Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No Getting Out Of It

We've put it off as long as we reasonably could. The thought sends icy-cold terror down our spines and threatens the competence of bladder and bowel control. But there is no other course of action that is acceptable.

It is time to throw our son a bonafide birthday party.

For the first 6 years of his life, we were able to get by with the simple "family" party, consisting of us, any available grandparents or close family friends, and the staples of pizza, cake, some streamers thrown up here and there, and presents.

Last year, we thought we were cooked, but as he was just getting adjusted to kindergarten and had no real friends yet, we were able to stave off the inevitable for another year. In the mean time, he has found a nice group of first graders to play with and, more importantly, has seen the glories of a "friend" birthday party. The games! The presents! The theme place settings! The small sacks of cheap plastic dinosaurs or cars or superballs.

Together, Charles and I laid the ground rule: Only 6 invitees (party of 8, counting him and his sister). He came up with his list of who he wanted to come, and it was a good list, comprising his good friends and the neighbor kid, who also is friends with a couple of his friends. Nice boys, all; one of whom just had a party a few weeks ago and had invited Colin. Invitations sent, party paraphenalia purchased for 8, of a Star Wars theme. (Yes, yes. I am wholly aware I am part of the problem of tacky, merchandised birthday ick. I am also supremely lazy and hate throwing parties. Show me a shortcut and I will shell out. We had actually thought to hold the whole damn thing at a place called (shudder) Gymfinity, which specializes in kids' parties in a gymnastics and tumbling arena, but were too lazy to actually book the damn thing until too late.)

Last night, as Charles and I came in the door, kids at the table finishing dinner, with Lilian, (Charles's mom), Colin drops his bombshell.

Seems he has "invited" a large handful of extra kids to his birthday party, many of whom he really doesn't care for, including the kid who is always messing with his stuff on the bus, not in a malicious way, just in an annoying way. Charles and I look at each other to make sure we are on the same page, namely the page titled "No Way In Hell, Kiddo". We explain that he has already given us his list of friends. We have planned for that number and sent out the Darth Vader invitations. The Darth Vader plates, cups, napkins all come in packs of 8. The party favors have been bought in 8s. We are sure not going back to that damn party store a second time.

Lilian, bless her heart, doesn't get it. She thinks it is a matter of space and volunteers for us to hold it in the Green Room. We nix that thought and move on.

[Obligatory aside: Lilian lives with us for half the week and in her apartment in the village old-folks community the rest of the time. Attached to her building is The Green Room, a bleak room reminiscent of a small school cafeteria, complete with cafeteria tables, linoleum in beige, and, for some reason, a decrepit exercycle facing the corner. It is not green, but gray and tan. I think it is called The Green Room as there is a table with a few spindly, anemic plants by the window.]

Later that night, the whole imagined scene of the Green Room Birthday Party penetrates our mutual consciousness: We could have a pinata made of Depends, with a cane to crack it open. It could spill chocolate Ex-Lax and Tums. We could play "Name That Pill" and take bets on which neighbor would call to complain about the noise first. Walker races and a prune tossing contest, of course. Sensibly, Charles reasoned that as it would be the world's worst kid's birthday venue, it would likely get us shunned for years on the birthday party circuit, so maybe it was worth re-considering. I'm not sure I'm ready to go quite that far to get out of future kid parties, but reserve judgment until afterward.

[Obligatory disclaimer: If the above offends you, I apologize and respectfully request you skip off to one of the many other non-sarcastic blogs out there. I love and respect old folks but reserve the right to be stereotypical if it suits me. Plus, I have known many who fit all the above.]

So there. The date is set (12/17, his actual birthday) and the clock is ticking. The only way to halt the process would be to call each parent and cancel, and as I will do practically anything to avoid calling people on the phone, especially people I don't know, you know that's not going to happen.

We have planned to have pizza and pop to start things off, followed by cake and ice cream. Then the presents. That should take up at least an hour, leaving us with one more hour to fill with the dreaded party games. Oh, how I hate party games. My hatred of them led me to refuse all baby showers. Well, that and loathing the whole "center of attention" thing. We will devise a treasure hunt in the house where they will have to follow a series of clues to find the hidden treasure chest. I just need to come up with, say, 2 more games. I'm thinking one could be the lame-o one where you pin a picture of something on the back of each kid and they have to ask questions to figure it out.

Any other ideas?

Please?

Desparate here.

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This, light of my life, is why I went into secondary education, not elementary. Only game I ever played in class required 5 months of accounting instruction first.

Good luck on the treasure hunt. But you must make the clues rhyme. Keep a list of the clues/treasure location for future reference. When you run dry it will come in handy. (Let's see now. 10 more years for Colin and an extra 4 for Sara makes 14 hunts. This is why you didn't have 2 brothers and an extra sister.)

Best Wishes from the Grandfather person, The Ole RFer.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

Evil Twin to the Rescue! Or not. I so despise throwing birthday parties I pay other people to throw them for me. you know, like the Gymfinity thing. Gymnastics parties are a blast, by the way - we've been to one. They had this cool basket-swing thing suspended from the ceiling, and the kids got to swing in it. It would have scared the tar out of me. It went really high. Pockets thought it was the best thing EVER! Keep it in mind for next year. We've done the children's museum party and the place that princess costume balls. (Daycare = parties at an early age.)

I suggest something really, really active. Like musical chairs. Relay races where they have to carry a (boiled?) egg on a spoon, cross a room, sit on a balloon to pop it and carry the egg back across the room and hand it off to the next person. Stuff like that. check out the ZOOM website on pbskids.org for game ideas. They've got some good ones.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

You brave, brave woman.

At least it should provide for some good Blog Fodder!

2:29 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

I agree with Teri. Active games are best, as well as simple. We did musical chairs for a prize. When I had outdoor parties I even did water balloon toss. Pinatas are good, though surprisingly dangerous. I only did this one year, with visions of party guests getting cracked in the head.

I've also done the sit on the balloon to pop it, but also put in little scraps of paper with saying they have won a small prize.

If you are friends with some of the parents of the invited children, you may want to ask them to help with games and crowd control. My sisters and I did this for each other, which was a lifesaver. Also, I'm all about parties a places designed for that purpose. We had several Allie parties at a place called "playland" which sounds similar to Gymfinity. Also, we did a couple of Chuck E. Cheese. Surviving the noise level it Chuck E. Cheese is challenging, but worth it because the kids love it.

Starting at age 9, allie was allowed to take 4 friends to Oaks Park and also have them spend the night. That may be more a girl thing- slumber parties, but they pretty much amuse themselves now.

There you have my accumulated kid party knowledge from Allie's parties and numerous nephews and nieces...Good luck, and I salute you.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Kate W. said...

HAHAHAHAHA- I so do not envy you.When I stop laughing, I will try and think of another game for you to play. Remind me of my laughing in 2 1/2 years for Ellies 6th birthday party... teeheehee

3:46 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I am cracking up about the idea that Darth Vader invitations exist--as if Darth Vader would ever throw a party--as if anyone would ever be fool enough to attend if he did!

Hee, hee, hee!!!

That Green Room sounds way depressing, but the party scenario is hilarous, esp. the pinata.

I'm not sure I'm clear on what you're going to do about all those extra kids Colin invited. Isn't it it a cardinal sin of etiquette to "uninvite" people?

4:11 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Um. Let me think. Ah...

Yeah, I'm not going to be any help. The only people that come to Josh's birthday parties are adults and really all we do is sit around and watch him be adorable but hey, he is only two.

The Green Room - isn't that what they call those rooms you wait in when going on talk shows? Maybe it got the name because that's where the people hang out before they go to God's talk show (yeah, yeah, I'm horrible).

Just please, for the love of God, never hire a clown. Clowns are scary.

4:44 PM  
Blogger listmaker said...

Oh, poor you! I am soooo glad my kids are well past birthday party age; I hated them. But, having done parties for boys, if you must have them in your house, action games are the way to go. We always did "head, shoulders, knees and toes", getting faster with each repetition until they all fell down. And, I always had a quiet activity (craft or something)planned in case they got too out of control and we had to settle them down.

And, yeah, that geriatric pinata thing? Done it. Don't ask. I seem to recall there was a large amount of tequila involved.

5:23 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Er, no help from me either but oh am I laughing! At you! You poor, poor things. POOR POOR THINGS. Oh the posts that will be written, yey!

And no, I feel no shame. Just empathy and glee. Hee hee!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dad- I have the hiding place picked, and figure 6 clues leading there. Rhymes. Check. List. Check.

Teri- I KNEW you'd come through. I'll check out that PBS site.

Cagey- That's the great thing about a blog, it becomes the silver lining to so many of life's trials.

Stacy- Heh. Yeah. We were a bit concerned about the whole arming of the kids with a big stick thing. The treasure hunt is like a pinata but with less chance of structural damage to the house or its contents, at least that is the theory.

Kate- See, you've written that taunt down, where I can keep it and hurl it back at you in a very short time. Tsk, tsk. An attorney would shake his head. You can only redeem yourself now by coming through with that 2nd game. (How desparate, now I'm blackmailing my blog friends.)

Rozanne- You know, I had the same thought, which perversely made me not so abashed when I bought the twisted things. I mean, really! As far as the other kids, I'm hoping that as the party is a few weeks away, all will be forgotten, besides, it's not like he gave them a date and a time...I think...

Dana- Poop. No killer games from your own kid parties? I figured you'd have a bunch of them, although you probably don't remember your 7th birthday any better than I do. Which means that if I hide the pictures, neither will Colin and I can create a false memory of pony rides and magician. No clowns, though, you are right about that one, I'd be paying for the therapy for years.

"God's talk show". *giggle. snort.*

Listmaker- Really? You did? Now you will have to blog that story for us, tequila and all. Make up what you don't remember, we won't know the difference.

Johnny- Nice you are laughing AT us as well as WITH us. Babes in the woods, we are. Babes in the woods.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yipes! I shutter at the though of any situation were kids out number adults. Can’t you just jack them up on sugar and send them home for their parents to deal with? For soda be sure to serve Mountain Dew for that eXtra kick.

There is a sight called partygamecentral.com that has some “fun game” ideas. MYSTERY MADNESS sounded good. All you need is a bag full of funny clothes. Then have the kids sit in a circle. While music plays they pass the bag around until the music stops. The player who has the bag closes his eyes and reaches into the bag. Whatever he pulls out he has to wear. When the bag is empty, the kid’s vote on the funniest outfit. There are some scary games on the sight too, like SWEET PICKUP that’s described as “a race to eat sugar and then stick a pencil in your nose” (what?) I would avoid that one.

Gail

6:55 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

You brave woman. I think it was probably a good idea to shy away from the Green Room, although it may be an interesting adult party, the invitees all having a morbid sense of humour.

I tried to think back to my parties and those I went to as a kid to help out. I had a party at McDonald's in the 80's and someone got sick on the spinny ride; Chuck E Cheese was always fun, even if I still get scared by the giant rat. My parents lucked out with the theme parties since my birthday is 5 days before Halloween and everything always had a Halloween veil over it. A friend always had a party where we'd make something crafty with pipe cleaners. All I can offer is dressing up in costumes and passing around bowls of cooked spaghetti in the dark and telling the kids it is intestines. Yeah, my upbringing didn't scar me for life.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Kate W. said...

I hear you with the taunting but again, I am SO not looking forward to "real" birthday parties. I have a suggestion that goes along with your Dads rhyming treasure hunt idea...
It starts out..."There once was a man from Nantucket..." HAHAHA Very sorry- I have been to Kohls for the 5th time this week and then to Fridays for beer and dessert. Forgive me for cracking myself up. What about a craft? Decorate your own ornament? That could be tricky for the Jewish friends... but you could use paint pens and glue. Things that are less messy? GAH! I don't know! I have YEARS to think of party games remember?! :)

1:21 AM  
Blogger Babs said...

I'm with moe on the musical chairs bandwagon.

We LOVED playing that when we were kids.

Usually Ma played Yellow Submarine or some other Beatles song which we liked hearing.

Playing Chicago was just plain cruel, though.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Gail- Thanks for the "partygamescentral" site info. I will check it out. The funny clothes game suonds funny except with the multiple moves over the past few years and the recent cleaning out of all things closet, no funny clothes in the house, at least not for another 10 years...

Beth- I've never partied at Chuck E Cheese's but sadly ate my share as a college student. You see, they had these enormous pepperoni pizzas for, like $5 bucks. Food for the week. My kid has it similar to you, just different holiday. So glad I was born in the duldrums of August.

Kate- OK, you're forgiven, hon. (Snicker. Couldn't resist.) For months Colin used to ask me, "Mom, what rhymes with 'bucket'." You don't know what it cost me in tongue biting not to answer that one except "Nantucket".

Babs- Sounds like Musical Chairs is in the lead. I may need to pick up a few more prizes...But maybe not. It was such a pitiful sight, Charles and I staggering around the mega party store throwing God-knows-what in the basket in multiples of 8. Chicago evil. Yellow Submarine good. Colin used to break out into "When I'm 64" at dinner.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have the "gold" box the "treasure" was stashed in. It now holds origami.

By the time A and K came along, we mostly did the Mc D's or Chuck E thing or loaded them all into two (or more) cars and took them to the latest kid movie when they were little (day care, preschool, primary grades). That last idea (going to a movie) most likely won't work any more since everyone has DVDs/VCRs now so their kids never miss out on seeing all the kids movies they want.

As they got older the parties changed. For girls: sleep overs, karaoke, DDR, and skating. For guys: video game arcades. (We even borrowed games, and game systems to set up at home for a few birthdays before there was a safe game arcade near us.)

As for funny clothes, maybe Lilian and her friends could loan you some.

Mom

4:54 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Mom- You still have it? I bought a roll of gold paper to make one. We had thought of driving the lot into Monroe (15 miles away) and letting them spazz at the McD's but with the weather a bit iffy, decided against it this year. Will certainly move to another venue in the future.

8:55 AM  
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4:54 AM  

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