Monday, March 9, 2015

The First is Nine

Exactly one month after Wesley turned 7, this dear boy turned 9. On (or near) their birthdays, each of the kids gets to spend a day alone with mom and dad doing whatever (within reason, of course) they choose. Jack chose a night of Minecraft so after dropping his siblings off with grandparents, we stopped for a burger at one of our favorite places, picked up our reserved copy of Minecraft at a Redbox and settled in for a long night of building...or fighting...or whatever it is you do in Minecraft. For this nine-year-old, who is typically limited to an hour of screen time per day (I know, we're no fun), a whole evening with no limits on video games was a dream come true.

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The following day was his party and, since he couldn't decide what theme he wanted, I chose one for him and made it a surprise. We'd recently watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman (hilarious!) and had been quoting the lines around our house for a week so I figured it was a safe options.

One of the places Mr. Peabody & Sherman visit in the WABAC machine is ancient Egypt so our guests were welcomed with hieroglyphics. 

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I really liked the black and white chevron paired with red that I saw here, so I carried that theme throughout the details.

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Mr. Peabody's math brilliance was spread across our chalk wall,

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and we took a tour through history as we made our way around the island.

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Mr. Peabody's spectacles and red bowtie were highlighted on the cake, milk cups and party-wear for the kids.

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Instead of hats, I made red bowties for each of the kids to wear.

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When Wesley discovered his bowtie and figured out the theme, he went upstairs immediately to change clothes. He came down doing his best Mr. Peabody impersonation.

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The other kids tolerated their bowties for awhile...
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at least long enough for me to get a picture of them all together.

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We served a simple meal of pizza and veggies - black olives, white cauliflower and red tomatoes.

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The pizzas were made to look like Mr. Peabody (with his black olive specs and pepperoni bowtie) and Sherman (with his matching black specs and red pepper hair).

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I took advantage of the history lesson in the movie and created a game that involved a favorite pastime around our house: shooting things (don't worry, we use Nerf guns).

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I created four targets - France, Egypt, Greece & Italy - and then made cards containing trivia about historical events from each of those countries. When a card/clue was read, the kids had to shoot the corresponding target/country with a Nerf dart.

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I'm not sure if any actual learning happened, but, hey, shooting things is always fun!

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After dinner and games, it was cake time.

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Right before we joined together in a chorus of "happy birthday," I discovered I didn't have any birthday candles left. But we sang it anyway,

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and Jack blew out a small Christmas pillar candle. What a good sport! I'm always amazed at the grace these kids show their well-intentioned mama.

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Happy birthday, dear Jack!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Dragon Birthday

While this post should've been part of Thankful November because Wesley is one of the people I'm most thankful for, like I often say, "better late than never." So here we go. In November our second-born turned 7. Because birthday season is hectic around here, we put off a kid-party until early January and then celebrate once with all three of the older kids and their friends. This reduces the stress a little bit on our schedule, but limits the opportunity for themed parties. So each kid gets a themed party on or near their birthday with just immediate family. This year Wes chose a How to Train Your Dragon party. I have to admit, I was really excited to plan this party for him. I've always been interested in our Nordic heritage and this gave me a chance to learn more while researching for his party.

His birthday sign was written using a (slightly modified) runic alphabet. It does say "Happy Birthday Wesley" even though there are only a few recognizable letters.

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No birthday is complete without a cake so I'll start with that. I can't remember when I stumbled upon this cake recipe or what occasion I had to first make it, but it has become THE birthday cake. It's not fancy (I think it originally came from the Hershey's website) and I just found it on pinterest, but there's a secret weapon that makes it the most delicious chocolate (is there any other flavor?) cake around. This everything you need, 

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but this is the secret ingredient. You have to use the Special Dark cocoa powder.

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You mix up all the dry ingredients,

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then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones,

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add some hot coffee, mix it up and...

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viola! Awesome (it'll be thin) cake batter.

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Bake it in two lined, buttered and floured nine-inch round pans.

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Let it cool (I always cool the bottom layer on the cake platter and let the top layer cool on the rack), then frost it however you like it. 

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I was inspired by this cake so I added two six-inch layers to the top of my nine-inch layers. I probably should've put the smaller layers closer to the center or figured out how to support the edge because the cake started to lean quite a bit by the time it was served. Live and learn.

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I don't do fondant so I mixed up some gray frosting, gave it a good crumb coat and put it in the fridge for a few hours.

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As you can see, I embraced the "rocky-ness" of my buttercream and left it rough around the edges. Some chocolate rocks and green icing for grass finished it off.

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I added a small Toothless figure to the top and it was ready to go.

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With the cake done, it was time to transform the rest of the house.

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Viking shields and a map of Berk were the backdrop for the dinner table.

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Snakes and fish surrounded the island,

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while dragons flew overhead.

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We dined on a fleet of twice-baked potato Viking ships,

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dragon bones,

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dragon tongues,

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and the leafy greens of a charred forest.

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I wanted to give the kids something to do while they waited for dinner to finish cooking so I had them make these fire breathing dragons. The idea was that they could use them like noise-makers, but without the noise. 

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The whole project was pretty much a big fail. Jack didn't participate at all and Wesley wasn't happy with how his was turning out.

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Elise was doing okay...until her dragon's eyeball wouldn't stay on.

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Then she cried.

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And when it was all said and done, the streamers didn't really wave when the kids blew through the tube like I promised they would. Evie was the only happy child but that's because I pretty much made hers for her and she's two so she didn't care that the streamers didn't blow around that much.

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After dinner, it was time to open gifts. Wes had on his science hat when making gift requests this year. He's spent the last few months learning about rocks...

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and stars.

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Wesley opted to light his own birthday candles this year.

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But he left the singing to everyone else.

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