Happy birthday happenings

Reid’s birthday was a celebration from start to finish. I brought her breakfast in bed as I read about a Andrea at A Peak Inside the Fishbowl doing for her children. I’m particularly proud of myself for remembering the idea over the last couple of months. Reid, who had already cuddled into bed with Ken, was tickled to see me with the tray. She said that it was good that she was in daddy’s bed so that her bed, with it’s new sheets and quilt, wouldn’t get anything spilled on it. I’m pretty sure that this was the sort of thought she should have kept to herself, no matter how true it was. Reid was careful as she ate her Cheerios and banana and drank her orange juice from its wine glass. Only one Cheerio got away from her. Given the number of Cheerios that end up on the dining room floor in a given week, one was a good number. After breakfast, Reid opened birthday cards from Aunt Karin and Uncle Dave (and Shea, Adam and Sulienne), Uncle Rick and Aunt Stephanie and Grandmama. She was excited to hear what each one said and who they were from. Separating the card opening from present opening made the cards seem more special and brought excitement to breakfast.

Reid went to swimming lessons wearing the birthday cake hat that I got her from the Dollar Store. She took it off before she got to the pool deck but she told her teacher it was her birthday. He’s a bit odd. He didn’t wish her “Happy birthday” as I do reflexively when I’m told about someone’s birthday. Maybe I’m odd, too, but he is odd in other ways. The other little girl in Reid’s class was absent and so Reid enjoyed a private lesson, almost like I planned it. We stopped at the Dollar Store on the way home for a few more balls for loot bags. Parents replied to the invitation as late as Thursday and so I scrambled a bit at the end. I was ever so grateful that Grandma Joyce insisted that she should make as many cloth bags as kids that we invited, even though people say attendance at summer birthdays is low. We had two left over but it was a near thing.

Reid’s party started at 10:45 at Cosmic Adventures. Unlike last year, when I dallied a bit and Ken was forced to speed across town and we were still later arriving than the first couple of guests, we got there before anyone else. We milled about in the lobby, collecting 12 of the 13 kids who were coming in the first 20 minutes. Each person entering the play area required an wrist band and I asked people to fill in “Hello my name is” stickers. It gave me hope that I’d be able to call the other adults something other than “M’s mom” or “J and L’s dad”. Unfortunately, most provided the kid’s names only. Still I did learn the names of 2 moms and one dad as well as one uncle. That uncle had never been to Cosmic Adventures before, was doing his sister a favour, and Ken told him that it was going to be very loud and that his sister would owe him big! (Sort of like I did last year, when Uncle Roger helped out at Reid’s birthday party.)

With all but one straggler accounted for, one of the party people led everyone to the little arcade to explain how the debit card thingys worked in the games. It would have made more sense to gather the parents close as most of the kids – the ones close enough to hear – didn’t understand the directions and the parents who probably could have understood, didn’t hear. Not that it’s rocket science; there are a finite number of ways to swipe a card. From the point of view of the kids’ experience, I think it was better when they got to feed tokens into the machines to play and then received a ribbon of tickets when they won. Environmentally – and economically, I’m sure – the debit cards are a better choice. As a parent who isn’t keen on the arcade, I missed seeing the supply of tokens dwindle, to mark the time I’d spent in that area. Our last guest arrived while we were still in the arcade and so we had 14 kids in total. Reid finally left the arcade without redeeming her card for the little plastic and rubber doodads that we absolutely don’t need in our house. All of the kids had some time in the climbing structure before we were called to the Mars room for lunch. Ken told me that at one point Reid went into the area reserved for kids 4 and under and he showed her the sign and told her she was too big. I bet that she liked being too big for something since she is still too little for many other things.

In the party room, everything runs with a military-sort of precision but the kids don’t seem to notice. They were enticed to all sit down by our party host who pointed out the crayons on the table that could be used on the paper that covered it. He got them to choose apple juice or Fruitopia by touching their nose or raising their hand, respectively. He made a crown for Reid out of balloons but involved all of the kids in stretching out the balloons and letting some filled ones go zooming around the room. No one seemed to mind at all that Reid was the only one with a balloon hat. The pizza was passed out efficiently – there’d been a choice between pizza and hot dogs but I’d decided it was too complicated to have both and ordered cheese pizza for all – and then another party host arrived to start painting faces. Each of the kids that wanted to got a small design on their cheek and didn’t mind interrupting their pizza-eating to do so. The party host gathered everyone together to show them the cake, a rectangle with a green and purple alien in one corner, and then asked if they were still hungry for their pizza or if they wanted cake. Reid went against the crowd and went back to eating her pizza.

We sang, “Happy Birthday” and passed out cake. Reid was excited to receive the first piece (told her dad about it later, even, though he was right there) but didn’t even pick up the fork to try her cake. This worked well because it meant we had time for a group photo and the present unwrapping. The party host sat next to Reid as she unwrapped her presents, recording who gave what on an official Cosmic Adventures form. It was like we rented a maid-of-honour. Once presents were unwrapped it was 1:00 and time for the official part of the party to end. The kids were welcome to stay with their parents until the 8:30 closing but we weren’t responsible for them. The moms were impressed by the cloth lot bags (I confessed Grandma Joyce had made them when asked) and the kids seemed to like the smiley-face ball, funny pen, notebook and Franklin story that was in each.

A surprising number of the kids had to leave immediately. I’d have been taking advantage of the no-admission-fee chance to let my kid run a bit more. A tired kid is the kind one wants at bedtime, no? Of course, there was the one kid whose parents had delayed the start of their family vacation until after the party and the others who had stayed home from the cottage in order to attend. Cosmic Adventures is a very popular birthday party location! We ended up staying until about 2:30 when the four who were allowed to stay longer left. We picked up the left-over cake and bag of presents at the desk on our way out. Birthday party packages are pretty expensive but the service is excellent.

Reid and I dropped Ken and the presents off at home and then went to buy some food for our planned picnic supper. It’s been raining so much and so often that I hadn’t wanted to commit to buying what we needed until I knew that we’d actually go. Sandwiches, cheese, veggies and the like are good for a picnic but seem weird as at-home birthday dinner offerings. It’s popular wisdom that you shouldn’t shop on an empty stomach and I can attest to the fact that it’s even worse to do when your stomach is empty and you’re tired. Everything that took *no effort to prepare* looked good. The only thing I was willing to buy that required me to expend energy were the cherries that I had to wash.

Melissa, Peter and Ben picked us up about 5:00 and we headed down to see Natalie MacMaster and the National Arts Centre Orchestra playing at one of the Orchestra in the Park concerts. We were early enough and lucky enough to find a picnic table to eat at and we enjoyed our supper and then I put a candle in the pie Reid had chosen at the store. We sang “Happy Birthday” and Reid tried to blow out the candle but the wind was so strong that the candle went out as soon as I lit it two or three times. Finally, I asked Reid to pretend to blow out the candle so that I could take the standard photo. (I’m such a cheater.) Reid refused the piece of pie that she was offered and also the ice cream that was all soft and creamy from its time in the cooler without ice). We offered extra pieces to the people sitting near us but most looked more than a little surprised that we offered and declined. One lady accepted and then her friend did, too. It was nice to share our celebration.

We tidied up and then left Peter and Ken to guard the chairs while Melissa, Ben, Reid and I went to see what else was going on. We found a water fountain that had way too much water pressure and a misaligned spout. The water’s arc was twice as large as it should have been. (I mention this only because there is a very good thing that Reid and Ben would say that it was the most memorable part of the evening. When we were walking, Reid asked me to carry her. I said “no” and noted that she is getting big and soon I won’t be able to carry her. Reid said, “Probably when I’m 20, I’ll be too heavy and too long for you to carry.” I told her that I was thinking more like 10 or maybe 7. I don’t think Reid believed me.

We saw some modern dancers (from The Dance School – Dancing in the Streets) performing on the grass. Reid watched a bit and then began emulating their poses and movements. We also went into a tent for the kids to try a guitar, ukulele (I think), drums and a violin. I’m pretty sure the Ottawa Folklore Centre provided the first instruments but I’m not sure from where the violins came. Having whiled away an hour, we headed for our seats. Reid couldn’t walk by the porta-john, despite our visit to the posh facilities (by comparison) of the Canadian War Museum. While standing in line, we got to see two people dressed in historic costumes and so it was good all around. We had to pick our way carefully to our chairs as the crowd grew dramatically while we’d been away. People were good natured about shifting, like they *should* be at outdoor concerts but sometimes aren’t. Reid and Ben had their chairs in front of ours. Reid has discovered, or maybe more accurately, finally noticed that Ben isn’t a fan of PDA (public displays of affection). He defines “public” as any situation involving more than himself and his parents when it comes to hugs or kisses. Reid likes to threaten to kiss him, she may actually carry through if she were able, and I have to tell her that everyone has the right to decide what happens to her/his body instead of smiling and remembering when little girls used to chase little boys and vice versa and it didn’t mean anything.

Once the concert started, Reid had trouble staying in her seat. She wanted to dance, had to dance, in fact. Unfortunately the closest good place for dancing was in Ben’s sight line of the stage. Still Reid listened some, danced some and talked some (it’s Reid, the talking was inevitable) for the 90 minutes the concert lasted. The sky looked increasingly ominous as the time passed. By the time Natalie MacMaster came out for her encore, people were getting antsy. As the last notes died away, the crowd began packing up their chairs and heading out. We got to the van – carpooling saved such coordination headaches – and Reid and Ken each got to open their presents before we went to out house. I was amazed that Reid didn’t fall asleep on the way home but I guess it’s hard to sleep when you’re talking non-stop.

Reid went to sleep quickly at home, or I think she did, I was out in no time flat, myself. She even slept in an hour on Sunday. It was a birthday full of happy happenings. I’m so glad that Reid had fun (and also that we only do it once a year).

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