Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In recovery

...from Sarah's birthday party last Saturday. God, whatever happened to plain old Pin the Tail on the Donkey? We woke up in what we thought was plenty of time to get ready before the kiddies arrived at 11:00. We had actually gotten all the fixin's (ice cream cake, matching paper Spongebob Squarepants tableware, gifts, wrapping paper and a puppet lady) in the days before. So all we had to do was tidy up a bit and get ready for fun. But first we had a leisurely bearkfast, coffee and newspaper-reading session before getting to work.

T-minus 90 minutes: Ben helps Sarah assemble goodie bags for her guests, which takes quite a bit of time due to her insistence that items be distributed in exactly the correct order and combination. I start to worry about time and start mopping the kitchen/dining area at high speed like one of those people in the sport of curling, then stabbing at the toilet bowl with the brush once or twice.

T-minus 60 minutes: Ben and I are setting a new decibel record as we scream at the kids to clean the playroom, one of the little tasks we had been meaning to do all week. This is the site of the puppet show, so it sort of has to not have 10,000 bits of toys and other detritus scattered all over the place. Otherwise we'd just lock the door and gently tell the guests that Great-Aunt Tilly is in there and is in a Bad Mood.

T-minus 45 minutes: Panic level ratchets up a notch as a potential builder for our Forever House drops by and Ben has to take a break from kid-screaming to talk to the guy and give him some architectural plans. The kids quit pretending to clean up and go back to playing happily.

T-minus 30 minutes: Ben sends Becky to her room for her total lack of cooperation and she's now setting new decibel records herself. Ben frantically flings every Lego, dress-up hat, Polly Pocket accessory, school art project, colored pencil, etc. on the playroom floor into a plastic bin. It fills the bin, which is the size of a large beer cooler, and the stuff gets hidden in the basement.

T-minus 20 minutes: The doorbell rings and two pairs of eyebrows shoot up in alarm. I greet the puppet lady, who is 15 minutes early, and start helping her lug in her stuff. Ben is drenched in sweat. He take the world's fastest shower and then dashes out for pizza. Becky is still hollering at top volume, so I've cranked up some bootylicious '70s hits on the kitchen stereo to drown out the racket. Sarah is inexplicably sitting quietly on the landing amist the chaos, reading a magic Treehouse book to herself. There is a God.

Launch: The guests all arrive on time, which is good since the puppet lady got here early, but bad because this superkinetic crowd has to be kept outside and herded away from the street while she finishes getting ready. We didn't get around to cleaning Milo's litterbox, which is in the downstairs bathtub (shower curtain discreetly concealing), so several guests remark on the greater-than-one-would-expect bathroom stench.

T-plus 60 minutes: The puppet show went over well, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it was the exact same puppet lady doing the exact same story as she did at the party a couple of months ago of one of the kids in attendance. We adjourn for pizza and ice cream cake. One of the candles is the type that keeps relighting itself, which amuses everyone greatly.

T-plus 90 minutes: That's it -- we've used up all our ideas and supplies for amusing 10 soon-to-be-first-graders. But they must continue to Have Fun and Play Together, so I herd them out back for some desultory sessions of Red Light, Green Light, pulls in the little red wagon and fighting over our few cruddy outside toys. It is very hot. Ben serves watermelon but no one cares. Sarah is Not Having Fun. The minutes slog by as though each one was wading knee-deep through the La Brea Tar Pits.

T-plus 120 minutes. It is over. The parents show up and retrieve their spawn. The house is finally quiet. Sarah unwraps her gifts, which include a dreaded Barbie doll and several messy-looking art projects. Ben staggers upstairs. I suggest in a kindly voice that a Bit of Rest might do us all some good. Becky collapses into bed with Ben and me, shades drawn, while Sarah either napsd in her room or intently assembles a hydrogen bomb, but that's okay because she's quiet. Hours later we awake and the grown-ups start drinking to dull the experience. Note to self: Next year, dispense with all the brain-exploding bouncing around and high-pitched chatter, and devote the entire party to a two-hour video session. Then the grownups csan drink quietly in the kitchen instead of having to wait untnil after the party's over.

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