Dylan's birthday could have easily passed by relatively unnoticed this year... lost in the chaos that is my life since it was confirmed that we would be moving away from the home I've loved for ten wonderful years to pastures new. His birthday could have passed by relatively unnoticed were it not for the fact that he had been excitedly counting down the days for a whole month prior to the event.
He made a chart - a birthday countdown chart. He religiously crossed the days off and proudly announced how many more sleeps there were until he was five years old. He called it his 'cross off' chart and on more than one occasion I misheard him and wondered what on earth was the Croissant Chart he was searching for.
It would have been impossible not to treat his birthday with the same excitement he had for it.
Dylan's birthday fell on a Sunday and it just happened to coincide with a date that features in our running diary - a local fun run. The five mile route through beautiful Shropshire countryside can be tackled on foot or by bike and we had plans to take part as a family. My eldest daughter was going to run with me while three of my other daughters took to their wheels with the birthday boy riding 'tag-along' on the back of dad's bike. For my youngest daughter, Addy, this was a big challenge. It is a fairly recent development that she's had the confidence to cycle any sort of distance on roads (albeit quiet country ones) but she was very determined to meet the challenge with the ring of her bell, a favourite teddy in her front basket and a big smile.
I absolutely loved every one of the five miles running (and strategic walking!) with my daughter. It was lovely when the cyclists, who start at the back of the pack behind elite runners and fun runners, overtook us and offered encouragement. I could see that my little family team were all having a good time. I was especially delighted as I approached the finish line (which due to a route change was now a painful uphill slog) to see my triumphant little girl, wearing her finishers medal, running towards me to run the last few metres with me.
Dylan was in a fever pitch of excitement. Both he and Addy jumped on me as I lay on the ground to recover from my exertions. I didn't mind at all! Dylan declared that he was having the Best Birthday in the Universe!
Back home, family and friends celebrated with cake as Dylan ran around the garden in a knight's costume getting up to no good with a giant water soaker gun - both well appreciated birthday presents.
The only one of my offspring not to have taken part in the birthday fun run was 18year old Charis. She had celebrated her last day at boarding school the previous day and my husband and I were there with her to witness her collecting the academic prizes she had been awarded, to enjoy a picnic lunch and see her taking part in a fencing demonstration. I don't know much about fencing but I think she may have just won a well timed point as I took the following snap!
Her evening ended with a lavish Leavers Ball. As much as I would have loved to have seen her swanning around like a princess in the gown and sparkly heels that I had the privilege of buying for her, we left her to it hoping for a glimpse into her world with whatever photographs might appear on social media.
We collected her in the early hours of the morning when the champagne had all been drunk and promises to stay in touch with friends had been made. Pitifully inadequate hours of sleep later, she was off on a training course for a summer holiday job to fund driving lessons and travel plans.
Although much has happened in the two years that Charis has been away at boarding school, the time has passed frighteningly quickly. As I reflect on the crossed off days of Dylan's Croissant Chart I am reminded of this passage of time. No one knows how many blank days lie ahead for them waiting to be filled and crossed off but we do know with certainty that the number is decreasing steadily and unstoppably. It's often not easy but I always want to try to embrace each new day and fill it with good things as best I can because one day, inevitably sooner than I'd like, the Croissant Chart of my life will be nothing more than a well scribbled on scrap of A4 paper that needs to be thrown away.