Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthdays Are Beautiful Things

Birthdays are beautiful things, but I especially love my birthday because it comes every year at the perfect time. Signs of spring are just starting to appear, summer is only one short school quarter away, a much needed spring break is right around the corner, and then there's Easter. Preparing for Holy Week through church services, choir rehearsals, and devotionals leading up and through my birthday is a personal tradition.

Who doesn't like to be celebrated? As a kid, I can remember counting the days until it was finally my birthday. Not only was I thrilled with the idea of being one year older, but it was a day all about ME! Everyone in my world knew that it was my birthday. And if I happened to go somewhere where someone didn't know the significance of the day, it was quite appropriate to announce, "Today is my birthday!" Now, truly, everyone in my world would be up to speed, and we could get on with celebrating.

I remember becoming an adult and going about the business of the day, going to work, running errands, taking care of business just like it was any other day and thinking, "Hey, no one knows that it's my birthday! There's something wrong with this!" But I couldn't just walk around like an eight-year-old announcing, "Today is my birthday!" I sure wanted to though. Becoming an adult was like holding in a big secret and pretending it didn't matter.

Thankfully, as a third grade teacher, I live in the world of eight-year-olds. And to a certain extent, the teaching profession attracts those of us who'd really like to be stuck in those single-digit years for the rest of our lives when everything was magical, fascinating, and lovely. But since I work at an elementary school, on my birthday, I could walk up to any person, child or adult, and announce, "Today is my birthday!" and I'd be properly and sincerely greeted. But even in our school world, an announcement is hardly necessary.

We all know each others' birthdays, how long until they'll arrive, and feel a quiet sadness for those who have "summer birthdays". Our birthdays are listed on the classroom wall along with other crucial information like parts of speech, multiplication tables, capitalization rules, and the names of the seven continents. We count down to birthdays, we graph the birthdays of our classmates, we sing and dance over cupcakes and juice boxes multiple times a month. Birthdays are a big deal!

And they're an even bigger deal if you are the teacher. Student whispers are hushed when the teacher walks by, giggles are shushed as they surreptitiously pass handmade cards to be signed, room moms bring cupcakes for that "surprise" party even though that one child spilled the beans days ago. Today, I got to wear a tiara and a birthday pageant sash. How many grown women get to do that on their birthdays?

Being gluten intolerant, I always feel so loved when someone who understands the issues involved makes sure that I'm taken care of. In the food realm, this birthday was a Love Fest! The husband took me out for birthday dinner at Midtown Cafe. The first words out of the waiter's mouth were, "I hear that you have a gluten allergy. You can order anything from our menu, and we'll make sure to make it gluten-free." A friend brought cupcakes for my entire class this morning. But my treat? PF Chang's gluten-free chocolate dome. Oh my!

Then for lunch, my room moms traveled all the way to Nashville to pick up lunch for me at my favorite gluten-free sandwich shop and bakery - FiddleCakes. Chicken salad on gluten-free bread that actually stays together and an amazing butternut squash soup were out of this world delicious.

Oh, but there's more. At the end of the day, those very same room moms brought cupcakes for the kids. Yes, this was the second batch of cupcakes of the day. (We are big on cupcakes in the elementary schools.) But these cupcakes were ALL made gluten-free. My students loved watching me eat a cupcake for the very first time. They loved eating something that not only their teacher could eat, but they tasted better than the white flour cupcakes that they eat all the time. Imagine a third grade boy asking for the recipe!

They weren't just good. They were amazing.

So, did I mention that FiddleCakes is my new favorite gluten-free treat supplier? When I got home after teaching a sculpting class, that incredible husband of mine showed up with this.

And I can honestly say that it was the best-tasting chocolate cake I've ever had.

And now you're wondering if it's possible that one person can consume so much chocolate in one day...

Birthdays only come once a year. That's what makes them so special.

And thanks to all of you for making it such a delightful day (both the big people and the little ones).

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