When Dan was born on Dec. 22, some of his grandmother's fellow nurses brought a mini-Christmas tree to our room. The tree was decorated with "It's a Boy" confetti, blue teddy bears and miniature Christmas ornaments. We took it with us when we brought Dan home on Christmas Day. It just didn't seem right to throw it away, so it spent the last three years sitting on Dan's dresser. I know now why I saved it.

Dan's birthday celebration has become more of a season than a one-day event. Due to holiday schedules, it's difficult to get both of our families together for one big party, so he has two. We started his birthday season the day after Thanksgiving while my family was in town. We sang "Happy Birthday," enjoyed brownie sundaes and grinned while Dan enthusiastically opened his presents.

For the next several days, Dan pulled everyone who stopped over into the living room to see his "Happy Birthday" presents, as he called them - a wheelbarrow, a puzzle and a DVD.

Three days later, I set up the Christmas tree. Dan's incredibly impressed "Oh, wow!" when he saw the tree for the first time was enough to squelch my urge to skip Christmas all together. Every morning after that, the first thing we had to do was "turn on the Christmas tree."

A week after that we purchased a used calf warmer from a retired dairy farmer we know. Since he was going to be in the area anyway, he was kind enough to deliver the warmer. As we unloaded the warmer out of the back of his truck, Dan's words were, "Oh, wow! This is my big, blue Happy-Birthday-Christmas-tree present! Dad, can I have it? Can I put the kitty in it?"

From then on Dan referred to his wheelbarrow, puzzle, DVD and the calf warmer as his Happy-Birthday-Christmas-tree presents. (Except it sounds like "Appy Buh-day Kim-mas Tchee present" when Dan says it.)

A couple nights later when I tucked Dan into bed, I noticed the Christmas tree from the clinic nurses on Dan's dresser. With the events of the last couple days fresh in my memory, I saw the tree with a new appreciation for the thoughtfulness of the gals who put it together. This is Dan's Happy-Birthday-Christmas tree, I thought.

I have often wondered over the past three years how Dan would learn to distinguish the difference between his birthday and Christmas. In fact, that's why we had scheduled a separate birthday party with Glen's family instead of just letting Dan open his birthday presents with his Christmas presents. I figured he was old enough to realize everyone else was having birthday parties, but him.

I now believe separating Dan's birthday from Christmas was my need, and not his. For Dan, birthday presents and Christmas trees obviously go together just fine. And instead of his birthday being engulfed in the busy-ness of Christmas, as I had feared it would be, it's become a season all its own.

I brought the Happy-Birthday-Christmas tree downstairs the next morning and set it up in the kitchen, where I've decided it will sit again next year and all the years after that when Dan's birthday rolls around.

Dan's birthday season concluded a month later when Glen's family gathered at our house for cake and ice cream. We sang "Happy Birthday" again while Dan blew out the candles on his "very special snowman cake", noshed on pizza and grinned as all the cousins ripped into the wrapping paper on Dan's gifts - a semi-truck full of race cars, a big-wheeled tractor, a sled and a puppy. A real, live puppy. Can you guess which gift is his favorite? I'll tell you all about Dan's Happy-Birthday-Christmas-tree puppy in my next column. Until then, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2010.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn., with help from their 3-year-old son, Dan, and their infant daughter, Monika. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks[at]meltel.net.