The third week of April is a week of birthdays. Last Saturday Zach was four, and then on Thursday Matt & Ben turned eight. For lots of reasons their birthdays were very different this year. In particular we are (of course) in a different country, far away from family and friends. Presents were much fewer and simpler than previously. Instead of a big party, we huddled round the computer and sang Happy Birthday over Skype with Nana and Grandpa.
The absence of family and friends has played heavily on us this week. Our tradition in England was to have a garden party on the nearest convenient weekend. Luckily we were generally blessed with good weather, so the bouncy castle in the garden was always a big draw – with ages from 2 months to 82 years enjoying a good bounce. The kitchen table would be spread with a grand buffet (with help from many to make) and another table covered with fizzy pop, wine and beer.
This year there was just the six of us. We baked cakes and sang happy birthday at the tops of our voices, and were warmed by all the birthday emails and e-cards – and many thanks to all of you who took the time, we raise a glass to you. The children live very much ‘in the now’ so happily and excitedly absorbed whatever treats and presents there were, with only a few odd mentions of parties and bouncy castles.
The children’s grandparents we are know are missing their grandchildren especially much at this time. Many of the children’s presents were from them, brought by my parents all the way from England when they visited earlier this year. Right now Granny and Grandad are off on their own travels, driving across France and Italy in their newly-acquired camper van, so communication is even toughter than usual. We managed a quick Skype call with them last weekend before they set off, and have exchanged text messages since, but that’s the extent of the birthday time together.
For Alison’s parents (Nana & Grandpa) we managed a Skype call whilst lighting the candles on the Matt & Ben’s birthday cake. Normally they would travel down from Sheffield to stay with us for a few days, and I know from all their recent blog comments that they are missing the children tremendously.
To all our parents, and all our other family and friends, we say a big thank you for all your support and friendship.
On the present front, we don’t think they did too badly (apart from Zach, who still is waiting for his new scooter!). Ben has a new footbal and a new basketball, plus a proper basketball uniform (with built-in Attitude). Matt has a new electronics kit and Scrabble in Spanish. Both now have new watches (so sadly, our days of ‘in a minute’ are sadly over, because they now will be counting the seconds). They also now have the complete set of Harry Potter (I have no idea how we are going to carry our suitcases with these behemoths of books inside). They both have new sports shoes (an indication, perhaps, of simpler living – shoes would never have been a birthday present back home – just something bought as needed). Zach has new cars, new books, jigsaws, a new school backpack (but no scooter – out with the hair shirt again).
For Zach’s birthday we took a voyage to Santo Domingo (click here if you missed that post). We’ve been out for meals three times this week (a real treat for the Chef and Washer Up). On the afternoon of Matt & Ben’s birthday we went swimming. We had the pool to ourselves (but then again, it was raining!). There is no school on Monday (Labor Day), so we’ll extend the birthday treats through this long weekend and try to get to a beach or two, and maybe another meal out. Today (Sunday) we made good on this and headed to our favourite local beach of Playa Diamante (always an adventure, this time there were 24 of us in the gua-gua home!). And of course all the Birthday Boys were even more than normal the centre of our attention on their special days. So we don’t think they’ve done too badly. Do you?