In a total Rip Van Winkle moment, I woke up yesterday to the stunning realization that nine years have passed while I’ve been sleeping. I mean, maybe hustling through the never ending work of raising a family instead of sleeping, but it numbs your awareness of time much like sleeping, until you wake up at the exact moment a crowd of friends is huddled around your child singing “Happy Birthday Dear Nella….”, and this grown child is smiling, blowing out a candle; and the number “9” catches your attention, and…”Wait—what?!”
Nine years, folks. The first day of her life felt like an entire year of painfully holding my breath; and then the following nine years rushed by, sweeping me away in delight that has felt like one steady satisfying exhale. Tomorrow is her actual birthday which means tonight I will travel back into the abyss of computer folders and journal entries–the portal to that room, that day, those moments. And the moral to the never ending story is…celebration and gratitude for the incredible ways our children surprise us, delight us and teach us with another year.
Yesterday we celebrated with friends with a Mad Science themed birthday party. We’ve checked off so many themes within our family now, finding ways to incorporate our children’s most beloved things (Barbies! Spaghetti! Wands!). Now, I just throw out a bunch of ideas and see what hooks them. Nella loved the idea of making slime and doing experiments, so a Mad Science party it was. The bonus was that I had some party things stashed away from our Halloween parties that I knew would double for Mad Science decor. And since so many things qualify as science (bugs! rocks! chemistry! crystals!), it made it easy to decorate.
The hanging molecules are ball pit balls with dowel rods poked into them (poked a little hole first with the end of scissors–didn’t need glue though, they held on their own) and hung with fishing line (thanks, Pinterest).
The Dissect-a-Frog kits were just chocolate frogs made with green candy melts and this frog mold (I added sugar eye balls) served in a grill drip pan with a plastic knife, ruler and frog anatomy diagram I printed from the Internet.
The “Bacteria Jello” is lime jello set in petri dishes with some cake sprinkles added just before serving (should have sprinkled less–the dye taste was a little strong with so many).
The Periodic Table is a sheet of wrapping paper from Paper Source.
And rock candy made the perfect “rock crystals” favor.
This party was such a fun one to host because my inner teacher had the chance to reemerge for all the experiments.
We watched balloons blow up on their own from the carbon dioxide created in the chemical reaction of mixing baking soda (spooned in to a balloon) with vinegar (at the bottom of the water bottle).
The kids each took turns breaking open their own geodes to find crystals inside (we used this set).
We tested the density of different liquids by layering them in test tubes (we used honey, colored corn syrup, dish detergent, oil and colored water).
My dad attempted to make a hard boiled egg pass through the opening of a glass bottle with a lit match inside, but it wouldn’t work. He tried to fudge the results by shoving the egg in with his hand, but the egg broke apart into a mess of shredded eggs, and the kids were all laughing and yelling, “It’s a fail!” Science is tricky.
By far, the favorite “experiment” was creating slime, the phase that seems to never die. We are going on nearly three years, and they’re still completely enthralled.
Lainey led this session because she has, like, 600 hours of YouTube D.I.Y.s under her belt.
She swears by the simple ingredient list of Elmer’s glue, Tide detergent (just a little at a time added), optional shaving cream (to make it fluffy) and a few drops of food coloring.
A little pepper sprinkled on a plate of water with a toothpick dipped in dish soap created another impressive experiment for the kids (see it done here).
But all the oohs and ahhs came from the magical flying wish paper. Each of Nella’s friends was asked to write down a wish for Nella, and they all took turns watching their wish be magically transformed when I rolled up the paper and lit it on fire.
I told them the wish would come true if it lifted into the sky. And one by one, each wish lifted and floated away.
A little drop of dry ice adds the science to any party.
Nella didn’t know if she was supposed to blow the candle out or the fog.
As for Nella’s participation in her party this year and her interaction with friends, it was a really good year for that. Special needs can present challenges when it comes to socialization which sometimes makes things like birthday parties tricky. We’ve invited friends over before and have been disappointed when Nella runs off to her room and wants nothing to do with anyone, and we’ve had to figure out what works best over the years. But we haven’t given up, and I feel like we’ve discovered–at least for now–what works well in keeping everyone connected and happy at parties (perhaps I should dedicate a post to socializing and friendships with special needs?). One thing that helps a lot is hiring a baby sitter Nella really loves to help out at parties. That way, if Nella needs a break from people, her babysitter can orchestrate a small group game in Nella’s bedroom. She didn’t need any breaks this year though, and our babysitter was so helpful at keeping the kids connected. I also have to give a lot of credit to Nella’s friends and their families. They know Nella so well–they coax her into things she’s hesitant to do, they love and embrace her precious quirks, and they continually astound me with their compassion and ability to speak Nella’s own special language. Their parents do a good job of teaching their children how to be good friends and it shows.
And on this ninth year, that is what I am most grateful for. I could hardly imagine in my cloud of fear, holding that baby nine years ago, that this is what life would look like–this huddle of love that has followed her all these years.
Our little scientist continues to bring so much joy.
…and we can’t wait to celebrate her real birthday all over again tomorrow.