Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy Birthday to Matthew...He's Six!

Six years ago today, on March 04, 2004, I received the best gift of my life:  Matthew Benjamin Branson.  Weighing a healthy nine pounds, seven ounces, the physician who delivered him asked if I was sure Matthew wasn't actually two months old already.  Definitely not - in fact, he was nine days early, born by planned cesarean section because he was a tightly lodged baby wedged into breach position.

This photo was taken moments after his birth, just before he peed on the doctor:

I think Geoff's smile speaks for itself...proud new daddy!

And here is Matthew with his new mama, who is smitten...quite overwhelmed with love:

Matthew is our miracle - the baby we didn't know we would be able to have. I remember as if it were yesterday the day I found out I was pregnant.  It was a Saturday morning in late June, 2003, and Geoff was still sleeping.  I went into the bathroom and took a pregnancy test.  In some respects, I was terrified to look, scared that the result would not be what I was pretty sure it was going to be.  But on the whole, I was pretty calm; just before the fertility clinic procedure took place that brought Matthew into being, I had been prayed over, and I had been left with a pervasive and physical sense of peace in my belly from that moment until the moment I saw the result of the pregnancy test that morning.  Sure enough, the check was in the right spot and it was confirmed:  I was pregnant!  I could no more have stayed on my feet in that moment than I could have lifted a mountain; I fell to my knees and wept, thanking God for our miracle and telling Him that I would be the best possible mother and caretaker to a child that I believed really belonged to God.

Not a day has passed since that one where I'm not thankful for that miracle. Matthew is a joy from day to day.  He is an intelligent, mentally-creative, stubborn, somewhat temperamental, determined-to-negotiate-everything, talkative child with a huge heart for so many things.  He can be shy at times, and quite gregarious at other times; remarkably obedient on occasion (these times seem to be less frequent these days!), and equally mischievous and disobedient at other times.  He spoke his first words when he was eight months old ("aw done" - meaning "all done" and said in perfect context) and, by the time he was eighteen months old, Geoff and I were able to list at least 250 words on his vocabulary list.  He hasn't stopped talking or asking questions since - last fall, I counted him asking nine questions in the course of my driving one block.

Matthew is a boy with many imaginary friends: Owl was his first, at eighteen months old, and Matthew would 'carry' him around in cupped hands all day long, talking to him; Owl has since been joined by many others, including Pippi, O Canada, Fire, and, for the past two years, his favourite imaginary friend, Bambi - who must be a shape shifter of sorts because he materializes as boy, squirrel, snake, or various other life forms, depending on the occasion; in fact, on Tuesday, when Matthew and I attended a homeschool field trip to learn about e.coli bacteria, Matthew got to sew and decorate a little teddy-like creature that was cut into the shape of an e.coli bacteria...Matthew decided to give that little creature the name of Bambi, so that he would have a physical manifestation of his imaginary friend!  Everyone in Matthew's extended family, and several of his friends, know Bambi by reputation; Matthew and his best friend/cousin, M, have planned and executed so many birthday parties for Bambi (including wrapped gifts, decorations, celebratory activities) that I'm sure Bambi must be about three hundred years old by now.

Matthew also engages in play with other 'creatures' - namely characters created by my fingers. Over the past three years, Matthew has talked and played with (my) finger characters by the name of Crabbie (who 'died' about eighteen months ago when Matthew accidentally smashed my fingers by jumping on them while my fingers were engaged in playing the role of Crabbie...Matthew still occasionally cries heart-wrenching sobs for having lost his beloved Crabbie - and you can just imagine the discussions of death that followed that passing), The Claw, and his long-time favourite,  Anty (simply my index and middle fingers 'walking' or jumping along whatever surface he's on, and 'talking' to Matthew via my anty voice).  Matthew treats these characters as real entities separate and apart from me - he talks to them, listens intently to them (if ever I really need Matthew to do something for me, I can always count on Anty to help gain Matthew's cooperation!), cares for them (for example, although Matthew is very ticklish, if Anty happens to 'walk' across a ticklish part of his body, Matthew will never, ever, since having Crabbie die, make any effort whatsoever to defend himself - it's instinctive for him to protect his little creature friends), takes comfort from them when he might not want comfort from me, and on and on.  He has a wickedly delightful imagination, my boy!  One day, about a year ago, I walked by Matthew's room during his quiet time and paused to listen/watch:  Matthew sat cross-legged on the floor, in a circle with a few carefully-placed teddies and, clearly, by the way Matthew was talking, one of his imaginary friends.  He was having a conversation with them all and, one by one, he would talk in a different voice for each of them, including for the one that was not visible. It was a touching and humourous moment.  Good thing the various characters didn't get into an argument - I'm not sure how Matthew could have kept pace with the conversation, enacting all of those voices!

By character, Matthew is a bit of a conglomeration: at times, he is perfectly happy chatting with people he doesn't know; and yet, at other times, he is cautious, shy, and a bit intense - he takes a while for most people to get to know.  He is a gentle child who flourishes with one-on-one relationships - something that worries me about when his siblings come home.  He often finds transitions hard - even from one activity to another, or one event to another.  Though he loves play dates and a variety of activities, deep down, he's always been a bit of a home body...loves to be at home, hanging out.  He hesitates at most doorways for a moment before entering a new room, to get a feel for the 'lay of the land' before moving in.  He is a very sensitive person:  sensitive to how things feel on his skin; sensitive to pain; sensitive to bright light and loud noises; sensitive to another person's tone of voice and its inflections; sensitive to the 'mood' in a room.  People who want to be close to him learn that he responds best to a quiet tone of voice, close one-on-one (ideally face-to-face) proximity, and polite requests for him to do something.

He is sensitive in spirit, too.  From early on, Matthew has shown an acceptance, and understanding, of God that has quite confounded and amazed Geoff and me at times.  On more than a few occasions, I have started to talk to Matthew, only to be asked by him to please be quiet because he is talking to God in his heart; sometimes he does this silently, with his lips moving (and then he'll tell me that these conversations are private between him and God), and at other times, he is audible.  In all honesty, I don't believe that this is make-believe - I believe he just has that kind of relationship with God. When he was a month shy of three years old, Matthew and I were in the parking lot of Superstore, having just finished our grocery shopping.  Matthew suddenly yelled at me to stop walking...and I did.  He said that he needed to pray...and he did.  Right there in the middle of the roadway, Matthew prayed that God would live in his heart forever and be his friend.  I so don't want to be the one who interferes with that kind of relationship, and I worry that something Geoff or I do will influence this negatively (after all, don't we all have baggage, perhaps particularly when it comes to our personal faith/religion stories??).

I can hardly believe six years have passed since I first met Matthew.  I feel so privileged to be able to spend most of my every day with him; even on hard days, I usually end the day watching him sleep and feeling ever so thankful for his presence in my life.  I love that I'm the one who gets to witness his every good and every bad mood; that I get to teach him to read; that I get to see him snuggled in amongst all thirty of his teddies at night (the favourites of which are carefully tucked in under a towel/blanket); that I'm the one on the other end of most of his (rapidly improving) negotiating strategies; that Geoff and I are together and able to raise him in a home with both of his parents (not very common these days); that we get to see him think new thoughts and ask new questions (and believe me, he has a zillion of those!).  I'm just so glad I'm here to witness his life unfold.

There's nowhere I'd rather be.

Tonight, in honour of his birthday, we'll head out with grandparents, cousins, aunt and uncle, and a couple of Matthew's special grown-up friends, to Matthew's favourite restaurant for dinner: Boston Pizza!  I'm sure he'll order his favourite meal:  bugs (mac) and cheese.  Grandma's bringing a cake for the occasion, and Matthew can't wait for the waiters to gather round and sing Happy Birthday to him while he blows out the candles! Then, in two days, we'll entertain about a dozen kids at Petland - they'll get to hold a bunch of little animals, play some games, and eat junk food...heaven for a kid, don't you think?  For this occasion, I get to make the cake...though nothing as fancy as in past years - this year it's just a good, old fashioned, double layer chocolate cake with jam between the layers and an inch of chocolate frosting on top...oh, and, of course, candles!

So, on the occasion of Matthew's sixth birthday, here are a few other photos for your enjoyment (and mine!):

Matthew's first birthday...and his first taste of sugar!  I know it's crazy (and hard to believe now!), but he had 85 people (yes, 85) come to his first birthday party - while we were still living in greater Vancouver.  Lots of people knew what a miracle this boy was, were so supportive of us, and were so very happy for us when he came they celebrated with us!!

This was the table, full of his first birthday gifts!!

Matthew with his beloved cousin at about 20 months old; she is six weeks older than him, and she is still his best friend:

On his second birthday:

This was the teddy bear cake I made for Matthew's 2nd birthday - he asked for a cake that looked like his favourite teddy at the time: Bear Bear.  I think this is a pretty good imitation...albeit quite a bit bigger than the original Bear Bear.

From the moment of his birth, Matthew has had a cowlick in the hair over his right eye - the hair there simply does what it wants. Here's an example of what happens when his hair is longer:

Showing off his Thomas the Tank underwear, toilet trained at 2.5 years:

This was taken on the occasion of Matthew's third birthday. Yes, I made the Curious George cake - all six layers of it, which I then carved, butter-creamed, and covered with hand-dyed fondant icing to match the colour of the Man With The Yellow Hat's hat.  Not bad, I figure, for a non-crafty person.  I laboured over that cake - woke up at some unearthly hour of the morning to spend four hours putting it together!

At three, 'reading' his books first thing in the morning:

On this fourth birthday (with pirate-themed, individual, treasure-chest cakes for each child):

Here's a close-up of one of those cakes:

A four-year old batman, on Halloween '08:

And, last year, March 04, 2009, on his hot-wheel-themed fifth birthday:

Learning how to play baseball, last summer '09 (he was so hilarious, not wanting to run from base to base because he said that he "needed to save [his] energy!" For what? I felt like asking!):

This shot was taken at his swimming class last summer'09, with his best bud/cousin, M; during those four weeks of lessons, Matthew went from not wanting to put his face in the water, to dropping coins into the pool just so that he could dive down from the water's surface to retrieve them - he's a fish in water now!):

At the Calgary zoo last September ('09), when he and I did a little road trip together to visit a friend:

And this last one was taken just a few months ago, in November'09, on a homeschool field trip to Oak Hammock Marsh. Isn't he beautiful??

Matthew has promised me that he won't grow up too quickly, but really, the time is already flying by.  It seems like yesterday since I held that little babe in my arms, and there are many days I wish I could stop the clock and live today for just a little while longer.  Ah well - how important the lesson, then, to live each day to the fullest...cause I don't want to miss a second.

Happy 6th Birthday, my beautiful boy!!  Dad and I love you with our whole hearts.

* Thank you all for your comments, and for your best wishes for Matthew.  I have read him the post I wrote, and have showed him all of the pictures; next up, I will read him your birthday comments!  He'll love it...I can picture his smile already, when he hears that people are wishing him a happy birthday!  So, thanks.


  1. Thanks Ruth for your entry and pictures of Matthew's life so far. Definitely an uplifting post for me after a particularly difficult morning parenting for me. I love the first picture where it looks like Matthew can already sit.

  2. what a cutie! Happy Birthday Matthew your growing to be a big boy! Congrats mommy! Your doing a great job!

  3. Happy Birthday Matthew! Great post Ruth. Always enjoy reading and seeing pictures of him and his zest for life...

  4. Wow, that last photo is spectacular. That's a framer!

    Happy birthday Matthew! May this be your best year yet!

  5. Ruth
    Wow! Yes you have a beautiful son. Thank you for posting pictures of Matthew. My favorite is the last picture!(of Matthew at Oak Hammock Marsh.) I also like the Birthday cakes you have made. They are very creative, and fun!
    I hope you all have a blast at BP tonight. A party at Petland, what a great idea!!
    Congratulations to you! You have been parents for SIX years!!
    And of course Happy Birthday to Matthew! My Birthday wish for him this year is that, he would get two siblings to play with and get to know!!!!
    Anyway, hope you have a day filled with picture, memories and happiness!!!

  6. Happy Birthday Matthew! Hope the day is a joyous one for you Ruth and the whole family. ~Heidi

  7. Awww! Happy Birthday Matthew! p.s. Your mommy makes AWESOME looking cakes - bet this year's will taste delicious!

  8. Ruth,
    What a touching tribute to your son. These words will be a treasure for him to have. He sounds like quite a character!!! I hope someday I get to meet him. It sounds like he and my kids would have some fun playing with their imaginations!

    Matthew - happy birthday! Six is such a great age! I hope you have lots of fun at Boston Pizza tonight with your family and that you have a good time at Petland with your friends. You are a very special boy and gift from God and I am glad that you are growing up knowing Him and knowing the love of your parents.

  9. Happy Birthday Matthew!!!! I pray next year you will be able to celebrate with your siblings!!!! A child with such an amazing mom will surely be an amazing man!!!


  10. Great post Ruth. What a very special boy you have...and pretty adorable too!!! I love the very first pic of him screaming and the one of you holding him - you look so different with your short hair.