Monday, August 18, 2008

Aleks' Birthday List Fulfilled

Since I told the whole family about Aleks' Birthday List, my mother went to great lengths to ensure that what he wanted was fulfilled. Firstly, she drove clear across town to the Krispy Kreme factory to acquire doughnuts for breakfast that were not only delicious, but hot off the factory line. She also brought back hats. From left to right, Bastian, Jon, Lavinia, Aleks, and Jonas. Lavinia and Jonas spent the night with their mom, Anna, at my mother's farm (for lack of a better word, though it's only five acres and not a working farm). Aunt Lilly, my little sister, road the Megabus down from school in Chicago especially for Aleks' big day. Aunt Natty was unfortunately stuck in France, plotting her premature escape from the Riviera where she'd spent the last several weeks acting as an au pair for a snobbish rich family. She could no longer stomach it, quit and ran away to Paris in the wee hours of the morning.
Everyone took a turn with the hats. I am cruel and put photos of Anna without makeup online.
As we waited for the guests to arrive, Aleks opened the gift from Lilly, which included a Millennium Falcon key chain and an Exo-force Lego set, both from the Lego store in Chicago, which we hope to visit with Max and Otto some day. Aleks and Jonas immediately set to work constructing the robot spider thing.
Throughout the day, Bastian broke into the chicken pen to chase chickens.
His older cousins were all a little wary of catching them, but Bastian showed 'em how to do it: you simply grab the tail of the nearest hen, get a grip on the body and hug.
Braden was eventually successful in grabbing one of his own. Grandpa Jim tells us this is actually a rooster, though I'm not certain. It doesn't look like a rooster to me, but when you order twenty-five chickens (or more) from McMurray Hatchery, you get a 26th random "rare" chick free and it's always a rooster, even if you asked that they sex all the other eggs to be female.
Aleks is an old pro at chicken chasing, but it's Bastian's bravery that gave him the motivation to grab hold and squeeze.
Jonas was all upset about something and while his mother tried to talk to him about it on the side porch, I noticed this Giant Crane Fly on one of the posts. I knew what it was immediately as just the other day I'd been reading Piglet68's unschooling blog and she and her daughter had discovered one in their garage. I'd never seen one before, so it was quite exciting. Plus they're huge! Apparently in the UK and Canada they call these Daddy Long Legs. Here in the states, Daddy Long Legs are Harvestmen Insects, which everyone thinks is a spider, but is not. These are much bigger than Harvestmen.
During the early spring, Aunt Natty had started making a piñata for her boss at the restaurant she worked at when he requested that someone make him one. It was supposed to be a lion, I think, though I don't have any recollection of what it was for. She got a balloon filled up and a thin layer of paper mâché done when she found out her boss went ahead and bought one. She brought her unfinished work home, thinking Aleks and Bastian could do something with it. We left it at my mother's house and Grandma Cat got the idea to make a piñata for Aleks' birthday. She had Aunt Lilly put some legs and a tail on the rotund frame in order to make it resemble a pig. When we arrived on Friday, Lilly and I painted it purple with green spots according to Aleks' instructions. It ended up looking more like a manatee with legs than anything, and an oddly colored one at that.
Papa Logan got all stressed out about the kids flinging a stick around and about their lining up to take a swing. We ignored him. Bastian went first, as we ordered the line from youngest to oldest.
Then was Aleks and Bastian's cousin Emmalyn, who is 4. My step-sister and I had four kids in about four-and-a-half years. For six weeks every sumer, they're in perfect age order. Since Noah turned 7 in July, we are past that six week mark now.
Then Lavinia, who is also 4.
Then Aleks who is my big boy at 6!
Then Noah who turned 7 July 17th, which is also our good friend Martha's birthday, though she turned 53.
Noah did it! The manapig went flying and broke in half. The kids scrambled for healthy treats, which included miniature activity books, fruit leather, mini telescopes, and plastic insect finger puppets, which are always a good time. Who ever heard of a healthy piñata? How disappointing! I was quite thrilled, myself, as the children had started the day with doughnuts and moved on to ice cream and cake.
Since Braden, at age 12, missed his turn, he destroyed the rest of our pig/manatee in the yard.
Last year at Sunfest, some French rockers who were makin' eyes at me in the Hilton pool thought Lilly and Matt were the parents of my children because they were playing with them while I took a dip in the hot tub. This picture of Matt and Bastian playing with the Star Wars "guys" Matt got Aleks for his birthday makes them look like they are the proud parents to one Sebastian Diego. They're a little young, but they make such a cute family.
Grandma Cat got this awesome idea to buy a hand-crank ice cream maker and a raw milk share to make ice cream to go with our cake. The milk share didn't come through in time, but we made the ice cream - sweet cream flavor. All the kids took a turn.
I'm reminded of our wedding when for some reason we did the Limbo (which I'd thereforto never done in my life). All the photographers commented on how easy it was to record the guests by just standing at the end of the line. Same goes with getting the kids in action, making the ice cream (and hitting the piñata as well).
Grandma Cat figures that once environmental catastrophe combined with a falling dollar and skyrocketing prices on everything leads to a severe Depression (zombie apocalypse), we'll be able to make our own fun. We'll probably need a cow too, though.
Someone said something about Bastian having one facial expression. I pointed out that he was simply concentrating. They thought he looked unhappy. I caught his attention briefly and he did smile for me. He was quite enjoying this actually, but needed a serious face in order to focus.
The cannister spins in the bucket of ice. Rock salt is added to the top, forcing the ice to melt, which absorbs the temperature of the cream solution and lowers the overall temp from 32 degrees to somewhere between 8 to 12. Or something like that:
Rock salt forces the ice surrounding the can of ice cream mix to melt. The "brine solution" or liquid that forms in the wooden bucket absorbs heat from the mix and gradually lowers the temperature of the mix until it begins to freeze. If there were no salt added to the ice, it would melt at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and eventually the ice water and mix would come to equilibrium at 32 degrees. The ice cream mix, however, does not begin to freeze until its temperature falls below 27 degrees. Therefore, in order to freeze the mix, we need a salt concentration, or a ratio of 5 cups of ice to 1 cups of salt. At this concentration, our brine temperature should remain constant at 8 to 12 degrees F. This will give the rapid cooling and freezing that is essential to making smooth creamy ice cream.

The mix looked pretty gross after, what with the milk mixture Grandma Cat spilled while pouring, plus the salt and the melty ice water.
My mom made a sour milk cake, which has turned into the go-to for birthdays. That happened sometime in the last few years, though I can't recall quite why exactly. I guess everyone just loves it. Braden does not like icing, I am told, so Cat left a corner of the cake uncovered just for him.
Aleks was so thrilled with being the birthday boy.

After cake and delicious (if soft) homemade ice cream, Aleks and Bastian led a sudden expedition up the fallen tree branch that's been in the yard the last three years. It's still somewhat attached so the smaller branches still produce leaves. It's quite sturdy, but made Papa Logan have his usual freak-out.
None of the younger kids but Bastian and Aleks could actually make it up the tree.
Even Braden found it tricky making it all the way up.
Since Papa Logan was freaking out, and getting back down the tree is quite a bit more difficult, Jon and I grabbed a ladder to save the children from sitting up there indefinitely.
They were okay with the rescue, as it gave them the opportunity to climb down a ladder.
After the rescue, I looked up to the back patio to see everyone standing up, as though something very dramatic was happening. As they hadn't been standing when everyone got in the tree, I was confused why the sudden commotion now that everyone was out of the tree. As it happens, they were all observing a Snowberry Clearwing Moth in the butterfly bush. Papa Logan claimed it was a Queen Hornet, which made no sense to me. Grandma Cat said it was a fairy. Everyone else was completely confused, thinking it looked like a cross between a bee, a humming bird, and a butterfly. Sure enough, what we saw was a Hummingbird Moth. I had seen them before, but never had the cause of a blog to actually remember to google the dang things. They are weird, for sure.
In trying to photograph the fairy/hummingbird/moth/bee, I also spied this Wheel Bug.
After things died down, we captured the Giant Crane Fly and the Wheel Bug (plus a second Wheel Bug nearby) and stuck them in our hermit crab box for awhile. We tried to find things for them to eat, but nobody ate anything. They were all quite frightened of one another though. In the evening, we left the box open for them to escape and it was empty the next day. It's interesting, because we first found an Assassin Bug last year during Aleks' birthday, along with a huge Praying Mantis. Grandma Cat's house is clearly surrounded by awesome insects.
While Anna and I roamed the yard trying to collect Japanese Beetles to feed the Wheel Bugs, Bastian laid down for a nap in the center of the yard. I don't think he fell asleep fully, but he stayed here for quite a bit, soaking up the evening sun.

All things considered, Aleks' Birthday list was not quite fulfilled, though it was supplemented with other activities that I believe made it all quite worth it. Let us review:
  • have donuts for breakfast
  • eat ice cream and birthday cake
  • pick tomatoes - not accomplished, though Aleks seemed to have forgotten about it anyway
  • dig for treasure and toys in the sandbox ✓ - Grandma Cat bought boxes of chalk, which we buried and the kids all dug up and got to take home as favors
  • feed the chickens ✓ - mostly they chased them though
  • play video games on the television - not accomplished, though attempted. Video games were played online, however
  • have a race - suggested, but not actually attempted, as Jonas did not feel like racing
  • receive presents
  • talk on the phone with Jonas while standing beside him - not accomplished, much to my disappointment. The bizarreness of this request made me really want to see it and document it. I think they have actually done it before, though, so it's no real loss.


Anna said...

Heartless. That picture of me is awful. You can totally tell that I only had about three hours of sleep. the rest of the blog I have no objection to. :P

becks said...

happy birthday aleks! happy mamaversary to you dear anna! looks like you all had a blast. those photos made me long for ohio.