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The birthday

Birthday cake 1

Birthday cake 2
My little one and I made Amanda Hesser’s Chocolate Dump-It Cake together for his birthday party. We’d never made it before, and the cake part was dense and rich and moist. In other words, perfect. The frosting, on the other hand, was on the adult side of the spectrum — dark, tangy and not very sweet. I added quite a lot of powdered sugar to it to make it more three-year-old friendly. (Note: If you try this, sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the frosting, or shake it through a fine mesh sieve. I didn’t, and I ended up pushing the lumpy frosting through a sieve. It solved the problem, but it was messy.)  Next time I want to try a chocolate ganache frosting.

Eric Hill’s Spot Bakes a Cake — one of our favorite books — inspired our cake decorations. We picked them out them out at the grocery store together, and then right before the party we stuck them on the cake. 

We had a teeny, tiny party with just three friends.

Happy 3rd birthday mantle
I cut out sparkly letters for the mantle.

Blue tricycle 2
And on his actual birthday, there was a tricycle.

Adventure books!

“I’m tired of our books,” said Gavin. “We need more books about kids that go on adventures.”

Stack of books
So, we went to Vroman’s.

I Spy Fly Guy! Tyler Makes Spaghetti
I Spy Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold and Tyler Makes Spaghetti! by Tyler Florence and Craig Frazier are easily my little guy’s favorites. Fly Guy is both cute and disgusting at the same time — a combination I never knew was possible. And Tyler is a little kid who gets to cook. Such power!

Aaron Becker’s Journey is my favorite. It’s like Harold and the Purple Crayon fan fiction. Really good fan fiction. Like rivaling the original in goodness fan fiction. And there are no words.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Rosie Revere, Engineer (by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts) rhymes. Gavin tears up when he reads the end — especially, “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!/ Come on, let’s get busy and on the next!/…Life may have its failures, but this was not it./The only true failure can come if you quit.” Typing those lines makes me a little teary, too.

And then there were a couple of books that didn’t work out… at least not yet.

Rockets and Spaceships
Even though my little one loves the space shuttle, he doesn’t want to hear this book. I’m not sure why.

On a Beam of Light
And he won’t listen to this one, either. “It’s too scary,” he says. Maybe next year.

Five hours at the zoo.

Meerkats at the LA Zoo 2
“We’ll add those to your wish list,” my little boy told me at the meerkat exhibit. “Which one do you want? This one or that one?”

Sometimes he talks in sentences he wants me to say.

Zoo swans 1
They were cleaning the swan pond in the morning. The swans were in dog crates and the water was gone.

Zoo swans 3

Later in the day, the water looked like sea glass. This green is my favorite color.

The big animals make me feel guilty and anxious and sad. Like they shouldn’t be there. Like it’s all wrong. The pacing tiger, the Asian elephant bobbing his head and rocking over and over, the big monkeys trying to hide under tarps or sitting with their backs to the glass.

But the smaller animals are so interesting, and plants are growing everywhere, and then there’s the aviary.

LA Zoo aviary
I remember when my mom used to take me and my brother and sisters to the zoo when we were little. You walked through the two sets of doors, and birds would be flying overhead, chirping and making noise. Sometimes they’d land right by you. And all that green. It felt magical. It still does. This visit a strange duck stood on a ledge looked us in the eye from about two feet away.

Five hours at the zoo. Four and three quarters, to be exact. So exhausting. So much fun. Photo booth pictures. Shuttle rides. (It won’t blast off. It’s like a train, but with wheels.) Birds, ducks, swans, flamingos, turtles and a Gray’s monitor walking right up to us and looking at us through the glass. A hamburger, pizza, a giant chocolate chip cookie. And a cheap toy on the way out.