My little Annabelle recently celebrated her seventh birthday, and though I had not planned to orchestrate a multi-day extravaganza it sort of turned out that way. In the end, it was obvious that the variety of events commemorating her milestone were oh-so-fitting for my first-born’s multi-faceted personality.
Celebration Day One: A Real Birthday, Sans Stirrups
Annabelle’s actual birthday fell on a Wednesday, so after a day at school we had a quiet family (and by family I mean Batman, Annabelle, adopted-sister Kristi and me) at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant, or as Annabelle refers to it “That Restaurant by the Freeway Where You Throw Peanuts on the Floor.” Desperate Hubby was practicing with his band that night, so he didn’t get to join us for the meal. We managed to have fun without him, though, especially the birthday girl, who squealed with delight when she was placed on the decorative saddle for her birthday picture.
Until she said “Waaaait a minute! Why doesn’t this saddle have any stirrups!?”
The kids’ school had thoughtfully given us a four-day weekend for Annabelle’s birthday, (well, actually I’m not exactly sure that was the reason for it, but we had a long weekend just the same) so we had plenty of time to continue with the celebrations.
Replete with birthday dessert, we headed home to we could get up early and try out Annabelle’s birthday gift from her dad and I, which was this snazzy new bridle for Pony Reno. The bridle features a beautiful leather headstall complete with shiny crystal brow-band conchos (thanks Bob Bean for putting it together), a cute little pony-sized correction bit with silver detailing on the shank, and brand new pink and purple roping reins which were a gift from our friend Jacki.
Annabelle was thrilled with her new bridle. Reno maybe not so much.
Celebration Day Two: Grandmas Make the Day
We woke up to a cold and rainy day on Thursday, and since it was not a good day to break in the new bridle we headed out for some birthday-party shopping preparations, arriving home just in time for our next two birthday events.
We started with an afternoon shopping trip with Grandma Becki (who successfully braved not only a drenching rainstorm, the new traffic roundabout down the street AND her Canyon County Social Immersion Class at our local Wal-Mart – bravo Becki!) where Annabelle got two fantastic gifts, including a very authentic-sounding and noisy battery-operated kitty. Batman was thrilled to get a few things as well, and Becki was nice enough to bring home a roasted chicken from the deli “just because.” It was probably that chicken that got me through the rest of birthday prep!
The afternoon shopping trip was followed by a Thursday night birthday dinner with Grandma Kay and Grandpa Vernon, along with friends Shawny and Sierra, which was held at the mecca of fun in our neighborhood, the Arctic Circle (or the “Place with the Blue Play Fish,” as my kids refer to it.) Annabelle got presents from all, and the kids played like only free-ice-cream-cone-fueled elementary students can. After a couple of hours I dragged them away, protesting all the while, to get some sleep in preparation for the ongoing events of the next few days.
Celebration Day Three: A Mystery Door Locker
Friday was meant to be a quiet day, spent cleaning, decorating and finishing preparations for Saturday’s planned birthday party. After a morning spent shopping and organizing a few things around the house we decided to run over to the barn where Freckles, my show horse, lives, to go for a ride. I had a lot of things left to do, but the kids were restless, so I figured we could spare a couple of hours for some outside time.
Batman has had a renewed interest in riding of late, (look for my blog: Zach in the Saddle, coming soon), so we saddled Grumpy for him and Annabelle rode Pony Reno (who performed fantastically in his new bridle, by the way) while I loped my mare. We finished up in an hour or so, fighting a chilly breeze and more than ready to head home. Batman was a little whiny and very hungry, so he climbed in the car to forage for a snack. When he couldn’t find something satisfactory, he climbed back out, disgruntled and wanting to know how soon we were leaving.
Unfortunately, while Batman was in the pickup, somebody inadvertently locked all of the vehicle doors (I still don’t know who the culprit was, since Batman insisted vehemently that it wasn’t him). Since my cell phone was also locked securely in the truck (along with all of our jackets), we had to borrow a phone to call Desperate Hubby for rescue.
DH was in the middle of finishing up a loan package that had to be submitted, and he exhibited less-than his usual amount of enthusiasm about my phone call. Nonetheless, he arrived about thirty minutes later, and after quickly figuring out that he could not magically open the truck without keys he used his cell phone to call a locksmith for us.
About ninety minutes after that, I was on the road again. The kids, being the opportunistic little creatures that they are, had hitched a ride with Grandpa Vernon and were already home playing with Shawny and Sierra while I waited with the horses for help to arrive.
Desperate Hubby got home shortly after I did, and after a quick dinner he took the kids to football practice by himself. I was considerably behind schedule by that point, so I spent until nearly midnight finishing sweeping the garage, hanging pink crepe paper and happy birthday banners and making lists for the next day.
Celebration Day Four: The Real Birthday Party
I kept a nervous eye on the weather as Saturday dawned, which was the day of Annabelle’s official party and what was slated to continue an ongoing fall-like weather pattern. Desperate Hubby headed out early with both kids for their flag football game, though Annabelle balked at the cold and wondered why she had to go since it was, after all, her birthday.
As it turned out, the birthday girl had a fantastic game, finally hitting her stride as one of the fastest members on the team, pulling flag after flag on defense, then running the ball deep into the opposing team’s territory time and time again on offense. DH was all smiles when he came home, recounting with glee the frustration of the opposing team’s (Redneck, he said) coaching staff at their inability to stop the progression of a girl, of all players.
Annabelle does look pretty fierce in her football regalia, no?
No. Not really. But she is fast!
With the rest of the birthday team home, we finalized preparations for the party and soon welcomed our guests. Last year we had invited the entire kindergarten class for what turned out to be the most wild, raucous and memorable birthday party ever, but this year Annabelle had decided to make it a lower-key day, inviting “Girls Only” and limiting it to just a handful of her friends from class.
Just as the guests began to arrive the chilly overcast weather took a turn for the better, and with sun intermittently shining and breeze quieted we were in for a blissful afternoon. We had the requisite bounce house, which was most notable for the upside-down “Happy Birthday” banner installed by the teenage delivery boy (and then reinstalled by DH in its proper format). Though I actually had the time this year to walk around, converse a little with my fellow parents and enjoy the party myself, I apparently did not have the time to take a picture of the bounce house. It was red and yellow and blue (with no slide this year in case you were wondering).
I had experienced a flash of craftiness in planning our activities this year, and decided to have the kids make their own party favors. I purchased a bunch of plain wooden frames for 97 cents each, and coupled them with a big table stocked with paint, glitter, stickers, and other decorative items.
The first thing I had each child do upon their arrival was go to the table, pick out a frame, and paint and decorate it so it would have time to dry before the party ended. I curiously did not get any pictures of the actual decorating process, but this is what the table looked like after the party.
And no, I don’t know what I was doing all that time either.
After the kids were finished decorating their frames, they were free to roam and bounce, eat pizza and candy, pet the bunnies or the cats or dogs, and ride the pony or the horse or the four-wheelers. They seemed to have a good time.
At some point during the afternoon I did force each of them to each sit individually on the pony for a photo, something like this.
Or, in Annabelle’s case like this.
Batman was the lone holdout who took advantage of Grumpy’s decorations. He had chosen to remained dressed in his white football shorts throughout the day, pairing them with a white t-shirt which gave him the look a tiny wandering pool boy traversing the party of (almost completely) girls.
Once everyone’s picture was captured, I ran into the house and printed them out individually, enlisting the help of adopted-daughter Kristi to get them cut out in a size that would accommodate all three frame shapes we had ended up with.
When that was done, Kristi and the other sissies all pitched in to assemble the finished favors – a custom picture frame showcasing the cutest little party-goers imaginable sitting on the decorated pony. Some of the kids (and a few mothers too, ahem) had gotten amazingly creative, writing their names on the frames and creating elaborate detail with their colors, jewels and stickers. All of them were cute.
This is Annabelle’s.
And her brother’s.
I was really surprised and delighted by how well the whole project turned out. In the end we had thirteen beautiful little frames and photos of (drum roll please) thirteen smiling children. It was a whole lot of fun, and about the simplest party project you could imagine.
You are welcome to copy the idea for your next party.
But you’ll have to come get the pony yourself.
Party favors all wrapped up, we turned to the next order of business. The obligatory pinata.
Sister Sami was in charge of swinging and raising/lowering the cardboard horse, creating a level of difficulty matched roughly to each child’s hitting ability.
In my experience, there are few things that kids love better than a good pinata beating, and this afternoon was no exception.
They became enraged by their inability to break the pinata, swinging again and again in an apparent testosterone-fueled rage at the inanimate object.
Oh wait, that was just Batman.
Finally the pinata was broken, and children scrambled like chickens to pick up the scattered candy. I let them gorge themselves for a few minutes, then herded them in to provide some more party sugar.
Since it had been the other three sissies’ birthdays over the past month and we hadn’t gotten to celebrate with them, we put all of the girls’ names on the cake. (Editor’s note: a beautiful bunch, yes?)
Annabelle and her inimitable brother Batman got the honor of blowing out the candles.
We passed out cupcakes and ice cream cups to the throng of party-goers, saving the decorated cake to send back home to BSU with the older sissies.
Then came the moment all the little ones had been anticipating.
Annabelle was thoroughly spoiled with the largesse she received.
Present after present, each special and oh-so-fitting for the birthday girl.
After the gifts were opened, guests were thanked and some clean-up was accomplished, we had a hearty dinner with adopted-Uncle Danny and headed off to an early bed-time.
This birthday wasn’t over yet.
Celebration Day Five: We Burn All That Sugar Off
In my infinite wisdom I had scheduled Annabelle and I to run the “2013 Wine Race” 5k the day after the birthday party. We had to be over on Sunny Slope near the tiny town of Marsing for our 10:00 start time.
I was excited about the race. Back a couple of years ago, before Annabelle and I had started filling our weekends with trail rides and then horse shows, we used to race all the time. Though we hadn’t done many 5ks in the past year or so, both my daughter and I remember each of the runs fondly, and I wanted to encourage her to continue to view exercise in a favorable light.
When I sent our entry in for the Wine Race, though, I had not taken realized that we would be on day five of birthday celebration activities, following a full day spent celebrating with a dozen little friends and their (and our) families. Nor did I foresee a cold, windy morning, intermittently spitting rain on our under-dressed bodies. I just saw an open day, a new race for us, and signed us up.
Boy am I glad I did.
Despite the fact that I made a rookie error in parking, going along like a lemming with others who left their cars at the bottom of a steep mile-long hill that had to be climbed to reach the starting line, my newly seven-year old daughter and I had a wonderful time at the race.
We joined hundreds in our wave who ran, jogged or walked (we did mostly the latter) a moderately hilly three-mile course through our own Idaho wine country, passing under the beautiful iron arch of the Ste. Chappelle winery as we set out.
Cresting the first hill was a bit of a challenge for Annabelle (after all she had already hiked a mile uphill just to get to the start), but she never complained.
Well, not much anyway.
We were both happy to finally hit the home stretch, a gravel field road winding slowly down to the finish line below.
We hung around the after-party for a brief period, listening to live music and watching all the people, but we were tired and ready to head home. I didn’t even take advantage of the free wine tasting, so you know I was done in!
On the way home we stopped for Annabelle’s favorite lunch, a Quizno’s turkey sandwich, and headed home to settle in for a relaxing afternoon. It was a school day the next morning, and I had no trouble convincing Annabelle or her brother to hit the pillow early that night.
It had been an action-packed birthday celebration, as varied in activity as my lovely daughter is in her interests.
A very fitting celebration if you ask me.