Monday, July 18, 2016

The Last First Birthday

We celebrated a first birthday for the last time. I sort of can't believe it. Last week, on Elliott's actual birthday, we dressed him in a brand new birthday suit (that I finished in the nick of time the night before), and helped him open a small pile of presents (I got carried away. He's my last. And my favorite...Which explains how I paid dollars for toys that make noise...).



I know what my buddy likes and was glad to see that he really enjoyed all of his gifts, but was actually kind of surprised at how much he loved his new sippy cups, and thrilled to see how much he loved his Hungry Caterpillar jack-in-the-box.
His sisters LOVE jack-in-the-boxes as well, so they've been playing with it as much or more than Elliott. Which is fine, because they can entertain him with it, and they all get a big kick out of it.


He's SO thirsty.

Then he fell off his racing snail (or is it a slug?) and clunked his head on the fireplace tile surround. And then the party was over!
It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...
He went down for a rest and the girls went to swimming lessons. We had to stop at the grocery store afterwards, so we picked up a birthday donut for dessert since he wasn't going to get a cake until his little party on the weekend. He thoroughly enjoyed his half of a plain cake donut.

The girls were very excited to help me bake treats for the party. First, we made some cupcakes and some cupcakes baked into ice cream cones. The cones turned out adorably, but we baked them a few days in advance of the party, and the cones got limp from all the moisture in the cake. So, if you need cupcakes that look like ice cream cones, you'll probably want to bake and frost them day of...
All my helpers.
Elliott really enjoys the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. And I really enjoy all the food in that book, it always makes me want to sample all of those snacks. I've always thought it would be so fun to throw a Hungry Caterpillar party, and since Elliott is such a voracious and adventurous eater, I thought this was a perfect occasion. We sort of planned it last minute, but we needed some friends to come over and help us eat all those treats! So I whipped up a little invite and sent it out.

 
I had to use the book to make sure I got all the food laid out properly!



The chocolate cake was way too tall and totally precarious, but it lasted long enough to take a good photo. I just noticed that I forgot to put cherries on top of two slices!!

I made a hungry caterpillar out of the party plates and a #1 out of washi tape.
And I whipped up a Hungry Caterpillar romper just in time for the party, because that's how I roll. There was a bit of a snap malfunction, so I ended up holding it together with safety pins at the bottom...





He got an awesome airplane rocker from some of our great friends, along with a bunch of other fun things that he loves (a football! an airplane! a xylophone!!).
 We'd had lunch a bit earlier, but he was definitely interested in all the snack offerings. So we sat him in his chair and fed the hungry caterpillar. He ate some sausage, a plum, and lots of watermelon. Lots.
And then we let him have his birthday treat! He LOVED us all singing "Happy Birthday," and he loved the flame on his #1 candle. He giggled and grinned the whole time. I blew out his candle, and he went right for the frosting.



 It was an adorable little party for an adorable little guy, and we were so happy to celebrate with some of the great friends we've made. I know Elliott was happy to be the center of attention, and to get some fun new big boy toys to play with!

He is just the sweetest, funniest, most fun little buddy and we love him so, so very much. I could never have imagined such a little character, and now we could never imagine life without him. I could listen to him chuckle and watch him sleep, and eat food like a person literally all day long. Happy Birthday to my sweet, sweet boy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hello, Six.

Alice is six now. My parents came to celebrate, and celebrate we did, and then we did some other stuff, and then we got sick, and now here we are a few weeks later, with an honest-to-goodness six-year-old who can read and write and uses words like "protruding" and "rummaging" in correct context.

After I retrieved my mom from the airport, Alice and I set to work baking chocolate cupcakes to share with her friends on her birthday. I read the directions to Alice (since they were on my phone), and she measured and baked with only a little assistance from me. She graciously allowed Ivy to put the cupcake papers in the pan, and my mom supervised the operation.
A budding sous chef to her bossypants sister.
So many cooks in the kitchen.
Then, Alice filled each cupcake paper with 1/4c of batter. Most of it made it into the cups...
And then we licked the bowl and the whisk and the spatulas. Naturally.


Yum.
Grandma and Elliott watched.
And watched each other.
And giggled.
And then we said goodnight to five, and woke up with a six-year-old.
Goodnight, five.
Alice wore her special birthday dress to school, with leggings and a cardigan because it was a bit brisk. After she got home and had lunch, we finished decorating the cupcakes to pass the time until her friends were coming over.

Alice had a very distinct vision for her birthday treats. A while ago, she was looking at photos of Jack Skellington cupcakes (for some reason, who knows?), and came across some other Halloween-type cupcakes including ghosts and spiders. Again, for some reason, she decided that these would be perfect Harry Potter cupcakes, and that she wanted to have a Harry Potter birthday party. She had grand plans, including the Aragog cupcakes (Hagrid's giant spider friend) and ghost cupcakes (to represent the ghosts at Hogwarts), and we would decorate the house to look like Hogwarts and so on and so forth. I reminded her that we weren't going to do a big party this year, just something small with our family. Presents, her favorite dinner requests, and I would make her whatever kind of cake she wanted. She chose a cheesecake, and we agreed to just imagine a fun Hogwarts party.

Until Jon promised her that she could share treats with her friends (our neighbors). I told him that I didn't want to make a million different treats and do a big thing. He said he would help Alice make them. And then he found out what she had in mind...

Honestly, the cakes were perfectly easy. We frosted chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream (I've linked to my very favorite recipes, but your favorites will work just fine!). Originally, Alice had wanted to fill the cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream, for "spider venom," but I didn't have that much time, so I talked her into a chili-chocolate kind of thing. We added some cinnamon (2 teaspoons, maybe?) and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne to the chocolate frosting, and it was just the tiniest bit spicy at the end. Perfect.

I had frosted the cupcakes the day before, and rolled the tops in chocolate sprinkles, to make them look like furry spiders. I had also taken long skinny laces of black licorice and folded them in half, half again, and half again and sliced off the folded ends to make 8 lengths of black licorice for the legs. Alice put on the red hot eyes, and then we stuck the ends of the licorice into the frosting.




She was very insistent that they should all have eight red hots, because spiders have 8 eyes, but I was insistent that we probably didn't have that much time or that many red hots. I advised that she should give every spider two eyes, and then we could add more until we ran out of time and/or red hots.

We let Ivy decorate her own cupcake, since I was pretty sure she wasn't planning on following safe food-handling practices... My dad helped out with a few of his own, and supervised Ivy. She and Alice ate a good deal of legs and eyes that never made it onto a body.




After the girls were done, my dad spent some time making sure that every eye and leg were on just perfectly so. It reminded me of my senior prom; my dress had a bajillion individually sewn sequins that would get twisty when I sat or moved around. Before I left the house and before each round of photos, my dad would spend at least five minutes smoothing down the dress, making sure that every sequin was laying flat and in the right direction.
The cupcakes turned out great. It was such a fun idea, and Alice was very pleased with herself and her creations. I kept giggling while the girls were decorating because it was all just so cute.
A two-eyed spider
An eight-eyed spider.
In lieu of balloons or bunting or a banner (which I did not have at the ready), I took my mom's excellent suggestion and made a cute sign and decoration out of washi tape after Alice had gone to bed the night before. After we finished the cupcakes, Alice helped me put up some streamers in the red and gold color scheme of Gryffindor house.

When I asked what kind of birthday dress Alice wanted, she said she wanted a Hermione dress. Neither of us quite knew what that meant. At the fabric store, we couldn't find any fabric that Alice deemed Hermione-worthy, but she was drawn to these sparkly rainbow stripe and rainbow heart fabrics, and a cupcake button. In the end, she decided that it was a dress Hermione had enchanted to look like a cupcake. I can't believe I didn't take any better photos of it that day. I'll have to get some soon.

We decided to open presents before our neighbors arrived. Of course little sister wanted to help.

Ivy is particularly enchanted with this little collapsing giraffe.



Ivy picked out a very nice gift for her sister, a Little Mermaid Lego set. Alice loves it, and never lets her sister touch it...
But I think possibly her favorite gift was one that I struggled to locate. It was the only thing she asked for, "the rest of the Hermione costume" to go with the robe and the wand she already has.

The thing is, they don't really make or sell a proper Hermione costume. I found this cardigan, which is darling, but seems to be discontinued and wasn't available in her size. Plus, it doesn't have a Gryffindor crest or patch or anything. Anyway. I finally found an actual child-size tie. Don't get me started on the fact that it's labeled "for boys" as though the boys and girls don't wear the same tie with their uniform at Hogwarts. Actually, I kind of think that they only wear uniforms in the first movie, and then not again after that. But anyway.

I got the tie, and then an actual, legit school uniform shirt and skirt, which are both absolutely darling. She put the outfit on immediately, and wore it all weekend and wanted to wear it to school. I would happily buy her a closet full of Hermione uniforms that she could wear every day...

Hermione also loved her new dancing ribbon. She tucks it into her bike basket and carries it everywhere she goes.

Our neighbors and just a couple of friends came over and they all had a great time riding bikes and scooters and playing in the forest. When it was cupcake time, Alice proudly served the cupcakes and some of her friends looked completely mystified about why the treats were decorated like spiders at all, let alone in the middle of May.

At some point, the excitement got to be a bit much, and Alice took a break and a cuddle with Grandma. Much like Sister Bear in The Berenstain Bears "Too Much Birthday," which we'd already been reading a bunch for some reason.

Then, after all our guests headed home, we headed out for Alice's requested birthday dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, the seafood restaurant down on the water. We had an excellent view of the water and of all the cars disembarking the ferry!

And Alice stuffed herself silly with calimari and shrimp. Her new favorite companion tagged along, too.
Elliott also enjoyed his dinner!
And his first taste of lemon!
And then our server asked if he could bring out a special birthday dessert. We'd been planning on going home and having Alice's specially requested cheesecake, but we said, "Why not...?" We were expecting a tiny, child-sized treat that we could all sample, but nearly fell out of our chairs when we saw the enormous, three-scoop sundae that came out! Alice was absolutely thrilled.
We tried to dig out as much as we could, as fast as we could, but Alice can eat FAST (only when she wants to, of course), and shoveled in WAY more sundae than I was planning on. I can hardly blame her. It was delicious, and it was her birthday, after all.


We decided to save the cheesecake for the next night, and went straight to bed when we got home because we had an early morning the next day.

We got the kids up and ready and headed out for Aviation Day and the first accompanying 5K race. Jon and I had wanted to run and then Alice said she wanted to run, too. So we signed her up and did a few practice/test/training runs where Alice actually ran completely fine but whined and cried and screamed the whole way. I was prepared for an utter disaster on the course.

Six, going on sixteen. Or maybe thirty-six...
The 5K kids.
Her initial enthusiasm waned after our trial runs and she was pretty hesitant about the race, but she loved the new running shoes I bought her and I told her she could wear her tutu. 
I could tell she was excited by the crowd and the energy, and when it started, she did a fantastic job. She ran the first mile and a half, with only a few short little walking breaks. I think the crowd and the changing scenery kept her interested and we talked about stuff, and a bunch of people complimented her tutu. We actually saw a bunch of planes take off right next to us! Soon, though, so she started complaining that she had a stomach ache and saying she needed to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, there were no porta-potties on the course, and because we were running along an active airport, they were very serious about the fact that you could not step off the paved path. So, to avoid an embarrassing reprise of her huge shrimp dinner, we threw her onto the stroller at Elliott's feet. Jon and I picked up the pace and ran a pretty quick mile, and then had Alice get out and run the last half mile. So, technically, she didn't run the whole thing, but she did great and she snagged a medal anyway... Don't tell.
The turn-around, with a DreamLifter in the background.

Headed toward the finish line!
Unfortunately, it was a gray and rainy day. It was drizzling a bit during the race, but really picked up right after the above photo. We got pretty wet, and Jon, Alice, and I went to change into dry street clothes. And then we all went to the airport fire station to take advantage of the pancake breakfast!
We didn't last as long as we thought we would, or would have on a nice sunny day. We left my dad to finish looking at all the historical planes in the nice little museum, and we all headed home to watch the last Harry Potter movies and rest on the couch. And then we finally had a delicious Oreo cheesecake for dessert! Because we needed more treats... Alice wore the crown she got courtesy of the Royal Robotics team at Aviation Day.




A week after her birthday, Alice woke me up in the middle of the night and said she thought she was getting a migraine. She seemed better in the morning, so we sent her to school, but she spent most of the morning in the nurse's office until they finally called me to pick her up early. She came home and rested on the couch, which is usually what we do when she has a migraine. It wasn't any better the next morning, so she stayed home from school and rested on the couch. But she also had a bit of a fever. By the afternoon, my mom thought it would be a good idea to check in with her doctor to make sure we didn't need to do anything more before the long holiday weekend. They were pretty concerned about her fever and her symptoms, especially since I'd given her a dose of ibu profen an hour before and she still had a fever and headache and sore throat and was whimpering. They actually suggested that we head to the E.R., just in case. So we did. Luckily, my mom was there to stay home with Ivy and Elliott.

We were in the E.R. waiting too for a couple of hours, trying not to get barfed on by any number of very ill people. Alice fell asleep in my lap, and was still asleep when they called her into the triage room, where she lost her breakfast.
They gave her Tylenol to get her fever down, monitored her, and did a strep test. She had some apple juice and kept it down, and her strep test was negative, so they diagnosed her with a "flu-like illness" and sent us home with instructions to alternate Tylenol and Motrin to keep her fever down. Luckily, we'd brought the iPad to keep her sedated amused.

So that's what we did. For six days. Alice was flat on the couch, and hardly moved at all from Thursday through Wednesday. By Wednesday night, she had regained some pep and gotten a little twinkle back in her eye. She was feeling well enough to go to school on Thursday and Friday, and then this last weekend we continued to take it easy and rest a bit. 
We spent a week in variations on this theme.
So now we're all well again (almost), and looking toward the end of the school year, and our first summer break with a real, six-year-old school kid. I have so much to say about Alice, I'll have to write a proper, tearful missive soon now that the nuts and bolts are out of the way.