We have finally, finally come to the end of six weeks of celebrating E.'s second birthday. Of course, this whole drawn-out process was entirely my own fault, because I wanted to have my cake and eat and then have more. More! MORE!
Well, I've had enough.
But I have discovered some interesting differences between "normal" Dutch birthdays and what I suspect is the expat way of celebrating tiny tikes growing older. And we just had to do both, I brilliantly decided.
E.'s first party was in the Netherlands at the house of grandfather Tamtam. We hung a festive streamer, decorated her high chair with balloons and made sure we had candles and a lighter. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family showed up with cakes and presents. We spaced out the giving of presents over the whole day but at the end her absolute favourites were the blue balloon with a girly-face drawn on it by grandfather Tamtam and the pink balloon that uncle D. had decorated with a boy-face later that day to accompany the poor lonesome girl.
We sang birthday songs, and tried to get E. to blow out candles (but she likes her fire burning, thank you very much). E. was universally adored by all present and her company and smile were the prize all people present sought to achieve for themselves. She spent the rest of the week happily playing with her new toys and books and jigsaws.
There were no goodiebags, although in retrospect we should've had little containers ready to get people to take home left-over cake.
Because we did not manage to finish the cakes. Not even by diligently keeping at eating them for the whole following week.
E.'s second party was held at Tiong Bahru Park playground, where S. and I set up shop with lots of cakes, grapes, crackers, crisps 'n dips. Again we hung a streamer to alert people to our presence. We had invited all the toddlers she hangs out with, and their parents too. They all brought sunscreen and presents.
In fact, E. received so many presents that we ended up not unwrapping them so as not to spoil her joy. We're now spacing the gift-giving over weeks, pretending it's Sinterklaas (our version of Santa Claus) dropping these wonderful packages off on a weekendly basis.
During the party, we sort of just turned E. loose on the playground, and the other kids followed. Although one or another or several parents would at all times make sure our little herd was fairly safe, the general preference seemed to be for adult conversation (of which even I had a bit, yay!).
At the end, I forgot to distribute the goodiebags, about which I had been agonizing and which had been assembled in the wee hours of the night. (Being awake in the wee hours of the night is not good for remembering things the day after.)
We did not manage to finish the cakes, and since I baked most of them myself I felt no guilt in chucking them after we came home.
E.'s third (and final) birthday party was held this morning at her school. I had baked another "kwarktaart" or yoghurt pie (I am using the word "bake" in the loosest sense possible, since it's actually the fridge that does the necessary work, not the oven). I had prepared more goodiebags, this time with Dutch Lady milk and home made pepernoten and some weird Japanese sugary sweets and a small package of Jip and Janneke raisins which I imported from the Netherlands (a theme! They were themed goodiebags!)
My goodiebags were woefully inadequate compared to the Hello Kitty sweets-and-toys filled backpacks, which were handed out last week for another girls' birthday. But they stacked up fairly impressively compared to the treats I've seen Dutch friends post on Facebook for their toddlers' birthday. Those poor Dutchies don't get cake AND goodiebags, they just get some small stuff, you know, a packet of raisins, some apple slices, a lollipop here and there.
My presence had been requested at 9.30 am during the morning snack break when the children would have the cake and sing.
All kids convened on the dinner tables. E. was seated at the top of the room at her own table behind the cake with candles. The kids sang. E. expertly blew out the candles. Everybody ate.
There were no left-overs.
The best part: E.'s face radiated happiness when she noticed me squatting down next to her. She kept stroking my face and repeating in wonder and joy: "Mama is hier. Mama is lief."