At 7 years old a dance party is a must!
I was born in July. I never knew how lucky my parents were to have a summer baby until I had a child in March and started to throw birthday parties. The weather in Michigan in March is as fickle as Taylor Swift. The day of my daughter’s first birthday party in 2012 was an unseasonably warm day. We had to turn on the air conditioning an hour into the party because it was starting to feel like Aruba in August with thirty people in the house. The following year we had to put extra rugs by the front door for people’s boots. There was over a foot of snow to remove in the driveway. Needless to say, birthday parties are indoor events for our little Logan.
Birthday parties for children are also more extravagant than they were when I was a kid. They are no longer backyard barbeques with Mom’s uneven handmade cake. They are full blown events with themes and party favors and cakes the size of small cars. There is valet parking and wait staff. I used to watch the movie Billy Madison and laugh at the parties at the end of each grade level completed. Now I cringe. I’m waiting to drop off my child at a third grade party to be met by an elephant and giraffe.
Nothing like a cake to feed 30 for a party of 15!
By the time my daughter entered preschool, we decided that alternating between small family parties and larger parties with all of her classmates would be the only way to survive. The last party we had with her whole class was when she turned five and we invited a couple dozen kids to a place that had several rooms full of bounce houses. She had to stand on a chair to blow out the candle on her cake and I spent weeks finding the perfect decorations and party favors.
This year she turned seven. She had some pretty lofty plans for her party. She wanted to go bowling, then rent out a movie theater for a private screening, move on to a restaurant where she would perform a cooking demonstration and then have a giant dance party. This little shindig was apparently going to last several days and cost more than her future wedding. No problem. I told her she should talk to her Grandpa about the party planning.
Chef Ryan and Chef Riley
After researching “over the top kids parties that will bankrupt you” for several weeks I narrowed it down to two options – a cupcake battle at a tea room that could accommodate fifteen guests or a cooking demonstration at a local Italian restaurant where her entire class could be invited. She opted for the restaurant. I think this was partially for the chef coat she would receive as a gift and partially because the boys could be included. She even invited a boy that changed schools last year who she misses seeing every day. I’m pretty sure the biggest pull was that she got to stand up at the head table with the chef and help with the demonstration. My kid loves to be the center of attention. I have no idea where she gets this quality from…
I sent out the invitations on a Sunday night and by the following morning I heard back from over half the class that they would be attending. By the week before the party it was established that twenty three kids would be there. Luckily we were able to have the largest banquet room in the building and the party began before lunchtime, so it wouldn’t be too crowded yet. I can’t even imagine trying to usher that many kids through the kitchen or to the bathrooms with a restaurant full of people. It was already similar to cattle herding to get the kids to wash their hands. All I was missing was an electric prod.
Before they made soup out of one of the party guests…
The chef who led the party was fantastic. When he arrived in the room the kids were playing a giant game of tag that started as soon as three kids stoof together. I had been attempting to slow them down with no luck. As I apologized for their mounting noise he replied “there is nobody in this restaurant and they are being kids”. That was fine for the time being, but the restaurant was going to get busy and the party was only going to get bigger and louder. And we were going to start packing these little beasts full of sugar within an hour.
The kids had a fantastic time during the tour through the kitchen and the cooking demonstration. I was expecting either a giant food fight or complete boredom and we landed somewhere in between with all of the kids laughing and smiling. They were mesmerized by Chef Ryan and he was able to both entertain them and keep them in line. The only problem was that at some point he had to get back to preparing meals for the regular restaurant patrons, and my husband and I were left to wrangle two dozen wound up littles with only the help of my parents. As soon as the chef left the room the game of tag resumed with kids running circles around the waitresses as they brought out beverages. After mounds of pasta, breaded chicken, cookies and brownies were consumed and giant bowls of salad were left untouched at the buffet, we got to opening presents.
And so it begins…
The trend at birthday parties has been to not open the gifts at the party. Unlike most trends, this is actually something I can get behind. However, we had two more hours of party to go and the kids were fed and ready to get crazy, so we had the little chef open her gifts while sitting in a big chair similar to a throne. One would think this would be a time of peace and relative quiet with no bickering or whining. One would be sadly mistaken. My Dad and I spent the next half hour telling kids to stop crowding and sit down while others yelled that they couldn’t see. The kids that were sitting up front were actually getting stepped on by others trying to wiggle their way up to the throne. It was like a Walmart in the bible belt on Black Friday.
Even the guests at kids birthday parties stick with a theme. The little chef opened aprons and baking sets, cookbooks and rolling pins, and even edible markers to decorate cookies. The child was in heaven. She also, of course, got her fair share of brightly colored craft sets. For the next month she will be making her own bath bombs, stickers, slime and make up, and knitting everything from stuffed animals to hats. She opened enough legos to build us a house which we may be moving into after we pay for this party.
Every little girls dream gift, edible markers!
I was happy to see that the Shopkins fad has passed, but now the kids are collecting tiny little dolls that cry and pee while leaving behind a trail of glitter. You buy a ball with no idea what is inside, and that is apparently the fun of this gift. Well, that and the bodily functions it performs. I tried to hide these gifts under the table as quickly as possible before the boys started playing baseball with them. One of our more dainty guests had already been beaned in the head with a squishy cupcake being tossed around like a football.
Within forty minutes the gift table sat empty while the girls huddled around a pile of neon packages. I unsuccessfully tried to gather all of the boxes and bags and match the gifts with the cards that came with them. The boys continued to play football with the giant rubber cupcake and my Dad and I continued to reprimand them for being wild and pray that nobody else got hurt. I came to the conclusion that I would have made a decent defensive back after making a handful of interceptions.
We gave up trying to calm the kids down and instead opted for a more organized chaos. It was time to kick out the jams. I grabbed my little portable speaker from my purse and began streaming the latest Disney movie soundtrack. The kids quickly got into a circle and had a dance off. This produced more tears but also a lot of laughter. They made it all the way around the circle throwing down all of their best moves within about three songs. When I found a full thirty minutes left before parents would arrive to pick up their little gremlins and the dancers were fading, I finally gave up. I was content to let them tear the roof off until my parents brought up the idea of musical chairs.
This game is best played when only one butt fits on a chair. We started the game with six open chairs because all of the girls were huddled at one end sharing seats. The game progressed this way with every round being a toss up when it came to who had the chair first. I let the kids act as referees for themselves unless it was getting too heated and then I pretty much tossed a coin. I was expecting a full force riot once the game ended, but the last two girls in the game were pretty mellow and didn’t much care if they won or lost. The first two players out were harder to eject than the last two.
Most of the kids didn’t leave until a few minutes before we had to vacate the room. I was happy that we were putting every second of the room to use, but I was also exhausted. I would never make it as a teacher. Or a zookeeper for that matter. My newly anointed seven year old headed to the bar to hang out with her grandparents. It was St. Patrick’s Day after all. She promptly lost her balloon and cried. It brought the tear count up to about a thousand for the day. The manager quickly jumped into action and rescued her balloon while we packed up the car. We called it a day about a half an hour after the last child left, and I am pretty sure we will be opening and organizing gifts until the next party. I should probably start planning tomorrow.
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Sadly, I broke up this childhood friendship.
I very rarely eat fast food. Questionable animal parts in a grease soaked bag is not my idea of tasty. I have an occasional breakfast from a cheap eats establishment before an early morning flight, or pick up a burger and frosty for my daughter after she badgers me for three weeks and I can use it to bribe her into doing a chore without complaining, but those events are few and far between. I can count on my hands the number of times I have ordered food through a little speaker and was able to pay for a meal for three with a twenty dollar bill.
I didn’t always have an aversion to fast food. As a matter of fact, as a child I thought “flay-o” was a kind of fish after getting filet-o-fish sandwiches with my Dad repeatedly. I grew up in the time when sitting down for a meal at a brightly colored plastic table with attached chairs was family fun, not a visitation at an upstate penitentiary. The e coli infested ball pits were not yet a thing. When I was a teenager I became vegetarian and then vegan. I quit fast food when most kids were just really getting started. I have always gone a little against the grain.
Diseases in every color!
My husband was a serious fast food junkie when we met. He awoke in the morning smelling like french fries the same way frat boys awake on Sunday mornings smelling of beer and bad judgement. Neither one of us cooked well and he was not a big salad fan so he was left with few options. We eventually put on our big kid pants and learned how to cook the year I planted a garden and had a kitchen full of baskets overflowing with vegetables. When you are faced with not being able to get out of your house without chasing tomatoes rolling across your kitchen floor, you figure out a way to put them to use. My better half soon went from his old peanut oil scent in the morning to asparagus pee in the evening. I’m not sure I did him any favors.
We were pretty adamant about not poisoning our child with pink slime. We avoided chain restaurants in general and treated anything with a drive through like a brothel, someplace no child should enter. I will admit we were a little over the top, but our fears were realized when my parents started feeding our five year old meals that come with a little plastic toy destined to become landfill within a week. We had opened the door a week prior by making a run for the border. It happens.
Friday night was the rare exception to our general avoidance of food that comes in a bag. I had quite a few errands to run and being that it was Friday in the middle of lent, our options for a quick meal were limited. I gave my family a few choices and they told me to drive through the golden arches. That is the last time I am listening to those fools.
Pick a lane…
Since it has been at least a decade since I have had to place an order through a speaker, I knew what we were getting before I approached the entrance. It was a good thing too. I was so confused by the presence of two drive through lanes that I almost turned around and left. I took the far lane which proved to be a wise choice after I watched a car pull through the inner lane and pull up to the window without placing an order. While turning the corner she took the curb with her back wheel. I ordered my three “flay-os” and fries by yelling my order into the little speaker a foot away from my window. I must not have yelled loudly enough because the cashier replied “what?” several times before asking “is that all?” It was like having a conversation with a cranky old man with his hearing aid turned down.
After completing my order I pulled up to the first window with my money ready. A teenage girl reached her hand out and took my money without a word. She then handed me a receipt and my $.08 change with a dripping wet hand and closed the window in silence. At first I thought maybe it was the restaurant’s policy to not be chatty with the customers. That was until I pulled up behind the car that had taken the curb a few minutes earlier. She had been sitting at the window talking to one of the workers for the entirety of my ordering process. The worker stuck his head out the window repeatedly looking back at me while they continued their conversation. My fast food was starting to take the time of a seven course tasting menu with the chef. The woman in the car started to pull away at least three times and stopped abruptly to say one last thing. When she finally pulled away I drove up to the window to find two bags sitting inside and nobody to deliver them out the window. The man who had been there was walking to the door on the other side of the restaurant where his lady friend had pulled around and parked. Another teenage girl finally ran up to the window and handed me my bags saying “have a nice night” with a smile. Finally – the service with a smile I was expecting based on all of the commercials I see on the Disney channel.
If the car didn’t need a new air freshener before, it does now!
As I drove home I reached into the bag to eat half of everyone’s french fries. This is the price they pay me for picking up the food. I learned this from my husband. He calls it a delivery tax. It mostly applies to Starbucks and sweets, but my understanding is I can apply it to anything. After eating a handful of fries I dug around for a napkin only to find none. Now I understood why the cashier’s hand was dripping wet. This fast food hell-hole was apparently napkin-free. I guess they have to cover the cost of their ultra friendly labor force somehow. I continued munching on fries for my entire drive home all while wondering how it’s possible that the people who just gave me such sub-par service are the same ones demanding a raise. I can’t complain though. It is true everywhere, you get what you pay for.
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I’m rotten to the core.
I don’t know why I always identify with the villain, but since I was a kid I have always felt a certain camaraderie with the “bad guy”. I have always been drawn to people who are clever and ingenious. I like someone who is quick witted and a little cynical and if he can con Kanye West into shutting his egomaniac piehole for 30 seconds, even better. That kind of magic is like watching the Sistine Chapel being painted. Unfortunately, this kind of artistry is rarely used for good. It’s always the villains who possess these qualities in books and movies.
When I was a small child I was never a big fan of fairy tales. I did like Sesame Street and my favorite character was Oscar the Grouch. I also liked Animal from the Muppets and of course the Grinch. I liked the bad boys and the cynical jerks even as a kid. I progressed to Travis Bickle and Lestat as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was in college that I understood that being called cunning wasn’t a compliment. I guess my moral compass has not always pointed due north.
I would argue that sometimes there is justified revenge and there is almost always appropriate retribution for being wronged. Neither begin with turning the other cheek. My favorite characters in books and movies had usually been wronged in some way, big or small, and they reacted accordingly. If that made them villains, so be it.
When I was 21, I started a business – a record label. It was named Medea after one of the most interesting characters in Greek mythology. She murdered her own children to make her ex-husband pay for his infidelity. Talk about blind rage. She has always been one of the ultimate villains because she didn’t care about her own suffering as long as she exacted revenge on those who had hurt her. The ironic thing about this is that a large part of my time in this business was spent babysitting a bunch of guitar playing man-boys. If Medea’s children behaved anything remotely like these guys, I could see where she was coming from.
My husband has always found my love of villains to be a little unsettling. When I read “Gone Girl” I was rooting for Amy. I wanted her to make her husband pay for having had an affair. It didn’t matter that she was bat-shit crazy, he had to pay and the punishment had to be exponentially worse than the crime. We read the book at the same time and had totally different reactions. I was cheering for “my hero” while he was horrified that she was getting away with it. I felt the same way about Alex in Fatal Attraction. Again, I am all for justified revenge. Karma is a bitch, but not always swift.
I have been binge watching Breaking Bad over the last month. Walter White is one of my favorite villains, mostly because we get to see him transform from a doormat to a badass over time. Also, he is clever and smart. He is a meth-making MacGyver who took on every possible enemy from the Mexican cartel to ex-con neo-nazis and won, all while kicking cancer’s ass. So what if he poisoned a kid and set up his brother-in-law to take the fall for him as the biggest meth producer in the southwest. I mean, everybody has their flaws right?
I think one of the reasons I can relate to the more villainous characters is because they are who they are. They are real, flaws and all. I like people who don’t take crap from anyone. They don’t care about being liked, they just do their thing. I think most of us have a little villain in us which is why these characters are so relatable. We just don’t let our inner villain out of its cage often, if at all. I probably let mine out a little more than I should, but hey when you have a gift, you really should share it!
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