Felicity's fourth birthday was amply celebrated, I would say, with a moms' group joint birthday back in February, her school party (shared with a classmate, who also happens to be from the moms' group bunch), her family gifts-and-cake on the actual day, and her very own party. Plus a couple of bonus rounds with additional gifts, lunches, and outings with our extended chosen family lasting all the way through last weekend. She is REALLY four.
For the school event, I brought in a poster of photos of her from each year and I did a little show-and-tell to the class as the birthday girl (in her birthday crown, of course) held a homemade sun and walked around the globe four times (it's a Montessori thing). We danced around with her whole class and then she and her co-celebrant got to choose friends one by one to come sit at the snack tables to have their special treat (high five to the other mom, who brought muffins instead of anything super-sugary, since all of this took place at 9am).
It was supremely adorable, and of course a few times I had to force myself not to get all choked up. It's kind of the reverse of a "MY BABYYYYYYY" thing; it's more like, "MY BIG GIRLLLLL" because what gets me isn't a wave of nostalgia over the long-gone baby days, but rather an overwhelming astonishment that she is this confident, loving, funny, tender-hearted, and well-liked PERSON, and I feel almost unbearably fortunate to know her, not to mention get to be her mother.
On her real birthday, she had to wait the entire day, through school and gym class and dinner, until Joe and I got home from work. All the while, knowing that a stack of presents awaited. She was so patient despite her excitement, and when I finally put everything out on the table for her, she went meticulously through a huge pile of birthday cards first, opening each envelope tear by tear and having me read them to her then putting them neatly into a pile.
Finally, she made it to her gifts and she loved everything she got (a set of Magformers, two sets of Duplos, a book, some clothes, a cash register, a shopping cart, and (THE WINNER) a walking, neighing unicorn with a horn that lights up -- from Allison of course!). She had picked out a Carvel cake as her birthday treat (she has an odd aversion to cake, other than the icing part, but ice cream + crunchies + frosting? Sign her up!), and we lit candles but she didn't want us to sing "Happy Birthday" so we refrained (she later told me "it sounds sad").
That weekend was her party, which I had decided to hold at home, both to limit the size and because I didn't feel like dropping a GRAND on some other venue. She was allowed to have four friends (because she's FOUR!) and rather than doing a theme, I threw the usual decorations around and got/planned a bunch of classic kids' party games.
I bought a musical Hot Potato game for less than $10, ditto a cute Pin the Tail on the Donkey set, and a plastic egg-race set. Felicity and I also filled up five shopping bags with random accessories and things from her dress-up bin for a variation on the suitcase relay -- we did it non-competitively, where all the kids had to put on everything in their bag as quickly as they could, and then we took pictures and had a dance session, and then they had to take everything off as fast as possible.
The day before the party, Felicity wanted to test out all the games, so we had some mother-daughter egg races and Hot Potato rounds, and both of us laughed until we almost fell on the floor. When we were putting together the shopping bags o' costumes, she got quiet and then said, "I'm getting a little worried about this game" and explained that she was concerned that people would take her stuff home with them. I assured her that I would tell her friends the rules and that they'd be happy to take home the favor bags she put together instead.
When the party rolled around, my plan for keeping all the kids engaged from the moment they arrived didn't quite happen; after a few minutes of warm-up they basically grabbed Felicity by the hand and all raced off to her room to play. I was able to get them each to make a little individual pizza, and a few of them played Hot Potato for a couple of minutes, but then they tore off to her room again.
Felicity and I had hidden the shopping bags around the apartment and I'd written little poems as clues to make finding each one a scavenger hunt. Eventually I got everyone's interest so we actually got the play the game, but only after Felicity got everyone's attention and carefully explained that the items in the bags were NOT for taking come, just for putting on during the game.
With that settled, they each took turns running and finding their bag after they figured out the clue from my poem. The ensuing dress-up game was a huge hit -- except with the birthday girl, who came over to me, took all her stuff off, and leaned on me in a wilted manner. I think she was a hair traumatized by seeing HER STUFF on OTHER KIDS even with all that preparation. But she rallied when it was over, and then it was time to eat, and after food and presents, we got a quick round of Pin the Tail that was the sleeper favorite of the party.
The low point was when Felicity and another girl SLAMMED into each other in the hall when running in opposite directions. There were head wounds. Carvel cake helped.
Did I mention that the grown-ups killed a magnum of pink Champagne while all of this was going on? Yeah, we do kids' parties RIGHT up in here.
Also, my godson attended the festivities and as you can see, I immediately took possession of him. Despite her somber facade, Felicity was thrilled and spent most of his post-party visit tending to him -- putting blankets on him, fetching his pacifier, showing him toys. She is as smitten as I am (well, almost).
As birthdays go, it was pretty grand. Four! I think it might just be the best year yet.