Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fantastic Four

Did you miss me?

Well, I've been around. But babysitter-less, swamped with summer activities, and left with little time to sit down to write.

And more importantly, I've been immersed in birthday world. Because a certain little girl just turned four.

I know four isn't a teenager. It's not double digits. Heck, it's not even elementary school age. But four definitely, in all minds, takes her firmly out of toddler-town and plants her into kid-ville. And since she's my oldest, every birthday is a cause for nostalgia.

It should be noted, that since Reagan is my YOUNGEST, every milestone SHE hits is ALSO a cause for nostalgia. Madison is my first foray into a stage, Reagan is my last goodbye. So basically, I'm emotional and nostalgic every time either of them does anything.

This birthday was the first time that Madison had real, definite, and unwavering opinions on the matter. Last year we got a taste of it, but she was pretty open to suggestion. I'm not certain she really knew a birthday was on the horizon until we started planning and talking about the event. This year, she knew it was coming and she knew what she wanted. She was one of the youngest in her preschool class and had spent her final six months in preschool attending party after party, picking out presents (noting that Brooke likes Belle, Will likes orange), playing in bounce houses and slip and slides and participating in party games, eating pizza and cupcakes, whacking pinatas and collecting goody bags. She saw her friends, one by one, celebrated as the "birthday boy!" and the "birthday girl!" and she's been itching, waiting, wanting her turn to choose a special way to celebrate. She had all these plans in plans in place for when it was finally her turn to be the birthday girl.

As I started planning this Elsa-Anna-but-don't-forget-I-love-Belle-and-I-really-love-this-play-place-but-it's-a-Frozen-party-right-mommy party, I realized something I hadn't realized fully before.

Summer birthdays kind of suck.

I didn't use to think this way. I was a winter baby, so I had more than one birthday party postponed for snow. I had plenty of outdoor summer get-togethers with friends, but I had that teeny bit of jealousy for those who could have a birthday pool party. I remember wishing that I had a warm weather birthday, only to have my summer birthday friends lamenting their lack of a special "school birthday", back in the day when you were the classroom hero for bringing cupcakes, or your friends decorated your locker.

Turns out they were right. Summer birthdays have their own issues.

I definitely got that, when I was thirty-eleven weeks pregnant in a sweltering July, and when I was frustrated that my official six week maternity leave was when I was technically already off from school for the summer, but then Madison arrived with the ferocity of the thunderstorm we drove to the hospital in and I didn't think about it too much. Sure, Madison's first few parties also took place during raging July thunderstorms, but after the first year of a house full of sweaty, damp party goers and grilling under an umbrella, I smartened up and started outsourcing and having her parties in indoor locations. It wasn't a big deal. This year, however, we realized the real stinker of the summer birthday. And it's not the weather. It's the season.

Her friends were all on vacation. All. On. Vacation.

I'm serious. RSVPs started trickling in, and my heart sank with every response, because out of the first eight kids to respond, only ONE was a yes. When about half of the responses were in, I felt like crying. Here I was, wanting to make sure we would have a space for all these friends and finding a venue that would accommodate us, and that was seeming like a true fool's errand. Parents would love for their kids to come, but they would be away on vacation. Or were leaving that day - if only her party was in the morning! Or were coming home that day, but wouldn't be back in time. They were in Maine, Cape Cod, driving to visit family, driving to theme parks, flying across the country. Totally legitimate reasons to miss a party. I certainly don't blame these families for being away on vacation, but it broke my heart anyway. Of all the preschool parties Madison attended this year, a very low percent were able to reciprocate and share her special day. She'd waited all year, through endless celebrations, for her friends to come celebrate her, and I was very worried it wouldn't happen for her.

But before I could worry too much about the party, we kicked off the celebration at the pool. The day before her actual birthday, the pool hosted a "Family Fun Day" - basically a cross between a crazy pool party and a carnival. We hadn't been our first two summers. It always fell right on Madison's birthday and we figured we'd do something special with family....not to mention that we didn't know how much a younger kid would enjoy all the activity. But this year, we knew it would be a hit. We even made arrangements to bring in a cake to share with her pool friends.

Bubble dance party? Hunt for gold coins? Bounce area with a cow to ride? AWESOME.

The day may not have been for Madison, but that didn't stop her from crowing that THIS IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!!!!!!!

We had to have a Barbie cake at the pool, because the pool is where she got her very FIRST Barbie

Last Monday, her actual birthday, was a secret "yes" day. I had decided, without officially telling Madison, that I would do my best to say "yes" to everything she suggested. She, of course, had a full day of activities, but we crammed in a good amount of fun.

Personalized purple pancakes? Yes! A grown up manicure? Yes! A Happy Meal for lunch? Yes! Dinner at a "grown up restaurant"? Yes!

Not to mention a boatload of Frozen toys, which we'd finally managed to snag on Amazon after weeks and weeks of staring at empty shelves.

Toddler Elsa and Toddler Anna. Not to be confused with Baby Elsa and Baby Anna. Which she also received.

As the week went on, I scoured the party stores for Frozen party goods (you would have thought I'd think ahead and order from Etsy or Amazon, but alas, I'm clearly not that smart) and continued to worry about the guest list. I knew she wouldn't really notice and would have a great time, but I still worried that the number of friends would be woefully small.

Party day arrived, and with the siblings we'd welcomed along (hey, we had the space!), we had a decent number of kids running around (including the two she claims as her best friends - thank God those two were around and available). They had a great time, the party lasted the perfect amount of time for preschoolers, and we left to open gifts at home with both sets of grandparents - tired and happy, just the way you should be at the end of a day of fun.

Bounce house, games, dancing with frogs, a Frozen cake, and the star of the show pinata. She could not ask for more.

And now she's four...the celebrations are over and we're starting the fun of the next year. I've already been informed that four is OLD. She'll need to start wearing a watch now (Daddy started wearing a watch when he was four). She will have IMPORTANT work to do. She is a REALLY big girl now (this may be because she thought for a long time that I was four and Adam was five). We talked about how four year olds are plenty old enough to have jobs around the house, and she's excited (hey, it's new. Using a stick vac is still exciting). I've had many moms let me know that four is a great age - the toddler trials are (mostly) over and you have a loving, learning, happy little person.  

I've also had many mothers tell me that four is EVEN WORSE than three. These are pretty much the people who told me that three would be EVEN WORSE than two. And I'm sure they'll tell me that five is EVEN WORSE than four. So to those people I say "la la la la I can't HEAR YOU!"

I let her choose the picture. I figured she'd go with her birthday pics...nope. Ballerina all the way.

Watch out four, here comes Madison!

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