Last year, when our oldest turned nine, I agreed to a “Night at the Museum” slumber party. It seemed like it would be a cake walk (small pun intended) compared to the eighth birthday “let’s invite the free world to Pump It Up” throwdown, which followed the seventh birthday “let’s invite the free world to Rollerland West” shindig. Some of our parent friends wanted to hang around for awhile and offered to assist in chauffeuring guests the scant five blocks that stand between our house and IMAX. Such a short drive, but such a loooooong one. It’s amazing how much armpit noisemaking, burping, etc. a nine year-old boy can fit into a two-minute car ride. Then there was the whole fight over who got to sit next to Birthday Child once we arrived at IMAX. The slumber party portion of the evening wasn’t much more fun. I made a mental note after the last guest departed that our slumber party days were over.
Then I lost the note. My father told me once that a goldfish’s power of mental retention is roughly one lap around its bowl. Thus, it passes the treasure chest, thinks, “Hey, a treasure chest,” swims another lap, says, “Hey, a treasure chest,” and on and on ad infinitum – like Tom Hanks in that “Mister Short-Term Memory” skit on Saturday Night Live. (“HEY! TONY RANDALL!”)
Apparently, one lap around my personal goldfish bowl translates into, roughly, 365 days. Every year, I leave my annual “mole biopsy party” swearing that I’ll die of skin cancer before I go back. A year later, I find myself thinking, “I really need to schedule a dermatologist appointment.” Ditto childbirth: after my first (unplanned) C section, I swore I wasn’t going through THAT again . . . but it wasn’t long before I was considering a second one.
So I agreed to a tenth birthday slumber party. And hilarious hijinks ensued. Here’s the blow-by-blow:
Week before party: Stuff bags of party favor LEGOs into treat bags. Count 200 more LEGOs, purchased from the “bulk bin” at the LEGO Store, into one of the tumblers in which they package bulk bin LEGOs at the LEGO Store. Notice that tumbler looks like a martini shaker, but with a LEGO button on the top. Chuckle. Wonder if design is meant to make parents chuckle – and buy more LEGOs. Stuff treat bags into pinata shaped like Darth Vader’s head. Worry that suddenly too-cool-for-school Birthday Child will object to fact that pinata is of the toddler “pull string” variety. World-weary Birthday Child informs me that they market it that way to big kids, “because you only want to tear the bottom out of the pinata – so you can wear it on your head.”
Day before party, 3:00 pm: Birthday Child sees me putting candy LEGOs and LEGO Star Wars figure key chains on turkey pull-apart cupcake cake, and asks, “Wait, is that for me?” Birthday Child begins crying and tells me that he thought cupcake cake was “a fake-out.” Remind him that we celebrated his eighth birthday “Aloha Scooby Doo” party with turkey pull-apart cupcake cakes embellished with icing leis. (Apparently, a turkey pull-apart cupcake cake is my go-to when Birthday Child – born on Thanksgiving Day – selects a party theme that is commercially unavailable.)
3:01 pm: Birthday Child answers: “Yeah, but Mom, we were EIGHT then.”
3:02 pm: Go all attorney on Birthday Child: “So, what you’re telling me is that you all are two years older but somehow LESS MATURE than you were when you were eight? Because no one made tacky comments about your cake when you were eight – so if you think that they’ll be tacky now, then you all must be regressing.”
3:03 pm: Birthday Child glares at me – but concedes the battle.
Morning before party, 9:45 am: Show Birthday Child place cards for party, pieced from scrapbook paper to look like LEGOs, with jokes like: “What did Obi Wan say when his apprentice had trouble mastering chopsticks? ‘Use the fork, Luke.’” Birthday Child rolls eyes, reminds me for umpteenth time that he is TEN. YEARS. OLD.
10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Pick up toys/put up laundry/carefully dust and arrange tchotchkes/vacuum/decorate for party.
4:00 pm: Discover gnatlike insects swarming in vicinity of kitchen sink. Spouse Googles gnat infestations. Google advises spouse that gnatlike insects most assuredly have been attracted by scent of aging fruit. Note that gnats seem to be everywhere in the kitchen except in the vicinity of the three, perfectly-in-their-prime oranges that are sitting on the counter. Remove oranges anyway. Google further advises that ammonia or bleach down the drain will take care of gnatlike insect problem. Confirm suspicion that do not own ammonia or bleach.
4:30 pm: Spouse decides to move Wii to living room and hook up Beatles Rock Band instruments . . . a scant two hours before the party. Carefully dusted and arranged tchotchkes are dumped in pile on sofa to allow for rewiring of TV/DVR/DVD player. Dust gets discharged everywhere.
4:50 pm: Leave for trip to Best Buy and grocery store to purchase LEGO Rock Band (which, Birthday Child advises, must be procured lest party be “TOTALLY RUINED”), a USB hub, ammonia and bleach.
5:00 pm: Fight with Best Buy manager, who assures me that we don’t need a USB hub. Call spouse, who reads blurb from back of Beatles Rock Band carton, advising us that we need a USB hub. Best Buy manager and spouse agree to leave things at a stalemate. Purchase USB hub and party-success-ensuring LEGO Rock Band software.
5:15 pm: Purchase (lemon-scented) ammonia and (linen-scented; who knew?) bleach. Dither over whether to purchase same or different scents. Decide to give self options.
5:30 pm: Stop at Central Market. Find self distracted by orange cherry tomatoes/new line of frozen pizzas/gruyere dessert cheeseballs/etc. Get head back in game and purchase more candy LEGOs. Also orange cherry tomatoes. And a cold coffee/tea beverage that looks like pure caffeine in a bottle.
5:50 pm: Arrive home to discover that several party guests have arrived an hour before published party start date. Not surprised to find spouse still hooking up Rock Band instruments.
5:55 pm: Discover that lemon-scented ammonia still smells 100% “ammonia-y.”
5:56 pm: Discover that gnatlike insects also have taken up occupation over bathroom drains. Abandon fruit theory in favor of hypothesis that plumber’s recent snaking of sewer line out to easement unclogged blockage, created superhighway for gnats. Apologize in my head to the unfairly maligned oranges. Spouse and I agree to plan of aggressive gnat genocide in interest of disrupting breeding cycle. Opt to pour (linen-scented; who knew?) bleach down bathroom drains. Birthday Child drifts by, sniffs and asks if maid came today. Because, evidently, we now associate “the smell of clean” with “not Mom.”
6:00 pm: Granddad arrives with Bruschetta pizzas that did not fit in our freezer and that grandparents graciously agreed to babysit and deliver. Carefully arrange pepperoni slices into grid on square pizzas to resemble oversized LEGOs.
6:11 pm: Dispatch spouse to Domino’s to pick up pizza.
6:15 pm: Guests begin playing LEGO Rock Band. Marvel at odds that ALL of Birthday Child’s friends would be tone deaf.
6:16 pm: Two hundredth “dude” is uttered by party guests. (Many “dudes” will follow.) Notice that Birthday Child is introducing newcomers to guests that they don’t know. Pat self on back for not raising total Philistine.
6:20 pm: Ask Little Brother to sign card for Birthday Child. Little Brother immediately opens card and holds up to ear, assuming that all cards are musical. (Same child always asks to see photo immediately after it is taken and is thrown for complete loop when someone explains to him that their camera is not digital.)
6:25 pm: Walk parent outside; hear loud crash. Boys learn the hard way that three people cannot bang on the drum set without things vibrating off of the armoire. Boys spend next five minutes picking up potpourri and returning it to bowl that was wedding present and is, evidently, indestructible.
6:35 pm: Start pouring drinks in anticipation of pizza arrival. Birthday Child comes into kitchen crying, announces that two guests have informed him that he must endure ten “birthday stomach punches” from each. Take guests to task. One mumbles, “I only punched him a little bit.”
6:40 pm: Serve pizza and drinks.
6:40 pm and ten seconds: Little Brother spills drink.
6:45 pm: Party guests compliment joke place cards. Birthday Child takes credit for joke place cards and follows with, “Wait until you see my cake. It’s awesome.”
6:50 pm: Lead guests in “Happy Birthday to You.” Guests add two verses, invoking monkeys, etc.
6:51 pm: Serve cake. Begin to empathize with flight attendants: “Coke, Sprite or Sunkist? Cheese or pepperoni? Yellow cupcake with chocolate icing, yellow cupcake with colored icing, or chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing?”
7:00 pm: Birthday Child opens his gifts . . . in five seconds. Haul includes LEGOs, a Star Wars: The Clone Wars encyclopedia, Air Hogs, many Nerf weapons, clothes and a card with $20. Birthday Child counts money, claims only $19 is accounted for, and asks gifter to explain himself. Missing dollar found in bottom of bag. Reconsider Philistine thing.
7:05 pm: One of clothing items is an Ed Hardy t-shirt. Spouse heard to mutter: “Great – a douchebag starter kit.”
7:06 pm: Accidentally refer to Ed Hardy as “John Hardy,” as in the jewelry designer. More muttering from spouse: “Yeah, that’s a Freudian slip I’d expect from you.”
7:10 pm: Spend ten minutes scrubbing icing out of the crevices of LEGO Star Wars figure key chains with a potato brush.
7:15 pm: Entire party relocates to Connor’s room to build giant LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars ship that Mom selected solely because it features Mace Windu and his bad-bohiney purple Light Saber.TM
7:35 pm: Rock Band resumes. Admire Birthday Child’s mediation skills. “Cameron hasn’t gotten to play, so he gets to pick an instrument first. Parker, Garrett gets to be band leader this time.” Re-reassess “not a Philistine” world view.
7:36 pm – 8:15 pm: Reason with Little Brother that Rock Band gets to stay at his house, so he should be generous in allowing guests to play. Find “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” online game to play one on one with Little Brother.
8:16 pm – 9:15 pm: Begin blogging as coping mechanism. Endure sixty five renditions of “Kung Fu Fighting,” “Ghostbusters” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
9:16 pm: Spouse drifts in from den, asks “How are you holding up?”
9:30 pm: Second wave of guests arrive, fresh from TCU game. Mom not so fresh.
9:45 pm: Stop blogging to videotape Little Brother’s inspired vocal performance of “We Are the Champions.”
10:05 pm: Little Brother evicted from Birthday Child’s bedroom. Nature of his transgression: repeated mooning. Consider dropping Little Brother off with good friends’ children as package deal.
10:15 pm: Finally convince guests to collect in one room for pinata thing, because one guest (yup, ONE, darn the luck!) isn’t spending the night, and his parents are en route. Birthday Child threatens to go through with the “pinata on the head” routine. Spouse explains that when he sees a pinata, his natural tendency is to whack it, really hard, with a big stick. Birthday Child rethinks “pinata on the head routine.”
10:20 pm: Dump LEGOs that did not fit into Darth Vader into pile on floor. Guests build LEGO vehicles for awhile.
10:30 pm: Brief respite from craziness ends. Previous rules about not swinging/throwing/destroying things/people/animals apparently totally forgotten.
10:35 pm: Start cleaning/doing dishes/collecting trash to take focus off of craziness. Manage to have a couple of good one-on-one discussions with guests about their new pets, favorite subjects at school, etc. Faith in humanity restored.
10:40 pm: One of conversation partners attempts to re-break Birthday Child’s oh-so-recent broken elbow. Faith in humanity back offline.
10:50 pm: Remember that we never played the “guess how many LEGOs” game. Realize that I never assigned a prize to the game. Decide to use game to raffle off first choice of sleeping arrangements. Guesses range from forty to four hundred. One of the guests (math whiz like Birthday Child, and one-third of Birthday Child’s team that won district history fair) looks at the tumbler and says “200.” Award him the prize, expecting him to call dibs on Birthday Child’s top bunk/Little Brother’s loft (Little Brother is, by now, passed out on couch in den, and plans are to leave him there, as far away from craziness as possible)/couch/leather recliner. Winner calls “floor.”
10:55 pm: Spouse finishes viewing “TIVO delayed” TCU game. Negotiate handoff of “parent in charge” duties.
11:00 pm: Off duty, but still mediating disputes/locating pillows and blankets/fetching beverages.
11:05 pm: Remind spouse of handoff.
11:30 pm: Guest who’s supposed to be going home still on the premises. Too-cool-for-school ten year-olds who Birthday Boy worried would diss a turkey pull-apart cupcake cake have moved on to playing with Little Brother’s Imaginext Batcave and Rescue Heroes.
11:45 pm: Noise level from living room is DEAFENING. Walk to den, ask spouse exactly how he interprets role of being “parent in charge.” Spouse promises to be more “diligent” and “hands on” and closes door to our bedroom, where I have sought refuge.
11:50 pm: Door ALMOST blocks out the sound of what could be swordfighting.
11:55 pm: Decide that eleventh birthday celebration will involve no more than two guests and will be held offsite. Make mental note not to discard mental note.