Party Central

It’s the middle of the night here in California. I decided that maybe I should climb out of my warm, cozy bed and write my blog a minute while the house was quiet and I could still put two thoughts together and make a rational sentence. Later today that won’t be possible because we are celebrating DriDri’s 2nd birthday. With a bounce house. And a pinata. And snacks. And cake.  And about forty people. Just shoot me now, please?!

I love my grand-daughter very much. She is a delight, she’s loads of fun, and she has personality plus. I just think that she’s a little young still for such a big bash. My daughter has gone all out and has drug us all along for the ride, but even she is beginning to think maybe she has bitten off a little more than she can chew! It’s too late to back out now, so all we can do is throw caution to the wind and hope for the best!

The truth is I am just not a party person. Going to a party is hard enough. THROWING one is just about as far out of my comfort zone as it gets. And then it happened.  Oldest Daughter was turning one and I was faced with the fact that I knew absolutely NOTHING about giving a party and my family began calling me asking what I was going to do for her BIG DAY and I had no idea…

I never had birthday parties as a kid. Not that my folks didn’t think they were necessary. It’s just that my birthday is in August and that was when we packed up the trailer and tents and the boat and went camping for two weeks at our favorite lake in the mountains.  Sometimes Mom would turn on the tiny oven in our trailer and attempt to bake a cake, making sure she made adjustments  for the altitude so the cake would actually rise and not turn into a brownie, but most of the time we just had cookies or went to the little general store and got ice cream sandwiches instead.

Realizing that I didn’t have a whole lot of personal experience to draw on, I began talking to friends and people in my husband’s family. They had great ideas and I listened and learned. I decided that I wanted my daughters to have great memories of their birthdays so each year the parties had to be bigger or better or more creative than the last.

For some reason Oldest Daughter had the memorable parties. The Princess also celebrates the day of her birth in the summer, so her birthdays usually consisted of a day at the beach or an overnight camping trip.  After we moved into this house I just turned on some music, fired up the BBQ and we had swim parties in our own back yard. She was easy.

Oldest Daughter, however, was born a week before Halloween. The weather in California is rather capricious at that time of year so it was difficult to plan anything with an outdoor theme. Because of this I had to be more creative. We did the traditional costume party when she was about 7 years old. We played games and the biggest hit of the day was bobbing for apples. Who knew the kids would have so much fun plunging their little faces into ice-cold water and fishing an apple out with their teeth?!

For Oldest Daughter’s Sweet Sixteen we had the Black and Pink Ball. One of her friends came over and we stapled black and pink plastic table cloths around the rafters of the garage to make walls, We hung silvery twirly things and had a big banner across the garage door that read “Happy Sweet Sixteen”. I had a wing chair that we covered in a pink fuzzy blanket for her throne. My sister in law gave us strobe lights and a fog machine, the kids brought the music, and everyone had to be dressed up and wear black and pink! For the boys who didn’t have anything pink my aunt very kindly made them little boutonnieres that I handed to them as they came in the door.  I still chuckle when I look at the pictures from that night! It was a blast and Oldest Daughter had a great time.

My favorite party of all, however, was Oldest Daughter’s 17th birthday. We had been scratching our heads, trying to come up with something fun, when I had a brainstorm. The girls went to school, and I grew up in, the small town of Ripon, which isn’t very far from Caswell State Park. Caswell is one of the few remaining riparian habitats and as such has these amazing trees with lots of vines climbing up them. It’s open year round for camping and day use. It even has a small beach  that is handy to pull up on when you float the river in the summertime.

I rented a camp space, and with the help of one of the boys I set up three tents. My aunt picked my daughters and their friends up after school (she still lives in Ripon) and brought them to her house to carve pumpkins. We went out for pizza and then headed to the football game to cheer for our home team. I packed all the makings for S’mores and hot chocolate and after the game we headed out to Caswell.

Did I forget to mention how creepy Caswell is at night? All those vines make for a nice shady park during the day, but at night they block out the stars and its more like being in a cave than outside!

We all gathered around the campfire and I set the jack o’ lanterns up around the edge of the campsite and lit them. The flickering candles added to the atmosphere and we told ghost stories in the dark and ate S’mores and drank hot chocolate and laughed and screamed all night. It was an absolute blast!

Tomorrow I am helping give the party for DriDri, but my girls are the one’s who have planned it. The Princess is beyond stressed–she is a perfectionist and wants everything JUST SO! Everything has to match. I’m not sure how much she has spent on Minnie Mouse napkins, plates, and silverware. Even the pinata is Minnie! She and her sister spent a good hour last night stuffing goody bags to go into the pinata. We realized that the children coming to the party are of varying ages and the little ones would be at a disadvantage when it came to the candy scramble after the pinata broke so the girls made up 24 bags of candy. That way everyone will have the same amount of candy and no one will be left out.

I am in charge of the snacks, so when I get up I am slicing the salami and putting together meat and cheese trays, baking the baguettes and slicing them for the spinach dip, and getting the carrots and celery cut up for the veggie tray. Then we will head over to my mother in law’s to set up tables and chairs and decorate. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I am hoping to get a picture of all five of my grandchildren together for the very first time.

So how did you do parties when you were young? Do you have traditions that have lived on from generation to generation? Maybe a favorite food you just have to serve at any family gathering?  We love pinatas! Every birthday until the girls were about 10 or 11 years old had a large pinata as a focal point. Do you enjoy giving parties, going to parties, or would you rather put on some fuzzy slippers and sweats and stay home? I ask this because party season is upon us and will be in full swing in about another two weeks. How do you survive it?! Or do you hide in the bedroom until after the New Year?!

It’s almost 2 AM and my bed is calling me. Wish me luck–I’m going to need it!