Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nine, the Story

We are a little busy right now. We leave in a few days for a two week business trip for which we are NOT ready. But as Elliana's birthday approached, I began to realize that my nomination for the 2009 Who's Who in Motherhood list was in serious jeopardy and a birthday party--a good one--was in order.

I had hastily thrown together a simple birthday party for the girl last year, only to have her get sick the day before the party. I canceled, of course, but told her I would reschedule for when she was better. I didn't. The boy had a rockin' good party last year with a huge group of friends, and the girl got nut 'n' honey. So when the boy's birthday approached this year, we told him it was only fair that his be downplayed a bit this year and his sister get the big party. That decision was made before we made plans for this trip, of course, but the girl was clearly holding me to it with almost daily reminders, lest I forget.

The girl would have a great birthday party, even if it killed me.

It nearly did.

By Friday night, the shopping was done and the house was half cleaned and set up. The party had morphed into a combo affair, the marriage of an Anne of Green Gables tea party and a day spa. The basement had been transformed into a beauty salon, set with tables and chairs forming stations for hair, nails, makeup, perfume and hand and body lotions. The dress up clothes, jewelry and accessories were all on display for girls to borrow at will. The girls, a dozen of them, would spend the first full hour of the party just primping. My daughter swooned with excitement. I personally couldn't help but laughing silently at how far and how fast I would have run from such a scene myself, when I was that age. I wasn't really the primping sort--AT ALL.

The food was coming along nicely. My son had caught the excitement of the event, and tender-hearted soul that he is, had thrown himself into the process of making the event great. He made two platters full of dainty little crustless sandwiches, one of cucumber and one of PB&J. He stuffed cherry tomatoes with cream cheese and chives. He cut up cheese and salami and arranged it on a platter. He was, in short, a star.

By midnight, the kids had finally fallen asleep and I was wishing I was there, too. Andy convinced me that I should go on to bed. We could get up early to finish the housecleaning and the rest of the food. Those were the words I wanted to hear, and I collapsed shortly thereafter.

It had seemed like such a good idea to put the rest off until morning. We were all up early and back at it, but the list of tasks left to do seemed to multiply exponentially before my very eyes. The guests began arriving at nine, half an hour earlier than the stated time of the party. It was show time, and I was NOT ready to go on. But I so wanted to hit a home run with this party, in hopes of buying myself a few mom chips to be spent in emergencies or bouts of laziness or forgetfulness later.

I worked on the rest of the food at a feverish pace in my tiny little kitchen--if you've seen it, you know. With dirty dishes piling up, the available counter space, which is minimal at best to begin with, began to disappear. The girls downstairs were finishing up their beauty treatments and I would have to lead them in their games soon. No, they could lead themselves in games. It was a mixed age group and the older girls, eleven and twelve, would just have to take charge. I ran down to the basement to snap a few photos and ran back up to my tea party food prep.

The chocolate for the dipped strawberries didn't melt well. It clumped, but the girls wouldn't mind so I went ahead with them. The biscuit/scone things flopped miserably; I must have done something wrong in my haste and distraction. I didn't have time to make another batch, so I forced them to work. They ended up being edible, but odd. Some of the girls thought they were wonderful.

I was absolutely out of room and time. I could hear the games winding down and I was stressing big time. I wasn't ready! But so far, the girls had not noticed my lack of preparation; they were having a ball, giggling at "Pin the Kiss on Gilbert Blythe" and assorted other games. Stall, stall--I had to stall! They would have to open presents next, without me, so I could finish the party food and start on the cake. Yes, you read that correctly; I hadn't yet begun the cake. I ran out of the kitchen, snapped a few more pictures, and ran back. I was sweating profusely and working really hard to smile.

As the last few presents were unwrapped, my son helped me set the buffet table with the high tea. We had it set out just in time, and they converged upon the spread with big eyes, still oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes.

They filled their plates, I poured the raspberry cordial, and they began to eat. I snapped a few photos and ran back to start the cake.

I had already lowered my standards on the cake. It wouldn't be the traditional layer cake, but it had to be beautiful, memorable, to match the rest of the day. I had some lady fingers and custard, and plenty of strawberries to slice up. Plus, Andy had brought home a dozen glazed donuts that morning, which we didn't have time to eat and had set aside. I had one can of cheapo whipped cream. I could make a "cake" of sorts from these ingredients.

By the time I had the strawberries sliced and had served seconds on the raspberry cordial, there were only twenty minutes left of the party before the parents would start to arrive. It was time to kick it into high gear--as if I had operated in any other gear for the last few hours...days...week. I got out the cake plate and began to layer donut halves, strawberries, whipped cream, lady fingers smeared with custard and more berries, repeat, etc. More strawberry slices and a few extra squirts of whipped cream filled in some gaps. When the can was empty, the cake was done.

Andy, who had been helping on and off all morning, as much as he could, scrounged around for nine candles. He lit them while I called the girls back to the table, grabbed my camera and moved into position. The song was sung, the candles blown out, the perfect photo snapped, the cake devoured and the dogs outside signaled the arrival of the stream of minivans and Suburbans.

I grabbed a Sharpie marker and wrote on the backs of the girls' little china plates that would serve as their party favors. I had picked them up at local thrift shores for cheap, but they were pretty. I wrote their Anne of Green Gables names they had given themselves on their plates, in order of their moms' arrivals, and handed a plate to each girl with a smile as she walked out the door.

So pretty much, at the same moment that I finished GETTING READY for the party, the last girl was walking out the door showering me with genuine thanks for a truly wonderful event, and it was all over. It made my head spin.

I love my daughter. I really do. I'm not complaining here or trying to get attention for myself. I just want to record, for future years, how crazy it is to try to throw the world's greatest birthday party with no time for adequate preparation. Friends, do NOT try this at home.

The girls loved the party, by the way. They were all raving about it to their parents. My daughter has showered me with hugs and kisses again and again, glowing with pleasure at the best party ever. It was worth it, for:

Elliana of Sunny Pines
Kila of Aspen Grove Hall
Natalie of Pine Hills
Sona of Crimson House
Mia of Horse Land
Sabrina of Orchard Lane
Hannah of the Hills
Ramira of the Sage
Cadence of St. Marys
Elizabeth of the Enchanted Sage
Melissa of the Magic Mountains
Sarah of Sunny Sycamores

My house, however, will likely smell like a beauty salon, plus too much perfume, for a long time.


Anonymous said...

It sounds simply marvelous, Darling Daughter o' mine! Congratulations on pulling off the absolute best Princess Party ever! Elli will never forget it (nor will you, even if you wish you could). How fitting that my precious little anti-princess daughter now has a little princess to please! How I wish I lived close by to jump in and help in times likes this! What happened to the joys of gramma-hood? By the way, I'm so looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Mister Ed T said...

Awesome I love the names. No for a looong winter's (er spring's) nap!

AmberJ said...

You continue to amaze me! You sell yourself too short -- anyone else (me) would have crumbled under the pressure but you managed to pull off an amazing party -- and the cake was amazing! Well, it looked amazing. I may have to try that: donuts, lady fingers, custard and strawberries. Only you, my friend. Only you. :)

alison said...

Wow! This wore me out reading it. I know too much! I have seen the kitchen!

I love the names. Great party.

I did note the peculiarity of the "cake" with the first post but I figured it was part of the whole tea party theme. NEVER in a million years would I have suspected donuts.

I haven't told you that now, if my kids aren't having a kid party, we have both sides of the family over for Sunday brunch and the "cake" is donuts. It doesn't really get better than that. Your "cake" looked delicious.