Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Party Planning 101

This weekend we had Makensie’s 2nd birthday party, and it was not exactly what I had expected. I read up a little bit on it. I mean, I’m a new mom, what do I know about throwing birthday parties for toddlers? I need to be prepared.

“Add two to the age of your child, and that’s how many kids you should invite to the party.” How can I only invite four kids? One of my closest friends has four kids himself!

“Have a family dinner with a couple of cousins, but don’t invite too many people. That will likely overwhelm a two-year-old.” We have family dinner every night around here. What fun will that be?

“Don’t overspend on party supplies and decorations for childrens’ birthday parties. They won’t remember it, and you’ll break your wallet.” Let’s see, I just got laid off last week, so I don’t see how I could overspend!

Online research. Check.

I called friends with kids and asked their opinions (mind you, this is the South, and no matter what it says on the Internet about keeping toddler parties slight, Southern women do not throw meager parties). I got website addresses for party themes, advice on parties they threw for their kids, advice on where to get the perfect cake (at $100 a pop) and decorations. (My girlfriends know what they’re talking about when it comes to their kids.)

Personal research. Check.

I made the decision after much toddler-birthday-looking-into that the best way to go was with a water party at the house. Kensie adores the water, so I knew she’d love her buddies coming to her house to romp around the yard in a baby pool and the sprinkler (we had both in the garage already), and I was sure she’d be fine with a few more kids than four. So I sent out 10 invitations. (One family had four kids; one had three; a couple had two kids; and a couple only had 1—what’s a few extra kids, right?).

Party theme and invites. Check.

Next, I headed out to get the cake. I didn’t go with the expensive bakers like some friends suggested. I had one made at a local grocery store. It looked lovely, I saved a bunch of money, and Kensie’s not allowed to eat sugary foods anyway, so I was sure the local grocery-store cake would be perfect for her.

Cake. Check.

Next we headed to buy gifts. I bought Kensie a bike (not too expensive, and I’ve got one more paycheck coming, so it’s all good), and my parents bought her a sandbox. Nothing lavish. No telling how many gifts she’d get from party-goers.

Presents. Check.

As my mother and I drove through town, I spotted a sign: “Party City.” Hmmmm? We’re throwing a party; I’m sure they’ll know what kinds of supplies we need. $200 later and with a full-on beach-themed party extravaganza, this 2-year-old’s party had taken on a life of its own. We now had two cars full of decorations, accessories (tablecloths, centerpieces, leis, hats, sunglasses), tables, chairs, pools, sprinklers, Slip ‘n Slides, gift bags, even a blow-up cooler for organic juice boxes, sodas, and water.

Party supplies. Check.

While we’re at it, why not make it a cook-out! I mean, Pa (my dad) loves to grill, and since the party doesn’t start until 3, it’ll be dinnertime before we know it. Burgers and dogs, buns, sodas, chips, baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, M&Ms (a must-have), beer and wine (just in case). $180 later, we had enough food to feed the neighborhood (even though no one in the neighborhood was invited).

Outdoor barbecue supplies. Check.

Saturday morning arrived, and it was a hot one. At 8 a.m., I couldn’t walk five feet without breaking a sweat. But I had a party to get ready for, there was a toddler following my every move who knew it was all about her, and she was ready (she was playing in the water by 10 a.m.). At this point, we hadn’t yet gotten a pump to blow up the baby pools and Slip ‘n Slide and cooler and water accessories, but no worries. We’d just make a quick run to Wal-Mart. I was sure a simple bike pump would do. Not! Once we realized it’d take us a week to pump everything up by hand, we had to send my dad to the automotive store down the road to get an electric pump. Long story made short, it took us from about 10 a.m. until literally the beginning of the party (again, 3 p.m.) to get all the blow-ups blown up and everything else ready.

I finally got in the shower at a quarter ‘til 3, and by the time I got back outside to greet guests, I was, again, sweating profusely. (Tip for those of you not from or living in the South: Showers during summer are either completely unnecessary, or you have to take three a day. Your choice.) When people started arriving, the real work began. Carrying chairs, filling pools, moving tables, running in and out for supplies that need replenished, getting drinks for adults, fielding questions from the kids, keeping towels on hand, showing people to the bathroom, preparing burgers and dogs, schlepping presents from the front to the back of the house then to the front again, carrying bags of sand for the sandbox: the glamorous life of “Mom of the Birthday Girl.” (I’m no Tori Spelling: I don’t have “guncles” to pick up the slack of an absent father!)

Needless to say, the kids had a blast, the adults enjoyed themselves, and Kensie was more than thrilled to have all of these people at her house celebrating her. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch (well, there may have been a few hitches, but no one really noticed), and party-goers hung out until the sun went down. Though still sore and ecstatic to be inside in the air-conditioning for awhile, I am glad I chose to throw more than a family dinner for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. It wasn’t easy, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family, but it was worth every bead of sweat, both burnt shoulders and nose, the dirt strip left in the front yard from the Slip ‘n Slide, all the sand that still needs to be cleaned up on the back patio, and the remnants of balloons and flip-flop cut-outs strewn all about the neighborhood that still need to be picked up.

Successful 2-year-old party. Check.

Now, where the hell are my keys!?!