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The Agony And The Ecstasy, Toddler Party-Style

It’s 7:45 a.m. Saturday morning. The
phone rings, and because Cora got me up an hour ago, I answer it on
the first ring. “Hello, ma’am? I’m from the Acme
Party Supply Company. We spoke last night?”

“Yes,” I reply jubilantly. “I remember

“Well, I’ve got some bad news. For some reason, the box
never left the warehouse last night, so it’s still there.
Which means it won’t be making the Saturday delivery we
promised you.”

Which is the moment I collapse over my desk, weeping.

What brought me to this state? Try a three-year-old’s
birthday party.

As I mentioned last week, I’d been a
bit stressed about getting it “right” –
fulfilling Maddie’s expectation, making all the kids feel
welcome and happy, and not spending a fortune. I’d spent a
long time working on the favors, and was simply waiting on one
shipment to finish the gift bags. By last Friday, I noticed the box
hadn’t been delivered when promised and called to find out
why. For whatever reason, the box was stuck in Omaha, but the
company promised they’d rush deliver a new box that night and
it’d be on my door by 10:30 a.m. Saturday, no extra charge.
I’d gone to bed feeling like I’d dodged a bullet, only
to be told Saturday morning that there was one more shot left in
the gun.

Were these few doodads integral to my child’s happiness?
Well, yes and no. No, of course my daughter will live and have fun
without them; but yes, because she helped pick them out and was
very excited. Even worse, one of them was the one craft I had
planned for the party – now that half-hour before gym time
seemed to stretch endlessly in front of me, with no way to fill it.
And to top it all off, Maddie and I had been shopping earlier for
stickers and crayons for that craft project – decorating your
own straw cup – and I knew she’d remember if those
stickers didn’t show up.

Which is why I found myself in the car at 9 a.m., driving
everywhere looking for some sort of substitute.

The solution? A not-nearly-as-good but perfectly acceptable
alternative: decorating name tags and sticking them to straw cups.

So that was the agony. Fortunately, everything else went off
without a hitch and Maddie had the party of her life. She spent the
whole morning jumping up and down, willing the clock to move and
her party time to arrive. At the gym, she stared longingly at the
gym floor from the party room window, even while she kept one eye
on the door for her guests. And when her friends arrived, she flew
into high gear, flitting around welcoming friends and staring at
her mysterious presents and packages.

For Maddie’s cake, I took a photo of her in mid-jump on the
trampoline and had it scanned into an edible image, which looked
pretty awesome on the cake if I do say so myself. The timing was
perfect; the kids were hopped up on sugar just as it was time to
hit the floor and work off some energy. And then we came to the
highlight of the day.

Madeleine was in her element at the gym, screaming with delight
while swinging on the trapeze, jumping endlessly on the trampoline.
She tried things she’d never done before: the whale bounce
house (too scary, but apparently not with cousin Graceanna holding
her hand), the dolphin zip line (ditto, but with Daddy’s hand
instead). But truthfully, I think her favorite part was simply
being able to show the gym to her dad for the first time. Brian
climbed in the foam ball pit, sat enraptured near the trampoline,
and waited excitedly for her at the exit to the bounce house. They
ran around together, jumped together, everything. At the end of the
party my girl was exhausted but happy.

For the going home favors, we’d baked some of Maddie’s
breakfast bars, wrapped them in tin foil, then stuck big stickers
I’d printed like labels with the same picture of Maddie on
the trampoline and the label “Maddie’s Energy
Bars” on them. I’d also bought small plastic trophies
and written each kid’s name on one in gold paint pen, and as
they left Maddie gave each child a medal for their outstanding
gymnastics work. What kid doesn’t like trophies and jewelry?

For the childrens’ part, the party was a success because they
all talked about the dolphin zip line and the cool guy working the
party (“He let us wrap him up in a tumbling mat! He let me
knock him down!”). As far as the parents were concerned, the
party was a hit because it caused many toddlers to take a nap for
the first time in months.

And you can’t buy that kind of positive feedback.


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