March 27, 2011

The Party to End All Parties

I survived. I actually pulled off the party to end all parties - a goodbye/birthday celebration at the school gym involving eighteen highly energetic kids - and can live to tell the tale. It was two whole hours of fun, not a single kid got hurt (even though I was fully prepared with coloured band-aids), and they even ate the cake.

Mia's birthday is still half a year away, but we won't be around then, so we decided to efficiently combine it with the fact that we're going away, and while we were at it, we threw Bram's actual birthday in the mix as well. In short, we had a lot of reasons for a celebration.

The Cake
Mia and I baked the cake together. Before I go into the details, I should probably tell you: I have an obsession about cakes with toys stuck into them. I blame it on Safeway, the supermarket we went to when I was a kid. They had this cake with a Barbie doll stuck in the middle and I wanted it so badly, at one point, I felt my life depended on it. But my parents (both designers and both aesthetically-minded) didn't believe in that kind of thing, for which, in retrospect, I am eternally grateful! So I never actually got the tacky Barbie-cake, but it has remained a hidden yearning ever since. For the past few years, I've been trying to re-create that cake for my daughter, whether she liked it or not. This time, we tried to make the Barbie cake.

Seeing as I am about as proficient in baking as I am in flame-throwing, I bought the ready-to-go cake mix instead of pulling out the 'Joy of Cooking' and making one from scratch. We baked the cake, which turned out more lop-sided than the Tower of Pisa, but it wasn't raw on the inside and it actually looked the right color as well! So far, so good.

Then, I made the icing. For this, I actually did pull out the aforementioned 'Joy of Cooking' and found the quickest, easiest and recipe involving the least amount of mathematics to whip up a delicious white icing that would bring the whole thing together. But suddenly, I think I'm the Naked Chef and I start doing my own thing to ruin a perfectly good recipe. So, let's just say, the icing turned out sort of grey and was the most sticky substance ever created. I'm telling you, spiders would've wanted to use this stuff in their webs. (I should actually get a patent on it and sell it to NASA, if I could only remember what I put in it...)

At this point, we were ready to decorate the cake. But when I attempted to place Barbie in the middle, I discovered her mile-long legs made it impossible. She was too tall to fit! So I did what any Mom on a mission would do in that situation - when Mia was looking the other way, I quickly tore off her legs and smooshed her in the cake. Mission accomplished.

It was then Mia's job to add her own special touches to her own cake (Nerds, Smarties and about fifty mini lollipops) and it turned out to be the ugliest, yet most endearing cake I had ever seen. We managed to find room for five candles in between the chaos of decorations, which was a feat in itself. I only hoped that the cake would actually be edible and that the candles wouldn't ignite Barbie's hair.

The Party
We have a place with about 2,000 square meters of grass and forest around it, but seeing as Holland is the most unpredictable country in the world when it comes to weather, we opted to rent a hall for the party instead of having it outside. Naturally, the weather has been incredible lately - warm, sunny and perfect for stuff like treasure hunts in the woods and running around in the grass. And we were having the party indoors. Murphy's Law, how I dislike you.

So, determined to be better safe than sorry, we rented the school gym for the party. I couldn't think of a better place to entertain so many kids, and the price was right to boot. The past weeks, I have been collecting a variety of party games and finally narrowed it down to about ten. My ultimate concern was boredom: if the kids thought Mia's party was boring, they might stop liking her! It was my duty to ensure her friends still thought she was cool after this whole shebang was over! Talk about pressure.

As soon as the first little guests arrived, it was clear that just running around was enough to keep them occupied the first half hour at least. When everyone was present, I initiated the first party game: making music. We brought a basket full of instruments the kids could choose from, and we proceeded to play slow, fast, quietly and loudly. We shook, jingled, drummed and beat while I sang my heart out and my husband strummed some barely audible chords on the guitar. With eighteen kids on percussion, the melody kind of turned into soup - a gym does not have the best acoustics in the world. But it was a hoot! When we were done, two kids came up to me and whined, 'Can we go play now?' And here I was thinking we were playing! Guess it was my own fault for attempting to do something slightly educational.

Of the ten party games I had prepared, we only actually did two. Mia and her guests didn't need anything but each other to have a great time. We opened presents and we ate the cake (I won't go into the challenge I faced just slicing the thing). We sang songs and suddenly, the party was over! I handed a goody bag to and thanked each and every happy guest before they went home and could honestly say it was a successful event.

The Birthday Girl
You'd have to come from another planet to not know the song, 'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to'. After seeing my daughter at her own party, I now fully understand the true meaning of those lyrics. I obviously wasn't the only one who was aware of her behavior, because a couple other Moms told me, from their own personal experience, that it was quite common for the birthday boy or girl to be the most ill-behaved guest at the party! Mia hung on me like a newborn monkey, complained, whined and was close to tears for the entire two hours. I could barely squeeze a 'thank you' out of her as she unwrapped the multitude of presents she received. I suppose, even if I knew beforehand that this might happen, there is very little I could've done to prevent it. Some things need to just be, I guess.

Today, we are recovering. I spread out all the new toys and read the cards, some hand-written even. I am overwhelmed with mixed feelings of joy and sadness - Mia has some extremely special little friends who know her so well, and will miss her so much while we're gone.  I can genuinely say, in the words of my 95-year-old grandmother, 'We'll go so we can come back'.

Stay tuned for the next post: the trip to Orcas...