Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's His Party, But I'll Cry If I Want To

In less than three weeks, my son will turn two years old.

I am so not ready for this!

I don't mean I'm not ready for the milestone.

(Although, okay, I'm not-- do I really have to stop calling him "the baby" already and start calling him "the kid"? Couldn't I just keep calling him "baby" until he's, oh, I don't know, 18? Oh, okay, okay. How about five? No?)


For Isaac's first birthday, I started planning the party and buying supplies in FEBRUARY.

For weeks I tracked prices online and in circulars to figure out where I could get the absolute best deal for my money, and then I the bought napkins, cups, plates, balloons and paper decorations, all on clearance/sale, at four different stores over a period of about a month.

I designed the invitations myself, incorporating a carefully selected photo from each month of his life, starting with the day of his birth, on the cover of the card. I went through about six design drafts before picking one to have professionally printed on cardstock at Kinko's. (I actually had my husband and several friends do critical reviews of each design before choosing the final). I then hand-assembled the invitation cards, adding a baby blue liner and a translucent insert.

Ahead of the party, I purchased four new serving bowls and two new serving plates and several new serving spoons and two new pieces of furniture (Extra chairs for the living room-- we needed them anyway. Really). I arranged to borrow folding chairs and tables from three different relatives. I tried to make my husband let me buy or rent a folding gazebo tent thing to put on the apartment lawn outside in case of rain, because our apartment is roughly the size of two postage stamps, and my husband has an ENORMOUS family, and therefore a good third of our invited guests would basically have to sit outside or we'd be violating fire codes, but he wouldn't let me. Because, unlike me, he is sane.

In the days before the party, I drew up a menu and started cooking. I bought a few things pre-made at the store, but, being monetarily impaired, I cooked at least half of the food completely from scratch. The menu included:

-Dinner rolls
-Cheese-garlic breadsticks
-Fresh green salad
-Fruit salad
-German potato salad
-Three-bean salad
-Fresh chopped vegetables with three flavors of dip
-Pretzels with dip
-Chips and salsa
-Macaroni and cheese
-Pasta primavera with garlic-roasted vegetables
-Homemade hand-frosted sugar cookies cut in the shape of stars and the number one
-Homemade yellow birthday cake with homemade, from scratch butter-cream frosting, rainbow sprinkles, topped with homemade sugar cookies spelling out ISAAC.

(Did I mention that my son has Sensory Integration Disorder, and at that time wouldn't have touched a frosted cake with a ten foot pole?)

Crazy Uber-Mom syndrome, much?

Okay, so I went a little overboard last year. But the 50,000 family members (only one of whom was actually from my side of the family) who showed up to our overpriced Quonset hut-- oops I meant "luxury apartment"-- had enough to eat, and had a great time, and for the most part Isaac had a good time too (he was a little traumatized by the cake).

But this event took months of work and planning to execute on a single-full-time-income family budget. And was exhausting. And overwhelming. And probably not really what Isaac would have wanted for his birthday if I'd asked him, anyway.

So this year, I was thinking, I would have to do something different. Something fun. Something small and kid-oriented. Someplace where someone else would have to clean up afterward. Maybe have the party at the zoo? The Magic House? The Carousel in Faust Park? Maybe at the Museum of Transportation? Someplace where other kids would have a good time. Someplace with a laid-back atmosphere.

I've looked into it. All of these places cost like $150-$200! FOR ONE HOUR. You ever tried to keep a party to one hour? Sheesh. Not my kind of party. And that price is without food or decorations, in most cases.

So, what. Chuck-e-Cheese? Scratch that. You just try taking a kid with sensory integration issues to a crowded, noisy restaurant full of SIRENS and STROBE LIGHTS and making him stay there and behave for three hours. We made the mistake of taking Isaac to Dave and Buster's a few weeks ago for a bring-the-kids dinner party one of John's coworkers was having.

I'll give the kid mad props-- he made it for almost two whole hours while we waited and waited for a table before a major meltdown.

Then he screamed at the top of his lungs for two hours straight. Including on during the 45 minute ride home.

So, I've come to the conclusion that we'll just have to do it at home again. Which means that my husband's entire extended family, including Isaac's grandparents, great-grandparents, and possibly multiple great-aunts and uncles will expect to be invited again, since it's "just a little family get-together at home."

And this is BEFORE we invite any kids Isaac's age for him to play with-- there are no kids his age in the family who live nearby.

I have less than three weeks.

I have done next to no planning.

(What happened to Uber-Mom? What's that? You say she dropped dead about six months ago from sheer exhaustion one night? When she cooked yet another three-course dinner from scratch for her family after spending all day writing copy for a deadline WHILE watching a child and folding laundry, and then her kid screamed at her and threw the food back in her face? Tragic, truly! And you say Half-Assed-Slacker-Mom has kindly volunteered to move in to permanently take her place? Oh, ok.)

(Is there a stronger word for panic?)

(P.S. Did I mention it's my husband's birthday that week too?)


MrsFortune said...

Well, of course I know everything because my son is still unborn (and I have a small family), but the only thing a 3 year old needs at a birthday party is one cake for everyone to eat and one cake for the kid to smash his fists in. But all the rest of that stuff sounds super yummy, too, can I come?

Jaelithe said...

Why of course you can come, Mrs. Fortune! But I am not so sure BOB will be up for partying so soon after his own birthday.

Assuming, of course, he doesn't make you wait an extra week or two for his appearance. You don't suppose he's waiting for Mother's Day? Mine came two weeks early just to be a Mother's Day present. I swear. It wasn't that he'd been trying to violently kick his way out of the womb since developing legs, or anything. Really!

Andrea said...

Okay, first, take a DEEP BREATH! Put your arms over your head and stretch your fingers to the ceiling. Better? Okay, good. Now, I know this is going to sound funny coming from me since I spent eleven hours frosting SpongeBob Squarepants and Mickey Mouse cakes for my son's second birthday, but keep in mind, I also had a lot of help in my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and grandmother-in-law. Plus, my husband took care of a good chunk of the food by grilling pork steaks.

You don't have to please everyone all at once. If you think Isaac will like staying home again, and then you decide you can't afford/don't want to have the HUGE party again, you can just say you did last year so big because it was his first birthday, but you only plan on going out like that for milestone birthdays. Then you can have the small gathering, order a few pizzas or something (Little Caesars has large, ready-for-pickup one topping pizzas for $5 a piece) and be happy. A friend of mine had the brilliant idea of taking her daughter's birthday guests to the local fire station. The kids LOVED it (although you could ask them not to blast the sirens for Isaac's sake) and had a great time climbing all over the trucks. They learned fire safety, and the fire fighters ate it up, all those cute little kids running around with huge helmets on their heads. Best of all, I think it was free. As in, no money to do it. Can't beat that.

Jaelithe said...

Andrea, seriously, I would love to just tell everyone I'm keeping it small this year, and only invite a few family members. The problem lies in my husband's family dynamics.

My husband's parents are divorced, and both have re-married. Of course he loves both sets of parents and wants to invite them both. Along with his younger brother and two younger half-brothers, of course. But my husband's two sets of parents don't really get along (they're civil, but they don't get along). So in order to keep the party from getting REALLY awkward, we have to invite more relatives as a sort of buffer. But you see, if we invite my husband's father's mother, well, we HAVE TO invite my husband's mother's mother, too. And if my husband's mother's mother comes, well, we have to invite Isaac's Great Aunt A, because Great Aunt A drives Great Grandma M everywhere and they do everything together. And if we invite Great Grandma T, well, she can't very well leave behind Great Uncle J who still lives with her because he has Down's Syndrome. And if one aunt and one uncle are coming, you can bet dollars to donuts if the whole lot of others aren't invited to the party (even if they don't actually all plan to come), someone's gonna be laying the guilt trips on at Thanksgiving and Christmas next year . . .

So before we know it, we've invited 50 adults to a two-year-old's birthday. Hehe.

But as hard as it is to manage birthdays and holidays in this sort of a situation, I wouldn't want things differently. My own mother hasn't even called me on my birthday in six years. And my father? I haven't even been on a speaking basis with him since I was in high school.

I think the way my husband's family spends time with one another is amazing, and it's great that my son is so blessed with a big loving family on at least one side.

And who can blame them all for clamoring to see the most amazing kid in the world on his birthday, anyway? ;)

Lisa said...

Have you tried Woody's yet? I have to call them because like you, I don't want to take out a freaking mortgage just for some silly party. Grant's Farm was uber-expensive - blew my mind!

Andrea said...

Boy, do I know what you mean. Mike's mom is one of four, and thank god there are no divorces to contend with, because every gathering is already 20 plus people. And if we invite Mike's mom's siblings, we have to invite Mike's dad's only brother. Luckily Mike's dad's brother only had two kids who don't have kids themselves, otherwise it grows exponentially. But I do the same thing you do. I get scared I'm not going to have enough room/food/fun for all of them and start to wonder if we really have to invite them all. Then I realize that's a good problem to have, with so many loving relatives, and that's just Mike's side. My father has 7 siblings, all with kids and grandkids now, but they are flung all over the country. The family gatherings on my side are legendary because my side of the family easily tops 100 or more, but distance helps keep it reasonable. But every other Thanksgiving, we have to rent a hall just to hold us all. Luckily also my dad does catering on the side, very reasonably priced. I'd recommend him for you, but he lives in Kansas, so I doubt he'd be much help for you in a couple weeks.