Children's birthdays are wonderful yet emotionally complex markers of time for me.
I've decided therefore to do two posts about Natty's 6th birthday, and this is the light-hearted one about parties, presents, jelly, tutus, Pass the Parcel, friends and family....
This time last year when Natty was 5, her Dad was unfortunately working away. I did a simple party at home but it's hard to take pics and cook and organise games and stop kids crayoning on your walls and smile and enjoy all at the same time. It was a lovely day, but passed me by in a slight haze. Read about it here in An Unexceptionally Exceptional Birthday.
This year was very different. We had celebrations over 2 days. A mini tea party with just our immediate family on the day and a party for school friends at the weekend.
|Mini celebration on Natty's birthday with simple cake number 1
Not only was Daddy Downs Side Up here, but Natty's big brother and his wife were visiting too. We had an army of help and it meant we could all enjoy the tiny details of the day.
|A very happy birthday girl
For the first time I think Natty understood that her birthday was coming. She got excited and chatted about the party both before and after the event. I'm so happy that she clearly loved every minute of it. Pictures speak louder than words, so here they are...
The birthday girl donned her favourite tutu and big sister Mia set up a facepainting station for all the guests, starting with hearts for Natty.
Natty then then painted some of her friends' faces before decorating her big brother and turning him onto a rosy-cheeked elf!
|I adore the look of concentration and love here
No party would be complete without a selection of games: Pass the Parcel, Pin the Purse on the Mermaid, (please excuse my feeble art skills!), and every parent's favourite Sleeping Fish (there was a vague swimming theme), as well as colouring in a little thing that shrinks in the oven, doing your own puppet show and decorating your own party bag.
|Pin the Purse on the Mermaid, Pass the Parcel and Puppet Show
The children were all beautifully behaved and worked together, instinctively allowing for each others differences; explaining, calming, comforting, dancing, laughing, hugging, cheering up, consoling, asking for help if necessary. Wonderful to see, and exactly how it should be.
When it was time, they sat down for tea. I decided to swap traditional party food, which is always more time consuming and costly than you think to prepare, for a starter of cubes of cheese, pineapple and grapes on sticks, then a bowl of pasta and blitzed homemade veg and tomato sauce (so easy to knock up in advance) finished with mini trifles in cups (fruit and sponge with jelly, then custard and sprinkles). All so easy and enjoyed by the kids and when their parents picked them up they knew they had eaten a 'proper' dinner too.
But enough waffle about healthy birthday banquets... the main player in this stage of the party was... the much anticipated... CAKE!!!
|The cake, the reaction and the fingers in the ears during the very loud singing!
I am no baker. It takes me a whole day to make a birthday cake, but having bought them in the past I have to say I prefer the shabbier looking variety that is infused with the secret ingredient - LOVE. Well, it was a swimming pool affair with splashing Peppa Pig and George amidst a bright blue jelly (What a to-do making that I can tell you! Many a night was spent consulting friends on Twitter to work out how to do it), complete with icing floats and lilos. It wasn't perfect, but it was 'good enough' to please the children. (Phew!)
And there you have it, another unexceptionally exceptional birthday, like many taking place in homes up and down the country every weekend.
Birthday parties are a wonderful time to see the joy of inclusion first hand, to see how our children just accept each other for who they are. It always means so much to me and I see what I was denied as a child growing up in a more segregated society where people with disabilities were hidden away. Read The Significance of the Birthday Party Invite for a light-hearted look at this.