Everyone needs a construction site next door. It’s true that the giant machines wake you up at 6:45 EVERY SINGLE DAY. And your entire house will be covered in dirt for months. At least two members of your family will get something in their eye that will cause major problems. You will inadvertently become a strip show for construction men. Your children will stage protests by throwing play mobiles at the workers who are not, in fact responsible, for the construction. You’ll have to call the police a few times when people rob the dumpster or use it to throw away large metal objects. The children and the resident dog will cry as their favorite trees are ripped heartlessly from the ground. But there’s nothing better than a construction site for a five-year-old birthday party. Ok, it was slightly stressful when two kids went missing and the phrase “they are in the bobcat” was used.
Other than that, this was by far the easiest birthday party we have ever had, including the ones where we paid outside agents to do all the work. We spent about ten bucks on juice boxes and paper plates and had no plans. Poor deprived Eli almost never has playdates except on his birthday. By 8 am it seemed like we might be headed towards the usual disaster because eli had already had two tantrums; the first because he knew we needed MORE BAKING SODA IN THE CAKE!. I’ve had a thing about making elaborate b-day cakes for years now. My friend Cynthia and I outdid ourselves with the Williams Sonoma double train cake for Rebecca and Jonathan when they turned four, and we have also specialized in cute little ice cream cone cupcakes. Cynthia was generous enough to fly in from Alaska for this year’s festivities, but Reidecca Party Planning, Ltd. took over. Reid and Rebecca first made a pin-the-siren-on-the-fire-engine game out of poster board and then hit the cake. These are kids who until now put so much frosting on Hanukah cookies that they were inedible and always produced cakes that had more sprinkle than cake. This year they carefully outlined the fire engine wheels in mini m&m’s and took off from there. They both have better fine motor skills than I do.
It seemed like we were pushing our luck when we had some friends passing through town and invited their three kids to come to the party. And then the first guests arrived half an hour early because the kids had been begging to go to the party all day and finally the dad said “ok that’s it. if you want to go now we walk.” So they walked the two miles. And the kids played on the site in the mud for most of the time. Hannah, who showed up in a pink taffeta party dress, spent a good hour in a muddy hole and came out with a miraculously clean dress. Everyone needs a party dress to play in the dirt. At some poing the big kids started a game of relay relay which involved jumping around in retail relay bins. I typically use these for time out. When things looked like they might get cranky, we moved on to birthday cake, which was lovely, although Eli, who had burned his hand making pancakes in the morning, wanted nothing to do with the actual candles. After opening presents we had a half hour left on the b-day party clock, and I suggested Rebecca read to the kids out of E’s new Dr. Seuss book. This meant that when parents picked up their kids no one was on large construction equipment. Instead, the five year olds were gathered around the second and third grade girls who were calmly and seriously reading to them. We had three big sisters with us, each of whom needed to take a turn! And I’m pretty sure that another mom cleaned the family room and swept the floor while the big sisters read.
For the record, we have terrible birthday party karma. I pretty much hate them and have attended about two kid b-day parties other than my own. Even when we moved to having parties at outside venues I felt like I needed heavy painkillers to recover. I can barely locate my own children in a crowd even when I dress them in matching bright colors, so the last thing I can do is keep track of seven extra kids who are high on sugar and party uppers. Rebecca and Jonathan’s five-year-old birthday party was one of the worst ever. Because of the twin factor we had to invite the entire class. That class is pretty much on speed and has already traumatized multiple preschool and Sunday school teachers. They all came including uninvited siblings and parents who stayed. Meanwhile the power went out and the low point was a kid (not ours) throwing rocks at another kid while his father looked on doing nothing. Although we had sent our dog away for the party, a guest arrived with an unleashed dog who, though very friendly, traumatized two of the kids at the party and a few neighbors. Two kids climbed over the fence and the art project that I had carefully planned after serious Internet research took exactly three seconds.
I’m not sure what happened yesterday other than karmic payback for torturous parties of birthdays past. It’s true that Eli’s class is a calmer group. The little boys who have been on his b-day list the longest are Sid, Solomon and Charlie, who, when you add Eli to the mix, sound like a group of old men in Florida. I’d like to say that I am super mom and that we should all go back to basics—no theme, no goody bags, no activities, no rules; just let it rip. But that’s probably not the answer for every party…