Both my girls celebrated their birthday within 3 days of each other, turning 4 and 1, and I am rethinking the strategy that went into planning it that way. Wait, it wasn't planned that way. As I recall, last year Sommer chose to stick around in my womb for a full TWO weeks past her due date. And, no, I have not fully forgiven her yet.
Today the balloons are settling around us, the presents are gradually migrating into the bedrooms, and then migrating right back to the living room, and I am reflecting on a few birthday discoveries made while we celebrated these two wonderfully special little girls.
Discovery #1: The first magical birthday is turning four-years-old. This was the first year Annike got excited in anticipation of her birthday. Easily more than half of the fun was looking forward to it. We celebrated with a few special friends and an Under-the-Sea themed backyard party. The kids hunted for treasure around the farm and discovered treasure boxes filled with all kinds of silly things that kids think are fun, (and with a baby around, I think of as choking hazards.) Annike had a ball.
Discovery #2: Children are pleased with the simple things. Strange that I have this rediscovery every year. Annike's party was a few days before her actual birthday. By the time her special day rolled around, I was feeling pretty tired. She asked me for a special dinosaur cake and I was tempted to let the request slide because, seriously, dinosaurs are not my specialty. In the end I decided that if a dinosaur cake would make her feel special, it was a relatively cheap and simple gift I could give her that took minimal effort and a little creativity on my part. Those are the kind of gifts we want to encourage. So, a dinosaur cake is what she got. We topped it off with a visit to the grandparents house and this day was every bit as special as the day of her party.
Discovery #3: Cake decorating has been forever changed by the invention of pre-packaged Fondant. I admit that it is somewhat bland in taste, but it may have revolutionized the look of my cakes. I spent quite a bit of time baking and decorating cakes this week. The ladybug cake was for Sommer's birthday, and the mermaid cake was for Annike's Under-the-Sea party.
*Please note that after frosting dozens of cupcakes, I decided that I did not have time to make the mermaid cake I had been planning. As I was ditching the idea, my husband decided of his own accord to tackle decorating the mermaid cake. The decorating job you see below was done entirely by him. I was fighting off over-controlling urges to "adjust" some of his ideas, but in the end I let it all go realizing that not many little girls have a dad who will decorate a mermaid cake for them, and that was worth something in itself.
Food for thought: Is it more important for a birthday cake to look good or taste good? My husband and I may disagree on the answer.
Discovery #4: A one-year-old's needs are in her number of years. One friend, one sister, one piece of cake, one balloon, one candle... these are all she needed to be happy on her birthday.
Discovery #5: It is not easier to throw two separate "small" birthday parties for the girls. Maybe this Momma isn't good at small. Maybe when I get an idea in my head that seems totally do-able, I just can't let it go. Maybe half the fun for me is planning the party. But next year we are going to do the combined thing and celebrate once.
Discovery #6: Birthday traditions worth keeping are the meaningful ones. Our newest birthday tradition is a unique story told on Birthday's Eve (you know, the night before the birthday). It is a retelling of all the birthdays celebrated by the child, starting with the day of their birth, and counting right on up. Annike was captivated as she snuggled in bed next to me so excited to know what her 4th birthday would hold. Sommer's story was a bit over her head, but we started the tradition anyway.
Final and Most Important Discovery: Loving these girls equally does not mean I will love them the same. I will have to elaborate on this thought more at another time because as I mentioned above, my brain power is toast right now. Let me sum it up by saying in my mind it seemed reasonable that if I threw a party for Annike's 1st birthday, then I should also have a party for Sommer's 1st birthday. After all, I don't want to be the mom who forgets about my younger children. But loving them equally is not equivalent to giving them the same things. These two girls are different in so many ways... one is rather serious and the other is not serious at all... one loves animals and one loves people... one likes to be alone and the other likes to never be alone... one is very cautious and the other throws herself at life... one is getting older and the other is still very young. Loving them equivalently is understanding their differences and loving them uniquely because of those differences. Loving them equivalently is giving to them as they have need, not as I have obligation. I love these two girls more than life itself. Party or not, no child of mine will doubt that.
Happy Birthday Girls!
(I hope you enjoyed your parties because next year you may not get one!)