Madelyn & Friends Archive

A Fairy Happy Birthday

This year in kindergarten, all around her, teeth were dropping like flies. Madelyn made it very clear that she was jealous of all the other kids in her class who had teeth that were flappin’ in the wind and regular visits from the Tooth Fairy. Even when her very best friend lost her first tooth, Madelyn sulked in the corner because her envy outweighed her happiness for her friend. I can remember wanting to grow up at the same exact time as all my friends, too (and reading all those Judy Blume books near the end of elementary school made me eager to, as Judy would say, … develop… so I understood), but I explained to Madelyn that she was one of the youngest in her class so she would probably not lose her first tooth at the same time as everyone else.

I was shocked when, a month before turning six, she still didn’t have a wiggle. But about two weeks ago, Madelyn complained of her tooth “hurting” and I thought that was strange since the tissue and the tooth looked healthy. I asked my dentist friends and they mentioned that just before the start of a wiggly tooth, sometimes kids say their tooth hurts, but what it really means is that it’s just bothering them and there’s no pain to be concerned about.

That’s exactly what happened to Madelyn!

A few days later, I checked, and sure enough, the tooth moved side to side ever so slightly. Just as quickly as the wiggle came on, so did the progression of the wiggle! It seemed like no time at all until she, too, finally had a tooth that was flappin’ in the wind.

The night before her sixth birthday, we went to Lazy Dog Cafe for our traditional Birthday Eve Dinner and she enjoyed a huge ice cream sundae with a candle in it. As she blew out her candle, I knew exactly what she’d wish for: to finally lose her first tooth! It was barely hanging in, but I figured it needed another couple days. I had a pretty good feeling it would be out before the end of the weekend.

Wishing for the wiggle of all wiggles.

Good thing she didn’t lose her tooth right then and there or we never would have found it in that ocean of whipped cream.

Knowing this, I kept reminding Bryan to make a stop at the bank to pick up some magical and fairy-like $2 bills. I couldn’t do it because I have been with Madelyn non-stop all day working on a television show (more on that in … a while). But between his busy work days and the limited hours a bank is open (9 to 5 just really isn’t long enough apparently!), as of August 8th, we were still not stashing away $2 bills.

After our Birthday Eve Dinner, I had to drop of Arielle at my parents’ house so that she could spend the night since we’d be waking up early to take Madelyn on set. We were excited to show Bryan around and introduce him to the cast and crew who’ve become like family. Sending Arielle to my parents’ house the night before was the most logical plan since our morning would be super early.

While I was in the car, Bryan called and I heard chaotic crying and gasping in the background. “SHE LOST HER TOOTH!” he announced. I let out a desperate, “Are you serious?!” that was not that dissimilar from how I responded to his marriage proposal.

We quickly connected to FaceTime once I got to my parents’ house so I could see Madelyn’s face. She was still freshly watery in the eyes and super unsure about this milestone.

Me, in the upper left hand corner, trying not to cry because growing up omg.

Thankfully, he preserved the moment by having her tell the story of how she lost her tooth. Sounds to me like not only did she get rid of the day’s sugar and plaque, but she brushed away her tooth, too!

As the best daddy in the world, he handled the clean-up and talking her off a ledge like a total pro; Madelyn was completely freaking out that her tooth was now a fossil as she held it in her hand and saw a hole in her gum line in her reflection.

Bryan had Madelyn get the room ready for the Tooth Fairy which included tidying up the area around the bed so she wouldn’t trip over dirty laundry, headbands, and Legos late at night in the dark room, as well as writing a note to the Tooth Fairy in order to establish a healthy child-fairy rapport.

She’s such a little cheerleader:
“Dear Tooth Fairy,
You are the best. You can do lots of things. I love you! I want you to put my tooth in a box safe and perfect as can be. You can do this! Go Tooth Fairy!
Love, Madelyn”

I had ordered a cute pillow on Etsy that hadn’t arrived yet, so Bryan had Madelyn drop her tooth into the pocket of my childhood Tooth Fairy pillow, tucked her note inside with the tooth, and placed it under her pillow as tradition tells kids to do.

Madelyn ready for Tooth Fairy Prep 101.

When I came home from putting Arielle to sleep, I got to work. Since our $2 plan was out the window, we went for the only cash we had that wasn’t twenties. A nice, clean, crisp $10 bill would have to do. And while I wasn’t super thrilled about setting the bar that high on tooth #1, I decided on a few things: 1) She doesn’t really know the value of money yet anyway, so if I switch it up on her for the next tooth, she won’t really care; and 2) She’s seeing her favorite show, “Hamilton,” in September, so the way to make this tooth loot relevant is to tie it in with Hamilton himself who, as Lin Manuel Miranda says, is the “ten dollar founding father.” Thanks to some loose powder shimmery eye shadow, I made the bill sparkly and magical, and I knew that would seal the deal for her.

I also wrote her a letter from the Tooth Fairy and stressed out a fair amount as I knew I had to straddle the narrow line of making the writing easy enough to read (no cursive) and different enough to disguise my printing. I added some more glitter and shimmer to the letter — because apparently the Tooth Fairy is just a moth who’s been squished on paper?? — and knew it was time to do the deed.

Just before planning the route to the pillow and sneaking into her room, Bryan and I documented the moment. After all, this very point of parenting was brand new to us, and something I was looking forward to since the day I realized who my Tooth Fairy was. A fleeting whirlwind of emotions left me a little teary (do I have a Chopped Onion Fairy who accompanies the Tooth Fairy?!) because I distinctly remember when that very tooth that was hanging out in her pillow pocket grew into her mouth. There were tears and a few sleepless nights when she was a handful-and-a-half months old, but she grew to showcase a beautiful smile and this moment that was six years in the making meant it would transition to a new version of that smile. Time is so wonderful and cruel like that. So, all this to say, because it’s a big parenthood moment, we snapped a photo of the Tooth Fairy just before making touch down.

We found these wings tucked up in the top of the closet with the rest of the costume stash.
Pretty much the last time I wore this, I was dressed up as an angel at a college fraternity party. I am very sure that many vodka cranberries were involved with the 2003 version of this outfit.

I found Madelyn sleeping on the middle of the foot of her double bed, not even near her pillow, as if to make it easy for the Tooth Fairy to find the buried treasure. One less tooth, but no less considerate, that Madelyn.

I did the exchange and tip toed away. Very simple, but very breathless. I was sure she would wake up from the sound of my heart beating, like horses stampeding in a Game of Thrones battle. She stirred for a moment and I was already coming up with my go-to on-the-spot reason for being in her room in the middle of the night. But Sleeping Toothless Beauty continued slumbering, and my stealth fairy powers paid off. I didn’t know I could hold my breath for so long until I was safe in the hallway, undetected and unscathed.

This morning, she woke up on her birthday and ran into our room, way more chipper than anyone should be at 7 a.m.

“MOMMMMMMYYYYY!!! I have some exciting neeeeews!” she dangled the word “news” like I’d never guess in a million years and was waiting for my shocked reaction.

“Oh yeah?” YAWN. “What’s that? What could be so exciting this early?”

“Well,” she took a deep breath to drop the bomb. “The Tooooooth Fairy caaaaaaame! And she left me moneeeeeey! And it’s TEN DOLLARS. You know why? Because I love “Hamilton!” She really punched it with that “Hamilton.”

I declared that her Tooth Fairy knows all about her and is magical that way. How impressive. She couldn’t get over the fact that the Tooth Fairy was so smart and brilliant (go on… tell me more!) to not only know these things, but to put this much thought into them. If only she knew that the Tooth Fairy couldn’t make it to Chase before closing.

Madelyn couldn’t stop grinning her new grin. If she were a peacock, her feathers would be sprouting all over the place. And when I reminded her it was her birthday, too, her eyes almost burst open and her jaw hit the floor; in all the excitement of the Tooth Fairy morning discovery, she had completely forgotten she woke up on her birthday! She did her happy dance, gaping hole in her smile and all, and we spent the morning cuddling this baby who, truly, over night, grew into a totally awesome and unique six-year-old.

After her birthday dinner, I couldn’t help but capture this quintessential six-year-old moment.

I couldn’t think of a cooler way to lose a first tooth or a cooler girl to lose it.

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  33. Mimi
    8/11/2017 9:47 PM

    Wow Madelyn! So many big milestones happened to you in 2 days!
    Happy 6th Birthday! I hope all your birthday wishes come true and you have the best time being 6. I had such a wonderful time celebrating with you and your friends at the dance studio party.
    And how exciting that you lost your first tooth! The Tooth Fairy is the best fairy and is always excited to visit a kid who takes such good care of their teeth like you do. This is only the beginning of more visits from the Tooth Fairy.
    I am so proud of you and love you very much!
    love, Mimi

She’s Bringing Sixy Back

It’s hard to believe that when BornFriedman started, Baby Girl Friedman was just a little blob of cells and now, just about six years later, she’s a blob of sass and smarts and talent and love and kindness and humor and beauty. And all of that is worth celebrating, so celebrate we did!

Last year, her Dodgers party at our house was a — hit! — but I actually kept my promise and scaled down for her sixth birthday party. And by “scaled down,” I mean I outsourced the venue and activity (I love you, Protégé Performing Arts), prepared zero food (I love you too, Stonefire), and kept the guest list to her favorite gal pals for a super girly and twirly dance studio party.

While I’ve always been a glutton for punishment with making a zillion decorations and party favors and food, I’m so glad I left it up to the pros since our uniquely busy summer schedule left me little to no prep time for this year’s party. I did a few artsy projects like painting mason jars for center pieces and my annual banner to hang over the food table, but it dawned on me why I felt so rested and bright-eyed on the day of this party: easy party!

Madelyn has been taking tap and ballet at Kelly Salvatore’s dance studio in North Ranch, Protégé Performing Arts, for the three seasons it’s been open. We love Miss Kelly, not just because she’s a personal friend of ours, but also because she’s the Pied Piper of children and has the most wonderful disposition with all of her students. I don’t know how she does it with such ease! Madelyn loves going to dance class once a week because Miss Kelly makes her feel so loved while still teaching her the foundations. I was so excited to share Miss Kelly with Madelyn’s friends at her party!

The girls got started with a little free dancing and stretching. Madelyn did an amazing job introducing her friends to each other since they all came from various parts of her life. I was super impressed with how she mingled with everyone and made sure they all felt included. That’s difficult for adults to do, let alone first-graders, so I was really proud of her!

I loved watching Madelyn and her friends dance together as if they’d all known each other for years. Grown-ups could learn a thing or two from kids about letting loose, letting go, and tearin’ down those walls.

Miss Kelly cleverly set up a dance “obstacle course” — OLYMPICS 2028!!!!!!! — and the girls had to do certain moves at each spot along the way, ending with a cheer to the tune of “MADELYN IS SIX!” or something like that, accompanied by a passionate pom-pom shake. They did a great job learning the directions and waiting their turns. It was too cute and all the girls were amazing!

And then there was a Hula Hoop game. Twelve little girls Hula Hooping is very loud. Lots of beads sloshing around and hollow plastic bouncing and tumbling all over wood floor. But those girls sure do love to work those hips. Shakira would be proud.

They also learned a little hip hop combo to “My Shot” from … any guesses? HAM wait for it (haha) ILTON! Six-year-old booty shaking might be the best thing ever invented. When the show opens at the Pantages here in Hollywood this week, I think there are definitely some understudy contenders from Madelyn’s birthday party guests.

Perhaps the most entertaining portion of Madelyn’s party was her own little sister. Arielle was living her best life for that 90 minutes of time on the dance floor. Everything she did, she did with the most fierce determination. When it came time to stretch, she was totally nose to the toes; nose to the floor, even. When it was time to shake her tush, she almost pulled a TSwift and shook it off. ALL OFF. And she committed to her balloon. All the kids got to dance with a balloon tied to their wrists, but Arielle and her balloon were intertwined in the greatest love affair of all. They danced together like they were Fred and Ginger or like they were aiming toward the Mirrorball Trophy. Arielle and that pink balloon: I’ve never seen a purer joy.

They worked up an appetite so the dancers — and patient parents! — were fed. Stonefire (read: breadsticks) turns every party into a rager. We’ve been eating left overs for 24 hours. I am very pleased with my choice to cater in this lunch!

And using a kids party as an excuse to order a half pan of mac n cheese was my most brilliant idea. Kids parties every weekend???

Back in the dance room, the girls got in line for a little stroll down the cat walk, practicing their best strut and some awesome poses. These girls loved the mirror and the mirror loved them right back. I’m not sure Madelyn will be tackling Fashion Week any time soon or ever, but in that moment, she was such a super model, she could’ve married Tom Brady right then and there.

The grand finale was a dance choreographed by Madelyn (she’s really good at step-touches and hip sways) as well as a break down to “Can’t Stop The Feeling” because… Justin.

Even with all the dancing love, nothing transitions a bunch of girls into the final activity more than the word “CUPCAKES.” Madelyn’s friends gathered around her to sing the birthday anthem and she made her own speech after she blew out her candles! Usually, I say something to the guests, but our big six-year-old is enough of a Chatty Maddie and budding toastmaster that I thought she might want to share her own words. In her speech, she announced her love for all of her best and favorite friends surrounding her and how glad she was to see everyone together and “mixed.” And then she thanked the grown ups. Eddie Haskell or sweet girl: take your pick… but it was one more proud feather in my cap.

The girls took a group photo and then began to trickle away with hugs and goodbyes. With all the rush of hosting a birthday party, we crammed in a family photo before we left, which was a feat because, well, Arielle wanted off her feet. She partied so hard, by the end, she resembled a college girl… the day after. If her speech was better, she would’ve asked me to drive her to the nearest dirty burrito shack. That girl.

We had the best time at Madelyn’s sixth birthday. This little big one is so full of life and pizzazz, it was so appropriate for us to celebrate her with dance and expression! Her big day is actually Wednesday, August 9th, but we will be making her feel special for this whole birthday week. More surprises are in store for her throughout the rest of August, and selfishly, the surprises are just as great for me because I love seeing her face light up. There’s no greater delight than watching Madelyn as she dances through life.

  1. Mimi
    8/11/2017 9:58 PM

    HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY TO YOU, MADELYN!!! You have such nice friends and it was a fantastic party! I love how you were such a great hostess making sure everyone was having a great time. I think Arielle had the best time too and never seemed to get tired from all the dancing. I can’t wait for the special birthday surprise outing I have planned for us next week. 🙂
    I love you very much!

  2. Linda SMith
    8/8/2017 9:45 AM

    That was an amazing blog….lucky Madelyn

Madelyn is Four

Yes, she turned 4 in August, but there have been negative 2847 minutes available to sit down and recap life. Babyland has kept us busy in addition to new schedules, less sleep, more activities. In other words, I have failed at blogging. If blogging was a major, I’d be kicked out of the university. If blogging was a marriage, I’d be divorced and getting zero alimony. If blogging was a pre-teen, I’d be getting so many eye rolls and guttural sighs that my laptop could slam doors from the living room couch where I typically blog. So yes, that’s me and blogging right now.

But I didn’t want to miss out entirely on recapping Madelyn’s birthday because it was a good one! Her first, second, and third birthdays were all labors of love, and her fourth was no different. This year, I wanted to incorporate something she loves while still providing entertainment for her friends. I thought about going to a play place because she loves those places or going to the farm because she adores the animals there, but with a five-month-old in tow, I really wanted to torture myself to the max and orchestrate an at-home party with all of her friends… and grown up friends… and family.

So we hired a bubblist. Because isn’t that what everyone does? We had a bubble party where a bubblist — the highly professional and scientific term for the person who demonstrates giant human-sized bubbles — came to do a whole show and facilitate play time in the backyard. But I couldn’t leave it alone at the bubble company. No. I insisted on torturing myself with bubbly decor, spherical food, and things that go pop… like bubbles.

I made her traditional birthday party wreath to welcome guests to the front door. And for some more sensory fun, I laid out bubble wrap on the pathway to the door a la the red carpet. The kids liked jumping all over that thing and to my next door neighbors, sorry for the noise; it was festive decor for a birthday party, not gunshots and gang activity. #oops





Somehow, we managed to cram all of our party people into the open kitchen/family room for the bubble show. The bubblist demonstrated different kids of bubbles and talked about sciencey things. The kids were engaged and didn’t even realize they were learning. This teacher/party planner was pleased.




Then it was time for the kids to go in a bubble. They took turns and one at at a time, the bubblist let the kids journey into a tunnel of bubble. It was pretty cool and I think they all enjoyed seeing the world from the inside of soapy water.




Arielle was completely unfazed.

Arielle was completely unfazed.

Even some grown up kids got into the bubble action.


After the indoor bubble show, everyone played with bubbles outside. The bubble fun continued with lots of plastic kiddie pools and various tools for making bubbles. It was a full out bubblepalooza and just what the kids needed after sitting for 30 minutes.




And what’s bubbly fun without a plate of sugar? Cake time came, and Madelyn posed with her bubble cake as we all sang to her.




All that was left for this busy birthday mom was to relax and actually socialize with our friends and family. I’ll admit I love throwing these big parties, but the downside is that it’s hard to actually visit with everyone. So while Madelyn and her friends ran around, I tried to soak up time with the people I love.












The sun was going down and our friends trickled away. Madelyn saw her giant mound of presents and couldn’t wait any longer, so she tackled them with delight. She is quite the lucky girl! Her final hours of being 3 were spent playing with all of her new treasures, including her first American Girl doll from Mimi and Poppa. We brought my old Samantha down and we played with our dolls and I suddenly turned 7 all over again. Shameless.




It was our first August 8th in 4 years that we didn’t visit Lazy Dog Cafe for dinner. It was where we had our final meal as a family with just Princeton the night before we were induced. Since then, we’ve brought Madelyn with us the night before her birthday and have made a little bit of a tradition out of it. But birthday party trumped Lazy Dog, so we broke this tradition and hopefully we’ll get back on next year for the night before her 5th birthday. (wait, what? 5 is next?!)

With lots of goodnight kisses, we put our almost four-year-old to bed, and Bryan and I blew up balloons to flood her room for when she woke up the next morning because that’s another tradition we are setting ourselves up to continue. It wasn’t until the last couple balloons that I remembered I wanted to get her birthday donuts to enjoy for breakfast, so at midnight, I found myself at a 24-hour donut shop. Hey, priorities. Also, I snuck some home for Bryan and me because we deserved them.



The birthday girl woke up and loved her balloons and donut breakfast. We were all in a chipper mood as we celebrated our August 9th baby and spent the morning relaxing and detoxing from the festivities from the day before.




Even Arielle was ready for her sister's birthday!

Even Arielle was ready for her sister’s birthday!

Our friends had invited us to join them at The Getty for a free Lisa Loeb concert featuring tunes from her kids’ music. It was one of those perfect summer afternoons with the sun warming us up, but not too bright, and a friendly ambiance with a relaxing vibe.


Madelyn spent some time down at the stage right under Lisa Loeb’s … earlobes. She was right at her feet when she played “Stay” and the crowd — mostly made up of parents who piqued in the 90s — went wild. Then, the kids became unruly, and Madelyn had enough of that preschooler mosh pit. Mob mentality is not Madelyn’s thing. Note to self: Do not take Madelyn to Coachella.


We waited out the crowd when the concert was over and hung out with our friends, enjoying the emptying grassy hill. We took pictures and the kids ran around and I soaked in the day that made me a mom four years ago.


All of my favorite people.

All of my favorite people.

Our sleepy kids passed out in the car as we made our trek back to the ‘burbs. And since I’m a sucker for birthday traditions, we met up with the grandparents at The Cheesecake Factory for our annual birthday dinner to celebrate Madelyn. She was so funny at dinner and I know she felt the love from all of us. Watching our big girl blow out her mini sundae candles got me all teary (was that a cherry on top or chopped onions?). I’m in awe of how she’s grown, exceeding all expectations of what it would like to be the mom of a 4-year-old who is so kindhearted, imaginative, witty, curious, and smart. She’s ahead of her time in so many ways, but whooooaaa, time. Could you please slow down a minute so that I’m not so torn between wanting my beautiful girl to stay little forever and so excited for all that she will be?

Part of Her World

It’s no secret that Madelyn’s favorite Disney princess, movie, and ride at Disneyland is The Little Mermaid. She loves the music, the redhead, and the story. She lugs her Ariel doll everywhere, calls Bryan her Prince Eric, and sets the table with her dinglehopper. This kid is a no B.S. scholar of all things Mermaid.

So, no brainer. Her birthday party this year was decked out Under the Sea Chic — didn’t want too much commercial Disney decor, but wanted to set the mood using a sophisticated palette with lavenders and teals, lots of shells and sea glass, and netting with pearls.

Food was fun and easy and I’m kicking myself for not getting a lot of photos. The shell pasta salad was SO good and I will make it again and again. Here’s the recipe. You’re welcome. I made a crab out of a red bell pepper and stuck it in some hummus and used a dab to “glue” on his olive eyes. And then there were a few trays of Jersey Mike’s SANDwiches because, you know, THAT joke is a novel one. I set out a basket of individual bags of chips and Bryan asked me what I was going to name them. I was about to take a nanosecond to come up with something and then realized that not everything needs a name. CHIPS. They’re just CHIPS. However, I love food and I love puns. Kill me.

Ariel's Bikini Shells Pasta Salad -- Size C, for Carbs.

Ariel’s Bikini Shells Pasta Salad — Size C, for Carbs.

This party gave me crabs.

This party gave me crabs.

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Little figurines of the beloved characters popped up here and there but I didn’t need to overdo it because we had THE REAL THING THERE!

Ariel, herself, swam up onto the land for the day to join us at the party and she was AMAZING. She came to us via Smile and a Song Princess Parties and people, I am telling you, the best best best character company I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy! If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you must call them for all your princess needs.

Ariel rang the doorbell and Madelyn answered. I think she was stunned, but quickly got on board with having a princess in her house.

A special guest is here? For moi?

A special guest is here? For moi?

What. The. What.

What. The. What.

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel’s voice was more pristine than the sea water — she was 100% Ariel from the start of the party until the end of the party. The girls adored her and even the little boys were into the whole 90-minute visit. The engagement she had with the kids was completely undivided and really, the whole experience was worth every penny (Ariel is not free, but her value is priceless). I swear, Madelyn believed that THE little mermaid dived out of the TV and into her backyard. She drank it right up and made this mama proud! And me? Well, I was like a kid in a candy store. I hardly socialized with our guests while Ariel was at the house because I didn’t want to miss one second of her interaction with the kids. It was so entertaining and while I could have left her to hold the kids’ attention while I participated in adult conversation, I chose to watch her show. She read The Little Mermaid book which is basically like hearing an autobiography from the author herself. And then she did songs with the kids. And she also did face and arm painting because in addition to singing, Ariel is also a talented artist.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

... And I am emotionally moved by the "How to Dance Like a Princess" instruction.

… And I am emotionally moved by the “How to Dance Like a Princess” instruction.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn's 4th birthday party.

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn’s 4th birthday party.

Ariel lead the birthday cake production and noted how the frosting resembled her home. I was so glad to pay homage to her roots.


My girl loved everyone singing to her!

My girl loved everyone singing to her!

SO glad I didn't come to the party in my shell bikini top!  I mean, can you imagine?

SO glad I didn’t come to the party in my shell bikini top! I mean, can you imagine? I would totally lose in “Who Wore It Better”

After Ariel left, I was able to enjoy my other favorite aspect of Madelyn’s birthday party — mingling with friends and visiting with family members who’d traveled far and wide to celebrate with us. It was so nice having cousins together who don’t always get to hang out. And it’s always fun to have both of Madelyn’s great-grandmothers together because she’s so lucky to have two she can play with.

They're cousins! (un)identical cousins!

They’re cousins! (un)identical cousins!

I get by with a little help from my friends -- and sister mamas.

I get by with a little help from my friends — and sister mamas.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Group shot with representation from Mimi's family.

Group shot with representation from Mimi’s family.

Getting children to smile for the camera is like herding cats. While it’s extremely entertaining, what’s even more comical is the show going on behind the camera: eight adults squealing and jumping and shooting doting mother gang signs in order to get the munchkins to cooperate and look in the same general direction. With a smile. And still.

Madelyn enjoyed playing with her Siegel side — 2nd cousins — and the darling Epstein boys — 3rd cousins! — all together.



Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

It got dark, and we closed down the party. The afternoon in the shade (thank goodness, because it was a very hot day) turned out to be a successful birthday party for our little princess. Madelyn ended her night with cuddles from her grandparents and some expert gift unwrapping. She’s so lucky to have so many friends and family members who love her.

And we are so lucky to be part of her world.



I don’t know how much longer I can produce these parties. I always say I’m going to just do something low key, but that’s a lie because I’m a glutton for punishment and actually enjoy the work that goes into a big birthday party. I keep thinking this will be the last of the big ones… but then I remember that in 2016, I’ll have another first birthday party to plan. Oh dear God, help me.

The Best Things In Life Are Three

So, Madelyn turned three. I can’t believe it either. It was an epic birthday filled with lots of celebrating.

This was the first birthday that she really understood she was even having one. For the past couple months leading up to August 9th, Madelyn would declare, “It’s almost my birthday!” and then proceed to ask every day if it was her birthday yet. While she knows the date of her birthday, I don’t think she’s grasped the essence of time, and that it has to pass, day by day, first.

The day before her birthday, we celebrated at school! Madelyn enjoyed summer camp at her preschool and since the majority of her school years won’t include birthdays with her class — boo summer birthdays — I wanted to make sure she got to celebrate with her friends and teachers while she could.

During Tot Shabbat, she got to go up on the bimah and say her name and age, and then the camp sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She enjoyed wearing her birthday crown with Minnie Mouse on it that her beloved Miss Joi Joi made. It didn’t leave her head for the rest of her birthday weekend! At the end of the camp day, I brought in cupcakes for the class and she got another round of the birthday song. So far, the birthday love was flowing.




That night, as tradition dictates, we went to Lazy Dog Cafe as a family of four (Princeton included) to mark August 8th as the last meal we ever ate as a family of three (again, Princeton included). It’s where we ate the night before we had Madelyn, and it’s not that it’s such an amazing place, but it’s just special for nostalgia’s sake.

Madelyn wanted to get dolled up for the night out at dinner. She requested a tutu — “but the black one, because it’s fancy” and she also requested a pre-dinner photo shoot. Who am I to deny the birthday girl her wishes?


At the end of dinner, she had a brownie sundae and she sang “Happy Birthday” to herself. It wasn’t even August 9th yet, and she was nailing the birthday shtick.

Due to the build up, and the fact that I am also a sucker for birthdays, I wanted to do something extra fun on the big day as a family. Her birthday was on a Saturday, so we really had freedom to do whatever we wanted. I know she would’ve been happy with a “Frozen” marathon and some ice cream, but August 9th is a special day for me, too, and I wanted to mark it with something we don’t normally get to do. So it was perfect when I remembered that the Ventura County Fair was in its final weekend and I thought she’d be old enough to finally enjoy it. We told her we were going to take her to the fair to show her the animals, eat yummy food, and ride the rides, and she totally loved the idea!

When we put our two-year-old to bed on August 8th, Bryan and I blew up balloons and flooded them in her room while she slept. On her birthday morning, we woke up to her waking up to the balloons. Over the monitor we heard, “Oh, purple! That’s my favorite! Oh, pink! That’s my favorite, too! Oh, yellow! That is so my favorite!” It was pretty funny how she found the balloons so magical.




For her birthday breakfast, we surprised her with a candle in a donut. There’s no other acceptable way to start your third year than with donuts.

Birthday donuts: The most nutritious way to start your third year of life.

Birthday donuts: The most nutritious way to start your third year of life.

And from there, we were off to the fair!

Madelyn absolutely loved the sights, sounds, and smells of the fair! She cooed over every animal and cheered for the piggies at the pig races. We went into a petting farm that had the usual suspects: goats, sheep, pigs, chickens. Oh, and DEER. Yeah, Bambi was there and let me tell you: deer are bitches. The $3 we paid to be in there essentially went to Madelyn’s future therapy bills because the two deer were skirt-hungry and kept stalking Madelyn and nibbling on her tutu. She was none too pleased. I had no idea that deer were so drawn to clothing, and we both felt very violated by their attempts to eat Madelyn alive and naked.

Madelyn eats her first corn dog. She gives it two paws up.

Madelyn eats her first corn dog. She gives it two paws up.




So after some vigorous hand washing, Bryan took her to meet some other interesting characters: the gamers. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a fair and nothing has changed. Even though we all know that carnival games are for suckers, it’s like one of those stupid-but-fun rites of passage that is totally a father-daughter moment. And just like out of a cheesy movie, he won the game and got a stuffed animal for her. Granted, it was Team Brydelyn vs. a poor kindergartner who didn’t stand a chance. And the stuffed animal was worse quality than the junk inside the claw machine that you find in the lobby of Denny’s. But still! (Digital) Kodak moment!






After praying to whatever God was most convenient, we went up in the tallest Ferris wheel and I tried to enjoy the views of the pristine beach on one side and the colorful fair on the other in order to distract me from the fact that this thing was meant to come apart at the hinges and travel from city to city, prepared again and again by the country’s finest higher thinkers. I’m such a buzz kill. But I write this to you two weeks later, alive and well. So there’s that.

Not dying on a portable Ferris wheel.

Not dying on a portable Ferris wheel.

We used up more tickets on some kiddie rides that Madelyn owned like a champ. I wasn’t sure how she’d do going on rides all by herself for the first time ever. We stood and watched her go around and around and cheered her on. She totally loved it.



The end of the day drew near, and a nap was still in the cards. Madelyn snoozed until dinner time and we met up with both sets of grandparents for another traditional meal: The Cheesecake Factory Birthday Feast. And brown bread.


A mini ice cream sundae with a candle in it sealed the deal for a successful birthday dinner, but we still had presents to open, so we went back to our house with the grandparents and Madelyn ripped apart gifts like a pro. The year before, she needed me to assist her in opening presents, but now she’s able to lay into them like a human machete.

And lay into them she did! Literally. Both Grandma and Grandpa and Mimi and Poppa know their girl loves to dress up, so they supplied her with all the ball gowns and fins and lab coats any imaginative toddler could dream of. She squealed with delight over each get-up and then we proceeded to be audience members in a fashion show displaying the hottest in Disney character couture.

She opened each one and laid them out on the floor. Then, when all were revealed, she took turns strutting her stuff in them. After that, she placed the costumes on all the adults in the room and made us do the coordinating characters. It was definitely Madelyn’s world and, as usual, we were in it!








Madelyn dresses up her grandparents in all of her new costumes!

Madelyn dresses up her grandparents in all of her new costumes!

Bedtime came and we all said goodnight to the new three-year-old. I think it’s safe to say that her birthday weekend was a hit and she felt all the love and then some.

And yet birthday celebrating wasn’t over. A trip to Disneyland and her big party were on the agenda for the week ahead and between the two of us, I really don’t know who was more excited!

Happy birthday, Madelyn!

  1. sharon
    8/26/2014 6:40 PM

    Madelyn! Your birthday #3 was amazing & so much fun.
    I look forward to celebrating many many more birthdays with you.
    Love and Kisses and Hugs to you!