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Pre-Party Panice

Maddie’s third birthday party is
coming up, and I have to confess I’m getting a tiny bit
stressed about it.

For her first birthday, we skipped the party thing: after all,
first birthday parties are for the parents (hey! I survived the
first year!) rather than the kid. And we played her second birthday
low-key as well: all our friends had zoo memberships, and so we all
gathered at the zoo (her favorite place on earth) for a birthday
celebration. No fancy plans, no big decorations, no theme, no
snazzy goody bags to give out.

Now, though, Maddie’s been to a few parties and knows
it’s a rather big deal. In addition to being the day she gets
to eat cake and have presents, Maddie understands that birthdays
are for fun parties with her friends, and she’s looking
forward to her birthday party this weekend almost as much as she is
her actual birthday next week.

In addition, I’m back in the south,
and while I was comfortable and confident in my parenting circle in
New York, I’m still feeling my way back into the southern
etiquette thing, so I’m cautious of doing some inadvertent
faux pas on the big day. I’m still trying to find my groove
in the mommy group – they’re all amazing women, but
it’s just a case of me getting culturized, you could say
– and don’t want to hurt any feelings.

Finally, while I want to give my kid a great birthday party, we
need to live within our means and make sure she doesn’t see
her birthday in a COMPLETELY materialistic way. That’s a lot
of things to take into consideration.

So we started with where to have the party – someplace cheap
and fun and special to Maddie. The solution? We’re having the
party at Maddie’s gym, and she’s so excited she can
hardly hold still. Brian’s never been able to see the Super
Bouncer in action, and for an hour on Saturday she and all her
playgroup friends will have the space ALL TO THEMSELVES, spotters
included. How cool is that??? We can bring our own iPod and plug in
our own tunes, and they provide space for a cake and all the rest.

With that nailed down, I began to work on the big issue – the
goody bag. I know kids here expect a goody bag, and don’t
want to make some sort of social statement at their expense, but
honestly I wish they’d never been invented. You struggle to
find some sort of meaningful gifts for everyone that’s less
than five bucks apiece, lead-free, and made according to fair trade
practices, and let me know how successful you are. I want to give
kids a fun gift, but don’t want to contribute to the
pile-o-crap that ends up on their bedroom floors. So I’m
wrestling with this, and I’ll let you know how successful I
was next week when it’s all over.

The cake, too, has been surprisingly stressful for me. You know me
– I’m a big baker, and I simply assumed I’d be
making the cake for her. But I’ve had a heap-o-trouble coming
up with a way to decorate a sheet cake in the gymnastics style
– one suggestion I found online of making a balance beam out
of Kit Kat bars and putting a Barbie in the splits on top of it is
indicative of the suggestions I’ve come across – so I
copped out and have ordered it. I’ve got a splendid photo of
Maddie in mid-bounce on the trampoline, and I had it scanned onto a
cake as an edible photo. I’ll let you know how successful
that is, too, when I see it.

And finally, I’ve got a half hour in the “party
room” before we hit the gym floor, and I’ve been a bit
worried everyone will be staring me expectantly like tourists on a
cruise ship looking at the cruise director for fun poolside
suggestions. I don’t want to simply put out a bowl of
M&Ms and hop them up on sugar (other than the cake, of course!)
but don’t want to overplan the thing. C’mon, folks,
they’re three years old.

So I’m frantically working on all the different aspects and
hoping it all comes together on Saturday. Yes, I want all the other
moms to think I’m cool, but mostly I want my girl to have a
fantastic day without breaking our bank or simply throwing money at
the whole thing to make it easier. At the same time, I don’t
want to Martha Stewart my toddler’s party and send everyone
home with mini-trampolines I made out of recycled rubberbands and
old tin can lids.

Hey, there’s an idea for the cake topper . . .


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