Hazy Days

the shadow of the life to come

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Katie is 12!

katie1There is something about 12 that I cannot quite get my head around. I remember 12. I remember how big I was. And how big I thought I was.  I remember a level of maturity and immaturity that I’m not quite ready to attribute to my own precious Katie. And yet, even as I say that, I have flashes of memories from this past year that highlight facts I can’t deny. My Katie is growing up far quicker than I am comfortable with.

There’s the physical changes – she’s overtaken her sister in height and suddenly she’s able to fit into many of my clothes. I’m beginning to have to watch my wardrobe carefully!  Then there are those moments when I find myself having to look twice: yes, that young lady curled up on my couch is actually my 11-year-old daughter. 11 yesterday. 12 today. 18 tomorrow.

Those 18-year-old moments are like little flashes into the future. Flashes? More like buzzing shocks. Most often, they occur when she teases her dad. Her wit can catch him out these days, and her “Oh, Dad!” responses to his teasing betray a mature confidence – a future Katie – that trips me up everytime. I feel proud and bewildered and utterly amazed at these glimpses. And I love it. I love getting hints of grown-up Kates and imagining a future of coffee dates and shopping trips.

A future…. To think that just a few months ago we lived through an agonising week when the concept of “future Katie” was challenged. It feels like a million years ago, and yet just yesterday all the same. Not quite the usual birthday musings, but as I think back over that time, the memories come fast and furious. Never recorded before; perhaps now is the appropriate time….

It was a week where Katie showcased the whole of who she is in a multitude of ways. And it was a week that I remember with snapshots of vivid clarity. The look on the GP’s face when he recommended an MRI for the unexplained lump on her forehead. The drama year-end celebration and the gymnastics display that we rushed to later that day – celebratory events that the kids absorbed with all the joy and excitement of those celebrating a wonderful year of accomplishment and fun. Celebratory events overshadowed with a nagging sense that not all was right. Yet, Ms Katie, unconcerned. Never one to agonise over life, she reserved her fears for the next day – the day of the MRI. Her fears? Partly for herself, for the unknown of the machine, for the results. But also? For her uncle, our radiologist. For the radiographers. For me. My little 11-year-old sweetness spent the better part of an hour in the claustrophobic innards of the MRI machine, praying. Praying for the people she loves, for the nurses, for her uncle. Her sweet, gentle, caring, compassionate self. Shortly afterwards contrasted with her feisty, don’t-mess-with-me self when dye-injection became necessary. Like anyone, she shed tears of fear when she was hospitalised soon afterwards for a biopsy the next day. Those snapshots in my memory flutter down on top of another – feisty, chatty, warm and loving Katie teasing the nurses; contemplative Katie wondering what the Lord has in store for her; grumpy Katie telling the doctor off – no, I will not get an injection!  Katie, gowned up and heading into surgery, a lonely tear escaping down her cheek. Katie, returning home with a little plastered cut and a heart brimming over with emotion. Katie, sending tear-filled voice notes of thanks to friends and family who had gifted her, loved her, prayed for her.  Katie, confused at the tumultuous sea of emotion she rode for the next week. Katie asking, “why me?” and then, “why not me?”  Oof. Revisiting the memories: gut-kicking stuff.

Perhaps the most vivid of memories are the emotions that accompanied those days. Not knowing if the dreaded C-word would feature in the diagnosis. Not knowing. The hardest part of that week for us all was the not knowing – oscillating between feeling cold, desperate fear and utter, calming peace. Peace. Such an incredibly surreal feeling in the midst of such uncertainty and fear. Sharing the journey with friends and family had both Craig and I marvelling over the power of prayer. A strength we didn’t expect and a certainty in Katie’s ultimate future, no matter the diagnosis or outcome, carried us through the days that followed. How glorious it is to know that this world is not all there is! Even faced with the “what if” we had assurance and peace. Of course, it was not without moments of sadness and tears. But, those moments never happened without assurance, either.  The warmth of good friends and family who gathered around us, showering us with their comfort. I remember one particular moment when two friends hugged me close when the tears spilled over my kitchen island – all while Katie was carefree, life-embracing, fun-loving Katie, enjoying a Star Wars marathon with her buddies! And then, when the final diagnosis of an Eosinophilic Granuloma with potential damage to the dura meant surgery to remove part of her skull, we gathered up our courage to tell Katie. I will never forget that moment. Craig, so gently explaining to the grave little face before him the plans for the week ahead. Katie, nodding through silent tears as she took on board the magnitude of the surgery ahead. Their closeness. My heart. A constricting, breath-gasping love for them both.

And then the surgery. The hours and days following, watching our daughter slowly return to us. Those first 24 hours: the hardest. It was as if our daughter was lost to us, and all that remained was her body. No emotion of any kind passed over her face. The nurses, coming in and out, cared so deeply for their youngest ICU patient. The mothers amongst them tearing up as they made sure I was well cared for as well. And then, my Katie, slowly, slowly, returning to me. Caring, sweet, gentle Katie. Katie, whose first sentence was out of concern for me, “Mom! You haven’t had much sleep. You need to eat!” Katie, who allowed herself to be the subject of the student nurse’s neuro-patient exam, and then was so concerned to hear that she passed. Katie, whose smile returned. Katie, who wanted to gift her doctor and nurses with thank you bundles and spent hours planning and executing her ideas. Katie, who exuded a peace I never expected. Katie, who bounced back in a way so unexpected, the doctors marvelled at the unlikelihood. The black-eyed raccoon-like bruising that was promised? Nothing beyond a little red swelling that disappeared within 36 hours. Katie. The vessel God chose in those weeks to bring glory to His name. How incredible it was to share Jesus with others around us through this time; to hear our daughter speak through deep theological thoughts as she faced the question of “why not me?”; to be a part of the hardest questions people ever ask of themselves and to be able to know, with certainty, that this life is but a snap of the fingers and the best is yet to come. How grateful we felt, to the depth of our souls, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be a part of the best that is yet to come. Yes, we were amazed by our young girl. But, more than that, amazed at our great God.

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The six months since then have relegated those weeks to a chapter passed. Katie’s growth spurt happened within weeks of surgery. School began again. She took up swimming and loves it so much, she’s chosen to do club swimming and is moving up the lanes rapidly. She still creates incredible concoctions of homemade cosmetics and science experiments. She devours books of all kinds. She adores young kids and they adore her – so many seeking her out as their adopted big sister as she creates worlds of play and fun for them. Drama, singing, and dancing still fill her days and again and again she surprises and infuriates me with the raw talent she has. Surprises me, for the incredible displays of song or dance I’ve never quite seen around the house. Infuriates, for if she dedicated just a fraction more time to the discipline of practise, she would far exceed her own expectations! Practise – perhaps the only thing she happily practices is born out of her love for all things make-up: whether stage, special effects or just modelling the models, she will easily spend hours creating incredible combinations. The bedroom carpet stains stand testimony to that! Creating is her thing. So much so, that this year I found myself being worked out of a party-planning job. Even today, she took another aspect out of my hands by planning the food and executing the decor right down to the themed food labels! I could get used to this! But, then again, maybe I won’t. Simply, because every moment of every day with these kids is a gift. Some days that is harder to remember than others. When those teenager moods swing through our home and the nasty, eye-rolling, prideful biting comments are tossed, it’s hard to remember. Especially when I find myself to blame; myself the perpetrator. But, then, with Katie, apologies are readily accepted and heart-hugs follow. My precious girl – so often a real example to me. To God, I am grateful.

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On this 12th birthday, Katie, I am so so grateful to God for these 12 years. For His love. For the woman He is growing you to be. For all the grace, kindness, gentleness, feistiness, care, wit and love you exhibit. For all that He has in store for you. We love you. Happy Birthday.

May 2014

May – the month where summer and winter collide leaving us all dizzy and disorientated.  And peeling off winter layers under sunny skies, only to layer them all on again days later.  But – when the sun shines, it’s glorious!

And shine it did for the Cape Explorers outings we had this month.  Firstly – to Kleinplaas Dam on Red Hill.  A little known gem. Well, little known to us that is.  So much so, I got hopelessly lost and we ended up being 20 minutes late!

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Still, we got there and the kids had a blast:

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Even with all the public holidays in April and May, we managed to power on through most of them and kept up with school.  It also afforded an opportunity for cousin Holly to join us one day to experience “homeschool”! 

We did a yeast experiment that day – trying to determine the best conditions in which yeast grows.  Fun!

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Best part?  When Katie tried to take the balloon off her jar and the bubbling yeast exploded all over her!

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May was the month that Micah finally realised that he actually CAN read!  He’s been learning via a programme called Reading Eggs.  He just has not had the confidence as yet and only when I sat down with him and encouraged him to try read the stories at the end of each lesson did he suddenly realise – he could read!

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Can you see the delight?  I love it!

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We celebrated some family time with the rest of the Hayes clan – and Ali’s 40th!

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We took the kids out for Mexican food one night in May.  Sam is fast becoming our “hot stuff” boy – game to try just about any hot stuff for the fun of it.  Here he goes with a chilli:

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Oooh! Hot!

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Sam’s also taken to wanting to cook and bake on his own.  So here’s his first batch of brownies.  Too sweet!

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Micah coming for a photo op!

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On the way to drop kids off at club on Friday night, this was what greeted me in the clouds – beautiful!

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Movie night at club!

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One howling boy who found himself stuck up a tree!

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A surprise letter and picture from dear friends in Kenya.  Wow how the kids have grown!

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Katie loves that her youngest brother is game to play tea party with her.  Especially during school work breaks. 

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On Tuesday mornings, the boys head down the road to Debbie’s where she does fun and educational things with her boys and mine.  It affords me extra time with the girls.  We’ve also started reading through this book as some extra special girly time.  Speak Love is written to young girls about their words and attitudes.  It deals with the heart and has been quite helpful for conversations about how we treat each other.  She nails the Mean Girl.  I’m really enjoying reading together with my girls a book especially aimed at their hearts.  Of course, indulging in Craig’s Triple Chocolate Muffins at the same time is a super cool bonus!

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We did manage a few playdates in May – this photo was from one with the D family.  I love it because it’s a great memory of the many fun times these kids have together. I also love how they love playing together, despite there being a 6 year age gap from the youngest to the oldest. 

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My Sonlight catalogue finally arrived in the mail.  Yay!  We will most likely start on a Sonlight core in the new year, after having done South African history for the past two years.

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May was our month to vote for the next 5 years of government.  It’s been a while since the kids have seen the process.  We spent a bit of time this month learning about the election process and our history.  The kids spent most of the month speaking about elections, government, leaders, voting and parties.  Craig and I were peppered with questions about who we were voting for and why.  Nothing like real life to educate kids!

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Our church’s annual Food Fair had a rebranding!  We’re now the “Soul Food Market” – thanks to a late night whatsapp brainstorm from our home group.  Go Hayes group! Smile  I got a chance to sell my book. Here’s Sam manning the table.

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We headed up to Hermanus that night, after the market, to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom.  Here are some kiddies at the Spookfontein restaurant.

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Mommies!

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The #Bringbackourgirls campaign has been a big topic of conversation and prayer in our house.  One home-educated young girl put together an awareness video and asked families to contribute photos – here’s Katie’s.  IMG_5366

Here’s the video: http://youtu.be/mmV9aQqf3j0

We had book club at the Warton’s this month.  Katie wanted to come with so that she could spend some time with the Warton girls.  All the Warton girls have babysat our children at some point in their lives.  And the kids love them!  So, while I was enjoying delicious tea snacks, great books and company in the lounge, Katie joined Liesl in the kitchen.  I love this photo below for so many reasons – it’s a kitchen that buzzes with joy, fellowship and happiness.  People are the heartbeat here.  It’s filled with wonderful people – people I love.  And the fact that I get to share these special people with my own daughter – and she gets it; she loves them as much as I do, well, it’s just awesome.  She had a blast helping peel and cut potatoes for their 18 people dinner that night!    

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Kiera’s on a Matilda the Musical craze at the moment.  She watched an X Factor on Youtube some months back and loved a piece done by a young girl.  A little googling and she discovered the piece was an item from the Matilda musical on West End.  Well, we’ve not heard the end of it since.  She now knows all the songs by heart, choreographed a modified version of the item “Naughty” and taught it to her best friend.  Then they showed it to their drama teacher.  Well, they now have TWO items for their drama eistedfodd this year.  One being the monologue they each do on their own and the second being their musical item – “Naughty” from Matilda the Musical.  Here the girls are all dressed up for their “dress rehearsal”.  Too cute!

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We’ve been hard at school work this month.  Even if it means we don’t keep to one particular dress code!

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When I took this photo, Kiera said “hey, look, ma! Katie and I are the ‘koeksusters’!”  Katie was making supper (mash potatoes with crumbed chicken fillets and veg) and Kiera was baking banana bread. 

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If memory serves me correctly, this was the same day that we had a reporter from the Cape Argus come to interview us about home education.  They did a great article that highlights some of the concerns about registration of home educated children.  They also gave home education a super promo!  More on that in next month’s update.  But here are the photos off their Facebook page:

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I’ve been wanting to see Blood Brothers for ages now.  It’s a West End musical that was adapted for a South African context by David Kramer.  The story takes place in the 1960s in District Six, then moving onto the Cape Flats – apartheid the backdrop of a story of love and loss.  It was at the Fugard theatre.  We’ve never been there.  I booked the front seats, because our experience has been so positive – front seats are usually cheap seats, but they are also great seats.  But these ones were CLOSE.  We sat down next to a couple who got chatting to me straight away.  It was a wonderful conversation that turned spine-tingling in mere moments.  Turned out that the lady I was talking to had lived in Harfield Village.  Her mother was the principal of the Methodist school in Second Avenue.  She had managed to avoid forced removals, first by being exempt for the year the school was coming to a close.  Then by totally ignoring the government’s notices to move!  What a feisty lady!  She is still living in Harfield Village at the age of 95.  I was marvelling at the similarities in her story to my character – a man, principal of a school, living in Harfield Village, expected to leave due to the Group Areas Act.  And then she told me that her mother’s name is Mrs Hendricks.  Hendricks – just like Mr Hendricks in my story.  The one, totally fictitious.  The other, the real deal.  Wow.  The show itself was brilliant, but the entire evening was made all the more amazing by the conversations I got to enjoy with Dorothy and her husband during interval and before.   IMG_5431

We’ve been doing Table Talk (Good Book Company) for our devotional times in the morning.  There’s a free timeline that’s offered if one writes in.  Well, I wasn’t expecting one per child or this awesome letter!  Really good stuff!

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The sun shines and then the clouds roll in.  But, we can still enjoy an afternoon walk – love, love, LOVE the Alphen trail.

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Katie’s really improved in her attitude towards school work.  She’s so much more responsible and it’s awesome!  Here she’s using the window as a light table – tracing the Western Cape.

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We’ve been studying blood in our Science times together.  We did a fun hands on “model” of blood with honey (plasma), red powdered food colouring (red blood cells), white jelly beans (white blood cells) and candied sprinkles (platelets).  They kids had an absolute blast!

Loads of laughs and fake grossed-outedness!

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It was one of our favourite experiments this year!

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Fun!

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We also experimented with making corn bread – a la Trekboers – well, it was all good in theory but no one wanted to eat this brick!

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Lunch Bunch continues as always – love, love, LOVE this group.  Here Kiera is listening to Caren share tips for drawing.

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These two!  Love them!

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This photo kills me – laughing!  I asked Micah what he was doing and he said, “Mama, I was sliding!  I couldn’t help it!”

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Reading aloud from Secret Seven – love it!

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And learning how to draw some more…

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More Cape Explorers!  Woohoo!  Again to Simonstown for a fun outing of adventure scavenger hunt.

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After our outing, we joined the R family for a visit to the Toy Museum… 

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The favourite was definitely the running train set in the middle of the store.

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I had fun taking photos – trying to make it look real!

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Ok – enough with the overkill of train photos.  Here’s some of the historical figurines.  I have no idea who would collect these, but they’re pretty awesome. Imagine learning history by playing with these. 

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Kiera had her first gymnastics competition for the year in May.  Two weeks before the contest, she still couldn’t do a hip circle on the bar.  She was pretty convinced that she should not compete.  She really struggled and was seriously considering quitting this year.  But, she agreed to keep her commitment to the end of the year.  Lots of chats about persevering and working to one’s personal potential.  She took it all on board.  Worked hard and finally got the hip circle. 

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She had an absolute ball at the competition.  Here she is with her teammates waiting for the prize-giving.

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Best part?  She had absolutely no idea that she had won!  Her joy was too precious.  Her first time on the podium for an overall win.  But for me it was double joy, because she had put so much hard work into it. 

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Love her joy!

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Her friend, Lea, had come to watch along with Katie – love it.

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May ended with Katie’s 10th birthday party – fun times!

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And so ends – May 2014!

Katie’s 10th Birthday Day

The morning of the 3rd FINALLY arrived.  Katie has been counting down the days, full of excitement at the thought of finally turning 10.  We feel that 10 is pretty special and since Ms Kiera got a lovely bike for her 10th, we thought long and hard about a special gift for Ms Katie.

After much deliberation, we got her…

Cadbury’s Mint Bubbly!

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She also got a rug for her room and a tablet.

Now before my future self reads this and shrieks, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” let me explain our reasoning.

We were going to get her an mp3 player.  She finds it so much easier to get on with chores and schoolwork if she’s listening to music (Kai?!) – her own mp3 player would facilitate that nicely.  But, then we’ve been umming and ahhing about computers and tablets, because the kids all rely on my iPad for a lot of their educational apps like Spelling City and Maths Drills.  Katie doesn’t have a computer, so she has to wait to use mine or one of the netbooks in order to write emails and do research online.  When we looked at mp3 options and computer options, we realised that it would be cheaper and make more sense to get a Samsung tablet for under R2k that she could use exclusively for school work, music, research and all that jazz. 

Of course, we did discuss it a lot and finally decided to go with it.  We loaded a special app that only allows access to pre-selected apps and presented her with the biggest surprise birthday gift ever!

Also known as a birthday contract.

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She wasn’t super happy about all the rules (only 2 hours’ a day max?!) but the prospect of no tablet vs limited tablet was a no-brainer.  She signed.

And when her Granny and Grandpa gifted her with a cover for the tablet, she was A for away!

Selfie time with the family.

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As is always the case with Ms Katie “Gadget Girl” Hayes, she has the entire thing figured out and knows all the shortcuts and is already making movies, downloading apps (with permission) and so on.  The tablet is loaded with K9 web protection and she only has access to the K9 web browser – to protect her from stumbling into the shadier neighbourhoods of the Internet.  And the app we’ve got loaded protects her from herself – not so necessary now, but a precaution that we prefer to have in place as a precedent.

Another “being 10” bonus is that they get to taste their first coffee.  I’m not big on kids and coffee, so the idea is that once in a VERY blue moon they can have.  Such a blue moon that Kiera has actually never had her first coffee yet and she’s almost 12.  Yes, I’ve been delaying the 10 thing. 

So, with Dad at work and unable to do his Daddy date with Katie until the weekend, and the boys at their friends’ house, I got to take the girls for a coffee date.

Katie all smiles before her first coffee latté.

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Yeah, not so much.  Neither of the girls were particularly thrilled with the taste of coffee. Sorted!

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We had grandparents around for tea and cake.  And then dinner was Katie’s great favourite – SUSHI!  Yum.  Plus, mint choc ice-cream with kit-kats:

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All in all, she was thrilled with all the birthday buzz!  Happy 10th birthday, Kates!

Katie’s 10th Birthday Party

This year, Katie wanted a Movie Party.  She had so enjoyed her sister’s movie party the year before – the novelty of a movie, the fun games and the night-time element were all draw cards.  She also has dozens of friends from all over.  So it was quite a feat to organise numbers.  Eventually, I decided to loosen our “10 kids only” precedent and allowed for 10 families only.  She was delighted!  It meant 22 kids in total.  But, what a jol!

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Epic was the chosen movie.  And so pre-movie games were along that theme.  Starting with a version of “Who Am I?”

Each child had a leaf with a bird or a bug on it.  They had to go around asking the other kids questions that could only be answered “yes” or “no” – am I a bird? do I have wings? am I brown?  It was great fun and the kids had a blast!

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Next, we did Broken Telephone – mime version.  Instead of whispering the sentence, the kids had to act out the sentence.  Loads of laughs from beginning to end!2014-05-311

Then – movie time!  22 kids fit into the playroom quite well!  And after an hour of noise, Craig could relax and enjoy prepping supper in peace.

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Break for supper…

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Sticking to the theme – floating bugs in the water! Smile

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Back to the movie – while Craig finished the cake.  I suggested he used the kitkat cake idea that’s been circling around Pinterest.  He took the idea and ran with it.  Katie wanted ice-cream (mint) and chocolate mousse – so I suggested that for the cake and, well, Craig ran with it! 

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The slug from Epic and a couple of leaves.  My only contributions to the cake were ideas, making the fondant icing (from marshmallows – so cool!) and the leaves.  Craig did the rest – including modeling the slug from Epic out of marshmallow fondant.  So cool.

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Dessert about 3/4 the way through the movie – cake and candles! 

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And – wow – this was by far the most successful cake from an edible perspective.  The kids devoured it and came back for more.  Craig was super chuffed!

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Can you see the excitement!?

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Yum yum!

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Parents arrived shortly before the movie ended – most came through the front door along with the wind and the rain.  Rather them than me!  The kids had an absolute blast.  Holly got to stay for gift opening and by 9pm they were all in bed.  I followed suit – exhausted after a day of people and party. (No pictures of the gift-opening, but a little before gift-opening picture – my crazy girls.  I love it!)

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