His first and his last.

by mssinglemama on March 18, 2009

On Saturday morning I slipped away in the middle of the night to jump on another plane.

This time Benjamin had to stay behind.

I let him fall asleep in my bed so I could watch him drift while I packed. He spent his last few moments awake begging me to stay, “Mommy, take me with you. I want to go to Texas too.”

“Not this time, baby, but some day soon.”

Texas is a place Benjamin only knows from the pictures he’s seen scattered throughout the house. They’re tucked in places where I’ll see them every day, constant reminders of a time when I was completely in love – not with a man, but with a place.

Like the one on my dresser mirror of my knees wrapped around the edge of an inner tube floating down the Guadalupe River. And Benjamin’s favorite, the picture on the fridge of my sister and I beaming in a self-portrait we snapped before heading off to a concert.

Texas, it seems, will always be tugging at my soul and begging me to come back.

I told Benjamin stories about the days ahead while his eyes grew heavier.

“You’ll be at your daddy’s, then your grandma’s and then Mommy will be home.”

Rather than actually packing outfits I was just shoving all of my favorite tops and pants into the suitcase hoping they’d all look okay together. I had run out of time. Turns out leaving for a trip, even a work trip, means more work on either side of the deal, before you leave and as soon as you get back.

But it was worth it.

The SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin is the most well-respected gathering of geeks (self-professed digital obsessed professionals like myself) on the planet. Needless to say, it was just a little crazy. I spent the days hopping from panel to panel and the nights buzzing from party to party.

Like this one.


alltop party

Where I had one of my favorite beers (without a cigarette)


and then sat on a hay stack to hear the band.


Then I kept walking along South Congress so I could window shop.



Drool over these.

allens boots austin

And take a few more pictures.

jo's coffee austin

austin motel

I have more stories to tell but I’ll have to save them from another day. I’m absolutely exhausted. And tomorrow is a big day – a very big day – it’s Benjamin’s third birthday. We’ll be taking it easy. Just me spoiling the shit out of him. But come Saturday we’ll have a few guests invading our little place. Sure, I invited them, I just forgot to factor in their height, weight and body mass – there’s no way everyone is going to fit.

Should be interesting.

In the meantime, tell me about your favorite place on Earth. Come on. We each have one.
Because today was Benjamin’s first and his last third birthday and because I didn’t buy him a single present in Austin I spent my lunch break on a mission.


My mission was to buy everything I would need to transform his room from a nursery/toddler room… 

[Click to continue, although, be warned – there are TONS of photos in this post and a video – although I think you won’t believe what you see. I still can’t believe I pulled it off]


to a big boy’s room.



I only had 45 minutes to do it because the birthday boy himself was patiently waiting for me at his day care. Where he looked a little confused when I arrived shouting something about this thing called a “birthday”. 


When we got home I told him there was a big surprise up in his room and so up we marched… and I, of course, turned on the camera. I’m so glad I did.

While he played in his new room I ran downstairs to wrap presents, order pizza and put the cake in the oven.  

Then two of our favorite friends, Justin and his son, came over. While Benjamin hung out with his buddy in his cool new pad, Justin helped me move all of the furniture wedged in the hallway and at the bottom of the stairs down to the basement.

Benjamin didn’t seem to notice.


Then I attempted to cover the cake with whipped cream. (This picture is blurry because I was laughing so hard.)


But some sprinkles and candles turned the cake into the perfect Ugly Cake.


And then it happened. 


Benjamin turned three.


For the first and the last time. 

Hard to believe how much he’s grown. We don’t stop growing when we’re adults either… at least I hope you haven’t.  

That would be boring as hell.

Happy Birthday Mr. Benjamin, may you always be as free as you are now.

{ 2 trackbacks }

The weekend
June 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm
My Decision
October 31, 2009 at 11:31 am

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

DumbestSmartGirl March 19, 2009 at 5:34 am

Aw, happy birthday, big boy!!! (and great job, Mama!)


christine March 19, 2009 at 5:42 am

how sappy am i that the changing table in there made me a little teary-eyed?

i love his new room.


Juggle Jane March 19, 2009 at 5:52 am

Oh my gosh! That video is just the best!!! His reaction is so priceless – the giggles and the exclamations of "my room!" I've been hemming and hawing about updating Bubba's room. 3 seems like a great age to make the transition – gives me 6 more months to get used to the idea!

Happy Birthday Benjamin! And Way To Go, Mama!


forsecondlife March 19, 2009 at 5:59 am

I love this post and that video was just too cute! You did an amazing job with his room way to go! (I think I'd love to have something like that now haha) Happy Birthday Benjamin!
-random reader from ny


jen March 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

The big boy bed. His reaction is priceless. That's definitely something to remember. I must get out the vid more often for these types of moments for my son. Happy birthday Benjamin.


jkewilliams March 19, 2009 at 9:38 am

Aww…these little ones grow up too quickly. No one told me how difficult that part of being a mom is.

Happy Birthday Ben! Great job on the room mama – it looks so fun! Can you come and sort out our house?!


Canadian Bald Guy March 19, 2009 at 10:16 am

The laughter and joy that Benjamin gave you as a reaction to the new room is something you'll cherish forever. That's an awesome video!

And the room looks fantastic, too! I'm hoping my Benjamin also gets into Thomas the Train a little more by the time he turns three. For now it's still The DoodleBops and Yo Gabba Gabba.

Very happy that everything went well. My fingers are crossed for your party this weekend.


lisa langmead March 19, 2009 at 10:43 am

great blog!……..benjamin is so cute..i have a two and four year old and they are growing up all too fast!

would love you to visit my blog and post some comments i would love to hear your point of view!



Laura March 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

Fantastic! To hear his excitement and laughter brings back memories. He is too cute!

Great job on the transformation and just what a big boy of three needs…"A Big Boy Room"

Note on the Ugly Cake…my kids have all told me they liked the homemade ones better than store bought. Reason; the love poured in, the lady at the bakery always leaves that out.


Irishmom March 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

That video was priceless. He is just beautiful. You gave him such an awesome birthday. Those are the things that they remember. And I liked your comment about us adults still growing. Yes we do. It's all part of this wonderful process. Enjoy your newly three year old and treasure him. My "baby" just turned seven and I can't believe it! 🙂


Irishmom March 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm

PS : I made a heart cake for my son's birthday that look suspiciously like your one and you know what, it was the best cake we ever ate because we all made it together. 🙂


thewarriorpoets March 19, 2009 at 5:33 am

Nothing quite as bittersweet as moving to the big boy bed.

And now my own Ben's train table (he turned 6 last week) is void of the last remaining Thomas toys and is instead covered in Star Wars characters and NFL football figures.

I've got to figure out a way to slow this growing-up stuff down.


And I see the signs of a good mom in that room… lots of books.


Christine March 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm

kudos for pulling that together so quickly! it looks amazing…and far better than my 4 year-old's room.


LisaD March 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Holy smokes – his room looks awesome!! Well done you! And in 45 minutes? I would love to have seen a video of that! You must have been working like a mad woman!!


marleysmomma March 19, 2009 at 1:41 pm

my baby girl turns three next week and she can not stop talking about getting "earrings and a barbie slide". The piercing of the ears to me is such a big girl moment, and we are moving from playing with babies to barbies….She is growing so fast. Great job on the big boy room. The cake killed me….it looks just like the one i made for the kids last night…except mine sunk in the middle.


kirwin March 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm

You're such a great mom. I can't see the video, but I'm sure it's priceless. My daughter turns 3 in may, and she's still in a crib. I guess I better get a move-on!


Bobbi Janay March 19, 2009 at 3:02 pm

His room is amazing.


NewSingleMama March 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Awww the video doesn't work. The ugly cake is funny, but as long as it tasted good thats all that matters right? LOL nice work on his room it looks great!


Sheila March 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

How freaking adorable! Oh, so, so sweet. 🙂


CME March 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Great job, Alaina. It's awesome and organized! It's inspired me to go get some bookshelves for my 5 year old. The video says unavailable. Bummer. Happy Birthday Benjamin! I hope the party goes well this weekend.


mssinglemama March 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

What browser are you using? Trying to figure out this video thing…


CME March 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm

uh–that's kind of like speaking another language, but i think the answer is internet explorer.


mssinglemama March 19, 2009 at 4:31 pm

You're cute!~ okay, I'll check that out.

Until then if you can not see the video try this link and let me know if it works:



CME March 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

oh well, that didn't work either, all of the other videos on that link worked no problem. regardless, you are an awesome mommy and you continue to inspire me. keep it up!


Rebecca March 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm

SO adorable. I love what you did – it's looks so much fun!


Crystal March 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Looks like Benjamin had a wonderful 3rd birthday! Good Job 🙂


Single Mom Seeking March 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Happy Birthday big boy!! Wow, wow, Benjamin's laugh. It's contagious, you can just feel that joy through the video. And, Alaina, you're amazing.


newsinglemama March 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Happy 3rd Birthday Ben!
He is so adorable in the video, and what a great job you did with the room!


Star March 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm

WHERE did you get the bean bags and the quilt???? LOVE LOVE LOVE them! Been looking for bean bags!!!!!


Lauren March 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Yes! I want to know too! I'm in love with the monkey bean bag… that would work perfectly for Anna (in a few years, of course!)


Ms. Single Mama March 20, 2009 at 2:45 am

Target! They were $19.99 a piece – maybe less, they were on sale. And they coordinate with the bed spread and the wall sticky things.


Suzanne B March 19, 2009 at 7:07 pm

You made me all cryey!!

Thanks for that.. you are an amazing Mommy… how fun would it be to be your kid???
Wanna adopt me?


Kimberly March 19, 2009 at 8:22 pm

This post has me tearing up, almost a full cry. What a very sweet moment! Every milestone is just so amazing to me. You are an awesome Mom to that little boy. I hope for myself (a newly single mom) and for my 17 month old baby boy that we can always have the same fun and love that you two do every day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENJAMIN!!


mssinglemama March 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Oh you will… just takes a while to get used to your new “family” model and then things just seem to fall into place. Also more “fun” when they're older. So hang in for the ride but enjoy it along the way because soon yours will be as big as mine!


Janet March 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm

This post made me tear up….so sweet, and I can just picture when my little guy gets to be that age!!

His big boy room looks very cool. Good job!


Janet March 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm

This post made me tear up….so sweet, and I can just picture when my little guy gets to be that age!!

His big boy room looks very cool. Good job!


April Alexander March 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm

How exciting. My son will turn three in 11 days. I can't wait. You did an awesome job redecorating. I especially love the bean bags! All that work and no cigarette! You rock!!


PhenomenalMama March 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Happy 3rd Birthday little (or not so little) Ben. It's amazing how quickly they grow up, isn't it? Looks like you're cherishing every moment. 🙂


Spruce Hill March 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

What a fun gift! It looks like he liked it alot. What a cute theme!


Heather March 20, 2009 at 1:03 am

Great job, mama!

I love it… and am totally feeling inspired.



Jennifer March 20, 2009 at 1:15 am

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

What a great present, and way to go mama getting it done so FAST! Impressive.

I seriously hope I do something just as awesome for Noah's bday in May.


Keeshabee March 20, 2009 at 2:02 am

Just as you gave him an awesome gift of a new room and fun day, he gave one right back to you. The precious moment caught on camera of his joy and happiness is yours to cherish for life! Imagine when he's a grown man and you look back at this? Simply beautiful 🙂


Lesli March 20, 2009 at 2:08 am

Don't you just love Ikea???? So happy for you guys….NOW is when it really starts to fly by. I urge you–beg you–to get a video camera or voice recorder (like used for dictation) because I promise, you will never remember all of the amazing things he is about to start conversing about. Will, newly four, blows my mind constantly–and same for my 7-yo, Henry. As much as I love to write, I'm already regretting that I don't jot down all of the things they say–so witty, so intelligent, so just "out there"….if you thought your adventure started upon his birth, just wait….oh, it gets so much better!! Love to you!!


karen March 20, 2009 at 4:27 am

Aww Happy birthday. I take my daughters out to lunch by themselves the day before and talk about the past year and what we want to happen this next year. Anything to prolong it.


Najia March 20, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Hey Alaina. Just saw the video of Ben seeing his new room. Loved it. He totally reminds me of my boy who just turned 3 as well. Sadly – him and I have to share a room right now but hopefully I'll get to surprise my boy soon as well. Excellent gift Alaina. Your boy's joy brought tears to my eyes… You get 1000 mommy points.


ModernSingleMomma March 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm

The room looks great! I got to show Lucca these pictures when I get home.
He misses he buddy.


J-Fo March 22, 2009 at 1:36 am

You rule. Seriously. You rule.


Angel March 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Happy birthday little dude!!!!!!! Three is a fun age!


Dawn May 12, 2009 at 2:07 am

The cake reminded me of the cupcakes I made for my daughters second birthday party, the decorating gun broke and I did them by hand from a tiny cake decorating bottle not made for decorating with so much frosting, took forever but they looked like flowers when I was done. Overnight the heat of the house melted all the frosting and they were piles of pink mush!!! You try to be supermom but you can't do everything and not everything will always be perfect but that's not always what counts, my daughter remembers that her daycare helped her celebrate her birthday with the cupcakes mommy made for her and that is all that counts!!! Do what you can to make memories single mom's and don't sweat the small stuff!


ALICIA June 8, 2009 at 8:19 pm

How do you do it???? I'm truly in awe….


EB October 31, 2009 at 10:21 am

yup, i remember this one. thanks for linking me back to it. this post actually always sticks out in my mind as something one day that i’ll be able to afford and do. which is: have my own space and create a beautiful room for my daughter all her own (we share one now). i knew that other party was an addition to this one- his real party. lots of love and support coming your way.


Jenny October 31, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I just have to say – that cake was awesome. As far as the familial discomforts – keep your head up.. Every move you make is in your sons’ best interests and thought about carefully. You always know what you’re doing, even when you think you don’t know what you’re doing (…and we all have tipsy moments….).


Yvonne November 1, 2009 at 7:42 pm

So cute!!!


Single Mom in New England November 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

Had to comment – can’t keep my mouth shut – Don’t let the turkeys get you down!! You’re an incredible writer, and I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, thank you for sharing your life with us. The good you do in this world is so wonderful and actually pretty selfless – taking your own time and energy to bring together a community of single moms that are looking for each other, and need each other, so we can all feel connected and not go insane trying to figure this thing called single-mommyhood out all by ourselves. You are awesome! Thanks for not pulling the plug on your blog. I would have cried! 🙂 Heads up! and have a great day.


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