Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Walter's First Birthday

I am, touch wood, almost caught up on blogging about everything that’s happened in this past crazy year. My handwritten travel journal is still stuck somewhere between 2011-2012, but at least I can reference back here when I’m filling that in. Anyway, the last big thing from the past that hasn’t made it into these pages is Walter’s first birthday.

I had wanted to do something big and spectacular for his first birthday, but as Emily was due the day after, and as I was giant and pregnant and exhausted and cranky we thought it best to keep the day low key. Turns out that this was a good idea because the one year old struggled to handle a whole day devoted to spoiling him.

Birthdays were always a big deal when I was growing up. For one thing, we never had money for new toys (lots of used ones, tho) so birthdays and Christmas were the only time of year that we could reasonably expect something shiny and new. For another, my mum always loaded them with fun. We were allowed to wear one of our special outfits to school (which probably had more meaning for me than for my brother). We had three celebrations – a party with our friends, which was never anything over the top but just good ol’ fashioned fun; a dinner with our extended family, in which we got to pick the meal; and a dinner with just the immediate family, which at least in later years meant going out to a restaurant of our choice. And, to top off the excitement, mum could never just give us our birthday gift. Every year she took the time to hide the present and leave a series of clues hidden around the house, guiding us towards the gift at the end. It was always great fun and made the expectation of present that much greater.

my official First Birthday portrait
Of course, my memories of birthdays don’t extend to being one year old, and I was at a loss for how to impart all this fun and magic into Walter’s day when he couldn’t even communicate what he’d like. And, silly as it is, there was all my maternal guilt from the “what ifs” of Emily’s birthday being possibly too close to Walter’s and he’s already having to give up being an only child and oh no... But I think we managed the day quite well.

the giant box of gifts that arrived a couple of weeks before Walter's birthday -- he's spoiled by his family in Canada!
Once Walter was up for the day and in a good humour, my mum went off to the kitchen to make him a special breakfast of French Toast, while David brought him his first present of the day – a lovely Paddington Bear that we’d picked up in Cambridge. They’d been watching the show together for a few weeks in anticipation of this, and after letting him investigate the bear, David took Walter to his office to watch an episode of Paddington – apparently Walter kept looking at the screen and then looking around for the bear, trying to figure if it was his very own bear that was starring in the show.

waiting for French Toast
We spent the late morning opening and playing with presents, and then Walter went for his nap while us tired parents went that way as well. When he woke up it was time for more presents (he’s one, he opens them at a snail’s pace and is easily distracted!) and time to make his special birthday meal – pizza! This was the thing I could come up with that combined his love of bread, cheese, and tomatoes. Eventually we got around to his cake. Walter loves the Gruffalo and my brother had found an online tutorial for making a Gruffalo cake, so mum & I had busied ourselves with that a few days in advance. I hate decorating cakes so it was a labour of love and I’m glad mum did most of the icing work.

attacking his present pile

serious business
Walter was afraid of the candle and hesitant to touch the cake. Once he realised that he could do his worst, he very carefully picked all of the candy decorations off and put them in his mouth (only to have David fish out the choking-hazard ones). Then he was done. I tried tempting him with some icing but he would have none of it.


looking for more candy to destroy
By this time the excitement and changes to his schedule had gotten to him, so the evening was mostly a tearful Walter trying to convince us that it was bedtime. Thus his birthday photos are not quite the glamorous ones we were hoping for. But all in all it was a lovely day and I think he really enjoyed himself :)

a not very successful family photo

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