed for many years. I bless you with a love of reading. Read all kinds of books: good ones, bad ones, silly ones, serious ones, long ones, short ones. If it interests you, read it.
I bless you with a love of knowledge. Find everything about topics that interest you and read as much as you can about them. Some people may call you a nerd, but that’s ok. If you love something, love it. In the words of Wil Wheaton, an actor who’s moderately popular right now:
“Being a nerd is awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you that a thing you love is a thing you can’t love. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t love that, that’s for boys…you find the things you love and you love them the most that you can.
“And listen: This is really important. I want you to be honest, honorable, kind. I want you to work hard, because anything worth doing is hard. And I want you to be awesome.”
Baby girl, I already think you’re awesome. Your entry into the world was awesome, your heart is awesome, your whole being is awesome. I know that you will continue to be awesome.
You have a difficult road ahead of you, my sweet girl. I bless you with strength. Physical, emotional, mental, strength of character, strong friends, strong opinions (which, let’s face it, you’re half Walke so that’s a given), strong personality (again, no brainer there).
I bless you with a sweet spirit and a calm nature. I bless you with love from friends and family. I bless you with patience and resilience. I bless you with understanding. I bless you with all the good things life has to offer and only a few of the bad. Based on what you’ve gone through so far, I hope you’ve already gotten your quotient of bad things.
I know we sometimes call you our princess, but I don’t want to give you that label. Princesses generally have the reputation of needing to be rescued, of being fragile and dainty and perhaps a little dumb and needy. I want you to be an Amazon. Be strong and confident and independent and smart. Be a warrior. And most of all, don’t forget to be awesome.
Thank you to all our friends and family who came, who sent blessings, who pray for daily, and who love our girl. We think she's pretty special (not just because of her heart) and we love that you all do, too.
And thank you to everyone who tells me that I'm doing a good job and that we're handling this well. Sometimes I don't feel like we are and I just want to throw in the towel, but parenting isn't something you can really opt out of, not easily anyway, so we have to keep plodding along through the muck and hard times. It means a lot to me that people see what we're doing and think we're doing the right thing. Parenting is hard! Support is always needed!
Fighting the snot and getting ready (don't worry, I washed my hands a lot)
Beautiful girl, sleeping well during the day
This is where Eden spent most of the evening.
One of the tables. I was trying to get a picture of a baby, not texting at the dinner table.
There were more people at this table at one point. lol
The hallway diners.
The mayhem of the kids room was pretty great.