Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If You Give A Preschooler A Party

At the end of last week’s episode, our proud heroine was bragging about the no-frills party she was going to throw for her daughter. Let’s tune in today to see just how that party really went.

It was a dark and stormy night…

My original vision was to have the party guests bring baby clothes to donate instead than birthday presents. There’s a hair salon up the street which exclusively cuts kid’s hair and is also a drop-off point for gently used (or new) clothes for babies in their first year of life. The clothes are carefully packed in 12-inch by 12-inch boxes with an even distribution of sizes from newborn up to one year. The boxes are then labeled for gender and doled out to Bay Area maternity wards to Moms who will need them the most. (Alta Bates NICU is also a recipient). For the curious or for those buried under piles of tiny Baby Gap onesies, the organization is called Loved Twice and you can read about them at http://lovedtwice.org.

I thought the kids could help decorate the boxes with stickers and then we’d all parade to the hair salon where we would exchange the clothes for some heavy praise and helium balloons. Then we’d walk back to the house for the rest of the party.

The problem was that it would most certainly be raining cats and dogs that day. Besides, no one had any hand-me downs anymore. So we scrapped that part of the party. Instead, I made an appointment for Chiara and a friend to get their hair cut and “styled” (glitter and princess braids) early that morning and we’d drop off our boxes then (we have LOADS of baby clothes to pass on.) Good thing, too, because it was the kind of rainy day that makes you wonder why we still have to take three-minute showers. Those reservoirs must be pretty full by now.
The party itself went very smoothly, but I was surprised at my lack of foresight in some key areas. Here are ten nuggets of After-the-fact Wisdom:

1. Get a noise ordinance.
Little kids are really loud. And for every party guest, the decibel level increases by a factor of two. One more kid and we would have been louder than a 70’s Deep Purple concert. I’m surprised that our downstairs neighbors didn’t march through the door and throw all the kids out the window. If you invite more than two children, consider earplugs.

2. Sometimes four-year-olds act like little kids.
Somehow I thought I’d invite four of Chiara’s friends and it would be like having five Chiaras sitting playing quietly until dinner. But here she was, running around and screaming—just as loud and rambunctious as the rest of them.
When I came into the twins’ room and shouted, “Everybody get out of the crib, NOW!” she responded with, “We heard you tell us not to jump in the crib but we misunderstood.”

3. If you give five preschoolers a raw egg to hold, at least two will drop theirs within the first ten seconds.
We had this brilliant idea of having the kids make and decorate cupcakes. Chiara and I had a blast baking the cake we brought to daycare for snack time and I thought that cupcakes would be a nice activity during the party. So while I finished making dinner, Matt and the kids made cupcakes. Let’s just say that messes were made.

4. You can’t make kids eat green beans.
And there ain’t nothing nobody can do about it. All four guests politely turned down my green beans with a lovely, “No, thank you.” I had even sautéed them in bacon grease to make them extra appealing. Only Chiara took a healthy helping, possibly because she was afraid I’d deny her a birthday cupcake if she didn’t eat some vegetables.

5. Make sure you feed everybody.
If there were one thing we would have done differently, it would have been to only invite one child to the party. If there were two things we would have done differently, it would have been to have the twins’ babysitter come to take care of the boys during the party because I’m sure she would’ve remembered to feed them. We thought they were screaming because they wanted to be like the other party-goers. Turns out they were just really, really hungry.

6. Cupcakes are hard to frost.
Who knew? While five kids consumed approximately four green beans and sixteen pounds of macaroni and cheese, two dozen pink and chocolate cupcakes cooled. Then while Matt fed the twins, the kids and I decorated the cupcakes. We had three different colors of frosting: white, pink, and chocolate, and a shaker with six different kinds of sprinkles. The trouble is, the frosting has to be spread with the slightest touch. If you bear down too hard, the cake comes off with the frosting. This was frustrating for some of the kids. One went through four cupcake tops before I caught on to what was going on. In the end, I frosted while the kids waited patiently for their turn for the shaker. This is actually very sweet.

“F,” one would ask, “Can I have the sprinkles when you are done?”

They kept careful tabs on who was next in line for sprinkles, cordially passing the shaker around the table like little Stepford children.

7. Excited children pee a lot. Sometimes all over the sofa.
Actually, it wasn’t the sofa. It was the upholstered bench of the breakfast nook. Chiara, the kid who only needs to pee three times during daylight hours (balanced by seventeen times between the hours of 8pm and 10pm) had an accident of Hoover Dam proportions. She was hysterical over the accident. Absolutely inconsolable.

“I’ve never seen so much pee in my whole life!” she sobbed.

Neither had I. While Matt gave Chiara an impromptu bath, I cleaned up the mess while the other kids played “daycare,” putting one of the kids behind the safety gate and telling her not to cry and that her parents would come back for her soon. Luckily, when the twins heard the bathwater being run, they saddled up to the tub to cheer Chiara on (they really did!), leaving me to clean without having to worry about where they were or who else might be trying to pick them up.

8. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can tell five kids to put on their pajamas and put their day clothes in their backpacks and they will do it.
It’s true.

We also were able to get each kid to bring his plate and placemat to the kitchen and even got them to help Chiara clean up her room! The only trouble was that they had no way of knowing what went where. But all in all they did a great job. I almost had them help me clean out the pantry as well.

9. If you decide to show a 24-minute cartoon, make sure it’s actually only 24 minutes, and not the one Backyardigans episode that is really a ninety-one-minute movie.
Yeah. Our bad on this one. Three Backyardigans disks from Netflix and we open the director’s cut of “Robot Repairman.”

10. If you forget to bring out the party hats, for God’s sake don’t bring it up when you are kissing your child goodnight.
‘Nuff said.

Overall, everyone had a blast. This little video captures a bit of the magic.

1 comment:

  1. Fun video. For sure they all had a great time at the party. They were able to do what they like best: play, play, and then celebrate with some cake. Great job. Great idea! I liked the way you pointed out the rest of the story--the 10 lessons learned.