Friday, December 21, 2007

Two Birthday Girls and One Christmas Dragon

Christmas time, in our family, means birthday time. Growing up, my parents had to juggle in my birthday (Dec. 19) and my brother's (Dec. 20) around all the Christmas get togethers and church activities. Hectic. I always figured my parents weren't such good planners (or maybe too good). It must be in the genes, though, because many years later my daughter made her grand entrance into the world on, you guessed it, December 19. Five days early. What were the odds of that? I haven't decided if I'm incredibly lucky, or unlucky.

And so it was that last Wednesday, December 19, we had two birthday parties almost on top of each other. The highlight of little Maite's second birthday was a jumping castle. The kids gleefully jumped and bumped around, as I'm convinced all children are genetically programmed to do, no matter what country or culture they're in. They were really thrilled when a couple of the adults got in there with them.

Another party feature was the pinata, Argentine style, which is a balloon filled with candies and toys and white powder(in this case flour), so that it really makes an impression when it pops. There were no blindfolded kids whacking away at paper mache; a little prick with a fork did the trick. Lucas and Maite got the full force of flour explosion. They didn't know their faces were white; they just wanted to know why there was no candy in this pinata. We often make attempts (usually futile) to steer our kids away from candy and pop, so in keeping with our principles, we filled the pinata will little toys, and served the kids homemade fruit slushies instead of pop. I honestly don't think the kids cared that much about the lack of chips, cheese puffs, Coke, candy, etc. (except for the pinata comment) Kids this age (they ranged between 9 months and 5 yrs) don't gauge a party's success on the food served, I've noticed. It was such a hot day, the only things these little people seemed to want was water. We adults sat in the shade of our backyard and drank Luis's homemade beer and ate empanadas.

At around 10pm or so (supposed to have started at 9 pm) people without kids started showing up, bearing gifts for both Maite and me. I don't think the temperature, at that point, was much below 85. We sat around outside, in our backyard, and ate pernil, which is a large meaty cut of beef that has been basted and roasted for 10 hours. It's a new fad here, and it's perfect for large groups. The company we bought the pernil from supply tasty sauces and pan arabe (thin, round bread referred to as "arabic bread"). People put together little sandwiches for themselves, and that is dinner. Yum.

The birthday cake was an original creation of Ana's, that took her the better part of a day: 6 layers, with fruit, cream and dulce de leche (carmelized milk) lathered between the layers. The cake was very tall, and must have weighed 10 pounds. Luis threw in an American twist with a cherry pie, which he made with fresh cherries. That was a new one for people, and pie was scarfed up before I could go for seconds.

People left around 1 am or so. Luis commented that people left early because they had to work tommorrow. I loved that we could celebrate our birthdays on the actual day, a Wednesday, and I could count on everyone showing up, which they all did. Very cool. Thank you Luis and Ana, for two nice parties.

Our Christmas Dragon

I've always kind of thought of the U.S. as a leader in music/dance/theater productions. We've got Disneyland, Vegas, Broadway, and halftimes at sports events. When it comes to school productions, though, Lucas' little preschool puts to shame any school plays I've ever seen. Usually, I think of school auditoriums or gyms, with folding chairs, and homemade costumes. I know about these things: in the second grade I was Rapunzel, crying for a prince from my cardboard tower, which was situated squarely on the gymasium's free throw line.

No free throw lines around here. Jardin de Patri (Lucas' preschool) rented the largest theater in town, the one that hosts the big concerts and plays. The sound system was top notch, as was the fog machine, the lighting, the props. The theme was "A Fantasyland", where each class (there are six classes of 15-20 kids in each group) had a different theme. Lucas's class were dragons. Their costumes were professionally made (the parents paid for them) and all the groups had really lovely, elaborate costumes. The kids danced around, following the movements of their senoritas (teachers) as best they could. Very, very, cute. Impressively, the whole theater was full, and we're talking five hundred people or so. Perhaps what Patri (the owner and director of the preschool) had really wanted to do with her life was produce theatrical productions. . . . she's got a flair for it you generally don't associate with preschool directors.

We've come a long way from my rendition of Rapunzel, with my three foot braids made of yellow yarn.

If you want to see our darling dragon, you can have that pleasure: click here to see the kid who can't stop looking at the lights.