Tag Archives: First Birthday

Slugs and snails: for Teddy

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You are one today, little boy. And what are little boys made of?

You are made of wrist rolls and chubby feet, big hands and big cheeks. Bounces and cowboy yells on a cot mattress at 6am.

Turbo-charged crawling. Clear blue eyes and wide beaming smiles, showing all six teeth, scrunching up your nose. A mess of corn-blonde dandelion hair falling into your face.

You are shouting and whooping in continual breathless streams. Delighted chucklesome laughter starting somewhere in your belly and spilling out past your cheeks. Unfortunately also that impatient foghorn bellow that takes up all our air space when you want some notice.

You are made of that look of intense concentration as you pick up cheerios with careful fingers from the floor, stuffing them into your mouth with your whole hand.

You are watchfulness, loyalty and deep, unquestioning attachment. You are ticklish between your shoulder blades.

You patch of sunlight on a stormy day; you streak of pure golden-haired grace.

You dream-maker, you heart-breaker –

wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.

(Happy birthday, Edward bear.)

Party for one

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I have decided that first birthday parties are the best of all possible parties. Really, they are.

First, the whole thing is basically a happy celebration of the two of you looking after a baby for a year. He grew some inches, he crawls and he’s eating food: you win everything, parents!

Second, the celebratee has no idea what’s going on, so there’s no pressure: no need to go all out with elaborate themes, bouncy castles or housefuls of sugar-hyped children if you don’t fancy it. You can make it exactly what feels comfortable, however big or small that is.

I have years of badly-made costumes and bouncy castle hire ahead of me, I know. But for now I can get by, oh, very happily indeed, on a nice cake, a small crowd and a bit of bunting. I always end up messing around with the bunting some time after midnight the night before — but then, commemorating a year of baby with a night of no sleep has a certain poetic resonance. I have kept many a midnight watch with you, little bear. Let’s do it once more for the memories, eh? And the bunting.

Speaking of, I got this exceedingly simple idea from the marvellous You Are My Fave. I am drawn like a moth to a flame towards things that can be made using only a pair of scissors. If you are the sort of dunce that is intimidated by buying fabric [raises hand], then here’s a tip: go to Hobbycraft, and look for fat quarters. My mother-in-law, who sews, tells me this is A Thing, and not a joke. It’s actually a little selection of small pieces of fabric. Cut them up into strips, tie them on, and hey presto! I kind of want to leave this up all year.

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So much for bunting. For the cake, I made Nigella’s Autumnal Birthday Cake, from her How to be a Domestic Goddess. The title is not terribly self-explanatory, so let me tell you that it is maple syrup cake, with a meringue frosting. WHAT THE. My baking muscles are very rusty, and I started the thing at 11pm with a headache, but it still turned out alright. Because meringue frosting is the business. It keeps its swirly shape exactly, and sets with this slight crackle on top. I left out the nuts and threw in edible glitter. Teddy was a fan, and so was his face.

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(PS, is this where I throw in extra-casually, as per mummy bloggers, that this was Teddy’s first taste of cake and oh my gosh he loved it? Um, no. It’s not true. I have a feeling that will never be true of any of my children.)

Apart from that, I bought straws, nautical napkins and ice cream pots from the supermarket, strung up some photos, and that was it. The punch was a carton of cranberry juice mixed with a bottle of cloudy lemonade, with frozen raspberries floating on the top.

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We ate cold meat and salad brought by our family, then had birthday cake, chocolate fondue, and jelly and ice cream for dessert.  Note to self: find out how jelly moulds are supposed to work. Because right now you don’t know.

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We ate, opened presents and then went to the park. It was a sunny, gentle afternoon, and Mr Birthday had a great time. I have two more days till I have to really think about him outgrowing his babyhood, but for now this was a lovely way to ease us into it. And costumes can wait for another year.

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Reasons to be cheerful: rainbow birthday parties

I tell you what. Baby parties are SO much more fun than the regular kind.

We had a really lovely afternoon yesterday, despite the heat, the rude absence of air conditioning or actual air, and the fact that we’d packed fourteen adults and four babies into our tiny living room.

I made a realistic assessment of my crafting abilities beforehand, and stuck to decorations I could put together with card, string, tape and staples. Keeping it real. Keeping it primary school. We were only missing art straws (remember those?!).

I got a hefty pack of brightly coloured card on the cheap, wanting it to look as cheerful as possible, and made these paper mobiles from Oh Happy Day. I couldn’t find fishing weights for the bottoms – didn’t look for very long, to be honest – and just tied stripy paper clips to the end of the string instead. I just loved them in our window bay. Be warned, though: they start to curl pretty badly if you’ve got the window open.

Then, the evening before, we sat in front of Saturday night TV and made rainbow bunting. It’s just the same card, folded over and stapled onto string. Took hardly any time and pinned easily onto our balcony.

We’d decided on afternoon tea, so I’d planned to keep the food as simple as possible: just scones, cheese and crackers, and a few nibbly bits.

In the end, we totally forgot to make the scones. Doh. But there was birthday cake.

As always in my baking universe, the practice rainbow cake went a heck of a lot better than the real thing. I undercooked the cake layers, frightened of dry cake, and only realised when I started assembling it. So the three layers I hadn’t yet put together went back in the oven for five minutes. They didn’t seem too dry when we ate it, though – I think the cream cheese frosting makes up for a multitude of sins. I was rather sad that the chocolate beads bleached out in the fridge overnight, and then melted in the 30° heat, but never mind. The colours were fabulous. Gel food colouring is definitely the way to go.

Henry decided to go smart-casual. The shirt-and-tie-and-no-pants look is always a winner. Someone call Vogue.

We left it deliberately unstructured, and just ate, talked and opened presents. Henry had a great time, and so did we. We know a lot of wonderful people, I think. We were so grateful they came.

I might leave the bunting up till next year.

UPDATED to say: the link for the paper mobiles is now working. The computer was sulking. UPDATED AGAIN to say: holy typos, Batman. 

Something to celebrate

Happy birthday to Henricus Rex! What a year, eh?

Try posing him with ANYTHING these days. Doesn’t work.

This boy is such a delicious thing. He is frantically busy until exhaustion knocks him flat at bedtime. He has charm, and works it shamelessly. Has opinions, and voices them loudly. Pulls amazing faces. Is the reason we’ve roped the fridge and freezer shut. Says ‘dadada’ when he means Tim, and ‘mamama’ when he’s hungry (nice). Will do anything, really anything, to get hold of an iPhone. Holds on to the back of your t-shirt with a fierce grip when you carry him. Thinks that falling asleep on Mummy is for sissies. Totally loses his head when you put him on your shoulders, and pulls your hair out and screams for joy. Wore his first shirt and tie today, and kept rediscovering his tie every half hour, and being pleasantly surprised all over again.

Oh look, a tie! How exciting! How satisfying! For me?

Which sums up how he rolls quite nicely, I think.

Thanks for all of it, lovely boy. Pass me another twelve months.

Holding back the flood

My baby is about to turn one, and I’m having a bit of a crisis about it.

The reasons being,

a: this year has gone by like a flash. And it’s not like I don’t want him to be one – he is SO much fun he kills me – but that I feel like I’ll take a breath and be sending him to school. This is not ok, internet.

b: I have once again arrived at a point at which none of my clothes fit right or look nice. I wish my body would pick a shape and stick to it so I could work around it. I would like to be skinny again, very much, and feel bad that I am not and worse about being so shallow.

c: I have now had a year of this stay-at-home life, and decidedly do not have my crap together yet. Whence cometh the effortless homemade meals, the gloriously tidy house, the thoughtful visiting of old ladies, the volunteering in the community, the toddler reciting his times-tables over lunch? It hasn’t arrived here yet. And I only have one.

d: I am just totally in love with him right now. The chattering, and the way he laughs with a wrinkled-up nose, and the way he’s painting the kitchen wall with a tube of lip gloss at the moment, and the way he wants desperately to walk but won’t let go of my hand, and the fact that I’m starting to find things like biro in the space behind his ear. It won’t always be like this and I can’t keep him where he is. For evidence, see exhibit A, this business of turning one at the weekend. I am terrified.

Honestly, that’s why I write this blog, apart from the fact that writing and connecting with you fine people are some of my all-time favourite things to do.

Because maybe if I write him well enough, I can keep him still. At least for now. At least for the space of 200 words. Before he lets go of my hand completely.

I keep trying. Oh gosh, I can’t help it.

Party-planning the Pinterest way; or, how to go mad in an hour or less

Today I did that thing I said I would never do, and looked on Pinterest for reals.

I looked initially because I had to research paper globe lanterns for a girls’ camp we’re running in July. Everyone knows that if you want to see paper lanterns in their natural habitat (hyper-decorated parties), then Pinterest is where you look. And then I thought, hmmm. It’s Henry’s birthday in a couple of months. Perhaps I’ll just…

And then an hour later Pinterest spat me back out, with a confusing headful of pom-poms and vintage milk bottles and photobooths and ‘colour palettes’. Oh, my loves, your children have only been on this earth breathing air for twelve months. It’s not like they’re taking note of the date and thinking ‘This time last year, eh? I’d just entered the birth canal. Magic times’. And they’re sure as anything not going to remember the Etsy-purchased hand-sewn garden streamers at their birthday party. One lady started talking about her eleven-month-old’s ‘signature look’. Lawks. In case you’re wondering – and I know you are – Henry’s ‘signature look’ is generally the banana-crusted face. How very Vogue.

So, Pin-drunk, I found myself pondering what I might choose for a theme. Then I remembered that Henry is TEN MONTHS OLD. He doesn’t have favourites, so it’s pointless for me to run with cowboys or trains or pirates. If I were to decorate a room with the things he really loves, I’d fill it with breakable electronics and blown-up photos of Timothy’s face. And if you want to pay me to run with this, I will.

However, there are some things I really want to do for the big one-point-zero in August.

1. Make a good cake. 

I love baking – though I’m not great at it – and Henry loves eating cake, so this seems like a worthwhile thing to do. I watched Martha Stewart (yes, I went there) make this, this morning, and fell in love with it.

But something simpler like this might be better.

I’m a novice when it comes to frosting and frankly, children’s cakes scare me.

2. Invite good company, but not the whole world. 

Someone very wise once told me that, when it comes to birthday parties, a child can cope with the same number of children as their new age. Whatever the number – and given Henry’s cluelessness about the whole thing, I’m more likely to invite people our age as well as his – I’d prefer to keep it small and informal. It’s a big deal to us, but probably not to all of his seventy-six closest baby buddies.

3. Decorate a little, but not a lot. 

More ‘festive and colourful’, less ‘explosion in a bespoke stationery factory’.

4. Take photos, preferably with stupid props.

Because nothing’s more hilarious than making a baby wear something silly, amirite?

The bottom line being: keep it in your comfort zone. Do what will make you all happy for an afternoon, in a setting where you can enjoy being together (which is what you’re celebrating, after all). And probably best to save the extravaganzas for when he’s old enough to remember how fabulous you were.

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