This is the month that Matthijs had his birthday… four times. It fell on a Thursday so we celebrated it together at home, then he went to school on Friday and was feted there, then he had a kiddo party on Friday afternoon, the family turned up on Saturday and some more friends came by on Sunday. He cheerfully admitted that we had made enough fuss about his birthday.
The childrens party was nerve-wracking: we had never given one before. After combing through magazines and websites we decided to do a good old-fashioned cake-and-games party: we had been warned that five-ish is a tough age for parties and that boys are wilder than girls (thank goodness someone finally let us in on that one).
The choice of theme was really a no-brainer: they spend 99% of their time being knights and/or monsters (yes, that does mean fighting each other) so it was either going to be a monster-party or a gathering of the nobility. We could not face monsters first time around so we went for knights, made nice invitation scrolls and told him that he could invite five friends (one for each year: heaven help us when he turns fourteen…). Naturally they were (general consensus on this among the mothers at school) the five noisiest and wildest boys in the class. Of course he did try and sneak in another friend and we had a wonderfully embarassing phone-call with the parents of the boy, who had said that he was invited but did not have a scroll to show for it.
In order to gain some leverage from the feudal system we dressed ourselves up as king and queen. Marjolein made five knightly surcoats and (in the middle of the knight) I drew coats of arms for them each. I also got super-itchy cutting up fibreboard insulation-tiles to make shields for them all. One of their tasks (keeps the beasts busy) was to draw themselves a design on their shields.
Once they were in we got them into their robes and played a game where they had to remember their knightly name: that got me out of having to remember their -real- names. The boy with the sun on his surcoat was “Knight of the Sun” etc. We told them that they were all apprentice knights and that they must pass a whole set of tests and complete a quest in order to be real knights and (here is the clincher) receive their swords. The first task was playing “The King (Simon) Says” which was a great hit. The old games still work like a charm.
That broke the ice and then they could draw on their shields (very variable, not everyone likes drawing apparently) and then eat marshmallows without using hands: much jollity and sticky noses.
Musical chairs worked pretty well (though again, not for everyone) and blind man’s buff and “Pin the Fire (tail) on the Dragon (donkey)” would have been fine except for the fact that we had made a fancy blindfold out of a silky material with skeletons on it: it slipped off in no time and was not opaque enough to prevent a 100% accuracy with the dragon. After all that they cooled off by decorating themselves a bun (supply of pastry decorations and cream). They were just starting to get tired and bouncy when we knighted them solemnly, gave them their swords and sent them off on a puzzle-quest all over the house, looking for the treasure. Armed with gleaming plastic they followed the clues to a great, big stuffed snake who was guarding a trove of glistening crisp packets… Kiddos 5 Snake 0. They ate the treasure and their parents turned up moments later: we had a cast-iron two-hour plan and had timed everything to the minute. Two hours was also the max. They were all whacked and so were we. We spent the rest of the evening tidying and recovering. It was however entirely worth it: Matthijs party got talked about at school and undoubtedly raised his prestige with his peers and he had lots of FUN.
By comparisom the grown-up party the next day was a breeze. Somewhat older children of whom the boys all disappeared upstairs to watch each other play computer games. Girls seem to like different things. How does it happen?
We sort of tested the proposition by giving Marjoleins nephew Ramses a second-hand PC (ostensibly from his grandmother) and Marjolein made him an elaborate knight’s costume. He liked the computer, but he LOVED the clothes and wore them all day. Apparently he goes and puts them on if he has nightmares. Marjolein amazes herself with her Mrs Homemaker dark side (well not dark, more pastel with fringes). Every now and then the frenzy takes her and she dashes off a Pirate cloak or a wizard suit for the playschool.
Matthijs woke Marjolein on Ramses’ birthday with the question “where are the gloves you use for taking hot things out of the oven”. She was WIDE awake immediately and went downstairs to find that the boys had put a bowl (not plastic thank goodness) of “soup” in the oven for Ramses made of water, fruit juice, ten stock cubes, most of my Inidan spices and pretty much anything else they could find. Well meant but 45 minutes hard cleaning too. She did not kill them (it is frowned upon apparently) but she did point out in no uncertain terms that future “nice surprises” could consist only of glasses of orange juice and sandwiches: no ovens, no cooking, no hot things.
We have moved into the “bottoms” phase. Matthijs and Daniel continuously show each other their bottoms and then laugh uproariously. Any friends that come to visit join in with glee. Our only comfort is that they will probably move on to something else before they are 21 years old…
Daniel had an (standard, obligatory) eye test at the clinic this month and passed with flying colours. He can do everything he is supposed to be able to do (build towers, fit shapes in holes etc) without any trouble. He has also moved towards the middle of the weight and height curves: previous time he was somewhat over average weight and significantly under average height. Now he is 99,5 cm and 15,7 kg and thus VERY normal.
We are still very much in the terrible twos and his temper is developing nicely, up to and including lying on the ground screaming his lungs out. He has also started telling us with crushing dignity that he no longer wants to see us and that he is going to his room… It is difficult not to get into big rows with him when he is being very obstructive, but sometimes you can break the cycle by just giving him a big cuddle. There is a moment of resistance (stiff as a board) and then he curls up and relaxes, and so do I. There is nothing quite like a good cuddle to make both of us feel better.
Falco finally passed his hearing test this month. There is nothing wrong with his hearing, but that is not a surprise since he has already started learning words and imitates noises pretty well. .
You can tell that he has been “hardend” by having two older brothers. He does not cry easily and is very interested in other children his age. Given then chance he crawls (rapidly) over to make their aquaintance. He also makes strenuous attempts to join in the ongoing Pirate/Knight adventure that his brothers play (our sofa is mostly a castle and the armchairs are ALWAYS a Pirate ship). His brothers are happy to have him join in and often devise a (non-speaking) role for him as Pirate Baby or Small Monster of King Matthijs. As you can see in the Flash film at the bottom of this page he also grabs a sword if he gets a chance and waves it menacingly with a big smile all round his head.
He also had to go into the clinic for his fourth scheduled Diptheria-Whooping Cough-Tetanus-Polio shot. He reacted very well to the jab and just added a couple of hours of nap to get over it. They also weighed and measured him and he still deserves his nicknames “Hulk” and “Fatlet”: 11,530 grams (way above average) and 78 cm (above average). He is a chunky little monkey, but not fat so much as solid. He is the only baby I have seen with broad shoulders… That said it is no picnic carrying him around for any period of time: you have to change arms frequently.
Marjolein has started basketball again (new season). That is a very good thing: sporty Marjolein = jolly Marjolein. It also helps when she scores a few baskets…