This may sound strange, or disorganized, or perhaps even cruel, but it was actually a stroke of brilliance. Y'see, my sister knows her daughter well; the kid loves loves loves parties and cake and birthday candles and singing "Happy Birthday" (literally her favorite song!) like no one else I've known. I'll explain it with a quote directly from my sister: "I just didn't want to hear about the party every minute of every day for longer than I really had to!"
The Pipsqueak only had about a week to tell us, and any-and-everyone she could corral, about the upcoming party -- but tell she did. The idea that the people arranging the party might already know about it either didn't occur to her or (more likely) didn't matter to her; she was having a birthday party, and lemme tell ya, even in its scaled-down, semi-structured, much smaller format it was A Big Deal to this tiny little dynamo. (Okay, so maybe it did take her a while to decide if she was turning four, or six, but she eventually agreed with us that three was the correct number.)
Ironically, the morning of the party was the "graduation" for the latest Little Gym session, so we were all there to watch Miri & the other kids strut their stuff and get medals & certificates at the end of the session. (And once again realize that my niece is far more coordinated, has far better balance, and is far braver & more adventurous than yours truly.) There was a cute/poignant moment when Miri marched up to the front counter by herself and asked Miss Kim (the young gal who ran her sessions) if she could come to her party later that day; Kim seemed genuinely touched, and found an acceptably vague promise to keep Miri happy (she was supposed to be off the rest of the day, and by the time the party started Miri was too excited & distracted to miss her).
Then began the
We re-engineered some of the cake decorations (doesn't everyone plunk a big plastic castle & a bunch of Disney princess figurines onto the spot where the bakery wrote "Happy Birthday"?!?), did a little set-up (two young girls in matching "uniforms" of black tees did most of the work), and the guests began arriving. I won't go into all the details of the party, but it was most definitely a success. There was some structured play, a big indoor inflatable bouncy thing, some unstructured play, and the near-total demolishing of several pizzas and a surprisingly high percentage of both cakes. One added bonus was that we got to meet, for the first time, the newly-adopted daughter of friends in our our adoption group; she was a little older than many of the kids and fairly shy, but after a while even she kinda-sorta let her hair down and had fun. I even got a shy smile & wave as her proud Daddy carried her out the door later on.
Afterwards, my niece spent the entire afternoon & evening literally bouncing up and down in excitement over all the birthdaying. We also had a smaller and (slightly) quieter mini-party at Mom & Dad's the next day with some family members who couldn't make the first party, and that suited the Pipsqueak just fine -- the more parties, the merrier the birthday girl! AJ had planned to stay home the following Wednesday (the Pipsqueak's actual birthday) for some quality mother-daughter birthday time together, but the State surveyors came through the door at work bright & early Monday morning so that plan had to be abandoned... But all in all, the Pipsqueak had a great birthday.
Of course, we all spent some time during the week leading up to the party & several days afterwards marveling at how the Pipsqueak has changed & grown since her last birthday. It's amazing to see how fast she's growing, and how much more independent she's become in the last year... and how much more talkative she's become as well! (On more than one occasion, I've heard her Grandma refer to her as "The Chatterbox" -- it's a pretty accurate description.)
The postscript to all the birthday celebrating came about a week after all the partying, after a couple of other events we had to convince the Pipsqueak were in honor of other people's birthdays or graduations (we were running about an 85% success rate with that task). Miri seemed to have finally accepted the fact that her birthday was really, finally over for the year and was trying to find someone else's birthday we could celebrate instead. (Dude, any excuse for more cake, right...?) She was trying to move mine from March to the end of June so I had to explain that my birthday had already passed, didn't she remember helping me blow out my candles and eat the ginormous chocolate cake her Grandpa had picked out...? Miri seemed a little downcast, so I made what in retrospect might have been something of a tactical error: I told her not to worry, that people have birthdays every year, and that we'd have another party for her next year.
Her face lit up like a thousand-watt bulb, and she immediately announced, "Mommy, I have another birthday next year, I have another party!"