Saturday, September 10, 2011

Helen's third birthday

Wow--here it is only five days after the fact, and I'm already blogging about Helen's birthday! For the same story from a different point of view, check out Sue's blog.

Although I didn't manage to remember with any of the other children this year, I did remember to get the semi-traditional "day before" photo of Helen, still two. Actually, she'd been telling everyone for the last six months that she's "two and a half" and resisted all efforts to correct the math, but for the last few weeks, did happily tell people that she was going to turn three.

And here's Helen three at last:

In the early afternoon, our friends Dena and Joseph (known to Helen as "Jo-fess") came over to give Helen a present. She was happy to cuddle with them, but didn't want to open her present, so it got put on top of the piano to be opened with the other presents.

Here's a not-at-all-organized collage (I've been having fun with picasa!) of the gift-opening. A Guatemalen bear backpack from my parents (inspiring another round of "Backpack was a little bear, little bear, little bear!" learned from Starfall...), a card with stickers and such from Margaret and Phil in Germany, fishing game from Dena and Joseph, and of course the presents from the guests and her siblings. There were officially only two guests: Aimee and Sue. Aimee will be three in October and came with her "bodyguards" (so we call them, as Helen is rather larger and rougher than Aimee), her three older brothers and both parents. And Sue of course came with her husband, Richard. Our downstairs guest also joined us for the party, so we were 17 people altogether, which isn't bad for only inviting two! (Nobody gate-crashed or was unwelcomed by Helen, it was just that Aimee and Sue were the only "official" guests.)

The cat, of which I don't have a good photo but Sue does (taken by Helen!), was crocheted by Marie. Not sure why Sue is getting the hug, except that Helen often needs to randomly stop and exchange cuddles with Sue.

Dinner for everybody, and finally the cake. As of their third birthdays, the children get to request whatever they want on their birthday cake, and I do my best to make it. Lukas and Katie in particular had been trying to give Helen ideas for months, but it was always easy to tell when the idea wasn't Helen's. I finally got Helen on her own and asked her what she would like on her cake. She first told me she wanted a camel and wanted her birthday at the Camel Park, but when I asked her where she got that idea, she said, "Lukas said it to me very quietly in my ear like this," and then whispered in my ear. So I asked again what SHE would like on her cake, and she said, "Mmmm...white and brown cake." I said, "You would like a chocolate and vanilla cake?" "Yes, for my birthday when I'm going to turn three!" I tried again and asked if she would like a picture from a book, and she thought about it some more and said, "Hmmmm...yes! A roof!" I did hear the sounds, but wasn't sure what they meant, and repeated, "A roof?" "Yes, a roof. With a hippo-hoppamus. Eating special cake." We don't actually have this book, but Sue does, and she has read it to Helen MANY times, and for that matter, I've read it to Helen a fair number of times myself. is the hippo-hoppamus on a roof, eating special cake. The "cake", incidentally, is dried, candied mango! But the cake underneath the frosting is indeed chocolate and vanilla.

And here is a photo of the book cover, and a photo of the two-page spread with the exact picture Helen requested:

Our oven, by the way, had quit a week earlier, so I baked the cake in Sue's oven that morning. (We did get a new oven the next day.) When I took it out of the oven, Helen said, quite quietly for her, "Is that my birthday cake?" When I said yes, she said, even more quietly, if possible, "Are you going to make me another one?" I said no, this was her cake, just like she wanted, with chocolate and vanilla. (I put half of the batter in, added chocolate to the second half, and poured it sort of on top, sort of swirled.) Then her lip quivered just a bit as she said even MORE quietly, "But I want a hippo-hoppamus on my cake." Poor Helen! I explained that I would decorate it later when it cooled down, and she was happy again.

And so, a final photo of Helen admiring her cake. With a roof. With a hippo-hoppamus. Eating special cake.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Katie's sixth birthday

And now we have...September. Two more birthdays coming up, so I thought I'd better blog about Katie's, first, which was at the end of July!

We very often remember to take a photo of the birthday child the day before his or her birthday, holding up the number of fingers they "still are", then one the next day with the new number. Jacob's birthday was first, and it's hard to hold up either 11 or 12 fingers. Then came Elisabeth's, who wasn't willing to hold up one finger for the camera, either. The day before Lukas's birthday he got (ahem...) sent to bed early and I forgot to take a photo. So I figure that the tradition just doesn't have to happen this year, and we didn't get a photo of Katie holding up five fingers. However, on the morning of her birthday, she suddenly remembered and requested a photo of herself with six fingers. Only when I uploaded the photos to the computer did I notice that her hair hadn't been brushed yet...

Katie is very into all things Pink and all things Princess, so requested a "pin-the-tiara-on-the-princess" game at her party. I traced her and she colored herself in, as a princess.

For her cake she wanted a tiara. Not a crown, a tiara. She explained the difference to me, that on a tiara, the sides of the points swoop. I thought maybe I hadn't swooped them quite enough, but she was pleased with the cake, even if everyone else did think it was a crown. The background, incidentally, which looks purple in this photo, was actually pink, colored with homemade strawberry jam, which was yummy and I'll happily do again.

As the children arrived, they were given two tiaras each to color--one on cardboard (the back of cereal boxes) to wear, and one for taping on the princess later on. Here is the princess with her choice of tiaras.

Katie wearing her crown (I mean...tiara...although the sides don't swoop enough...), holding the plant that Lukas gave her.

Considering that there were 14 children in the house (two families total...her guests consisted of one family with eight children, and one family of adults, plus of course the eight of us and one houseguest), and that this was Katie's birthday, they played some amazingly quiet games. I think this was when they were playing a sleeping game, something I was more than happy to encourage!

Opening her gift from my parents, a little Guatemalen purse.

A book I love and have given to many six-year-olds over the years, "Now We are Six" by A.A. Milne. (We now have three copies in the house, as Marie, Katie, and I each have our own copies. Since neither Jacob nor Lukas could read when they were six, I guess that's why it didn't occur to me to give them their own copies...)

We picked up these wedding crowns months ago at the thrift store for a couple of Euros. Apparently, they're traditionally used for the bridal couple in Cypriot weddings and can cost at least 20 or 30 times what we paid. The two circlets were originally joined by a long ribbon, but we cut them apart.

More books.

This was definitely the hands-down favorite gift in Katie's eyes...

Somehow I didn't take all that many photos. Here's Sue's blogpost about the party, with more photos.