February 28, 2011

Gelukkige Verjaardag

Today is my amazing au pair's birthday.** Or, it was, when it was still today. Given my night owl habits, I think it's tomorrow already.

Birthdays in our house start just one way. With breakfast. Big, gooey, fabulous breakfast. When the diva and the redhead go birthday happy, their preference is always - always - chocolate chip pancakes. And for Peabo it's all meat, all the time. What can I say, the kid likes his protein. Usually he wants sausage and bacon and more sausage with a bit of cheese on an English muffin and a hefty dose of cinnamon rolls on the side to satisfy the little tiny sweet tooth he's been burdened with.

This morning, we made a birthday breakfast for our au pair. And that meant I was up early. Earlier, in fact, than I wanted to be, because my kids take this tradition so very deeply to heart.

The first hit was at 6:00 a.m. On the nose. A full hour before I'd set my alarm to ring.

"Mom! Mom!" That was Peabo. "You wanted to make breakfast for our awesome au pair!"

"Yes, and I will," I mumbled. "But I'm going to go make it after my alarm goes off. Okay?"

He went to go watch the news. It's his latest thing. He tapes the news at night, then watches it in the morning, and we talk about it at dinner. That's pretty cool. (Albeit totally beside the point. But you wanted to know, right?)

Then came the Diva. Who got the same response.

"Okay. Then I'll go make her a card." So she left, and my redhead climbed out of my bed and followed her. (Wait, how did he get there? I missed something. I musta been sleeping.)

Then the dog - remember the dog? - went berserk. Can't sleep when there's barking, so I woke up and got to cooking.

For my au pair: Pancakes. Bacon. Eggs. Raspberries. All on a tray with a pretty napkin and lovingly handmade cards from the two who like to make them. We tried to feed her breakfast in bed, but it's hard to get everyone ready for school when they're watching someone else eat, so we wound up with a big, family breakfast at the table, with manners and everything.

I so totally love that.

This is her second birthday with us. When she came to the U.S., she was 18, and more mature and responsible than most fully grown grown-ups I know. Now she's 20. Still mature, and nearly a fully grown grown-up herself.

Of the many, many wonderful au pairs we've had, she's the first who stayed with us for more than a year. She fits into our family as though she were born to it. I don't know if it's the hint of Dutchness in her Belgian self that clicks with the hint of Dutchness in our American family. Or maybe it's her experience with Asperger's, which she has in spades.

The best of our au pairs have been far more than just daycare providers. They were - and are - family. And this au pair, she is just that. Family. A big sister to my kids, a friend to me, and in many ways the daughter I'd have had if I'd started my family twenty years ago instead of twelve.

In just over a month, she goes home to the family who raised her, who made her this special and entrusted to her us. My kids and I owe them a great, big, giant thank you for that.

We call her Chuck, because Peabo likes it that way.

Gelukkige verjaardag to you, Chuck. You're the best birthday gift ever. And we are gonna miss you like crazy.

**Published nearly a week late because, well, you know. Timeliness is not exactly my strong suit.

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