As predicted by everyone but me, everything went all right - better than that, really. Thursday's family dinner at Boston Pizza was both easy and great; I had to do nothing but make the reservation, wrap a couple of gifts, and show up...husband and birthday boy in tow. My mom brought the cake, the staff served up a great dinner, Matthew got his bugs (mac) and cheese along with a huge piece of birthday cake and a rousing version of happy birthday that everyone other than my mother loved.
Note: According to my mom, Boston Pizza staff (and many other individuals) sing the happy birthday song incorrectly. On the third time one sings happy birthday in that song, too many people (in her rather strong opinion) fail to hit the note at the full octave higher and actually sing it at a fifth. Thus, she forced us all to endure her 'correct' version of the song...yet again, I might add...this is by no means the first time we've heard this all from her...I can't even sing the darn song anymore (much less enjoy it!) without my mother's voice sounding off in my head. But I have to stop rolling my eyes and try to be nice, seeing as how she and my dad brought the cake and even paid for everyone's meal...so grouse away about the darn song that everyone else loves, Mom. Forced smile - teeth bared appropriately.Here are a few photos from that evening:
Not a great shot of me, but I am proud nonetheless to be here with my boy:
Matthew with his best friend/cousin, M, playing/hiding under the table at Boston Pizza, telling each other all kinds of secrets no doubt...they have that look on their faces.
Make a wish first...
Shortly after we got home from dinner, a friend surprised us by announcing that he had bought a gift for Matthew, so he stopped by - it was a totally unnecessary, but totally thoughtful, and much appreciated thing to do...the birthday boy and his parents were very moved. So...thank you, Sheldon and Hilary, for being so thoughtful - Sheldon, I forgot to get a picture of you and Matthew with the gift you brought, but he loves it!!
Fast forward to yesterday - Saturday. The day of the 'friend' party at Petland. First, I'll comment on the venue, which has pros and cons attached to it:
- On one hand, it seemed like a lot to spend $150 for two hours' use of their party room - I've never done that before and I feel like I should look around guiltily to see who might be watching me spend that much money on two hours. Especially because you still have to bring with you any food and drink, and decorations.
- On the other hand (and this hand clearly seems to be the bigger hand), it was a great place to throw a kids' party. The kids loved the animals: the usual and adorable puppies and kittens; but also the birds, reptiles, and rodent-like creatures. The young woman who presented the animals to the kids was great (with the animals and with the kids) and she spent one hour and twenty minutes entertaining them with the animals...impressive. And, though I still had a disastrous kitchen to clean up after the party (from making the cakes, frosting, cream cheese roll-ups, etc etc), I didn't have to clean my whole house for the party, and then clean it again after everyone left. That, that, my friends, was the real joy behind spending the money.
This is the least decorated of any of the cakes I've made for Matthew, and it's going to continue in that direction! I'm not sure if you can tell how many times I had to 'erase' the top and re-do it. I first tried to write his name in smarties, but there wasn't enough space to write his whole name (!) so I had to take them out and re-ice the top; then I started to write out the letters with red icing (as below) but had to remove a bunch of those letters, too, because they 'ran.' Finally, this is how it ended up! All I really cared about was that Matthew loved it...and all he really cared about was the six candles on the cake, and the #6.
A staff person from Petland took all of the kids to three different stations in the store: reptiles; small animals (ferrets; rabbits; chincillas...) and puppies/kittens/birds. Every kid got to hold (or touch, if they didn't want to hold) ever animal...and they loved it. Below is a baby python that Matthew went on to hold a few seconds after this photo was taken.
Here's as good a picture as I can show, with the kids' backs to the camera:
Finally, the moment he'd been waiting for...
And of course, after the party was over, I still had a huge mess to come home to. Sigh.
Matthew also received some really awesome gifts from his friends. We're making him spread the joy over a period of time, so that he didn't simply rip them all open the moment he got home. Not everyone will agree with that approach, but it works for us.
A bunch of us moms were talking about gift-giving at playgroup last week, and one mom (thanks Eileen!) mentioned that she gives her older-than-six kids the option of inviting two kids over for a birthday celebration, with gifts; or they can invite multiple kids over, in which case they collect money for donation to a local charity or shelter. My sister has done something similar with her nine-year-old for the past couple of years - the kids who come to my nephew's birthday party are asked to bring $10 in lieu of gifts; with half of that money, my nephew buys something for himself, and with the other half, he buys something that's in demand at a local mission or shelter. I like these ideas a lot, and am thinking already of creative ways we can do something different for next year.
The topic of gifts reminds me that someone asked me what we bought for Matthew. We bought him one larger item and a couple of smaller items. The larger gift ($45) is something called "skyrail roller coaster;" with it, one constructs a windy, loop-de-loop kind of roller coaster and then sends marbles careening over hills and around curves. The picture on the left is Matthew, after realizing what the gift is!
Here's one version of how he and Geoff built up the new roller coaster; it really is rather cool how the marbles fly along the track, pulled by only the slightest g-force.
The smaller items we bought for him were: two small early reader books (highlighting superman and various disney stories); and a 150-piece puzzle that was very inexpensive but hard to find. Matthew's competent now on 100-piece puzzles, but I didn't think he was quite ready for 200-piece ones, so I hunted high and low to find one in between. And he's already finished it. He insisted that he do it entirely by himself and, over the course of a day (working on it in 15-20 minute blocks), he did the whole thing.
He was determined to do it by himself because I promised him that once he has mastered that puzzle, I will give him a 200-piece puzzle - something that I happily promise because I think it's good for kids' brains to learn how to do puzzles and because he just recently decided that he likes doing them again.
Thus concludes the birthday events of 2010. By way of wrapping up this annual saga in our lives, don't think it's escaped my notice that I have only one child and yet I have spent a full three posts talking about my kid's birthday. It rather nauseates me, too! Just imagine when all three of my kids are home - you're going to have to read about nine posts about birthday parties in any given year...or not...maybe that's when my readership starts declining!
Time to move on, Ruth...time to move on.