This year, Cooper was sick the week of his birthday. He had a rough couple of nights with a croupy cough and I kept him home for two days. The day before his birthday, Ellen was inconsolable from the moment she woke up. She had a fever and just wanted to be held. I gave her medicine and it finally seemed to kick in after about an hour when she became deliriously happy. After 45 minutes she crashed again and fell asleep in my arms.
Generally, she’s the type of kid that doesn’t get slowed down by a cold,* so her behavior was concerning to me. I called our HMO and they were able to get us in that afternoon. Of course, the appointment fell during the period of time when her second round of pain medication was working and all the nurses seemed somewhat skeptical and I may have felt somewhat vindicated when her rapid strep test came back positive. They ran a test on Cooper too, but it came back negative. Since strep doesn’t cause coughs, we figured he just had a cold and nothing more. They said they’d send it to be cultured just in case and let me know if the longer test came back positive. We went home and continued birthday preparations alongside house sanitizing.
The morning of his birthday, he seemed pretty healthy when he woke up. It was the first night he hadn’t woke up with a coughing fit and he was really excited to go to school. We let him open a new outfit and a game from grandma before going to school.
He’d chosen to take berry and marshmallow kabobs for his birthday treat and there was no way he was going to miss sharing them with his friends.
He really wanted to ride his scooter to school and I decided to let him even though I knew we’d be late. The secretary is pretty used to giving us tardy slips anyway . . . When we walked into the classroom several of the kids yelled, “Happy Birthday Cooper!” and he just beamed from ear to ear.
We’d bought Cooper new shoes for his birthday, but they didn’t fit. He was pretty upset that I wouldn’t let him wear them to school, so I told him we’d try to find some that fit when he was done. As we were walking into the store, I got a notification that the long strep test had come back positive and I just had this image in my mind of him handing out fruit kabobs to every kid in his class . . . We quickly tried on shoes and I even let him by the blue ones he wanted even though I wanted to buy the black ones (because they were cheaper).
Back at home, we played one of Cooper’s new games while we waited for the doctor to call, then swung by the doctor’s office/pharmacy to get Cooper his antibiotics. **
We had empanadas for dinner followed by tres leches cake. (Happy Cinco de Mayo!) Every time someone asked Cooper what kind of cake he was going to have for his birthday he would say, “The one with cherries!” because of the picture of this recipe. We made sure to buy maraschino cherries for the occasion.
We’d given Cooper the option of going camping or having a party with friends for his birthday. I really thought he would choose camping, but he was very excited about having a party with friends. Even though we didn’t invite everyone in his class,*** I was still kind of overwhelmed by the guest list. Cooper has gone to a couple of birthday parties and they’ve all been pretty fancy. (Think: rented petting zoos, build-a-bear, and playing sports at an indoor sports complex.) I didn’t even entertain any thoughts of competing with that for something like a child’s birthday party. Our plan was to draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, play some games with balloons, beat a piñata, and have cake.
The weather of course, had other plans. An hour before the party there was a torrential downpour complete with hail and thunder. Luckily, I had a backup plan. We kept the bubbles on the porch and drew on black construction paper with sidewalk chalk at the kitchen table.
I cleared as much as I could out of the main room in the basement for balloon games. It was a little bit crazy to have 10 kids running around the house, but the kids had a lot of fun. I like to call it controlled chaos . . .
We’d hoped to do the piñata on the porch, but by the time we got to piñata time thunder was booming again and we decided it was best to stay indoors. I made a homemade paper mache piñata that looked like Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. It held up really well to the hits of 12 kids. (Ellen and a friend joined in.)
I made little fabric bags out of scrap fabric (really easy) and put homemade play dough, homemade robot crayons (kids helped me make these), and skittles in each bag. Then we put all the bags in the piñata. I thought this would cut down on the fighting that would occur when the piñata broke, but not all of the little boys were able to process that idea. We figured it all out in the end though.
Cooper chose a Dulce de Leche cake for his birthday. I don’t think the other kids were used to such fancy cake and a lot of it got thrown away, BUT I have no regrets about making it because I got to eat some of it and I have very high standards when it comes to eating baked goods.
This was us after the kids left. I should mention that we also ran 11 miles that morning, so we were pretty much exhausted. I think Cooper really loved it though and that’s what matters most.
*One time, I took Cooper to the doctor because I thought he might have an ear infection. While we were there, the doctor looked at Ellen’s ears too and discovered she not only had an ear infection, but two. While we waited at the pharmacy she ran around like a crazy person and almost toppled a display for online prescription renewal. My dad happened to be with me and I remember him saying, “If this is what she’s like with a double ear infection, are you sure you want to get her the antibiotics?”
** It’s always a tiny bit stressful to me when both the kids are on antibiotics because Ellen is allergic to the ones Cooper takes so I have to be extra careful not to mix them up.
*** One day after school Cooper was listing off names of people that said they were going to come to his party. I panicked a bit because we hadn’t invited everyone and I didn’t want him talking about the party at school. I told him, “Buddy, you can’t talk about your party at school. We didn’t invite everybody and we don’t want the kids to feel bad.” He started to cry and told me very firmly, “Mom, they’re not bad kids, they’re good kids!” Sometimes the literalism of autism can be fun. I told him, “You’re right, they’re good kids. I meant, we didn’t want them to feel sad.”