''Oh, a Very Merry Un-birthday to me, to me ...'

Birthday breakfast mini-cake.

Birthday breakfast mini-cake.

I remember desperately wishing my birthday would fall in the summer months.  Summer is definitely the best season for birthdays in Canada.  The very luckiest June/July/August-born Canuck kids get to have pool parties, splash around all afternoon, cool off with cherry and banana popsicles, and finish it off with barbecued hot dogs, ice cream cake and gift openings around a picnic table or under a beach parasol.  

When Kiddo was born in July, I was like ''YES!  I can now live vicariously through my daughter, re-inventing a childhood of dreary-month-of-March birthdays as luau parties!''  (Insert fist pump here!)

Unfortunately, Kiddo only got to enjoy one Canadian summer birthday, because when she was fourteen months we packed up and headed for the ME.  

And so my one chance at redeeming those pool party dreams got quashed because, quite frankly, July birthdays in Qatar suck.  The reasoning behind my disenchantment:

  1. It's 300 C in Doha in July.  It is the hottest month of the year on average.  People have successfully fried an egg on pavement.  (Bacon would probably work too, but public pork roastings would be frowned upon in these parts.)
  2. Humidity in Doha in July sits at about 98%.  Most mornings sunglasses are useless as they fog up the very moment you step out the door.  The hair on your arms starts to frizz, toenails start to sweat, and it's so humid sometimes even cigarettes won't burn.
  3. When it's not humid, it's windy.  And either way, it's still really flipping hot.  When the wind combines with the heat, it's like walking into the blast furnace from Hell.
  4. Last year, this year and next, Kiddo's birthday fall smack dab in Ramadan, which means no drinking, eating or general cavorting during daylight hours.  Which means no trips to the water park, nor to the movies, nor to one of the dozens of indoor amusement parks until 7:00 p.m.
  5. There are about 12 kids left in Doha over the summer months.  June marks the exodus of most stay-at-home expat moms and kids.  I think Kiddo is officially the only 9-year-old in town today.
4:30 p.m. on a weekday afternoon in July ... it's still daylight, but the dust is blocking the sun.  

4:30 p.m. on a weekday afternoon in July ... it's still daylight, but the dust is blocking the sun.  

So it is that every year we plan an ''un-birthday'' in May, before the sweltering summer exodus.  Two years ago was a beauty salon theme, last year Master Chef, this year Inner Artist.  Although always a resounding success because of our tendency to overcompensate (working parent guilt, only child, and all that), we are still endlessly at a loss come the real deal in July.

Last year the three of us went to Paul's at sunset.  Paul's is a little mall bistro that makes Kiddo's favourite buffalo mozza sandwich.  This year, Kiddo asked if we could order pizza from Fabio's.  Since tomorrow's a working day, we were more than fine with that.  

(Speaking of work, this year, her birthday also gives me a legitimate excuse to skip the work team-building 10:00 p.m. Sohur.  While I'm up for any excuse to enjoy a meal at one of Doha's finest hotel's Ramadan tent, the thought of supper at 11:00 p.m. and bedtime at 2:00 a.m. on a work night makes me shudder.)

So last night I made preps for today, the Big Day, the True Birthday, the 9th Anniversary of Kiddo's birth.  I set about making mega muffins for her to bring to Summer Camp today.  One batch of vanilla and one batch of chocolate.  No nuts, just in case.  I also made a tiny cake in a mini-loaf pan.  For Kiddo's birthday breakfast - a mix of chocolate and vanilla.

Then I set about making home-made icing ... my first time attempt!  And it was delicious, albeit a bit runny ...

Next ... the cake.  Every year, I seem to top the baking atrocity of years past.  As much as I love to cook, I am decidedly NOT a baker.  NOR am I a cake decorator.  Nonetheless, I always give it my best.  This year, I decided I would make a piano cake since Kiddo has been doing so well at piano and all.  Convinced it would be my greatest masterpiece EVER, I proceeded to produce THIS:

It looked so much better on Pinterest ...  still, I admit I'm still smarting somewhat from the gales of laughter this picture evoked when I showed it to the folk at work.

It looked so much better on Pinterest ...  still, I admit I'm still smarting somewhat from the gales of laughter this picture evoked when I showed it to the folk at work.

Chef d'oeuvre complete, I began wrapping gifts.  I always look forward to gift wrapping.  Until I actually sit down and start.  Then I get really grumpy.  So it was last night.  Three paper cuts (on wrapping paper ... how does one DO that?) before even getting started.

The first wrap was fancy indeed!

Comments from the Peanut Gallery on the fact that the folds are crooked NOT WELCOME.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery on the fact that the folds are crooked NOT WELCOME.

I underestimated my paper requirements on the second.

Yes, that is a Sketcher's shoe box peeking out where I ran out of paper.  But in my mind, the box colours complement the wrapping paper quite nicely.

Yes, that is a Sketcher's shoe box peeking out where I ran out of paper.  But in my mind, the box colours complement the wrapping paper quite nicely.

The last one was a pair of roller blades.  WITHOUT A BOX!  

By this time, I've just wrapped an entire roll of paper around the skates and haphazardly plastered Scotch tape around it.

By this time, I've just wrapped an entire roll of paper around the skates and haphazardly plastered Scotch tape around it.

Seriously?

But in the end, it doesn't really matter does it?  Kiddo had cake for breakfast, Happy Birthday was sung at Summer Camp, the house is decorated, the pizza's ordered, the cake and the unwrapping are anxiously anticipated.  Plus we've managed to wrangle a random 11-year-old and 5-year-old wandering the compound to partake in the celebrations.  BONUS!

Silly putty party favours for the kids at Summer Camp.

Silly putty party favours for the kids at Summer Camp.

A duct tape wallet gifted to Kiddo from a little girl at summer camp.  This is serious craftsmanship by a 10-year-old (it even has slots inside for pictures and credit cards, and has Kiddo's name etched out in red and white tape).  I have a feeling someone is spending a lot of quality time with a Doha stay-at-home dad living out every man's duct tape crafting fantasy.

A duct tape wallet gifted to Kiddo from a little girl at summer camp.  This is serious craftsmanship by a 10-year-old (it even has slots inside for pictures and credit cards, and has Kiddo's name etched out in red and white tape).  I have a feeling someone is spending a lot of quality time with a Doha stay-at-home dad living out every man's duct tape crafting fantasy.

And Kiddo still insists that my cakes are the best and most beautiful ever.  She says she would be very unhappy with some fancy shop-bought confection.  Bless her.

The cake was even worse for wear after a night in the fridge ... my black icing keys bled into the homemade cream cheese icing.  

The cake was even worse for wear after a night in the fridge ... my black icing keys bled into the homemade cream cheese icing.  

This is the real day.  It's not about the fluff, or the number of kids around the table, or the pool-side activities or lack thereof that we arrange for the un-birthday.  Un-birthdays can happen any old day.

Today's so much better than all that, despite the sand and the heat and the humidity and the isolation.  Today marks the day that Kiddo entered our lives and changed us forever, nine years ago.

Today's the day that has made every single moment of my life worth living.  Happy Birthday Kiddo!