When I was in high school straight through to my twenties, I complained endlessly about getting older. It was like as I was experiencing my own youth I was desperate I was going to lose it. Birthdays felt like something slipping away from me.

But then when I was about to turn 30, I realized that this was basically a terrible attitude to have about my own life. As if my best years would actually happen when I was awkward, and broke, and hadn’t figured out yet how to groom my eyebrows. I mean, at 28 I got married, finished grad school, and then we bought a house. I was pretty close to 30 before I felt like an actual grownup.

So for my 30th I made all of my nearest and dearest lasagna and decided to love my birthday. To just love getting older, and enjoy each new phase of my life without panicking all the time that I was losing something. I’ve celebrated every year since, with scavenger hunts and burlesque shows, or even just hanging out with my husband and daughter.

I turned 36 on the 10th, just two days ago. I will happily tell anyone who asks me that I am 36. Every birthday I celebrate still feels like a triumph. I love marking another year lived, another year I adventured and loved my family and did stuff. Now I don’t understand the grownup disdain for birthdays, or admitting your age. I know growing old is scary, but to not grow old is…well, death. So I like cake and candles, parties, and birthday adventures.

For my 36th, my extended family gathered last weekend for lunch…and a trip to see Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water (if you see this movie prepare yourself, it is extremely trippy). The day after my birthday, my mom put out Valentine’s plates (which she has always done for my birthday), the traditional birthday banner, and cake. There is a mom trick I have yet to learn from her, which is always, always have birthday candles on hand no matter how old your kids are.

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My actual birthday was one of my days off, so while Hannah was at school I spent the morning at the spa. Then in the afternoon she and I went to a nearby mall and rode a two-story carousel 5 times in a row. I thought I might get motion sickness, but I survived. That little girl adores carousels, so this seemed like a no-brainer way to fill me with happies for my own day–make her giggle like a crazy thing. We changed horses each ride and took a phone full of selfies.

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We played and hung out all day, and when Adam got home they sang to me (well, Adam sang) and gave me cupcakes and presents. It was a perfect birthday, and it reinforced my feeling that life is pretty grand and I should just keep celebrating.

Also, Adam gave me a gift certificate for a pizza class, so maybe that’s why I’m so happy.

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