Well, never has a day been so anticipated in our house, I don’t think. Lena has been talking and singing and dreaming about this day for weeks and months. I was a little worried there might be a crash of disappointment when the actual day came and went, but thankfully (unlike Gil’s birthday) I don’t think there were any tears all day. Hooray for that!
Gil and Lena woke up at exactly the same time that morning, so Elliott grabbed Gil and we walked into Lena’s room together singing “Happy Birthday.” She was thrilled when she saw her presents and cards piled on our bookshelf in our room, and she chose “the big pink one” to open first. That one was from us, and I’d filled it with fresh craft supplies: a new notebook (since her old one went everywhere with us and is totally full of stickers and drawings), crayons, markers, stickers, and her first pair of scissors.
For breakfast, she requested oatmeal with “yots and yots of brown sugar” and fresh-squeezed blood orange juice.
Gil fell head over heels in love with books about two weeks ago, and now he’ll sit in his bed or the kitchen for 10 minutes at a time, studying each page and pointing out animals. I frequently discover him cleaning off the kids’ bookshelf, too, and then sitting down happily in the middle of a pile of board books.
After breakfast, we waved goodbye to Daddy like we do almost every morning…
… played on the living room rug for awhile…
… and then Lena ate her much anticipated birthday treat: a pink yogurt with M&Ms. She spotted it for the first time back in November at the grocery store, and I answered her request with the vague, “Maybe for your birthday.” I thought she’d forget, but of course she didn’t forget. For the past six months, she’s looked for it on every grocery trip and reminded me weekly, “That’s the yogurt I’m going to get for my birthday!”
I’m sure all the anticipation made it taste much better than it actually did.
She asked last week for a raspberry cake, so I went to great lengths to find a recipe and even tried [unsuccessfully] to track down fresh raspberries (which I’ve never seen for sale in Sicily). At some point during her birthday morning, Lena said, “Mama, next year I would like a strawberry cake.”
Now why couldn’t you have asked for that this year, baby girl, when we have strawberries coming out of our ears?!
Around 9:30 we put Gil down for a nap and opened another of her presents. This one was a beautiful balancing game from her grandparents. The goal is to put as many of the wooden pieces onto the pirate ship as you can before it tips over. We’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I think it will be a lot of fun as the kids grow up and have friends over, too. I recommend it!
We mixed up Lena’s raspberry cake while Gil slept, but it was super messy and I didn’t get any pics.
Gil is up (I don’t think he slept), and we opened this wonderful gift: a doctor kit. It was a huge hit with both the kids, and her poor doll has had surgery every day since last Thursday.
Now let’s just all take a moment and enjoy how cute this is:
Future Dr. Garber, following in his veterinarian father’s footsteps? I hope so!
After lunch, we took a walk to the playground in our town. Along the way we stopped at “Nonno’s store,” the little shop where we buy our wine, pasta, Nutella, and other sundry items. Nonno (“grandfather” in Italian) always gives Lena a piece of chocolate when she comes, and she usually shares it with Gil.
After deciding for about two months that he preferred to crawl, Gil decided that day to start walking on his own. His flailing arms made me laugh so hard as he toddled from place to place!
And picking his feet up so high! Lena, meanwhile, continues to be our little acrobat/monkey.
Back at home, the kids napped for a couple of hours while I baked Lena’s cake for that night and cupcakes for her party the next day. When she got up, she watched birthday videos from her family. They were a huge hit last year, too!
We mixed up frosting together, and both kids were thrilled to lick a beater.
As I was grabbing my camera, I asked Lena to help me spread the frosting on the cake. She obliged by slapping her hand into it and obediently spreading it around!
Despite that delicious mishap, the cake turned out fine. A hungry little boy followed me around as I attempted a photo shoot. My favorite part was that the pureed raspberries in the batter turned the cake a pretty pink color.
Elliott arrived home around then, and we ate dinner (stay-in-bed stew and biscuits) and then opened the final presents. There was much glee!
And then — at last — the cake!
The next day we had a small party at a playground in Maranai, the U.S. military housing compound where some of our friends live. Lena and Gil shared a swing, and Gil toddled everywhere with his arms in the air…
… and Lena’s friend Matthew gave her a bottle of bubbles, which were the best thing about the party!
Little Lena, your dancing, jumping, and singing are joys in our lives, and we love to bake, hike, build block towers, and read books with you. You are just beginning to sound out words in books, and you’ve started to tell long, imaginative stories that leave us laughing with amazement at your imagination. You are such a cheerful big sister to your adoring little brother, who is literally grumpy if you are not around to make his world spin.
You’re snuggling me now after you nap as I type this, and I love the weight of your body on my chest and the scent of your hair next to my face. You have been one of the greatest gifts of my life, and I love you more than you’ll ever know. Happy birthday, Lena!