Tag Archives: party

Special Birthday Edition

I meant to get this post up yesterday, the 15th, which was my birthday, but didn’t quite manage it. 

birthday cards

This is a quick, unpolished post, the electronic equivalent of scribbled notes, but I had to write something about today because it was so beautiful.  I want to capture it and remember it always.

I am 33 years old today.  When I sat in church this morning, as Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry trotted off to Children’s Liturgy and Annie happily defaced a Vinnies Christmas Appeal envelope, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my love-filled life.

roses from my garden

Last night, I had a group of dear friends over for a relaxed barbeque.  I had tidied the house and made it beautiful with fairy lights and candles and fresh flowers from my garden.  After we had picked at the last of the salad and the birthday cake crumbs, Mr Knightley lit a bonfire and we all sat around toasting marshmallows until the guitars came out.

I think it might have had something to do with the plastic cups of very lovely champagne (a Christmas present from her very generous student) that Lydia poured out liberally for all, or one of the most delicious and rather strong vodka cranberries that Lovely M kept making me, but I sounded AMAZING.  We all sounded AMAZING.  Like magical gypsy minstrels.  Those weren’t fumbled chords.  Those were highly sophisticated improvisations.  It. Was. Awesome.

By all rights, I should have felt rather poorly this morning, but I did not.  My children tumbled into bed with me and gave me presents and kisses.  My husband cooked me bacon and eggs (even better: he fed and dressed the kids!).  We got to church on time, too (this is big)

I was still feeling the love while Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry walked slowly to the front of the church in the Offertory Procession with the other Children’s Liturgy kids.  Harry solemnly delivered the corporal cloth to Father Jacob and then swiftly ran away, first in the wrong direction, then turning and racing back, almost knocking the priest and half the gifts over in the process.  Annie, meanwhile had quietly progressed to colouring the hymn books.

I felt so good.

These aren't from my garden, but a present from Bess

Later that day, I would eat brunch with Bess and George, my old uni friends ; my parents-in-law would drop by with a lovely present and my house would be tidy (win); and I would have a delightful afternoon tea at my favourite place with my parents, and brothers and sister (Jan’s in England, but was there in spirit).

I was yet to be showered in presents (and so was Cindy, my twin, who turns 23 on Tuesday), was yet to eat delicious gluten-free cake, but I still felt so good and so grateful.

At the end of the day, I would snuggle up with my darling love (my new curling iron) and my husband and watch a movie so compelling I couldn’t blog through it and post this in time.

A day might come that’s not like this one at all, when I feel blackness and despair.  Maybe I might feel consumed by anxiety, like I can’t cope, like I always fail.

Perhaps it might not be blackness and despair, but greyness and blah.  I might feel numb to joy, like I’m just surviving in a bland world of sameness.  I might forget how to be happy and just settle for smug.

A day might come when I really need this post.  When I need to remind myself that things aren’t really all that bad.

Things can be pretty damn sweet.

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Nudity Blues

If you’re wondering why I’m so twitchy and nervous at the moment, it’s because I’m currently teaching Harry how to use the toilet.  Toilet training is stress on toast.  That child’s bladder is a ticking time bomb. I need to maintain a catlike state of readiness at all times.

As Harry is discovering this wonderful world of toileting, he is rediscovering his love of nudity.  More often than not, before going to the toilet (or lemon tree) Harry feels the need to remove ALL of his clothing, like he’s wearing some elaborate geisha costume.  And he never wants to put them back on again.  And it’s the MIDDLE OF WINTER.  Sometimes Harry takes all of his clothes off just because he can.  I don’t know what he’s thinking:  “home time!  Time to get naked!”, “Mmmm, this is a great snack, but what is it missing – ah, I know: nudity!”, “I don’t know about you, but I prefer to do my trampolining sans vêtements”

Yesterday afternoon, I was running late to pick up Matilda from a netball party because Annie had done an emergency-nappy-explosion just as we were getting ready to leave.  I should say right here, that I could have picked up the phone and asked one of the other mums to give Matilda a lift home, but I resisted.  I find it so hard to ask for help.  I feel like I’m always the one asking and yet I’m never giving back.  Besides, I want them to know I can cope.  I don’t want them all to think I’m the crazy lady who had too many children too young.   I am Superwoman, don’t you know?

Harry, meanwhile, was feeling very angry at the world and was expressing this anger by refusing to wear clothes.  Any attempt to dress this young protester would result in extreme resistance and I had no time.  I was already the worst kind of late.  The kind of late that imposes on someone else.  Someone I’m trying to impress with my superior coping skills.  I think that’s when things got a little crazy.

“I’m only taking him to the house around the corner and back home again and he won’t be getting out of the car”, I reasoned, “why not take him as he is?”

I started with some threats “If you don’t hurry up and put some clothes on, you’ll have to go out with no clothes on!” and “I’m taking you in the car whether or not you’re dressed, so you better put some clothes on!” had no effect, so I picked up the young naturist and carried him to the car in a no-nonsense, “right! We’re leaving!” sort of way.  All of a sudden, Harry panicked and started shouting “No! No! No!”  I smiled to myself.  I knew I could outsmart him.

It was as I put Harry down to get his clothes that I realized Harry was not cross at the idea of going out without clothes on, he just didn’t want to be carried to the car.  Once I had put him down, this nature child strode happily to the garage, clad in nothing but his birthday suit, and climbed into his car seat.

I’m a great believer in natural consequences when using discipline.  Sometimes children need to learn the consequences to their behaviour for themselves and this becomes a learning opportunity.  So it was with some vague idea of natural consequences (au natural consequences?) that I strapped a naked three-year-old into his car seat.  I draped a jacket artistically across his lap, but he promptly flung it off in disgust.

As I drove to the netball coach’s house, I formulated a plan of attack in my mind.  I would park in the driveway and leave the children in the car while I ran to the door to fetch Matilda from the party.  She would dash back to the car with me and we’d hightail it home.  It would all be over in a matter of minutes and nobody needed to know.

The first thing that struck me as I arrived at the house was that I wasn’t as late as I thought I was.  There were still parents arriving and chatting and returning to their cars by walking down the driveway, RIGHT PAST HARRY’S WINDOW.  Meanwhile, Matilda was having the time of her life and in no hurry to leave.  When I finally managed to extract her with her school bag, lunch box and netball certificate from the party, a group of excitable girls came with her.  No sooner had Matilda looked into the car when she announced exultantly “HARRY’S NAKED!  HARRY’S NAKED!”

So it was that a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls rushed to the car to behold a self-satisfied Harry smiling shyly with nothing but a seatbelt buckle to cover his shame.

The parents nodded awkwardly as I stammered out a lame explanation and, at the same time, it struck me that nothing shrieks ‘trailer park neglect’ like a small child who’s naked for no good reason.

As I drove off in crimson confusion (I think even my hair was blushing), I was beginning to doubt the effectiveness of ‘natural consequences’.  There were no negative consequences for this inappropriate behavior.  On the contrary, Harry had thoroughly enjoyed his nude expedition and was probably planning his next one.

When I got back home, I was setting the bath running when inspiration struck.  This was always the plan.  I am actually so organized that I prepared Harry for his bath an hour ahead of time. 

I am Superwoman.  That’s just how I roll.

Beautiful Parties Magazine Fail – Part Two

All right.  Intermission over.  So the house was clean and decorated and everything was in place for Matilda’s Star Light Pyjama 8th Birthday Party.  Hmm.  Might have been quicker if the whole of the last post was condensed into that last sentence (at least, that’s what I can hear my older brother saying in my head – damn you, Greg!)

Here are some pictures I took the morning after of the boys’ decorating efforts with the aforementioned star-shaped post-it notes.

neat stars

Christopher Robin was very methodical,

messy stars

While Harry let it all hang out.

I was feeling a little nervous about the whole thing.  The party was to begin before Mr Knightley came home from work and while I had hoped Jan or Cindy (my sisters) might have been able to offer some moral support, it was the beginning of a busy long weekend and they were all booked up.  But I could manage, yes sir, no problem.  For I am Supermum.

When the guests started to arrive, the parents tended to remain on the (neatly swept) doorstep, and so did not get the opportunity to come in and marvel at the glory of my fully mopped and vacuumed home.  But no matter.  I reassured one of the mothers that the children would not be playing outside after dusk (her daughter is allergic to mosquito bites…) whilst another mum was staying to help look after her daughter, Matilda’s firm friend Phoebe , who has high-functioning autism.

There was a moment, as I stood in my dressing gown, while ten little girls exclaimed and fussed and became completely absorbed in decorating gingerbread stars, each on their own labelled paper bag, in an orgy of coloured sprinkles and cachous beads, there was a moment when I felt completely smug.  I had made it as a mother.  Some of the biscuits were pretty little works of art, while others were science experiments in the icing load carrying capacity of the biscuit, but every little girl was happily engaged and so was Christopher Robin (Harry was steadily eating one biscuit after the other – I hadn’t noticed and he knew he was onto a good thing).

Soon it was time to put the movie on.  There was no snuggling under blankets as it was still 35 degrees outside, but the girls happily plonked down on the couches and bean bags and jostled good-naturedly (ish) for position.  Within the first five minutes, several of the girls loudly announced all of the major plot points, taking care to elucidate on any particular surprise twists that we might not yet have been aware of.  Informative.  As I scrambled to prepare popcorn, Mr Knightley arrived home from work and I promptly despatched him to get pizza, with instructions to buy extra, as the girls had already demolished two large bowls of popcorn, a tube of Pringles and a large bag of chips in no time at all.

I think it was around this point that everything started to go wrong.  Several of the girls decided they’d had enough movie watching for the present and quickly got up and went outside; the rest of the party followed, tripping along as daintily as a small herd of baby rhinoceros.  In retrospect, it was unwise to plan so much of the party around watching a film, with no back-up activities should the movie fail to impress.

“You can’t expect kids to sit still and watch a movie – that’s not a party.” commented one wholly unsympathetic girlfriend the next day, echoing the voice in my head.

“Thanks for the tip, Captain Hindsight!”, I exclaimed in response (in my mind, a few hours later).

I watched helplessly as ten girls and two small boys jumped in unison on one trampoline, nervously eyeing the sun as it crept closer to the horizon (mosquitoes: remember?).

When Mr Knightley arrived with the pizza, the girls gathered around enthusiastically, shrieking and jostling and having shouty conversations as they ate (but they didn’t eat that much, for all that – we had heaps left over and it wasn’t long before the girls were looking for the next diversion.  I was beginning to wonder if Matilda set strict limits on attention spans in her criteria for choosing friends – or maybe I’m just getting all old and out-of-touch).

I don’t know if it was all the noise in a confined space, the sky-high excitement levels or the fact that there was no more orange fizz, but all of the frustration and stimulation-overload became too much for poor Phoebe and she launched stridently into what Matilda calls “one of Phoebe’s meltdowns”.

I was really glad that Phoebe’s mum had hung around and that she knew how to best deal with the situation.  Up until this point, I had regretted the presence of this grown-up witness to my abject failure as a party-planner, but now I watched with humble respect as she set to work diffusing and containing Phoebe’s noisy angst as she must have done countless times before.

It was at this point, as I optimistically put the movie back on, that the doorbell rang.  No, I must be honest with you, it was a little earlier than this point in real life, but the story flows so much better if we pretend it was at this point.  So let’s pretend.  I hope you don’t mind.

It was at this point (*wink*) that the doorbell rang.  And there, in my hour of need, standing on the doorstep having arrived heroically on a white horse (or in a white Ford Festiva, I can’t remember which), was Cindy who had decided to arrive late to her other engagement so that she could help out at her niece’s party.

When the film ended (much earlier than I anticipated), Cindy politely asked me to stop weeping and kissing her feet and then set to work running some games around the table whilst I prepared the cake.  Cindy has a lot of experience running children’s camps and is completely undaunted presenting icebreaker activities to a group of rowdy girls with no time at all to prepare.  Handy to have, in the way of party helpers, I must say.  After a couple of different games, it became apparent that what Phoebe would want, more than anything in the world, would be to present her magic show to the girls.

So Cindy got the audience ready and, after a couple of false starts, was underway, bantering confidently with the audience in the way she had rehearsed, delivering a show with so much flourish and panache, that it took me a while to work out that she hadn’t actually learnt any tricks.  But something magic was happening.  The girls, who had eschewed Walt Disney’s multi-million dollar computer-animated offering, were now giving Phoebe their full attention, clapping and cheering heartily at every ‘ta-da’ (the ball has disappeared because I threw it over my shoulder) moment.  They were not being patronising, either.  They were supporting their friend.

By the time we’d sung happy birthday, eaten cake, waved glow sticks about and demolished the Nigella jelly, we still had ten minutes to fill before the parents arrived.  Ten minutes can be a very long time when dealing with a group of restless and overexcited little girls and Cindy had left for the other party.    In the end, it was Mr Knightley who came up with the solution, and though I’m not proud of it, I’ll tell you what we did.

Now, please don’t write me angry letters, I know it was inappropriate, but Mr Knightley has hooked up our TV so it can play YouTube clips, and he put the music video for Gangnam Style on for the girls’ entertainment.  Accordingly, the parents arrived, crunching across a floor carpeted with popcorn, cachous beads, sprinkles and pizza topping into a room strewn with spent juice boxes and gobs of pink jelly to find their daughters bouncing up and down on the couches and singing “Heeeeeey SEXY LADY!”

Not my finest hour.

After we waved away the last of the party guests, Mr Knightley and I flopped down on the couch.  “We survived!”, he croaked, then I think he fell asleep.

As I sat there, I reflected that Matilda and her friends were not so grown up after all, and that this was far from being a bad thing.  Matilda came and sat on my lap, putting her arms around my neck,  “Thank you SO MUCH, Mummy!”, she exclaimed with starry eyes, “It was all so wonderful!  I can’t believe you VACUUMED for me!”

And, just like that, it was all worth it.

Beautiful Parties Magazine

Party Table

Aaah!  Let’s look at some beautiful, inspirational pictures together.  A month or so ago, my friend Jack Sprout (a lady, not an incredibly gay man) threw a birthday party for her daughter, who is a friend of Matilda’s.  As we went through mothers’ group together, I have seen many of Jack’s parties and they are always a visual feast.  But I think this rainbow-themed one was especially lovely.

babycino cakes

Ahhh!

Rainbow cupcakes

Oooh!

Ice cream station

Sigh!  This one was an icecream parlour.  At one stage in the party, the icecream came out, at all the little girls chose toppings and sprinkles.  It was a winner!

pom poms

Mmmmm… I know, deep down, that I could never execute a party on this scale.  But this doesn’t worry me. It makes my creative brain happy to know that something this beautiful is happening somewhere in the world.  I never feel jealousy or competition towards Jack because she doesn’t do these things to compete with other mums (if it was, it would kind of be like breaking through the finish line and then going on to do twenty-seven victory laps). I suspect she gets a beautiful creative idea in her head (or sees something lovely on the internet) and it fills her with manic energy that drives her to make it happen.  She has such lovely taste.

Birthday cake

I don’t know if you’re thinking what I was thinking when I saw this cake.  It’s definitely beautiful and the little garland of circles (made with a sewing machine) is just darling, but – I don’t know – isn’t it a little understated for Jack?

Rainbow Cake

Oh I should have known!  And it was yummy too!

So, while I would never put in the level of preparation Jack does, going along to this party did get me thinking about what I was going to do when Matilda turns 8.

More on that presently (or not-so-presently, depending on when I next get alone-time on the computer!)