Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Birthday Fiesta: Kids Turn Eight!

You remember the calm, yes, even zen birthday celebration we enjoyed last year with the kids? Well, after a whole year of first grade with fun classmates and birthday parties, Chandler and Cadence really wanted to celebrate WITH friends. I said, "I don't know..." about a million times and then I got this idea: a simple birthday party. Like the old days when you just had kids over to play in your back yard and ate a sheet cake. Hmm... We have a backyard. We have a trampoline. And we could use a deadline, a.k.a. excuse to give our yard a once over. 

At first, I saw this yard prep as my main "party planning." I weeded, planted and mulched flower beds. I finally invested in clematis to climb my upside down tomato cages. I declared war on the edge of our lawn that was forever spilling mud onto our drive when it rained and added a row of blocks to our patio. When I made it last summer I was skimpy on size and it's felt crowded ever since - like our patio table and chairs barely fit. Now it's so much better. Ahh...I felt good about this. 

So good, I started dreaming up a tiny, little, itsy-bitsy theme for the party. Gender neutral themes always present a fun challenge to me and I decided a fiesta with cowboys and senoritas would be fabulous. So the kids being dressed up could be the main decoration, right? So simple. All I had to say to sell the kids on the theme was that we'd have a pinata. Little did I know you have to buy the pinata AND fill it. With how much candy? And only kinds that won't melt. I didn't know any of this yet, so when my friend asked me, "Can you do that? Can you do an easy party and not go all out?" I said, "I think so."

But I'm from California, you see, and I know a thing or two about a fiesta. I'd be innocently folding laundry when a faraway feeling would come over me. I'd remember how papel picados (mexican banners) fluttered in the breeze across whole streets and intersections. I'd see double circle skirts swirling around dancers legs and ribbons braided through their hair. I felt all warm and fuzzy thinking about it and wondered how I could bring that kind of feeling to our little party. Play music from the local Spanish station? Set the kids loose with some maracas? 

remember this flower bed from way back here?

Pretty soon, the kids and I were snipping papel picados out of my tissue paper collection (I reuse any people give us in gift bags.) It was easy as cutting a paper snowflake and free! Next, we drove all over town in search of anything like a Mexican outfit. I ended up pairing a three-tiered skirt with a blouse and black pumps. Since Cadence didn't want a big flower in her hair, I talked her into braiding ribbon through it. We scored Chandler some cowboy boots at a Goodwill, which completed his outfit. To pass the time, I chatted with the kids' about treat options, since Cadence isn't a fan of cake. She wanted either a giant cookie or pudding cups with gummy worms in them and Chandler wanted a tie-dye cake. When we found out almost everyone we invited was able to come, we decided to do both Cadence's ideas and the cake.

The day came. My children now understand why we can't do a big party with friends every year. It clicked for them about the time I was barking at everyone and sweating and stressing about sixteen children converging on our backyard. I asked them, "Can you tell I'm having a hard time?!" They nodded, wide-eyed. I said, "This is why we don't have parties with friends every year. Because I'm not very good at it, and I get stressed and grumpy and it's hard for me to THINK." 

I know this stuff isn't rocket science, but it gets complicated when there are three hours left til showtime. What's most urgent? Hanging the pinata or getting water to cool in the fridge? At what point do you start tearing off the tops of the pudding to add gummy worms and when, WHEN may I ask, do you let your children put on their party outfits?! One minute before or when they start asking half an hour after they roll out of bed? If you're wise, you'll choose the former, but at the high, high cost of telling them "not yet" four hundred more times while you're trying to get this shin-dig off the ground. 

Well, we did it. And it got fun, once the people were there and the kids were smiling. I had this nagging feeling I was forgetting something the whole time, but I let it go mostly so I could see the best parts. Like the cowboys running around like a posse and the girls dancing in the garage to the radio. Not simple -- I'll try not to tell myself that lie again, but we did make  strides. There were no favors (beyond the pinata candy) because favors freak me out. I end up paralyzed in stores, trying to think of something everyone will love. We sent Evites and the kids made the thank-you "cards." So it was somewhat simpler, with memories of games, sweets and crowding inside to open presents because it started raining. I'm glad we did it and glad I got to add fun details that (I felt) made it special. I'm also glad I won't have to next year. 

Love these two and can't believe they've been part of us for eight incredible years. When everyone's gone home and I'm looking at pictures, seeing their joy again, I slowly unwind and remember: that's a real reason to celebrate.

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