Today Art turned four. That means that four years ago Art was brought into this world after over 30 hours of labor and pushing and eventual surgery. He was healthy and nice and squishy. Now he's healthy and tall and bony. Because he is now old enough to really know what a birthday can be (!) we collected his friends for a morning of mayham and spent hours last night getting ready.
But what were we getting ready? Well, Grandpa Tim had sent us a "cardboard castle" - twenty 2'x2' boxes organized into a three story castle of connected rooms that he had made for his grandkids in North Carolina and sent on to us - and last night Ben and Uncle Josh reassembled the castle in our basement. It took three hours but it was worth it. More on that later. Meanwhile I was decorating Art's chair (a Parker family birthday tradition) and making a cake. That took me nearly three hours because of all the mixing and cooling and chocolate melting and frosting and decorating and undecorating (bad piping technique).
Art woke up and we said, "It's the birthday boy!" and he said, "Crown!" Well, we didn't have a crown, but we took him downstairs and gave him a couple presents. He was not impressed with the spira-doodle or the book or the fingerprint art kit. He wanted something that could shoot or move. So he was a little disappointed and I must admit I had a tinge of "I need to go out and get him the presents he really wants!" But then we took him down to see the castle. He moved slowly at first, kind of amazed with this giant thing, and then he crawled inside. It was all over after that. Lewis followed him and the two of them were in there for the next three hours, pretty much. I mean, I dressed Art in the basement shortly before the first friend arrived and then each guest would just go in and that was it. They never really left the castle except to go back in through a different door. Lewis was happy to follow the big kids and the big kids were happy to keep circling and "rescuing" each other and just busy themselves in there.
At one point Henry, a friend from school and a neighbor friend, too, said, "I need some water or else I'm going to freak out!" Ben brought down water, cups, cheese, crackers and cut apples. Suddenly it was quiet in the basement. They ate and went back into the castle. We had a brief dance party to some music class songs and They Might Be Giants and then they were mostly castle-bound again. Eventually we lured them all out with cake.
I had been worried that the frosting would soften and melt if I left it out so I kept it in the fridge until we served it. It was so hard that the kids had to muscle their way through to get a bite. It was pretty funny. We put on tattoos and most went back downstairs. Si wanted to see Art's Hungry Hippos game. Apparently Art had told him about it at school. And later Art and Si went to Art's room. Art had once said that he would want to have a birthday party but he would like to be able to be alone in his room. He gets overwhelmed, you know. Well, on the way up to his room Art asked Si, "Is it too loud for you?" He must have thought Si needed a break like he sometimes does.
We modeled the party after the first birthday party Art ever went to where the mom rented a big inflatable jumper and had just the kids from school, about six, over for two hours in the morning. No lunch, no fancy games, just cake and snacks and a big, glorious toy. It worked great. We did the same (substituting castle for jumper) and it couldn't have worked out better. It was especially great to see Art so happy and all the little friends having a good time. He didn't have any melt-downs, nobody got upset or hurt (always a possibility!) and it was extremely low maintenance for us.
After naps Bubbe came over and made Chicken Rice for us (stir-fry) and then Aunt Emily, Uncle Mike, Aunt Ashley and Uncle Josh came over to help us polish off the cake. (It was really good. I'm glad it's all gone because otherwise I would be eating it instead of real food tomorrow.) They stayed for a while and eventually watched some nature show.
I have to say I felt awfully sentimental kissing Art goodnight tonight. I was just so happy for him having a day full of fun and love and good feelings. It made fill up with warmth. As Ben often says, he's a wonderful little person. And we get to watch him grow all this time. It's pretty great.