Claire tacked on another year today. She is now exactly three feet tall and three years old. To tell you the truth, this was sort of a tough birthday. But Claire soldiered through it quite admirably and had a pretty good day.
Claire had been talking about this day for a long time. For months, she had been asking, “When is my birthday?” Unlike last year, this time she really had the drill down. She must have been inspired by all the birthday parties at school. She has been reminding us not to forget the balloons and party hats and birthday cake — especially the birthday cake! She had been specifying a “red cake!” for a few weeks, but in a surprising and provocative move, she switched to blue in final days before her party. Further, she clarified that she was talking about the frosting, and she did not have a preference on what the inside looked or tasted like, just as long as it was cake.
The grandparents all planned to come up for the big day. The Houston grandparents made the trip up for Thanksgiving and the birthday, although Claire and I had just been down to Houston the weekend before. Grammy and Granddaddy would not have missed it for anything… except one thing, which stepped in and kept them back in Corpus Christi. They had to arrange funeral services and legal matters for Kit’s Gramma Marvel, who had just passed. We will all miss Marvel.
This next part is sort of an aside. The afternoon before the birthday, Kit and I left Claire at home with Noni and headed out to get some mylar helium balloons for the party. Kit knew from Marvel’s 103rd birthday party a few weeks earlier that Claire loved playing with these shiny balloons. We arrived at Party City and went straight to the the balloon counter. There, surrounded by countless colorful inflated animals and cartoon characters, was a gloomy and cheerless lady who initially refused to even acknowledge our presence. When we tried to ask about getting some balloons, she sighed and rolled her eyes like we were really out of line. She explained with some exasperation that we needed to give her “at least a day’s notice” for any balloon orders, and the balloons would probably not be ready in time. How did this lady end up at the Party City balloon counter, of all places? Maybe was just burned out from the grueling world of party balloons, or maybe the local DMV office was not hiring. We decided towait until tomorrow and get whatever balloons they had at the nearby grocery store, where they presumably could to blow up whatever balloon you want right then and there (amazing, I know).
Then it was off to said grocery store to pick out a cake. I was prepared to get burned on this too. If Party City could not blow up some balloons in 24 hours, how could I expect someone to bake a special cake in that time? I had just recently given up on the idea of baking one at home, because that was going to take away time from other fun. Not surprisingly, the grocery had no blue cakes ready to go. But they did have a really cute”character cake” with the frosting done to look like a furry brown unnamed Sesame Street character. I asked the nice lady at the bakery if they could do that one in blue. She said no, but they could do a Cookie Monster, who always comes in blue, and they could have it ready first thing in the morning. Now that is more like it!
The next morning was the actual birthday. Today of all days, you would have expected Claire to wake up early and excited. She did wake up early, but not because she was excited. She woke up because she was uncomfortable. She was acting worn out and slightly irritable. We would find out a couple of days later, when the doctor’s office reopened after the Thanksgiving weekend, that Claire has been suffering from a tough case of pneumonia and an accompanying ear infection. On her birthday, it turns out that Claire was in bad shape, and was even in some pain.
Knowing this now, I am really proud of the way Claire handled herself. Though she certainly felt miserable, she managed to enjoy herself, especially as long as we kept her full of kid’s Tylenol. We had planned a zoo trip for the morning. With Claire sick and the weather cold, we made the trip pretty quick and took a monorail tour through the African section rather than walking around on foot too much. We dropped by the grocery store on the way home to get the Cookie Monster cake and pick out a balloon. We settled on a giant ladybug. Claire loved the balloon and played with it in the car and the all day. A week later, it was still afloat and still a favorite toy.
It took three of us to carry Noni’s and Phil’s present from their car. It was a huge dollhouse / treehouse, which took up a large part of the living room and was taller than Claire. She could not even reach the top with her hands! Only a picture can really describe this thing. Claire loved the present, but soon started to show signs of wearing out, so we skipped the other presents for the time being to avoid overwhelming her.
The pièce de résistance for the birthday was the lunch with cake, candles, more balloons, and of course the birthday song. Claire carefully picked out birthday hats, all with different colors and patterns, for everyone. (She would spend the next few days putting on each hat and pretending to be that person.) By this time she was getting exhausted. With her pneumonia, her appetite was down, and she barely touched her special birthday spaghetti. She managed, with some help, to blow out the candles on her special blue cake (and blow pneumonia germs all over it!). She could not quite eat her whole slice of cake, although still she did eat a lot of it. Birthday cake was probably the only thing in the world she would actually right then, so it was lucky we had it. Grammy and Granddaddy called in from Corpus Christi to wish Claire a happy birthday and to sing the birthday song to her. They would see her in person soon enough, just not today.
Claire spent the remainder of the day hanging around the house resting up, playing with her new tree house, and just cuddling with everyone. You could certainly do worse than that for a birthday, but still, I think we owe her an extra fun one next year!
Here is a short video montage of the birthday activities.