Jeannie turned FOUR YEARS OLD this week! And this girl was celebrated! Isn't there a Bernstein Bears' book entitled Too Much Birthday? Well...we were close. So many people love this girl; it is hard not to overdo. While she did not have the requisite bouncy house party with her friends, she had no less than four parties. The family sang to her and cut four different cakes (two of which were made by her big sister, Caroline wanted me to mention).

My personal favorite was an impromptu party for two that happened several days before the others. After a whole morning at the prosthetic clinic, I decided Jeannie deserved a cookie for her patience and good behavior. So we walked next door to Sunflour Bakery, which just happens to be the best one in town; and I told her to pick anything she wanted from the pastry display (it had been a long appointment). She chose a chocolate sprinkled cupcake; and, then I put it together that her birthday was only five days away!

So I decided that, instead of taking her cookies "to go" and letting her add to the crumbs in the car, we would sit down and celebrate! After a lot of help and even more mess, we had our little party; and I sang to her sparkly eyes and great big smile.

I even went to the trouble of taking off my prosthetic so I could attempt to take her picture! Which snapped just a millisecond before I dropped my camera in the middle of my cupcake. It was a good belly laugh for us both...I guess you had to be there.

It was not lost on me that these special moments of her birthday couldn't have happened in years' past. On Jeannie's third birthday, I wouldn't have dared to take Jeannie out somewhere by myself; I wouldn't have been able to trust that she would stay with me. And a year ago, I did not have the finer motor skills to handle my own food, let alone Jeannie's cupcake.

This is hard to put in print, and it would be even harder to say out loud: But on her second birthday, Jeannie did not accept me as her mommy. She was still a bit wary of me, and she would never have gotten in the car with me, unless her dad or a sibling were with us. She would have pushed me away and yelled if I tried to sing Happy Birthday; I was hardly permitted to attend her party.  

Jeannie's first birthday, of course, was just like any other day -- she was the center of my attention; I just baked her a cake, too. Though her first birthday was a true gift, I didn't recognize it for the blessing that it was. Like so many things back then, I took for granted the ease with which I baked a cake, probably with her on my hip and my phone stuck to my ear. I just expected that she'd look in my eyes and reciprocate the adoration I felt for her. Like I said, it was just like any other day...

But now my girl is FOUR, and I am grateful to my core for all the blessings of the day.

It feels like yesterday that I told Brook about this impossibility-- a baby growing inside me. The baby (Jeannie) has, on many occasions, been the glue that holds our family together. I've often commented that all the kids hate each other, but they all love Jeannie! And I've often referred to what Ben said when we finally got her home: we were all standing around the crib, and the kids were staring at Jeannie with amazement (none of them were allowed to touch her because they were all getting over, you guessed it, the flu). In the gentlest nine-year-old voice that Ben could muster, he thanked me for "finally giving him a sister he loved!" Which is quite possibly (and simultaneously), the sweetest and the meanest thing he's ever said. 

And now Jeannie has gone and turned four! 

She is proving to be the most challenging, intelligent, independent, resilient, resourceful, stubborn, sneaky, and sassy Seaford yet. (I don't know where she gets it.)

The big kids still dote on her; and they still fight over who gets to sit next to her in the car. I wonder each day, when is this unanimous adoration going to fade? When will the kids stop wanting to do anything and everything for her? 

As it stands, Lauren is still flattered if I ask her to be the one to get Jeannie dressed for the day or if I think she can be trusted to brush Jeannie's hair. Even Ben doesn't complain when he is asked to take charge of Jeannie.

The coveted "chore" each night is to be the one to brush Jeannie's teeth and put her to bed. But, what will happen when it's no longer a treat to read to Jeannie and kiss her goodnight?

Well, I'm starting to think it never will...

Jean-bean has become our family mascot - when she's ok, we're ok. Those tantrums? They reflect our family's inner rage at all that has happened in this sweet young child's life. (Let's be real: they reflect her three-year-old independent, mischievous self. But, it sounded good at the time.)

But truly, when the family seems to be falling apart-- when the house is in shambles, the kids are all fighting and yelling and screaming, Ben has escaped to his disaster of a room, I am still dressed in my gym clothes, from two days ago; when the girls' hair is tangled and mangled, we're all running in different direction, and Brook has lost his patience...when the lot of us is falling apart, seemingly to the point of no return...

There, is beautiful Jeannie, with the microphone she stole from that disastrous karaoke set that Santa brought a few years back. She's dancing and singing her little heart out. And we all know the words to her song, 

"Let it go... Let it go."

Happy Birthday, Jean-Bean!