I love telling the story of Spicy’s birth; it features several episodes of The Boy, age 5.5, deciding it was time for his sister to come home, and setting out with his little backpack, determined to hike the 40-odd miles to the hospital that held her hostage, and rescue her. My poor, dear sister-in-law aged about a decade those three days, and the bulletin went out to all the neighbors to keep an eyeball out for Houdini with a backpack, hiking toward the highway.
When my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow was given permission to bring Eldest and The Boy to meet her, The Boy carefully dressed himself in kilted finery, and insisted on buying flowers for the new baby. He sat in the corner of a very large chair, cuddling his new baby in his arms, and just beamed for hours.
In the intervening years, he’s been her touchstone, her stalwart, her rock. When faced with frustrated toddler storms (and OH, is this Spicy Child good at them!), The Boy submitted cheerfully to small demands of “I just need to pet my brother’s hair!” (When your brother has thick, curly blond hair, and it feels like petting a particularly nice cocker spaniel, well, you can’t blame the kid. It’s incredibly soothing. We all take turns petting him, and just absorbing the bliss vibes he puts out.)
He’s been there for cuddles, and naps.
He’s her main play structure.
He’s also her main tormenter. She loves it.
He buys her Lego sets of her very own, so they can build together.
He’s a pretty cool brother.
But that’s not actually what I set out to write about. I meant to write about birthdays, and Spicy had our most recent one.
Now, we handle birthday parties a bit differently than other families might choose. We look at them as an opportunity for the child, no matter how small, to learn to be a good host or hostess, and plan some fun stuff for their friends. We keep things low-key, but usually have a theme, a craft or two, good food, and a good lot of silliness. Our attitude is “homegrown is best.” Presents from the other siblings to the birthday person might be handmade, or boughten with carefully earned and saved funds; presents from Mum and Daddy run along similar lines.
Some years, we celebrate early. Others, late. Others, we spread out the fun over weeks. If cousins are handy (particularly in the case of the Spicy child, who is in the middle of a cousin clump… five babies within nine months, and two cousins within weeks of her own birth… my sisters and I now warn each other if one of us falls pregnant…) we add in cousins, or neighbors, or friends of all ages.
Our Spicy calender has swung round once again, and it’s time to celebrate her small existence. She decided that, since she has both boy and girl friends, a “Bugs & Blossoms” theme might work best, with activities both girly and boyly. We got out the cardstock and stickers, and made invitations, then waited with great excitement as the RSVPs phoned in. Is there anything cuter than bitty kids calling to accept an invitation? Our party list complete, it was time to gather all the needed party accouterments.
We’ll need some balloons from the dollar store, one for each party goer…
We’ll need a slightly nervous-looking “it’s the suggestion of a ladybug” cake, home baked and decorated by Yours Truly and the Eldest…
We’ll need some little girls with their hair in nobs, who have a very hard time staying serious when there’s a camera out…
We’ll need to welcome that nice stack of friends, and make some fridge magnet bugs out of cardstock, with lots of glue involved. The best craft projects involve lots of glue. Birthday party crafts are also an important part of my self-designed therapy for Not Being In Charge. I’m getting very good at letting the actual children do their own actual crafts, without “helping.” It’s hard, but I’m working on it. They’re still not allowed to touch my perfectly-arrange crayon box, though. My little quirks have their limits.
After cake and ice cream, we’ll definitely need some planting. It’s been a long winter, and a bit of spring thinking is very welcome.
The whole motley crew, friends old and new!
And then, a quiet extra bit of time playing with the flannel board, just Spicy and her second-best Boy (these two have been friends since their fetal days… we Moms finally simplified things and just refer to them as cousins. Family-of-the-heart counts!)
Our best birthday parties are the ones that run a little off-kilter to what most expect (glue, magnets, and planting stuff??), but suit us just fine. Just ask Spicy and her 17.5 little brown freckles:
I think we did alright, with both the party, and the birthday girl. We will most likely keep her around permanently. We’re kinda fond at this point.