Alex's 11th birthday is this coming Tuesday; because her birthday falls midweek, we decided to let her celebrate her birthday with a few good friends this weekend. Marcus and I took the girls to a nice restaurant for dinner (where they got to sit at a table by themselves), and then we went to a little cupcake place for them to sing "Happy Birthday" before returning to our house for a sleepover.
Because I'm a pretty cool parent, I even remembered to bring birthday candles and a lighter with me for the singing festivities.
Because I'm not that cool of a parent, I bought those annoying trick candles that spontaneously reignite ... over, and over, and over again.
Alex is 10 years old today. Which, you know, is insane.
The urge to share photographs I've taken every year on her birthday is strong, but I did that a couple of years ago, when she turned 8 -- so I won't put you through that again. However, since I don't really share parenting stories here anymore, Alex only appears in the blog every once in a while, and finally reaching "double-digits" is a pretty important time in a kid's life, I figured I needed to do something a bit special. So this year, I decided to interview her so you can sort of get to know her first hand; also, since there are a few of you who have been reading Chookooloonks since the very beginning when she was born, I figured it might be interesting for you to see how she's grown up during this time.
I decided to start with the Proust Questionnaire (editing it for questions that she might not yet be old enough to give it considerable thought), and then turned to Twitter to invite people to submit questions that they would like me to ask her. The following are her answers:
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Watching TV with my mom by a fireplace.
What country would you most like to visit?
Spain -- it seems cool, because of their culture, and I've heard that they have elaborate celebrations. (I'm not sure which ones she's talking about, but I suspect La Tomatina would be right up her alley. -- Ed.)
When and where were you happiest?
At home with my mom today. (I swear I didn't tell her to say that. -- Ed.)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favourite writers?
Who is your favourite fictional heroine, and why?
I think Akeelah from the movie Akeelah and the Bee. She's smart, funny and nice.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My mom, dad and my dog, Rufus. (Someone give this kid some chocolate. -- Ed.)
What is your motto?
Sharing is caring.
How'd you get to be so awesome?
My family and friends treat me so awesomely!
Where do you think you'll be 10 years from now?
I think I'll be in Paris, fashion designing in my little house made of bricks, looking out at Notre Dame!
Yesterday was Marcus' mum's birthday. Gifts were opened, cakes were made, 60's classics were danced to.
Operation Grandma's Birthday complete.
This photograph was taken as part of #NaPhoPoMo (National Photo Posting Month) -- a shot a day for the month of November. You should join me: it's a lesson in stopping and looking, improving your photography skills, and appreciating the beauty and light around you.
Click here to see who's participating (and sign up your own blog, if you'd like!). And if you tag your photos with #NaPhoPoMo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Google+, your image will automatically be seen here. I hope you join in the fun - and I can't wait to see what you capture.
After an insanely busy day yesterday, I met Marcus for a quiet glass of wine and dinner. It was his birthday.
While my day was crazy, Marcus' was easy, since he took the day off work. I've always envied him this -- when I was an employee, I never had the guts to simply take the day off on my birthday. I think it's awesome that he has done this every year since I met him. Every year. And he tells me that he has done this all his life, never missing a year.
Such a good lesson, man. Here's to making a habit of celebration..
So last year, when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for myself for my birthday, I was toying with the idea of getting a tattoo. I don't have any tattoos, and it seemed like 45 was the perfect age to get one. Something small and tasteful, I thought. Something simple, like the words "look for the light" in small script on the inside of my left wrist.
I mentioned my plans to Alex.
"What? No." Her eyes filled with sudden tears.
I was shocked. "Wait, why? It'll be cute! Just a tiny one, right here!" I pointed to my wrist.
"Mom, no. A permanent tattoo? No."
"I thought you'd approve! Just a little ..."
She composed herself, and looked at me coolly.
"Mom, NO. In fact," she inhaled deeply, "I forbid it."
"You forbid it? HOLD UP, Miss Missy." I leveled my eyes at her. "You seem to forget I'm the mom in this relationship. You cannot forbid me."
She was undeterred. Her voice remained calm, stoic. "I forbid it."
I am not in the habit of having my daughter put her foot down with me, so while the Trini part of me was itching to give her a good lesson on what happens when little girls disrespect their elders, the rest of me was thinking that surely she's not crazy enough to tell me she forbids something unless it's really, really important to her. So I reconsidered and decided against the tattoo.
(Luckily, the camera I had ordered showed up on my birthday, so in the end, it didn't feel like I gave up too much. In fact, I haven't seriously considered getting a tattoo since.)
Then a couple of months ago, toward the end of the school year, I was picking up Alex after school, and noticed she had the shape of the sun on the back of her hand. At first I thought she had taken a brown marker and drawn on herself, but then I realized what it was.
"Alex, is that henna on your hand?"
"Oh," she glanced at her hand. "Yeah. It's called a mehndi. We were learning about India today in school."
"Did someone come in and actually draw it on you?"
"Yes, one of the moms. She's from India. We all got one."
"Yeah, they do them in Trinidad, too. All the Hindu brides get them." And then suddenly, that's when I knew. "You, know, Alex, it's really beautiful. I think I'm going to get a really fancy one for my birthday this year." I narrowed my eyes. "I don't supposed I could get your permission to have one, could I?"
She grinned. "Of course you can. Mehndis aren't permanent. So yes, you may."
So, it was settled. As my birthday approached, I started Googling for henna tattoo artists in Houston. While I'd had small henna tattoos before, I knew that for this birthday, I wanted the real deal: someone who really knew what she was doing, a person to whom all the Indian brides who wanted henna tattoos in Houston would naturally turn for their big days.
And that's how I found Soniya.
Soniya is the owner and artist of The Original Henna Company, in the Heights area of Houston. Her space is located in a small bungalow, and when I entered I was surrounded by beautiful Indian art (some of them imported, some of them Soniya originals), jewelry and clothing. There was Indian music playing on the sound system, and and Soniya greeted me with a wide smile. She sat me down on a bench covered in Indian fabrics, and propped my left arm and elbow up with cushions.
"Are you ready?" she asked.
"Then let's get to work."
Using a tube that looked a lot like the one a cake decorator might use to ice a cake, Soniya began squeezing the henna out of the cone into really intricate designs on my arm. She worked quickly, and I watched, astounded, as detailed paisleys and flowers appeared with just a few seemingly simple strokes.
And as she worked, we talked. I learned that Soniya was a scientist in Houston's Medical Center before deciding to follow in her mother's and grandmother's footsteps and become a henna artist. Her work tends to be more contemporary, combining both Indian and Arab designs, while her mother's is more traditional.
And as we talked, she worked.
Not to get all woo-woo about it, but I'd like to go on record as saying there is something deeply nurturing about having someone make beautiful art on your skin (particularly when there are no needles -- or, you know, pain -- involved). Watching her quickly make the gorgeous petals and swirls was downright hypnotic.
The design continued to become more and more detailed, on both the front and back of my arm and hand.
I began to worry.
"You know, Soniya," I said, "I've gotten small henna designs before, and they never last more than a day or two."
"What? They should last 2 weeks!"
"I know, that's what they say, but they never do."
"Okay, don't worry, I have just the thing."
After she added the finishing touches to my fingers, she disappeared into a back room.
When she returned, she was stirring a small bowl with some liquid in it.
"It's a mixture of sugar and lime juice," she answered, still stirring. "This will make sure that the henna stays on your arm as long as possible."
As the henna began drying and oxidizing into a dark black colour, she gently dabbed on the sugar/lime mixture on the design.
"Now," she continued. "Keep this on as long as possible -- for at least 5 hours or so. Then when you get home, scrape the henna off with a credit card, and slather on some Vicks."
"Yup. And no showering for at least 24 hours. Then you should be fine."
I thanked her profusely, paid her and drove home, one-handed.
Five hours later, the now-flaking henna was starting to itch a bit, and beginning to peel off. So I got my credit card (actually, my minister's card -- I knew that thing would come in handy), and began to scrape the henna off of my arm and hand, revealing the orange pattern underneath. Then, per Soniya's instructions, I slathered on Vicks. A lot of Vicks.
My arm looked beautiful, but I smelled like the flu.
The next day, however, the art had darkened, and it looked exactly as I'd hoped.
I've been taking really good care of it, and as of today, it still looks great. And honestly, I think I'm going to make a yearly habit of this. Aside from being very pretty and an exceedingly pleasant way to spend an hour, it's a wonderful birthday reminder to really enjoy the skin I was born in, you know?
Besides, I suspect I'm never going to get a real tattoo.
Alex is scary when she wants to be.
As you probably know by now, I'm all about curating happy in my life; and so, every year I try to do something special for myself for my birthday. After all, I figure there's no time better than my birthday to make sure something awesome happens.
This year, I decided I wanted to celebrate by having a full-on, professionally-done mehndi. I'll share the story of how this came about in a couple of days; but for right now, I'll just give heartfelt thanks to the truly lovely Soniya of The Original Henna Company here in Houston. You do positively stunning work.
In other news, thank you all for your lovely birthday wishes yesterday! Since my birthday is actually today, it's time for my birthday wish: I wish all of you a day of joy today, because nothing would make me happier than knowing you're all having a great day. In fact, my wish is that you all curate a bit of happy in your own lives: spend time today with a dear friend, get yourself a massage, or do something that otherwise makes you happy. And if you share what you're going to do for yourself in the comments, it will make my day.
For example, you should spring for a dark chocolate truffle! Man, I love dark chocolate truffles.
Have a great day, friends.
story of the day: act your age from nerdseyeview.com
"His hair was hennaed and he was sporting a comb-over.
His shirt was a button down, his khakis pleated in front, his loafers sturdy and brown. The ladies denied his requests to dance, delivered while he shook his not too generous but still present belly, his arms raised over his head. He was out with his buddies having a harmless good time, catching some quirky live music at a place recommended by his cousin, or some such thing. An older guy, I pegged him in his late forties, early fifties.
And then, my brain screeched to a halt. 'Oh, shit,' I thought, 'that guy is my age.'" (read more)
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