Exactly a month ago, at the beginning of January, Lola turned eleven years old. Eleven! I still can’t quite believe it – how is my baby eleven? Looking back at her birthday blog post from last year I’m amazed at how much she’s changed and, well, grown up. Of course this time last year none of us had any idea of what was about to happen – the pandemic took hold and the last twelve months have certainly been a rollercoaster.
Lola’s birthday is always a definite highlight in a month that regularly feels like it’s 7,654 days long. Celebrating her really is the very best of ways to start off the new year. She’s been so excited about it for so long, literally counting down the hours since about September. The closer we got to the big day, the more I thought she might burst and I absolutely love the way she really embodies the joy she feels.
Lola was the final member of the family to have a lockdown birthday. This meant she wasn’t able to have her much-longed for sleepover with her best friend but we’ve promised all of the girls that once restrictions lift they can get together with their friends and have belated fun with them then. For now we made do with phone calls from family and we did our best to make our modest celebrations feel special for her. It just goes to show that you really don’t need to do a lot to help someone feel loved and special, she was quite happy with the simplicity of how we spent her day and I don’t think she stopped smiling for the entire time.
Lola’s birthday always falls at the end of the Christmas holidays and because there’s no school it means we get to spend the whole day celebrating her. The morning always begins with the present-opening ceremony. All the girls do it and I love the ritual of this tradition we’ve created over the years.
Every word in every card is read carefully, each present is savoured whilst it’s being opened (after spending a significant amount of time deliberating what might be inside first of course), everyone watches and the birthday girl has our full, undivided attention. I love that she takes her time and that it’s not all over in moments. I love that every gift matters so much to her, regardless of it’s size or who it’s from.
One of the main reasons Lola was even more excited than usual for her birthday is because when each of the girls have turned eleven years old, they’ve received their very first phone. The idea behind this has always been that as they increase their independence and start to make their own way to and from school at that age, they can call us if they need us and we can get hold of them if we need to. Of course staying in touch with friends and playing games have also become a regular feature (especially because they’re not actually at school at the moment) and since the first lockdown last year, Ella and Mimi’s phone usage – they use them for school work too – has increased exponentially, despite our best efforts to keep it to a minimal and manageable amount.
Lola has been waiting patiently (well, mostly – there have definitely been impatient moments too!) for just over a year and a half now, seeing her sisters messaging their friends, listening to music on Spotify and watching videos from their favourite YouTubers whilst being unable to do so herself. We’ve held firm and have made her wait rather than giving in early, despite regular pleas to the contrary.
The anticipation as Lola was opening her gifts was tangible. When she finally opened ‘the one’ and saw the specifically requested pink sparkly phone case that we’d got her to go with it, she pretty much exploded. It’s been perfect timing really – she speaks to her best friend every single day and it’s keeping them connected in a way that they weren’t able to be during the first and second lockdowns. Lola is the one who has struggled most with not being at school, she’s our most social daughter and there have been lots of tears over really missing her friends so this has been brilliant for keeping them all in touch with each other.
Another favourite present of was some earrings. We’ve promised Lola that she can get her ears pierced once lockdown is over and it’s safe to do so and she’s already super excited about that too. I might even join her and get mine re-pierced at the same time. My piercings closed up years ago and I miss wearing earrings. It’s a gift she’ll have to wait a little while for but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait.
A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without cake, and seeing as cats and unicorns are two of her most favourite things she was delighted with the ‘kittycorn’ birthday cake I managed to find (thank you Asda!). Every single year without fail she squeezes her eyes tight and makes a wish as she blows out her candles and to this day I still don’t know what she wishes for. She told me that she makes the same wish every single year. I love that she still sees the magic in the world.
It started snowing mid-morning, little flurries at first before getting heavier around lunchtime, continuing on and off throughout the rest of the day. Lola was absolutely thrilled – “I can’t believe it’s snowing on my birthday!” she kept exclaiming, as if it was a special treat just for her.
We managed to get out for a walk in the late afternoon as the sun was setting, just in time for the most magical golden hour light – one of my favourite times of the day to photograph. That, plus the takeaway pizza we had for dinner when we got home (as requested by the birthday girl), was the perfect end to what Lola declared to be “the best birthday EVER!”.
A couple of years ago I started asking all three girls to answer each of the following questions on their birthday. I wanted to start a little tradition of asking them each year so I can document them as they change for each of the girls over time.
This is Lola, aged eleven…
~ Favourite book: “The Dork Diaries series”
~ Favourite band/singer/song: “Little Mix”
~ Favourite thing to do: “Talk to Jess on my phone”
~ Favourite film: “Wonder”
~ Favourite food/meal: “Picky bits”
~ Favourite colour: “Cyan”
~ What she’s into: “Reading and cats”
~ What she wants to do when she’s older: “Teacher”
Eleven feels like a significant age. She starts high school this coming September (although who knows what that will actually look like by then). It really will feel like the end of an era with all three of my babies being at secondary school – I’m not sure my heart is ready for that. In the meantime I hope she continues to be herself – the girl who loves cuddles, who has the biggest heart of anyone I know, and who has the most infectious giggle. It’s going to be a big year and I can’t wait to see her bloom in the very best of ways.