Friday, August 11, 2017

L'Anniversaire de Sylvia

I had been dreading Sylvia's birthday, ever since we learned we were going to expatriate in the month of July. Her August birthday was, ahem, planned for - with the rest of us born in January AND a February anniversary, neither Josh nor I wanted yet another party to plan in the winter months. But that meant last year that her special day was the second day of preschool, too chaotic a time to plan much of a celebration. And this year it meant we would have just left all of her friends behind, the first year that she was old enough to really want them around to celebrate. All spring and summer long she asked for a My Little Pony party with Gracyn, Shireen, Morgan, Niko, and her other friends from school and our Simpsonville neighborhood. She would ask Nana and Pappy whether they were coming. And the pit in my stomach would get a little pittier.

But there was nothing to be done about it, so as we settled into our French apartment and August crept closer, I planned a little gathering in the park.  Some of our new expat friends were traveling in August, but many were still around. Thanks to a happy accident, we wandered into a party supply store that had My Little Pony invitations - Sylvie was overjoyed! And a local chain store had all of the baking supplies I was missing; the cookie sheets and cooling racks and spatulas that didn't make it into our shipping container. The birthday girl chose a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and strawberry filling, and together we found all the ingredients we needed to pull it off. 

When the weather forecast showed rain and cold for the morning of the big day, I looked around at our enormous flat and decided to hold it here instead of the park. This place just begs to be filled with people, coffee or wine in hand and kids off making mischief in a bedroom. So we obliged.

It was beautiful outside when the day actually came, of course. Birthday girl with friends in our little courtyard.

So nice to see our big window framing happy friends!

And here they are from the inside.
When the day finally arrived, we had nearly 20 guests, many of whom we'd never met before. The expat community here, like most, is friendly and kind and happy for an excuse to gather in the slow summertime.

We made short work of the cake!

Naturally, the kids instantly found every toy that has 1,000 tiny pieces and strew them about the bedroom floors. There wasn't a single fight or tussle, just English-speaking kids of all ages, from at least three countries, playing together.
Sylvia's room
And then there was the piñata! She's been asking for that for a long time too, and luckily the unicorn she picked out has ribbons to pull - no swinging a bat inside our home! Mr. Sullins held it aloft and all the kids, ages 2-11, grabbed a ribbon to pull. With My Little Pony treat bags in hand.

I love this picture of Josh!
We had a small technical difficulty when the ribbons failed to break the thing open, though!
 Luckily there were no injuries, and with a little adult help, the treats were freed. This is a nice way of saying that I ripped a unicorn in half in a room full of children.

Birthday girl and friends, in the thick of the hunt!

 Here was where we ran into the one problem of the day. For all her piñata enthusiasm, Sylvia had never actually seen one in action before. So when the candy and toys came falling out, she started carefully looking through them to choose the ones she wanted most. Of course, the other, more experienced kids were (politely and appropriately!) grabbing treats by the handfuls - so when the floor was clear, the birthday girl had an empty treat bag and started to cry.

And that was probably the sweetest moment of the entire party. All of the kids, even the youngest ones, saw her crying and brought her treats from their own collections. The Kinder Buenos, mini chupachups, and plastic rings were a hit, and everyone wound up happy.

It was such a sweet, busy, fun party that I forgot all about my anxiety earlier in the year. Friends who have been here longest taught us the birthday song in French, new friends who'd just arrived came and were introduced around, and a bunch of us semi-newbies grilled the expat veterans about school supplies, first day schedules, and how to operate French appliances. Everyone left before lunchtime (morning party means no conflicts with nap times), and Sylvia declared it "her best France birthday!" And that was even before we started opening Legos, puppets, art supplies, and other thoughtful gifts late that afternoon. I needed another coffee for that process.

I'm so lucky to be Sylvia's mom. I am so proud of this brave, sweet, brilliant, hilarious four year old kid who can just roll with a thousand big and little changes. I can't wait to see what the next four years will bring.

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