But what's been going on around here that's really important? Besides building a snow fort that could have held off Chief Pontiac longer than the original Fort Detroit? Birthdays. I held off writing about the girl's birthday party because my wife knit her an amazing dress and any photos would have revealed it before she had the chance to write a post about it. But she's been working long hours lately and just hasn't gotten around to writing about it, and that means I have been getting "bonus" time with the kids, with the real "bonus" coming at the end of the day when I'm so exhausted I can watch at least six minutes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians before I realize it isn't a rerun of that very special episode of Silver Spoons where Bruce Jenner discovered that Alfonzo was dyslexic.
We pestered the girl for a few weeks before her fifth birthday about what kind of party she wanted. It turns out that's a really dumb question to ask a four-year old, because not only does a four-year old think that a "swimming party with a bouncy castle and a slow roller coaster and a trampoline at the bottom of a slide that lets you jump into the swimming pool with cake and presents but where you can also do gymnastics. . ." is possible, a four-year old thinks that you, as her father, are capable of setting it all up in the basement. "All you need are some engines," she tells me when I express doubt in my ability to pull off such a simple fête.
At some point she decided a bird-themed party would be an acceptable alternative. The kid has been into birds ever since Zan brought her a bird-watching book and we've spent a lot of time this winter pheasant spotting (they are even easier to see in the snow).
Things to notice in the above photo: (1) for the arts and crafts portion of the evening, the kids painted birdhouses. For many reasons having ten preschoolers painting in the middle of my living room didn't seem like such a good idea, but the only true disasters were the ten hideously-colored birdhouses newly brought into the world; (2) on the window is a painting I did for a rousing game of "pin-the-beak-on-the-pheasant" that the birthday girl totally peeked over her blindfold to win; (3) the 2010 birthday crown made by my wife featuring both a ring-necked pheasant and a male cardinal; (4) pay no attention to the hand-knit dress that my wife is too busy to write about. Just move along.
For party favors, we filled jelly jars with bird seed and put those little phony birds in the lids. You can see a couple "beaks" for the pin-the-beak-on-the-pheasant on the right:
Then there was the cake. We asked the good people at Pinwheel Bakery to make us a cake with a Detroit pheasant on it. It did not disappoint, and yes, it does read, "Have a Pheasant Birthday." Here at Sweet Juniper, we are not afraid of having a little pun.
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The boy's birthday was yesterday, and if you think we're the type of people to go this nuts for a two-year old, you're sorely mistaken. It was a more low-key affair, with some balloons, party horns, pizza, and just a few neighborhood kids running around the house. Still, we had to have cake, and we cemented our reputation as total weirdos with the bakery staff with this one:
What's that? you ask. A woodchuck perhaps? A hamster? Surely you wouldn't get your son a birthday cake with a rat on it! Sorry, it is a rat. We were walking out of the YMCA a few weeks ago and a rat scurried across our path into some bushes, where it continued scurrying around much to Gram's delight. "Rat in the bushes!" he shouted, "See it!" Since then, Rat in the bushes, see it has become his catch phrase every time we see bushes. So we got him a Rat in the bushes birthday cake. Yep.
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†Does anyone have any advice about what's essential to do or see or eat in Charlottesville? Monticello in winter? Do you live near there and want to come hear me talk about some stuff? E-mail me for details.