Tomorrow my Kitty will be six. And in time honoured tradition I’m just a little daunted by the thought of being a mother to someone who is nearer to ten than to the day they were born. And perhaps not quite ready to let go of five. Despite a few ups and downs and learning curves for all of us, five has been a wonderful age, and so while I try to find where the children have hidden the playsilks so that I can wrap up her birthday presents, and John channels everything he remembers from Home Ec classes into the baking of a birthday cake (or two), it’s time for a little look at the year in which Kitty was five:
To my darling wee boy
To my mind there is now way that my littlest baby can be two. Whenever I’ve been the mother of a two year old before I’ve always either been heavily pregnant or also the mother of a newborn and as I am/have neither, there is just no way that you can really be two. Perfect Mama-logic. Except for the fact that you really actually are two.
For all the times when you snuggle in my arms to go to sleep, there’s really no denying that the baby that can also give me quite a hefty accidental thwack between the shoulder blades with a rogue hockey stick is fast leaving his babyhood behind. When I was putting together your birthday video I could suddenly see so clearly how much you have changed in the last year, and why lots of people we meet are a bit surprised to find out just how little you are. At age two you’re wearing age 3-4 clothes, with size 7 feet, and the jumper that I knitted for your birthday will also easily fit your next biggest sister; they day when you’re taller than her is coming sooner than we think.
The only thing waiting to catch up is your teeth, you finally have your fourth bottom tooth coming in to match the four on top and you’ve just rather painfully acquired four molars but you’re far from having a full set just yet. It doesn’t keep you from your food though, and if anyone has something you’ll be after a bite, even if it’s met with the most amazing pouty face and an “I no like it Mummy!”. On our way travelling back across Europe we asked all three of you what your favourite part about the trip so far had been, expecting perhaps tales of watching thunder storms in the mountains or climbing forest towers but quick as a flash you came back with “chok-lat”. Well it was pretty good chocolate, I’ll grant you that.
I suspect your real favourite was all the times when you could just be outside exploring at your own pace, be it paddling at the edge of a lake and throwing stones into the deep water, or finding a stick and setting about digging a nice big hole in the dirt right in front of our tent. Like your sisters before you, you love being outside, and the more mud pies the merrier, much to your poor Daddy’s dismay when your favourite digging spot in the garden turned out to be where he’d previously been trying to re-grow a bit of lawn. You love hockey and football and golf and I’m pretty sure while we were travelling you invented a version of croquet using the tent mallet It has to be a really miserable day to keep you from the garden.
You love the water too, even if you are convinced that any expanse of water that isn’t a puddle is a bath.
“Look Mummy! Bath!”
“That’s the English Channel sweetheart; it’s a bit bigger than a bath!”
On the days when we’re besieged by the weather you make a beeline for your train tracks. It doesn’t matter if you can make them join up or not, though you’re getting better with practice, you just like to play with all the different pieces and then usually send a few trains hurtling off the edge of a cliff.
Last summer on a whim and to give you something to play with in the car we bought you a few “Petit Bebe T’choupi” board books, just pictures and the words in French, and a whole year later they’re still your favourite books, and I’ve added a good few bits and pieces to my French vocabulary from reading them to you on a near daily basis. Until recently you’ve not been too bothered about snuggling in for stories as your sisters do, you would always listen and play at the same time but now I think you’ve started to figure out that it’s fun to see the pictures too and I love having you curl up and claim your spot too, it makes bedtimes all the more fun.
In the last few months, and even the last few weeks you’ve had a real language explosion, and you’ve gone from random words to trying to put together little sentences. You are our little mimic at the moment and when you’ve got something that we understand and respond to then you’ll tell us lots of times just for the fun of it. I think the last hour of our journey to Calais this week was punctuated with “Underground tunnel. I go in Underground Tunnel Mummy!”, and so we did. You’re using it to good effect when we go shopping too, if I ask you what else we need you’ll invariable say either “Like Beer Mama!” or “Daddy Monster!”; and you’re so proud to take it to him when we get home, even if a beer at 11am wasn’t quite what your father was planning.
Oh my little boy at two you are just so much fun. You are at times loud with joy and loud with rage; boisterous and yet so sweet when we remind you to use your gentle hands. You adore your sisters and you’re becoming more and more their equal every day, especially with your middle sister.
We took these pictures on your birthday itself, heading out after supper with your balloon to take advantage of the gorgeous evening light, and after we’d run around the windmill a few times, and taken photos of you hugging/attacking your balloon, I tried to take pictures with the sails in the background, lying on my back in the long grass. But where I went, so you wanted to be, and you came and lay down on my tummy, gazing upwards at the last few clouds of the day, just content to be with me, and it was the perfect way to end a day of singing and laughter and start a whole new year of adventures.
Today my little Pip Squeak is two. We got back from Europe on Tuesday and despite my very best efforts not to have Pip’s birthday be a stereotypical third baby last minute job I’ve still got a sleeve to knit on his sweater, I fell asleep trying to stay up and finish his birthday video for a post on Thursday and I have birthday portraits but not birthday words (yet). He’s had a wonderful day and so I’m certain he’ll never really mind if his birthday day turns into a birthday weekend, and after I tucked him sleepily into his bed tonight, I came downstairs to have a little look at what he’s been up to over the last year.
I so often find myself looking at him and wondering just when he got so big, there’s no trace of the baby in the little boy who sang happy birthday to himself today anymore, and seeing him every day it feels like his babyhood may have scampered off in the night. But looking back, I can see exactly when it was, it was the year when he was one:
On our first birthday together he claimed he’d forgotten to buy me a present, and then as the day went on little packages and parcels kept appearing from here there and everywhere; the glove box of the car, or behind a cushion on the sofa, culminating with a watch in a little wrapped box sat at my place at the dinner table.
On our second birthday together we were still in term time, and my family came down to Oxford to help us celebrate. Mum baked me a chocolate cake in the shape of a 20, but I suspect it was mostly for him.
On our third birthday together he gave me a sewing machine; an unusual 21st birthday present I grant you, but one that spoke all the words a proper Yorkshireman would never say about how much he understood me and valued me and loved me.
We’re university sweethearts rather than childhood sweethearts; we started dating when we were 18 and we’ve not quite reached the point where we have been together longer than we were ever apart, but this year our birthdays draw level. Today I have spent as many birthdays with H as without. It made for some interesting logistics at times, and some of those early birthdays did seem to be largely spent in thrall to railway timetables, but for some part of every 21st June since we met, we have been together.
I can remember when we first found out, sat in my tiny little college room with the tiny window and the giant evergreen tree right outside; me sat at my desk, finishing something or other, and he perched on the edge of my bed. We weren’t dating then I think, just friends hurtling headlong to becoming much more, though neither of us knew it then, and talking about summers turned into talking about birthdays. He didn’t believe me at first, though I’ve no idea what sort of joke he thought I’d be planning by pretending to share a birthday. I contemplated pulling out my birth certificate to prove it, but settled for chucking a hole punch at him, which either convinced him of my good faith, or put him in fear of more flying stationery.
And thus began years of confusing people with official forms (“I just need to double check – is your date of birth really…?”) and answering “Happy Birthday” with “Happy Birthday!”, rather than the possibly more traditional “thank you”, and probably really befuddling our children just as we did our families.
And now we are 36. It means that today, instead of marking the milestone of having been an adult as long as I was a child (which is optimistic anyway because while the 18 year old me was absolutely adamant that she was all grown up, the 36 year old me is equally certain that I was not. Very much not), I’m celebrating again with my best friend.
Eighteen birthdays together, and many many more to come.
I’m working today, and Kitty is going on a school trip, and H and the little ones will still go to the supermarket and probably still do some laundry, just like any other day. But we’ll have cake for pudding, and possibly steak for tea (yes, please if you’re reading this my love), and it will be in every respects both extraordinary and terribly ordinary. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Birthday to us!
(with thanks to Kitty for the brilliant pictures, and Elma for starting that tickle fight)
This has been the first year that I think Elma has really truly got what a birthday was. I remember Kitty being the same, it was the first year that there was anticipation and a build up to the day itself rather than just Mummy and Daddy organised celebrations that to a one or two year old mind probably come completely out of the blue. This year, now only did we have the little extra birthday a few weeks ago, but for the last couple of weeks at least, a lot of sentences have started “when it’s my birthday…”
So it should have been no surprise to anyone that Elma’s first comment on getting downstairs this morning and seeing a little pile of pink at her spot on the dinner table was “Today it’s my REAL birthday!”
And so it was. We managed what for us was a wonderfully lazy morning, curled up in bed until at least 7.30 and then we piled downstairs to let the giant present opening begin. Elma was queen for the day with her little pile of presents and cards, her birthday candles lit and her big pink birthday 3 balloon shimmering behind her. The balloon is now a longstanding tradition but the birthday candle ring is new for Elma’s birthday but one I think we’ll adopt for all of us for the future. It’s a wooden ring in four parts, each with three sockets, and you can get numbers or little animals or people or all sorts to go in the slots, as well as candle holders and fabulous stripy candles. We choose the ring as a family and then H and I selected a butterfly and a pink sheep from Elma’s shortlist of favourites as well as a three. The idea is that over the years we’ll build up a little library of favourite bits and pieces to add to the ring and everyone can choose what they want on it when their turn comes. It was so pretty to have it set out on the table all of yesterday and it meant that we had birthday candles burning for much longer than the usual cake top candles. Plus, and this may only be important if you’re currently doing germ warfare with the pre and primary school set, it does mean that when they blow out the candles, they aren’t blowing all over a cake that you’re about to eat!
In between candles for breakfast, lunch and tea we spent a lovely morning playing with my brother and sister in law, making Duplo and Lego and playing the recorder, and H and I even snuck out for a ‘date’ to the button shop for more buttons for Elma’s birthday cardigan (finished at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour and wrapped up unblocked and minus any buttons when the ones I bought last week are mysteriously nowhere to be found). And in the afternoon, with the clouds low and dingy, we decided not to go and watch the last hockey match before Christmas in favour of a little pottering around the house and some more cake baking.
More being the operative word; Elma celebrated her birthday at playgroup on Monday, because her little friend R is having a birthday in the Christmas holidays and is celebrating tomorrow and they thought they’d have a day each, so last weekend I made my all time go-to slightly-showing-off-but-actually-it’s-easy raspberry marscapone layer cake (triple layer almond whisked egg sponge with sweetened marscapone and crushed raspberries in the middle and icing on the top from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Cakes book, and extracted here among other places) and, for balance, the chocolate coconut cupcakes from Wholefood for Children, which are gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free (just maple syrup) and actually taste amazing. H returned with a small slice of pink cake, three chocolate cupcakes and the news that everyone had loved them – and had one of each!). So that was two birthday cakes down and I even began to wonder whether we’d need a third.
Silly Mummy, how could it be a birthday without a cake?
So while Pip clattered around in the play kitchen, my two diminutive assistants and I set to in the real kitchen to make a couple of vanilla sponges for a good old Victoria. It’s not the prettiest cake I’ve ever made but given the circumstances I’m actually very impressed by it. For starters, ten minutes into the cooking time I couldn’t understand why I could smell burning cake – a quick check in the kitchen and I discovered that small fingers had turned the temperature up from 170 to 210! And then when we came to put the cake together I discovered that we were completely lacking strawberry jam, a crisis of great import only solved by the unexpected and miraculous arrived of Father Christmas in our kitchen to make early delivery of a very nice pot of strawberry jam which was destined for H’s stocking. It may yet be wrapped up and make an appearance if tiny people have not quite twigged.
But none of that mattered when we sat down to tea and lit up another new discovery for the year – number sparklers (from Hobbycraft). Kitty loved it and has already placed an order for her 6th birthday but Elma took a little more convincing – she did love that it was a matching three though.
We finished the day at Wagamama for Elma’s choice of birthday tea; a mini yaki soba and a strawberry ice lolly, and more noodles, ramen and ice cream for the rest of us.
I tucked her into bed already half asleep, wearing purple Room on the Broom pyjamas and her birthday cardigan, still without buttons, and as I tucked I told her:
“three years ago today we were sat on the postnatal ward on the hospital and Daddy had just gone to buy me some food from the petrol station and you were snoozing in my arms. Do you know you fitted in the crook of just one arm?!”
A little pixie face smiled back at me, nearly overwhelmed by the duvets and quilts and cushions and teddies and story books surrounding her:
“And now I’m gi-GANTIC!”
Well almost sweetheart.
joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments