What a difference eight years make! She's so much older, but her love of accessories, feathers and fur hasn't changed...
Here's the happy birthday girl.
I couldn't resist and I put together this little slide show of when Katya was still a baby and toddler... She was so adorable...
Her birthday was on Wednesday, September 3rd and she had a wonderful day.
In the past, I would have strung balloon garlands from the windows, made signs, wrapped all her presents in pretty paper and even made an elaborate pinata. This year, however, I just couldn't do it all-- but I still made delicious cupcakes (miniature lemon ones and large M&M ones with fancy floral icing), put together neat party favor bags for her classmates (I picked out the contents while in the USA), and I lead her class in typical American parachute games. I asked Katya if she'd prefer her gifts unwrapped--and on her birthday--or if she'd rather wait and get them later in the week when I could wrap them. If you, um, guessed that she chose to get them unwrapped, you're correct! And I didn't have to do all that extra work!
She also agreed to let me hold her party the day after her birthday--since I don't have classes on Thursdays. It would have been impossible for me to do it on Wednesday...
We opened a few presents before she went to school and then that evening. More than anything, she had longed for anything related to her Samantha doll. That sure made shopping easy! Here she is modeling the bridesmaid hat. She was also thrilled by the few Coconut items and discontinued American Girl games and puzzles that I found for her on ebay last year.
She also came home from school with more presents from her classmates than she could personally carry! Birthdays are such a huge deal in Russian culture; we need to give presents to every kid in the class on birthdays. Last year that was a real shock; now we've just accepted that that's how it is and budgeted accordingly. It was touching just how personal the presents were; every classmate clearly knows Katya well and helped his or her parents to pick something truly meaningful.
Among her gifts there was even a Barbie from a ranch in the American West (the friend remembered that her grandparents live in Colorado)! Katya loved the books (a mixture of fiction and non-fiction in Russian, plus an English thesaurus--she didn't have one yet!), games, craft kits and stuffed animals. There were three more gift bags the following day... It will take her a while to write all 18 thank you notes! (The other kids don't usually write them, but I want her to).
This year we'll be giving all of her classmates various Webkinz; I stocked up on them this summer when they were on sale for $6. I figure they're the perfect gift since they're also a way to practice English, and they weighed almost nothing in our luggage.
The next day we celebrated her birthday at school. Russian kids usually have a clown of some sort at their birthdays, but we don't do that. Well, one year we had a joint party for Natalia with two of her friends and then we split the cost, only $40 per family. Prices have definitely gone up since then, though... And I just don't think kids need all that hoopla for their birthdays! I'd much rather do something simple, both at school and at home. (We'll have some of her girlfriends over in a few weeks for her "real" party--we're doing a "spa" theme with pedicures, facials, etc.) It would be great if we had more space at in our apartment, but we still make do. (Oh... dreaming of yard, too...)
I brought in a parachute I purchased a few years ago in the United States and I lead the class in typical gym class games. Do you remember doing them when we were in elementary school? I loved them! The girls' friends here do, too. Russian kids have never done any of those activities, so it makes for a fun and memorable party. We've used ours on birthdays for a few years now.
The weather was GORGEOUS and the kids were so happy to be out on the playground. After a few days of weather in the mid '40s, the sunshine and mid '70s temperature felt downright hot! They loved these games:
- POPCORN: everyone snaps the parachute to pop balls into the air
- CAT & MOUSE: the "mice" run under the parachute and the "cat" tries to catch them--pouncing on them--from on top, all while the rest of the kids wildly snap the parachute to camouflage the "mice"
- VOLCANO: everyone snaps the parachute at once high into the air, creating an "eruption" of balls
- OSTRICH: everyone snaps the parachute at once high into the air, then quickly yanks it down the ground, around one's head, while laying on the ground. Outsiders see only "headless" kids on the ground with a huge parachute bubble in the center; the kids are inside a parachute bubble and see only a circle of their friends' heads. It's VERY cool.
- MUSHROOM: same as "Ostrich," except everyone sits down inside the parachute cloud, sitting on top of the parachute.
- various forms of tag
Then we went inside for the cupcakes I'd made. People usually buy cakes, so Katya's homemade treats were also exciting for the other kids. ("Your mom actually made them?!" ) Here's her class (plus Natalia) in the dining room. While they ate, each child made a toast to Katya, wishing her various fortune: all high marks, good health, happiness, good friendships... No wonder Russians are famous for their toasts; they learn how to do it starting young!
Katya got so hot running around outside that she took off her sweater and was only wearing her undershirt and the sweater's fluffy collar.
You probably noticed that I didn't get any pictures of the parachute games... I was just so busy running the birthday party that I couldn't do it! Oh, well... My kids will certainly never complain about the lack of pictures I took of them when they were growing up.