While sending an email to Daniel, I just realized that I never said anything about Rachel's birthday. She turned four the week before last, and boy does she "get it". She completely understands that her birthday is a big deal (at least to everyone else, which makes it a big deal for her) and that she'll get presents and have a party (or parties).
In fact, this year she had FOUR parties. That's right. Four. "For a four-year-old", she would say. God help us if she's having parties based on her age in the future...
The first party was a small one, actually on her birthday, with a few friends from school - when we were talking about this one, she kept saying that she wanted to invite Louise, one of the neighbors. The problem is that we wanted to keep it small, since it was a week day night, and inviting Louise means inviting the rest of the neighborhood, of whom Rachel is one of 13 kids under the age of 10. She didn't really understand about having a small weeknight party and a large weekend day party (as opposed to the concept of having two parties, which she also fully understood and was very very pleased with), so we eventually just didn't invite Louise and it wound up not being a big deal. Anika, Tessa, Xin-Xin, Jesse, and Chimi. Tessa and Rachel were the first to walk out the back and see the Disney princess (it's inescapable, so don't even try) table cloth and cardboard castle. This led to much shrieking. A fabulous time was had by all.
The second was a family party Friday evening. Short, to the point, and not chaotic. Dawn's father came up for the weekend, which was nice.
The third was the neighborhood party (including Louise, finally) on Saturday afternoon. Scheduled for 2-4, it lasted past 6 because the kids were having such a great time & every one is so comfortable in that mode. We often have impromptu BBQs, block parties, etc., just because we all happen to be home. It happens a lot. We have a picture from when we'd been living here for about 3 months and the next door neighbors brought a couch they were thinking of getting rid of down to the street ... four neighborhood mothers sitting on the sofa with their respective children climbing/sitting/lying (depending on ages, which were all under 2 at the time) around. Cupcakes from Love at First Bite. Crafts. Climbing. Flipping (which involves my 6'4" height & long arms). And shrieking. Always shrieking with girls.
Finally, a week later, she had her fourth, which is a party the school throws on the last Friday of each month for any kids whose birthday falls in the month. It's really quite cute; everyone sits in a circle and each kid walks once for each year around a candle (the sun) with placards for the months around it, carrying a small globe while a parent reads things about the child in the first year. Then everyone goes outside for snacks the children helped the teachers make. No sugar (they use stevia instead - 0 carbs, 0 calories, natural). No dried fruit. No other junk.
Luckily, her next birthday is actually a year away, even though she said repeatedly that "after a week" she'd be 5.