Thursday, May 10, 2012

Annika’s Berlin Birthday


Annika turned 4 on Sunday.  The past 3 years she has had birthday parties that I have planned and executed, and I was just no in the mood to do it this year.  This is not because I don’t enjoy celebrating Annika’s birthday.  Quite the contrary, I love celebrating birthdays, it is the planning to which I am averse.  We also have visitors from the US right now, and didn’t want to force them to party with a bunch of German speaking preschoolers.  So instead of a big party this year, we hung out, just the 6 of us and had a great time.

Annika woke up in the morning and came into the room where we were sleeping to get us.  When I told her happy birthday, she looked and me, her eyes grew big with surprise, and then she exclaimed, “It’s my birthday today?  It’s my birthday today!!!”  She jumped up and down and then came in for a snuggle.  It was a great start to the day.  She even waited until her semi-jet-lagged grandparents woke up to open her presents, which was quite an accomplishment.  Her presents this year in no particular order:

-A stuffed dog named Bibombl
-A plastic mug with her name on it (which we NEVER could have found at home!!!)
-Package of 10 suckers
-Sidewalk Chalk
-Hello Kitty “T-Ball” (which really is more like a pogo stick and has nothing to do with baseball or anything related to it. 
-A set of 4 plastic horses in a stable with tools for taking care of them.  (Ani: Mommy, what’s this shovel for?  Me: For cleaning out the stable when the horses make messes.  Andy: Do plastic horses poop Ani?  Ani: Ah, yes, just pretend poop though.) 
-Horseback riding lessons one day a week with her friend for the rest of our time here!!!

After her present-extravaganza, we went to mass and then headed over to brunch at the closest café.  It was such a scrumptious German breakfast buffet that we already made reservations for next week!  Hopefully next week we will get the lovely girl who was so excited to practice her English with us again.  We even specified that we’d like the table directly next to the play area so that hopefully Andy and I can just sit and watch the kids play instead of running back and forth from our table to make sure they are staying in the play area and not terrorizing random Omas trying to brunch or waitresses carrying large trays of cappuccinos.  I really don’t enjoy the looks of death any more, and honestly should be better at just letting it all slide off my shoulders instead of weighing me down at this point.  (More room for self-improvement, obviously.) 

We took the train into the city to explore a little and let the gentle rocking of the S-Bahn sway Mayzie to sleep.  It almost put us all to sleep with our full bellies, but we exited at Nordbahnhof before anyone started snoring.  We meandered through the Bernauerstrasse Memorial to the Berlin Wall and I had fun showing off my somewhat expansive knowledge of German/Berlin history.  My dad usually shows me up in this aspect, so it was nice to be the unquestioned expert for once.  Annika did manage to get kicked out of the church in the middle of the memorial, as she was being loud, disrespectful, and jumpy while we were in there.  I suppose the real question should be, why did we even bother letting her go inside?  The answer is: I don’t know! 

The Mauerpark was filled to the brim, as usual on Sundays, and we walked down to watch some of the performers.  Annika fell asleep in the stroller, so naturally Mayzie woke up only 2 minutes later.  We sat in the outdoor amphitheater and watched the ballet dancing acrobatic hilarious mime perform again.  Annika had stolen the show from her the previous Sunday when she brought her on stage and found out just how badly Ani follows directions.  It was hilarious, though sadly the lighting was not conducive to phone photography.  This week the show was briefly interrupted by a very intoxicated man whose face was oozing and slightly bleeding from what looked like either a concrete face plant or bar fight wound, and he was yelling at the audience to shut up.  He was super creepy and frankly I just wanted to stay away from him.  (More another time about other scary people we’ve encountered.)  We actually got to stay until the end of her whole act, which is probably because Annika was asleep for at least ½ of it, dazed for ¼, and amazed for the last ¼.  She even recognized Annika when she put money into her hat at the end.  

After the girls played on the playground for a while, we trekked through the market that was still brimming with people.  Have you ever tried to push a double stroller over somewhat muddy rocky terrain teeming with people from edge to scrap metal fenced edge?  I don’t recommend it.  We had fun perusing the wares though, and even stopped for a bite to eat and a beverage.  The fish was questionable that we ordered—as in, we really have NO idea what the heck kind of fish it was and Annika was the only one brave enough to eat it.  BUT: the Vegetarian fare I had was OUTSTANDING, despite the geographic/cultural origins of it being completely unidentifiable—probably a mish-mash anyway. 

We took the train and bus home and had some yummy store bought crème cake topped with a silly elephant, then briefly skyped with some family at home.  The girls had a bath, and Mayzie went straight to bed and wouldn’t even let me sing her a lullaby she was so tired.  Ani got to stay up a little later to play a round of the “scary game” that Nana got her for Christmas.  While playing the game, we all realized just how great Andy’s German has gotten when he didn’t wait for me to translate most anything and moved the pieces as the talking box of the game gave instructions.  Our new 4 year old went to bed without incident afterward, and we all stayed up later than we meant to talking and catching up on things. 

Of the 30 pictures I took of her with the cake, this is sadly the best one:
As noted previously, the girl does not like to sit still!  

The day was by no means perfect.  Both kids had several screaming-mimis, Andy & I both got frustrated with each other, we made the grandparents walk far too much, we had too much trouble finding a restroom, the weather was a little too cold (not quite 60), and we should have gone into the market earlier to avoid the crowds.  BUT: It was really just so great spending time together!  I’m still debating whether I want to cultivate a selective memory or change my perception of what the perfect day is.  Perhaps a little of both is the best route. 

So, Annika turned 4, and we had an amazing Berliner day with our visitors!  We need the practice for these outings too, because we have a whole slew of visitors on their way in the near future.  Happy happy birthday dearest Ani!  I hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.  

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