Ethan's big day!
My baby boy turns six today! And since he can't read yet, I figure I can still get away with calling him my baby boy. I guess this will be the last birthday I can do that. :-) He was so excited that he could hardly fall asleep last night. I assured him that when he woke up, he would be six. I think that my assurances were counterproductive. The only thing that really worked in the end was a "don't you dare get out of this bed again" from Daddy.
John's work is requiring more forced time off to keep from laying additional people off, so he's able to stay home on Ethan's birthday. That was a nice surprise! There will be a Christmas parade in the evening, and when we get home from that, we will have a little party for Ethan.
Because Ethan's birthday fell on a Saturday, he was able to celebrate it at school yesterday. His teacher does a wonderful job of making the kids feel special on their birthdays, and she has some really fun ways to incorporate learning into the festivities.
Since it was Ethan's special day, we got to bring a fun, non-healthy snack. I don't have a real oven, and I didn't relish the thought of making teeny batches of cupcakes in the toaster oven, so I came up with an alternate plan. (Who am I kidding? I could have gone down to the other house to bake, but I find baking labor intensive and messy. The alternate plan was actually plan A.) I had seen this really cute idea on TV, I think, of making little bitty birds nests out of chocolate. All you do is mix melted chocolate (I used almond bark - thanks Tricia! It was much easier than the melted chocolate chips I had been planning on using) with chow mein noodles. Plop out spoon fulls onto cookie sheets and place a couple of jelly bean "eggs" in the center. Viola - birds nests! So easy and so cute. When Ethan went to pass out snacks in class, this is what each kid got:
You should have heard the kids oooooh and ahhhhh. Ethan was tickled pink!
While the kids ate their snack, Mrs. Stevens placed a little candle on a chair and had Ethan stand next to the chair, holding a globe. She then held up a picture of Ethan as a baby. Did you know that even a bunch of five and six year olds will go "awwwwww" when they see baby pictures? She had Ethan walk all the way around the chair with the globe, signifying the earth rotating once around the sun (candle). Ethan's first year. Then she showed a picture of Ethan at one, and told the class that Ethan learned to walk and talk when he was one. Another trip around the candle, and the class learned that Ethan loved to jump off of furniture when he was two. Another rotation of the earth divulged that not only was Ethan as cute as a button at three, but he loved to dance and play with his sister. By the "earth's" fourth trip around the "sun", the class found out that Ethan spent lots of time that year with his grandparents. The final picture was shown and we told the kids that Ethan moved to Montana and loved to hike and rock climb with his daddy. Then the class sang a series of three or four birthday songs (the traditional "Happy Birthday" plus some educational birthday-related songs). And the birthday boy got to blow out the "sun".
Once snack time was finished, the kids gathered into a bunch on the floor and Ethan and I told them all about Ellie. When Ethan found out that he was supposed to bring pictures for his birthday, he really wanted to bring one of he and Ellie together. Because Ellie was bald, I knew that it would bring up some questions, plus I knew that Ethan was liable to blurt out "that's my sister and she's dead." Weeks ago, Mrs. Stevens and I had talked about me coming to the class and telling them about Ellie, but we hadn't set anything up. This was the perfect opportunity to share the story. Ethan was so proud to be able to tell his friends all about his sister. I started it out by showing them the picture, and asking if they noticed something "different" about Ethan's sister. One little boy said "yeah, she's bald just like Ethan." I thought that was so sweet - Ethan's baldness was normal to this class, and his sister was just like him, not the other way around. I was able to tell the class how Ethan wanted to shave his head so that Ellie would not feel badly about losing her hair. Then we talked about cancer and why she lost her hair. Together, Mrs. Stevens and I answered questions about cancer and death, and Ethan interjected his own comments from time to time. The kids were great. They had all kinds of wonderful questions, from how she died to how we found out she was sick. At one point there was quite a lively rabbit trail about pirates and eye patches once they learned that Ellie was blind in one eye. (Of course they needed to find out if that eye still looked and moved like the one that could see.) A couple of the kids got distracted with the location of one's heart, after Mrs. Stevens talked about how we carry love and memories in our hearts after a person has died. The whole experience was delightful in every way. We sent home a handout from Ellie's memorial service and a letter for their parents explaining what we talked about. (I could just imagine the parent's reactions when their children came home saying "Ethan's sister died!")
Loretta came with me to the school and was able to sit in class and watch the fun. We had such a great time getting to observe Ethan in his classroom and get a glimpse of how his days are spent at school. We came away with two very strong feelings: Mrs. Stevens is a saint; and teachers, particularly kindergarten teachers, are WAY underpaid. May I just say, "God bless them, every one!"
I will have many more birthday stories to share after tomorrow. Thank you so much for taking Ethan into your hearts! The surest way to a mother's heart is when you love her little ones.