Claire’s 11th Birthday Party

Claire’s 11th Birthday Party

Claire turned 11 and had her birthday party at Altitude Austin, an amazing trampoline park.  Altitude is extra fun compared to other trampoline parks because it has a special area for bouncy dodgeball.   We played dodgeball for probably an hour and ended up exhausted and sweaty.  Claire invited six of her amazing friends.  Despite all their energy and the fun they were having, we managed to get them together briefly for a group photo (below).

Molly came along to Altitude too.  Then the girls went to the house for a sleepover while Molly came to my place for some one-on -one fun time with me, including making a gingerbread house and our own little sleepover.

The Day of Claire

The Day of Claire

Claire’s birthday fell on a lucky Saturday this year. ¬†And being late November, there were several fun holiday-related things to do around town. ¬†Kit and I decided to fill up the¬†day with¬†fun stuff and call it “The Day of Claire”. ¬†It is not very often that you have a whole day to spend on your kid’s birthday.

We started out with the post-Thanksgiving / pre-Christmas Chuy’s Children Giving to Children parade downtown. ¬†We ran into one of Claire’s former classmates, whose family had a great spot at the parade and let us jump in with them. ¬†The highlight was when the parade stopped and all the kids got to run out into the parade to dump presents into pickup trucks on the parade route. ¬†Molly loved Curious George and was a little puzzled about the Disney princesses in the parade. ¬†Shouldn’t they be at Disney World?

We let Claire choose where we would have lunch, and she picked IHOP right away.  We were all in good spirits and had a really fun, silly lunch with a lot of laughing and joking.  The pancakes helped, I am sure.

During¬†a break at home, I went to Royer’s Pie Haven to pick up Claire’s birthday pie. ¬†We asked Claire what she wanted for her birthday dessert, and she decided on pecan pie. ¬†When I picked up the pie form Royer’s, I told the cashier that our 9-year-old selected that for her own birthday, and she said in admiration, “That is awesome!”. ¬†Then we discussed how much better pies are than cakes.


Next we went to¬†a late afternoon showing of Elf: The Musical at the Long Center, which¬†was¬†showing for only three days, one of which was exactly on Claire’s birthday. ¬†More good luck! ¬†After some confusion and delays, we almost missed the show. ¬†We had it to the door, carrying Molly for speed, with literally 1 minute to spare. ¬†The first usher told us to run to the next door. ¬†The next usher saw us running and said, “Okay, you’re good.” and let us in just as the lights were going down. ¬†We all liked the musical, and even Molly managed to sit through it without any issues. ¬†But I think the girls’ favorite part was exploring the Long Center¬†during intermission and Auditorium Shores afterwards. ¬†The girls ran around in the dark, rolling down grassy hills, and admiring the giant “candy canes” that the theater’s columns had been decorated as.

Finally, we stopped by Whole Foods and let everyone pick out their own favorite food from the hot bar. The macaroni and cheese was a big hit with the kids.  We sang happy birthday, stuck some candles in the pecan pie, and just had a nice relaxing night together.  Claire had already opened her birthday present, which was a giant Playmobil hotel that the whole family had pitched in on.  We decided to all get her one big thing instead of a bunch of little things.  Claire got to open it early when everyone was around on Thanksgiving, and we spent most of the day assembling the 983-piece set.

The Day of Claire turned out even better than expected. ¬†For once, we were all in a good mood almost the entire day. ¬†Even the nearly missing the musical didn’t dent our mood. ¬†¬†Even Molly didn’t have any issues and just trooped along and had a fun day. ¬†Claire’s 9th birthday was a very good one. ¬†Next year it will probably be on a Tuesday, and we’ll hurry though a quick dinner and cake like usual, but this year’s birthday was one to remember.

BTW, a few days later, we¬†all agreed that Claire’s birthday was great, but Molly said she didn’t really like it after all.

Molly’s Fifth Birthday Party

Molly’s Fifth Birthday Party

We were planning to have Molly’s birthday party at Pease Park, but the weather forecast called to 50% chance of rain, so we decided at the last minute to move it to our house. ¬†Of course, it did not rain after all, so we have it outside at our house. ¬†Anyways, it was a great party. ¬†Here are two genuine¬†quotes overheard¬†from her friends at¬†the party:

This is the best party ever!

I don’t want this party to ever end!

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


One Night in San Antonio

One Night in San Antonio

For Kit’s birthday, took a one-night trip to San Antonio. ¬†With her job, Kit can’t take a long weekend, so we had to keep this weekend trip short and sweet. ¬†This girls had not really seen the Alamo before, except maybe quick drive by. ¬†Claire had heard a lot about it in Texas history in school, so she was interested to see it.

It was a quick trip, but we did it right.  We stayed at the Crockett Hotel right behind the Alamo.  Luckily, we got a 4th-story room directly overlooking the Alamo grounds.  For a while after checking in, we all sat and gazed past the old stone walls at the families wandering around the Alamo grounds.  For a while at night, it was quiet on the streets except for the sounds of horse draw carriages clomping by below us.  It was like being in 1888 for a while.  Then the San Antonio Spurs won the NBS Western Conference championship, which resulted in celebratory yelling and horn honking all through the night.  This was a nice sound too, and luckily it did not wake up the girls.

Molly’s says her favorite part of the trip was the water walls¬†leading past the Hyatt Regency to the¬†Riverwalk (in Molly’s words, “the big water things”). ¬†She wanted to just look at the flowing water and kept asking to go back. ¬†The water walls were big enough and on all sides, giving the feeling of being sort of in the water yourself. ¬†The water was loud but¬†had a nice¬†calming effect. ¬†Then a series of small bridges and rivers inside the hotel lead to the Riverwalk. ¬†I have enjoyed this amazing hotel lobby since I was young, and it was nice to see Molly appreciate it too.

Claire’s says she liked the water wall too, but her favorite part was the Riverwalk, the main part with all the restaurants, bridges, tress, music, etc. ¬†It was such a quick trip that we had to do basically a quick walk through, but we covered the whole main circle part of the Riverwalk on Saturday evening and even had dinner on the river. ¬†We also stopped by La Villita and did some window shopping in the old village and wandered our way back to the Travis.

The next morning, we visited the Alamo.  It was nice to just simply walk across the street and into the Alamo.  We spent couple of hours in the Alamo.  The girls liked poking around.  Molly did get a little impatient as we read the various history plaques.  Eventually Claire got worn down too.  Kit was enjoying it more than anyone, which is good since this was her birthday trip.

Then it was off to the southern reach of the Riverwalk. ¬†This is the more park-ish part than runs through the old King William¬†residential neighborhood. ¬†We explored King William and the river. ¬†People were kayaking on the river, and there were lots of joggers. ¬†This was the part especially¬†meant for Kit. ¬†She has always said she liked this part of town and the river. ¬†Claire, who loved the more dense central part of the river, was somewhat skeptical even before we headed down to King William. ¬†“I know what’s going to happen. ¬†We’re going to walk around a look at a lot of boring old houses and not do anything fun.” ¬†She and Molly got a little sluggish on this stretch, but they seemed to have fun¬†too. ¬†We then had an awesome brunch at Liberty Bar, I think the best meal I had in many months.

By then it was Sunday afternoon, and we had to head home. ¬†The girls really wanted to see the Riverwalk again, but we were out of time. ¬†We never even had a chance to swim in the hotel’s pool. ¬†I felt like we had at least a week’s worth of stuff left to do in S.A. (more Riverwalk, El Mercado, La Villita, Fiesta Texas, kids¬†stuff at the Witte Museum, other museums, and so on) but normal life called. ¬†At least it’s not a far drive if we want to come back.

We didn’t do a great job with the pictures on this little trip, but here are a few.


Claire turns 8!

Claire turns 8!

Claire’s birthday fell on the day after Thanksgiving this year. ¬†For the first time in years, we went to Corpus Christi for Thanksgiving this year, and we all stayed and celebrated Claire’s¬†birthday down by the Bay. ¬†All four of Claire’s grandparents were there as well as (great) Uncle Bob.

As you see in the photos, Molly was crying for Claire’s official candle-blowing-out. ¬†She had been asked to vacate the seat at the head of the table to make room for Claire. ¬†Molly did not agree or consent to this plan and let us know. ¬†Later, Molly made up¬†a brief story, possibly as a sort of apology. ¬†She said the main character was Jonny Jakes. ¬†The story was called “Jonny Jakes, for Heaven’s Sakes!” ¬†In the brief story, Johnny Jakes messed up his big sister’s birthday party by making a scene. ¬†Everyone said, “Jonny Jakes, for Heaven’s Sakes!” and Jonny was sorry. ¬†The end.

Presents included two nearly identical My Little Pony Rainbow Dash dolls. ¬†It was a clear and obvious choice! ¬†We later exchanged one Rainbow Dash for Pinky Pie. ¬†Claire also got a big Playmobil Santa’s workshop. ¬†Uncle Tim mailed in a painting set with¬†dolphin scenes, thus combining the recommended topics of art and dolphins.

Claire’s 8th Birthday Party!

Claire’s 8th Birthday Party!

Claire is (almost) eight years old!

This year Claire had her birthday party with her friends at Jumpoline Park. ¬†Initially Claire had talked about having a petty zoo come to our house. ¬†Once we expressed some concern about where to put the animals, weather, and other practicalities, Claire immediately said, “That’s easy. ¬†We’ll do it at Jumpoline Park.”

And so we had her birthday at the perennially favorite spot, the largest and greatest indoor trampoline you can imagine. ¬†The kids had a great time. ¬†The girls were still young enough that they wanted us parents out there playing with them. ¬†It was myself and Cullen, the dad of Claire’s friend Maddie, who took on the important duty of “bouncing” the kids. ¬†This involved the girls laying all around a parent on the trampoline, then the parent jumping up and down as high as possible, trying to bounce the kids up as much as possible. This was tiring work, and soon sweat was dripping from my brow. ¬†The kids also liked to be chased across the trampoline, and some were quite good at taunting. ¬†I required many breaks to avoid collapsing in exhaustion.

This year, Claire knew ahead of time what some of the kids were going to give her for presents.  They basically just told her at school ahead of time.  The two big must-have items this year were My Little Pony stuff and a Rainbow Loom.  Claire adores My Little Pony and wants to know who your favorite characters are (Rainbow Dash and Pinky Pie of course, and Apple Jack is great but under appreciated).  Some of the other kids at school think My Little Pony is babyish, but Claire stands her ground.  She just loves that cute little ponies.  The other big item was a  Rainbow Loom, a rubber-band loom that is super popular at school.  Claire got to take hers to school and use it on the playground and the bus, like her friends.