a peek inside the fishbowl

16 May, 2011

The eldest turns 12

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Oh! Things!

Twelve years ago today I was cradling a one-day old newborn in my arms. In fact, this was the scene:

Emma and the lilac (small)

This is one of my all-time favourite photographs. I’m glad we have a scan of it, because it’s one of those things I’d run into a burning house to retrieve.

It was sunny and beautiful and spring that day, May 16, 1999. And this photo is exactly how I remember it, inside and out.

And here is that same baby, 12 years later, with what has now become a tradition in our family on birthdays… breakfast in bed:

Birthday breakfast in bed

We had a great birthday weekend. A LONG weekend. Today, on Monday, it’s rainy and grey and it all seems like just a memory. I can’t seem to reconcile how quickly these days pass me by.

The breakfast photo above was taken Saturday morning. We spent the rest of the day preparing for her last big birthday party. (12 has been deemed to be the cutoff.) Her party was supposed to be a modified Survivor style (with confidence-building feats of bravery instead of competitions that get you voted off the island) but bad weather forced us indoors to undertake more traditional fare.

We decorated:

Birthday decor

… and then waited anxiously for all of the girls to arrive.

Want to know what a birthday/slumber party for a 12-year old girl looks like?

  • Guests arrive at 4:00 p.m.
  • Everyone hangs out and plays Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii
  • Pizza and salad/veggies are served for dinner
  • Freeze dancing and freeform dancing takes place in the living room to a playlist designed by the birthday girl
  • A new game is played: Say Anything (a great game for tween parties)
  • Birthday cake is served and eaten.
  • Bedtime preparations are made (a.k.a sleeping bags laid out, pjs found)
  • A movie is watched (by request, it’s Tangled.)
  • Gifts are unwrapped
  • A DIY sundae bar is unveiled, sundaes are made and eaten
  • A couple episodes of iCarly on the PVR are watched
  • Teeth are brushed
  • There is chatter and gossip until the wee hours
  • There is about 2.5 hours of sleep
  • Wake early
  • There is more chatter and gossip
  • Breakfast is inhaled (I made bacon and waffled french raisin toast… a bit hit)
  • Nails are done, pillow cases are decorated (the latter was in lieu of a loot bag).
  • Guests go home with pillow case and helium balloon in hand at 10:00 a.m.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Our birthday cake was a holdover from the Survivor theme. It was dirt cake with lollipop flowers, which was about to go up in a burst of sugary flame:

Twelve candles on the birthday cake

This is what our living room looked like:

Living room disaster zone

Someone else really enjoyed having all those sleeping bags, pillows, and air mattresses at her disposal:

Piper likes sleeping bags

Here’s a view of some of the DIY sundae toppings:


And I took a photo of each guest with her sundae, just for the record:

Sarah's sundae

After breakfast the next morning the girls did their nails:


… and here are the pillowcases they decorated with fabric markers. I thought they turned out really well and made a nice parting gift. I just wish we’d had more time to spend on them:

Decorating pillow cases

The guests all left around 10:00 a.m., after which point we all collapsed in a big heap. I had a nap.

When we’d revived, Emma tried out our gifts to her, which included a new helmet (from Tall Tree in Westboro!) and some roller skates.


You don’t see these around very much anymore, do you? I bought them off eBay years ago and finally bequeathed them to Emma.

new skates

Later on in the day we went to Mark’s parents. Here she is, just at the moment she’s figured out what her gift from them is:

Unwrapping gifts

And here she is, trying it out:

New stilts!

Emma’s time of birth was 10:15 p.m (after a solid 24 hours of labour). Did I mention she was 10lb 3oz when she was born? Ha.

I woke her up at 10:15 last night to officially wish her a happy birthday but she barely woke, and just mumbled, turned over, and went right back to sleep.

I hope you’ve had a happy 12 years Emma. And I wish you many many more.

10 Responses to "The eldest turns 12"

1 | Capital Mom

May 16th, 2011 at 12:49 pm


That sounds like a great birthday weekend!

2 | Mommymarshall

May 16th, 2011 at 1:33 pm


This post brought tears to my eyes, it was so touching. It made me think about how grown-up my own daughters are becoming and they’re only 5 and 7. Don’t know what I will do when they are 12!

As always, you’ve also given some great ideas, this time for birthday parties….I also think holding birthday parties at home is the way to go.

3 | Sara

May 16th, 2011 at 7:55 pm


Happy Birthday to Emma…what a wonderful weekend :)
Will you please plan my birthday for me?

4 | Neeroc

May 16th, 2011 at 11:07 pm


Sounds like a fantastic weekend! Happy Birthday Emma

5 | Shan @ the fairyblogmother

May 17th, 2011 at 10:01 am


Happy birthday Emma! What a great looking party. My Abster had a Survivor party last year and is planning on another one for this year. It was such a fun party, the kids all loved it. We skipped the voting off part too.

6 | Chantal

May 17th, 2011 at 2:02 pm


Beautiful post, happy birthday Emma!

7 | Claire Ablang

November 6th, 2012 at 11:41 pm


Mabuhay from Philippines! I was looking for an idea for the upcoming birthday of my 11 year old daughetr who will be tuning 12 next January. Then I came across with your site…after reading your blog. I was speechless…I may not know you or your daughter personally but your post brought tears in my eyes. I can’t help not to comment. I guess that all moms will feel the same way as I did… I realized somehow that my eldest daughter will no longer be a baby soon… the past 11 years have been a bliss for me and my husband after she was born. Thanks for sharing! Emma is pretty :)

8 | andrea

November 7th, 2012 at 11:37 am


Thanks! It’s wonderful to be the mother of a tween. :)

9 | Lilly

January 12th, 2013 at 2:02 pm


My birthay is coming so many good ideas thx

10 | Magdalena

March 2nd, 2013 at 2:47 pm


You are a such a cool mom!!! I have been looking for ideas for my daughter’s 12th birthday party and I wanted to make it special for her. And then… I found your blog…. OMG… I realized this is what I wanted to do… Thanks a lot for wonderful ideas!!!! Slumber parties rock! Greetings from New Britain, CT.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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