S. and I realized something earlier this week: this is the last holiday we can ever half-ass. From here on out, M. is going to demand big productions of one kind or another. After four months of preschool, she’ll be fully prepared to work us over at Christmas. So we enjoyed one, last laid-back holiday as we celebrated her birthday Wednesday.

M. said some funny things Wednesday. For example, she told us all about how before she was born she was teeny-tiny and in her momma’s belly, and Dr. Chris had to cut momma’s shirt to get her out. She magically found the stuffed duck one of her aunts brought to the hospital that day, and told us several times how, when she was born, she and the duck slept on daddy’s chest. Smart girl. Of course, each time someone called to wish her a happy birthday, she clammed up. When her aunt in Australia called, she even put her arms over her ears so I couldn’t put the phone up to them.

We had the requisite cupcakes for her birthday treat (I think we’re cupcaked out after three rounds this month) and then got to the presents. Her Mimi brought her a necklace from Disneyland (Or is it Disneyworld? I can’t keep them straight.) along with some other goodies. She got Dora balloons from an aunt. Lots of birthday cards from many family members. And, since she is a spoiled Carmel kid, she got a car from mom and dad. Of course, it is a Little Tikes car, and not an actual car, but we are a little nervous about the precedent we’re setting. She loved it, although she had a hard time figuring out the steering. It’s a Flinstones car, in that her feet touch the ground and that’s how she propels herself. She couldn’t grasp the concept of shifting her weight on her feet to change directions, so she would reach her hands out, grab the roof, and try to shove it right or left. And, of course, she fell through the bottom once onto the ground, naturally when we weren’t paying enough attention to her.

To keep things fair, C. got a ride-on toy as well, although she seemed much more interested in running into the neighbors’ driveway and using their toy that was similar. As soon as M. got out of her car, C. would run over and try to climb into it. I see many fights in the future over the car.

So, it was a pretty good birthday. It started raining around 7:30, so we had to come inside, and after the cupcakes and the excitement from the gifts, the girls both kind of wigged out, racing around, knocking each other over, and generally not listening to mom and dad. But they went to bed as tired, happy little girls.

Hard to believe M. is already three. Two was definitely a tough year for us all. She had to learn how to share attention with her sister. She grew up a lot, but also went through most of the things most two-year-olds go through. We had to deal with all the garbage two-year-olds throw at their parents. I’ve decided two-year-olds make you feel like you’re a failure as a parent, and that’s on the good days. Some people have told us things get better at three, others that things get worse. I’m really hoping she doesn’t get even more emotional and temperamental but rather lets the sweet side of her personality come out more. When she snuggles up with me and gives me hugs, I know it’s still in there.

Oh, funny side note. The other night we were playing in the van in the garage. We had all the seats either taken out or folded down after hauling some stuff to a sister-in-law’s house, so the girls had lots of room to play. I was sitting in the very back, S. was standing outside the passenger door. C. crawled up to the center console and started playing with stuff. No biggie, she does that a lot. However, one of us had left a half-full can of Diet Coke in a cupholder. At the same moment, S. and I both saw C. picking it up and dumping it all over the console, shaking it for good measure. S. gasped and ran towards the door. I leaped up to grab C. and yelled, “God dammit, C.!”

Immediately, from behind me, I hear M. say, “Dammit!” in a fake, exasperated voice. I turned and said, trying not to be too forceful, “That’s not a nice word to say, M.. Don’t say it again.”

“OK.” Then, “ Oh my goodness!” which she repeated several times.

As we were sopping up the Diet Coke, M. walked up behind me, patted me on my back and said, “It’s going to be all right, dad.” I thought that was pretty sweet and funny.