Katie Turned 2; Here’s the Birthday Party

Woodland animal cupcakes!


Owls, hedgehogs, bears, raccoons.  The hedgehogs were the most popular.  Because sprinkles.

And Aunt Kristen was there!  Grandma was there, too, but somehow wasn’t in any of my pictures.  My latest dithering efforts with the ice cream maker meant we had three kinds of sorbet: meyer lemon, blood orange, and kiwi.  Blood orange was the most popular.  Because blood.


And we didn’t have any birthday candles, so we just used regular candlesticks.  Katie enjoyed this, but when it came time to blow them out, she opened her mouth and SCREAMED.


Yeah, this picture makes it look like her mouth is open in a state of gleeful surprise.  No, she’s shrieking.  This may be my favorite new method to blow out birthday candles.

” . . . biiiiirth-daaaay toooo youuuuuu–”


We gave her a doll for her birthday.  Katie was thrilled enough that she spent a good 15 minutes at bedtime singing it a nonsense-sound lullaby.  D’awwwww.

Eleanor also spent all of dinnertime creating “party stations” upstairs.  There was a station for making paper flowers, one for a beanbag game, one for a puppet show, one for drawing.  She used colored tape on the floor and hung handwritten signs to show where each activity was to take place.  I’d have commended her more if she hadn’t used this project as an excuse to skip dinner (we were eating something she didn’t like).

But: this paper airplane.  How can you stay mad at someone when they make this for their little sister’s birthday?


Belated Birthday . . . Post

A few days ago I realized that I never posted about Jeffrey’s tenth birthday.  I’d apologize and beg your forgiveness, but  . . . really?  It’s a BLOG, who cares?

But I shall say that it was a very fun bowling party.

We even got to go into the maintenance room and SEE THE BOWLING MACHINES.  This is something I’ve always, always wanted to see.  No sarcasm, I swear!

Okay, now I realize that writing “No sarcasm, I swear” sounds MORE sarcastic than not.

Anyway, much fun was had by all, although the boys spent a lot of the time doing this:

Why do I even . . . next time I should scrap the bowling and invest in a couple rolls of quarters instead.    I do understand the lure of vintage video games, I must admit.  They had Killer Instinct II! And Mortal Instinct II!   And Galaga II!  And Pac-Man II: Cruise Control!

Note the black bowling pin in the center of the table.  It was Jeff’s “present” from the bowling alley.  Most of the gift-pins were decorated with felt to look like little clowns or whatever, but Jeff chose the one covered with googly eyes.  My mom suggested that we keep it as a Halloween decoration.  Good idea.

My only complaint is that they didn’t let me bring a homemade cake to the party.  This makes FOUR BIRTHDAYS IN A ROW of store-bought cakes.  *throws self on floor and kicks legs against the carpet while wailing*

Jeff obviously didn’t care about the quality of yon cake.  Rumor has it on the schoolyard is that cake doesn’t taste as crazy-sweet when you join the Double Digit Club.

Fortunately, my boy is just as sweet as ever.  Happy birthday, Jeffrey-Do!

OH — and the bathroom sinks at the bowling alley looked like this:

That is all.

What’s the Opposite of Belated?

I often see greeting cards wishing people a “happy belated birthday,” but no equivalent for celebrating a birthday early.

‘Cause that’s what we did on Saturday.  William is unofficially five years old.  I wanted to squeeze in a party with his buddies before we moved away.

And boy howdy, how my party standards have fallen.  This is the third birthday in a row that I haven’t made the birthday cake myself.  What  . . . what has happened to me???  (Hint: her name begins with K.)

Anyway, William chose the “jungle party” cake from the big book o’ cakes at the grocery store.  I think it was adorable!  William was delighted!  He talked about it nonstop in his Primary class the next day.  And it hardly took any effort on my part!  (Remind me again why I bother making cakes at all?  Okay, I know: because they taste awesome.  But still.)


The rest of the party was “birthday” themed.  We played Pin the Tail on the Donkey using the Eyeore set my mom made for me when I was four . . .

. . . and played Musical Islands (a non-competitive version of Musical Chairs).

At the end, everyone has to crowd onto one “island” together.  It always ups the cuteness ante.

There was also a game where the kids took turns dropping a wooden clothespin into a jar, but alas, no photo evidence of such.

My family has a tradition called “Heavy Heavy Hang Over” when we give birthday presents.  Each person gets to gently “bump” the birthday kid on the head with a present in exchange for a wish.  I loved William’s reactions to various family members’ bumps.

Cousin June
Big Brother
Grandpa N.
Grandpa S.

The present from Brian and I?  A Razor scooter (or, as he puts it, “Lazer scooter”) which William has been asking for since Eleanor got one for her birthday in April.  For whatever Eleanor hath, William wants to hath also.  Or something like that.

She Done Turned One

Katie’s first trip around the sun was celebrated with chicken enchiladas, cake from Granite Bakery, and lots of family.  The funny thing is, nobody photographed anybody but Kate.

She cheered when everyone sang to her,

found the icing flowers fascinating,

and perfected the double-fisted cake-grab.

Presents are still kind of a mystery, but with assistance, she found cute clothes and fun toys.

This is a kind of building block called “Wedgits,” from Brian’s mom.  I gave her a toy smartphone, which lights up and plays music when you press the “apps.”  I only mention this because I have a daft fantasy that my blog will be read by some archaeologist 100 years from now, and this mention of toy smartphones will come across as quaint and charming.

My favorite moment of the evening was how she clapped, cheered, and crowed with the whole family surrounding her — and then how she got a little bashful when we all sang “Happy Birthday.”  She couldn’t have cared less about the cake just then.  Thank goodness big brother William was there to extinguish the candle.

In fact, why not watch a snippet for yourself?

Electric Fug

Today is the day Brian turns 35 years old.

35 is the Ugly Lamp Birthday.  What, you didn’t know?

To celebrate, I hosted an Ugly Lamp competition, and friends and family submitted various unsightly entries.  Lamps could be “Born Ugly” or “Made Ugly.”  Here are the competitors — and I’d like you to vote on your favorite in the comments below!  Which is the ugliest?  YOU DECIDE.

THE SPIRAL THINGY: made out of a washing machine agitator.  Found at DI by Brian’s parents.

THE SPINNING FORTRESS: constructed out of Lego by James, Laura, and their children.  The cube not only lights up, but spins!!

THE GOLFER: brought by Justin & AnnaJune.  Susan, who used to be a Hallmark store employee, said it reminded her of the kind of thing she used to sell.

THE END OF INNOCENCE: decorated by Chris & Susan, featuring a feather boa, plastic ninjas and army guys, glitter pom poms, and pieces of a “High School Musical” jigsaw puzzle.  (They also named it “The End of Innocence.”)

THE APPLEGUTS: A column of “apple guts” — the side product of making apple cider — with an upside-down light-up Harry Potter wand inside.  (Shudder.)  Made by Brandon and Kellie.

THE SPIDER’S PRISON: Pat & Deb found this at DI.  There is a spider trapped inside the glass with those freaky silk flowers!

THE COLONEL SANDERS: Made by my mom and dad.  I think it’s appropriately dreamlike.

THE WATSON & CRICK: an ugly lamp tribute to DNA.  See the double helix hanging off the side?  And the bottom rim is decorated with “actg” stickers.  Made by Amy & John’s family.

THE SUBTLE KNIFE: My 16 year old brother Alex made this one.  The light bulb behind it flickered.

Those were the highlights (no pun intended).  Brian and William made awards together and handed them out (I think the Appleguts won the “Most Likely to be Rejected by DI” award).  In the meanwhile, everyone enjoyed a big pile of pizza and spinach salad.

Plus cupcakes for the children!

And now, of course . . . .


This is the Marbled Velvet Cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.  With a ganache glaze on top.  It was humble-looking but very tasty.

Happy #35, Brian!  (xxxoo)

Get Your Ninja On

Jeff’s current obsession is with Lego “Ninjago” toys.  These are little ninja guys who battle each other by spinning around on tops.  Regular whirling dervishes, they are.

Which of course led to Jeffrey wanting to have a ninja-themed birthday party.  Gosh if I knew how to do that.  But we improvised.

We made throwing stars out of cardboard and duct tape and threw them at targets in the yard (way harder than you think) (Jeff took it SERIOUSLY)

and had a relay race that involved chopsticks and marshmellows.  We also played Blind Man’s Bluff, cleverly renamed as “Ninja Sneak.”  This was followed up by a Speed Slice tournament on Wii Sports Resort.  Even my parents played; they were really good at chopping up the giant bamboo.

I even went a little crazy at the Asian grocery store and served the kids gyoza and red bean ice cream.  The ice cream went over fine, but the gyoza?  Not so much.


So, a ninja cake.  How is it done?  Probably not like this:


And with candles, this ninja is happy to see you!

Jeff turned 9, but we always put on an extra candle “to grow on.”  Jeff was pretty thrilled.  Who cares what anyone else thinks?

But Mr. Ninja didn’t fare so well with the candles removed.  “He looks like Elmo!” is what all the children said.  One of them even gave him a cookie nose.  Sigh.  Well, I’m just glad my sweet boy had a special day.  Hi-YAH!

One, Two, Three, Four

Since we moved to Utah, my children tend to have multiple birthday celebrations.  One on the official day of birth, one before or after with friends from school, and possibly another one or two at a grandparent’s house.  Oh, the spoilage.

Last year William had three parties.  This year, only two.

The first was during our vacation to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival (more on that later).  I made him this shirt to wear, just to keep the general public informed.

His grandparents took him bowling, and at dinnertime he even was serenaded at the Pizza Factory, and as a reward for enduring that travail, he was given an ice cream sundae.  (Ah, the Pizza Factory.  You gotta admire the restaurant that admits up-front that its food is not prepared by humans.)

The second party was for friends and relations, and held the day after we got back from vacation.  (Yes, right after.  It was painfully exhausting.  But it was the best time for all involved.  No regrets.)

It was . . . a COWBOY party!  Woop with the theme pulled from my Big Book of Party Themes!*

We made vests out of paper bags!  (Brian was the one who figured out how to turn the bags inside out without tearing them.  Because what kind of self-respecting cowboy runs around with “Freshness Guarantee” and a giant picture of a peach on his back?

We played “sidewinder jump!”

We lassoed a rocking horse!  And later ran around with squirt guns!

My main contribution was this horse cake.  William insisted on the Life Saver bridle bits.  Yes, the cake design is also from The Big Book of Theme-y Themes:

Why do I always take pictures of the candles being blown out?  It’s like William is frozen in time, forever spewing spittle all over a horse-shaped sugar confection.

The only real challenge now is trying to make William understand that he is just four, not five.

“But I had two birthdays, Mom,” he explained.  “One for turning four, and another means I’m five!”

I explained that this was not the case, but who can blame him for being confused?  We always stick on one extra birthday candle on the cake, “to grow on.”

“You’re just four, Wimmy.”

He nodded his head sagely, then immediately went back to being a “baby bison,” currently his favorite fantasy play.  Who needs to deal with numbers games when the open range awaits?

*That’s right, The Big Book of Parties For People Who Can’t Think of Any On Their Own.  People think I’m really creative, but the truth is that I’m just good at finding other people’s good ideas.  And then milking ’em for all they’re worth.

Katie’s Half Birthday

We have a little tradition in our family of celebrating a baby’s first half-birthday (that is, when they turn six months old).  We make a half-cake, top it with a half candle (Brian takes great pleasure in cutting a candle in half lengthwise) and then sing “Happy Half Birthday to You” while the baby blows the candle half-out.

Older siblings usually blow out the other half.  You can read about William’s half birthday here.  Katie’s was much the same.

William helped me frost the half cake.  He took his duties as Quality Control Inspector quite seriously.

The finished half cake is below.  I was gratified that it turned out well.  A recent attempt at making yellow cake was a spectacular failure.  This one, on the other hand, was perfect.

Everyone was so excited to celebrate!  We told Katie that if she was a good girl and ate all her carrot puree, she’d get to watch us eat her birthday cake.  She thought this was a great idea!

After cake came the giving of the half-gift.  Half-gifts in the past have included baby socks and half-finished handknitted sweaters.  William and I went shopping together and picked out this:

It’s a little mini-blankie shaped like an owl.  We’re hoping it deters her from finding and chewing on other cloth objects, like Jeffrey’s discarded socks.  (Yeah, ew.)

Eleanor used the package ribbon to make a “crown” for our little half-birthday girl.

She is getting improbably big.  How dare she grow so fast! — although we love every inch.

4th (Somewhat) Annual Backyard Circus!

Yup, backyard circus.  If you’re new around these parts, here’s the concept: kids put on adapted circus routines in my backyard.  Doting adults applaud and cheer.  A hot dog roast is also involved, and at the end, everyone eats ice cream.

Brian and I began hosting these on a somewhat annual basis back when we lived in Pittsburgh.  The previous circus was held in 2009, you can read about it here.  Last summer I was too sick/exhausted with early pregnancy to organize one, and my kids were really disappointed.  This year I decided to make amends.

Which means I cleaned off the back porch.  This was a serious undertaking of heroic proportions.  But it was worth it!  The kids came up with such clever ideas for their acts!  Here’s a sampling:

In this group is a Human Pyramid, a tightrope walker, a comedian and her straight man (Eleanor was the straight man), a bareback horse rider (with the pink parasol), and a MIME. There was also a lion tamer, an archer, a puppet show, and a really magnificent ten-year-old ringmaster.  Everyone was great!

Eleanor was a juggler, who spun rings on her arms while standing on a balance board . . . with a CAKE ON HER HEAD!

William was a sword swallower, using those plastic telescoping lightsabers.  It was darn adorable, especially when he referred to himself as a “sword sucker.”  When the act began, my friend Justin yelled from the back row, “No, Luke!  It’s not worth it!”

Annnnnd Jeffrey.  He had the most unusual performance of all.  During the week leading up to the circus, he kept coming up with outlandish, impractical ideas for his act.  He wanted to build a boat in the backyard.  He wanted to bounce off a trampoline and smash his (helmeted) head into a wall.    He would accept no substitutes.

So he was kind of bummed when we informed him that none of these ideas were going to work.  After a lot of brainstorming, he finally came up with something that could:

He had a duel against a kitchen chair . . . using a rubber chicken.

Obviously, this was inspired by The Great Gonzo from The Muppet Show.  The bad thing is that this picture really doesn’t capture the ferocity with which Jeff attacked the tuna salad out of that chair.  The other bad thing is that Jeff was originally going to wear a Roman centurion helmet as part of his costume, but it got too hot so he took it off.

Oh, yes — one more thing: this was also an unofficial birthday celebration for me.  34 years!  Whoa!  My sweet in-laws brought this yummy ice cream cake. This was an excellent choice, as my love for Baskin-Robbins’ whipped cream frosting knows no bounds:

Plus they also brought clown cones for the children.  (They are amazing in-laws, no?)  This caused a Nostalgia Moment for many of the parents in attendance:

The kids are already begging for next year’s show.  It’s definitely on — maybe next year I’ll finally convince one of my children to be a snake charmer.  (What?  They’re cool!)


My mother-in-law’s birthday is today, and she loves receiving a grandchild-produced home movie as a present.  Last year we made Sleeping Beauty — a stunner of backyard theatrics if ever there was one — but this year we decided on simpler fare.

Eleanor and William chose Coleen Salley’s adaptation of Epossumondas, a “noodlehead” tale.

I’m impressed by their performances.  Ellie’s animal voices are for the win.  And yeah, I held Katie in one arm while filming.  If you notice jiggly camerawork, that’s Katie grabbing my hand.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes that is real butter melted on Wimmy’s head.  He had a bath directly afterwards.