For my daughter’s first birthday party, I made an illustration of her talking to a Jaybird (her middle name is Jae). I then used this illustration to make her invitation. I thought it might be a great tradition to start if I printed out the original illustration large, and made her a new piece of art every year for her birthday.

And so the tradition continues. Anna Jae’s second birthday illustration portrays her in her then-favorite color, rainbow, with her two favorite toys at the moment — her Ivy Doggie and her Baby Ocean. For her third birthday, I wanted to depict Anna Jae in the car going to preschool in her uniform. My husband and I collaborated on what else should be in the piece, and we decided on a few key items: Target and Ikea, both her favorite stores; the Geico billboard, which she saw and said hi to several times a week; and the “big dinosaur” as she calls it, which is actually the blue inflatable ape used at the car dealership not far from us.

Newest to this tradition of paintings is her 4th birthday illustration. Anna Jae is in her new, not-yet-shared bedroom in our new apartment. She stands proud as her usual messy, out-there self, in her princess dress over her outfit and socks. Her surroundings are things she picked or helped pick for her space — the curtains, bed, bedspread, and rug. On the bed behind her sits Ivy, still very important but not as front and center as he used to be. And on the floor lies Emily, her brand new, much requested doll received for Christmas from Santa, in her very own Ikea bed. This is our girl in her natural habitat.

Now I have to brainstorm ideas for two kids! Stay tuned.