I’m Gumby Dammit! And Other Moments From Nathan’s 15th Birthday


15 years ago, our son Nathan was born in the caul. For those of you who don’t know what that means, you might want to google it. I’m afraid if I gave an anatomical description of it, I will lose half of my readers. Let’s just say that he came out “still protected.” Medieval legend says that being born in the caul is a sign of good luck and being destined for greatness. I don’t doubt it for a minute. This kid is by far the luckiest one of our family. We found out he was a boy through an ultrasound on  St. Patrick’s Day 1998 and my doctor, Patrick, insisted when he was born that all of these signs pointed to the fact we should name him Patrick. We didn’t.

Although he looked quite a bit like Winston Churchill as an infant (see above picture) he quickly grew to be an adorable and sweet little towheaded boy.

image image

For those of you who don’t know, Nathan is the only one of our four kids not born in the middle of October. Sydney, Zoe and Parker’s birthdays fall between October 13-19th. This year we are spending that week (known in our house as hell week) in Hawaii, and since Nathan is the only one who won’t be celebrating his birthday in Hawaii, I decided to bring Hawaii to his birthday.



image My mother made this little Hawaiian Nathan paper doll

He spent his day the way he wanted to- his friends had spent the night before and they played video games all morning, followed by going to see “Pacific Rim” at the theater. I dropped the boys off with their fandango tickets and $60 cash. My husband met them there. He said they went to get snacks and came back with one icee and three straws. I said, “But I gave him $60. They could have each gotten their own!” My husband’s theory is that one of them figured out that the large Icee was bottomless and thought sharing was the best way to go. He described how during the movie they would take turns keeping the icee in their cupholder, and then he would see a hand reaching for it. Whomever had grabbed it would then have to figure out which of the three straws was his.

Leading up to his birthday I had asked him if he wanted to go out to dinner or have dinner at home. He chose the latter. His tradition the past several years is to have the “World’s greatest sandwich.” Some of you may have missed that post, so here it is, recipe included. http://kbjackson.com/how-not-to-make-the-worlds-greatest-sandwich/

Thankfully things went much better this time, and I managed to make (with the help of my mother-in-law Toni) 11 World’s greatest sandwiches with no injuries or fires of any kind. It was a birthday miracle.

After dinner came gifts. Nathan tends to be a quiet kid, who is never comfortable being the center of attention.

image image

I finally got his birthday wish list on Tuesday, which gave me very little time to get his gifts. Another reason I love Amazon and prime shipping. Of course, one of his requests was for cash, but I didn’t want to just give him cash, so I ordered two different items (yes, from Amazon) to make it more interesting.

The first was a pinball machine. The object was to get all three mini pinballs into a certain hole, and then you were to press a “win” button to release the drawer. I had put two gift cards inside, so the only way he could get to them was to play the game.


It was pretty hard. He was getting a little annoyed that he had to work so hard to get his gift. At one point he decided to go get a screwdriver and planned to pry the whole thing apart to get to the goodies. I convinced him to try again. Later in the night he was able to get the balls in and the drawer released. His persistence paid off.  But he was still peeved.

My other genius idea to give him cash was a puzzle box. When it arrived I realized that the box the puzzle box came in was even better a gift than the actual puzzle box. Clearly this was created by non- English speaking people.

image “Enlighten your IQ! The best welcome gifts for the children!”

image “Intellect game?” “Skillful devise” “Iron bead moved to the end with open up the lid”

image “Into the coin.” Or, perhaps you meant coin into the bank?

image “Stimulation fun game!”

Nathan tried for a while before getting very frustrated and setting it down to move onto his next gift. My father, the engineer, decided this was a challenge which he would like to pursue. He spent quite a bit of time trying to maneuver the “Iron bead moved to the end with open up the lid” before he started bashing it against my kitchen table. Defeated, he set it down.

A while later, Sydney was sitting with the puzzle box and pulled off the lid. She said, “Papa I think you already solved it, you just didn’t know it. Either that, or it never got set originally and all this effort was in vain. Maybe it was open the whole time.” I said, “There’s a life metaphor in there somewhere.”

My mother said, “Katie was always good at solving puzzles.”

I said, “I don’t know that I would say that. Although I am one level away from beating Candy Crush.”

Sydney asked, “Then what happens?”

Jeff said, “Then I get clean socks.”

Nathan’s next gift was a face bank. When I saw it on his list I had no idea what it was. This is what it is:



Above is the video I took as we tried to figure out how it works.

His big gift of the night was a Selk bag, otherwise known as a wearable sleeping bag. I have yet to understand under which circumstances he plans on wearing this thing, although he told me he slept in it last night. He awoke during the night in a panic over how hot and sweaty he was, so hopefully he didn’t break it trying to escape it.

I picked green because it was the only color other than pink that was available on Amazon prime shipping. The net effect is that when he wears it, he looks just like Gumby.

image gumby1

The final portion of the birthday extravaganza was the ice cream cake he had requested. Unfortunately it was about 95 degrees in my kitchen and once I took it out of the freezer we were in a race against time to get it sliced.


Parker was having a difficult time controlling his compulsion to blow out the candles.

image image

But Nathan outsmarted him by covering his face as he leaned in to blow them out.


I think his birthday was exactly the way he wanted it. Hopefully he won’t hold a grudge about having to work for his gifts. I may never give cash or gift cards without a challenge ever again. Hey, there’s nothing that says I can’t enjoy watching them struggle to open their gifts from me, is there?

image saturday-night-live-1980-1984-

“I’m Gumby dammit!”











3 thoughts on “I’m Gumby Dammit! And Other Moments From Nathan’s 15th Birthday”

  1. Happy birthday, Nathan!

    Interesting interpretation about the caul. I hadn’t heard that one before. African-American Southern culture says that having a caul means that the child has spiritual insights and/or can see spirits. Author Tiny McElroy-Ansa writes about it in some of her books.

    I like your interpretation MUCH better… LOL

      1. Fascinating! I will have to look at that. Either way I see it as a good thing. I’m sure there are lots of different cultural interpretations. I got mine from my Irish ob/gyn lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.