Malia Obama Plays Photographer on Mom's Birthday
updated 01/17/2009 AT 06:00 PM EST
•originally published 01/17/2009 AT 04:15 PM EST
As President-elect Barack Obama launched his whistle-stop tour on a restored 1930s train car to Washington, D.C. on Saturday – which happened to be wife Michelle's 45th birthday – daughter Malia snapped pictures on a small digital camera – of her father in profile and of little sister Sasha, 7, leaning into Mom on stage inside Philadelphia's 30th Street Station.
But the photojournalists and paparazzi chronicling the incoming president's every move this pre-inauguration weekend need not fear any "inside" competition: "She's only taken a couple [photos], playing with someone else's camera," an Obama aide tells PEOPLE.
Close family friend Dr. Eric Whitaker brought his children along, giving Malia and Sasha some playmates for the 137-mile trip tracing the same route Abraham Lincoln took as he traveled to his own inauguration in 1861.
Stopping in Wilmington, Del., Obama announced his wife's birthday to the shivering crowd who broke into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday." Mrs. Obama, her hands sheathed in long purple leather gloves, smiled and applauded.
Further along the route, while Mom and Dad braved the icy cold in Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza, the girls stayed on the train, decorating one car with balloons and pink crepe-paper streamers.
After the Baltimore rally, Mrs. Obama was greeted back aboard the train with a shrieked "Mommy!" as Malia reached up to cover her mother's eyes and lead her into the birthday car. Malia dropped her hand and, as Mrs. Obama took in the surprise, a party hat-wearing Sasha jumped up and down and draped a lei over her mother's neck while Malia took pictures. Someone cued a boombox and Mrs. Obama and her girls had a little impromptu dance party before the train pulled away.
Aides said the soon-to-be First Lady would be treated to cake on board before the 10-car Amtrak train reached the nation's capital Saturday evening.