Clara turned four years old on Tuesday. FOUR. And she could not have been more pleased about it. She woke up to find an Ariel mylar balloon hovering in her room in keeping with birthday balloons tradition and told me a story about how "the mermaids" swam into her room to leave the balloon for her. The she spotted the pile of presents waiting for her to open and got right to work opening one of them (a L'il Woodzeez dollhouse from Grandma Cece and Grandpa Russ) and played with that for a while as I got breakfast ready for her (toasted coconut pancakes from Trader Joe's - the first pancake mix I have ever found that I actually truly love - with apricot jam and scrambled eggs).
After breakfast things went downhill for a bit as too much birthday excitement led Clara to a Leslie Gore approach ("It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to....") but after a pep talk, hug, and some time to calm down things went much better after that. We spent time doing things Clara loves - mostly taking quilts into the backyard for picnics, playing toys together, watching "Wild Kratts" on PBS, and letting Clara change clothes as much as she wanted (I think she went through 5 or 6 outfit changes. In the afternoon I took the girls to an apartment complex that our friends live at so I could try to take a few 4-year-old pictures of Clara because they have a lovely pond area filled with lilypads and surrounded by weeping willows. I brought bread along to feed to the ducks even though there are signs that say not to and Clara had great fun doing that.
The day before her birthday I asked Clara what her very favorite food was to eat for dinner so that I could plan her birthday meal. She answered "um, cake?". So I tried again and gave her probably 20 examples of foods I know she likes - salmon with vegetables, tacos, pizza, chicken, pasta, burritos, etc. - because I didn't want to influence her choice. She thought for a few seconds after I asked her again and then said "Mom, we don't have to do all of this. We don't have to go to the movies or go inside or anything like that but could we do sush-shee?" I cannot get over her pronunciation with the short "u" sound and even though I corrected her she keeps calling it sush-shee and it makes me smile every time. A couple months ago Paul took Clara on a daddy-daughter date to go to the movies and they got sushi as part of it. And apparently that is what she was craving so sushi it was. We went to Amakara and got a Shrimp Tempura roll and a some other roll with mango, cilantro, and tempura shrimp, a plate of grilled salmon with rice and salad, and an appetizer of grilled edamame. We pounded that edamame - it was so amazingly, incredibly delicious and Paul and I couldn't keep up with shelling the edamame for the girls.
After dinner it was back home to open the rest of her birthday presents - a build-a-flower-garden set, a fishing pole, a new apron, and a purple bow & arrow set and a geometric pattern block puzzle set from Grandma and Grandpa Nash. It was a very happy birthday indeed.
This picture with Paul cracks me up. She sure loves her dad. That is the fishing pole she is holding, even though it kind of looks like a shotgun at first glance.
I made a little collage of past birthday pictures of Clara and posted it on Instagram with the following: "I cannot begin to express the love I have for this little gal. She wants snuggles every night, requests books all day long asks for sushi (she pronounces is suh-shee) for her birthday dinner, is obsessed with mermaids, gymnastics, and the PBS show Wild Kratts, loves her family, would eat rainbow sherbet ever day if she could, tells me "I love you" when she can tell my patience is running thin, thinks her daddy is the greatest man ever, still figuring out this big sister role but loves playing with Rose, is learning to be a good helper by making her bed and setting the table, enjoys riding her scooter down the hill when we go onwalks, and generally is just a fun-loving, bright, spirited little girl. We are so lucky she is part of our family."
We had Clara's birthday party on Saturday before her birthday. We went with a mermaid theme for our mermaid obsessed little girl. We decorated with crepe paper seaweed streaming up the walls, a couple of fishing nets strung about, and seashells everywhere (homegoods for the win on that one). Paul created a mermaid for the wall by tracing Clara while she was lying down and then painting her shape into a mermaid. We did part of it as a family home evening activity the week before her party.
Each little girl at the party got her very own mermaid skirt and each boy was offered a pirate eye patch and earring (although none of them wore them for more than a minute). From left to right: Daxton, Liesel, Maddie, Clara, Molly, Lydia, Hudson and Logan (Charlie was back in Clara's room playing but he came too).
The first activity was being entertained by the floating shark that Paul found online. It's a mylar balloon with a small motor that controls a tailfin making it so you can steer him and send him diving around the room. It was actually super creepy and awesome and we have been having loads of fun with it ever since. The other night after the party and after the girls had gone to bed, I snuck back to our room and sent the shark floating out of the dark hallway in stealth mode just as Paul was heading back for bed and it totally made him squeal.
The skirts are less impressive than they look. It took me about 10 minutes to make each one and because they require so little fabric and I got it all on sale they came out to about $2.50 per skirt, which isn't terrible for the only party favor other than little dollar prizes for the games. I don't have pictures of most of the rest of the party but after playing with the shark we played "Mermaid, Mermaid, Shark" (aka duck, duck, goose) and then musical chairs, which went over surprisingly better than I expected for almost 4 year olds. A few of them really figured it out and were strategic about it so after a couple of rounds we had the previous winners sit out and the ones who weren't catching on quite as quickly played a round themselves where each time one of them got out they got to choose a prize from the prize bag so everybody went home with something. The prizes were things like sparkly bracelets or small packs of crayons in mermaid colors (have you seen those? Crayola has a bunch of theme crayon assortments like "pirate" or "circus" or "mermaid". Clara digs those small 8 packs of crayons way more than her box of 64 colors.).
Clara has been requesting cherry cupcakes for her birthday ever since October when she saw my Black Forest Cherry Cake. I wasn't quite sure what she really wanted and found some recipes that only made about a dozen cupcakes each so I tried a couple different approaches. One was an almond cupcake with fresh cherry frosting. It was okay although the frosting weeped from the cherry juice. I preferred the black forest cherry cupcakes with the cherry filling and sweet whipped cream topping. Normally I would prefer regular frosting to whipped cream but the chocolate cupcake base was so decadent that the lighter whipped cream option just tasted perfect with it. And there was cherry pie filling inside, which made them even yummier.
In keeping with the mermaid theme, I served seaweed (which my girls LOVE and will stuff in their mouths by the fistful) and crab cakes (more for the adults but both Clara and Rose ate one), along with lots and lots of fruit, fruit dip, and chips and guacamole.
After eating Clara got to open her gifts from her friends. She received so many sweet and thoughtful gifts including two new mermaids, one of which can go in the bathtub with her. She also got sticker books, a look-and-find toy, and a new soccer ball and game. We are lucky to have so many kind and generous friends.
We also gave Clara her main birthday present from us after the guests left: a new big girl purple bike with training wheels. We wanted her to have the weekend to play with it with Paul and around but unfortunately things have been cool and even a little drizzly since so she hasn't had a chance to practice more yet.
We love our big 4 year old Clara-girl so much.