Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Phoebe's first birthday

It's hard to believe but our baby has been with us for a whole year.

It has gone so fast and yet so much has happened. So many milestones have been reached. So many memories have been made.

It has been the most wonderful time of my life. Sure, there were days when I called Toby in tears because I was tired and Phoebe was grumpy and wouldn't sleep. Sure, getting her into a good daytime nap routine, and teaching her to fall asleep alone were difficult challenges. But those grumpy days were mercifully few and far between, and the joys and adventures have far outweighed any low points.

There have been so many firsts.
The first breastfeed. The first car ride. The first walk with the pram. Which ended in near-disaster when the brake broke at the end of the rivermouth rock wall, 2km from the car. Whilst I carried Phoebe, Toby had to push the pram back on its front wheels because the back wheels were stuck tight. Thankfully she was only a week old and not very heavy. The same could not be said for the pram.

Then there was the first time she sat up unaided. Which was closely followed by the first time she rolled. Which was closely followed by the first time she escaped from the inflatable donut at Nana's house. And that was closely followed by the first time she crawled. Which, in turn was closely followed by the first time she pulled herself up to standing. Wow! What a crazy few weeks that was.

And whilst all that was going on we had our first plane journey all the way back to England where Phoebe met her Geordie relatives for the first time. There were many more firsts on that trip, including the first tooth and the first taste of ice cream.

The first solids were fun. As was the first time she smeared avocado in my hair. And the first time she splattered bolognese sauce all over the floor, wall, fan, and any other furniture (or animal) that happened to get in the way. The first tastes of chocolate and cake went down well.

The first time she slept through the night at ten weeks old was a bit of a blessing. The first time she slept through the night again, and then continued to do so at 9 months was more so.

I could go on all day with a list of firsts: first swim, first play in the toddler pool, first go on a swing. (Actually that last one happened whilst in a sling worn by Daddy at around 6 months, much to Mammy's concern.) But I shall cease now and get on with the business of telling you all about her birthday.

So, another big first. First birthday.
Something of a milestone and what not. So, we thought let's have a party. But she's only one so we'll keep it small. We decided to invite a few friends and throw a sausage sizzle in the park. Nothing too flash. I have years ahead of me to faff around with kid's birthday parties. I don't intend to start just yet. Besides, I'm a working mother. I don't have the time.

36 friends, 75 sausages, 4 loaves of bread and 1 number-one-shaped m&m covered cake later...

The cake ...
...was a saga in itself. It was the one thing I thought about putting any effort into. I still wanted to keep it fairly simple though. I figured a number one would be easy enough. Just one loaf for the main bit and another for the triangle bit. Then a friend showed me a picture in a cake book and I decided to go a bit fancy and add the flat bit along the bottom and then cover it in multi-coloured sweets.

That particular recipe called for 3 packs of cake mix. Well, I was already cheating with the frosting (Betty Crocker, at my sister-in-law's advice). I darn well wasn't going to cheat with the cake too. I found a recipe for plain cake. Then, in the same book I found another recipe for plain sponge cake. For a few days I failed to notice that they were actually two different recipes. Then, having done the shopping I wondered why half the ingredients I'd bought didn't appear in the recipe. That's when the penny dropped. I then deliberated for quite some time over whether to do a plain cake or a sponge cake. I wasn't entirely sure I even knew the difference. Toby told me sponge cake is difficult and now wasn't the time to experiment, so we chose the plain cake recipe.

I decided I should do twice as much as the recipe said, given that we had two tins to fill. As I filled the first tin Toby announced that he thought I hadn't done enough so we decided to do one more load of cake mix. Yes, that would make three times the original recipe. For a cake for a one-year-old. Then Toby told me he thought I'd put too much into the first tin. I scooped some out. If this sounds a bit confusing then that should give you a good impression of the general feel of what might have maybe been happening in the kitchen that night. I didn't know whether I'd made too much or too little, put too much in the tin or too little. Anyway, cake got shoved in oven and we sat down for dinner.

Forty minutes later cake was meant to be cooked. Cake wasn't cooked. Second cake was made and shoved in oven. First cake still wasn't cooked. It took over an hour and instead of coming out looking like a sort of rectangular prism shape, it was more like a mountain. Escaping. An escaping mountain. A volcano, if you like. It was crispy on the outside. In short, a complete disaster and we prepared ourselves for more cake baking the next day. Thank god we did this two nights before the party.

The second cake turned out okay and thankfully the first cake was salvageable. We cut it into shape, stuck the bits together with apricot jam and frosted it. Then began the uhmming and ahhring over the m&ms. Should we put them on now or in the morning? Don't they go all funny if you leave them in the fridge? Won't the colour run? I phoned Kaz to check. She thought it might but wasn't sure how long it would take. We decided we wouldn't have time to do it in the morning so I did it that night. Eventually the frosting began to melt and the sweets started to slide down the side of the cake. I stuck it back in the fridge, figuring I'd do the rest in the morning.

So next morning, lovely family time. Gave Phoebe a rocking giraffe from my grandparents and talked to my parents over skype whilst she opened her gifts from them. When she was having her nap I whipped the cake out of the fridge and started trying to stick more sweets to it. The frosting was a bit hard at first but as it began to soften, the colour began to run on the m&ms already on the cake. We had to shove it back in the fridge unfinished.

By the time we brought the cake back out again at the park the m&ms had all faded and were sporting coloured halos. No one seemed to notice or care. In fact many complimented me on a lovely looking cake. I smiled nervously wondering how I could put them off eating it, convinced it would be all dry and yukky after the volcano debacle. But what do you know? It was bloody yummy. Isn't that always the way? Especially with parties. The things you stress about the most either turn out okay or just don't really matter.

The party...
... itself was lovely. The mums from my two mums groups turned up with their families, along with Scott, Lucie and Amelie and Toby's family. It really wasn't all that big after all. Phoebe got lots of lovely presents and cards. The best moment was when we crowded around the cake and sang Happy Birthday to her (see video below). It was probably the third time that day she'd heard the song but when everyone sang her name she looked at me with this huge grin. Suddenly she realised that all the fuss and fun was for her and she loved it.

My daughter has taught me a lot these last 12 months: What it means to truly love someone so much that you'd do anything for them and always put them first. To be unselfish. How much my mother loves me. The importance of family. That banana stains if you don't rinse if off clothes immediately. That small children can fall on their head multiple times, sometimes from a great height, and not really hurt themselves.

Seeing her personality emerging is amazing. She is strong, funny, cheeky, and kind. She is brave and tenacious. Just tonight she was trying to get hold of the bottle of shower gel whilst in the bath. I put it to my right side and she walked around me to grab it. I moved it to my left side and she walked back around the other way. I put it to my right side and ... you get the picture. This went on for quite some time and I was sure she was going to scream with frustration. But she just kept on with a look of intense determination on her face.

And that pretty much sums her up. My Little Miss Chief. Here's to another wonderful twelve months, my little darling.

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