ad some good fun with the nieces' dual birthday party on Sunday, as Grace and Haley both have their birthdays in June. Grace turned six and Haley four. The girls have gone bird-crazy for some reason, and think that birds are just the coolest thing ever. They've been collecting these stuffed animal series of birds, each species of which comes with the call of each when you squeeze it. So now they're rattling off species names with great excitement, though I don't know if they're any good at identifying the calls just by the sound. So, loving just looking at pictures of birds and such, I went downtown to Border's on Saturday and grabbed a copy of the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America
, which was the most picture-rich of the various guides, especially in being likely to have pictures of each species both at rest and in the air. I happened to run into Amy driving by just as I stepped out to grab the bus, so that ended up being convenient, as it turned out that she was heading down to Grand Avenue Mall herself. So I ducked into a store with her and found a couple of cute summer shirts for the girls, too, before wishing her a happy anniversary (it was her and Dan's 5th) and heading off to book hunt.
The actual party and such on Sunday was low-key compared to April's social debut 1st birthday party for Sophia: this was just family, with me, both sets of grandparents, and Jim's brother John and his wife Natalie and their three girls. These three cousins – Julia, Kayla, and Livy – are staggered in age continuing upward from Grace, so the six of them look like one big clan when they're all together. Sophia is still a bit clingy with Leslie, and not at all certain that I should be there, but still was ridiculously cute despite the suspicion in her eyes whenever she looked at me. The girls all took her out into the – whatever it's called – jumping castle in the backyard and tried to help her enjoy bouncing around.
As I took pictures of this fun, the eldest of the cousins, Julia, ostentatiously complained about the presence of the paparazzi, which of course got her a shot of her own. This turned out to be the first overture of a lot of talk with her during the afternoon, which was new for me. She and her sisters have generally been rather shy around me, but Julia, who will be heading into sixth grade this fall, seemed to be hitting that moment where she was starting to find talking to adults a bit of adventure or pleasure in itself. Seeing it reminded me of that feeling when I'd experienced it – that sometimes the conversation of the grown-ups was fun, and that it was exciting to start to be not only able to understand it, but also to join in. The tragedy is that they're moving this summer, and instead of being minutes away are now going to be the Detroit area of Michigan, as John's job in medical tech (he's an M.D. with a tech degree) has him moving over thataway. That's too bad for my nieces: having cousins around and able to be easy friends is a real treat. It suddenly became clear to me why Grace had earlier been looking at the globe with me and was wanting to know where Michigan was in relation to Illinois.
The party itself was what you would expect: much excitement about presents, with careful parent reminders for the little recipients to thank the givers. A very rich cake in the Cubs theme of the décor. (Each birthday girl got a turn with candles and a chorus of "Happy Birthday," including Livy, who had also just had her seventh birthday.)
The major success of the afternoon seemed to be the present of a pair of species-specific birdfeeders for the backyard, which the girls were very excited to set up right away. I had earlier brought up the idea of birdfeeders as a way to capitalize on the girls' excitement and interest, and she so immediately gave me the evil eye that I dropped the matter as being something she was trying to avoid them thinking of, presumably so that the mess or bother of a birdfeeder would not come up. So I only got what was really going on when the feeders showed up as gifts. I'll be taking care of the girls the weekend after this one, and I'll be curious to see whether they're getting any action by then. And whether I can survive Sophia's own terror of me.