Sunday, June 07, 2009

The most perfect of weekends...

...if you're fast-approaching 4.

This weekend was Katie's birthday party, an event which quickly spiraled completely out of control in the preparations. The standard procedure for these events is to invite the 8 usual suspects (2 kids, 6 adults), let the kids run around fairly unstructured for a few hours while the adults snack and watch, eat dinner, and then cake, ice cream, presents, and go.

This year we ended up having 9 kids--our two, the usual two cousins, two second (third? fourth? I never know how to count these things) cousins, two friends from down the street and another friend from Katie's old preschool. Ages at or close to 5(2 kids) 4 (3 kids) 3 (1 kid) and 2 (3 kids). Given that many kids we wanted more than just the sandbox and their own devices so we figured we'd set up the kiddie pool. Then last week the weather was calling for clear but in the 60's and we thought we'd better get a Plan B in case it was too cold for the water.

Meet Plan B.

I started looking for a castle themed bounce house and found one at Sam's Club for about $200. That was was more than I wanted to spend but I figured if owning it was $200, renting must be about $50 and that was reasonable enough to at least call about.

Turns out, renting is about $150 and was out of the running. But then a friend from work offered to lend us hers which was just sitting in the garage while they were out of town all weekend. Perfect! Between that, the pool, and the sandbox we had a solid 2 hours of playtime covered for all.

When Katie found out that the heap of tarp in the garage was a bounce house she did the "Home Alone" scream: hands up, eyes bugged, just screaming and jumping and turning from me to Rob in shocked excitement. Yep, totally worth it.

Making the cake was an adventure. Katie loved this cake and with the advice of our friend Laura we managed to figure out most of the structural issues. This was our first adventure with fondant which went ok if we block out the fact that we were up until 3:30 AM Friday night doing "just this one last try to get the _A_ finished". Here's the deal from about midnight onward:

"Oh, ok, while you do that with __A__ I'll do the _B__."

(5 minutes later) "ok, I'm done with __A__".

"Oh, I'm still working on you want to try __C__?" repeat repeat repeat.

This took 3 box mixes: 1 for the blue-covered base (strawberry), one for the actual castle (Funfetti) and one for the coach (devil's food). The castle towers are shaped from rice crispie treats which were cooked up by a semi-crazed woman at 2 AM and the spires are covered ice cream cones.

But it was all---and I say this with the sincerity that only a mom can probably have after all that---it was all totally worth it.

The overall "theme" was prince and princesses and in addition to Katie's "Happy Birthday" crown each girl had a foil & cardboard tiara and the boys had shiny gold cardboard crowns (like burger king). Each kid left with a little gift bag of things Katie had picked out: a prince or princess magnet frame, a star-shaped lollypop, prince and princess paper puzzles, soaps, magnets, and dragon stickers.

We don't usually do party favors when it's the immediate family, but with the extra friends it felt more like a typical kid's party. Katie was bursting with excitement to give them to her friends.


As if that was enough for the weekend. Today Rob did the 63 mile (100 km) Tour de Cure bike ride. He was up and out of the house before any of us awoke, but we hustled this morning and Katie, Jorge and I managed to get into the car with both of their bikes; a packed picnic basket; a bag of swimming suits, towels, sunblock, and spare clothes; and about half of the house in order to get to the first rest stop for the riders by 9:15. Katie matter of factly put on her crown as we walked out the door and I didn't bother to take issue. If she's still casually wearing it in 3 weeks I'll at least try to swap it for one that doesn't announce her birthday to avoid that "oh, it's your birthday!" "no, my birthday was a month ago" thing. For now it's cute and it may even score us some free stuff so whatever.

The rest stop was at a local fire house and thanks to some faulty driving plans on my part we were almost 45 minutes later than planned. By the time we got there Rob had taken a 30 minute rest and he and Aunt Judy were among the very last riders to leave the rest area.

As they rode off, I walked the kids over to the fire trucks and asked a passing firefighter if we could look at them--I didn't want to be in the way. The firefighter offered to let the kids climb around inside and I think Katie's head just exploded.

(Yes, Jorge is around. He spent the whole birthday party surrounded by other kids and I don't know how their parents feel about posting pictures on a public blog. Trust me, he had a great day.)

The firefighter returned with two plastic fire hats and two "I'm a firefighter" books. If you put a picture in the back your face fills in the fireman faces on each page. I happened to have the kids' passport photos in my purse from a few weeks ago so a little tape and--bing bang boom--both kids were giddy about their firefighter books.

When we finally headed out of the fire station we took a different route and a few blocks later passed a completely empty playground on the beach. We had no where to be, so we stopped for an hour.
(See Fire Marshal Jorge rushing up the burning staircase in the background?)

As we continued toward Grandma's house (which was between the park and the finish line) we passed a Dunkin' Donuts and popped in for my missed morning coffee and a few pink donuts with sprinkles for the kids. Katie polished hers off; Jorge just ate the pink frosting. Then we headed to Grandma's. While there, 4 of yesterday's birthday party guests arrived along with 2 other older boy cousins. Just goes to show that when you're a kid, really, everyday is a party.

After an hour or so of playing, Rob texted that he was an hour away from the finish line so we packed up and drove the 30 minutes to be there when he crossed. We got there 20 minutes before he rolled across--just enough time for the kids to pick a handful of wild daisies and buttercups for him.

The kids were so excited. Really. Don't take Jorge's word for it.

And then we had a picnic, walked on the beach, went back to Grandma's, had a meltdown of epic proportions (Jorge) and drove home crying (Jorge) and wailed for an hour (Jorge) and then curled up on the couch to watch Cars (Jorge and me). We rented it from Netflix a few weeks ago and none of us had seen it yet. Jorge needed something to break the crying jag before bed and we both needed a snuggle break. Rob had driven separately to the race and had the other car with Katie still at Grandma's. Two minutes into the movie I texted Rob to tell him to just stay at his mom's with Katie and have dinner since it would be a battle if they came home half-way into the movie and he immediately wrote back to say they were in our garage. So we started the movie over and watched it as a family--Jorge fell asleep with a smile on his face about an hour in---and both kids fell into bed as happy as could be.

What more could you ask for as a fourth birthday?

Sappy mommy post probably coming this week closer to the actual birthday.

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